An Excerpt from Elektra by Yvonne Navarro

Elektra Novelization

ELEKTRA -- An Excerpt



     Even in New York, there are moments and places of silence, not minutes but slivers of time where nothing, man, animal, rodent or machine, moves, where even the wind seems to hold its breath.

     Of course, these moments seldom last very long. After all, this is New York.

     Somewhere in the city-- in most of the city-- neon and flourescent lights flickered and buzzed, bathing the streets, buildings and a hundred thousand late night partygoers in false, multi-colored daylight. Music spilled from the doorways of clubs and shops in never-ending waves of sound, booming, whining, sometimes floating along the layers of cigarette smoke and pollution like something that might have been beautiful had it not been overwhelmed by its surroundings, swallowed up in the raw power of New York City's nightlife. In this ocean of light and sound and movement, the lives of people small and great were lived, their deaths were planned and experienced and sometimes even avoided, and all while the common people remained utterly ignorant that only a few streets over, entire destinies were being changed.


     An ambulance, large, boxy and top-heavy, careened around the corner onto a nameless residential street where the incessant glare of neon had been replaced by lights spaced too far above to be of any use. Its bright headlights cut across the darkness, painting a solid stream of brightness where the red and white revolving bubbles across the top of its cab blinked and disappeared, blinked and disappeared. The only thing that moved in its path was a crumpled piece of newspaper sucked across the road just ahead of its bumper. Puddles of oily water fountained from beneath the vehicle's tires, but there was no one around to splash. Dim lights burned here and there in the windows of the apartments overlooking the street, but the people inside, secure in the dubious safety of their homes, had long ago grown accustomed to the sudden shrieking of ambulance sirens; they paid little attention as the driver of this one leaned forward and flicked the switch back and forth.

     Supplies rattled wildly in the side racks as the ambulance hit a pothole and bounced. The two paramedics in the back noticed only enough to grab at the IV hooked on one inside wall and keep it from jouncing off the wall hook. A heart monitor bleeped erratically, then went into alarm mode--


     "She's crashing!" Ray, the younger of the two, bent over the lovely young woman on the cart and yanked up first her left eyelid, then the right. There was a wide, shallow cut high on the left side of her neck that looked like someone had tried for her carotid artery, but this bothered him not at all. But her stomach was something else, and crimson blood oozed from beneath her back despite the heavy pack of bandages they'd put under her to try and slow the bleeding. The bandages were pressed tightly against a puncture wound made by some kind of wide and vicious blade had gone all the way through her body. Even so, there was no time to be gentle. He'd gotten a little bit of response from his earlier check of her vitals, but now her pupils were fixed, dilated wide, and dark. There wasn't much time.

     Bob had twenty years of experience at this job, so he didn't need to be told what to do. He reached over the woman's body and snatched a portable defibrillator off the wall at the same time Ray yanked the sides of the top of their patient's costume open as far as he could. Her black top was some sort of shiny leather halter thing that looked like it would be more at home at a Halloween party, or maybe one of those fetish raves, and it made the two electrodes he'd stuck onto the skin of her upper chest look stark and out of place. There was more leather-- full length gloves and a strap around her neck. It had been enough to make finding a pulse that much more difficult; they'd done it, but now that fleeting indicator of life was gone. Under any other circumstances, the two medics would have fully appreciated the woman's lovely face and gorgeous body, but the blood soaking her midsection blew away any thoughts like that.

     There was a barely discernible background whine that the practiced ears of both men recognized, and within seconds of turning it on, Ray yanked his hands away. As he pressed the paddles against the her bared skin, Bob yelled "Clear!" anyway, following his ingrained training protocol. He pressed the buttons on his two paddles simultaneously and the machine made an oddly low-key whumping noise at the same instant the young woman's body arched and rose a good six inches off the sheet.


     "Again!" yelled Ray. He snatched the paddles from Bob and waved them in the air. "Come on, lady!" Bob jabbed a stiff finger at the Charge button on the side of the defibrillator; he had to aim at it twice because of the swaying of the ambulance. Another high-pitched whine as the machine again built power, and the instant the ready light came on, Ray again jammed the paddles against the bared skin of her chest. "Clear!" the medic shouted, but once more his partner had already raised his hands.

     The jolt made their patient's body arch again but the movement went almost unnoticed in the bouncing of the ambulance. She fell back onto the blood-soaked sheet of the cart and both of them bent over her, searching for a pulse, a tick of her eyelid, anything. As Bob pressed his stethoscope against her breast, one slender and strangely calloused hand slid over the side and banged lifelessly against the rubber-coated floor.

     The older paramedic sat back. "She's gone," he said. His shoulders slumped in defeat and he swiped at his damp forehead with the back of his forearm. Ray scowled and looked like he wanted to try again, then the paddles he was still gripping slowly lowered. After a moment, he exhaled and nodded, finally slipping the paddles back onto their hooks. Now that the frantic moments were past, he could see that the woman's sightless eyes were open about a quarter of an inch; they were sort of a swamp brown color with highlights of green, and still bright enough to look alive-- God, but she had been beautiful. He let a few more moments pass, then he reached out and gently pressed down on her eyelids to close them for the last time.



     There are some who say that the destiny of each and every person is preordained, that there is little-- or nothing at all-- that the average person can do to change his or her fate. Save a man from stepping in front of the bus that was meant to end his life and that same man will slip in the bathtub the next morning and split his skull. Philosophers throughout the centuries have likened it to the grand old game of chess, where each move is planned far in advance based on the possibilities at hand. A poor comparison, because it is one which makes the assumption that the focus of the challenge, the players, actually know which paths are available and what might happen when each road is chosen. But life, it seems, is much more like the ancient Japanese game of Go, where even the best of players can sometimes find themselves seriously trapped and unable to break free, even beyond the death of a playing piece. Go, unlike life, assumes two sides with equally matched opponents. Some might say it's good against evil, but it's never truly that simple. Life is that game of Go, always going on around us, everywhere we turn or think to turn, in every choice we make, every step we take.

     The ancients whisper to one another that secret portions of the game are real, that somewhere there are actual competitors, and that everything in the lives of the players in this mystical game continues from a challenge match of Go started five hundred years ago in Japan. They talk in hushed tones about how it began in a mediaeval Japanese village where the clan wars had finally ended and an entire generation of Samurai suddenly found themselves with little or no livelihood, no way to fed and support families and wives, no means to provide dowries for daughters waiting to be wed. Life for them became an existence of anger and boredom.

     As is often the case-- or again, so they say-- idle hands are the playground of the devil, and so they turned to the villagers for entertainment and sustenance. The languishing Ronin robbed and pillaged and committed other acts considered unspeakable, and soon the powerless villagers searched for other methods with which to defend themselves. They turned to stealth and secrecy, and ultimately found their salvation in mastery of the mystical arts. Surprisingly, it wasn't that long before the last of the masterless Samurai were defeated.

     Knowledge, however, had taken a firm hold, and over the years these humble villagers grew into a large and powerful organization. What had started out of necessity as a militia to protect the people turned into a dark and criminal enterprise, a yakuza powered by forces the average man would never understand. They called it The Hand. Its practitioners hid their faces behind the black costumes of ninjas and the rare witness to a Hand member's death whispered of the acrid green smoke that wafted from the body when its spirit went on to its reward... or punishment.

     The Hand grew strong, too strong. Ruthless, cruel, barbaric-- they evolved into exactly what they had been created to defeat. Their darkness blossomed like kudzu and took over large parts of the underworld until even the hushed mention of their name brought shudders of dread.

     But things have a way of balancing out.

     For every black deed, there is a white one, for every evil created, something good is also born. Some of the ninjutsu students of The Hand and the shadow arts split away from their increasingly corrupt and power hungry masters. They called themselves The Chaste, and vowed they would not be defiled by the ways of darkness, nor would they be tempted by the worldly treasures that had so driven their former brothers to greed and rapacity. Hidden in secret mountain retreats, they trained in the same mystical shadow arts and mastered the same deadly skills, but their goals were to balance out the dark influence of The Hand. And while it was never intended to be so-- such things seldom are-- a war began between the two factions.

     Or maybe...

     It was a game.

     And so it raged. Through decade after decade, century after century, times of political riots, assassinations both successful and unsuccessful, and public violence. Unlike their darkside counterparts, The Chaste couldn't offer wealth and power as rewards, so as they fought with The Hand, they began an endless quest for new warriors to fill the ranks of those they lost in battle, a never-ending search for the best of the best, for those among the people who were worthy of giving more than that which is expected of the everyday man or woman.

     And as it is on the perfectly geometric playing field of the Go board, sometimes, for extraordinary game pieces, death is simply not enough...



     Bob's head jerked as the ambulance bounced over yet other flaw in the street, a manhole cover or a bag of garbage or maybe, since it was New York, a pile of rags concealing a body lying in the middle of the road. "Crap," he said as he tried to hold onto his clipboard and fill in the report. "Ray, knock on the window and tell Pyle to slow down, would you? How fast he drives isn't going to make a difference anymore and I'd like to get to St. Luke's in one piece."

     "Ditto," his younger partner muttered. He twisted on his seat and banged his fist twice on the Plexiglass separating the driver from the back part of the ambulance, then made a sawing motion across his neck when the third member of their team glanced in the mirror. He felt the momentum of the vehicle shift forward as it slowed suddenly and knew his buddy understood that there was no longer a reason to hurry. It was a shame, Ray thought again as his gaze cut to the sheet covering the woman. The fabric was stained scarlet where it had fallen against the horrific puncture in her stomach and he couldn't help wonder what had happened, why she was dressed the way she was, and who had done the damage that had ultimately killed her. He'd pulled her hand back up next to her body and it was hard not to notice the black and yellow bruises covering her knuckles... oh, and let's not forget another puncture wound, this one going clean through her right hand.

     The ambulance braked and Ray glanced automatically toward the front, noting the upcoming red traffic light through the windshield. Ray's being senior on the job gave his older partner the thankless task of filling out the paperwork, a job the other man would have actually preferred to the option of cleaning up the bloodied bandages and now-empty syringes and used IV drips. Ray bent forward and let one knee drop to the rubber-covered floor; now would be a good time to reach under the cart and gather up the used gauze and the paper wrappings from the--

     Someone yanked open the bank of the ambulance.

     Both medics jerked around. There were two men standing there, each dressed completely in white. For a moment, what Ray was seeing didn't really register in his brain. The guys crouching outside were like Ninjas, but not-- they were almost like negatives of the black-clad warriors so often seen in film. Who'd ever heard of a Ninja wearing white?

     Before Ray could think about answering his own question, one of the white Ninjas leapt into the ambulance. Bob, the bigger and brawnier of the two of them, lurched to his feet, then opened his mouth to yell something. The words never made it past his lips. In a move so fast it was blurry, the ghostly warrior reached over and did something to the side of Bob's neck. Bob's eyes widened, then he fell sideways like an off-balance stone statue.

     He used some kind of pressure point, Ray thought numbly. That was it-- like Spock in an old Star Trek movie. Or worse... hadn't he once seen something in a martial arts movie about how men like this could kill you with just a touch? Maybe Bob was way past something as mild as unconsciousness.

     "Oh, no," he said aloud. He didn't realize it but he'd come up from his knee and was now backed as far as he could go into the ambulance. "No no, you just stay away from me." Was Bob okay? He wanted to go to him and check, but there was that white Ninja dude, silent and, despite his slender, almost feminine build, looming, standing right there between him and any possible escape. Hadn't Keith seen what was going on? The vehicle had stopped now, but surely the ambulance was going to start moving again at any second. He risked a quick-- very quick-- glance over his right shoulder, then gasped when he saw Keith slumped forward over his steering wheel. For a moment he had no comprehension of how this could have happened, then he remembered how Keith preferred riding around with the window down rather than running the air conditioner. That instant pressure point thing again, probably delivered right through the window. It crept into his brain that the ambulance's engine had actually stopped. They weren't going anywhere.

     "Listen," Ray said, "we're the good guys, remember? Not the cops, not the--" His words choked off as the Ninja inside the small area with him held up a finger and wagged it back and forth, the universal shhhhh motion. He wanted to keep talking but he didn't dare, then he forgot what he might have said anyway when the other Ninja jumped gracefully into the back of the ambulance. Of all the things in the world that Ray could have imagined might happened, all he could do was sit there and watch in bewilderment as the white Ninjas flung aside the sheet covering the dead woman's body, lifted her from the cart, and slipped back out of the vehicle. One more




     and they disappeared into the blackness of a New York midnight.

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