“And Then There Were None” – Short Story

The killer strode calmly into the room. Barely moving, he silt the throat of the man’s bodyguard, then, in an equally powerful move, whipped out a gun and poured bullet holes into the remaining guards. His gaze pierced the area. The pawns were down; all that

remained was his target.

“Please….” The once mighty, tyranny, imposing man, reduced to a shell of himself, begged on the floor for his life. “Please…” the man was begging again. The words didn’t even seem to register on the killer. His target was a cruel man whom had abducted children for slave labor. He often beat them into submission and forced them to beg him…beg him for mercy. Now, in a stunning role reversal, the tyrant who once was a man knelt at the feet of the killer, begging for mercy.

“You don’t understand”, the killer said, his mouth barely moving. The man struggled to hear him. The words came out of his mouth. “You’re already dead.” Then the man saw the icy blue eyes of the killer, and swore he saw hell itself.

He saw a flash. A gun with a silencer. Then nothing.

The killer stepped over the dead body and walked out of the door. His mission was complete.

He then reported to his kill to his client, as part of standard procedure. On the other side of the globe, a faceless man smiled.

The killer’s name was Neo. He was the best in the business. He had never failed before. And he was unequaled in his skills and mastery of a near-invincible fighting technique known only as the Potentium. Only two people in the world had conquered it. The apprentice was him; the master was a faceless shadow. He remembered his past.

Abandoned at birth, he stole for food and money. One dark night, while on his rounds, he was about to swipe a woman’s purse, then, a faceless figure leapt out of the shadows and grabbed him in one graceful move. He was about to scream, however, his nemesis merely laid a finger on his chest. He could not even utter a word. The power of the Potentium, Neo reflected. Then he was brought to a shelter. He met countless other children.

Then the training began.

Neo was not even aware of how many trials he had gone through. It was simple. The children were pitted against one other. The master was ruthless. He did not care if any casualties arose. He just cared for the best fighter. And…perhaps something more sinister.

Neo rose to the semi-finals. Then the finals. Both opponents then had been battle-hardened, and had a wide array of tricks up their sleeves. Neo knew better then to underestimate his opponent. He had a distinct advantage over his opponent. While his nemesis was abducted from a rich family and longed for home, Neo had nothing to lose.

That gave him the edge. After hours of intense and fierce fighting, he saw an opening and went for it.

His opponent fell with a thunk to the floor, his head a bloody mess. Neo threw his cudgel to the floor and collapsed into a bloody heap.

He had no time to rest, much less to catch his breath. The master dragged his body into a chamber. It was dark. “I have chosen you”, Neo remembered him saying.

“For whhhat?” he remembered his pathetic former self saying.

“The forbidden art of the Potentium”, he said. “The chance to become a master of all life.”

To conquer others, you have to first conquer yourself, he remembered his master saying. The apprentice trained and trained. Years passed like a flash. Then he became a master.

“I have taught you what I know. However, the final step to master the Potentium lies not in me, but somewhere else. We will meet again. Sooner than you know. Quicker than you think.” Neo nodded. Then he was thrown out to the streets.

His mastery of Vaapad conquered all others. He easily killed, easily slaughtered dozens in seconds. He had become a killer.

He soon held a reputation for being the fastest, strongest, smartest, craziest, deranged among all others in his line of work. No living man knew his true identity, and no one dared to cross his path. He accepted jobs on an unusual basis. The deadlier the better. However, so far, none of his missions had come even close to undoing him. He was the master of all form, all life. However, his master’s words nagged at him: You are powerful, but there is something you lack, something you need to do. To become truly immortal. To become truly a master of all. This is something I cannot show you. You will have to walk on the path yourself.

Neo thought of his master as a master of deception, one able to mask himself thoroughly in the night and seemed to be able to read minds. He also seemed to possess unnatural powers.

One day, in the training area. The Master was walking around the area. Suddenly, an apprentice decided that he detested the training and tried to slaughter the Master. He rushed at him.
The shadow didn’t even turn around. In full view of everyone, the apprentice was flung like a rag doll to the ceiling and bounced right back to the floor with a sickening thud. And the Master hadn’t even moved.

Since that day onwards, the followers became believers.

Neo checked his inbox. There was where he accepted jobs. The messages were encrypted in a powerful and unusual form: a 64-key algorithm. Neo had to remember the 64 characters by heart. Luckily, this was no problem for him.

Vaapad granted him a perfect memory.

Neo typed in the 64-character pass-key and accessed his inbox. There was only one message. He opened it. It read: call – agdagbafegefhgae. Within seconds, it had disintegrated, leaving the message only in Neo’s memory. He at once knew that was a code. As the alphabets did not pass the ninth one (letter i), he knew that it was the famed alphabet-numeral code. Each alphabet told you how far in the Hindu-Arabic numeral system you had to go. Such as a=1 and b=2 and so on.

He decrypted the 16 numeral telephone number and went to his (also) encrypted telephone. He was about to dial the number when something in his memory clicked. An enigma…no…a sense of familiarity. He immediately felt a sense of suspicion. As his master had told him: never ignore your instincts, no matter how small and trivial.

He then pulled out the telephone book and searched. The number was oddly familiar. Then he realized he had tried to call the American Association of Pet Owners. He frowned. Was this a practical joke? He went back to the message and scanned it again. Nothing unusual…wait. He kicked himself. How stupid could he be to miss it out! He assumed that the dash in front of the meaningless alphabets was an indicator to read them, actually, it was a negative sign.

It meant for him to decrypt the letters backwards. (eg z=1)_

He dialed on the phone’s fingerprint-free surface, this time with the correct number. So you have decrypted my message, the man on the other side of the phone responded. He was undoubtedly using a voice-changer, like many of his other clients who did not want him to recognize them or record their conversation. Neo didn’t care, as his prowess was too great to fear any attack.

I want you to assassinate a man, the man said. For a sum of ten million dollars. Accepted, Neo replied. The man then sent over his intended target’s ID documents to Neo’s email. Then the phone went dead.

Neo opened up his inbox. The target was a common man named John Kevler who lived in New York. He had no wealth, no record of anything at all. Almost like a man whom did not exist. Funny why some guy wants to knock him off, Neo thought. He was always up for a challenge but was afraid that it was going to be another piece-of-cake job. However, ten million was no small sum and Neo always wanted opportunities to build up his treasury.

Striding to his weaponry room, Neo pressed his thumb against a scanner for the door to open. Thousands of weapons and armor flashed back at him, most of them invented by him. He strapped on a thin jacket made of what seemed to be loose fabric to the untrained eye, but it was actually a heavily sealed piece of armor, capable of stopping a machine gun’s bullets up to a distance of 5cm. It was perfect for street operations. Neo had invented this himself.

Grabbing guns and grenades, Neo stepped out to the cruel world. The hunt had began.

It was not hard to track down Kevler. His only listed residence was a shabby house which looked dilapidated and rotten. Looks can be deceiving, Neo thought before stepping in. He barely had time to avoid the two attackers.

The two masked men launched themselves at him and tried to take him down. They were good, but no match for Vaapad. Neo used a technique known as the Spider’s Trap and caused the two men to slam into each other with stunning velocity. Then he finished them off.

He searched them for some ID. They had none. Neo wondered who could have sent them. They fought like common mercenaries, not professional hitmen. It seemed that they were merely an annoyance for him, not a real threat. He was now left with no clues. For an ordinary man, that is, thought Neo. Instead he drew upon his limited psychic powers and used the mercenaries as his focus point. He only saw a building. The ReVelk building in the heart of the city. It was sealed and was the most mysterious building in the town. Few entered and few left it. The perfect place for a master of deception, Neo thought. It was only then Neo realized that ReVelk was actually an anagram of Kevler. No doubt it was where Kevler hid in. Hey, this is beginning to get good, Neo thought with a touch of humour. Then, he proceeded to the building.

The door was thumb-print guarded. No uninvited guest could get in. However, at this stage, Neo knew that the opponent probably knew he was coming. So, he had to be able to get in using the simplest method. He pressed his thumb against the scanner.

When the door slid open, Neo felt a sense of nostalgia evoking in him. Could this be…he scanned the area. He realized that it was a throne room…and sitting on the throne was a man. And surrounding him were two others. This place was where he trained. The man on the throne was his Master.

The Master was as enigmatic as before. This time, his face was hooded and could not be seen clearly. Neo felt a surge of power in the room, something he had never felt before. The power was far greater than his. He almost dropped to his knees.

“Why…?” Neo managed to utter.

“Do you understand?” the Master asked. “Do you understand, my apprentice?”

“You are Kevler. And you were the one who called me”.

“Very good”, the Master replied.

“But why????” Neo screamed out.

“Kill him”, the Master said, not to Neo, but at his two bodyguards. They leapt towards him.
Neo fumed. He didn’t need this. He wanted answers! Quickly he adopted the fiercest of Vaapad and used his anger to channel the powerful flow through his body. Then he leapt at his attackers.

Surprisingly, both of them met his attack with equal force. The energies clashed with astonishing power and the three of them were flung back like rag dolls. ‘How….???” Neo managed to utter. No one on Earth can match Vaapad! Much less some common men!

His shock was not lost on the Master. “I think it is time to enlighten you”, the Master said.

“Ten years ago, I was already a Master of Vaapad. I was as invincible as any man could be. However, I felt my strength begin to wane and weaken. I knew I was going to die.”

“Hence I set forth around the world for suitable apprentices, gathered all seemingly worthy protégés, in search of one who would carry my power. I immediately singled you and five others. I knew…just by feeling the potential in you. The sealed bar of energy, waiting to explode like a full-fledged bomb. I set you free.”

“To prove my theory right, I taught Vaapad to all the other hopefuls except for the six of you. I was right. They didn’t master Vaapad. Vaapad mastered them. By the next day, they had become spiritless shells. The same also occurred to three others like you, who were torn apart by their own fear and anger”.

“Tonight, one of you will fufill the ancient prophecy, written by my own Master himself, before I killed him in his sleep,” grinned the Master. “Soon, there will be a man more than a man, and he will rise and master the forbidden arts like none have ever before, and set the world free, by annihilating all who purges it.”

Neo stared in shock.

“That’s right, my young apprentice. One of you will use Vaapad against the world. And thus annihilate it completely”.

Neo collapsed to the ground. Everything he believed in…every fact he stood for…shattered. Vaapad was not a means to an end. It was the end itself. Could it be…that Vaapad was created for the sole purpose of annihilation and decimation of the human race?

Deal with the immediate threat first, he heard his Master’s voice instruction him, like some distant memory from a past which did not exist. Gathering strength from Vaapad, he spring-boarded right in front of the throne and positioned his body into a style anyone would recognize as offensive.

“So you have chosen…death,” the Master said. His two other apprentices leapt.

All three of them were well-versed in Vaapad. They were all Masters, even. But Neo had the disadvantage in numbers. All were masters in fighting. All knew how to kill. All believed in Vaapad.

Neo twirled about, trying to separate the two of them. It didn’t work. His enemies this time were just too good. Moreover, he was not yet a true Master of Vaapad.

Neo was desperate for any opening. However his opponents gave him none. He was tiring, and quick. He needed to end this battle fast.

Even in the middle of a duel, never hesitate to stop and think. The rash offensive can only win a battle for you. The analytical mind can win a war for you. His Master’s voice again; one of his first teachings to Neo.

Neo had analyzed Vaapad thoroughly and eventually found a weakness: Vaapad practitioners were too aggressive in combat. They struck at anything they saw. They believed that offense was the best defense. Sweeping through his attackers, Neo pivoted on his right foot and twirled around to land right between his adversaries. The two lunged at him. Neo simply leaned 90 degrees back, allowing his opponents to strike at each other. It was enough. In his precarious position, he unsheathed his sword and severed both opponents’ legs at the same time. Their heads soon followed.

Neo staggered back and pointed his sword at his Master. “Surrender”, he said, not knowing what else to say.

“Not to the likes of you”, said the Master as he pulled a sword out and pointed it at Neo. “I must confess I’ve never much believed the prophecy, my young apprentice. I am a Master of Vaapad. The Master of Vaapad. Weak as I may be, but you know this, the principle for Vaapad: the mind has control over the body.”

Neo lunged at the Master. Both men met. How…can I even defeat my Master, the Master of Vaapad? thought Neo. He launched a fierce offensive but his Master was just too powerful to overcome. You are not a Master of Vaapad…yet…he remembered his Master saying. But how can that be? I am destined to be the greatest Master ever! That much is clear. Suddenly he realized the many lies the Master had fed him while he was young. Now the revelations came back. What if…I am already a Master of Vaapad? What if my Master has been feeding me lie after lie…and I bought all of them! He suddenly recalled one of his Master’s earlier lessons about mastering Vaapad: the mental block is the greatest of them all. Remember, the mind has control over the body. Whether you will utilize your mind fully, or shrink away from the weakness of the body, all depends on you and you alone. Neo cringed. He realized that he was already a Master of Vaapad. Long ago, he was. He was the prophesized one. And that would never change.

With this newfound revelation, he lunged at his former Master, stronger than ever.

His former Master must have noticed his revelation, because he suddenly became weary of Neo, no longer fighting in the almost playful style which he did in moments ago. Both men clashed. Lightning struck the building at the amazing power inside.

Both men locked together, in a fearsome contest of strength. Whoever wins this wins the war, Neo realized. Redoubling his efforts, he pushed harder against the wall of energy which was his former Master.

His former Master was weak, but his control of his mind never allowed the body to give up, no matter how exhausted. He never succumbed. Not even to a stronger opponent.

“You will never defeat me! Me, the creator of Vaapad! I created this style, I was the only Master and will be the only Master! My predecessors failed to produce the ultimate for of combat. Do you understand? I am the Creator and Master of Vaapad!”

Neo did not even flinch at this new revelation. He had complete mastery of body and mind. Nothing would break his concentration. His body and mind moved as one. He decided to end this now.

He shattered his former Master’s shield with his own psychic energy. His nemesis flew back and was trapped inside his own ball of psychic energy.

“You don’t understand. And you will never understand,” said Neo. “No matter how good you think you are…there is always someone better. And that person is me.”

Focusing his power on the intense psychic energy, his power caused the psychic energy surrounding his former Master to implode. And the man inside was no more.

As terrifying as it was, the dark side energy inside the Master erupted in a blaze of blue power, like a terrible firestorm wreathed out of centuries of hate and anger. The whole building came down in a flash. Neo was struck by rock after rock of the fallen building.

As he lay dying, Neo realized something. The prophecy was true, but the mentioned beings in it never had to do what it mentioned. His former master never realized that. He believed all things had been foretold even before it happened. He never realized that the future was constantly in motion. I am the positive master of Vaapad, Neo realized, and his former Master was the negative Master of Vaapad. When they clashed, they became nothing. Neutral. Non-existing. Neither could live while the other alive. Both were anomalies. Both were meant to die.

All things become clear at death, Neo thought with a smile before letting go of his life and fulfilling his destiny.

And then there were none.