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At this moment, the conqueror of Gotham City sits cross-legged behind the bars of a cell marked "Sin Tzu," though no one will realize this for many hours. My strike will begin precisely at midnight. As I wait out the final half hour, I remember words I wrote long ago:
The great commander will always seize the highest ground, whether on the battlefield or whether in his mind. He must always see the battle as a vulture would see it, from high above ... watching for the place of death, knowing that death spreads from death as fire spreads from fire ...
If one were to look down upon the streets of Gotham, at first glance one would hardly see what could make this grim, dark metropolis a more desirable battlefield than any other modern American city. Its architectural cacophony of skyscrapers, office buildings, apartments, parking lots, shopping malls, and bodegas is not unusual, particularly in the daylight hours.
But at night, the darkness has an uncanny depth. Which, I admit, makes Gotham City particularly intoxicating ... but that in and of itself is not uniquely attractive to me.
No, the allure of Gotham is in its defender. After dark, the citizens of Gotham brace themselves with stories of a bat-winged guardian hostile to the night's predators. A man so ultimately trained in mind and body as to be the perfect combatant. The perfect warrior.
The perfect opponent.
This city lives under his shadow.
Do you see, hiding like a cancer just to the left of the city's heart, the stunted and craggy mansion jutting out from beyond the sewage treatment plant? Do you notice the gothic stonework, its crooked towers, a mixture of rotting Victoriana and shining modern glass, rising above the soggy excuse for land called Mercey Island? This is Arkham Asylum, home for the criminally insane, a once abandoned mansion as fragmented in design as the minds of the lunatics it houses.
Come inside its narrow, sloping stairwells and hear the shrieks and grunts of its inmates; their screams, whispers, maniacal laughing and demoralized sobbing. Choke on the smell of damp mold that never dries. Hear the incessant echo of a leak that no one can ever find to fix and the scuttling scrape of rats racing for shelter along mildewed baseboards.
Now open some doors, their paint cracking and their hinges loose. One reveals, covered with dirt and cobwebs, a torture chamber fit for the Inquisition. Behind the next, a gleaming, sterile room stocked with the best of modern pharmaceuticals. Past a third, a brick-halted hallway now mysteriously bereft of some forgotten purpose. Some where along the way, the layout of Arkham became a labyrinthine mystery. Its clean, modern rooms were grafted far too quickly onto the rotting foundation of the old Mercey Mansion, and, as with all botched operations, gangrene has set in.
Suppose one were now to take a tour of the official Arkham, the part that pretends to be modern science. And suppose one were to take the appropriate turns, past the therapy rooms, past the exercise yard, past the guards' gated lockers. Sooner or later, if one had the appropriate keys, one would enter the wing where Arkham Asylum's most famous and most lethal criminals reside: the Rogues Gallery. Past the divided man, the plant woman, the spindly creature who marks his kills upon his own body. Past the grunting thing. The crying thing. The thing too disgusted with itself to utter a sound. Past the crocodile and the man of ice and the puppet keeper.
Sooner or later, one would come to me.
I sit in darkness. It is chilly in my cell, or rather would be should I let myself feel the cold. The latest tray of untouched slop lies before the door. I have not eaten in two days. My guard has notified the dietician and the government worker assigned to my case. They are worried that I am on a hunger strike. Perhaps I overestimated the American intelligence agent in assuming he would realize how beneath my purpose such a sad protest would be. After mere months of study, he thinks he begins to understand me. This is amusing. The conceits of children always are.
They know nothing. Nothing of me and nothing of meditation. Denial of self is a pathetic, nerveless way to do battle. I have nothing to protest. My mind is set on conquest.
Down the hall, a madman cackles loudly at his own joke. Another voice is raised, and in honeyed tones tells him to shut up. A third voice promises exquisite torture to them both.
From far down the corridor a man blurts a riddle to no one in particular. I hear him without effort, despite the distance, much as I hear the scuttle of the roaches on the hospital kitchen's greasy flagstones and the steady flip of a coin along with muttered curses from the disfigured mad man in a cell three doors down. The range of the senses is merely a question of concentration.
The man repeats his riddle in desperate glee. Sometimes, others give him an answer. Mostly they do not, despite the childlike ease of the clues he gives them. Eventually, he will reveal the answer to his nonexistent audience and snicker with delight over his own cleverness.
Many times I am able to solve the riddles without effort, despite the fact that they usually involve puns in English, a language that is not my first. But I rarely answer them out loud. There is no need to encourage him. More importantly, the discipline of holding knowledge close is of legendary value. A fool brags about what he knows; a wise man makes others guess.
The riddle is chanted a third time. How can you have four hands? The answer is disappointingly plain: By doubling your fists.Not by borrowing your cellmate's, as another inmate crudely replies. But no matter. The time for these simple games has ended. The great game is just moments from beginning.
The ultimate game-the game of war.
Focusing, I deafen myself to the riddling man and his abusive, captive audience. I remove them from my consciousness, breaking language down to its component sounds and then expunging these from my thoughts.
I must not be distracted. No outside contaminants may enter me now. The night is rising. My night.
It is time to set the wheels in motion.
I sink into myself, drawing energy from without, like a black hole, sucking it in, processing it, storing it, amplifying it, focusing it.
The power of Yanjin Alchemy is a very old one. Ancient, unstoppable, and all but forgotten. Energy flows from the physical world to the world of the mind and out again in deadly force. There is nothing in this world, or the next, that cannot feed the mind, and that the mind cannot, in turn, control. Or destroy.
As with most divine mysteries, these principles are shared today only in harmless, neutered form. Those meditative religions which come closest to keeping these truths alive have all but buried their rightful meaning under the ludicrously irrelevant concept of "compassion." For example, there is a practice yet taught of the meditative art of sending and taking. In very simple terms, one breathes in all the negativity of the world, all the pain, hate, suffering, and despair, and breathes out hope and light and, yes, compassion.
Today many mistake this practice as an exercise in the development of courage and a fearless heart. Nonsense. It is an exercise in power, instructions on how to tap into a battery, a well of energy that is never depleted. As long as there is consciousness there will be hate, jealousy, fear. "Compassion" is what masters teach their slaves to feel for their oppressors. "Turn the other cheek ... carry it the extra mile ..." Bah ... It is a weakness, a liability, as is clearly indicated by the instructions to breathe it out and dispel it.
I made this point to a so-called "master" of the meditative arts I camped with once in Chulan. He tried to convince me that all of humanity-indeed, all of life-is one, that to love yourself is to love all others and that to harm any other is to harm yourself.
As he was making rice for us later that night over a low fire, I sat forward and slit his throat with a rock.
"Now I have two bowls of rice," I told him. "How am I harmed by harming you? It is obvious that my situation has improved."
He prayed for me with his last gurgling breath. Pitiable. I'd expected more from a philosophy that has, as its first noble truth, "Life is suffering."
Now I move past that suffering, into a vortex of strength. The shadows of the solid world recede. The inner light, the pure light of Mehta-Sua, expands to fill my inner eyes. The spirit voices chant their approval.
I inhale the scents of the asylum-sweat, chlorine, the exotic flowery aroma of rare orchids that emanates from the cell of the plant woman. This last is a threat. It charms, tempting me back to the humid jungle campaigns of my youth. It reminds me of my young innocence, when assassination with my bare hands was an exhilarating process. Then, the kill still had the spice of doubt. I was new to the Mehta-Sua. I had not yet fully mastered the channeling of mental and physical energy into deadly attacks. I roamed the world, seeking out ever larger challenges, honing the power of Yanjin Alchemy. Even as my authority grew, the possibility that I myself might face defeat was a delicious sensation.
By now, of course, there is never any question that I will accomplish the kill. But I have learned a larger lesson. Slaughtering bodies is merely a road to defeating the soul. Once the soul-of a person, a city, a country, a world-is defeated, victory is assured.
But these memories are a distraction. They lure me from my true path. Another act of discipline and ... they are gone. Acknowledged, and dismissed.
I return to a perfect state of readiness; quiet, empty. I see, smell, hear, and taste nothing.
I begin to focus on the here and now, the immediate. I place myself in space. I believe, according to the primitive Western calendar, that this is the dying season. Autumn. The air is crisp and cool. I am sure there is some foolish name for this day, this time. All that will change. After tonight, this day will always be remembered as the Rise of Sin Tzu.
My senses expand. I spread myself out across the city. Its inner movement becomes my breath. Its streets, my blood. I know it intimately.
I allow myself to hear two bells toll in the distance. One comes from the magnificent Gotham Cathedral, which looms high above the constructs of the City Hall district. The other, more modest, comes from the great Clock Tower a mere two miles from the cathedral. There-across town, a whistle blows. It announces the beginning of the night shift at the Oven Fresh Bakery. Eleven-thirty.
I hear the rhythmic footsteps of various Arkham guards. Mine, whose fluids wheeze past arteries clogged with brittle, hardened fat, will be crossing within view of my cell in five minutes and fourteen seconds ... if he doesn't stop to drink water, relieve his bladder, or try to answer another insipid riddle.
An instant is an eternity. I descend back into my receptive state. Once again, I run my plan through mental fingers, as if it were a silken scarf, from major premise to finely woven detail. I return to words written over two thousand years ago:
The victorious commander must know four things: He must know himself. He must know his enemy. He must know the time of his battle, and he must know the place of his battle. If he knows all of these things, victory is assured.
At midnight the battle will begin. I will launch my first attack, and Gotham City will be valiantly defended. I know myself. I know the time of my battle. I know this place.
And, oh yes, I know my enemy.
The Batman. Gotham's general. Hunter and jailer of so many souls within this asylum. The ultimate strategist and warrior. From the moment I first read about him in a foreign newspaper, the spirits I serve called me to him. It has been many long years since I have felt such anticipation while developing a battle plan. Like me, the Batman is a creature of darkness. A creature of strategy. But without an equal to defy him, a general is nothing. As I have written:
A great conqueror must have a worth opponent and a worthy prize.
History has proved my worthiness in battle. Countries have wept blood as they begged for my mercy. When the time came to choose my next opponent, I knew that it would not be easy to find one deserving of my attention. Had the spirits not guided me to the Batman, I would be searching for one still.
Now I am here, ensconced in this city, challenging the Batman for Gotham City. Gotham, the Batman's lair.
This campaign is treacherous, even for me. The plans for the Batman's undoing have been long in the making. I have deceived the international police forces that think they have me contained. I have calmly accepted my long incarceration at Arkham. All for the love of war. For as I myself once wrote:
The art of war is deceit. First, you must attack your enemy when he least expects it, in a place where he feels strong, but is in fact weak, and with an army he feels he has already vanquished.
Gotham and the Batman. The womb and the child. The father and the son. Not unlike the symbol I myself wear embossed in the bones of my skull, of the yin and the yang, two opposing entities encircled together. Without one, the other means nothing. In Batman's Gotham, as poisoned as it is, he knows every whimper, every cry. He patrols its streets, winnowing out the criminal and the insane. A general of the night. He believes he controls the darkness. But this night, he is wrong.
I listen to the Batman's city as a doctor listens to a patient's heart and lungs, as a master knows the movements of his servants. All is normal. Traffic is light. A siren cries in the distance. The occasional horn sounds, but it is nothing like a few hours ago, when the masses blared and shrieked in pitched battle to gain yards and minutes in their gasoline-fueled maze.
Those are the sounds that are. Likewise, I turn my attention to the sounds that are not. There is no relentless grind of construction. The big machines are sleeping. The drudgery of petty commerce has ground to a halt in the Financial District. Now and again, I hear the distant buzz of an airplane leaving from or arriving at the Goodwin International Airport, but there are fewer now. No helicopters. The sound-that-isn't tells me that much of Gotham City sleeps.
A restless sleep. Gotham feels the fear of every large city. The fear is this: Safety is an illusion.
With every hushed breath the city waits nervously for attack. It fears terrorists, destruction by bomb, virus, or chemical.
Excerpted from Batman by Devin Grayson and Flint Dille Copyright ©2003 by DC Comics . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted February 12, 2004
Batman is one of the best known heroes of our time. It takes someone special to bring the Dark Knight alive in novel form. Dille does this. Sin Tzu is dark and complicated, with only one thing on his mind...Batman. The story does start slow, but once Sin Tzu arrives in Gotham, you better hold on to your cowls. It's a race against time as Batman and allies try to bring order to Gotham. Along the way Batman will come across some of his old friends from the Rogues Gallery who have been hired by Sin Tzu. Batman: Rise of the Sin Tzu is a fast moving tale with suspense and an ending that screams for more.
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Posted September 18, 2003
In Asia, ingenious but amoral immortal Sin Tzu begins taking control over vast parts of the continent either through diplomatic guile or a blood show of force. His success is so rapid and easy, he feels like a modern Alexander the Great with no real competition to keep him from ennui. However, he learns of the Dark Knight across the ocean in Gotham City and wonders if he might prove a worthy opponent. Sin Tzu begins his deadly game of cat and bat by allowing his adversary to catch him and lock him up in Arkham Asylum, home for some of most dangerous predators on the planet. Applying his arcane skills, Sin Tzu recruits three subordinates, Bane, Clayface, and the Scarecrow. This trio leads his army of cutthroats and murderous lunatics against Batman and his three superhero allies, Nightwing, Robin, and Batgirl. The stakes is simply the population of Gotham City and surrounding areas. Taken from a game with the same name; BATMAN: RISE OF SIN TZU is an exciting fantasy tale starring one of the great characters of fiction. Batman¿s foe is as tough as they come and is supplemented from some of the Dark Knight¿s stronger antagonists including Bane who broke his back. The story line is fast-paced, never slowing down once Sin Tzu arrives in North America; yet the essence of the four superheroes stay true. Fans of Batman will appreciate his latest crime fighting thriller. Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.