Prologue 1: Narrative


You folks ask an awful lot of questions.  Does it make you feel safer?  It really shouldn't, but I've never understood bureaucrats.  I don't know why you people can't just look up all this information, you know.  Most of this stuff is in your files.  But I suppose a lot of it's on paper in boxes in musty basements or dark, dreary warehouses somewhere, isn't it?  You never got around to putting it all in your computer system, did you?  And then you've got computer systems that don't talk to one another.  I have to wonder if that's just ineptitude on the part of your computer professionals or paranoia on the part of your organizations.  Not that it really matters, of course.

Or do you just want that first-person perspective, see if you can get inside our heads?

Fine, fine.  Whatever.  I'll answer your silly questions, but you'll get them my way.  Or rather, my People's way.  This may be the 21st century, but we still retain many of the old traditions.  The oral tradition is one of them.

Let's start with the short, simple, easy ones.  Do I have a partner or team I work with?  Unless you count the detectives of the Denver Police Department and the officers of the various Sheriffs Departments around the Denver-Boulder metroplex, no.  But just in case, my contact in each Department has been added to the attached file... that would be the contact information you requested for every person I've ever known.  Or so it seems.  You really are a terribly nosy bunch of people, aren't you?

You know Papa Bill — William Yazzie.  He was one of your first batch of Code Talkers back in World War II.  You sent him off to Okinawa only a month after Daddy was born... that would be Nelson Yazzie, Papa Bill's oldest.  He still talks about how hard it was to go off to war just after his firstborn son was brought into the world.  Fortunately for all of us, he came home to Tita Kai... that's Kai Bearheart Yazzie... hale and hearty, so I've got Aunt Sonia and Uncle Junior... William Yazzie, Jr... in my life, too.

What you never bothered telling anyone on the reservation — as you like to call it — was about all the testing of atomic weapons you were doing in New Mexico. At least we knew about the mining. You think it's surprising so many people of the Navajo Nation have these "super powers"?  Again, that's your terminology, not mine.  You think it's surprising so many of the Diné people stay on their own lands?  Who wants to do what I'm doing now... telling you all about how my "powers" manifested?  I won't tell you how many Diné have these... odd abilities.  It's none of your damn business, and as much as you hate it, you still don't have any authority over the sovereign Nation of the Navajo people.

Daddy and his sister and brother didn't seem to be affected by all the testing.  They're all fine and completely normal, thanks for asking.  I won't tell you about my cousins, though.  They're still on Navajo land and don't have any desire to leave.  So again, none of your business.

Mama... that would be Sandra Higheagle Yazzie... and her family didn't seem to be affected by your stupid tests.  They're from the farthest part of the Nation from where you were doing all the testing, I guess.

It's interesting to me, although probably not to you, that both Daddy and Mama decided to study civil engineering.  Did you know that most of us who go to college go into the medical and teaching professions?  It's what our people need most, and most young people do go back home, too.  Our people really do need them.

But Daddy and Mama were different.  Daddy went to the University of Denver and got both a bachelor of science degree and master of science degree in Civil Engineering.  Mama went to Arizona State University down in Tempe and got a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering.  After graduation, they both joined the United States Army Corps of Engineers, although it was a couple of years apart when they joined.  Do you people believe in coincidence?  I don't.  When they both wound up being assigned to the USACE Albuquerque District, it was Fate.  How else do you explain two Diné people from opposite sides of the Nation having to leave the Nation to meet?

Well, no matter.  They met, they fell in love, they married, they had me.  We all moved to Tokyo — Camp Zama — when I was five.  Two years later, my little brother Justin was born.

I guess the only thing of importance to you people about our life in Japan was the fact that Daddy insisted I start on Aikido lessons with Doshu Ueshiba Moriteru right away. Does it matter to you that we had a wonderful and happy life there? Does it matter to you that my brother and I had lots of friends? That we learned how to speak Japanese? That Daddy and Mama did good work there? That they were so very much in love? I doubt it.

You probably want to know why Daddy sent me — and later Justin — to Doshu Ueshiba Moriteru's school.

It was the rumors, the stories, from friends and family back home while we were in Albuquerque, and then it became more than rumors.  Children growing up having strange powers, or teens developing those powers when they came to puberty.  Some went wild, killing people around them — family and friends and teachers and strangers — or themselves.  Sometimes, it was both... they'd go on a killing spree and then commit suicide.  Some went mad — hearing voices all the time, nightmares and dreams that became reality, seeing things and people that were real, or weren't really there.  Some... some just changed.  We saw it in Japan, too.  

Daddy's best friend from back home, Daniel Runningelk... his son turned one day.   It was right after Daddy and Mama had gotten their transfer order to Tokyo.  We had been visiting in Nageezi for a few weeks before going off to Japan, visiting friends and relatives.  I remember Little Danny; I always looked up to him whenever we had gone back to Daddy's home for a visit.  He was a kind boy and was always happy to make time for his little three or four or five year old "cousin."

But this one day, as Daddy later told me, Little Danny twisted nearly inside out and became an eagle. He flew off for a few hours but when he came home... he didn't know how to turn back.  Do you know what an eagle sounds like when it cries?  I do.  I remember the eagle sitting on the roof of Little Danny's house crying and crying.  His Mama, his Daddy... they didn't know what to do.  Even the Medicine Man couldn't help.  After a few weeks, after we left for Tokyo, I guess the eagle took over for good.  Little Danny was gone.  The eagle flew off and no one ever saw it again.  Little Danny was eight years older than me.  I still miss him.

That was when Daddy and Mama decided I needed to learn the way of the peaceful warriors.  It wasn't bad, really.  Sure, it was a lot of hard work training every day before school, and every day after school, and for almost the whole day when there was no school... but it was fun, too.  Doshu Ueshiba made sure of that; he was a grandfatherly man who loved children.  Oh, he made us work hard — very hard — but his intention was always kindness.

I guess it was a good thing Daddy had made me study all those years with Doshu Ueshiba.  The first sign that these "powers" were going to hit me was when I was twelve, and scrapes and bruises and bumps seemed to heal faster than normal.  I don't mean a cut healing in a day instead of three days... I mean a cut healing in an hour instead of three days.  That was without any training.  Now I can heal an insignificant cut like that almost instantaneously.

But the part that came next — the power of the qi flowing through my meridians? Well, if I hadn't known about qi, if I hadn't understood how it flowed through the body, I probably would have thought I was dying.  As it was, I was terrified.  And it HURT!  It felt like fire was running through my veins.  You probably can't even imagine it, unless you've been electrocuted maybe.  But it was even worse than that because I've known people who've been electrocuted, and their descriptions are mild compared to what I suffered.  And it went on for days and days and days.  I don't really know how long.  Mama won't ever say, and at this point I don't suppose there's a real reason to know.  

With the fire, came all the rest of it — I could hear people arguing clear across the base.  The smells were overpowering.  I could read the ingredients on the cereal box from clear across the room... in the dark.  Everything tasted so strong, and yet I could pick out individual spices in any dish.  Even my silk robe seemed to rub my skin raw; I could feel every thread as if it was a coarse rope used at the docks.

That last year in Japan was hard.  Growing up is hard enough, being a teenager is hard enough, but to have to deal with all that... plus faster reflexes that scared people, greater strength that scared ME, being able to move faster and more surely than anyone?  It was hell.

You've seen that movie The Karate Kid... the bit about how Mr. Miyagi is always trying to catch a fly with his chopsticks?  I tried that once.

And caught the fly.










Some of you people think this stuff is really cool, or it all should be studied carefully, or you're just plain afraid.

Well, it is not "cool" and you should be afraid.  What kind of madman creates a gene mutation that switches on at puberty, the very worst time in a human's life?  Maybe instead of registering all of us who've actually survived that hell, you ought to be thinking about how to help the teens who are suffering.  But no.  That's not the White Man's way, is it?


<1m 43s silence>

Never mind.  My getting upset about it won't change anything.  And I know it's not just the White Man.  It's people like you, unknown bureaucrat who is the lap dog of politicians, who decide registration is better than helping people.  Make sure you mark it in your files that I have a bad attitude about you people, okay?

But you wanted to know about my "super powers."  There's more to the story, of course, more than what I've already mentioned.  How could there not be?

When I was thirteen, Daddy and Mama decided to retire from the USACE.  They moved back to the States, bought a little house in Flagstaff.  Personal computers were really taking off... everyone seemed to be getting one... and Daddy opened a little shop to fix them, get folks good deals on new ones, training people on how to use them.  Papa Bill and Tita Kai had been living there for some time; Tita Kai had heart problems that the doctors even in Gallup couldn't manage, so Daddy wanted to be close to Papa and Tita.  Mama became a literacy volunteer at Justin's school.

You'll note I said, "They moved back to the States..."

Because I didn't.

I could tell Daddy and Mama were scared for me.  They tried to hide it, but that was part of whatever was happening to me, too.  I just seemed to know what people were feeling.  They didn't think there was anyone in the States who could help me.  Maybe they were right.  Maybe not.  It doesn't matter now.  Doshu Ueshiba admitted that he had taught me everything he could.  Not only was I the first non-Japanese person to become Kudan, to reach the Ninth Dan, but the youngest and the only female.  Surprisingly, he recommended another school.

If you understood how — well, 'protective' I suppose is the closest English will come to describing it... If you understood how protective each of the martial arts schools is about their knowledge and their lineage, you would be just as surprised as Daddy had been. Doshu Ueshiba told Daddy to send me to a remote village in Henan Province to study Taijiquan with Grandmaster Chen Qingzhou in his family's style of Taijiquan. It's the original, passed down through nineteen generations of Chen masters. But maybe it wasn't so surprising, after all... Doshu Ueshiba knew Taijiquan was the one practice of all the martial arts that focused most on qi. And after studying with him for eight years, after these abilities started showing up, I knew he cared about me as much as Daddy and Mama did. If I wasn't going to be a danger to myself and everyone around me, I needed to learn everything possible... and Grandmaster Chen was the best person to teach me.

So, off I went to Chenjiagou — so close to Siberia that I could almost smell it.  Was it pleasant?  Hell no!  I was thirteen years old. I was frightened nearly out of my mind, and the only thing that kept the people around me safe on the flight to the mainland and the train ride to Henan was Doshu Ueshiba's training.  By the time I got to the nearly broken down bus and then the donkey cart ride to Chenjiagou, I was too exhausted to care about how scared I was. I was too tired to miss my family. I was too tired to care about much.

Then I stayed in China for another six years before Grandmaster Chen deemed me fit to be a Master of the Chen Shi Taijiquan.  There's not a lot to say about those six years.  I spent ten hours every day working and working hard.  Some days, I simply stood and breathed and learned to follow my qi.  Ten hours — standing — in the cold and snow.  No, I can't say it was fun.

But it was beneficial.  I could control my qi rather than let it control me.  I learned to send blasts of energy from the lao gong points in my palms and the yong quan points in my soles.  I learned to listen — at first — to the animals, and then to communicate with them at a rudimentary level, then control them.  It is a balance — the more intelligent and cunning an animal, the easier it is to communicate with it, but harder to control.  The smallest and least intelligent animals are easier to control, but meaningful communication is nearly impossible.  

To see through the eyes of a hawk that soars, to see through the eyes of a tiger on the hunt — it is a very different way of seeing than the way humans perceive our world.

I had learned not only how to heal more quickly, but to control my qi to keep myself healthy.  Any illness that passed through the village seemed to pass right by me.  I fell out of a tree once. I'd been in Chenjiagou for about a year and I'll admit I was not paying attention and I had been careless at the time. But before the nearest person could reach me, I had already healed all the scrapes and bruises... and the arm that I'd broken was healed by the time I stood up.  

But the following year, when I was up on the icy roof in the middle of winter trying to patch a hole, and I slipped. My reflexes had gotten so fast that the children watching said it looked like I was going to fall, but that it seemed almost as if something was holding me up.  In truth, I could say it was qi holding me up; it took not even two seconds to find my balance again and regain my footing.

It took six years, but eventually Master Chen was satisfied that I had not only become a Master of the Chen Shi Taijiquan, but that I had learned to harness the power of qi.  I was its master, and as long as I remained true to the teachings of Taijiquan, I would not inadvertently harm another living being with the terrible power that had become my curse.  With this power, I can fend off illnesses and most injuries, heal wounds at a rate that astounds even Master Chen; my senses are hyperacute, as are my reflexes, speed, and strength.  It is my unnatural strength that concerns me the most, and the one thing — if I would have to pick a single thing — of which I must always be the most wary.  This, along with the Taijiquan, was something I practiced continually while staying with Master Chen.  I have the strength to crush a rock into small pieces. But I have learned to cradle a newborn in my hands to still her cries while her mother continued the arduous task of birthing her brother. I have the strength to break a sturdy man's neck with a single blow. But I have learned to embrace friends in a firm and gentle hug to convey feelings that words cannot.

I have learned to feel and see the qi everywhere, to see the connections, to learn about others from their connections to qi.  While I can only see through the eyes of animals and have learned to control, to the extent possible, the most intelligent among them, I can sense the presence of all people around me... I know their feelings... I know how strong, how powerful they might be.  This is all something that simply... is.  It is no different than a Normal person's relationship to the air around them, I suppose... only noticeable when it drastically changes, or they focus on it.  Disney got it right: "I know every rock and tree and creature has a life, has a spirit, has a name."

And that qi that exists everywhere... I can focus it, channel it through my meridians, and send out an energy blast that would render a healthy Normal man senseless... or worse.  

Master Chen insisted that it was necessary to practice for at least an hour each day.  He did not need to insist on this, for the practice is as restful and calming as a full night's sleep.  The Chen Qigong exercises and meditations can be done almost anywhere, at any time. And they are a powerful way to relax, relieve stress, and simply improve my mood when I become weary at the sight of all the suffering in the world.  The teachings of Buddha — that all things are impermanent — are often of great comfort.  I suppose that sounds odd coming from a Navajo, finding comfort in Buddhism... but there you have it.

When Master Chen declared I had mastered my qi, I set off — finally — for home.  The journey that had terrified my thirteen year old self was something of an exploration for the nineteen year old me.  Through the teachings of both Masters, I had learned skills that made the journey back to the United States and to Flagstaff, Arizona peaceful and uneventful.  Well, perhaps not entirely uneventful, for my parting gift from Master Chen did create a bit of a stir at San Francisco International.  It is a staff of polished red oak, carved with the word "harmony" in every human language.  While the elegance of the Japanese kanji and the undeniable beauty of Arabic script caught my eye immediately, it was the center of the staff that spoke to my heart. Carved large enough to spiral around the wood, hózjó was not only carved but infilled with gold – in Diné Bizaad, hózjó means harmony, balance, and peace... and so much more. Both ends of the staff were capped in gold.  I think it caused less apprehension than admiration, for the staff truly is a thing of beauty... while also being a formidable and deadly weapon in my hands, thanks to Master Chen's teachings.  And, of course, this was before the terror of 9/11.

Returning home, though, made me wonder what I should do with my life. For fourteen of my nineteen years, I had been studying ways of self-defense. For the past six years, I had studied the ways of harnessing a power I never wanted. I learned ways to use that power to incapacitate, to never harm another beyond the point where they could no longer cause harm to another. My father's family is more traditional in their beliefs, with the Great Spirit watching over all we do. My mother's family, what is left of them, is nominally Christian, with all the contradictions that religion provides. While in Japan, I studied Buddhism and Shinto; in Chenjiagou, I studied Taoism. It had not escaped my attention that many people with "super powers" were fighting — and killing — others. As ever, the world was polarized and lacking balance.

I wanted some time to try to be "normal" for a change, to try to reach a balance... at least for myself.  These "powers" you rather cavalierly bestowed upon me with your nuclear testing and uranium mining, albeit not me specifically, were well under control.  Fortunately, I had taken accelerated courses at the American High School at Camp Zama and had managed to finish my high school courses via mail while in China.  You do not appreciate the United States Postal Service until you live in a place that receives a mail delivery once a month.  I had applied to several colleges and had been accepted at all of them.  I chose to attend the University of Denver, Daddy's alma mater, despite my desire to stay closer to Flagstaff and my younger brother.  He was nearing the age I was when the mutant gene switched on; I won't deny that I was worried about him.  Daddy and Mama told me over and over not to worry — that one of the cousins had said Justin would not be troubled by faulty genetics.  (There.  I've gone and told you one of my cousins has precognitive abilities, little good it will do you.  She's quite content staying within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation.)  Despite Daddy and Mama's reassurances, I continued to worry when I went up to Denver for the beginning of the Fall term.  I know I was apprehensive about Justin all year.  And for what it's worth, oh nosy bureaucrat, I need not have worried... he's perfectly normal.

I'm sure you know my undergraduate years passed uneventfully except for the incident at the frat party at the beginning of my third year.  But really... what would anyone but the young man in question expect?  From the very moment that he failed to understand that "no" means "no," he was — as I've heard some of my classmates say — "cruisin' for a bruisin'."  A dislocated elbow was a small price for him to pay to learn the meaning of such a simple word as "no."  In all honesty, however, I don't believe he actually learned anything from the experience.

And how was I to have known he was a State Senator's rancid offspring?  Though fortunately for the State of Colorado, his father did not represent them.  I must admit to feeling a little sorry for the people of Texas who lived in his district, however.

The Denver Police were utterly professional and courteous. I'd like to have it placed in the record that Officers Pablo Garcia and Denise Jackson did not so much as acknowledge the Senator's son's racist, obscene and thoroughly rude comments.  I suppose that's why — a year and a half later — I agreed to meet with recently promoted Detective Garcia about his insane idea that I should work with the Denver Police Department. It had been something of a joke throughout my undergraduate years.

Suddenly, it was no longer a joke.

As the file is public record, I won't be speaking out of turn when I say I began to take him seriously after his ex-partner, Officer Jackson, had been attacked. She had been on duty at the time, and an angry mob merely had heard rumors, wild speculation, that she was a "super." They beat her so badly that she was in a coma for three months at the University of Colorado Medical Center before her family took her off life support.

Faceless bureaucrat listening to this... Denise Jackson is why I do what I do for the Denver Police Department, and the Sheriffs Departments of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Douglas, and Jefferson Counties.  I do it for her and for every person in the Denver-Boulder metroplex who is targeted because of who they are or because of who people think they are.  Denise was no more a "super" than I am a "normal."  She had a master's degree in psychology and she understood people.  Her training and experience made her judgment of people nearly as accurate as if I were to read their auras.  She was an exceptional — yet a very normal — human being.

Yes, I continued on at the University of Denver and received my Masters in Library and Information Science.  I've been working for the Denver Public Library for six years.  I love my job and I love working with the kids, especially.  They are so eager to learn, and are inquisitive about everything.

But when Detective Garcia calls, I do whatever I can to help. Most of the time, the whisper of "Ninja is roaming tonight" is enough to get the cockroaches to crawl back into their sewers. It's tough each June when it seems every mega-church in Colorado Springs sends busloads of followers of some Christ, who bears no resemblance to the one my mother's family follows, to spew hatred at the LGBTQ people of my adopted home. Those cockroaches seem to think they are invincible and have the power of some god on their side. Fortunately for the LGBTQ people here, Ninja in on their side. While at DU, I marched in their Pride Parade with the Gay-Straight Alliance chapter. And while I would prefer now to march with the Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays — PFLAG — contingent as I did the first year after graduation, the past few years have become increasingly ugly. Now, I simply watch the cockroaches, finding that a small bolt of qi will silence a heckler with intentions toward violence. The cockroach is not harmed; merely left dazed and confused and voiceless and perhaps a bit light-headed long enough to quell any intentions of violence.

Most of the time, I am simply doing what the police cannot do. It is not because most of them don't want to help, but rather because there are too few of them and too many of the monsters. Tough cases, convoluted cases — like the one two years ago in Five Points — or cases involving the Unfortunates.  

Oh yes.  The Unfortunates.

These people have been confined to Commerce City in Adams County, although there are small enclaves of them all over the metro area.  Those who can pass as normal, those who can almost pass as normal, would rather live in the poorer areas with normals who are barely able to get by themselves.  Can you blame them?  It is no more their fault that they are hideous or mentally damaged than it is my fault I have these so-called "super powers."  We both know at whose feet that blame lies.


The police are not supposed to concern themselves with crimes among the population of Unfortunates. It is only when those in the "Normal" population are affected that their attention might turn to the Unfortunates. And then, at the behest of governmental agencies, the Unfortunates are to be considered as suspects, never as victims.

I won't stand for people being bullied for who they are, or for who people think they are.  I may not like each and every one of the people in these Counties, but each and every one of them deserves to have someone to stand between them and the darkness in the souls of other people.

Well, they do have someone... that someone is me.

© Kelly Naylor