In this short story, I introduce the deadly Kali - 7TV's Elektra-as-Bond-villainess and her loyal, lethal Daughters of SHIVA. We witness Kali's formidable skills and divided loyalties, as well as learn a few tantalising clues to her origins which ties in with other 7TV characters.
Points will be awarded for identifying Kali's roguish quarry, the location of this jungle encounter and characters from an obscure 1970s martial arts/blaxploitation movie.
Note: In the original version of this story, she chops the snake's head off. My dear serpent-loving partner found this needlessly upsetting, so I crumbled and changed it so that Kali shows mercy. I imagine Peter Benchley faced similar issues with Jaws.
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She remained perfectly motionless as the python coiled up her leg. Its green and black scales glinted in the jungle light as the snake wound around her in muscular pulses. Though not venomous, the python could still inflict a nasty bite, and was certainly strong enough to slowly squeeze the life out of her, if she let it.
Kali kept her heart rate steady and concentrated on maintaining small, slow breaths. Pythons hunted by heat-detection, and she didn’t want to let out a sudden gasp of hot air and in so doing trigger the creature’s attack reflex prematurely.
The diamond-shaped head moved up over her chest as she clung to her perch atop an old statue at the edge of the ruined temple. Slowly, ever so slowly, she brought one hand up, mirroring the motion of the python as it inched up to her neck. A probing tongue flickered against her cheek, feeling her, sensing the minute vibrations of her breath.
At the edge of her vision, she saw the python’s great head drawing back, and felt quivering vibrations up and down its coiled length, the precursor to the strike. But Kali was faster, almost superhumanly fast. Before the snake could bite down on her face, her hand whipped forward, seizing the creature just below those awful, widened jaws.
She gripped hard, straining her sinews against a killing machine comprised almost entirely of muscle, and locked eyes with the python. Seconds passed with neither moving, the serpent held out at arm’s length. The jungle seemed to pause.
Then just as suddenly as it struck, the snake’s jaws snapped shut and the coils around Kali’s body began to loosen, its tiny brain finally realising that it had chosen this prey unwisely. With rhythmic, unhurried pulses the python spiralled down the statue to the leaf-strewn floor, and soon disappeared into the undergrowth.
Kali looked around to see if the brief disturbance had given her position away. But with the exception of a few fluttering birds and a couple of hooting monkeys over the far side of the old temple courtyard, there was no movement, though she knew she not alone.
Across the winding pathway through the vegetation, a few stone pillars and lintels remained upright, casting strong shadows in the setting sunlight. Anyone passing this way would be sure to walk directly beneath them, as she had planned. She made a small hand gesture, and several shadows below the stonework responded in kind. Good. The Daughters were in place.
She mused at the strange series of events that had brought them down from their mountain base high in the Himalayas. How an enemy from the world outside had succeeded in planting a double agent within the ranks of the S.H.I.V.A. faithful. And how the Guru, in his limitless wisdom and piercing insight, had sensed the viper in their nest and flushed him out.
The man had done well to get this far, this fast. Escaping from Mount Nirvana itself had been an impressive enough feat, costing the lives of several guards during his flight, not to mention several more when news of the security breach reached the Guru’s ears. Doubtless the spy had employed some clever device to effect his escape, a small explosive concealed in a shoe perhaps, or possibly an electronic lock pick in his cufflinks. Kali was endlessly amused by the wonderful toys the enemies of her master brought with them.
They had tracked him down the treacherous mountain passes, through the high valleys and foothills and down into the jungle, where he doubtlessly planned to use the heavy tree cover to hide his progress from S.H.I.V.A.’s eyes in the sky. That was clever of him, but it would not be enough to save him from the Guru’s long reach. Kali lived to serve her master, and to remind their enemies that the price of standing against him was death.
A sound brought her back to the present. Several pairs of feet moving carefully but quickly along the jungle path. It must be the spy, and whoever was aiding him. She pressed herself closer to the head of the statue, a rearing stylised leopard. A brief glance to the shadowy archway indicated that her companions were also ready and as still as the stones themselves. She indicated that they should wait and close the trap behind the intruders.
Presently a small procession emerged from the foliage. Several men and one woman. Most of the men were locals, armed with machetes and laden with supplies for the journey. They were led by a native policeman by the looks of his uniform, doubtless one of handful of the local law authorities to have foolishly resisted the Guru’s influence.
Influence… the thought brought a long-buried memory to mind. An image of herself, somewhat younger, standing before the Guru in some nameless hidden fortress. Bruised, bleeding, but defiant, her clothing – a school uniform? – torn and bloody. Had there been an accident? A crash? She could not recall. The younger Kali, though that was not yet her name, said something to the Guru, challenging him, scorning this strange being’s authority.
In her mind, the Guru bristled, stepped closer to the girl. His eyes seemed to flash with an inner light as she started with a shock and put a hand to her brow as if struck by a sudden headache. Then she straightened up and leapt for him, hands outstretched, fingers clawed. The Guru took a step back in surprise, then redoubled his mental efforts, his eyes boring into the girl with greater intensity. She froze in place, her hands inches from his throat, her mouth twisted in a frustrated snarl. The Guru tilted his head, as if studying a rare specimen of insect, and leant in closer, his eyes seeing into her very mind…
Blinking, Kali shook off the distracting memories and concentrated on the mission. Below her the procession had passed under the archway and into the temple courtyard. Now she could see the spy himself bringing up the rear, a local girl clinging to his arm possessively. It was often the way with these men, using their charms and gadgets to impress some gullible native into lending their aid. Doubtless she had romantic aspirations for herself and this man. A pity they were soon to be thwarted.
The man himself still wore the stolen garb of a S.H.I.V.A. cultist, torn but somehow stylish on his athletic frame. Whether it was a dinner jacket, a wet suit or a robe, his sort always managed to present themselves with a certain style. It must be in their training. How she hated him and his kind.
The spy seemed to sense the danger, but a moment too late. Kali brought her blowpipe to her lips and let fly a deadly dart, laced with poison from a rare plant found only in a remote region of China. A local man fell, clutching his neck with a wordless scream as the others shouted warnings and brought their weapons up, scanning the temple ruins.
As they had planned, the Daughters took this as the signal to strike. Deadly daggers flew out from the shadows, finding their marks among the men who had begun to fire wildly in all directions. As one, three slender female forms dropped from their hidden recesses among the stonework and landed gracefully on the temple floor. The Daughters of S.H.I.V.A. made their way swiftly and sinuously into the fray, each distinguished from the other two only by a unique decoration upon her sixth chakra; one of ebony, one of ivory, one of jade.
As the three Daughters drew swords and clashed with the machetes of the local men, Kali herself unwound from the leopard statue and somersaulted to the ground before the spy, holding her knife before her. The man seemed strangely unruffled by the attack, as if was the sort of thing that often happened to him. He patted the now-screaming native girl on the arm, whispered something reassuring and stepped forward to meet Kali.
“Kali. Looks like you can’t stay away from me after all.”
He spoke with a sardonic, roguish manner. Was he English? Scottish? It was hard to tell. He fiddled nervously with his wristwatch.
“You have stolen secrets from the Guru, the all-wise.”
“You say stolen, I say borrowed. Surely we can settle this in a more civilized setting? Say the Hotel Assam, Saturday evening?”
How he mocked her. She could feel a red rage rising up.
“You, you are a spy, the enemy. You have stolen that which is precious to my master. Nobody likes a sneak.”
Why had she said that last part? It was if words from her old, forgotten life were dripping through. Distractions, weaknesses. She would punish the smooth-tongued agent for confusing her.
Kali let the rage rush up over her like fire, and leapt in, her blade flicking out. The man’s eyebrow rose as she closed in, no doubt betraying his fear as he twisted the dial on his watch. With a click, a small jet of gas puffed out from the man’s wrist and engulfed her, choking and blinding. Kali cursed. Another toy!
Then from one side a small but vicious fist found her unprotected jaw and everything went black.
When she awoke, Kali’s first thoughts were of her failure to kill the double agent and the dreadful fate that the Guru meted out to those who disappointed him. Only afterward did she pause to consider that the spy had not killed her when she was defenceless, as she surely who have done in his place. A fool, a weak, romantic fool.
The three Daughters sat around her in a protective circle, their chakras glinting in the moonlight. The mountains seemed closer than they had been. They must have borne her some distance back to S.H.I.V.A.’s lofty abode, doubtless to face her punishment.
“Dark One,” one of them spoke, “Word has been sent from the Guru with new priorities. The spy has been allowed to make good his escape, as per the master’s great plan.”
Kali rose to her feet shaking her aching muscles loose and clearing her head of the gas’s after-effects. So perhaps she would not pay the price for failure after all, but still the denial of the kill weighed heavily on her. She indicated that the Daughter should continue.
“Others are coming, and in great force, to storm the gates of Mount Nirvana itself. We are required at the Guru’s side, to show them the folly of defying S.H.I.V.A.”
“Who? Who would dare?” Kali asked.
The answer, when it came, brought a wry smile to her lips.
“Then it is their deaths that will atone for my failure this day. Come, my angels.”