You folks ask an awful lot of questions. Does it make you feel safer from people like me? It probably 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. All this stuff should be in your files. But I suppose it's on paper in boxes in musty basements or dark, dreary warehouses somewhere, isn't it? You couldn't just put it in your computer system? Oh, well, you probably have dozens of computer systems that don't talk to one another, right? Is that because your computer professionals don't understand the systems? Or is it paranoia on the part of your various organizations? Never mind. It doesn't matter.

Or maybe you just want that first-person perspective, trying to get into our heads?

Fine, fine. Whatever. I'll answer your silly questions, but you'll get them my way.

Let's start with the short, simple, easy ones. Do I have a partner or team I work with? No, of course not. I work with the Denver Police Department, and you can contact Captain Rodrigo Sanchez regarding that.

Now, it seems like you want contact information for every person I've ever known. You really are a terribly nosy bunch of people, aren't you? Fine. Let's start with my grandfather. You know him: 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 my father was born. That would be Nelson Yazzie, Papa Bill's eldest. Papa 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 my grandmother, Tita Kai, hale and hearty. That would be Kai Bearheart Yazzie, by the way. So I've got Aunt Sonia and Uncle Junior . . . William Yazzie Jr . . . in my life, too.

You probably don't care how many of us are angry at you about the atomic weapons testing you did in New Mexico. At least we knew about the mining. You would probably be surprised by the number of people on the Navajo Nation with "superpowers," but none of us are. Why do you think most of us stay home on our own lands? Who wants to do what I'm doing now . . . tell 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 Navajo Nation.

My dad, his sister, and his brother haven't been affected by all the testing, the uranium mining, and the Virus. 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 haven't been affected by your stupid tests. I guess they're far enough away in Arizona from your madness.

My folks both studied civil engineering in college, Dad at the University of Denver and Mama at the University of Arizona down in Tempe. After graduation, they both joined the United States Army Corps of Engineers, though a couple of years apart. Maybe it was fate that intervened if you believe in that sort of thing, that had two Diné from opposite sides of the Nation meet only after they'd left the Nation. Well, they fell in love, got married, and they had me. When I was about five, we moved to Camp Zama, about twenty-five miles from Tokyo. Two years later, my little brother Justin was born.

I guess the only thing of importance to you people from that time in Japan was why Dad insisted I start on Aikido lessons with Doshu Ueshiba Moriteru right way, hardly a month after we'd settled in. Do you even care that we had a happy and wonderful life there? Does it even matter to you that my brother and I had lots of friends? That we learned to speak Japanese? That Dad and Mama did good work there? That they were so very much in love and that we were a happy family?

Right. Doshu Ueshiba's school.

There'd been rumors and stories from friends and family back home while we were in Albuquerque, and then it all became more than rumors. Children were 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 real, and seeing things and people that weren't real or weren't really there. Some . . . some just changed. We saw it in Japan, too.

Back home, Dad's best friend, Daniel Runningelk . . . his son turned one day. It had been right after Dad and Mama had gotten their transfer orders to Zama. We'd been visiting in Yah-ta-hey for a few weeks before going off to Japan, to visit friends and relatives. I remember Little Danny; I always looked up to him whenever we went back to Dad's home to visit. He was a kind boy and was always happy to make time for his little "cousin," despite our age difference.

But this one day — Dad didn't share the whole story with me for years — Little Danny twisted nearly inside out and became an eagle. He flew off for a few hours, but when he came home . . . when he came home, he didn't seem to know how to turn back. Do you know what an eagle sounds like? I do. I remember the eagle sitting on the roof of Little Danny's house crying and crying. His folks . . . they didn't know what to do. Even the medicine man couldn't help. After a few weeks, after we left for Zama, I guess the eagle took over for good: it flew off, and no one ever saw it again. Little Danny was gone. He was eight years older than me.

I still miss him.

That was when my folks 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, 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 very hard, but his intention was always kindness.

I guess it was a good thing Dad had made me study all those years with Doshu Ueshiba. The fight sign that these "powers" were going to hit me was when I was twelve, and scrapes, bruises, and bumps seemed to heal faster than usual. 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, my body doing what seemed natural. Now I can heal an insignificant cut like that almost instantly.

But the part that came next — the power of the qi flowing through my meridians? If I hadn't known about qi or 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 pretty 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 three buildings down from us; smells were overpowering. I could read the ingredients on the cereal box from clear across the room . . . in the dark. Everything tasted so strong, yet I could still pick out individual spices in any dish. Even my silk robe seemed to rub my skin raw; I could feel every threat as if it was a coarse rope used at the docks.

It was awful.

That last year in Japan was challenging. 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 else?

It was hell.

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

And caught the fly.

Every. Single. Time. I. Try . . .

I catch the damn fly.

Some of you people probably think this stuff is cool, and some of you think we should be lab rats and tested. I'm sure some of you are afraid of us.

Well, it is not cool, and you should be afraid. What kind of madman creates a gene mutation — even accidentally — 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. Getting upset about it won't change anything. And I know it's not just the White Man. It's people like you, unknown bureaucrats who're the lap dog of politicians, who decide registration is better than helping people. Make sure you mark it down in your files that I have a bad attitude toward you people, okay?

But back to my "superpowers." There's more to the story, of course. Of course! How could there not be?

When I was thirteen, my folks decided to retire from the USACE. They moved back to the States and bought a little house in Flagstaff. Personal computers were really taking off; everyone seemed to be getting one, and Dad opened a little shop to fix them, get folks good deals on new ones, training people how to use them. My grandparents had been living there for some time; Tita had heart problems that perplexed the doctors, so Dad wanted to be close to his folks. Mama got a job as 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 my folks were scared for me. They tried to hide it, but that was also part of whatever was happening to me. I just seemed to see what people were feeling. They didn't think anyone in the U.S. could help me. Maybe they were right, and maybe they weren't. It doesn't matter now. Doshu Ueshiba admitted that he'd taught me everything he could. Not only was I the first non-Japanese student to become Kudan, to reach the Ninth Dan, but the youngest and the only female. It seemed surprising at the time, but he recommended another school.

If you understand how . . . well, protective, I suppose, would be the closest thing to describing it in English. If you understood how protective each martial arts school is about their knowledge and lineage, you'd be just as surprised as my family had been. Doshu Ueshiba told my father to send me to a remote village in Henan Province to study Taijiquan with Grandmaster Chen Quingzhou in his family's taiji style. It's the original, supposedly passed down through nineteen generations of Chen masters. But maybe it wasn't really all that surprising, after all. Doshu Ueshiba knew taiji was the one practice of all the martial arts that focused most on qi. After studying with him for eight years, after these abilities started showing up, I knew he cared about me as much as my parents 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 Henen 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.

I stayed in China for another six years before Grandmaster Chen deemed me read to be a Master of Chen Shi Taijiquan. There's not a lot to say about those six years. I spent each day, every day working . . . and working hard. Some days, I simply stood, 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 energy blasts from the lao gong points in my palms and the youn quan points in my soles. I learned to first listen to the animals and then communicate with them at a rudimentary level, then control them. It's a balance: the more intelligent and cunning an animal, the easier it is to communicate with it, but the harder it is 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's a very different way of seeing than how humans perceive our world.

I had learned how to heal more quickly and 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 the healing was instinctive by this time. And I wasn't paying attention that particular day; I'd been careless. But before anyone could reach me, I'd already healed all the scrapes and bruises, and the arm I'd broken was healed by the time I stood up.

The following year, I slipped up on the icy roof in the middle of winter, trying to patch a hole. My reflexes had gotten so fast that the children watching said it looked like I was going to fall, but it seemed almost as if something was holding me up. Truthfully? I could say it was the qi holding me up, but it was simply that I found my balance and regained my footing so damn fast.

It took six years, but eventually, Grandmaster Chen was satisfied that I'd not only become a Master but that I'd learned to harness the power of qi. I was its master, and as long as I remained faithful to the teachings of Taijiquan, I wasn't going to inadvertently harm another living being with the terrible power that had become my curse. The sight of qi all around me no longer overwhelmed me to the point of distraction; I could set all that aside to live a normal life alongside the people of Grandmaster Chen's village. Focusing on the qi, however, allowed me to see not only the interconnectedness of everything but the health of those around me. I guess Disney got it right — and they don't get a lot right, so kudos: I know every rock and tree and creature has a life, has a spirit, has a name.

Grandmaster Chen insisted that it was necessary to practice for at least an hour every day, but the practice is restful and calming as a full night's sleep. So, it wasn't a chore to practice. The Chen Qigong exercises and meditations can be done almost anywhere, at any time. They're a potent way to relax, relieve stress, and improve my mood. The teachings of Buddha — that all things are impermanent — are often a great comfort. I suppose that might sound odd coming from a Diné who honors the traditions of our ancestors, finding comfort in Buddhism. But there you have it.

When Grandmaster Chen declared I had mastered my qi, when he conferred on me the rank of Master, I finally set off for home. The journey that had terrified my thirteen-year-old self was an exploration for nineteen-year-old me. Through the teachings of both my teachers, I'd learned skills that made the journey back to the United States and to Flagstaff peaceful and uneventful. Ah, perhaps not entirely uneventful, as my parting gift from Grandmaster Chen did create a bit of a stir at San Francisco International Airport. It's a staff of polished red oak, carved with the words peace and harmony in every human language his grandson could find. While the elegance of the Japanese kanji and the undeniable beauty of the Arabic script caught my eye immediately, the symbol in the center of the staff spoke to my heart. Carved large enough to spiral around the wood, hózhó was not only carved but infilled with gold . . . in Diné Bizaad, hózhó means harmony, balance, peace, happiness, and so much more. Both ends of the staff were capped in gold. I think it caused less apprehension and more admiration, for the staff truly is a thing of beauty. And, of course, this was before the terror of 9/11.

Returning home made me wonder what I should do with my life. For fourteen of my nineteen years, I'd been studying self-defense. For the past six, I'd 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 others. My father's family is more traditional in their beliefs, with the Great Spirit watching over all we do. Most of my mother's family is nominally Christian, with all the contradictions that religion provides. Some of them, like my mother, also keep to more traditional ways. While in Japan, I studied Buddhism and Shinto; in Chenjiagou, I studied Taoism. It hasn't escaped my attention that many people with "superpowers" are fighting and killing others. As ever, it seemed the world was polarized and lacking balance.

I wanted time to be "normal" for a change, to try to reach a balance, at least for myself. These "powers" you rather cavalierly bestowed on me with your nuclear testing and uranium mining, albeit not me specifically, were well under control. Fortunately, I'd taken accelerated courses at the American High School at Camp Zama and finished my high school courses via mail while in China. You don't appreciate the United States Postal Service until you live in a place that receives a mail delivery once a month. I'd applied to several colleges and had been accepted at all of them. I chose to attend the University of Denver, my dad's alma mater, despite my desire to stay closer to Flagstaff and my younger brother. He was nearing my age when the mutated gene switched on; I was worried about him. Our folks told me over and over not to worry — that one of the cousins had said Justin wouldn't 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. They're quite content staying within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation.

Despite their reassurances, I continued worrying when I went to Denver for the beginning of the fall term. I was apprehensive about Justin all year. But, for what it's worth, oh nosy bureaucrat, I hadn't needed to worry: he's perfectly normal.

And that's where things stand now, faceless bureaucrat. I'm going to finish college like any other typical American student, though I haven't quite decided what to major in. My greatest desire is for all of you to just leave me alone.

© Kelly Naylor