Lian Chen - A Henchman's Tale
"Enter the Dragon" Fan Fiction
I had to take the beating. On all fours in the middle of the back room of the gambling parlor, I tried to beg them to stop but no voice came out. The punisher struck me again in the ribs with the thin, whip-like stick. The others stood around us; arms crossed, snickering and sneering. The schadenfreude was further thickening the humid air. The scent of fish broth wafted in from the kitchen, and my stomach snarled. They hadn’t fed me in two days.
“Please – just let me go!” I managed to blurt out.
Every breath caused sharp pain. Blood fell out of my open wounds. I continued to stare down at the planked floor, wishing I could disappear in between the seams. The punisher took a step towards me and crouched down near my face.
“Okay,” He said softly.
I couldn’t believe it. He signaled to the others and they just casually left the room, locking the door behind them. Collapsing in a heap, I sobbed until I passed out.
A loud crash shook me awake. A couple of the men pushed a ragged looking guy into the darkness where he stumbled and fell. The door was locked behind him. Through the dim light, we exchanged a look. I recognized his face.
“I know you!” We simultaneously exclaimed.
It was good to see someone familiar. Lok was his name – a petty thief and vagabond that prowled the Jewelry District. He scoured the city in an effort to exploit tourists and travelers, much like myself. We had worked together on a couple of heists to outwit shop owners and score some bigger loot besides the usual bulk shipments of water and food: jewels and coins.
That was what got us both tossed in jail for a few months. That was also the last time we saw each other. He helped me up off the floor, and clasped my elbow while we shook hands.
“You look rough,” He said while glancing me over.
“I really pissed someone off,” I groaned.
“I wouldn’t worry about it. We’re not staying.”
I cocked my head in disbelief. “Huh? How do you know that?”
“Those guys have big mouths when they don’t think you can understand them. A boat is coming to pick us up in the next hour.”
“A boat? To where? I can’t leave the city! Wu-Lei hasn’t heard from me in days!”
Lok didn’t seem the least bit concerned or sympathetic. He didn’t believe I would have any opportunity to tell my wife. He didn’t quite have the heart to tell me his truth, though.
“Maybe you can get in touch with her when we get to where we’re going?” He tried to sound reassuring.
“Are you kidding?” I questioned ferociously. “Get to where we’re going? You seem very convinced that they aren’t just going to chop us up and feed us to the fishes!”
The image of being dismembered and thrown into the ocean piece by piece clambered into the front of my imagination.
“I think they’re just trying to scare us with this whole act,” Lok’s ignorance was baffling.
“I don’t know where you’ve been, but for the last two days they’ve been working me over!”
“What’d you do?” He asked coyly.
“What did I do?” I scoffed, offended by an unsaid accusation.
“You got caught stealing from them,” He said so matter of factly I wanted to punch his face.
“I knew it,” He stared blankly at me.
I stumbled over a mash up of words and realized nothing coherent came out. I was defeated.
“You should know better. These new guys in town are no joke. They aren’t to be messed with. They have taken over all of the Waterfront. I thought you live around here?” He casually berated me.
I was shocked. There was something wrong with me. I was slipping. How could I not have noticed the changing of the guard? In the span of just a few weeks my entire territory had been pulled out from underneath me. My contacts had all gone quiet and I just thought one last grab at that incoming silk shipment would put us in a good spot for a few months.
I put my head in my hands, wondering exactly how I would notify my wife that I was gone. She would be worried sick. Probably think I’m dead. It wouldn’t be the first time. I don’t know why she stuck around – she knew the type of man I had to be. She should have married someone with better morals. But this was all I could manage at this time in our life.
Since the accident, I had been out of work and couldn’t support our previous life style. The healing process was slow, but by the time I was able to get back on my feet we downgraded from our high rise in the city to a community shanty in the slums. We defecated in the street like animals and begged for food more days than not. Infections and sickness ran amok in the squalid living conditions. Our newborn baby didn’t make it three weeks. We gave her a sea burial. If I had only been able to keep my job at the radio station, none of this would have happened.
The State would convoy in pre-packaged meals twice a day where we would queue up and get herded like animals on the festival grounds. When the gangs came in, they shot the lines up with automatic rifles. The State stopped coming back so frequently after a soldier was killed. We buried six of our neighbors from the shootings.
Things were changing so rapidly. And for the worse. I felt guilty for getting wrapped up in all of this. With Mother and Father gone I couldn’t ask anyone for help. Wu-Lei’s Mother and Father disowned us after they unveiled the true nature of our income.
“Criminals!” They wrote in a scathing letter. “Scum!” It was underlined a hundred times.
We couldn’t convince them that we were doing what we had to do to survive – to keep putting food in our mouths and pay off our debts. We couldn’t get out of this place if we tried. We just kept getting sucked further and further into the cesspool.
The locks on the door jingled and shook. I had fallen asleep. Lok was resting in the corner of the room.
“You two!” The punisher entered, a pistol tucked into his waist band. “Get up – follow.” He didn’t speak our language very well.
He led us down a corridor in between the parlor and kitchen. The noise of the parlor was deafening – shouting and hollering and the sounds of chips and money and lighters clicking and drinks stirring. I wished I was on that side of the wall.
We made it outside on to the docks and the ocean breeze took my breath away as it overcame me. I didn’t have the opportunity to soak it all in before we were wrangled into the belly of a ragged sea-faring vessel. A handful of other men were down there, too. None of them looked quite beaten up as I had been, but they all looked defeated in their own right. They closed the door behind Lok, and we were encompassed by darkness. The berthing area had already smelled like stale piss. After a few minutes of trying to find a dry spot on the floor, we were underway to our unknown destination. I tried to sleep, but the sounds of men retching and spilling their guts kept me from getting solid shut eye. I was delirious with sleep deprivation with absolutely no one to watch after me. I felt utterly alone.
The ship had slowed down, and when I had noticed it come to a halt, I shook Lok awake.
Sunlight. The adjustment to the brightness blinded me for a few minutes, making it difficult to form the human chain that guided us on to the deck of the ship. I shielded my eyes with my hand, trying to observe the landscape.
A stony island. We were docked to some kind of port that was built into the side of a large cliff face. The architecture was very progressive, and it looked like hundreds of man hours went into designing the landing area. Maroon banners with gilded tendrils adorned the welcoming zone.
The punisher and all of those buffoons back at the parlor were nowhere in sight. A middle aged man greeted the sixteen or so of us, and led us through the cave system. No one spoke. We just took in the awesome vista - a well lit cavern with rushing water and ravines that disappeared into an abyss.
We were led through a large training ground where preparations seemed to be underway for an upcoming event. Men bustled about, setting up torches, furniture, mats, and fire pits. A golden throne was being polished with extreme care. They ignored us, which felt unwelcoming.
Eventually we were led into a mansion, where we followed the man into a large hall. He slowed his pace, and eventually stopped in front of an archway with two crimson double doors. He turned to face us. We were unkempt and smelled putrid.
“Welcome,” He spoke to us.
“To where? Where are we?” One of the men expressed concern.
He looked sternly into the crowd, staring through the outsider.
“Do not interrupt me again,” The middle aged man said with a vehement sincerity. “The tournament begins in two days. You will be led to your quarters, where I’m sure you will find the accommodations much more luxurious than on your trip over. Dinner will be served in one hour in this hall. Where you are does not matter - as there is no way back to where you came from until you complete your duties here. Only one man determines your length of stay: Master Han. The keeper of this place. You will meet him in time. Until then, we will see you off to your quarters.”
He turned and led us down a series of hallways. One by one we were shown a small, but luxurious room. It had upscale amenities, including a hot shower. How I had been dying for a bath. After getting out of the stall, I noticed a fresh change of clothes on my bunk: a tan gi with tan belt. It seemed to be the uniform of the day, because at dinner we were all wearing the same outfit.
The meal was out of this world: scrumptious meats, delectable fruits and vegetables, wine by the gallon, and endless loafs of freshly baked bread. For a few minutes I forgot about my wife and the shit luck I was dealing with. I scarfed down as much as I could handle, and ended the meals with a few too many slices of pie. I was starting to feel sick.
“I can’t stand up,” I grumbled to Lok.
He was working on his sixth or so glass of wine, and was starting to look glassy eyed.
“Why would you?” He grumbled back.
“On your feet!” A brutish looking man stormed into the dining hall through the double doors. We ignored him, not knowing who he was and what authority he carried. A couple of the men obeyed, however, and slowly stood.
“Up!” The muscle bound guard yanked the closest man up and out of his seat with little effort. The rest of us stood with some urgency. “Good!”
The muscular man walked further into the hall, glancing us over to ensure we were in proper form for the spectacle to come. Lok managed to sneak one more sip of his wine before the brute knocked the glass out of his hand. The rest of our shipmates quickly dropped their food and drink.
The hulking man spun around and acknowledged two women standing at the doorway. They each pulled open a door and an older man with receding jet black hair stepped into the hall. He had an artificial smile on - I had seen too many of those in my time as a thief.
“Welcome, gentlemen!” He was not a native speaker of our tongue, but managed to remain articulate the best he could. “I am Han. This is my island. Every one of you has been chosen to assist us here as we represent the finest martial arts tournament in the World! The best fighters from internationally known schools will be here to compete in just a matter of days - and you will ensure that it runs smoothly.”
He paused for a moment to look over his new batch of minions. The plastic smile never seemed to go away. The muscular man was stoic and intimidating.
“We would like to place you in a position where you will thrive. That only brings success to the island and to our operations. We have positions in distribution, security, and mechanical maintenance.”
“How about communications?” I spoke up.
“I’m sorry - not at this time,” Han acknowledged me. The muscle man shot me a sinister look. I ignored it. “Our operations manager, Mr. Park, will be placing you. Until then, I look forward to working with all of you and to another successful tournament. Come, Bolo.”
The hulking man joined Mr. Han and they exited the hall through the double doors held open by the women. They followed in trail of Mr. Han and his henchman.
“What the hell was that?” I whispered to Lok.
“We’re getting jobs?”
“I’m going to be sick.”
“You need to hold it.”
The middle aged man that had shown us to our rooms had been standing by all along with a clipboard and pen. He must have made his way in sometime during the evening, but I hadn’t noticed.
“Right. I’m Mr. Park, for those of you that are thick headed. In terms of the positions, security is pretty self explanatory. Put your hand up if you’ve any martial arts training? Hmm. Okay - put them down. Are there any assassins among you? No? Very well. We’ll have to work with what we’ve got. There are no guns allowed on the island. so martial weapons only. Who has warehouse or cooking experience? Not food - heroin. Oh, good. Excellent. Okay put your hands down. You can keep eating. Our distribution agreement with the local…”
I blanked out while he described the inconsequential details on how their drug ring was managed. I couldn’t get my mind off of being trapped here for months on end. How long is this tournament supposed to take? Who even are these people?
I didn’t have any say in getting involved in this - I was doing my own thing and liking it! This is way over my head! Sure, there were some mistakes made on my end but there isn’t any reason to ship me off to this place!
“And you - security,” Park pointed at me.
“In the laboratory. Security.”
And that was it. My fate was sealed. After gorging, I was sent immediately to an elevator where myself, Lok, and a few other men descended into the labyrinth that was the drug cooking and distributing portion of the island - hidden away from prying eyes. A cramped four man room would be my home for the next unknown length of time. It reminded me of the community shack back with Wu-Lei and the six others we boarded up with.
Days passed. I didn’t see the sun for about three of them - mainly because of our patrol rotations. There were several men constantly on watch patrolling the island, or the interior of the lab complex. Some of the other guys had it a bit easier, with a much more routine schedule. But ours was particularly terrible. The only times I got outside in three days was on a four hour shift in the middle of the night. Finally, come Tuesday, I was able to get outside and catch some sunlight - the same afternoon the fighters arrived.
“Look at all that,” I said quietly to no one in particular. I had a grand vista of the ocean from my position, one of the highest points on the island outside of the observation tower.
A handful of ships were heading towards the island while another handful were queuing up to the port. It was unlike anything I had been anticipating from this so-called tournament. Soon the barracks were filled and the prize fighters were given moderately upscale rooms on the mansion grounds. Han was trying to butter them up. He didn’t need to do that for the amateur fighters -
most of those men were in on Han’s shtick, and came here to renegotiate drug terms and get some training to use back on the streets. Han wanted these big named cats to turn into his finest and most lethal drug peddlers. It was a gamble, if you ask me, but Mr. Han was doing something right so far.
After spending an afternoon observing the checking in process of the tournament, it was back to the underground. Back to patrolling the evenings and sleeping during the day and never getting any reassurance that my wife knew where I was and what was going on.
A few times I passed the radio room; a glassed off section in a corner of the underground labyrinth in which we patrolled. At least one man was always on duty in there. I didn’t know them well enough to ask them to send a message to my wife. I didn’t trust them. Any mention of my desire to work in the radio room due to my past experience was met with outright denial by Mr. Park. There didn’t seem to be any chance for me to reach the outside. But I had to. Wu-Lei needed to hear from me, and know that I was okay - that I would be able to come back if I just stuck it out.
I started going off my patrol route and began to quietly watch the radio room from afar. I was planning a distraction event. Something that would pull the man on duty away from the phone and I would get a message out to my wife. I could telegraph my old boss so that way there would be no trace of an outgoing call. Could I trust my boss to get the message to Wu-Lei? Would he just ignore it? I wouldn’t need to distract the radio operator for long - just a couple of minutes for me to send out the message.
I didn’t sleep after my patrol that evening. The next day Lok commented how my eyes were bloodshot and I had been nodding off at our meal. I lied, and told him I was fine. I tried to get some sleep afterwords.
The sirens were blaring. I had been jarred awake, and found myself covering my ears, feet & legs dangling off my cot.
An intruder had breached the underground lab. Several men were already rushing towards the commotion. It was the second time this week. I hadn’t been on shift the first time it happened, thankfully. Those men were broken and tossed into the sea by Bolo himself, Lok told me. They had even strung up the prize fighter that they had caught outside after curfew! Apparently they got the wrong guy. Or someone was back for revenge. Or both. Either way, it seemed like Mr. Han’s island was coming apart at the seams.
We didn’t have to be here. Lok and I could just get out of here in the middle of the pandemonium.
Right as I was thinking of him, Lok ran past my room and I shouted after him to stop. He doubled back and appeared in my doorway. I was putting my footwear on.
“Don’t you think we should get a better idea as to what’s going on?” I asked over the sound of the siren.
“You two - get moving!” The Sergeant at Arms shouted at us, shoving Lok down the hall, scolding me to move faster.
Now wasn’t the time to be putting up a fuss with the Sergeant, Kuan-Yin, a tough and battle hardened man. He had participated in the tournament before an injury to his leg. Han allowed him to remain on the island to recuperate. A generous offer, as he would typically find ways to exploit and humiliate his wounded guards. Maybe Mr. Han saw something in Kuan-Yin. Either way, I thought he was a prick, and wasn’t interested in getting killed just because he was eager for us to fight for him.
“Why don’t we hang back once we get into the main hall?” I whispered to Lok as we joined the crowd of men heading towards the hallway door that would dump us out into the cooking area for the heroin.
The hydraulic door whooshed open and revealed the cavernous, main corridor of the underground laboratory. A small bend in the hall blocked our view from the action. It sounded like a cluster of men were battling our guards. I was beginning to feel nervous. Until I noticed we were out of view of Kuan-Yin.
“Let’s hold back a second,” I slowed to a halt as a handful of our guards rushed around the corner. Lok was beginning to sense how nervous I was.
“Why don’t you just quit being a princess?” He hissed at me.
A cacophony of sound. The most diabolical, monstrous sounding noises were erupting from around the bend, echoing off the rock walls. Chains rattled. Wooden sticks popped against bone and wood and steel. The shrieks of what sounded to be a giant creature pierced the cave.
“They brought some kind of beast with them!” I said as I frantically began to search for a weapon. Lok followed suit. We knew Kuan-Yin would be exiting the doorway soon and see us loitering.
I picked up a section of pipe. Lok remained empty handed, furthering his anxiety. I set us up into an ambush position, tucked along the wall of the cave. I listened. Men grunted, gurgled, and ceased to breathe.
It felt as if the cave was closing in on us. As if I would be sucked up into the wall I was leaning so hard into. The intrusion alarm continued to blare, blocking me from listening for foot steps. I kept two hands on the pipe, and was ready to react swiftly on the first intruder to round the corner that wasn’t wearing a tan gi.
Instead, Kuan-Yin passed through the doorway behind Lok and I. We both spun around as he shouted at us.
“Hey! What the hell are you doing?” He barked. He was joined by Park and another one of Han’s Sergeants. “I thought I told you to -”
As I was being chastised, The Dragon slipped undetected around the bend. His stealth was exacerbated by the distracting conditions. He was thriving in the chaos.
I saw Kuan’s face change from anger to confusion as a sudden kick to my hands from the undetected Dragon sent the iron pipe flying and clanging to the floor. Before I could react, I was then shoved into Lok with explosive strength at close range, and we both tumbled to the ground at the feet of our counterparts.
“Get him!” Kuan-Yin exploded out the doorway towards the shirtless Dragon while raising his hatchet into the air.
To say that The Dragon dispatched him with ease would be understating the hard truth. Although Kuan-Yin was a formidable warrior and was equally feared and respected by Han’s most seasoned guards and soldiers, he met a sudden and unexpected demise as one of the thick wooden dowels on The Dragon’s nunchaku, an old rice flailing tool, seemed to practically spring from his hip and crack Kuan-Yin right between the eyes with a loud CRUNCH. His body fell with a disgusting immediacy; as if someone had simply unplugged his life source. The Dragon looked unfazed, and spun the nunchakus in an effort to intimidate us.
It was working. Park ran off and the other Sergeant followed suit. They had both seen the warrior participate in the tournament.
I assumed a fighting stance. The lean, dark haired man stared deeply at me, as if he were waiting for me to move first.
Lok rushed in and tried to grab Kuan-Yin’s hatchet but The Dragon kicked it behind him, well out of reach of either of us. Lok somersaulted to avoid the sudden attack by The Dragon. I took the opportunity to flank him, but he lashed out with the nunchaku at close range, striking me in the sternum which immediately fractured. The momentum behind my attack kept me going, and his leg swept mine while he moved me off balance, causing my head to hit the concrete floor. The world went black for a few moments.
When I came to, Lok was in the middle of a fisticuffs match with the shirtless warrior.
Within a matter of seconds, The Dragon put Lok away with a kick to the stomach and stomp to his trachea while he was on the floor. The intruder just moved along, executing Han’s guards as they approached him. I was left to suffocate in agony on the floor next to a steaming wok of heroin and my throat stomped friend.
Life can be so cruel.
Once I’ve watched a film more than fifteen times, I start to take notice of the characters that aren’t as well shaped as the main cast. Many of these disposable henchmen, guards, drug dealers, gunners, and drivers are simply cannon fodder – a patchy field of grass to be mowed down by the main character(s). In 2019, we seem to be, again, in a phase of trendy reboots and resuscitation of old content. Sometimes it’s fine, but most of the time these movies are simply cash grabs, siphoning money from a growing love for nostalgia and days of yesteryear.
Enter the Dragon is a timeless action / martial arts flick, one that I grew up enjoying thoroughly. Bruce Lee was a larger than life actor, and his philosophy and off-screen personality intrigued me to know as much as I could about the man.
This story is not about Bruce’s character in Enter the Dragon. It is about the disposable henchmen that he cuts down in a climactic scene: his character breaks into Han’s underground liar for the second time, prompting a flood of guards whose bodies would be stacked by Lee.
Good fan fiction should elaborate the things we miss on screen. It should help us fill in the blanks and create more depth to the story. It should also stay true to the actions, motivations, and background of the main characters.
This is intended to be a fun, action/adventure story that is meant to humanize the less than notable characters that get a fraction of screen time compared to Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Bolo Yeung, etc. Enjoy!