FANG ISLAND—U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has opened his fortified island headquarters to participants in his second no-holds-barred martial arts tournament, the enigmatic mastermind announced Monday.
"Warriors of the world, hear me," said Rumsfeld, seated on the onyx throne overlooking the fighting arena at the island's central volcano, surrounded by a phalanx of exotic but murderous beauties and his seven-foot-tall guard Omarra. "I declare the Eagle Fist all-styles, hand-to-hand combat world championship open once more. For the next 10 days, the world's mightiest fighters will come together here at Fang Island to compete for a prize of $1 million and the post of Associate Secretary Of Full-Contact Defense!"
Rumsfeld then declared the tournament open by symbolically shattering a block of obsidian with his prosthetic dragon's claw—the powerful weapon grafted onto his right wrist after 2003 champion Li severed his hand with manji butterfly swords.
"Who can deny that conflict is a purifying flame which sears away cowardice, hesitation, sentiment—all that which is unworthy in Man?" Rumsfeld said, stroking his albino cheetah. "And my fighting arena is the crucible which concentrates that fire into the refined white heat of invincibility. The victor of my Eagle Fist Tournament shall be, by nature and definition, unsurpassed in the ways of the warrior. Such a fighter is fit to be the instrument of Rumsfeld."
The defense secretary then described the plan for the tournament—a single-elimination series of bouts in which two fighters, matched by drawn lots, will remain locked in combat until one is physically unable to continue. Once the round concludes, the victor will be given a night and day to rest before the next match. At no time will a fighter be free to roam Fang Island's sealed areas.
"I do not forget last year's incident with Li," Rumsfeld said, fingering the jagged scar on his neck that he received in an ambush last year. "He was an enemy of freedom, and he dishonored us with his treachery. I regret that I was only able to give him a scar to match mine, and not the death he so richly deserved. Though he escaped in cowardice, he cannot hide forever."
According to Rumsfeld, the finest students of every martial philosophy traveled from around the globe to take part in the tournament. While some come only to pursue the honor of the title of King Of Eagle Fist, others see the event as a chance to pursue shadowy motives of personal gain, ambition, and revenge.
"I'm six months worth of gambling debt in the hole with the L.A. Syndicate,'" said Steele Saxon, 33, a blond, powerfully built seventh-degree black belt from Los Angeles. "Guy says to me, 'Hey, pal, it's the dough or we break something. Rumsfeld's got the dough if I've got the muscle. You just watch. Together, we've got the juice to put those Syndicate types in the rear-view mirror of history."
"Man, they ain't seen unorthodox-but-effective until they seen me," said the languid Jack "Chocolate Lightning" Garrison, the two-time East Coast Freestyle Kung-Fu champion once described by SuckaPunch magazine as "six feet of stone-cold brotha and 10 inches of afro barely contained in a fly lemon-yellow jumpsuit."
"I won't waste my time with defeat," Garrison added. "I'll be too busy looking good."
The biggest X-factor in this year's Eagle Fist may be the mysterious masked and hooded Nameless One, a fighter of feline grace who practices "the technique of no-technique."
"I do not think—I feel," the Nameless One said, a sliver of light illuminating only his smoldering eyes. "The technique of your opponent is like a finger pointing at the moon. Concentrate on the finger, and you will miss all that heavenly glory. That is the secret, to fight without fighting. At the last, Rumsfeld shall know what I know. I will share my victory with this... Don."
The Eagle Fist Tournament has come under fire from critics in America who characterize the fortress, purchased at taxpayers' expense, as a grandstanding ploy to divert attention from Iraq and the stalled war on terrorism.
"What exactly is this meant to achieve?" reporter James Snyder asked, hours before he disappeared from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram building. "Why does the Department of Defense need to determine who the world's premier open-hand fighter is and then retain his or her services for the next year? And why did Rumsfeld have the Guantánamo Bay prisoners chained and placed in the labyrinthine caverns below Fang Island? And how on earth does 'conflict sear away cowardice'? Patriot Act or no, we have a right to some answers."
Rumsfeld, wandering among his collection of antique torture implements and feeding candied figs to his golden langur, said he remains unmoved.
"See here," Rumsfeld said, indicating a gold-encrusted Minoan iron maiden. "It is difficult to associate horrors with the proud civilizations that created them: Sparta, Rome, the knights of Europe, the Samurai. They worshipped strength, because strength is the fundament for all other values. I shall find the strongest of all, and together, we shall shake the world to its very foundations."