Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Book 6 complete 20190527)

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Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Book 6-3a up 20171226)

Post by brythain » Tue Dec 26, 2017 6:41 am

Kenji 6: Silent Pieces of a Broken War
(2052a—Koji)


Begin upload.

This is Koji Setou. I am late, and I am in trouble. This year is a terrible year for scholars, and a worse year for field agents. And since I am through little fault of my own both, it is a very bad year indeed.

“Target confirmed. Codename: Watanabe.”

It is my nightmare. I have always wondered why this codename, why that person. That person once told this person that the name should be translated ‘crossover’ in English. I have my doubts.

Tonight, I have no doubt that ‘Watanabe’ is in deep trouble. His own security detail is compromised, that much I know. But I am the worst of field agents, the one who is mocked by others as ‘the combat historian, lethal with an archival reference at a century’s distance’. Yes, I know what they say.

So what should I do? The simplest thing has always been to go running to the formidable woman whom I mentally codename ‘Aunty’. But that is not a good option, and nobody should make use of their connections in that way.

It’s the old dilemma of country before family, or family before country. When you suspect that your family might possibly be the country, it is an insoluble problem to find the right solution.

So I run, I run badly, and in the end, ‘Watanabe’ is safe. But there is one small problem.

*****

I am a combat historian, I have said before. Maybe you would like to ask what such an insignificant person does? Or maybe not?

My resolve hardens, and I will tell you anyway. Please accept my apologies for such impoliteness. I assure you, it is necessary, and perhaps even of critical import.

The work of an historian is to gather verified events together, to link them by rules of causality and essential relevance, and to combine such events as may be linked robustly into narratives that have descriptive and explanatory power. Sometimes, people insist on predictive power, but a true historian scruples at that idea, since what has happened is fixed in some ways, but the future yields to tinkering and tampering—out of both experience and inexperience.

A combat historian is not a true historian. At conferences, I describe myself as a military historian, now specializing in the history of Japan from Oda Nobunaga to Tokugawa Ieyasu. If pressed further, I fall back into (this is the correct preposition, I believe, since ‘falling on’ has unfortunate connotations in this context) my doctoral thesis on Date Masamune.

So what is a combat historian, if not a military historian? In my branch of the government, we employ combat philosophers too. Perhaps if I explain one, you will understand the other. A combat philosopher is someone who makes logical trains of ideas into weapons. How such a person does these things is something I understand, but cannot tell you because it is my duty not to tell you. I cannot tell you what I do either, so you will have to guess.

Whatever it is, I am very uneasy to be sitting in a certain Tokyo café of no particular reputation or location. It is Wednesday night, and I have a sort of date. You might think that dates are not a problem for a combat historian like myself. I will politely laugh at your bad joke.

My date is not what people would think of as a date. My date tonight is with the Ghost of Noda.

She is beautiful, slim and very, very pale. Her hair flows like a pure white glacier, highlighting her red-tinted eyes. It is rare for her to let it down, and it is blinding against the black silk she almost always wears.

Dr Rika Katayama is a contemporary of my immediate ancestors, and she saved my godfather’s life once. She still believes she owes a debt she cannot repay, and in the contradictory way that such people act, she attempts to pay the unrepayable by talking to me—hardly ever in person, because she is an extremely private lady. Tonight is different.

I rise and bow when she approaches my table. She nods, so precisely that I am forced to admire the depth of her social reflexes. I once had no idea you could nod at the exact angle that indicates a debt, a seniority, and a quasi-familial relationship all at once. Over the years, I have seen her do such things so often that I think it must be one of her several super-powers.

“Katayama-san,” I begin, attempting to say all the polite things I should be saying before she inevitably cuts through it with overwhelming counter-politeness. I know I will lose. She knows it too.

A minute later, she is sipping a very delicate and expensive tea, while I brace myself with an old favourite of my father’s, now older and richer. She has a half-smile on her face, the kind that says she is glad to have made contact despite the dour nature of the reason for that contact.

“The leak was in the security detail. In fact, it is likely that it is in the solution space above the level of the security detail.”

She too is an academic, although in a vastly different field. We love to attempt to use each other’s terminology correctly. Quite often, we fail. I suspect she deliberately does it to put me at my ease, so I do not correct her. It does not really matter, since our linguistic AIs will compensate if prompted.

My privacy indicators buzz frequently. Dr Katayama is not only a famous personality, but one seldom seen outside her laboratory. Everyone is targeting the celebrity, wondering who she is drinking with and so on. But I am certain her security filters have a radius that exceeds 2500 metres, so I let the buzzing slide.

Our conversation flows only between us. No intruders catch any of it, as far as I can tell.

“Why are we not having this conversation elsewhere?”

“Because Noda is compromised as well. Perhaps the problem goes up all the way. Your father should watch his back. He should probably watch his front as well.”

“Is this a political problem?”

“What was the fate of Date Masamune in the latter years of Tokugawa Ieyasu?”

“It was not so bad.”

“Perhaps your father should prepare some poetry.”

“My father is not the poetic sort.”

“Neither was your godfather, and yet he was able to learn. But let’s put that to one side. Are you still in contact with your god-brother?”

She is speaking of Young Akira, who is my late godfather’s son. I wonder why, but reply anyway.

“Yes.”

“You should perhaps accompany him on his next trip to the Hokkaido of Britain.”

“I was not aware he was making such a trip. Thank you for your advice.”

She laughs softly. “Too polite, while being reproachful. Young Akira will be heading north because Akira Satou’s mother is on her deathbed, and his godmother will want him there.”

So complicated, those old relationships. I nod, indicating my understanding and acceptance.

The Ghost looks sharply into my eyes. “You will need to protect him and counsel him. And he in turn will be helpful to you.”

“His sister will be furious.”

“Don’t worry about that, young Koji. She will eventually understand.”

I sigh and finish my whisky. When we leave the café, it is as if we have always been strangers, the older woman and I, the ghost and the combat historian. But I will follow her nudging to the ends of the earth, I realize. What a fool I must be!

End upload.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Mon May 28, 2018 1:16 am, edited 2 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Book 6-3b up 20180219)

Post by brythain » Mon Feb 19, 2018 11:38 am

Kenji 6: A War in Pieces
(2052b—Akiko)



As I write this, it is still late 2064 and I am living for the time being with ‘Aunty’ Misha, my late father’s choice of guardian for my brother and me. We have just had our usual ice-cream, something that she loves and which makes her a little plump—but only just a little; I often wonder how she burns it all away.

I have been sitting around for a while, wondering how to write this section about the events of 2052, and also wondering how I can possibly write any more after that. My brother probably could, but he does not much feel the need to do so. Besides, given his name and position, he would probably confuse many people.


*****

“Ha, you are the newest Hakamichi!”, I remember the big old man saying. I was a little girl then, still in primary school. I was tall for my age. I also remember telling him, “No, Hakamichi-san. I am Akiko Nakai.”

He looked faintly disappointed. Everyone else looked aghast at my rudeness. But I was telling the truth. And of course, at that time, I knew nothing about Dr Hakamichi’s father’s role in the affairs of the time. I was only eight years old when he died, and never knew the man well. I certainly never called him ‘Grandfather’.

If anyone had really been grandfather to me, it would have been Dr Kaneshiro, who married Grandmother. Many people I knew called him ‘Nurse’, but as he got older, they naturally called him ‘Doctor’. For many years, I did not understand why. There were many things I did not understand, did not bother to understand. I regret that now.

But Dr Kaneshiro told me a lot. He told me about Jigoro, the Juggler of House Hakamichi, and the Satou family, and how my father’s mentor, Mutou-sensei, had been part of that story. He even told me about the Ghost of Noda, and the strange relationship between her and Mutou.

And yet, I am Akiko Nakai, who even then was more interested in running and jumping, and building good muscles and reflexes. Until 2055, I left it to Koji, the love of my life (there, I have said it, and it hurts) to explain things to me in a way that I could accept. Everyone else tried, but they never could explain well enough.

So, what happened in 2052?

THAT woman’s mother died. She was almost a hundred years old. And I did not care. THAT woman had almost killed my father from grief, from what I knew. But so many of the people I knew thought it was important to convey their condolences, many in person. Some of them flew to Scotland, barbaric and distant, just to pay their respects. I thought it was a waste of time.

But it was then that I realized I would never get THAT woman out of my life. And it was worse, because my brother adored her. To him, she was ‘Aunty Lils’. He learnt English mainly to be able to speak with her. It was not something amusing to me. I wondered why this made me unhappy with him even more than his choice of wife.

In my state of mind, it was better to work. So I spent more time coaching the Yamaku track team. I tried speaking to Koji, but he seemed to have too much on his mind. Worse, he decided to accompany my damned brother to Scotland for THAT woman’s mother’s wake and funeral.

I growled and spat, like a cat. Till this day, I am ashamed of what I did. Perhaps I blamed myself for not marrying Koji, and thus having the right to force him not to go. But if I had done that, and then applied such leverage, I am quite sure I would be even more ashamed. So I hated myself, and tried not to hate others.

Then, on one of those hot and tiring days that even Sendai has, I noticed a visitor to the track. It was a most unusual visitor, of the kind I knew should be entertained even though I disliked the idea completely.

“Six more laps, then sprints,” I grunted to the little group with me. They did not question that. I liked them: they were a disciplined bunch.

He waited for me patiently, his glasses glinting in the afternoon sun. Koji’s father was not tall, and he always reminded me of a schoolboy who had suddenly woken up old and grey. Even in this heat, he was wearing a garish scarf, his signature accessory for as long as I had known him.

“General-san,” I greeted him. Everyone called him that, even his wife. “It is this person’s pleasure to see you. How is the General’s wife doing?”

“Hai, young lady who is not yet my daughter-in-law, everyone is fine, it’s all good. Even though you’re a feminist Amazon, you’re good too.”

I laughed. Once you got to know him, Koji’s father was good company. I did not feel completely comfortable around him, but I suspected that nobody really did.

“How can this humble…”

“Akiko, you’re too polite. I’m sorry, I’m always rude, but I need to know a few things. Does Koji think he’s in danger? Who do you think he trusts the most?”

For the first time that day, I looked at him seriously. He looked older than usual, more worried. The creases in his face looked deep, and his usual fake look of outrage had given way to concern and sadness.

“Is h-he in danger?” I sounded confused and weak, and hated that in myself.

“My family’s always in danger. But Koji might know what kind of danger, and he doesn’t seem to want to tell me, the idiot. He behaves like a man without a father, sometimes.”

He thrust his chin towards me, aggressively. “So, who is it that he talks to if not to me or to you?”

“My brother?”

Koji’s father laughed. It sounded harsh, like the barking of a hunting dog. “He doesn’t tell your brother anything useful. Try again. Anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable?”

“No.” By which I meant, “Yes,” but I was now too angry to say so. This was a trap, a game of trust. Koji’s father wanted to see if I was lying to him, I was sure of it.

“Who?” he asked, as if my negation meant nothing. He was right, of course.

“He speaks to THAT woman.”

“Who else?”

“I do not know.”

He hissed slightly, but maintained a polite bearing. Then he twitched, as if forcing himself to act in an unwanted and different way. “How about the Ghost of Noda?”

“Dr Katayama?” I was surprised. This was my mentor in the biological sciences, and I had little idea what she might have to do with Koji. Of course, they knew each other, but the idea of them having private secrets was impossible.

“Someone the opposite of the Ghost?”

His nasal tones were getting more grating on my nerves. “This person does not know what your esteemed self means,” I said, being deliberately very polite.

“Anyone else from the part of the government I serve?”

“Nobody at all,” I said decisively. Then, not so decisively, I added, “Director Hasegawa? They are old friends. He calls her ‘Aunty’ the way this person calls Aunty Misha ‘Aunty’.”

“That’s all?”

I had been confused before. I had become vastly irritated. “If General-san can’t know something, it is unlikely that this person, a mere athletics coach, would know more. One has athletics coaching to attend to, as part of one’s duties.”

“That’s true. I apologise, Miss Nakai. I’ve been rude. I brought a cheesecake though, for your family.”

“I do not eat cheesecake,” I said sharply, before realizing how ungracious I was sounding. “But thank you for the gesture, and I am sure Aunty Misha will be most glad to enjoy your gift.”

He nodded. “That’s good. I’m sorry again. Please ignore my bad behaviour, but I am always wondering about my son, and my wife grows anxious at times.”

“I understand.” Koji’s mother was very strong, but also prone to anxiety attacks. It was an unnerving combination, because she could be absolutely ruthless when both these tendencies maxed out together.

“Please don’t give my son a hard time. He’s got many things to do, and it’s likewise his duty to do things like visit Scotland. Although even then I’m not sure why he’s doing it.”

“I will try.”

“Thank you, Akiko.”

“Be well, General-san,” I said, on impulse. “You look tired.”

“I am tired,” he said over his shoulder as he turned away. He was actually cruder than that, but I felt sorry for him, and let it go.

*****

A few years later, of course, we all learnt that we had missed the truth that was lying in plain sight. Could we have done anything? I will ask myself that question to my dying day.


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Last edited by brythain on Mon May 28, 2018 1:13 am, edited 2 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Book 6-4 up 20180528)

Post by brythain » Mon May 28, 2018 1:11 am

Editor's Note: This particular document is compiled from various fragments, interpolations and extrapolations of what is known. Some of the people represented here kept notes and diaries, and we have other media to support this section of the narrative. (N, Osaka.)


Kenji 6: Broken Pieces of a Silent War
(2056)


Running, running. Again. Not running from danger, running towards danger. Dammit, Hisao, I told you I would protect your son and daughter. I even protected the useless blind bitch you loved. You know what? I’m done with you. Protecting your people has given me nothing good.

The bastard laughs. He’s already dead, of course he can laugh. It wouldn’t hurt so fucking much except that he raises a glass to me, and my own son joins him.

Why, Koji? Why? I ask, but there are no answers. There’s only the vaporized ash-outline of Chiaki Hasegawa, like a witness who won’t talk, like a drawing by Rin Tezuka.

The golden stuff burns down into my gut, and my mother smiles. She always does. Even if she’s been fifty years gone.

*****
This is a story told in recovered messages.

Code: Select all

<Historian> : Will be nice to meet you soon, Aunty Chiaki.
<Acrobat> : How soon, young man?
<Historian> : Very! I’ll be paying my respects at the family home first.
<Acrobat> : Family home? At Sendai? I suppose you should greet your mother for me.
<Historian> : No, Saitama. See if there’s any business to be settled.
<Acrobat> : There isn’t any. You shouldn’t go there.
<Historian> : I’m already almost there.
<Acrobat> : Don’t! Stop at the station. I’ll meet you at the station.
<Historian> : Are you keeping secrets again? Okay, I’ll just reprog the pod.
<Acrobat> : I’m on my way.
<Historian> : Hmm, odd. The pod isn’t accepting my new orders.
<Acrobat> : Use the emergency stop and reboot it.
<Historian> : Never mind, I’m already at the gate. Might as well check in.
<Acrobat> :  No! Wait for me!
<Historian> : There’s nobody here anyway, but my passcodes still work. See you in a while.
<Acrobat> :  No!
There were no more messages to be recovered.

*****

Time passes like a river or it pisses like a river and this time nobody will find me in my nest because I am Kenji the magnificent and this is my story. From here, I can prime my meson cannon and burn away everything I hate. These people killed my people. I know where they are, I have found them, I will drain the nuclear power plants of the great city to fire the cannon of the wrath of God Almighty and then when I go to confession I will tell the priest, “Forgive me Father for I have sinned it has been so many years since my last confession that God cannot remember my name and all I want to tell you is that I’ve killed too many people.”

Why am I a Catholic? My country has a sun-goddess, mother of us all. We rise in the east, like the sun. We are the sons of the sun. But we are blinded by the sun, and the blind woman is also Catholic, and instead of light, all we have is pain, pain, pain, many generations of pain and dead people. Like my mother, my aunts, the whole bunch of them, they’re all Catholic, even when they’re not around.

Why am I here? I don’t know where I am but I know I am safer than most people and I know that you have to be safe to plot your revenge because there’s no point to plotting revenge if you aren’t alive to carry it out. Or maybe you can carry it out even if you’re dead. Like an egg in a nest. A dead egg. Stinky.

It’s my nest, it’s a manly nest. It has whisky and it has pizza and it has secure internet access. From here, I am Japan, even if Japan doesn’t know it. I am Tokyo, and Tokyo doesn’t want to know it. I’m Osaka, I’m Kyoto, I’m Yokohama and even Nagoya. It has been a year since Edinburgh and many months since Saitama. I have fought the ghosts and killed all the bad ones, and I’ve made new ones to replace those. One of my dear friends decided to make herself a ghost. Two can play at that game.

*****

“Hello! My name is Yuuko Shirakawa and I am a, ah, a proud member of a dokugyo responsible for the public administration of, ah, national assets based in Sendai. Although my husband has gone missing and I am very anxious about his safety, I am, I am glad to say that I have a lot of friends looking for him.”

Proud. Anxious. Glad.

I’ve lost my husband. And my children. I only want to die, but they want me to stay alive. I’ve never been strong. Only stubborn, sometimes.

Outside, the voices are calling for ‘Madam Shirakawa’. I can’t answer them. I’m not nervous, I just… can’t. My daughter’s long gone. My son. My husband. My son. My son!

“What are you asking me, journalist-san? You, you, ah, you’ve never had children. You just ask questions, and ask, and ask, and ah…”

I’ve got no more words. Only salt water and bitter thoughts.


*****

Readers, what you have seen so far are a few of the fragments I have had to work with in constructing this particular document. My name is unimportant, since you know it anyway. Let us just say that accounts of the state of mind of Kenji and Yuuko Setou are difficult to render accurately, even when they themselves are the source.

Perhaps it will help if I recount the salient events of 2055 as dispassionately as I can. There were two bombings, and that will have to do.

We, by which I mean those who prioritized the life of the state over the lust for power, were at war with those who felt otherwise. In the daily business of Japan, we were friends and neighbours, allies and partners. But there were covert assassinations and acts of terrorism. There were proxy wars and exterminations. Different kinds of future were at stake, and we were determined that our ideas would make the country we wanted into a reality.

In the summer of 2055, Kenji Setou, the man that some called ‘The General’ (and which the public did not know well enough to call anything) was tying up some of our business in Edinburgh. A device was activated near a restaurant at which he was meeting an old acquaintance.

There were fatalities, although the public reporting mentioned only that all were non-Scottish. The better reporters dug deep enough to find some evidence that the General had been killed protecting the half-Japanese owner of the restaurant.

We had manufactured the evidence as part of our plan. It went against my instinct as a journalist, someone who always wanted factual accuracy, to ‘set the record straight’. However, my acquaintances and friends argued that the deception was necessary, and I was forced to agree.

The point was to determine who was indeed targeting the General. It had to be someone who knew him well. There weren’t many of those. I had known him for a very long time, and I could count on the fingers of one arthritic-but-augmented hand the number of people who would have the knowledge, let alone motive or opportunity to carry out such a plan.

Such counting, anyway, would have been pointless. As did most, if not all, of us, I had left one critical person out of my reckoning. It is to my everlasting sadness that we did.

In the winter of 2055, we knew that somebody very close to our inner circle was going to try again. There weren’t many people with the talents we needed for a counter-strike, so one of us paid a visit to a quiet house in the North.

It would have worked, except that our traitor had advanced the plan in order to evade the tightening net. The General himself was not there when the device in Saitama went off, an ‘integrated pinhead array device’, as I was told. The blast annihilated the General’s family home, leaving a glowing crater behind. There was one casualty, and because the device had relied on DNA markers for its trigger, that happened to be his son.

Director Hasegawa had been responsible for security arrangements. She committed suicide, a fact which we reported with great sadness. We did not report the exact truth. Most of us were horrified and shocked enough, as it was.


*****

Chiaki, Chiaki, you were like my eldest daughter! You were special, you saw things other people could not. What did you see, that made you do this thing? What patterns in the world, in the sky, in everything? Who cares if I’m Japan Central, or if I’m blind, legally and illegally?

Why did you betray us all? What could have been more important than family? And then why did you take yourself away?

*****

“Hello! My name is Yuuko Shirakawa…”

It’s no use. I’m not me anymore. I’m not Kenji’s wife, I’m not Koji’s mother. I don’t even know if I was ever Masako’s mother, because she isn’t here. The only one who is comforting me is a woman I hate.

She’s standing right there, in the house of my husband’s aunt. It’s a place I’ve visited before only once, and it’s on the wrong island. It’s outside our normal history, it’s cold and strange. And so is this house, and so is the colour of this woman’s hair.


*****

I’m singing a song to myself: “Suzumiya Suzuki, fourth of five / How is it that I am still alive?”

I fall silent when she enters the house. I’ve wronged her, many years ago. But at this point of time, I’m all she has left, and she is all I have left.

Yuuko walks on insect-legs, disguised cunningly as human ones. They’re like Moriko’s, but I know that they’ve been given extra functions by Japan Central. She knows I’m here, because her legs and her lenses tell her. In this house, we are both dangerous, and we are both safe.

“Shirakawa-san, greetings.”

She hardly moves her head. Her long red-brown hair is brushed out and tied neatly with a black ribbon. Without looking at me, she nods. “Suzuki-san.”

“Condolences.”

“I… ah. Accepted.”

I think she wants to talk, but she’s like me. For a long time after they killed my cat, I too had forgotten how to talk.

“Please, sit. This is a neutral place, a safe house. A place for both the cat and the mouse.”

Her head turns slightly, away from me and towards the bookshelf that lines one wall. “You’re still making songs. Bad poetry. You must be the cat, torturing this mouse.”

That doesn’t make it easier. I sigh, try to make myself look small and harmless. Softly, “I have to talk to you about the General.”

It’s as if a small fire has exploded in her head. Her brain burns sugar rapidly, and her face glows, or so my sensors tell me. If that’s true, her words are indeed very restrained: “There’s nothing more to say.”

But of course, there is. I whisper, as if a loud noise will bring the house down. “I am Suzu, fourth of five. I swear that Kenji’s still alive.”

She looks as if she’ll kill me if I’m lying. I’m glad I am not. Life is preferable to dying, and by quite a lot.


*****

The story’s mine, Natsume. Let me tell it. Stop putting other people’s eyes in my face. Yeah, I know that I didn’t see everything. But it was my duty to do so, and I failed. So I had to run around and see what I didn’t see, so let me do the job. I’m still the General.

*****

In the end, I’m not crazy Kenji anymore. I became him more than fifty years ago. Now, I’m old, that’s all it is. My friends die a lot. But when my successor kills my son, and then kills herself, that’s shit. That’s all it is.

The whisky gleams in the tumbler by my side. Hisao nods once, his dead brown hair ruffled by a wind I cannot feel. His spirit eyes gleam, dark with anger. My son was his godson. That counts for even more, wherever he is.

I may not be crazy anymore. But I have the whisky. I have Hisao sitting up here on the roof with me, I have my big family behind me. I’m going to win. And to do that, I’m going to have to pull in all the threads and consult a lawyer.

He won’t like it. Even so, he’ll have to admit that now is the time that the Foundation goes to war for real. There’s no hiding what’s been done, or what has to be done.

I find a secure connection, through the faint star high above us, the HI-Frontier Satellite. There is an opening in the net.

[Green Hill] I send through the thing in my head.

The response is quick: [City Wall]

I take a deep breath. I could always just break the connection now. But no. Too many deaths. Too many friends, and now family.

I close my eyes and transmit one word: [Crucified]

There is an unfolding of things. Seconds pass. Somewhere, another device unlocks, and someone else has to become a temporary Christian.

“General?” says Hideaki Hakamichi in his own laser-encoded voice, sounding so surprised that I almost laugh.

“It’s time to save us all,” I reply.

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Mon May 27, 2019 9:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Book 6 ends 20190527)

Post by brythain » Mon May 27, 2019 9:25 am

Editor's Note: This document seems to be a resumption of the main narrative from the records of the General. I have taken the liberty of verifying and editing the text based on corroboration with other sources. (N, Osaka.)


Kenji 6: Broken Pieces of a Silent War
(2060-64)


“You were always a polite young man,” I say as I pass the bottle to him. I don’t mean it always as a compliment, but now it has been many years and if I can’t insult a person in a friendly way because he is my friend, then we’re doomed and the feminists will have our bones for barter. Hopefully, excluding the ones who say they’re on our side. Like his wife, and his sister, and all those relatives.

Mister Legal Counsel laughs. He’s got a big laugh, and he’s a big man who sometimes even wears a moustache. I call him that sometimes, Mister Legal Counsel, because that’s what he grew up to be, after being some feminized little twerp who was a covert infiltrator of Madam Woman President Boss’s regime—since she was his sister, she obviously had a soft spot for him. His wife was the surprise to all of us. At one time, I didn’t think you could marry a toilet ghost unless you were playing one of those infuriating computer games.

“Well,” he says, “now I’m a polite middle-aged man, and you’re still a rude senior fart with a much more likeable wife. How is she, anyway, General?”

He pours a little into his ice-fogged tumbler and hands the Lagavulin back to me. This one is really old, a 50-year celebration issue. It’s a monster that always brings my ghosts back to me around the half-bottle mark.

My wife has always been a little strange. Since the mid-2050s, when unpleasant things happened, she has taken up Jewish commando exercises and wearing black combat suits. She has become like my late old friend Hisao’s late wife. In a terrible plot twist, she also became good friends with another friend of mine who I never thought she should be friends with, and now they go around killing people together. Or so I imagine when drunk. Then again, maybe it’s true. And maybe I should call the whole story ‘Friends’.

“She is…” (I actually don’t know what she’s doing, so I try to think about what she last told me.) “… hunting something something in Brazil and maybe finding something something else with my daughter.”

“That’s good, then. It’s a mark of the cultured man to be happy that his wife has her own life and he doesn’t have to know what she’s doing with it.”

“How’s your lady?” I ask him.

Hisao, who isn’t really there, interrupts with a ghostly smile. “She’s fine, old friend.” I ignore him and focus on the one who is there.

“You know, she travels too. Likes Africa.”

“Dammit, we’re fighting a war. How come our women are all having fun in exotic places?”

“Because our country’s wealth is tied up in exotic places like Scotland and Kenya and Singapore, that’s why. And we need some of it back.”

“Isn’t your sister in charge of that?”

“I think she’s in charge of using whatever we bring back.”

“What are our enemies doing?”

“Some of them are making friends with the hermit crab, and some are making friends with the dragon, but we’ve got those covered. What I really wanted to ask you is whether you still want to live forever.”

“Live forever?” I scowl. Actually, I don’t know what to say. My late unlamented uncle tried to make us immortal. Too many kinds of immortality. We are over the halfway mark of the 21st century already. Whoever really wants that will probably have it.

I sip the old Scottish drink. I try to look thoughtful, but my mother always gets in the way. She’s dead, you know.

“No,” I say. I’m very deliberate and clear, although that won’t be the case tomorrow. “No, I do not ever want to liver forever.”

“Liver?” says Mister Legal Counsel, looking confused.

“Lives forevs,” I repeat. “Nobody is supposed to be immaterial.”

“Immaterial?” says the Hakamichi brat, still as confused as ever.

“Im-more-tal,” I say slowly just to make sure he can’t blame me for his confusion.

“Really?”

I sigh and look at him with all my many eyes. “Hideaki,” my mouth says for me, “you may be Mister Legal Counsel of the Foundation and all, but you are one stupid person. There’s a time when you might be tired and want to let everything go, and what if they won’t let you? Ever thought of that?”

“No,” he says, looking thoughtful. “But I can’t imagine wanting to just let go.”

“Ha ha ha,” I whisper slowly, almost like a threat. “Just because you can’t imagine it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Just ask your wife. Or mine.”

*****

In one year, many things can happen. I could tell you about how Tezuka tried to kill me by infiltrating my brain. I could tell you about how Tezuka tried to turn me into a butterfly, because she thought I was being mothered by a blind friend. These are just two stories of the hundreds that I’m not going to say are true or not. But if that is one year, imagine two. Or three.

In 2061, nobody is a winner, except those who don’t die.

“General?” someone whispers as she walks into my office.

It’s a lousy winter, and I’m tired. I only wanted to eat pizza and drink whisky all my life. Maybe play some computer games, hack a few servers to steal software and information. Then God or one of his feminist angels condemned me to do it all my life.

“What?” I reply, too weary to try to be polite to some woman who just wants to do her job.

But she’s not there. Chiaki Hasegawa died six years ago. She murdered me, but killed my son instead. I made sure she never occupied her grave. I put her ashes in a souvenir bottle made for cheap whisky, sealed it with office wax and my personal seal, and put that bottle at the foot of Koji’s grave. I’m sure she will guard him for all eternity. I know she never intended to kill him. So what?

“General?”

“Who the hell are you?”

Whoever she is, she has glossy metallic purple hair made up like some sort of helmet. It’s like a bad dream from my father’s youth. Also, a lot of black leather or the equivalent. Did I employ this person? I must’ve been drunk.

“Shekinah,” she says softly. I’ve probably misheard, but if I’m hearing right…

“What the hell, isn’t that one of those Israeli codewords, some religious thing?! Mossad?! Well, I’m not going down without a fight!” I say, all the while lighting up my defense systems. “And why the hell are you whispering?!”

“Boss, you told me to whisper if you’d turned down the lights in your office. So that your head wouldn’t hurt. I can shout if you like, I’m good at it.”

“Oh, it’s you,” I say, finally recognizing the skinny shape of this woman. “What do you want?”

It’s Shiina Hakamichi, Mister Legal Counsel’s younger daughter, the one that does strange things on a motorbike. I don’t think she’ll be working here for long, she likes Europe too much. Also, she can be very loud.

“Johnny Walker Blue Label. Just thought you’d like to know.”

“Who drinks that crap?” I almost ask, until I realize this is the codeword. It means ‘material on the move, destination Scotland’.

“Oh, good. Physical, not virtual?”

“Whatever the General wants, the General gets,” she says, a bit too sweetly.

“You know that’s not true.”

“You thought my mother was a toilet ghost for years. Now, she’s haunting you. Through me.”

“So she’s the General now, not me?”

“If you like.”

“Or maybe it’s your father, Mister Legal Counsel himself.”

“If you like.”

“Don’t test me, small Hakamichi girl,” I growl at her. I’m an old man, I’m allowed.

She laughs. It sounds almost fond. “General, you people have been friends so long, keeping in touch all these years, I might as well call you ‘Uncle Kenji’.”

“Fine. You pass the test. Thanks for the message.”

She bows at exactly the right angle. I have a faint idea who she might have learnt that from, but it annoys me, so I put my boot on that idea and step down hard.

“Oh yes, Uncle, Aunty Yuuko is waiting outside. And I do have a bottle of the stuff. Thought you might need it for later.”

She grins as I get to my feet, and vanishes quickly into the corridor before I can say anything rude. I look at the very attractive package on my desk, swear and step outside. Women are always my bane, but damn, they make my life better.

“Hmm, did you have to be so rude to her, husband?”

“I’ve not seen you for weeks.” It’s true, I haven’t, and that annoys me too. “Why is your hair orange?”

“Aha, heh, it’s the lighting. I had it done back to brown so that nobody would recognize the infamous General’s infamous wife.”

She has changed. War and secrecy have made her hard and sarcastic. I’m sad that I don’t recognize her myself. But she is still beautiful to me. I remember to turn off my personal defence systems.

“Maybe we go out for dinner?” I ask hopefully.

“Maybe we do. I have news for you.”

*****

My wife is very beautiful, I think to myself again. She is not as pleasingly round in the face and ass as she used to be, she’s gone skinny. But at her age (well, at our age) that is a good thing. My hair, I’m letting it go silver. So distinguished. I wonder what she thinks about that—she hardly talks to me about personal things anymore, since Saitama.

Yuuko Shirakawa watches her husband. He used to be skinny and awkward. Now, he is so used to being stealthy and competent that it is almost disappointing—he could pass for any senior official of the kind that holds high rank and desperately wants not to be noticed. But some things don’t change: the man across the table from her is still bad at making conversation, still obvious when he wants to ask questions but doesn’t quite know how to proceed. She knows when she has to help him along.

“Husband, do you want to know about Scotland, or do you want to know about our friends, or both?” she says softly.

“Ish good beef,” I reply, chewing thoughtfully. How does she know what’s on my mind? It’s uncanny. I believed when I was young that women have mysterious powers. I know for sure this is true now. Every year I run Tokyo Central, I see it happening. They have powers we cannot detect until it is too late.

“Yes, aha, it is,” she smiles. It’s not an innocent smile. She is showing me her teeth for a reason, I’m sure of it. And how can she eat so efficiently? Her mouth is never full, but the food disappears.

I give up and, even though I’m not happy that my wife is acting like an operative, I ask her what I want to know. “What happened in Scotland?”

She laughs. “Akira happened.”

“That bitch, what did she do this time? I thought she’d stay out of it.”

My wife knows that ‘bitch’ is just me sweating out some toxic masculinity, as my daughter has said many times before. But she winces, and makes that face which causes me to instantly regret my word choice.

“Well, as far as we can tell from the ripples in the pond, she transferred control to Lilly.”

“What the hell for? That blind… friend of ours, she isn’t anything to do with this at all.”

“It’s good news, husband. Remember, you saved Lilly’s life some years ago. In Edinburgh? She is willing to help.”

The bombing. Damn, too many bombs. I can still remember my face, the horrible thought that my skin had burned off like Ikezawa’s. In the end, it was only radiation, and my skinshield had blocked most of it. Maybe the blind b… blonde was feeling grateful. I tried to feel grateful back to her, all the way to Scotland.

“Husband?”

“Yes. I remember. So she has…” —I do some quick thinking— “… six votes at least?”

My wife vanishes some food into her small and efficient mouth and grins. “But we can’t use those votes till the second day of 2064.”

My knife stops over the last bit of ribeye. Then I realize what she means. “Oh, that damn two-year rule. And it is more convenient if transfer of rights occurs at midnight between New Year’s Day and the second day.”

“Indeed, heh, it’s fun to watch your brain working so well.”

“I’m not suffering from dementia,” I say firmly. She keeps bugging me about getting a full neuro check-up. They stick electrodes into your brain and bung you into a scanner, and all kinds of things. Or at least they did when I was younger; I have no idea what tortures they carry out now. “Do we have enough votes?”

“Neither Hanako nor Shizune will say. I think maybe they aren’t even talking to each other these days. I have to ask Rika, and she hates talking to anyone.”

“So I have to ask Mister Legal Counsel to go around and be nice to all the women?”

“If you don’t want to be nice to Hideaki, I’ll do it,” she says, with what looks like a smirk of some sort. “After all, nobody expects my husband to be nice to any women.”

“Wait.” Something has occurred to me. “It’s legal to make it happen on even the very first second of New Year’s Day 2064. The transfer occurred a few days ago.”

“What happened to convenience?”

I’ve got her now. “Madam Librarian Superspy Operative, what happened to drama? All that literature, have you forgotten?”

She laughs. I think it’s genuine this time.

“Oh, my General, I can imagine it now. And our enemies will be financing the New Year’s fireworks display while we set up our own spectacle. Where shall we have it?”

“Where else? Ask Hideaki to be extra nice.”

*****

The next two years are full of bloodshed.

Already, the world after American capitalism is a crazy one. But capitalism itself has never gone away. Instead, it has become everybody’s focus. The good thing is that there are more kinds of capital than we used to believe in. The bad thing is that there are more kinds of things to kill for.

The young people ask me about old science fiction. “Did anyone see this coming?” they whisper rhetorically. I don’t think they really want answers, they just want to be big on the social networks.

I show them the classics. I tell them every story from the 1950s onwards, of corporate takeover, of liberal overreach, of every kind of extreme that humans have ever invented. Japanese anime and manga have it all. The dry western SF has it too. The brutally repressed communist and neo-communist and pseudo-communist writers say even more. And nobody really believed it, I tell the young people.

But Japan, I tell them, Japan survives. Even if it’s radioactive monsters or tidal waves or global warming, we survive because I won’t let the Sakura die.

They laugh at me. I smile back. They think I’m a doddering old fool. They go away. I take my deadly walking stick with me, disappear into the secret tunnels, go back to work. And Hideaki makes things work.

On the last day of 2063, officers and guardsmen of every corporation allowed to operate in the Greater East Asian sphere are present in the nice big auditorium on Mount Aoba. They have come to accept Shizune Hakamichi’s surrender, humiliating her on her own home-ground. They outnumber us 60 to 1, after all the blood and bombings and radioactive monsters. We have thousands; they have tens of thousands.

But they are outside, and we are in.

They have numbers, but we have the votes. And these days, the votes are complicated control codes which automatically give command over the assets in their associated blockchain ledgers, a technology from more than five decades past, now made acceptably secure. It’s amusing that nobody noticed that a small restaurant chain in Europe is a licensed corporation operating out of Hokkaido.

“Immortality,” Hideaki says to me, “is not what it’s made out to be, General.”

We are sitting in the control room, where I will remain when he is out there playing the deferential aide to his sister. We have set up a great show, with satellite links ready to go. The reinforced uplink stations will draw on our secret power generators under Sendai, and I can only hope they will last long enough.

“Well, Mister Legal Counsel, enough people have believed in it for this shit to happen.”

He grins unhappily, but with pride. The 70-year-old Hibiki he presents to me is something I almost don’t dare to sip. To drink it might break a legend. It was bottled when we were kids.

I look out. You can see the colours on the armour: red, blue, green, gold, black, silver—all the colours. A single guardsman from today could have taken on a battleship from the Second World War. And there are thousands of them, in the perimeter around Sendai, in the auditorium, around the grounds of the Nakai Foundation.

At 0000h, the codes will be checked and the blockchain ledgers updated. At 0001h, we will see what we will see. Hideaki is confident. I am not, I confess to myself silently, in shame. It is 2350h on New Year’s Eve.

Who will win the world, I wonder.

I watch Hideaki as he descends to the auditorium and whispers to his other ally. The Ghost of Noda is white all over, except for her deep red eyes. Her black cape and red gown make her as striking as a nightmare. Hideaki turns toward the control room, and my augments read the message from the lens of his left eye.

The door behind me opens, and I turn, lifting my walking stick. It’s only an old lady in a drone support chair, I see, blinking to reset my visuals.

“I wouldn’t miss it for anything, old fool,” growls Natsume Ooe. “Put the stick down before you kill someone.”

“You made it.” My voice sounds lame even to me.

“My news network is paying for it, and you expect me to sit in Osaka? Naomi would rise from her grave and scold me.”

“Who’s directing the show?”

“Kinnosuke—my son, if you’ve forgotten. He’s got a lot of show, but he is deliberately keeping it secret even from me. I will watch with a critical eye. It had better be worth it.”

And it is.

=====

Note: N's personal account of the events at the end of K's narrative can be found at the end of her writing here. This may be of use to the more-involved reader. (R, Noda.)

prev | end of Book 6 | next
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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