The Daimyo of Kyushu

8 May

Sea Admiral Sakamoto pointed with his right hand to the giant map of Japan behind him. The dozen white-uniformed general officers around the long table listened to him with rapt attention, mesmerized by his vision of the nation’s future.

“The new regime will begin to operate immediately, within hours of the seizure of power. We have to be ready to govern at once. Honshu will be administered by the Imperial Navy, Hokaido by the Army, and Kyushu by the Space Fleet. My own staff will be in Tokyo. Each of you has his detailed instructions. This will be our last meeting before the coup. Are there any questions?”

No one raised any.

“Very well,” concluded Sakamoto. “Let us now return to our separate posts.”

At the far end of the table, Saigo Awata stayed seated while all the other conspirators except for the leader left the room. He spoke directly, in a low tone, to Admiral Sakamoto, still standing next to the map.

“What are we going to do with the economy after the takeover? Japan has never experienced  as deep or serious as today’s.”

The leader of the conspiracy stepped toward the Space Admiral.

“I plan to start a re-armament program at once. That will put our people back to work and encourage new investment. It will be good for Kyushu and the Space Fleet. Both industry and technological research will benefit.”

Admiral Awata gave a nod, then rose from his chair and left the room.

Koto entered the city room of Kagoshima Amoebic News with a sense of joyous success. She and her journalist partner, Ikku Eda, had written and published a series of electronic articles analyzing the effects of the economic depression on the industries of Kyushu.

Geothermal agronomy, bacterials and amoebics, protozoics, generic amplifiers, nanotech materials, and aerodyne transport were areas covered in the voluminous study.

Koto found Ikku busy at his magnesium desk, greeting him and then sitting down at hers.

“What is our next project going to be?” she asked him pointblank.

“I am considering a study of our space mining development out in the asteroid belt,” he answered. “That should hold a lot of bright prospects for winning readership.”

She smiled at him.”My father, Space Admiral Awata, has placed his dreams for Japan’s future out there in the planetoids and their metallic riches.”

Ikku grinned back at her. “My hope is that he can help us a lot on that subject.”

The silver-colored wingplane descending at Kagashima Airport had the insignia of the Imperial Space Fleet on it, a bright red flying carp.

As soon as the landing was completed, the door on the carbon fuselage opened and the stairs rolled down. Saigo Awata climbed out and looked about for his land limousine. He scanned the tarmac. Where is my ride home? he angrily wondered. It appeared to be unforgivably late. Someone had slipped up and was going to suffer disgrace.

All at once, a sea blue vehicle, long and sleek, appeared in the distance. The lander came to a stop near where the boiling mad space admiral stood waiting.

No one got out to open the door for him, as was required military etiquette.

Fuming, the Admiral in white entered the passenger section. The lander began to roll forward, leaving the air field through a special gate. Within seconds, it was speeding down an express toll-road.

Suddenly, something seemed strange and wrong to Awata.

The direction! They were headed away from the center of Tokyo and his luxury apartment. After a time, the driver spoke to him through the intercom.

“Do not be disturbed, High Admiral. You are in no danger and nothing bad is going to be done to you. Try to relax and do not worry about what will happen in the days ahead.”

The passenger could only gape, his mouth open and his mind whirling wildly.

“What is at present happening to you can be considered a kidnapping by some. We prefer a more mannerly term. It is temporary custody by friendly persons who wish no harm whatever to you. In a short while, the purpose of our action will be explained. We beg for your patience and cooperation. This will all turn out for the greater good, I assure you, sir.”

Saigo Awata felt his body grow limp. His breath became more labored.

What was the aim of this abduction? Who was financing and directing it?

Was it in any way connected to the scheduled coup? How might it affect the conspiracy?

Father and I will be so happy tonight! mused Koto, entering her parent’s penthouse suite.

He will be asking me about my journalistic work, and I will describe our asteroid project to him.

But there was no sign of her father’s arrival in the capital. He was not in any of the rooms, not even his sleeping chamber. She went to the bio-optic bulletin board to check for any messages.

Turning on the wall monitor, Koto read the unscrolling ideograms of an eerie letter.

“Miss Koto Awata,

“Your father is taking an unscheduled vacation. Do not try to communicate with him. He is in good health and feels very comfortable.

“As to his duties in the Space Fleet, you must inform his staff that he is unable to keep any appointments until further notice. No messages are to be presented to him as he rests.

“Do not try to reach your father. Do not talk to the civilian authorities or the Imperial Security Service about his absence. No one must know about his present circumstances. Do not seek any assistance from any quarter in locating him.

“Follow these instructions to the letter, or the consequences will be on your conscience.”

There was no name at the end to tell her who was involved in this.

The kitchen was silent after Koto told Ikku Eda what had happened.

“Let me make some inquiries,” he proposed. “That is the only way for us to proceed.”

“How do you intend to go about it?” she trembled.

“First, I will nose around Kagoshima Airport and find out if anyone saw something.” He sprang to his feet. “You can stay here and wait. That is the safest.”

“Can I go along?” She looked at him plaintively. “Please?”

He nodded to her. “We can drive out there in my lander, have a look, and ask some questions.”

Koto waited in the little magnetic vehicle while Ikku asked questions about the military wingplane. No one there remembered much. Only when he talked to a taxi driver was there any useful information. Ikku returned to the lander and revealed what he had learned.

“A limousine headed north into the countryside. I was provided a good description of it.”

“What do we do now?” she asked. “Follow the route the landcar took?”

“First, I want to talk to a friend of mine with the police.”

“They warned me…”

“No, I will reveal nothing. But I want to look at the traffic videos for the highway at the time that your father’s winger arrived here.”

It took him several hours to go through optic tapes at police headquarters.

From there, Ikku drove to the Lander Registration Bureau.

He returned to Koto with good news. “This is hard to believe. The vehicle that carried your father away is registered to the Reimekan, the museum of national history.”

Koto frowned. “Why should such a place be involved?”

“We must make a visit there and try to find out.”

The pair walked through the main exhibit hall when Ekku stopped and pointed to a statue.

“That is Saigo Takamori, after whom your father was named. He was the leader of the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877.” His voice grew distant and abstracted. “Saigo led the samurai of Kyushu in support of the Meiji Restoration in 1868. But in later years he revolted against centralized national power and the government of Emperor Meiji. He organized the feudal lords of Kyushu in a doomed rebellion against Tokyo. After his military defeat, he killed himself in a cave up on Shiroyama hill. That was a seppuku of honor in the ancient samurai tradition.”

All of a sudden, a male figure appeared and asked if he could help them. Ekku responded.

“We had a small traffic accident this morning with a lander registered to the Reimeikan Museum,” he lied. “It was my fault and I want to have my insurance pay for any damage.”

“You must see Director Okamoto. Come with me.”

The two waited in an anteroom until a round fat man entered and introduced himself.

“I am Takao Okamoto, Director of the museum. There was a lander accident, my aide has informed me.”

“Indeed,” said Ekku. “It was our responsibility. Does the Reimeikan own a white limousine? There was damage done to it, I believe.”

“May I have your name, sir?” said the fat executive.

As the journalist presented an identity card, Okamoto grinned like a cat.

“Come into my private office, sir,” he said, “and bring Miss Awata with you.”

=/8//7/*

The Director sat behind a long desk of Hokaido pine.

“Let me explain,” he began, looking at Koto. “Your father has shown me opticals of you that he carries with him. That is why I instantly recognized you.”

“You have seen him?” she asked excitedly.

“He is fine, my dear,” Okamoto assured her. “I am most sorry the Admiral has been unable to contact you. It was necessitated by reasons of security. Your father, Miss, is about to take the leadership of a historical enterprise that will shake Japan to its foundation.”

“I do not understand,” she muttered in confusion.

“Only he can explain it all to your satisfaction. But both of you must remain silent about the secrets that he will reveal.”

Both reporters agreed to that condition.

“We will see the Admiral at once, then.”

The Director rose from his chair and went to summon his lander and its driver.

As the black vehicle passed through the base of Shiroyama Hill, it went by the memorial to the Satsuma, the Loyal Retainers of Saigo Takamori.

Takao Okamoto, in the front, spoke to the two passengers in the rear of the sedan.

“The Admiral is at my home, near the site of Saigo’s Suicide. Your father, Miss Awata, is free to leave whenever he wishes. He is in no way a prisoner there. But there are certain important questions to be answered first.”

The lander turned into the driveway of an old wooden house and stopped at the front entrance. The three climbed out and the Director led the way into the old structure.

After taking off their shoes, they crossed the first room’s tatami matting to a sliding screen of silk which the owner of the house, Okamoto, drew open.

Admiral Awata, sitting on a zabuton cushion, looked up in surprise.

“Koto!” he cried out in surprise.

His daughter rushed to him, embracing the man still in white uniform.

“I will leave you with these visitors,” said the Director to the house guest, quickly withdrawing from the room.

Ikku and Koto found two zabutons to sit down on.

“Who is your companion?” the father asked his daughter.

Koto introduced the two men, then asked “What have you been doing here, father?”

A group of military leaders plan to seize power from the civil government. They have invited me to bring the Space Fleet down here to carry out the occupation of my native Kyushu. That is a situation that offers me a historic opportunity.” He drew a long breath. “I could become a new, resurrected Saigo who this time is victorious.”

“Another Saigo Takomori?” she gasped in perplexity.

Her father’s eyes grew dreamy. “I intend to become the ruling Daimyo and proclaim the independence of our beloved island from Emperor Jimmu. That is what is necessary for us to recover from this economic crisis and depression. Kyushu has to ally itself with China and Korea, where most of our trade flows. We are closer in interests to Seoul and Shanghai than to Tokyo. That is our future and the solution to our economic stagnation in the last thirty years. We have to orient ourselves to the mainland of Asia, free of the Imperial bureaucracy that stifles our industry and technology.

“Kyushu is still a world leader in geothermal farming. We are pioneers in biogenetics and in space mining of the asteroids. Japan’s ports to the universe are here on Kyushu. This is where our sciences have their home.”

Koto asked him a question. “What does Mr. Okamoto have to do with all of this, father?”

The Admiral grinned. “He is the one who convinced me that if I proclaim myself the Daimyo of Kyushu, the population will follow and support me. I can command the Space Fleet to prevent any interference from the military forces on the other islands. The rest of Japan can set up its own government, but Kyushu will become fully independent and go its own way.”

“There is a possibility of general support, I can foresee that,” opined Ikku. “Our people have long felt oppressed from the capital on Honshu. They have come to hate the authority of Tokyo.”

“Takao Okamoto has connections all over this island,” said the Admiral. “He learned of the plan for a coup from technicians who picked up uncoded messages on nanowires. I was brought to his home to discuss which side I wish to join. But now I am quite exhausted and ready to return to our apartment.”

“Yes, let me take you home, father,” kindly said Koto.

Okamoto agreed that the three of them could leave the museum at once.

Day by day, the conspiracy within a conspiracy took shape and form.

Admiral Awata labored on the detailed preparations at his space port office on Sakurajima peninsula, across the bay from Kagoshima. The Space Fleet was ready to obey its commander and follow where he led it. Takao Okamoto acted as his right hand.

Ikku and Koto kept watch over the news. Plans remained secret and secure.

On the eve of the double coup, they were with the Admiral in his apartment.

“Everything is ready,” announced the old space officer. “Kokura, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Saga, and Beppa, all are set to go. What Takamori was unable to carry to fulfillment, I shall now accomplish.

“Kyushu, from no on, decides its own future.”

The three of them smiled and laughed in complete unison.

Their island would soon have its independent daimyo, one whose foundation of authority lay out in space.

The Space Admiral suddenly shocked the two with him by making an announcement of something neither had any indication was occurring within the double coup.

“By this time, Takao Okamoto has been executed.” He glanced down at his wrist timer. “I had to take care of the possible problem involved with that man.”

His daughter was by now shaking with emotion. “Why kill him, father?” she slowly asked. “Why would you do such a thing?”

He waited a moment, then replied with a sly grin.

“Remember, the idea for our scheme was his, not mine. Had I not been kidnapped, nothing would have come about the way it has.

“Okamoto was too clever, too ingenious to keep at my side. The man has served his purpose. He can have no further historical role to play. How could I trust a person with such strategic and political abilities? I must go forward on my own now.”

Neither Ikku nor Koto could think of anything to add to that.

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