Islands in The Sun
A Generation Two Whateley Universe Tale
Islands In the Sun
By Andrew “MageOhki” Norris
Special notes: Unless specifically stated otherwise, all dialogue is translated from Japanese.
Dialogue in <””> will be English, unless specified otherwise.
(While it is custom for Japanese family names to be given first, this story uses western conventions in translation)
September 11th, 2009.
Near Minamata, Japan.
A tilt rotor cruised over the sea, headed out from Minamata. The older Japanese male in the cabin poured some tea, passed it to the younger Japanese female, and then spoke. “Megumi.” Seeing her attention, he continued on. “You do know we bid, and won on the Golden Islands contract from the previous government.”
Megumi tilted her head and nodded. “Of course, Father. I’m wondering why you brought me along to see the first of the finalized places.” Her tone was bemused, as she added on. “I know you asked 2 years ago if I could duplicate Karedonia, and well, yes, I can. We proved that.” She preened.
Her father smiled. “Quite well, and even better. No need for it to be constantly active.” He paused and nodded once. “You will not have a problem working with Ms. Isenhart, will you? I know she wasn’t part of our bid, but with the recent election and new Prime Minister, well.”
Megumi made a face, but shook her head no. “No, not really. I don’t understand why they just don’t run cables, or wait to build one of the new fusion reactors that will be coming out, but...” She waved her hand a bit. “She isn’t into volcanic research. Meaning, she’s not interested in my geothermal tap, or the devises we’ll use to drill to the mantle to create the new islands. She just wants to try her tidal power systems.” She leaned back, eying her father. “Why isn’t Jiro with us, Poppa?”
Jiro Fujihara, the heir to the family conglomerate, should have been with his younger sister and father. Hayato shook his head. “Because not only is he handling the office while we’re away and trying to drum up more business, daughter, but because …” He trailed off. He didn’t want to bring up an issue he hoped Megumi was still unaware of. Jiro had grown envious of his younger sister’s talent with machines, and how they kept the family afloat in these troubled economic times. Nor that the only reason why the family won the lucrative contract from the government to build the islands was Megumi’s devises.
Megumi shrugged again. “If you say so. Because you don’t want to rub his face into it again that I’m the reason we still have a shot at making enough money to make it as a major conglomerate. That’s the real reason, isn’t it?’
Her father winced. Megumi had picked up some bad habits from the Americans when over there for her schooling, but Whateley was the best school for mutants, bar none, and even Japan’s program of directed learning and steering talent tended to founder when dealing with those of… a certain status, or certain powers. Megumi had leapt to assume Jiro hated her because she was a mutant, not because she was outshining him. “No… well, yes, though not always as you may worry. Not to mention he’s trying to figure out more ways to recruit supernaturals for the company, dear. He’s quite annoyed that you didn’t bring some of your classmates back with you.”
Megumi gave a flat look. “I did.” She huffed. “It’s not my fault they didn’t stay.” She paused. “That’s part of the problem, I think. It’s easy to … well, it was, anyways, to convince them to come… getting them to stay is the problem.” She pouted a bit. “We need to fix that.”
“Really?” Hayato looked at his daughter who was now looking pensive. “Maybe you should ask a few why they didn’t. And I’ll get Jiro on it to find a solution.”
Megumi nodded. “Yes, Father.” She paused, noting the tilt rotor had come to a hover. “We’re at the location, Father?”
Hayato looked out the window and nodded. “Yes, dear, we are.”
“Hmmm.” Megumi pressed against the window, and Hayato signaled the pilot to tilt slightly so his daughter could get a better look at the spot, surrounded by a few small boats that were taking soundings and readings for the project.
“Hmm, daughter?” Hayato was used to pulling Megumi out of her fugues, and had a fond tone as he did so.
“Oh. Figure another six months to get all the readings we need, oh… two years to prep, two years to drill. A year to shape and finalize the island safely, since we’ll have to keep the tap active till it’s the right size. Assuming no more interruptions, that is.” She paused and nodded once. “Other islands will go faster since our crews will know exactly what we want, and we can split the crews apart to do more than one at a time, once Golden 1 is well underway.” She looked back at her father, a gleam in her eyes. “Part of the time is we’re just now building the ships we need, so…”
Hayato nodded. While the target date was 2016, being early was good. “What do you think about the government’s plans for them?’
“You mean having it as perfect retirement or assisted living communities like the Americans run for their elderly?” Megumi snorted. “It might work…”
“I know. I’ll have to admit, convincing your grandmother to move to one would be a challenge, but there are plans afoot.” He paused. “And it’s not aimed at our fellows anyways.” Hayato sighed.
“You mean the middle class, Daddy. Just say it. And say that a lot of them won’t be willing to trade half or more of their pensions for living here, because of fear and distrust of the islands not being really part of Japan.” Megumi snorted at that view.
“Daughter.” Hayato chided. “They may be right. Japan has never been successfully invaded since the Celestial Empress gave us her descendant. But, the Americans took Iwo Jima and the Ryukyus.” He paused. “You know as well, should know better than I do, in fact, about magic and how real mythology is. Otherwise, I should have looked at your class selections harder.”
Megumi blushed slightly, and then sighed. “Okay, okay. That’s not our problem, though. That’s the government’s. I hope they have a solution.”
Hayato smiled. “They’re working on one.” His voice indicated how little he thought the current government could pull it off.
Megumi snorted. “Some of those people the project targets would only be convinced by Amaterasu herself. And she’s not been seen for centuries that we know of, nor has she taken any paladins.”
Hayato had to ruefully smile at his daughter’s tart comment. She was right. But… “Maybe they’ll pull something off, Daughter. Now, do you need to see more?”
Megumi grinned back and shook her head. “Not from up here, but we can go back and look at the data my minions are collecting.”
Hayato shot his daughter a look. “Your minions, daughter dear? If I remember right, I sign the authorization for their paychecks.” He signaled the pilot to return to the project headquarters.
June 15th, 2011.
Fujihara Golden Islands Main base, Minamata, Japan.
Megumi rubbed her forehead, as Sophia Isenhart dropped down in the chair next to her. Jiro looked at the blonde engineer next to his sister and had to hide a smile. Someone who had more of a history bent would wonder if the Germanic bombshell and the elegant Japanese lady were plotting world conquest instead of trying to build retirement homes for people. Clearing his throat, he addressed both. <“I understand, Sophia-kun, that Nanto-san has sidetracked your work on the tidal generators for other projects.”> He paused, and looked at his sister. <”As well as taking the craft and devices we need to fully start the islands.”> He sighed, at his sister’s irritation as well as Sophia’s resignation.
<”You are correct, Fujihara-san”> Sophia didn’t bother trying to speak Japanese to the two; she was still trying to learn the language. <”While your prime minister and his contracts are being paid, and paid in full, it is delaying aspects of my part of our work. I will leave it to your sister to explain the other issues…”> Trailing off, she turned to the twenty-nine-year-old Japanese exemplar and gadgeteer.
Megumi rolled her eyes, but did explain. <”It’s not so much the loss of Sophia’s work, that is slowing us down; we still haven’t been able to finish the retaining walls so we can start drilling, per the most recent revision of the contract.”> She huffed and added in irritation. <”It’s almost like the JDP doesn’t want us to finish. Why, that’d mean Abe-san was right and had a good idea!”> She snorted in disgust at the politics involved.
Jiro didn’t bother hiding his smile at his sister’s actions. <”We are not going to be penalized for the delay, thankfully, but I have been assured repeatedly now that by the end of the month, we will have more vessels with your equipment on them, Megumi-chan.”> He paused. <”And that we’ll get the rest back soon enough. How much delay has this caused us?”>
Megumi looked up and thought for a moment. <”Honestly, I think we can still make the June 1st, 2016 target date for Island 1. It’d require delaying Island 2 and 3 a bit, but even then, I think we can make it up without additional expense. You have my most recent figures, Nii-sama.”> Jiro nodded.
<”I do, and I did not give them to the government, Megumi-chan. I don’t want them thinking they can keep abusing your talent.”> He sighed. <”They keep thinking you can work miracles, and while, honestly? I think you have, there’s a limit, and even your own notes show that we are at it.”> He leaned back, and carefully looked at the two ladies. <”From your report, Megumi-chan, it’s clear we can start the drill, if no other delays happen… by November 1st, right?”>
Megumi nodded sharply. <”And even though I told Father it’d be two years for the drill, I think we can get it done in eighteen months, and twelve months for the lava to start reaching the surface.”> Sophia shrugged slightly at Jiro’s silent question. While she helped her fellow engineer in laying out the devise’s infrastructure, it was almost all Megumi’s work. His own sister would know exactly, not Sophia.
Jiro ran his hand through his short hair. <”Alright. Thirty months would put us at about…”> He paused, looking at a tablet for a second, then back at the two women. <”April of 2015, if my calendar is right.”> Both women nodded.
Megumi smiled slightly, and noted. <”A year for the island to fully take shape, while we’re installing all the support features, including Sophia-chan’s generators, as well as running cables to the point we’re putting in the fusion ship, puts us at April of 2016, when the first houses will be ready to move in.”> She paused. Looking at Sophia for a second, she switched to Japanese. “Any progress from the government on their plan to get people to move there?”
Jiro shook his head. “Their most recent proposal is to simply condemn the houses the targets are living in.” Megumi stared in shock.
Sophia was trying to follow the conversation, but gave it up as a bad job, given the rapid fire nature of the words. She did understand Megumi’s curse, and couldn’t disagree with the words aimed at the politicians involved with the project.
“Brother. You have to be joking. I mean, sure, a lot of houses aren’t built to last, but…” Megumi trailed off.
Jiro nodded. “I expect the upcoming election, given that the plan is about to leak, will be… interesting, Megumi.” Pausing, he shifted to English again, and looked at Sophia. <”Forgive us, we were discussing… politics.”>
Sophia sighed, and nodded. <”Dirty laundry isn’t to be aired in front of a guest, no?”> She paused. <”While the additional work and free time to handle other contracts is quite nice, isn’t this affecting your business?”>
Jiro shook his head. <”Not really, thanks to the funds the government by contract has to keep sending us, the fees to use the equipment we had stockpiled for this project elsewhere, and the adjusting of the delivery date, as well as the additional islands and surveying we have been doing, we are actually better off than if we had been left alone to work as projected.”> He smiled. <”I will admit, it is annoying.”>
Megumi nodded at her brother’s comment, and added. <”I could be working on ways to relieve pressure in magma chambers, or earthquake faults, but no… I have to be stuck supervising the first island. Or, we could be building islands elsewhere. The Dutch and to some extent Israel are very interested in our project, as well as private investors from America, Iceland, and other nations.”>
Jiro nodded. Everything Megumi said was true. Thanks to her, the family was better off, would have a bright future, and already had massive contracts and royalties flowing in. Thankfully his father had beaten some sense into him. Megumi was the jewel he had thought when they were younger, just not quite the way he thought. His role wasn’t to be outshined by her, but to let her shine for the honor of the family. He had forgotten that. Grinning suddenly, he spoke up again. <”Now that we have business finished…”> Trailing off, he noted both nods. <”You both will be open June 21st, right?”>
Sophia simply nodded, to Megumi’s grin. <”Still want to know how you got that idol to agree to marry you, Brother, she’s an exemplar. I thought she’d be smarter than that!”>
Jiro hid his grin. <”Sister, dear… that’s why she’s marrying me. She sees what our family will be, and wants to add to it, via me.”>
Megumi shook her head. <”I would call her a gold-digger, but she’s too nice, really. You got lucky, brother.”>
Jiro nodded. <”Well, ladies, will you allow me to buy you both dinner?”> He stood up, with the two women smiling at him, and he felt a twinge of sympathy for his wallet. Of all the things the anti-mutant crowd had to say, the only one he could commiserate with was envy at how exemplars could finish off a buffet table without gaining a single kilogram. Mere mortals like himself had to diet and exercise, while his fiancée and sister could eat anything they wanted, laze around the house and office, and still look good. Annoying for other women and men, but he was the lucky one who is marrying an exemplar.
January 11th, 2012.
Office of the Prime Minister of Japan, Tokyo, Japan.
The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, was seated at his desk, his hands folded and his eyes boring into those of his national security adviser. “You realize that I did not really want to hear what you just told me?”
“Sir.” Shotaro Yachi, the National Security advisor in question, nodded. “However, the PSA is ninety-percent sure that Fujihara-san’s devises and designs were stolen. Maybe not all of them, but …” He trailed off.
“I see.” Abe rubbed his forehead. the PRC had recently shifted tacks while he was out in the wilderness, and before he returned to power, the infamous Asian ultra nationalist Iron Dragon had taken over China. Normally he would have welcomed the removal of the PRC’s party leadership, and replaced by a man who thought in terms of Pan Asianism. The only problem was that Iron Dragon was Han, and thus believed that China was to be in charge. The man desired an effective return to the past, where all were ruled by the Middle Kingdom. Or at the very least paid her tribute. “Is there any indication that he will continue on with China’s suspected plans?” With that statement, Abe was treated to his friend's flattest look.
“At this time, we can’t say for sure, but realistically?” Shotaro shook his head. “Shinzo. We’ve both heard Iron Dragon’s speeches. I think his only complaint with the previous leadership was how they were going about establishing the return of the Middle Kingdom. Not that they were.” Leaning back, he simply looked at his friend. “And I know I sent you the report done on how the coup was done.” Waiting for his friend's nod, he continued. “The military backed it. What price did he pay for that aid?”
“Yes, Shotaro-kun. I understand. I was ...” Waving his hand, he reflected sourly how Obama greeted the Iron Dragon’s takeover of China. Thankfully the rest of the nations had also read the situation as his people did, and India was busy attempting to convert the Commonwealth into more than just a friendly association of nations linked by past into a real alliance. His work on doing the same with the Pacific Rim nations was also beginning to pay off. But… “How does the American political scene look?”
Shotaro blinked. “Ah… as of right now, we cannot be sure. America’s entered into another mild recession as the turmoil in China has affected everyone, and Iron Dragon’s clear policies have driven out any additional investment… I believe that President Obama will be hard pressed to gain a second term, but…” He shook his head, understanding his friend and superior’s reasoning.
“If he does, all the work we’ve done recently will be wasted.” Abe sighed. While generally friendly, like most nationalists to America, he had to admit that the Americans could be… what was that delightful term, again? Ah, yes. Sheep, as any Japanese could be. Japan, for historical reasons… good ones, he had to admit in private, could not be the centerpiece of an anti-China alliance. India couldn’t either, for their own reasons. That left either the UK, a weak power in this region… or the traditional stability force for the last century, the United States. Even better, most of the powers of the region saw the United States as not only friendly but a power that wouldn’t seek to conquer them, or even try to control them much. But with the current political situation… Obama was not seeing what those closer to the Dragon saw. He breathed out. “Karma. What will be…”
“Will be, sir.” Yachi stood, sure that the session was over. Before he could leave, Abe looked again at his friend.
“Get with Defense, and see where they’d want islands to defend against violations of our airspace. One of the few good things about the Iron Dragon is he’s aware of magic, and aware of the wards that protect us. But…”
“But it doesn’t protect us fully, and we aren’t sure how good the wards are anymore.” Yachi paused, and dived in. “And it didn’t spare us from aerial attack at all.”
“Exactly. Lucky for us, we have a lead in… ah…. adding land to our territory.” Abe smiled a bit. “In fact, once you leave, the two young Fujiharas are here for a meeting.”
Yachi nodded, and stood up. Before leaving, he bowed, and commented quietly. “As you say, Prime Minister.” Walking over to the door, a brother and sister were waiting, and were ushered in as he left.
Abe rose, and returned the siblings’ bow. “Thank you for waiting. I understand your time is as … precious as mine, so I will try to keep us short.” Receiving two nods, he waved at two seats, and sat himself. Waiting to the pair were seated, he finally opened the meeting. “While I would certainly enjoy spending time in pleasantries, you asked for this meeting, may I know what it’s about? Your reports are quite thorough, and I see no need for a progress report, unless I’m mistaken.”
Jiro nodded. “I wouldn’t say a progress report, Abe-dono, but perhaps a report on options, and an idea?” He waited till Abe’s eyebrow raised a bit, and nodded. “We have more production capability than we listed on our reports, and that leads us to my sister’s idea.”
Abe turned to the inventor, and smiled. “I’m always glad to hear of new ideas, Megumi-san, and if it won’t derail anything else…” Trailing off, his statement and tone made it quite clear he was curious and interested in what she’d propose.
“Abe-dono. As you know, we have a problem keeping ah… more Westernized mutants, shall we say?” Megumi waited for Abe’s nod, and continued. “I finally asked one of my friends why she didn’t stay and it was simple. She had no real support inside the nation to learn the culture, and well…” Abe blinked. He saw where Megumi was going, and could it be that simple?
Jiro smiled at Abe’s expression. “The better part, Abe-dono, is we have much interest in this concept from corporations. For example Toshiba, who has already financed building part of the small fleet of island ships we need, has exactly the same problems.”
Abe nodded. “Let me understand this. You suggest we build another island at least, and turn it into… oh, Megumi, would Ellis Island mean anything?” Getting a smile from Megumi he continued. “I see. I never really thought of the problems that way.” Leaning back, he mused. “So obvious now, of course now that it’s explained … but …” Leaning forward, he intently looked at the pair. “I don’t doubt that I cannot get approval from this, considering from what you’ve implied, the government wouldn’t pay for this. But …”
“Yes, sir.” Megumi paused and nodded once. “We would build at least another island over and beyond the … Ellis Island, as you so aptly named it, Abe-dono, one to allow certain artists to express their art in the manner that is … best suited.”
Abe didn’t have to be told what that would be for. Diedricks Syndrome affected as many Japanese devisors as others, and the effort of caring and keeping harmless those unfortunates who were afflicted with the madness their art demanded was a drain. And not always successful. “Approved. Get me the locations you have in mind. And I assume you have seen the PSA reports?” Receiving two nods, he stood up again, bowing, and smiling. “While I don’t hold out too much hope for the Ellis Island project, at this time, I have to admit it’s worth a try, and the other? Excellent idea. Thank you both.” He bowed, and the two siblings returned it.
“No, thank you, Abe-dono.” Jiro mentioned, and Abe-dono waved a hand.
“Before I go to my next meeting, how is your lovely wife, Jiro-san?” Abe raised an slight eyebrow. “Have you already produced the next Fujihara generation?”
Jiro smiled. “Just started to, sir. Now if Megumi…” Abe nodded at that.
Megumi blushed a bit, but kept silent. Both men smiled, and made it clear that it was only a bit of harmless teasing.
Oct 23rd, 2014.
Fujihara Golden Islands Main base, Minamata, Japan.
Abe studied the maps in the well laid out office. Noting the holo displays, he tapped one, bringing up the island in its current state. Nodding once, he turned back to the younger man at the desk. “Jiro-kun. I note Ellis Island’s progressing faster and larger than projected.”
Jiro stood up and poured Abe some tea, which the man took and sat down across the table from Jiro. Jiro pondering his prime minister's words nodded once. “Yes, sir. Megumi did not enjoy the news in America.” Seeing Abe’s nodding, he gathered up his words once again, and carefully walked the minefield that he knew his sister had sailed them into. “She feels that her friends and fellow classmates will need Ellis island faster than we had…” He was cut off by Abe’s hands.
“Bathhouse rules, I think.” Nodding at Jiro’s blink, he went on, intense. “Megumi wants to save as many of her Whateley fellow students, and other American, and quite possibly Canadian and European mutants from a resurgent MCO.” Receiving Jiro’s nod, he went on. “I have no problem with this, and I can tell you several corporations are not unhappy with the acceleration of the schedules. I do wonder about the risk… Megumi designed the process for a certain speed, and a certain technique, to be totally safe and with the least amount of disturbance. Or so I was told?”
“Yes, sir, that’s true.” Jiro paused, and nodded once. “She feels the risk is near zero in the strata and other areas she’s working with, mind you, but she’ll cheerfully tell me that if her original settings, or even slower, aren’t followed to the letter in formations bearing various hydrocarbons or water, well…” Jiro smiled. “I would so hate to be the one to have to explain to various interests where the hydrocarbons went, no?” Abe’s eyebrows rose.
“... I see. Dare I hope Megumi hasn’t written this down, or told anyone not cleared by PSA and informed it’s a national secret?” Abe smiled.
“By the oddest luck…” Jiro smiled back. Sobering up, he nodded. “All the speed we gained has been somewhat set back, Shinzuo, by the newest requirements. Upside, with using the islands, in various places as ‘housing’ for the new Fusion reactors, and running cables here and there for their power distribution… Plus Megumi’s husband’s biogadgetry…”
Abe smiled. Fusion and cellulose/coal mixture to produce either an octane/ethanol mix or several other products that would seriously cut Japan’s needs on imported oil. Admittedly, they would become somewhat dependent on coal, and already some of the less-than-rational members of the Diet were protesting the need to reopen Japan’s coal mines, but America had plenty of coal. Not to mention Megumi’s classmate and now-husband’s thinking of organic plastics and algae producing the needed chemicals. Pausing for a moment, he asked curiously. “Now, if we could only handle the waste of our fission plants as easily, but… that’s a thought for another time. How was it having Megumi marry the American? I understand to some degree your family…”
Jiro shook his head. “Thankfully Grandfather had already passed away, I will admit, but Megumi told Grandmother if we as a people want American mutants to come, we have to show them they will be welcome.”
“... Forgive me, I met your grandmother. She bought that?” Abe raised an eyebrow.
Jiro leaned back. “I think the desire for more great-grandchildren overran her desire for purity and tradition.”
Abe grinned. “That is an issue… we’re still trying to figure out way to enhance our birthrate even now. We’re not as bad as China, or Korea, but…”
Jiro nodded. “I’m doing my part, Shinzuo.”
“I do hope you kept your family’s katana, if she takes after her mother.” Abe mock toasted Jiro.
“Oh, you can count on that, for sure.” Jiro toasted back.
Pausing, Jiro sighed and shifted tacks. “So, it’s true that China stole Megumi’s designs.” Shaking his head he added. “At least the WTO listened to us and banned China from trying to market it or use it outside China. Even with their protestations, they did it on their own.”
Abe nodded. “No one believed them, admittedly, and frankly it was hilarious having the MCO torn between protecting a Japanese mutant’s patents and bashing Iron Dragon and his mutants. The British representative called it the best show in years.” Grin fading, he nodded more serious. “Still, they are using it for sure in the South China Sea, and unless we want to be…”
“More forceful?” Jiro nodded in response. “Which, unfortunately, without America’s solid support, even in the most recent election, the President has problems backing us, or doing that themselves. I’m sure that the President would be more than eager to support the Alliance, but the MCO…”
“Has… while not poisoned the well, definitely made it a bit deeper and less than clean for such an activity.” Abe nodded. “So be it.” Pausing, he grimaced. “It doesn’t help that Megumi was right in another part of her full report, that we as a nation produce the least weapon-crazy gadgeteers and devisors out of the Alliance.” Smiling suddenly… “Explains why the US military wasn’t against us doing Ellis Island, because it is no threat to their weapon nuts.”
“That is something that has been hinted at, yes.” Jiro leaned back and carefully eyed Abe. “Are you sure about Project Perimeter?”
Abe winced. That was one of his plans that hadn’t even gotten out of his closest advisors circle, but had already run into headwinds. “Am I sure of the political feasibility?” He shook his head. “No, I am not.” Pausing, and nodding once. “Am I sure of the defensive need? That is different, and not only me, but also the JSDF and American military.” Sighing, he realized he had to expand. “The biggest issue, frankly, is the obvious ‘militarization’ even if we make it clear it’s only defensive weapons by anti-aircraft/missile systems, and very short ranged anti-ship weapons. Korea will throw a fit, even though they know it’s a good thing to have Japan as the Pacific’s Britain, and defended accordingly. Other nations that we are on good terms with will not be easy with it. China… will be China.” Sighing, he added. “And then there is the JDP.”
Jiro nodded. While he wasn’t fully read into the project, the idea of creating small islands every fifty kilometers or so along Japan’s coast, at about twenty kilometers from the nearest populated shore, and turning them into energy airbases and air/sea defense platforms had been floated by him, and technically it provided no challenge. Fiscally? Politically? Those were for the Cabinet to debate, and from Abe’s expression, even with the rules of conversation, not a smart one to discuss. Extending the chain of defense islands farther out, and elsewhere, under the Japanese flag? Jiro knew he would not want to be the politician to try to do so. But Abe was determined to not only defend Japan, but stop the Iron Dragon. That had become the defining issue of his second premiership, instead of the economy he was elected on.
Thankfully, Megumi’s husband Fusion and other bio and chemical inclined mutants, had brought new advances and turned industry to Japan. This, added to China’s own activities had kept the economy from derailing Abe’s attempts. Speaking of an issue… “Shinzuo… I understand that the initial acceptance rate of the Golden islands…”
Abe grimaced. It didn't take a telepath, to realize the chain of thoughts running through Jiro’s head. Mutation ran in families, and while Jiro hadn't shown any outward signs, he believed that Jiro was likely an Exemplar himself. Prince Norihito and Princess Kako, respectively the head and the second-in-command of the Institute for Paranormal Affairs, agreed. One of the many active but undetected mutants IOPS believed existed worldwide. Even without that, Jiro was smart, well educated, and able to complement and support his sister. So he thought a lot about a lot of things, and this was one of the problems Japan had. “Well… yes. It is proving a bit more troublesome than we had foreseen.” Sighing, Abe looked seriously at Jiro. “We are just hoping that we can get enough acceptance, while improving our economy enough, to balance. Without something like Amaterasu in all her glory coming down to accept and bless the Islands as Japanese, too many people are leery of the idea for too many reasons. Between the more … traditional, and those who remember our…”
“Colonization?” Jiro was carefully neutral, but Abe did catch what he was talking about, not that it took much to do so.
“Quite.” Abe paused, sipping at the tea again. “Well, what will be, will be, and we will just have to make do.” Standing, he smiled. “I blocked out this entire day, and so! I want that tour I was promised!’
Jiro smiled, and stood himself. “Of course, of course. To the Golden Island!”
January 23rd, 2016
Office of the Prime minister, Tokyo, Japan
Abe stood, welcoming the two siblings into his office. “Thank you for coming, Jiro-kun, Megumi-chan. I wanted to tell you some good news.”
Both siblings looked at each other, and sat down, at Abe’s wave. As Abe settled into his chair, and his attendant poured tea for everyone, Megumi moved to speak. “Sir, what is the good news?” the gadgeteer asked, as she sipped at the tea.
“Several bits.” Abe sipped at his tea, and waited a moment. “First, we can now confirm for certain that Japan has national wards, set by the Gods.” Megumi and Jiro both just looked at the Prime Minister, knowing where that information came from. “Further, Amaterasu does have the ability to extend the wards to new lands.”
Jiro leaned back and carefully asked the question. “And what boon would the Celestial Empress want in exchange for this favor?” He paused suddenly, and smiled. “Father told me about Megumi saying that the only way that we would gain mass buy-in is if…”
Abe had to smile at that, and grinned at the suddenly blushing Megumi. “Wise, and now that she’s here… quite so.” He paused. “We are looking into ways to entice her cooperation over and beyond pure and simple ‘obligation’, as well…” He trailed off for a second, then continued. “I’m not quite sure how taxing it would be, but it is clearly an effort on both hers and her avatar’s part. We have a few ideas.”
Megumi shook her head for a second, recovering from her embarrassment at her offhand idea, though not amused by her brother’s lurking smile. “Maybe an apartment or house in Tokyo? I don’t believe that the Myoujin own property that can be used properly for Amaterasu in Tokyo, and I’m not sure that the Sun would want to be in the Imperial Palace all the time.”
Jiro titled his head. “Besides my sister apparently having an undiscovered precognitive power, she’s also got a good idea. We can get our fellow corporations to help, and have it as part of our costs, so…”
Abe carefully didn’t notice the glare the younger sister sent her brother, and responded to Jiro. “Excellent idea. We can definitely sweeten that. I’ll look into it, and make arrangements to bring it up to the Imperial Household as soon as possible.” Abe paused and nodded once. “And to find out what she would require.”
Jiro and Megumi nodded, and the talk returned to the islands themselves, along with other issues.
March 3rd, 2016
>Minato Ward, Tokyo, Japan
Hikaru sat on the couch in her new apartment. People eagerly throwing gifts to her was getting annoying, in a way. She didn’t ask to host Amaterasu, after all; it was her duty as a Myoujin. Why reward her for duty?
*Why indeed, daughter*. Amaterasu’s voice rang amused in her head. *Once again, I remind you, they are not reward gifts, but favor gifts.* A pause. *Turn on the television, daughter. I am curious what the newest little project of the government is.*
Hikaru obediently did so, and shortly the hour-long discussion on the Golden Island’s project started.
“China is not only accusing us of breaking the peace, but setting them up to destroy the oil and gas in the South China sea.” The speaker, one Suzume Makata, one of the JDP’s few remaining upper house members, was ranting about the Golden Island’s ramifications once again. “Can’t the Prime minster stop poking the Dragon in the eye, lest he ruin all the work of generations on repairing our relations?” She sniffed. “It is also a fiscal boondoggle. Not even a tenth of the people who were projected to sign up have done so, much less moved.”
Yachi shook his head sorrowfully. “It is still early days, Makata-san.” He smiled a bit crookedly, portraying jovial humor. “As for China…. your suggestions are polite… but it is not us seeking to change and reset … boundaries that have been agreed on effectively for centuries, and that China itself was party to. How long before they turn their eyes and actions onto us?”
Once again the two went after each other, with the moderator keeping the peace. Hikaru had to snort. She had met both of them, and knew they despised each other. Makata wanted to appease, at the least, the Dragon, while Yachi was fully in line with his leader’s view that China’s new dictator would only be satisfied and sated with all of Asia bowing to his throne. Hikaru had to shake her head. Politics never changed. One good thing about the JDP being a viable opposition finally was that honest debate had finally made its way into Japan’s political scene.
That however was a double- edged sword. Japan was deeply divided over Abe’s stubborn drive to hem the Iron Dragon in. While the islands themselves were a significant issue, they were mostly confined to the bays and inlets of Japan, and thus a case of domestic finance and infrastructure. However, the idea of a chain of barrier islands, that was a different problem entirely. China was roaring rumors and vitriol over their expansionist potential, and even Japan's citizens and allies were deeply disturbed by what was being said. Hikaru snorted, poked back to paying attention by Amaterasu.
“Not only has Abe’s orders to his little pets caused untold diplomatic damage for us, China’s rightfully blaming us for the losses in the South China sea. Saying that we set them up to do so.” Suzume sat back with a air of having made her point.
Yachi sorrowfully shook his head. “Perhaps, like the WTO found, China shouldn’t have stolen the inventions? They would have known the limitations and risks involved. While I empathize with the loss of countless millions of barrels of oil, China’s theft of the devises themselves - not how they should be used properly - is to blame.” Leaning back. “The Dutch and Israelis have reported very minor issues of that nature, a trifle, and manageable by extraction first.” He spread his hands to invite the watchers to agree with him. “Are we to blame for China’s mistakes? Are we to blame for their criminal actions? I’m sorry, but we never asked them to steal. We never asked them to use devises that they did not have a full understanding of.” Leaning forward, he nodded. “As for the moving, you are right. I will be the first to admit that the acceptance of the island’s new homes is less than we hoped.” He shook his head. “I do think that we have a solution however.”
Hikaru tilted her head, at the same time, feeling Amaterasu do the same. “You know, I feel a sandbag…”
*Bah, daughter. I think it’s a good idea… and it does answer why so many gifts were given to us recently. They are seeking My favor.* Amaterasu’s smug voice implied she knew what that favor was for.
April 2nd, 2016.
Imperial Palace, Minato Ward, Tokyo, Japan
Abe had to hide a smile at Jiro’s studied expression. It was obvious he wanted to do more than respectfully walk down the hallways of the Imperial palace, but proprietary behavior wouldn’t allow him to act as a tourist in the actual working and private residence parts of the Palace. Abe had to admit, it wasn’t every day he walked down these hallways either, since this was the heart of what little authority the Emperor had.
“It all seems so…” Jiro muttered quietly, though Abe’s ears picked it up.
“Normal? Unassuming?” Abe replied back, letting the guide pretend to not hear.
“Yes. I often thought the actual offices of IOPS and the Emperor’s spiritual duties would be…” Jiro sought words.
“A shrine?” Abe had to admit, he also was of that view the first time he was here.
“Well…” Jiro helplessly sighed. “You would think, wouldn’t you?” He shook his head as the guide lead them deeper into the warren.
“You know, I actually asked about that when I was first here.” Abe had to smile. While he was older at the time than Jiro, still… this was the Palace. The keepers of the covenant between the heavens and the earth. The symbol of the promise made to the Japanese by their mother of choice. “And they answered.”
“Oh?” Jiro was thankful that Abe had chose to save him some… embarrassment.
Abe hid a grin, knowing the Yama graduate in front of them was also hiding a smile. “Yes, it’s quite simple. This is where the paperwork is done. This is where the Imperial family relaxes. This isn’t where the actual business is done.”
Jiro had to stop to process that. “And for that business…” trailing off.
“We are not welcome, no, nor allowed. For some reasons that are obvious, and others not so much.” Abe nodded. “Kami-sama! They don’t even let anyone verify the Treasures are the Treasures, or here, or in Ise.” He paused. “Outside those so vetted by the Household, that to be honest, no serious scholar would accept that proof.”
“Shame. It would be…” Jiro was cut off by a raised hand from the guide.
“The risk of losing or damaging the treasures are too great, Jiro-san. Even though the Imperial Palace in total is a shrine, the shrines where the real work is done have even stronger and more detailed wards, which are constantly watched and reinforced.” The woman shook her head. “While no one can argue the historical and magical benefits gained by studying the Treasures… Jinnu was most insistent that we keep them from all but those who were completely trusted. He … implied that they had to deal with the wards.”
Jiro ahhed in understanding as the guide slid the door to the meeting room open and they entered.
Waiting inside the room was Megumi, Princess Kako, and several aides and guards. Abe had to admit that the IOPS tended not to rest on ceremony and ritual all that much, and when it was time for business, they were all serious… but when there were… requests from the government, IOPS tended to fall back on formal ritual and traditional means. The silence in the room, as he noted the formal dress of all but himself, as well as the tea set, indicated that IOPS knew they were the ones being supplicated, not a usual working meeting, nor a rare request of IOPS to His Imperial Majesty’s Government.
The ageless dance of a tea ceremony, even one as ‘informal’, as this one, washed over the room, and for a good fifteen minutes the tea was enjoyed and small talk was made. Finally, the ceremony was over.
Abe was startled out of his contemplation of the dregs of his tea, by Princess Kako’s voice. “You seek Amaterasu’s favor for your plan,do you not? Specifically, you want to have the Celestial Empress speak openly in favor of it all.”
The Prime Minister tried to understand the neutral tone the usually gregarious and cheerful princess was giving out. He knew the majority of the royal family tended towards being generally cheerful, but he had on occasion thought that Kako was the most outgoing of the currently adult royals. Hearing that tone from her… Manfully he suppressed a shiver, and spoke quietly. “While that would be most generous of our Mother, I doubt that she would be… so generous of the totality of my plans. Nor would I seek to impose on her.”
Kako nodded. “Wise.” She paused, seeing if any would speak, then smiled a bit. “However, I think your real objective may be attained. Tending to the elderly while also maintaining Japan’s status is becoming more difficult, she has mused.” She looked quietly aside, and then nodded once. “Nor would adding more people to her protection be amiss, if they were truly willing, that is.”
Abe nodded. “I see…” Gathering his thoughts, and parsing the meaning, he breathed out. He had not gotten what he wanted, admittedly, but it was more than enough. But… “Surely Our Mother understands my objective… we have the same goal, after all… “
Before anyone could speak, another young woman stepped in. Her furisode spoke of who she was and Abe felt his mouth go dry. Perhaps he should have not been greedy?
As she sat, her eyes swept the room. Abe managed to keep his dismay from his face. The eyes of fire, so reflective of a solar eclipse, were in full display, with none of the blue that normally would be present. A wildly out of place thought surfaced, *And she wonders why she’s called the Voice of the Heavens… even as she despises that title.* Another thought crossed his mind. *This is what the Black Dragons and the cult of the Evening Twilight feared, this. Wise of them.* Abe had thought he had known much of Japan’s mythological history, only to find that he hadn’t known even the surface. Before he delved into his recent memories, a voice interrupted him.
“Mmm, Shinzuo-kun.” The velvet voice honeyed-tones swept over the room. “Do we? Do we truly share the same goals?” Abe managed to keep his eyes on the avatar’s, even though he felt the need to lower not just them, but himself to grovel in front of the Celestial Empress in truth. Her avatar had let her speak though her. “We find ourselves wondering that fact.”
Abe blinked. He didn’t know honestly how competent Amaterasu’s military knowledge was, but he was sure her avatar had an idea, at the very least. Surely the burnout wasn’t that severe. “Empress… To protect and keep Japan strong is all I wanted to do. All I ever wanted to do. Take us from the past, and into the future.” He knew he was pleading, but he didn’t realize Amaterasu could do this, speak so directly to him. She had never shown such direct ability before. Admittedly, she was only speaking though her avatar, but still. Hikaru had indicated that Amaterasu was quite limited on Earth. Did she… understate the truth? Or was there something else going on?
“Mmm.” Hikaru sipped tea, though Amaterasu looked through her eyes. “Is that all, truly, Shinzuo-kun?” She looked him in the eye, and smiled a bit crookedly. “I’m quite aware of what the Black Dragons proposed, and well. Some claim, with justification, mind you…” She trailed off.
Abe swallowed. “That my strongest supporters and myself are, if not the Black Dragons, heirs to their goals and objectives.” He nodded. “I can only say I am not. While I do want China to be… restrained, I have no illusions that Japan can do it, even with the collection of Allies we have -- not without your avatar’s birth nation, after all.”
A pleased tone entered the avatar’s voice. “Excellent.” Pausing a moment, she continued on. “Then I cannot disagree with the idea of Our children being protected after all. That is truly an admirable goal.” Tilting her head… “Your gifts to seek our attention were noted, after all, and quite… acceptable.” Abe breathed a sigh of relief. “And I cannot at all disagree with the islands that are intended for living, after all.” She then let her tone harden. “However, those that are outside those direct goals… well. Why should we own them? Would it not reassure our allies and others that we will not repeat the past?”
Abe’s eyes narrowed as he leaned back. “I understand, and yes, our allies should be taking on a bigger role, to both allay fears… and allay our costs.” He nodded once, suddenly thinking, and smiling suddenly. “And it would solve some issues of your children in the Ryukyus, would it not, Your Celestial wisdom?”
“We cannot disagree with such wisdom.” She paused and had her avatar nod once. “Do please prepare proper shrines on the islands that will be for our Children, Shinzuo-dono. It should be far easier and safer if I extend the wards there, and a shrine would be most helpful, along with a few other items.”
Abe nodded, understanding the audience was coming to a close. “Then, with your permission, we shall with all haste, make it so.” Standing, he bowed at her avatar’s nod.
June 1st, 2016
Airspace of Konohanasakuya Island, Japan
Looking out the window at the water and the reflected lights off the escorting fighter aircraft, Hikaru’s attention was snatched back by Kako. “How exciting.” Kako grinned. “We get to see legendary magic at work, add land without any objections or political issues to Japan, and look cute in our kimonos… or for you, red hakama and gold haori.” She grinned at Hikaru’s slightly disgusted look. Kako wasn’t repentant as she went on. “Awww. Don’t be that way. At least it’s not furisode?”
Hikaru had to admit Kako was right… and even if she wouldn’t tell her friend and cousin that the traditional outfit of a miko, even embellished as this one was, was far more comfortable and appealing to herself than some of the other outfits she had been talked into in the last few months. Her hand fell on a pair of boxes, one long and slim, another square and somewhat thick. Both rested on her lap, with a third box in Kako’s. “I still can’t quite believe that Atsuko-obaa-sama, not to mention Akihito-sama let us take these! I know Amaterasu did say these would make it much easier, but still, Kako-chan.”
Kako shrugged slightly. “Amaterasu wanted them, she got them. All things considered, though it doesn’t surprise me we have a squadron of F-15’s, plus serious JMSDF coverage.” Hikaru winced, looking back at the six young adults, all students at the Yama Dojo’s high school equivalent. “Not to mention guards up the wazoo masquerading as minor officials, tourists, or attendants.” Kako’s grin grew impish.
Hikaru nodded. “I know… but… still.” Looking down, she sighed. “I know she stated the primary purposes of the three Treasures was to help buffer and safely use her power on Earth, but considering the wards are tied into them, the other features, and several other things…”
Kako nodded. “Hey, didn’t She say to you she wasn't’ sure how this would affect you? And that, well...” Kako titled her head.
Hikaru winced. “Thank you ever so much for reminding me of the risk… slight as She thinks it is.”
Kako shrugged. “What is, is, cousin. What will be, will be. Duty is heavy. You know this. Living with duty is heavier still. Enjoying your life all things considered, you still haven't’ figured out.” She had leaned forward, and quietly stated the last, as she tapped her cousin’s nose. “You really really need to, otherwise you’ll be unhappy and unable to grow, little cousin.”
Hikaru batted Kako’s finger away as the transport slowed down in preparation for landing. “I do live, you know that. It’s just…”
“Mm, hmm.” Kako gave a slightly disapproving look as she added. “Excuses, excuses. You, of all people, should know better and not accept them, most notably from yourself. We do have people you can talk to, you know.” With her statement, the transport landed, and Kako stood to gather up stuff. “We really should go, you know.” Kako pretended to not notice Hikaru’s tired glare as she too stood up, collecting her stuff.
“I don’t need therapy, cousin.” Hikaru tiredly hissed as the pair walked down the aisle. “I will do what’s needed. Nothing more. And I do enjoy things. Driving, for one.” Hikaru paused. “I just haven’t had time.”
Kako stopped at the door. “Make time. Meet new people. Remember what Aiko said. She was right. You shouldn’t be alone.” With that sharp but quiet statement, Kako stepped out, leading a fuming Hikaru behind her.
June 1st, 2016
Konohanasakuya Shrine, Konohanasakuya Island, Japan
Kako’s eyes took in the ceremony in front of her after the speeches by the Prime Minister, several other LDP members, and then Jiro and Megumi Fujihara concluded. She had to admit that her distant cousin and friend looked good, calm, and collected as she went through a long ceremony, carefully dancing around the ancient warabite-tou, the ritual sword that her spirit had gifted Kako’s ancestor with. The jewel around her neck had already begun to glow, changing colors to a golden hue to reflect the energy that was being collected. Even Hikaru herself had begun to glow somewhat, reflecting the energy she herself had stored up.
She carefully swept the prepared grounds where grass had been planted, but not yet grown. There were new saplings, rose bushes that were still young, and several other signs that no matter how much work the construction crews could do, this was a brand new shrine, just like the other gardens on the island were. Her eyes shifted to Hikaru holding up the mirror to catch the Sun… but instead of reflecting, it seemed to act as a magnifying glass, connecting a visible golden beam to the warabite-tou, which was joined by one from the jewel on Hikaru’s chest.
Kako watched as the blade glowed for a long second, then a bright light swept out in a dome shape. As she blinked rapidly from the shock, she quickly noticed the trees were now fully grown, the grass bright and green, and the rose bushes blooming their gifts of beauty in the shrine. She wondered if this was everywhere, as she saw the expanding dome race outwards from the shrine, but before she could find out, a thump caught her attention.
The princess stared as her cousin was a pool of black hair and red hakama on the floor, with a bit of blood leaking out of her nose and ears. She wanted to curse, knowing that the media had caught this. With the scurry of the attendants and a healer caught on camera, she just knew that instead of covering Japan reaching for the future -- a peaceful future -- the news would be all over the cost of the islands to Japan’s newest and most popular mutant. Not to mention she would have sworn that she heard an “Oops.”
June 1st, 2016
Interior guest room of Konohanasakuya Shrine, Konohanasakuya Island, Japan
Karou Saito, a student at the colloquially known Yama Dojo, looked at Sakuya. “Are you sure there is nothing major wrong with the Voice?”
Sakuya Kasai blew out a puff of air as she once again scanned over the resting avatar of Amaterasu. “Yes, yes, I’m sure, Karou-kun. I am sure that we caught the burnout in time. Some burst blood vessels in her nose, and ears, plus a bit of damage to her very short term memory should be the extent of the damage, I believe. Admittedly, I did concentrate on the areas of her brain focusing on her skills and other similar abilities, but I don’t think her long term memory was at much risk. She shouldn’t suffer much if any memory loss.” She paused and shook her head. “I didn’t realize that she couldn’t handle the Celestial Empress’s power.”
Miyako, part of the Yamada family shook her head. “Sakuya, I’m surprised. Your older sister teaches at the Voice’s school, and it’s inarguably the best non-Japanese school for magic. A few of my teachers even quietly admit that it’s better than ours.” She sighed. “You all don’t quite seem to get what she did.”
The other five students, even those paying attention to the doors and other entryways, carefully listened in. Miyako quirked a smile, not used to having the rest of the newest team being sent to ‘educate’ Whateley listening to her. After all, she preferred western magic, not the magic of the priests or traditional magics practiced by the varied spellcasters of Japan. Clearing her throat, she spoke quietly to not disturb the resting Avatar. “Avatars of whatever nature have limits to the power they can safely use from their spirit.” She paused, turning to look at Suzume Moto, the team’s lone avatar. Hosting a nekomata, her deeply traditional family had chased her out, and she ended up in the Dojo on the strength of her spirit’s reputation. “You know that as well as I do, Nyan-chan.”
The nicknamed girl flicked an illusionary ear at the mage. “Nyaa.”
Miyako, noting the group had relaxed a bit, continued on. “What the Celestial Empress was doing was extending strong and ancient wards filled with anti-mythos effects and several other features, some of which I didn’t even know existed. Not satisfied with that, she was effectively adding about two hundred square kilometers to the ward’s area.” Shaking her head, she continued on. “Finally, she made every plant on the island mature instantaneously.”
Karou went through his classes once again, and winced. “... from what I recall of introduction to Magic, wouldn’t that require …”
“The equivalent of power that it would take me at least a year to collect, for one thing?” Miyako nodded. “No human, part human, or near human, with a few exceptions like the Sidhe Queen, could hope to safely channel and use that power at once.” She paused, her mind flicking back to the briefing. “It didn’t hurt, mind you, that the ground and plants already had a small bit of essence attached to them, nor that the Shrine had been already collecting essence to use… or…”
Kotone Yamauchi smiled. “So that’s why the Three treasures were here?”
Miyako nodded. “That’s my view, yes. I doubt we shall be told, though.” She paused, and added. “Karou, did any reports cover Hikaru-sama generating essence?”
Karou shook his head. “No, but it is immaterial. The Voice’s exact abilities are not for us to know unless she wants us to.” Miyako’s expression was a bit stubborn, and he granted her a breadcrumb. “She’s not a magic user, or so she says.”
“Very odd, then.” Miyako shook her head. “I am pretty sure she was generating essence and using it.”
“Don’t write that down at all, Miyako-chan.” Sakuya smiled. “We were explicitly told what not to do, and I think that’d be part of it.” She was rewarded with a nod from the group’s mage. Turning to a more fun subject. “So! Onee-chan wants to know what are we planning to try, to catch Whateley’s attention with, this year. You’d think they’d get the message, no?”
“Nyaa. Slow the Americajin are.” Suzume snickered, but in a more serious tone, went on. “It’s what I remember one paper saying. ‘The war could have been avoided, if the government had asked if America was playing by Japan’s rules in diplomacy’. Maybe we should tell Whateley’s students?” She looked curious.
Karou shook his head. “No. The rules are that until Whateley pranks us back, we can’t tell the premier generalist school for supernaturals that we respect them, and consider them a sister school, Suzume-chan.” Pausing, and smiling crookedly, he added. “I do think I have an idea this year to try.”
All eyes turned to their leader, but before he could continue, a soft moan caught their attention, and they went into a flurry of action, attending on their principal.