Time Cat: An American Feline in Edo

Tobias is just an average black cat. Well, almost black - he has a white sock on his left rear foot and a white patch under his nose. One day while exploring the yard of his Human, he comes across a curious glowing orb. He begins to investigate it and inadvertently activates it, creating a rip in the very fabric of reality. Much to his dismay, he is sucked into the rip and carried through time and space to an era much earlier than his own. Now he must track this orb across time and space in order to activate it and bring him back home. Don't forget my author page: tinyurl.com/anrisarynfb

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12. Katsu

         Hideki didn't have time to mourn for Shichiro. The samurai turned quickly, leaving the body of his fallen comrade laying there like a dirty rag. The movement surprised the man. He hadn't expected them to be so fast, but they had every grace of a cat. An image of Tobias flashed in his mind. He thought he might like the feline's help right now.
         He raced down the hallway, turning whereever he could. He heard the sound of their boots against the hard ground. His heart began racing, adreneline pumping through his veins. 
         Every turn was another white hallway full of doors of the same color. There was white everywhere. It was as if he was trapped in a massive snowbank and there were windows everywhere, but nowhere to actually go.
         He slowed to a jog now. The sound of boots had faded away. Either they had given up, or gone in a the wrong direction. Hideki was happy with both options.
         The rooms all looked the same and all of them were closed. They all had the same gaps under the bottom for food entry.
         The sound of the smelly rain echoed down the hall. It was cleaning time. But it wasn't in every cell. Hideki could hear exactly which rooms the rain was coming down in, the smell wafting from under the doors.
         He approached a door that sounded like it was raining inside. Getting on his knees, he peered under the door on a hunch there were be someone in there.
          "Hello?" he called. His voice echoed off the walls in the cell, but the only reply he got was the abrupt halt of the cleansing rain.
         He stood up quickly as if staying where he was would draw every mechanical samurai to this location. He looked around, wiping his clothes off as if there actually was dust on them. This place was so clean; would there actually be dust on his clothes? He shook his head to clear the odd thought and continued down the hallway.
         After what seemed like hours of walking in silence, he came upon a set of white double doors. Most of the paint had been worn off and the silver metal underneath shone through, looking much like billowy silver clouds against a white-washed sky. He cautiously pushed through the doors; they creaked softly and he cringed against the sound.
         The room inside was dark, unlike the brightly lit hallway. Hideki scrambled about for some kind of light, but couldn't find any. He stumbled back towards the door and opened it slowly, cautiously, as if the single soft creak would attract every sword in the strange building.
         There was a strange divice at the bottom of the door. It dropped down as the door was opened all the way. Light flooded into the strange new room, which was Hideki's goal, but he wasn't sure how to keep it open. He released the door, going back in to try and find a candle, but the door stayed open, much to his surprise and then delight.
         The strange device that he hadn't noticed at first - anyone from any modern time would call it a door stopper - was the cause of this. The man approached the strange object and touched it, lifting it up. The door began to close and he leapt back. The creaking made a chill run down his spine. He really needed to relax a little.
He pushed the door open again and pulled the stopper down. The door stayed open, and light from the hallway poured in.
         The room was rather large, about twice the size of his cell. But, unlike his cell, this room was full of furniture. There were tables all around, some of which were knocked over. These apparently were not attached to the ground. 
         He began opening cabinets to find a candle or torch. Every cabinet contained something strange that Hideki had never seen before: objects of oblong shapes inside clear containers, urns and vases with strange smelling liquids, books made of thin paper with letters on them he couldn't understand. 
         Finally, in the very last cabinet, some candles in silver holders; he sighed in relief. Some matches lay nearby and he silently thanked Japan's geographic closeness to China. The candle was lit on the first try, and he used it to light two more, which he placed around the room.
         Two more candles he lit and stuck, with a bit of force, to the metal tables. He set the upturned one right and put one more candle on it. 
         Five candles. That was more than enough.
         A thought occurred to him that he should probably close the door. An open door might alert someone (or something) that he didn't want alerted. He lifted up the stopper and the door closed slowly, once again the creak making him cringe.
         For the first time since his escape, he relaxed. He sat down on the floor, the candles casting flickering shadows across the room. It was strangely comforting. He turned back to the door and a sudden thought occurred to him.
         The door - it didn't slide. None of the doors in this place slid. They all swung. And, the all swung out. What kind of door swings? And these metal tables, and all these strange jars, what kind of place was this? And why were they turning people into samurai full of circles?
         He suddenly felt very sleepy. He wasn't sure how long it had been since he last slept, and he couldn't see outside.
         But, his body was telling him he needed rest. He reluctantly closed his eyes and drifted off curled up on the cold, hard floor.

         He woke up a good many hours later. One of the candles had gone out, and the others were making small puddles of wax on the tables. 
         In the distance he heard the sound of boots, but none of them drew near the room, which he had come to know as the collection room, as it had many strange collections in it. 
         In reality, it was an old, unused research lab, which had been recently abandoned due to the updated processing. But this would be something Tobias knew and not Hideki.
         He stood up snuffed out the candles and peered out the door. Again, there was no sign of activity. He quietly slipped out, silently praying for luck.
         The other hallways all looked the same. He hoped he could find his way back to the collection room after this. He peered around every corner before proceeding, and he was glad he did. 
         There were samurai all over the place, walking in formation. He managed to slip by them every time, though. He was glad for his luck, but he knew he shouldn't push it. He was sure it would run out soon.
         Every time he was in trouble, he would race down the hallways back to the collection room. And every time, but samurai would stop following him at a certain point. Two things resulted in this: confusion and gratefulness.
         But, his curiosity got the best of him, and he decided to test a theory.
         It was only two days after his escape, but it seemed like it had been years. He was already rather adept at reading the samurai's movements, so he could easily slip by them. But, he didn't want to slip by them today.
         A lot was riding on this hunch. If they followed him all the way to the lab, he would have to find another place to hide, which he knew could lead to trouble. He sent a silent prayer to the gods and ancestors for luck and took a deep breath.
          "Hey! You! Crazy samurai! Over here!" He shouted and waved his arms around, trying to get attention.
         The group of samurai turned slowly, their masked faces dark and eyeless. But Hideki knew that beneath their masks, those two human-like eyes moved around silently, and now he knew why.
         Hideki took off running, and just as he had hoped, the samurai followed closely behind. He could hear the clap and patter of their boots on the hard floor, of which the material still puzzled him. He turned the corner quickly, nearly falling over. The samurai didn't miss a step, which worried him. He picked up speed around the next corner.
         But then suddenly the sound of boots stopped. He slowed to a walk, but then tuirned around. There were no samurai following him. He went back to the corner and peered around.
         They were all still there, but they were seemingly talking to each other. No sound came from their masks, but they were making hand gestures that indicated some kind of speech. Some of them looked toward Hideki, but made no movement to attack or follow.
         They all turned their backs to Hideki and began to paced back the other way. One looked back, seemingly staring right at him, but then looked forward again and marched with the rest of them.
         A scratching on the wall drew his attention. He hadn't noticed it before, but it appeared that it had been just put there. It was one character. Just one.
         輔
          "Suke," Hideki read. Help. For one breif moment, the samurai had mamanged to overcome their processing to leave a message on the wall. He wondered about it for a moment, running his fingers along the hiragana character.
         He already knew they used to be humans, just like him, but he thought the last strand of humanity had left them with the processing. He shook his head, unable to come up with a viable reason for the character and turned away.
         He walked back to the collection room, catching his breath on the way. He scrambled around for the matches and lit the candles, then searched the cupboards for anything of use. There was a roll of wire, some more matches, and a few empty jars, but that was about it. He piled his findings on one of the tables and inspected them in the candlelight.
         He sighed. Perhaps a look around the area might better suit his interests right now.
         The rest of the area surrounding the collection room was mostly empty. The doors were all unlocked and the rooms were as simple as his own cell: a bed and a table. They were all dark, though, as if the light sources had been shut off, just like the laboratory. The lights in the hallway flickered from disuse and Hideki made a note to find extra candles…somewhere.
         The next two days were spent exploring as much as he could of the facitlity, making note of the various doors and pathways leading every which way. He circled around the whole building, even finding his way back to the shogun's room. He couldn't get too close to that, though. The samurai and attendants were all over the place.
         Making his way back to the collection room, he stopped at nearly every door he could, while still avoiding the samurai. At times it was rather tricky. He was chased down the halls, running for his life a few times.
         But every time he reached his corredor, the samurais would stop, as if going farther would kill them. He wasn't sure what stopped them, but he was glad they did stop.
         Every day, the samurai would bring in more and more men and boys to the cells. Every time he saw this, he grew more and more angry. There had to be a way to stop it.
         Each time someone was stuff into a cell, they either protested loudly and fought, or simply didn't resist. There was no one that was particularly curious about what was going on. He wondered if some of them were drugged before coming in.
         What was really curious to him was the fact that the doors did not have different keys. Most locks he knew each had their own key, but all of these were exactly the same. Each samurai had the same silver key for each door - it had three prongs.
         But there was no way they could make all the locks exactly the same, could they? That would be rather hard and require a very skilled metalsmith. But, there were many things about this strange place that Hideki had never seen. The point was, he had to get a key.
         Or at least make one.
         His thoughts flashed to the wire. What if he could make a key?
         He jogged at an easy pace, now knowing the samurai's routes by heart. One of the candles had gone out. It was nothing but a small puddle now. He rifled about the cabinets searching for more candles and was pleased to find five more in a small pile in one of them. He pushed it into the pile of wax and lit it with one of the candles in the metal holders.
         The wire! It glowed slightly in the candlelight. He grabbed it and it unrolled slowly. He began to form it into the three pronged shape he had seen. He hoped it was the right shape. Bending the excess a few times, it broke off and left him with a mangled key.
         He raced out the door and down the hall, now bursting with energy that he had a way to free all those people he saw. He turned the corner and watched as a squad of samurai marched around the far turn. The hall was empty now, and apparently on the hour, as the sound of the scented rain indicated.
          "Hello?" he said quietly, peering under a door.
         The reaction was instant. The sound of scuffling feet and a face appeared under the door.
          "How did you get out?" the boy hissed.
          "I've been out for two days," Hideki explained. "I escaped."
          "How? There was no way!"
          "It's a long story," Hideki stated, standing up quickly. He struggled with the lock and the homemade key. At first it wouldn't fit, but after a bit of fiddling, he got in the key to turn and the door slowly swung open.
         The boy stood, staring at his rescuer for a good whole second before Hideki grabbed his wrist and began to run.
          "W-what's going on?" the boy stuttered between breathes.
          "I'll explain in a minute," Hideki breathed, racing along the hallways. He slowed to a walk when he reached the hiragana character in the wall. "We should be safe here." He released the grip on the boys arm as he slowed.
         The two were silent for a moment, Hideki leading the way to the collection room. Then the boy stopped. He got on his knees and protrated in from of Hideki.
          "I thank you, Otou-san. I owe you my life!" he exclaimed. Hideki rolled his eyes and grabbed the boy's wrist to force him up.
          "Now is not the time and place for that, chibi-kun," he frowned. "We're not safe yet."
         The older man pulled the boy into the lab and closed the door, the breathed a sigh of relief. He then set about relighting a few of the candles that had gone out.
          "Where are we?" he asked.
          "I still havn't figured that out," Hideki said, putting the candle and holder back on the table.
         The boy looked around for a moment, then back at Hideki, who was standing with his arms crossed in the dim light.
          "My apologies, I have been rude, Otou-san," he said, bowing at his waist. "I am Katsu. Ochi Katsu."
         Hideki mirrored the bow. There was no reason proper decency had to go down the drain even now. "Watanabe Hideki."
          "Thank you again, Watanabe-sempai," the boy bowed once more.
          "Now, Ochi-san," Hideki added.
          "Katsu, please," the boy held up a hand to indicate further thanks.
          "Katsu-kun," Hideki said with a smile, placing his hands on the boy's shoulders. He smiled and recieved a confused grin from the boy. "Katsu, you are the first one I have rescued."
         The boy nodded and Hideki began pacing around the room, searching the cabinets. "Katsu, tell me about yourself. Katsu means 'victory,' right?"
          "That's right," he replied. "What are you looking for?"
         Hideki looked back at the boy for a second before going back to his task. "Anything that can be used as a weapon. If we're going to rescue more men, we'll need a way to defend ourselves."
          "But the samurai are stronger than any man," Katsu protested.
         Hideki paused, having found something. He withdrew it from the cabinet and brought it over to Katsu. In his hand were some marble-sized metal spheres.
          "How are these going to help us?" he asked.
         Hideki jerked his hand slightly, indicating that Katsu should take a few. The boy obeyed and rolled the balls around in his hand.
          "We may not be able to injure them, but we can distract them," the older man explained. "Now, there's no time to lose. We have people to rescue!"

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