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


16. Keep Calm and Carry On

         "Where's Hideki?" Katsu looked around the room. The group was all gathered in the collection room, all bent over or sitting down to catch their breath. No one said anything at first, each of them looking around. "And Ichiro. Where…where have they gone?"
          "Hideki was right behind me," Kenji said, looking at the door as if he would walk in any second. "I heard him talking…"
          "But the Ichiro…and the samurai…" A chill ran down Katsu's spine.
         The silence was electric. It was as if the air itself had stopped moving. For a brief few seconds, time stood still.
          "He's been captured!"
          "He's been killed!"
          "What do we do now?"
         The panic began to set in and people looked at each other for comfort, but there was none. No one knew as much as Hideki did, and now they had no doctor.
          "Everyone, please," Kenji stepped in. "Panicking will not solve anything."
         Katsu blinked and sucked in a breath. "He's right," the boy nodded. His voice shook, but he stood tall. Maeko came over and put a hand on his shoulder. "We can't give up. We still have each other." The group gathered around the young man, each nodding in agreement. "We can still free more people, and we can free Hideki and Ichiro."
          "How will we do that?" Suki asked, concerned. She frowned and clung to her husbands arm.
          "I don't know yet," Katsu said, setting his jaw. "But, I can tell you, we can't just give up. Not after everything we've done. And no one else is going to stop the shogun, so we have to."
          "He's right," Kenji nodded. "But we have to come up with a plan."
          "Right," Katsu said. He opened his mouth to continue, but nothing was coming to mind. "I-I'm sorry, I'm not good under pressure," he apologized.
          "What if we focus on freeing Hideki and Ichiro before we do anything else?" Shiro suggested.
          "That puts our operation at a standstill," Maeko chimed in. She blinked, almost surprised at her own voice. "W-we have to continue to free people."
          "But how? They keys don't work anymore," a woman pointed out. She peered from behind Kenji, her hair tied back by a string or ribbon she had found.
          "That is the biggest problem," Katsu nodded, becoming more and more sure of himself by the minute. "We have to make new keys."
          "Leave that to me," Kenji offered. When Katsu looked at him questioningly, he explained. "It's…a hobby…of mine…or so," he said awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck.
          "You're a theif?" Maeko blinked. "You're a lock-picking theif!"
          "Maeko-chan, that was before," Katsu said, stepping in. "What matters now is that he can help us. 
          "Yeah, after this, I don't think I'll touch another picking kit again…learned my lesson."
         Maeko said nothing, but appeared rather cross. She looked at Katsu who read her reluctant agreement in her dark eyes.
          "Then, let's go to it, Chibi-chan," Katsu said without realizing it. Kenji frowned at him, but didn't comment about the nickname. He had taken somewhat of a liking to it now.
          "Right," he nodded. "Now where's the wire!"
         Maeko chuckled softly. At least he had changed a little from the boy that she had slapped just yesterday.
         Katsu shuffled throught the canbinets, seeking more wire. They had used up a good bit of it on the first three keys, and there was a small amount left, but hardly enough to make any key. 
         The cabinets in the back were suddenly a very welcome sight. He hadn't noticed them before now, perhaps because they were so far away from candle light. Katsu had a deep, though rational, fear of darkness, so before searching more, he raced back to snatch a candle - one that had a holder so the wax wouldn't drip on him - and then worked his way back towards the new area.
         The sound of chattering helped him relax a little. If nothing else, Katsu was an excellent listener. His ears could pick up the words of a conversation from across a busy marketplace. The sound of something normal like a calm collection of voices amid this amazing strageness was a welcoming sound.
         The cabinets and cupboards toward the back of the lab in the back were filled with strange things: clear glass containers, pipes with strange divices attached, some more metal balls (which he quickly collected for his pouch), and much to his delight, more candles. But there was no wire.
         He searched the entire cabinet and frowned. There must be wired here somewhere. There was more of everything else. A thought crossed his mine. Why was this place abandoned when there were hundreds of supplies still left here? It didn't look like there was any kind of accident here. Was it something else, or simply just superstition?
         Another candle seemed to float over to him, creating another light. He looked again and saw that it was Kenji.
          "Do you need some help?" he offered. "You look like you are not having a good time over here."
         Katsu nodded silently, continuing to search the cabinet. He moved things around, making soft clanking noises. He was just anout to give up when Kenji spoke.
          "Found some," he said, triumphantly, withdrawing a roll of wire coiled into a circle.
         Katsu smiled. One good thing today. He withdrew the candles and placed them on the central table. They clack against each other and thumped on the table metallically. He recieved a few smiles for his effort. The fact that their candle supply was low was not a secret.
          "I need a good look at the new locks," Kenji explained to Kenji, approaching him. He was fiddling with the wires, trying to form a handle of some sort.
         Katsu looked around, trying to pick out some that would go with Kenji. Shiro, spotting what he was doing, approached the two.
          "I'll go," he offered.
          "Right, okay, but traveling in threes in much safer," Katsu pointed out.
         Shiro nodded in agreement and glanced around. His eyes rested on the girl with her hair tied with a ribbon.
          "What about her?" he said, pointing at the outspoken woman.
          "Honestly," Kenji admitted, "I don't know much about her."
          "I don't know if Kenji should be traveling with any female," Katsu said quietly, just so the three of them could hear.
          "Hey, come on!" Kenji hissed. "Now's hardly the time to be arguing about that sort of thing!"
          "Katsu's right. What you did was not to be excused." Shiro frowned at the taller man.
          "I cannot believe…" Kenji stopped mid-sentence, realizing there was no point in arguing this. "Fine, Katsu can come," he conceeded, throwing his hands in the air.
          "Don't worry," Shiro said, patting him on the back. "It's not going to be forever.

         Hideki once again found himself in the shogun's presence with his hands bound. This time he was standing, though, and this time it was with Ichiro, not Shichiro. He thought about how ironic that sounded in his mind.
         The room was exactly the same as he remembered: the red and black, the plush, the throne. The only thing different was that the shogun was already present.
         They had been pushed into the room rather forcibly by the samurai. The attendant was grinning now as if he had just completed a glorious achievement.
          "I knew I could count on you, Sugahara," Iemochi said with a grin. He sat on his throne in a relaxes fashion, his fan dangling from his fingers. The hiragana symbols were clear now. Yubi no kuro. The Black Finger
         The attendant behind Hideki nodded with a slight smile of his own. The shogun frowned now, turning to the prisoners. "I recognize this one," he said, pointing to Hideki. "He was the one that escaped. What happened to your friend? He was much younger the last time I saw him."
          "Shichiro was killed," Hideki growled through gritted teeth. He stuggled against the grips on his shoulder. "An innocent man was killed because of you!"
          "I told you before, little man," the shogun spat. "None of you are innocent."
          "What of Tosa? What have they done?" Hideki demanded.
          "Oh, we needed a new stock. Some of the older models were falling apart." Iemochi stated this so plainly as if killing people was a normal part of his day. Hideki's eyes widened in pure hatred.
          "How can you do this?" he shouted. His eyes began to mist over. "How can you treat people like this? Your own people!"
         Ichiro looked at his friend, his eyes full of sadness. How could the shogun just kill people like this? What was his plan? Why was he so full of demons?
          "I cannot take all the credit myself…what was it…Hadoki? Ideka?"
          "Wantanabe-sama to you," Hideki growled.
          "Cheeky," Iemochi frowned.
          "What orb are you speaking of?" Ichiro said. Hideki hadn't mentioned anything like this.
          "Now he speaks," the shogun raised his eyebrows at the doctor. "Yes, the orb. It is a device from the gods themselves, fallen from the hands of Amaterasu herself. It has granted me with knowlege far beyond anything anyone else could have ever taught me. It granted me powers to create these samurai, and what better way to do so than with the very people that stand against me?"
         Hideki spat at the ground, an ancient gesture that was meant to keep demons away. "Your words are vile," he growled.
         The shogun shot to his feet. "How dare you spit in my presence?" he bellowed. "Make them kneel!"
         The samurai forced Ichiro to his feet first. He was not as young and strong as his companion. Hideki fought the metal men, but eventually gave in with a tired grunt.
          "Now," Iemochi smiled, pacing slowly across his raised platform. "Where was I? Oh yes, the orb." He beckoned to another attendate who carried a small pillow. Whatever was on it was covered with a cloth. The attendant slowly removed the cloth, it's creamy white colors strange in the room made of red and black. 
         Underneath, a ball that seemed to be made of light sat, pulsating calmly. It was blue and made a soft humming sound. The shogun picked it up carefully, cradeling it in his hands. He looked at it, a combination of greed and tenderness in his eyes. Thinking back on it, Hideki thought it a very strange combination.
          "What is that?" Ichiro said after a long silence. Hideki looked at him, almost surprised he had spoken.
          "I'm glad you asked," Iemochi grinned, sitting back in his throne. He relaxed in it, holding up the orb as if it were a gemstone of immense value, and he was gauging what exactly that value was. "This is the orb I speak of. The yubi, as most of us have called it."
          "That's the yubi no kuro?" Hideki said with disbelief.
         The shogun shot him a glare, but comtinued. "While it is simply a name for the project I am carrying out, the name came from the symbol on the orb." He turned the glowing ball around to what appeared to be the front. There was a small picture on the front, or rather a character that Hideki didn't recognize.
         It was the symbol for infinity.
         That's why they chose yubi! Hideki thought. That still doesn't make it a good name. He frowned at this critque, wondering why he was even mentally commenting on something like that.
          "What is it for?" Ichiro asked, as if reading Hideki's thoughts. His question, though, seemed rehearsed. As if he had been planning something in his silence.
         Iemochi looked at the man and raised an eyebrow. "So many questions." It looked like Ichiro was holding his breath for a second, praying mentally. "No matter, you may as well know, since you are going to doe soon anyway." He turned the orb around, smiling at the same time. He caught the look of fear and surprise on Hideki's face, even thought it dissappeared almost as quickly as it had come. This made the shogun grin even more.
          "Yes, you've earned a special place in my project. You'll be the first that are not processed. I recently acquired a new device, thanks to the orb, and it needs testing." He spoke slowly, as if he was thinking about every word very carefully. 
          "What sort of device?" Ichiro asked, oddly very calm. Hideki blinked. What was he doing?
         Iemochi looked at the doctor as if thinking about something. He appeared to be going over something in his mind. Hideki blinked, confused at his calculating expression. Had these two men met before?
         The shogun decided it was nothing of his conern, and continued. "Instead, we will strip your brains of the information we need, then left to die in the scraps!" He laughed deeply, almost as if he was possessed.
         The look Ichiro had recieved still weighed on Hideki's mind. So much so, that he didn't even react when the shogun explained what he was going to do.
          "Hello? I said I was going to strip your brains," Iemochi said, somewhat annoyed that he didn't get a reaction.
         Hideki looked up, meeting Iemochi's gaze. He still did not speak, but his eyes were all the shogun needed. They were so full of hatred that if looks could kill, the shogun would have been dead on the spot a hundred times over.
          "My, my," Iemochi said with a frown. "I think it is safe to say that you are passionate now." He shifted his weight in the chair so that he was leaning forward. "I was worried you had died over there."
         Hideki struggled top stand up, but the samurai pushed him back down. He opened his mouth to shout, but a movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. He turned to see Ichiro shaking his head.
          "Your friend is right," the shogun smiled. "Nothing you say will make a difference right now."
          "But it will later," Ichiro said almost too quiet to hear.
          "What are you talking about?" Iemochi growled, shooting the doctor a glance.
          "Nothing," Ichiro said plainly.
          "Tokugawa-sama," an attendant interuppted the speech, ratcher flustered-looking. "There is something that requires your immediate attention."
         The shogun grunted. "Take them away," he commanded his samurai. "I will deal with them later. Right now I have a situation to handle."
         The samurai obeyed, even when Hideki fought back. He was forced to his feet along with Ichiro, who didn't fight very much. Hideki worried something happened to him, but said nothing as they were lead to a cell that looked suspiciously familar to one they had escaped from only a week and a half ago.
         The door closed with a click and Hideki raced over to it and began banging on the cold metallic surface. He shouted curses involving their mothers, but Ichiro's hand on his shoulder stopped him. Hideki turned to see the man shake his head.
          "I have some information that may help us," he explained. Hideki turned to him, confused. "I learned what the orb was."
          "How did you?" Hideki blinked. "The shogun didn't say anything."
          "He didn't have to," Ichiro grinned.

         The doors hadn't changed.
         Kenji looked up and down the one in front of him, trying to read what was different, but just like Katsu had said, there was something different about them.
         He leaned closer, inspecting the lock itself. It appeared much the same. But something was different. He growled in frustration. If he didn't figure out what was different, and the keys got stuck again, they would be stuck.
          "Did you find anything?" Katsu asked, approaching the door.
          "Nothing yet," Kenji said, dragging out his words in a way that indicated he was hopeful. "The lock is essentially the same, but there's something extra inside of it. I can't quite figure out what it is."
          "It might be a trap," Shiro offered. He was standing facing away from them, watching the hall for any signs of movement.
          "Yeah, it might be," Kenji echoed, extracting a length of wire from the roll. "But, it might not be."
         Shiro turned to him, his pipe weapon resting on his shoulder. He raised his eyebrows curiously watching the pair, but after a moment, turned back away again.
          "There's something here that would have caused the keys to snap," Kenji observed, peering in the keyhole. He inserted the wire into the hole and an audible click followed.
          "You triggered something," Katsu commented.
         Kenji backed away from the lock slowly, as if it was a beehive, and he didn't want to excite any bees that could be paying attention. He observed it from afar, tilting his head this way and that. Nothing seemed terribly out of place so moved toward the door again, stalking it like a cat.
          "What's taking so long?" Shiro asked, looked behind him at the boys.
          "This is a delicate situation," Kenji said calmly. "If something has been triggered, I want to be sure whatever it was is not going to kill us.
          "What's that?" Katsu said, pointing to a red dot that had appeared over the locking mechanism.
         Kenji couldn't believe he had missed that before. He leaned in close to see the light. It was nothing unusual. It was like a tiny red candle stuck into the metal. He touched it with his finger. It was a raised bump on the silver of the lock.
          "Do you think it's run by the same power these candles are?" Katsu questioned, pointing at the florescent lights above his head. "They never go out. Well, except for the ones by the collection room."
          "It looks that way," Kenji nodded, picking at the bump. He looked inside the lock again and noticed something else he hadn't seen before.
         There was a bar inside the mechanism stretching across the opening of the lock. He put the wire inside the hole again and touched the bar. The wire stuck to it.
          "There's a bar inside," Kenjo explained, standing up.
          "What's that mean?" Katsu asked.
          "Well, it looks like there's a bit of magnetite in the lock. I didn't think it was possible to put that in a door, but it looks like they did it," Kenji explained, frowning at Katsu.
          "But it's only a magnet, right?" Katsu said, thoughtfully. "Nothing dangerous."
          "But I don't know what this red light means," the other man added. "It could simply be an indication the trap has been triggered, which would easily prevent any false key from being taken back out, but it could be something else."
          "Let's hope it's not something complicated," Shiro said, jogging up the the pair, "because we have to go."
         The sound of boots was the only reply they needed.

          "What is wrong, Fujisawa?" Iemochi growled, following the attendant back into the control room. Sugahara followed closely behind trying not to trip on his own hakama.
          "A lock has been triggered, senpai," Fujisawa said, a shake in his voice.
          "Already? We barely finished putting them in." He tapped his clean-shaven chin thoughtfully. "They must be more persistant than I thought." He strolled over to the monitors, inspecting a few. Fujisawa bowed profusely as if apologizing. The shogun raised an eyebrow curiously. "You wouldn't be bowing unless something happened that you knew I wouldn't like."
          "Yes, Tokugawa-sama. They were not found," Fujisawa admitted, his voice hissing and stammering at the same time. He continued to bow until the shogun put a hand on his shoulder to stop him.
          "Stop bowing," Iemochi said with a frown. "Why did they escape?"
          "I don't know," Fujisawa said, looking at the floor. This was actually the correct thing to do, both in polite form and in protection of his own self. For if he was looking up right now, he would have received a mighty slap. Sugahara had taught him to trace the tatami pattern with his eyes to keep calm, which he did so now, rather furiously.
          "You don't know?" the shogun bellowed. "You don't know?" What do you know then, Fujisawa?" The strange falsetto that accompanied Iemochi's anger was back. Fujisawa was glad he had learned to not find it amusing rather quickly when he first started this career path. His mother had been so pleased when he was selected as one of the shogun's attendants. This was the chance of a lifetime! At least, that's what he thought back then.
          "N-no, shogun-sama," he stuttered, still tracing the tatami patterns furiously. "I mean, I don't know anything."
          "That explains a lot," Iemochi said, crossing his arms. "So, then, what trap was it so I know to not send you there again?"
          "Room 142," Fujisawa noted. "It seems to have been empty."
          "Well, there is some good news, then." The shogun sighed. "Have the samurai spread out. We need to stop these rebels before they can escape next time!" he announced.
          "I'll get right on it," Sugahara said from the far end of the room.
          "Oh and bring me some oolong and citrus," Iemochi added, sitting on his control room chair. He rubbed his head as if it was in pain. "I feel a headache coming on."

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