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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13. The Doctor

         The shogun was not pleased.
         He sat back in his chair, the one made of gold and red with a plush cushion under his rump. He held a tea cup in one hand, the jasmine leaves floating to the top like tiny little reeds.
          "Prisoner #21 is no longer in his cell," one of the attendants repeated to him. "What should we do, Tokugawa-sama?"
         The shogun rubbed his head in annoyance. "It's just one prisoner," he reasoned. "But, now that makes two escaped. Why have they not been caught yet, Sugahara?" He looked down at his attendant, feigning bordom.
         Sugahara fumbled with some papers. "S-senpai, I will send out more patrols to make sure they are captured."
          "See that you do," the shogun frowned, sipping his tea again. 
         He glanced around the room at the flickering screens that monitored the various cells under his control. While his guest room, the room that welcomed new samurais, was much more comfortable and colorful, he much preferred the control room. Here he could keep an eye with his various moving pictures.
         He grinned as Sugahara raced away to deploy more of his warriors. If it hadn't been for that stupid little man finding that orb, none of this would have even been possible.
         The orb - that little blue humming divice; it would win them this conflict. Soon the rebels would be on their knees again. So many men they had cost him. But, no more. With his orb and his invincible samurai, soon even China would be his. And what next? The world?
         But, one thing at a time. Right now he had to reassert his control over the rebels and stop their protest. The bakufu had been losing power because of the barbarian, but soon even they would be his subjects.
         Two prisoners had escaped. What was two prisoners in his overall plan? They could not get past the samurai, now especially with the increased forces. Every day he was processing more and more.
         What was two prisoners?
         He paced by the monitors and watched as the timed sanitary showers made his new warriors clean and germ-free. This was a key to making sure the processing was successful. And without his orb, none of this would have ever happened.
          "Prisoner #154 seemed to be ready," he said, tapping the glass that covered the moving picture. "Fetch him," he added, looking at an attendant. The other man nodded and left to inform the guards.

          "What are you doing?"
         An older man, about the age of thirty or so - perhaps closer to forty - was dragged unceremoniously from his cell by two samurai and into the hallway. On instict, he tried kicking and punching his captors, the same way he had when he was dragged in, but just like last time it didn't work. 
         Instead of reacting, the samurai grasped him by the shoulders and pushed him along the hallway. Curses rolled out of the man's mouth like water from the village pump.
          "Baka! Baka ka! May your mother's tongue breed spiders and snakes if you don't let me go!"
         Though his oath would have caused any normal man to smack him around a bit, the samurais did not react. They simply continued to push him along.
          "May your geta straps break, and may crows feast on your remains!" the man bellowed, pushing against his captors. In his anger, he managed to knock one down, which surprised him so much he paused. The same second that could have saved him was the same second than damned him. The other samurai hoisted the man over their heads and carried him bodily down the hall at a swift marching pace.
         The man continued to bellow oaths as he was carried off, but he wasn't the only one that heard his own words. Besides the samurai, two other men heard it.
         Hideki and Katsu raced toward the sound, each carrying a bag of metal balls and some steel pipes they had found. They weren't katanas, but it was the best they could do, given the situation. The pair skidded around the corner just in time to see the man dissappear around the far corner. Without pausing to think, they raced toward the samurai.
          "Hey, you metal brains!" Katsu shouted, wacking the head of the rear guard. It appeared to spin around, which stunned the boy, but he only stopped for a mere second. Hideki caught up to him and, thinking quickly, extracted a metal ball and tossed it lighting in the air in front of him. Giving the ball a swift wack, he sent it flying into the back of another samurai. Much to his delight, the metalic man fell over from the sheer force, the tiny metal ball lodged in his back.
         The man that had been shouting flailed about, causing some the other samurai to lose their grip. He punched and flailed about until the rest became very confused and released him on instinct. He tumbled to the floor with a resounding thump! And stood up quickly before the samurai could grab him again.
          "Run!" Hideki instructed, sending another metal ball into the face of a nearby samurai. Katsu grabbed the confused man's wrist and dragged him running after Hideki.
          "What's going on? Who are you?" the man asked between breaths.
          "Ochi Katsu," Katsu replied in as little words as possible. He pointed to Hideki who was a good ten step ahead of them. "That's Watanabe Hideki."
          "Nakamura Ichiro," the confused man said, still being dragged. Hideki turned a corner and slowed down considerably, his face red from the effort. Katsu released Ichiro's wrist and allowed him to stop for a minute.
         Hideki looked at the pair, breathing heavy at first, then broke into laughter. Katsu soon found himself laughing as well, but Ichiro just looked confused.
          "What is so funny? I almost got killed!"
         Hideki patted the man on his back. "But it was fun, right? Come on I'll show you the collection room."
         The trio continued down the hall until they passed the symbol on the wall. Hideki glanced at it, a constant reminder of why he was here.
         His neighbor, his first friendly face in this strange building had already been taken from him, and all he could do was sit and watch. Images of Shichiro's face as he died flashed in his mind as they all walked back into the lab. Katsu noticed the change in his face almost right away and gave him a pat on the back.
          "Cheer up, Hideki-san," the boy encouraged. "We'll get out of this together."
         Hideki simply nodded, breathing deeply. He put his hands on his hips to open his airway more and looked at the ceiling. That was true, they would get through this together, but having to kill, or hurt, his own Choshu was a possibility that would haunt him for years after.
         He sat on the ground and put his head in his hands. He listened to Katsu and Ichiro chattering about something, but couldn't understand. He breathing slowed as he thought about the shores near his home. That always seem to calm him down. The scent of the sea breeze and the waves brought back memories of summer days and fishing before the sun came up.
         He felt a hand on his back and looked to his right. Ichiro sat next to him, his eyes reassuring. In the darkness, they seemed to sparkle just a bit.
          "Fear not, Hideki-san," the other man said with a smile. "Like Katsu-kun said, we will get through this together."
         Hideki looked up, his face calm. He let a small smile pass his lips and relaxed a little.
         Katsu set about relighting the candles. There was only two left now.
          "We need more candles soon," he commented. "Is there any in the cupboards?"
          "I looked yesterday, but didn't find anything," Hideki said with a dismissive gesture. He then put a hand back on his forehead as if it hurt, his elbow resting on his knee.
         Katsu took one of the candles in the metal holders and searched the cabinets. He moved things around carefully, trying to not break anything.
         Hideki, realizing the floor was growing rather cold, tried to stand up, but pain shot through his leg and he yelped in surprise. Ichiro looked at him, confused.
          "What's wrong," Hideki-san?" he asked.
          "I must have done something to my leg back there," he said through clenched teeth. "I didn't even notice it before. I must have been caught up in the action to notice."
          "Let me take a look," Ichiro said, extending his hands. "I am a doctor after all."
         Hideki and Katsu looked at him. "A doctor you say?" Hideki said, a little surprised.
          "Last time I checked," Ichiro smiled. "Let me see."
         Hideki rolled up his trouser leg, revealing a small gash. It had stopped bleeding, but the blood was caked around it. 
          "It's not so bad," Ichiro commented with a calm nod. He ripped a piece off his own sleeve and tied it around his new friend's leg. "This should keep it from getting worse. If we can find some sake, I can at least disinfect it."
          "What I wouldn't give for a cup of sake right now," Hideki chuckled.
          "Do you know what's going on here?" Ichiro questioned, leaning back against the wall. The pair of them looked at Hideki, trusting he had more of the answers than they did.
          "Well, to the best of my knowledge, the shogun himself is behind all of this," Hideki explained. The other two's eyes widened in surprise. "Many more men have been captured from Choshu. Satsuma, I think, has also been affected."
          "I'm from Tosa," Katsu explained.
          "That's a little strange," Hideki raised an eyebrow at the thought. Tosa has been mostly quiet, has it not?"
          "Well, we are much closer to Edo, so we don't put up as much of a fuss, I suppose," Katsu stated, sitting down next to the other two.
          "So they are taking everyone from realms even slightly out of shogun control," Hideki said, rubbing his chin. "But why?"
          "Well, there could be a number of reasons, but the one that makes the most sense is that they smply want to gain the control back that they lost," Ichiro suggested. "But that doesn't answer the question as to why they need all those samurai. What are they planning to do with them?"
         The three sat in silence for a while, their minds racing with possibilities. But, when no one spoke for a good five minutes, Hideki sighed.
          "It's not use trying to figure out why," he said, crossing his legs and arms. "What I want to know is how do we stop them?"
          "Stop them from what?" Ichiro asked, looking perplexed.
          "You haven't figured it out yet?" Hideki looked at the two, who shook their heads. "The samurais - they are us. They are human."
         The tension became almost tangible. They look of shock of the other two men's faces was almost more than Hideki could handle.
          "But they are made of metal!" Katsu insisted. "There's no human inside of them!"
          "Well, I might now be an expert in this kind of thing, but if you ask me, they needed that little extra thing that made them able to understand and follow orders."
          "You mean like a soul?" Katsu asked, his eyes still wide.
          "Or a brain," Ichiro said, a visible shiver running down his back. Katsu looked at him, scared and disgusted at the mere mention of this idea.
          "Shichiro," Hideki breathed.
          "Who?" Ichiro looked at him, trying to deny that he knew what the other man meant. But deep down, he knew what the answer was already.
          "A friend. He was 'processed,' as the shogun would say." Hideki choked back a sob at the word. Ichiro patted his back, his eyes filled with worry.
          "You mean…" Katsu didn't finish the sentence. Hideki nodded slowly. "Then what are we waiting for? We have a country, and a people, to save!" He made a fist to add emphasis to his point.
         Ichiro shook his head. "We don't even know where they are; what rooms they are in."
          "Oh, I can take care of that," Hideki said, a small grin appearing on his face.

         The sound of their slippers on the hard ground was the only sound that echoed through the sterile hallways. The three men raced through the whiteness, a mission on their minds. In the lead, Hideki pointed out a collection of three rooms he was sure had men in them. Slowing to a walk, Katsu and Ichiro each brandished a key made of wire. Ichiro had to struggled with his a bit, but soon all three doors were open.
         The first held a short man with a bit of a scruff on his chin. His head was shaved bald. He bowed low and blabbered about something before rushing over to hug Katsu. The younger man blinked in surprise, but was not all opposed to this feeling of rescuing someone.
         The second held a boy, not older than twelve. Hideki gasped and stepped back. He was not even older than his own son. His hair was tied in a bun behind his head and he remained quiet and calm, but his eyes sparkled with surprise and joy as the door opened.
         The third door contained a man about his rescuer's age. Ichiro helped him up and he bowed at his waist, very thankful.
         They continued down the hall, checking every door, just to be sure. The words "Hello?" and "Is anyone in there?" echoed through the halls, bouncing back at the rescuers more and more each time. Soon, men and boys were sticking their hands from under the doors and waving.
         The group began to grow. There were about seven of them now. There would have been more had someone not shouted a warning, which sent them all running.
          "Samurai!"
          "This was!" Hideki hissed, gesturing for them to follow. They raced in a silent group, the sound of samurai boots behind them. A set of eyes peered from under a door, and Hideki hoped he understood they were coming back.
The group raced around the corner past the suke symbol and didn't stop until they were in the lab.
          "We should be safe now," Hideki breathed, leaning over. None of the others spoke, simply stood catching their breath.
         Katsu suddenly broke into laughter, much like the first time he had been brought here. Hideki stood for a moment, then chuckled along with the boy. As if it were a virus, the laughter spread through the gathered men. Soon the whole group was chuckling.
          "I don't know who you are, but that was a little fun, I have to admit," one man said, clutching his stomach.
          "I have to agree!" another chuckled.
         The only one that wasn't laughing was the youngest of them all. He sat with his back against the wall, his knees up, hiding his face in the space between his arms. While the others chatted amongst themselves, Hideki approached the boy.
          "Chibi-chan, are you ok?" he asked.
         The boy didn't speak and didn't move. He didn't even acknowledge that anyone had spoken to him.
          "Chibi-chan, can you hear me? Are you injured?" he repeated. The boy didn't move at first, then slowly looked up, his eyes full of sadness. "Everything will be fine," Hideki assured him.
         The boy opened his mouth to speak, his thin lips shaking. "I'm not a boy," he said, then hid his face again in his hands.
         Hideki blinked. The voice wasn't that of a 12-year-old boy. It sounded more like a young woman.
         Her eyes filled with tears as she looked up at Hideki. Her clothing was exactly the same as the rest of them. He tried to not look at her chest to confirm her claim, but she stopped him.
          "They're small," she sniffed, interrupting his thoughts. "I look much more feminine in proper clothes."
          "Why did they take a woman?" he asked.
         The word woman drew the attention of a few looks. The all glanced toward the pair against the wall.
          "They captured a woman?"
          "I thought they were only capturing men!"
          "I thought she looked tall for a twelve-year-old."
          "Quiet," Hideki ordered. "Give her some space."
         All the men backed off except one. His eyes were wide with recognition.
          "Suki?" he said, looking at the woman.
         She looked over the man, trying to recognize him. Then it came to her. "Shiro? Is that you?"
          "Yes! Suki-chan!" he raced over and embraced the woman.
          "Shiro I thought I'd never see you again!" she exclaimed, kissing his on the lips breifly.
          "You seem rather more full of energy than before," Hideki commented, rubbing the back of his neck.
          "Yes, thank you," she said, her face all smiles. She hugged him and kissed his cheek. "This is my husband. We have been separated for almost a week." She stepped back to Shiro and held his hands, then they both turned back to Hideki.
          "Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Otou-san." Shiro bowed low, almost to the floor. His wife followed suit.
          "What about your children?" Katsu asked. "Are they alone now?"
         Suki blushed and looked at her stomach.
          "It's…on the way," Shiro stuttered.
          "But I will not let that keep me from fighting!" Suki demanded, making her hand into a fist. "I fight with my husband."
          "But why did they take you?" Hideki asked. "Especially if you are pregnant."
          "I don't know," Suki said, her eyes filling with worry. "Am I the first woman to be taken?"
         The entire gathering nodded.
          "It seems that way," Ichiro stated.
          "Oh! Ichiro-san!" Hideki exclaimed. "Ichiro here is a doctor."
         Ichiro stepped forward and bowed politley. "Nakamura Ichiro," he said, introducing himself. Chatter spread through the group. 
          "A doctor!"
          "Yes, I try my best to do what I have learned. If there is any issues with your child, I will be sure to solve them," Ichiro added with a nod.
          "That makes me feel much better," Suki smiled.
          "And me," Shiro breathed. 
         Hideki chuckled, glad to have a little normalcy in this time of strange things. It was all that kept him from going crazy.
          "So who is in charge here?" Shiro asked, helping his wife sit down against the wall again. Hideki and the rest of the men copied, gathering in a small ground in the flickering candlelight.
         Katsu and Ichiro looked at Hideki as if to cue him to answer. He didn't realize it first, but when more and more of them began to look his way he blinked in confusion.
          "Me?" he said, his voice raising in shock. "But all I did was rescue-"
          "Exactly, Hideki-san" Ichiro insisted, interrupting. "That's why you're the leader."
          "But I…" he trailed off not knowing what else to say.
          "Hideki-san, you rescued us all!" a young man from the back said joyfully.
          "Hideki-san! Hideki-san!" They began to chat in praise of the man that saved their lives. Even Suki joined in, a small smile on her face.
          "Alright, alright!" he raised his hands in surrender. "But Hideki is fine," he added, putting on hand on his head. "But we can't just keep going randomly, we have to have a plan."
          "We need scouts," Katsu suggested. "I'm the fastest runner in my village," he added, volunteering.
          "Yes, good idea," Shiro agreed. "I'm not so slow myself."
          "That's a good start," Hideki nodded. "I've made keys for the doors out of wire, but I only have three."
          "Let's keep it that way," Ichiro said solemnly. The less that have it, the less likely the shogun will figure out what we are doing."
          "This is run by the shogun?" on man asked, his voice the high pitch of surprise.
         Hideki nodded as a mumur of surprise rippled through the men. "Now, let's go see who else we can free."
         The group of them stood up with various grunts. Some stretched and bent backwards, joints cracking softly.
          "Katsu, Shiro," Hideki nodded toward them. "You don't know the routes yet, so I'll go with you this time." He turned to the rest of them. "Everyone else stay here." He looked around the group, eyeing each one. "I mean it. No wandering off. We'll return as soon as we can."
         And with that, the three of them were gone.

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