Katsuo Takahiro

Get excited ladies and gents because The Sentinel is written, has made it through the initial editing phase, and proof copies are on their way to my house.  We are currently on track for a September release as I dump a little cash into the advertising budget and try to drum up a little blog interest and whatnot.  Check out the first rendition of the cover!  I'll reveal this one this week, and another one next week.

So, there's the cover reveal.  What does everyone think?  Drop me a line or leave me a comment!  Everyone who leaves a comment of any kind, good or bad gets put in a drawing for an advance copy!  Next week I plan on revealing a second cover, done by an honest to goodness professional, hopefully, fingers crossed, and we'll vote on which is better.  So, here comes a little tease from the book.  Meet Katsuo Takahiro!

 

Katsuo Takahiro

White foam swirled in the wake of the 1929 Chris Craft Cadet.  The eighty-two horsepower Chrysler power plant throatily idled as the watercraft’s pilot expertly guided the vessel through the icy waters.  Katsuo Takahiro took notice of the steam emanating from the smaller craft he was pulling alongside.  It seemed another man had braved the St. Charles that evening.

He brought the twenty-two foot craft to a stop and neatly leapt the small gap to the pier.  As he hurriedly tied a bowline the stocky Japanese man remembered a lifetime ago when his father had taught him the knot.  Days had been so much simpler then.

With the boat secure Katsuo retrieved a pack of Lucky Strikes from his rain coat.  Cigarettes were one thing the Americans could really do right.  He adroitly flicked a windproof Zippo lighter; illuminating his weathered and scarred face, and inhaled deeply, allowing himself to reminisce.

The water had been his home for as long as he could remember.  His mother had once shown him a picture of himself as a toddler and his father on the docks in Yokohama, Japan’s largest port.  By the time he had turned five years old he was making daily trips to sea, and by the age of ten he had been skilled enough to captain his own boat.  Nearly fifty years had passed since those good times.

Katsuo snapped from his reverie as a luxury vehicle came to a stop in the parking lot ahead of him, its brakes squeaking slightly.  He breathed deep the flavorful smoke before allowing himself to return to his daydream.

Life had been good for the young Takahiro family.  By 1904 their number had grown to eleven and the fishing had been superior.  He remembered well the day his father had sat him down and instructed him to continue the family business.  Even more ingrained in his mind, though, was the sound of his mother’s cries only a few months later.

His father’s death in the Russo-Japanese war had publicly brought the family great honor.  Privately, though, Katsuo and his mother had loathed the Japanese military.  Its influence seemed to be permeating every walk of life, and the family attempted to steer clear of its control.

Over the course of the next eighteen years Katsuo worked from sunrise to sunset, 365 days a year, to provide for the family.  He had shunned all advances from would be girlfriends to start a family of his own.  His brothers and sisters hadn’t all agreed with the way he ran things, but none of them starved, and none of them had to sleep in the streets. 

September 1, 1923 was a day he would never forget.  Yasuhiro Takahiro, his youngest brother, had joined Katsuo in the family business at the age of five, and hadn’t missed a single day’s work in thirteen years.  He was the pride of the entire family, and though that day had been his eighteenth birthday, it had begun like every other.

Katsuo and Yasuhiro had woken up before the sun had risen, kissed their mother goodbye, and driven to the docks.  That time of year the fishing grounds were often four to five hours out to sea.  They were planning on staying a few days until their holds were full, but the elder Takahiro had something different in mind. 

They had been making way for nearly two hours when strange noises began emanating from the engine compartment.  Katsuo was the mechanic of the two and upon investigation had decided to turn back.  Yasuhiro, not one to argue with the only father he had ever known, had quietly returned to the stern of the boat, and read a book. 

Their journey home had been laboriously slow, but as they pulled into Yokohama harbor Katsuo could see everything was going to plan.  Yasuhiro still sat nearby, reading a book.  The youngest Takahiro was hard working and brilliant.  He had been accepted to study physics at the University of Tokyo, and Katsuo planned on telling him in just a few short minutes. 

Katsuo opened his eyes for a moment.  The cold November air had whipped across the St. Charles and sent a shiver up his spine.  Noticing nothing else awry he puffed from his cigarette before letting his mind drift back in time and thousands of miles away.  It was almost like it was happening all over again.

“Yasuhiro.  Pull your nose out of that book and get to the bow.  The current is a little rough today, I’m going to need you to tie a bowline and get us secure

The younger brother arched his eyebrow slightly, closed his book, and did as he was told.  His brother was such a good pilot he could hardly imagine how bad a current would have to be for him to make such an order.

Alright old man, you must be losing it though.  This chop is barely a foot.”

Katsuo feigned anger, but inside he felt like a little kid.

“Just get up there and do as you’re told.”

“Ok, Ok.  You don’t need to get all worked up.  I don’t want you having a heart attack on me.”  Yasuhiro flashed a smile as he tied the knot and readied himself to leap onto the pier.  A large luxury steamer, the Empress of Australia, sat nearby and hundreds of well-wishers crowded the area.  “That is one huge ship.  How long do you think she is?”

“I’d say 102 ken.”

“Wow, almost 190 meters.  I bet we could make a lot of money with a ship like that.”

“You and your meters.  Give me the shakkan-ho units any day.”

“Meters are so much easier though.  I’m telling you in a year or…”  Yasuhiro’s voice trailed off as they neared their slip and something seemed to catch his eye.  “Hey do you see who’s up there?”

“No, who is it?”  Katsuo could barely conceal his excitement. 

“It’s Mom!”  His younger brother exclaimed loudly.  “Everyone else is here too!  I knew you’d been acting funny the last week.  Wait a minute, is our boat even broken?”

Their entire family had not been in the same place at once in many years.  Yasuhiro had begged Katsuo to get everyone together for his birthday, but the elder had used every excuse available.  It was going to be a wonderful day.  He watched as his youngest brother easily leapt the ten foot gap to the dock and tied the bowline. 

If there was one thing the entire Takahiro family could agree upon, it was their love for Yasuhiro.  As Katsuo finished shutting down the engine and made his way to the front of the boat he couldn’t help but smile.  He looked down upon his family and a calm settled upon him like he had never felt before.  It was a calm that would last only seconds.

“You’ll never have to work on this boat again my brother.”  He quietly said the words to himself. 

At 11:58 a.m. a sixty by sixty mile segment of the Philippine oceanic plate abruptly fractured and slammed against the Eurasian continental plate.  Sixty petajoules of energy was instantly released and the ground shook violently.  A thunder like he had never heard before reverberated in his chest and Katsuo was knocked backwards onto the deck of his boat.  He struggled to stand as the shaking continued for what seemed an eternity.

As he fought his way to the port side he saw a horrific site.  The pier near the ocean liner began collapsing in sections.  Screams of the fallen now joined the deafening thunder and just when it seemed the shaking would last forever.  It ended. 

Katsuo gained his footing as the boat quickly stopped bucking.  Four minutes had passed and he feared what he would see as he looked over the side of his fishing trawler.  Summoning his courage he approached the edge and his fears were confirmed. 

The pier where his entire family had once stood now lay in shambles in the water.  Screams for help had already diminished to feeble cries and the entire bay had become eerily quiet.  Katsuo was on the verge of tears when he heard a hoarse call for assistance.

“Brother.  My brother.  Are you alive?”

He rushed to the edge of the vessel and his heart leapt into his throat.  Hanging by his left hand from the bowline was Yasuhiro, the limp body of their mother firmly gripped in his right.  He had a large gash underneath his rib cage, but still managed a smile.

“She’s still breathing Katsuo, but I can’t climb with only one arm.  Could you pull us up?”

“Absolutely!”

Katsuo shouted the words and immediately began pulling at the line.  At five feet six inches he was short, but a life of hard work had turned his body into a sculpted muscular specimen.  He fought the dead weight below for nearly a minute, using every ounce of his two hundred pounds, but made little progress.  Then an idea jumped into his head.  He leaned over the edge again.

“You’re too heavy.  I’m going to hook you up to the pulleys for the nets, though.  Just give me a second.”

“Take your time.”  The muscles bulged from Yasuhiro’s arms and he managed a smile, though the exertion was taking its toll.  “I can hold on like this all day.”

Katsuo had never moved faster in his life.  In less than two minutes he had the rigging all set up to hoist what was left of his family to safety.  Happy that the plan was ready to implement, he attached a clip to the broken bowline and leaned over the edge.  It was the last time he’d see his brother and mother.

“I’ve got you.  Up you come.  You’re going to the University of Tokyo to study physics

Yasuhiro looked up and smiled weakly, then disappeared.  A forty foot wall of water slammed into the aft of the boat, lifting it high into the air and tossing it like a rag doll.  Katsuo was immediately thrown to the deck, violently banging his head against a crate and losing consciousness.

The sound of a car horn jerked him back to reality.  Katsuo Takahiro stood on the dock on the icy St. Charles River a different man than he had been back then.  He pulled another Lucky Strike from the package and lit it, stroking the long jagged scar on his cheek before flipping the Zippo closed.

He had spent nearly a year searching for the bodies of his family, but to no avail.  Everything he had ever worked for was taken in the Great Kanto Earthquake.  Indigent and living on the streets Katsuo could think of only one course of action.  He joined those he formerly hated, the Imperial Japanese Army.

It was in the army that he found his true calling.  A natural leader of men Katsuo had quickly risen through the ranks, achieving the grade of colonel with astonishing speed.  Every mission he was given, every task he was assigned, was completed flawlessly and in record time.

Although he had spent many years at sea as a fisherman Katsuo was not an unintelligent man.  He had often read books to pass the time on long trips, and in the army he found that he also had a knack for speaking other languages.  Inside of two years he had learned English, Russian, German, French, Italian, and bits of Chinese.

His most difficult mission had begun only four years before.  Command had brought him in and told him he would be going undercover.  He had been chosen to spy on American naval installations, posing as a fisherman.

Katsuo took another drag of his cigarette as he thought of all the humiliating jobs he was forced to do on American fishing trawlers.  Though it had been obvious to everyone he was a knowledgeable, hardworking fisherman, racism left him only the worst jobs.  Every day of his life in the U.S. had been filled with humiliation and denigration.

All of that had changed eighteen months before in Seward, Alaska.  He had been assigned to a more northern region to assess American capabilities, and the summer in Alaska had proven to be rather pleasant.  Katsuo had been staying in a small boarding house run by the only pleasant American he had ever met.  One day she had knocked on his door to deliver a phone message.  It was one word, followed by an address.  The word was “Yasuhiro”.

Katsuo had immediately reported to the address which had turned out to be a Catholic church.  Upon entering he had seemed to be by himself, but then he heard her voice for the first time.  It was a voice he would never forget.

“Over here in the confessional.  Please have a seat.  I believe I can help you find Yasuhiro.”

As far as the Japanese Army knew he was currently dead.  The woman in the confessional had arranged for him to be head of security for Mitsubishi and he had proven to be an efficient leader.  When he had been summoned to another meeting he feared his benefactor had bad news.  That day, though, was the day Katsuo Takahiro became the owner of Mitsubishi.

He had tackled his job as owner of Mitsubishi as fervently as any job he had ever had.  Within months he had developed new ideas, and set the company on new paths.  Most importantly, though, he had developed a new airplane.  The Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter was not being sold to the Navy yet, but initial testing was promising and the company had churned out a few dozen of the aircraft.

Katsuo took a final puff from his Lucky before dropping it to the dock and putting it out with his boot.  He shrugged his shoulders and shivered slightly, peering through narrowed eyes at the gala going on above.  Tonight was the night he made his play to be the most powerful man in Japan.  Tonight was the night he brought the Americans to their knees.  Most importantly, though, it was the night that would bring him one step closer to reuniting with the brother he had given up for dead so many years ago.

“Yasuhiro.”  He said the name aloud in excellent English.  “I’m coming my brother.  I’m coming.”

 

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Posted on June 25, 2014 .