The following is a (second draft) excerpt from “Warriors of Olympia” – to be published in the forthcoming “Dimensions Unknown 2020”!
Captain Reiko Furukawa Bergman stood in full ceremonial armor, at the head of her squad of samurai guards, on the anti-gravity platform hovering above the city of Oedo. Next to her, Lieutenant Shunsuke Wakita followed her gaze as she gestured proudly at the Olympiad Stadium beneath them, the jewel in the crown of the city of Oedo. With five stories reaching up to a height of fifty meters, and two levels beneath the ground, the wood, bamboo and nusteel stucture blended in harmoniously with the greenery and low buildings of Yamatobashi. Solar panels and Ki-collectors were studded along the walls, their smooth curves looking more as if they had been grown there rather than constructed. The Stadium’s power and lighting mainly came from these, with the rest provided by the refuse-recyclers underground.
The Stadium, where more than half of the Olympiad games would be held, had been constructed in the heart of Oedo, close to Yamatobashi on one side and the Grand Daimyo’s castle on the other. The diviners of the fu sui, the dragon lines that governed where and how the nation’s infrastructure was built, had stated this central point as being the ideal location for the stadium. Here, it would be in harmony with the land and the invisible Ki that flowed through the land, not blocking the power, but soothing it and channeling it.
This ovoid structure replaced the old Oedo Dome, wihich had stretched from Yotsuya in the west to the streets owned by the shamisen vendors of Ochanomizu, in the east. In the distance, to the east, stood the giant statue of Empress Himiko and the smooth octagonal sixty-meter bulk of the Ryounkaku Tower. In the wooded area of Yotsuya nestled the new Olympic Village, home to the largest number of athletes for the longest duration of time in the Games’ history.
“It’s beautiful,” Reiko could not resist saying.
“An addition to the seven modern wonders of Yamataikoku,” said her second-in-command Shunsuke Wakita, her Lieutenant. He stood next to her and spoke distractedly, most of his attention on piloting the Cormorant-class platform.
They were headed for the eight-hundred-meter concourse encircling the stadium, lined with cherry and paulownia trees. Thousands of humans and Yokai stood upon the grass, a shuffling, hovering and bouncing line as they entered the stadium, and the fenced-off area was reserved for security, such as Reiko and her retinue. Hawkers and vendors thronged the streets leading to the entrances, selling grilled eel and fried noodles, plucking the strings of lutes, passing out paper flyers bearing the names of local eateries, juggling, singing, chanting. The crowd was dense and chaotic and Reiko knew that the cut-purses must be hard at work.
The Stadium was a masterpiece of physical and ecological engineering, but it was typical of a Bafuku joint project: each of the six ruling clans in the coalition had tried to outdo the others, so that the budget had grown larger and larger over the last six years. In the end, the Daimyos of each clan had stared each other down, like their own statues, until the Grand Daimyo Tokugawa himself had ordered more gold to be minted at Sado Shima to cover the final expenses.
As the Cormorant lowered itself toward the stadium for landing, the cries of the hawkers around the south entrance way momentarily broke Reiko’s concentration. She needed to concentrate on her surroundings; such was the responsibility required of her by Oedo itself.
If she were not focused, she might miss the emergence of the prophecy into her world. Distractions, and idle thoughts of the other Reiko, must not occupy her mind.
“Perhaps you would indulge me by naming the first Seven Wonders,” she said to her second-in-command.
He smiled, and nodded. “Mount Fuji, the Great Shrine of Ise, the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, the Hall of Amaterasu, the Clock Temples of Shikoku, the statues of Empress Himiko and Abe no Seimei.”
He turned to Reiko, his eyes twinkling. “Am I being tested?”
“We all are,” she replied, “the testing never ends.”
Shunsuke Wakita was a tall, sturdy young man with jet-black hair, face friendlier and eyes warmer than the average samurai.
As befitting the occasion, he – and all of the guards – wore their ceremonial armor. The sunset glinted from the lacquered polyplates covering his arms, breastplate, and the greaves protecting legs, all secured with multi-colored cords. He carried his winged and horned helmet in his left arm, his two swords and stun-wand hanging by his side. The front of his head was shaved, the rest of his hair gathered up into a warrior’s topknot.
Reiko and Shunsuke were in charge of the Yamatobashi watch division, charged with patrolling the streets surrounding Oedo Castle, hovering above the streets through day and night, armed with sword and ki-halberd. They were ultimately responsible to the closest advisors of the Grand Daimyo Tokugawa himself, but spent most of their time with the local council of magistrates who mediated in disputes and punished breakers of the law. Today, however, was a day they had been rehearsing for the last three years. Today was the beginning of the longest shift they had ever worked; the overseeing of security precautions for the Emperor’s visit to the Oedo Olympic Opening Ceremony, in the second year of the Emperor Go-Kokaku; in the Western calendar, 2020 …
TO BE CONTINUED …