4-posts this week for the entire episode. Don’t miss Thursday’s post. Enjoy.
After 1111 A.D. Japan
Kairos 108: Taira no Hideko
Boston, Alexis, and Nanette with help from Alexis, all applied magical glamours to themselves, so they appeared Asian, if not Japanese. Elder Stow, who already wore a glamour, looked like an old man, with gray hair and a gray beard, and naturally bushy eyebrows which disguised his natural features enough to pass among the people without any serious notice. These four entered villages when necessary to trade for what they needed, sometimes trading a whole deer for enough fresh fruit and vegetables for a couple of days.
The travelers otherwise camped in the wilderness. They avoided cities and towns, and the others even avoided the villages when they could. Lockhart, Lincoln, Tony, and Sukki looked odd and would have raised too many questions in town. Even changing their fairy weave to imitate the native clothing style and wearing big hats could only do so much. Lincoln did know of a CIA safe house on the route they traveled. He stayed there a couple of times, though it technically would not be built until over eight hundred years in the future. They could not avoid some small, provincial villages where there was no one to question them, but there was little or nothing they could do about Katie’s blonde hair, or Decker being black. They all felt sure word went around about very odd people riding through the provinces. They only hoped they could get to the next time gate before they got tangled up by the authorities and forced to answer questions that would be very difficult to answer.
Alone in the wilderness, Lincoln had plenty of time to report to the others without unauthorized, listening ears. “Taira No Hideko. Her father, Tadamori, is head of the Taira clan, or her younger half-brother Kiyomori is in charge, depending on when we arrived. The Taira is one of the big, important warrior clans in this age along with the Fujiwara and Minamoto clans. Unfortunately, Tadamori was only sixteen at the time, and the lowly servant girl he got pregnant was sixteen. He tried to hide the girl away. She had a girl, Hide—Hideko, Princess. But eventually, Tadamori’s father, Taira no Masamori, the head of the clan at the time found out. He sent men to the hideout and had the young woman killed. They did not find the baby, however. Tadamori’s agent spirited her away and placed her with an old woman in the western highlands of Ise province, just over the hill on the border with Iga province. Ise was one of the provinces the Taira controlled. Iga had a different clan.” He paused to think a moment. “Apparently, the provinces were originally controlled and named by the clan that controlled it and constituted the clan’s territory, subject to the approval of the emperor, of course.”
“Yeah,” Lincoln confessed. “I started with the CIA in Okinawa and Japan, and a bit in South Korea, but I really did not fit in. I got transferred to South America where I rode horses and donkeys in the mountains, mostly looking for drug dealers. That was the early seventies and where I met Debbie Watson at some archeological dig in the Andes. She introduced me to Lockhart and Jax, the director of the Men in Black. I got offered a job.”
“What enticed you to leave the CIA?” Katie asked.
“I still technically work for, or maybe I’m affiliated with the CIA, but Lockhart offered me a desk where I would not have to go off on any adventures or be shot at.” People laughed. This whole adventure through time sometimes felt like one big shooting adventure.
Tony had a question. “Do you speak any Korean?”
“Yeah,” Lincoln said. “Kim. They are all named Kim, or near enough, and Kimchi. I assume that is the chi that belongs to Kim, though I am not a big fan of hundred-year-old fermented cabbage.”
“Lincoln,” Boston protested his political incorrectness. Alexis nudged him.
“Hideko,” Lockhart said, wanting them back on topic.
“Yeah,” Lincoln agreed. “The old woman that raised Hideko ran a school on the mountain where she trained mostly noble women in the martial arts. Onna-musha means women samurai, or maybe onna-bugeisha, women martial artist, whatever. Anyway, I don’t know if her father deliberately picked such a school, but I am sure he felt she needed to learn to defend herself. Anyway, her father died in 1159. I don’t know where we are in her timeline, but her younger, legitimate half-brother, Kiyomori took over the clan. He went too far in his greed for power. It did not end well. But about that time, the old woman died, and Hideko inherited the whole side of the mountain, and the school, and she began to teach the women how to distract the men with entertainments and the ordinary people, men and women, how through stealth and subterfuge, and eventually assassination, they could defend their isolated villages from marauders and wandering armies.”
“Wait,” Katie interrupted again. “Ninjas?”
Lincoln nodded. “And the foundation for the geishas that developed in the following centuries. Hideko started painting her face white, with blood red lips and eyes because it made her look like a ghost or skeleton and unnerved her enemies.”
“Why are you surprised?” Lockhart asked Katie.
“I’m not, really,” she said. “But I have been surprised in this journey how some things develop so slowly, maybe organically, like Bronze. It took almost two thousand years for the making of bronze to reach all the way around the world. But then other things take only a nudge from the Kairos to get things started. It still happens organically, I suppose, but the direction gets set by the Kairos early on, like the development of Amazons in the west. It has been fascinating to watch.”
“Hold up,” Elder Stow called for everyone’s attention. He stared at his scanner where a yellow light flashed. “I’m picking up aliens, the same kind as the cyborg in the last time zone. They seem to be in two groups, in both directions from the camp.” He adjusted his scanner. “And what looks like a large group of humans off that way.” He pointed. “From the metal they are carrying, I would guess they are soldiers of some kind.”
“Great,” Boston yelled. “We’re surrounded.”
Elder Stow nodded and turned on his screen device so none of the groups could get at them, and Lockhart decided. “Lincoln, you stay here behind the desk with Alexis and Nanette and pack up lunch. We want to get to Hideko’s school before dark. Elder Stow, you need to monitor our progress from here with your scanner and inform us if you see something amiss. Boston and Sukki, be sneaky. Check out the human group and see if you can check out what they are doing, or maybe who they are looking for, but stay hidden and come back to report. Decker, north or south?”
“South,” Decker said. “South is my natural tendency.”
“Take Tony and check out the southern aliens. Don’t engage unless you have to. Kate and I will take the northern group.”
“Wait,” Elder stow insisted. He tuned a number of discs and handed one to each. “This will allow you to pass through the screen, but this way, we can keep the screen activated and keep out whatever may be following you.”
Boston took a disc, though she could phase through the screen without needing a disc. She nodded, tapped Sukki on the arm and headed off into the woods. Alexis and Nanette gathered the horses while Lincoln prepared to hitch-up Ghost. Elder Stow put out the lunch fire but kept one eye on his scanner where he could follow the others. He looked once around the camp, but the three groups were already gone. He considered his position and thought he better say something.
“Decker. You appear to have an alien shuttle in your direction. Landed, but be careful.”
“Roger,” Tony answered, and Elder Stow fretted.