“The old man with a walking stick who seems to have disappeared remarkably quickly?” She looked around but he was nowhere in sight. “Colonel Yamaguchi called him Ochi-san and let him sit in on my questioning.”
The samurai who’d freed her hands swore in his native tongue. “Ochi Kazuhiro! We may have shot the wrong men. Well, it can’t be helped now.” Prisoners were starting to stumble out of the cell block. “So, how fast can you travel?”
“Normal speed for me, they didn’t hurt me anywhere that would interfere with that.” She rubbed her wrists.
“Good. Jinbo,” one of the bow-carrying samurai came over to them, “get the Mistress out of here. Much as I’m sure she’d like to thank Colonel Yamaguchi for his hospitality, avoid complications and confrontations. Go!”
“Yes, sir!” The serious, clean shaven man turned to her and said, “Follow me please, Mistress. We have secured a portion of the compound but not eliminated the enemy. Our passage will still be dangerous. If I tell you to stop or to wait, I need to you to do so straight away, and it will be for your own safety.”
“I understand, Jinbo-san, and I will follow your instructions.” She followed him through the bowels of the building and out into the administrative sections. Signs of combat surrounded them: bullet holes in walls and fittings; a soldier pinned to a door by the arrow through the heart that had killed him, a pistol still on the floor where it had fallen from his hand; bodies still lying in their own blood where they had been cut down; and an odour made up of gunfire, blood and less polite bodily fluids. At times she kept her eyes firmly between her guide’s shoulder blades but at others she looked around and asked questions.
In one room littered with dead soldiers they passed through, a samurai was giving a time count while his companions did something with the computers in the room. As he ordered, “Switch,” they disconnected portable drives from the terminals and reinserted smaller finger drives.
“What are they doing?” She whispered that as they paused at the door.
“Gathering intelligence from the enemy’s computer network and leaving them a few problems in return. You need to be in and out before their security realises what you’re up to, so it’s time sensitive.” He glanced one last time up and down the corridor and said, “This way, Mistress.”
“But don’t they need logons and passwords?” She was used to business systems but couldn’t imagine military computers would be less secure.
“Yes. That’s why you need to get to the terminals before their operators know you’re there – you don’t want them to have time to log off or lock the machine. Those aren’t impossible obstacles, I’m told, but it’s quicker if you don’t have to overcome them. Quiet now, please Mistress, I need to be able to hear other things.”
After that she shut up and followed.
Crossing the courtyard to the outside wall was probably, from her point of view, the hairiest part of the trip. The soldiers were trying to retake the part of the compound her samurai were holding and she saw Colonel Yamaguchi directing the attack. She restrained her impulse to wave gaily at him; sure it would just bring enemy fire on them.
Once they were outside the military compound she asked, “Jinbo-san, how many of our people did we lose today?”
“I can’t say, Mistress. The day isn’t over yet.”
“I hope no-one in any condition gets left behind for Colonel Yamaguchi.”
“Those who can be recovered will be, Mistress.”
“Just as long as everyone realises that any necessary funerals are my responsibility.”
“Mistress?” He looked at her, surprised.
“If they died today, then they died because they took my rice and gold. That makes it my responsibility to see them laid to rest with honour.”
That earned her another look. “What did you say your family background was again, Mistress?”