The shrill siren of a police patrol echoed along Roppongi-Dori. Its red and blue lights scared the traffic away as the car made its way down a two-lane road that would lead them to the vicinity of Shibuya Crossing. Inside, Matsuda was moving the steering wheel while working with the pedals and the shifter, the increasing amount of vehicles before him hampering his maneuvers. At his side, Yoshiro Sugiyama gritted his teeth while twisting his body in the seat in a vain effort to get comfortable, the flashes of streetlights following one another over the windshield. The cast on his arm, he realized, was proving more exasperating than he had expected.
“Could you hurry up a bit?” Yoshiro barked at his T.O.
“Just calm down, would you?” Matsuda answered without shifting his eyes from the road ahead. “Damn, I didn’t think you were so eager to get back to the streets after last night.”
“I wouldn’t if it weren’t for the fact my brother is in that damn building!”
“What?” Matsuda replied as if his mind had abstracted itself from what was occurring downtown.
Yoshiro felt his patience running thin. “His class was touring Cytek HQ when the attack began. I need to know how if he’s okay!”
At that moment, Matsuda floored the vehicle’s breaks one block prior to the junction with Meiji-Dori. It looked like the additional traffic from a side street had collapsed the now three available lanes. Amid an ominous feast of horns and curses, Yoshiro slammed his good arm against the dashboard in frustration. There he was, stuck in an absurd traffic jam while his younger brother was a prisoner of terrorists. Worse, he still had to recover from his injuries, which meant there wouldn’t be much he could do for Kazuto in his condition.
“Guess getting into trouble must run with the family,” Matsuda remarked lightly. It didn’t amuse Yoshiro. He turned to look him in the eye. “Look,” Matsuda went on, “if he’s as strong as you are, he’ll be fine… As long as he hasn’t inherited the reckless part, of course.”
As the vehicle moved bit by bit closer to a wide train overpass, Yoshiro shook his head and leaned on the side of his patrol, surveying the surrounding buildings. He bumped into a fairly extensive building over fifteen floors occupying most of the block to his left, which he identified as Shibuya Police Headquarters. Above him, the moon peeked in and out of rainless clouds, so at least that wouldn’t be a factor this night. Yet despite that, the favorable sighting aroused no sense of calm in him.
His mind demanded detachment, for which his troughs drifted back to the moment when his family lived in Yamagata prefecture, straying not too far from the subject of law enforcement theme. They had stayed for a while near Camp Jinmachi, a large flat land where the sixth division of Japan’s ground forces was stationed. There wasn’t much to do because of the tight security measures and the limited items they could carry, so Yoshiro began teaching karate to his younger brother Kazuto. He was seven years old at the time.
He recalled holding his upper limbs from behind during one of the many lessons, assisting him to twist his right fist while maintaining a straight line from the hip as he drew back his left arm. They were in an open field near a set of tents, powerful gusts of wind fluttering against the short grass under their feet. “Remember, you should rotate your arms and follow the movement with your hip,” he instructed, then let go of his body so he could try the moves on his own. “Good. Now, give me Choku-zuki from Hachiji-dachi.”
Young Kazuto stood up straight by positioning his feet turned to the outside, shoulder-width apart; it was a fundamental Shotokan karate stance. Next, he made a fist with his right hand, folding the thumb firmly over his bent fingers, then took it against his hip in a line under his armpit, palm up. Once he extended his left arm forward and took a deep breath, Kazuto executed the punch by rotating the wrist while exhaling.
“Great!” Yoshiro encouraged him with applause. His younger brother favored a little smile in return, and he couldn’t help but think he looked kind of cute in his light white smooth cotton uniform. “Now, Gyaku-zuki starting from Kokutsu-dachi. Take into account everything I told you about body movement.”
Kazuto assumed a low sideways position, pulling back his right leg as he bent the knee, stretching his left one forward. His body and hips were now at forty-five degrees in relation to the line formed by the heels, his head staring straight ahead; it was an ideal stance for defense and counterattack. And so, Kazuto pulled off the blow yet again while rotating his hips, then shifted his weight to the forward leg while switching from his starting stance to Zenkutsu-dachi. He repeated the exercise a few times, his body and fists working in unison along with his breathing.
Not before long, his mother interrupted them, her voice coming from a nearby tent. “Boys! It’s time for the injection!”
The corners of Kazuto’s mouth drew down in disappointment. Yoshiro knew the real reason behind his refusal, which was why he next messed up his hair to cheer him up. “C’mon, Kazuto. We have to do this,” he told him.
“But I don’t like needles, Onii-san.”
He was so predictable… “Neither do I. Yet, mom and dad were exposed to radioactivity before we were born. This treatment is necessary, so we can all be well and keep practicing karate.”
Kazuto offered him a crooked smile in response but followed him anyway as he headed toward the tent. Strolling ahead of him, he allowed his mind to wander around his younger brother’s motivations to practice martial arts. Finding nothing that satisfied him beyond the obvious, he turned to him and gave his train of thought voice. “Come to think of it, you never told me why you wanted to learn karate so much. And don’t say it’s just because you saw me doing it.”
“That’s ’cause, when I grow up, I want to become a Super Sentai warrior!”
At that moment, moved by his childlike innocence, Yoshiro chuckled. Yet soon he began laughing out loud, unable to help himself. Offended by his mockery, Kazuto pouted exaggeratedly, his cheeks puffing up like balloons and turning red, which made him laugh even louder. Those had been great times, he found himself thinking, unlike the ones both brothers were going through at the time. They had been happy back then, hadn’t they? Somehow, the sensation seemed too distant to feel real.
The sighting of traffic officers in yellow vests on the other side of the windshield dragged Yoshiro out of his reverie. They were lined up alongside each other, mostly blowing their whistles or yelling through their little cone-shaped megaphones to divert the vehicles away from the bus station terminal zone. Yoshiro jerked his head to his right. Gazing past Matsuda, he came upon fire trucks and ambulances parked there, a group of endless media vans standing across from them. There were dozens of cameras flanking them alongside reporters speaking to their microphones. Once a few officers made way for their vehicle, Matsuda yanked the steering wheel all to one side. From then on, he cruised the patrol through an area crowded with wagons and people moving back and forth. Yoshiro picked up the overlapping reports of some journalists as they drove past them.
“It’s still unclear at this point how many hostages there are, but we have been able to confirm among them is a small group of students from Shibuya High School—”
“The men of the terrorist organization known as Amaterasu emerged from broken Korean War veterans that sided with rogue JDF factions from Okinawa during the—”
The patrol came to a halt at the end of a long double row of patrols parked under the shadow of Shibuya Station. As both officers climbed out of the vehicle, Yoshiro heard the words of one last reporter. “—but the question on everyone’s minds tonight is, will the Sentinels’ ‘Vigilantes’ show up once again?”
The officers strolled north across Dogenzaka until they reached the area of the Shibuya crossing. There, Yoshiro beheld a scenery he had never seen in his life. Instead of hundreds of people thronging the crosswalks, these were packed with men in black tactical vests, helmets, and body armor padding over navy blue uniforms carrying H&KMP5 submachine guns. They were members of the Emergency Response Team, he knew, a special branch of the riot police units. In place of civilian automobiles were white-and-azure armored security cars, explosive disposal wagons, and large transport buses alongside a few turquoise salvation rescue vehicles. Red-alert lights flashed all over the broad junction, adding an urgent drama to an already frenzied scenario.
As Yoshiro and his T.O. walked to the senior policeman on the scene, he lifted his head at the unmistakable sound of the propellers of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department helicopter flying over the area. “What are you doing here, boy? You should be resting.” The voice of the chief of superintendents, Hatano Yamada, compelled him to lower his head. Yoshiro bumped into the familiar broad face of a man in his late fifties, with a thick mustache and short brown hair with a few gray strains that made him look like an old-time cop.
“My brother is among the hostages, sir” Yoshiro replied harshly. “I can’t just sit idly by.”
“Nor is it you can do much in your current state, Sugiyama-san.”
The comment soured Yoshiro’s fragile mood. He found himself gazing down at his cast while his mind got lost in thoughts of indignation at his own momentary uselessness. But the old man was right. There was nothing he could do but wait for the best. At any rate, seeing all that extensive display of power from the riot police reminded him his own training had never prepared him to deal with that kind of situation. Perhaps it was better to let the professionals do their thing.
He felt Yamada-sama’s eyes gazing at him with pity as Matsuda inquired, “You know what those bastards are asking for, sir?”
“They’ve given us three hours for the US troops to withdraw from the Sea of Japan and for our country to grant independence to the Ryukyu Islands.”
While his training officer lifted his eyebrows at the reply, Yoshiro’s mind abruptly recalled his previous longing to arrive in the area and the reasons behind it. But now that he was there, a pang of dread went through him as wild possibility kept rising in his head. What if something awful had happened to the students? What if the police had covered the fact to mitigate the impact on the media?
It took a moment for the words to come out of his mouth. “You know anything about the state of the hostages?”
Yamada-sama pursed his lips. “They have them confined to offices on different floors that can’t be seen from the windows. The students, we suspect, are on the sixth one. They guaranteed us they are fine.”
The latter brought some relief to Yoshiro, though his intellect told him the terrorists’ words couldn’t be trusted. Yet there was something in Yamada-sama’s voice that inspired his confidence. Maybe everything would work out after all, and he would soon embrace his younger brother, tell him how much he cared for him and regretted making him withstand so much pain. At first, Yoshiro wondered what had gotten into him on all those occasions. Then, a very different thought struck him. What if he was being punished, forced to experience the same suffering Kazuto did every time he ended up in a hospital?
To his fortune, Matsuda’s further question brought his thoughts out of such sour places. “What about reinforcements?”
Yamada-sama motioned to the detour of Inokashira-Dori to the east, just one block past Shibuya Crossing. Yoshiro saw a line of police officers keeping passersby at bay as they cleared the way for a convoy of imposing armored vehicles. A mobile tactical operations center led them, followed by four smaller personnel carrier cars. They came to a halt outside the 109mens building. Right away, several men wearing helmets and vests that identified them as members of the Special Assault Team stormed out of the vehicles, wielding M4 carbines in their hands. The superintendent, Yoshiro saw, gazed at this display with pride.
At the following occurrence, however, he frowned in confusion. A black SUV had made its way past the SAT lineup, carving a path right up to where the three officers were standing. Two men dressed in casual combat fatigues came down from the vehicle once it stopped, then strolled toward them. They walked past a couple of large spotlight projectors aimed at the towering building, and Yoshiro noticed the UNSMF logo on their shoulder patches. All at once, their presence made horrible sense. Even if he hadn’t been there when it occurred, he recalled the events at the embassy that cost his parents their lives, let alone the men who intervened and precipitated the denouement. He couldn’t help feeling a twinge of uneasiness at their arrival.
“Now who the hell are you guys?” Yamada-sama addressed them.
The superior officer, an older, broad-shouldered man with slicked-back dark hair, spoke first. “Colonel Tetsuya Hashimoto, United Nations Special Mediation Forces. I’m here to take charge of the situation.” He gestured at his subordinate beside him, a younger soldier with strong features framed by red hair and a full beard of the same color. “My colleague here, Major Edgar Mitchell, will serve as the liaison between you, the SAT, and our unit.” The second man nodded politely at them.
Yamada scowled, uncomfortable in their presence, so he took a step forward. “Look, Colonel, I don’t like that you guys just keep overruling our jurisdiction and violate our co-policing agreement every time you please, let alone take responsibility for the mayhem you leave behind.”
“I appreciate your honesty, but that doesn’t change the fact you’re under my command. You’ll cooperate with the Major in everything that is asked of you, awaiting further orders should they be forthcoming. Is that clear?”
The unrest Yoshiro felt before his mannerism, the way he exercised his authority, reached critical mass. His anger turned to words before he could stop himself. “For what? So that you end up killing everyone like the last time?” Both Yamada and the Colonel stared at him, yet his outburst of fury kept stiffing on its own accord. “There are kids in there! You attempt an assault, and their blood will be on your hands!”
For a long moment, the Sentinel men looked him straight in the eye, unmoved. Yoshiro thought he was scrutinizing him at first. But then he saw some recognition in his eyes, maybe even pity. “Look, officer,” the man addressed him as though he were an equal. “No one will lift a finger until the prime minister gives us the green light. We won’t just risk their lives by charging in like mad dogs. We’ll gather intelligence, evaluate our options, and come up with a solid plan. And I can personally assure you the well-being of the hostages is our highest priority.” The Colonel turned his gaze to Yamada-sama. “May I have a word with you, sir?”
The man took the Superintendent with him and away from the officers, leaving Yoshiro stunned by his reply. Contrary to what he had imagined, he noticed no malice or deception in his words. He could even swear he sensed a fatherly tone in them, not unlike Yamada-sama’s. It was almost as if he knew what he was talking about from a personal place.
At that moment, for no apparent reason, the spotlights beside them began to flicker. Their strength went back to normal after a few seconds, yet that still caught Yoshiro by surprise.
“Looks like the sparks between you guys are affecting everything around here,” Matsuda commented. Yoshiro gave him a long look, yet soon he found himself staring at his superior officer once he had rejoined them.
“What did he want, sir?” he asked with curiosity.
Yamada-sama hesitated for a while before speaking. “Looks like they’ve got men inside, some kind of ongoing operation. These guys are unbelievable.” The Superintendent sighted while Matsuda and Yoshiro exchanged worried frowns. “Anyway, I’ll go talk to our SAT boys. We’re not just gonna leave everything to those ’Vigilantes,’ you know?”Yamada-sama greeted both him and Matsuda and then turned to the officer in charge of the SAT team. Yoshiro looked one more time at the imposing Cytek Headquarters, longing to meet Kazuto again. He hoped that he was safe and sound behind those concrete walls and tempered glass windows. And, above all, he wondered if those men inside the superintended had mentioned could change the situation for the better.