Peter Tatara - November 8, 2006
It was on the afternoon of January 2, 1951 that I received a letter from the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Japan. General Douglas MacArthur wrote to me saying we was very impressed with my contribution to the Manhattan Project and felt I was just the man for a very important job. I wrote the General back, telling him that I was immensely flattered but that August 6 and 9, 1945 were the worst two days of my life. I told him I had to decline his offer. Two weeks later, I got a knock on my door. Two hours later, I was in a plane, flanked by two men in suits, flying from Berkeley to Japan.
I tried to speak to the G-men who had kidnapped me, but they didn't say a word the whole flight. After several intolerable hours of silence, we landed in Nagoya. It was my first time in Japan. I threw up.
I was escorted to SCAP Headquarters, forced to sign several NDAs at gunpoint, and then sat down in Betty-chan's, a US-built authentic Japanese teahouse next to the base. I was whisked past a packed main room full of off duty GIs playing pool, drinking whiskey, and listening to Irving Berlin. I asked my keepers, the same two men who flew with me from the United States, if anyone actually drank tea here. They didn't answer. Instead, they pushed me into a private room in the back. They sat me down and left, and for the better part of an hour, I sat in a wingback chair looking at reproductions of 16th Century wood block prints.
Each moment I sat there, I built up more and more nerve to walk out. Sure, I was in a foreign country and didn't speak a word of the language, but I preferred to take my chances on the street to whatever fate had in store for me if I stayed in the wingback chair. I was done with bombs. I was done with war. I finally steeled myself enough and prepared to stand, but the moment my grip on my armrests tightened, the door opened.
A man with tiny eyes and wrinkled skin crossed the room. He sat in an identical wingback chair opposite me.
"Which one's your favorite?" he asked. His hand waved across the wood block prints.
I didn't recognize the tired man in a khaki shirt and slacks when he entered, but I immediately recognized his voice. Sitting across from me was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Japan, Douglas MacArthur.
"Why am I here?" I spat.
MacArthur twisted his lips, but I couldn't tell if he was sending me a smile or shooting me a frown. The man waved his hand again, this time pointing to a single print, one of a gang of men murdering a man in armor. He talked to me for some time about samurai, specifically one named Ishida Mitsunari. Ishida was a warrior dedicated to Japan's old ways who led an army loyal to the Shogun against a traitor named Tokugawa Ieyasu. Tokugawa defeated Ishida, became Shogun himself, and went on to unify and modernize Japan. MacArthur waxed about Ishida's necessary, tragic role in the founding of Japan and made some baffling comparison between the samurai and himself.
I again asked why I was here.
MacArthur spoke, but rather than giving me an answer, he whispered something about tea. Almost instantly, an attendant appeared with two mugs of hot, green water. Premium Shikoku ocha, I was told. The room was being monitored.
MacArthur drank his tea in long, silent sips. I downed mine rather quickly and proceed to tap my fingers against my empty cup until the General again spoke.
"Do you know why we won the war?" MacArthur asked.
"Because I built a bomb that killed 200,000 Japanese," I replied instantly. That number, sadly, is merely a gross estimate, with the actual death toll rising daily as more men, women, and children succumb to radiation sickness. MacArthur was not amused.
He told me the Japanese would have killed 400,000 Americans if they were given the chance. I knew Japan had a nuclear program during the war but that it was not very far along.
"What-ifs and maybes don't stop the ghosts of the dead from visiting me every night," I informed the General.
MacArthur laughed. We, then, stared angrily at one another for some time. Until MacArthur laughed again. He stood up and paced toward me. All of a foot away, MacArthur asked if I knew why Japan didn't bomb Los Angeles or San Francisco. I told the General exactly what I have written above. MacArthur clucked.
"Actually, the Japanese nuclear program was quite advanced," MacArthur claimed, leaning in so that no more than three inches separated he and I. "The Japanese could have easily built a bomb as early as '43, but their scientists deemed it too barbaric." There is no word for the amount of hate I had for that man at that moment. Unable to summon any hex powerful enough to express my absolute contempt, I spat in his face.
MacArthur didn't wipe my spit away. He continued to speak. He told me with a straight face that Japan had endeavored to build a nuclear-powered soldier. His every incredulous detail made me hate him more. I wanted to tear down his precious wood block print. I imagined smashing my empty mug against his head.
MacArthur told me that, after the war, the nuclear-powered soldier project was never abandoned, control over it merely transferred from the Showa Emperor to the man standing before me. MacArthur revealed that, even now, Japanese scientists were toiling on the automaton.
I called him insane. MacArthur continued to reveal a fake history to me, undissuaded. With the Korean Conflict escalating, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Japan told me he felt Japan's nuclear soldier would turn the tides. He asked for my help. I told the man I refused when he first sent me his letter and that my answer, after being kidnapped and flown to the other side of the world, hadn't changed.
"You fail to understand," MacArthur cooed. "I understand you hate that your knowledge was used to murder people, and that's why you uniquely understand the need for this project." MacArthur slipped his hand into a pocket, producing a piece of paper folded in thirds. He handed it to me. We glared at each other for another minute until I opened it. It was a letter authorizing the use of atomic bombs in Korea signed by Harry S. Truman. MacArthur told me the atomic soldier could stop it. MacArthur told me he and I could stop it.
The General told me to return to Berkeley, to pack up my things, and to return to Tokyo in two months. I agreed. I thought MacArthur was crazy, but guilt prevented me from saying no to him -- as ridiculous as his story seemed.
I did as I was told as per additional papers I signed immediately after my meeting with the General. I told my family, friends, and colleagues I was moving to Japan to pursue my research. They asked questions. I made up answers. I received weekly phone calls from Tokyo asking about my progress, and when I said I was ready, I was told my ticket would be in my mailbox the following morning. It was.
I remember sitting at my kitchen table, holding my ticket, and again and again thinking MacArthur was crazy, and in my few, short months back in the US, it seemed that Truman had come to realize this, too. As I held my ticket to Tokyo, news crackled over my radio that Douglas MacArthur had been relieved of command, all SCAP powers now falling upon General Matthew Ridgeway.
I sighed. It tasted like sorrow and relief. I felt the whole thing was over. I poured myself some coffee. I had the urge to rip my ticket in two, but the moment my hands moved to turn desire into action, I received a phone call. My home was being monitored. The voice on the other end asked if my flight's day and time were to my satisfaction. I asked the voice if he heard the news. The voice didn't immediately answer, instead letting heavy air build. Then, a different voice, fast and irritated, spoke.
"This changes nothing," the new voice shot. "You are expected to leave for Japan tomorrow at 7 AM. If you are not on your flight, you will be brought to Tokyo at gunpoint."
Before I could ask if I'd have more talkative chaperones if I chose the latter option, the phone clicked. I was all alone in my kitchen.
I got on my flight the next morning. I threw up twice before the plane took off and a third time before it would land. When it did, I wandered to the street to attempt to call a cab. I had bought a pocket Japanese dictionary, but I wasn't so presumptuous as to fathom I had mastered so much as one word. Still, if I spoke "SCAP," I imagined the taxi driver would get me where I needed to be. Instead, though, as I approached the street, two Japanese men in suits stepped up to me. In imperfect but understandable English, they told me to come with them. I shook my head. I felt a gun press against my back.
I climbed into the back of their car. Again, I was kidnapped.
I went through my dictionary, calling the agents every even remotely unflattering anatomical word I came across. Shouting "ear wax" and "toe nail" didn't faze them. The car drove off into the countryside. I nodded off at some point and was only stirred when the car crossed over railroad tracks. Everything around me was green. We were in rural, rural Japan. Then, everything went black. The car, going parallel to the same train tracks it had minutes ago crossed, drove straight into a tunnel. I shouted at the driver. As if being kidnapped by Japanese mobsters wasn't bad enough, I was going to meet my end slamming into an oncoming train. The driver and the other man in the car weren't concerned. The car continued on alongside the tracks.
Soon, the entire outside world was just a white dot behind us. Soon after that, it didn't exist at all. In blackness and in silence, we drove. No, there was a sound. At no time did the car's lights turn on. Instead, the driver drove, guided by the grinding of the wheels against the tracks. Whenever this grating stopped, we had gone off course.
After an eternity of midnight, a point of light appeared ahead of us. It didn't look like the outside. Instead, as it got bigger and bigger, it appeared to grow into a bright lamp atop a train. I said a prayer and sucked in a last breath. I waited for death. It never came. The light was indeed from a train, but nearing it, I came to realize the machine was stationary. My driver slowed. There was a ramp to the train's last, flat car. With a series of thuds, thumps, and crashes, the car drove up onto it. More noises. A rumble. A whistle. A roar. The train, now, was moving -- with me, my kidnappers, and their entire car on it. The train chugged further and further into the tunnel, and as I felt my ears pop, for the first time, I realized we weren't going to be back outside anytime soon, instead traveling deeper and deeper into the earth. It felt as if I was on the train for as long -- if not longer --than I was on the plane coming to Japan. I asked my captors what country we'd be in when the train finally reached its destination. It was a joke, but a moment later, my eyes shook when I realized it was a serious question. I could end up in China or Korea.
"I won't build you a bomb!" I hissed. The men around me didn't hear me. They just stared forward. "I'll die before I build a bomb for you!" Could a train even reach Beijing? Or Pyongyang? I didn't think so, but I didn't know. I was afraid. My mind raced. Looking out the window, there were only shadows and jagged rocks. No escape. Still, now convinced I was under the Sea of Japan on my way to a Chinese nuclear lab, I tried to punch one of my captors, but the moment I lifted my hand, a gun was produced. I stared at it. After a second of cold sweat, I decided to die. I followed through with my punch. Before it hit, though, the full length of the gun, from barrel to butt, collided with my face.
When my eyes opened next, I was in a ball on a cold, stone floor. As I adjusted to the light, a dim world carved from solid rock surrounded me. My suitcases -- left on the airport curb -- were at my side. My face, not swollen, felt numb and cool. I tried to speak, I don't recall what, but my words were slurred. My cheeks had been treated with something. I tried to stand, and while I wobbled, I was able to come to my feet. All before me was unending grey. I turned around. Behind me was a wall. On the wall was a sign. "Nagato Wonderland."
Every minute I was in the darkness, my eyes became more accustomed to the low light. After several minutes, I realized I wasn't alone, various bodies moving in the distance. One body was larger than all the rest, and it was coming toward me fast. The body grew into a jeep -- a US jeep.
My mind had invented everything. I wasn't in China. I wasn't in Korea. I hadn't been abducted. But mere moments after rejoicing I was in a US Army installation, I longed for Berkeley. Regardless of if it was the Army, Korea, or China, I had been abducted. There was no joy inside me as the jeep came to a stop and a thin man draped in gold approached. Beaming, a proud Douglas MacArthur stood up. His face seemed twenty years younger than when I saw him last. He wore a gold robe embroidered with a snaking five-toed dragon. He extended his hand.
"I had heard you had been relieved of command," I spoke.
"Only so I could better continue this project," he replied.
I didn't believe the man. As I extended my hand to meet his, my opinion of MacArthur hadn't shifted. He was insane. Still, I felt it was in my best interest to keep such views to myself. MacArthur helped me up and into the jeep. Quickly, were were moving, and again I found myself staring at speeding-by rocks. This time, though, it was with someone more than happy to engage in conversation. I heard from MacArthur that we were deep beneath the countryside of Yamaguchi Prefecture. We were two miles down in a compound originally built to protect the imperial family and their retainers during an American invasion. The bunker was never used during the war, but very shortly after peace had been declared, the Tetsujin Project -- the thing I was brought to Japan to complete -- was transported here. MacArthur said continuing the project was his first priority when arriving in Tokyo. The GIs who discovered it had no idea what the thing was, and all the Japanese soldiers guarding it refused to talk. It wasn't until MacArthur visited the Tetsujin himself at its original home in Ise that a single scientist whispered to MacArthur its secret.
Moments ago, MacArthur told me the Tetsujin was transferred here as soon as the war was over. Moments later, he said it wasn't until he visited Ise that the transfer happened. At best, the story was muddy. At worst, the story was made up. MacArthur's tale changed as he told it, but while faces, places, and dates shifted throughout our jeep ride, I stayed quiet.
"What does Tetsujin mean?" I asked, believing the question to be suitably milquetoast as to give the impression of interest and flattery.
"Never say that word!" MacArthur snapped. While MacArthur had been spouting on about the Tetsujin, he forbade me -- and the entire project's staff -- from ever uttering it. The project was American now, and to prevent any of its former overseers from gleaning that it was still in development, it was to be officially called the "Nagato Wonderland."
Confused? I was. MacArthur said that was the point. The man had renamed both the Tetsujin and the bunker "Nagato Wonderland" in the hopes of further vexing imperial generals, admirals, and even the royal family.
"What does Nagato Wonderland mean?" I asked, not caring but feeling obligated. I soon learned that the part of Japan we were presently below used to be called Nagato and MacArthur felt the tunnel that had to be traveled down to access the bunker was a lot like a rabbit hole.
"Hence, Nagato Wonderland," MacArthur smiled. I nodded. He looked at me for a bit.
When the jeep eventually stopped, MacArthur took his leave, and I was escorted by a young Japanese boy name Tsukihito to my room. Behind a heavy lead door, illuminated by a single, bare bulb, it was a small cave carved from the rock. My bed, desk, and shelves were all also chiseled from the earth.
Tsukihito, in remarkable English, told me the electricity would cut out at 2200 hours so I should get to sleep soon. Of course, after having crossed continents and being dragged beneath a foreign country's surface, I couldn't fathom what hour it was. Tsukihito left. I heard the metal door lock behind him. Four minutes later, the light went out. I groped my way to my bed and made myself fall asleep.
I woke to the flickering of my room's single electric bulb the next morning. Of course, I had no idea if it was really morning. The only light in the compound was artificial. We could have been made to work during the night and sleep all day, and I actually convinced myself this was the case as it was completely fitting with MacArthur's odd precautionary predispositions.
An American soldier opened my door soon after the light bulb began to glow. I asked if the lock -- actually three -- were necessary. The man told me they were temporary.
"MacArthur doesn't want you to run away," the soldier spoke.
"Run away?" I coughed. I looked left and right into endless stone twilight. "Run away?"
After a meal of fish, fermented beans, and rice, MacArthur appeared. He was in a red robe today, with embroidery equally as outlandish as the one from the night before. I was in a winkled cotton shirt and pants. MacArthur leaned close to me. He wanted drama in the air. He asked if I was ready to see it. I didn't give him the satisfaction of an answer. None the less, a short time later, I was being escorted deeper into the earth, and while I was miles beneath the surface in a cave that didn't exist, I still didn't believe MacArthur was building an atomic, tin soldier. Why was I here? Through several narrow halls, MacArthur and I walked. We passed through increasingly heavy doors -- both steel and lead -- until we passed through a final set over 20 inches thick. Then, I saw it.
A long room spilled out before us. Filled with blueprints, diagrams, punch cards, and other accoutrements of science, the room housed a score of men in white coats. And in the center was it.
While I feel it would be proper and fitting to speak about the technicians surrounding it first, throughout my time in Nagato Wonderland, I learned (by MacArthur's design) very few of their names. Instead, all I knew is they were the best and the brightest from America, Russia, Germany, and Japan -- the leading scientists in the fields of armor, artillery, rocketry, and the atom. And they were all working on it.
It. It stood 17 feet tall. It had a skeleton of steel supporting pistons, pulleys, and vacuum tubes. It had a skin of hardened canvas surrounding its mechanical organs. It was all encased in plates of ceramic and metal. It had on its back the smallest nuclear reactor in the world. It had lead impregnated in its every piece and part. It was the Nagato Wonderland.
As I gazed at the Nagato Wonderland for the first time, the possibility that MacArthur wasn't a lunatic passed through me. Here was the thing he has spoken exclusively about. Here it was. Real.
The Nagato Wonderland sat in the center of the room, draped in wires and tubes as if a massive marionette waiting for its master to pull on its strings.
"Make it live," MacArthur whispered to me.
Days turned to week. Weeks turned to months. Deep beneath Japanese soil, I toiled with nameless Doctors from MIT and Japanese scientists I called "Danny" and "Johnny." While I previously doubted the thing's existence wholly, now that I had seen it with my own eyes, I was committed to it absolutely. I spent long hours in front of the machine, only retiring to my bedroom each night after passing out twice and being stirred by Tsukihito.
Tsukihito, I learned, was the true heir to the Japanese throne and was spirited away by MacArthur almost immediately after he arrived in Tokyo Bay. The boy's entire youth was spent within the walls of Nagato Wonderland -- for his own protection, MacArthur assured me. I felt sorry for Tsukihito, but with this crypt all he knew, he didn't show the slightest interest in my tales of the seasons, the weather, and the blue sky. Instead, the rightful successor to the Chrysanthemum throne was content guiding blind scientists through pitch black halls and fetching us contraband coffee. Officially, the only beverage served in the bunker was MacArthur's favorite Shikoku ocha. Do you find it odd, with MacArthur keeping the names of my fellow scientists secret, that I'd be able to discover Japanese royalty brought me my morning drink? MacArthur was proud of Tsukihito and bragged about his nobility every chance that presented itself. While the Nagato Wonderland proved to be fact, my confidence is MacArthur's sanity was still far from concrete. As I worked on preventing the Nagato Wonderland from exploding moments after being powered up, MacArthur would prance about the laboratory dressed as a feudal warlord. He'd inspect us, inspect the guards, and talk to people who weren't there. His visits always ended with him locking eyes with the Nagato Wonderland and whispering something to the machine. Then, Tsukihito would lead him away.
Because of MacArthur's secrecy, although I was in the same room as the Nagato Wonderland and refining its power plant so it wouldn’t -- as mentioned above -- explode, I really had no idea how exactly it worked. No one did. Each of the scientists working on the project had his own assignment and knew very little about the machine as a whole. From what I gathered, the Nagato Wonderland was basically a tank in the shape of a man. As for the tactical worth of a single, humanoid tank in a battle -- much less a larger war -- I was clueless, but MacArthur and a good deal of the complex's Japanese staff seemed to have an almost cultish reverence for it.
After, if I calculated correctly, three months had passed, most of the issues with the Nagato Wonderland's nuclear heart exploding had been resolved, but there was a second, equally serious flaw I had yet to address. While the machine no longer posed a threat to everyone within a one-mile radius, because of insufficient shielding, it would still prove fatal to its pilot. The Nagato Wonderland's Japanese builders tried to embed lead into all the machine's parts, but it wasn't enough, and the radioactivity of the Nagato Wonderland's engine was enough to kill its driver in less than five minutes. Add additional lead around the cockpit? If enough lead was added, there'd be no place for the pilot.
When I first told MacArthur about this, his eyes drifted to Tsukihito. Was the boy the Nagato Wonderland's designated pilot all along? I shouted at MacArthur and told him I wouldn't allow it. MacArthur laughed at me and left the room. My exchange with MacArthur was far more fierce than my above few words let on, but I would prefer not to repeat my specific insults and insinuations. MacArthur didn't show himself for some weeks.
I continued to toil with the other scientists to make the Nagato Wonderland ready for a test. Until now, while the machine worked on paper, we had yet to turn it on. Of course, because of the unresolved pilot issue, it was decided the Nagato Wonderland would be controlled remotely. It took about a week for various cables and pulleys to be affixed to the Nagato Wonderland to allow for an external operator.
During this time, for the first time, my days didn't revolve around the lab. Instead, I wandered the halls. Exploring the caverns that were now my home, I discovered vaults stacked to the ceiling with dollars, deutsche marks, and yen. I uncovered stockpiles of rifles, ammunition, artillery shells, and 1,000-pound bombs. Not holdovers from Japan's last days during the war, the money was all freshly-minted and the weapons all stamped "USA."
I stumbled upon other labs with other teams of researchers. I snuck into these chambers unnoticed, just a faceless man in white. I found diagrams for floating fortresses and ten-engine bombers. I gazed upon the Zipangmaru, a prototype submarine built entirely beneath the ground.
What was MacArthur doing?
Then, feeling my way along a midnight hall, my feet touched open air. While I was some two miles beneath the Earth's surface, there was a hole inside the hole, an entrance to another, deeper bunker. I stared into the shapeless, limitless night. I kicked a stone into the shaft. I never heard it hit the bottom.
"It doesn't end," a voice spoke. Turning, I could half-make-out the outline of MacArthur. This was the first time I had seen him since our argument. Nearly a month had elapsed.
"I'm sorry for what I said," I said.
"About Tsukihito?" MacArthur asked. "Or are you apologizing for everything? You doubted me every step of the way, but I never once did not believe in you."
I explained to MacArthur that, even with all I had seen, so much of his stories and actions seemed incredulous. MacArthur looked blindly at me. I went into detail about his inconsistencies, only a fraction of which have been described in this text. Still, MacArthur gave me no reaction.
"Ernest, I don't care what you think about me," MacArthur put forward. "You think this is the first time someone's told me I should be locked away? I am who I am, and you can feel whatever the hell you want about me, but don't you for a damn instant believe I would jeopardize the boy. Tsukihito was never the Nagato Wonderland's pilot. I never want him to see a battlefield. The White House was going to assassinate him, and he is here now because if he was on the surface he'd be dead. Do not ever dare think I would harm him."
This was the first time I saw MacArthur passionate about another living, breathing human being. He then smirked and let me know he had been away for the past month securing the last component necessary for the completion of the Nagato Wonderland. He asked if I thought he had been avoiding me. I nodded. MacArthur smirked again.
MacArthur's last component wasn't a new alloy capable of absorbing radiation or even an extraordinarily small and suicidal test pilot. No, instead, after he assembled the Nagato Wonderland's scientists, technicians, and researchers around a massive oblong box, MacArthur revealed to us an 11-foot piece of iron. It was the largest tachi blade ever built, MacArthur explained, and forged by master swordsmith Yasutsuna Amakura no later than the year 700. The blade, after having been lost and found several times throughout history, disappeared for the last time shortly after it was added to the collection of MacArthur's favorite samurai, Ishida Mitsunari. Disappeared -- that is -- until MacArthur found it at the bottom of Lake Ikeda.
Now, the thing, polished and repaired, was going to adorn the side of the Nagato Wonderland. Needless to say, I was overjoyed. MacArthur held some ceremony with the Japanese staff involving droning chants and pixie dust. I and the other Americans, Germans, and Russians sat back and drank coffee. Tsukihito told us it was a christening.
This was when everything started to turn sour. When we all assembled for the Nagato Wonderland to take its first steps, the machine, ridiculous sword at its side, rose perfectly, but within its first few movements, it began to overheat. It obeyed our commands, but in-between our pushing and pulling of wheels and pulleys telling the Nagato Wonderland to walk forward and turn a quarter circle left, it acted independently. At first, I thought its higher-than-expected internal pressure was causing its unexpected jerks, but it wasn't long before the Nagato Wonderland began to bend and twist where there weren't any joints. Something was wrong. I told its operator to turn it off. MacArthur hushed me. I shouted. The Nagato Wonderland swatted at a scientist. I shouted again. The machine's operator, in a cold sweat, said the thing wasn't obeying his commands. I pushed MacArthur aside and slammed down on a shut off valve. It didn't work. The Nagato Wonderland tore through the cables binding it to our monitors, gauges, and dials. It was loose.
I screamed at the guards -- frozen in disbelief -- to shoot it. They did. But when you assemble the world's finest scientists to build a super weapon, one of the first things they do is make it bulletproof. The shots from the guards' M1 Carbines ricocheted off the Nagato Wonderland's skin. Then, it drew its sword.
My next memories are of running, flames, and trampled bodies. The Nagato Wonderland ripped through us with a demonic savagery. It flayed men, snapped their bones, and crushed their skulls. I saw, for a single instant, Tsukihito's form become clear. Beneath the Nagato Wonderland, he stood. Fire and falling metal surrounded the boy. I lunged out, ensnaring him in my arms. Without looking back, I fled. Barreling though the bunker's halls, yelps, explosions, and roars echoed from the corridors behind me.
Tsukihito shouted out directions, leading us up stone ladders and stairs as a slick of blood spewed over the floor. I ran and ran and ran. But just behind my every step, it seemed, the Nagato Wonderland was still there. I refused to turn around, but I could feel it shake the tight halls, jumping, smashing, and slamming its way toward the surface. It shouldn't haven been able to fit through the tunnels, but it did.
I asked Tsukihito if there was any way we could seal off the bunker, any way to prevent the Nagato Wonderland from getting free. The boy nodded and led me through crude crawlspaces to a half-finished control room. The railroad tunnel could be demolished from here. Tsukihito guided me to the correct levers, but before my hand could lift from my side, I heard a gun cock. MacArthur, in shadow, was here.
He told me to back away or he'd shoot. I told him the Nagato Wonderland, regardless of why it was going to break free, was going to break free. MacArthur giggled. The room shook. Monitors flickered. I gazed upon one. I gazed upon the Nagato Wonderland contorting and clinging to walls. A monstrous beast, it was a being bending with no regards to gravity or physics. It galloped toward the railroad tunnel.
I asked MacArthur what was going on. Stepping forward, the man was stained red. He told me I was brought into all this for make the Nagato Wonderland a success, and now it was just that. MacArthur knew from the beginning there was no way to fit a pilot inside the machine, and this was the very reason the thing was never completed by the Japanese. When MacArthur set about to resurrect the machine, he also set about to bring about another resurrection. Through the christening ceremony and the Nagato Wonderland's sword, he was able to pull Ishida Mitsunari's soul from the ether and bond it to the Nagato Wonderland's cogs and gears. There was an explosion. I looked at a monitor. I saw a tin man possessed by a dead samurai.
"Ishida will return things to the old ways," MacArthur whispered. What that meant in MacArthur's mind is unknown to me, but what it meant to me was death. My mind would not be used to kill. I stepped toward the demolition controls. MacArthur pushed his gun toward me. I decided to die. I squeezed down on a heavy lever. The earth over the railroad collapsed.
I looked at MacArthur's face. He didn't fire a shot.
I looked at MacArthur's gun. Most of his fingers were stumps.
His arm -- his entire body -- was shredded and burned. Mangled by his own creation, MacArthur was unable to pull his trigger. He stood in silence and watched the only exit collapse on top of the Nagato Wonderland on closed-circuit television screens. The whole of the bunker shook as unrelenting earth spilled down over us. Then, all was still. I stood facing MacArthur with Tsukihito by my side and an emptiness greater than the distance between Berkeley and Japan between us.
Returning to my room with Tsukihito, I pondered my next move. The bunker was intact but was sealed off completely from the outside world. Tsukihito asked if I would like a coffee. I pat the boy on the head and told him we should ration our supplies. Tsukihito nodded, saying there were only a few cases of coffee left. He then asked if I wanted a glass of water, chirping that we'd never run out. I asked him what he meant. Tsukihito told me there was an aquifer running from here to the surface and that much of the bunker was actually carved by this water. He said that it was by traversing the aquifer that the caverns were discovered in the first place.
I took Tsukihito by the hand. I asked him to take me to the aquifer. MacArthur was a genius. MacArthur built the Zipangmaru right atop where the underground river opened into the bunker. Tsukihito and I rode the Zipangmaru through the aquifer to the surface.
I remember looking up at the sky for the first time in six months. It was a blue I believed didn't exist. I lifted my neck and stared and stared into perfect, unending, deep heaven. Wind hugged my shoulders. The sun kissed my cheek. I turned to Tsukihito, a boy who had grown up without the sky, the wind, and the sun. He didn't care for my stories of these things, but as we stood there on the Zipangmaru that day, he cried.