FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2409
KANZAKI FILMS MAIN STUDIO COMPLEX
OHJI, EMPIRE OF MORITA, ISHIYAMA
Kaitlyn finished filing the papers for her various projects,
looked around her office, and smiled. She figured she'd done a pretty
good week's work. The score for "Beautiful Warriors" was nearly
finished, she and the Kanzaki Films house orchestra were working well
together, and everything was on schedule to start shooting "Zatoichi
vs. Wolverine" in a month.
She picked up her green music notebook from the desk, tucked
it into her briefcase, and left the office, whistling part of the
heroic entrance phrase for "Beautiful Warriors". The transition in
the middle of it was still bugging her a little - in her head it
sounded really cool, but in practice it came off more like a stumble.
Maybe she'd come back in tomorrow and -
"Kaitlyn, dear, there you are," came the voice of the studio's
owner. Sumire Kanzaki, looking neat and trim as always in her stylish
business clothes, came down the hall with a smile of greeting and
"I was just looking for you," said Sumire. "What are you
planning to do this weekend?"
Kate looked puzzled. "N-not much," she replied. "I w-was
thinking of c-c-coming in for a b-bit tomorrow and - "
"No, no, no," said Sumire, gesturing. "That won't do at all.
You've been working so terribly hard for me since you came here, I
feel guilty. You're supposed to be -relaxing-."
"It's b-been fun," Kate protested, a bit haplessly, as Sumire
wound an arm through hers and started elegantly dragging her along the
"Well, that may be, but still," Sumire said. "You've been
working much too hard. You need to take a little time off and relax,
so I've made a few arrangements."
"Arr-r-arrangements?" Kate wondered.
Sumire nodded firmly. "Mm-hmm. It's all taken care of. Jean
and Anne are on a train to Sendai as we speak. You and I and Kori and
Kanna are going to my little place in the country, where we will eat
decadent food, ransack my wine cellar, and generally shirk our
responsibilities for seventy-two hours. Give or take."
Kate blinked at her in mild befuddlement, then asked the only
question she could think of:
"D-did you w-w-warn Sendai?"
Sumire laughed and pushed the studio admin building's doors
open with a flourish, not breaking stride as she swept Kate down the
marble steps to the street.
"Where would be the sport in that?" she asked.
Before Kate could form an answer to that, Sumire bundled her
into the back of the long, gleaming Kanzaki Black Phantom limousine
which stood waiting in front of the building. The auburn-haired
woman, the richest and most powerful industrialist on the planet, shut
the door with a wink through the window at her moderately baffled
friend, then walked around the back of the car to the other side.
As she went, Sumire employed the quick-change skills she'd
mastered over years on the stage. By the time she reached the
driver's door and climbed in, she was wearing a trim black chauffeur's
uniform; she was just settling the peaked cap on her head when she
slid behind the wheel and threw Kate another wink over the back of the
Then she fired up the powerful car, put it in gear, and with a
puff of black smoke, they were away.
During the several years of intense living that had followed
her return from a sort of semi-functional mental fugue state, Sumire
had pursued a number of exciting occupations. (To call them hobbies
would have been to seriously diminish the fervor with which she
undertook them.) For one of them, she'd used her connections with the
Imperial government to take the combat driving course normally given
to members of the Emperor's personal guard.
Kaitlyn sat back and enjoyed the ride. As a member of the
Nekomi Institute of Technology Motor Club, she had done her share of
race-type driving too. When she was driving herself, Kate preferred
unlimited rallycross to road racing - that was more Juri's speed - but
this was fun all the same.
She turned the plan for the weekend, such as it was, over in
her head a few times, smiling.
Then she took out her music notebook and a pencil and went
back to work on that damn phrase.
Kaitlyn, as was her wont, lost herself in her work as Sumire's
car steamed out of the capital and into the mountains north of the
city. She didn't pay much attention to the scenery and none at all to
the route. Only when the car rounded a corner and slowed considerably
did she rouse from her reverie over her music notebook and take a look
at where they were.
By now the sun was sinking amid the craggy peaks of the
mountains to the west, painting the alpine vista with oranges and
reds. Kate climbed out of the car when Sumire opened her door with a
bow and a wink. She stood for a moment, surprised by the chill in the
air after the warm weather down in Ohji, and took in her
surroundings. These were big, imposing, bulky mountains, not the
relatively gentle peaks of the mountains near New Avalon. Not for
nothing was this range often called the Ishiyama Alps.
The car was parked in front of a small metal building without
markings aside from a "NO TRESPASSING" sign on the door. Sumire
opened the limo's trunk, pulled out a pair of suitcases (one of them,
Kaitlyn noticed with a combination of surprise and amusement, belonged
to her), shut the trunk again, and led the way to the building. There
she unlocked the door with a keycode, elbowed it open, and followed
Inside the building was a red tram-like vehicle about the size
of a van, with wraparound windows and no obvious front or back. It
sat next to a platform, rather like that of a train station.
Smiling and humming, Sumire went to a control panel on the
wall, punched in another code, then threw a large switch and thumbed a
big green button. The far wall of the building hummed open, revealing
a snowy slope stretching up and away.
It all came together for Kate then. She boarded the tram with
Sumire right behind her, then watched with quiet amusement as the auburn-
haired industrialist closed the tram door and set the car in motion.
It ground along, slowly at first and then picking up to a
decent pace, and when it emerged from the shed, everything became
clear. The tram was a cog railway car; they were climbing the side of
one of the mountains. Kate bent low and peered upward through the
car's front window, but couldn't see their destination; the side of
the mountain was too steep. She considered leaning out of a side
window, but decided against it.
Instead she turned to Sumire, who was smiling at her, a
mischievous twinkle in her dark eyes.
"You'll recognize it when we get there," she said, and Kate
knew where they were headed.
"The C-C-Crimson Lizard's lair?" she asked.
Sumire nodded. "I'll bet you thought it was just a stock
exterior," she said, her smile broadening. "No, it's real enough. I
just redecorate a bit when we shoot a sequence up there."
"You h-had it b-built for real?"
Sumire laughed. "I spent several decades as a reclusive
madwoman," she said frankly. "It's a mountaintop chateau accessible
only by air or its own private cog railway. How could I possibly
-not- have built it?" She looked reflective for a moment and added,
"It seems to me I had a plan in place to go up there and blow the
railway up behind me. Fortunately, by then I was sunk far enough into
apathy that I never bothered."
The ride up took the better part of an hour. By the time they
arrived at the top it was dark, and Ishiyama's two moons were out, one
a waxing crescent, the other just past the first quarter.
Kate stood on the flagstoned, snow-swept little plaza at the
top of the cog railway, looking at the building with a little smile
on her face. It looked just the way she remembered it from the
movies, a Swiss-style chateau plunked down among thoroughly suitable
[ meanwhile, at Schloss Kanzaki... ]
"A slumber party! I have read of this tradition! We will disrobe
to our underclothes and share our darkest secrets in a bonding
experience that enhances the strength of our eternal sisterhood. Yes?"
"... Something like that."
(a large quantity of what Sumire describes as "barely acceptable
plonk" later... )
"I do not wish you to take this amiss, however, I feel obligated to
inform you that I find your father immensely desirable."
"... must understand that to the people of Tamaran, and the royal
family especially, he is a sort of mythic figure, almost like a god.
Also, I once bypassed the content security systems on the palace
computers and read the expunged portions of the famed journals of my
revered ancestor Kaliand'r. They were... what is the phrase? Oh yes!
'Some kind of hot.'"
(Kate snorts expensive red wine)
<wedge> the last bit said with the trademark "Oh, I remember!" cheery smile
"I have been told that I very much resemble the revered Kaliand'r in
many ways. I do not believe Mother knew I had read the missing
journals when she told me that."
"W-w-wait. Isn't Z-Z-Zoner also a m-mythic f-f-figure on T-Tamaran?"
"Well, yes. But he was not -quite- so close to my ancestor. And
anyway, he is dark and creepy. My sister has always been obsessed
"Your ch-chances, eh? W-well... it h-h-HAS b-been a while since D-Dad
had a g-g-good c-case of alien p-p-princess. Y-you're awful y-young,
though. H-he's k-k-kind of self-c-conscious about that k-kind of
thing these d-days. Oh, and you're s-s-sort of a d-d-descendent.
He'll have a hard t-time with that too. I d-dunno, Kori. It'd
t-t-take some d-doing."
"I am most willing to do."
"*snrk* I b-bet you are."