The Shredder is Born


“Keep running, Tetsuya,” Oroku Saki taunted.  “You might stay alive for another minute.”


But Toyoda Tetsuya knew he would never outrun his enemy, so he decided to abruptly stop in a clearing in the woods.  It was a good place to die as any.  He was glad that he had managed to get the incriminating package in the mail in time, so he would get his final revenge.


“Go ahead and kill me, you bastard,” Toyoda shot back.  “It’s too late for you anyway!”


Oroku was taken aback by Toyoda’s tone as well as his words.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”


“What do you think?” Toyoda scoffed.  “Maybe your killing of Hasegawa really was self-defense, and maybe you can make my death look like an accident.  But your plans are doomed, Saki.  You thought your takeover of the Foot Clan was all sewn up, and now you could do the dirty on us and have it all to yourself.  But it’s all going to fall apart now.  The Foot Clan will get rid of you and whoever else you managed to corrupt, and your plans to turn it into a yakuza organization will be dead forever.”


“You lie!”  Oroku shot back.  “It is you who are going to be dead forever!”


“You’re right about that, Saki, and I deserve to die because of the dishonor I helped to bring onto the Foot Clan, on myself, and my family.”


“Thanks to your penchant for gambling.”


“Yes, thanks to my penchant for gambling and the huge debts I mounted, forcing me to join forces with you so I could pay them off.”  Toyoda smiled.  “Well, now that I have, my family won’t have to bear them, so go ahead and kill me.  It won’t stop the evidence from getting through and bringing you down.”


Oroku was stunned.  “Evidence?  What evidence?”


Toyoda grinned.  “Oh, some incriminating documents you thought had been destroyed.  Not enough for you to get the police to file criminal charges against you-and I wouldn’t be surprised if you managed to pay them off anyway-or even to get you expelled from the Foot Clan, at least not on their own.  But once Hamato Yoshi gets hold of them, they’re all he needs to prove his innocence and to prove our guilt.  I even sent him an airplane ticket so he can fly back to Japan.  I leave nothing to chance.”


Oroku laughed.  “You’re bluffing.  You don’t know where he is.”


“Wrong again.  He’s in New York City, though he’s hiding out; I guess he leaves nothing to chance either.  I found out through a few contacts I have there.  And he’ll receive it long before you can ever make it to New York City, even if you were to fly out there right now.  But you probably don’t even have a passport, so that idea is out.”


Oroku Saki’s heart sank.  Tetsuya’s tone and mannerisms showed no sign he was bluffing.  Oroku was convinced that there really were documents on the way to New York City that, once Hamato Yoshi got his hands upon them and brought them back to Japan, would cause him to be expelled from the Foot Clan and to lose his still-precarious control of the local criminal rackets.


“Yes,” Toyoda taunted as if he were reading Shredder’s mind, “your dreams of turning the Foot Clan into your personal mafia have been destroyed, and it shall become a legitimate ninja school once more.  Go ahead and kill me, Saki.  It will do you no good, and I am ready to die anyway.”


“You certainly will die,” growled Oroku, “and so will Hamato Yoshi, before he can use your documents against me.  Thank you for revealing your plans to me, baka.


“Would I have admitted my plans to you if I had thought you could possibly get to Hamato Yoshi in time?”  Toyoda laughed as he drew his dagger.  Oroku readied his own weapon, but Toyoda instead pointed the dagger at his own throat.  “But I won’t even give you the satisfaction of killing me after all.  Sayonara!”  And Toyoda drove his dagger into his throat and fell dead to the ground.


At least now I can’t be accused of having murdered Toyoda Tetsuya, thought Oroku Saki.  But he left the clearing and pushed his way through the woods in a hurry, wanting to be well away from there by the time the police arrived.  Somehow he had to find a way to eliminate Hamato Yoshi, or else intercept the package of documents before it reached him.  Everything else was unimportant at the moment.


Oroku emerged from the woods and headed down the hill toward the coastal town where the headquarters of the Foot Clan was based.  The town was a pleasing mixture of old-fashioned traditional houses with more modern buildings, and it was part fishing village, part resort that catered to Japanese tourists who came from adjacent Tokyo suburbs, and rarely received non-Japanese visitors.  A narrow road connected the town to the highway in the hills above, and was the only route to the town besides the ocean.  The town had been the home of the Foot Clan for centuries; it was an ideal location because it was remote from the sprawling Tokyo metropolitan region, but not isolated, and received just enough visitors to keep it going.  The landscape was too hilly to allow the town to expand beyond its present limits, so the Foot Clan was able to use the surrounding land, as well as the ocean, to train its ninja students.


The Foot Clan had originally been an organization of assassins, as other ninja clans were, but decades ago abandoned its criminal roots and had become little more than a training school and social organization.  But Hasegawa Yoshi, an executive member of the board overseeing the Foot Clan operations, had dreams of reviving the Foot Clan in its old role as a criminal organization.  For this he recruited Toyoda Tetsuya, another board member who had huge gambling debts and was the target of both the local yakuza and the police, and Oroku Saki, the top student at the ninja school who was slated to succeed master instructor Hamato Yoshi eventually, but who was known to be impatient and have greater ambitions.  Hasegawa’s first order of business was to engineer the expulsion of Hamato from the Foot Clan, deciding against outright assassination as being too risky.


The co-conspirators spread rumors among the members of the Foot Clan insinuating (ironically enough) that he had designs to revive the Foot Clan as a criminal organization, which were unproven but enough to spread suspicion.  The elderly and increasingly senile Master of the Foot Clan was called to make an inspection of the school; he was escorted by Toyoda and Hasegawa as everyone, including Hamato and Oroku, were to bow down in respect to him.  They were lined against the wall as the Master and escort arrived; as the group was about to bow down, Oroku Saki drew his dagger and used it to secretly pin Hamato Yoshi’s kimono to the back wall.  All bowed down-except for the stuck Hamato.


“Insolent dog,” shouted Toyoda, “bow down before the Master!”


By this time, Hamato Yoshi was feeling behind him to discover why he was stuck to the wall.  He felt and removed the dagger, staring at it in dismay.


“So,” said Hasegawa, “a plot to assassinate our Master.  For that, you should be expelled from the Foot Clan.  What say you, Master?”


“I agree,” replied the Master, “throw the bum out.”


Shortly afterward, Hasegawa met privately with the despairing Hamato Yoshi and convinced him to go to New York City, where he still had friends in the Japanese community there, as he was persona non grata where he was.  Hasegawa’s ploy worked, and Hamato spent all his money to quickly get a passport and a flight out, having been convinced he would probably face criminal charges if he did not.


Oroku Saki took over as head of the school, and Hasegawa became the true power over the Foot Clan as the Master’s faculties diminished.  The Foot Clan moved quickly to wipe out the local yakuza and take over the casino and pachinko parlors and all the rackets.  But though there were members of the Foot Clan who were quite happy with the new arrangement, there were many who were not, and Hasegawa knew his power over the Foot Clan and its criminal rackets was far from secure, and that a wrong move could cause everything to fall apart.  To make matters worse, Toyoda Tetsuya was becoming increasingly unhappy about the Foot Clan being turned into a criminal organization, and it was obvious he was a weak point who would have to be taken care of.


Another problem was that Oroku Saki was obviously dissatisfied with merely becoming head of the ninja school, despite his increased compensation.  He had indicated that he wanted more power, and that the Foot Clan could certainly expand its reach beyond the confines of one coastal town-perhaps to get into the city of Tokyo itself.  Hasegawa balked at the idea, warning him of the instability of his control of the Foot Clan.  Oroku acquiesced initially, but it was clear that his desire for greater power still existed, and Hasegawa sensed that his co-conspirator would become a dire threat to him, and would also have to be eliminated.


So Hasegawa ordered Oroku to meet with him at the top of a remote cliff, ostensibly to plot how to remove Toyoda Tetsuya from the picture.  They met and talked, and when Hasegawa saw his chance, he suddenly pushed the other off the cliff.  It was supposed to be a long fall to land on top of very sharp rocks-and Oroku would have had no chance to survive if it had not been for incredible luck on his part.


For Hasegawa had pushed Oroku Saki over the one section of the cliff, which had a spike of rock jutting from it, just beneath the top.  Oroku had landed on that, and only his strong body and ninja skills enabled him to grab hold and quickly scramble back to the top of the cliff.  Hasegawa was completely taken by surprise, and then he was grabbed by Oroku Saki, who picked him up and hurled him over the cliff to his death before he could react.


While Oroku Saki had never really liked his former co-conspirator, the sudden treachery took him by surprise.  “Why, Hasegawa Yoshi?” he mused aloud.  “Did I dream too big for your liking?  Were you content to remain a big fish in this little tourist trap town?  I wasn’t!”  Oroku laughed to himself.  “What a disappointment you turned out to be, Hasegawa.  But I’ll take over the Foot Clan, and I’ll make it greater and more powerful than you ever would have dared to dream.  And I’ll start by getting rid of that weakling Toyoda Tetsuya, and do it by myself!”


But upon returning back to headquarters, Oroku Saki found that Toyoda had already vanished.  He would soon locate him utilizing his ninja sensing skills, of course.  But he also realized that Toyoda had already seen the writing on the wall, and would try to flee, or betray everything to the police.  Oroku had of course managed to catch Toyoda, but had not anticipated that he would send the evidence to Hamato Yoshi instead.  This provided a measure of relief to Oroku-the evidence that Toyoda had was too weak to provide a criminal conviction, or even destroy his position in the Foot Clan, without Hamato Yoshi’s testimony.  And the evidence still had to reach Hamato Yoshi, who in turn had to make it back to Japan and the Foot Clan.


Even so, Oroku Saki knew that once Hamato Yoshi did return to the Foot Clan’s executive board with the evidence, everything would be over for him.  Half the surviving members were in on Hasegawa’s criminal enterprises, while the other half wanted to disassociate the Foot Clan from them.  But neither faction was strong enough to take control of the board, and the suddenly violent demise of their two most powerful members would intimidate them into inaction.  Worthless weaklings, sneered Oroku to himself as he thought over the situation.  He knew he could easily get a seat on the board and find somebody willing to be his puppet.  Once Hamato Yoshi was eliminated for good, those who disliked the Foot Clan’s reentrance into the criminal world would be powerless to do anything about it.  On the other hand, the comeback of Hamato Yoshi would mean the board members who were in on the Foot Clan’s criminal enterprises would be removed, and probably face criminal charges as well.  Oroku Saki’s survival in the Foot Clan hinged squarely on preventing Hamato Yoshi returning with his evidence.


But Oroku Saki was uncertain exactly how to do it.  Intercepting the package of documents was the first idea he thought of, but he had no idea how it was sent.  Toyoda could have simply used the mail or a package delivery service, or utilized one of the many smugglers who brought things in and out of the town via the road or the ocean.  Though the Foot Clan controlled the town itself, the smuggling routes outside of town were controlled by others who made deals with the Foot Clan-and if a senior member of the Foot Clan like Toyoda Tetsuya were to ask one of them deliver a package, they would certainly unhesitatingly deliver it anywhere, no questions asked.  There were many ways Toyoda’s incriminating package could have left the town, and no possible way to tell which one.


But there was only one possible destination-the recipient Hamato Yoshi.  Oroku Saki would have to reach Hamato Yoshi before the package did, or prevent him from coming back to Japan.  Somehow he would have to get to New York City.  He could go to Tokyo and grab a flight-if it weren’t for the fact that he had no passport, nor did he know how to obtain one.  He doubted he could even readily get a forged one, or if it would work.


Could he smuggle himself out?  But how?  Oroku Saki had never been aboard an airplane, nor even been to an airport.  He had been to Tokyo a few times, but certainly not enough to know it very well.  On top of that, he only knew the Japanese language and did not know English.  How would he find his way around in a distant foreign city?  Or should he just wait until Hamato Yoshi returns and catch him then?  No, Oroku decided.  Hamato would know his enemies would be lying in wait, and, being a ninja master, would find a way to evade them until he reached the executive board and presented his evidence.  Oroku Saki had no choice but to go to America, however difficult it might prove to be.


He reached his apartment building and entered his unit-a small, rather shabby place which he had inherited from his parents.  He curled his lip, sick of the sight of it.  “One day I’ll reside in much nicer quarters,” Oroku vowed.  “One day I won’t live every day in this backwater town.  One day I’ll become accustomed to going to places like New York City!”  But there still had to be a first time, and the first time had to be now.  Somehow, he would get there.


Oroku Saki removed the traditional Japanese outfit he had been wearing, bathed, and put on Western-style shirt, trousers, and sneakers.  Into a nondescript zippered carrying bag, he placed a ninja outfit, tools, and weapons.  He did not necessarily expect to be able to bring those onto an international airline flight, but instead anticipated using them in Tokyo.  His best chance of getting onto a flight out of Japan, he decided, was to steal a passport from some dumb tourist, and impersonate him when buying a ticket out.  Before leaving, Oroku Saki found his safe and took out the large stash of cash he kept in there in case of emergencies.  It would hopefully be enough to pay for all his transportation.


He did not know if the bodies of Hasegawa and Toyoda had been discovered yet, and normally Oroku Saki would have gone directly to the police and informed them about their deaths, knowing he was not guilty of murdering either of them.  He had killed Hasegawa in self-defense, though his death at the bottom of a tall cliff could be attributed to accident or suicide, and Toyoda definitely did commit suicide.  There were no witnesses to either death, as far as he knew, so Oroku could even deny having been present at either of their demises.  He knew that leaving town on the same day two prominent members of the Foot Clan had died violently would bring suspicion upon him, but he had no choice.


But neither the police nor anybody else came to accost him as he bought a ticket for the bus which ferried tourists between the town and the Tokyo suburb which was its destination.  He sat down among the passengers who were mostly tourists from Tokyo, though locals like him occasionally used this line as well.  There were two people he recognized who worked at the boatyards and were probably going on vacation, but to his relief neither of them seemed to notice him.


He was quite relieved when the bus drove off, and relaxed more when the bus eventually dropped everyone off at a transport terminal.  From there Oroku took a train to Tokyo itself, and proceeded to the neighborhood known as “Roppogni,” the nightlife spot for gaijin.  Clearly, where there were foreigners, there were passports.


He felt distinctly uncomfortable among so many gaijin, having rarely seen them before.  But he observed them as unobtrusively as he could, for he would soon be among a much larger group of them.  It was important to know how they looked and behaved, he told himself.  Even without the situation with Hamato Yoshi, Oroku Saki knew he would not be dealing simply with other Japanese if he wanted to get out in the world.  And he did not intend to spend the rest of his life in that provincial seacoast town.


But right now, he had to get a passport and hopefully also a gaijin identity which he could use temporarily, just long enough to get to America.  Once Hamato Yoshi was dispatched, he would have plenty of time to get back to Japan and take control of the Foot Clan, as there was nobody else powerful enough to take on that role.  Ironically, though, Oroku felt quite powerless in this gaijin neighborhood.  He had never been here before, and did not know his way around; he did not speak English or other foreign languages; the conversations he heard were all indecipherable gibberish to him.  So how was he going to separate one of these people from their passports?


Wandering into a dark alley gave him an idea.  He saw several gaijin meeting up with Japanese men-who turned out to be male prostitutes.  Homosexuality was strongly taboo in Japanese culture, and Oroku Saki, despite his criminal career, could not avoid wrinkling his nose at it.  But this task would be made far easier as a result…


He went into the alley, and it was not long before a man as large as he, wearing a bowler hat and trench coat, arrived, looking around furtively and cringing.  It was all too obvious what he was looking for.  Oroku stepped out on front of him, a benign smile on his face, and held a beckoning hand out.  The gaijin spoke several words in an awkward tone, which Oroku could not understand, but he knew what was desired.  Oroku gestured for the man to follow, which he did.  He was uncertain whether the gaijin thought he was a prostitute, or more likely a pimp, but this did not matter.  When the two of them got to a remote enough section and Oroku’s sensing powers told him they were definitely alone, he indicated for the man to remove his hat and coat.  The gaijin did so, and put them aside.  By this time, Oroku had put on a set of protective gloves, produced a knife, and used it to stab the man to death, deliberately making the killing strokes rough, so as to make the police think that the job was done by a street punk rather than an expert ninja assassin.


Oroku Saki searched the body and emptied the contents of its pockets into his own, then placed the body behind a garbage container.  He expected that the body would be found and identified, but hopefully not before he could use this person’s identity as a means of leaving the country.  The killing knife and gloves were sealed in a zippered plastic bag, to be disposed of later.  He put on the trench coat and hat, trying to imitate their former owner’s walk and mannerisms as best he could as he left the alley.


Night had fallen by then, and the streets were crowded with pleasure seekers going to the many bars, clubs, and sleazier establishments in the neighborhood.  Dropping his imitation of the man he just murdered, Oroku walked normally up to a public telephone, and took out the items he had removed from his victim, ostensibly to look for a telephone number.  Oroku Saki did not expect to be noticed, but he didn’t want to take chances.  He looked at the room key, which bore the name of a nearby large hotel, as well as the number of the room it unlocked.  He wondered if it was advisable for him to go to that room, then decided it was safe because a man who had been looking for a male prostitute would not likely have a wife or girlfriend or male companion traveling with him.


He went straight to the room, which sure enough was unoccupied, and after putting on a new set of protective gloves, searched the former owner’s possessions.  As Oroku had anticipated, there was clothing and toiletries for only one person.  The clothing itself was middle-quality fashion wear, indicating that its owner was well off but not rich, and was probably a middle-management businessman or mid-rank government bureaucrat.  The papers were tourist brochures rather than business documents, so the man had come to Japan strictly on vacation.  Among the papers was a folder with the stubs of airline tickets from Japan Air Lines.  The flight they were for would leave Japan at eight o’clock in the morning the next day.


Oroku Saki smiled and decided he would not have to buy plane tickets after all.  Though he believed he had enough money, to pay for an airline ticket with a large wad of cash would inevitably draw suspicion, which he couldn’t risk having when he was already traveling on the stolen passport of a gaijin he just murdered.  He also had a major credit card, but of course he dared not use that either, as it was under his own name.


Then he abruptly realized that he didn’t even have said passport in hand.  He searched the room, but could find nothing that resembled one.  Then he thought the man must have put it into the hotel safe.  His next task was to remove his clothes and change into a set of the other man’s, which fit surprisingly well.  Then he found a big plastic bag and stuffed his old clothes inside.  They would also have to be disposed of later.  He almost forgot to remove his gloves when he left the room, but remembered in the nick of time.


Oroku hurried down to the hotel lobby and saw that the front desk was attended by a harried and very tired young woman, plus a young man who was occupied by a newspaper.  Good.  Oroku approached the woman and asked in a fake Chinese accent, “Could I have back what I had put in your safe?” and showed her the key with the room number.  The woman got up, walked away, and after a minute came back with some papers.  The plane tickets out and what was obviously a passport.  “Thank you, sir,” she replied groggily, before turning to a Caucasian man who had just approached the desk.  Oroku quickly returned to the hotel room.


He opened the passport and winced.  Oh no, he thought, it contained a small photograph of the other man, who was Caucasian and could not be possibly confused with Oroku Saki.  What to do now?  Could he possibly replace the other man’s picture with that of his own face?  He could but try.


And try he did.  He left the hotel and the Roppongi neighborhood, and found a 24-hour place which took passport photos.  He got the photo and went back to his hotel room, putting on a new pair of gloves.  The passport’s photo was enclosed in plastic laminate, but using a very sharp razor knife he was able to remove it.  Oroku Saki’s own passport photo had a different background than that of the other man, so with the most painstaking work with the knife, he eventually was able to cut the face of the other man out of the photo, separate his own face from the background of the other photo, and eventually fit his face in seamlessly on the other background.  Then he cauterized the slit in the plastic laminate.  It was not perfect; it would show if examined closely enough, but it was the best Oroku Saki could do.  His fate would hinge on whether the passport would pass muster.


It was the wee hours of the morning by the time he got done, but he dared not try to sleep now, nor even had the desire.  He was too nervous about getting aboard the airplane without being caught and arrested; if he were, expulsion from the Foot Clan would be the least of his worries, for now he had committed a murder that was directly traceable to him.  He would likely spend the rest of his life in prison, possibly even be executed.  There was a large suitcase and a carryon bag; he packed the man’s possessions into those.  The zippered carry bag with his ninja items, the incriminating knife, the gloves, and his old clothes went into the suitcase; one set of clothes from the other man, as well as the passport and tickets, went into the carryon.


He waited until five in the morning before he put on the trench coat and bowler hat, gathered all the luggage, and went down to the lobby.  From a public telephone he called for a taxicab, and when it arrived, he entered it and told the driver in a heavy Korean accent, “Airport,” acting as if he hardly understood the Japanese language.  The driver evidently was fooled, for he looked disdainfully at his passenger as he took Oroku there.  The driver was much friendlier, however, when Oroku gave him a generous tip on top of the already astronomical fare upon arrival at the airport.  Good thing I don’t also have to buy a plane ticket, thought Oroku.  But he did not tip the driver out of kindness; he wanted to cover his tracks, which is why he acted the stupid but generous Korean tourist.  The taxicab driver was very likely to keep silent should anything come up.


Never having been in an airport before, Oroku looked around and observed how other people acted.  Seeing a long line of people carrying large suitcases, he joined the line, guessing that they were dropped off to be put aboard the plane’s cargo area.  This proved to be correct, and he received a claim ticket.  Following signs, he eventually reached the international departures line, and had to put his carryon bag and the contents of his pockets through an X-ray machine while he stepped through a metal detector.  Then it occurred to him that his suitcase might be X-rayed or worse yet, opened and examined.  If it were, the evidence to convict him would be found there and then.  But there was nothing he could do except hope that karma was with him.


Evidently it was, for when the time came when he had to show the customs officials his passport, he handed it to a female customs inspector, who held it in front of her, her eyes widening in surprise.  Oroku Saki was suddenly filled with the fear that his forgery had been discovered-and the despair that, if it was, there would be no escape for him.  Even the most skilled ninja could never evade a major manhunt.  But the woman merely handed the passport back to him and said, “You’re all set.”  Gratefully, Oroku took it and moved away as quickly as possible without appearing to be hurrying.


Oroku glanced once more at the passport before putting it in his carryon.  He relaxed as he surmised that if his passport were deemed suspicious, security would certainly be called and he would not have been handed it back.  The passport had his Asiatic face on it, but the name was gaijin.  Certainly there were plenty of people of Asian descent who had Western names; why should his be surprising?  He decided to head to a bathroom-he had to use it anyway-and locked himself into a toilet stall.  There he reviewed the name on the passport:




The letters were just meaningless symbols to him, unless that name happened to be so unusual.  None of this would matter, though, once the plane took him overseas.  He intended to discard that passport and identity anyway, and find some other means of getting back home once Hamato Yoshi was dealt with.  But that was a later matter.  He had to get aboard that plane without being arrested.  The body of the man he had murdered must have been discovered by now, but he had taken all the physical evidence which could link him to the crime.  Once out of Japan he could make that evidence vanish without a trace.


It was a very long several hours for Oroku Saki as he waited until it was time for his flight to take off.  It was not unlikely that the gaijin he had murdered would have been identified by now, and his hotel room searched and the man’s luggage found missing, and the police putting two and two together and guessing where it went.  Was it wise of him to try and take the same flight the gaijin was intending to take?  Should he just play it safe and buy his own ticket, if he even had enough money?  Or was it preferable to just utilize the ticket already in his possession?  Oroku had made it a point to be inconspicuous to the point of invisibility, to never meet with or talk to anybody unless it was of absolute necessity, to say as little as he possibly could, to make sure there were as few witnesses to his face or voice as possible.  He sat for long periods of time in toilet stalls, he bought food out of vending machines to avoid being noticed by restaurant vendors or customers, and he hunched over when sitting down, so his face would not be readily visible.  He avoided reading any periodicals so that nobody would know what language he could read.


And yet Oroku Saki could not avoid the sense that he had done something very wrong.  It wasn’t guilt over his murder of the gaijin; he had felt no compunction over killing the local yakuza in his home town, or the treacherous Hasegawa, and would have been happy to kill Toyoda if he had had the chance.  Criminal scum they all were; and the gaijin was a criminal in his own right for seeking a male prostitute.  Oroku saw no hypocrisy at his disgust at the gaijin and the fact that he himself was a thief and murderer.  Japanese culture frowned upon and marginalized homosexuality, and Oroku surmised that the gaijin probably had a wife or girlfriend back home, else why not bring his own male lover, or find one in a neighborhood nightclub, instead of requiring sexual gratification by hired help in a dark alley?


But Oroku Saki had basically rushed through things without planning.  He killed Hasegawa, he rushed to kill Toyoda, he ran home and afterward fled town to Tokyo, he found the first convenient gaijin and murdered him for his passport, and simply grabbed and used his possessions and was taking the first flight out of Japan he could get.  He was normally not so impulsive, but the idea of Hamato Yoshi having evidence that would force him out of the Foot Clan made him panic.  Should he have waited and talked to the police in his hometown, so that he would be exonerated in Hasegawa’s and Toyoda’s demises, as the former was killed in self-defense and the latter was suicide?  Should he have tried to learn any English at all before going to America?  Should he have just applied for his own legitimate passport instead of stealing a foreigner’s identity?  Should he have actually killed that gaijin, when he could have probably swiped the passport and tickets anyway?


But that did not matter now; what was done was done.  It would be more difficult now to prove he did not murder Hasegawa or Toyoda, but certainly not impossible, since he was truly innocent.  Learning even rudimentary English would have taken far too long; besides, Hamato Yoshi went to America without learning English first either, and would undoubtedly be taking refuge among New York City’s Japanese community, which Oroku should have little trouble finding.  He also had no idea how to get a passport or how long it would have taken, though he was certain that by going that route it would have taken far too long for him to get to America to catch Hamato Yoshi in time.  Killing the gaijin was a necessity; otherwise he would have gone immediately to the police, and his stolen passport reported long before Oroku Saki could possibly leave the country.  And any robber could have lifted his hotel room key and stolen everything from his room with the idea of putting it on the black market.  Even if the stolen passport were traced to Oroku eventually, that wouldn’t automatically prove he was the one who murdered its owner.  He could claim to have bought it on the black market if worse came to worst.


It was an hour before the flight would leave, but to Oroku Saki, it seemed like an eternity.  He was somewhat relieved when he saw the flight board, which indicated his flight was on time.  He went towards the section from which his flight would be leaving.  He showed his tickets to the clerk and got his boarding pass.  He sat nervously, and, when passengers were called to board the plane, he was the last in line.  He realized he had never been on an airplane before.  What would it be like?


Oroku Saki’s nervousness was palpable.  For the first time in his life, he was entering a vehicle which would be traveling thousands of miles per hour and lifting thousands of feet into the air.  Would the plane crash, or break apart in midair, or would there be mechanical trouble midway through the flight?  Then he looked around at all the other passengers and noticed that they were calmly boarding and finding their seats.  His nervousness vanished, to be replaced by anger at himself.  Saki you fool, he thought, all these people are boarding this plane as if it were the most natural thing in the world, and you act like a frightened child.  Thousands of these jetliners fly through the air without incident every day, and so will this one.  Now stop being a baby!


Having chastened himself, Oroku Saki found the seat indicated on his boarding pass and sat down.  He waited until the attendants instructed what to do in case of an emergency, and he paid close attention to their instructions.  Shortly afterward the plane’s engines started, and it backed away and traveled along several runways until it finally accelerated and took off.


The liftoff was far harsher than he expected.  Pulled back against the seat, his ears popping, being swayed back and forth, and his nervousness returned.  He could be brave in a familiar situation, but this was totally unlike anything he had ever experienced.  The sensations were not so much painful as very unpleasant.  How could people stand to go through with this on a regular basis?  But he then told himself, Think of Hamato Yoshi and finding that proof.  Think of the fact that you’re not happy with the prospect of spending the rest of your life in that little town.  You want to think big, now act big.


Eventually the plane reached cruising altitude, and Oroku Saki finally relaxed.  The flight would take many hours, so he decided to doze off, being awakened when told lunch was being served.  He had already heard the jokes about how bad airline food was, though when he received it, it was no worse than other institutional food he had had.  He dozed off again afterward; glad he decided not to sleep the night before.  He was awakened later for another meal, but was unable to sleep afterward, so he went to the bathroom before deciding he could spend time in meditation until the plane was to land.


The sensations of the plane’s landing were similarly unpleasant. Glancing out the window, he noticed the city he was landing in did not have the tall buildings like he expected New York City to have.  Was the airport in a suburb, or did they have to divert to another city?  Evidently this was so, because the announcer said the flight would land in Warsaw.  Where was that in relation to New York City?  But presumably they must have made alternative travel arrangements to get the plane’s passengers there.


The plane landed and eventually docked, and the passengers disembarked.  As Oroku Saki stepped through the tunnel leading from the plane into the airport, he had the sinking feeling that something was terribly wrong.  Once inside the airport building, he looked through a window and to his horror his feeling was confirmed.  A flagpole showed a national flag, but it was not the American stars and stripes.  It was the national flag of Poland!  He had taken a flight to Warsaw, Poland!  He was not only in the wrong city; he was on the wrong continent!  He was thousands of miles away from his intended destination!


Unable to keep his anger in, he found a men’s restroom and entered a toilet stall.  He locked himself inside and began banging his head against the wall.  Baka!  Baka!   Baka!   Baka!   Baka!   Baka!   Baka!   Baka!   Baka!


Then he heard somebody come up to his stall.  Talk about being baka!  Hearing a rapid knocking on the door, he abruptly stood, flushed the toilet, and put his hand over his mouth.  He opened the door, a nauseated expression on his face.  The bathroom attendant he had seen on his way in had an annoyed expression which turned to concern.  He asked something in a phrase Oroku could not understand, presumably whether he was ill.  Oroku shook his head, staggered over to the sink, and washed his face, then turned toward the attendant with a sheepish smile.  Figuring this Asian person was not in need of immediate medical attention, the attendant resumed his post.  Oroku walked more normally out of the bathroom.


He would become the laughingstock of the Foot Clan if they were to learn of his crass mistake.  Fortunately they were not here to discover it.  And Oroku Saki was relieved in a way.  He had stolen a passport and a plane flight, but the passport belonged to a Polish national and the flight was to that man’s native country.  While Oroku had a motive to go to America, he had absolutely no reason to go to Poland, so he would hardly be among the list of likely suspects who would have murdered that Polish gaijin and flown off with his possessions.  At least he made it out of Japan without being arrested.  Now he simply had to figure out a way of traveling from this country to New York City.


But as he walked through the terminal, Oroku Saki realized his problems were anything but simple.  Everyone around him-everyone-was Caucasian.  No Indians, Africans, Asians, or anyone who did not look like an indigenous European.  He suddenly felt very much like an alien.  On top of that, there was the fact that he had to present his passport to get out of the terminal into the main part of the airport.  A chill gripped him as he remembered how the woman in the Tokyo airport was so surprised to see his Asian face on a passport which had a Polish name on it.  Though he had been allowed through, the contrast did not go unnoticed.  Certainly they would notice it here, in the man’s native country.  Perhaps the woman had later decided to contact the authorities at this airport.  So far, he had received a number of glances, but nothing to suggest he was being targeted for arrest or attack.  Yet he would have to show his faked passport at customs, and he realized that careful examination would indeed show the scars of his tampering-and there was no question that his Asian face on a passport with a Polish name on it could not fail to rouse the suspicions of the most complacent customs agent.  He could not go through customs; it would be immediate suicide!


At least, not if he went through the ordinary way.  He would somehow have to sneak past customs without being noticed.  But why should that not be feasible for a master ninja such as me? he thought.  His ninja outfit and tools were in the suitcase, elsewhere in the airport.  But a ninja was trained to use many weapons and tools, and certainly Oroku could improvise.  And despite his stupidity in failing to check the destination of his ticket and blindly assuming it was going to America, Oroku did allow for the fact that he might have trouble when the plane reached its destination.


He removed his light-colored trench coat to reveal dark clothing underneath.  There were few dark corners in the terminal in which he could hide, but Oroku managed to find one.  His trench coat had a dark lining, so he carefully wrapped it around his carryon bag so that nothing light-colored was still visible.  Slowly but surely, he managed to slide himself into the chosen dark corner, where he could and would wait motionless for hours, as ninjas were trained to do.  He slowly pushed his black bowler hat down so that it covered his face.  Oroku effectively became “invisible” by blending into the background and not being noticed by passersby.  As the day wore on, the people who were in the terminal when Oroku first arrived evaporated, to be replaced by people going to or coming from later flights.  The shift changed for the security guards, and new ones replaced the old.  It had become late in the evening by then, and the terminal had become darker due to the lack of sunlight filtering through the windows.  That was when Oroku felt it was safe to make his move.


The corner Oroku had hidden in was fairly close to the bank of customs stations.  It was difficult even for a master ninja to observe and follow, but Oroku had managed to find a dark and shadowy route along one wall where he could sneak past the customs stations-if there were no alarms along the path for him to trip.  But Poland was not a wealthy country, and the airport was hardly modern, so Oroku decided to take the risk.  He had no alternative anyway.


As painfully slowly as he possibly could manage, he crept silently along the shadowy pathway.  It would take him hours to traverse the route at the rate he was going, but there was no room for error.  That knowledge added to his great nervousness as he searched the route for any possible traps, but finding none.  Eventually he reached the bank of customs stations, but he dared not attempt to creep past them while any of the agents might be looking his way.  He waited until a crowd of people arrived to distract the agents’ attention, then used all the stealth he could muster to creep over a cabinet along a wall.  No alarms had gone off, and nobody seemed to notice him.


He made it past the bank of customs agents!  Waiting for the perfect moment, Oroku emerged from his shadowy hiding place and started walking normally behind a group of people, who did not notice him.  He unwrapped his trench coat from his carryon bag and draped it across his arm.  Now, barring his Asian features, he was as inconspicuous and ordinary as any of the other travelers who had gone through customs.


Of course he was not out of the woods yet.  Someone still might have noticed him, though no alarms had been raised.  Also, he was doomed should anyone approach him and ask for papers or identification.  His tampered passport was now a liability, but he dared not ditch it.  He went to the baggage claim area and retrieved his suitcase; he could recognize it though he could not read the tags.  Oroku Saki had no intention of leaving any physical evidence of his having been present in this country.  He went into another public restroom and sat down in one of the stalls, grateful to finally relieve himself after his hours of creeping past the customs area.  Despite his nervousness, he found himself very tired and tempted to doze off, though of course that was out of the question.


Despite his success at leaving Japan and sneaking past the customs area unnoticed, Oroku Saki was not in a happy mood.  He was oceans away both from his native country and his intended destination.  He was in a completely unfamiliar country where he did not know the language or culture, and in which he had no legal right to be in the first place.  He was carrying evidence for a murder in his home country which he could not safely dispose of.  He could not even blend in with the locals; there were none others who resembled him.  He stuck out like a sore thumb, and it was only a matter of time before somebody would get suspicious, and the authorities would be upon him.  His ninja skills were valuable in getting past the customs counters, but even they could hardly save him from the dragnet of an entire police force, especially in a place with which he was totally unfamiliar.  Oroku Saki had never felt so alone in his entire life.


But abruptly he pushed his despair aside.  His situation was undesirable but not untenable; the authorities were not in pursuit of him at the moment, and he had time to consider what to do next.  Through sheer improvisation, he had managed to get this far without being caught or pursued; he certainly should somehow be able to reach America.  Deciding it was unwise to remain in the airport, Oroku put on his trench coat and left the building; he would be much safer in the darkness outside.  He found himself at a waiting platform where there were other people wearing hats and trench coats, and carrying suitcases and carryon bags milling about.  It turned out to be a chilly, windy evening outside, which pleased Oroku, as he now had an excuse to turn up his collar and further hide his distinctive face.  Now much more relaxed, Oroku had to figure out a way to leave the airport grounds altogether.  Even in the relatively poor nation of Poland, he noted that people who used the airport did not simply walk out of it; everybody was waiting for public transportation or private cars.  He had no local money, so he could not buy transportation.  But he saw several small vans marked with colorful logos, which he assumed were free shuttles to local hotels.  Two people got onto one, and Oroku boarded with them.  They were mildly surprised to see him accompany them, but neither they nor the driver raised any objections, nor did the driver ask for papers or money as he drove away from the platform.  Everyone looked tired and desirous of wanting to turn in for the night anyway, which pleased Oroku, who sat slumped and pretended he was similarly drowsy.


The van stopped at a hotel, and Oroku and his fellow passengers got out.  He quickly entered the hotel and went immediately into a public restroom in the lobby.  At least this one had no attendant, so he had a little more time to stop and think.  I’ve got to come up with a better plan than to keep hiding in public restrooms, he mused.


And Oroku decided his only feasible way to get out of the country was the same way he came in, via the airport.  Legal transportation was out; he somehow had to stow away on a flight to America-if he could find out which airplane would go in that direction.  The best bet was to go on a flight on an American-based carrier.  From having previously read Japanese-language advertisements for said carriers, he could distinguish their airplanes by their logos and colors.  Certainly at least one had to go to the capital of Poland.


Leaving the hotel by a side door, he easily found the airport again by looking toward the direction where planes were taking off and landing.  Oroku walked toward it until he reached a perimeter fence, and repeated his earlier act of removing his trench coat and wrapping his luggage as before.  He hated doing so outdoors on a cold, windy night, but he was ninja, and desperate to reach America before Hamato Yoshi received the incriminating package.  He easily scaled the fence and crossed the airfield until he reached the area where a number of jetliners were docked and being fueled up.  He spotted one with the markings of an American carrier and went up to that.


As luck would have it, the plane was being fueled just as Oroku Saki arrived.  This pleased him, as he knew that airplanes were only given enough fuel to make the flight from their intended takeoff destination to their intended landing destination (due to the fact that the weight of an airplane’s fuel is a major factor in the airplane’s fuel consumption and handling during its flight,) and by watching to see how much fuel an airplane was given, he could guess whether the plane’s flight was going to be very short or very long-namely, long enough to travel across the ocean.  And the plane seemed to be given quite a large amount of fuel, due to the long time they were taking before they finally finished up.


He was even more pleased when he realized the plane had few windows, unlike typical passenger planes.  This meant that the plane was a cargo carrier, and therefore much easier to smuggle himself onto.  Of course he had to wait until the cargo loading doors were opened.  The fueling equipment was moved away and the plane slowly drove along the ground toward the terminal, Oroku following on foot.  The plane came to a stop near the terminal.  Two men came up to the plane, one holding a clipboard, and were engaged in some sort of argument.  A rolling stairway was moved toward the cargo bay doors, and they were opened.  The two men climbed it and went inside the plane’s cargo bay, and Oroku seized his chance and ran right in with them.  A number of shipping crates jammed the bay’s interior, and Oroku easily found a space in which to insert himself.  He could still hear the argument going on for a while until it finally died down, and Oroku sensed that whatever the dispute was about, it was not resolved.  Would the plane be flying after all?  Oroku was preparing to leave, but the men walked out and the cargo bay doors closed.  He took that to mean the plane would make its flight as planned.


And it did.  After a seemingly interminable wait, the plane taxied along the airport, and then the engines whined louder and he felt the plane take off.  It was even more uncomfortable going through the sensations again while jammed in an awkward position between hard shipping containers, but at least he was leaving this country.


Not too long after the flight, though, the plane made some shuddering noises that made Oroku begin to wonder if the plane might be having mechanical problems.  But the plane kept going, so he assumed this was just a matter of some quirk with this particular type of airplane, or it was something minor that could be dealt with after the plane reached its destination.  The noises steadily became worse, but the plane did not change direction, so Oroku kept pushing his worries aside.


The noises kept Oroku in a state of tension, though the plane had been flying for what must have been hours, and Oroku assumed they were well over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, or the North Pole, judging from the time measured on his stolen watch.  There would be no place for the plane to land for a while, if there were any serious problems.  The plane will make it to its destination safely, he assured himself, though he was sensing that he was telling himself a lie.


The noises suddenly became far worse, the plane shuddered badly, and the stowaway ninja master could no longer ignore the fact that he was in danger.  He slid out of his hiding-place and stood near the cargo bay doors.  The he realized it would be hopeless to jump out of a flying jet plane-he would be turned to hamburger the moment he hit the ground beneath.  Fear coursed through Oroku Saki’s veins as he realized his own existence depended on whatever the plane would do next, and he was powerless to affect its actions.


He then noted the plane was descending, but slowly, like it was trying for a controlled landing rather than a crash.  The pilot must have found an airport or at least a suitable patch of ground to make an emergency landing at.  Examining the cargo bay doors, he found some sort of handle which he hoped would open an emergency escape hatch, if such an action were necessary.  There was nothing he could do until the plane landed.  And at first the plane seemed to touch down normally-then he was thrown in the air as the plane crash-landed and slid along the ground…


Oroku Saki never knew how he gotten out of the plane.  The last thing he remembered was, in a blind panic, he fumbled for the lever he discovered earlier, and then he found himself lying atop his carryon bag and suitcase out in the middle of an open field-a cold, barren field.  The ground beneath him was gouged from the skidding of the plane along the field.  Looking upward, he saw that the right wing of the plane had broken off and was lying by itself alongside the skid marks, its attached jet engine ablaze, black smoke rising up into the air.  He stood up painfully, battered but finding nothing broken.  Karma had really been with him, and Oroku realized that if he had not landed in just the right way, he would have been hamburger, or at least seriously injured.


He turned and looked behind him and saw the rest of the plane, a mangled, burning wreck also spewing smoke into the sky.  Walking in a daze toward it, Oroku approached near enough to see that everything and everyone who had been in it was certainly destroyed.  Whoever the pilot and crew were, they were all dead, for if anyone had jettisoned, there would have been nobody to try to land the plane safely.  Oroku looked around the wrecked plane, but his ninja senses could not pick up any signs of other people still alive; then he followed the track where the plane had skidded on the ground.  More pieces of wreckage, but that was it.  If anyone else had somehow gotten off the plane alive, Oroku would have sensed their presence by now.  He was truly all alone here.


Not only alone, but absolutely lost and stranded.  The land was flat and featureless and with little vegetation, and there were no roads or buildings in sight.  His luggage was crushed, but he could still salvage most of its contents; there was nothing that could possibly be obtained from the wrecked plane.  Except for warmth from the heat of the burning wreckage; Oroku realized it was quite chilly, though fortunately above freezing, so he went by the plane to warm himself and decide what to do next.


Some sort of rescue party would inevitably arrive sooner or later.  Should he just wait for them?  No, that was definitely out of the question.  He was a stowaway aboard the plane, who had gotten to the country the plane had taken off from by murdering one of its citizens and stealing his passport and ticket, and would likely be blamed for having caused the plane to crash.  Of course Oroku Saki was not guilty of that, but it would be impossible to convince anybody that his presence here was strictly a coincidence.  He dared not be anywhere near here when anyone else came around.


He thought back to the time just before the plane took off, and how the two men had been arguing.  Was it over the airworthiness of the plane?  Could this have been a case of deliberate sabotage?  Was one or both of them the pilot of this plane?  Oroku did not know any of this, but he did know that investigators would come and examine the wreckage of the plane with a fine-tooth comb, down to the last scrap of metal, to find clues as to what had caused the mechanical failure and crash.  He dared not take one item away from the crash site, nor leave any trace of his having been here.


Oroku examined his watch.  He had previously heard that it takes eight hours on average for a jet airliner to travel from Europe to America, and the watch indicated that six and a half hours had elapsed since the plane had taken off.  He was perhaps on the island of Greenland, or in Canada, or on one of the many islands north of the North American landmass.  At least I’m a lot closer to New York City now compared to before, Oroku joked to himself.  He had left sometime around midnight from Poland, and it would be morning there by now, though it was still night here.  Ironically enough, while night, darkness, and shadow were normally a stealthy ninja’s greatest allies, Oroku now longed for the sun to rise.  He would be able to find his way through this barren land far better in the daylight, and he could determine his direction from the position of the sun in the sky.


A loud “pop” suddenly sounded from within the burning plane wreckage, startling Oroku.  What an idiot I am to be standing near a burning jetliner, he chided himself as he ran some distance back down the path of the plane’s skid trail.  He stopped when he reached his luggage, which was safely far away.  The broken-off wing of the plane was also still burning, though less than before, but Oroku knew better than to go near that, either.  He would rest for the night near his luggage.


And it would be a cold night.  The trench coat he still had been wearing all this time (its light color had blended in fairly well with the color of the shipping containers among which he had been hiding) would not be enough to keep him warm, and the dark clothes he had been wearing were lightweight.  He had to change into heavier clothes.  He pulled open the mangled suitcase and found a warm sweater and other clothes more suited for cold weather.  Removing his clothes, he discovered to his embarrassment that he had soiled his trousers, probably during his panicked escape from the plane before it crashed, and was thankful for being very alone at the moment.  He wiped himself clean as best he could with a garment which had been torn, and wished for a nice, hot bath.  But personal cleanliness was the least of his priorities now.  He quickly put on warmer clothes and lay down as comfortably as he could.  He was tired anyway, and decided this was the ideal time to catch up on his sleep, for he had to wait until daylight to travel, and he assumed that it would be some time before anybody would even realize the plane had crashed, let alone come and look for it.  He also assumed that, wherever he was, there was nobody around for miles, for otherwise somebody would have come by now to investigate a fiery plane crash.  But there was absolutely no noise, or other sign of anybody approaching.  He would be safe where he was for the night.


Oroku Saki slept; waking up initially confused, then memory of where he was and the situation he was in came back in a flash.  The sun had come up halfway over the horizon; Oroku knew it was time to skedaddle.  With adequate light to see by, he looked for every scrap of material from his clothing and luggage, putting everything that could not go into what was left of his bags into his coat pockets, searching the ground several times to be sure.  Satisfied he had gotten everything, he walked south, the direction the nose of the wrecked plane had been pointing toward.  The ground was hard and dry, so he did not have to worry about leaving footprints.  The sky had a few thin clouds; any plane or helicopter coming by might spot him, but for the moment there was no sign of either.  The plane wreckage still burned, but much less intensely than before.  Oroku intended to be as far away from it as possible.


And he walked straight south, the sun being his compass.  But the land never seemed to change as he plodded on; it was flat, barren, and featureless, and without the sun to guide him, he could walk in a circle and not know it.  He was vaguely tempted to turn back and take his chances with the rescue party, but realized it was pure folly.  He would continue in the direction he was going until he found civilization, or until he died or was killed.  He would not surrender to certain incarceration for life.


He found no civilization, but he finally did find a coastline; he had reached the ocean.  At least I am going to get a bath now, Oroku Saki joked to himself.  Fortunately for him, his ninja skills included the ability to swim vast distances underwater.  He did not know how warm or cold the ocean was, or how long he could survive in it; he tested the water with his hand.  Cold, he determined, but not so bad that he would be in immediate danger of freezing to death in it.  And there was nowhere else for him to go.  The sun was high in the sky now; it would be pure chance if he could find another shore, or a ship.  He had taken enough dangerous risks to get where he was, what was one more?


He was very hungry, not having eaten since his original plane trip to Poland, but there was no food.  And he could not swim while carrying the entire luggage he did.  He would have to jettison everything except for what was absolutely essential.  The carryon bag was reasonably intact, and its long strap would enable Oroku to tie it to himself as he swam underwater.  He opened it and the ruined suitcase and sorted his possessions.  Used and damaged clothes, except for his trench coat and hat, went into the suitcase, along with the knife and other items that could tie him to the murder of the gaijin back in Japan.  His ninja tools and whatever intact clothing he could fit inside went into the carryon, along with the passport, which he decided would have to be destroyed completely later on.  He then found a couple of heavy rocks and put those into the suitcase.  Stripping naked, he stuffed his clothes into the suitcase as well; he had another set of warm clothes in the carryon.  He tied the carryon to himself and entered the water.  It was cold, but survivable for a reasonable time.  Balancing the suitcase on his back, he swam with some difficulty until he felt safely enough distant from the land he had left, then leaned and tilted the suitcase into the water.  Oroku Saki was relieved that most of the evidence of his murder of the Polish gaijin was finally sinking out of sight to the bottom of the ocean, in a part of the world nobody would dream of searching for it, and would have great difficulty doing so if they did.  Even in the unlikely event of the suitcase washing onto a shore somewhere eventually, the chances that it could be traced to him were infinitesimal.  His keeping the tampered passport for later destruction was an additional precaution.


He swam underwater, the carryon being a hindrance but not a great one.  When coming up for air, he found the ocean as featureless as the land he had earlier walked on, but he did not feel the beginnings of doubt and despair he did earlier.  He had kept walking, and found the ocean.  He would find land again, or a ship.


But Oroku kept diving, swimming underwater, and coming back up for air before repeating the cycle for hours without seeing anything more than featureless ocean.  His body was getting increasingly cold, painful, and exhausted, but there was nothing he could do except keep going.  He could not even turn back toward the land he swam away from; he was no longer certain of his sense of direction.  The sun was still high in the sky, but it hardly provided Oroku with needed warmth.  A feeling was creeping upon him that he might not make it to safety after all, but keep swimming until he could swim no more, and end up drowning.  Oroku was getting so miserable that that concept was starting to look attractive.


No!  I will not give in! Oroku told himself, and drawing upon new reserves of strength, he continued swimming, though the ocean remained empty and featureless as he came up each time.  He was becoming numb from cold and exhaustion.  This is hopeless, he thought.  I cannot go any further like this.  I will grow gills and breathe underwater like a fish, or grow wings and fly above the water like a bird.  Then dismay struck Oroku Saki as he realized he was becoming delusional from exhaustion.  He wanted to quit, wanted to surrender and just sink into the ocean and end it all, but the idea that he shouldn’t do such a thing kept him swimming further.  Then it occurred to him that he had no way of knowing how far he had swum, with no landmarks or any other way to navigate his travels.  He had swum much farther than he had ever done before, but as far as he could tell he could have gone two miles or twenty or a hundred.  He could have even swum in a circle.  All he was doing was swimming in a random direction, hoping to find some sort of destination that he could reach before his body failed him.


Eventually he saw a dark shape in the distance that he had not noticed before.  A hallucination? Oroku wondered.  And in case it is real, I have too little strength left to make it there.  But his body somehow kept going, even though his conscious mind no longer felt it was controlling it, and he had switched to some sort of autopilot.  At least the dark shape turned out to be no illusion.  He kept going closer to what turned out to be a ship at anchor, but he was viewing it without it quite registering in his head, as if he were looking at page of text and knowing what it was supposed to say, but not being able to actually read and comprehend it.  His body was numb, but it kept moving closer to the ship.  When he got close to the huge chain which hung from its side, his conscious mind suddenly regained control, and Oroku swam over and wrapped his arms around it.


He hugged the chain, thinking he was finally safe, he didn’t have to swim any more, that he could just keep clinging to the chain and everything would be fine, and he could rest his stiff body all he wanted now.  But Oroku knew this wasn’t true.  He could not keep clinging to the chain, nor remain partially submerged in the cold ocean any longer.  He had to climb up it, onto the ship itself.  With his numbness and lack of energy, it took all his willpower to make himself begin climbing.  Again he had to really dig into whatever hidden resources he still had, but he painfully made his way up.


Oroku Saki was on autopilot again as he climbed up the chain and somehow scrambled up onto the ship’s deck.  Nobody was near him for the moment, but his still-functioning ninja senses were indicating that he should find a hiding place fast, before anybody could find him.  And he somehow stood up, found an open hatch, and went below.  He found himself in a hold full of sacks of whatever, and he located a gap into which he could crawl and conceal himself again.


Oroku didn’t remember climbing up into that gap and falling asleep, but he woke up hearing the sounds of voices and activity.  Sunlight did not come through the gap, which meant it must be night outside.  He did not know if had had slept into evening, or if he even might have slept through the entire next day.  But he had evidently never been found or disturbed, and he was feeling the painful warmth of his body’s circulation having returned to normal.  Oroku was almost comfortable, but he was hungry, and he sensed that this ship was not a safe place on which to remain.  He then wondered what all these sacks were carrying.  One had a rip in it, and as he looked inside, he saw a substance which had a recognizable sight, texture, and odor.  The bags contained heroin, and he was on a drug-smuggling vessel.


He could potentially deal with the crew if he confronted them, but there was somebody waiting for the arrival of this heroin, the quantity of which was worth a fortune-and anybody who was dealing with this amount of heroin would be wealthy and powerful indeed.  Any interference with the shipment of this heroin would make whoever was dealing with it very upset-and it would be the height of folly to get on the bad side of this party.  He would have to leave this boat without anybody knowing he was ever on it.


Slipping out of his hiding place, Oroku crept over to the darkest corner he could find, and then detached his carryon.  Finding a set of dark clothes, Oroku put them on.  Now he could sneak through the shadows again.  He made his way toward a hatch where he could sense nobody else around, and then he climbed up and pushed it open.  It was indeed nighttime outside, and in the distance he saw the lights of a small coastal city which vaguely reminded the ninja master of home.  It was obviously not home, but he had reached civilization at last.  He hated the thought of going into the water again, especially with clothes on, but it was imperative for him not to be noticed by anyone aboard the ship, or by whoever was supposed to meet with it.  Oroku climbed over the side of the ship, silently entered the water, and swam over to the shoreline-an infinitely easier swim than the last one he experienced.  Reaching a pier, he climbed onto it, stood up, and walked along it toward the town, happy to have land under his feet once again.


Oroku Saki still felt soreness from his previous long and desperate swim, and he was ravenous from his lack of food, but his morale was higher than it had ever been.  He had made a desperate fight to get back to civilization, and he had succeeded.  He had failed to yield to the temptation to give up and let himself die or be caught by law enforcement, and he was rewarded for his determination.  He was still alive, and still free.  He could still find his bearings and go after Hamato Yoshi.  He was lost, but ironically this was an advantage-it would be impossible for anybody to trace his route, since Oroku Saki didn’t even know it himself.  If there were anybody who was looking for him, they would never figure out where he was, or how he got there.


He opened the carryon bag and brought out his hat and trench coat, which were dirty and wet, but intact.  He put those on, and removed his Japanese yen and credit card and passport, which went into his pockets.  He had no idea which city or country he was in, but it was obviously not Japan.  Still, it felt better having these items in his pockets as he walked out into the streets.


An outdoor clock told him it was three o’clock in the morning, and the streets were mostly deserted and only a couple of businesses were open.  The signs were all incomprehensible Western writing, and the few people he saw were all Caucasian.  He hoped he didn’t wind back up in Poland, but he doubted that.  The air was cool but not cold, though it did make him uncomfortable in his still-wet clothing.  Then Oroku decided his first step was to get cleaned up.


After a bit of a walk, he went into a gritty neighborhood where he assumed he would fit in with his rumpled, dirty appearance.  Soon he found what was obviously a fleabag hotel for transients, which he could get a room at easily if only he had local money.  But since he hadn’t, he removed his trench coat and sneaked in, then took out his ninja tools and efficiently picked the lock of a door behind which he heard loud snoring.  Making sure nobody else was in the hallway, Oroku went in and closed the door behind him.


As expected, the snoring came from a very drunk man collapsed on a bed.  Satisfied he would not be waking up anytime soon, Oroku went into the bathroom, which was filthy and reeking like the main room.  Normally, he would have disdained such squalid quarters, but now they were quite welcoming after his harrowing and uncomfortable journey over the past several days-and the price was hard to beat.  Having had nothing to drink since leaving Poland, he turned on a sink tap, cupped some water in his hands, and drank a quantity of it.  At least the hotel provided what he hoped was potable water.  There were threadbare towels and soap and toiletries in the bathroom, so the sleeping man was probably a long-term resident, and had at least some degree of personal hygiene.  Oroku turned on the bathtub taps, and to his pleasant surprise, slightly rusty but hot water came from them.  He stripped off his clothes and entered the bathtub, enjoying the warmth as if he were in a luxurious spa.


While washing himself, Oroku assessed his situation.  It was several days since his hurried exit from Japan; presumably the incriminating package would take about that long to reach America.  But to what specific address would it be sent?  Oroku briefly wondered if Toyoda might have sent him on a wild goose chase, but dismissed the idea.  He had an idea of what these incriminating papers might be, and Toyoda was right in saying that they would have been inadequate to implicate him on their own.  But they would have incriminated others in the Foot Clan, albeit on lesser charges, and those people would have destroyed the evidence to protect themselves, so it would have been folly to leave them in Japan.  And though the evidence would probably have forced him to relinquish control of the town’s criminal rackets, he knew this wouldn’t have been enough for Toyoda, who had hated him enough to want to destroy him.  Oroku had a vague idea of who might likely receive the package containing the evidence and then pass it on to Hamato Yoshi, but he would have to go to New York City itself to find out.  He estimated he still had another few days before Hamato Yoshi would have the evidence in hand, and be able to leave the country and return to Japan.  This gave him breathing space, but not much.


Oroku finished washing himself and found a comb to use on his hair.  His face was lightly itching from the beginnings of a beard, but he decided he could leave it for now.  Instead, he took the time to wash the dirt off his trench coat as best he could; it was reasonably clean by the time he was done.  He found one last set of clothes that were wet but not dirty, and put those on along with the hat and trench coat.  Going back to the main room, he found the man still snoozing, and found a set of cigarettes and a lighter.  He took the lighter, returned to the bathroom, and after a bit of fumbling, was able to make a flame with it.  He finally took out his altered passport and set it ablaze, which produced a surprising amount of smoke, but in a place like this it was unlikely to cause much fuss.  He flushed the ashes down the toilet.  The most incriminating piece of evidence of his murder of the gaijin back in Roppongi was destroyed completely.


Oroku gathered his possessions, put the lighter back, and left the room, using his tools to relock the door.  He then sneaked out of the hotel, and noted that dawn was breaking outside.  Finding a nearby dumpster, he lifted the lid and threw the carryon bag with its dirty clothes inside, figuring that anyone who might find it would assume that it had belonged to someone who had resided in the hotel, which was in a sense true.  Now only the clothes on his back could possibly link him to the Polish gaijin, and they were so ordinary and nondescript he doubted even that someone who knew that person would recognize the wardrobe as having belonged to him.  With that in mind, Oroku decided it was now perfectly safe to go out in public.


He also decided he had to find something to eat.  He still had no local currency and no restaurants were open nearby.  He did, however, find a grocery store that was opening up.  It was a simple matter for him to enter and swipe several plastic bags of vegetables and hide them under his coat, then sneak back out.  He then found a dark alley in which to open up the bags and scarf down the vegetables.  After days without food, they were very tasty.  They weren’t enough to satisfy his depleted stamina, but they definitely helped.


Fortified by his first meal in days, Oroku walked toward the city center.  Seeing a flagpole, he saw a red and white flag with a maple leaf on it; he was in Canada.  At least he was on the right continent, and could reach New York City without having to fly again.  Oroku Saki had lost his taste for airline travel, though he realized that he would have to fly to get back to Japan eventually.


Other stores had opened by now, and he spotted a bookstore.  He entered, and to his joy found several Japanese-English dictionaries, complete with kanji characters, as well as a city map.  He bought them all with his credit card, which was readily accepted.  Oroku had no worries about using his credit card here; his journey to this city was so crazy he could not imagine how anybody could possibly trace it, and anyone who examined his credit card billing records would likely assume that he made such a purchase by mail or telephone, or that some error might have been made.


Now the language barrier was somewhat alleviated, and he could at least read basic signs.  If I had had any brains I would have bought these things back in Japan, Oroku scolded himself, but that was water under the bridge.  He left the store and used the map to find a public library.


There he found a large atlas with a big map of Canada on it.  Matching the name of this city against the names of various major cities along Canada’s eastern seaboard, he discovered he was in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Oroku Saki’s heart leapt for joy when he realized where he was.  He was much closer to the United States than he imagined!  He then turned to a map of the United States, and to his further joy discovered that New York City wasn’t all that far south of the Canadian border.  Of course looks could be deceiving, but at least he wouldn’t have to traverse the continent to get there.


Having to go by the shapes of letters he couldn’t actually read, it took Oroku quite a frustrating while before he could finally plot out several possible routes for him to get to the United States.  But he managed, and he was hungry again by the time he finished.  Leaving the library, he went to a bank and brought out all his yen.  The teller looked surprised at him, evidently not expecting that sort of currency, and Oroku suddenly feared he would be asked for a passport or other papers.  But she did not, and all his yen was exchanged for Canadian dollars.  She spoke in words he couldn’t understand, so he smiled and bowed awkwardly.  She could well be cheating him on the currency transaction, but Oroku was too desperate to care.  Getting Hamato Yoshi before he could present the incriminating evidence to the Foot Clan was worth all the money he had.


Using the city map, he located a bus terminal, and to his relief he found a sign listing which cities the buses went to.  One city was close enough to the border with the United States, so he bought a ticket to that city, showing the ticket agent a piece of paper with that city’s name written on it.  He did not even know if he had bought a one-way or round-trip ticket, but that was unimportant.  He looked for a bus with that number, and upon finding it, boarded it and waited patiently for it to get going.  It was afternoon by the time the bus was on its way, but Oroku did not care what time he arrived as long as he reached his destination.  After his long first airplane ride to Poland, his cramped and nearly fatal second airplane ride as a stowaway, his long walk and nearly fatal long swim, and his cramped ride as a stowaway on the heroin running ship, this bus ride was a comparative luxury cruise.


The bus pulled over after a while, and Oroku initially thought the bus had reached the destination city, but he discovered it was a restaurant visit when all the passengers went into it.  He pulled out his phrasebook, realizing this was a Western restaurant and the food would be unlike what he was accustomed to.  He had tried Western food a few times in the past, and was able to eat it but didn’t really care for it.  But he was hungry again, and the vegetables he had eaten earlier were hardly enough sustenance to replace the vitality he had used over the past several days, and would require later on.  He found the phrase to order one meal he had in the past, which was quite expensive in Japan.  When the waitress looked at him, he said, “Ste-ee-ku.”  Oroku Saki realized it was the first time he had ever tried to say anything in English, and it must have sounded weird to everyone else, who looked at him strangely.  His fellow passengers had discovered they had a foreigner in their midst, one who did not even know the English language.


And the uncomfortable feeling of being an unauthorized intruder in an alien land that he had felt in Poland came rushing back, only this time it was worse because he was at the center of the locals’ attention.  He could not avoid the realization that he had blundered his way through this journey, and only sheer dumb luck had let him get this far.  What if he had been caught at the airport in Japan, or in Poland?  What if he hadn’t gotten out of the cargo plane at the exact right moment, just before it crashed?  What if he hadn’t found the ship when he did?  What if government agents in any of the countries he had entered had caught him?  What if they have found him, and were tracking him to find out where he was going and what he was up to?  What if he encountered anyone who disliked Asians or foreigners in general?  In Japan, foreigners, or gaijin, are looked down upon.  But here and now, Oroku Saki realized, he was the one who was gaijin.


“Steak?” replied the waitress, bringing Oroku out of his reverie.  Then he realized he was only going to make things worse for himself by acting frightened.  Pretend you belong here, Oroku advised himself, and smiled back at the waitress.  “Steak,” was his response, almost pronouncing it right.  Then the waitress asked a question which sounded as if what type he wanted.  “Ri-bai,” Oroku chose at random, hoping it was the proper answer.  Evidently it was, for the waitress asked several more questions, and Oroku replied by repeating the words he could best pronounce.  She then moved on to the next customer, and the other passengers were already losing interest in him, to his relief.  Evidently an Asian who didn’t know the language was unusual but not necessarily suspicious.  Certainly there were Asian immigrants, or tourists, in Canada, not all of whom were good in English.  He ended up with a rib eye steak with French fries and green beans and coffee, which was reasonably palatable if unfamiliar.  But it did fill him up, and he was sated when he boarded the bus again.


Finally, the destination city was reached late in the evening, and Oroku Saki saw a large bridge which he guessed led into the United States.  Stores were starting to close, but he found a department store which was still open, from which he bought a new set of black clothes with cash, and he managed to complete the process without having to say anything, which heartened him.  He also managed to find a tourism center just before it closed, and got a local map.  The satisfaction from his earlier steak dinner was already starting to fade, and he decided it was best to refill now while it was still convenient, uncertain when he would get his next meal.  The map directed him to a Japanese restaurant, but Oroku purposely wanted to avoid his own kind, on the off chance he might be spotted by friends or allies of Hamato Yoshi, or other possible adversaries.  But he didn’t care to repeat his awkward experience in a Western restaurant, either, so he compromised and found a fancy Thai restaurant.  Ducking into another dark alley, he changed from his old clothes, which he stuffed into a dumpster, and put on his new outfit, but retained his bowler hat and trench coat.  He originally intended to dispose of those and buy new, but decided that to wear an entirely new set of clothes might ironically draw attention; the old and rumpled coat and hat would look more normal and nondescript.  Oroku had never had Thai food before, but thought it would be more to his taste.  He ordered a dish at random, which turned out to be a chicken, vegetable, and rice dish.  Oroku had guessed wrong about Thai food; it was far too sweet for his liking, though he managed to eat it.  Before leaving the restaurant he went over the map and found that the bridge he earlier spotted did lead to the United States.


Going to the bridge, he saw that it was quite long, and spanned two high cliff walls, at the base of which was a river.  There were signs on the Canadian side, evidently indicating where the bridge led to, but there were no building or gates; evidently customs for both countries was located on the opposite side.  It was late enough so there was no traffic across it; Oroku had originally thought of concealing himself in a vehicle that was going across, but decided it would have been too risky, as vehicles were subject to inspection.  He then thought of simply walking across and ducking through customs, but decided that was also too risky.  There might be cameras, motion detectors, and so forth, and who knows how vigilant the border guards might be.  He finally thought to bypass the bridge altogether and climb down one of the cliff walls, swim across, and climb up on the opposite side into the United States.  But Oroku’s experienced eye told him that the cliff walls would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to climb, and would take so much of his time and strength it would simply not be feasible.  His only way into the United States was across the bridge.


Again Oroku removed his trench coat and folded it inside out, and again he was a dark figure.  This time, among his clothing purchases, he had bought a dark ski mask which would cover his face, and he put that on, as well as a set of dark gloves.  Now he would not be readily spotted.  He then started to walk across the bridge, and continued until he was in sight of the opposite side.  Producing his ninja tools, he went to the side railing and climbed over it.  Examining the framework on the side of the bridge, he pulled out the appropriate grappling tools, adjusted them, and put them on his hands and feet.  He secured himself to the side beam of the bridge, and inched his way forward.  He was certain nobody at customs would even imagine anybody crossing the bridge in this manner, as it was so high over a river that would not cushion anybody’s body should they fall into it.  But Oroku was such an experienced ninja master that this climb did not fill him with fear; in fact, it was easy compared to his long swim in the Atlantic Ocean.


Finally he reached the end, which was inserted into the cliff wall.  He easily climbed up the short distance on the wall from the side of the bridge to the top of the cliff.  He put his grappling tools away and looked around for cameras or other types of detectors.  There was nobody besides himself outside, and he followed a route which he was certain out of the range of any detecting devices past the customs buildings and gates, and continued until he was well out of sight of the customs complex.  He had made it into the United States!


He then went toward the main road and followed it for a number of miles.  He was getting tired again, but he pressed on.  He had to find a way to get to New York City; he had not covered all this distance to let the evidence fall into Hamato Yoshi’s hands.  Eventually he reached a roadhouse tavern, which was still open, despite its being well after midnight.  Exhausted, Oroku Saki walked into the parking lot hoping to find a bench outside to sit upon.  Instead, he saw a man burst out of the front doors, clearly very inebriated.  Oroku wondered if a taxicab was going to pick the man up, and if somehow he could wrangle his way onto the same taxicab.  But the man was going straight to one of the parked cars, and was taking out his keys.  Oroku was shocked; intoxicated as he was, he was going to drive home anyway!  We can’t allow that to happen, can we?  Oroku thought to himself, and ran up to the man as he pulled his driver’s door open, and with one blow rendered the drunk unconscious.  Oroku then pushed the man into the passenger’s seat while he sat in the driver’s.  “You ought to thank me,” Oroku told his passenger.  “Now you have a designated driver.”  But with one problem; Oroku Saki didn’t know how to drive.


He did, however, know how to turn on the ignition, and he did so.  After a bit of fiddling with the controls to familiarize himself with them, he figured out how to back the car out of the space, and with difficulty was able to get the car out of the lot and onto the road.  The lack of traffic helped, and Oroku was on his way.  The car’s owner stirred, but Oroku was confident he would not wake up too soon.  Oroku’s plan was to find a town big enough to have a bank to exchange his Canadian money for the American variety, and to buy local maps so he could find a way to get to New York City.


After an hour’s drive, he noted the lights of a car behind him, but in the road’s opposite lane.  Oroku Saki had been driving in the road’s left-hand lane, as was the practice in Japan, when he realized the opposite was the case in America.  Quickly, Oroku pulled his car into the right lane.  But to his horror, flashing lights appeared above the car behind him.  The police were behind him, and wanted him to pull over!  And Oroku had no driver’s license or passport.  He dared not pull over; he would certainly be arrested.  Instead he sped up.  The police car followed right behind him, but Oroku did not expect to be able to outrun him.  He hoped to somehow find a place to hide long enough for him to bail out and disappear.


The chase continued until they reached a town.  Oroku had been driving at his car’s top speed, and he discovered how difficult it was to control a car going this quickly as he sped through the streets and tried not to hit other vehicles.  But he did hit something on the ground, and lost control of his car, which plowed through the plate glass windows of a storefront.


Oroku had seconds to act.  He grabbed his trench coat, pushed the driver’s door open, and pulled the car’s owner into the driver’s seat.  He then ran into the back of the store and hid behind a counter.  He watched as policeman walked in, and the car’s owner stood up groggily.  As Oroku had anticipated, the police blamed the car’s drunken owner for the accident, and took him away in handcuffs, and eventually the car was pulled out of the store.  Well, it cannot be said that this man didn’t deserve this fate after having tried to drive from the roadhouse intoxicated in the first place, Oroku thought.  Realizing the police were going to be busy here for a while, he decided to slip through the curtain that led to the back room.


His decision turned out to be providential, for he heard the sound of footsteps coming toward the back of the store.  Oroku initially feared he had been discovered, but it turned out the policeman was looking for the switches to turn on the store’s lights so the crash area could be examined more easily.  Oroku groaned silently, for it would be another long delay before he could leave his hiding-place and continue his journey to New York.


His only safe way out was through the back door, but Oroku had noticed that the door was equipped with an alarm and he dared not touch it.  There was nothing he could do except wait a long time, until finally someone did come in and unlock the back door, presumably the store proprietor.  With his chance finally arrived, Oroku slipped out, easily evaded the policemen, and found a private place to remove his gloves and ski mask and put his coat and hat back on.  He was now just another nondescript pedestrian, heading into the center of town.


Ironically, the wait in the store wasn’t so bad after all, for it meant less time waiting outside until everything in town opened.  He found a bank to exchange his Canadian money for American greenbacks, found a bookstore from which he bought local maps, and found a public library to get his bearings.  Unfortunately for him, unlike in Halifax, this town had no public transportation to other cities.  He would have to figure out some other way to get to New York City, or at least to a city that had public transportation service to that destination.  But Oroku was hungry again, and this time he found and patronized a Chinese restaurant.  Again he picked a meal at random, but this time around he found his selection far more palatable-a chicken, vegetable, and rice dish that wasn’t sweet this time.  This was the first meal in days that he had actually enjoyed, and he gave a twenty percent tip.


Upon leaving, Oroku decided his best bet was to sneak his way aboard a vehicle that was going in the right direction.  He walked through town until he reached a gas station full of tractor-trailer trucks, and found one with “NEW YORK” on its license plates.  Oroku hoped at least it would go further south.  He went into hiding near the truck, removed his trench coat and again donned his ski mask and gloves, then waited until the driver entered the truck’s cab and the truck started.  With perfect timing, Oroku Saki leapt into the space between the cab and the trailer and scrunched down.  The tractor cab and frame were both black, so he was relatively safe from being detected by a casual glance.  The truck rolled onto the highway, and for a nervous moment Oroku wondered if the truck would be going in the right direction, but upon passing a highway route sign which said “SOUTH,” he was reassured.  It was not a comfortable ride, but Oroku could take it, and he rode all the way to another city.


By then, it was late in the evening, and he realized the truck was finishing its journey and pulling into a transport yard full of other such trucks.  Oroku quickly jumped off the truck and walked down a sidewalk to a darkened area, where he pulled off his ski mask and gloves yet again, but left his coat off.  His ersatz ninja outfit was grimy from the long trip, and Oroku guessed that he must be reeking as well.  He had to clean up if he were to continue traveling in society.  So his next act was to walk into a dilapidated part of this city and check into a hotel for transients, this time paying for his room.  He then went to an all-night convenience store and bought soap, shampoo, a shaving kit, and paper towels.  He returned to the hotel room, where he remembered he had not slept in two days, and decided that despite the time pressure, he simply had to rest and recover, or he would be in no shape for his upcoming confrontation with Hamato Yoshi.


So Oroku flopped on the uninviting bed and slept, and woke up the next morning and carefully but quickly cleaned himself up, and shaved off his beard.  He also cleaned his clothes as best he could, but decided he needed yet another new outfit.  He then left the hotel and went into the town’s center, finding a department store at which he bought a new black outfit, including ski mask and gloves, disposing of his old clothes in a dumpster.  He also discarded the maps of the cities he had been through, not anticipating returning to them anytime soon.  He still kept his old trench coat and bowler hat, though both had gotten dirty again, for he still felt it best to not go around in an entirely new set of clothes in case he had to go through any more dirty neighborhoods.


The city was sizeable, but clearly not mistakable for New York City.  It took some walking before he found a bookstore.  Checking the local maps, he found he was in Albany, New York.  Without buying anything, Oroku Saki ran outside, pleased he was now in the right state, at least.  New York City could not be too far away.  He still had a photocopy of a map of the northeastern United States, and both cities were listed on them.  Certainly there would be air travel between them, so he flagged a passing taxicab.  He got in and told the driver, “Eh-po-rut.”  The driver evidently understood well enough to drive him to the city’s main airport.  Oroku paid the driver and went inside.


Oroku Saki did not relish going into a jetliner again after what happened last time, but his sense of urgency and knowledge that any other form of transportation would be slower was enough to get him to buy a plane ticket to New York City.  He used cash to pay for it, as he did for everything except for his initial credit card purchase at the bookstore in Halifax when he had no local currency.  He still had plenty of currency left; the original amount probably would have been enough to pay for an expensive round-trip flight from Tokyo to New York City, had he done that instead of using the stolen ticket to Poland.  But it would have been risky also to have bought such a ticket, for they might have demanded to see his tampered passport, which turned out to be a liability after all.  At least he made it to his intended destination in good time; that was what was important.  He was not quite there yet, of course, but there was little that could go wrong at this point.


The jetliner flight was uneventful, and Oroku Saki’s heart leapt as he left the plane and entered LaGuardia airport-and then it sank as he realized that he no longer possessed his maps and phrasebooks, probably having left them behind at the Albany airport, or on the airplane.  By the time he discovered this, it was impossible to return to the plane to retrieve them if they were there.  But he was only momentarily annoyed; certainly there would be plenty of bookstores in downtown New York City.


He found an airport restaurant which sold Chinese food, and had a meal before stepping outside.  Oroku Saki had finally made it into the Big Apple.  Now he had to locate Hamato Yoshi.  He would certainly be able to sense his presence when he was near enough…but in the same manner, Hamato Yoshi would in turn be aware of his presence.  This meant that, once Oroku sensed his enemy, he would have to rush to find him as rapidly as possible, before his old master had the chance to escape, call the authorities, or prepare defenses against him.  He had eaten; he was rested, and ready to fight.  But then he remembered he still had to obtain local maps and phrasebooks if he were to be able to find his way around.


If he had bought any Japanese/English translation books while still in Japan, if it had occurred to him that the Polish man’s name was definitively non-Asian, if he had had even the basic common sense to find out where the man’s destination city was instead of blindly assuming he was going to America, he wouldn’t have had to gone through the insane journey here.  He decided he would act much more carefully from now on.


Was it possible that because of all his delays, the package had long since reached Hamato Yoshi, and he had already gone back to Japan with the evidence?  No, Hamato Yoshi had to still be in this country, and Oroku would find him in time.  His ninja sensing powers could not detect his nemesis; not surprising when he could only definitely detect any particular person within a range of maybe a dozen meters under the best conditions, and a city crowded with millions of people was the worst possible place to try to sense anybody.  It was like trying to pick out a particular voice when a thousand people were talking.  Then Oroku was suddenly pleased when he realized that though his ex-master’s sensing powers may have been greater, they were unlikely to detect him, and he very much doubted Hamato was expecting either him or a package containing evidence that would exonerate him to be coming.  Again, he was still safe for the moment if the package hadn’t arrived, but he knew better than to be complacent about anything in this situation.


Then he realized it was also a bad idea to simply be standing around at the airport.  He hailed a taxicab and gave him the name of a major hotel whose name he could barely pronounce.  Evidently the driver was used to Asian passengers who could speak little or no English, so he simply drove him to what Oroku assumed was the named hotel, and paid him the fare shown on the meter plus a five dollar tip.  The taxicab drove away, but Oroku didn’t enter the hotel.  Instead, he went towards downtown.


Being a lifelong resident of a rural coastal town, Oroku Saki was rather unnerved by the big diverse crowd of people he was among, and then he remembered that they would serve to camouflage his presence from Hamato Yoshi, even if there were only a dozen meters between them.  It was not long before he found a bookstore, which he quickly entered, yet again finding local maps and a phrasebook with both Japanese and English characters.  In his rush, however, he failed to note the book’s title: “THE DIRTY JAPANESE PHRASEBOOK.”  He didn’t even notice he had gotten it out of the bookstore’s humor section, rather than the languages section.


He did notice, however, that the trench coat and hat he had borne through all his travels since he had left Japan were dirty and battered, and that his destination was the city’s Little Tokyo Town, and he did not expect to travel through any more slums.  Wanting to look more presentable in public, and to be rid of the last of the items that had belonged to the Polish man he had murdered, he found and entered a men’s clothing store.


It was a fancy place, and undoubtedly expensive, but that was not Oroku Saki’s concern at the moment.  A salesman walked up to him, glanced a bit disdainfully at his dirty coat, but he said a phrase which Oroku interpreted as a “How may I help you?”


Oroku quickly produced his phrasebook and looked up the phrase meaning, “I wish to purchase a new coat.”  He replied, according to the book’s translation, “I wi-lu no-tu buy thi-su recor-du.  Ite ise scu-ra-tse-du.”


“Sir,” replied the salesman, “this is a men’s clothing store.”


“Oh,” said Oroku.  “I wi-lu no-tu buy thi-su mensu clo-fin sto-re.  Ite ise scu-ra-tse-du.”


The salesman made some flustered noises, so Oroku decided to make things easier by grabbing the lapel of his trench coat and shaking it.  The salesman then smiled, evidently understanding what was wanted, and led him toward the part of the store which had trench coats on the racks.  Oroku tried several before he found a new trench coat the correct size, which he gave to the salesman.  Then Oroku pointed to his hat, and the salesman led him to the hat section.  Oroku found a fedora he liked, and handed that to the salesman, who led him to a cash register.  He decided to use his credit card once more, and then referred to his phrasebook.  He looked up the phrase for “I wish to make my purchase with my credit card,” and said, “You a-re a be-u-ti-fulu peru-son.  Ca-nu I ki-su you?”


Another confused look from the salesman, and Oroku took it to mean that he could not quite pronounce the English words correctly.  He then proffered his phrasebook to the salesman-maybe he could do better.  The salesman took the phrasebook, looked through it, and said in Japanese, “Teme kono-yaro.”


Unfortunately, the phrase was a harsh Japanese insult which roughly translates to, “You dog!”, and the deeply offended Oroku abruptly grabbed the salesman by the neck and pulled him slightly forward, bunching his other hand into a fist.  After the salesman’s initial shock passed, he realized he must have said something terribly wrong, and he quickly looked up the words which said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.”  He then said, “Bukkoroshite yaru!”  Unfortunately, that was an even harsher phrase, translating to, “I’m going to hit you until you die!”  Unaware of the book’s deliberate mistranslation, Oroku Saki punched the salesman hard in the face, knocking him out, then let go of him, and he fell to the ground like a sack of rice.


Then Oroku sensed the presence of people behind him, and he turned around and saw several men in suits approaching him.  Oh no, how could I have done something so positively idiotic? Oroku moaned to himself, and he snatched the phrasebook and ran out of the store.  He walked quickly down the street, hoping he would lose any pursuers.


But it was not long before several policemen were approaching him.  He then bolted into a run down several streets, the policemen following, and more policemen joining the chase.  Though he was faster than most of them, some of them were athletic enough to threaten to catch up to him.  Eventually he arrived at a narrow alley between two buildings, and saw an obese woman walking by.  He then grabbed the woman by the arm, and she screamed as he pulled her into the alley with him.  Oroku was able to barely get through the alley, but the woman ended up jammed between the walls, her body blocking the way inside.  Oroku ran through the gap, but it turned out to be hemmed in by featureless brick walls, save for a locked door in one of them.  Oroku pulled out his ninja tools and began to work on the door.


It took him an uncomfortably long time, but he finally got it open, and ran inside.  He found himself in a hallway-and discovered policemen already waiting on either side of him.  Panic affecting his judgment, Oroku charged the group of policemen on the end of the hallway leading to the building’s rear, colliding with them and knocking them sprawling.  He kept running down the hallway until he encountered two more policemen, who reached to tackle him.  But Oroku dealt with them easily by jump-kicking the one on the left while simultaneously using his right hand to deliver a karate chop to the side of the other’s head.  The policemen from before were running up to him, and Oroku resisted the temptation to get into a fight with them, but instead resumed running.


He reached the end of the hallway, which terminated in several doors, and knew the policemen would catch up to him before he could get any of them open.  Spotting a metal couch in the hallway, Oroku picked it up, held it horizontally in front of him, and growled as he ran toward the pursuing policemen, who had no time to stop as the couch crashed into them, pushing them all bodily back down the hallway for several yards before they all fell sprawling.  Oroku threw the couch atop them and ran towards the back door of the hallway.  The wooden door was locked, but he smashed it open with a powerful kick, and ran through.


He ran into a maintenance hallway, which led to a set of stairs going down.  He ran down the steps, hearing the sound of machinery.  At the bottom of the steps was a metal door which was locked, and he had to use his lock picks again.  But before he could finish, policemen were coming down the steps.  As the first two neared the bottom, Oroku jumped and kicked both of them in the stomach, winding them.  The others jumped upon him in a tackle, but Oroku dropped to the ground unexpectedly, and then lashed out with hands and feet.  Two received face punches, two more received painful kicks, two more grabbed him, but he shook them off and punched both.  Two more were still standing; Oroku felled them with punches.  Some of the ones he had struck tried to get up; Oroku chopped, punched, and kicked them in succession until all were unconscious or rolling around in pain.  He then finished unlocking the door, and pulled it open.  Then he spotted one of the policemen drawing his pistol, but he easily grabbed it from him and stomped on his groin, throwing the pistol back contemptuously at its owner before going through the door and closing and relocking it.


He was inside a room full of piping and machinery, which he assumed was the building’s physical plant.  He quickly walked through until he encountered a man in a maintenance uniform.  Still in a fighting mood from before, he felled the man with a karate chop.  As the man fell to the ground in a heap, Oroku’s fighting mood abruptly faded as he realized the trouble he was in: he still hadn’t located Hamato Yoshi, he didn’t know the actual location of the city’s Little Tokyo Town neighborhood, and now he had the city’s police force after him.  He was momentarily safe, but it would only be a matter of time before the police would find and pursue him again.


As he searched the cavernous but crowded room for a back door, Oroku Saki heard and felt a loud rumbling-and he thought of the maintenance man he just knocked out.  Had one of the machines started to malfunction seriously, and it would somehow explode and nobody was able to stop it now?  He rushed through the passageways until he found the back wall, the area around which was relatively clear.  Then he realized the rumbling was getting steadily worse, and he made a desperate rush for the wall, searching frantically for the back door.  Then the rumbling had become very intense, and Oroku was in a near-panic as he heard what he thought was an explosion behind him.  He threw himself to the floor-and then the noise and vibration stopped completely.


He turned to look, but what he saw was not exploded machinery, but some sort of huge metal cylinder which had somehow appeared in an area near the back wall.  The cylinder had a man-sized door with a transparent window in its side, and was topped by what looked like a large conical drill head.  Then he noted that the cylinder sank into the concrete floor, and there was a mess of crumbled concrete and dirt around the base of the cylinder, as if it had actually drilled through the floor from beneath.  Was it some sort of construction machine, gone awry?  Did the police send this machine in here, with a SWAT team waiting to pour out of it?


Convinced that the cylinder’s sudden appearance in this room while he was in it was no coincidence, Oroku walked up to it to investigate it.  He looked through the window, but saw nothing but an empty space with nobody inside.  Then he was caught unawares as the door suddenly slid open, revealing a metal chamber with enough space to contain him and several other people.  Was this a trap?  Then he heard a banging noise behind him, and turned to see the building’s back door open, policemen with drawn pistols pouring through it.


Oroku carried no firearms and his ninja weapons were not at the ready, and he couldn’t be sure the policemen might not start shooting at him, especially after he defeated a number of them already in hand-to-hand combat.  Realizing he would have little chance against this new group of policemen, he jumped into the cylinder, hoping to escape or at least hide.  Then he was again caught unawares as the door suddenly slid shut, and he felt the cylinder jerk and begin to descend.


Now what have I gotten myself into?  Oroku worried.  He saw through the window that he was actually being pulled down into the earth, and he ran to the door trying to slide it open, but it was shut tight and would not budge.  He then looked around quickly and saw a small control panel.  He tried manipulating all the controls, but nothing he did had any effect at all, and he guessed they were overridden by whoever was in control of the cylinder he was within.


But who was controlling this cylinder, and where was it taking him?  He kept going in a downward direction, as if his destination were somewhere within the bowels of the earth.  Then his ears popped as he realized he was being pulled into the bowels of the earth, for why would any police department or other government agency be taking him downward for such a long time, well below where any cellar or underground structure could possibly be constructed?  Fear suddenly overwhelmed Oroku Saki, and he desperately wished he were back in the cellar, facing the mere possibilities of being beaten and imprisoned.


After a seemingly endless time, the cylinder finally came to a stop, and the door slid open.  Oroku Saki stepped out into a room whose walls, floor, and ceiling were all constructed of metal.  This doesn’t look so bad after all, thought Oroku-until he saw the three figures in front of him.


He gaped as he saw what looked like a giant pink brain with eyes and tentacles perched atop a tripod stool with wheels on the bottoms of its legs, flanked on either side by two crude human-shaped stone statues with organic-looking eyes in their faces.  Oroku blinked several times, but this was no illusion.  Were these some weird science fiction statues?  Then the brain spoke in a language Oroku did not understand, and blinked its eyes and moved its tentacles.  Then the statues took a step forward.  Oroku’s ninja senses told him what he could not believe intellectually.  These creatures are neither statues nor robots, Oroku realized.  These creatures are living beings!


This was too much for Oroku Saki, who panicked as he jumped back into the cylinder and again tried to fiddle with the control panel.  Whatever hellish creatures these were, he wanted no part of them.  Better to be in prison back on the Earth’s surface than in this grotesque hell.  But Oroku was not given that choice.  The control panel was just as unresponsive this time as it was before, and the statues reached into the cylinder and grabbed him from behind.  He struggled frantically as they lifted him back out, but their hold on him was too firm, and he was positioned so that he could not reach back and strike them.  Again the brain creature said some words and make gestures, pointing at a rectangular structure with an open door in it.  The stone creatures carried the terrified Oroku toward the structure, pushed him inside, and closed the door before the ninja master could even turn around.


He looked around, finding himself in total darkness.  He reached with his hands, and felt smooth walls around him.  Was this a holding cell?  Then suddenly the room was filled with green light, and English language characters suddenly surrounded him.  Then it seemed as if these English letters were being pushed into his head.  What torture was he being put through?  But he felt not so much pain as an unpleasant strain, akin to that which he endured when he went to cram school as a child.  Then he wondered if that was what he was actually going through, for the English letters were starting to make sense, and he found himself repeating them aloud.  Afterward he was learning words, then word forms and tenses, then sentences.  He realized that through some sort of magic or advanced technology, he was being force-fed knowledge of the English language.


The mental exercises seemed to go on forever, but they did not.  Eventually, he heard a synthesized voice say, “Congratulations.  You now have a working knowledge of the English language.”  The green light disappeared, white lights came on instead, and Oroku Saki saw that the walls surrounding him were some sort of smooth transparent material, embedded in which was some sort of copper-colored screening.  He could, however, make out the outline of the door, just before it slid open.  Oroku staggered out, noticing for the first time how much he had sweated, and how hungry and thirsty he was, and that he had soiled his trousers from not having had access to a bathroom.  The brain creature was waiting just outside, surrounded by two of the statue-people.  “Now I think the two of us can have a much easier time communicating,” it said.


It took a moment before the creature’s words sank in.  “What did you do to me?” Oroku asked, before he realized he had actually spoken them in the English language-and pronouncing it properly.


“You ought to be grateful,” replied the creature.  “I gave you a three-day crash course in the English language, all for free.  And I saved you from all those nasty policemen you got into trouble with.”


Connections in his brain must have been forming, Oroku decided, for he was starting to comprehend the brain creature’s words more easily.  “Who are you?  Where am I?  And why did you do all that to me?”


“You may call me Krang,” said the creature, “for you would find my true name impossible to pronounce even with your new verbal skills.  And perhaps you could pay me the courtesy of telling me your name?”


“My name is Oroku Saki,” he replied, seeing no reason not to.  “I am a native of Japan.  And where do you come from, the planet Mars?”


“You are correct in assuming that I am not a native of your planet, but I am not from the planet Mars.  I am in fact from another universe, which you may call Dimension X.  But your Earth science has not yet progressed to the point where you can discover it.  In fact, I was a powerful lord in that dimension, but I wound up being defeated and exiled here.”


Oroku felt as if had wandered into a bad science fiction movie.  But all this was real, from what he could determine-or else a very powerful dream or illusion.  At the same time, however, this creature claimed to be a powerful alien lord, and it reawakened his hunger for power.  This room he was in was full of impressive-looking equipment.  If one item could cram the English language into his brain, what other capabilities did this creature have?  Perhaps to take over the whole world?  Several worlds?


Krang broke into his reverie.  “We happen to be in some underground caverns deep beneath New York City, and this room…” Krang made a sweeping gesture with one of his tentacles, “is one of many in my combination fortress and ground vehicle.  I call it the Technodrome, which is a rough translation of the name for it in my native language.”


He indicated a video screen, and touched a control panel, making the screen show a silver sphere, under which was a set of metal wheels and a number of protuberances.  “This picture doesn’t do justice to the size or capabilities of the Technodrome, but it will have to do for the time being.”


Oroku Saki took some time to digest the information.  “But how did you find me?” he asked afterward.


“By pure chance, Oroku Saki.  I happened to be exploring the city above me using my viewing system, and I saw your little, ahem, tussle with the local police.  I figured you might have been looking for a hiding place, so I kindly provided one.  Fortunately I guessed correctly that you would be entering the basement of that building, so I sent a transport probe up, hoping I could get a hold of you first.”


“And why did you retrieve me?  What do you want from me?”


“Well, this Technodrome is pretty huge, and a bit more than my Stone Soldiers and myself can handle.”  Oroku guessed that Krang was referring to the living stone statues.  “I was hoping for a little help from you.”


“What sort of help?”

”Oh, a variety of tasks.  But maybe you should clean up and refresh yourself, and we can talk further.  No offense, but you do stink after having been three days in the Language Learning Module.”

”Three days?”  Abruptly Oroku Saki remembered about the incriminating package being sent to his old enemy.


“What, are you in some sort of hurry?”


“As a matter of fact, I am,” replied Oroku, and decided to tell Krang his story of the Foot Clan and his old enemy Hamato Yoshi, and having traveled illegally to America, leaving out any incriminating details such as the murder of the Polish gaijin.  Though not a person who readily trusted anyone, Oroku was in a desperate situation and felt he had no choice but to throw in his lot with this alien warlord.


“Very interesting,” said Krang when Oroku had finished.  “But this Foot Clan of yours is small potatoes compared to what I can offer.”


“It still matters to me,” replied Oroku.  “And it could be a minor but useful resource to you.  You need humans to help you, right?  You need links to human civilization.  That’s why you brought me here and force-fed me the English language.  You may have been powerful in your Dimension X, but what are you on Earth?  Nothing, unless you adopt a few locals to help you out.”


“Decided to be blunt, eh?” Krang said.  “Well, now it’s my turn.  You blundered your way into America and New York City, and you would have been toast if I hadn’t pulled your fat out of the fire.  It’s going to be a long climb back to the Earth’s surface, and what can you hope to do if you somehow made it there?”


Oroku smiled.  “Well, first I’d find and dispatch Hamato Yoshi, and then turn myself in to the local cops.  They’d probably throw me in jail for a while, and then deport me back to Japan.  I’d still have control of the Foot Clan with all my potential rivals gone.”


Krang smiled back.  “That’s assuming that, by now, he hasn’t gotten this package of proof and isn’t already on his way back to Japan.”


Oroku smile vanished.  “Look,” he pleaded, “let me go back to the city and let me go after Hamato Yoshi.  After I get him, I’ll come back.”


“Something tells me you’re not exactly trustworthy,” replied Krang.  “But tell you what.  I’ll let you use my viewing system, and you can look for your old master and find out if he is still in New York City.”


“Please, let me do so right now.”


“I guess you’ll put off your bath until later,” mocked Krang.  “All right, let me show you how my viewing system works.”


Krang led Oroku to a screen and set of controls and showed the ninja master how to use them.  Now able to read the actual place names, and consulting the set of maps that were still in his coat pocket, Oroku was soon able to locate and explore the city’s Little Tokyo Town.  He saw many people, but none of them were Hamato Yoshi.


“Sure you’re looking in the right place?” taunted Krang.


“He’s there somewhere,” replied Oroku desperately, “He has to be.  I just haven’t found him yet.”


More by accident than design, Oroku Saki had moved from checking buildings and streets to checking the sewers beneath.  To his shock, he found a man dressed in traditional Japanese clothing walking through them.  He zoomed in, and to his vast surprise and relief, he had found Hamato Yoshi!


Noticing Oroku’s expression, Krang quipped, “I guess you hit jackpot.”


“Yes,” was the reply, “yes.”  Oroku Saki was pleased to see his old foe wandering around in the sewers of New York City, dirty and disheveled.  Certainly he had friends in Little Tokyo Town, but nobody had taken him in.  Perhaps Hamato was ashamed to depend on charity, or else if he were to live with someone, rumors might start?  Hamato Yoshi had neither wife nor girlfriend, but there was no evidence that it was because his proclivities lay elsewhere.  There was a known friend of his who lived in Little Tokyo Town who kept a menagerie of small animals, and was also single and unattached.  The evidence that he might have unusual proclivities was a little stronger, and it would have been folly for Hamato Yoshi to actually move in with him.  But why live in the sewers?  Oroku guessed it was because the cost of living was very high in New York City, and also that it would be a safe hiding place should his enemies pursue him all the way to America, for any pursuers would not likely think to search there for him.  Oroku Saki himself had not and only happened to look there by pure accident.


Then another thought struck Oroku.  The fact that Hamato Yoshi was wandering in the sewers indicated that he must not have received the package, for Toyoda had said that he had included a plane ticket back to Japan in it, so Hamato could have returned to the Foot Clan with the evidence even if he were penniless.  And Hamato’s movements in the sewers were unhurried and casual, not the urgent movements of somebody on a mission.


Oroku continued watching as Hamato found some rats on the ground, and picked one up and played with it.  Pathetic animal lover, scoffed Oroku to himself, before he thought once more of the man with the menagerie.  The package would probably be sent to his address, for him to pass on to Hamato Yoshi.  Perhaps he could intercept the package beforehand?


Then Krang’s voice startled him.  “So, that person in the sewers is this Hamato Yoshi you told me about?”


“Yes, Krang, that is him.”


“I see,” replied Krang.  “So you want to go up to him and settle his hash?”


Oroku Saki was about to say yes, before he realized that his enemy would sense him and be ready for him.  Hamato Yoshi might fight him-or he might instead decide to flee and alert the authorities.  Oroku would be found and arrested, or he might be able to make it back to Krang’s Technodrome.  In either case, it would only give the incriminating evidence time to fall into Hamato’s hands, and his position in the Foot Clan would be lost forever.  He could still throw in his lot with Krang and the resources of his Technodrome, and gain power that way.  But would he be genuinely powerful, or wind up a mere puppet of Krang?  No, Oroku Saki intended to keep hold of his Foot Clan, over which he would truly be the master, with or without any alliance with Krang.


“I guess the answer is no,” said Krang, as if he had read his mind.  “Maybe you want to send a bomb his way to take him out?  Or poison gas?”


“That would be more like it,” Oroku replied.  “Do you have something you can spare me?”


“Oh, I’ve got lots of materials for you to choose from,” boasted Krang.  “Let me show you what I’ve got, and you can take your pick.”


Krang gestured to one of his Stone Soldiers, who picked him up and carried him out of the room, followed by Oroku.  The group went down a long metal corridor, into an elevator, which took them further down, and Krang led the way through a door into a vast room filled with a huge number and variety of containers.


“You really do have a lot to choose from,” said Oroku, obviously impressed.


“Oh, this is just a small auxiliary storeroom,” replied Krang.  “If you cannot find what you want here, I’ve got others you can look through.”


Oroku glanced around.  If this place were just a small auxiliary storeroom, then Krang’s Technodrome was indeed a vast storehouse of resources.  But he realized he had no time to gawk; he had to find something that would destroy his nemesis Hamato Yoshi, and find it soon.  But the containers were marked in some sort of alien script, and Oroku had to ask Krang what each of them contained.  Krang answered each question patiently, but after a while, both their voices were starting to give out.  Finally, Oroku found a container of bright green, heavy liquid.  “What is this?” Oroku rasped.


“It is mutagen,” replied Krang equally breathlessly.  If anybody touches it, they adapt the characteristics of whatever other creature they touched last.”


“I don’t understand.”


“It works like this.  Let’s say you touch a cat, and then come into contact with the mutagen.  Then you adopt the characteristics of a cat.”


“What, you mean I grow whiskers and fur and a long tail and meow?”




Oroku had found many toxic chemicals, most of which would have quickly dispatched his enemy.  But his problem was that he could not get close enough to Hamato Yoshi without being detected in order to use any of these chemicals, and if he tried to release something like poison gas into the sewer, there was the danger it could blow back upon him.  So he looked for something that he could leave behind, and his enemy would stumble upon it.  The liquid chemicals he had so far found were the type which would evaporate too quickly or else absorb into the ground.  This thick substance, however, looked promising.  And he thought of how Hamato Yoshi happily played with his rats.  A plan started forming in his head…



In the sewers beneath Little Tokyo Town…


Hamato Yoshi returned from having had dinner with his friend the animal keeper.  They liked each other, being both animal lovers, and as usual, his friend offered to take him in.  But Hamato, as usual, declined.  Rumor had it that his friend was homosexual, and while Hamato was uncertain if it were true, and would not have held it against him if that were the case, he feared that spending the night with him would only give credence to these rumors, and his friend would be ostracized.  Hamato Yoshi himself was definitely no homosexual, and had had a girlfriend long ago, but their relationship ended bitterly, and he had no taste to enter another one anytime soon.  He was too involved with survival and upset over his suspicious expulsion from the Foot Clan to even think of much else.


So he visited his friend for food and supplies, while living in the sewers.  He had suspected that the criminals who took over the Foot Clan might be plotting to assassinate him, and took to living in the sewers where he would not likely be found.  He also anticipated that these same criminals, being treacherous and without honor, would sooner or later turn upon and destroy each other, for it is in the nature of such people to do so, and Hamato would simply live in New York City and bide his time until that occurred, and he would return to Japan, assume leadership of the Foot Clan, and purge it of the last remnants of its criminal element.  His sudden flight to America was not only to save himself from potential assassination, but to hopefully lull his foes into a false sense of security, so that they would become more afraid of each other instead of him.


In the meantime, all he could do was to wait patiently and sustain himself.  Out of boredom and loneliness, he played with the rats he found in the sewers.  His menagerie was added to one day when four box turtles had washed down through a street drain into a section of sewer he had been in at the time.  Rejected pets, maybe?  But they were his now.  Indeed, he had become very attached to them, with little else to distract him.


He found one rat that was particularly friendly to him, and amused himself for a while by letting it crawl over him.  The he looked for his turtles, and to his horror found them in a pool of glowing green sludge, which somehow had trickled through a large grate in the nearby wall.  Heedless of his safety, he stepped into the sludge, drew out a cloth, and wiped the chemical from each of his turtles, placing them on a dry section of the sewer floor afterward.


Then, to Hamato Yoshi’s dismay, he suddenly felt a very strong tingling sensation throughout his body, and his ninja sensing power told him some terrible misfortune was about to befall him.  He felt as if he were shriveling up-and he saw brown fur growing over his hands.  Was this some crazed nightmare, or was the green chemical he had stepped into some sort of street drug, and he was hallucinating?  Then the tingling sensation vanished as abruptly as it had come upon him-and yet his hands were still covered with brown hair.  Then he turned to see his four turtles had grown into some sort of anthropomorphic reptiles.  Was this for real, or was this some mad nightmare?



Back in the Technodrome…


When Oroku saw Hamato Yoshi leave the sewers to have dinner with his friend the menagerie keeper, his initial plan was to take the container of mutagen and splatter it around the floor of the sewer section that his enemy inhabited.  But as he was about to do so, he realized that it was still possible that his enemy might still be close enough to sense and discover his presence.  He would certainly notice drops of bright green liquid splattered all around the floor, and thus put two and two together.  At the very least, Hamato would realize the Foot Clan was indeed after him, and would flee and find a new hiding place.  And even if Oroku had found him again, Hamato would be on his guard and awaiting him, making going after him far more difficult.


“Krang,” Oroku said, “this mutagen would be perfect for my plans, but I cannot take it up there myself because Hamato Yoshi would sense my presence.  I need some other way of getting it up there.”


“I can have one of my Stone Soldiers take it up there for you and spread it around,” suggested Krang.


“No, that won’t work either,” replied the ninja master.  “He’d be able to sense one of them too.”


Krang was surprised.  “These ninja sensing powers of yours are able to detect my Stone Soldiers?”


“Yes, Krang, we master ninjas have the ability to sense the presence of living beings.”  Oroku smiled sardonically.  “That’s how I was able to know that you were for real and not an animatronic puppet.”


Krang gave a half-smile in response, and wondered what other exotic powers this ninja possessed as well.  “Then what if we send it up by robot?  Would that work?”


Oroku brightened.  “Even if he could sense machinery, there would be no reason for it to make him suspicious.  Brilliant idea, Krang!  But we need to send one up there fast; he’ll be back any minute now.”


Krang led him to another storeroom containing a wide variety of robotic machines.  With time running short, Oroku quickly found and chose a simple small wheeled robot with a single lifting arm.  It could not very well splatter the mutagen around, but he already decided against that idea.  Hamato had doted on his four pet turtles, and Oroku decided instead to have the robot pour the mutagen on them, hoping that his enemy would unthinkingly rush to rescue them before it would occur to him that the green liquid would pose a danger to him as well.


After consulting a schematic map of the city’s sewer system, Krang sent up a transport probe into a part of the sewer that was far enough away from the section inhabited by Hamato Yoshi so that the noise and dust of its entrance would not readily be detected.  The probe’s door opened, and the robot emerged and followed its programmed path through the sewers until it reached a large grate in one wall.  As anticipated, the four turtles were wandering around on the opposite side of the grate, and the robot poured the mutagen on the floor in such a way that it flowed in a stream through the grate to the floor on the opposite side, forming a puddle right around the turtles.  The turtles seemed annoyed when they suddenly found themselves walking through the bright green slime, but Oroku was pleased.  So far, everything was going perfectly.


And at that moment, Hamato Yoshi was returning back to the sewers from his visit topside.  The robot automatically withdrew and headed back to the waiting transport probe, but before it could reach there, it tripped over an object on the ground and fell on its side, unable to leverage itself back up.  The fall also caused the mutagen still left in the container to splash out and splatter drops all over the fallen robot.


But Oroku Saki paid no attention to the robot.  He watched as his enemy walked into the sewer section where his beloved turtles were, and gasped with shock as he saw them in the glowing green slime.  For a very tense moment, Oroku wondered if Hamato really would unthinkingly grab his turtles out of the mutagen without putting on any protective coverings.  He was breathless as he watched Hamato walk to his turtles, and step barefoot into the mutagen…


Then Hamato picked his turtles out of the mutagen and wipe them off with a cloth…after which Oroku watched as he saw the turtles, and his old enemy, metamorphose into mutants.  Oroku Saki watched in disbelief, never really expecting his old master to have carelessly walked into the mutagen as he had.  But he did, and wound up being turned into a freak!  Now it no longer mattered if Hamato Yoshi were to receive the package of evidence.  It would do him no good now.  Oroku started to laugh so hard he ended up rolling on the ground.


“I can’t believe it!” he shouted when he was able to speak again.  “He literally walked right into the mutagen!  What an idiot, so concerned about his precious pet turtles he didn’t even stop to take basic precautions!”  Oroku’s laughter redoubled as he turned red from laughter and tears streamed down his face.  “This is better than I ever would have dreamed in a million years!”


“Unfortunately,” replied Krang, “though your enemy has been turned into a mutant creature, he still lives on.  Also, in the process you have also managed to create four mutant creatures that will undoubtedly have at least some of the abilities and personality characteristics of your old enemy.  They may also prove to be dangerous enemies of yours, and come after you.”


“Bah!” Oroku scoffed.  “What danger could four mutant turtles possibly pose to me?”


“Well, as long as you’re happy,” said Krang.  “In fact, you sound so pleased you could just soil yourself,” referring to the fact that Oroku had done so during his three days in the machine which programmed him with the English language.


“I’m so happy I wouldn’t care if you threw me into a septic tank!” Oroku shot back in between laughs.  “I can’t believe he was such a blamed idiot!  I really can’t!”


“Since you’re in such a jolly mood, would you mind doing one minor task for me then?”


“Anything you want!”


“The robot hasn’t reentered the transport probe.  Would you mind searching for it?”


“Certainly!”  Oroku had managed to regain enough self control to operate the viewer.  He searched along the path that the robot had taken, and found where it had fallen and splattered itself with the leftover mutagen.


“Maybe you’d care to go and retrieve it,” said Krang.


Oroku Saki’s amusement turned to dismay as he realized he could not do so without coming into contact with the mutagen.  “Um, I don’t think so.”


“I thought not,” replied Krang sardonically.  “Even though I don’t have my nose anymore, I can still tell you smell quite awful.  How about going and taking a bath like I asked you earlier?”



An hour later…


Though the Technodrome was basically an undecorated, functional, utilitarian place, it had some very nice personal facilities.  As was the Japanese custom, Oroku Saki took a bath rather than a shower, and took it in a Jacuzzi-like tub, where he could set the water temperature just the way he wanted, and he was treated to a surprisingly wide array of bathing soaps, shampoos, and perfumes.  The ninja master took his time in the bathtub, and Krang did not begrudge him this, remembering how filthy and smelly he had been earlier.


Oroku eventually stepped from the bathtub and dried himself, wrapping his towel around his waist afterward.  Krang led him to a machine which looked similar to a hairdryer found in a women’s salon, and explained that it was a device which could simultaneously shave a man’s face and trim his hair.  Using a computer terminal on the machine, Oroku selected the hairstyle he desired, then sat in the machine’s chair and pressed the button Krang had indicated.  A helmet-like device lowered over the ninja master’s head, and after a minute it automatically raised, and Oroku look in a mirror and was surprised and pleased to find his hair styled and combed exactly as chosen, and the stubble which had grown over the past several days removed completely.


Then Krang brought him his clothes.  Oroku Saki was impressed by how clean the Technodrome’s laundry equipment had gotten them.  All the grime his trench coat and bowler hat had accumulated was gone, and they looked almost new.  The rest of his clothing looked as if he had not even worn them since he had left the store he had brought it from.  Oroku dressed, and Krang led him to a cafeteria, showing him a food producing machine.  His hunger at having not eaten in days suddenly returned, and Oroku got the machine to produce one meal, which was shockingly fresh and tasty for having come from a machine.  He devoured it and produced several more, eating them in succession.  “Would you like some dessert?” Krang asked sardonically.


“I don’t eat dessert,” replied Oroku, patting his stomach.  Why do you think I’m in such great shape?”


“How would you like to eat and bathe like this on a daily basis?” inquired Krang.


“It would be nice,” replied Oroku, “and I’m quite willing to do a few jobs for you.  But I’m not intending to spend the rest of my life as your employee, if that’s what you’re proposing.”


“Hardly,” said Krang sardonically.  “I was thinking more in terms of an alliance.  You have your intellect and fighting skills; I have the technology and resources of my Technodrome.  Great power can be yours, if you have the courage to take it.”


“What’s the catch?”


“I will expect you to do some work for me in the Technodrome, as well as be my liaison to the natives of Earth.  And if there are any enemies I have to fight, I expect you to do that as well.”


“Suppose I decide I’m quite happy simply to be head of my Foot Clan, which is truly mine, rather than having to cooperate with you to rule the world?”


Krang smiled.  “Oh, I’m willing to bet money on the fact that the Foot Clan alone is never going to be enough for you, now that you’ve gotten a taste of the powers that I possess.  You’re ambitious and lustful for power, else why would you have wiped out your fellow conspirators?”


“I killed the one in self-defense when he tried to assassinate me.”


“Why would he do that to an underling, unless said underling was a threat to him?  And the other you killed, or rather would have killed, because he threatened to depose you.”  Krang grinned.  “You are hungry for power, Oroku Saki, and I don’t need to be a master ninja to be able to sense this.  I can send you right back to the Earth’s surface, and I know you’ll return sooner or later.”  Krang made a sweeping gesture with his tentacles.  “This is a gold mine for you, Oroku Saki, and I know you’re hungry to taste its treasures.  But right now I know you want to go back to Japan and consolidate your power over the Foot Clan, so I’ll go ahead and provide you with the transport.  Follow me.”


Krang led the ninja master to a hangar which contained a variety of exotic flying transport craft of various types.  Oroku Saki marveled at the strange machines, but Krang impatiently waved him towards the smallest of the group, just big enough to hold a man.


“This personal jet aircraft,” explained Krang, “can take you to anywhere on Earth within hours, and is capable of avoiding radar or other detection devices.  I can program this to take you to your home town in Japan, and you can take care of your unfinished business there.  When you’re ready, you can reenter this vehicle, and it’ll take you straight back to the Technodrome.”


“What if I choose not to return to the Technodrome?”


Krang laughed.  “Unless you wind up getting killed or imprisoned, I know you’ll be back.”  The alien warlord indicated a computer terminal on a stand alongside the indicated aircraft.  “Now tell me exactly where you want me to send you, and I’ll program the route right in for you.”


“Just a minute,” said Oroku.  “I thought we were underground.  How can any aircraft fly out of here?”


“The Technodrome is actually inside a deep underground cavern,” explained Krang.  “There is a tunnel which leads into the city above, big enough to allow this personal jet aircraft to fly through.”


“Why not just send me in one of the transport probes like you used to bring me here in the first place?”


“I would have done so if they could reach that far,” Krang replied.  “But since they can’t, I have to go through the trouble of programming this personal jet aircraft to send you home, which is difficult for someone even of my mathematical capabilities.  So are you going to waste more time asking me questions, or do you want to go back to Japan and take care of your Foot Clan?”



Weeks later…


Oroku Saki discovered that Krang had been right about him.  The personal jet aircraft had landed on a secluded shore far enough away from his hometown not to be seen or heard by anyone there, and it was a simple matter of walking there and turning himself in to the local police.  His weeklong absence had complicated matters, but the police investigation had determined that his killing of Hasegawa Yoshi was self-defense and the death of Toyoda Tetsuya was suicide, so Oroku Saki avoided criminal charges, and even managed to convince everyone that he had never left Japan during that time.


Once that problem was resolved, Oroku Saki had little difficulty in assuming total control over the Foot Clan.  As he predicted, the violent deaths of Hasegawa and Toyoda, coupled with the fact that he managed to cause them without facing criminal charges, was enough to intimidate the remaining executive board members into letting him become the head, and a puppet member was readily found and installed.  The old master in fact had a debilitating stroke and was placed in a nursing home, and Oroku became absolute master of the Foot Clan.  It was not long before its power began expanding beyond the reach of its home city.


But while Oroku Saki was quite busy dealing with his expanding Foot Clan, there were a number of times when memories of the alien brain and his Technodrome and the vast resources it contained would intrude upon his thoughts.  Even though he was getting wealthier, he was still unable to afford better housing than his hated old apartment, and though he was able to finally get driving lessons, he could not afford a car-certainly not the expensive luxury car that would denote his social status as leader of the Foot Clan.  He was able to obtain a legal passport at last, but discovered the airfare from Tokyo to New York City was more expensive than he originally anticipated.  It turned out that the amount of money that had been in the original stash he had stored in his apartment would have barely been enough to pay for the plane fare there and back.  When the personal jet aircraft that had taken him back to Japan first flew out of the Technodrome, he was awed by the sheer size of it.  The temptation to go back to that aircraft, which presumably was still concealed where it had landed and was awaiting his return, was getting stronger each day.


And one day it became strong enough.  Telling his subordinates that he would be going on a journey, he walked back to the place where the aircraft had landed.  He had placed foliage around the aircraft to camouflage it; there was no sign it had been disturbed.  He moved it away, and the aircraft looked exactly as he had left it.  Opening the hatch, he climbed inside, and followed Krang’s instructions to restart it.  Upon doing so, the aircraft automatically took off and flew straight back to the Technodrome, landing on a small airstrip.  To his surprise, Oroku Saki saw Krang and two of his Stone Soldiers standing right next to the aircraft as he climbed out of it.


“I didn’t expect you to be back so soon,” remarked Krang ironically.


“Business is never done,” was Oroku’s response.


“Well, would you like to rest?  A meal, perhaps?  There’s some work around here to do that you could do for me.”


“Of course,” replied Oroku without irony, for he wanted to see more of the inside of Krang’s vast Technodrome, even if it meant doing janitorial work.


In fact, there was some of that, but most of what Krang wanted done involved repairs and calibration to his scientific equipment.  Oroku Saki was not a scientist, but he did have the ability to do electronic and mechanical repairs, for when he was younger he had a career in an automotive and boat repair facility, which he left when he became a full member of the Foot Clan and drew an income from that.  But Oroku was not a glorified grease monkey; he was a quick study and was able to easily pick up the knowledge of the uses of the various types of equipment he serviced, as well as the principles behind them.  Upon realizing this, Krang only allowed the ninja master access to certain types of equipment, deliberately letting more advanced equipment go unserviced rather than allow Oroku to learn about it.


Krang neither liked nor trusted Oroku Saki, but had no regrets about having brought him aboard his Technodrome.  Equipment that had been sitting idle was being brought back into operation, and he was able to resume performing experiments that he had been previously forced to abandon due to lack of time and resources.  His army of Stone Soldiers was loyal enough, but they were designed for fighting more than maintenance, and could not perform many of the delicate tasks that Oroku was now performing.  Krang had in fact been in a state of gloom, having lost his body and being exiled to a relatively primitive planet in an alien dimension, having the Technodrome only to be unable to do much with it except watch it deteriorate from lack of maintenance.  But the ninja master he had taken in, treacherous though he was, had proven to be a godsend to the alien warlord, whose dreams of conquest were reviving once again.


Months later…


Using the personal jet transport, Oroku Saki was able to establish a routine of alternating between running the Foot Clan in Japan and working within Krang’s Technodrome.  By then the Foot Clan had gone from a small organization controlling the rackets in one minor coastal tourist town to a significant one whose influence extended into Tokyo and several other major cities, involved not only in rackets but in legitimate businesses as well.  The size and complexity of the Foot Clan had reached the point where Oroku was unable to run everything on his own, and found trusted subordinates to take charge of the various day-to-day operations.  But Oroku Saki still was the ultimate master, and subordinates who stepped out of line ended up disappearing, to be replaced by more reliable ones.


And his personal fortunes finally went up.  Oroku Saki was able to buy some real estate, and moved out of his old apartment into a much more luxurious one, though he rarely stayed in it, often having to move around.  He also obtained a luxury car, more for social status than for driving, and his wardrobe now consisted of fashion clothes as well as his traditional Japanese outfit.  But he had not gone soft with his more luxurious lifestyle; he often showed up at the ninja school to demonstrate his fighting capabilities.  Despite the absences due to his intermittent journeys to the Technodrome, Oroku was able to make his presence felt and know what was going on.  Those who had tried to take over leadership of the Foot Clan during one of his absences were dealt with harshly, and nobody else dared to try after that.


But the Foot Clan’s criminal activities were drawing unwanted attention from law enforcement authorities, which was becoming a serious problem.  This prompted Oroku Saki to call a meeting between himself and his senior subordinates, whereupon he announced a plan that surprised everyone.  He told them that he was going to establish a branch of the Foot Clan in New York City, as he was fluent in English and had some working knowledge of American culture, and would turn over Japanese operations of the Foot Clan to his second-in-command.  Of course in actuality Oroku Saki was still the true master of the Foot Clan, and everyone including his titular successor knew this.  (It is not an uncommon practice in Japan for a leader of an organization to ostensibly retire and put a successor in charge, but to in reality remain the organization’s true ruler.)  And Oroku had no fear that his control over the Foot Clan would slip out of his hands, even though he would be thousands of miles away in the United States.  There was simply nobody in the Foot Clan powerful enough to overthrow him.  Nor did he mind spending his time in America rather than Japan; America was a cheaper and less congested place to live in, and he was all too happy to no longer be a permanent resident of his old hometown.


America was a bargain in another sense; he didn’t even have to find a place to live, for he moved into the Technodrome itself, doing work for Krang in exchange for his right to room and board there.  He also used the computer and communications equipment in the Technodrome for some tasks relating to expanding the Foot Clan; he was able to see and learn things no other Earthian would know about.  In return he would occasionally bring whatever materials and equipment Krang might need for his Technodrome, obtaining them legally or illegally as was expedient.


Oroku Saki decided it was best to obtain the legal right to live in the United States, but rather than become a citizen, he became a legal alien.  Of course he waited until the legal statute of limitations for his fight with the policemen had run out, and after that he went to New York City and located and contacted the salesman at the men’s clothing store he had punched out, and expressing great remorse over what he had done, as well as showing him the phrasebook that caused the whole sorry incident to happen in the first place, convinced him to drop all criminal charges in exchange for a hefty monetary settlement, which Oroku could now readily afford.  Oroku did this less out of a guilty conscience than to ensure that the incident would not come back to haunt him.  But he was also angry at those responsible for this book which caused him such a loss of face, and the bookstore he had obtained it from was gutted by a mysterious incendiary explosion.  The same happened to the headquarters of the company which produced the book.


But the strain of both running the Foot Clan and doing work for Krang was taking its toll on Oroku Saki.  To relieve the pressure, the ninja master convinced Krang to take a group of street punks to help him on non-technical tasks such as moving items and cleaning, deliberately selecting those who were both stupid and on the run from the law, promising he could easily control them through fear and intimidation.  He kept that promise too; as a ninja master it was no trouble at all for him to defeat any of them, or even all of them at once, in a fight, and when he wasn’t present Krang’s Stone Soldiers were capable of keeping them in line.


Another problem for Oroku was getting enough ninja fighters for his Foot Clan.  Only so many people were able to pass the rigorous requirements to be a member of the Foot Clan, and there weren’t really enough for Japan, let alone America.  This time it was Krang who came up with a solution: specialized robots that resembled and performed many of the tasks of human ninjas.  They proved useful, but at best could only supplement rather than substitute for human ninjas, for they were difficult to build, maintain, and repair, lacked most human mental functions, and were comparatively easy to destroy.  (Krang of course scoffed at Earthian science fiction stories which depicted robots as smarter, more reliable, and more durable than human beings.)


Krang himself was growing tired of being a mere brain rolling around on a tripod stool, having to depend on others.  He was demanding that Oroku Saki build him a robotic body for him to use.  The ninja master balked at the idea of having to perform such a difficult engineering and construction task on top of everything else he was involved in, and so far had managed to put it off.  But it would prove to be a sticking point which would make their never-friendly relationship become worse.


For working in the Technodrome, Oroku Saki wore either a commercial work uniform or a business suit, but for dealing with the Foot Clan, he usually put on his traditional Japanese outfit, which was looser and far more comfortable, and more suited for a ninja master than Western clothing would be.  Switching between traditional and Western clothing was a common practice in Japan, and among the Japanese community in Little Tokyo Town.  He never wore his traditional clothing in the Technodrome, not wanting to risk having it soiled or damaged in its dirty environment.


But one day Oroku Saki discovered he knew less about Western culture than he had thought.  Krang was having trouble with the street punks who lived and worked in the Technodrome, and called upon Oroku to quickly come and settle matters.  He was in the midst of an exercise session with some Japanese Foot Clan members who were stationed in New York, and for that was wearing his traditional clothing.  Knowing that when street punks are involved, “trouble” meant “dangerous situation,” Oroku dropped everything to rush to the waiting transport probe that Krang had already sent into the sewers.  He would easily settle their hash.



In the Technodrome…


Oroku rushed to the room Krang had indicated.  All the punks were there, facing Krang who was as usual flanked by two Stone Soldiers.  Oroku decided that the situation was more a matter of the punks’ refusal to be cooperative, rather than their actually threatening Krang with harm.  They turned to look at him-and shocked expressions appeared on all their faces.  Was his arrival really such a surprise to them?  Then, to his own surprise, the punks started to snigger.


“What’s so funny?” Oroku demanded.  “Maybe you can let me in on the joke, too?”


The punk known as Rocksteady pointed at him.  “What kinda getup is that?”  Then the punks went from sniggering to outright laughter.


“Getup?” replied Oroku in confusion.  Then he realized Rocksteady was referring to his traditional Japanese costume, which he had never worn in the punks’ presence before.  “This ‘getup’ you refer to happens to be a traditional Japanese outfit.  Is there something wrong with it?”


“Yeah, boss,” said the one called Bebop.  “You look like a faggot!


What?” Oroku was infuriated, knowing what that term meant, and his response was immediate.  He ran up to Bebop and kicked him hard in his genitals, causing him to fall to the ground and bend double in pain.  He then delivered a punch to Rocksteady’s abdomen, and a second one to his face, knocking him over.  A third punk was knocked out with a karate kick, and hand chops felled a fourth and fifth.  The two remaining punks were backing away, and Oroku picked up one of them easily and threw him against a metal wall, then went up to him and stomped on his neck.  The final one was already running through a doorway down a corridor, and Oroku ran after him.


The punk was fast, and Oroku was having trouble catching up to him.  But the punk made the mistake of going through a doorway into a large room crisscrossed with open metal catwalks and stairways, and going down one of the winding stairways.  Not believing his luck, Oroku was able to easily jump from the top of the stairway to the bottom, landing at the bottom just in time for the punk to collide with him.  The punk fell back on his seat, shocked to see Oroku already there, but before he could react further, Oroku reached and grabbed with one hand around his neck.  The punk struggled, but could not break free of his boss, nor stop him from unfastening his trousers and pulling them halfway down.  When the punk realized what was happening, he redoubled his struggling, but could not prevent Oroku from pulling down his underpants as well.  In a move to cause the punk as much degradation as agony, Oroku grabbed his genitals and squeezed them hard.  The punk stopped struggling and screamed at the top of his lungs, tears streaming from his eyes.


“So, do I look like a faggot?” asked Oroku sardonically.




“You sure about that?”




Oroku released him, causing him to fall onto the stairway.  The punk was sobbing pitifully, throwing his arms protectively over his groin.  Oroku gave him a minute to recover before commanding, “Pull your pants back up.”


The punk was still in pain, and with difficulty managed to stand up and get his trousers back on.  “Now, before we go back upstairs,” continued Oroku, “I want to give me your honest opinion on how my traditional Japanese costume looks to you.”  The punk looked at him in frightened silence.  “And I mean honest opinion.  Don’t lie to me, because if you do I’ll hurt you again.”


The punk stuttered nervously, “I-it l-l-l-ooks uh-uh-uh-uh…”


“Tell me exactly how my clothing looks to you.  Give me your honest opinion, and I won’t hurt you.  Lie to me and I will.”


“I-it looks f-feminine.  Honest, it does.”


Oroku Saki looked down at his clothing, which consisted of a purple robe decorated with patterns and striped, very baggy trousers tied by a white bow around the waist.  A pair of wooden sandals was on his feet.  The ninja master was already aware that men’s clothing in Western culture was typically tight-fitting and plain colored, while there was more variety among that for women.  Evidently the loose fit and bright coloring of his traditional Japanese outfit was unacceptable for males in Western culture.


“Then I guess I’ll have to find something to wear that you’ll consider more macho,” replied Oroku wryly.



New York City Foot Clan headquarters…


For his new outfit, Oroku Saki looked among the different types of outfits stored there.  He wanted to find something Japanese, or at least Japanese-influenced, not wishing to make people think he was suppressing his national identity to appeal to Westerners.  He also needed something flamboyant, to emphasize his importance, but also practical for the times he would be ninja fighting.


He found some pieces of chrome-plated spiked armor, originally designed and constructed for a since-aborted theatrical production.  On a whim, he tried them on.  They were tight, but he could have them adjusted to fit him.  Certainly nobody could call these items effeminate.  But these were meant to go over tighter-fitting clothes, so he found his black ninja suit and changed into that, and then put the armor back on.  It definitely looked better, but still seemed too plain.  He found a helmet and face mask that was also chrome-plated, which was not originally intended to go with the other armor, but when he tried it on, it made a good match.  But Oroku hated the lack of color on his outfit.  Somehow, he would have to fit in the color purple in his clothing, which was the shade of that on his traditional outfit.


After a bit of searching, trying on different clothing, and having items tailored, he finally found the look he wanted.  A purple sleeveless top replaced the upper half of his ninja suit, and his ninja socks were replaced by black boots so he could walk around in it everyday on all sorts of ground.  The Superman-style cape, also in purple, was added at the last minute because it made him look larger and more intimidating.  Looking at himself in the mirror, Oroku decided the outfit was just what he wanted, flamboyant but still practical for fighting in.  It looked rather odd, but was still intimidating.  He could hardly wait to see how the punks in Krang’s Technodrome would react to it.



Back in the Technodrome…


“Uh, boss, isn’t that kinda overdoin’ it?” asked the one called Rocksteady.


“But it doesn’t look effeminate, does it?” replied Oroku sardonically.  Indicating his spiked armor, he added, “And I think these give it a nice touch.”


“Yeah, but aren’t they kinda a nuisance?” asked Bebop.


Oroku laughed, “Not at all.  These aren’t just for show, they’re actually quite practical.  Allow me to demonstrate.”


Going up to a nearby pile of empty wooden crates, Oroku leaped up and slashed repeatedly at them, his spiked armor ripping the wood to shreds which flew all over the room.  All the punks were impressed…and intimidated.  Even the one whose genitals got painfully squeezed quickly dismissed all thoughts of revenge, knowing his boss could do far, far worse to him.


“So what do you think of my outfit now?”


“Call you the Shredder?” replied Bebop meekly.  “After what you did to those crates?”


The punks watched Oroku nervously as he mused before answering.  “So my nickname is now ‘The Shredder,’ huh?  I think it has a nice ring to it.”


And the nickname stuck.

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