Moskau, Sakura Hotel
A sixth floor office, three hours later.
From a classified audio transcript,
“I’m highly disappointed in you, Itiro san,” a male voice said bitterly.
“And so am I, Onoda san. Allow me to write a poem on the subject, followed by my performing seppuku. I will be very careful in ripping my belly; I won’t soil the floors. I’ve brought a waterproof cloak and twenty feet of plastic film specifically for the purpose.”
“And what am I supposed to do with your body? Cut it into pieces and burn them in the fireplace? Thank you very much! As far as I know, you and your wife received two million yen for the job. The imperial Kommandatur in Hong Kong made sure you boarded the plane without being checked. No, don’t start. I’ve heard all your excuses. But somehow I doubt they’ll convince the others.”
A heavy sigh. “I understand. What am I looking at?”
“Nothing good, really. The Mikado Bank account where you placed the money has been frozen. Your family isn’t getting it until the job is complete. Excuse my being so blatant, Itiro san, but how much time have you got left until your meeting with Amaterasu, the solar goddess?”
The other voice paused. “About a week, according to the doctors. I appreciate your concern.”
An expiring cigarette hissed against the ashtray. “In this case, I have the displeasure to state that you have seven days to complete your mission. In any case, the government will pay for your funeral. Out of pure respect of your past services, Itiro san.”
“I do not deserve a single crumb of respect, Onoda san.”
“Excellent. In this case, try to retrieve it, as well as your money. This is the only way to secure adequate living standards for your children. I’ll make sure that you have everything you need this week, including reichsmarks. The reichsmark isn’t as stable as the yen, but at least you can use this Monopoly money all over Europe — both in Moskau and in the Reichskommissariats of Norway, Ukraine and Netherlands. Italy is the only country now not accepting the reichsmark. They prefer their hand-soiled liras. What a joke of a nation! They still exploit the bygone glory of Cesar's legions while in fact they struggled to conquer those barefoot Abyssinian savages. War just isn’t their thing. They should stay at home and eat spaghetti. All those weekly Hello Duce! TV shows! Romano Mussolini is just as eccentric as his father was. He’s eighty, for crissakes, and he’s prancing around like a college student. All that drunken sax playing of his at the Axis countries summit; his courting the ancient Sophie Loren... the man is a joke. You should rent an apartment by the day. Hotels are crawling with Gestapo agents. You know, don’t you, that this so-called empire of theirs is a rather loose structure? It’s not a single state but some sort of hostile competing Reichskommissariats. Even their capital is alternating. Last year it was Amsterdam. This year it’s Moskau.”
“I thank you, Onoda san. The diamonds of your thoughts enrich the poverty of my mind.”
A lighter clicked. “I swear by the Mikado, you won’t find it easy. Yes, you do speak a bit of Russisch, that was part of your profession... still, theory and practice aren’t the same thing. The Russlanders are a very peculiar nation. They’re terribly xenophobic — but they love all things foreign, especially with some well-targeted promotion. You know, don’t you, that Japanese food is extremely popular in Moskau? In less than ten years it has become a sensation."
The other man coughed. “Please accept my admiration for your work, Onoda san. I always found it strange that the Third Reich eats nothing but sushi, considering them a national Japanese dish and the ultimate in health foods. If this is the work of the promotional department at the Mikado’s court, they deserve being immortalized. Turning Japanese cat food into the local jetset hors-d’oeuvres!”
“Oh, yes! Thanks to this idea, the Nippon koku has no problem getting rid of raw fish leftovers. As for the rest, it’s all the same. Did you notice the abundance of blond people in Moskau?”
The voice paused again. “I did. Everybody’s either blond or a redhead. Not a single dark-haired person.”
“Exactly. Itiro san, this is something you need to understand. In Moskau, being Aryan is considered cool. The Führer’s initial doctrine considered the inhabitants of Russland as an inferior nation of untermenschen, as they called them. Substandard people. But closer to September 1945 the Reich's generals realized they weren’t going to defeat the guerrilla movement. Which was when the opposite idea prevailed. Reluctantly they recognized the Russlanders as an Aryan nation which allowed them to recruit them into the SS. Moreover, the Berlin racial department officially recognized all Slavs as Aryans, including the Bulgarians. Everyone but the Poles, that is. From that moment, Russland women started receiving alimony for the children born from German soldiers[i]. It’s been half a century since. The European nations have all cross-bred: it’s a true melting pot here. These days you’d be hard pressed to guess the origins of anyone. But here, Aryans are obliged to dye their hair blond. It’s not a trend even. More of a necessity.”
“You don’t want to say there’re no dark-haired Russlanders left, do you, Onoda san?”
“Oh, yes. Plenty of those around. But they either wear wigs of shave their heads. Those who have the guts to be seen with their natural hair are called the Schwarzkopfs — Black Heads. It’s the slang word for dissidents. I told you already that Russland is a very peculiar area. It eagerly soaks up any foreign filth — but by the same token, it resists any foreign invaders. The guerrilla movement is still going strong all over the Reichskommissariat of Moskau. They control entire areas in the Urals, in St. Petersburg suburbs and around Yekaterinodar. You won’t want to go picnicking in the woods, oh no! Even in Moskau, Resistance is quite active. Two months ago they killed the city’s Oberkommandant Gruppenführer von Travinsky.
“This is crazy," the other voice burst out coughing. "Overzealous fanatics.”
“You would think so, wouldn't you? But this is simply a local tradition. The Russlanders have lots of habits they inherited from the Mongols. Corruption, for one. An Oriental love of creature comforts. Sucking up to the authorities. Cronyism. And with all this, they resisted the Yoke for two hundred years until the Golden Horde gave up and left them well alone. The Russlanders’ ties with the Germans are much stronger than you might think. They were ruled by Kaiserins, Empresses of German blood, like Katharina I and Katharina II who is also known as Catherine the Great, the best queen in Russland’s history. Every Kaiser of Russland starting with Peter the Great married a German princess. The very first Royal Russian dynasty was the Rurik, descendants of Danish princes. They were followed by the Mongols followed by the Germans. After the Bolsheviks had seized power, Jews came — followed by the Georgians followed by the Germans again. Basically, Russland has always been controlled by a foreign power. So there’ll always be some who hate it. Unfortunately, neither the government of Russland nor the Schwarzkopfs have noticed that the Wehrmacht is long gone. They’re at war with themselves.”
“How can I express my gratitude to you, Onoda san? All this is highly informative.”
“Don’t mention it. What a shame that Amaterasu is in such a hurry to summon you. You won’t have time to get a feeling for Russland. I’ve been working here for ten years already. You can’t imagine some things I’ve seen — even in the Siberian cities of Uradziosutoku and Habarosito which are thriving in the Mikado’s care. You can make the locals take Japanese names but they’ll still drink moonshine instead of sake!”
The other voice trembled. “How truly awful...”
“I haven’t told you half of it. No one wants to study Japanese. Women are the only ones who agree to wear geta sandals and kimonos. No one makes rock gardens over here. They prefer to dig the ground up and grow those wretched cucumbers, of all things! The only things that took were yakitori and right-hand drive cars. Oh, they love them in Uradziosutoku! This is something they won’t let you take away from them! I completely agree with the Mikado’s position: in order to ensure our empire’s world leadership we do need natural resources. And still sometimes I wish that our acquisitions didn’t go beyond taking the second half of Karafuto Island.”
“I completely agree with you, Onoda san.”
“Sorry for keeping you so long, my dear Itiro san. Here, take these reichsmarks," the voice said, accompanied by the rustle of paper notes. "I’ll give you the address in a minute. Go to the first street kiosk and buy yourself an oxygen mask and a Geiger counter. Do you have the Hong Kong equipment with you? Excellent. But be careful. Don’t use it unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
“If you don’t mind me asking..." the other voice shook with anxiety, "could you issue me a handgun, please?”
“You don’t need it. Whatever you do, you can’t shoot him.”
[i] In March 1943 Adolf Hamann, the commandant of Orel — the Russian city occupied by the Germans — issued this little-known order about “alimony payments to children born of Wehrmacht fathers”. The reason for the Slavs’ recognition as Aryan was simple: Germany needed to replenish its troops after its Stalingrad losses.
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