Richard Ito walked along the boulevard, avoiding the Japanese soldiers loitering at the street corners. He had been wanted for several days by the Imperial Army.
As the young Japanese-American man watched, an old lady was trying to sell flowers out of a cart on wheels, and a small group of uniforms gathered around the mobile stand. They began hectoring the old lady in Japanese. Richard frowned as he paused to take in the scene.
He rubbed the jagged scar on his cheek, knowing he really should not do what he was about to do. “Leave her alone,” he said calmly.
The uniform in charge looked at Richard. “Where are your papers?” demanded the uniform.
“Don’t need any papers to live in my own country,” said Richard, smiling. “Why don’t you commit hara-kiri to save the world from your stupidity.”
The uniforms froze. Then they surrounded the American with fury and hate on their faces. The old woman moved away from the area of conflict, pausing to watch the following event in distress.
The man in charge raised his club, but suddenly he flew through the air with a high-pitched scream. Richard held the club and slapped it in the palm of his hand. The other men looked at each other. Then they attacked.
Richard Ito vanished in a spray of wind. The men froze, looking around for their opponent. He stepped in with lightning-fast blows from the stolen club. He then dropped the club to the ground and walked away calmly, waving to the old lady. No need for roughing up the elderly.
Heading to his favorite place to eat, The Silver Platter, he sat in his regular place and ordered his regular burger and fries. He groaned when he saw his brother step into the restaurant and hunched down in his seat to avoid detection. He saw that his ploy hadn’t worked when his taller sibling descended on his table like some great vulture.
“Hello, Richard,” said Pat Ito. “Have you given any thought to my proposal?”
“Yes,” said Richard. “And the answer’s no. Don’t bother sitting down. I want you to leave me alone.”
“We need you, Richard,” said Pat, crossing his arms over his chest.
“You need to swim with the fishes,” said the younger Richard with a frown.
“Don’t be that way, Richard,” said Pat irritably. “You know that the reward for you has gone up. They say the Manhunter is personally leading the hunt.”
“He’d better not lead it in here while I’m trying to eat,” said Richard calmly. “Otherwise, I’ll be very upset with him.”
“I don’t understand,” said Pat. “The California Resistance needs someone of your special abilities. You can do things that I only dream about. I would give my right arm for a chance like you have.”
“Would you?” said Richard. “I spent almost a year in a coma. When I woke up, an army had moved into my building and had thrown everyone out on the street. I am on the most wanted list because I beat some soldiers up when they tried to rob me while I was looking for a place to live. Would you really want to trade places with me?”
“That’s not what I meant at all,” said Pat. “I meant about the speed.”
“You can’t have the good without the bad,” said Richard Ito irritably. “The answer’s no, Pat. I won’t join up with your gang. That’s final. I’m in enough trouble on my own without compounding it.”
“You have to listen to me, Richard,” said Pat Ito. “You can’t keep beating up the occupation forces in street brawls. Sooner or later, your luck will run out.”
“It just will, then,” said Richard, unmoved by his brother’s plea.
“If you need anything,” said Pat, standing and bending down to write a phone number on a napkin, which he handed to his brother, “call this number. I’ll do what I can.”
“Stay out of trouble, Pat,” said Richard, tucking the paper away. “I don’t want my problems to cross over to you. And I don’t want to be counted among your friends. They might want favors I’m not willing to give.”
“You’ll change your mind,” said Pat as he turned to leave.
Richard watched him leave calmly. “Doubt it,” he said as he went back to eating.
Finishing his lunch, he sat quietly watching the street and his fellow customers as he thought about what his brother had said. He knew the California Resistance was working hand-in-hand with the U.S. Government. He also knew that Washington was afraid to bomb its own citizens.
Maybe he should do something, he thought. But exactly what he should do was the question. Even though his speed was amazing, there was no way could he stand up to the Manhunter from Mars in a pitched fight.
Of course, if he was recognized and turned in, he would have to deal with the Manhunter when they came to take him in. At least he wouldn’t have anyone else in the way when that became necessary. Pat’s friends were a dead loss.
Richard paid for his food and left the diner. He casually walked down the street, checking his surroundings as he walked. He almost expected to see troop cars and the Manhunter roaring up as he walked.
The young Japanese-American had made a place to live among the docks and industrial sea commerce areas of the city. It was a small apartment in the attic of a shipping company. A short sprint allowed him to get in the place through a skylight. He had cobbled together furniture from trash he had found on the street. Milk crates were chairs, and a cable spool served as a coffee table. He had stolen a Japanese Army radio and a television, and he had paid for a chemistry set from a pawn shop.
He turned on the radio as he washed up with a water basin. The scar on his face glared at him as he looked in the cracked mirror he had procured. “It’s not my fault,” he said to his reflection, noting how he guilty he looked to himself.
Later, the radio still chattered in the background as he tried to work on a chemical idea he’d had before being struck by the lightning bolt. What drew his attention was the notification that Patrick Ito had been arrested. He put his experiment aside as he listened to the broadcast.
Pat had been taken in a raid and was to be processed and held for a trial in the morning. Richard knew that meant his brother would be shot in the afternoon. The Occupation were swift in judgment, especially of saboteurs. A firing-squad execution broadcast on the television would be their style.
He frowned, knowing he was about to do something he considered stupid in the extreme. Richard put aside the chemicals, knowing the experiment was ruined. He paced as he listened to the radio for more details. No location was given for Pat’s prison.
Richard found a scarf and cut eye holes in it. He needed something that would attract attention when he needed to, but which he could change out of when he needed to blend in. He found the top of an old karate gi and belted it with a blue rank belt. He also dug out a blue pair of sweat pants, and tennis shoes completed his ensemble.
It was time to get his brother out of trouble again.