Guadalcanal : Road to Legend
The Emily rose one final time in a last surge and then settled down heavily as the engines were cut. A sudden silence came upon the moonlit scene, broken only by the lapping of waves upon the beach and the creak of a pair of securing lines from the plane to the dock, held in check by two young boys.
A nervous entourage cleared their throats and desperately tried to adjust their uniforms without the shame of being seen doing so. A sweating slab of a man at the front of them, sake heavily on his breath, was in most need of tidying up and the least likely to escape reprimand for it.
Generals were held to higher standards.
The door to the aircraft opened up, sticking slightly in the process, and a lead uniformed co-pilot was the first to appear. He looked about as nervous as the general felt, and after scanning the distance between plane to dock, seemed satisfied and made the cross over with ease. He then stepped aside to make room for the others, and in moments, three more men were standing besides him. All seemed no-nonsense and unreadable. Then, as if pulsed with an electric shock, all three snapped to rigid attention and the general knew that he and his group must do the same.
“AttenTION!” shouted the general, and the two rows of men behind him attempted to get even straighter than they were before.
Word of this visit had not reached the general until a mere thirty minutes before the plane had been expected to touch down, and to make matters worse, the plane had come twenty minutes early. Dragged from a comfort station a short ways up the road, he had been the only one close enough to give a proper welcome to such a formidable guest. Rounding up every spare man he could find (including a mahjong playing group of mechanics on break), he prayed to the gods that the sliver of a moon above would not be enough light to expose his most embarrassing show of a welcoming committee.
There were proper ways to meet one of the Emperor's hands.
He wore the uniform of an army officer when he stepped out, but the general knew that Baron Nomma Aisoraki had been a graduate of Etajima in the same class as the esteemed Admiral Yamamoto who now commanded the Combined Fleet.
A short man, called “the Dwarf” behind his back, Nomma was one of the two people closest to the Emperor and was said to be one of the most influential men in all the Empire. His word was said to be that of the Emperor himself, and he transcended all boundaries between the Army, the Navy and the Cabinet. Upon his broad chest he wore a single designation, the golden chrysanthemum, and it made that power all to clear as he came forward.
“Baron Nomma, what an unexpected visit,” the general began. “We are honored by your presence...”
The Emperor's Hand simply walked past him, and the general realized he was expected to fall into step beside him. The entourage from the plane followed, minus the co-pilot who looked eager to flee back into his plane.
“You may dispense with the pleasantries, General.” the Baron rumbled, coldness radiating from his every fiber. “I am here to put this theater of operations back on schedule.”
The general stiffened. His stepped faltered just a moment as they made their way down the dock.
“I assure you, Baron, that our men have been working as fast as they can. We've even now just begun our next phase in the operations...”
The Baron narrowed his eyes warningly. “Perhaps I can find new ways to motivate them.”
The general, aware of Nomma's methods, felt fear run up and down his spine. He felt a need to defend himself and his command.
“I tell you, Port Morseby will be taken within the month as planned. We are assured a complete and final victory there. Even now, General Horii is moving within range of his objectives.”
This caused the Baron to stop suddenly and wheel to face the sweating subordinate.
“The Emperor does not share your optimistic appraisal of the situation.” He raised a hand, and for a moment, the general wondered if he might be struck in front of all his men.
The alcohol took over a bit at this point.
“But he asks the impossible!” the general complained through clenched teeth. “We need more men!”
A dark smile came across the Baron's face.
“Perhaps... you can tell him yourself when he arrives.”
This nearly flattened the general to the ground. His heart skipped a beat in his chest.
“The Emperor is coming here??”
The Baron nodded.
“That is correct, General. And he is most displeased with your apparent lack of progress.”
The general stiffened.
“Then we shall double our efforts!”
A dark twinkle came into the Baron's eye.
“I hope so, General. For your sake. The Emperor is not as forgiving as we are...”
This was all too much for the general.
“Of course. My counterpart is en-route from Java as we speak. You didn't think I would come alone now, did you?”