昭和 17 6月三十日
Minister Yamashita is pleased with the naval reports that parade across his desk today. SS I-8 torpedoes xAK Iron King way to the west of Perth and, not content with this, later in the day she attacks xAK City of Pretoria on the surface sticking 4 torpedoes into the hapless merchant. Off Newcastle Australia, I-29 blows CM GoudenLeuw to kingsom come with three direct torpedo hits.
The airgroups for Akagi, Kaga, Shokaku, Zuikaku, Junyo and Hiyo increase in size. This will make the carriers more effective platforms although Kobayashi might be displeased with the drain on his aircraft pools.
In the early evening Yamashita prepared to leave his office. In the antechamber, the recently promoted Chū-I Kobayashi also prepared to leave the office.
Officers in the service were issued, or bought a side arm. Imperial Japanese Army officers loved to strut around town with their pistols in their shiny leather holsters. Naval officers in the Home Islands however rarely wore their pistols, thus Yamashita was surprised when he saw the 1st Lieutenant trying to fit his Nambu type 14 pistol not in the official holster but in his waistband instead.
“Is she that dangerous?” he asked in a rare moment of humor.
Kobayashi laughed, “No sir. I am meeting somebody tonight.”
“And you feel you need a weapon, but do not want it to be obvious that you are armed.”
Yamashita trusted his subordinate implicitly and did not ask what he was about. Instead he returned to his office, opened the drawer and pulled out a small pistol, a Walther PPK that had been a present from the German ambassador.
“Here, take mine. It will be easier to hide,” he said handing the little pistol to the young lieutenant.
“Domo,” Kobayashi said taking the gun with a brief bow.
Kobayashi walked through the still busy streets, away from the harbor and shipyards, looking for the ramen shop where he would meet Sekai Heiwa.
“World Peace,” he thought, “who goes by a name like that? He must be a communist. Good thing I brought a gun.”
Yamashita’s Walther was a reassuring weight in his trouser pocket.
The streets were empty now, this being a mostly residential area with few business and those already closed. He reached the shabby street and in the center he saw a red banner.
“Tampopo Ramen,” he said aloud and walked in.
The shopkeeper was a rather frumpy woman of about forty. Many women tended shops nowadays as more and more men got called up into the army.
“Komban-wa” Ito replied.
This ramen shop was unusual in that it had two tatami tables in addition to the stools around the counter where the woman prepared the noodles. It was empty now. It would do most of its business at lunchtime, Kobayashi thought.
“Do you have any sake?” Kobayashi asked sitting on the tatami at one of the tables, “I am waiting for someone,” he explained.
“Hai,” she answered and brought him a small bottle and two cups.
He was early, he knew that, but he wanted to examine the shop before Sekai Heiwa arrived.
A young man, wearing spectacles and western style clothes came in. He bowed to the shopkeeper and approached Kobayashi. He bowed.
“Kobayashi-san, o-matase shimashita.”
Kobayashi stood up and bowed, “Not at all, I was early. Pleased to meet you.”
They both sat down on the floor and Kobayashi poured sake for his guest.
The woman took their ramen order and went behind the counter to get the noodles ready.
After a moment of silence, Kobayashi said:
“You wanted to speak to me.”
“Yes.” The man paused for a moment.
Kobayashi took a small sip of sake and studied the man while he waited. Clean clothes, not new, but in good shape. White shirt and tie. A spot of ink on his index finger.
“Sekai Heiwa is not my real name of course.”
“I expected that.”
The man paused again as if uncertain, or wary of what he was about to say.
“You wrote to me about engines,” Yamashita said.
The man began to talk, pausing only when the noodles arrived.
“Those two engines whose production you stopped. Well, the manufacturers liked that, they don’t like to have too much inventory on hand and that way they can lay off workers temporarily, so they don’t have to pay them.”
Kobayashi looked at the man sideways, Is he a communist or some kind of trade union guy? He wondered.
“Now” the man continued, “What do you know about aircraft research?”
Kobayashi gave a non committal shrug of his shoulders.
“There are two parts to an airplane, the engine, or engines, and the airframe. Sometimes, we research both things at the same time, the engine and the airframe. But often we design new airframes for engines already available.”
“So desu ka.”
“Well, the engines in storage belong to the Army or Navy, you see, and cannot be used for research. If there are enough engines in the storage pool however, the research plants can use them to test the airframes and build prototypes. But with the engine production frozen, we have to use older, less powerful engines or, if we are lucky, we may get a burnt out engine that comes back to the factory when a plane is refurbished. But those engines do not generate full power you see…”
Kobayashi nodded agreement, “I see.”
“But why did the manufacturers not say anything?” he asked.
“Kobayashi-san, you seem an honorable man. May I be frank?”
“You do know we cannot beat the Americans,” the man’s voice was no higher than a whisper.
“That could be considered treason,” Kobayashi temporized in a voice no louder than his guest’s
“You won’t denounce me to the Kempetai, I know that.”
“The industrial moguls are neither patriots nor traitors, but they can do math and know what we can and cannot build and what the Americans can and cannot build. The math is easy. They will do what they are ordered to do, as best they can, but they keep an eye on what will happen after, after the war.”
“They want money, resources, and above all, they want to be able to rebuild, once it is over.”
“Anyway,” the man continued, “My friends and me are well situated in the aviation, and naval shipyard business, and we want to help.”
“To help us win?” Kobayashi asked with more than a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
“Or to help Japan achieve a favorable peace; a peace that will last.”
“Sekai Heiwa?” Kobayashi said.
On the low table, two noodle bowls cooled, untouched.
Appear at places to which he must hasten; move swiftly where he does not expect you.