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Mutants & Masterminds: The Unlikely Prophets - Prologue: Sanada Kenshin - The Rising Son


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He has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so.

- Walter Lippmann

It was a new day.

Sanada Kenshin wasn't quite old enough to remember stories of Tokyo's wilder side, the bright lights and speedy pace. Population control incentives and a firm hand by the City Magistrate Kiyoko Rin had successfuly driven most of that away. What remained was commerce and business and work, which he did successfully up until now.

Last night, as he was receiving the final essay exams from his students at the History Department of the University of Tokyo, he'd gotten the news. His father's heart had given out, and despite repeated efforts at the nursing home to revive him, he was gone. He hadn't cried then. He hadn't slept well, either.

Today he had a meeting with the executors of his father's will. It had all been set up on short notice - they had anticipated the passing for quite some time. It would be a long train ride into the heart of the city, but he could grade papers along the way. He checked his clock, noting the time.

He didn't want to be late, after all. Someone dying did that to you. It made you appreciate the time you had left, and how sharp the reaper's blade was.

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Kenshin boarded the train and as it pulled from the station he set his laptop on the tray table. Term papers took time to read and grade, and Kenshin expected that the train ride would allow him the opportunity to grade two possibly three. He settled down in his seat and started the first, choosing one at random from his email. Two hours later he closed the laptop, the paper unread and ungraded. He walked to the lawyer's from the train, his thoughts unfocused.

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The one essay said it all, really.

It was a history of the Cold War era Soviet Union. It was pretty good. The student had an insight into the Cuban Missile Crisis from the Soviet perspective that was refreshing. But what struck him most, on today of all days, was how the essay just stopped at the end. The student had tried to hide it, padding it out the way students did - adding a word here and there to squeeze an extra line out - but it shone through, if by nothing else than by its subject matter. It was all over before the middle of the 1990s.

He knew why. Everyone knew why. Or at least, everyone inclined to look. Everyone knew about that slice of history, carved away as if history had a sword.

He wandered in, and mumbled a greeting - distracted, but polite - to the receptionist. Distracted, he took the elevator. Distracted, he knocked on the door.

The door opened. The lawyer was a few years his senior. He smiled sadly. "Mister Sanada, my condolences on your loss. I am Yakamura Tarou. Please come in. This won't take long, the will is fairly simple."

Besides the lawyer, inside the room was someone who made Kenshin's pulse quicken. The suit and tie, the serious demeanor, and most of all, the circular badge pinned to his left breast pocket - all this denoted him as a Knight Watchman.

The watchman nodded at Kenshin. "Mister Sanada." Kenshin felt a tingle in his skin at the greeting.

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"Let's hope not," was the watchman's reply.

Yakamura Tarou coughed. "What the watchman means to say, relates to the will. Your father, rest his soul, left everything to your mother, with the exception of the contents of a single box that he has put into public storage. All of his other possessions are a matter of record, but this box is not. So the watchmen is here to ensure... that is, he's going to check that... well..."

"That it's nothing dangerous." The watchman's gaze never left Kenshin.

"Yes. Yes, that's it. Thank you." The lawyer seemed nervous. "So we, the three of us, are going to go to the public storage facility and we are going to open the box. If there is any contraband inside, of course, you will not be charged, since it would be your father's crime and who would punish the dead? But we do need to make sure. This is the only sticking point on the will. We can leave by car whenever you're ready. It's less than half an hour away."

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"We can leave now."


The drive to the public storage facility was quiet. The watchman's presence intimidated and made small talk feel pointless.

They got out of the car and looked up at the sign that read 'Sentinel Public Storage.' They walked up the steps three abreast, and opened the public office door.

They checked in with reception, to ensure there was a record of their presence. Then they walked down the sheds to room 1938. Using the key, they opened the shed. All that was inside was a long wooden box, about six feet in length.

Kenshin stepped forward, as did the watchman. Kenshin felt nervous - well, he'd been nervous for half an hour but now he was very nervous.

The watchman pried open the crate's lid. He looked inside, and he laughed. He waved over Kenshin and showed him the contents.

It was a doll. A 12 inch doll, like the old American G.I. Joe figures. It was bedecked in fake-looking plastic armor, complete with a samurai mask and a samurai sword. The mask and the sword were very well done. Everything else looked cheap.

There was a note attached to the doll. It read, I don't know why anymore, but I know that this is yours, Kenshin.

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Kenshin sighed and shook his head as all trace of nervousness fled from his body leaving him slightly tired. "My father had a wonderful sense of humor. He used to say that laughter could banish even the darkest aspects of the soul. I think perhaps he is sharing a joke with me from heaven." Kenshin squatted next to the crate and read the note then pushed his hand into the packing material. "There is nothing else, just the toy," he shook his head and found himself laughing despite himself. "Maybe my father was right after all."

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Tarou nodded, seemingly relieved. "Then all is in order. I'm sorry for your loss, Mister Sanada. Perhaps your father was right, yes. For your troubles I will drop you off at your house. Hector, will you sign off, then?"

"I'm satisfied," replied the watchman. "Glad I found nothing."

Later Still

He was back in his apartment. The doll was sitting on the mantle. Sanada found it oddly comforting to look at, as silly as it was. He was lost in a memory of his father when the phone rang.

When he answered, he heard the voice of his mother. "Hello, Kenshin. How did the meeting with the lawyers go?" Her voice was raw, as if she'd been bawling.

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"It went fine. There was a small issue that required the presence of a Watchman but it turned out to only be some final joke from father. I guess even in death he wished me to not lose my sense of humor. The crate he left me had nothing but a little samurai doll. I felt slightly silly having been so concerned when the Watchman insisted on seeing the contents."

He paused, "And how are you mother? You sound as though you have been crying again, is there anything I can do for you?"

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"I just lost your father, Kenshin. I think I huh-have to cry, or else I'd be crazy. But - "

Then the voice seemed to scramble, as if the signal was interrupted. There was silence. With a start, Kenshin realized that it wasn't just silence on the phone. There was silence all around him. The city had paused.

Attempts to speak didn't seem to work. Kenshin felt a tightness in his throat. And then, a new voice - the voice of the Order's economic and sociological engine, the Mathemagician - spoke.

who are you?

Then there was a song.

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To call this song 'haunting' did no justice. It seemed to stop the whole world. Nothing was frozen - the wind blew, the sun shone - but the whole planet seemed to take a collective breath.

The song lasted a few seconds. It also lasted forever. Time lost all meaning in its embrace. The song crescendoed, and built, and crashed to its climax, moving mountains with notes. It faded away, leaving Kenshin feeling different. Like everything in the living room of his soul was moved six inches out of place.

why are you here?

The Mathemagician's final words hung in the air. The world started up again.

" - thank you for taking care of the will, Kenshin. He would have been so proud."

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"... oh, of course mother. Do you need anything? Should I come by?" Kenshin was confused and disoriented, he was starting to wonder if he was getting sick.

"No dear I'll be fine and you've had a long day. Take care, I love you son," His mothers hung up after he own salutation and he stared at the phone for a moment half expecting it to ring or play music ... or both. Finally he placed the phone on the receiver and went into his bedroom to lie down. He felt ill or something, perhaps a nap would solve the problem.

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As Kenshin headed towards his bed, he stopped. He turned around slowly, towards the action figure, that he'd left up on his mantle.

Something about it.

He felt drawn towards it. He took one step, and then another. Close enough to touch.

He could hear it, now. Whispering. It seemed to get louder, the closer he got to the doll. He picked the doll up, half-expecting it to speak. Then he realized that it wasn't the doll, that the noise was coming from. It was what was on the doll.

Gently, he pried the mask and the sword free. There was a tingling sensation in the tips of his fingers, and then suddenly -

Suddenly, he wasn't holding a tiny mask and a tiny sword meant for a 12 inch doll. Suddenly it was a full-sized mask, exquisitely crafted, and a full-sized scabbarded sword, light as air. He staggered back in shock, not believing it at first, but they were real. He could feel them. They were real.

The whispering had grown louder, too. He could make out words, here and there, in Japanese - and in English, and in other languages he couldn't comprehend. The mask was speaking to him.

don us

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I'm going mad. My father's death has brought on a psychological break and I have gone mad. Kenshin inspects him own body half expecting to find that his limbs are made of hard plastic with screwed together joints. He finds instead only flesh and bone. The items call to him again. He eyes the mask, its face made up to appear demonic and terrifying, the lacquer is shiny and almost slick. Strands of white silk thread form mustachios and a short beard that contrast sharply with the blood red mask. He sets the sword down and turns the mask over in his hands, the inside surface appears as the outside, like fresh blood that has been frozen in time. Kenshin walks to the bathroom and looking in the mirror he puts the mask to his face...
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The second he brought the mask to his face, things changed.

He felt the weight of armor as it materialized all around him. He did not buckle - indeed, it seemed impossibly light. It encased him from head to toe.

He looked in the mirror. He raised his hands to his face... and then, as the rest of the room faded away, as there was only him and his reflection, his reflection's hands moved where his did not. It pried the mask from its face.

Kenshin stared into the face of his father.

It wasn't his father as he'd known him at the end, struggling with the heart disease that had caused his heart to rot and left him bedridden. It was his father as he'd known him growing up, strong yet kind, gentle and calm, and fiercely protective of Kenshin. This was Sanada Yoshitsune in his prime.

"My son." He smiled. "I'm sorry. I wish I could talk to you and respond to you as I no doubt did in life; but this is a message, and if you are watching it, it means that I am gone. Grieve for me. But do not let your grief kill you as surely as whatever killed me."

He stood back a bit. The world faded back into bloom. It was a Japanese forest in the autume, the petals falling like slow and lovely rain, the sun setting the leaves and sky ablaze. "It is said that a samurai conducts himself with such strength of purpose, that he may complete one deed even after his head has been cut off. I am alive, now, but I feel that my head is being cut off in a far less bloody sense. I don't regret my deed. I don't regret choosing the city over my comrades. But I regret never being able to teach you of all this properly, as I should have. The world soon will not allow it. I can sense it leaving me quickly. I will have forgotten it all by the time you are born. All this will be to me, is a strange old relic in my closet."

Yoshitsune drew his sword. "This is our sword. It is the Muramasa Katana. The finest sword ever forged. It can cut a man in body and in soul. It can strike with the speed of the wind. It is the sword of the Sanadas. It is your sword."

With his free hand, he held up his mask. "This is Mempo, the Face of Terror. It will create for you a suit of armor, give you the strength and hardiness of ten men, and it will summon a warhorse for you to ride, and to aid you in battle."

"Know this. Many samurai fought for a lord. I did not. I fought for an ideal, an ideal I fear is going to be in short supply, an ideal that within a generation no one may even remember. I fought for justice, my son. I stood with many others who felt the call. I hope you are so blessed to fight the good fight, with such men and women as I knew."

He donned his mask. With a shimmer of smoke, he suddenly appeared mounted atop a gigantic warhorse. "All I can hope for is that the cloud over this world lifts just enough to let this through. If it does, I will consider myself blessed a hundred times over. Blessed that my son will remember his father: Sanada Yoshitune, the Scarlet Samurai.

Before Kenshin could reach, his father reared the horse and rode off. The world went black again. When it returned, he was in his bathroom again, still wearing the impossible suit and holding the impossible sword.

There was a whinney out in the hall. Kenshin turned, and stared the impossible horse in the eye. It licked its gums.

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