Despite the late hour, almost every seat in the Diet Chamber was filled. Sakagawa Ichirou, an MP with the Komeito Party, had been drumming up publicity for his bill for the past week.
“It’s only an official condemnation,” muttered Yoshiro Fujioka, a young MP from Niigata, as Sakagawa orated on and on about the need for his motion to pass. “Just words. I don’t know what everyone is so worked up about.”
“Words condemning the United States for inaction in very strong terms could end up being more than just words,” replied his neighbor in the curved row of representatives, Sasaki Yamato.
Yoshiro grunted. Sakagawa had finally sat down, and the next speaker, from the LDP, was railing against the motion, talking about the importance of maintaining positive relationships with the US, their ally. Yoshiro grunted again, this time derisively. “Let me ask you something,” he said to Sasaki. “How can it be that the US doesn’t act, even after their own soldier was assassinated by the Chinese? That deserves more than condemnation! They should be ashamed.”
Despite the thirty-five feet between them, the expression of the MP from Niigata was not lost on the young woman sitting in the gallery above. Without moving her eyes from the chamber, Akiyama Kazuko made a careful note on the sleeve curled around her forearm. She would compose her full report later, but such small observations about the nuances of the political discussion were sent to her boss, Charles Yardley of the US Embassy, in real time.
Just then there was a loud crack, and then a staccato burst of pops. The door of the chamber was thrown open, and men dressed in business suits and wielding handguns and semiautomatic rifles poured in, shouting and shooting at the storied ceiling of the chamber. Kazuko stood and slipped out of the upper gallery door, fingers tapping at her sleeve even as she walked, quickly but without unseemly hurry, up the hall. Before she had reached the stairs, the lights went out.
Nishimura exhaled. “That is a lovely speech, Higashi-san. But as we learned during the war, words do not stop bullets.”
“Words can stop someone from pulling the trigger.”
Miyako waved a hand. “Everyone! Listen to this.”
With a gesture, she tossed her newsfeed to the main wall. The room’s audio system erupted with sounds of gunfire and shouting.
“At last count, more than a dozen armed militants wearing unmarked tactical uniforms have stormed the Diet,” the newscaster continued. “Council members are trapped in the council chamber. This unknown militia has taken the Diet. Repeat: A militia entered the Diet and is declaring martial law across Tokyo—”
The sounds of gunfire and shouting crumbled into static just before the broadcast cut out.
“An attack on the Diet?” Emma asked slowly, meeting Miyako’s eyes.
“Maybe this is what they were priming for,” Miyako answered. “Maybe this is it.”
Emma didn’t ask who they were in this scenario, or what it was. She heard the answer in the tone of Miyako’s voice. Since she got here, she realized now, everyone had been preparing for war.
“Let’s go,” Emma said, and saw Miyako’s eyes widen, as though it hadn’t even occurred to her, and the next minute, they were plunging down Ninth Step Station’s stairwell, bumping each other on the turns.
“Wait!” one of the bodyguards she’d been assigned by Captain Orbach yelled from above them.
“Stay with the prisoner!” Emma called back at Corporal Brockton. “That’s an order!” She didn’t really expect that to work, but when they got to the bottom of the stairwell, no one’s footsteps clattered after them, and she almost giggled with the sense of escape.
At the exit, Emma wheeled toward the nearest entrance to Kudanshita Station, but Miyako shook her head. “Faster to run,” she gasped, and took off down the street.
It seemed like a ridiculous idea at first, but once Emma settled into her stride and thought about it, it was only a couple of kilometers. She had run the whole circuit of the Imperial Palace park with—her heart ached like a bruise—Santiago and the rest of the team. Several circuits in one go, in fact. Once she got her bearings and realized how close they were to the Diet, she sped up. Maybe they could get there before it was all over. Maybe she could do her real job and keep the peace.
It was not until she thudded up to the front of the Diet building that Emma realized Miyako wasn’t with her. She hesitated a moment, looking back the way she had come, but evening was falling and she couldn’t make anyone out in the dimness. A...