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by John Broussard

Taikan stood silently outside the seldom-used secret doorway. The Emperor had, personally, given him his instructions. Three would be allowed to enter-and only three. They were exactly on time and had obviously also received their instructions. Colonel Takanori Gotoda in uniform, Mayumi Murakami in his monk's robes and Noboru Endo in his finely tailored business suit.

No words were exchanged as the trio followed Taikan down a long hallway, then up stairs to the Emperor's private chambers. Their guide silently opened the door, nodded, withdrew, and closed the door as quietly as he had opened it. The Emperor was sitting in a simple wooden chair, three pillows on the floor before him. The newcomers bowed, then kneeled. The first words were the Emperor's.

"I've summoned you because I must make an important decision today, one that may have awesome consequences for Japan's future. I know the three of you well-since boyhood. I trust you. And now I want you to speak from the heart. My other advisors try too hard to please me by telling me what they think I want to hear. That is a luxury neither I nor our country can afford." He sighed before continuing.

"I'm sure you have heard many rumors. Here are the facts. The Imperial Fleet has already sailed and is fully armed for an attack upon the American bases in Hawaii. Admiral Nagumo awaits my final word. I can recall the fleet, or I can tell him to complete his mission, but I must make that decision within the next twenty-four hours. This is too heavy a burden for my shoulders alone. I need your advice. Noboru, I shall turn to you first. Should we attack the Americans or not."

The businessman bowed before answering. "You have asked me to speak frankly, and I will. War with America is inevitable. It is vital that we strike first."

The monk gathered his robes about him. "I could not disagree more. There are many avenues of compromise open to us short of war with the Americans. Negotiation, patience, a readiness to listen--all other measures should be fully exhausted before we embark on the policy of suffering and disaster which are the inevitable consequences of war."

"Takanori?" The Emperor raised his hand. "Before you speak, I must tell you that I fully decided when I awoke this morning that I would abide by a majority decision from the three of you. I am committed to that resolution, so think carefully before you answer. What side you choose will have enormous consequences for many years to come."

The colonel bowed deeply. "The information we have most recently received about the Americans makes only one decision possible. The United States has the largest supply of poison gas in the world on hand. In addition, we have now learned they are researching new weapons--weapons of mass destruction. Every day that passes they become stronger and we become weaker because we depend so heavily on the oil from areas they control. We must act first. A pre-emptive strike is the only way we can prevent them from attacking us when they have superior weaponry."

The Emperor's expression showed no change. "We will do as you say. I will order the fleet to continue to Hawaii and to do all in its power to destroy American naval strength located in Pearl Harbor. We will announce to the world as soon as the planes are in the air that we have been forced into launching-what was that expression?-launching a pre-emptive strike."

also by John Broussard: The Final Solution

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