Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Electra

Fluffbuilding Papercut

Recommended Posts

I don't normally do this, but I'm having some doubts about this backstory, so I thought I'd put it up for some critique. Mainly I'd like to know 1) Does it make sense, 2) is it complete enough where it counts and 3) should I lop off the first four or five paragraphs and put them in a separate News post later. I appreciate any comments.

Koshiro McMillan's story really begins with the story of his family, beginning with his great-grandfather. Takeshi Watanabe was born in Chiba Prefecture in Japan in 1901. When he was twenty years old, he migrated to Hawaii, which was still open for Japanese immigration under the Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907. Just as he was getting settled there, the Immigration Act of 1924 cut off Japanese immigration entirely, leaving him with no way to bring a wife from home, and with very few marriage prospects in his new land. He moved to California from Hawaii, a common pattern at the time, and became a successful farmer. It took more than ten years, but eventually he wooed and won Tomiko Takahashi, a Nisei girl from a good family. With a farm and a wife, then healthy sons and daughters in time, it seemed as though Takeshi had overcome prejudice to achieve all of his dreams.

In 1942, Takeshi, his pregnant wife and their two young children were unceremoniously kicked out of their home, taking only what they could carry with them, and loaded onto buses, first to a tent city set up in the middle of a racetrack, and then to Heart Mountain War Relocation Center in Wyoming. Natsumi Watanbe was born there on Halloween of 1942, an American citizen without a civil right to her name. It wasn't until 1945 that the Watanabe family were released to go home, with $25, a train ticket, and no apology. The farm was gone, taken by land speculators who'd profited from the misery of Japanese exclusion, and their stored property had been damaged, most of it beyond saving, by mold in the government storage facilities they'd had to use. With almost nothing left, Takeshi packed up his family and moved to Detroit, where business was booming and factory jobs were plentiful.

Things were better for them in Detroit, for a good long while, anyway. Takeshi and his sons found work in the auto industry, decent jobs that let them buy homes and raise their decent Japanese families. Natsumi was the rebel in the family, falling in love and marrying a gruff and big-shouldered Scotsman named James McMillan, rather than falling in line and marrying a Japanese man. It was a family rift that never fully healed, though time put patches on the open wounds. James and Natsumi had only one child, a girl named Kameyo, born in 1970 just as things began to change in the city. Racial tensions were running high, but for once the tiny Japanese population was mostly uninvolved. Natsumi's siblings moved their families to the far suburbs, commuting to work while their growing children found education and jobs elsewhere. James was a stubborn man, though, and refused to surrender his home in the city.

Kameyo was an indulged only child, growing up in relative affluence in a neighborhood where that was becoming increasingly rare. She started college in 1988 and soon met George Hamada, a handsome young Sansei man whose family was also from the West Coast. Her parents were diffident about the relationship, neither of them entirely pleased with George's self-involved attitude or his lackadaisical work ethic, but grandmother Tomiko eagerly gave her blessing and insisted on a prompt wedding so that she would be able to attend. They were married in the fall of 1989, with a son, named Takeshi after his great-grandfather, coming along just a year later. Koshiro was born in 1994, after George finished college and they were able to buy a small house. Two years later, twin girls, Suzu and Michelle, were born, at which point Kameyo decided she was definitely finished having children.

Unfortunately for Koshiro and his family, his grandparents' fears about George proved well-founded. In 1998, George went away for a weekend business trip with the family car and a couple heavy suitcases and neglected to come home again. His trip was funded by most of the joint savings account, which made things very difficult for awhile. Kameyo had not finished college and she'd never held a job, but she went to work full-time in retail while the family moved into Natsumi and James' home. Nobody went hungry, but work was scarce and James' pension was bitten into several times by new labor agreements with the struggling auto plants. In 2001, James died of a sudden heart attack while tinkering with his old Mustang convertible, leaving eleven-year-old Takeshi the man of the house.

Growing up, Koshiro idolized his older brother. Takeshi was smart and responsible, taking on adult duties far earlier than he should've had to and never complaining about it. He watched over his younger siblings while the women worked, inventing little games and activities to pass the time, especially when the television was cut off or the power was out entirely. He taught Koshiro the origami folds that

Great-Grandmother Tomiko had taught him, and together they roamed through their neighborhood, jumping fences and peeking through windows of the increasing number of abandoned homes all around them. If Takeshi had one passion, it was for exploring abandoned buildings, a passion Koshiro shared in equal measure. In high school, Takeshi joined an informal club of urban explorers and began really getting into the abandoned infrastructure of Detroit, climbing through old buildngs and crawling through old tunnels, taking pictures and sharing the adventures on the internet. Koshiro was desperate to join in too, and after a prolonged campaign of pestering, was allowed to go on some of the missions as well. Their mother didn't approve, but it was better than taking drugs or joining a gang.

Takeshi quickly became a leader in the group, and his rules were absolute. No stealing from sites, no graffiti, no vandalism. Nobody went on a mission if they weren't clean and sober. No smoking on site. Always keep in touch, always watch your step, always check in at the end of the night. Koshiro followed the rules rabidly, avoiding any of the chemical temptations that were easily available at their school for fear he'd be booted from the team. He made a niche for himself by chronicling their finds, both with a camera and a sketchpad, then scanning and posting the images. His handle online was Cagey, for his initials, which he thought was extremely clever. The start of high school sucked, between there not being enough teachers or books to go around and more than enough kids to try their luck at bullying the Japanese kid, but he didn't care. Some of the girls liked him well enough, and that was cool, really cool. Most importantly, Takeshi had passed up scholarships at more prestigious schools to stay at home and go to Wayne State, so everything important was going to stay the way it was.

Except it didn't. Just after the start of Koshiro's sophomore year in 2009, everything changed. Takeshi went out one warm fall evening to get intel on an old building they were thinking of exploring, a cool old brick thing that had once been a lab or library or something scientific like that. There was probably tons of cool stuff still laying around in there. Koshiro wanted to go with, but he was stuck inside babysitting for the twin pains while Mom worked the back to school late shift. He made sure the girls both went to bed on time and waited up, fooling with a new origami design, for Takeshi to get home so he could upload the pics. But Takeshi never came home. Mom got home and was frantic, the police were called, but they weren't good for a damn thing except making stupid theories and having stupid opnions. They found Takeshi's gear outside the brick building and decided he'd gone in exploring like some stupid amateur kid and fallen through the outside deck into the retaining pond outside. Either that, or he'd decided to take off and laid a false trail to keep anyone from following him. Dragging the pond didn't produce a body, but it didn't change the official line either. The police didn't care about some dumb poor kid who'd been going places he should never have been. The case was left open, but cold.

Koshiro couldn't understand any of what had happened, and all he could feel was rage. Why had Takeshi gone without him? Why didn't the police listen when he told them that Takeshi would never have left his gear, never have gone inside without a team? Why didn't anybody give a damn that his brother was gone, maybe dead? Why was everything so screwed up? Without an anchor or a rudder, all the annoyances and problems that he'd been able to ignore rushed over him and swamped him, and soon he was getting into fights at school, staying out late, ignoring his family, and generally making a real halfass-badass out of himself. In the spring, he broke the final set of rules and went exploring by himself, back to the brick building where his brother had disappeared. He broke a window to get inside and scoured the place, bitterly disappointed when it was burned out inside, empty of history, of clues, of proof of anything. The only thing he found was an oddly-untouched perfectly square book, sitting on a blackened shelf in an empty room. He picked it up, but the pages inside were blank, another dead end. Disappointed and angry, he shoved the book into his bag and left, just in time to run into the one cop actually out patrolling Detroit at this hour of the night.

He got put on probation for the trespassing and ordered to make restitution for the window, though nobody knew exactly who he was supposed to pay, but it was largely a formality. By the fall he was in trouble again, fighting with some jackasses at school who thought they could talk about his brother, and he was packed up and sent to juvie. At least there, he figured, his mom didn't have to pay for his meals and school supplies. Being locked up, away from his family, his computer, everything that was familiar and comfortable, took a lot of the fight out of him pretty quickly. He knew he'd screwed up badly, and he'd disappointed everyone who cared about him. Takeshi would be ashamed to see what he'd done. Koshiro didn't shape up overnight, but he did shape up, ignoring the jerks and druggies and bangers all around him and withdrawing into his own reserve. He stopped getting into fights, and people started to leave him alone.

He was surprised one day to find the square book in a package from home, tucked in along with his sketchbook and pencils. Mom must have thought it was another blank drawing book, but the pages were too thin, almost like rice paper. They were terrible for drawing, but actually really good for origami. Koshiro began pulling pages out of the book and folding them into little cranes, four or sometimes sixteen to a page. A thousand perfect cranes was worth a wish, if one believed origami superstition, and he had plenty of wishes. Most of all, he wanted to make his brother proud, wherever he was, whatever had happened. Even though he knew it was stupid, he folded assiduously, counted fanatically, and as he folded the thousandth crane, sitting in his bunk late at night, he kept expecting something to happen. anything. He carefully bent beak and tail into shape, crimped the tiny wings, and held it in the palm of his hand, staring at it. A perfect paper crane, perfectly ordinary. Perfectly dumb. He muttered a curse and started to close his hand around the little sculpture and crush it, when suddenly it moved in his hand. He froze, sure he'd imagined it, but then it happened again. It bobbed its head inquisitively, stretched its wings, waggled its paper tail and then took flight! Koshiro watched open-mouthed as it careened around the room, flapping its little paper wings. Quickly he opened the shoebox that contained the rest of his collection, plucking one up at random. As soon as his fingers touched it, that one, too, took flight, followed by another, than another. In moments, an entire flock of paper cranes was wheeling around the room. He had a few bad moments before realizing that he could control them even once they'd left his hand, including making them go back in the box before anyone else saw.

The next few days saw him consumed with trying to understand and harness this new and strange power. The cranes were just the beginning. If he folded a plane, it flew around making little "vroom" noises and dodging around obstacles until he plucked it out of the air. If he folded an elephant, it trumpeted and lumbered across his bunk, denting the mattress with weight that it couldn't possibly have. The one time he folded a waterbomb, it began ticking ominously until he hastily unfolded it again. Everything he made came to life and did what he wanted. It was weird... but it was also beyond cool. He had a secret superpower! If he practiced enough, got good enough, who knew what he'd be able to do?

Practicing in his room was all well and good, but he needed to get outside where he could see how high and fast and far his creations could actually go. With the box of cranes under his arm one hot summer day, he set out for the exercise yard, knowing no one else would want to leave the air conditioning. On the way, though, he ran into trouble. The bullies were leaving him alone these days, but not everyone was so lucky. Three of them were ganging up on a kid Koshiro knew a little, a harmless kid, slow in the brains, who was pretty much only in juvie because the rest of his gang used him as the fall guy when they'd got caught robbing a convenience store. Koshiro confronted them, which in retrospect was not wise since he didn't know how to fight, and all he did was draw their attention. In the space of an instant, though, the shoebox exploded open with the force of two-thousand beating wings, and the bullies were swept backwards by a wave of paper cranes, right in front of the whole crowd who'd gathered to watch the fight. The secret was out.

First thing the next morning, Koshiro was called into the superintendent's office. He wasn't shackled for the trip, which seemed like a good sign, though the guards carefully searched him for paper. The superintendent, who seemed rather uneasy, listened carefully to Koshiro's side of the story, then told him that this detention center wasn't the place for him. He would be looking for that place, a place to train him in his new abilities, get him on the right track, just as soon as possible. In the meantime, though, Koshiro was not to cause any trouble. Cheered by the prospect of getting out of detention soon, Koshiro had little trouble agreeing to that. He was a little more ambivalent later, when it turned out he'd be going all the way to Freedom City, but it was still better than juvie.

Share this post


Link to post

Interesting backstory. I'd say it makes sense, and the first few paragraphs probably should go into a News post, as you suggested. This is, after all, the backstory of Koshiro, not the tale of his family going back N generations. I could see inserting some notes about some of the pre-Koshiro events, but that shouldn't be anywhere near the main focus of the backstory, says I. Be that as it may, what you've got here seems more than adequately complete to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Sign in to follow this  

×