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art by Ron Sanders

The Folds of War

Marcus Gallagher-Jones is a twenty something student from Liverpool, where he is trying to complete a PhD in molecular biophysics When this isn't occupying his time, he is attempting come to terms with being back in the UK after an extended period in Japan.

Hasagawa pressed the paper against the table with a delicate precision, creating a clean diagonal fold. The square of paper seemed to morph in front of him as he carefully turned, folded and crimped it between his dexterous fingers. Beside him his grandson, Taro, gazed on with the sincere awe only young children are capable of.
A distant explosion shook the foundations of Hasegawa's small house, rocking the table at which he worked. They were getting more frequent these days and alarmingly, he was becoming accustomed to them.
"Ne ne, Ojee-chan. What are you making?" Taro chimed precociously. "Is it cool? I bet it's cool. Ojee-chan only makes cool things right? Like all those cool weapons in the sky and the armor and the powerful machines. You're the greatest in the world, right Ojee-chan? So it must be amazing." Taro beamed at his grandfather.
Hasegawa winced. Amazing? Maybe he could have been called that. He certainly had some degree of talent. He had been encouraged into the art of origami at a young age, younger even than Taro was now. His father had loved the craft, though he had little skill for it. Instead he had chosen to live vicariously through his son. Throughout elementary and middle school Hasegawa had dazzled his classmates with his creations. Somehow, though, he had felt they could become more than just trinkets.
Another explosion shook the ground beneath them, its origin closer than before, followed quickly by a knock at the door. Hasegawa ignored it and continued his work. A contented sigh passed his lips as he put the final fold into place. It was a simple thing, one he had learned as a child. He presented it to Taro, looking on hopefully.
"So, what is it?" Taro asked, giving it a poke.
"It's a crane Taro-kun, a kind of bird. In the past they were a symbol of hope and fortune. A wish for a better future." The knocking was growing louder and more persistent now.
"Yeah... but what does it do? Does it shoot anything? Explode?"
Hasegawa sighed; truly Taro was a child of this age. He took the crane back from his grandchild and reached for two small vials on the cabinet above his work desk. One was a pale red, the other a luminous blue. He stared at them a second, imagining the complex ring structures in his mind. It had seemed so natural for him to pursue a career in chemistry. A childhood spent making shapes had left him infatuated with the structures of the world, and how they could be changed.
He applied a few drops from each vial sequentially to the crane. The complex volatile solutions permeated the cellulose fibers of the paper, cross-linking, modifying, strengthening and altering. The crane's body luminesced and its wings began to beat; newly formed chromophores twisting, slipping past each other like molecular cogs as they interacted with incoming photons of light. Taro gasped in delight, clapping his hands.
The knocking that had become background noise at this point, suddenly stopped altogether. The door's lock exploded and the door swung forward, crushing down on the crane in mid flight. Men in paper armor stormed in and one addressed Hasagawa.
"Hasagawa-sensei? Hasagawa Kensuke-sensei?" He asked in a deep flat voice. "Your presence has been requested on numerous occasions now. It is not wise to ignore a call from the Emperor as you well know."
"I'm aware." Hasegawa replied coolly. "But as you know I've renounced my position, and this war. I will plan no more constructs. I was na´ve back then. I believed technology born from war could eventually be turned to good. I was wrong. These hands gave up folding in the name of violence a long time ago."
"We will bring you, consensually or not. The child too if needs must."
Hasegawa's face blanched. "I'll come." He stood up. "But please give me a moment." He moved to the door, picked up the crane and straightened it out.
"Run along now Taro-kun." He said softly, handing the trinket to his grandson. "Go show Oka-san your pretty new thing."
"Will you be back for dinner?" Taro asked innocently.
"Maybe, maybe. Now run along."
With that Taro scrambled out through the rubble lined streets. More explosions sounded from all around as paper planes dropped their payloads. Hasegawa sighed, head dropping in rejection. His elegant designs had become so warped and ugly, not the pretty things that had once charmed his classmates. He was marched forward by the militia, the scent of burning paper hanging heavy in the air.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
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