Chapter 6:

A Safer Place

The Time Capsule - Part 1

  At fist light we woke up and departed after a mere 5 minutes. We wished we had some coffee or tea, but we forgot to check if any had survived. Perhaps tea bags, if they were still dry and sealed, were still viable. Noted for our next supply run. We were now on our way to find a safer place that was free of potential hostiles.

  "I forgot to ask you last night. How on Earth did you calculate that 74 years have passed? Did you cut down an old tree and counted its rings or something?", Fumiko-chan seemed truly curious. I giggled. It was a nice joke.

  "Nothing.. physical like this. I just counted the length of my back hair while taking into account the fact that they were growing 37 times slower during our slumber. Our hair have a 2-year worth of growth, so 2 x 37 => 74, it was as simple as that", Fumiko-chan pondered my answer while looking a bit skeptical. Yuki-chan and Akira-kun were walking holding their hands, while Haru-kun was walking about 5 meters ahead of us in 'scout mode', wary of potential hostiles.

  "Are you sure that you measured your back hair accurately and that the documented slow down of metabolism applies equally to hair growth? If either of the two are wrong then you could be off by years. If both are wrong by decades", Fumiko-chan asked.

  "I might be have been wrong, I know. We need to find some independent way to verify this. Any ideas?" Akira-kun intervened in our chat.

  "It's very simple to find not only what year it is but the exact date and even time. We only need a generator, some unspoiled fuel for power, and a laptop. That's it. If all the fuel has spoiled we can generate power if we find a couple of solar panels that remained safely stored and sealed away from the Sun, since when they are exposed to sunlight they only last up 25 years tops".

  Akira-kun slipped into the tech-guy role of our team very organically. He was good. I hadn't thought about the solar cells and didn't know that with a laptop alone we can discover the year, let alone the date.

  "How? The batteries of all laptops must have all been milked dry by now, so how can they 'know' the year and date if they are dead?", I asked.

  "Indeed, all batteries are wasted now. Dead and dry like the Death Valley. But that's not how good laptops keep track of time. The cheapo ones have their time reset if you remove their battery, sure, but the laptops that cost more than 100K yen or so have a secondary smaller but more durable battery + supercapacitor combo that feed an RTC (Real Time Clock) mechanism with power, which keeps on counting time even if you remove the main battery or it's reduced to 0% of power.

A new fully charged laptop with a very large primary battery can retain power for 15 - 20 years if it's unplugged and left unbothered. Its small RTC battery can then remain charged for another ~20 years. The last frontier is the supercapacitor, which can retain power for another ~50 years.

  So if no more than ~90 years have passed we could still find a laptop with a little bit of power left in its RTC capacitor to discover what year and date it is", Yuki-chan was looking at Akira-kun the entire time he was speaking with her mouth half-open, in awe. I wondered momentarily if she was a sapiophile ('intelligence lover').

  Fumiko-chan was listening carefully to his words too. Haru-kun was 'on duty'; he did not bother to even look back.

  "Then we need to find such a laptop. And a way to generate power. It is not crucial to our survival but I think for mental or psychological reasons we need to know the year, month, date, everything. Otherwise it will be like we are lost in time, feeling chaotically", Akira-kun and Fumiko-chan nodded. Yuki-chan was still semi-enchanted by Akira-kun, so she did not respond.

  Haru-kun then stopped and raised his hand up in a fist, a signal for us to stop as well. "Be quiet, there are people close by", he whispered and nodded toward three young people at '9 o'clock'. They consisted of two young women and one young man, and looked like they were between 17 and 22. They were 50 - 60 meters away and were moving toward our direction. They probably heard us, we were chatting a bit loud.

  Late last night we decided to head for Ikebukuro, where my flat and my stuff from back in the day were. One such item was a workstation laptop with a huge battery that I bought for about 200,000 yen a couple of months before Naturecaust hit. I remember leaving it charged and plugged in the mains that last evening I headed for Yoyogi Park. If no power has survived in the supercapacitor of this laptop's RTC I strongly doubt any has been left in any other laptop.

  The three youngsters reached us in a couple of minutes. Due to our experience the day before we were all highly guarded. They didn't look too cautious, and judging from their condition they probably revived just an hour or so ago. I cannot really explain it -it might have just been their body language or maybe something more- but they didn't 'feel' hostile.

  "Hello there", the young man, the oldest-looking one, said. "Are you all right? We just woke up ourselves and feel kind of lost. We mean no harm, we are just a little bit scared and hungry, that's all".

  "As are we. Sorry, we were attacked yesterday by four former Yakuza goons and we are a bit wary of it happening again, that's all", I replied. It appears that our wariness was a little bit too obvious.

  "Did you kill them? I mean, you are clearly not dead so they must be, right?", asked the youngest girl. The other girl hit her a bit hard with her elbow on the side of her ribs and an "Ittaaii!" left her lips.

  "What? No, no we didn't. We just put the fear of god in them, that was all", I explained.

  "We just broke them. Well, not completely, they will survive. They are also still in one piece. Their bodies I mean, I don't know about their minds", said Fumiko-chan with a prideful smile.

  For two years I dated this girl and I thought I knew her well. I knew she could be rather nasty, but not that nasty. Did the end of the world change her or did it just expose what was already hidden inside her?

  "Are you guys that good? Good enough to be able to take out four Yakuza goons who were potentially killers? No offence but you do not look like it. I mean one of you looks like he is 15 or something for crying out loud", the second girl, who looked around 18 or 19, was skeptical.

  "None taken", Haru-kun finally mobilized his still mouth. "I am 16 though, not 15".

  "He is not going to say this himself because he is humble", I said, but that kid incapacitated two of them on his own. I took care of the other two. We thought he would be a burden, just another mouth to feed with nothing to offer back, but he turned out to be an asset who saved our asses back there"

  I noticed that Haru-kun blushed a bit while at the same time the younger girl's body started 'talking' to him. She turned her leg toward his position while giving away subtle yet clear body tells that she wanted to get to know him better. It looked like the older girl and that guy were a couple, so the younger one was obviously on her own. As was Haru-kun. I started plotting in my mind how to get the two of them together, as if I was an old lady match-maker, but I am not sure if Haru-kun would be interested. In any girl I mean.

  The three youngsters looked part stunned part skeptical. I whispered to the others about inviting them to out team and they all concurred.

  "Anyway, would you like to join us? If we get into trouble again, and most likely we will, you can see for yourself. I think you also need to freshen up, eat, drink and find some new clothes", yes, they were wearing semi-see-through rags. 

  "I was about to ask the same thing, thank you kindly for the offer", said the young man. "We have quite a few skills ourselves, you see, don't worry we are not going to be passive 'mouths to feed' ", added the older girl. 

  We were then introduced to each other. The young man was called Hinata Itsuki (roughly 'a tree that looks toward the Sun') and used to be a student of architecture, who had just completed his third year when everything went tits up. Even though he did not manage to get a degree that's a very valuable skill set for a post-apocalyptic world full of cracked or semi-collapsed buildings! He was 22.

  The older girl was 19 and had just completed her first year of an English literature course when disaster hit. Her name was Midori Rika ('green village'). 

  "I might have just barely started English literature back in the day but I am a Japanese - English bilingual because I was born and raised in the UK. My father was a diplomat you see. When I was 13 his service at the Japanese embassy in London ended and we moved to Tokyo, which I barely knew myself".

  Since my English is near fluent but not perfect I thought about asking her help during the editing process of this piece. I just might, we shall see.

  The last girl was called Asuga Emica ('tomorrow is beautiful', kind of), and she had started the last year at high school when Naturecaust struck. She said she turned 17 in February, one month before the end. So she was merely 5 months older than Haru-kun. We can work with that I think. 

  After we showed them how to eat, wash etc we all headed to find our safe sanctuary, but not before visiting my flat in Ikebukuro. I explained to everyone the idea I had about the laptop, and when I mentioned the brand and model Akira-kun said "If that monster of a laptop is completely dead all the way up to the supercapacitor of its RTC then nothing else will have survived", just like I thought.

  We were soon at my flat. It was not too dusty but it surely had seen much better days. The building still looked solid, with just some minor cracks here and there. I unplugged my laptop from the dead mains and took it with me, along with its charger. Now all we needed to do was generate some power for it, which was not a trivial task at all. 

  We decided to not even try to find a petrol generator and petrol, since at best what petrol remained (if any) would only be suitable as a heating fuel. Akira-kun knew (naturally) of a large store that sold solar panels a few blocks from my flat. So we went there, took a few panels, a DC--> AC converter and some wiring and in half an hour or so he and Haru-kun had set it all up. They worked well -and fast- together as well.

  It was rather sunny today so the power generation should be instant. It was. The laptop's primary battery started charging. 

  "It does not need to fully charge; it won't anyway due to decades passing with no current in it. I doubt it will last more than 5 - 10 minutes when unplugged. Right now we are just giving a little boost to the prime battery to have recharge the RTC battery and its supercapacitor. In about 5 minutes -no wait, make that 10- we should turn on the laptop", Akira-kun was a gem. A geeky gem.

  After about 10 minutes we switched on the laptop and, to our surprise, it reported both a date and an hour. "26 February, 2099, 8:27 a.m." So my rough calculations were correct after all, I noted internally. Fumiko-chan gave me a very particular 'well done kiss'. However the precise date and the subsequent realization that we were in the deep future with slight chances of meeting loved ones from the past weighed heavily on all of us. I observed grumpy faces and bitter-sweet smiles all around.

  So, we were in the last year of the 21st century, on its second month. Dear ladies, gentlemen and everyone else who reads this 100 years from now I will sign off this chapter right about here. May the 23rd century greets you with the right balance of respect for nature and prosperity. And I hope that you will have by then visited -with unmanned vehicles at least- our closest 2 - 3 stars beyond the Sun. As you just read we are now 8, with 6 of us being couples. Will Haru-kun and Asuga-chan also become a couple? Read on to find out!

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