Chapter 8:

Something Weirder

The Time Capsule - Part 1

  The ‘Sanctuary’ we finally chose, after discussing it a bit, was about 3 km northeast of my Ikebukuro flat, in Kita City, roughly 500 meters from Sumida River. It was a solid looking 4-floor building, with no cracks and two entrances front and back, and excellent visibility for upcoming hostiles or curious ‘cats’.Bookmark here

  The two entrances were something Haru-kun asked, so that we can escape from the other entrance if say a group of 20 hostiles stormed the building. Of course the drawback was that they could trap us in from both sides, but that was a risk we deemed was justifiable.Bookmark here

  Haru-kun and Hinata-kun (the new guy) scouted the building for about an hour and they verified it was unoccupied. Hinata-kun volunteered first when Haru-kun asked for a scout buddy. It appears that he wanted to prove he was useful so that we did not ditch him and his girls.
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  Since he was basically an architect he was also the best guy to examine the state of the building. He said there were just some minor cracks that would not affect the structural integrity of the building even if a relatively large earthquake struck Tokyo. He even went to the basement and checked out the foundations. They were completely solid, he said. Which was quite a relief. Bookmark here

  Our ‘Sanctuary’ also had solid doors front and back. Not unbreakable (nothing is) but very difficult to bring down unless you had a lot of muscle and the required tools. It didn’t take us long to find the keys to both doors. They were hanging at the reception of the building, though there was no receptionist to hand them over to us. We wanted to secure a safe gig before the rest of the survivors awakened and the inevitable(?) war for resources started. And I think we just found it.
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  We decided to go to the top floor. That way we would have the best visibility for potential hostiles. We also settled on setting up two permanent guards. They would be posted for guard duty on the roof though, not the front and back balconies. That way their view would be unobstructed and they would also keep each other awake all the time - or, at least, that was the idea. Everyone would take turns for guard duty. Akira-kun complained a bit about sparing his girlfriend Yuki-chan and Asuga-chan ("They are basically kids", he said, "frack, Asuga-chan is a kid!"
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  The rest of us though, including Yuki-chan and Asuga-chan themselves, would have none of that.
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   "I do not want you to protect me Akira-senpai. 'Protect' in this particular case equates with 'I am useless and do not contribute anything to the team'. And I will have none of that. I want to prove my worth".Bookmark here

  "That was sweet Akira-senpai but I agree with Asuga-chan. I want to prove my worth as well and want no special treatment from anyone. I never did", said Yuki-chan".Bookmark here

  Akira-kun soon appeared to realize that he was wrong; that his words were not moved by reason but by his need to be protective of Yuki-chan. That was sweet indeed, but unreasonable. As has been said though love and reason rarely reside in the same room. Bookmark here

  After discussing shift time we settled on 6-hour shifts, for rotating four shifts per day. 4-hours shifts were short -and would make the arrangement more complex due to the requirement of six daily shifts - 8-hour shifts were long, so 6 hours were considered the sweet spot. On the way here we 'broke into' a store with mostly Swiss mechanical watches that required no batteries and were in perfect shape, most still in their luxurious boxes.Bookmark here

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  It was one of these 'How didn't I think of that sooner?' moments. And it was thought by Midori-chan. She casually asked
"Why don't we find some old-fashioned mechanical watches to keep track of time?" The rest of us must have looked at her with such a stupid expression that she giggled a bit.
"That is, em, a very good idea Midori-chan. I wonder how we did not think of that? Thanks!", I replied awkwardly.
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  I picked a Patek Philippe Calatrava 5088/100P, which back in the day used to cost a cool 13 million Yen. I would have needed at least 4 years of my projected salaries to buy it. But I just got it for free. The others got various brands (they only needed to be mechanical, not quartz with batteries). Akira-kun picked a Tag Heuer Aquaracer (much cheaper back in the day), Haru-kun got an Omega Seamaster, Akira-kun got a TAG Heuer Monaco ("The watch Steve McQueen wore in his Le Mans movie!"), Fumiko-chan got an Audemars Piguet Le Temps Ovale and the others got similar watches for men or women.
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  Watches that never needed a battery, never rusted and unless they were physically damaged they could keep ticking for centuries. It was very hard to damage them anyway, since all of them had hard sapphire screens. They were the perfect tools to keep track of time, of shifts etc in a post-apocalyptic world. They were also exquisite pieces of extremely complex and elaborate craftsmanship with a tradition of centuries. And we didn't need to pay a yen for them. Quite frankly we felt a bit like thieves.
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  So we could now keep track of time, and of the shifts, with our new watches. We picked rooms at the fourth floor, had something to eat and drink that we got on the way and then I and Haru-kun volunteered to take the first shift. I wanted to talk to him about the weird stuff that were happening to us. He was young but smart, so he must have already noticed.
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  When we reached the roof I quickly broke the subject. This time I tried a different approach.Bookmark here

  "Have you been feeling any.. differently Haru-kun?"Bookmark here

  "Define 'differently' Asahi-senpai".Bookmark here

  "For instance have you noticed that your senses have become more, er, acute?"Bookmark here

  "Yes they have Asahi-senpai", Haru-kun said casually, "I thought this was limited to me but it appears that it's not. Has everyone noticed changes?"Bookmark here

  "As of this moment I know only about me, Fumiko-chan and Akira-kun. I will have him mildly talk to Yuki-chan about it to see if she's been affected as well. So after that only our three newest additions would be left".Bookmark here

  "You are a biologist Asahi-senpai so what do you think? Did the pollen cause this? And will we change more later?", Haru-kun was surprising talkative. It appears this matter interested him greatly.
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  "I am fairly certain the pollen indeed caused this. I think we were affected genetically; maybe some new genes were spawned during all these decades. I would love to sequence our DNA to scan either for new genes or mutated ones but for the moment that is not possible. As for where the changes will lead us I have no idea. Who knows, we might even get superpowers or something, like in the manga and anime", I explained.Bookmark here

  "Oh, you mean something like this? I can already do that", to my immense surprise, Haru-kun picked a small gravel with his mind (without touching it), levitated it a meter or so above the ground and then tossed it away.
"While scouting a few hours ago I noticed that I could kick small light objects away without ever touching them, just by focusing and 'telling' them to move".Bookmark here

  Just like that an entire new frontier opened up. So the pollen did not just affect our senses. That was just the appetizer. The main lunch was apparently superhero-like powers, just like I and Fumiko-chan hoped -or feared. Suddenly things got much more serious, since the hostiles would also have those powers and I doubt they would hesitate to use them. Could we really prepare for superhero scale battles and train ourselves to master our new powers? We will have to, if we want to survive.Bookmark here

  "That was... quite impressive Haru-kun. I should have known the first power will be spawned in you. You are merely 16 but would beat most 40-year olds in composure and self-control. This means, as you must understand, that our martial training will not be enough to defend ourselves and our team. But it might help us control our new powers more easily".
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  I tried to focus on moving that same gravel. After a while of breathing and heart-rate control I almost did it. It did not distinctly move or levitate it but it wobbled a little bit, and at the time no wind was blowing. I wondered if the powers were age related as well. Perhaps the younger one was the sooner they got the powers.
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  Age, skill set, training, self-control, were all variables for estimating who would be next in our team to be gifted this power. If age was the primary variable Asuga-chan should be the next one to develop a power.
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  "I think the basic principle is largely the same. While complex genetics are involved at a low level at a higher level controlling a 'superpower' should not differ much to the breathing and heart rate control we learned from our senseis. I am quite certain my sensei would not have been particularly surprised, and would say something about 'Qi manipulation and control'. I don't think we will have an issue with controlling our new powers, but the others might".Bookmark here

  Haru-kun felt, spoke and behaved like a wise old man trapped in the body of a boy. There was a teenage boy in there, but he allowed only short glimpses of him to emerge. I wondered how harsh his sensei was with him. Unless his parents treated him harshly, who knows. I did not dare ask him; furthermore that was beside the point. It belonged to a past that can never return.Bookmark here

  "Then we will have to help them like our senseis trained us. We owe it to our senseis as well to pass down some of their wisdom", I said in a bit more grandiose tone than I intended.Bookmark here

  "You are absolutely right Asahi-senpai. But for the moment, since we are on the clock, we should be mindful of hostiles." I felt a bit embarrassed but I did not show it (I think). It was strange to be reminded of my responsibilities from a 16-year old but then again Haru-kun was no ordinary 16-year old. He was too self-disciplined for his age. 'Does this kid lack sexual hormones or something?' I thought fleetingly.Bookmark here

  So we cut our little chat short and went to our respective posts. Just an hour or so had passed since the start of our shift. ‘5 hours more’, I thought. Earlier we all set our mechanical watches from the laptop Akira-kun and Haru-kun revived. The one that used to be my laptop. Its nearly destroyed primary battery lasted for just 5 minutes or so when unplugged but we could power it from the mobile solar panels we borrowed. No laptop was ever designed to survive the end of the world, but my workstation grade laptop almost was.Bookmark here

  The thoughts of how to handle our new powers and how to defend against super-powered hostiles started dancing in my mind with my constant worries of securing adequate food and water for everyone. 'Would we all survive, whether we were attacked or not?', 'How long will the food and water last?', 'What if some hostiles have already learned how to control their new powers?', 'I need to talk to all the others about it, and fast'.Bookmark here

  I ducked and hid after spotting a group of survivors passing by. I was at the back side of the building. Thankfully they didn't notice me. They were a group of four women this time, looking between 25 and 30. A rarer but not too uncommon sight. Still in rags, so presumably freshly awakened. I no longer thought it was wise to add more people to our team. 8 people were more than enough. More than that might be a recipe for chaos, particularly if the newcomers are older and crave the command position themselves. I am a 'reluctant leader' but I would never surrender my command to someone who seemed to be too eager for it. That never goes well.
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  The time was 5:12 p.m. It was the afternoon of our second post-awakening day and soon it would get dark. This would be the third night for me and Yuki-chan and second for the others. I estimated that roughly 1/4 of the survivors must have already awoken, i.e. ~2.5% of the total population. With every passing hour I could see a few more people walking the streets. If my projections were correct the rest of the survivors should revive within the next 7 days or so.
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  And all of them will have dog-like smell, eagle-like eyesight, bat-like hearing and, later on, an assortment of yet unknown -and most likely lethal- superpowers. Did nature offer the survivors this gift to help us cope and survive in this new world, to have them execute a bloody 'survival of the fittest' contest or is the gift a final test for whether we are worthy to survive as a species or gradually die.. 'not with a bang but with a whimper' as the poet T. S. Eliot once put it?Bookmark here

  My first 6-hour shift carried on while dark thoughts like the above were dancing in my mind.Bookmark here

  Dear descendants from the future, I hope if this is indeed a test that you passed it, that you survived it. That you gained the wisdom to survive it. I will close this chapter by quoting a part of one of my favorite poems of mine, from the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Whenever I feel I have lost my purpose it helps me discover it again. It helps me rediscover hope : Bookmark here

“And Death Shall Have No Dominion”

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead man naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,

They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;

And death shall have no dominion.Bookmark here

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