The Time Capsule - Part 1
Saiko-chan remained in front of Dai-kun’s funeral pyre until it was reduced to ashes. Some of his largest bones and his scull were only partially burned out, which was to be expected. Only proper incineration ovens could burn those completely. Ovens which required a proper civilization as well, not our current remains of one.
After the fire completely died out she looked for a large enough container to place his ashes and unburnt remains. "Something not ugly", she said. She looked for a while -again declining our help- and finally found a cylindrical tin can that was a cookie jar in its previous life. "Homemade Delicious Cookies - Life's Too Short to Eat Just One!" (in kanji and hiragana) was written on it, and it looked like it was roughly 15 cm by 15 cm by 25 cm in dimensions. Quite large for a cookie jar.
Saiko-chan managed to fit Dai-kun's bone remains, (barely) fit his scull in it and finally gathered his ashes with her bare hands and poured them carefully in it as well. The ashes looked like they were still a bit hot but she didn't seem to care. We did though. We all felt our hands to be burning. I think she was a bit too used to feeling pain. It also looked like she was getting stronger.
When she was finally done, she closed back the jar (it had a bamboo lid with a handle on it), hugged the jar as if it was Dai-kun in the flesh and then she finally looked content and ready to take a breather. She washed her hands and face with a bit of water and approached us, cookie... sorry, I meant Dai-jar in hand.
"Look", she said, "as much as I despise your guts for being indirectly responsible for the death of my kawaii Dai it's not like we were not responsible either. I think, above all, I am to blame, since it was me who felt you, tracked you to that building and then convinced my Dai to attack you together. He knew about my past -and how spoiled little brats like your girls used to treat me- so he did not object at all".
A bullying victim, I see. Probably out of envy due to her dazzling beauty. "Girls can be much crueler and meaner to each other than boys", Fumiko-chan once said to me while we were discussing bullying. "Boys are largely getting physical. They are 'simple' in their bullying. Girls can go deeper, darker. They expose your demons and play with them, leaving you feeling 'naked' in front of them.
And they are delighted to do this, usually because they have been abused themselves. That 'broke' them inside so they feel the need to return the favor to someone else. You know, the abuser --> victim --> abuser vicious cycle".
"However", Saiko-chan continued, "all that belongs in the past. I might be batshit crazy but I want to survive, just like you. And I cannot survive alone. Not without my Dai. So, as much as I hate to admit this, I need you guys. I know you must be thinking this is a ploy to have you drop your guard around me -that is what I would think as well- but it really is not.
My, er, looks are a two-edged sword you see. If I manage to escape to find 'reinforcements' I might indeed be able to find 5 to 10 guys with powers whom I would promise to have sex with if they killed you - more out of spite rather than revenge.
But why would they listen to me and risk their necks and not force themselves on me without having to 'pay' for it with such a risky favor? I mean the entire world has turned into a giant sitehole; we do not have a government, police, courts, judges, we do not have jack site. If I was in their shoes I would rape the frack out of me. Why wouldn't I since no-one existed anymore to punish me for it? Why pay for something when you can just take it for free?"
She was, em, speaking 'sense'. A kind of cynical, utterly moral-less sense but her words still made sense. Perhaps this world required more pragmatism and fewer morals anyway. And she was either not lying or she was a damn fine actress. It didn't look like she had the self-discipline and self-control to be such a good actress, so she was almost certainly not lying.
"Let's say we believe you, for argument's sake. What do you think you can offer to this team?", I asked her; I already knew the answer but wanted to know if she had thought about it.
"I will naturally be your human alarm system. An arguably cuter one than the industrial ones too. I will always keep my ear.. er.. mind open for intruders or other survivors who got close. And when I am asleep your little missy here-", she nodded toward Fumiko-chan; she felt she was also a telepath too - obviously, "-can handle the rest of the, er, 'telepathic security'. It had a nice ring to it I thought. I will also cook and clean if need be".
"Just clean. It's not like we do not trust you -which we don't, no offence- it's just that we already have two girls responsible for cooking", said Fumiko-chan nodding toward Midori-chan and Asuga-chan, "but cleaning is a rotating duty for everyone".
"None taken sweetness. I would not trust me either. Fine, then do we have a deal?", she said looking at me.
I looked at the others and they nodded, though I saw doubt painted in most of their faces.
"Not a deal, not quite. You are going to be a 'provisional member' of the team. Trust is earned, after all. But we need to earn your trust as well. Trust only works both ways after all", I helpfully explained the obvious while wondering if she thought we were a very naive bunch.
"Let's go back inside for now. We are very exposed here and we might attract unwanted guests", I said while nodding toward a group of survivors approaching from a long distance.
We went back into the building. We even managed to reinstall the front door. Its hinges were fortunately not broken, only its lock was. We used a thin chain to secure it as a temporary solution until we found a new compatible lock and tools to install it. Akira-kun and Hinata-kun also just returned from their supply run, so they were now safely inside as well. They brought food and water for everyone that would last three to four days, which was nice.
"How was the situation out there? And did you find that greenhouse?", I asked them.
"It was a bit.. uglier than yesterday, to be honest", Akira-kun said, "more people have woken up and plenty of gifted ones now exist. Some do not hesitate to use their power at all. We saw a gifted person burn another one alive with 'pyrokinesis' I think; isn't that how it's called?", I nodded. Crap! So pyrokinesis is also one of the gifts! That's great, I thought, but I tried to mask my worries. Yet another puzzle for Fumiko-chan to solve!
"And for what? For a mere dispute over tuna tin cans that were probably fully spoiled anyway.. The food and water are already starting to run low. As for the greenhouse I did find it but it was in a sorrier state than I expected. Its soil was very dry and it needs plenty of water, organic matter and some fertilizer to be replenished. We brought more food and water than we planned so that we work on it the next few days. Tomorrow morning we are going to get seeds and fertilizer."
I had completely overlooked the fact that our greenhouse was going to require its own water, and lots of it too. The bottled water was meant for our daily needs so we could not spend most of it to water the greenhouse. A more permanent solution was required, since the bottled water would not last forever either. I thought of setting up some rain gatherers up in the roof, and maybe right beside the greenhouse too later, and asked Akira-kun about it.
"This would be a very good idea", he said, "Since Tokyo's air is crystal clear after 7+ decades of no pollution we would not even have to filter the water. We would just require an efficient way to collect a lot of it and lot of of clean containers to store it. Hm... I think these large 20 liter water bottles would be best for this. Now we just need to think of a good way to collect lots of water. It does not rain often now -there are about 2 months left until the rainy season- but we need to make use of the few days it does rain".
We brainstormed for a while and suggested ways to collect the water. First we would need to get lots of these large water bottles, not the small 1 lt ones we were getting. Not every super market had these, since they were meant for businesses -mostly office buildings with water dispensers- but a few major ones that sold directly to businesses did. They were quite heavy when full but we needed every bit of clean water we could get so there was no way we would waste it just to carry them. Due to their large mass they would also have the advantage of having not been picked up yet by most survivors.
Next was the collecting method. Just using open cans and pots would not do. Large surfaces of either waterproof fabric or plastic sheets were required that would direct the water they collected toward the containers. And they needed to be fixed in place so that the wind does not blow them away or deform their shape. Covering up 1/4 to 1/3 of the roof with them should be enough.
While on the surface this was a simple problem it was a bit out my league, so Akira-kun and Haru-kun started brainstorming together, vigorously exchanging ideas. I mean the dudes knew how to design microprocessors and freaking nuclear reactors, so surely this simple task would be a piece of cake for them right? And yet they failed to account for all the issues. Beyond June and July it barely rained in Tokyo, so the collecting method needed to be very efficient. June was two months away, and until then we will all die from dehydration unless we have water.
Then Asuga-chan, the youngest of all of us, decided to speak. She was a bit hesitant to interrupt the intense brainstorming.
"Hano... I'm sorry to interrupt you guys but isn't Sumida River a few hundred maters that way?", she pointed toward the river, "You said the lack of pollution for all that time means the air is very clean. Wouldn't the same apply to the water of Tokyo's rivers as well?"
I, Akira-kun and Haru-kun looked at each other in disbelief. We all wanted to laugh at our stupidity but we were all too shocked to do it. At first. Then, after half a minute or so that felt like half a day, Akira-kun broke the ice and started laughing, mostly at himself. We followed suit, feeling a bit ashamed. We all blushed a bit, which felt nice. I recalled a saying, though I could not recall who said it : 'When you lose the ability to blush you largely lose the ability to see the beauty of the world'.
When Akira-kun calmed down he said :
"A good professor of mine once said that genius is a wonderful thing with which entire civilizations were built, writing and art was invented, and finally it gave us science and technology. He cautioned however that genius might occasionally suppress common sense, 'the genius in working clothes' as he called it (I think that's a saying of Emerson but never mind).
You know, when you see the big picture, the forest so to speak, but you are blind to the single tree you are looking for. So, thank you for your common sense wisdom, kawaii Asuga-chan. You just helped us immensely. You are absolutely right, the water of Sumida River must be crystal clear by now. Directly drinkable. And it is not far at all. If we find a cart -even a supermarket one will do- we could bring four to five of these 20 lt water bottles in just one run. You just gave us the solution for how to water our greenhouse miss!", Asuga-chan smiled and blushed as well.
Hideo-sensei would have probably scolded me. I almost heard him saying,
"You were just taught wisdom from a 17-year old girl, good for you. Keep that in mind so that you do not get cocky due to your 'extensive knowledge' of many stuff. Be more humble and less cocky and you will be a better man. Well, at least you did set up shop near a clean water source. Even if that wasn't your conscious plan perhaps you did it unconsciously. You do recall my survival lessons after all".
"So", I said after managing to pull myself together, "Our water issue was resolved, our Saiko-chan issue was probably resolved as well, what are the remaining outstanding issues?", I asked and looked at all of them.
"Above all I think we have to worry about security; not just our physical safety but our food security as well", said Haru-kun, "the greenhouse is about four blocks away, right?", Akira-kun and Hinata-kun nodded.
"Well, it would be nice to have fresh food and all but it would split our security needs in half. I need to devise a way to protect both out team and -later- our food. When the remaining food dries out if the other survivors get wind of the greenhouse they will be unleashed on it like starving locusts. How are we going to stop them? I cannot split myself in half. And, for the moment, I have no security assistant".
Haru-kun was speaking sense. I considered his words and thought of just one security assistant: myself.
"How about we split the security between us. You will remain head of security but I will be your number 2. And so, in terms of security, I will follow your lead. We can rotate posts between here and the greenhouse. That would split our defence force in half in case either place was attacked but I can thing of no other way at the moment", I suggested.
"But you are our commander, Asahi-senpai. How are you are going to do both command and security at the same time?", Haru-kun asked.
I pondered the question for a few moments and then Akira-kun and Hinata-kun intervened.
"Leave the greenhouse to us", they both said at once. Akira-kun stood up to demonstrate how his electrokinetic power evolved since the morning (it was now about 5 p.m.). This time he did not generate a small spark but a medium sized electric ark, between his right and left hand! He did not even need to close the windows this time.
"By the time we have some food to protect, hopefully in a month or so, I will probably be a human electric generator. Our very own Anton Vanko (note: a Marvel comics character who manipulated electricity) but without requiring a special armor!"
Hinata-kun stood up as well. He looked like he was about to show us something.
"I think my own power started manifesting as well, though it is still weak. So I need to pick someone weak for it to work. No offence Asuga-chan but can I use you to show them?"
"None taken Hinata-senpai but what is it, will it hurt?", Asuga-chan looked worried.
"I doubt it will", I was petting a cat during our run and it first manifested then. Do not worry, I am not going to hurt you", he said. He closed his eyes and tried to focus. Then he touched Asuga-chan lightly on her shoulder. She looked like she felt dizzy. She was about to faint and fall down but Hinata-kun secured her before that happened. We were startled. An ability that could cause others to lose conscience by touching them? A very handy skill, and explicitly non lethal when used for self-defence. Hinata-kun's value to the team was just raised significantly.
It took Asuga-chan 4 to 5 minutes before she was fully herself again.
"So, how did it feel?", Hinata-kun asked.
"It is hard to describe it Hinata-senpai. I felt like someone was injecting me with an anesthetic directly here", she pointed to her forehead, "but I felt no puncture. It was like the anesthetic reached directly the center of my brain. Perhaps 'anesthetic' is not the best analogy. It felt more like an unspoken command I think. A command to sleep that my mind was unable to refuse".
Quite an interesting and valuable skill indeed. Its only drawback was that Hinata-kun needed to touch his target for it to work, but we could work with that. I might have Haru-kun teach him some Aikido essentials later.
Our dear ancestors in the future, quite a few issues were resolved in this rather calm chapter. As the saying goes though the calm is followed by the storm. In the next chapter our team is going to face a storm. What kind of storm? Read on to find out.