Chapter 16:

The Brewing Storm

The Time Capsule - Part 1

  'The Calm' lasted for three more days. These were the calmest days since we woke up. We largely focused on training -both physical and gift-related- and on gardening. Our two gardeners started working on the greenhouse at full speed. It was a large structure capable of feeding 40  to 50 people when at full capacity, but they started small. They needed to water and replenish its soil with nutrients first. They carried hundreds of liters of water from the Sumida River in tens of 20 lt bottles Akira-kun managed to locate in a major hyper market.

  They did their 'water runs' together for safety reasons. Hinata-kun, who was well acquainted with gardening, as well, managed to find seeds of potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, onions, garlic, apples, carrots, celeries, sweet potatoes and lemons just in the first couple of days, from special stores who used to sell them wholesale to gardeners. He said their condition appeared to be quite good. He fully expected the seeds to blossom if they took good care of them.

  Hinata-kun was also a 'mushroom guy'. He knew about most common mushrooms of Japan. He located and gathered plenty of small enoki mushrooms for us to add to our semi-stale dried noodles and chili paper containers and semi-oxidised tin cans, 'to spice them up a bit'. We asked whether he found any shiitake mushrooms, which we all loved, and he said
"They are just starting to mature; they will be ready to pick in about 10 days, two weeks tops, right when the sakura trees ('cherry trees') blossom".

  The water was indeed crystal clear. Since no industrial waste entered the river for roughly seven decades that was to be expected. Tokyo by and large, now that our sense of smell was significantly amplified, did not really smell like Tokyo any more. Sure, it was a huge city and all that was not cleaned for 70-odd years, but if you could isolate the 'terrestrial smell' from the 'airborne smell', which we were surprised to find out we now could, it kind of smelled like a clean rural town. Not quite a small quaint village but not a megacity either.

  On our other front the physical / martial arts training of the team was going rather well. Yuki-chan, in particular, was very eager to learn as much as she could. We did the most progress with Midori-chan, who already had quite a bit of martial arts training. She said her father -the former Japanese deputy ambassador to the UK- wanted her to defend herself, so he enlisted her in a dojo in London to learn karate. She got a brown belt in 6 years, not bad at all. Fumiko-chan already knew the Kendo basics from me, so I had Haru-kun teach her Aikido, which did not need any weapons, since weapons can be lost in the heat of battle.

  The training of Midori-chan and Asuga-chan, our 'Siren' and our 'empath' respectively, was trickier, particularly that of the former. Fumiko-chan and Saiko-chan had Midori-chan meditate to 'empty her mind of thoughts' and then tried peeking into it, together. On the surface it was calm, but a few levels deeper something fierce appeared to be brewing. By the morning of the 5th day Fumiko-chan was almost as good at controlling her gift as Saiko-chan. I think she was practicing ways to control it on her own. I have taught her a few techniques on how to meditate deeply that I learned from Hideo-sensei.

  Our two telepath girls said to me that Midori-chan's gift 'appeared to have a life of its own', which was one of most unsettling phrases I have ever heard.

  "It is like we have our kawaii Midori-chan on the surface and deep below her there is a primal, untamed power that is trying to get out to the light. It wants to sing and above all wants to be heard listened to!", explained Saiko-chan in an exciting manner rather than looking worried.

  "When I touched her today I finally listened .. or perhaps felt her too", Fumiko-chan continued, "to say that voice is unsettling would be quite an understatement. I felt thirst.. no.. hunger in it. A primal, predatory, sexual even hunger filled with lust and an insatiable need for pleasure. Kind of a 'hedonistic black hole' that wanted to devour any man and mature enough boy and own them. Forever. We were nominally immune, since we are girls, but we went so deep that we were.. er.. 'synchronized' with that power"

  " 'Synchronized'? Meaning?", I asked, though I kind of knew what she meant.

  "Do not make me spell it out for you Aho-senpai, we were... sexually excited I mean. After we 'logged out' of her mind we felt kind of how ancient Greek maenads must have felt when they were looking for males to prey upon. We did not feel we wanted mere sex though, we felt like we wanted to devour them. Like the maenads devoured your boy Orpheus. You know, from the story you told me about. This lasted for about 15 minutes. If there was a way to get a cold shower I would have; I also did not want to get near you during that time since I did not think I could control myself. I was worried I might bite a chunk off you or something".

  I knew that story full well. Orpheus met his end at the hands, claws and.. mouths of a group of maenads (sexually agitated, almost feral followers of the Greek god of wine and fertility Dionysus) after retrieving his lover Eurydice from the underworld. The gods punished Orpheus because his love was not 'true', meaning he did not love Eurydice enough to die for her. So they took her away from him a while after retrieving her and then send a group of maenads on his way to punish him.

  Orpheus was said to be the most beautiful man of ancient Greece, rivaling in beauty -and musical skills- the god Apollo himself, who hated the competition and Orpheus' hubris. The maenads were all enchanted by his beauty and wanted to have sex with him. Orpheus, being depressed due to losing Eurydice a second time, declined. But you do not say 'No' to a maenad, let alone a full group of them. The maenads had their way with Orpheus and then cut him into pieces.

  So is Midori-chan's power based on a Siren, a maenad or a combination of both? Either way, this was very bad news, for all of us. Did nature have an awful sense of humor or was she torturing us? Did she give us these gifts to cope in this new world or to take out each other faster and more effectively? Did she want to test us or did she just create the perfect conditions for a death game manga or anime, armed with the perfect weapons for it?

  I started thinking that our greenhouse plans might not work after all. If we were inundated by hungry hoards of survivors with unknown powers -perhaps some even scarier and more dangerous than Midori-chan's- we could lose both all our brewing food supply and our lives. It is a great burden and responsibility to be a commander, even of a small 9-strong team, isn't it. I am quite resourceful but I am not Odysseus #2.

  I started thinking about the closest rural or semi-rural areas to central Tokyo that we could reach by foot. It would have been nice if we managed to charge the battery packs of two EV cars with solar panels, but I did not think any of their batteries would have survived for seven-odd decades. I would still ask Akira-kun about it though. After thinking for a while I thought that Kawagoe Naguwashi Park, in Saitama, would be our best choice. It was about 45 km NW from where we were, rural but not too rural, had fresh running water from the Koaze river that flew right beside it and also had a very large park facility that could be our new home - assuming it was not already fully occupied.

  I felt there was a storm brewing and we were right in the middle of it. I felt it in my bones. I wanted to get us far way from it before it was too late. The following day (our 6th, if you're keeping track), after Akira-kun and Hinata-kun were back from their greenhouse duties, I relayed to the team my worries and fears, trying to maintain my composure. It was late in the afternoon and as always we gathered at the roof.

  "Kawagoe Naguwashi Park?!", asked Yuki-chan with surprise, "Isn't that a bit too far to walk?"

  "That is the whole point, to get out of downtown Tokyo and go to the suburbs of Greater Tokyo. Unless we had functioning cars we could not reach the truly rural places; for instance we cannot go to Shizuoka and be treated to Fuji-san all day long, while tending to our lovely garden inside our picket fence. So I thought Kawagoe Naguwashi Park was the next best thing. Or can we have cars?", I turned toward Akira-kun, "all the main batteries of laptops have long been dead. Doesn't the same apply to the battery packs of EVs?"

  "Hm.. yes and no. No battery chemistry can survive 70+ years. No actual -as in electrolyte based- batteries anyway. However, starting from late 2023  - early 2024 a kind of revolution started in the EV car industry. The EV car competition flared up, so manufacturers ditched the rather low durability liquid electrolyte Li-ion battery packs and started switching to fully solid state batteries with much higher durability, higher capacities and a bit faster charging rates. These can last up to 20 years with an average use instead of 5 to 8, which was way above the lifetime of the cars".

  "That is still a 'no'. Where is the 'yes' then?", I asked.

  "I did not finish Asahi-kun, do not be impatient", Akira-kun feigned irritation.
"The problem with these solid state batteries was not their durability, that was excellent (for non end-of-the-world situations). The problem was their still low charging rate compared to their capacity. The best marketing slogan would be 'It charges almost as fast as you can pour petrol in your old car'. And these batteries could not provide that. Enter graphene based hyper-capacitors."

  He was finally getting to the point. He was obsessed when talking about high tech stuff and added a bit more details than were required.

  "These had a bit lower capacity -about as much as older liquid electrolyte Li-ion batteries- but they had lighting fast charging rates. In less than 5 minutes you could fully charge (from 10% to 100%) a large 100kWh capacitor pack! And the best thing about them? Hyper-capacitors are practically 'immortal'. They have millions, not a few hundreds to thousands of charge / discharge cycles, and they can last for centuries if left unused."

  Some good news. Finally. We could certainly use them. With two of these cars we could go to Shizuoka, not Saitama, with a single charge too.

  "The only issue", there is always an issue, isn't it? "is that these cars must be rather rare. They started being sold in December of 2024, so they were sold for less than three months before nature crapped on all of us. They were also more expensive than other EVs, since they were the first gen of cars with such bat... er.. capacitor packs. I think in Japan only Toyota and Nissan managed to release a couple of models before the curtain was drawn on them. I strongly doubt we could find a single such car in Hokkaido or Kyushu, for instance, but a few hundreds must have been sold in Tokyo."

  Rare and expensive, I thought. We were in Kita City, right next to Sumida river. If there was one neighborhood in Tokyo these cars were surely sold it must have been in Aoyama, the poshest area of Tokyo. But that was about 11 km south of us.  Perhaps we could find two of them closer, they were not Bentleys or Ferraris after all, they were just more expensive than normal EVs.

  "Would you recognize these cars if you saw them? Even from some distance? And how many more solar panels would we require to charge them?", I asked Akira-kun.

  "Of course I would, this is my thing after all. I would easily recognize them even among a hundred other models. I followed their progress already from their R&D stage, back in 2020 - 2021. While my field is not directly related I also had a course in high capacity super- and hyper-capacitors and know all there is to know about them.

As for charging them.. that would take a little while. These two solar panels we got for your beastie of a laptop were meant just for it. If we used them to charge a single such car it would be charged, but it would take about 20 days. We need at least fifteen more panels, from where we got the others, in order to charge each car in roughly 24 hours with enough juice to get us close to Fuji-san. I would wire the panels in parallel, not serially, so that..."

  I interrupted him because he was getting tech-overexcited and I think he was about to start a lecture about the precise differences between high amperage and high voltage when charging an EV car.

  "Thank you, Akira-kun, your intel has been extremely valuable. Do you need help to locate the cars or get the panels?", I asked.

  "We need to find the cars first, and I can do that if I look specifically for them. It is extremely unlikely we will find two of them parked side by side, so I guess I need to find car #1 first, get the panels to it, set them up and wire them on site, wait for the capacitor pack to be charged to 15 - 20%, drive the car here with the panels, and complete charging it here. We cannot leave the car with its solar panels unguarded or the entire thing would be looted and our idea would be stolen by someone who did not even think about it".

  He surely knew how to think things through, and quickly.

  "And then, when car #1 is fully charged you will look for car #2 with it", I said.


  I thought that was a far better plan than relying on a greenhouse near the very center of Tokyo (or my Kawagoe Naguwashi Park idea) that could be looted dry at any time by starving locu.. er.. survivors. We all felt, deep down, that the site was going to hit the fan soon in Tokyo and we would rather be out of range when that happened. That what we experienced till now was just the prelude. That soon Tokyo would turn into a huge Battle Royale stage. More and more survivors woke up every day and less and less food remained. The Grim Reaper would soon enjoy savoring thousands of new souls.

  So, we needed these items for our 'Operation Escape Tokyo' : 15 more solar panels, two of these special EV cars and adequate food and water for the journey. Our destination was the Izu peninsula, in East Shizuoka, a favorite vacation spot for most of us. Quite rural but not in the middle of nowhere. Roughly 150 km away. Excessive distance to walk but we could get there with cars in about two hours, three tops if some roads were blocked.

  Our dear ancestors and readers from the far future, I would rather not divulge if we managed to make that journey in time or if we were stuck in Tokyo when it started turning(?) into a full-blown battle zone. I already spoiled at the end of the previous chapter that we lost one team member (not who but still) and I'd rather not spoil anything more from my account.

  The actual storm, or rather the perfect storm, is going to hit us the following day, right after we started making the aforementioned preparations for our little escape. The 7th day of our awakening is one that will test the resolve of all of us. Will we all survive it or not? And will we all remain in one piece at the end of the day?

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