Chapter 41:

CH 41: We are all fools, tools. Some work better than others.

Castaway Isle

"Make it tomorrow."

The attending staff didn't know what to say, or even how to react. They had called for their supervisor down to this loading corner but they hadn't arrived yet. The people there had no idea what to do.

The little girl in front of them twirled her swiss army knife and lightly tapped at the large box immediately in front of her. She never stated a condition, never made it a threat but it was what was being offered.

"What the hell is going on here!?" came a man Sophie does not recognize.

A dead man then. In a half tied jumpsuit, the sleeves secured around his waist. He looked to be in his mid-50s. A grizzly five pm shadow long overdue for a trim sat on his sunburnt face.

"I apologize for interrupting your peaceful evening, but it really is a matter of utmost importance."

"What the fuck, why the hell are you all even letting this nonsense happen!?"

"We've been overhearing some things and discussing. It's a great idea to move the planes, really. A freshwater river source is only some kilometers away. But it's going to rain tomorrow by the late afternoon and all through the evening."

In Mattie's eyes, he couldn't blame the man.

His sister indeed made a strange sight. Sitting on top of a not too small pile of cardboard boxes, swinging her legs back and forth playfully in this corner of the plane's loading area while flanked by strange people in tactical vests. Ignoring all hateful or rightfully confused looks as she easily talked away.

The little knife not at all threatening in her hands.

He's learned long by now to just not think too hard when it comes to Sophie. Her motives, her means. She's always been something of a wildcard behind the most gentle poker face and since the day before their flight, she's only gotten far worse.

But this? Where the hell did the armed security come from?

But he couldn't say anything here. No, it was more important to silently back Sophie up at this moment while hanging onto June by his side.

This wasn't so different from when they would face their relatives and extended, judgemental aunties. Like their mother's bad television dramas, only with their survival on the line. Yeah sure, they could handle this.

"Ms. Cruz, can you explain to me what the hell is going on, or why you're allowing this child, to cause such a ruckus."

"Not a child" Sophie giggles mockingly.

Mattie doesn't know how much of that horror movie girl in front of him is real and how much is a front.

A woman in her 40s, fit and strong, in a tight ponytail makes her presence known.

"I could, but I rather leave the technical details to someone who's actually qualified to speak on the subject. We're here on the insistence and support of Dr. Kazehaya. He has something to discuss in regard to the safety of certain plans. "

Sophie was a hidden wild card, a ghost with unpredictable faces and abilities. This young man, however, was just a mystery. Mattie recognized him yes, but just where and when did Sophie work her magic to recruit him, and all these people, into...well this.

Currently, Ryo was nonchalantly leaning on the side, as if this whole thing was a show he was in no way involved in. Which he was at least half responsible.

"Good evening Captain Twidell. "

"You're kidding me, right? What's up with all the gook brats?"

Two of the security stepped up a few paces as if to put themselves up between the captain and the young doctor. Another in the back took a look at where the girl's companions, her siblings were located, safety confirmed.

"Now now captain, was that really necessary? No need to get so hostile, it's more than rude. " chided Sophie, overseeing the scene from her spot.

Like a seated player overlooking her pieces.

"Though it is late, we came by with a pertinent issue regarding your plane. We really couldn't wait," she stated calmly, critically judging the other man without even a twitch. "But we've seemed to have approached when captain, Twidel was it, is a bit...intoxicated. Dr. Kazehaya, what do you say?"

Ryo didn't like much talking. Sophie didn't like getting too close on the scene unless she could help it. They compensated the difference, not too unlike school children trading lunch portions.

Without another word from anyone else, the quiet man calmly crossed and took the older elder's wrist, examining up to his head.

"Well he doesn't need his stomach pumped but you might want to keep him from driving, anything. Co-pilots and first officers here?"

"How dare you-"

"We're all adults here, we get how someone, especially one with as much pressure on them as you do Captain Twidell, needs a drink here and there. But this is an urgent matter, you should hydrate, have a good tall glass of water to sober up."

"There is no extra good water to spare! Why is this hootch little bitch still messing around up there?!"

"Some water for the captain please?" Sophie took the verbal abuse without much a blink.

"You brats know nothing! There is no such spare water! Or food or- how dare you?! How dare you selfish useless young pieces of shit go commandeering down in here when I'm busting my ass to-...what the holy fucking tarnation is that?"

Sophie had been keeping a small smile on her face since the beginning. But it turned into an ominously charming grin, peeks of teeth and canines.

The senior captain was no longer struggling against any forces holding him back. Rather they let him clumsily dash towards the dozen or so of portable multi gallons jugs. It's full? They're all full? But the only water left should be stored in the internal tanks?

"Have a drink captain." she offered calmly, once again.

"....How?" the man let out shakily.

"I'm afraid Captain Twidel has certainly had too many other things to drink. Can't even remember how to sip water. Won't someone help...sober him up?"

"How the fuck did you kids get this?!"

For the first time, the bearded man finally addresses Sophie directly. He had to bend his neck up given his position to hers and it made for a shift of power that he didn't even know was happening. Sophie fought the pleased twitch in her lip.

Calm and composed. She wasn't getting anywhere if she showed that particular side of yet, the hints of more than crazy, not just yet. She needed them to trust and need her for now, not be scared off.

Fear was for later.

"Why Captain, we already said earlier. We've found a river, a good clean river. And we can show you all the way. Aren't these filled up jugs proof enough of our goodwill? My siblings and I worked very hard to bike back and forth to bring these back. You just need to boil and distill it, safety first."

At that moment someone finally delivers a recently refilled bottle of safe water, prompting the bearded man to drink. And he did. Long languid gulps, like a man gone and lost in a desert for days. The movement of his throat highlighting the led lights reflected on escaping streaks of water. With emptying the bottle, does his sense come back to him.

He heard about some passengers with vehicles, bikes. These kids were among them. Three siblings, probably east Asian, small ringleader older than she looks. Yeah he recalls now, the jungle adapting kids with the foraged food and herbs.

Water, they had brought so much water. It wasn't enough to refill their tanks but on their own it was impressive. A literal drop, millions of drops, of water, of hope.

"Where?" he barked, authority still backing his orders.

"Still feeling that buzz huh, you must have really had a lot to drink tonight? I'm sorry about our bad timing, just thought everyone would be able to get ready a bit sooner. Have some more water? "

"Where did you find the river?!" his patience was not so generous.

"So hostile still, we've shown no disrespect. We gathered and delivered this to help you know? We're on the same side here, surviving." Sophie shrugged helplessly.

"Then what the hell is with the vests? What did the kids bribe you with Cruz?" he responded.

"Bribes? Why anyone and everyone would have discovered the river eventually, who knows with how many more days of exploration? My siblings and I just found and brought back the supply first. You're so difficult to contact and we happen to meet Dr. Kazehaya and Ms. Cruz first."

The truth was, this captain may have never even bothered to come out if it weren't the commotion Sophie constructed. Jugs of water, unstrapped and rolled from their ride to the nearest river after they came back down. That was step one, gain attention.

The entrance softened by all of their family's casual bribes, donations, in the previous weeks.

Then came intimidation, having some actual power and weight to her words. That's where Ryo came in. The vests were unexpected in how readily their leader and they followed Ryo's request. And that old ex of hers says he's bad at making friends, idiot.

As dull and awkward as Ryo can act, the man , who often still acts like a boy, didn't fully realize his capabilities. At least not how others would see it.

A rather unreliable narrator if he's ever telling a tale, if it comes to himself. Humble to the point of great inconvenience to those around him.

He was awkward, yes but he was considered a genius in his own fields. Geniuses were all strange sort of people and got certain leeways, everyone knew that. International conference of Friday, bio-medical equipment development unveiling on Sunday, multi-million dollar surgery on Monday. That was the sort of robotic schedule Ryo kept, usually organized by a team of employees. Fransisca Cruz was reported to watch out for this individual in her transfer flight and event preparedness. They all seen his file.

It would be foolish to disregard anything that comes of this quiet man's mouth.

Even if they found it a bit odd how he allowed this little girl to tag along, it wasn't without benefit. Her thirsty men have all received a more than a worthy portion, and there was the promise of more. Trust Kazehaya to find another surprisingly useful oddball, this young girl, but birds of a feather they say.

Cruz and her team would provide support, since even Ryo claimed that he would have difficulty getting anyone, let alone the captain, to just listen.

Bribery may have gotten them in but it was the armed muscle that kept them from being kicked off the makeshift premise.

"If you've had enough time to sober up, let's continue. Dr. Kazehaya has consulted with the rest of the flight crew on the mechanics. You can go over the fine details later but you need to know how turning on the engines to the second plane, your plane, is going to be risky. If the plan is to drive the planes only that can be done, we can make the path to the river easier by driving some distance away from the mountain range. But-..."

She made sure he was listening, instead of just disregarding her again. Made sure with the tapping of her knife on the boxes below, rhythmic.

"It will rain tomorrow by evening and the ground will be even more difficult to traverse. Use common sense, clear skies or not. Move the planes before it gets more muddy and stressful. "

"What right does a random brat have to order me ar-"

"Right? I'm speaking as a person who wants to live?! Someone who's been traversing through jungle, snakes, and giant fucking bugs to bring back enough to keep us all alive! And what are you doing? Very important stuff yes we know, we know, but arguing about it is not important enough! We, as passengers, did the scouting work for you. We can cut down bush trees and clear the way enough for you! But it has to be before the rain comes tomorrow night or we've screwed something worse. If you need water for cooling the engines, here they are! If you need more, give the orders. The manpower? We'll show them if they can keep up."

Sophie growled, slamming the little knife down into the box below and making a ripping tear. While still remaining balanced and seated, she finished opening enough of one side. Kicking the front cover of the box, right in view of everyone. Wide open.

Out stiffly fell crammed bags of heavily dried supplies. Some beans, vacuum-sealed grains, sacks of white rice, and other things like fat and vitamin-rich candy tablets. Labels too far back to read. Sliding down, she slashed open at another solid box. Opening it to reveal large plastic buckets of dried meal varieties. Powdered milk, eggs, and an odd assortment more. A single one of those meal buckets could feed a single person for quite some time. There were quite a few in there but if it was to feed over 200 people, it would be out sooner than a few days.

"We brought them for some relatives out in the boonies. Everything in this first box here can be rehydrated or replanted and grown. We could have kept them for ourselves now that we're in this mess. We didn't have to say anything, just kept quiet and take them away to eat quietly. But we didn't do the smart thing, we're sharing for the good of the group. As we should. Good that we're actively always trying for." Sophie told part truths and mostly lies.

Another stab and tear, another box of ration bars. Her camping store haul.

Sophie was playing a risky gamble, one she hadn't accounted for. Not until the snake bite, not until that dream. Now she's betting they'll be more.

With that she has no issue spilling more boxes of rations at people's feet.

A few more days of food for everyone. But they could make it stretch, make it last far longer. Much longer if they kept the rations among themselves.

If the surrounding staff wasn't dropping their jaws before, they were now. It was a strange sight. A little bit like a game show and a little bit like a devil with a deal. More than a few people couldn't help how their stomachs called that the thought of more substantial food. Mostly crewmembers that only brought small travel luggage, few belongings with them.

"Make it tomorrow. My family and I take the rest of our stuff, just mundane things and some rice for ourself. Ms. Cruz should get a pick of the share to feed her men, people you need to keep safety and order around here. And the rest...the rest all goes to the airline to do what needs to be done. What a good deal?"

If you make it tomorrow, the threat goes unspoken but fully understood.

They all were hungry and dehydrated more so than anyone was ever used to, more so than the passengers who had time to hunt and forage.

What was it that the safety instructions always said? Put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. Help yourself first, ensure your survival first, before doing anything else.

"Go talk it out with the rest of your crew, the mechanics, with Dr. Kazehaya whatever. They'll fill you in. But for your best interests, not just as the responsible captain, I suggest you listen."

The last box was certainly very large but opened only to find smaller oddly packed boxes.

At Sophie's indication, her siblings finally moved to help her. They left with enough sudden dramatics to confuse the hell out of Captain Twidel. Confused enough to prevent anymore questioning or sense.

They had gotten away with whatever they just did, only time will tell if it did enough good to be worth all the rations Sophie just spontaneously invested.

Together they carry their items out to tie to their nearby bikes. Balancing the not too large covered luggage, a bit of the camping supplies and some rice.

Cruz nodded to her men then, allowing them to make off with a portion of the high-calorie high protein ration bars and a meal bucket. This would sustain them a decent while and settled their food fears for the immediate future. Following Kazehaya was no mistake, rather they had all profited, even the stubborn captain.

The only losers in sight were the Quan siblings.

It couldn't have been easy to just give away supplies. Sophie had seen how the other two tightened their fists, fearfully looking in between everyone, their sister and the packaged food.

In her mind, the security head regarded the young doctor higher and noted to remember his even younger companions. They didn't seem like rich kids that knew nothing. Rather Sophie's story held up, from desperation and just enough sense to pass. She just coincidentally packed food supplies they all so desperately needed but responsibly sacrificed them to a larger cause.

It was a very odd coincidence but Cruz and her people had seen far worse in their time checking cargo and what people will try to get on a plane.

Goods for poor relatives from the good ol country of the U.S.A. Yeah sure, reasonable enough. Cruz wasn't going to take a gift horse in the mouth and if the captain and crew were smart, they wouldn't either.

Ryo hefted an extra bag of rice, a clean white and nicer brand, carrying it over to Sophie's bike, tying it among the luggage. She narrowed her eyes at him, waiting but suspicious at his actions.

"Pleasure doing hypothetical business with your Miss Quan, or should I just call you Sophie like everyone else?"

"...Call me whatever you like. Sophie is fine. But Dr. Kazekaya, as hypothetical as this business was, I do believe this rice is part of your share? "

"Ryo is fine as well. No need for formalities, you're not my patient. But it's too much trouble to cook and store it. Bring me portions once in a while when you make yours."

"What you're saying is you want me to make you some? Like a food delivery service."

"If you want to think of it that way. I can't say no to a homemade bento, especially out here. It's either that or having me over for dinner in your secret campsite. I like my rice fluffy by the way."

Rice addict, like any true Asian She had gotten the good brands for herself and her siblings but she can't deny she owes him. Can't deny that she knew Ryo's tastes as much as he was willing to tell her a lifetime ago. Had them memorized after evenings of late-night talks over what they missed the most? What dreams they had for the future, a future where she could make normal meals for him like a true girlfriend in a normal relationship. Normal....tried to hard to cling onto the comfort of normal.

She was so young and romantic back then. So stupid. But it couldn't have been helped then, it was a different time now.

"I'll think about it. Fine then, you can have our leftovers." Sophie said lazily.

"From what I'm suspecting, your leftovers and ingredients are better than the usual fare being passed out." Ryo commented politely, praising even.

"Oh it's nothing like that. Only what we can gather, rather thank you for the help. We wouldn't have been able to talk with the Captain so easily without your presence."

"It was a fair suggestion. The mechanics would agree on the state of the engine and the strain driving on those little wheels would provide. I should be thanking you and the goodness of your heart for donating such supplies. It was quite a number for a single-family to have. "

"For the relatives, you know how it is."

"Oh, don't I? "

"Can't be helped."

If anyone else was watching, they would think these two young people had a good relationship. They spoke with a back and forth banter, all smiles between the two of them. Perfect elegant smiles. The girl was rather short but she had a lovely face and refreshing charm. She seemed to be making the tall handsome boy laugh easily. Someone might even say the two suited one another, made a nice pair.

Mattie and June knew their sister's customer service smile. They could smell bullshit a mile away and so could the other man.

In fact, the young doctor had an even blanker, more professionally dignified smile compared to their sister's sweet one. To them it looked like their mother's television dramas again, hidden meanings being thrown around and mentally deciphered.

Like watching a bad game of creepy polite smiling ping pong. They just didn't know what was being battled with here.

After a few more thinly veiled pleasantries were exchanged, the young doctor took his leave. Giving polite proper goodbyes to everyone as he rejoined the airlines and security team, to fill in the technical evidence to the captain and pilots.

"Holy shit Sophie. Holy shit what the fuck?!" burst out Mattie, when they had biked far away enough to scream out his shock.

"Yeah! When did you get to know the hottie like that?! Omg is that how you flirt? Ohhhhhh my god."

"What the fuck June, I'm talking about that whole fucking disaster of a threat! 'Make it tomorrow' holy shit Jie, I thought you were like those creepy kid villians in horror movies and animes. Fucking shit, and the food? Like I saw some of them but-"

They rode along the jungle floor, with Sophie leading the way to prevent any mishaps. It was dark but they had headlights and she knew the way, had it so memorized even drugs couldn't faze her in remember. They had tried.

She let Mattie rant with the wind, sure no one could hear them.

Except maybe a terror hidden in the trees, but even then she doubts anyone would be able to make sense of what her brother was complaining about. This really wasn't good for his blood pressure, should she start gathering and concocting herbals for that?

Yeah, that sounded doable, start drying some things. Make some decent tea, stretch out the seasonings, some emergency home remedies.

They had lost a lot of stuff after tonight, stuff she initially planned to keep and consume for themselves. But it was a risk with large payoffs, the initial being the control of the plane.

Move it tomorrow. If it blows, the rain will come before it spreads like wildfire and burns everything to the ground like last time. Surely she could save a few more influential lives that way, even if she didn't care much for that drunk captain.

Rough, controlling and on the old boomer racist side but he wasn't the worse she's seen. There were far worse sorts of men trapped with them on this island.

"And another thing! You said the things can be regrown but how do you replant dried beans? Dried rice? You can't replant white rice! I guess it's okay if it's brown and still had all the husks, did we get both? " Mattie ranted out his previous frustrations, rambling on.

"Sophie pleeeeease make him shut up." one of his sisters begged.

"June, if this was relationship gossip you would be all over this. But because it's about actual important stuff, you tune out."

"Sophie pleeeeeease help."

"And is there any more soap, please tell me you grabbed more personal cleaning supplies?"

"I'm stuck here with my nagzilla brother? For the next how long?! Years?! Oh Sophie please bring me, other people, to talk to! Oh and can you introduce me to the doctor hottie? Like when did that happen?!"

"See what I mean?!" Mattie complained back, wrapping it all up.

For these two teenaged idiots. She'll deal with them all, fuck anyone through and over, all for these two. She wouldn't choose anyone, not even pretty exes. Especially not dumb pretty exes. But they have their uses, like tonight.

It wasn't bad to have a powerful ally, as long as they kept a respectable distance. The more the better. The lost supplies, food, was an investment she could now afford to gamble.

Mattie will be over the moon though when he sees what she did manage to bring for them.

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Castaway Isle