A Song to the Future (Mirai e no Uta)
The Stranger opened his eyes, probably for the first time. He didn’t feel much; didn’t know what was going on either. There was movement, that he understood. After a couple seconds he realized he was being transported on what seemed to be a portable bed. There were lights and a long hallway, some voices too. Those were probably people. The Stranger felt very dizzy you see; poor man could barely distinguish shapes or colors. Hell, he didn’t even know his own name. “I don’t care that much anyways” he thought.
Often there’s some stretches of time one just doesn’t belong to. This was most likely one of those, and so he went back to sleep.
Dr. Rosmärin’s Entry
Readings seem to indicate that the subject is indeed human. However, these amounts of radiation are completely unheard of and way beyond what we deemed ‘possible’ till now (not bringing into account that one exception).
Quarantine has been established and we are ‘closely’ monitoring the subject. There’s way more people than needed here but I guess there’s not much else to do today. It is news, I must admit.
Subject has been unconscious for about 3.5 hours at this point and oh, speak of the devil.
“Good morning sleepyhead! You had us worried there.”
There was a middle-aged woman talking loudly in the middle of the room. She wore a lab coat and looked devilishly happy. I still felt a bit dizzy, but this was finally my moment, I knew that much.
“Hello Mr. Subject? Do you understand me? The glass is pretty thick, but you should be able to hear me.”
Now that she mentioned it, where was this place? I was indeed being held inside some sort of glass cell. The walls did look sturdy. Outside of this tiny prison there was a proper room, but it had no windows. It did have a monitor on the wall opposite to mine.
There were two other people besides the woman: right next to her, a timid-looking girl around twenty years of age was sitting on a small bench; she had somewhat of a wavy hair. At the bottom of the room a boy with glasses rested his back on the wall, wearing a serious expression. He didn’t seem to me much older than the girl.
The woman took a small notebook from her lab coat and began writing while thinking aloud.
“Subject’s mind looks completely blank. This will probably be more difficult than expected.” She put the notebook away. “Ara my dear, would you mind taking care of him while I...”
“My mind is not blank” I finally managed to say. “I do understand you. I’m sorry, where is this...?”
“Guess having a Babel Tower can come in handy sometimes” said Glasses at the bottom of the room, arms crossed.
“Good, good!” Seems this was enough to reignite the woman’s enthusiasm. She opened the notebook again, ready to do some science.
“I’m sorry Mr. Subject but for now I am not authorized to answer any question you may have. That might change if you are cooperative enough, though.”
“Let’s start with the basics: do you have a name.”
“Do I?” I genuinely didn’t have any idea of who I was. It’s not like I forgot about it either, it just felt like there was nothing before this room. “But that can’t be true.” I wondered if this eccentric doctor might be able to help. I didn’t have a reason to be hostile towards these people either.
“I... can’t remember. Sorry.”
“Nice.” The woman took a few notes. “Then let’s move on to the very fundamental basics. Are you human, Mr. Subject? Do you know what human is?”
“It’s... of course I know what a human is! What else could I be!”
“I can think of a number of alternatives.”
“But you do look human, Mr. Subject. Unfortunately, we have to keep you there until we’re completely su–”
In that moment a tempest rose inside the room. Time seemed to freeze for everybody but the new guest, who steadily approached my cell. He wore a calm expression but for the trained eye it might have been possible to appreciate the very essence of hatred on his look. As he drew closer, he firmly clenched his fists and readied his right arm. Only half a second before the punch would connect the clock began ticking again, for a voice of pure steel and absolute authority had joined the fray.
An old bearded man entered the room. He wore a deep blue, formal uniform and a military hat. He sounded composed and firm. “Think twice before doing anything that could put us all in danger.”
“I’m sorry, Captain.”
“Edgy,” muttered the middle-aged woman, looking at the floor.
Only at this moment could I focus on the guy who just planned to punch my face through several centimeters of crystal. He wore a long dark grayish coat, pretty tattered and worn out. The boy didn’t seem older than Glasses; I imagined his age would lie somewhere between his and the young girl’s. I thought he was pretty.
“Whether you feel sorry or not is irrelevant” the old man spoke. “If this were to happen a second time, I’d have to take action. You know I don’t wish to reprehend you, Zio. Don’t force me to.”
“You are right, Captain. I wasn’t thinking. Allow me to apologize again.” Zio’s words seemed sincere enough, but you could still perceive a certain frustration on his eyes.
“Oh I know you weren’t thinking.”
“Captain.” The young girl intervened for the first time. She stood up, looking very concerned. She was blushing and couldn’t manage to establish eye contact with the Captain, but she spoke nonetheless.
“Zio couldn’t get any sleep last night, that might have influenced his actions. I am partly responsible for this and thus I want to apologize too.”
“Hah”, the Captain chuckled. “I wasn’t aware of he needing sleep.”
“He doesn’t need to, but it helps–” she was cut off by the boy in gray almost immediately.
“Arabia, you needn’t apologize for me. The Captain is right. It won’t happen again Sir, you have my word.”
The Captain laughed genuinely this time, and all the tension in the room seemed to cool off.
“Whatever,” he said. “He who breaks it, pays it, remember. Anti-radiation glass isn’t exactly cheap. How are the test results? Did you start with the interrogation?”
“We were on it, Captain” miss Doctor said.
“Good, good.” The old man approached the glass cell then. “Welcome to my ship, young one. Don’t try anything funny if you don’t want to spend some time alone with that guy.” He pointed at Zio. “Now everybody, there’s nothing else to see or say here. Get back to work you rapscallions!”
And just like that, I became a member of the Albatross.
After the Captain spoke, only miss Doctor and Arabia stood in the cell room. The former kept asking Mr. Subject stuff he couldn’t really answer and taking several notes, while the later just went in and out bringing several papers with her. After the ‘questioning’ was done, the three of them just sit there in silence for several minutes.
“What do we do now” Arabia whispered to the Doctor.
“Wait and observe. Got anything better to do?”
“No, I don’t mean that. This man has obviously no idea of what’s going on, correct?”
“Why yes, he seems to have amnesia. That’s why we are waiting.”
“I know that! I mean... can’t we at least tell him something.”
The two of them kept mumbling and, even though the crystal was several centimeters wide and apparently unbreakable (didn’t really have a reason to escape anyway so I never tried), the conversation could be heard perfectly across the room. I found it amusing, but unfortunately Ms. Doctor didn’t look quite convinced.
“We’ve got orders” she stated. “But, maybe if it’s you, the Captain might let it slide.”
The young woman looked at me with a big smile on her face, then immediately went back to the Doctor.
“I don’t know what to say” she muttered.
Miss Doctor stood up and pushed the bench around, Arabia still sitting on it, until the two of them were directly facing me.
“Guinea Man” she spoke loudly, arms crossed. “We’ve taken the following decision. We will allow you to make three questions. Depending on the content of said questions, we might or might not answer. If we do not, you’ll get another chance until you have gotten three answers. Clear?”
“Guinea Man?” I just realized I had made a horrible mistake.
“That’s a beautiful name!” stated Arabia cheerfully.
“Answer number one: yes, Guinea Man, or Guinea for shorts. You cannot recall your name (if you ever had one to begin with) and we might get more test subjects in the future. You need a name. And I name you Guinea.”
“That’s a horrible name.”
“I think it’s a cute name! Guineas are those little mammals, right? I hope we get to see one in town.”
“Yes, huhu! Those are guinea pigs. Cute little boys like Mr. Subject here. But Ara, I forbid you to look for scientific texts regarding guinea pigs on your own. If I find a good one, I’ll give it to you. Some have beautiful pictures.”
“Yes Miss!” She looked at the just now reborn me and introduced herself. “By the way Mr. Guinea, my name is Arabia. Pleased to meet you.”
“Same, miss Arabia. Thank you for your kindness.” I bowed to the girl. She was the only one who treated me normally, and those kinds of people you have to respect.
Ms. Doctor quickly took note of that.
“Haha! And whose shall mine name be! You only have two questions left, Guinea Man!” She chuckled, seemingly enjoying herself.
“Her name is Sonia. She’s a physicist but knows quite a bit about medicine too. She and Heysel do most of the healing in case of need.”
“Arabia you traitor!” She poked the girl. “My full name is indeed Sonia Rosmärin. Now this Heysel, who might that be... choose carefully your next question, Guinea Pig!”
I was certainly not interested in more names for the time being. I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.
“Where are we?”
Sonia answered rapidly.
“This is the Albatross, mankind’s biggest hope & greatest technological achievement.” You couldn’t tell if she was being ironic or not.
“It’s a big military airship, but we use it mostly for transporting cargo. We here now are inside the cargo hold, and your cell is normally used to contain high-radiation items.”
What the heck.
Mr. Guinea already knew what his third question was going to be, but it was still a very unpleasant thing to think about.
“Miss Sonia. You mentioned before I might or might not be human. Does this have anything to do with this radiation you are mentioning now?” I asked, dead serious.
“Clever boy.” The doctor smirked again.
“That one question we may want to avoid; the reason being you will get more than one answer.”
“Well, for somebody who has orders you’ve been awfully talkative.” This one thing I really wanted clear and out of my mind as soon as possible.
“It’s all on Ara.”
“If it’s on me, I’d rather answer. He must be very confused.”
“Very well.” The doctor took a deep breath. She looked serious now, which both gave me some relief and scared me to death. “See here Mr. Subject, so far we’ve determined you are human. Nothing you have said or done up to this point tells us otherwise. You look human. Your answers have been a bit odd sometimes (for example, it is quite rare how you said the Captain looked like a marine. Most people in your state wouldn’t know what a marine is), but nothing off the charts.”
“Picking up stray humans in your condition used to be normal, but it’s gotten more and more rare over the years. Still, none of this worries us. Now the radiation... at this point it is the only reason we cannot let you out of that cell.”
“Is it that high? What does it mean to have high radiation?”
“Often things with high radiation are very dangerous to us, or outright try to kill us.” This time it was Ara who spoke.
“Indeed. Now I want you to understand something: your radiation isn’t just high. It is a miracle you can even exist here with us. No human body would be able to cope with that and keep its regular form. But yours does somehow.”
“If you are indeed human (and I believe you are Mr. Guinea), you might’ve established some sort of record!” stated Arabia.
“Indeed. See, everything has a positive side.”
“What would happen if you let me out of this cell?” I asked. I still didn’t quite get what they meant by radiation.
“Who knows. Some of us have already been exposed to your body while bringing you here, and we are doing fine. But you were unconscious then. Next time, you could just explode like a big bomb or turn into a poisonous cloud and murder us all.” Sonia seemed to be joking, but the fact that I was still imprisoned seemed to indicate that those might in fact be actual possibilities.
“Murder? You mean like consciously?”
“Why would I ever do that? I don’t even know if I have a life outside of this cell.”
“Please Mr. Guinea” the young girl spoke timidly. “Understand our position. We want to believe in you but it’s the first time we’ve encountered something like this. It’s uncomfortable for us too; we just don’t want any more accidents.”
“I understand.” I needed to organize my thoughts. “But then what is this radiation thing? Does it turn people into monsters? Psychopaths?”
“Not quite.” Sonia didn’t seem to particularly regret having tackled this topic, but she was still hesitant on giving a straight answer.
“I told you it was a bit too complex. If everything goes right, we’ll fill you in when we get to town.”
“Please be patient” Ara asked.
At that moment, an alarm started ringing and the monitor on the wall turned on.
“That might do it too,” the doctor said.
“Everybody, we’ve got a pack coming towards us. Please get ready. It isn’t big, but as always prepare for the worst.”
In the monitor you could see the Captain’s face, from what seemed to be the command room. He was dead serious, but the type of seriousness that inspires one to act. And that is exactly what the crew did.
We heard the rusty voice of a man coming from outside the room.
“Shields and engine are working fine. Cannons ready.”
“That’s old man Castle,” Dr. Sonia told me. “He’s below us.”
“Arabia, you better go with Heysel and the Captain. I’ll stay here with Mr. Subject.”
“I have Castle here. I’m sure you don’t want to see what I’m about to show our guest either.”
Arabia left the room in a hurry.
“Blink and you’ll miss it” the doctor told me.
“They’re on top of us. Everybody stay calm. They won’t be able to penetrate the deck.”
“Captain are the outside cameras working” asked Sonia to the monitor.
“Only number 4 is damaged so far. Don’t say anymore, you need it for science.”
The doctor smirked.
“Heysel, give our Frankenstein here some eyes.”
“Blink and you’ll miss it,” she muttered.
What could be seen from the cameras was obviously not of this world. Some of those small creatures moved like insects, others like fish. The bigger ones were approximately the size of a mastiff, but they seemed to distort the light around them, so they were still somewhat hard to spot. Their bodies were constantly changing too; one would assume they were made out of liquid or even flat out gas, but the things were definitely alive. They were scratching and biting the surface of the ship, as if trying to carve a hole. Some of them attacked the cameras, giving the crew less and less angles to look from. There was no sound; Guinea assumed it was because of the wind.
“What are we going to do?” he asked.
Guinea just realized cameras 5 and 8 showed a dark spot on the distance. It looked humanoid and was holding two thin blades.
On that moment an old man with working clothes and a big gray moustache hurried into the room.
“Did I make it in time?”
“Hi Castle, just barely” Sonia said.
“Damn, one never gets tired of this.”
“Don’t go saying stuff like that around, you’re not supposed to enjoy it. You should be scared even.”
“That boy is the only entertainment I get to have on this goddammed ship. Can only take a break whenever he’s out.”
“Let’s see then.”
The Albatross had submerged into a sea of dark clouds. It was incredibly windy and there was occasional lightning. It was far too high for this to be a natural phenomenon.
There’s about thirty of them, Zio thought.
The small ones moved fast and could even teleport short distances sometimes; they would be an easy miss for a regular human. But a regular human wouldn’t be able to stand on their own two feet on top of a moving airship around twenty kilometers above the ground.
The creatures jumped at him as soon as they sensed him. A regular human would already be in danger just by being so close to them. Contact could be fatal.
But Zio was no regular human. He didn’t even need to rush; the more scratches he got on him the weaker the creatures would get – his blood was poison to them. His body was immune to any kind of distortion too.
Once the creatures started slowing down, it was his time to strike. He slightly cut his own palm until he got the edge of both twin blades painted red. Now slashing through them like this would be enough to really hurt and make them retreat, but if one wanted them gone for good, they’d have to destroy the nucleus. All of them had at least one – that was probably the “alive” part, and it was very tiny. A cut so stupidly accurate would be almost impossible to hit for anybody who couldn’t naturally sense the essence of these things.
“Now where’s the big one,” he muttered to himself while methodically disposing of the creatures. The destruction of the core made them vanish instantly, so after Zio’s quick flurry attack he was alone on the deck. It all had taken about half a minute.
“Now comes the good part” Castle said, watching from the cell room.
A second wave of these creatures appeared between the clouds. They flew like a big bank of salmon. The pack ran directly into Zio and impacted against the surface of the ship, spreading several small beings around. While the boy in the gray coat tried to fend off the ones jumping at him, some of them on the deck started to collide and hop on top of each other, creating a far more complex organism. This one had two big protuberances that kind of looked like arms.
“So that’s the big one.” Zio quickly tried to make some space around him as the creature approached. With a swift motion, the boy crossed the two thin blades and a ‘click’ sound was made. He had now in his hands a bigger sword about the size of a claymore – a unique trick weapon gifted to him long ago. He took an offensive stance and ran towards the mighty behemoth. The two collided. Zio seemed to vanish into the being’s embrace.
For a moment the boy felt lost, but he quickly snapped out of it. Bigger enemy meant bigger nucleus. After a few seconds, the tip of the claymore could be seen piercing the monster’s body and, after that, the weapon cleanly cut the creature in half. Its remains vanished in an instant. The sky returned to a normal, peaceful blue.
“Hell yes!” Castle roared. Sonia looked satisfied. Guinea had a lot of questions to make.
Zio took a small radio device from his pocket and heard a voice. It was the Captain.
“Good job, youngling. Are you hurt?”
“Thanks Captain. Nothing major; I don’t think I’ll need treatment. Anything left to do here?”
“Radar shows no more lectures, we can rest for now. A couple of cameras snapped but we’ll take care of that. Now come back in kid, let’s celebrate.”
Zio hung up and sheathed his sword.
As a curiosity, while he was being embraced the boy could barely make out the words “I love you,” but he didn’t like reading into his fights too much.