Dvorak: The Dealey Five
Chapter 11 (or, "Past Due Moto")
Where We Last Left Off: Dimitri’s henchmen, Anton and Vlad, escaped with the boombox and set off an explosion near Carissa’s apartment.
He couldn’t shake the memory from his mind.
There was no going back. The room was gone. Mother had always said to stay in the apartment if there was danger -- well, that advice wasn’t helping her now. Or his sister in the hall. But he was alive -- and, as he remembered, not alone. He didn’t know how many families had survived that initial blast, but the first floor was the most secure. If he could get there and to the shelter before the building collapsed -- no time for thinking, only time for action.
It was three stories down to the basement shelter, if he could make it that far. The instructions had been clear during the drills: every person for themselves. Do not stop for younger or older or disabled peoples. Save yourself.
He didn’t listen.
“Damn thing was just a decoy,” Jason muttered. “They certainly know what they’re doing.”
“The question I have, of course,” Isabel muttered back, “is how all of that took place in our world. Anton and Vlad didn’t get the boombox thanks to our teamwork, but now we can’t stay at this apartment building because the NYPD has deemed this area not safe. You even threaten to blast a building, and the NYPD will treat that as serious stuff. But if Anton and Vlad could make the explosion only visible to us, then why didn’t they? I’m starting to think that only their leader can break the rules and evade me.”
“Regardless, they’ve forced us from our fortress.” Jason bit his lip. “If we don’t move soon, they’ll find out about Matsumoto.”
「松 本、」 he said into the call box at the end of the hall. 「松本魂音です。渋谷区、初台番、アパート三百十五。一人で。」 For now, he thought to himself. Because as long as he was alive, he would try to work this out.
The youngest of the kids would still be on the first level in basic schooling. He threw himself down the stairs, fell against the wall, caught his balance before the entire structure could collapse around him. One more floor, and then maybe --
The smoke clouded his vision, but the nursery door was still closed. He kicked what was left of it down. “幸！松本幸！どこ？！” If he didn’t find her in ten seconds, it would be a lost cause. The building was collapsing, and who knew when the Soviets would drop another bomb.
That voice -- and he pulled his goggles over his eyes and charged in. She had been hiding in a corner, curled up in a ball, blue kindergarten hat still on her head. He didn’t bother for her bags or for identification. He scooped her up too fast to be sentimental, not thinking that she was the only one of his siblings to survive this invasion. First, it had been Shotaro and Naoko at the elementary school, two years ago. Now it was Taichi -- he had never had a chance to get to Taichi -- and Hideko, Shotaro’s twin, in the hallway. Only he and Miyuki, this youngest girl, were left.
The actual apartment building hadn’t actually been damaged, but that wasn’t stopping the evacuation. Jason and Isabel stood in the hall, ready to distract any officers who would come down. Rosa and Milaya, meanwhile, were in the apartment with Carissa and the still-unconscious Matsumoto. Carissa had cleaned his head wound, taking off his goggles, and Rosa had tried her best to monitor him while the others figured out a plan for moving him. Isabel couldn’t be seen by people, but the rest of them could, and the only real place they could go was Mac’s in Coney Island. But while Matsumoto was like this...
Milaya wasn’t helping at all. She was sitting off to the side, curled up in a ball, eyes closed, trying to remove herself from the entire situation.
“や めろ！” he yelled, clutching Miyuki tighter as they ran down the stairs. The assistant let them into the bunker at the last possible second.
He took the registration pen, but it disappeared into thin air before he could write anything down. Where could he write his sister’s name, get clearance for her? He knew he hadn’t been supposed to save her, but nobody had minded that she was here.
Unlike Taichi, who had screamed throughout the last drill, Miyuki was quite calm. She sat in their corner, clung to his arm, and listened to the loudspeaker as it broadcast the news. The Allied defense systems were on their way, but at that point it would be too late for most of the people in Tokyo. If their bunker held up long enough, and if they didn’t die from the radiation they had absorbed, they could go to Hokkaido, or maybe to Akita. They had family there. Or perhaps the Allied forces would do with Tokyo’s population what they had done with some of the other countries: just move them to another Allied state. Possibly America, maybe the United Kingdom.
He let her sleep. Her future wasn’t supposed to be like this. Within time, he let himself nod off as well.
“I killed him,” she said. “It’s all my fault.”
Rosa sighed. “For the hundredth time, bebe pobre, you did not kill Matsumoto,” she said. “He just fell. Isabel called Mick to see if they can do a diagnosis, because we can’t take him to a hospital. Nobody ever said anything about QWERTY members dying from concussions...” She bit her own lip. “I don’t have the answers, Milaya. Neither does Isabel. She’s too new. The person who does have the answers is coming. But mark my words, he’s not dead.”
“How can you tell?”
“He’s got a pulse. That’s how I know. Look, even if he woke up with a case of amnesia because he hit his head and couldn’t remember who he was --” And then, it suddenly made sense to Rosa. “Oh!”
Milaya uncurled from her ball. “Oh...what?”
“I think I know what this is.” Rosa sat on the edge of the bed and touched Matsumoto’s shoulder. “Matsumoto, are you in there? Can you hear me?”
The voice came to him in his dreams. It was familiar, but with an accent. “Tama? Hey! Wake up! Tamasine, can you hear me? Your sister and your country need you! たまちゃん！聞こえるから？！”
The last part he finally understood, and he struggled to open his eyes, finding them almost glued shut. He tried to move his arms but couldn’t. If he couldn’t get up --
and he finally found his eyes open, looking up at Rosa’s face.
Rosa had Matsumoto pinned by the shoulders, waiting for a reaction. When his eyes met hers, she let go, backing away from him. “Oi!” she shouted in surprise.
Milaya stood up from her chair. “What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything, except try to trigger something.” Rosa sat on Matsumoto’s bed. “Are you okay?”
Matsumoto didn’t say a word, but just nodded.
“So you can understand me. It was the same with me, so I’ll stick to yes or no questions. Do you remember?”
There was a pause, then Matsumoto nodded.
“Remember what?” Milaya asked as she sat on the other side of the bed, looking at Matsumoto. “Is he awake?”
“Clearly by the fact that his eyes are open, yes. I told you, you didn’t kill him, Milaya. Breathe easy.”
Matsumoto sat up in the bed, then reached for the goggles on top of his head -- only to find they weren’t there. ”僕の...” he said, and then realized that wasn’t going to work. Instead, he looked at Rosa and pointed where his goggles were supposed to go.
“Oh. I don’t know where they went.”
“Here.” Milaya went back to the chair she had been sitting in, grabbing Matsumoto’s goggles and handing them to Matsumoto. He took them with a smile.
”サンキュウ,” he said, fitting them on top of his head.
Rosa looked confused. “That sounded a bit like an English “thank you.”
Matsumoto nodded with a smile. “外来語.”
“I don’t get it,” Milaya said.
“Neither do I,” Rosa noted. “But he’s speaking his native language because he now remembers who he used to be in the old world. Someday, you’ll do the same, Milaya. Something will trigger your memories. The blast must have triggered them for Matsumoto.”
”魂音,” Matsumoto noted.
Rosa paused. “Huh?”
“Uh, guys...” Carissa poked her head in from the other room. “The police have reached this floor. Can we move Matsumoto?”
Matsumoto gave Carissa a nod. ”レッツゴー、” he stated in accented Engrish.
“What he said,” Rosa repeated. “Let’s go.”
The three of them met up with Jason and Isabel outside the building. “Will your parents be fine?” Jason asked Carissa.
“They will probably stay with Plotnikov, so yeah,” Carissa answered back. “We should head to Mac’s, but in groups. Isabel, you go with Matsumoto so the two of you can talk using...whatever it is your phone does.”
“That won’t work,” Isabel said, “as it only translates my voice from English to whatever, but I’m still okay with that.”
“Jason, stay with Milaya to make sure the guys in black don’t get her,” Carissa said. “If anybody can fend those guys off, save for Isabel, it’s you, Jason. Especially if what’s his face whose immune to Isabel’s phone shows up.”
“Dimitri,” Milaya reminded them. “His name is Dimitri.”
“And I’ll go with Carissa,” Rosa said. “We’ll talk about nothing in Spanish the entire time.”
They each separated with their respective routes: Carissa and Rosa took the east side subway, with Matsumoto and Isabel heading west. Jason and Milaya waited for the express bus instead of taking the train, mostly because the bus was more secure and Jason still had his boombox.
“I don’t know how they did it, but those guys drained its batteries,” Jason muttered as he got on the bus. “We’ll have to get some more once we get down there.”
“I know a few stores we can buy batteries at,” Milaya said as she filed down the aisle, finding two seats in the back that were together. She motioned to Jason. “Here.”
“Who said I was sitting with you?” Jason joked as he slid into the window seat, putting the boombox on his lap.
Milaya looked like she had taken Jason’s words seriously. “Matsumoto would have sat by me.”
“Oh?” Jason laughed. “I was kidding. You can even have the window seat if you want to.” He got back into the aisle and let Milaya in, then sat down next to her.
Milaya peered out the huge window. This wasn’t an ordinary bus; express buses were special, with elevated fabric seats and huge windows. “Everything is so big here.”
“And it wasn’t big with the guys in black?” Jason asked as the bus started rolling. Pre recorded announcements reminded everyone to stay seated and not to bother the driver.
Milaya shrugged. “You are so mysterious, you with your music making box.”
“Yes. The box that Dimitri wanted.”
Jason jumped on the chance to ask her. “Why does that man want my boombox, anyway?”
His voice spooked Milaya; she moved away from him just a bit. Jason sighed. “You’ll talk to Matsumoto, but not me?”
“Matsumoto bought me blini.”
“He bought you what? Oh, the pancakes. Listen.” Jason put both arms over his boombox, protective. “We’re all together in this team. I get that you trust Matsumoto, or whatever his name now that he woke up. But you should at least work on trusting Rosa and me, too. I know we’re not as...understanding? We’re louder than Matsumoto is. But we’re still part of this group.” He tugged on the collar of his QWERTY jacket.
Milaya wasn’t wearing her jacket at the moment; Carissa had it in a bag with other supplies. But she seemed to understand. “Is he okay after getting hurt?”
“Matsumoto? I didn’t get that much of a chance to see, but yeah, I think so. I hope so. I mean, sure, I guess I really don’t know the kid, but...” Jason trailed off as he searched for the right words. “He’s a bro, you know? Like, that thing he did where he bought you the pancakes. He did that for you. And I’m confident that he’d do something similar for either me or Rosa, or for anybody, really. He’s just a nice guy. Kid probably wouldn’t step on a crack for fear of breaking his mother’s back...if he had a mother. That said, I’m excited to get to Mac’s. I want to sit with Matsumoto and have him tell us more about what he remembers. We didn’t get anything except that he did, since he couldn’t really speak English.”
“He said some words,” Milaya said. “This waking up thing...is it always like this?”
“I don’t know if you remember or not,” Jason noted as they passed through Hell’s Kitchen, “but when I fell off that stage at Coney Island? I had passed out just like Matsumoto. It almost takes you to a different world, where you remember a bunch of select memories from your past. For me, I remembered playing ball with my friends, as well as...” He suddenly flashbacked to the two people in the living room, the secret they had kept from him. “Well, other stuff I haven’t told the group yet. Stuff I’m not comfortable with. But Rosa, you know who she is. Even Dimitri seems to know who she is, although I’m not sure how. Perhaps he’s from our old world as well?”
“You talk a lot for a boy,” Milaya said.
Jason blushed. “I do? Ehh, just trying to fill the silence, I guess.” He held off for a moment. “But you don’t have anything to be afraid of, Milaya. If you start remembering something, don’t try to avoid it. Embrace who you used to be. All of it.”
Jason was then quiet, something that Milaya found weird for all of his talking. Instead of asking him about it, she looked out the window and watched as Manhattan turned into Brooklyn. “You’ll be safe here,” Dimitri had said to her, but was that really true? She knew he would stop at nothing to find her, to bring about Soviet reign on this world. That had been fine before, and that was still her goal, but she couldn’t ignore the way Matsumoto had treated her.
Plus, there was that secret weapon of sorts Vlad and Anton had mentioned. What did all of that mean?
“You know,” Isabel noted, “talking to you is going to be hard if it continues like this. I hope you remember how to speak English soon.”
“ミッツ,” Matsumoto noted. Me, too.
Isabel sat back and relaxed. “We’ll work it out. I’m glad you remember who you are now. I was beginning to get worried that you’d never remember.”
Matsumoto gave her a weird look. “フワイ?” he asked.
“Foo...what? Oh, why?” Isabel laughed. “You’re so cute when you try to speak English like this.”
Matsumoto blushed. “うるさい.”
“Anyway, Jason and Rosa have remembered. And I’m sure you want to tell them all about what you remember. By the way, do you remember your real name?”
Matsumoto nodded. “魂音.”
“魂音. たましね.” Matsumoto tried one more time. “タマシネ.”
“Tama-sheenay? That’s a mouthful.”
“Oh. Like, Tama is a nickname?”
Matsumoto -- Tama -- nodded.
“Okay. That’s much better. We’ll work it out.” The train suddenly stopped, and Isabel looked up. “What?”
“Ladies and gentlemen, this train is out of service,” the announcer said over the loudspeaker. “There is a police investigation at the station ahead.”
“Oh, man.” Isabel crossed herself, then walked with Tama out the doors and up. There wasn’t a transfer point at this station, so they ran into the nearest Saint Arbucks to find a better route. “Go order yourself one of those fluffy drinks you like,” Isabel said, not realizing what she was doing until it was too late.
Tama did, giving the most accented order for a chocolate chip iced frapp in the history of Saint Arbucks. Somehow, it worked, and so did his QWERTY-given card. He grinned and gave a “サンキュウ” before waiting for the drink. He looked around the restaurant, making sure they weren’t being followed. Thankfully, it was pretty sparse. The only person he could see was a kid at a table in the back, school uniform on, plugging away at what seemed to be a physical uplink.
It made Tama curious. He kept his eyes on the uplink. How could people plug in like that? Didn’t they know they could do that straight from the plug in they received at birth? He didn’t know how he remembered that, but he filed that under information to tell Jason and Rosa once they all got back to Mac’s place --
Then, the kid looked up from his uplink, and his eyes rested on Tama’s. Tama blushed when he realized the kid was Asian, like himself. Not Japanese -- he didn’t know why, but the facial features didn’t say Japanese. It wasn’t familiar. Perhaps Korean? That and his hair was darker, but the eyes were a similar shade of brown.
Without warning, the kid got up from his chair, left the uplink sitting on the table, and went over to Tama. “你好”, he said.
Chinese, Tama thought to himself. He didn’t know which one it was, but then the lady was calling his nickname, and his frapp was ready, and Isabel was calling him at the door.
He shook his head and spit out a “分からない” before being pulled from the Saint Arbucks and back out into the open world.
“Who was that?” Isabel asked as they walked toward the orange line of trains, which would also get them down to Coney Island.
Tama shrugged and said the same thing he had told the boy. “分からない.”