Part 31: Takeshi - Fourth Day - Part 4TrackKlamauk
I hurried, but worked carefully. I heated the bread and browned it slightly. I spread on the special sauce, and chose the best piece of lettuce. Hurriedly wrapping the hot sandwich, I left the kiosk.
She was probably sick of waiting. I punched the open button until the door opened.
I called out softly as I approached the quiet bed.
"I took more trouble with this than usual. It's a masterpiece. Eat it before it gets cold... Huh?"
Maybe she was asleep. I approached the bed, but there was no answer.
"Hey, Tsugumiiii... Tsugumi, here's your food. A delicious sandwich, get it while it's hot..."
I called softly, but there was no response.
I tried yelling.
"I said, HERE'S YOUR FOOD! Are you going to eat it? Say something!
I pulled back the blanket on the bed.
The bed was still slightly warm...
"She's gone! I told her not to move!"
I let out a deep sigh. I held my head in my hands. I resisted the urge to throw the sandwich against the wall.
"Where on earth did that stupid girl run off to...?"
Without thinking about it, I stamped my foot.
I felt something hard under my shoe.
I lifted my foot and looked down. Whatever I had stepped on was pulverized under my feet. The small pieces smelled faintly. I bent down, and spread them out on my hand.
"...Looks like nuts..."
Glancing under the bed, I found a rolled-up sheet stuffed underneath. I pulled it out. I found a bag, which had probably contained the nuts, and an empty box. They looked like souvenirs bought at some shop.
(Where these here when we searched the place?)
Had Tsugumi smuggled them in?
(Was she eating them in secret...?)
No, that explanation didn't feel quite right.
I thought the nuts were crushed because I had stepped on them.... But, there was also a large amount of powder under the bed. Someone had deliberately crushed the nuts. I pulled the box out from under the bed, and glanced inside. A section of the lid had been torn off, and the box was filled with cotton, with a soft hollow in the center. It looked like the nest of some small animal.
Now that I thought about it, I remembered having seen a rat running out of the infirmary.
(So, was Tsugumi keeping a rat in here...?)
The evidence would seem to point to that. In that case...
Has she gone looking for her pet?
But, where exactly?
"Maybe I should ask Sora."
But she didn't appear.
"Huh? Is this broken?"
Where in the vicinity of LeMMIH would there be a large terminal functioning?
"Of course - the Security Office!"
If I went there I would probably learn something.
Tsugumi was sitting in a chair in front of the console. She was engrossed in something and didn't notice me come in. She was doing something at the console. On the screen was a zoomed-in section of a map. A strange point of light was moving across the enlarged section of the map. The light indicated a sign of life. She hit the key. One portion of the screen changed, and the remote camera zoomed in on whatever was reacting. A living creature was visible on the monitor.
Tsugumi breathed a sigh of relief.
At the sound of my whisper, Tsugumi swung around. She blinked.
"It's a rat, isn't it?"
A grey rat was running along a pipe. The map showed the isolated sector on the third floor.
"Is it that rat you're looking for?"
"...Of, of course not!"
Tsugumi was obviously flustered.
"I looked under your bed and saw the box. There were nuts everywhere..."
She looked away.
"You don't have to answer if you don't want to. Anyway, I wonder how that dirty rodent get here?"
Tsugumi's voice was suddenly hysterical. I was a little taken aback.
"It's not a rat?"
"It's a Djungarian hamster!"
"Reeally.... Oh, so that's what it's called, a Djungarian, huh...? You're pretty knowledgeable, Tsugumi."
"...E-everybody knows what they're called...".
Her chest puffed out slightly.
"So you were looking for that rat?"
"No! I told you it's not a rat!"
"Oh, sorry, uh, not rat, but hamster."
"You were looking for the hamster?"
Tsugumi seemed to nod her head, reluctantly. The movement was so small I wasn't even sure if she had made it. Tsugumi looked back at the monitor.
"He probably traveled through some pipe."
"The pipes with the electric cables, or the power sockets."
"Oh, I see."
Her finger traced the map. Nobody could walk to where the hamster was. The top right of the screen showed an area under water. It seemed there was one room still empty. It was even further away than the isolated area on the third floor. It wasn't very clear on this map, but there was one emergency corridor in the sector.
"Geez. I guess I'll just have to..."
I grabbed a plastic bag from the trashcan, and headed for the exit.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"Where do you think I'm going? I'm going to go get him."
"That funny looking hamster."
"There's no way you'll make it! There's a section underwater between here and there! And no human could fit through the pipe!"
I ignored her and left the Security Office.
Tsugumi caught up with me, and grabbed my arm.
"What now? If I don't get going, Mr. Hamster is going to move to another place."
"How do you plan to get in there?"
"How else? ...Swim."
Tsugumi's hand relaxed. Still in her grip, I kept moving. Tsugumi came with me.
"W-Wait! Are you out of your mind?"
"I'm going through with this."
"That's the reason why I think you are stupid. If you open those flood gates, you'll be overwhelmed by the seawater - the pressure is 6 atmospheres!"
"You don't have to worry about that."
"The water in that area is 1 atmosphere of pressure. So, the flooded corridor should be about the same. Besides, the flood gates on either side of the corridor are firmly shut. That corridor is completely isolated from the outside seawater. The entrance on the other side is open. If I use the flooded corridor beneath the room, I can get into the next area.... Why don't you go back and check the map?"
"How far do you think it is to get to the area?"
"153 feet. I made sure to check it before."
"Yeah, but 153 feet is a long way..."
"It'll be all right. I've swam to one end and back of a 25 meter pool underwater, once... I kicked off the far wall coming back, but still..."
I waved my hands to dismiss it. Tsugumi's expression hardened.
"You... You are crazy. Are you trying to kill yourself?"
Tsugumi breathed in sharply.
"I'll be all right. It's all right, I won't die. I promise I'll come back."
"Why are you doing this? Why are you doing this for one little hamster?"
"What else can I do? We're all in this together."
"Maybe you're not one of us.... But any pet you have is one of us. In Japan, people with the same goal are called friends..."
"......You're an idiot."
"That doesn't bother me. I'd rather be a cheerful idiot than some warped genius."
From there we walked along the corridor to the \isolated sector.
"Anyway, you may as well eat this."
The fried chicken sandwich was still in my hand. I shoved it at Tsugumi.
"Here, before it gets cold."
Tsugumi's face showed no reaction as she silently accepted the sandwich. Tsugumi slowly unwrapped the sandwich. She cautiously sniffed it.
Tsugumi suddenly took a huge bite.
She ate it fast. The sandwich disappeared before my eyes.
"How was it? Good, huh?"
Tsugumi didn't reply, but balled up the sandwich wrapping paper and threw it back at me. But seeing how happily she ate, I didn't need words to know how she felt. I was pleased.
We searched the floor and opened the hatch of the manhole that led to the emergency corridor. We peered inside. A tube of about two feet in diameter stretched down below us. A simple ladder was fixed on one side of the tube. About six feet down we could see the submerged emergency light shining. We could find no signs as we peered through the hatch that the water was backflowing. That meant that the water pressure inside the corridor was balanced against the pressure around us.
"I wonder if there's something I can use to guide me back?"
Fortunately, there was a rope with a hook on it, which looked as if it were a lifeline for the maintenance crew. I decided to hold on to it when I went in. Checking that the rope was long enough, I tied it firmly to a pipe nearby. If I tied it to the hook where I came out, then it should be easy to return.
I did some light stretching exercises to warm up.
"Wait! I should...go instead."
Tsugumi stared me square in the face.
"Don't get me wrong. I just don't want to watch you pull this hypocritical stunt is all. I don't want to see you kill yourself because you believe this hypocrisy."
"How can you say that? That's not a nice thing to say!"
I laughed at her as I loosened my limbs and body.
"I'll be fine. You go back to the Security Office."
"When I get through to the other side, you can tell me where the hamster is. We won't be able to locate him without LeMMIH, will we? So unless someone who can operate LeMMIH stays behind, it won't work."
"Okay, then. It's settled."
I finished warming up and adjusted the voice converter in my ear. Sora had told me that the earphone was pressure-resistant, but hadn't said anything about whether it was waterproof.
"See you later!"
I ruffled Tsugumi's hair and started down the ladder.
TrackDrittes Auge Nehmen
(Wow, it's COLD!...!)
It was like swimming in ice water. The water here was much colder than the water higher up. I had greatly miscalculated.
And that wasn't the only thing I'd miscalculated. Inside the corridor was pitch dark. I tried to use my PDA backlight. I could see that there were parallel walls on either side and this part of the corridor was straight. But that was all I could see. I knew nothing of what was beyond that.
At that point, my PDA batteries ran out.
(OH, crap.... No using this for a while...)
There was nothing for it but to grope my way forward. How far had I swum? How much further did I need to go? I had no way of guessing. I didn't even know if I was swimming in the right direction.
The darkness penetrated to my very core. The shadow of death crept through my whole body... Eroding my every cell...
(I can't...last...much longer...)
Just as my fear reached its peak, I glimpsed a spot of light. The exit! Was it 30 feet? Or 60 maybe?? My vision was cloudy and I couldn't judge the distance. I was reaching my limit. No, I had probably already exceeded it.
I breathed deeply, in and out. I coughed and spat. I felt like I was going to cough the darkness right out my lungs.
But, contrary to my expectations -
What erupted from my mouth was the semi-liquid remains of my hotdog.
The flood doors on either side of the corridor were shut tight. There was only one other door. I went through.
"Hey, Mr. Hamster!"
That probably wasn't its name, but never mind... It was better than yelling, 'Mr. Djungarian!'
"Takeshi, are you all right?"
I heard Tsugumi's voice come out through a speaker somewhere in the room.
"I'm picking up your sound on the monitor. If you can hear me, answer."
"Okay, Tsugumi, I can hear you."
"What can you see?"
"The room is pitch dark. I can't see a thing.
Either the lights are broken, or there's not enough power."
"My trusty PDA is out of power... I should have brought some fireflies with me."
"Did you say something?"
"Nothing. If you pick up the hamster's location, let me know."
"Okay... Go straight ahead, about 10 feet."
"1, 2, 3...okay!"
"Turn right 40 degrees."
"Forty degrees? What kind of angle is THAT?"
"Hey, you just turned left, not right!"
"Are you sure? The other way?"
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"It was just the wrong direction. I'm fine. Look, I'm facing the right direction now."
"Oooh- ! Go straight ahead another 12 feet - there's a step there, be careful."
"What? How can I be careful in the dark?!... Wagh!"
"What happened? Takeshi? Takeshi? Are you all right? Hey! Talk to me! Takeshi! Ta-Takeshi?"
"Uh..... It's all right, I'm alive. Can you let me know how high the steps are going to be? I didn't realize I'd be smashing my knee against it."
"Okay, okay, go on. Is Mr. Hamster still here? He hasn't run away?"
"He's still there."
"Okay, navigate me."
On I went like that...
"Alright, I've got you!"
I successfully trapped the hamster in the plastic bag.
"I'm on my way back. Wait for me in the pipe room."
Okay. He was quiet, but seemed healthy. I blew more air into the bag, and tied the mouth of it shut tight. Tired as I was, could I get back the way I had come? I hesitated, but unless I went back it was all pointless. If I followed the rope, I should be able to get back faster than I had come. I tied the bag to my waist, took a deep breath, and jumped into the water.
I had made it back safely to the area I had started from.
"Honey, I'm hooome!"
Tsugumi was waiting beside the hatch.
"Look what the cat dragged in... me. Well, here I am. I'm back."
I closed the hatch and stood up. I opened the plastic bag at my waist, and took out the hamster.
Tsugumi grabbed the hamster. Lovingly, she stroked his damp fur.
Tsugumi whispered her gratitude without looking at me.
"What's his real name?"
I looked at the hamster.
"...now don't laugh?"
"Okay. I won't."
"His name's Chami."
"Chami. Because he's charming."
"That's cute. What a good name!"
How....cute. That was what I thought. I did my best to stifle my laughter.
"I'm not laughing!"
I tried to keep a straight face... But the corners of my mouth started to twitch.
Chami. Charming Chami. Well....
'Chami-poo, Chami-poo it's din-din time.'
I could just imagine Tsugumi baby-talking to it.
"Chami-poo, Chami-poo. Mffff, Ha ha ha...."
"Aaaargh! That's why I didn't want to tell you!"
Sullen, Tsugumi was red-faced... but she held out the bath towel she had behind her back.
I took the towel and wiped myself down.
I breathed deeply, feeling reborn, as I glanced at Tsugumi's face.
She looked so happy... It was the first time I'd ever seen her smile.
TrackDrittes Auge Nehmen
And finally it... It penetrated me. There was no way for me to shake it off. It seeped completely into me. It was strange, but there was no feel to it. The blackness invaded and settled inside me. It overtook me, never to part again.
What an awful way to start the day. I pulled out my PDA to check the time. It read 3:18 a.m. But all drowsiness had left me. Attempting sleep again would have been a waste of time. I thought I'd only have another nightmare. Nearby I could hear soft breathing.Coco and Pipi were nestled together comfortably, asleep. Trying not to wake them, I opened the Conference Room door and sneaked out.
For a moment, I had the illusion it went on forever.
(Stop being stupid...)
Without hesitation I stepped into the cold water filling the hallway. I realized how oddly accustomed I'd grown to this spectacle, this strange situation. This daily routine. Being continually enclosed by walls. Walls that, in a matter of time, were doomed to come crashing down.
(Where will I be when it happens...?)
...I decided not to think too deeply about it. I had already decided not to think about things like that...
The bed was empty. The spilled nuts were gone. I wondered if Tsugumi had cleaned them up, or was it someone else.... In the meantime, no one was in the room. Reaching out to the LeMMIH terminal, I touched the screen. No reaction. The monitor lights were out.
As always, the room smelled like smoke. I tried the terminal. The screen read 'Periodic Maintenance in Progress.'
The message continued.
'LeMMIH: Full System Periodic Maintenance Program in Operation. Until completion, portions of LeMMIH functions are inaccessible. Estimated completion time: 6 a.m. While under maintenance, automatic control systems throughout the compound will be partially off-line. However, facilities and attractions will operate normally. Note: Since all sensors and recording systems operations will be checked during maintenance, function may be erratic. Therefore, it will not be possible to access data through the terminals. WARNING : This maintenance program should not be aborted except in cases of emergency. If aborted, there is the danger of making the LeMMIH system unstable... Therefore, please refrain from accessing LeMMIH until after maintenance completion. Thank you for your cooperation.'
'Additional note : Until the maintenance completes, I will be unavailable. Everybody should be asleep at this time anyway, right? I informed everyone about this operation at dinnertime, but in case any of you forgot what I said, I am leaving this message... That is all, good night.Sora'
(Geez, Sora. I guess you forgot to tell me about this. Or then again maybe I just wasn't listening...)
I was probably busy eyeing that extra piece of sausage in the refrigerator. Trying not to be seen by the others, as I hid the sausage... And later, cooked it up... I'd been gloating over it until being caught, and then... Certainly not expecting to be throwing it up only a half an hour later...
(Was I stupid or what...?)
I was lucky it wasn't worse. Oddly enough, I hadn't felt hungry since...
So we still don't know why Tsugumi's got super-crazy healing stuff going on, but goddamn if we're not going to ponder testing out this button!
Okay, this really isn't a huge choice in the grand scheme of things, but I want to see which one wins out.