Part 34: Takeshi - Fifth Day - Part 3TrackZweitestock
The door abruptly opened in my face, and a person came flying out.
...And then dodged right past me. In a flash the figure was gone, without even seeming to notice me.
(...Who was that??)
I whipped around quickly, trying to see who the person was.
I started to call out, but hesitated. The events of from the night before popped into my mind.
(I could stop her, but then what...?)
In the meantime, all I could see was Tsugumi's back fading further away.
"Hey! Wait up! Where you going?"
Barely getting the words out, I dashed after her.
Her figure had already rounded the corner out of sight.
I was out of breath. I had run about 30 yards, but...
"Damn it, Tsugumi, you sure are fast!!"
I grumbled after her, although she was now well out of earshot. It didn't feel like I could catch up with her at all. Her speed was unnatural. She was still supposed to be recuperating...
(But still... She's still a little slower than when she pulled me away from the flood at the aquarium.)
Her legs probably still hadn't fully recovered. At any rate I didn't want her to overdoing it.
"Aaah, damn it...!"
Annoyed that I was out of breath, I continued after Tsugumi.
I strained my ears to hear. It sounded like she had headed downstairs...
I was unable to hear any footsteps from below. It seemed that instead of going to the third floor, she had gone down to the corridor on the second floor.
(I had thought she came this way...)
But Tsugumi was nowhere in sight.
(Damn...I guess I'll just have to give up.)
What's the point in playing chase with her anyway, I thought...? But still, I was disappointed.
"Oh, hi there Takeshi..."
Noticing me enter, You turned toward me from the console.
"Say, You, you haven't been smoking have you?"
I only said it in jest, but You looked slightly offended.
"No way...how could you ask... You know the rules...no smoking until you're legal. You can joke if you want, but I can't believe you'd say that."
"I mean, just take a look at my fresh silky skin! This is the soft skin of a lady!"
"This is the kind of beauty that's impossible for a smoker like you, ha!"
You spoke smugly, mocking me.
"Hey, I don't smoke."
"Anyway, let's stop all this stupid talk about smoking... I just wanted to ask you something...the Kid said you were doing some research..."
"Huh? The Kid said that?"
You gave me a slightly surprised look.
"So tell me, Takeshi, what exactly did the Kid say?"
"I don't remember exactly, but... He just mentioned your were researching something. So I thought I'd ask you myself."
"Well in that case, guess I'll let you in on it."
Turing back to the console, You began to type.
"You may not remember this, Takeshi, but... I have been researching stuff about LeMU for quite a while now."
She spoke with her eyes glued to the monitor.
"And then there's the thing about my father..."
"Or have I told you about him yet?"
It must have been the first day I came to this place. When You startled me by suddenly starting up the Dolphin Carousel. I had heard about him then...
"So...have you found something?"
You shook her head slowly. Eyeing the monitor, she hit some more keys and entered a code.
"If I could only find the password..."
"If I just had the password, I could access all the data inside LeMMIH. Normally, all the data concerning LeMMIH's system has security protection."
"And of course the personal data of the development staff as well. And so I'm hunting for the key to unlock that protection...an emergency override."
"Oh, so that's what you've been up to..."
"...Yeah. But I give up."
You stopped typing. Taking her eyes off the console, she looked at me.
"Hey...by the way... If you disconnect LeMMIH's security protection, what will happen to Sora?"
"Well, since Sora is an AI program inside the LeMMIH system, won't she be affected?"
"Hmm...yes... Naturally, if the protection is removed, Sora will be totally exposed... naked."
"Um Takeshiiiii...? Did you just think of something kinky?"
"When I say naked, I don't mean Sora's image will be nude!"
"I...I wasn't...thinking that at all..."
"Yeah, sure... You seem pretty suspect to me... I don't really care, but..."
"Sora won't become 'nude'...but all her thoughts, memories and various data will be accessible."
"That's an invasion of privacy!"
"Well, not exactly, really."
"I'm not one to go around blabbing secrets, and to tell the truth I'm not interested. So don't worry, I've no intention of going through Sora's personal data. Okay?"
After that I fell silent. I was searching for something to say. You was looking down.
"So... If you discover something about your father...then what?"
When I asked, You furrowed her brow slightly.
"Yeah, I was just thinking about that... Hmm. But I know what has to be done... I know all too well... But once I break this security code, I'll know everything I need to know..."
"Anyway, I'm trying to access LeMMIH's system core from this console. Whether it's possible to gain access or not, I can't say. But I know the data is there. Yep, I'm certain the data is there..."
"Well, at least it's a start..."
You suddenly became more upbeat.
"Cracking the security protection is going to be a real pain. This stubborn code! So what exactly awaits hidden inside? ...It's a little too soon to go there."
"Until I can get inside, it's the same as not knowing a thing."
You said this and then gave a big shrug.
"Yeah... But, I still think it's loads better than knowing nothing at all."
"Well, maybe you're right."
You gave me a smile. She then popped her neck and rotated her stiff shoulders.
"Now then... Back to work."
"Alright, You, good luck. There's still time."
Turning her back to me, You began to peck at the keyboard.
"But still, you know..."
Without stopping her hands, she muttered quietly.
"My mother used to tell me all about my father's habits... So I know there are clues to be found... Decoding something as inorganic as a computer program is possible because... Even programmers have habits..."
For a long time, You stared at the monitor. She didn't look my way. So I couldn't read her expression anymore. But I could tell by her shaky voice. She was probably crying. Without saying a word, I slipped out of the Security Office.
I made enough sandwiches for everyone and passed them out. Everyone moved with them to the rest area.
At a wave of Sora's hand, a gentle rain started pouring from the ceiling sprinklers onto the flowerbeds. There was even a small rainbow. Smiling, Sora stared at the fresh flowers and the sparkling rainbow. I wondered how long I could watch the little peaceful world she had created. How long could I keep looking at her smiling face? Thinking about it made me feel lonely.
Then again there were others here too - one of them opening her mouth so wide, it didn't seem it would open any more. Now, SHE looked right happy.
And had flipped off the wrapping paper...
"I want another sandwich. Pleeeeeeaaase!"
"Would you be so kind as to make another one and bring it here....? Pretty pleeeeaaase?"
She called out to me in a voice that seemed just a little TOO sweet. It seemed to me that she had been crying earlier, but it must have been my imagination...
"Alright, alright. You're such a slave-driver...heh, heh."
"What was that? Did you say something?"
"Nothing at all, milady."
"Just as long as you realize who's in charge. Oh, ho, ho, ho, ho..."
Reluctantly, I trudged back into the kitchen.
It wasn't like they were that hard to make. We had plenty of provisions. Still I was irritated somehow, as I waited for the cold oil to heat up again. I anxiously fidgeted as I waited. The wire basket struck the frying pan with a clang.
(I'll just get this done as soon as I can...)
A 'customer' had showed up without warning.
"I'd like to ask for another one, if that's okay."
"W-what, Takeshi... Did I catch you at a bad time...?"
Tsugumi looked annoyed.
"You don't want to make one?"
"Huh? Uh, no it's just... Don't worry about it. It's okay."
(Alright, settle down...)
I'd allowed myself to get worked up... Trying to shake off my frustration, I replied...
"You just want one?"
"Yeah, thanks. Oh, yeah, one more thing..."
Tsugumi said this as she turned around.
"What about you, Coco?"
"Hmm, I'm not sure..."
Coco peeked out from behind Tsugumi.
"What do you want?"
"Maybe I'll eat just a little something."
"Well... How about some bread?"
"Okay, sounds good!"
"Takepyon, I'd like some bread, please."
"Okay, okay. Gotcha."
"Thanks. Heh, heh...."
"Um, by the way, Takeshi."
"Were you upset a little bit earlier? Are you feeling okay? Or is it...?"
Daww, shes worried about him.
"Nah, it's not like that. It just takes a while for the oil to get warmed up, so I was irritated, is all."
"Oh, was that it?"
She flashed me a smile.
"Okay. Don't worry, just take your time. I'll be waiting."
Tsugumi grabbed on to Coco's hand and started walking slowly away. She was smiling so gently... She had surprised me when she started talking to me all of a sudden... The Tsugumi right then seemed like she would never talk about 'dying,' even by accident. I wondered if she had resolved her feelings? If that was the case, then it seemed like talking with her had been the right thing to do. I had chased after her constantly... Been hit by her... Been put down by her... But the Tsugumi before me was unmistakably one of us.
"And guess what? You wanna know what? I had a dream last night!"
Tsugumi was listening to Coco intently.
"What kind of dream?"
"I was riding a whale!"
Coco seemed to be truly enjoying herself.
"And Kiddo was riding on it with me..."
"And the whale was like totally bouncing all over the place... I just kept hopping and jumping....! And we were in outer space going to this place called Planet Squid, and were flying all around. And then guess what?"
You met somebody interested in invading Earth by the name of Squid Girl?
"I met someone from planet Kuikui!"
"Hmmm....oh really... So you met someone from planet Kuikui, eh?"
"Yup, yup! Kiddo and me, we both met him."
"Is that so...? That's GREAT Coco..."
Tsugumi listened to Coco's nonsense with a smile on her face. I watched their interaction quietly... I tried to sense what they were feeling...
"Takeshiii, what's taking you so looong...!"
I went into the rest area and You was lounging about lazily.
"What the hell are you all worked up about!"
"I'm not 'worked up' about anything. It's just that you're so slow that I was wondering 'what's taking Takeshi so long,' is all..."
"And, so? How'd it turn out, chef?"
"... You really don't know when to shut up, do you... Look, it's right here, so stop worrying."
When I showed You the package, she shrugged. Tsugumi and Coco had already finished theirs, and were following behind me. I headed over to the circle in the center of the room.
"Here. It's the Tanaka special. Take it!"
I got up on the round dais, and threw the package directly at You.
"What are you doing...!!"
The package flew over You's knees and landed softly in the center of the stage.
"Hey, come on. Wake up, will you...?"
I pretended to show surprise.
"Be careful, those're some gourmet goods you know?"
"W-well, you're the one who threw it all of a sudden!"
You's cheeks puffed up. She picked up the package and dusted it off.
"Sorry, I was just joking..."
I lifted both hands in mock apology.
"I was worried it would fall into the water there for a second."
"Oh, stop it..."
"You don't have to pick on me you know..."
Grumbling to herself she undid the string around the wrapping.
You looked at the contents, and puffed up again.
"Hey, this sandwich is burnt!"
"Not THAT badly. You should still be able to eat it!"
"Gimme a break."
We carried on needling each other like this for a while... When suddenly someone came up and stood in front of You and me. No...maybe he'd been there for a long time. The Kid was staring at both of us with a leaden gaze.
"Hey, what's wrong, Kid? You don't want it?"
The Kid held an unopened fried chicken sandwich in his hand.
"You gotta eat to stay healthy, Kid. It's probably cold by now. You want me to heat it up again for you?"
I put out my hand. But he pulled the sandwich close to himself and tried to get away. He looked at me with a hard expression... And...
The Kid... Crushed the sandwich in his hand. Using all his strength. The wrapping paper burst and sauce flew every which way. It got on his clothes as well, but he didn't seem to notice. He didn't stop there... He took the mangled package and... Threw it with all of his might against the water on the ground.
"W-what!? What the hell are you doing!!?"
His shoulders trembling, the Kid kept his face down. He was finally able to drag out some words.
"I'm sick of it...!!"
"That's all I can take!"
The kid kicked at the thin layer of water at his feet. Everyone looked at him at once.
"I can't stand it anymore! I don't want any more fried chicken sandwiches! I'm sick of them! I want to eat something else!!"
He screamed. Everyone's breath caught in their throats. But nobody had anything to say in reply.
"I'm sick... And tired... So what if we're still alive... There isn't any proof that anyone is going to save us! What we're doing here..."
"Everything that we're doing here..."
"There's no point... There isn't any point for us being here."
The Kid raised a shaking fist. But not finding any direction to launch it, he lowered it again.
Everyone tried to keep their eyes from meeting. It seemed like they were afraid of what we might see... They tried desperately to avert their gazes. Nobody moved. People pressed their lips firmly together and dared not speak.
"St... Stupid fool!! What the hell are you talking about!!"
Finally I looked up, shouting.
"Don't ask for the impossible! Do you have any idea what you're asking!? The only food we have to eat is this sandwich, and the snack shop upstairs, you know that!"
"And you tell me you're 'sick' of it!? You still have to eat it! It's the only way to survive!! So you'd better be thankful for it!"
"We're all putting up with it the best we can! You're one of the gang, right? You should be a little more cooperative... They're all being patient. They're helping out. Even if they don't like it, they eat, and they're surviving... If we don't...then we're finished!"
"Wake up... We're all going to get through this together... As long as we're alive, there's still hope."
A loud metallic sound echoed throughout the room. It was a blunt sound. The floor shook slightly. Everyone staggered slightly and struggled to regain their balance. But nobody tried to do anything else.
"I know that, Takeshi...I know... But, still."
"But even though I know, what can I do!?"
Just then the Kid knocked the sandwich out of You's hand. She hadn't even taken a bite out of her 'Tanaka Special'... It fell into the water with a splash, and sank slowly.
"Bastard! What do you think you're doing!!"
I went over and grabbed onto the Kid and raised my hand!