Dvorak: The Dealey Five
Chapter 12 (or, "What Days May Come"
Where We Last Left Off: The group of four kids from the destroyed world headed to Mac’s apartment in Coney Island to regroup...again.
All four kids relaxed in Mac’s bonus room. Jason had gathered together a bunch of menus from nearby restaurants, and was looking at something to eat for dinner. Milaya and Rosa were crowded around him, while the kid formerly known as Matsumoto was taking a nap in the chair.
“So these are our choices,” Jason said as he spread the menus out. “Pizza from that place on the corner, going to that place Matsumoto ordered the pancakes from, or deli sandwiches.”
“I’ve been to that deli,” Mac noted as he continued to race on the television screen, controller in one hand, glass of soda in the other. “Nobody ever goes there, so it’s good if you just want to hop in and out of. They don’t deliver, though.”
“Guess we can count that out,” Rosa said. “Pizza it is.”
Milaya looked disappointed. “Excuse me,” she said, “but wouldn’t it be rude to not consider the blini restaurant?”
“Because nobody likes Soviet food but you. Pizza is more universal, even in our world.”
Milaya gave Rosa a sour look. “Who’s to say about our food? I’ll have you know that Soviet food is amazing.”
“Yeah, because you grew up on it. No offense, but pancakes and sour cream should never go together.”
“It is a weird choice of sauce,” Jason noted, “but whatever floats your boat is cool, Milaya. Maybe we can order from both places.”
Milaya didn’t hear Jason. “Pancakes and sour cream are truly scrumptious together. I assume you would not think so because you have never tried them.”
“I don’t need to try them. I’ll take my pancakes without my Soviet sauce, thank you.”
That touched a nerve. “Oh, and you assume your Allied pancakes are better because they’re NOT Soviet?”
“Soviet or Allied has nothing to do with the actual pancake --” Jason tried to interject, but failed.
“Not Soviet?” Rosa felt the rage inside her, and before she could stop it, her dopplegangar took over her mind. She flew across the room so fast that she could barely comprehend how she had done it. Rosa grabbed Milaya by the shoulders and pinned her to the couch, her face close to the Russian girl’s.
“I have had it with you and your Soviet high hat!” she screamed so loud that the windows shook. “¡Vete a la mierda, puta!”
Milaya sat in shock, unaware of what she had triggered. Before either of them could move, Jason’s voice interrupted. “Matsumoto?”
Milaya and Rosa both turned toward the chair Matsumoto had been sleeping in. The Japanese gogglehead was now awake, sitting upright, hands on the chair’s arms, staring at the floor. It took Milaya a moment to realize the only sound in the room was coming from him. At first, she thought he was saying something under his breath, but then he sobbed again and Milaya couldn’t sit still anymore. Rosa’s grip on Milaya’s shoulders was softer now, so Milaya pushed her way past the taller girl and off the couch, getting to Matsumoto’s side just as he slid off the chair and into her arms.
“No more,” he whispered into her ear. “No more.”
Milaya didn’t know exactly how to comfort him, but remembered how he had helped her after she had cried in the kitchen. “I don’t know what’s wrong,” she said, “but don’t try to ignore it.”
“Just stop fighting,” Matsumoto said again, still a whisper. “Just stop fighting.”
Rosa had recomposed herself, the voice in her head long gone. Another example of me falling apart again, she chastised herself. “Is he okay?” she asked.
What do you think? Milaya almost said out loud, then remembered Matsumoto had said no fighting. “I don’t know,” she said. “But he will be.”
Rosa sat by the two and put her arm around Matsumoto’s shoulders. “This isn’t like you. Seriously...are you okay?”
Matsumoto didn’t say a word; he just kept crying into Milaya’s shoulder. Milaya stayed still long after he had soaked through her QWERTY jacket, her arms around him, Rosa close by.
Jason considered joining the sobfest...for about five seconds. “Should I go get that food now?” he asked Mac.
What had Matsumoto been crying about? Jason thought to himself on the corner of Surf Avenue and some small alley that didn’t have a name. Instead of calling in the order, he would go run and get it. He had enough money on his QWERTY card that he could order Russian food for Milaya and still get pizza for the others. Besides...the atmosphere in that room had gotten way too girly. Matsumoto, crying like that? The last Jason checked, boys didn’t have a time of the month, so what happened to make him collapse like that?
Then it occurred to him -- he had talked with Milaya and Rosa. About what, he couldn’t hear, but that meant Matsumoto’s English skills were back. So when he got back, maybe he could talk with Matsumoto, figure out why he was being all moody, even maybe learn his real name.
His mind went back to the conversation Milaya and Rosa had been having before Rosa had pinned Milaya to the couch (what was with that, as well? But Rosa was already a little crazy) and Matsumoto had started crying. Ahh, yes. The reason he was getting two types of food tonight. Maybe all this Soviet and Allied stuff had made Matsumoto remember something. Maybe that something wasn’t so good.
Jason stopped walking. Now he got it, because he had been doing the same thing. Boys don’t cry. They don’t lose their minds over bad things that happen to them, even if their entire world is gone. They suck it up and don’t let the emotions get to them. It was like Jason had just told himself: crying was a girl’s thing. It had been okay for Milaya to cry about the pancakes Matsumoto had gotten her, because it was considered normal for her.
Whatever Matsumoto had been remembering for the past day or so, ever since the explosion, he had to keep that inside. Not only because he was a guy, but because he could only speak his native language. Jason hadn’t had that problem, as English was his native language. So maybe he had been prouder when he had fallen into the crowd that night.
His name was Jason Jones. Fourteen years old, from Los Angeles, in a different world. Played basketball with his friends. Took up street dancing as a way to earn extra cash. His parents didn’t make a lot of money. His parents weren’t his real parents. He remembered now -- it was supposed to make sense, as his skin wasn’t straight white but not black either, and his hair was so dark it carried a strange sheen to it, but could be styled in a white person’s cut.
He had been okay with not being one or the other. He was just Jason. Until he had overheard his parents that night. Adopted. It was a spit in the face, a huge graffiti mark against everything Jason had known.
He suddenly wanted to tell the others, to be as brave as Matsumoto had been when he had started crying. Maybe keeping the feelings in was being brave, but maybe honesty had its own bravery merit to it as well. And maybe that was something you didn’t have to be a girl to show. Even though Matsumoto was normally straight laced and official, he trusted the others in their group to fall apart in front of them.
Did Jason trust them the same way?
He walked into the pizza shop and placed the order, then went down the street to the Russian cuisine place while the pizzas were being made. He hoped Matsumoto wasn’t telling the girls everything while he was out. He was hoping Matsumoto trusted him more than that. Milaya and Rosa were nice, awesome, even, but there was something about having another guy in the group. He didn’t want their friendship ruined because he came off too cold.
Maybe he would talk to Matsumoto about it tonight, alone. Maybe he’d tell him first that he was adopted.
“We were waiting for you,” Rosa said as Jason stepped back into the apartment. “If you don’t mind, we’re gonna have a special meeting while we eat. Carissa’s here, too.”
Well, that was sprung on me quickly, Jason said, but he rolled with it. “Sounds good,” he said as he stepped into the bonus room. Mac, Carissa, Milaya, Matsumoto, and (surprisingly) Isabel were seated in a circle on the carpet. The television was off.
“Did anybody tell Mac and Carissa that Isabel’s here?” Jason asked, remembering those two couldn’t see their friend.
“We know,” Carissa said.
Matsumoto was sitting by Milaya; he looked up when Jason entered the room and gave a small smile. Still quiet, Jason noted. Very Matsumoto to be so tight lipped.
Mac got up and put the pizza in the center, handing the white bag of blini to Milaya. “We decided to hold this meeting to really get a feel as to how you guys are doing,” he said.
Carissa took the floor. “As previous guardian of this world, I understand what it’s like to have everything change around your feet. But my world changed for two weeks. Yours is gone forever. You’ve been spending so much time running around this city looking for your worldmates that you haven’t had time to relax. There are four of you now, and three of you remember something about your past world. Rosa has shared her story with us, but Jason and Tamasine haven’t had a chance to breathe.”
Tama-who? Looking across the room, Jason saw Matsumoto’s eyes on Carissa. That must be his real name, although he couldn’t remember how it was pronounced for the life of him.
“And Milaya has been caught between the men in black and our faction,” Mac noted. “If the four of you are going to work together in QWERTY, you’ll have to know and trust each other just like me, Carissa, Isabel, and Peter all had to when Carissa was chosen to save this world. But more than that, you have to remember your old world. It is what links you together, yes, but it also is what makes you you. Milaya wouldn’t be Milaya, even with her memories, if she hadn’t grown up in Soviet Russia. The same goes for Rosa and living in Mexico City.”
“You can bring your strengths into QWERTY,” Isabel noted to the corps, “but also your weaknesses. Nobody’s perfect.”
“Care to start, Tama?” Rosa asked, and Jason’s mind hooked onto the diminutive. He’d probably still call him Matsumoto for a while, but if he remembered correctly, he called all of his friends by their last names in the old world.
Matsumoto cleared his throat. “Um...I don’t know where to start,” he said, not yet reaching for the pizza.
Rosa grabbed a slice. “You said you wanted to tell us everything. Tell us what you can for right now.”
He nodded and remembered what he had told the call box the night his apartment building had exploded. “Matsumoto Tamasine. Shibuya Prefecture, Hatsudai Ward, apartment 315. I don’t remember much, but the last thing I really remember was my apartment building being destroyed. They told us it was the Soviets.” He looked at Milaya. “I can’t say for sure. I don’t know. All I know is that --” He bit his lip, silence, then continued. “My father was a businessman. My mother stayed at home and raised us. I was the oldest.
“We lived in Tokyo. There were two air raids I remember. Tokyo has always been under air raids, they say. First from the Allied soldiers, long ago, and then from the Soviets when Nihon joined the Allies. My mother taught us what to do. Go to the shelter in the basement. Go by yourself, son, she’d always tell me. Don’t take the kids. That’s what the officials said anyway, but we had the most kids in our entire apartment building. Usually they make you stop after two, but they never gave my mother those drugs for whatever reason.”
Jason didn’t understand some of what Tama was saying, but kept listening.
“Mom always took the kids instead,” Tama continued. “I was still a kid, thirteen. Shotaro and Hideko were twins, eleven years old. Naoko was nine, Taichi was eight, and Miyuki --” now he choked -- “five.”
“That’s six kids altogether,” Carissa noted.
Tama nodded. “The first raid was at the elementary school during the school day. I had been at the middle school when I had gotten the call. It had been one of the first raids on the city. They had always talked about how it was possible for a raid, but we had never thought they would do it until then. Taichi and Miyuki were too young to go to school at the time, and Hideko was sick that day. Nobody survived. After that, nobody was allowed to go to school. I stayed home and watched all of the kids, though Miyuki kept going to daycare because she enjoyed it. It saved her life, in the end.”
Tama was quiet for a moment as he reached for a piece of pizza. Grabbing it, he took a bite, then kept talking. “After the school was destroyed, the house was never the same. Shotaro and Hideko were twins, so she always said she was missing her other half. She never slept, so she started sleeping in my bed instead. She followed me everywhere, and I even got her her own pair of goggles.”
“Can I ask a question?” Rosa said. “I’ve been curious about those goggles since you got here. Is that some sort of Japanese fashion?”
Tama shook his head. “They’re military goggles, actually. My grandfather fought in the wars and flew planes. I loved wearing them around his apartment, so when he died he willed them to me. I’ve worn them since. Hideko wanted some, so I bought her some swimming goggles, and she wore them around the house just like I did with mine.” He was quiet again for a minute.
Jason didn’t want to ask the question, but he did anyway. “She…”
“I guess it doesn’t matter. They’re all dead anyway.” The sarcasm was strange coming out of Tama’s mouth. “The last day I remember...I don’t know why I was in the hallway instead of my apartment, but it saved my life. There was a huge blast and it took out the side of the building. My sister was in the doorway, and it got her. I ran down the stairs and found Miyuki, because she was in daycare, and we made it to the shelter. But I don’t remember anything after that. I assume because the world ended. Not because of what the Soviets did, but because our would merged into Carissa’s.”
“I kind of remember something like that,” Jason noted after Tama was done with his story. “I remember watching my television set, and then, nothing.”
“I was in the mental facility,” Rosa said, her voice surprisingly quiet. “The chair I was strapped to disappeared, and I remembered falling into a big, white light.”
They were silent for a minute, letting the silence pass between them. Then, Milaya spoke. “I’m sorry. I know it was my country that did those things to your family, Tamasine. But it was not me who did them.” She hugged her knees close. “Nobody should have to suffer like the people in Tokyo did.”
“Or the people who were in the cathedral I blew up,” Rosa noted.
Or me, because I’m adopted, Jason thought to himself. Seriously, that’s my only sob story? How’d I get picked for this gig anyway?
“You won’t be able to save everybody,” Isabel said to the four. “You can only do what you can. Know this. Understand it. Commit it to memory. It’s all you’ve got to work with. What is most important is that you four stick together as a team, that you find your fifth member, and that you get out of this world before your week is up on Friday.”
Tama nodded. He remembered the deadline -- Mick had told him before about it. “And then what?”
“If Sarah’s smart, and I’ll vouch for this, you guys need time. I’ll see if I can meet with you on my off days to go over QWERTY rules and regulations, but it’ll be a while before you guys can be in the field. And rightfully so.”
“Isabel’s saying we should do lessons with her,” Jason told Carissa and Mac.
“That’s a smart idea,” Mac said. “We’ve got three days, four days tops until you have to head back or be stuck in this dimension forever. Let’s make the most of it while we’re here and find our fifth kid.”
The four sat in the room, together with Carissa and Mac, talking about their new world and everything on their minds. While they sat, somebody watched them from the fire escape. He was short, with black hair and a black jacket on, given to him by Dimitri. He had done a good job so far, making it up the fire escape without anybody else finding out he was there, and now sitting this close to the girl he needed to take back to the Boss. He hadn’t had a chance to meet her yet, but had only been told her return was necessary for Soviet glory, and when Dimitri spoke, it was the truth.
His eyes were on the blonde girl who was seated, eating the Russian pancakes. Little by little they scanned the rest of the kids and landed on the boy with the goggles.
It made him stop. Now where had he seen that before?