The Dealey Five
Chapter 13 (or, "World's (Not) Fair")
Chapter 13 (or, "World's (Not) Fair")
Where We Last Left Off: After a crazy couple of days, our heroes regrouped and recommitted themselves to finding the last member of their team.
He plugged away at the keys, both eyes on the screen, intent. If this, then that. Close the code line. Make sure the hyperlinks were live. When he previewed it, the source file came up just fine, thankfully not implementing just yet. Wait for that later, when this smaller program was included with the rest. Now, he was one step further to his main goal.
He wiped his brow and drank from the cup of water that had been provided for him, then got up from his chair. The room was dark, as it was long after midnight. Nobody was left in the building except for him. His computer system took up an entire wall, and his yellow-colored laptop sat sleeping on the chair next to him. Along the other wall were his futon and blanket, brown lounge pants waiting for him.
Reaching the dark wall, he leaned against the refrigerator and called the number. He really needed to try and get some earlier hours out of this job. “Tao?”
The voice on the other side did not seem pleased. “You took longer this time,” it rattled off in Mandarin.
He tried not to worry himself. “I understand, sir, but the code is getting more complicated.”
“You were not sent here to be complicated. You were sent here to be simple. Any further delays and I will rethink my strategy. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, sir Tao.”
“Understood. Send the code to me and you may sleep for now. In the morning, you will continue your coding. We only have two more days left until Master Dimitri wishes to implement his plan. Glory to the Soviet era.” Click.
He hung up the phone. It was okay. Most phone conversations with Tao ended like that. “Glory to the Soviet era,” he whispered in the darkness.
“So here’s our plan,” Carissa said as she and the four new kids sat around a transit map the next morning. “We’ll pair off again. Jason and Milaya, you two will go up to the Bronx, start at Grand Concourse, and cover the entire Yankee Stadium and Zoo areas, and end at Van Cortlandt Park. The Bronx is rough, but I have a feeling Jason can cover if there are any issues, and Milaya will be kept away from Brooklyn. Rosa and Tamasine will go to Corona Park in Queens. Mac and I will go to Long Island City and call you if we find anything.”
“Sounds good,” Rosa noted as she grabbed her phone from where it had been sitting on the counter and slipped it into her jacket pocket.
“That’s a lot of ground to cover,” Tamasine said as he did the same thing. “How are we going to cover that much area in this short amount of time?”
“Well,” Mac noted, “there are a few similarities I’ve noticed with you four. You range in age from thirteen to sixteen, so my guess is your fifth person is in that age range. Also, you are all from different countries -- Japan, Mexico, the United States, and Soviet Russia. My guess is this person will be from another country as well, different than you. My guess is somewhere in Europe? Which may be problematic, because white people tend to blend in. Also, it could be a boy or a girl, since you’re in an even number right now.”
“Since you’ll be going to the outer boroughs, there won’t be quite as many tourists,” Carissa noted. “So somebody who’s lost will stick out more. Pay attention to these people. If they are younger like you, then go up and ask them if they need any help. Rosa, in your group, you’ll be able to tell if they’re speaking a Roman language, which are common in Europe. Jason, your Los Angeles upbringing should help you with this in your pair. Any questions or findings get reported to us. We will meet in Manhattan at the Saint Arbucks at 72nd and Broadway at six P.M. Got it?”
Everybody nodded and separated. Rosa and Tamasine took the F train all the way to Roosevelt Avenue, then transferred to the 7 to Corona Park. “Been a while since it’s been the two of us,” Rosa commented as they sat together.
Tama shrugged. “It was two of us for a grand total of five hours or so. And then we ran into Jason.”
“True...but you were the only other one at headquarters. If everybody had just stayed at headquarters, we wouldn’t be doing this.” Rosa paused. “They said this is normal, to have new members go missing and have people search for them, but I wonder why it happens?”
Tama was silent for a minute. “It may have something to do with our pasts,” he said. “Like, the universe noticed something or...something. It’s hard to explain. Let me put it this way. On this world, there must be versions of us somewhere -- there’s a different version of you in Mexico, and a different version of me in Japan. Perhaps there’s no Jason or Milaya in this world, and so, when the worlds merged, the universe pulled Jason and Milaya into this world even though they were supposed to go to QWERTY’s headquarters. That’s just a thought, though. I wonder what it would be like to meet the other us in this world? Like how Carissa’s friend Isabelle is another version of Isabel Gonzalez.”
“Oh, I’m not sure I’d want to meet the other me,” Rosa muttered. “This me has caused enough destruction to last for two universes.”
“I’d like to meet her,” Tama said with a smile. “I’m sure she’s charming and protective, just like you are.”
Rosa felt a blush flood her face. “What -- oh -- Matsumoto, you’re too nice.”
“I’m just me. Really.” Tama got up from his seat as the train stopped. “We’re here.”
They walked down a long set of stairs and past Citi Field, getting to the actual park. It was a nice day, so many families were at the park, enjoying the weather. The Unisphere and New York pavilion sat in the backdrop, a reminder of times gone by.
“This is actually kind of cool,” Rosa noted as she walked in her jacket and flats. “Romantic, even.”
Tama blushed. “Not romantic, Rosa. We’re on a mission. We don’t have time to daydream.”
“Oh, be quiet, you. I can daydream all I like.” Rosa let herself wander down the mall a bit. What would this place have been like several years ago? Why was this globe in the middle of the fountains? It didn’t totally matter to Rosa. All that mattered was this place was beautiful, and she deserved to be here with her friends, or a flame, the love of her life -- and she was here with Tama on a mission.
Besides, the voice in her head said, who said you deserved anything?
Rosa narrowed her eyes. If that voice in her head could just shut up for all eternity, she wouldn’t be second guessing herself as much as she was. She needed to be honest with the crew about this voice. Maybe when she got a chance, she would tell Tama. But now wasn’t that time. Why not? Because the voice wouldn’t shut up, and she couldn’t even think straight.
Tama kept Rosa in his peripheral vision as he wandered around the area. There didn’t seem to be anybody clueless here, so he took out his phone and started looking at the next area they could cover. Flushing had a Chinatown, though Mac had said they were probably looking for someone from Europe. Maybe if they went back over to Jamaica? He assumed it had nothing to do with the actual island nation.
The voice made him jump, and he turned. A kid, a few inches shorter than he was and Asian in look, stood by him now. He wore a green track jacket and green sweatpants, which Tama guessed he was sweating heavily in considering the weather. His jacket was open at the top, revealing a white polo and a green tie around his neck.
It took Tama another minute to realize why he had turned. “Are you speaking to me?” he asked the kid in Japanese.
“Yes. Where did you get those goggles? Are they from the military?”
Tama looked up. I get cornered by a kid who’s asking about my goggles? “They’re from my grandfather,” he answered truthfully. “Why do you ask?”
“They look really cool. Can I see them?”
His mind flashed back to Hideko. “Tama-niichan, can I have some goggles of my own?” He didn’t trust this kid, but he still reached up into his hair and took off his goggles. “These are old,” he said, “and they mean a lot to me --”
He didn’t get much more of a chance to explain. The kid took the goggles from his hand and wrapped them around his own head. Tama held his breath, hoping that the old pair would hold up. But, surprisingly, they did. The kid smiled as he wore them. “Wow! These are really cool!”
Tama blushed -- he wasn’t sure how to take that. Maybe as a compliment. “Thank you,” he said. “Can I have them back now?”
“Yes. I only wanted to wear them for a moment.” And with that, the boy took off the goggles and handed them back to a relieved Tama. “What’s your name?”
“Tama -- Matsumoto Tamasine. Nice to meet you.” He waited for the other boy to give his own name, but it didn’t happen. “Are you here with your parents?”
He shook his head. “How old are you?”
He remembered all of them -- Shotaro, Naoko, Miyuki, Taichi, and Hideko. “Thirteen.”
“Cool! You’re older than me by two years. Don’t you think that’s cool?”
Tama shrugged. “I suppose so.” Who was this kid? He hadn’t asked for this attention. To have it come so suddenly was a strange twist of fate.
“Tamasine?” That was Rosa, coming back from her romantic yet lonely walk. “What are you up to?”
Tama scrambled -- he was the one who had been talking about staying on track and here he was, talking to some kid. “Sorry,” he said. “I just got distracted, that’s all.”
The new kid turned and looked at Rosa. “You guys have matching jackets,” he said, this time in English.
Rosa looked at the kid in surprise. “That we do,” she said, looking at Tama. The look in her eyes said, Who is this kid?
Tama gave a look back that said, I have no clue. “So you speak English as well?” he asked.
The kid nodded. “I can speak lots of languages. It’s necessary, of course.”
Tama’s eyes passed from Rosa to the kid again. “Necessary?”
“Well, of course. In today’s world, you have to know English, right?” And then, he switched back to Japanese. “Although, I think that English is a weird language. I don’t understand why anybody would want to speak it.”
“It’s not weird!” Tama said.
Rosa tugged on his jacket sleeve. “Earth to Tama. No entiendo.”
The kid then looked at Rosa. “I don’t speak that language,” he said in English. “I don’t think it’s necessary. Most Romance languages are boring, anyway. They’re all the same.”
Rosa looked about ready to punch the kid. “Hey!”
Tama suddenly remembered the kid hadn’t given his name yet. “What is your name, kid? You seemed so interested in my goggles, I’d like to know.”
“Yeah,” Rosa pouted, “he’s so interested in you. Kid could pass as your brother.”
It hit a nerve Tama hadn’t been expecting. “Take that back,” he said.
“I won’t. No reason to.” Rosa crossed her arms.
Neither one of them noticed that the kid in question had wandered away from them and was halfway across the mall.
Matsumoto Tamasine, huh? The last name sounded familiar, but he didn’t know where the first name could be from. It didn’t sound naturally Japanese. Then again, in his years of study and understanding the world, there were a lot of anomalies. Master Dimitri had tried to explain these anomalies, but they didn’t need explaining. He had already read all of the theories, as had been expected of all in his class. The world didn’t have space for people who couldn’t compete, as this Matsumoto and his friend seemed to be.
And yet, there were still things he couldn’t explain. Like how this Japanese boy was named Tamasine. Or his connection to Milaya, or why him and the Spanish girl were wearing matching jackets. They were victims of opinion, of human influence, which had to be eradicated.
Otherwise, how would the world be right again? How could this dimension be returned to its natural state?
He felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned, expecting it to be Tao -- but it was Matsumoto again. “Where are you going?” he asked.
The kid shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Is that the same answer to the question ‘What is your name?’ that Tamasine asked earlier?” Rosa stated out loud, holding her ground. “Because if it is, then we’re going to have a discussion right here, right now.”
“Rosa, don’t scare the kid,” Tama muttered as his pocket vibrated. He reached into it with his other hand and picked up the phone. “Moshi-moshi...no, Jason, that’s how you always answer the phone...okay...well, we may have something here, but we don’t know yet…”
The kid was at a loss. What was Matsumoto doing? Was he talking to the other member of their team, the one with the catalyst? Maybe if he played along, he could get to meet this Jason character. And then, when nobody was watching, he’d be able to rescue Milaya and get the catalyst at the same time.
And also find out more about this strange person with the goggles and weird name.
“My name…” He thought for a minute. Tao never named him, despite the fact that he couldn’t remember his own name anyway. If he kept this up, maybe these kids would suspect he wasn’t really from this world. “Why do you need to know, anyway?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Rosa said. “Common courtesy?”
“It would be nice to know,” Tamasine said in Japanese. His eyes wouldn’t leave this kid. There was something strange about all of this --
And then, he realized what it was. Yesterday, in the Saint Arbucks, after the blast. He had been there with Isabel, only able to speak Japanese, when he had seen a kid at a table with a physical link. This was that kid! He hadn’t recognized him at first -- especially when he had spoken Chinese at first -- but this had to be him, minus the link.
It all made sense -- and then, he didn’t know for sure, but he had a huge hunch that this was their fifth kid.
“Grab him,” he said quickly in English, hopefully too fast for the Chinese kid to catch. Where were Jason or Mac when you needed them? He reached into his pocket and pressed the Colemak button -- this would alert Mac and get the entire crew there soon.
Thankfully Rosa didn’t jump off the deep end -- instead of grabbing him to make sure he didn’t escape, she took the younger kid by the hand and led him toward the fountain. “You know,” she said, “now that I think about it, I forgive you for thinking all Romance languages are the same.”
“You do?” the kid asked.
Tama flanked him on the other side, putting an arm around his shoulders and preventing any escape. “Of course. After all, you’re so smart that you probably know what languages are worth learning and which are throwaway, でしょう?”
The kid smiled. “Of course.”
“Where do you think you’re going?”
Rosa and Tama stopped walking. The kid turned around and looked at the man, speaking in English. “I’m working.”
The man called Tao stood on the sidelines, in his normal black suit and tie, jet hair swept up, eyes slanted straight toward the boy. “You know better. Why are you here?”
“I -- I was taking a break,” the kid said to Tao, answering in the same language Tao had spoken with. His plan was ruined. Now that Tao was here, he had to get back to work on the last part of the program, and what was worse, Matsumoto and the Spanish girl would find out he was with the KGB. They certainly would hate him now, never let him get to Milaya and the catalyst...much less take another look at Matsumoto’s goggles.
“Breaks are for lazy people,” Tao said. “And who said you could hang out with strangers?”
Tamasine looked at the man in the suit. The way he was dressed, it was possible he could be with the KGB...but he was Chinese, not Russian. This made no sense.
“Excuse me,” Rosa butted in (as always), “but this is a free country.”
“It shouldn’t be.” The man walked forward and pushed Rosa’s hand away, taking the Chinese boy by the hand. “We are leaving.”
“I’d think twice about that.”
And like that, the two Chinese people were surrounded by the lost world gang. Jason stood to the right, Milaya to the left, keeping them from a direct route of escape -- and any route of escape wouldn’t be easy now that Jason was here.
“Mac and Carissa are on their way,” Jason said.
Milaya had her hands on her waist. “Just who do you think you are?” she asked. “Get your hands off of my friends.”
The man laughed. “Well, who do we have here?” he said, and then, words that surprised Milaya. “Предатель Советское.”
Milaya’s eyes widened, and the look on her face told the other members: this man was with the KGB. Rosa and Jason steadied themselves -- if they could keep this man and the boy there until Carissa and Mac got there, they could really have the upper hand.
The Chinese kid looked at Tao, then at Milaya, and finally back at Matsumoto. The Japanese boy’s eyes were right on him, with a strange level of hurt in them.
“本当?” he asked. “Are you really with the Soviets?”
And even though he knew the truth, that he was helping the KGB bring back glory on this world, that he only existed for the glory of the motherland...he couldn’t find an answer.