Book 3: Chapter 0

As The World Shook

“Well that got out of hand” Habiki chuckled, Ongaku smiled alongside Wolfgang and Disco as they stood outside the back of the hotel burning. Ongaku smiled as he recalled Chem hustling them out of the building with his hands waving. The scene was chaotic, and while the crowd around them were deeply uncomfortable, Ongaku felt at home for the first time in a while. The rush to leave with the crisp cold air surrounded by close friends. It reminded him of the good old days when they were young and touring the world. The manager used to rush them out of venues when the crowd got too rowdy. That was Ongaku’s favorite part.

“Just like old times” Ongaku grinned, “All we need now’s some liquor.” “You mean like this?” Disco opened the side of his coat to reveal a large bottle of sake.

“How’d you score that?” Habiki laughed.

“When I picked this yellow shiny jacket, you all told me it was stupid!” Disco started.

“Because it is stupid.” Ongaku corrected. “You look like a beehive.”

“Is it stupid that people are distracted by it?” Disco argued, “Is it stupid that you can’t notice if I’m hiding something in my sleeve?” Disco paused, “Because if this stupid phenomenal jacket is the only reason we have booze right now, then someone might have to apologize if he wants some.”

“Well I always liked your jacket.” Habiki said. Disco happily handed him the booze.

“Fine.” Ongaku sighed, “Your jacket isn’t stupid.”

“Thank you.” Disco answered.

“It just ‘looks’ stupid.”

“I’ll take it.” Disco replied as Habiki handed Ongaku the bottle. “But this jacket will win you over one of these days!”

“No it won’t.” Ongaku grumbled as he took a swig of the sake.

As the wind whistled past, and the crowd clamored around them, the group was overtaken by an unconscious silence. They all looked slowly at one another as the moment held firm between them.

“Has anyone seen Jazz ?” Habiki asked.

Wolfgang paused, then answered, “No. Not since he joined Team Order.”

“He always had to be different.” Disco smiled.

“Yeah.” Ongaku grinned, “I hoped we’d stick together.”, he took a swig of the sake again. “I miss that jackass.”

“Is that them?” Kasimir whispered.

“At least four of the five, yeah?” Natsuki answered.

“Do you think we should introduce ourselves, I mean ‘really’ introduce ourselves?”

“No!” Natsuki insisted, “We talked about this! We have an opportunity here to start over. I want to know what it feels like to be just anybody, not, you know, me.”

“I know, I do too.” Kasimir sighed, “I just thought that they would get it, you know? More than anyone.”

“Then everyone would know. I don’t want to go back to that” Natsuki insisted, moved closer to Kasimir and held his hand. “When I met you on that movie set, I was so starstruck. Then came the cameras and the photoshoots. I couldn’t even tell what was real anymore. I just…”

“I remember.” Kasimir looked down and shook his head. “You weren’t happy. That’s why we ‘plugged in’ in the first place. I know how much this second chance means to you and I’m not going to mess it up.” He held her hands and looked deep into her eyes. “Don’t worry darling. We’re going to make this work.”

Noir waited silently in the back of the diner. He leaned against the side of the building with his arms crossed, standing firm in his black suit. He was a tall man and had firm strong muscles from years as a bodyguard. His physique hadn’t diminished at all, even after years in the facility. After a few minutes, Itamae emerged from the back of the building and tossed off his apron. Noir glanced at the Triangle Company logo across Itamae’s bandana.

“You’re still wearing that thing?” Noir asked.

“If they have the audacity to use the Resistance logo in there, then yeah, I’m keeping my bandana.” Itamae snapped.

“That must not make you popular in the kitchen.” Noir remarked.

“Yeah, but it doesn’t matter. No one back there can cook as well as me.”

“How are the supplies?” Noir asked.

“Not great. Apparently Chaos burned up a lot of food in the fire. We’re making due, but I don’t think the nearby farm is going to feed a city anytime soon.”

“And the facility has plenty of nutrients. All you need to do is plug in again.” Noir stated.

“Only the Resistance could make the founder of eternal bliss a villain.” Itamae shook his head. “Tell me a Takahashi story.”

“You want another one?” Noir asked.

“I worked for him covertly for four years. You were his bodyguard for ten. I’d like to know more about the guy I’ve never met.”

“Alright.” Noir started, “One day I was escorting Takahashi into a building. There were protesters all around, and one of them broke through the barrier and darted towards him. I wound up my fist and clocked him out. When we got inside, Takahashi looked at me intensely. It was always intense when he looked you right in the eye. He looked at me, grabbed the back of my neck and said ‘Strong men shape the world’. I’ll never forget it.”

“That’s why I took the job.” Itamae smiled. “I believed in it. Money doesn’t buy much when the world vanishes in front of you. But ridding the world of pain and suffering, even when ‘The Resistance’ held onto both for some godforsaken reason… it just made sense. What higher calling can there be than that?”

Noir smiled at his friend. “And I bet you were the best chef he’d ever seen.”

Itamae laughed heartily and pulled a knife from the back of his uniform. “Yeah” he smiled and threw the knife forty feet to his right where it impaled itself deep into a brick. “A chef that can do that.”

Miné tiptoed quietly past her daughter who was listening to music in her room. Jiro stood quietly beside her in the hallway.

“Hi honey” he whispered to her.

“Where’d your father go?” Miné asked.

“Oh, just out on one of his walks. There’s no telling him what to do.”

“How’s Vault adjusting?” Miné whispered intently.

Jiro shook his head. “She’s coming around, but …” he lowered his voice, “She doesn’t want to listen to me. She’s stubborn like her father, and her father’s father. I …” he shook his head again. “I’m just so sorry.”

“What are you sorry about?” Miné asked.

“My family. All of this. I wanted our lives to be normal, simple and happy. I made you a promise that I wouldn’t let my brother interfere with our marriage.”

“He hasn’t!” Miné insisted.

“Look at our heads right now Miné” Jiro sighed. “Look at our lives. It’s all on his terms. I’m sorry, I just … I feel like I failed you.”

“Hey!” Miné protested, “You haven’t failed anything! I married you because you’re your own man. You’re compassionate and a great father, and this life of ours is completely our own. Your brother is gone. You should never had to have worried about him, but you especially don’t now. And Vault is a kind, sweet girl. She’ll come around. And you’ll be a better father to her than he ever would be. You know that’s true!”

Jiro smiled through his emotion. “Thank you. I needed to hear that.”

Suddenly, their teenage son burst through the door with someone else by his side.

“Ka-Gamer” Miné corrected herself, “Who is this?”

“You insisted we all get to pick our new names Mom, ‘Gamer’ is my name now.” Gamer stated.

“We’ll talk about that later.” she said, “Now tell me who this is!”

“This is Inicio ! He’s my age and he likes games too! And don’t worry, he’s not Team Chaos! Can we hang out in my room? It’s been so long since I’ve met a friend my age!”

“It’s nice to meet you.” Inicio said, “I have a gift for you that I made yesterday. It’s amazing how much tech is lying around the facility!” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a mechanical device with gears shifting and lights flashing in a rotation. Its task was unclear, but it moved in a perpetual state of enigmatic motion. Jiro bent over to look at it with great interest. “What the hell is that?”

Mizuto grumbled as he rushed to the casino. He’d heard there was a fire and panted as he arrived at the scene. He saw the sight of a few flames dwindling, but his experience told him that the fire wouldn’t spread. He sat down and leaned against a nearby building to catch his breath. What was it with these people? Always burning things. He knew a world without a formal government would be chaotic, but he didn’t expect anything like this. He’d hoped Order would bring things under control, but without running firetrucks, he was helpless against these frequent fires.

Heart with a beating heart on his screen approached Mizuto . “Are you okay?” the man asked him.

“Am I okay? Are you okay? Every time I blink, there’s another fire. How crazy are you people? This is insane!”

Heart sat down next to Mizuto , and gave his question serious thought. “They’re afraid.” Heart finally answered. “They’re afraid that they’ll never experience the happiness they crave so deeply. The freedom from the isolation we’ve all experienced. So they take shortcuts through short-sighted destructiveness. They just want to feel something. And Chaos does too. Neither of them will be satisfied in the end. The only difference with Chaos is that he doesn’t care.”

“Then why are you with these people?” Mizuto asked. “If you’re opposed to all this - why are you still here?”

“I don’t want to sound patronizing,” Heart started, “But someone needs to look out for these people. Otherwise they’ll be alone when they wake up one day and have to pick up the pieces.”

Mizuto smiled, “And I’ll always be here to clean up the fires. Although it would be nice to have a working fire truck.”

“Hello!” A man with a snowman on his screen approached. “My name is Shimo! Is everyone alright here? I know Order led a charge here, and I want to take care of the wounded, on either side of course!”

“Thank you so much for coming. It’s good to see someone like you out here.” Heart answered. “ Chaos is inside the hotel nursing his wounds. He broke something in his fight with Order .”

“On it!” Shimo nodded and walked into the hotel.

Mizuto looked to Heart. “So is it over then? Is the Order Chaos war finally done?”

“I hope so.” Heart answered. “Most people evacuated out back, but Order and Kitsune came through here not long ago to make sure no one had planned anything reckless. I don’t think Chaos will take it quietly, but I think “Team” Chaos will be a lot quieter from now on.”

“I’m grateful to hear that.” Mizuto answered. “In the meantime we have people like Shimo to help out.”

“In any war, you need people who see outside of it to help others.” Heart stated. “I think the three of us are well suited for it.”

Aeth sat alone atop a clearing overlooking the city. She could see the entirety of Nozomi, the three square blocks where the lights were on and citizens made their homes, as well as the remaining city that still had no access to electricity. She could even see the makings of a small fire on the top of a building. This was of course the Order / Chaos conflict. Aeth decided not to take sides in the faction war. Both leaders seemed selfish and small-minded. While they quarreled over details and philosophies, she thought they’d missed the greater picture. They would get nothing done at all unless they were able to come together.

“How’s the view today?” A familiar voice said from behind.

“Chaotic as usual. The conflict doesn’t appear to be over yet.” Aeth answered, facing forward. “How are you?”

“Oh, you know me.” The voice said, “I’ve been better. But being outside like this among whatever nature’s left … it reminds me that not everything has changed.”

“That’s good.” Aeth replied, “The world has been reset. We all have a second chance here.”

“I know. I just …” the voice cut off. A loud echo boomed through the air. The ground started quaking beneath Aeth ’s legs, as she found her bearing amidst the vibrations.

“What was that?” Aeth asked. “It sounded like it came from the facility..”