"There she is again, Kongo." I said, quietly, without looking at the woman as she rode her bicycle along the edge of the wet sand on the beach.
"It's not like she's the only one who comes out to watch us work, Fubuki."
"She's watching us differently though. Haven't you noticed?"
Kongo stopped in the water next to today's job, a rusted out hulk that used to be a cargo container ship. "You asked me to not look at her directly, Fubuki, because I was scaring her away. My close-in sensors aren't as good as yours." She paused. "So, no, I haven't noticed."
"Oh, right. Sorry." I climbed up the side of the ship, smashing holes in the thin steel to create handholds. As soon as I left the water, my rig disappeared, and the woman on the beach immediately shifted her attention to Kongo, watching through a pair of binoculars.
"Whenever either of us leaves the water, and our rigs disappear, she immediately switches to watching the other, if they still have a rig active."
"So she's not watching us, she's watching our rigs. Even that's not unique. Do you remember what Defiant looked like when we showed him our rigs?"
I went into a brief spasm of laughter as I continued smashing handholds in the hull of the ancient wreck. "I remember, yes." I deepened my voice to imitate Defiant. "Oh. Oh. Oh. That's fascinating. I. Uh. Can I touch them?"
Both of us started laughing, remembering the moment.
After Defiant had spoken those words, Kongo, being Kongo, could not resist a little verbal jab. When she replied "What about Dragon? She might get upset." Defiant had realized what it sounded like and the lower half of his face that we could see went red in embarrassment.
The next thirty seconds of stuttered apologies had been hilarious before Kongo and I had relented and apologized to him. Then we let him poke and prod at our rigs to his heart's content for about two hours, before he sighed and walked off, grumbling something about not understanding the miniaturization process.
I finished climbing up the side of the ship and looked around. There were no obvious signs of habitation, but Dragon had given us little drones, so we could be sure. I pulled a half a dozen of the little drones from my backpack, and let them loose. They immediately rushed off, flying and crawling at high speed, looking for life signs on the ship. I followed behind them. Opening doors for them when they beeped at me to let me know it was necessary. In about thirty minutes, the drones and I cleared the entire wreck. While we were doing that, Kongo had been throwing heavy steel cables over the top of the ship, each cable making a resounding *klang* noise as it slapped against the rusted steel.
Returning to the side of the ship, I called down to Kongo. "All clear, Kongo. I'll rig up the cables now."
I have an idea, Kongo. I sent by radio, rather than by audio.
What idea? Came the response, a few seconds later.
When I come down off the side of the ship, I'm going to intentionally fall. You drop the cables and take me to shore. The closest point on the shore is about a hundred meters from the human watching us. I want to see if maybe she will approach us if she thinks I'm hurt.
You are going to intentionally fall? Why risk that, just for some human that watches our rigs?
I won't fall far, Kongo, just far enough to be convincing.
I don't like it. But I am a little bored. You fall no more than a few meters. That's an order, Fubuki.
Yes, Kongo. Remember, don't look at her as we approach shore. I'm going to pretend to be in distress.
Nothing like a little kabuki to make the time pass. This should be fun.
We couldn't deviate from our pattern too much, or the woman might figure out we were faking. So I spent a couple minutes connecting the cables to the anchor mounts and mooring cleats. We were hoping this ship would be structurally sound enough to pull it on shore so the dockworkers could cut it up. If it wasn't, we'd drag whatever part of it broke off to the cutting beach, and collect the rest, piece by piece.
When I finished I started climbing down the side of the ship, and when I was several meters from the water, I started talking to Kongo. "Everything seems solid, Kongo. I think this one will pull cleanly." I intentionally missed a handhold, and flailed, falling backwards.
Two-point-oh-eight million kilos of me hit the water hard. Harder than I imagined possible. I fell through the water and struck the side of the derelict ship a couple meters underneath the water. My left leg punched through the skin of the ship, and my port torpedo tube launcher was wrenched nearly off.
I gasped in pain, and my lungs filled partway with water. I could feel water pouring down into my funnel as well. As I struggled, trying to free myself, it felt like my port torpedo tube launcher was trapped in the hole my leg had created.
Idiot. Idiot. Idiot. I screamed at myself as I used my hands to tear the hole around my leg wider.
I wasn't floating.
I'd taken on too much water.
I started climbing up the side of the ship, underwater, rapidly smashing handholds into the metal and pulling myself up. Underwater, I had only a few seconds of energy left, at best.
One handhold at a time. Smash, pull, smash, pull.
I was barely conscious when I felt a hand grab my arm and drag me out of the water. I struggled as I felt myself being turned upside down. Water poured out of my funnel and my lungs. Then I coughed, and more water came out.
"You and I, we're having a talk later about this." Kongo promised me. "If I knew you intended this degree of incapacitation, I would not have agreed to it."
I could only cough. My radio was offline. I couldn't protest my innocence.
Kongo started dragging me to shore, and I wasn't able to help at all. My boilers had been flooded with seawater. My left leg had several lacerations on it, and my port torpedo launcher was basically scrap. There didn't seem to be any structural damage though.
It didn't take long for Kongo to drag my wheezing, coughing self to shore. We stopped in ankle-deep water and I fell to my hands and knees, still coughing, a little bit of water coming out with every cough.
Kongo started looking at my left leg. "Doesn't look like structural damage, Fubuki, but that's going to take some time to heal, and your port launcher is scrap."
There was a rattling sound and a splash of water, before a pair of black leather work boots appeared in my vision.
"You OK?" A female voice. Probably the woman I'd hoped to convince to come to us by faking an accident.
Idiot. Idiot. Idiot. I repeated to myself, just to make sure I knew.
I coughed, and still couldn't speak much more than a croak, but I managed a "No."
The torque that Dragon had given me to translate my spoken Japanese into English when it detected someone speaking to me in English seemed to be working despite the soaking it had been given.
The woman ran back to where she'd thrown down her bike. I heard zippers and buttons, and a lot of clinking and jingling. Then the woman returned, running.
Her lower body was covered with tool pouches, full of tools that were mostly new to me. A few of them looked like some of the odd tools Defiant had been using.
"You will tell me what you think you are doing, before you touch her." Kongo growled. "The first thing you will tell me is what you think you are seeing."
The woman's boots turned to face Kongo. "Smell it? Flooded boilers. Need to wash 'em out with fresh water, dry 'em and get them started again, or she'll rust. Port torpedo tubes damaged. Torpedo magazine housing cracked. Need to make sure there ain't any loose torpedoes or warheads rolling 'round in there."
"You can see those things?" Kongo asked in an incredulous tone. "Defiant could barely identify systems, never mind components."
The woman took two steps back. "You know Defiant?"
"We've been out in the bay, pulling derelict ships to shore for a month now. Of course we know Defiant. Do you think he could miss us?" Kongo's voice was firm.
The woman shook herself. "Defiant's good, but he don't do vehicles. Nobody's better at vehicles than me. Period. You two are vehicle/organic crossovers. My power tells me what's wrong." She paused. "I can get her running right. I been making tools. I been watching you."
"Fubuki, is your torpedo magazine breached?" Kongo asked, suddenly.
I nodded and choked out a "Yes."
"Start working, Tool Girl." Then, in a very loud voice, just short of painful, Kongo started speaking to the people who had gathered. "Everyone except Tool Girl here needs to get away. Now. Clear the area. Someone call the police and fire department. There might be an explosion, and it could be a big one."
Thanks, Kongo, I needed that comforting thought.
The woman fell to her knees in the surf, next to my left side, and started poking at my damaged torpedo launcher with an odd tool that had a flexible tip that generated light. It connected by a wire to her goggles. "Wrench."
"What?" Kongo paused.
"Call me Wrench."
I coughed again, and Wrench gasped. "Don't. You trying to restart your boilers. Don't. You flooding out with fuel. Can smell it." She paused. "Shit. There a loose torpedo in there. I need to put it on a storage cradle. You can't move. None. Understand?"
I nodded, shut down my main fuel lines, and stopped trying to restart the boilers. All I had left for power were a couple small diesel generators, which basically would only let me communicate.
I glared at the shallow surf, furious with myself. Being on my hands and knees, at the mercy of an unknown human woman who might or might not have any idea what she's doing poking around in my port side torpedo magazine was not part of the plan.
After several minutes, Wrench sagged, breathed out a loud breath and pulled two tools out of my port torpedo magazine. "Torp's on an undamaged rack now. Need to get you rinsed out with fresh water, and start boilers."
I verified that the loose torpedo had been stowed. "Thank you, Wrench."
"Don't say that yet, you won't like what's comin' next." She turned to Kongo. "Need fresh water. Enough to re-flood her boilers. Can you get some?"
There was a hesitation of several seconds before Kongo responded. "Is the torpedo stowed, Fubuki?"
"Then, yes. I will be back shortly with fresh water." I heard Kongo start to run.
About two minutes later, Kongo returned, with a large white hose. "The firemen said they had fresh water in their tanker, so here's the fresh water."
"Can't control a fire hose, not strong enough." Wrench complained.
"You want to spray Fubuki's boilers out with fresh water, right?" Kongo asked.
"I can do both. Stand back."
Wrench stepped back several feet.
I felt Kongo grab my right ankle, and realized what was about to happen.
Oh, come on.
"Kongo, isn't there a better way to do this?" I begged.
In a flat, not-quite-angry voice, Kongo responded. "I'm not sure. But it should work, and I'm going to enjoy this after the worry you just put me through." She paused, and did a bad imitation of my voice. "I won't fall far, Kongo, just far enough to be convincing." She lifted me into the air. "I thought you knew what you were doing. I thought it might be funny. You didn't, and it wasn't."
By the time she had finished saying that, I was hoisted into the air by my right ankle. I was facing away from Kongo, looking at Wrench, upside-down.
"You faked all that, to trick me? Broke torpedo tubes?" Wrench was not looking very happy.
I coughed, and, since I was fully upside down again, more seawater came out. After the seawater was gone, I tried to explain. "It ended up being less faked than I planned." I paused. "I could tell that you were watching our rigs more than watching us. I wanted to know why."
Her face grew hard. "I see. I was curious, and 'cause of that, you almost killed yourself."
Kongo spoke. "Please wave to the firemen, Wrench. I asked them to turn on the water when we wave to them."
Wrench turned and waved.
I spent the next several minutes hanging upside down by one ankle with a fire hose spraying out my boilers through my funnel.
Kongo took far longer than was necessary, I'm certain. I couldn't struggle with my boilers all shut down. Just complain. None of my complaints were dignified with a response.
Wrench just stared at me, clearly upset, the entire time.
After my insides were thoroughly cleaned out, Kongo spoke again. "Wrench, wave at the firemen again, please."
Wrench waved. The water stopped, and Kongo lowered me into the surf, and then helped me get into a stable kneeling position.
Wrench approached with a small bottle of something and sprayed it into my funnel. It smelled almost like wood alcohol. "Start preheaters. Feed fuel. Ignite."
"What did you just spray into my boilers?"
Wrench spoke tersely, "Starter fluid. Not a lot. Do it."
I started the preheaters and then, a few seconds later, started feeding fuel. Ignition was rapid. I took a deep breath as energy flooded my body, and I was able to move again.
"Cycle port torps into main storage an' leave 'em there till port launcher heals. You can work." Wrench turned and walked away, stiff-legged, without saying anything else.
I carefully stood, and stared at her back as she walked away. "Thank you, Wrench."
I can't exactly consider her to be rude, considering how we had planned to trick her.
Wrench had been taking off her tool pouches and belts and rapidly, carefully stowing them on the saddlebags to either side of her bicycle's rear tire. She paused, and replied, emotionlessly. "Welcome. My bedside manner ain't great. Patients normally don't talk back to me."
To my right, and slightly behind me, Kongo spoke in a serious tone. "You're welcome to watch us any time, Wrench. I owe you a favor for saving this one from her own idea." Kongo put her hand on my shoulder and pulled me around, roughly, so I was facing her. "Fubuki owes you a favor, and an apology. Perhaps even her existence. Loose munitions are no joke." Kongo's eyes bored into mine.
Kongo originally sank partly due to a munitions explosion. I'm not going to enjoy the next talk we have in private.
I turned away from Kongo, towards Wrench, and went to my knees, leaning forward until my forehead touched the sand before I spoke. "Yes, Wrench. I owe you a great debt. I apologize for my plan to trick you into coming to us. I thank you for what you did to help me after my foolish plan fell apart. I am in your debt, and if you need help with something, you only need ask. If I can help, I will."
After about three seconds of silence, Wrench responded, with a little anger in her voice. "Stand up, dammit. I ain't Lung. I don't do control freak crap and didn't ask for anything." She paused, and closed her eyes for a second before continuing with her voice calmed down a bit. "Apology accepted. I get you being curious. I was spyin' on you."
As I began to stand, I heard Wrench pushing her bike towards the road.
Kongo broke the silence, speaking slowly. "You would make a good friend, I think, Wrench."
Wrench and I both turned to stare at Kongo, who shrugged. "A friend is honest, and forgives our imperfections."
After she stared at Kongo for a moment, Wrench turned away and pushed her bike towards the road, much faster than before, almost running through the loose sand. "You're wrong. I let all my friends die." The last few words were almost lost in sobs. When the bike was finally on the road, she pushed it between some parked emergency vehicles and was gone.
Kongo and I could only stare as she left us behind.
While we were trying to make sense of what Wrench had said, a small blonde-haired woman wearing a mask and a black and lavender suit approached us from the road. She was surrounded by half a dozen large, muscular men who were very carefully watching around her like escorts. Bodyguards. "I see you've met Wrench." She looked at me without speaking for about half a second. "Good. You aren't going to blow up any longer."
I looked up at her and raised my right eyebrow. Even though she was small, she was taller than me.
After smiling, the woman waved her hands in the air, and yelled out. "OK everyone, show's over, you can go home. Nobody's blowing up today."
As the crowd behind the police lines started to disperse, Kongo spoke. "Who are you, and what do you want?"
"I'm Tattletale, and I want to talk."
"Tattletale. Undersiders. Defiant told us not to trust you, but that you probably wouldn't do anything to bother us." As I finished, I crossed my arms.
"Defiant is a smart man." She paused. "When it comes to machines. Usually when he says something smart about people, he's parroting Dragon." Tattletale made a throwing-away gesture with one hand. "I'm not here to talk about Defiant. The reason I came here is because Wrench came here."
Kongo looked at me with a puzzled expression, and I shrugged. "I don't follow."
She sat down on the sand. "Sit. I need to tell you about Wrench. It's not a pretty story."
Thirty minutes later.
I looked at Tattletale and started ticking off what she had told me, one finger at a time. "So, the Slaughterhouse 9, a vastly superior force, attacked the Merchants. Wrench, who used to be Squealer, had a superior who was insane and would not listen to reason, would not retreat. She was emotionally attached to her superior, and in the end, still chose to flee certain death rather than join him in a hopeless battle over something that really didn't matter. Now she blames herself for his death, and the deaths of all the Merchants, who were, in reality, a pretty terrible 'family' but were the only family she ever knew."
"That about sums it up, Fubuki."
When Kongo and I looked at each other, Tattletale stood. "Before today, Wrench hadn't said a single word to anyone in nearly three years. If she communicates, it's written. I have her watched, and make sure to set up a soup kitchen near wherever she is squatting. If she figures out that I'm helping her, she moves, so I can't help her too much or she might leave the city. She hasn't created anything for herself but tools; that's a normal bike she rides. All she does is fix vehicles. Randomly, without any special features. If you haven't figured it out yet, tinkers generally can't make anything that isn't tricked out with all sorts of special features. Wrench is tortured, and I had hopes that she might approach you, since she was so fascinated that she broke her normal habits to come watch you."
"And I fouled the props." I sighed.
Kongo muttered a curse and then said "Today is really beginning to feel like kabuki."
"Yup." Tattletale nodded. Then she shrugged. "It's not hopeless though. You cracked the shell. She talked to someone. That's as good a place as any to start."
"You wouldn't have come here and spoken to us just to tell us that." Kongo said, softly, but firmly.
Tattletale smirked. "Am I that transparent, Kongo?"
"I heard a lot of command decisions and deliberations on my decks, in my time, Tattletale. I don't think telling us Wrench's story was the reason you came to talk to us. That's background for the reason. Are you ready to tell us what you want?"
Tattletale smiled. "How refreshing." She bowed to us slightly. "I have ears in many places, and I overheard that in the dimension that you came from, none of your old crews were still alive by the time you incarnated in your current form, because of your enemies there, the Abyssals."
I only told Dragon that.
Tattletale sighed. "Fine. Yes. Dragon and I talk. We talk quite a bit, actually." She raised her right hand. "Between Dragon, Dinah, and a few other people, we found out that, even after Scion went bonkers, there are quite a few of your old crew from this dimension, and other dimensions, who are still alive."
My crew? Alive?
I narrowed my eyes and stared at Tattletale. "Are they really our crew, or crews from the ships with our names, from these other dimensions?"
"My crew?" Kongo whispered. "Some of them are alive here?"
"Your memories seem to be extremely precise about your old crew and your old history, according to Dragon. We'll leave it up to you two to decide if you want to meet the men. If you do, we will arrange for transport. We've collected every bit of information we can on all the living crew from this dimension. If they match, we can start spreading the search to other dimensions."
"Why?" I asked.
Tattletale smiled. "What you are doing in and around the bay is worth rewarding. But, like Kongo said, there's something else that I'd like to talk to you about."
Two weeks later
Why keep coming out here to watch?
There were about thirty old Japanese men watching Kongo and Fubuki today. Really old men. They were cheering as the two shipgirls performed maneuvers and fired their smaller weapons at drones over the bay, showing remarkable marksmanship. Kongo had gone out to the breakwater earlier and fired her main guns out over the ocean to where a barge had been anchored. The old men had cheered like they were watching football when one of them claimed Kongo made seventeen hits in four volleys at ten kilometers with plunging fire. Fubuki's ability to move on the water was astounding, Speedboats were faster, but speedboats didn't mass nearly two point one million kilograms.
All that, using vacuum tube electronics with less CPU power than my watch. The integration of the ship equipment into a humaniform biomechanical interface is so brilliant. I remember making-
Stop lyin' to yourself, Sherrell, you never made anything worth a damn. All of your vehicles were drug-addled crap. If you'd been worth a shit, you could have made drones and vehicles that could have-
I heard footsteps on the sand behind me, and turned.
Another really old Japanese guy. They're everywhere today.
"Excuse me, young lady. You seem to have found a good spot. Would you mind if I share it and watch the show?"
I looked at him. Stooped, and wiry, maybe a little over five feet tall. He had a cane in one hand, and a foldable chair in the other. He had stopped walking when I turned to face him, and was slightly wobbly on his feet. Definitely not a threat.
I shook my head, and turned away from him and lifted my binoculars to watch the shipgirls. They were now doing a live towing job of yet another ship to the breaking beach where the work crews would scrap them. There weren't many rusted-out ships left in the bay now. Some other capes had been showing up every now and then to help break down the ships that the shipgirls dragged to shore for recycling.
I could build a-
No. How many times do I have to say no?
How many times have I had to say no, since I helped that shipgirl?
I tried to bury myself in my power's data, watching the shipgirls. Their base technology was so incredibly crude, but the miniaturization and organic interface made them beautiful anyway. My power was flooding me with ideas on how to modify and improve their rigs. I could give them so much. They seemed like-
They seem like the sort of heroes that might have saved my family, when I couldn't.
The old man smoothly unfolded his chair, in a practiced motion. A moment later, he carefully checked that the seat was properly unfolded and seated himself.
My power really wasn't interested in the chair, but it told me about the characteristics of the materials and construction. The lacquered wood was nearly as old as the man, the leather was over twenty years old, but oiled regularly. There was a flood of things popping into my brain that I could use the wood and leather for. I strangled the flood.
"Twenty-one November, 1944. At oh-two-forty-six hours, Imperial Japanese Navy Battleship Kongo was hit on the port side by two torpedoes."
Oh, come on. Don't you have grandkids you can torture with bullshit stories?
I cut my eyes at him, but he wasn't looking at me, he was watching the shipgirls with a small pair of binoculars.
"A few dozen of my crewmates died instantly to the torpedoes."
The old man was silent for several seconds.
"I was fortunate enough to have been on the starboard side of the ship. Kongo was a tough lady. Even after the two torpedoes, she was still able to make sixteen knots, but that eventually slowed to eleven knots. We were slowing down the rest of the ships too much, and damage control couldn't stop the leaks. We separated from the rest of the task group and were ordered to head to port for repairs." He breathed out a sad sigh. "We never made it. There were fourteen hundred men on Kongo when one of the forward magazines blew. Two hundred of us made it into the water alive. I lost twelve hundred people I had been trusting with my life for months, some of them for years."
The old man had my undivided attention now. I knew them ghosts.
"When the forward magazine blew, I had just gone down a hatch to service the stern pumps with a few other men." The old man set his little binoculars in his lap, carefully, still looking out towards the bay.
"The hatch above me was ripped off its hinges. The overpressure deafened me and knocked me off the ladder, but, fortunately, I didn't have far to fall. It only took me a few seconds to stand, but even before I was able to stand again, I could feel Kongo shifting in the water, settling forward, lifting higher in the stern. Quickly. I could feel it in my stomach. I could feel and hear Kongo's structure tearing itself apart, the vibrations and sounds transmitted through the skeleton of the ship. Popping, straining, tearing. Kongo was dying."
"What'd you do?" I heard myself ask, in a whisper.
"I saved myself." His head fell forward slightly, and he looked sideways, locking eyes with me. "And then I hated myself."
I turned away from Tattletale's mindfucker and started to stand.
A calm voice cut through my cynicism. "Do you know how to commit harakiri? You might know it as seppaku." The man was unbuttoning his shirt.
I wanted to just walk away, but something about the old man wouldn't let me leave. He had a captivating intensity that I couldn't ignore.
Is he a master? I wouldn't put it past Tattletale.
He removed his shirt, and folded it across his lap, showing a torso that was little more than wiry meat on a skeleton.
"You take a tanto blade, stab it into your stomach, here." He leaned back slightly in the chair, and, with a jerk of his hand that made me jump, he jabbed the left side of his stomach with his right index finger.
"Then you cut to the right, across your stomach." This time the index finger moved slowly, dragging his finger along many long, narrow scars.
"If you don't have an assistant with a sword, to remove your head after you cut your stomach, you cut your throat." His right index finger slowly traced across his neck where there were a series of small scars.
He turned his head to me; his eyes slammed into mine as he whispered, just loud enough to hear. "I practiced. Many times. Just to make sure I would do it right, if I needed to."
"Why didn't you-" I couldn't finish the sentence.
After a moment, the man looked away from my eyes, to where Kongo and Fubuki were slowly dragging the derelict ship with cables. "Because I knew that it wasn't my fault. Kongo was sinking. I saw dozens of men run into the darkness, securing hatches and looking for wounded. But I knew Kongo could not be saved. I knew that if I stayed, I would die. When a ship sinks, it creates a massive vortex that will beat you to death against the ship if you aren't far enough away. If you are inside a big ship when it sinks, you will never push through the incoming water to escape."
The old man did not let me finish. "You know I was sent here to speak to you. I do not deny it. I was not asked to deny it. When we were told about what happened to you, I demanded to be allowed to speak with you. I was not the only one. I am, however, the only one who could walk far enough to come to you, across loose sand, unaided." He chuckled, briefly, dryly.
As his chuckle faded away, the old man slowly reached into the little bag on the back of his chair that his binoculars had come out of. With obvious care, he drew out a slightly curved oblate cylinder of wood about eight inches long, and two inches in it's widest diameter. He held it in both hands, staring at it for several seconds, and then, suddenly, tossed it to me. I caught it reflexively.
"That, young lady, is a tanto." His eyes bored into mine, and, again, I could not look away. "We were told enough of your history to know that you have every right to consider using it. A couple brief pains in the stomach and neck will end the daily suffering, if that is what you wish." He tilted his head forward slightly towards the cylinder in my hands. "I carried that blade everywhere for ten years, and it has been on display in my home, easily accessible, for the last sixty years." He started putting his shirt back on. "I don't need it anymore. I give it to you."
I collapsed back onto my butt and sat, staring at the tanto. The hilt and sheath were a light yellow lacquered wood, with black Japanese script and images of trees and rocks next to houses.
It's so beautiful.
I pulled the blade out and stared at it. My power recognized the quality of the metal and manufacture. The blade was nearly perfect and sharp enough that my power had no desire to use it as anything other than a blade.
I stared at the steel, the patterns in the metal reflecting sunlight as I twisted it slowly in front of my eyes. "So close to perfect."
The old man spoke slowly. "When I bought that blade, I spent a month's wages. If I was going to kill myself, I wasn't going to do it with a kitchen knife."
I returned to staring at the blade as it flashed in the sun. After a while, I'm not sure how long, I heard footsteps on sand, and looked up.
While I had been entranced with the blade, the old man had finished putting his shirt back on, stored his binoculars in the chair-back bag, and folded up the chair. He was standing in front of me, a little bit wobbly, carrying the chair in one hand and bracing himself on his cane with the other. A stick man with powerful eyes. "I am going back to join the others. You are welcome to join us. Or not. All of us know your story. All of us lived your story. A lot of our fellow crewmates chose the tanto. All of us will understand, whichever you choose."
I said nothing. When I looked back down at the knife, the tanto, he said nothing. I heard him walk away, down the beach towards the other old Japanese men.
After about five seconds, I stood, carefully stowed the tanto in my bike's saddlebags, and pushed my bike along the beach towards the other survivors.