Gray Dawn Breaking

By Edward Simons

Based on characters and situations created by Satoru Ozawa. Blue Sub #6 and characters copyright Toshiba EMI, Gonzo, Bandai Entertainment, and Satoru Ozawa. This story written 2007 - Edward Simons


The wheel's kick and the wind's song

and the white sail's shaking,

And a gray mist on the sea's face,

and a gray dawn breaking.

Sea Fever - John Masefield


What do you do after you've saved the world?

In all the old stories if you saved the world then everyone was safe and you married the princess and everyone lived happily ever after. But life isn't like those stories.

I'm getting ahead of myself. I haven't told you who I am, or who anyone else is.

A note in a bottle is the oldest cliché in the book. If someone finds this disc, if someone cares to watch it, I'm Tetsu Hayami, another piece of debris washed up by the sea. I used to be…I used to be a lot of things and I failed at most of them. Along the way a lot of people saved me, not that it did them much good. I'm going to tell you things everyone knows and things no one knows, things that could get you killed. Maybe that way I can work it all out. I suppose that makes me sound like a selfish bastard.

I am.

You've heard of Zorndyke, everybody's heard of Zorndyke. Killing ten billion kind of gets people's attention, makes the worst the last century ever produced look like they weren't even trying. Zorndyke, hotshot brilliant geneticist, made potatoes that could grow in the arctic and wheat that could grow in the desert. Or maybe it was wheat that could grow in the arctic?

Who cares? One day he lost his family - wife, son, daughter-in-law, granddaughter - and he was alone in a world of twelve billion people. He could have done a hundred things, but he decided to share that loneliness with the whole world. I don't understand what he did, but he melted the icecaps, drowned the world like a vengeful god.

And that was just the start. Zorndyke infested the sea with mutant sharks and sent the Musicas, bioengineered blends of whale and submarine, to destroy what was left of our cities. Where they couldn't go, he sent the Kumos, amphibious spiderlike war machines piloted by.…

I'll talk about the pilots later.

Tokyo became a ghost town, a tangle of half-submerged ruins, just like so many other cities. Most survivors moved inland, away from the sea, away from the threat of Zorndyke's creatures. Some stayed, - the Maritime Self-Defense Force, the Blue Fleet, and their support personnel. And the people too stubborn or too stupid to move. People like me.

It was a lot quieter with most of the people gone. The silence unnerved a lot of people, but I liked it. When I was a kid, I almost drowned, and my parents didn't even realize it. They thought I was just messing around. After that I liked being alone; I didn't trust anyone. And I was both frightened and fascinated by the sea.

It seems like I'm always being rescued from the sea.

I joined the Blue Fleet, the organization created to stop Zorndyke. The old man accomplished what no one else could, got the nations of the world to work together. Just Sub #6 had Japanese and Americans and Chinese and Russians on board. I wonder if that was another of Zorndyke's tests, seeing if we'd work together, if we were all just a bunch of experimental animals to him.

The Blue Fleet was smarter than most organizations, or maybe just more optimistic. Or maybe they realized how little chance we had if Zorndyke wasn't willing to talk. The Fleet sent Katsuma and me in a two-man minisub to his Antarctic base. We wanted to talk, but Zondyke's Phantom Ship sank that hope.

You're lucky if you never saw the Phantom Ship. Imagine the biggest battleship you ever saw. Imagine something three times as long, with that many more weapons, only it's alive. And the ugly gray beast was submersible.

It didn't even use its big guns to destroy us.

Katsuma was trapped in the wreckage of the sub, his compartment slowly filling with water as I worked frantically to free him. But Katsuma activated my emergency pod and forced me back to the surface. I had a lot of time to think, too much time until I saw the sky again. I was sure my partner died that day.

In a way, I died, too. At least any hope I had died. The mission failed, a man died, and someone needed to take the blame. Captain Iga stood by me. It wasn't enough. I was busted in rank, dishonored, discharged.

I pretended I didn't care. I became a scavenger, recovering anything from the sea if people could match my price. Sometimes I thought about how I was wasting my life, but I just turned up the music to drown those thoughts. When that wasn't enough, there was always alcohol. And when that failed there were drugs. I was committing suicide; only I was doing it slowly.

Then Mayumi Kino showed up, a tiny thing, maybe a meter-and-a-half. In that formal uniform, with the cloak and all, she looked like a kid playing grownup. But she didn't back down, no matter what I said or did.

Mayumi told me Captain Iga wanted me back, said they needed me. First they threw me away, now they wanted me back? I almost turned the music up, almost turned back to the bottle.

Mayumi had guts, but she was trying way too hard. And she had a fire burning inside, where all I had was cold gray ash. I didn't tell her no, but I didn't go with her. I stared out over the city, realizing Mayumi was more than a child, but not much more, and that her anger was going to get her killed.

At least her way was quicker.

And then the harbor began to explode, ending the imitation peace, ending the futile attempts to rebuild Tokyo. I don't know why I followed; maybe I tired of doing things slowly. I saw Mayumi and the black American sailor with her risk their lives trying to save a stranger from a pair of Kumos. Maybe that's why I saved them. It's the first unselfish thing I'd done in such a long time.

I've heard the American's name was Deadson - I guess the kami have a sick sense of humor. I took him and Mayumi back to Blue Sub. Most of the crew were strangers to me. Most of the rest weren't friends. Captain Iga smiled, but it never reached his half-open eyes. He was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders and it showed. He said he owed me one.

I brushed him off. Those Kumos had to have come from a Musica and they carried a lot more than two of them. Old habits returned and I found myself down by the Grampus minisub. Back when I was somebody, my job would have been to destroy those Kumos while #6 went after the Musica. Maybe I was trying to take control of something my life, grabbing the controls of the minisub and refusing to let Mayumi pilot. Grumbling, she climbed in the back wearing a skintight gray wetsuit that proved she wasn't a child.

The combat was short and terrifying, just like most battles. We did well, even though we'd never worked together before. Soon the only Kumo left was a wrecked hulk, crumpled on the beach.

I gave it another burst of fire, then brought the Grampus to shore. We'd just be in the way when Blue Sub battled the Musica. I wanted to see the enemy. I expected some sort of freakish monster.

It wasn't. The remains of the Kumo opened and a blob of greenish translucent gel poured onto the sand. A form lay motionless as the goo melted; a strange figure huddled in a fetal position with its back to me. It seemed to be wearing a black and yellow and white wetsuit and it looked frail and very human.

I heard it gasp. I reached forward, daring to touch it as its breathing became harsher, more labored. It was warm, flesh. And then it rolled towards me, gasping for air, thrashing in pain.

It was a girl no older than Mayumi, lying naked on the beach, and the girl was dying. The enemy had a face, but not a name.

I still don't know what you'd call her - mermaid, siren, nymph. Her skin was white on her face and torso, not like a Caucasian, but pale creamy white. Her arms and legs were lemon yellow, her hands and feet and back midnight black. Her hair was silver, her ears long and elflike, her eyes crimson.

She wasn't a fish. There were no signs of gills, and no fish has ears like that or hair or breasts. She wasn't human, but she was a person - a person dying alone and in pain, suffocating in a place she didn't belong - just like Katsuma. Just like me.

Before I knew it I'd scooped her up. She struggled weakly; she bit my arm, misunderstanding my intentions.

I carried her into to the sea. She recovered quickly and we stared at each other, hearing the waves meet the shore. Minutes before we'd tried to kill each other. Minutes before the enemy hadn't had a face.

And then she was gone.

Angry, Mayumi asked me why, why I saved the girl. I didn't answer then. I couldn't. Maybe I'd have tried, but the Phantom Ship began bombarding Tokyo.

We could have stayed, but we fled leaving the city and the Maritime Self Defense Force to die. They said it was orders, but they'd called me a coward when I left my partner behind. Why was it okay to leave those people to die?

And how were we supposed to save the world when we couldn't save the city?

We retreated to Blue Dome. It was beautiful, but it existed only to destroy and I wondered if we were any better than Zorndyke.

The plan was simple - death for death. Atlantic fleet would play decoy while we and the rest of the Pacific Fleet got close enough to nuke Zorndyke's Antarctic base. If we didn't he was going to destroy the Van Allen belts, the electromagnetic fields in the atmosphere that keep most of the sun's radiation from reaching Earth's surface.

That's when I found out Katsuma was still alive. Zorndyke had done something to him, changed him, made him something that could survive under water. And made him so he could never return to the land. I still don't get it. Zorndyke killed billions, yet he saved one. What kind of person was he?

That's when the Phantom Ship attacked. That's when Blue Dome was destroyed. That's when I should have died, charging the enemy with a lone minisub. I think I wanted to. By that point I didn't think much of humanity anymore. Zorndyke had succeeded; we'd become as bitter, as vengeful as he was.

Or maybe we always had been.

But I didn't die. And I had time to think, too much time, as my escape capsule rose to the surface. I still didn't have any answers. I popped the capsule open and was taken by the storm. Waves as big as the ones that drowned the world. I'd thought I wanted to stop struggling, to end the endless cycle of anger and pain.

I was wrong. I fought with all my feeble strength to survive, struggled for life like I had as a child. And like when I was a child, my struggles were useless and the sea took me.

I woke half in and half out of the water, lying on a floating remnant of Blue Dome. And the girl was there, the girl who wasn't human, smiling. She'd saved me. She wanted me to live. I'd tried to kill her; I'd killed so many of her sisters, yet she wanted me to live. For a while it was just us and the gentle sounds of the sea and then she sang, a tune beautiful and sad, a song without words.

But peace never lasts. More showed up, girls like her and larger sharklike things, howling for my blood. Zorndyke made his creations too good; they were just like humans.

Except for the girl. I thought they were going to tear us both to pieces, but she stood up for me, a man that had tried to kill her. In the end a Musica, one of those huge gray death machines, saved us both. It could speak, and unlike the girl, could speak my language. It had been bred for war, but it was tired of the carnage, tired of life.

It gave me her name, then found the death it craved. I found Zorndyke. I don't know what I expected, but I found a sad, tired old man. I put a bullet in his brain. I saved the world. I killed an unarmed man. I had to; I couldn't let Mayumi Kino carry that weight.

She tried anyway, tried to hold me up through the endless agony of speeches and parades, and the long gray silence that followed. She shouldn't have tried. I wasn't worth it and eventually I pushed her away. I've heard she had my kid, but I haven't checked. I've hurt her too much already, why would she want me back?

I found another ruined city, forgotten, abandoned, decaying slowly, collapsing into the sea. Somewhere I could be alone, just me and the sounds of the sea, and for the longest time I was. Then a week ago, I heard her singing, the girl from the sea. A couple days later, I saw her, clad in moonlight. I hadn't seen her since the day I killed the closest thing to a father she had.

I kept looking. The sun will be rising soon, a gray dawn with the clouds scudding across an angry sky. I think of the words the Musica told me before it died - "Your place is neither on land nor air. Let me take you back where you belong."

I know where I belong. I know who I belong with. I don't know if she used to be human. I don't know if she'll be my salvation or my damnation. It doesn't matter anyway, one way or the other my long gray loneliness will be over.