"Out Of The Blue" (Neko Book 4) *ABANDONED* Summary posted.

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Post by NekoDude » Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:29 am

EMI

“Those punk-ass bitches! Who the fuck do they think they are? A formal protest? Over my legs?

“Emi. Emi!” I’ve only seen Kenta that red in the face once, the night of the lemon party. “We can fight this, but only if you stay calm! If you flip your shit, we can’t make a case!”

“A case? Are you my goddamn lawyer now?”

“I’m the closest thing you have, and I advise you to sit down and shut the fuck up. We need a plan.”

“I have a plan,” interjects Miki. “How about pointing out that there are no hard rules about age or prosthetics on the books for our level of competition?”

“Except there might be. According to this protest, the IAAF rules are binding on all sanctioned athletic competitions unless specifically stated otherwise, and the latest rules ‘prohibit the use of any “technical aids” deemed to give an athlete an advantage over another.’ Direct quote. Call it the ‘Oscar Pistorius Rule.’”

“What am I supposed to do, run the whole fucking race on my goddamn knees? This is bullshit. We need to call in the press on this one. Like now.

“I’m actually going to agree with you on this one, but only halfway.” Kenta really is starting to sound like a lawyer. “We do need to get this in the court of public opinion, but it won’t help at all if we have nothing but anger to go on. Always remember that the media is not your friend. Ever. They may make an uneasy ally, but they have only one priority, and that is to look out for themselves first. Never forget that.” He takes a deep breath, and swallows. “We will have a response by the close of business, Monday – a polite, very carefully worded reply. That is something neither you, nor I, nor anyone else in this van is prepared to give at this moment.”

I sulk in silence as the van rolls on. Kenta is probably right, but he doesn’t have to be so mean about it.

“Hey doll,” Miki half-whispers as she holds both of my hands in her one, “are you okay?”

“Naw man, I’m pretty fucking far from okay. But what can we do?” Her eyes are locked onto mine, and she actually seems to care. What the fuck happened to Miki?

“I don’t know, but there has to be something. You’ve got the finest legal minds in all of… well, this van at least, maybe Moniwadai, working for you now. We’ll recruit more help by morning I’m sure. I’ve been in worse scrapes than a mere formal protest and I’m still here.”

“Somehow I am not reassured.”

“If my answers frighten you then you should cease asking scary questions.” She releases my hands and drifts to the back with Kenta. After a brief conference, she’s on the phone. “Yeah Ben, hope it’s not too much of a bother.” Pause. “Send lawyers, guns, and money. The shit has hit the fan.” Pause. “No, you will not need to dump any bodies. Get me Sarii.” Pause. “Well, I guess you're gonna have to go wake her up now, won't you? I’ll wait.” Perhaps a minute or two passes before she speaks again, by which time she has a sizable grin. Apparently whatever is happening on the other end of the line is amusing to her.

“Sorry to wake you, doll. Your legal eagles have been looking for a chance to put on a happy face, no? Well I think I may have found you one.” Pause. “Nope, this is a pretty safe bet not to backfire. It’s not about me, it’s about Emi.” Pause. “Yes, that Emi.” Pause. “Sure thing. See you at the crack of noon.” She hangs up. “See, I told you I could pull some strings. I’ve got friends in low places, and you’ll get to know them too. We’re getting picked up at noon, be ready. And be cute.”

Do I want to? Do I really have a choice?

Kenta slides back up toward me. “I want you to take the next couple days off. If you can’t do that, then take it easy on your legs. Swim. Hit the weight room. Just don’t run.” I start to protest. “Wait, hear me out. You just put in your longest competition distance to date, and I saw you limping at the awards ceremony. Don’t try to tell me you’re not hurting.” He notes my pout and matches it with a pretty good approximation of one himself. “Look, there are two possibilities here. One is that you will be running with us next Saturday, in which case I want you fully recovered. The other is that you will not be running with us next Saturday, in which case a couple days off won’t hurt you either. It’s also possible none of us will be running if they throw out the entire result. Please, you have to understand I don’t ask this lightly, but as your captain and your friend… get some rest. No matter what, we’re all in for a long week.”
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Post by NekoDude » Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:29 am

SALLY

Ben’s tapping on my head with a cordless phone. That’s a hell of a way to be woken up. “Is anyone dead?” I ask, and he shakes his head. “Does anyone need to be dead?” He continues shaking his head. “Bail?” Nope, not that either. “Alright, who is it?”

“It’s Miki, and she says she needs a team of lawyers. Specifically, your team of lawyers.”

Well, fuck. That doesn’t sound very good. “I’m going to need a drink or three before I take this.” I look at Junpei, in whose lap I’d fallen asleep. He’s still comatose. “Would you mind making me a martini?”

“No problem boss, but you might want to wipe your chin. You’ve got something on it.” And it’s been there long enough to have dried. Ugh. I make my way to the nearest bathroom – which happens to be Kat’s – and splash my face with water, taking the towel with me afterward. That’d be one hell of a way to have an accident. Ben returns with a martini in one hand and the phone in the other.

“This better be important.” I take a large sip from my martini.

“Sorry to wake you, doll.” Miki sounds positively cheerful. “Your legal eagles have been looking for a chance to put on a happy face, no? Well I think I may have found you one.”

“The last time you said something like that, it cost me a lot of money. This won’t blow up too?”

“Nope, this is a pretty safe bet not to backfire. It’s not about me, it’s about Emi.”

“The runt with pogo sticks for legs?” It’s hard to imagine her in any sort of trouble… unless… no, she wouldn’t call me for that. Plenty of family lawyers out there.

“Yes, that Emi.”

“Well if she’s not dead or in jail, can’t this wait till morning? Or later? I’ll swing by and get both of you.”

“Sure thing. See you at the crack of noon.” The line goes dead.

I polish off the martini, rolling the olive around in my mouth for a while before chewing it up, then throw a pillow in Junpei’s lap, since it’s easier than trying to zip him up in his sleep. I guess I’d better see what the kids are doing. I make a quick trip to the wine cellar and check up on our guests to make sure I won’t be embarrassing them, but they’re all just soaking in the hot tub.

“We’re expecting more company tomorrow,” I announce as I step out into the pool room. “Evidently Emi has found herself in some sort of trouble, and she and Miki are coming up at noon. Depending on the nature of this trouble, I may or may not have to run some or all of you back after that.”

Hisao is first to speak, but all look concerned. “Is she alright? Last I’d heard, they’d won the race and everyone was happy.”

“I don’t know. We agreed it could wait until tomorrow. I have no details right now.” A race? Maybe I do need to know more. It would make planning a little bit easier. “I’ll let you know as soon as I do. Also, dinner will be a serve-yourself affair. Ben’s preparing a sashimi platter as we speak.” I wander back into the kitchen to call Miki back.

“Lawyers, Guns, and Money, Inc. How can we help you?”

“Not being a fucking smart-ass would be a nice start. I need to know more about the nature of this trouble, since we have company over already. Do we need to hustle them out?”

“Probably not, but who is it?”

“Junpei, Hisao, and Suzu.” I don’t really care if Emi wants my daughter around or not, I’m not chasing her off if she wants to stay.

“Shouldn’t be a problem. I’m sure they’ll hear all about it soon enough anyhow. Hang on a second.” I hear low murmurs in the background. “Actually, Kenta says he can bring us out himself, tomorrow or even tonight, if that’s cool.”

“As long as you and Emi don’t mind sleeping in Kat’s room, or on the couch, «mi casa es su casa». We’re just a little short on rooms.”

I hear more voices, then “We don’t care if we have to sleep in the stable. We’ll see you in about ninety minutes.”

I hope we have enough sashimi.
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Post by NekoDude » Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:30 am

SUZU

The first time I try to extend a leg under the water to Abe, he jumps. Once we lock eyes, he realizes it’s just me and relaxes again. Just play it cool, I try to tell him with my face. He reaches over and turns up the spa jets. Nice move.

The next time, I collide with another leg trying to cross the same space. I guess I can wait my turn. But a minute or two turns into five, and finally I turn to Neko. “Say, might it be best if we switched places? Or, they could.” I gesture at Abe and Hisao across from us, and both of them drop their heads and stare at the water. I guess they’re not too keen on standing up, then.

“Yeah, sure. Never been a problem before.”

She and I make the trade and resume our little games of footsie. Are you still good to go? I figured that’s why you didn’t want to stand up.This works better anyhow. The reach is shorter and Neko can keep her left – or only, really – leg along the wall. I have to surrender control of the jets, but they’re on full blast now anyhow.

“We’re expecting more company tomorrow,” says a figure in the doorway, and all four of us sit upright so fast the hot tub splashes over. “Evidently Emi has found herself in some sort of trouble, and she and Miki are coming up at noon. Depending on the nature of this trouble, I may or may not have to run some or all of you back after that.”

“Is she alright?” Hisao asks. “Last I’d heard, they’d won the race and everyone was happy.”

“I don’t know. We agreed it could wait until tomorrow. I have no details right now. I’ll let you know as soon as I do. Also, dinner will be a serve-yourself affair. Ben’s preparing a sashimi platter as we speak.” Sally wanders off to do whatever it is she does when pretending not to be checking up on us.

“Well that’s a bit of a buzzkill,” says Neko. “Anyone want to wager on this? I’ll put five hundred on her being knocked up.”

Abe can’t resist a tasty bet. “I’ll take that. I say she’s not.”

“You don’t even know her.” I give his leg a rub with my toes. “How could you begin to guess what kind of trouble she’s in?”

“You’re right, I don’t know her, but I know us. We breed horses, not people. Why would someone come to us with that kind of trouble?” He’s got a point.

Conversation takes a back seat once again to comfort, and we resume our previous slightly slouched positions for a few more minutes. Abe’s face takes on the same glazed look that Junpei had in the car, but I’m pretty sure that in this case, there’s nothing wrong. Suddenly his hand is pushing me away. “I… uh… better see if dad needs my help with dinner!” He launches himself out of the water, wraps a towel around his waist, and hurries into the kitchen – only both Neko and I can clearly see him turn left into the bathroom, rather than right into the food preparation area, just as Sally returns.

“What was that all about?”

“I guess it was getting a little too hot for him to handle.” Thanks, Neko. I knew you had my back. “What can you tell us?”
“Not much, except a change in plans. You can ask them yourselves, in about an hour and a half. Meanwhile, the sashimi tray is ready, or at least the half that Ben finished before the plans changed. Snack away, we’ll do a full dinner once everyone is here.” Then, just like that, she’s gone again. Might as well continue to soak for a moment.

“You know what, I think I need to cool down a bit myself.” Hisao vaults himself over the dividing wall into the pool, turns on the current, and starts a leisurely crawl.

I look at Neko. “I guess we’ll have to call this one a draw.”
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Post by NekoDude » Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:30 am

BEN

“Whatever you’ve finished of the sashimi platter will have to do. There’s been a change of plans.” Sally fixes herself another martini.

“I haven’t even made any wasabi.”

“Don’t worry about that. What do we have on hand that can feed nine or ten?”

“I think I can come up with something. How long do I have?”

“An hour and a half.”

Ninety minutes. It’s going to be very close.
“Guess I’d better get the oven warming.” I check the supplies. Chicken breasts, cheese, marinara sauce: check. Flour, bread crumbs, eggs: no bread crumbs, only bread. Better fire up the toaster. Spaghetti, butter, garlic: check. I can do this. If the Iron Chefs can whip something up from scratch in an hour, surely I can do it in ninety minutes with half my ingredients already prepared. I catch a glimpse of Abe rushing into the bathroom from the pool area. Good, I was about to go looking for you. When he does come out of the bathroom, he surprises me.

“Anything I can do to help? You look like you have your hands full.”

“Absolutely, I was about to go track you down. First, can you make some wasabi to go with the sashimi platter? The microwave will do fine. Put out some ginger and a stack of plates too. Then I need you to crumble up the bread that’s already in the toaster…”

With an extra pair of hands, it’s not even a struggle. Everything is ready to go with fifteen minutes to spare, being kept warm in the oven. “You sure picked a hell of a day to take up cooking. I really appreciate the help. Now go find something nice to wear, we want to make a good impression on our guests.”

He’s such a good kid. I really don’t want to send him home.
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Post by NekoDude » Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:31 am

KENTA

Anyone who says a woman can’t change clothes and pack a bag in fifteen minutes is a liar. All it takes is appropriate motivation. In the case of these two, an offer of chicken parmesan was sufficient. I bring my tiny car around to the gate, expecting to wait, but both of them are ready with bags in hand.

“Shotgun!” Miki jumps in the front seat.

“Fine by me, I don’t need much legroom,” says Emi as she climbs in back.

Miki chuckles. “Of course not. That would require legs.” I ignore the well-earned thump to the back of her head.

“I need my navigator up front anyhow,” I point out. “I’ve never been to this place.”

“Route 31 north, then drive for all of three minutes or so. I’ll let you know when we get close.”

Sounds simple enough, and it is. We ran further than this several hours ago. Motion-activated lights illuminate the path up to the house. Miki doesn’t even stop to knock, just opens the door and waves us in.

“I can feel my arteries hardening already,” whispers Emi.

“Good thing you’re officially on hiatus from training then, huh?” I smile at her. “Try to have fun and let us worry about the bullshit.”

“Right on time!” Ms. Rogers appears from around a corner. Logic tells me she has to be at least thirty-five, and is most likely considerably older than that, but she could easily pass for thirty. She embraces Miki, saying “Welcome home, love.” She turns to me. “You must be Kenta. If not, then Emi, you sure have changed since I saw you last.” And here I thought Neko got her sass from her Australian side. She turns to Emi and puts an arm around her. “Whatever it is, love, we’ll find a way to work it out.” She claps her hands. “But first, we eat. You can leave your bags on the couch for now. No arguments or food fights at the dinner table please.”

“Is my car okay there?” Nobody had told me where I’m supposed to park, and there’s no paved driveway.

“Should be fine. Last I checked, horses can’t drive.” She leads us to the dining room, where ten places are already set, and four people already seated: Neko, that new kid Hisao, Suzu, and… Junpei. Oh yeah. I almost forgot Miki hangs out with slackers like him. All ten places have wine glasses. “We left three seats together for you, but if you’d like to mix with us that’s fine too.” We accept the seats as offered, with Miki to my right and Emi to the right of her. A wine bottle is placed between Emi and Miki, another placed across the table, and one placed at each end. “Ben and I couldn’t agree – he said red for the marinara, I said white for the chicken – so there are two kinds of each. It’s your choice.”

“This should be fine,” Miki says, looking at the label on the nearest bottle. “We came here for thinking, not drinking.” She pours herself a glass just the same, turns to Emi who just nods, and pours her a glass as well. She then places the bottle in front of me. Sauvignon Blanc. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, I suppose. This drains the bottle, and the next I know, it has been replaced.

Next comes caesar salad, and two more people to fill out the table. “Kenta, Emi, this is our chef and horse trainer Ben, and his son and our stable master Abe. Although I employ them both, they are not servants. If there is anything you need, please ask me as your host.” Ms. Rogers raises her glass. “«The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.» Let’s eat.” The English language and I may be just casual acquaintances, but even I know where that comes from.

The wine and the salad are good. The main part of the meal is better. Over dinner, the three of us explain the situation regarding the protest, and everyone looks quite relieved that nobody actually stands accused of doing anything illegal.

“I can’t promise you anything,” Ms. Rogers tells us as the dishes are being cleared away, “but this does indeed sound like the kind of charitable case they’d want to take. It seems to me these officials would choose to follow the letter of the law while contradicting its intent. It just so happens my friends are among the finest in the land at that particular game. Unfortunately, the earliest we can speak to them is tomorrow morning. Until then, you are welcome to our hospitality. I’m sure Miki can fill you in on the entertainment options available, if she has not done so already. If you want to play cards, please use the kitchen table. This table is too high – or the chairs too low, it makes no difference – to be suitable for the purpose.” She glances toward the kitchen, smiles, and rubs her hands together. “Now for my favorite part: dessert.” Small plates of tiramisu are placed in front of each of us.

Emi looks a bit wobbly, though it in no way hampers her from diving into her sweets. I wonder how many times that wine glass got refilled tonight, while I was just finishing my first. Miki seems near as sober as I, though I noticed her pouring on several occasions. Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention to who picked up the glass afterward. Oh well, I’m pretty sure we’re not going anywhere tonight. Emi’s legs have been lying under her chair for the last half hour.

Gradually, people peel away from the table and don’t come back. Even Miki leaves us, and before long it’s just me, Emi, and Junpei, who oddly has remained in place.

“How are you doing?” I ask Emi.

“I think I ate too much.” It wasn’t the eating that I was worried about. “And you were right, my legs hurt. I’m not sure I can wear any of them right now.” She burps quietly. “Yup, definitely ate too much.”

“I’m pretty sure there’s a wheelchair around here somewhere,” Junpei offers. “Neko occasionally has leg problems too. Should I ask where it is?”

I nod yes while Emi shakes her head no. “If one of you can bring me my bag, I have a backup plan.”

Junpei is quicker to his feet than I am, but then stops himself. “Um, I don’t know what your bag looks like.”

“It’s the yellow one. If it’s not still on the couch, then it’s been moved.”

He returns with the bag mere seconds later, and places it on the chair between Emi and me. First she fetches out a bottle of pills, washing down two with the last of the wine from Miki’s glass. Then she pulls out a pair of knee pads. “I should be good to go.”

“Emi, why didn’t you tell me you were hurting?” I squeeze her hand. “I would have fetched your bag a long time ago.”

“And you would have also banned me from running for an extra day. It doesn’t matter now, I’ll be taking your advice whether I like it or not. But I am not riding around like a damn cripple. No way, no how. I’m also not going to just sit here. What else is going on?”

Junpei leans his chair back perilously to get a better look into the kitchen. “It looks like they’re playing mah jongg in there. For money.” Emi shakes off that idea. “We could use the living room coffee table for cards, or backgammon, or something like that.” She shakes that off too. “Hmm. Nobody was using the big screen when I fetched your bag. There are movies… and a Wii.” At that, Emi perks up.

“I could go for some Mario Kart right about now. What about you, Kenta?”

“Oh, why not.” I told you not to run, but I never said you couldn’t race.
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Post by NekoDude » Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:32 am

SHARKY

I always draw the short straw around the office – I mean just look at what they make me drive – but for once, my assignment sounds a bit less craptastic than usual. It would be nice if it could start on something other than a Sunday morning though.

When I pull up, the Rogers ranch seems more animated than I’ve ever seen before. Several people are on horseback, there is a little white Daihatsu Tanto parked crookedly in front (I’d even trade for one of those), and the atmosphere seems to be relaxed. Nobody rushes out to greet me, but likewise, nobody seems surprised by my arrival. This is not the response I expect for a ‘get your ass out of bed, we need you two hours ago’ panic call.

Well then, it looks like I have to announce myself. I’m about to knock when the door opens on its own. “Good morning, mister…”

“Suzuki. I’m here about the case.”

The girl nods and steps out of the way to let me enter. “Hey Snoozu, you know this guy?”

There is a girl seated on a beanbag on the floor, playing a video game on a large television – one of the Zelda titles, if memory serves. A mop of sea green hair covers the head that swivels my direction, and she eyes me inquisitively. “Nope, can’t say that I do. He’s kinda cute though, can I keep him?”

“I doubt you can afford his rates. Shark.” I catch that last word even though it was whispered while her back was turned. Turning back to me, she says, “I’ll let my friends know you’re here. Go ahead and make yourself comfortable.” Then she vanishes down a hallway.

I settle in on the couch while the girl on the floor unpauses her game. It seems so long ago that I had time for such frivolities myself, but it has actually been only three years or so since law school, then work, crowded the last of the fun out of my life.

The girl that let me in returns a moment later with three other people, only one of whom I recognize: Sarii. “Good morning, Daisuke. I’m glad you could make it on such short notice. Is there anything I can get you before we start? Coffee? Wine? A martini?”

“I think it’s a bit early in the day to start on the martinis. Could we push that back until lunch at least?”

She laughs and says, “Coffee it is then. Go ahead and take up places in the office, I’ll be back shortly.”

The same girl that greeted me at the door gestures with a bandaged arm and leads the way. After pausing to unlock the door, she ushers us all in and turns on the lights. “I want to thank you for coming too, and would like to introduce you to the Yamaku cross-country team – well, three quarters of it, anyhow. This is Kenta Takei, captain. This is Emi Ibarazaki, the one at the heart of this controversy. I’m Miki Miura. You may have heard of me.”

Indeed I have, Miss Miura. And very little of it good. I keep smiling. It doesn’t pay to insult my probable future client.

We take the most logical seats available: the three runners take the overstuffed red leather couch, and I take the one chair available to me. Sarii returns with a large pump-style thermos which presumably contains coffee. “It’s only half-full but that should get us started. I’ve asked Ben to bring some more around when it’s ready.” She sets the thermos on the corner of the large desk that dominates the room, then pulls styrofoam cups and sugar packets from a drawer. Finally, she grabs a small carton of half-and-half from the mini-fridge in the corner, pauses for a moment to sniff it, and sets it on the desk as well before taking her place in a tall, overstuffed red leather chair. “Help yourselves, I’m as awake as I want to be for the moment. I take it you all have been introduced?” I nod. “Then let’s get down to brass tacks. Basically, some prick of a coach from Fukushimaminami thinks Emi runs on illegal legs.”

“Is that so?” I notice for the first time that the tiny girl introduced to me as Emi is in fact wearing prosthetic legs. “Seems sort of scummy to me, but I wouldn’t put it past them. Do you have a copy of the complaint?”

“Sure do.” Kenta pulls a folded stack of paper out of his pocket and hands it to me, and I in turn hand it to Sarii.

“Would you mind?”

“Of course not.” She runs off a quick photocopy of the stack, and I give the original back to Kenta before skimming my copy. Competitive advantage. Age. Signed ‘Atsuo Watanabe.’

“Yep, I can confirm this is the work of one or more first-class douchebags. This isn’t a protest from the coach, or even the athletic director. It’s a protest from the principal. They had to have planned this in advance, just in case you beat them. I take it Fukushimaminami finished second?” Nods all around. “Then I’m willing to bet you’d have gotten this protest no matter who you beat. It just would have come from another school. That said, Watanabe really is a first-class douchebag, and I wouldn’t mind taking him down another peg.”

“You know him?” Sarii looks surprised.

“You could say that. He was my professor of political science for three different classes. Anything he didn’t agree with was automatically wrong – we all called him «Asshole» Watanabe behind his back. It looks like he got himself demoted, and I can’t say I’m sorry to hear it. Emi, are those the legs you used to run the race?”

“Oh, no, these are just walking legs.”

“Would you mind if I had a look at the evidence?”

When she returns with a pair of spring legs, I can’t stifle my reaction before it escapes my lips. “Shit. Err, rather… I think we may have a fight on our hands.” All three runners look crestfallen, and Emi might even cry. Those eyes! “Hey, hey, don’t push the panic button just yet. I do have a plan. First thing tomorrow, we’re filing a motion to allow Emi to compete at…” I glance at the papers in my hand. “...at Sapporo, next… next week? No wonder you were in such a hurry. Don’t worry, this may actually work to our advantage. I am prepared to argue that pending a decision on the legality of the legs – something I’m going to need your help with – it would be prejudicial to ban Miss Ibarazaki from competition. As for the age issue, I’m not terribly concerned. There’s precedent for that one. In the meantime, continue to prepare for next weekend’s race as if this protest didn’t exist. If anyone asks uncomfortable questions, refer them to me.”

“You said you needed our help.” Indeed Miss Miura. What a role reversal, no? “How so?”

“Well you see, I’ve been put in charge of a research staff of one: me. I know the law, but I don’t know the IAAF rules referenced in the protest. What I need from the three of you is to obtain a copy of said rules, and go through it with a highlighter and mark anything you think even just might be relevant to our case. Also, any news items you can collect about the similar case of Oscar Pistorius would be most appreciated, especially if they give any indication when his case might be resolved.”

“I’m on the job too,” says Sarii. “Give me a moment and I’ll see about getting you that copy of the rules.” She has already produced a laptop and powered it up. The rest of us use the moment of down time to pump ourselves some more coffee. “Does this look like the right one to you?” She spins the laptop around for us to see.

Kenta glances at the protest. “Those would appear to be the rules in question. The date is a match.”

“Very good.” She makes a few swipes at the touch pad. “It should be here some time Tuesday.” She produces a Sony VAIO subnotebook from a drawer – cute and tiny, yet impressively capable. Kind of like Emi. “Feel free to look up those news articles. Print what you like, it’s all networked. There’s more paper in the cabinet under the printer if you need it. Also, don’t feel like you have to stay cooped up in here. Research from anywhere you want – but if you drop it in the pool or something, I will expect a replacement.”

“I don’t need paper copies made for me. It would be easier if you just send me a single daily update with anything you find.” I hand business cards to all three runners. “Similarly, I’ll keep you advised about any progress on our end. Last, I’d like to offer my apology for some of my language earlier. It was not proper of me to refer to our adversaries as douchebags. That would be an insult to feminine hygiene.”

I figure it is probably wise to take my leave before the martini glasses come out, or I will be stuck here all day. I’d like to question the girl, but not with everyone else watching. There are many things a client will say behind closed doors to their attorney that they would not admit to their own family. I also don’t like talking third-party business here. It feels like the place has ears.

I leave the Rogers ranch house with a bounce in my step. I might or might not win this case, since it is so intimately tied to another one already winding its way through the system, but win or lose, the firm – and in particular, the crack team of Me, Myself, and I – will get noticed. This might even be fun. I haven’t even gotten the engine running yet, and already there’s a text message incoming. Emi. “We need to talk.”

“Not in there. Too many eyes and ears.” Whatever it is, I figure that if she wanted the rest to know, she would have already told me. I take off my tie while I wait for a reply. I always have detested wearing a noose.

My reply comes in the form of a tap at my window. “So, where are we having lunch?”
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Post by NekoDude » Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:32 am

EMI

“Level with me. What do you think our chances are?” I give him a look over. He looks more approachable without the tie, not that he ever had the arrogance I usually would expect of a lawyer.

He cranes his neck to check for cross-traffic before pulling out – northbound. Away from Moniwadai. “Frankly, I can’t tell you. Your long term fate rests in the hands of another governing body entirely, one over which I have no control whatsoever. The IAAF has already ruled against Pistorius, but the case is being appealed. Unless we can demonstrate that those rules don’t apply to you, I’m afraid you’re in his boat.”

“I don’t care for boats, unless I’m captain. Too much rocking, and sinking, and shouting, and drowning. The seafood is fresh though, so I suppose they have that going for them. What about short term then?”

“Short term, things look considerably brighter. It takes months for rules committees to reach a decision on where to have breakfast, or what color their logo should be. It should be a pretty simple matter to stall the protest for the remainder of your season.”

“You know, Miki and I were discussing the matter of advantage.” I see a flicker of displeasure cross his face before he regains his painted-on smile. “The springs might be an advantage on a level track, and as you said, that’s not our decision to make. But for the most part, these races aren’t on a track, they’re on gravel and dirt, up and down hills. They are most certainly not an advantage there. Had I not had her running in front of me and calling out the loose patches, I’m sure I would have taken more tumbles than I did.” I hold up a scraped elbow long enough to let him get a glance. “I get the impression there’s some history between the two of you.” There it is again. “I’m an expert at painting on a smile, and also at spotting when the mask slips. You grimace every time you hear her name.”

“Actually, I had never met her personally until today, but she has been a client of our firm in the past. More than that, I am not at liberty to say.”

“And is she what you meant by ‘too many eyes and ears?’ If so, I’m inclined to agree with you. I’m sure the mere fact that I’m in your car will be the subject of speculation throughout the school by this time tomorrow.” If not the entire town.

“Well no, not exactly. It’s that house. I don’t know if there are ghosts living in the walls or what… but nothing said in there stays a secret for very long. Also, there seemed to be some sort of party going on.”

“It wasn’t planned that way. In addition to the residents, there were already three guests when we showed up after the meet last night.”

“Didn’t that make things a bit crowded?”

“It could have, but it didn’t. At first it seemed we might be short on sleeping space, but Suzu stayed up all night playing games. Or at least I think she did. She was there when we went to bed, and she was still there when we got up.”

“I think we were introduced, briefly, only Miki called her ‘Snoozu’... right before she called me a shark. I would have hoped she’d have a bit more respect for my profession.”

“That was respect, coming from her. It was her idea to call you in the first place. Don’t let her get under your skin, or it’ll be a long time before you stop itching.”

A few moments pass in silence before he asks, “Well, where did you want to go?”

“I don’t know, you’re driving away from everything I’m familiar with. But somewhere with a good salad would be nice. I ate way too much last night, so I need to be responsible today.”

“Hmm, I think I know where to go then.”

It seems we’re driving through an underground tunnel for days, before surfacing just long enough to spot a sign. Tohoku University. Then we’re back underground for a bit. When we emerge into daylight again, downtown Sendai sprawls directly before us.
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Post by NekoDude » Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:32 am

MIKI

“Where’s Emi?” Kenta has the little computer balanced on one hand, and is typing with the other.

“Fuck if I know. She got in the shark’s car and took off with him.”

He closes his eyes and takes one deep breath, then another. “I sure hope she knows what she’s doing.”

“I think she knows exactly what she’s doing. Her size, the pigtails, the puppy-dog eyes… don’t let them make you forget she’s a year older than we are.” Just the same, I take a moment to fire off a message to her. “Don’t let the shark bite. Holler if you need help.”

“It sounds like you knew this was going to happen.”

“Yes and no… I knew she was capable of doing something like this, but I didn’t know she’d choose now. Besides, we don’t know just what she has in mind. Maybe this really is about the case.”

Kenta gets that look he gets when he doesn’t know what to say next. It’s not quite a pout, and it’s not quite a duckface. Finally, he shrugs and resumes tapping at the computer in his hand. “I don’t know what we’re supposed to find that he doesn’t already know. I think maybe he’s just assigning us busywork to keep us distracted.”

“Could be. I don’t plan on doing much until that book gets here. That’s one place I think he really does need a few extra sets of eyes.”

“So how long are we planning on staying? Are we waiting on Emi to come back or what?” He’s not comfortable here. Bummer.

“You can take off if you want. She’s got a ride now, and I was thinking I might bug Ben into logging some driving time with me. Take her bag if you go, and leave it with Rin. She’ll probably want her other legs before I get back. I wonder if she thought to take the kneepads.” Sometimes it’s just fun to watch him squirm.
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Now on to material I haven't posted before.

Post by NekoDude » Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:46 am

DAISUKE

Within seconds of exiting the tunnel, both of our phones buzz to life. Emi glances at hers and puts it back in her coat pocket, so I hand her mine. “I can’t drive and read, can you help me out here?”

“It’s from Sally.” So you’re on familiar terms already. “All it says is: ‘behave.’”

“Oh that’s a riot.” But it does mean she knows we left together. “Thank you, I’ll definitely take that under advisement.” I shake my head and chuckle. Just who is telling whom to behave? “Anyhow, we have two choices. We can go upscale, but we’ll be there the better part of an hour before we eat, or we can go basic. The food is still quite good, but it won’t take all day to get service. Not so many suits around either.”

“I have no love for stuffed suits. Let’s keep this casual.”

“The Green Mark it is, then.”

“Want me to send a reply?”

“Nah, we’ll be there in a minute or two.”

Pulling up to the parking lot next to the hotel, I spot someone refilling the Boss Coffee machine next to the stand that dispenses the parking slips. “Excuse me,” I ask while rolling down the window, “would you mind punching a ticket for me?” Otherwise, I’d have to get out and do it myself, and to do so would be to hit him in the backside with my door. He hands me a salmon-colored square of paper. “Thanks, I didn’t want to crowd you.” I toss the paper on the dashboard, and find us a parking spot.

Inside, the place is about half full. Whether we arrived before or after the lunch rush, or whether there is no such rush on Sundays, I’m not quite sure. Regardless, quieter is better and I’ll take my good fortune where I can find it. A waitress escorts us to a two-person table near the back. This is also good. I’ll take kitchen noises over eavesdroppers any day. She leaves us with menus, tea, and a basket of bread.

I’m always partial to the steak and potatoes here, so I don’t even bother with the menu. While Emi studies hers with great intensity, I butter and munch on a piece of bread. I can feel her kicking her legs, since it transmits through her elbows and into the table. “The grilled chicken caesar salad sounds good,” she says with a nod and a smile as she sets down the menu. The table stops shaking.

“I have yet to hear of anything here that wasn’t good, so that’s probably a safe choice. What was it you wanted to talk about?”

“Oh we touched on some of it in the car, that bit about advantage.” Please don’t look at me like that. I could get lost in those eyes.

Our waitress returns. “Have you decided, or would you like a few more minutes?”

“I believe we’re ready.” I look at Emi across the table. “Would you like to start?”

“Sure. I’ll have the grilled chicken caesar salad please, and coffee.”

The waitress jots this down so fast, I know I won’t be able to read it later. “Excellent choice. And you?”

“The butterfly steak and home-fried potatoes, thanks. Coffee as well.”

“Naturally.” She remembers me. “Soup or salad?”

“Salad, vinaigrette.”

A few scratches of the pen later, she bows slightly, and heads for the kitchen.

“So this advantage thing… that hardly seems like something we need to keep secret, although it is quite valuable. If we can demonstrate that what you say is true, that half of the protest goes up in a puff of smoke.” I butter another piece of bread. “You might want some of this while it’s still hot.”

“I had a carb overdose last night, but thanks. What else was there?”

“The age question. I can make that go away too, if we can provide a compelling reason why you’re still at that school. This actually isn’t an unusual issue. Since the Japanese school year is so different from most everyone else, a lot of students lose some time transferring in from overseas.” The waitress delivers our cups of coffee. I pour sugar into mine and stir, while Emi uses only cream. “Other arguments that have worked in the past are illness, injury, bereavement, you name it. About the only reason that won’t fly is if you’re still there because you failed a year. That does affect athletic eligibility.”

“Would spending a year learning to walk again count?”

What. “I think that highly likely to be deemed a compelling reason. Would you care to explain?” I gnaw at the bread idly, both because it’s good, and to let her know I’m done talking for a while.

She closes her eyes and laces her hands together. After a few seconds, her eyes open again, but her gaze seems to be focused somewhere behind me. “I was eleven.” A whole rainbow of emotions wash across her face at once, and her eyes start to water. “We had just finished running for the day, and we were headed back home, when…” Her eyes close, and she shudders visibly. The tears start to flow, and I place a napkin between her linked hands. “I – I’m sorry, I can’t do this here,” she sobs while blotting away tears.

“I understand completely. It’s probably best if I record this anyhow, so you won’t have to go through the pain of repeating it. If you’d like me to take you into the office today, I’m pretty sure we’ll have the place more or less to ourselves. Or, if you prefer, we can do this some time in the next few days. I already have enough information to file that motion tomorrow.”

My salad arrives. Since Emi has already declined the bread, I feel bad that I’m the only one thus far with anything to eat. I place the salad bowl in the center of the table between us. “Go ahead and take some if you like. It may be a few minutes until the main courses come along.” She sniffles, picks up a fork, and spears a tomato slice.

Silence is considerably less awkward when all parties are chewing, so I let her take most of the salad. I’ve got the bread to hold me over. I mop up the leftover dressing with the crust just as the waitress returns – with another salad.

“I had no idea the lady would like a salad to go with her salad. Here, have another.”

It’s the little things like this that keep me coming back here. Since we now have two bowls, we split this one as she tops off our coffee and takes the empty bread basket. By the time we finish with the second salad, the main courses arrive. We end up swapping some of those as well. Emi insists I taste the chicken she has deemed ‘excellent’, and I give her a bit of the steak. She won’t touch my fried potatoes, however. I guess she meant it about the carbs.

“Should we do dessert?”

She shakes her head. “I’ll pass. I’ve been bad enough. Between the pasta and the bread and the wine last night, I shouldn’t have eaten this much today.”

Wine, huh? “«Ain’t no party like a Gatsby party.»” This draws a quizzical look. “So what would you like to do? Office, or re-schedule?”

“If you don’t mind, I think I’d like to do this on my home ground. Would that be a problem?”

“I didn’t bring the video camera. I went straight from home to the ranch without stopping at the office on the way. I thought it was an emergency. Besides, too many eyes and ears?”

“Oh! I meant to do this at the school. I bet we can borrow some gear.”

“Probably, but it’s a whole lot easier to use ours. It does timestamps and ID codes and other things like that. It helps keep the other side from challenging the validity of our depositions. If it weren’t for all that, I could just use my phone.”

“Well I’m not training for the next couple days, so when do you expect to be in the area again?”

“Tomorrow. I have to provide the school with a notarized statement that no matter what, they’re not responsible for your legal bills. Otherwise they’ll want to hire their own counsel.” And that would be bad, because I’d really like an excuse to see you again.

“That might work.” She pulls her phone from the coat hanging on her chair and fires off a message, then leaves it on the table as if expecting a quick response. Unsurprisingly, she gets one. “What time would work for you?”

“I need to deliver the statement by 5 o’clock, but after that I’m not in any particular rush.”

She thumbs out another message and sets the phone back down, then sips at her coffee a bit. When the phone buzzes again, she just glances at it and nods. “We’ve got a club room reserved for us from five to eight, though we can hold it later if we need to. Will that work?”

“All we need is quiet, a table and chairs, and a place to set up my tripod.”

“Check, check, and check. Also tea and sandwiches, but I can bring coffee if you prefer.”

“Tea is tradition, but coffee is the blood of life. I’m fine either way though.”

“Thank you so much. I really think it will be easier to do this on friendly ground.”

“Don’t let my office mates know you think they’re unfriendly. They might have to hurt you.” Shit. I’m glad she laughed at that.

***

It’s mid-afternoon by the time we get to the gates of Yamaku, but at least I know where to park tomorrow, where to file the statement, and where to meet Emi afterward. All in all, it’s been a good, productive day. After watching to make sure she gets back into her comfort zone, I fire off my response to Sarii.

“Always.”
Last edited by NekoDude on Mon Nov 03, 2014 3:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Neko Story: Book 1 (...And Nakai Makes Three) releas

Post by NekoDude » Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:49 am

NEKO

“Thanks, Ben. As always, you’re the best.” I give a wave as he pulls away, and hurry to my dorm room. I wouldn’t have minded leaving a bit earlier to have a bit of down time, but any time I hitch a Monday morning ride with Ben, Abe always gets out the door at the last possible second. Although it then takes only two minutes, if that, for Ben to drive around to the gates of Yamaku, that’s two fewer minutes I have at my disposal. Still, if I’m not going home next weekend, I was damn well going to get two nights of sleep in my own bed this weekend.

It was nice having a casual dinner again, just the four of us. Mum had even taken Junpei back when she dropped off Hisao and Suzu, much to my surprise. I expected she wouldn’t mind another night with her bed-warmer. Is she actually worried about keeping up appearances again? Or was it business-related? Regardless, it was a pleasant change to just talk. Ben still hasn’t decided if he’s going to send Abe to Yamaku. It’s the only high school in the area, but it’s also expensive, and he has no ailment that warrants an emergency medical staff on hand, and no condition that requires specialized teaching. Then again, neither do I. There may be some bits missing, but everything I have works just fine. I wouldn’t trade my eyes or my ears for an arm and a leg.

The moment I get through the door, I start to change out of my casual clothes. It’s not until I turn on the light that I notice I’m not alone. “Bloody hell, you’re still in bed? My bed?”

It takes a moment for Miki to realize where she is. “Oh, no wonder the alarm didn’t go off. I was expecting you to come back and I didn’t want to sleep alone. Looks like I did anyhow.”

“You know, you could have asked me. That works sometimes.”

“There was too much crazy going on. I barely even saw you around, between worrying after Emi, and dealing with Kenta, and then Suzu crashed about noon and we had to carry her upstairs and drag her back here later.”

“Yeah, she seems to alternate between sleeping at random and not sleeping at all when she’s with us. Maybe it’s something in the water. Whatever it is, it seems to work – for a while. Anyhow… move your arse! I need to get changed and so do you.” I sit down on the end of the bed and start swapping arms.

She moves her arse alright. Directly into my face.

***

We have Mr. “Sam I Am” Kai again today. What happened to Asamiya? He didn’t tell us he was planning on an absence. Maybe Miki knows, she seems to have the skinny on things like this. “Good morning. Once again I would ask that if you are not in your assigned seat for any reason, please let me know so as to avoid a case of mistaken identity.” Nobody answers. “Thank you then, for giving me a sporting chance at remembering your names. Miss Oh, would you care to deliver the morning announcement?”

“It would be my honor.” A rail-thin girl with glasses begins reading from a memo. “Our cross-country team finished first at the meet at Yamagatahigashi.” I notice you didn’t use the word win. “Unfortunately, the result is in dispute. The administration would like to remind all of you that it is improper to speculate on this with any outside agencies. If anyone has further questions to ask of you, please refer them to school staff. Attorneys are involved.”

“Yeah, ours.” I regret opening my mouth even before it stops moving.

“Excuse me Miss…” Kai checks his seating chart. “...Miss Rogers, would you care to share, or are you speculating?

“Neither. I’m not speculating, I was there. But I am still not particularly inclined to discuss the matter.”

“You were at the race? That would explain why you weren’t here Saturday.” Kai starts to make a note on his chart.

“Not at the race, no. But I was at the strategy meeting that followed, considering it happened at my dinner table. Our team is in good hands with Muramoto and Associates. The chief field agent on this case is Daisuke Suzuki. He looks a bit like Tadahito,” I say while waving in his general direction, “only taller, older, and in a more expensive suit. Be nice to him, he’s on our side.”

***

I see Emi and Rin on the roof at lunch, and decide to stop to see how she is doing since I didn’t see her again after she took off with Daisuke. She practically pounces on me, throwing her arms around me so fast my own are pinned to my sides.

Thank-you-thank-you-thank-you for your family’s help in all this! I don’t know where I’d be without it.”

“Probably giving an interview to a school-appointed lawyer. I’m sure they have some good ones as well, but they probably aren’t as hard-working as ours. Anyway, don’t thank me, thank my mum. She’s the one that put up the retainer, not me. How’d your lunch session go?”

“Well enough I suppose, but before I could get into details, Daisuke said we should record everything so we rescheduled for today. He said he had to drop off papers anyhow.”

“So that’s why you need the radio room. I cleared the schedule for the afternoon and evening, but I hope you didn’t promise him gourmet dining. We have zero cooking facilities.”

“His only real request was coffee, and I think I can arrange that, even if it’s canned. I did promise sandwiches, so I need to run to the convenience store after class.”

“I thought you weren’t allowed to run for a while.”

“Not literally run. You know what I mean.” She pouts at me.

“Save your pouting for later, but I’ll take care of the sandwich fixings.” Or more accurately, Ben will. “Hisao makes some pretty awesome coffee, if you care to ask for his help. Just don’t leave anything behind for the rats.”

“There’s more than one?” asks Rin. “I’ve only seen one. Maybe he’s just popular.” Keep believing that if it makes you feel better.
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Re: The Neko Story: Book 1 (...And Nakai Makes Three) releas

Post by NekoDude » Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:54 am

HISAO

I have already finished eating by the time Neko shows up in the radio room, and her lunch is almost cold. “Sorry about that, if I’d have known you’d be delayed I would have left it warming.” I hand her the plastic container once she bounces down on the couch, and she pops the lid. “Curry again?” It’s something in sauce, piled on rice.

“Nope, adobo. Ben wanted to use up the remaining chicken, but we didn’t have any curry fixings left. So, as usual, he improvised.” She takes a bite, chews a bit, and nods while pointing with her fork. “I swear he’d make a great Iron Chef. Want a bite?”

It’s sweet, sour, hot, and salty all at once – all four elements of flavor, according to the Chinese tradition. “That’s really good. Where does this come from?”

“The Philippines, just like Ben and Abe. It’s sort of a Spanish-Chinese fusion. Anyhow, I wanted to ask you for a favor.” She takes a bite, then extends another for me.

“Mmm-kay.” I don’t like talking with my mouth full, but I also don’t want to swallow prematurely.

“We need you to make some coffee. Not like right now, but a few hours earlier than you normally do.”

“We?”

“Okay, not so much ‘we’. Mostly just Emi. She’s got a meeting in here at five, and you make better coffee than Suntory.”

Wow, thanks. And to think I only started doing it because I was going broke buying it in cans. “How much do you think she needs, and does she want it hot or cold?”

“I forgot to ask.” She punches at her phone with her pinky between bites without setting down her fork. I’ve seen her perform similar displays, but it’s still impressive how efficiently and effortlessly she does things with one hand that would take both of mine. “I said she should just text you directly, no point in playing messenger now that you’re on board.”

“Of course I am. So is half the student body, should you need them. Even the Student Council has offered whatever services they can provide, and I know there’s no love lost between them and the track club. Everyone seems to be taking this rather personally.”

She nods, and finishes her current bite. “Miki was pretty sure they would, and she has a pretty good feel for such things. Kenta was spot-on as well.” The meat is now gone, and she mixes the leftover sauce into the rice and starts in on that. “There’s a pretty good sense of community here, even if there seems to be a lot of back-biting and in-fighting. Like I said, everyone is a little bit broken, but here we don’t have to hide it, and that gives us a sense of solidarity. Some can’t see, some can’t hear, some have to strap on bits of plastic and metal just to get around, some can’t walk at all, and then there are those who are not so obvious, like you. Don’t be afraid to show your imperfections here. You might even find you’re not alone.”

“I’m not alone, Nurse has already assured me of that. He wasn’t able to be any more specific though. Confidentiality, ya know.”

My phone buzzes. “2 liters, black, hot, unsweetened. Stay awesome.” How many people are going to be at this meeting anyhow? I hope I have enough dark roast for the week, since I doubt this will be the last afternoon meeting. I am reminded of something Mutou said about supernovae: “However big you think it is… it’s bigger than that.”
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Re: The Neko Story: Book 1 (...And Nakai Makes Three) releas

Post by NekoDude » Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:00 am

EMI

“I’ve taken depositions under worse conditions, don’t worry about it. I’d rather have the door closed as well, it keeps the riff-raff out.” Daisuke remains crouched over the video tripod he’s setting up, but can’t resist a glance toward Miki, who is busy fixing herself a sandwich.

“I do suppose we have to put up a barrier, since we’ve been afflicted by a bit of a rat plague. Any trash, and any food we don’t eat, we have to pack out or lock up.” Not my fault, but I try to look apologetic just the same.

“I am less concerned with the four-legged variety of vermin than the two-legged type. The four-legged ones generally don’t have much to say. Would you mind getting in position so I can aim the camera? And Miki, if you’re finished, could you take my seat for a moment? It would make it easier to be sure I’m not going to block the shot myself.” It sounds like he’s done that before.

I sit in the middle of the love seat, arms extended to either side to help simulate what it might look like with two people on it. Miki spins the office chair around and sits in it backward, arms resting across the top of the seat back and sandwich in hand – ham, turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, alfalfa sprouts. I bet she used mayo, mustard, and horseradish sauce, too.

“Alright, I think that’s good. Go ahead and move to the couch and we’ll get started.” The red light goes on, and he walks out front. Miki still hasn’t gotten up, so he taps her on the shoulder. She vacates the chair in a most un-ladylike fashion. I wonder if she even cares that we’re on camera, or if it’s me she was trying to flash. In any case, I now know the knickers match the skirt.

Daisuke takes over the chair with a normal posture, then picks up a single piece of paper from the coffee table as I scoot to my right to make room for Miki. After reciting the date, time, and case file number, he asks us to introduce ourselves. With that out of the way, he dives straight into questions.

“So Miss Miura, you are of the belief that spring-loaded prosthetic legs such as those used by Miss Ibarazaki in the race at Yamagatahigashi do not provide a competitive advantage under cross-country course conditions. Would you care to explain?”

“Sure. For starters, Emi stumbled badly enough to put a hand to the ground on no less than three occasions, and once took what I can only describe as a near face plant.” I hold up the wounded elbow to corroborate. “I don’t think anyone else sketched more than once.”

“Could you please define the term ‘sketch’ for us please?” I’m sure he knows exactly what she means, but a person of an older generation likely would not.

“Oh sorry, it means to make a bad landing. If anything but your feet hit the ground when you didn’t mean for them to, then you sketched.”

“Thank you. How do you know that Miss Ibarazaki was encountering these difficulties?”

“I was right in front of her and heard every one. I didn’t enjoy watching her get up from the last one on her own, but I wasn’t sure whether or not the rules would let me help her, so I didn’t.”

“Is it typical for teammates to run together like this?”

“Some teams do it, some don’t. It mostly depends on the type of runners involved. Some start slow and end fast, some maintain a steady pace, and others go out hard and then fade. It’s not unusual for the fourth team member to go for a jackrabbit start and try to burn up the energy of anyone foolish enough to follow. We were doing it though because a patch of loose dirt or gravel doesn’t have much effect on me. I might turn an ankle if I get careless, but Emi could get seriously injured since she can’t feel the ground slipping beneath her until it’s too late. I would just put up my hands – well, a hand and this…” she says as she holds up the bandaged arm, “...to let her know what was coming.”

“There are researchers who claim the energy return from spring-loaded legs means a runner so equipped expends much less energy than someone on natural legs. How does this compare with your own experience?”

“Emi’s faster than me over a lap or two on a track, if that’s the entire race. Normally she can hit the afterburners and she’s just gone.” She snaps her fingers on the word gone. “But by the time we got back to the stadium for the final lap, she was completely drained. She had nothing left for a final kick and finished a good ten seconds or so behind me even though we entered the stadium almost side by side.”

“Is there anything else you might be able to add on the matter of advantage?”

“Yes. Emi is fast. She’s the fastest person around here in a straight line or a wide curve on a hard, level surface. But she has to slow down more than the rest of us for tight curves, of which there are many on cross-country courses. I’ve even noticed that she doesn’t seem comfortable on the inside lane at the track. Luckily, she’s fast enough in qualifying that she’s rarely in the inside lane when running a race that really counts.”

“Thank you Miss Miura. Miss Ibarazaki, what is your position on the matter of advantage?”

“It’s a load of crap. It’s been two days since the race, and I haven’t even been able to wear the running legs, let alone practice with the team.” This has more to do with them being extremely tightly fitted for maximum energy transfer and stability than it has to do with the feet, but it’s true nonetheless. “Even today I’m not able to walk in my normal legs without some degree of pain.” Also true, if a bit misleading. My legs hurt half the time just from normal training, but I don’t even tell Nurse about that. “Jumping is also a bit of a gamble for me, so there are places I had to slow down to avoid obstacles rather than hurdling over them as many others chose to do. There was even a fallen log in the course.”

“I’d forgotten about that,” Miki chimes in, “and yeah, all three of those ahead of me just jumped over it or jumped on it. I didn’t look back to see what you did.”

“I jumped onto it as well, but I had to be careful jumping back off. It’s not that hard to snap the connection between the socket and the spring if I land crooked. As you already pointed out, the legs are a lot better going forward than sideways.” My size didn’t help either.

“Thank you, ladies. Is there anything else you would like to add on this matter?” His smile could be almost described as smug. Good thing he has his back to the camera.

“Yes, I do have one thing left to add.” I look straight into the camera, and hold up one of the running legs which had been stashed under the coffee table. “I didn’t choose these, and if anyone has a way to grow me a new pair of legs, I’m quite willing to make the trade. But until then, they’re all I’ve got for running, and I’m not planning on stopping.”

With that, Daisuke stops the recording, and briefly flips through it on the camera’s fold-out display to make sure it recorded correctly. Once this is confirmed, Miki takes her leave. He removes the disc and inserts another blank.

“Would you like me to make you a sandwich while you do your thing over there?”

“No, no, I’m not here to eat up all of your food, though I will take some more coffee.” He’s already gone through two cups since we started, and it’s not even six yet. Oh well, I’m not going to be the one up all night. I plan to be on the track in the morning.

“Don’t worry about it, Neko had it delivered from her house.”

“Oh! In that case, I’ll take it,” he says as he jumps up to build himself a sandwich. “So long as it’s on their dime and not yours. Otherwise I feel like I’m double-billing.”

“Huh?”

“Well I’d have gotten a bite on the way home and charged it to the expense account, which the Rogers family is paying for. If I eat their food now, it’s pretty much the same thing, right?” He shrugs and piles on meat.

“Food, coffee, what’s the difference?”

“School coffee, right? Your teachers are very lucky to have this, it’s much better than our office swill.”

“No, actually it was made by a fellow student. Don’t worry though, I’m pretty sure he’ll be compensated as well.” By Neko personally, no doubt.

“Let me know when you’re ready to address the other issue we touched on over lunch yesterday. I just wanted to get to the advantage question out of the way first, since it’s easier to organize things when the party gets smaller rather than larger.” Makes sense to me.

“The sooner, the better. It’s not going to get any easier just sitting here. I’ll close up the containers while you eat, and we’ll get this over with that much quicker.” He nods and chews as I snap the lids on, stopping occasionally to wash it down with coffee. I’m glad I got through both of mine before anyone else showed up. His little dinner break gives me five minutes to think about what I’m going to say, but I’m still no more sure at the end than I was before. I guess I just have to wing it.

“Alright then, are you ready?” On my nod, he starts the camera up again, and introduces me again. I suppose someone might see one session and not the other. “Miss Ibarazaki, the second point of the protest is the claim that you should not be eligible to run for Yamaku at all due to your age. Could you please explain why you are a year older than your classmates?”

“Certainly. When I was eleven and lost my legs, it was decided to place my rehabilitation ahead of my education, and I lost a year healing up and learning to walk and run again. That, and I’d already lost a couple months from being in a coma already.” There. I got that out of the way without losing my composure. I can get through this.

“Who made this decision?”

“I think Mother Nature did, mostly. I was two months out of the loop when I woke up, and it was another few weeks before I was even capable of getting out of the bed under my own power. By then, trying to catch up on schoolwork seemed rather unimportant. Besides, I had… other issues to come to terms with.”

“Could you please explain?” He’s keeping the questions very short and open-ended.

“The most significant one would be finding out that my father had not survived the accident.” Keep moving! You can get through this before the anxiety shuts you down! “By the time I woke up in the hospital, it was far too late. I was not even able to visit the gravesite for several months, and I found that nobody really understood the great big empty hole in my heart. Not even my mother. She had had months to come to terms with it, which I did not. Also, knowing that I was going to pull through helped keep her going. What did I have to look forward to? They thought I might never walk again, let alone run.” I blink back the tears as best I can, but I don’t need to see, just speak. “I proved them wrong then, and I will continue to prove them wrong now. To honor the memory of that which I have lost, I must continue as best I still can: one foot in front of the other, one step, one day, one race at a time.”
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Re: The Neko Story: Book 1 (...And Nakai Makes Three) releas

Post by NekoDude » Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:04 am

DAISUKE

I let her cry for the better part of a minute before I declare the deposition closed and turn off the camera. Let the bastards choke on that. We knew this would come to tears, so she had come prepared and didn’t need me to jump to the rescue with a box of tissues or anything like that. What I didn’t predict is that I would be crying too. I write the case number, date, and time on the disc and file it away with the first one, then take the seat next to Emi. Screw professionalism. Be a human being first.

She seems even smaller than usual, if that is possible, and I find it rather easy to imagine her as a frightened eleven-year-old, finding out that her father is dead and that she may never walk again. By comparison, my own past traumas seem rather mild, and I feel a sense of shame about the inappropriateness of my own reaction to them back then. Just the same, my own troubles had a direct impact on who I am today, probably just as much as Emi’s did on who she has become, and who she has yet to become.

I place my hand on her back so lightly that only my fingertips make contact, and this is still sufficient to send her into shivers. Since she doesn’t pull away from the touch, I let my palm rest flat. Maybe more contact will be preferable to a very light one. We sit that way for what seems like an eternity, her flood of tears slowly receding to a trickle. I get the sense that she’s not done crying, she has just run out of tears to do it with.

“You know, it’s alright if you want to cry. There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I’m done asking questions, and I’m ready to break down the gear. I want you to know that I understand where you are coming from. I won’t try to say I’ve been through what you have, but I have some idea how that must have felt. You’re very strong to have survived that and accomplish what you have, and I’m sure you’re not done just yet. I’m glad I’ve been given the chance to help.”

She looks up at me and gives a crooked, quivering smile. “I hope you got what you needed. I don’t think I can go through that again anytime soon.”

I take my hand off her back. “You shouldn’t have to, hopefully ever – at least not in relation to this case. If you ever do need to discuss this again though, it should be a little bit easier. You know you can do it, you just proved it. I know you can do it, and I work with some pretty ambitious people. I know true grit when I see it, and you have it.”

“If we’re done, I’d kinda like to get out of here.” She rolls her eyes a little and makes a looping motion with her head, so I take it she means this room. “I’ll let Neko know she can retake possession of her precious.

“Yeah, no problem. Five minutes, tops?” I set to breaking down the camera gear and retracting the tripod legs. Everything goes in the flight case except for the tripod, which clips to the outside. It’s heavy, but not too big to carry with one hand. Meanwhile, Emi stacks the food containers into a box, puts the coffee accessories in another snap-lid container, and rolls the office chair back to the desk in the corner. She also drops the container with the sugar packets and creamer in a drawer of that desk.

“She says we can just go, and the door will lock behind us. Don’t forget anything, or you won’t see it for a while. You ready?” She picks up the box of leftovers and scraps and tucks it under her arm, then grabs the pump thermos of coffee.

“Ready as I’ll ever be.” I grab the camera case with one hand and my briefcase with the other. It’s only a quarter to seven, with a fair amount of daylight remaining as we head back across the roof to the stairwell. We stop briefly at a third floor room, where she tucks the leftovers into a fridge and leaves the thermos alongside. The scraps get tossed in a bin on the way down. As we descend, several students give us a glance but none of them seem particularly surprised. I guess they know about the case. Emi is still at my side when we reach the doors on the ground floor.

“Mind if I walk you to your car? I’ll even carry one of those.”

“Actually I’m kinda balanced with something in each hand, but you could carry the tripod. It’s just clipped to the outside of the camera case.” It takes her a couple seconds to detach it, but I can feel the load lighten when she does. We get a few more glances as we head toward the gate, but we’re not the only ones leaving and nobody asks any questions.

We’re still about thirty meters from where I parked when I set down my cases for a moment. “Hang on a second, I need to fish out my keys.” I try activating the trunk release and door locks from here, but they aren’t responding. Time for a new remote battery I guess. As a last ditch effort, I place the remote directly under my chin and give it one more try. This time, it works and the trunk lid pops up slightly. I have no idea why that trick works, I’m just glad it does. “Alright, we’re on the home stretch now.”

She races ahead, opens the trunk the rest of the way, and holds it for me. “It’ll stay, but thank you,” I half-shout from a distance. I load the briefcase first, then the camera case, clip-side up so the tripod can be reattached. The tripod itself goes in last, and once I have it securely fastened I start to back out of the trunk, only to feel a hand on my back. I turn around carefully. “Hey, what’s…” Emi grabs me by the tie, pulls my face down to her level, and kisses me. It’s not some innocent, playful little kiss, either. I give her a few seconds before breaking it off.

“I don’t particularly feel like being alone right now. Got any plans for the rest of the evening?”

“I don’t have anyone expecting me to be anywhere until morning. What did you have in mind?” A thousand possibilities run through my head, most of which I would have to decline no matter how appealing the thought.

“I dunno… how about a race or two?”

“I don’t think that would be much of a challenge. I have no doubt you’re quite a bit faster than me.”

“Not that kind of a race…” She makes steering and shifting motions in the air. “Ever been to Sendai Hi-Land?”

«Oh my my, oh hell yes, you better put on that party dress.» This is a proposal I can actually accept.
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Re: The Neko Story: Book 1 (...And Nakai Makes Three) releas

Post by NekoDude » Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:13 am

SUZU

«I love java, sweet and hot
Whoops Mr. Moto, I'm a coffee pot»


Wake up. Stretch. Where am I this time? Ah, the library.

“Are you getting hungry?” I look up to see Hisao standing next to my beanbag, then glance at my phone: 7:03.

“Yeah, I suppose I should probably get something to eat sooner rather than later. What did you have in mind?”

«Shoot me the pot and I'll pour me a shot
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup»


“Well there should be some leftover sandwich fixings from Emi’s deposition. She just texted me to say they’re done and she’s heading out for a while.”

I give a low whistle. “I betcha she took off with the shark again.”

“That’s a bet I won’t take. You already bluffed me out of my lunch money for the week, so I’m kinda roughing it. Let’s go. There’s coffee too, though I can’t say how much. I need to return the thermos to the common room before anyone notices it’s missing.”

That gets me to my feet. “Oh really? Where is this secret cache of sandwiches and coffee? Radio room?”

“Lilly and Hanako’s…” I’m already halfway out the door before he finishes, “...tea room.”

«I love coffee, I love tea
I love the Java Jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, boy!»
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Re: The Neko Story: Book 1 (...And Nakai Makes Three) releas

Post by NekoDude » Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:16 am

EMI

“Do you think we could possibly get a similar pair of karts this time around? It’s not exactly a race if we get mismatched vehicles.” That’s what happened the first two times around. Neither one was much of a competition because of the huge variance from one kart to the next.

The track attendant consults a small chart that he had in his pocket. Ha! I knew you had a list. “Sure thing. Let me set you up with 5 and 16. They’re not quite the fastest karts, but they’re the fastest evenly matched karts, and that’s what you’re asking for, right?” He even maneuvers them to be side by side in the pack for our next session, as we stream through the gate.

When the lights go green and the pack starts rolling, Daisuke and I both find ourselves both hampered by slower traffic in front of us. Some of them are just in sluggish karts, while others clearly don’t know how to drive. It takes almost half of the first lap to fight through the pack and get some room to race each other. Once clear, I dive inside his line and take a lead coming out of the first corner, and manage to keep him from doing the same to me on the second corner. By the time we finish the first lap, I’ve managed to take maybe a one second lead.

Toward the end of our second lap, we begin to face rolling roadblocks as we lap the truly awful karts and drivers, and he makes a pass on the outside. There’s not much I can do but drop in behind him and draft. Lap three consists mainly of weaving through traffic once again. Starting the final lap I doubt he’s going to let me pass on the inside again, so I stick close and wait for a chance to pass on the outside using slower traffic as a shield, as he did to me. We are almost even coming out of the final turn, but my wider line means I can carry more speed. I manage to hang on and win by less than the length of the kart. We get to the first turn again, and both of our karts slow tremendously as the attendant announces that time is up. I run my “victory lap” pumping my fist in the air and dancing in the seat.

“Oh no, you’re not getting away that easily,” he says as soon as we’ve removed our helmets. “Next time, we trade and rematch.” Bring it on. In the rematch, I get spun out in a turn by a tap from behind, and never make up the lost time. Daisuke beats me by a good ten seconds.

We never get a chance to run a tie-breaking race because the kart track is closing for the night. There’s still time for some air hockey though – too bad I suck at it. Oh well, sometimes failure is still fun. By the time the place closes at eleven, my wallet is a lot lighter – we both paid out of pocket, no expense account here – but so is my heart.

I heard a rule about kissing: it’s too long if someone has time to sneak up and steal your luggage. What’s the limit if I don’t have any? This time he matches my intensity and doesn’t shut me down, but he also doesn’t make an effort to take things any further. I don’t have much up front, but I hoped he’d at least want to check it out.

I return after curfew, but nobody gives me trouble. If they had, I would have just referred them to my lawyer. Before tucking in for my well-earned five and a half hours of sleep, I give Alex another heart.
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