Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Bk2-6c up 20180524)

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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 5 up 20151118)

Post by brythain » Thu Dec 10, 2015 10:03 am

Oddball wrote:It suffers a bit from the fact that you wrote in in places as thought it wasn't completely translated right, that combines with some overly flowery and melodramatic prose and switching point of view characters made me have to go back and re-read some sections a few times to make sure I got what was going on.

While it does develop a good strong mood, I feel that it muddles the clarity of the story and at times prevents the characters from developing a strong voice of their own.

Still, over all it was fairly entertaining and interesting.
Much appreciated feedback, really. I was wondering if anyone ever read any of this. :)

Just as with the Lilly arc, I've been thinking about a rewrite. And again, just as with that arc, you might be the catalyst that prompts me into a Christmas rewrite. :D
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Part 5b up 20160113)

Post by brythain » Wed Jan 13, 2016 12:42 am

This is the second part of the fifth section of the Suzuki files.
There is a gap between this and the first part of about five years.
So far, that gap hasn't been satisfactorily filled.



Suzu 5b: Futility (T +21)
2045


I am a rice-straw, not what they think; I am a name dissolved in its ink. It took me five years to see that my tears were easily erased with a nod and a blink.

As Natsume—after all these years, still not my friend—says, I have problems keeping my story together. I’m so broken, but nobody cares because when I’m around, other things break. I try to save them from falling apart, but I feel like a fake, and so does my heart.

Here’s a story I feel safe telling. It’s not a happy story, but it doesn’t end that badly. Over the years, I’ve loved only two men. Both became something else, both became strangers. In the end, I decided never to love men again: it always ends in pain—for them.

Here’s a story I feel sad about: it’s about how everyone went and then I never got them back again. But it’s okay, you don’t really need people as long as you’re free. An old song says, “Take my heart, take my hand, take me where I cannot stand; I’m still Suzu, I am free, I’ve understood futility.”

*****

I’m in my nest, the little house of straw where Suzu lives alone, beyond the law. Up in the North, so full of tangled things, there I await the call to stretch my wings.

“It makes its own munitions,” says Kei to me. Only three humans have been up to my nest. Kei has long been my boss, but she’s too busy most of the time, and she normally sends the big man who isn’t my ex-husband. Today is different. It’s show-and-tell.

“From what?” I ask, genuinely surprised. I don’t do munitions. I’m a poet, an artist, and I make my own munitions, I don’t trust my pen to write poetry for me.

“From atoms in the air and, if you like, other materials you can feed it. We call it the Hungry Gun.”

In my head I suddenly have pictures of tiny vampires industriously making Gothic bat-bullets in lonely towers up in the high mountains. “Hungry?”

“Yes. It loves carbon most of all, and its little pile stops at iron.”

“Includes iron, or excludes?”

“Just about includes. Prefers lighter atoms.”

I turn the long, flat little machine over and over in my hands. It’s as long as my arm, lovingly crafted, almost like a wakizashi scabbard. It’s very light, and yet you can feel the strength in it. I wonder if Rin Tezuka would carry one in her state-of-the-art prosthetics. These days, who knows, especially with Rin? But that’s a fantasy. She knows nothing of my world.

“Will it eat my arm?”

Kei laughs. She has a quirky laugh, and it’s seldom employed. Normally she gets Nobu to threaten people with his grin.

“Not unless you block its intake with your fist.”

I’m not sure if she’s joking or not. “Isn’t there a safety feature that would prevent that?”

“Oh yes, there is. You can only feed it with pre-cut blocks of low relative mass materials, about a cubic centimeter in volume. There, see?”

“Very nice. I like those lines,” I say, as if Kei and I are discussing clothing purchases. I feel a pang of nostalgia. It’s been decades since we last did that together, two young women working for a minor department in the government bureaucracy.

“It’s a gift, from me to you, Suzu Suzuki.”

I’m overwhelmed. She’s being kind. I don’t know I deserve it, mind.

“Why?” I ask.

“We’re friends,” she shrugs. Her shrugs are very telling, after a while. “And it’s only a working prototype.”

“What is it you want me to do?” I suddenly feel afraid and angry. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, all black hair with streaks of turquoise, a strange and haunting look, maybe a haunted look. I look like a falcon that hasn’t slept for years.

“It’s something you are probably best equipped to handle.”

I laugh one of my ugly laughs, the kind that boils up because you don’t have a real laugh left. “Me?”

“You remember your classmate?”

“Which one is it now? Which one of our cripples?” The waves in my head are like white-water ripples.

“The one you married.”

For a moment, I don’t know what to say. She’s talking about my tall, intense husband who went away to be an Okinawan rebel, until Okinawa needed no more rebels. I stare at her.

“He’s not my husband. And I didn’t know he was alive.” In fact, I’d thought he was dead. He’d been reported missing after an act of sabotage involving a large amount of explosives and a freight car. The incident had removed the last traces of the influence of the United States of America from my ex-husband’s homeland.

“He is. And he’s somewhere on Honshu right now.”

“What?” Part of me is professional, the woman who used to sieve through satellite data and spycam footage, drone pictures and microdrone imaging, to see and understand the deeds of mortals, the deeds of those who would do us ill. Part of me feels ill, sickened.

“We can’t find him. Okinawan cloaking technology is too clever.”

I hate cloaking technology. It makes Suzu unable to see things, and a Suzu who can’t see can’t be effective. My mind goes back a few years, and I think of Naomi Inoue, who died because of it.

“You want me to find him? You have better people, Kei.”

“Nobody understands his behavioral patterns better than you do, Suzu.”

“What does he intend to do?”

“We think he’s going to blow up a university, for some reason.”

I laugh. This one is a raw laugh, the laugh you make when you think everything has gone insane and your mind is reeling from the pain.

“A university? Whatever for? Okinawa is our ally now.”

“He seems to have something against nanotechnology. He’s also hunting the Black Dragon.”

This time, I know I’ve gone insane. The Black Dragon is gone, destroyed by nano-agents so thorough that hardly any trace of his body was left. The Black Dragon would also be about eighty years old by now, even if he were alive.

“Yes. He’s alive too.”

Bitter my response, sour my words: I hear myself say slowly and softly, “Can’t you keep anybody dead, these days?”

But of course you can. You have to kill them yourself, my mind whispers.

It is the most horrible springtime of my years. This kind of thing is what can only lead to tears.

*****

There’s always another woman. Having been one myself qualifies me as an expert. It takes me a long time to track them down, because nobody would think to look for Okinawan infiltrators when Okinawans need not infiltrate, and neither should they be hanging out in Hokkaido.

I follow. They are innocent, like honeymooners, my ex-husband Isamu ‘Sam the Lizard’ Takagi and his pretty thing. He’s old now, as am I, in our late fifties and people who shouldn’t be wandering around in the cool March weather outdoors. But we’re tough, that’s what we are. I need to keep my elderly joints and tendons supple, so they don’t go off like whipcracks as I hunt this couple.

And then, there’s betrayal. There’s always one of those to see. Having been betrayed and also betraying, I’m twice the expert that I should be.

Late at night, after their leisurely descent to the Axeblade for some excellent cuisine, and then further south, I see her sneak away. She’s all stealthed, her net interfacing seamlessly with ours. She has plans that aren’t the same as his. I make a dissatisfied click in my mouth. Someone should know about this, I think, as I follow carefully from afar.

I disconnect myself from this part of the net, because that’s how people are discovered. I don’t want to be discovered. I replay the conversations I’ve had with my sisters, so that if anyone locates my deceptive signal, they’ll think I’m an old ditz with nothing better to do than chat with her floozy sisters.

My signal moves independently of my own location, using a lot of energy to stay that way. My augmented senses are sadly limited by this, and in the end, I don’t really see what the woman does. This is a mistake, and it’s not the first I make. At least, I get enough of a picture for identification.

She’s in her twenties. It’s the first thing I notice. Twenty-seven years old, this one. Days later, they are in a supermarket, and as she selects groceries, he nods, she nods—the little courtesies we Japanese produce deep from our sense of body language. They respect each other at least that much. They smile and laugh softly. And she is young enough to be his daughter. She is young enough to be our daughter. The thought is briefly painful.

I am angry for a lightning-flash moment of time. It ends when I realize I don’t have any real reasons for it. He left me to find himself, years ago. I thought he was dead, years ago. That he’s alive, it means little to me; it doesn’t mean nothing, but it means little enough.

I still have to figure out what he’s doing here. Who is he loyal to? Takagi was always loyal to somebody.

When I finally find my answer, it’s not what I thought it was.

*****

“You found him?” says Nobu. Nobu is big, his fists like drums resting silently upon the table. We sit where we sometimes do, tasting excellent spring seafood at the little hut along the coast that we both know about.

“You know I did,” I say, savouring the taste of shrimp, squid and scallops on my tongue. “I sent you the images.”

“It is indeed him, beyond a doubt?”

“We were married for some years, you know.”

Kei snorts, but her snort is directed at Nobu. Her husband is twice her size, and would never recognize her in the field unless she wanted to be seen.

“What do you think his mission is?” she says lightly, musing.

“I think he’s on a second honeymoon, and she’s the one on the mission.”

“Hrrm. So what’s her mission?” the big man asks.

“I don’t know.”

“What do you know?”

I’m sleepy by habit, not by defect, for that is what I am these days. I look at him and upload some of my files to his inbox. I do not wait for praise. I wait for analysis.

“Ah. Interesting. No contact with the Black Dragon.”

“I have no evidence he’s alive, except that Kei is certain that he is.”

He gives the big, resigned grin that he’s always given. “And Kei is she who must be obeyed.” Another snort.

“Not always, by me.” I am Suzu, fourth of five; whatever comes, I will survive. The only ones I ever listened to were my parents for a time, and my elder sisters.

“Stay close? We might still need you.”

“I’m sure you will,” I reply, suddenly tired. It’s as if my will to act has now expired.

*****

In the end, they catch us all flatfooted, because what they do is foolish and unexpected. Or at least, what one of them does, because the other seems to have defected.

“We’re too late,” says Kei’s disembodied voice. “Intel says Tohoku, 99% likely Sendai.”

Nobu and I are coming south quickly, to Sendai. Kei is back in the White Room. There are multiple targets. Will they aim for the expanded Miyagi General Hospital complex? Or the Sendai hub airport? The questions crowd our minds, and they are all wrong.

I wonder what my old school feels like now, for that too is in Sendai, on Mount Aoba, the once-fortified hill from which Masamune Date dominated the surrounding region in the 17th century. And then my blood runs cold.

Masamune Date was something like the patron saint of the Sendai-Aoba Mountain District Academy, the high school I had gone to and which was colloquially referred to as ‘Yamaku High’. We’d all grown up knowing about that Tokugawa-era daimyo, the fearsome warlord known also as the ‘One-Eyed Dragon’—a man who’d never let his disability define anything about him except his nickname.

There’d been a Masamune Date display in the Mount Aoba museum downhill from the school, and his distinctive black helmet was the thing foreigners thought of when they were asked to describe samurai headgear. A certain science-fantasy franchise had even modeled the main villain’s life-support cowling after the famous helmet.

The ‘One-Eyed Dragon’ in the black helm—and not the Black Dragon. Badly interpreted intel, the bane of my life, has come back to haunt us.

“Nobu, the school. Up the hill. Bring reinforcements… to these coordinates… secure the perimeter,” I gasp as he pilots the gyrocycle at ever-increasing speed while I desperately extract the necessary information from the local net. “We’ll stop in the public parking area at the base of Mount Aoba Park and approach the school by the side gate near the administration building.”

“What school?”

“Yamaku. You know, the famous cripple academy.” I can sense Nobu doing a double-take as his body tenses.

“How do you know the place so well?”

“I spent three years there as a student.”

“You’re a cripple?” he says, sounding utterly disbelieving. I’m torn between yelling at him (something not me, especially not now we’re older) and feeling proud that even he doesn’t know I was disabled by severe narcolepsy. Kei knows, of course, but she doesn’t seem to have let him in on that part of my past.

“Not anymore. Hurry up! I think they’re going to blow the place up!”

“Any faster and the heat will burn your legs off!” he replies, as his words flutter away into the wind of our passing. “Why would they want to blow up a school?”

“It’s also Shizune Hakamichi’s unofficial residence!”

“Damn it all to hell!” is his succinct reply.

*****

“Satellite feed,” announces Kei’s dispassionate voice, the one she holds when she’s under high tension and needs to remain professional and cold. “Tracking Big Sam but there’s no sign of Small Flea.”

I wince inside at the use of these names, but that is Kei and she is prone to games. “Copy that. Transmit heat map and coordinates.”

She updates us. I am carrying the Hungry Gun. It looks like a prop from a movie studio. I recall the phrase ‘set phasers to stun’.

Nobu is some distance behind me and to the right. On the left are two more agents, the kind that like black leather and motorcycles for the sake of black leather and motorcycles. I’m the spearhead of this uphill movement.

The forest behind the school is as I remember it. I never liked that forest. You could fall asleep quietly and be lost forever. Rin Tezuka seemed to love it. Once in a while they’d send search parties out for her; better she than I, being the subject of such searches.

[Quiet] I signal. We’re closing in. Part of me wonders why Big Sam is all alone.

In my receiver, I hear: “Heat map shows that he’s injured. Mobility is impaired.”

Maybe the small bitch left him behind, I think with a viciousness that appalls me. I snap back quickly in my mind: I am Suzu, Number Four, not Number Three.

It happens rather quickly. Big Sam rises and turns, breaking cover. Something glints in his arms, long and metallic, like a pulse rifle. I hear the wheet-wheet-wheet as the air in front of him curls and peels back. Whatever he’s aiming at, it’s away from us, nearer the school, and at the 800-metre limit of his accuracy.

But that doesn’t stop Nobu. Even before I hear the wheet of the deadly pulse, Nobu has seen the glint, and fired. The brutal crack of his slugthrower echoes loud in the gloomy forest. Big Sam drops. I could have fired first, I know, but I am still wondering why he wasn’t firing at us. And he’s silent now.

I approach cautiously. Big Sam looks smaller than he used to be, his right arm awkwardly placed and his left leg crumpled under him. There’s still breath in him.

“I know you’re there, Suzu. Get down. We’re… below the treeline. Should be… safe.” He sounds very tired, his speech labouring as if under water.

“Safe?” I ask from five metres, the Hungry Gun framing his head in its polarized holographic sight.

“Don’t look.” He turns, slumps bonelessly to the ground.

“Kei!” I subvocalize sharply into my throatmike. “Radiological scan!”

I don’t know what I’m thinking. Why not look? Radiation, of course—it’s in the Japanese psyche to worry about radiation, the only country to have had the Bomb inflicted upon us as an act of war.

But it’s something else. Something else shrieks in the air, a high-pitched warbling followed by the sound of a shaped charge or something worse. And when Big Sam hears it, his broken body twitches. “I loved you, Suzu. And I’ve failed.”

The photon grenade (that’s what the sensational press calls them) he’s concealed under his body fires upward, consuming its own core in a tiny sliver of the shadow of a second. A cone of brilliant light fans into the sky, igniting some of the forest—but only some, because Isamu Takagi has placed himself between the forest and the source.

He’s killed himself. I don’t know what else has happened until the top of the ridge behind which we’re sheltering blows off. Trees are sheared cleanly like sticks cloven by a sword. I’m on the ground, and I hope the rest of my team is too, but everything else is covered by the second wave of sound and dirt and madness.

My last thoughts for a while are a jumble. The Hungry Gun and I are both failures. Neither of us was of any use at all. And as for human relationships? The only thing is that you sometimes never know. You never know until it’s too late.

*****

They tell me much later about the Hexal bomb, packed with plane-polarised explosives and designed to blast outward in a disc five hundred metres in radius. The woman, whose name I won’t repeat here, had set it off by tightbeam. The heterodyning field we’d used to suppress every radio signal in the area wouldn’t have worked on the microwave pulse she’d fired.

Big Sam had tried to take her out himself, once he knew what target she’d been heading for. She’d shot him in the knee, which is why he’d not been able to get closer to her. I suppose when he heard us coming, he’d decided to try to be a hero with his long shot. He’d almost got her, according to the reconstruction. But she’d remained alive enough to trigger the bomb.

There’d been roughly fifty casualties. Some were dead. Fortunately, the device had been hastily emplaced and hadn’t destroyed any structural supports completely. Unfortunately, one of the casualties… oh, Suzu, when things are bitter, they are bitter indeed.

I see him briefly as he leaves for Miyagi General. Kenji Setou is unmistakable, even though his hair is now full of salt and silver. He is furious, and has every right to be. The security service tasked with dealing with this whole mess has failed. He flew in like the wrath of a god, and leaves with an anger that could boil the sea.

“Is she…?” I ask Kei when she comes to visit me in another, lower-priority wing of the same hospital.

“Lost both her legs at the thigh,” she says laconically. “Not your fault.”

We aren’t speaking of the Okinawan terrorist, who is very dead. Neither are we referring to Shizune Hakamichi, who escaped unscathed despite having to be dug out of her shielded office. We’re talking about Kenji’s wife, the school’s senior administrative officer, Yuuko Shirakawa—who had a wall collapse on her, crushing both legs.

It’s one of many little tragedies of that day. But all I can think of is that it’s all over now. I will retire, and tomorrow will be a new day, a good day: for all our dreams can fall apart to dust, but we survive and thrive, because we must.

=====
prev | end of Book 1 | next
Last edited by brythain on Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:32 am, edited 3 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Start of Book2 up 20160817)

Post by brythain » Wed Aug 17, 2016 1:42 am

Suzu's narrative was never particularly linear. Her writing hides while it reveals. Perhaps this piece carries clues. Perhaps Book Two carries answers.


Suzu 6a: Interregnum (T +24)
2048


You aspire to retire, but it hits you in the end—
despite your own desire, the powers will not bend.
The young and keen they’ll hire, yet youth is not their friend—
because the line of fire doesn’t care what you intend:
it takes those who inspire, it takes the brave and bold,
it takes the idealistic and leaves the lame and old.
So here is Suzumiya, who is somewhat bullet-holed,
and here is nothing mystical, but the same damn tale retold.


This is a nonsense poem that ran through this nonsensical head of mine, the head of a person known as Suzu Suzuki. I stood alone by the grave of someone named Isamu Takagi, and I felt nothing at all because I had been trained not to do so. Then I broke training, and I cried—even though I was not alone.

*****

I’m almost sixty, and flighty little Suzu is no more. I have nephews and nieces. I have had deaths in the family and births more than deaths. And it is almost as if time has looped back on itself, and I am reading foreign literature again to improve my English, and it is all drawing-room teas and the affairs of young men and women in the Regency period.

Except that it is not, I’ve not got a lot, and my sadness is stuck in my old throat because the Stork Maiden has arrived for me. In the icy mirror of the rain, I turn around and look again. I see myself, my hair is charcoal grey with strands of green and blue in stern array. When ever did we get so old?

She says, “Hello.” The skies unfold.

*****

“Hi, Mori,” I say. “What are you doing in Japan? I thought you’d left for good.”

“I’ve a wedding to attend, Suzumiya. Hadn’t you heard?”

She is thin as ever, a slim exotic presence. I deliberately look at her, look at her legs. She’s dressed in a fleecy coat, pale brown and cream. Her very black hair is braided in two dark braids. I notice that she still uses bright red ribbons. She’s covered her head with a brave blue silk covering. Her legs are human-normal in form, but left uncoloured, her composite fibre bones gleaming dully in the cold. I see a raindrop roll off her transparent knee, like glass on glass.

Moriko was never pretty, but she was always beautiful. I was the other way around, a small pretty thing for years, until I got old. She smiles, her usual uncertain but polite grimace. Just as I’m wishing for a little bit more, her smile relaxes, becomes broader and warmer. It’s like watching a flower appear.

“It’s nice to see you again,” I say. I’m just as uncertain. I’ve not seen her for forty years. “You look the same.”

“You look better. You’ve lost the baby fat and grown into a dangerous-looking woman, old friend.”

Her clipped, exaggerated British accent has relaxed slightly. It sounds more international now, a hint of north Indian and west-coast American mixed in.

“That’s life,” I say, “Lame as it might sound.” I hear myself say those last words, and wince. Suzu doesn’t make such jokes, does she? I realize that Mori’s departure has hurt me over the years more than I ever dared to think.

To cover up my impoliteness, I add, “Do tell me more about how you came to be here.”

She laughs as if I’ve not mocked her disability. “Somehow, I wasn’t able to escape the black hole of Yamaku. Next month, my only daughter, the diamond of my eye, is marrying a young pureblood Japanese. I heard that his family was divided on the issue, since my daughter looks even less Japanese than I do. Thankfully, everyone is happy now—but you could’ve knocked me over with a blade of straw when I investigated his background and found out exactly who he was.”

It’s 2048, and Japan is full of tangled things. I’ve been made to help untangle some of those things, even though I’m only a private citizen. Ms Suzuki, that’s me, the untangler of tangles. I know too much. I know the last of the Satous of the older generation, and I know what she’s hiding. I know who joins the Katayamas of Tokyo to the Ooes of Osaka. And here is Moriko Kapur, whose husband runs the big technology thing that must not be named.

Wedding? What a joke. But it is one that can be tested, for Suzu won’t be bested. I shake my lance of tungsten and I clap my wings of stone, and somewhere in the ether my avatar flies alone. Damn, she’s telling the truth. There is a wedding.

She looks at me, peers into my eyes. “Suzumiya Suzuki! Are you spacing out again?”

It’s convenient to have that particular disability history. Mori’s spent years helping me stay awake or partially normalize my sleeping habits. I don’t need all that now—nanotech drug delivery keeps my brain stable all the time, and I have the other thing that the Dark Knight once gave me.

“Not quite, Mori. Feeling tired.”

“Tired, are we?” She lets out one of her half-snorts of amusement. “Of life, of politics, of old friends?”

I sigh. “Mori, which flag do you serve this time?”

Her dark irises flash, like black coffee out of Ginza. “That’s rather impolite, old friend.”

“Better than if shots were fired.”

“You’re still doing that thing with the rhymes. I’ve always wondered how you make it work in both Japanese and English. If I taught you Hindi, you’d probably be able to do that too.”

“Do you think of it as a crime?” I can’t help myself: it’s natural to me—this is all Suzumiya Suzuki.

She shakes her head, her dark braids swaying gracefully, her red ribbons looking wistful. “No. I only wish we were friends the way we used to be all those years ago.”

Since then, people have stolen from me, killed my cat, broken my heart. I’m not the Suzu she used to know, and she’s a stranger to me—a stranger with familiar red ribbons and the eyes of a long-lost friend.

Against my better judgement, I say softly, “It’s not impossible, Mori.”

It’s not possible to avoid looking down anymore. Moriko Kapur and I, two old rivals, two old friends, we look down at the same grave. What led Isamu Takagi, who sat between us and was torn between us, to become an Okinawan nationalist agent? Why him, and not Akio Mutou, who was himself Okinawan? All these people, they take their secrets to the grave, and leave us gasping for answers.

And so, I decide that Suzu and Mori, we two, will write a book of answers. What secrets are hidden, what mysteries concealed, by water and blood we will make them revealed.

=====
prev | book 1 | next
Last edited by brythain on Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:26 am, edited 2 times in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Start of Book2 up 20160817)

Post by kaserkin » Sat Oct 15, 2016 5:03 pm

Things are starting to get clearer. Or maybe I just misunderstood everything again. I'll have to reread the whole story once you've finished it to be certain of it.
Is Kenji's story really necessary to fill in the gaps and get the full picture? I stopped reading it since it was getting depressing again after Sachiko died.

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Re: Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Start of Book2 up 20160817)

Post by brythain » Sun Oct 16, 2016 11:02 am

kaserkin wrote:Things are starting to get clearer. Or maybe I just misunderstood everything again. I'll have to reread the whole story once you've finished it to be certain of it.
Is Kenji's story really necessary to fill in the gaps and get the full picture? I stopped reading it since it was getting depressing again after Sachiko died.
Hi! Well, there are really two big stories in this continuity. The 'After The Dream' series is the main story, of course, the post-Lilly-neutral-end saga. But 'Sakura—The Kenji Saga' is the second story; it's linked mainly to his relationships with Hisao, Yuuko and Suzu... and several others you will find out about if you read on. There are happy moments and difficult moments, but Kenji's tale is a big story, I'd say, and it provides a fair bit of context for the mysterious actions some other characters take, including Suzu. When you ended at that 'spoiler' moment, it was really the end of the first part of Kenji's tale only (Book 1).
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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brythain
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Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Bk2-6b up 20180322)

Post by brythain » Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:25 am

I spent 18 months researching Suzu's narrative, to make sure I could fill in the blanks. I still have not finished, because those blanks are deliberate. But I can draw some conclusions, and so can my readers.

Suzu 6b: Intermission (T +29)
2053


hatsu shigure
saru mo komino wo
hoshige nari

it’s the first winter rain
even a monkey
a cloak of straw
desires


You can’t break a poem in one language so it becomes a poem in another. So I take my favourite poem in its own language and make it another poem. That’s what my life is like: the life of Suzumiya Suzuki, who used to dye her hair cyan with difficulty because it had to be bleached first, and who now dyes her hair with ease because it’s already grey.

*****

My friend Moriko, who is known by others as Molly, and by yet others as Calpurnia, often looks at me like a very beautiful preying mantis. I shudder inside, but I love her anyway because we’ve been friends a long time. And yet, we have been enemies as well.

So it is to my delight that, when 2053 rolls around, we are on the same side. Her daughter has married Nakai’s son, of all things, and I am tasked with a protection detail. Flighty Suzu, people called me, and now I hold the keys of life and death.

I’m still light as a bird. They replaced some of my bones with carbon fibre years ago. That stuff, it grows into you. I used to play computer games in which you could make your character something like that. I never thought I’d be that character. I fan my fingers, choose my tools, and wonder how to deal with fools.

Calpurnia’s daughter is named Rekha, a ray of light, a beam, a trace that joins two things. She is small and fine-boned, and of all great things, she is not damaged like any of us. Her parents are both alive, even though she does not know, and does not care to know, her father.

Hisao’s son is named Akira, and that is name that confuses. It can be male or female in many languages; in Rekha’s ancestral tongue, it implies a strength that is graceful, something like carbon fibre. In Scotland, it’s female, meaning ‘anchor’, and it is his godmother’s own name. But Akira is Japanese, and in our language, that name has many meanings, mostly positive and bright.

They are two lights, both fair and dark. They make me yearn to be young again, when I had a cat, and people loved me. Here I am, though. I think, I watch, I have an itchy killer finger. I have no cat, and nobody really loves me. I live, like many of my friends, from rooftop to rooftop. Dressing up like a bat is not me at all, though I respond to Japan Central’s call.

There he is, on the roof. He looks shabby, or perhaps shabbier than usual. His scarf is dirty, faded; his spectacles are cloudy and flecked with dirt. It’s a cold night in Kyoto, where the Castle is my home.

“Ha,” he greets me, his nasal voice even more so because he sounds ill. “How is your family?”

“I don’t even know if I have anyone. I was Suzu, Four of Five, the other four… are they alive?”

His blind lenses gaze at me, an incongruous amber glint reflecting off one of them, as if he’s wearing whisky on his face. “Still the rhymes. I think they’re all around somewhere. Five sisters. You feminists.”

Despite myself, I laugh. A long time ago, I had learnt that my friend’s persona was not really him, except in certain rare circumstances.

“So, what’s up?”

“Akira’s been to Scotland, and back. Documents have been archived. Rekha knows nothing, or if she does, she’s not giving anything away, even to Moriko.”

“Has Akira been meeting with my son?”

“They sit on the roof and talk about their respective fathers. I do not think either is a security risk to the other. Also, they’ve both inherited the whisky habit. Sometimes, Akira seems to be talking to an invisible person, which may be the result of excessive alcohol intake. Neither drinks sake, which I find disappointing.”

“Ha! Like fathers, like sons. Who else does Akira meet with?”

“Dictator-for-life Hakamichi.”

“It’s a mystery to me how that happened.”

“How what happened, Master of Secrets?”

“The kid loves his stepmother. Stepmothers. Whatever. And his stepmother-cousin, or aunt, or whatever again.”

“Then there is another mystery.”

“What?”

“That his wife looks nothing like any of them.”

“Ha, you’re kidding. That’s a myth. My wife looks nothing like my mother, my stepmother-aunt, or any of those. You don’t automatically look for someone like your mother.”

He grins manically at me and offers me his flask.

“Since when have you used a flask instead of a bottle and tumblers?”

“Since they tried to kill me and wasted good booze. I was also picking glass pieces out of my body for weeks.”

“Painful.”

“It was a thirty-year Scotch! Crabbie, out of Edinburgh!”

“Worse, I suppose.”

His lips curl. The action reveals a curious mix of bitterness and humour. Then the smile returns. “I have a new mission for you.”

“I’m old, Kenji. I’m not one of your action-figure youngsters.”

“You are a straw in the wind,” he says firmly, and my resistance is set aside. “You are the knife in the dark,” he says fiercely, and my compunctions are gone. “Who is the monkey in the rain?” he asks formally, and I am lost.

*****

I leave my castled position. “Knight out of f3,” they would have said in the old days. But these days, with covert groups operating all over the place, security is always compromised, and nobody says anything meaningful.

Unlike the wooden creatures on the table in Hanako Ikezawa’s hideaway, I can change colours. I can begin as a white knight, and end as a black one; I’m a dragon horse, if you are Japanese. I am no general; I leave that to Kenji Setou.

My bones ache, and also my joints. I am an old lady, slim and compact, in fibres that protect me against all kinds of things. They are like the string talismans I used to play with when I was young. Tonight, I am following Kenji’s son. He is meeting the Ghost of Noda, and I am to find out who else is watching him.

Little Suzu moves sleepily through the night. It took her a very long time to realize she wasn’t really narcoleptic. She was just catlike, falling asleep in the day and coming awake at night. And then there were drugs, and things. And here I am, still little, still Suzu, and still with drugs and things.

Immediately on entering the old quarter with its tall buildings, I realize that there are many watchers. One is silent but ungainly, and the odd gait seems familiar. Moriko? Why? I had never taken her for a knight of the rooftops.

There are at least two others. One is technically exact, as if moving across the heights is a tactical puzzle that must be solved in real time. There is a cadence in the way this one moves, according to some hidden pattern. Meanwhile, the other one is moving as if curious, out for the evening, out for an evening of watching other people on rooftops.

I’m better than all of them. But at least one of them has spotted me, from about two kilometres out. It’s the patterner, and I’m tapped on a familiar frequency.

In my lens, I read: [Black Knight, this is Spectre. Acknowledge.]

I blip back, three quick tongue-clicks: [Acknowledge.]

[For avoidance of doubt, this unit is tasked with protective function re Aspergillus.] That would be Koji.

I respond by triggering my field function ID: [I am tasked with surveillance function primarily.]

[Exchange of secure field ID?]

These were designed to avoid the user being targeted by friendly AI-controlled weapons. Fortunately, I have one. [Set.]

The code I receive is one in the Japan Central domain. Trust Kenji to set watchers on his watchers!

Half an hour later, with no further contact from my mysterious ally, I’ve closed in on Strange-Gait. I’m close enough to do a full body scan, close enough to do what I can.

It is not Moriko at all. It’s someone else with artificial legs, augmented at a very high level. I’ve seen this profile before, and it makes me very uncomfortable. Without the deep scan, the subject looks perfectly normal. With the evidence of my own augmented eyes, this looks an awful lot like Koji’s mother. What is Yuuko Shirakawa doing here? She’s only some sort of educational administrator, isn’t she?

I sigh. Little Suzu hates circuses. This is turning into another round of the carousel, with Koji at the eye of the cyclone. And I’ve got one last target to identify alone.

*****

“There were a lot of us out there that night,” I say accusingly to him.

As with much of my life, this takes place on yet another rooftop, in yet another city, in a place where either nobody looks or so many look that nothing is seen. The air is almost warm, at this time of the year. I hardly feel it, coated in my skin of living paint.

I’m sure that despite his shabby overcoat and bedraggled scarf, the General is stealthed to the point that if you weren’t, like myself, right in front of him, you’d not see him at all, at any wavelength. Even the glinting of his ancient spectacle lenses must be a fake. I remember when it wasn’t.

“A lot?” he says, pretending to sound surprised.

“One of them was Japan Central.”

“What?”

“You don’t have to act like that. You’re a lousy actor.”

“What code?”

I send it to him. He looks stunned, then apprehensive. He’s actually not such a lousy actor, because he would be instantly believable to anybody else. Suzu, however, has known him for decades.

“This code is not in use. It’s a reserve code, high priority, for… special situations.”

“Such as the relocation of Japan Central?”

“Such as the obliteration of Tokyo.” The pained grimace tells me he’s not joking. He’s not even on drugs. Or alcohol. He wasn’t acting. Hasn’t been acting. My brain begins to twist, like dried grass in the wind.

“You have a mole.” It’s all I should say, given the circumstances. It’s not the right time to tell him about the other watcher—not that he even gives me the chance.

His white and silent face gazes at me for a moment, and then he is gone. Poor Suzumiya Suzuki, always there for other people’s problems, never there for my own. Is there any other way I could be more alone?

=====
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Last edited by brythain on Thu May 24, 2018 11:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

User avatar
brythain
Posts: 3537
Joined: Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:58 pm
Location: East Asia
Contact:

Straw—A Dream of Suzu (Bk2-6c up 20180524)

Post by brythain » Thu May 24, 2018 11:17 am

Suzu 6c: Intervention (T +31)
2055-6


it was a very long time ago
in a time with no wind
a complete stillness filled the air
when I was born

i’m gasping

suzu suzuki is almost seventy years old
still running around
like a manic child
with weapons
in the dark

looking for a lost cat

now is not the time
to think of
the dead

i pour my consciousness through the forest
it is faster than my aching legs

the general’s house has no general
it should be empty
what if it’s not
what if

i am quiet like the wind
wind and counterwind
cancel into silence

i have a blue laser
i can kill from far away
but i am now too late because
the counter has reached zero and

there is a flash like a fist
a punch that runs away into the dark
laughing like thunder
along its own punchline

lightness

darkness

when i blink
i am still alone
it won’t be long before
emergency services arrive

i reach the house
it is a space where it once was
a place of children and parents

i am not alone

move and i'll shoot i transmit
from a great distance

what have i done she says

blown up an empty house i hope

she hears my hope and breaks it

he
she whispers
was inside

i alone can hear
i have augments
i am the fourth of five

she is still far away
she is crying

i shout

NO

light

dark

ash in the wind

emergency services come at last
like rain on the desert
of the soul

*****

From the Asahi Shimbun, 31 December 2055:

Ms Chiaki Hasegawa died tonight of natural causes, aged 56. Ms Hasegawa was Director-General of the Public Services Intelligence Agency. The funeral will be held on 11.30 am Sunday 2 January 2056 at the Tenso Shrine, 3-49-1 Minami Otsuka, Toshima-ku, Tokyo 170-0005.


*****

i took too long to find
i was searching blind

that’s not the day she died
that’s not the way they died

i am suzu
fourth of five
i need to know
who’s still alive

=====
prev | next
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
"Much has been lost, and there is much left to lose." — Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark (1979)

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