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Authors: H.J. Lawson,Jane Lawson

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BOOK: Infinite Time: Time Travel Adventure
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Chapter 11

 

 

“Okay,” I say. “But if we’re going to save the future, do you think we could find me some clothes first?”

Scarlet looks over at me and seems to really see me for the first time.

“You really went to bed in boxers? I see you like the Avengers,” she says, raising an eyebrow.

I shrug. “What do you sleep in?”

“I usually sleep fully clothed, just in case.”

“I’ll have to remember that in the future.”

“You probably should,” she says. She strides toward the door, her movements just as confident as before. “Stay here,” she calls over her shoulder. “I’ll be back.”

“Where are you—”

“Watch the girl!”

She’s gone before I can say anything else.

I move around the boxes and go to sit near Tora. She’s sound asleep now, making this soft mewing sound that’s kind of cute. I remember, before my dad died, how desperately I wanted a little sister. I used to ask my mom about it all the time. And she would get this soft, secret smile on her lips that I didn’t understand. I think now that they were probably trying. But I guess it was a good thing it never happened. It would have been twice as hard after my dad died if there had been another kid. I don’t think I could have looked after my mom and a kid at the same time.

I think sometimes that’s why she married Neil. Maybe she thought it would be easier to handle the reality of her situation if she wasn’t alone. Too bad she had to choose a loser who’s more of a big kid than a responsible husband like she had with my dad.

Sometimes I wish I were bigger, stronger. No, not sometimes, all the time. That I could stand up to Neil and make him get off his butt from time to time. If his back is good enough for him to stand out by the grill and barbecue steaks every Saturday night in the summertime, isn’t it strong enough for him to take some office job where he’d be sitting all day? Maybe then my mom wouldn’t have to work so hard.

It isn’t right. And the closer I get to graduating high school and going to college if I get the scholarships, the more I’m torn between staying close to help out my mom or getting as far from Neil as possible.

If only my dad hadn’t died.

Scarlet comes back into the building a lot quicker than I expected her to. She tosses a retail bag at me.

“Put those on.”

“Where’d you get them?”

She rolls her eyes. “A store. Where do you think?”

“How’d you pay for them?”

“With money.” She pulls a wallet out of the bag she has had strapped to her back this whole time, and opens it to reveal money of all nationalities and denominations. There’s probably enough there to pay our rent for six months. “Another benefit of time travel,” she says with a rare smile.

“Did you steal it?” I ask, really awed by what I see.

“Of course not,” she snaps, closing the wallet as I reach my fingers out to touch it. I feel stupid, like Julia Roberts in that old movie my mom makes me watch all the time,
Pretty Woman.

“Get dressed,” she repeats.

I walk off, moving behind the boxes to don the jeans and t-shirt she bought for me. She even thought to get socks and tennis shoes, which my sore feet are very grateful for.

“If we’ve traveled through time,” I ask, “where exactly are we? In the future or the past?”

“We’re eleven years in the past from our current present.”

Eleven years. That means that Tora is probably my age in real time. That’s kind of a surreal thought, but cool. It would have been even cooler to be in the future, like way in the future when we have hover boards, though.

“How far in the future have you traveled? Have you seen what the world will be like in fifty, sixty years? What about a hundred years from now? Are we all traveling in self-driving cars? Do they float off the ground? Are we still living on Earth or have we all moved to space stations? Do we still breathe air, or are we capable—”

“There won’t be a future if we don’t protect Tora,” Scarlet snaps at me.

As I come around the boxes, fully dressed, Scarlet kneels down next to Tora. She touches her head with surprising gentleness and begins to speak to her in a quick spattering of another language—Japanese, the same language she’d spoken before that I couldn’t quite identify.

Tora’s almond-shaped eyes open, and it takes her a moment to realize where she is. Her face turns stern, a look a child should never have to have.

“What are you talking to her about?” I ask after a few moments of their conversation.

Scarlet ignores me, still speaking so quickly that I’m not even sure she’s speaking real words, or if she’s just spouting nonsense. But then Tora, newly awakened and rubbing her eyes, answers back. Scarlet listens for a minute and makes a couple more comments. Tora points toward me, then Scarlet stands and crosses to where she left her bag sitting on top of a box.

“What was that all about?” I repeat. “And why is she so important?”

Scarlet glances at me. “I was asking her where she came from. She told me that Tora and her parents were taken by some bad men. Then more men came; they were dressed in black suits and not Asian and there was a big gun fight, between them and the men that took them. I’m guessing Vandir’s men.” Scarlet pauses then nods to herself. “And her parents told her to run, in the confusion. That’s when she found you.”

“Who’s Vandir?”

“The man Hector and Clint work for.”

I kind of shake my head and she glares at me. “We don’t have time to go into that now,” she snaps.

“Why do they want the girl? Can you tell me that?”

Scarlet again ignores me as she pulls a tablet out of her bag, like an iPad, but nothing like any iPad I’ve ever seen. It’s too thin and it seems to glow as though it has some incredible internal light. She quickly turns it on and asks the device for something. She speaks quickly, in English this time, but I still don’t understand half of what she says.

Everything’s quiet for a minute.

“What are you doing?”

“Trying to find out who she is and why she’s so important,” she says, a little irritation creeping into her voice.

“You carry that tablet around with you everywhere you go?”

“I like to be prepared.”

“That’s smart.”

She looks up, and I swear there is a little color on her cheeks. “Thanks,” she says softly.

She stares at the tablet for a few more minutes, clearly growing more and more agitated as she reads whatever is on the screen.

“Hell,” she finally says, pausing a second before she carries on reading. I'm dying to know what’s going on. She seems to have forgotten about me.

“So,” I finally ask, “who is she?”

“Her father is part of the criminal underground,” she says. “He’s the
socho
of Sumiyoshi-rengo.”

“I assume that’s bad.”

She glances at me with a look that tells me just how stupid she thinks I am.

“It’s bad.”

I just kind of shake my head. I have no idea what she’s talking about. Scarlet stares at me for a second, then groans.

“Look, here in Japan is this group called Yakuza. It’s kind of like the mafia back in the United States. And the Yakuza is divided into multiple, smaller groups. Two of those groups are Sumiyoshi-rengo and Yamaguchi-gumi. Sumiyoshi-rengo is traditionally based here in Tokyo and Yamaguchi-gumi in Kobe, even though both are fairly active all over the country. And in the past ten or fifteen years, Yamaguchi-gumi has been moving in on Sumiyoshi-rengo territory here in Tokyo. And Sumiyoshi-rengo doesn’t like that. Understand?”

“Yeah. Mr. Conrad, my history teacher, was just telling us about them. The guys with the tattoos, right?”

She studies my face for a minute. Then she sort of brushes off whatever was going through her mind in that minute. She turns back to her tablet.

“The girl’s father, Daichi Oshiro, is the
socho
, or supreme leader, of the Sumiyoshi-rengo.”

“Does that mean it’s the Yamaguchi-gumi that are coming after the girl?”

“I can’t be completely certain, but I’d guess that’s a pretty good bet. They’ve been in something of a turf war for a while now. That’s probably what the gunfight was about.”

“So what do we do?”

“We keep her safe until the danger has passed. I’m guessing that’s what the assignment is.”

“And then?”

“And then we’re done. That should end our assignment.”

“We wake up?”

“Yeah.”

“And we—”

“I don’t have time for twenty questions,” she suddenly announces. “Why the hell did you have to hijack my assignment? Do you know how much easier this would be without you hanging around?”

“It wasn’t really my choice. I have no idea what’s going on.”

“If I’d known you started to travel, I could have taught you what you needed to know before now. Speaking of,” she gestures toward her tablet, “what’s your address?”

“Why?”

“So I can come train you when this is all over, idiot!”

“Oh.”

It’s not like I’m not used to being treated like the slowest one in the room, which I’m not, but Travis and Neil both love to treat me like I am. There's something about the way she did it that just feels worse. Maybe it's because she's a girl. Or maybe it's because she was so rude about it. Or maybe it's because this is a dream and I still feel like I do when I’m at school, with Travis and his buddies going out of their way to torture me.

I quietly give her my address and watch as she puts it into her tablet. Then she switches it off and begins to pack her stuff up, rearranging whatever’s in the bag and shoving things into her pockets.

“You know,” I say, “it’s not my fault I don’t know what’s going on. I’m not like you. I haven’t met Bruce Lee.”

She sighs. “I know. But this is just a really bad time to do this. If we don’t get our assignment done on time, we die. Do you get that?”

“That’s pretty harsh, don’t you think?”

“Not my idea.” She turns to me and holds up her wrist so I can see the watch there. “You see this? This is our lifeline.”

“It’s a watch. It tells time.”

Again she rolls her eyes. “For every three hours that pass here, a minute passes in our present. And during that time, our bodies are not breathing. You get it?”

I shake my head, making her groan again.

“Our bodies are not breathing right now,” she says. “And if we don’t return before two minutes have passed, we will die. Can you hold your breath for more than two minutes?”

I shake my head again.

“Yeah, me neither. The longest I’ve ever gone is two minutes, twenty seconds, and that was pretty bad.”

“Is it the same for Vandir’s men?”

“No. They use machines to help them travel through time. The whole mechanism is different.”

“But we can’t just die.”

“Yes, we can. Have you ever heard of someone dying in their sleep for no apparent reason?”

I nod. “I read about this teenager that went to a rival school in my hometown. He died in his sleep and they finally decided it was an undiagnosed heart problem,” I say.

“That person was probably a traveler like us who didn’t get his assignment done in time.”

That makes me stop and think for a minute. There were others like us. And not all of them are still alive.

“Who gives the assignments to us?”

Scarlet stands and throws her bag over her shoulder. “I don’t know,” she says as she storms toward the door, grabbing Tora’s hand as she walks past. “But I assume it’s others like us who want to save the future. To save the world.”

And that seems really profound to me.

Chapter 12

 

 

We walk several quiet blocks lined with tiny orange flowers, the color brighter than Scarlet’s hair. “Where are we going?” I ask Scarlet.

“Tora told me she has a grandfather, so we are going to visit him,” Scarlet informs me. I can hear her voice, but after that the sounds and smells become overwhelming, creating a sensory overdose as we turn down a busy street. Men and women stand closely together with tables overflowing with different types of goods for sale. The sellers yell at everyone that walks past. The smell is a mixture of soy sauce from the food stands, exhaust fumes from the racing cars, and a whiff of sewer. I screw up my nose. These smells really shouldn’t mix together.

As we squeeze through the crowds, the smells change, as do the stands. Now I detect a cedar-wood smell and a citrus smell. This is much better.

I’m drawn to a stand with hand-crafted woodcarvings. Dad used to like buying these types of woodcarvings for Mom when he was on different business trips. She would fill the cabin in Texas with them. Now they are in boxes in the loft. The carvings are some of the few things I kept from the cabin after we sold it.

Losing our holiday home hurt me more than losing the home I spent most of my life in, because the cabin was full of happy memories. Every day spent there we were together, disconnected from the outside world. Dad wouldn’t work, and Mom… she was always happy there, cooking the tastiest meals. We were the perfect family.

“Parker.” Scarlet’s voice snaps me out of my happy memory. My smile falls as I remember that’s all it is now—a faint memory.

Scarlet is standing on the road as a yellow taxi drives toward her. The taxi looks like an old NYC cab. It’s got a red stripe running along the side of it, and an “I heart Tokyo” sticker on it.

We all slide into the leather seats of the cab, and I think Scarlet gives the driver an address—well, I hope she does, as what she said means almost nothing to me.

Tora curls up beside me, resting her head on my thigh. I can’t help but smooth my hand over her head, letting her silky hair fall between my fingers. There’s something about this Tora that seems to draw me to her and her to me. Maybe it’s because of my long-abandoned desire to have a sister. But that doesn’t seem quite right. There’s something in me that knows I need to keep her safe. And not because Scarlet says she’s my assignment.

The taxi moves through busy city streets. So many people and cars choke the street that we have to move at a snail’s pace. The buildings are packed in tightly next to one another. Lights shine everywhere. I have never been to Las Vegas, but it seems to me that Tokyo is so much brighter than that desert city could ever be.

Eventually we move farther out of the main city into what would be called suburbs back in the States. It’s pretty here; there are fewer industrial buildings and high-rises and more homes and gardens, like the pictures of Japanese houses I’ve seen in history books back at school.

The taxi eventually pulls to the curb. The taxi driver speaks to Scarlet and she responds, clearly verifying that we’re at the right address. But she needn’t have done that, because little Tora suddenly brightens and reaches over me to grab the door handle.

The door flies open before I can stop Tora. “Parker,” Scarlet yells at me.

I grab Tora around the waist, stopping her from running into the road. Tora frowns at me as her little body tries to get free.

“Scarlet, a little help,” I beg as she steps out of the car.

“Get back in,” Scarlet says, but it’s too late. Tora and I are out of the car. “Stay down, that’s Tora’s grandfather’s house across the road.”

“How do you know?”

Scarlet rests her head against the cab. “Vandir is here,” she tells me as the color drains from her face.

I peek over the car’s bumper for a look. Hector and Clint are walking down the street toward Tora’s grandfather’s home, escorting an older man who walks proudly with purpose. I guess that’s Tora’s grandfather, whom we are looking for. If there wasn’t a huge man at either side of him, he might not look quite so small. Other men line the path toward Tora's grandfather’s home. They don’t look like Vandir’s men; they look as if they are from Japan. Hector and Clint start talking to the men.

Scarlet pulls on my pant leg, pulling me down in turn. “What part of ‘get down’ don’t you get?” she hisses.

“Hector and Clint are with Tora’s grandfather; they are talking to some other men.”

Scarlet’s head quickly pops up, looks through the taxi window, and then goes back to hiding.

“So it’s okay for you to look?” I ask her sarcastically.

She goes back to looking through the taxi window. “Where are they going?” Scarlet mutters to herself as Hector and Clint walk away from Tora’s grandfather’s house empty-handed.

Scarlet grits her teeth together, and before she can speak Tora does in a flurry of unrecognizable words.

“No,” Scarlet replies, but the rest is in that other language—Japanese. “She wants to go to him, but I’ve explained that the men with him are very dangerous,” Scarlet says in a low whisper to me.

She gestures to Tora. “I told her they want to take her away from her family.”

“Is that really what they want? Why?” I ask.

“I don’t know. To control her father, and I guess Vandir’s men are here for the same reasons we are, for the future.”

There are tears in Tora’s eyes, and they feel like acid against my skin. I know what it’s like to lose a parent. And I was older when it happened to me. I hope with all I have that it doesn’t happen to this poor girl.

But that’s what we’re here for, right? To protect her?

Just as the thought goes through my mind, several dark cars drive up the street, stopping outside the house.

The taxi driver yells through the window at Scarlet, and she returns the flurry of words as the taxi driver looks toward the cars and Tora’s grandfather’s home. “Down!” Scarlet shouts, grabbing me by the back of my hair and pulling me forward so that my body covers Tora’s. And then I hear something I’ve only heard once outside of a movie or a video game: gunshots. The taxi jerks as the driver moves it into gear and drives away, leaving us.

“Don’t let her see,” Scarlet tells me.

But it’s too late.

Her grandfather is lying dead by the family’s garden door.

They just killed Tora’s grandfather, which brings to my mind the question: If you die in a dream, do you die in real life?

I don’t know, and I really don’t want to find out.

BOOK: Infinite Time: Time Travel Adventure
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