Future Memories - Promises To Keep
He sighed after placing the last spoonful of rice in his mouth, chewing slowly in an effort to enjoy the taste of it. With a sigh he finally pushed the plate away and thought about the chore still before him.
"Excuse me sir... would you like me to take those away?"
Glancing up he couldn't help but smile at the young waitress. She'd really gone out of her way to make sure everything was good for his late meal, and always smiling at him too. Wonder why? Probably the lax in customers this late at night...
Still beaming that smile at him she collected the plates while dropping a dessert menu before leaving.
Pulling open his backpack he removed a sturdy wooden box and carefully placed it onto the cleared space in front of him. Sliding open the lid he removed a stack of envelopes, cards, folded paper, and finally an old pen. As he readied a piece of paper he thought of which he should do first...
He paused the stirring of his camp breakfast and glanced down at the beeping wrist-comp. Lifting it he frowned. Very few people knew this number, how to reach him, and the auto-ID wasn't listing any of them.
Hitting the answer button he raised his wrist asking, "Hello?"
"Mr. Hibiki, my name is Chin Quan. I'm calling you on behalf of the Chinese government, who would like to contract your services. A Doctor Ono Tofu gave us this number."
"Yes. In our quick search of available resources, he was contacted, and claimed that you were the person best suited for this particular situation. I assume your are available for contract work?"
Glancing once again at his breakfast he said, "I... uh, I guess so."
"Perfect. An air lift will be there momentarily to pick you up."
Staring at the wrist-comp, he finally shrugged. With a spoon halfway to his face, however, he caught the faint roar of an air turbine approaching fast in the distance...
Shaking his head at the sudden memory he wondered, 'Was it only a month ago?' Time does funny things when you spent it on the road. Some things feel like they only happened yesterday, and others...
With a sigh he began to write. Let's see... country, province, village, and date. Living conditions and general attitude of habitats. And finally the real information, birth and death rates in the last ten years. Shaking his head he reviewed the numbers once again before adding them to the letter. The overall picture it painted wasn't good.
Now days, it was all about data.
You couldn't get away from it, you can't escape it, and just the simple act of breathing in and out created it. The whole world could now be reduced to just pure data. And ironically enough, his random wanderings had proven to be an excellent way to collect it.
Shaking his head once again he completed the letter, making sure to include all the details that he'd picked up from the village doctor. Finally, he carefully folded it and placed it in one of the prepared envelopes that he carried.
"That's one," he muttered aloud. "Who's next?"
Nabiki, he decided with a shrug.
Thirty minutes later he found himself seated in a military style tent, surrounded by electronics, and still hungry. Looking at the images on the screen in front of him he asked, "I thought robot weapons were outlawed in China?"
"True, Mr. Hibiki, which is why we need this taken care of quickly, and quietly, without military units. Here are all the schematics on the M-66, along with the verbal codes that it was programmed with. We have already narrowed down its possible location to a 65 square mile area, and are working on reducing that at this moment."
Nodding he said, "Okay."
"All you'll need to do is get close enough to give the verbal codes, or failing that, to activate the EMP bomb we'll be giving you. Due to the intensity of the bomb, however, you will need to make sure you're carrying no electronic devices on you. In fact, it's recommended that you don't wear or even carry anything metallic at all."
"Time is of the essence. You'll be further briefed in transit. The air lift will take you to primary search zone."
Okay, once again, country, province, village, and date. This time it was a list of local restaurants and hostels, along with the good and bad points of each that he'd visited. He couldn't imagine what she wanted with all of it, but as long as money kept appearing in his account, he honestly didn't care.
He didn't mind working for Nabiki, though she seemed to talk with people less and less these days, since Kuno's passing. Hmm... once again, more data. Everyone said it was so vital, but after the last couple of years he'd discovered something else that was equally important, at least to him.
So many people out there in the world underestimated them, like he had. But not any more.
And there were so many of them, which is why it can sometimes be so hard to keep them. Maybe that's why most people never bothered to keep them any longer. They got to be so many, that you just couldn't keep on going.
Maybe that's why his shoulders seemed sore all the time now, from carrying the weight of them all. He'd mentioned that to Kasumi once while visiting and she had quietly laughed, given him a hug, and then accused him of being a renaissance man.
Whatever that ment.
Again he finished the letter, signed it, carefully folded it, and finally sealed it away in an envelope. Taking a deep breath he then reached for one of the two special postal cards that he'd bought just hours ago.
"Thank you sir." Turning away, he slowly walked away from so-called spokesman of the village. The second he'd visited in the last hour, and still no clues.
Pulling out the paper given him by the military officer he once again read the list of codes, strange words mashed together, as he continued to commit them to memory. It was weird that the scientists would do it this way instead of the usual number and letter sequences that he'd grown used to. But then again, it would take a genius, or a madman, to try and break these weird codes.
Stepping aside as a few children ran past something caught his ear, and he paused a moment.
Looking across the road he spotted a little boy sitting in a mud patch in front of a house. He was two or three years old, and burbling happily to himself while making something in the mud. And in the child's ramblings out loud, he heard it again.
Glancing back down at the paper he held in his hands, he felt the blood drain from his face. And then he was running towards the air lift as another, horrifying, possibility occurred to him.
He paused for a moment before writing on the postal card. He decided on simplicity this time and just asked how she was doing, how was the dojo holding up, what new wrinkle of her father's will had she run into this month... but found himself still wandering in old thoughts.
Promises and more promises.
She'd eventually found out, about the curse, shortly after Ranma had left. To say that she'd been merely furious would have been a tremendous understatement, and he remembered being honestly surprised at the fact that she hadn't killed him right there on the spot.
Yes, she'd definitely been mad.
But she had also forgiven him. It had taken time, nearly a year, but she had. Of course, she'd changed by then, just about everyone was at that point, but she most of all. He'd been shocked at first, but eventually he'd gotten used to it. And she had still wanted to be friends.
However, there had been a price.
Putting down the pen he once again reached into the wooden box and this time drew forth a letter, still sealed, from it.
It was old, the paper starting to yellow, it's corners a little frayed, but he still carried it.
As he had promised.
In looking at the letter he wondered for the probably the millionth time, where was this man? His greatest rival, and quite possibly his closest friend back during his teenage years. And now... and now he needed to find this person. To deliver this letter. To finish paying the price Akane's friendship had cost him.
So many promises...
Tears already beginning to swell within her eyes the little girl said, "But... but, she's my friend..." The mother, looking frightened as she had handed back the photo he'd shown them, placed her hands on her daughter's shoulders and said, "Honey, you need to tell this man where... where you new friend is."
He watched as the girl silently pleaded with her mother, her face so innocent and expressive, but ultimately in vain.
"Soo-Mei, tell this man where you friend is. This is... very important."
"But she didn't do anything wrong." Tears now falling the girl started to sniffle as she added, "You leave her alone! She's my friend... ... my only friend."
Staring at her, he felt a guilt build up within him, even as her jaw set itself into a stubborn expression that even he could recognize. As aggravating as it was, he couldn't help but admire her loyalty to something so dangerous.
But then again, he knew what it was like to be alone.
Sighing, he then crouched down to the girl's height and softly said, "Your friend is sick, and I have to take her home so that she'll get better. I need your help. If she stays, she's going to get more sick."
"Will... *sniff* Will she come back when she's better?"
He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He couldn't lie to her... he couldn't... and so, there was only one thing he could do.
"I'll you the truth. I don't think she'll ever come back. But... but I will promise you this..."
And then he was running through the forest, a man from the air lift trying desperately to keep up in case he once again strayed from the path. Within minutes he spotted something in the trees, a movement not completely natural, and moments after that he was desperately diving for cover as fifteen caliber rounds exploded towards him.
Arming the bomb that he'd been trusted with, he charged in...
Pausing a moment he brushed his fingers over his left rib cage, the pain from the multiple cracks only now fading into pure memory. Shaking his head he hoped that he would never run across one of those damnedable robots again. Just getting close enough to hit it with the electro-magnetic bomb had been insane, and even that had turned out to be not quite enough...
Picking up the last card he took a moment to look at it, opening it up to read its generic contents once more before adding to them.
She had called him, almost every day for a week. At first it was to see if the number he'd given her was real, but after that it was just to make sure he would remember. To make sure that he wasn't just another grown-up telling her something to make her cooperate.
Another promise to keep.
This one, though, didn't seem that hard. It didn't have that weight to it that so many others did. He wasn't sure why. Maybe... maybe Kasumi would know, she seemed to know everything these days. He'd have to ask her.
And so he wrote:
Happy 5th Birthday, Soo-Mei
I really hope you liked the present I sent
Your best friend,