Monday, July 18, 2011

Girl Fights Back (Go No Sen), ch. 6... Check it out!

When Emily came to the edge of the forest she had already seen the fire in the woodshed. She had only suspected that something was wrong from Promontory Rock, but now she could see that nothing at all was right at her home. She had seen Yuki drive off with Mr. Cardano, and then her father set fire to the main house. She noticed that the security guards were nowhere to be seen. But she had also spotted suspicious activity in the hedges to her left. There were several men moving as quietly as they could manage through some rather dense and noisy underbrush. She circled around to her right, always remaining concealed within the verge of the forest.

She made her way to the point in the north lawn where the woods came the closest to the estate buildings. She was about fifty yards from the corner of the garage. She had a very clear view of her father, crouching against the corner of the building, peering over a low shrub toward the hedges. “Thank God! He sees them too!” she thought with a palpable feeling of relief.

Just then, she saw him scatter some tools with a clatter and burst from behind the shrub towards the main house. They saw him too! He was running as fast as she had ever seen him go. He only had to cover twenty yards to get to the cover of the house. She hadn’t heard the noise of any gunfire, but she could definitely hear the sound of bullets ricocheting around her father as he turned the corner of the front portico. And then she noticed that the whole house seemed to be on fire! She desperately wanted to run to her father, to see if he was hit, to warn him about the fire, to wrap herself in his arms. But she knew that she should hold back, wait just a moment, see what those men were up to. They didn’t know she was there yet. She might need that advantage.
They had guns, seemed to be very heavily armed. She saw them running toward the house. They had to cover about a hundred and fifty yards. She shifted her position further to her right, trying to find a position as close to the kitchen door as she could manage without drawing their attention. This brought her to a position near the blazing woodshed as well. She discarded her backpack and got ready to run. Her jacket was dark brown, but she was wearing khaki pants and an orange tank top. It wasn’t ideal camo, so she would need the cover of the fire.

She saw eight or nine men crossing the lawn, firing as they ran. Four of them ran straight for the front door. The rest peeled off and circled around toward the back of the house, pausing to consider the garage. Once they made it to the kitchen, she would have no way to get to the house. She had to act now. There was no more time to wait, no more deliberating. She moved quickly, but deliberately toward the corner of the house near the kitchen, keeping the woodshed between herself and the last position where she had seen the second team. The brightness of the flames kept them from seeing her, but it also kept her from seeing precisely where they were. At least, they weren’t aware of her presence yet, she hoped, so they wouldn’t be looking for her in the fire.

She heard a noise from the house. It sounded like muffled gunfire. There was a crash and the sound of breaking glass. She peered as far around the woodshed as she dared. The men in the driveway ran toward the house, some toward the front, the rest burst in through the kitchen door. Emily followed them in as closely as she could without attracting their attention. What she saw when she cleared the door was a full on gun battle. Two men in the kitchen were laying down a steady fire into the public rooms of the house. Even more gunfire was returning their way. One of them had sustained a significant leg wound. The other was trying to help him out of the line of fire. She did not see the other two men.

Emily’s first thought was to launch herself at the two who were shooting into the rooms where she assumed her father was. But the gunfire was too hot to make it worth the risk. If she were shot or killed, she would hardly be any help to her father. Her next thought was to make her way to the kitchen staircase and down to the basement. From there she could come up at the other end of the house where she might be able to help her father.

She cleared the staircase and entered the furnace room. She peered through the doorway into the rec room, where she saw her father walking unsteadily from the other end of the basement. He was bleeding from his left side! She ran to him, threw her arms around him. She just wanted to hold on to him. He winced. She slid around under his right shoulder and helped him stand. He breathed a little easier for seeing her. Now to get them both out of there.

“Quickly, Chi-chan, downstairs,” he said in a sharp whisper.

“Okay, Dad. What’s going on upstairs? Is anyone else left up there?” she asked.

“No. We’re all that’s left. Come, quickly.” They slipped behind the bar where a door in the floor covered the stairs to the lower basement. Emily lowered the door over them. It wouldn’t conceal their escape route for long. At least it wasn’t the first place they’d look. It would buy Emily and her father a few minutes at best. The shooting had stopped upstairs. The tactical teams, or what was left of them, were regrouping. George had managed to disarm the first man through the front door and used his gun to dispatch the next man through. He ducked into the study off the dining room, crouched in its doorway, and fired into the kitchen as the second team entered there. They returned fire through the dining room and living room. The remainder of the first team fired back. George slipped down the basement stairs in the confusion.

“We need to get out through the tunnel before they make it down here. Hurry, Chi-chan.”

“I’m on it, Dad. Let’s go!” But the enemy was already there. Somehow. But, how?! One man in black tactical gear burst out from behind the door to the tunnel. George saw him just as he was pulling his gun up to fire. He knocked the gun to the side, slapped the man hard across the face and shoved him back into the tunnel door, slamming it closed with considerable force. If there was anyone else in the tunnel, this would contain them until George could settle with this first attacker. The man sprang up with a huge knife in his hand, and lunged towards George.

Emily was in shock. She desperately wanted to help her father but found herself rooted to the floor. She watched as he parried the lunging knife. His left arm appeared to move in a lazy circle around the man’s right hand. It had an almost hypnotic effect. She couldn’t quite see how it happened, how he controlled his opponent’s arm. He twisted the arm out and away, slapped his face again with his right hand, and sent him sprawling backwards in a complete flip. He stood over his attacker, holding his wrist as he stepped on the side of his face. The man reached for his gun, which lay just within reach. George pulled up on the arm sharply and stomped down hard on his face. He stopped moving.

Emily was shocked by the blunt violence of her father’s skills. She had never seen him in a fight before. She found it both thrilling and terrifying. She understood that he did not have the luxury of fighting from out of the stillness of his qi. He was fighting to protect her. He had too much to lose here. And he was bleeding out of his side. He had to find the most direct way to dispatch this man, prevent him from firing his gun, or alerting the men upstairs, not to mention whoever might be behind him in the tunnel. Emily understood her father perfectly, appreciated him as never before.

George picked up the gun, tore open the door and fired several rounds into the tunnel. The light from the muzzle flairs didn’t reveal anyone. The tunnel was clear. The men upstairs had found the trap door behind the bar. Emily pulled the dead man into the tunnel and pulled the door closed, hooked him to the handle by his gun strap. The barrel caught on the doorframe. They ran as fast as they could to the other end and out into the woods. They found where George had left the motorcycle, collected their packs, kicked over the engine and sped off into the woods just as the sky began to show blue. They were going much faster than Emily felt was safe strictly speaking. But her father knew they had to be out of sight or hearing when the tactical teams emerged from the tunnel.

They rode for a couple of hours through the woods. They hardly ever came out from under the canopy of trees. If anyone was looking for them from above, they would be practically invisible. They stopped a couple of times to rest, and to give George a break from the jostling of the ride. His wound was starting to bother him. He was losing a lot of blood. Emily began to worry. “Dad, we gotta get you some help,” she pleaded.

“We have to keep going. There is no help around here,” he said

“How far is the nearest town?”

“Chi-chan, it’s another thirty minutes to the car.”

“Dad, you can’t make it that long, can you?”

“I dunno. I think you’ll have to take over from here. You up to it?”

“Trust me, Dad. I can do it. Clutch with my hands, shift with my feet, right?”

“Oh, Lord,” he snorted. Fortunately, Emily turned out to have a better understanding of how motorcycles work than she let on. There were only a few rough bits at the beginning. Her father hugged her from behind, and held on for dear life. He was as happy as he had ever been.

By the time they got to Mill Creek, George felt much weaker. Emily saw how pale he had become and was very worried. There was a first aid kit in the trunk of the car. Emily tried to dress the wound. It wasn’t large, and had missed his ribs. The bullet had entered and exited apparently without injuring any organs. But he had lost a lot of blood. He lay in the back of the car. She seemed to have stopped the bleeding. Emily drove as her father directed her to the interstate. They headed north to Pittsburgh.

They stopped at a steakhouse in Morgantown. Emily got takeout and George ate what he could in the back seat. His plan was to take a northern route through Ohio and Michigan, eventually make his way to Montana where they could hide out in the wilderness for a few weeks. There were lots of cabins in the area around the Kootenai National Forest, and he knew that many of them would be empty in late October. From there he thought they could work their way south to New Mexico and meet up again with Michael and Yuki. The entire trip would take a couple of months, plenty of time for their trail to go cold.

Emily understood the plan perfectly. It was just like her father. He would elude the enemy who expected him to move quickly by moving as slowly as possible without remaining completely still. Everything would be direct and deliberate, nothing rushed, nothing decided in haste, and yet still be utterly elusive. He would make the enormity of the country his ally instead of his obstacle.

George lay across the back seat as they bucketed up interstate 79 and pondered their situation. He could feel his strength ebbing. He sensed that he didn’t have much time. But he couldn’t leave Emily without telling her the truth. He’d been looking for the right moment to tell her everything for the last few years. She wasn’t a child anymore. She wasn’t exactly an adult yet either, but she was going to have to become one in a hurry. This wasn’t the moment he was hoping for, but he was afraid there wouldn’t be a whole lot more moments to pick and choose from. She would be pissed at him, he knew, for all the lies. But he had had his reasons. He just hoped that she would the see the wisdom of his schemes and precautions, too. Fortunately, the truth he would tell her would have a happy side as well.

Emily pulled the car into the Grove City Airport parking lot. It was a sleepy spot this time of day, a good spot to give her dad a rest from the ride. He propped himself up on a bag and reclined against the back door. He was pale as a sheet. Emily looked at him in horror. “He must be bleeding internally” she thought. She tried to simulate a cheery expression to keep his spirits up. He wasn’t fooled.

“Look in that pack.” He motioned to one of the packs in front seat. “I need to talk to you about something in there,” he said.

Emily opened the pack and pulled out Yuki’s rice balls. “Wow, this is just what I need, Dad! You didn’t make these, did you?” She handed him one and took a bite out of one herself.

Those weren’t what he was expecting to see come out of her bag. Still, he decided to get right to it. “Your mother always knows what to make for you,” he chortled.

Emily laughed. She was glad to hear a lighter tone in his voice. It took a moment for her to register what he had just said. She turned her eyes directly into his, trying to read his face. What was he saying? “No, it couldn’t be,” she thought. “He wouldn’t make a joke about that.” She felt a tug in the deepest part of her stomach. Her eyes flashed.

“What are you trying to say, Dad?”

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. I should have told you sooner. I wanted to. But it just didn’t seem safe before.”

“Tell me what, Dad?!” She felt a storm brewing in her heart. He knew it.

“I’ve been deceiving you all these years about your mother,” he began nervously. “Her name is not Mei Li. She is not Taiwanese. That was all a lie. Yuki is your mother.”

She was speechless for a few moments as that last statement hung in the air. Finally she burst out: “Daddy! What possible reason could you have for not telling me? Why didn’t Yuki tell me herself? All these years!!!” She yelped in rage and frustration. George felt deeply ashamed. He knew he had cheated her of something, wronged her. All his good reasons, his worries about the danger they were in. None of it had any weight compared to the pain she was in right now. There was nothing to say that wouldn’t seem like a craven excuse. Even so, he had to go on. He had to tell her. She needed to know so much in order to protect herself, in order even to know who she is! He let out a sigh and told her about Cardano’s assignment in Tokyo. He told her all the things Cardano knew. Then he told her about him and Yuki. She was born in Okinawa at the base hospital. They had been married a few weeks earlier.

He explained her grandfather’s research to her. She was disgusted. It seemed little more than a war crime to her, or some sort of atrocity without an official category yet. There was more he told her, stuff Cardano didn’t know. The Chinese had heard that her grandfather had shifted his efforts from seeking a gene mutation to support the Predator drug to developing a gene mutation that would achieve similar ends independently of the drug. He was apparently convinced that he could design a virus to implant the mutation in an adult subject. It would take effect in a few days. Perhaps it would even prove to be reversible. That, at least, was what the Chinese believed. Of course, even if such a thing were possible, the risk of the virus getting loose in the general population ought to dissuade any sane person from carrying on with the project.

There was still more, perhaps the most important part of all from his point of view. The files Yuki gave to Cardano and Meacham said nothing about the new mutation. She left them in the dark. The Chinese heard about it from an informant higher up in the Mori Corporation. But none of the files they had managed to copy had any information about the mutation. Still, they became convinced that her grandfather had hidden the design of the mutation, or even the mutation itself, in his own body. The routine autopsy done after his death would not reveal any anomalies on the genetic level. The Chinese stole tissue and blood samples from the remains before the cremation. They studied them for years, but found nothing.

Naturally, or perhaps quite unnaturally given the subject matter, they turned their suspicions on Yuki. Perhaps she carried the mutation in her body. Cardano realized that the Chinese were interested in Yuki. He assumed that they thought she knew something about the Predator project. But George understood the true nature of their intentions. He also knew they would stop at nothing to get her child if they ever learned of her existence. Yuki was pregnant when she fled to Hokkaido with George. From that moment on, he bent all his efforts to conceal Emily’s true identity. Even from Cardano.

After the attack at the concert, George realized that Emily was in much more serious danger. She had begun to attract the attention of some very dangerous men. Did they know who she is? Or did they just think they could use her to get to Cardano and Yuki? George was not sure, but he was taking no chances. He would do what he could to preserve the illusion that she was his brother’s daughter on the off chance that anyone still believed it. That was why he insisted on taking Emily with him rather than accompanying Cardano and Yuki to New Mexico.

Emily listened in stunned silence. So many painful questions swirled through her mind. She couldn’t quite bring just one of them into focus. But the theme that recurred most forcefully in the jumble of her thoughts was “Who am I?” It wasn’t hard for her father to see this.

“It isn’t true, Chi-chan,” he tried to reassure her. “There never was any mutation. It was just a casual notion of your grandfather’s. He never pursued the idea in his work. You are just our little girl.”

“But how did I get to be so good at fighting?” she asked in a shaky voice. The thought was devastating, that the thing she loved best was just a product of some monstrous mutation.

“No, honey. You’re good because you’re a tough chick. That’s all,” he said. “You’re just a normal kid, like any other. There is no magic pill, no special gene, no short cuts. Just a lot of hard work.”

“Those guys at the concert, is that why they attacked us? Did they think I’m some sort of freak?”

“I don’t know what they thought. All the world thinks you’re my niece, with no special connection to Yuki. But if our secret’s out, then we’re gonna have to approach things a bit differently from now on.”

It took Emily a while to digest all this information. Her entire life seemed to have been turned upside down. Everything she had grown up believing about herself and her family, such as it was, had been snatched away from her. She felt dizzy. But there was one comforting thought pulsating at the heart of all the confusion. Whatever else might turn out to be false, she knew without a doubt that Yuki loved her. And now she knew why. She traded an abstract dream of a mother for the absolute truth of her real mother. Her mother had been with her for her entire life. Her mother loved her! Mei Li hadn’t cared enough to take her with her when she ran out. She cast that canard into the oblivion it deserved and embraced the mother who so palpably loved her. Emily’s feelings gradually changed from perplexity and rage to a warm feeling of confidence verging on joy.

Yuki would have a similar conversation with Cardano some time after they arrived in New Mexico. He needed to know everything about her father’s research, about what the Chinese thought he had done, and what Meacham and perhaps Burzinski were just now coming to believe. He would not be able to protect them all effectively unless he had the full story. He would also have to know the truth about Emily. He would be shocked and angry, though mainly at himself for not guessing the truth about her sooner. The news about the Chinese would be worse than he had suspected, and he became fairly certain that Meacham’s renewed interest in Yuki must have come from something he learned about the Chinese program. This thought would change his entire perspective about the plans he had made for them, for his family, for everyone. It was clear that if they really believed there was a mutation hidden among them, so to speak, they would stop at nothing to get control of it.

George asked Emily to take out the papers in her pack. She rummaged through it and found a lot of cash, at least twenty thousand, a safe deposit box key to a bank in West Virginia, several passports, a social security card and a birth certificate. The birth certificate recorded the live birth of a baby girl seventeen and a half years ago on a US military base in Okinawa, Japan. Her name was listed as Michiko Tenno. This was the family name of Yuki’s maternal grandmother. They had insisted on using this name to conceal any connection to her grandfather. The father was listed as George Carmichael, which was his mother’s name. They had gone to great lengths to create a document that she could use in perfect safety. It was a valid birth certificate; she was really born there to those parents. George was confident that this identity would withstand careful scrutiny and not put her in danger. This is who she truly is. She could safely go anywhere in the world as Michiko Tenno, US citizen.

One of the US passports identified her as Michiko Tenno, as did the social security card. They were consistent with the identity established in the birth certificate. This was a valid passport, duly supported by the official State Department records. Two other US passports and one British passport identified her as Emily Chung or Emily Hsiao. A third US passport identified her as Emily Kane, born in Hawaii, but the date of birth showed her to be now eighteen years old. These were very good forgeries. She could probably get through a border control facility using one of them. But if she were arrested and these passports examined closely, they would probably be discovered to be fakes. One last passport, from Japan, identified her as Michiko Tenno, born in Okinawa, and folded up inside it was a birth certificate showing her birth at Chubukyodo Hospital in Okinawa. These were valid documents as well, supported by any legal records that might be found in a search of Japanese government records. Yuki had insisted on establishing valid Japanese citizenship for her daughter.

This was a lot of information for Emily to process. She had a name. But it wasn’t the name everyone knew her by. But it was a name that all of the important social institutions she had to live in would recognize. George gave her very precise instructions about how to use the fake passports, about how to find her way to New Mexico, where to find her mother, what was in the safe deposit box. He told her as much as he could in the short time he had.

Emily’s father died that night in a motel room in the town of Kane, Pennsylvania, on the edge of the Allegheny National Forest. Emily felt completely bereft at first. When the police arrived on the scene the next morning, they asked a lot of questions. The death was clearly the result of some sort of violent incident, or perhaps a hunting accident. Emily was obviously grief stricken and under no suspicion herself. But the police did not know what to do with her. She was a minor with little identification other than a library card and a school ID. No one doubted that she was exactly who she appeared to be, a bewildered, vulnerable child. The police were only interested in finding a relative to turn her over to. Emily made arrangements with the local funeral home to have her father’s remains cremated as soon as the investigation was closed, which she imagined would be soon. A small town police department was not going to penetrate the darkness surrounding the events that had just transpired. As the events of the morning fulminated around her, Emily consoled herself for the loss of her father by thinking about her newfound mother.
Later that afternoon she drove west out of town toward the interstate and turned south. She understood her father’s escape route, north then west then south to safety. It was a good plan, and it was a perfect expression of his character. But it did not suit hers. She turned back toward her pursuers. If she was the target, then going to New Mexico might bring them to her mother that much sooner. As much as she wanted to be with her mother at this moment, she had unfinished business in Virginia.  

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