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Woman Claims To Have Caused The Blue Ash Crisis
“This entry is rousing. We received a letter from a Chino Tokuma who claims to have worked on a secret project that caused the Blue Ash Crisis.”
After skimming the article Apricot decided most of it is an opinion piece. As far as Chino Tokuma’s letter is concerned it was withheld sighting the sensitive topics discussed in the document.
It took little time for Apricot to track down Chino Tokuma after searching the public directories. And now she stood before a quiet urban sprawl with a few children playing in the alleyways. The neighborhood of Yhanjo proved to be pleasant. She passes by several houses spruced up with plants, a welcomed sight as she has always found the inner city to be devoid of nature. All that concrete and how devoid of nature the sprawls are. This area, however, is beautiful. The brick apartment buildings are surrounded by so much foliage it appears as if it naturally grew from the walls.
The sound of a neighboring stream echoes from the other side of the road. Apricot smirks as she spots 1514 Dujho street displayed on a black cast-iron fence. This is Chino’s home, at least she hopes it is as the director she got the address from is a few years dated. She walks up the concrete stoop knocking on the forest green door. After a few moments, the door opens to a mature Uchellan woman. Apricot found it hard to place her age despite the black graying hair and pitted crows feet to the sides of her eyes. She wore a blue button-up shirt and a pair of blond slacks. “Hello dear, is there anything I can help you with.”
“My name is Apricot Signa, I am a student journalist. I read you had a story to tell about what happened during the Crisis.” Apricot made her best attempt to sound professional.
Chino nods with a half smile. “Step in dear.” Once Apricot enters, Chino’s Uchellan background becomes abundantly clear. The hard wood floors and low mat black furniture. The warm lighting and her choice of tray shrubbery. Chino ushers her through what Apricot considered being a narrow hall to sit at a small table in a much larger living room. “I will get us some tea to drink.”
The sentiment of drinking tea with an elderly Uchellan at once brough Apricot a fair amount of distress. She tried her memory for the proper etiquette to drink tea but her mind was falling blank. Being foreign to Uchella she forgot the proper mannerism. Instead, she often worried she came across as a “galijoh” a derogatory term in Uchellan for a careless overstayer.
As Chino returns with a plate of hot tea Apricot places her knees together sitting so her rear just touches the heels of her feet. She bows attempting to at least mask she has forgotten most of the conventions of tea drinking which is very important to the local culture. Chino lets out a small snicker. “My dear, you are an immigrant are you not?” Apricot nods. “With a name like Signa what could you expect. I don’t even think my children learned the old ways. I respect you tried though. Now, now sit like a modern lady.”
It felt strange but Apricot eases herself releasing the tension. Still, it lingers as disrespectful in her mind. “You have decorated your home so nicely, miss Tokuma.”
“Flattering an old lady like me will not get your report finished. You must be eager to hear what I have to say. I won’t bore you with niceties. I understand you youngsters are busy people.” Chino says taking a sip of her tea. Apricot smirks the consideration is nice she muses. “Now, before we start I want to know why you are interested in interviewing me?” Chino asks.
“Well,” Apricot says.
Chino raises her hand while Apricot is in mid-sentence. Her gaze lowers giving a perceptive eye. “I want the truth. Not some slippery correct way of saying things. I have to have you agree though nothing leaves this room.”
Apricot chuckles. “I don’t know why myself. I am just interested in what happened. Someone said I might find an answer to a question I had if I understood it.”
“And what question is nagging you?” Chino asks.
Apricot stiffens. “No, that question sounds crazy.”
Chino nods. “When I was a young girl like you, I would have felt the same way. I won’t press you on it. If it is the Crisis, I would imagine it is not a comfortable subject. It is unusual that a foreigner would have an interest in such a matter. Even still, you could never write a credible article on the subject.”
“I know that. This is not for a report. I kind of lied about my motives. It is more of a personal interest.” Apricot wonders if Chino already knew. She imagines that this elderly lady has gained a great amount of wisdom over the years considering her claimed experience. Some healthy skepticism of what is what. That she has become an oracle at this point. Apricot blows it off as wishful thinking. Though she is curious to know if this lady paid any mind to current events. “Did you hear about the Ichigari Grocery attack?”
Chino nods . “How could anyone have missed that? It was all over the news.”
“I was there. Do you believe what they are saying about it?”
“I suppose I should not with a question like that.”
“What if I said there was this monster?”
“If you are asking if I suspect you are crazy, I do not,” A slow uneasy smile creeps over Chino’s lips. “In fact, I would tell you I have seen strange things too. Lots. I am an old woman now though and can’t go on any longer. I told my story to that strange man who runs that rag of a magazine. Even he did not publish it.”
“What is your story?” Apricot asks.
“Oh well, I grew up as a farm girl in Yoshima. My parents were farmers and their parents and so on until antiquity. My parents noticed at an early age I was good at my studies. I developed a real love for electricity before I was ten. I had created an electric generator that used water by the age of twelve. The state caught wind of this and the Uchellan empire conscripted me to work with the Blue Ash project. Blue Ash at the time was a tiny fishing and mining community. When I had first arrived my job was to assist in establishing power lines along with city planners.
It did not take long before we transformed the sleepy little town of Blue Ash into a bustling city. A drilling expedition had been working all the while below the ground. It became a cover for what we really were doing.” Chino says finishing the last of her tea. She grabs a silver pitcher pouring herself another cup. “Would you care for me to top off yours?” Chino asks.
“No thank you, but please continue,” Apricot says completely inthralled with her tale at this point.
Chino places the pitcher down and takes a sip of tea. “Below the city, we had made a very elaborate machine. Its purpose was to make teleportation possible. We were rather proud of our work and early tests showed we could in fact transport matter from one end of the base to the other in a moment. Things changed however when we attempted our first manned test. We discovered it was not so simple as we had thought. Inside the gate was a black void similar to that of outer space. We called this the between plane.” Chino smirks. “This is where things will get weird hun.” Apricot nods.
“The leaders of the group were the Okabe family, and a man named Uraias Hilderic. Uraias was a strange man. I later found out why but at the time I found him to be focused on his work. So Uraias would spend a lot of time in the main corridor mumbling to himself taking notes. The plans and schematics he had drawn out were far more advanced than anyone had ever seen before. He demanded that it was this spot to make this device. It was a gate but not like the others. This gate did not create a space but would rather look into hyperspaces. He had specific coordinates too.
We had assembled a satellite that would be our observer. Everything went as planned. We set the satellite out into the hyperspace and could observe from the satellite’s transmission what the hyperspace was like. We discovered however everything was not as we expected. There were lots of orbs floating around inside the hyperspace. We had thought they were pockets of energy that had balled together in a fashion similar to ball lightning and could not dissipate since being trapped in the void.
Uraias devised a way to harness the energy, so we built a second satellite. Once it was inside the void, we put a technician in a suit and sent him out with the thing. I was manning the electric output that day. It was difficult, my job was to keep the power on for the city goers above while maintaining the gate so our technician did not get trapped inside. Uraias had not shown up. I felt uneasy, to begin with, but that made me even more uneasy. There was a large orb that appeared in the distance. It rushed through destroying everything in its path. The sound it made was so loud it destroyed the radio speakers. I remember the pieces raining down on me. They burned.
We were in a panic. A complete blackout. When we left the control room, we found Uraias in the main corridor surrounded by those orbs. Something had ripped a pair of workers to pieces, he was eating them. He was saying crazy things mumbling about a new world. Those blue orbs just kept flying out of the gate. Whispering around the room like they were alive. That was when the Okabe clan showed up and destroyed the gate. They took all of us into custody and they arrested us. I was cleared of all charges and told not to talk about any of this.”
Apricot nods with concern. “That sounds terrible.”
“I am not done.” Chino continues. “We had built that city in a particular design. In the form of a sigil, a magic symbol used to increase a spells power. It was all a ritual. The people who lived above were spirited away. I cannot imagine what happened to them. The city stayed intact. There was no explosion. The sun turned black for several days that is true but that was not from smoke. I never found out what those blue orbs were though or where they left to. I never left. I just stayed here. Uraias, we never found out what happened to him. He was not alone though.
We always thought he was babbling to himself like it was the way he thought. He was taking orders from something. He was not alone. I’m convinced he was not the designer of those devices. That is my story dear.”
“Who designed them?” Apricot inquires.
Chino looks down. “I am not sure. I think whatever had his ear did. He was just crazy enough to listen.”
“Thank you, Miss Tokuma,” Apricot says. “I appreciate what you have told me. It answers my question.”
“I am glad dear. I can rest easy now knowing my story will live on beyond me.” Chino says. “The nights seem to get longer these days. Now, go on your way. I did my good deed for the day.” Chino walks Apricot to her front door bidding her farewell. As Apricot leaves, she cannot help but have suspicions that Chino didn’t tell her everything and she had a growing concern those blue orbs may be the phantoms that escaped the reaper.
After leaving Apricot hopped on the train. She traveled from a couple different lines until she made her way to the library of public records. If Chino was telling the truth, it should be easy to prove with a few key pieces of information. The baroque wooden front desk is manned by a young Uchellan girl a couple years Apricot’s senior. She stood in front of a flat screen using a scanner to check in documents. Apricot clears her throat. “Excuse me mam.”
The lady rolls her eyes releasing a sigh as she looks up from her pile of documents. “Yes.”
“I am looking for a set of microfilms pertaining to the city’s original plans for zoning.” The lady wastes no time tapping her fingers rapidly onto the table. Upon further inspection Apricot could see the faint light of a holographic keyboard. “That is an interesting keyboard.”
“The department thought it was better considering the amount of use our keyboards get. I preferred the old ones but you know how it is with the government.” she pauses her typing glancing over towards Apricot. “I am afraid I can’t give you that information without the proper clearance. It is not open as a public record.” Apricot grabs her badge from her wallet placing it down on the countertop. The lady inspects it and nods . “You‘re a state journalist. I would never have expected someone so well dressed to be one. You know the stereotype of state journalist being all rich men.” Apricot resists the urge to roll her eyes. “Let me see if you have access.” The young woman places the badge onto the counter in front of the computer screen typing in the numbers on the badge. “You are in luck. You are all cleared. Just let me go grab that film for you and get you a key to the viewing room.”
”Thank you.” Apricot takes her card back. She rests her back on the counter looking toward the library’s entrance doors.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” a male voice calls.
Apricot’s face lights up when she sees Sato approaching her. “Just getting information for an article I am writing. What are you doing here?”
Sato shakes his head. “I had to clear up my review and register myself again.”
“What a pain. So what did you do to earn yourself a review?” Apricot asks.
“Apparently, one of my photos caught a state official breaking policy. So instead of going after him they took it out on me for having it published. I had to pay my earnings from the article plus restitution to the state.” Sato smirks. “You see how it is.”
“Yeah,” Apricot did not know what to say. Being a foreigner has its benefits, and its curses. The government would never trust her but with that they never took what she did seriously like an Uchellan born citizen. Even the slightest misgiving is treated harshly by the government when natives are involved. Most likely what she did at the bank would have seen her lose any prospect of becoming a journalist or worse, even a long prison sentence might have followed. However, a foreigner working for the Uchellan government was viewed as progress for their societal stance in the world.
“Apricot, I got something to show you. If you would not mind stopping by my house later that would be great.”
“What is it?” Apricot inquires.
“It is the pictures you took. I can’t explain it now but I need to show you something.” The prospect of a picture she took having to be explained definitely piqued her interest.
“Sure Sato,“ She nods.
“Great, I hate to do this but really I got to go. Machi needs a ride home from work and I will be late as it is.”
Apricot smirks. “Go get her. I know how she can get when waiting around.” Sato nods bidding Apricot farewell.
“Mam.” the lady at the desk says handing Apricot a small hand sized rod. “Follow me.”
The mechanical squeals and hums of the viewing machine is the only sounds inside the empty dark room. Apricot’s face is planted against a viewfinder as she turns a small nob sliding through photos and zoning details. After about a half hour of research she finds what she is looking for. A larger overview of the cities’ oldest streets. On the paper she draws out the streets one by one with approximate sizes. The roads converge into an image of Vs and Xs and the last road loops in a perfect circle around the whole thing. Chino is right. They designed the whole city around a massive sigil of some sort. She pulls away from the machine sitting back in the chair. She looks up at the ceiling letting out a long breath.
Sato’s apartment is situated inside a large office building. The room is for rent as office space but Sato retrofitted it as an apartment. Apricot is sure if the right people were to find out they would force him to vacate. She knocks on the gray door waiting outside a hall being passed by people in the usual business fatigues. Suits, ties, dresses. The door opens to reveal a room with photos strung about every corner. The entire place is a collage of memories and events captured on gelatin resins. “Welcome.” Sato says ushering her inside.
“Sato, I have never seen your apartment before but your decorative style reminds me of a serial killer.” she laughs at which Sato joins her.
He closes the door behind her smirking. “I started with only a few but I have so many good ones it grew until it became this. Now I can’t part with them.”
Apricot nods. “How was Machi?”
Sato shakes his head. “Machi, was feeling like Machi.”
“A little upset for being late?” Apricot asks.
“Just a bit.” Sato then walks over to his desk picking up a pair of photos. “I have to ask.” he says turning the images towards Apricot. “Where those things in the frame when you took these?”
In the center of the photos appears to be a person disappearing into smoke. The figure is pitch black and blurry. She shook her head. “No, looks like the negatives got damaged when I dropped the camera.” Apricot tries her best to play it off.
“I have never seen anything like that before.” Sato comments turning the photos back to himself. “I thought that myself but these are the only two like that. The rest are fine before and after. The real scary part is there is a few images between them, that are also fine.”
“I can tell you those were not in there when I took them.” Apricot laughs. Sato nods his head. “Maybe something was wrong with the roll from the factory.” Apricot adds.
“Well, anyway, they freak me out.” He laughs.
“Yeah me too.” Apricot thought to herself.
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