The engine room was on lowest deck of the Nisshin Maru—well under the water line—some twenty feet below, in fact. There were no windows down there, just heavy machines with steady lights, and bright sodium vapor lamps suspended two floors above our heads. So when Yumi cut the power, the engine room turned, not just dark, but pitch black, in the strictest, blackest, inkiest sense of the word. I kept waiting for a backup generator, or a few of those red emergency lights to kick in, but it never happened. We were dead in the water.
Yumi clicked her flashlight and swept the thin beam around the engine room as the Nisshin Maru’s powerful engine gasped and sputtered. The ship-wide alarm system had croaked along with everything else, leaving us with nothing more than the occasional, eerie groan from the hull.
I shoved one of the bodies from his chair and put my foot on the seat. “Yumichan,” I said. “What the hell are we doing down here?”
“Matte,” Yumi replied, yanking an emergency flashlight off the wall. She turned it on and screwed a small orange signaling cone onto the lens.
“I don’t know that word,” I said. “But I hope it means that you have invisibility cloaks or laser guns or something because in a few seconds, half the ship is gonna be down here screaming the Japanese equivalent of WTF.”
“Matte, matte,” she repeated.
Yumi turned to a large toolbox on a nearby table and set the cone light down next to it. She lifted the lid and started searching though it, her white light stuck between her teeth, until she found what she was looking for.
“Atta!” she exclaimed, holding it in front of the light.
I scratched my head. “Duct tape?”
She smiled, picked up the orange light, and stuck it under her arm. Then she tore off a long strip of tape and started wrapping it around the handle of the orange light.
“Alright then,” I said, ejecting the half spent clip from my 9mm. I popped in a new one and racked a round into the pipe. A ka-chink! echoed throughout the quiet room. Cool.
I trained my ear toward the door, or at least where I thought it was, and listened. Nothing. I had to assume that they’d found the three bodies we’d left upstairs. Maybe they wouldn’t come down here at all. Maybe they’d just lock themselves in a safe room and call in the Imperial Navy. Either way, the window for our escape would close soon, if it hadn’t already. Nevertheless, I holstered the pistol and slid the AK-47 into my hands.
Yumi extinguished her white flashlight. All that was left was the dim glow of the orange cone. She drew a few arcs in the air, accompanied by the deadly swish-swish of her blade.
She’d taped the damn thing to her sword.
“Groovy,” I said, grinning.
Her lips curled into a devilish smile. The cone of light swept down in a swift, coral arc and pooled on the floor.
Just then I heard the sound of a door. Someone was in the stairwell.
“Go!” Yumi whispered, then bolted across the room, the orange glow trailing behind her. She waved the light over the small flight of stairs that led up to the door, then extinguished it. Total darkness. I jumped up and felt my way over to the massive engine, nearly killing myself as I stumbled over knife-in-stomach guy.
“Hilarious,” I growled, and took cover behind the giant shell.
I pulled on the rifle’s slide and stuck a nervous finger in to make sure that there was a live round in the chamber. Okay.
The door creaked, and a beam of light peeked into the engine room. I crouched down out of sight and pulled the stock of the rifle close to my shoulder. Something clicked, followed shortly after by another click, then a third. Shit, they were armed. I peeked around the corner to find roughly eight men entering the room. The lead man had the only flashlight.
Yumi’s cone light flicked on. A long swath of orange cut through the darkness, forming a beautiful, electric parabola. The leader was, for a split second, bathed in a soft, orange glow: his mouth was wide open, his eyes frozen, gawking at the pretty, pretty citrus rainbow sweeping toward him. When the blow landed, his flashlight dropped to the floor and snuffed out. Only a minor gurgle escaped his throat. Then, thump-tha-thump said a couple of fleshy things as they hit the floor. Yumi snapped off her light and vanished into the shadows.
The room suddenly erupted in wild, erratic gunfire. I dropped to my knees and scrambled backward, watching as the walls and the faces of the dead men flashed in concert with the hail of bullets. I took cover behind the rear-end of the engine as lead whizzed over my head and exploded into sparks on the nearby control panels. I desperately wanted to leap up and spray the shit out of the crowd, but I had no idea where Yumi might be hiding. I was stuck there until she gave me a sign.
One of the men started howling. I leaned and checked the corner. In the strobing light of gunfire, one of their own staggered sideways and collapsed in a ridiculous, funhouse-like, snapshot motion.
Another one shouted above the din and the shooting instantly stopped. I flattened myself against the engine and held onto a breath as I listened. Where had I heard that voice before? I imagined the faces and the voices of all the people I’d met on the Nisshin Maru, but it wasn’t until he spoke again, softer this time, that I recognized it. The captain was here. I didn’t understand what he said, of course, but a few seconds later another flashlight clicked on. The walls and the ceiling slid into view. Bullet holes littered a cluster of pipes directly in front of me. A black telephone receiver hung from its shattered base, dust particles clogged the air, and grit and debris covered everything. Oh, and one of my shoelaces was untied.
Click… ka-chink. Someone was reloading.
The captain whispered something and the light grew a little brighter. Footsteps advanced in my direction. I squeezed the rifle’s wooden grip, ready to spring if he got too close, when I noticed Yumi, kneeling between two giant water tanks on the opposite wall.
That was my cue.
I rolled and fired a quick burst at the encroaching light. Its owner shrieked and clamored backward as his flashlight went spinning toward the floor, then blinked out. Several people gasped. Would they never learn? I rolled again and emptied the clip at the sounds. The room lit up again. Bullets, like angry bees rushed over my head and rattled on the wall. I scampered back to the cover of the engine and heaved the spent clip across the room. The noise instantly drew the fire away. Awesome, I thought that only worked in movies.
I yanked a fresh magazine from my belt, just as a broad, orange wave exploded out of Yumi’s hiding spot and morphed into a swirl of twirling figure eights.
I peeked my head out and watched as the tangerine ribbon illuminated the face of its first victim. He took a swift, deep cut to the jowls, but not deep enough: his head hinged back and dangled over his shoulders, still attached by a few bits of stubborn flesh. Amazingly, he stayed up for a good two seconds before he toppled backward, and landed right on his face.
Yumi’s blade darted off, painting a chaotic mess of color between the two remaining men. I thought I might have a shot at one of them, but the girl was everywhere. I crouched and crept along the side of engine so I’d have a clearer shot if the opportunity presented itself.
Yumi immediately ducked, her blade sweeping a wide halo a few inches from the floor. Her intended victim saw it coming and jumped, barely escaping a double amputation. He raised his weapon again as Yumi darted away. I took aim and let him have it. He crumpled to the floor and I bent around the engine to see if I could get a beat on the last man. He started firing randomly at Yumi and I.
I ducked down, when Yumi suddenly gasped, and I heard her sword clatter on the floor.
“No!” I shouted, and leaped up to unload on the last man.
A white light flicked on. And there was Yumi, perfectly intact, positioned directly behind the captain. A knife gleamed at his throat. She grinned widely at me, then whispered something sweetly into the captain’s ear.
He dropped his gun.
“Jesus, I thought you were dead,” I said, stepping out to retrieve the pistol. I started to say something like “I could have killed you”, but my complaint was cut short as I slipped in a puddle of blood, and careened backwards like an idiot and landed on my head.
Yumi giggled. “Omoshiroi.”
“Yeah, whatever.” I got up, rubbing my neck. “Alright, move,” I told her, drawing my 9mm.
“Matte!” Yumi yelled, holding up her free hand. “Hostage.”