Powder

Yumi held Captain Moriyama from behind, her blade pulled taut against his neck. She spoke to the captain in a polite, almost sweet, tone, informing him, I guessed, of the natural consequences if he didn’t obey her every word.

The captain nodded and replied in curt, one or two word answers. Yumi nodded, smiled, and patted him on the head. “Iiko,” she said.

They appeared to have an arrangement. The captain would be our hostage.

“Let’s go,” Yumi said, handing me her flashlight.

I cupped it under the barrel of my rifle and followed as she maneuvered the captain through the door and up the stairs, the point of her sword nestled between his shoulder blades. Moriyama took great care not to make a sound, lifting his legs almost in slow motion, and gradually letting his weight settle on the steps. At the top he gently tugged on the door handle and pulled it open, making space for me to pass.

I crept through the doorway and swept the flashlight into the darkness.

“Clear,” I said.

Yumi didn’t budge. She cocked her head. “Daijyoubudesuka?”

“Uhh, what?”

Okay, Waynesan?”

I gave her the thumbs up. “Okay.”

“Okay,” the captain said in a deep baritone. “Okay doukay.”

Yumi smacked Captain Moriyama on the shoulder with her blade. “Ikou.”

They moved into the hallway and turned right. I hustled to the next corner to the long port side corridor and shined the light in both directions.

“I can’t see all the way down there,” I said. “But it looks okay.”

“Okay,” Yumi said, and rounded the corner.

I ran up ahead, swinging the light into the shadows. We passed a row of open rooms each furnished with one bed and one desk, and a familiar calendar of Antarctica on the wall. In one of the rooms there was an unopened can of Asahi beer lying on the floor.

Yumi prodded the captain ahead and I swung around to check our rear. A faint yellow light suddenly appeared from the corner where we’d turned.

“Freeze!” I yelled, and sprayed a burst of lead down the hallway.

The light vanished. No thump, no bloodcurdling scream. It just sort of withered away into the darkness.

Captain Moriyama yelped. I spun around to find him against the wall on the ground, Yumi holding him down with her sword extended.

I rapped myself on the head. “Sorry,” I said. “False alarm. I’m seeing things.”

“Okay?” Yumi said.

“Yeah, okay. Sorry.”

Yumi yanked the captain off his feet and continued down the hall.

I followed, checking over my shoulder every few seconds. “Fuck this boat,” I mumbled.

“You’d be dead if it weren’t for this boat.”

I gasped. Suddenly, floating next to me in a bath of sparkling yellow light, was Spegg, the eight foot transgenic fish who had been haunting me ever since I left Antarctica.

“Holy fuck, get the fuck out of here,” I said under my breath.

“You put on quite a show in the engine room,” Spegg replied.

“Can’t you see I’m a little busy here, Spegg?!”

“If I’m not mistaken, you almost seemed to be enjoying yourself down there. All that shooting and killing and swordplay. I’m impressed, Robertson.”

“I do not enjoy killing people,” I said, flicking my light into an opened room.

Spegg pursed his giant lips. “Maybe, maybe not. But she sure as hell does,” he said, pointing a sinewy finger at Yumi.  “Quite the little dragon, that one. Fierce.”

“I guess.”

“I find that very attractive.”

I winced. “Gross, Spegg, what the hell are you talking about?”

“And I imagine you do too.”

“Oh Christ,” I growled.

“I wouldn’t blame you if you did. I mean, look at her. When was the last time you were with a woman, Wayne? Much less a broad who can take out a room full of armed sailors with only a sword?”

“Feel free to fuck off anytime, fish.”

“Fucking off,” Spegg said, and vanished into the wall.

“Waynesan!” Yumi shouted. “Naniwoshiteimasuka?”

I pointed the light down the hallway. They were already at the end. I cursed and ran toward them.

“Sorry,” I said.

“Okay?” Yumi asked, touching my shoulder.

The captain scowled at me.

“Okay,” I replied. I glanced at the captain and gave my rifle a quick pat. He made a brief growl of displeasure and looked away.

Yumi smiled, paying no attention to the captain. “Good,” she said, then gestured toward a set of stairs. “Onegaishimasu.”

“Gotcha,” I said. “Just a sec.”

I bounded up the stairs to the landing and swept the flashlight toward the next level. At the top there was a windowless steel door.

“Okay,” I said. “All clear.”

Yumi mumbled something to the captain and he started up. As she passed me on the landing she said, “Arigatou, Waynechan.”

“Anytime,” I replied. I checked the lower level one last time, then joined them at the top.

The captain slowly pulled the door open. Sunlight poured in. Moriyama stepped out first, then Yumi followed with her blade. I checked my shoulder, then headed out, shielding my eyes. The door clicked shut behind us.

We were in Tokyo bay. And surrounding the ship were at least a dozen police boats.

“Ah fuck,” I said.

Something exploded in front of us, and half a second later, a shot rang out.

“Snipers!” I screamed.

Captain Moriyama bolted, disappearing around the corner. Yumi growled, then yelled, “Go back!”

I grabbed the door handle and pulled. It didn’t budge. “It’s locked!”

“Run!” Yumi shrieked.

We ran across the deck as fragments of steel shattered around us, followed by the distant pop…pop of sniper fire.

Yumi ducked into another doorway underneath the main towers. We took the stairs down into a cold passageway. At the end of the hall, Yumi she wrenched open another thick, steel door. A flash of foggy, freezing air swept into the hallway. We rushed in.

Yumi closed the door behind us and set the lock. I rubbed my arms, looking around. Thousands of cardboard boxes were racked on stainless steel shelves, marked with Japanese lettering and little pictures of whales.

“Let’s go,” Yumi said.

We ran down the aisle to the other end to another door that led into a room filled with aluminum tables and packing materials stacked neatly on wide shelves.

At the far end was a downward staircase.

Yumi tugged on my arm and we clamored down the stairs. At the bottom there was a single red door, secured with a heavy padlock.

I scrutinized the lock, then raised my rifle.

Matte!” Yumi cried.

“What?” I said, lowering the gun.

Abunai, yo,” she said, brushing past. Yumi fished a silver key out of her pocket and waved it in front of my eyes. “Key.”

“Of course.”

Yumi removed the padlock, and tossed it on the ground. She paused for a moment in front of the door without opening it, then turned around. She bit her lip, staring at me.

“Waynesan,” she said.

“Yeah?”

She touched my shoulder, staring into my eyes, then leaned in and placed her lips against my cheek. “Suki,” she whispered.

My rifle nearly slipped out of my hands.

Yumi pulled away slowly, her cheek brushing against mine, then tapped her finger on my gun. “Careful,” she said, grinning.

I reached out to touch her and she batted my hand away.

Atode,” she said with a smirk, then grabbed the door handle.

The room, no larger than a walk-in closet, was packed with explosives.