|Divided I Stand|
|Based on the characters, settings and situations created by Rumiko Takahashi for her Ranma1/2 series of manga. They are here used without permission.|
Dawn the next day proved an eerie experience for all of greater Tokyo. The most terrifying thing was the profound silence that greeted them. Tokyo, on any given day, was normally a roaring monster of a city well before the sun came up. Today, all that could be heard was the call of birds and the ever-present whirring made by the cicadas. Soun and Akane took the Tendo pull cart, while Ranma and Ranko took the one borrowed from a neighbor, and began making their way toward the warehouse district in the northern part of Nerima. The noise of the carts trundling along seemed painfully loud in the eerily unnatural quiet of the damp air.
They reached the warehouses without any notable incident, save having to stop and move a few pieces of debris from their path. Much to Soun's surprise and delight, a single security guard was manning the first warehouse they tried. He had been on duty for two days running because neither his relief nor any of the other employees had made it to work. The old man let them fill their carts without argument. Soun insisted on signing a note for the rice. The guard stowed the note in a file cabinet as they left.
On the way back, they began meeting other small parties dragging carts towards the warehouse district. Soun stoutly swore that he had bought the rice, hoping that the others would at least offer to pay for what they got. It was what they found upon reaching Tendo-ke that proved the most unnerving. Ryouga and Ryuu Kumon were guarding the outer gate. A seemingly uncountable number of people had massed outside the compound. Cologne and Shampoo were walking around treating injured people as best they could, and having some taken inside the compound on stretchers.
"You there!" Cologne shouted at a man sitting at the base of the wall. "Are you injured?"
"No, Baa-san," the man replied with a curt bow of his head. "My wife and daughter are inside being treated for cuts."
"Then stop sitting there like a bump on a log and see if you can find us some propane!"
The man's response surprised Soun. Rather than becoming aggravated, the man actually looked relieved.
"Hai, Baa-san," the man said as he leaped to his feet. "I shall return shortly."
"See that you do!" Cologne said sternly. "And be careful. The last thing we need is more injured!"
The man hurriedly walked away, nodding his head as he went. Cologne turned to Soun and gave him a curt bow.
"Good morning, Tendo-san," Cologne said.
"What is going on here, Obaa-san?" Soun asked.
"People did not know who else to turn to, Tendo-san," Cologne said, eyeing him with respect. "So they started coming here. They are being turned away at the hospitals. I'm told that they have triage set up all over the hospital grounds, and that the doctors and nurses there are dead on their feet."
"But why here?" Soun asked. "This is a dojo, not a hospital!"
"True, but most of them realize that you and Kasumi-san know a little folk medicine, and Nabiki has been feeding children as fast as she can cook rice."
"We...we'll never be able to help this many!" Soun said, feeling his own private curse threatening to take control. He fought it off by gritting his teeth.
"I am open to suggestions, Tendo-san," Cologne said through a narrowly lidded gaze.
Soun took a deep breath then said, "We will do what we can, of course. Let's just hope the authorities begin to move quickly."
"Perhaps you should get the rice inside," Cologne said. "It may rain later today."
"Yes, of course," Soun said, then looking over his shoulder he added, "Follow me."
"I congratulate you on your daughters, Tendo-san," Cologne called after him. "They are made of sterner stuff than I had reason to expect."
"Thank you, Obaa-san," Soun called back over his shoulder. He was suddenly aware of how many hungry people were standing outside of his walls, and then became painfully aware of the smells wafting over the walls surrounding his home. Cologne had not been kidding about Nabiki cooking rice.
"Didja see that look Ryouga gave us?" Ranko asked Ranma.
"Yeah, I thought his eyes were going to cross," Ranma replied. "I wonder why Kumon showed up."
"He was probably worried about your mom," Akane said.
"Yeah, I guess that would figure," Ranma said. "He ain't got a family of his own."
"Poor Doctor Tofu," Ranko said. "I'll bet he's up to his ears in this."
"I'll get the rice in," Soun said. "Ranma, you go see about Doctor Tofu. Make sure no one is giving him any trouble. There might be a repeat of what we heard about happening in Kobe. No, not you Ranko; you stay here and help Nabiki. Akane, you go get those stretcher-bearers organized."
"Hai!" the young people chorused as they immediately set about to follow Soun's orders. Ranma did not bother with the gate, leaping to the top of the wall instead, then took to Nerima's battered rooftops.
"Showoff! Be more careful!" Akane called after the departing Ranma as she approached the stretcher-bearers. "Okay, let's find a place to put this one so you can go get someone else, okay?"
Ranko found Nabiki and Ukyou Kuonji struggling to keep fires lit and pots of boiling water shifted around. Much to her horror, they were boiling water from the koi pond.
"We're using it to cook with now," Nabiki said. "It has to boil for at least five minutes before we can put any food in it. We need more wood."
"You got it," Ranko said over her shoulder as she turned to run.
"Hurry every chance you get, Ran-chan!" Ukyou called after Ranko. "We got hungry kids coming out of our ears!"
Ranko landed outside the wall of Tendo-ke and eyed the men and teenaged boys standing around.
"We got little kids to feed and we need firewood," Ranko said in her high-pitched, but steely voice. "I need five volunteers. You. You. You. No not you, you're hurt. You, yeah you, in the yellow shirt, you look like you need some exercise anyway. And you, muscles, you should have already been tryin' to help out. Let's go, follow me!"
Amazingly enough, none of the "volunteers" tried to argue. They fell in behind Ranko at a dogtrot without a word of complaint. Within minutes she led them back into the compound, each one of them loaded down with firewood, most of it scavenged from wind-damaged houses.
"Don't try to cook any meat over this stuff," Ranko warned Nabiki. "It's pine and it'll make the food taste bad."
"If I had any meat I wouldn't dare cook it, Ranma, I mean, Ranko," Nabiki said tiredly. "The smell would start a riot. Think you can scare us up some water?"
"Got any empty buckets?" Ranko asked.
"Over there," Nabiki said, pointing at pile of empty, twenty-liter buckets with tight fitting lids.
"You heard the lady, guys," Ranko said. Her "volunteers" silently walked over and took two buckets each. Ranko picked two empties up herself and said, "Okay, let's go."
"Where are we going to find this much water?" the man Ranko had called "muscles" asked.
"That's easy," Ranko answered. "Furinkan."
"Ah, the swimming pool," the man said, giving Ranko a grin. "Good thinking. Sure you're gonna be able to carry two full buckets of water?"
"Hmph! You're in for a shock, big boy," Ranko said with a ferocious grin. "I can match you bucket for bucket any day of the week."
"Well, I'm looking forward to seeing that!" the man said, returning Ranko's grin.
With that, the six of them set out at trot for Furinkan high school and the swimming pool.
Ranma was not at all happy with what he found at the Ono Clinic. People were literally piled around outside while four rough looking characters were talking to Tofu. At the distance from which Ranma first saw them, it looked as though they might even be threatening Tofu. With two more jumps he knew they were threatening Tofu. One of them was down, thanks to a shiatsu strike. Two of them seized Tofu by the arms while the third raise his arm to strike the lanky doctor with a miniature ball bat. Ranma touched down lightly behind the thug and seized his bat, stopping his swing. The man turned his head and asked over his shoulder, "Who the hell do you think you are, kid?"
"Hi, my name's Mr. Death. How do you do?" Ranma said with his infamous lopsided grin. "Ya want yer ribs cracked or broken this morning?"
"Oh, you're a regular wise..." the thug never finished. Ranma cuffed him on the left side of the head so hard that the thug literally spun in the air about the center point of his belt buckle. Ranma kicked the thug on Tofu's left in the solar plexus with a front snap kick that had his foot traveling just short of mach one when it reached its target. The man went down folded in two, as though struck by a cannonball. The third man tried to run, but Ranma was not feeling particularly merciful. He jumped up onto the man's shoulders with both feet, riding him down. The man's nose slammed into the asphalt, leaving a broad smear of blood on the pavement. Ranma snatched him up, flipped him over, then forced the thug into a nearby trashcan buttocks first. The man started screaming, so Ranma punched him in the jaw, knocking him cold.
He walked back toward the crowd, eyeing them angrily.
"Okay, listen up!" Ranma shouted. "I've already had a hard day and I'm a little short on patience, so I'm only gonna say this once. Anybody here who ain't hurt is gonna find somethin' useful to do or they're gonna leave. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, is gonna give the Doc here a bad time. Now how many of ya ain't hurt?"
Several hands went up immediately.
"You and you," Ranma said pointing out a hefty looking pair of teenaged boys, "go get water. There should be some in the swimming pool at the high school. Use the fire buckets they keep in the classrooms. Keep bringin' water till I tell ya ta stop, got it?"
"What...what if the building is locked, Saotome?" one of the boys asked.
"Break a window, dummy," Ranma said in a scornful voice. "It won't be the first time ya broke a rule at school. People out here are dyin' for water."
The two boys nodded their heads and sprinted off towards the school. At that very moment, the thug Tofu had immobilized made the mistake of recovering. He tried to sneak away. Ranma caught him with a casually thrown roundhouse that sent a spray of teeth clattering down the sidewalk. The crowd winced in unison. The thug went down and did not move.
"You, you, you, and you, go over there and get wood from that roof that's down, and build a fire right over there."
Four men leaped to their feet and ran off toward a roof that had blown off a nearby house, partially blocking the street.
"You two guys, yeah you two big guys, come tie these assholes up and lash 'em to a telephone pole or somethin'. You, skinny, go see if ya can find a cop."
After that, Ranma quit giving orders. The people shook off their listlessness, and began taking the initiative on their own, doing the things that obviously needed doing, like scavenging padding for the injured and rigging up shade for them. It was mid-morning now and the temperature was already uncomfortably warm.
Ranma turned to say something to Tofu, but the lanky doctor had already gone to look at a patient. Ranma walked over to him, just in time to see Tofu close the little boy's eyes. The child's skin was a sickly blue-green color and he was lying entirely too still.
"I was going to give him a tracheotomy," Tofu said in a quiet but incredibly fierce voice, "when those four thugs showed up and stopped me. It's too late for him now."
"Aw, geez, Doc!" Ranma exclaimed. "If I'd a known all this was goin' on, I woulda been here sooner. I didn't even think about'cha until I saw the mob of folks at the dojo."
"The dojo?" Tofu asked, tottering as though he were dizzy.
"Yeah, they're loaded down with kids and sick old folks that ain't got nowhere else to go. The hospital's overflowin' already. How long's it been since you had any sleep?"
"Doesn't matter," Tofu said, his voice fading on him. "Right now I could do with a good drink of water. I'm glad you thought of the swimming pool. We shouldn't even have to boil the water from there."
"Why dontcha sit down and catch your breath, Doc?" Ranma asked. "You look like you're gonna keel over."
"I can't, Ranma," Tofu said, his voice becoming even more hoarse. "I've lost two heart patients, a diabetic and that little boy since sunup this morning. If I stop, people die."
"I tell ya what, Doc, you go inside the clinic so that you're out of the sun," Ranma said. "I'll send the worst ones in first."
"You're not trained for that job, Ranma," Tofu said.
"Hey, I can read a person's ki as well as most of the nurses you ever worked with, and if they're bleedin' real bad or they got bones stickin' out or somethin', that's easy to spot, right? Besides, who else have ya got? You're gonna drop dead out here and then who will ya be helpin'?"
Tofu obviously did not like the idea, but after a moment's consideration he acquiesced.
"Okay, Ranma," Tofu croaked. "Don't try to make the call on any who look too far gone, just send in the worst ones first."
"You got it, Doc," Ranma said. "Now get in out of this heat."
The day wore on. The heat continued to rise and there was not a trace of wind to be had. Several of the younger men took to using pieces of plywood as large fans, slowly waving them to keep the air moving in the clinic and around the sick and injured. Ranma fell into a trance-like state choosing, as best he could, those who had to be treated first.
Colonel Hotaru Abe of the Japanese Self Defense Force stared grimly out the waist door of his chopper, planning the next move of his battle. His grandfather, Jiro Abe had fought desperate battles against the Americans during World War II. His father, Norio Abe, was the first man to successfully breed fireflies in captivity. As ridiculous as that may sound, it had afforded his family a considerable income. Hotaru Abe had joined the JSDF because he wanted to honor both the new and the ancient traditions of his family.
Today, his enemy was not an army. He was at war with time. He had to figure out how best to succor the people of the district he had been assigned, and he had not been given enough resources to do the job. He had not complained to his superiors. None of his fellow officers had been given enough resources to carry out their assignments either.
"All right, let's find this Furinkan high school and see if the soccer field is big enough to make a decent LZ," Abe said over the intercom. The old Huey he used for a command vehicle immediately changed course, cutting across the badly scarred township of Nerima. On the whole, things were not as bad as they might have been. Parts of Tokyo right along the coast were in much worse shape than this inland district, but there were broad swaths of houses chewed up and scattered, as though they had been run over by a gigantic lawnmower.
Clearly this damage was the work of tatsumaki, or tornados. Typhoons would sometime spawn clusters of these short-lived "dragon coils". Typhoon Akane, it seemed, had favored Nerima over the other districts with this treatment. On the other hand, Nerima proper had been spared the worst of the flooding. Had it not been for the loss of the highway bridges, his assignment would not have been nearly so problematic.
The apparent lack of severe flooding in the district meant fewer overall problems, but the tornado damage meant that he had a larger number of acutely injured to worry about. It would still have been a fairly straightforward operation had bridges held. Without the bridges, he had no roads to get help in or injured people out. He was going to need more than his fair share of air support for the next couple of days.
Something caught his eye. Someone was standing on a rooftop, waving at the chopper. Abe did not bother to wave back. There was nothing he could do for a single individual at this point. He had to keep his mind on the bigger picture. It was then that he noticed smoke near the desperately waving figure.
"Drop a little lower and swing left, Major," Abe said into the intercom. The Huey dropped lower and swung a little to the left. Abe raised his binoculars. The individual, it looked like a girl in oversized male clothing, was standing on the roof of a private residence shouting and waving. Abe shook his head. No one seemed to understand that a person riding in a helicopter could not hear a person shouting from the ground. He noticed that there were a large number of people in and around the place, and that several cook fires were burning in the yard. Good! he thought. Somebody's showing some initiative. Then the kid on the roof did an extraordinary thing. She took her shirt off and waved it frantically. She was rather nicely endowed.
"What do you say, Colonel?" the pilot asked. "You want a closer look?"
"Hell, Major!" Abe said back into the intercom. "A sweet young thing that determined to be noticed can't be ignored. Let's make a quick circle."
The Huey dropped lower, swinging hard to the left as it did so. It was then that Abe saw the stretchers and all the people with makeshift bandages lying around in the yard. Outside the compound walls were more people. Some of them were on stretchers, some being carried or held by friends or family members. He could see two or three people moving through the crowd, doing their best to render first aid.
"Mark this place on the map, Lieutenant, looks like this has become a makeshift aid station," Abe said, covering his mike and shouting loudly enough to be heard over the racket of the Huey.
"Got it, sir!"
"I want you to rappel down there and get us an assessment of the situation."
"Help them out in any way you can, but stick close to that radio and keep me apprised."
Uncovering his mike, Abe spoke into the intercom, "Take us low enough for a man to rappel down, Major."
The Huey hovered low enough that Tanaka's trip down the rope was quite short and he could make a very comfortable landing outside the compound walls. The crowds cheered loud enough for the men inside the Huey to hear them. For many years later, Tanaka would swear that he had been dropped into a kind of twilight world where things were not entirely real, but still very dangerous. For now, he made his unsuspecting way toward the front gate of Tendo-ke. The two burly young men on either side of it gave him curt bows and opened both gates for him. He strode into the inner yard, only to be greeted by Nabiki Tendo and the buxom redhead he had seen previously on the roof.
"Here's a list of the stuff we need," Nabiki said, tearing a page from a notebook and thrusting it at Tanaka. "There's a clinic not far from here and I'm pretty sure that they are in worse shape than we are."
Tanaka's eyes widened with shock. The place was swarming like an anthill. One crew of amateur carpenters was struggling to erect a temporary roof over the cooking area. Another crew was erecting another makeshift shelter in another part of the yard.
"We're trying to get the cooks and infants out of the sun," Nabiki said. "I think we'll have enough rice and water to last us another day, provided we don't have too many more people show up. Ranko here will show you where Tofu's clinic is. You need to get over there right away. I think they must be pretty desperate. My dad went over there about an hour ago to see if he could help and hasn't been back."
"All right," the startled Tanaka said.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Nabiki said, giving Tanaka quick bow, "my name is Nabiki Tendo. This is Ranko Saotome."
"Pleased to meet you both," Tanaka said with a grin. "I'm Hikaru Tanaka."
"Thank you for dropping in on us like this," Tanaka- san," Nabiki said, with a grin. "Please excuse me, but I have pots to tend."
"Pleasure is all mine, Tendo-san," Tanaka said.
"You ready to go?" Ranko asked.
"Lead on, Saotome-san," Tanaka said.
"Aw, just call me Ranko, everybody else does," Ranko said with a grin. "Sorry to give you guys such an eyeful, but I was afraid you were gonna fly on by without stoppin'."
"Don't apologize," Tanaka said with a grin as he fell in behind Ranko. "It worked like a charm."
"I thought it might," Ranko said as she broke into a jog toward the gate. "We'd better get a move on. I gotta bad feelin' about what's goin' on over at the clinic."
Tanaka raised the command chopper as he jogged along behind the girl.
"Big Mercy this is Angel Five, do you copy me?"
"Gotcha five by, Tanaka. Go ahead."
"I have a long wish list here from the people at that house, Colonel."
"Yes, sir. Looks like they were thinking ahead."
"Who's in charge there? Put them on the radio."
"Can't, sir. I'm following a local over to a clinic. They say that it's in pretty dire shape."
"All right, what do you think of the situation?"
"These folks are dead game, sir. They're doing everything they can, but all they really know is basic first aid and they don't have any medical supplies to speak of. I saw lots of old people at the compound and quite a few injured with cuts and broken bones. There were also a few burn cases and there looked to be a couple of hundred or more people in the streets around the place. I'd say we need at least one doctor and three or four corpsman there. The locals look to be pretty tired, sir."
"I'll get 'em on the move, Tanaka. Call me again once you reach that clinic."
"Tell the Doctor there that we'll have a mobile hospital unit moved in at the high school before nightfall."
"I'm sure he'll be happy to hear that, Colonel. Angel Five, clear."
Ranko picked up her pace, and Tanaka found himself struggling to keep up. This alone was enough to surprise him, but when she leaped up onto the peak of a roof that had been blown nearly intact into the middle of the street he stopped and stared in shock. Ranko had run out of sight along the ridge of the fallen roof without breaking her stride. After a moment she came back.
"Need help with that pack?" Ranko asked, looking surprised.
"How...how did you do that?" Tanaka asked, doing his best not to sound frustrated and failing.
Ranko looked surprised and concerned as she answered, "You mean you can't?"
"Hell, kid! Nobody I know can do anything like that!"
Ranko stared at Tanaka looking completely stunned.
"But I thought you were a soldier."
"A soldier, yes," Tanaka said. "A superman, no. Are you really from planet Earth?"
"Hey, stick around for a while and I'll teach you some of the art," Ranko said as she leaped from the ridge of the roof, touching down as light as a feather in front of Tanaka. "I thought they'd at least teach you guys the basics."
"How high can you jump?" Tanaka asked.
"Ah, just a couple of stories," Ranko said, "but you oughta see Ranma, he's my guy side, he can jump three stories from a standin' start if he's motivated."
"Guy side?" Tanka asked.
"Er ... that's sort of a long story," Ranko said. "Can I tell ya about it later?"
"Yeah, sure, Ranko," Tanaka said as he shook his head in an effort to clear it. "Lead on."
Ranko turned and ran along an eave of the downed roof. Tanaka still had to struggle to keep up with her.
"Angle Five, Big Mercy. Do you copy?"
"Roger, Big Mercy," Tanaka puffed into the microphone.
"What was on that wish list?"
"General medical supplies, sir, with an urgent request for several types of insulin, nitroglycerine, and diapers."
"Hell of a mix."
"Yes, sir. You'd almost think that one of the tatsumaki took out a geriatric ward and a shelter for unwed mothers."
"Where are you now?"
"Halfway!" Ranko called out over her shoulder, surprising Tanaka yet again. How could she hear that well while running?
"My guide says we're halfway to the clinic, sir. We are working our way through a lot of debris."
"Very good, Angel Five. Get us the coordinates and an appraisal of that clinic as soon as you can."
"Will do, Big Mercy."
"Big Mercy, clear."
After several more minutes of what would have best been described as broken field running, they rounded a corner, only to be greeted by a scene that made Tanaka's lip curl with disgust.
"Big Mercy! Big Mercy, Angel Five! Purple smoke!" Tanaka said into his microphone as he dropped a smoke grenade onto the pavement. "Clinic is west of school!"
Ranko went from a steady jog to a solid streak of red and black as she sprinted toward the men surrounding a teenaged boy who was dressed in much the same fashion as she was. Tanaka chambered a round.
"Angel Five, cavalry rolling," the radio said.
"Gun down!" Tanaka bellowed, as his training took control. Sight picture, squeeze. His assault rifle barked. For reasons that Tanaka did not understand, the tinkling of ejected brass always bothered him more than the muzzle blast.