Chapter 4 (Asami)
Sato,” my butler, Edward speaks, bowing graciously. There’s really no need for
it, I’ve told him countless times that I’m not one for formalities.
“Edward, thank you for coming,” I say, figuring it’s easier to let him play his role today, if that’s his wish, “I was hoping you might know where my father is...”
Edward looks away, which is odd. He’s never hidden anything from me… never. Dad’s been gone over a day, without calling. I’m really not sure what’s going on, but there’s a board meeting in two hours, and he’s expected to be there. Sure, I can fill in for him, I’m more than capable by now. But… where is he?
“Miss… Have you not seen the news?” Edward stammers, and his eyebrows slant down. What a strange question… I usually do keep abreast of current affairs, granted, but these past two days I’ve been far too busy reviewing the schematics from our engineering department. I’ve finally satisfied myself that the design is sound, and that my crew have taken my original idea and enhanced it to a point where it’s production ready. We’ve been working on cybernetic limbs, cheap to produce but reliable, with multiple pivot points, as close to the original body part as possible and easily controllable by a human brain. I’m lost in thought a while, feeling somewhat proud at our achievement.
“Asami?” Edward calls me by my first name, something he hasn’t done since I was a child. For some reason, it sends a chill down my spine.
“No, I haven’t…” I answer, moving into the spacious living room and switching on the large plasma screen. I change channels, flicking through the news, until I see something that shocks me to my core. My Dad’s face. It’s not the most flattering image of him, since it looks like he’s ten years older. As I read the scrolling headline at the bottom my breath catches in my throat, and my heart feels as though it may stop beating.
SATO INDUSTRIES CEO FOUND GUILTY OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS DEAL
“N… nuclear weapons!?” I turn to face Edward, who’s turned rather pale.
“I am as shocked as you, miss. We all are,” he says. I can see from his eyes that he’s being honest, “From what I understand, he’s been selling to any interested parties, friend or foe.”
“Are… are you serious?” I ask, and I’m struggling to breathe. Edwards eyes soften, and he’s looking at me with nothing but sympathy. That’s new. I guess I don’t need to worry about the board meeting… this will… it will ruin us. My heart pounds in my chest, and I feel a cold bullet of panic pierce my heart. The next thing I know, I’m gasping for air, being led to one of the wide-backed chairs in the room.
“Miss, please, take this,” he says, reaching into a cupboard and pulling out a paper bag. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a panic attack, feeling as though I can’t take in air no matter how fast I breathe, but here I am. Slowly in…. Slowly out. Listen to the bag crumple. Close your eyes. Stop panicking… stop. Eventually I release the bag from my mouth, and smile at Edward.
“Thanks…” I say, tucking my knees to my chest, “but, I can’t… I mean, would Dad do this? My father?”
“He has accepted charges… that is all I know,” Edward says, pulling up a chair and sitting opposite me, then taking his wide rimmed glasses off, pulling a small square of cloth from his pocket, and slowly cleaning the lenses.
“If it’s a terrorist charge, on this kind of scale…” I begin, feeling panic rising again, but managing to force it down, “it means everything we own will be quarantined, repossessed.”
“That is what I fear, miss. You should pack what you can, draw out-” Edward is interrupted by a loud bang on the front door, and by loud, I mean almost violent enough to knock the thick door right off it’s hinges. I look at Edward fearfully, and he takes my hand, “I will try to delay them, hide anything important, put it somewhere safe. Quickly!”
“Thank you, Ed,” I say, using the nickname I picked out for him as a child, then leaning forwards and hugging him, “please, be careful. Do you have anywhere to go?”
“Don’t worry about us, miss. We’ll work something out…” he says, “now go. Hurry!”
I cough, and the movement forces me awake. I’m thirsty, but thankfully there’s half a bottle of water left thanks to my pretty, blue-eyed visitor from yesterday. I fumble in my pocket, eventually find her card and drawing it out. Korra. It’s a really unique name, one I don’t think I’ll easily forget.
As is usually the case in a morning, I’m suddenly very aware that I need to pee and empty my bowels. Quite badly actually. Damn, where’s Earl when I need him? I think, looking around, then feeling a wave of relief when I see a familiar, wrinkled face.
“Morning, miss,” he says, tipping his flat cap at me, and grinning. He’s on his usual rounds, where he pulls around his little hotdog cart, and sets up a mobile food station on the corners where he knows he’ll turn the most profit.
“Hey Earl. Would you mind holding my spot?” I ask, and smile when he nods, meaning I can visit the nearest restroom, take care of my bodily needs, and have a quick wash in the sink so long as it’s quiet. It’s become a common exchange between us, and I don’t really even need to ask anymore, since that’s one of the reasons he sells at this particular street - for me. I find myself thinking back to how I met Earl… how I’d randomly given him advice on how he could increase his hotdog sales by changing his spot a little, and by knocking five cents off. My advice had worked… of course it had. Earl had fed me every night since, made sure I didn’t lose my spot. I like my spot. I’ve nothing left in the world, but that one thing. It’s mine.
I hurry away, grateful to have at least one friend in the world, and feeling little guilty that I’d allowed depression to take hold yesterday, that I’d let myself believe I have no one. I have Earl. He’s an apron-wearing, greasy smelling son of a bitch sometimes, but he puts up with me, and he holds my spot, and I love him for that. Hell, he even defended me from Korra yesterday, and he’d hung around in case she was a threat. Bless him. Bless his soul.
I take care of my un-pleasantries, and start to scrub myself in the sink, making the most of the free soap on offer, squeezing wads of the pink, flower-scented stuff into my hands. Looks like they just filled the dispensers today, because the last time I came here they were all empty. I manage to get myself somewhere close to clean, thankfully only having one person walk in on me, and not notice me due to having their gaze locked firmly on their phone screen. I sigh, staring at myself in the limescale-splattered mirror, wondering when I last looked like anything other than a frizzy, black-haired monster. Still, there’s nothing I can do about it, other than try to tug at least some knots out using just my fingers, and then wincing because they’re so frail now that it hurts when I strain them.
I finish up in the washroom and hurry back to Earl, to my spot. Sure enough, he’s there, whistling away. He winks, hands me a freshly-wrapped dog, and scoots off to his business. I quickly sit on the few layers of cardboard that insulate me from the ground, then tear the grease paper off in an almost frenzied state, salivating before I even get to the contents. I take a huge bite, almost moaning to have hot food in my mouth, and grease dripping down my chin. The old me would have been appalled at such a choice in food… but then again the old me wasn’t wasting away on the streets, and damn, I never thought a hotdog could taste this good, or that hot food could be such a rare luxury on a cold day.
Actaully, the promise of warm food is the one thing that keeps enticing me to try the nearby shelter, the same one on Korra’s card. But I’ve heard… bad things, that it’s no place for a woman, and besides, I’m surviving fine just where I am, just as I am. I just wish I could formulate some plan to get out of this mess, get off the streets and get a roof over my head. A new start, no matter how humble. Anything. But I draw a blanks, as always. To get a job, I need a home. To get a home, I need a job. Even my so-called genius mind can’t work a way out of this, and the problem’s further compounded by the fact that anyone who recognises my name, my face, will instantly dismiss me.
I’m a Sato. Terrorist by name, by reputation. Thanks, Dad, I think, as I sink my teeth angrily into the hotdog, tearing apart the few remaining inches and then licking my fingers and belching quietly. My stomach has shrunk so much that I actually feel full from the smallest of meals, so I guess that’s a blessing.
“Another cold day,” I mutter quietly to myself, my teeth chattering whilst I pull up my blanket, cocooning myself into it as best I can, and preparing to survive another long, dreary day.