Chapter 10: the Memorial
She was ten feet from her car when she heard the heavy footsteps of Hybrid become the soft scuffle of boots behind her.
“I told you to go.” She said.
“You wanted me to help.” He responded simply.
“I exploited my resources.” She corrected, unlocking her vehicle and throwing her backpack inside. “And I thank you for jumping in. But, Hybrid,” She slammed the passenger door shut and turned to look at him. “I don’t torture people. I prefer to scare them. You have to draw the line somewhere.”
“When someone is hiding vital information—”
“It’s not vital!” Makoto shot back, going around to the driver’s side. “It’s just a stupid case. If there was someone being held hostage somewhere, then yeah. Sure. Do what you gotta do. But for a couple of rocks? Dude...”
Hybrid tucked his hands in his pockets. “I’m part animal, remember?” He gave her a slight shrug. “I saw you get attacked and I got angry, okay?”
She narrowed her eyes. “What are you talking about? You were completely cool.”
“I wanted him dead.” He corrected.
Makoto groaned and leaned against her car. “Look, I get it, okay? Getting angry when someone hurts a friend—I get it. You start wanting to serve it right back a hundred times worse. But you can’t. And you didn’t. But you have to stop yourself before you draw blood, whether you go through with killing him or not.”
Hybrid turned away. “I’ve been doing this kind of work for years, Makoto. I know how to do it.”
She nodded silently. Fine. Great. If he wasn’t going to play by her terms, he wasn’t going to play in her game. “Do you need a ride back?”
“Thank you for your assistance.” She got in her car and left him there.
“Dad,” Sakuza whined, coming into the sitting room, looking extremely frustrated. “We need to fire the maid and get a new one. My clothes haven’t been washed in weeks.”
Hiroshida didn’t bother to look up from his reading. “We don’t have a maid, Sakuza. And if you want your clothes washed, I suggest you first remove them from your own floor and take them to the laundry room.”
Makoto glanced up as she walked through with a suitcase. It didn’t surprise her that her brother was so unobservant that he thought they had a maid.
Sakuza only gave him a strange look. “Then who cleans the kitchen every morning and vacuums while I’m sleeping?”
Makoto smirked. Vacuuming every day was made easier only by the fact that it caused her brother some distress. Maybe she shouldn’t feel that way.
But then Hiroshida put down his book and looked at Sakuza with quiet disbelief. “Your sister.”
Understanding crossed Sakuza’s face. “That explains it.” He responded. “Only Makoto—” He broke off as she slammed her suitcase down in irritation.
He wanted to complain about her management? He could go right ahead. But you can’t taunt a viper without expecting to get bit.
“Sakuza.” Hiroshida reprimanded loudly. “Your sister manages this entire mansion single-handedly and still finds the goodness within her to feed you. She is to be respected and thanked—not scoffed at and treated like an animal.”
Makoto fell still, watching Sakuza’s gob-smacked expression. He bowed his head. “I’m sorry.” He uttered quietly and then left.
Hiroshida was already looking at Makoto when she turned to meet his gaze. She felt her heart clench and she tried to hold back the tears that she knew were coming.
“You alright, Makoto?” Her father asked carefully, watching her expression tighten.
She nodded shakily. “I’m good.” She knelt down and poked through her suitcase, making sure she got everything. She was about to zip it up when she remembered that she’d forgotten to pack her gloves.
“I’ll be back.” She straightened and turned to go to her room, still fighting tears. At the last second she remembered that she’d left her favorite pair in the boat house a few months before.
She spun on her heel and hurried out of the mansion, running along their personal dock. She gasped for air, pain clenching in her chest.
It wasn’t just Sakuza’s blaringly obvious disregard for everything about her. It wasn’t even really that her father only stood up for her when she was doing something sickeningly feminine like washing dishes.
And though both of those things contributed to her sudden rush of anxiety, they didn’t compose it entirely. Did she have to make a list of things that caused her throat to tighten and her eyes water?
Her will gave out before she reached the boat house and she fell to her knees next to the edge of the dock. Ragged breaths scraped up her throat and her heart pounded painfully against her chest.
Her breath fogged in the dark, night air in front of her.
She sat there for a long time, just trying desperately hard to get the anxiety out of her system.
The cold air seemed to pierce her lungs like knives and she curled in on herself, biting down on her own fist to somehow warm the air she was breathing.
She felt light-headed, nausea rising faster than she could force it down. The ocean lapped at the dock below and Makoto felt herself swaying towards it, too dizzy to know how to right herself.
But then footsteps sounded softly on the dock behind her, grounding her. She choked and forced herself back far enough that she fell back on the dock and tried very hard not to pass out.
The smell of Vortex cologne wafted toward her, the chemicals not at all easing her nauseas gag reflex.
What on earth was he doing there, on her family’s private pier?
“Makoto.” He touched her shoulder as she brought her knees to her chest, moaning brokenly. “Breathe.”
She pulled away from him, but was too out of it to manage anything other than falling on her side in a quivering ball of stress and hurt.
Tadashi sighed and sank down on the dock, his legs hanging over the water. “Not sure this is going to help with the whole panicking in a ball of terror thing, but since your soldier buddy is temporarily out of commission, President Anderson assigned me as your field partner.”
Makoto actually shuddered at the news, and her breath became even more shallow and rapid, her back arching as her anxiety attack grew steadily worse.
Tadashi uttered a small sigh and reached over, laying his hand over hers. “Take a deep breath, Makoto.”
She hated that he was there. She hated his presence, she hated the smell of leather and Vortex that followed him like gum on the bottom of a shoe.
But even more than that, she hated the lack of control she had over her own body. She hated being unable to breathe satisfying breaths. She hated the ache in her muscles as they tightened to the point of uncontrollable tremors.
She focused on the feeling of his hand over hers. It was the only thing real about what was happening. The only thing solid. And yet the action felt strikingly familiar.
But it couldn’t have been. Her father had never dealt with her with such care. Sakuza certainly hadn’t.
Takeo—Takeo...he’d only ever mopped her forehead and tried to help her even though he had no idea how to pull her out of it.
Maybe it was an impossible fragment of memory from her mother. She doubted it, but...maybe.
“Breathe,” He said again, slowly.
She loosened every muscle she could focus on and sucked in a long, slow breath.
“I don’t know exactly what’s been going on in your life.” He said carefully, somehow still managing to keep her breathing evenly. “But I know your friend’s hurt. One brother gone, one brother damaging to you.”
Her head went light and she inhaled as deeply as she could, until her lungs hurt.
“I’m sorry,” He finished finally, clearly struggling over a few kind words.
And, meant to manipulate or not, Makoto appreciated them.
A few minutes later, she felt her head clear. Her body relaxed. She sagged limply against the dock, feeling tears slipping down her cheeks into her hair. “I’m just tired.” She murmured.
Tadashi turned slightly as she finally responded. “There are lots of types of tired, Makoto.”
She closed her eyes, crying silently. “I’m not sure why I’d talk to you about it.”
Tadashi pulled his hand back and stared out at the dark water. “I understand.” He got up briskly and knelt, taking her into his arms and lifting her to her feet.
For a minute, she just silently stared at her feet as his hands braced around her shoulders, steadying her as she swayed in the wind.
“You need to administer another dose.” He said softly, and then he let go of her and walked away.
It was beautiful. Horribly, horribly beautiful in a way that she almost hated. There was an enormous stage with the Chicago skyline as a backdrop.
Uniformed men lined the stage, flags flying above their heads.
Hundreds, possibly thousands of people made up the audience, their numbers including Makoto and her father. On the center, back portion of the stage, a huge structure stood, covered by a sheet of some material.
From the left side of the stage, eight people marched, single-file, in uniform, up to stand on one side of the podium that stood in the middle.
They wore black jackets and slacks, decorated with various medals, with deep blue belts, gloves, and covers.
From the right side, eight other people in civilian clothing, slacks and skirts, stood in similar fashion on the right side of the podium.
Makoto shifted, folding her arms across her chest and glancing around her. To her right was her father, watching the procession attentively.
To her left was a hundred or so people that she didn’t recognize at all.
Her arms dropped to her side and she pressed one hand to her heart as the American National Anthem began to play. Every man and woman in uniform around her raised their hands in salute.
As the last notes played out, the crowd around her shifted a little bit, and then Tadashi was standing next to her, his hand over his heart.
Irritation flooded her senses like a wave, but she forced herself to refrain from spilling his blood until after the anthem was finished.
Silence fell over everyone for a few long minutes as someone moved up behind the podium.
“What are you doing here?” She hissed angrily, glancing at her father to see if he’d noticed.
“Field partner. Chicago lead. I talked to you yesterday.” Tadashi responded quietly.
“You talked at me yesterday—and what do you mean, Chicago lead?” Makoto demanded, giving him her darkest glare.
“After the memorial there’s someone we can talk to who might give us insight on the case. I’ve done my research on what you’ve done so far.” He said.
She kind of felt like killing him just then. “You’re telling me you read up on my progress and already got a lead that I didn’t?”
“Not that surprising, Hime. But don’t bother beating yourself up, I didn’t really expect you to find it.” He shot her a sideways glance and a lazy smirk that made her really want to kick him in the teeth.
“Wise decision, Tadashi. Not wearing a tie.” She commented carefully.
His smile slowly widened. “I’m smarter than I look.” He said shortly.
The man behind the podium suddenly began to speak, his voice booming out over the people—possibly over Chicago. “Today we stand together to remember the War of America. Plagued by the threat on our nation, America was subdued by the enemy, cowering beneath the whip of Zimram.”
Makoto almost choked on her own tongue. It was Murdock Anderson. The man she’d spoken to over the phone.
She could have smacked herself. He was Vesper Anderson’s uncle. Of course he was speaking that day.
“But we rose, like we always do. We had enough. We stood up and fought back. We got back on our feet and we said no. We the people of America, who salute our flag and bear her colors proudly—we protect and defend not because we are military or law enforcement.”
His voice was the same, but his personality was so different from the man she had spoken to on the phone. The man on the phone had been a character. A false front to get rid of unwanted attention.
This man was completely different.
“We protect and defend because it is our duty as Americans to fight for our one nation under God. America is strong, not because she is a country built on the foundation of freedom, but because of the men and women who fight for her. She lost thousands of her courageous protectors. We’ll never forget them. They fought for us. They died for us. We owe it to them to continue to stand for what they died for.”
Murdock Anderson lifted his head with pride and finished strongly with a grounding statement that concluded his speech: “And because of the men and women of courage who lie beneath our nation’s flag, we have the ability to stand beneath it.”
His speech was short and to the point, and Makoto understood why. It wasn’t about him. It wasn’t even about what he had to say. They wanted him there because he had contributed to the successful end of the War of America, and they wanted him to say a few words.
But he was there because he had suffered during the War of America and he needed to spend time making sure it got a proper memorial.
The next speaker was announced as Murdock sat down, rubbing his face with one tired hand. He’d lost a lot during those hard years and she respected the strength he must possess to keep fighting every day.
The name of the next speaker was Ian Carter.
She knew enough about Ian Carter to know that he was definitely a war hero. Some said he went back in time to fight in World War II, but even if that weren’t true, he’d earned as much respect as anyone else present that day.
But when the man that the world knew as Ian Carter broke away from the line of eight uniformed men and women, Makoto found that she knew him as the man who left her Takeo’s letter at his funeral.
She still hadn’t read it.
Reading it would finalize his death.
And for some reason she couldn’t bring herself to break the seal.
As Ian made his way to the podium, Makoto’s eyes searched the crowd for the woman with red hair who had been with him. She finally found her a few moments later. Her vibrant hair was in a bun, tucked neatly beneath her cover. Her shoulders were squared and her arms hung strongly at her sides as she stood, in uniform, with the remaining seven.
If they were Ian’s team, Makoto realized, then they must be Trinity agents.
“We will always remember the impossible battle that we won.” Ian started, his gaze firmly fixed over the crowd, almost demanding their respect.
Makoto felt herself automatically snap to attention in a way that she’d never done before. His voice just commanded the attention of his listeners and expected it without question.
“But we can never forget the men and women that we lost. Of the Army,” As he spoke, the twelve soldiers on the far left of the stage readied the rifles that were in their hands. “We lost Margaret Smith, Jeremy Woodhouse, Duke Charles, and 22453 others.”
As soon as he finished his sentence, each gun fired three shots in unison.
Even though they were pointed to the heavens, Makoto felt as though their shots fired straight through her.
“Of the Air Force,” At Ian’s words, the twelve airmen at the far right side of the stage readied their rifles. “We lost Jez Samson, Lily Daley, Steve Oswald, and 11862 others.”
36 more shots, practically shaking the ground beneath their feet.
“Of the Marines,” The inside twelve marines on the left side readied their rifles. “We lost Pearl Hanson, Nina Tyler, Matt Brody, and 32678 others.”
Makoto closed her eyes as the shots echoed in her mind, feeling the pain of so much unspeakable loss.
“Of the Navy,”
She wasn’t watching, but she knew that the inside twelve sailors on the right side were readying their rifles.
“We lost Julian Houser, Corey Standing, Riley Gerhardt, and 22589 others.”
Her lungs expelled a deep breath as 36 more shots filled the morning air, tears filling her eyes.
How could the world keep spinning, keep healing after so many people lost so many people that they loved?
“And of my friends,” Ian’s voice became low, broken, and heavy with pain.
Makoto’s eyes slid open as the seven Trinity agents reached to their belts and drew their pistols.
“I lost Ethan Ryder, Vesper Anderson, Julia Reacher, Rock Edison, Rachel Wallace, and 213 others.”
The agents raised their sidearms to the heavens and fired 21 shots into the clouds.
Makoto’s shoulders sagged and she found herself leaning weakly against Tadashi’s shoulder, not even caring that she hated him.
How could she be so selfish to dwell on hate when other people could only wish that their biggest heartache was their hate for another person?
“Makoto?” Tadashi murmured, his tone hard, but laced with concern.
All of those men and women died for their lives.
How were they living them? Were they wasting the chances that those warriors died to give them?
She steadied herself, pulling away from her temporary field partner and silently resolved to honor the life that they had given up everything to allow her to have.
And then the woman next to Murdock stood and took her place behind the podium. Makoto squinted against the sunlight, making out the features of Savannah Anderson.
She blinked in surprise, not at all expecting the president of her college to be speaking there.
But she was. So Makoto listened.
“Ethan Ryder was an excellent SEAL, an exemplary marine, an exceptional agent, and an incredible friend.” Savannah began in a loud, clear voice that might have lifted the spirits of the solemn audience with its ringing power. “He fought the hardest battles, took the worst hits, and made the toughest decisions that came his way, but he did every single one of them willingly. He jumped into my sister’s life head first, not even caring that in doing so he was likely signing his own certificate of death.”
At the mention of Savannah’s sister, Vesper, Makoto’s eyes strayed to the line of seven civilians that stood to Savannah’s left beside the podium.
Murdock, Maria, Tasha Anderson, and Anneka and Damian Zaharie, Vesper’s family. Brian Copper and Malcolm Hunt, Tasha and Savannah’s husbands.
The family of those lost, standing together.
“He protected anyone around him at the cost of everything he had, including, eventually, his own life. I didn’t know him too well personally, but he was there for my sister even when I wasn’t.” Savannah paused, looking up from her cards to stare out at the crowd, collecting herself before she fell apart. “Ethan fought so hard, so selflessly, for so long that you’d think he’d deserve his own victory at the end of the day.”
Makoto glanced up as, two uniformed women to the right of Ian, one of the agents clenched his fists at Savannah’s words.
He must have been close to Ethan, Makoto realized.
“But his war was over too quickly and he was carried off the battlefield with my baby sister.” Savannah covered her mouth with one hand for two seconds before regaining her composure and continuing as though nothing had happened. “My sister was the strongest woman I ever knew. She would stand for what she believed in even if the whole world turned against her. But she was never standing unless Sergeant Major Ethan Ryder was standing behind her.”
Makoto glanced up at Tadashi discreetly, wondering what it would be like to have a friend that she depended on so heavily that she could have the strength to stand with him against the world.
“Vesper Anderson fought battles that she never needed to fight her whole life. We lost our father at a young age. Soon after, we lost our grandfather. Not long after that, one of our own sisters was lost. We’ve all lost people that we love. Some of us never got the chance to say our goodbyes. We’ve all felt our personal losses. But Vesper felt all of them. She took the world upon her shoulders. She rejoiced with those who rejoiced and wept with those who wept.”
Makoto had seen pictures of the famous war hero, but she could never have deduced such a description of character as Savannah was giving the world.
In her pictures, Vesper Anderson appeared petite and intelligent. But she was beautiful like a tiger was beautiful. She didn’t need to move a single muscle for everyone around her to know that she was dangerous, powerful, and deadly.
Makoto had never imagined that the heart behind the fierce eyes and strong mouth was bleeding.
“She faced sacrifice and persecution and defeated the challenges that dared to test her. She was a child of God, a woman who feared the Lord.” A gentle breeze blew through the air, carrying gentle notes of music that was playing softly in the background. Savannah seemed to stand stronger all of a sudden, and everyone in attendance seemed to hold their breaths.
“Instead of standing here with their team, saluting the flag and celebrating the victory they paid for with their blood, they’re safe, waiting for their eternal reward.” Somehow, the oldest Anderson sister had the strength to smile. “So in honor of the marines who won the war, America recognizes and proudly salutes Sergeant Major Ethan Ryder and Master Sergeant Vesper Anderson.”
The military band picked up a new piece vigorously as the huge structure behind the podium was ceremoniously unveiled. Camera shutters clicked and rustling sounded as those in the military snapped to attention, saluting simultaneously.
But Makoto’s eyes were fixed on the large statues of two marines, their arms raised in a salute that mirrored those around them. The one on the left was Ethan Ryder. The one on the right was Vesper Anderson.
Makoto felt like crying, but all she could do was smile.
The world would always remember them standing strong.