Touma Shimizu

by Luca

Chapter 1

"Zack! Zack!" Lowerstoff was leaning over a sleeping Zachary, "wake up!"

The young man on the bed stirred and mumbled incoherently. Lowerstoff shook him gently.

"Eh! What? What is it?" Zachary opened his eyes and looked up at Lowerstoff.

"Your father is on the phone."

"What does he want?"

"How should I know? To make trouble?"

"Yeah, right. Okay, I'm coming."

Lowerstoff stood back allowing Zachary room to roll out of bed. There was not much space in the small bedrooms at the Foyer Des Jeunes Travailleurs De La Cité Des Fleurs, in Paris.

Zachary picked up the cream coloured receiver and placed it against his ear. "Hello." He recognised his father's voice at the other end of the line. "What do you want?... Yeah, yeah, alright... No, I'm not being aggressive.... Or antagonistic." He picked up the base and started pacing around with the phone in his hand, trailing the wire across the room. Lowerstoff watched him from the bed where he had taken Zachary's place.

Zack glanced down at Lowerstoff and raised his eyebrows. "You want to pick us up and take us to Nice?... Yeah, I know it's the holidays... You do that!" He hung up and left the phone on the little table he used as a desk. Outside it was still afternoon, the sun was shinning, the sky was blue.

"What did he want?" Lowerstoff asked.

"To take us to Nice."

"What for?"

"He said it was the holidays."

"You know I don't trust Hamilton at all?"

"I know, me too, and he's my father."

"You remember what he tried to do before?"

Zachary nodded. "The guy's an asshole!"

Lowerstoff sat up on the bed. "More than that he's dangerous. He's already shot me once."

Zack smiled and squashed up next to Lowerstoff on the bed. "How could I forget that. He killed you!"

There was a knock at the door.

"Yeah!" Zack shouted.

"It's me," a voice with an accent replied.

"Come in Tou," Zachary said.

Touma Shimizu, the slim young leather clad biker who had rescued them from the police in Ibaraki was now a permanent part of their entourage, but he'd changed. The leather biker jacket had gone. The new look was, hat, sun glasses and designer clothes. He was just as sexy as before, but liked to cultivate this gangster look. Touma was after all a member of a very old family in Japan!

"Is this your yakuza look?" Lowerstoff grinned shamelessly.

"Leave him alone, Low," Zachary admonished.

Touma Shimizu strolled into the room ignoring the comments, more concerned with asserting his presence despite his small frame. Zachary had to bite his lip so as not to laugh, because it was comical. Like a kid playing at being the godfather. The very old Japanese family is really the Japanese mafia, gangsters.

"What are you two doing in bed together?" Touma asked.

"Zack got a call from his dad," Lowerstoff told him.

"What did he want?" Touma moved to look out the small window.

There was nothing happening outside, except he thought he caught a glimpse of someone disappearing around the corner of the street.

"He's calling back. He wants us to go to Nice with him," Zachary explained.


"Yep, that's it."

"And are you? Both going to Nice?"

"I don't know. You wanna come?"

Touma didn't answer. It looked like his attention was fixed on the window. Lowerstoff's finger traced a little pattern on Zachary's cheek, then rested on his lips. Zack turned to look at Touma and escape the finger touching his face.

"Your father has always been our enemy," Touma replied, softly.

"Hamilton Gode is everyone's enemy. It's what he does, makes chaos."

"Zack," Touma's tone of voice urged his attention. "Don't get worried, but there are armed police down on the street."

Zachary skited out of bed and joined Touma at the window.

The street below, in fact, the whole block was deserted which was a little unusual for a normally busy area full of locals and tourists. Zachary could see the police, two lines of heavily armed police with body protection walking one behind the other, moving slowly. The sunlight glistened off the shields they crouched behind catching odd reflections from the helmet visors.

"Do we surrender or what?" he asked Touma.

"Let's go! Follow me."

And they did. Lowerstoff jumped up and he and Zachary followed Touma out of the room, along the corridor, through the door and down the concrete staircase all the way to the basement. Touma led them through a small side door which didn't even look like a door that should be opened, but led them into a passage of stone lined walls. It was dark and smelt damp. They now followed the light of the torch Touma pulled from his pocket.

"I know where we are," Lowerstoff said, when they stopped.

It was a large cavern of curving stone walls, a rectangle with some brick arches and several passageways.

"The catacombs!"

"Very good, Low. But where in the bloody catacombs?"

There was a burnt ring on the floor made up of stones and a few bricks where there had been a fire. Graffiti covered the walls under the arches, although Zachary only caught glimpses in the torch light as Touma looked around.

"You know this is your chance to stop your father," Touma addressed Zachary.

Zachary shuffled his feet. "By stop, you mean kill. Patricide. I've never been big on families, but all the same I don't think I'd kill anyone."

The light of Touma's torch lit Zachary's face as he swung around. "Maybe it won't come to that."

The torch cast huge elongated shadows in the dark cavern and when they spoke there was almost an echo, the sound of voices in a hollow, like talking in a church.

"For now," Zachary said, "let's just find a way out. And if possible, as far from the foyer as we can get.

There are two hundred miles of old quarries underneath Paris and that doesn't count the sewers. It is a whole underground city in a certain sense. Definitely big enough to get lost in and a nice way to make their escape from whatever they had left behind them. They emerged by climbing a ladder somewhere by the Rue Cardinet next to some gardens.

"How did you know about that place?" Lowerstoff asked.

"Never mind," Touma said, as he smoothed himself down and checked his clothes.

"It wasn't the real catacombs," Lowerstoff insisted.

"Low, can you shut up?" Zachary told him. "Where now?" he asked Touma.

"No idea."

"Okay, let's get a drink. There's a bar across the road."

They took a table under an awning on the terrace by the side of the road with a view across to the gardens. When the waiter arrived they ordered three blonds, beers not girls! Relieved to have made their escape no one spoke until the cold drinks arrived.

"Do you know what's going on here?" Zachary asked Touma, as he sipped his beer.

"You mean with you and Lowerstoff or you and Hamilton, or what do you mean?"

"There's nothing going on with me and Lowerstoff that you don't already know. Between me and my father? Well, that depends on what happened before. You know what happened when we were... somewhere else."

Touma laughed. "If anyone was listening to this conversation they would understand nothing. Let's be open. You and Lowerstoff are a number."

Lowerstoff turned to look at Touma having heard that statement. Zachary nodded.

"You two are tied together, that much I know. I met you both in another rift and now you're here."

"Hold up!" Zachary interrupted. "In another rift?"

"A different quantum time, it's what we call it."

"So you know about that?"

"Of course. We slid there to get you away from the research institute. Seems I'm always rescuing you. I wonder what I should get in return?" Touma looked at Zachary and raised his eyebrows.

"If you two are going to flirt with each other go get a room," Lowerstoff said.

Touma frowned.

Zachary picked up the explanation, ignoring Lowerstoff's remark. "We escaped, but Lowerstoff here," he nodded at Lowerstoff, "got shot, killed."

"How?" Touma asked.

"My father, Hamilton, was the admiral on an aircraft carrier in the sea of Japan where we ended up. Long story short, he shot and killed Lowerstoff and as you call it, we arrived here in a different rift , but it seems to me like I've always been here and everything is wound back and we're going to Nice."

"You're going then?"

"My father rang and he's gonna call back. Wants to take us to Nice for the hols. Last time everything kicked off there with a drone attack by Hamilton."

"Phone him and say yes," Touma said. "Say you have one more passenger, me."

Zachary laughed. "He'll love that."

"Well, didn't you invite me? We shouldn't go back to the foyer. I know an old house where we can stay, until Hamilton arrives," Touma told them.

"But all our stuff..."

"Don't worry about that," Touma interrupted, and produced something from his pocket. "I've got this." He held up an American Express card. "We can get everything you need."

"I like that," Lowerstoff grinned.

The house was a dilapidated and run down shambles of a place. The garden over grown, which made the entrance gateway almost invisible, hidden by strangling bushes making a barrier of vegetation. There was a hole where part of a stone wall had collapsed and that was where they clambered through. The old front door illustrated how this had once been a mansion. Curving metal work and stained glass, the art deco origins continued inside with a wide ornate staircase and decorative metal balustrade. Lowerstoff and Zachary followed Touma upstairs and into a large empty room with a huge bay window which mirrored the stained glass of the entrance. There were two mattresses on the floor, a rucksack and a wooden crate, otherwise the room was bare right down to the old wooden floorboards.

"My family used to live here," Touma announced. "We won't be disturbed. It's safe."

Safe from what? Zachary asked himself. Why were the police about to raid the foyer? They were it seemed being chased everywhere they went. It was a sort of cat and mouse game. He didn't like it.

"Take this," Touma said, handing his credit card to Lowerstoff. "Buy what you need, the PIN is 1882."

"Thanks, I'll get a change of clothes for all of us."

"Just for you and Zack. I've got my rucksack here," Touma told him.

When Lowerstoff had gone on his way, eager to shop, they were left alone sitting one on each mattress looking silently at each other.

"You don't remember, do you?" Touma broke the silence.

"Remember what?"

"When we were young." Touma frowned.

"I remember hardly anything before being here in Paris." Zachary thought about that, then added, "for the second time. I remember the whole other parallel, the escaping, everything. I suppose everything since Paris wherever. Before, only occasional little flash backs."

"We went to this private school in Switzerland, outside Lugano. It was set in secure private grounds and had this amazing roof space from where you could just see the lake. We used to go swimming in the lake in summer. It was you who sneaked us up onto the roof. You had a key. I don't know how you got that. But that was our spot."

Zachary tried to remember what Touma was describing, but it was a blank.

"Go on," he said, "tell me."

Touma continued: "It was an amazing place set in large grounds with this huge old villa at the centre. An all boys school. Private, of course, for rich kids. The son's of the rich and famous."

"What was I doing there then?"

"Like you know, your father is an admiral, he was also running for Governor."

"You said we had our spot up on the roof."

"Yeah, we had a special relationship."

Zachary fixed his eyes on Touma, trying to read his body language, trying to understand what he was hinting.

"One Sunday, Albert, Jonathan, and Michael went down to Lugano. They had this plan to pick up some girls at the college. You said that it was a waste of time. Sixteen to eighteen year old college girls would not be interested in fourteen year old school boys. You didn't want to waste your Sunday chasing around. We let them go and stayed behind with the idea to take a hike in the foothills of the mountains. A much better idea. Well, I thought so."

"Yeah, chasing girls I don't think is my thing."

"That's what I understood back then, and we did set out for a hike. Maybe more a stroll along one of the paths that led up hill from the village. It was nearly the end of term and hot."

"And what happened?"

"Later we sat in the shade on the terrace of a local bar restaurant. It was almost empty, late afternoon, before the evening diners would arrive. We talked."

"About what?"

Touma turned his head and looked away at the window.

"We talked about what?" Zachary insisted.

Touma's heart was racing, exactly like it had back then. "This could almost be a replay if we weren't five years older."

"Touma!" Zachary felt frustrated at not remembering, although he tried to stay calm, irritation crept into his voice. "What happened?"

"We confessed to each other."

"Confessed what?"

Touma raised his eyebrows, looked at Zachary and smiled nervously. "That we weren't really into girls, whatever their age."

Zachary remained silent a moment, reflecting. Then he got it.

"Oh!" was the word that escaped his lips. He understood, it was a new twist. Zachary studied Touma.

"Did we?..." he asked.

"We were fourteen, Zack. Nothing happened, don't look so worried. I fell for you. I'm not sure what you felt. Not then, not at first."

It was weird, because this history re-told had an effect on Zachary. Not only emotionally, but it jogged his memory. Bubbling up from the depths somewhere in his mind he saw the roof terrace, the view, he could almost smell the scent of pine on the mountain air. And then there was the lake. The part ringed off which was the municipal swimming pool. The fountain which shot a jet of water twenty metres into the air. It flooded his head and he felt his eyes growing moist.

"I remember some of this," he said, "the roof, the view, the lake. You said not at first, nothing happened, but something did, right?"

Touma looked a little self-conscious. "Yeah, it did. That's when it all blew up."

"It all blew up?"

"Yeah, your father took you out of the school and I went back to Japan."

"But why?"

"Please, Zack. Don't make me spell it out."

Zachary stared at him. "Us?"

"We got caught together... in bed. Got it?"

He got it and he kicked himself mentally for being so stupid. "I'm sorry."

"You don't have to be. It was the both of us. It happened. And now is just how things turned out."

As Zachary reflected on what he had heard an understanding began to form. "Do you think that this... this whatever you call it, rift, changing times, multiverse, whatever. Could it be we move with those we are attached to emotionally? Doctor Kanishoi suggested Lowerstoff and I were connected and that was the key. I'm here with him and you, but no one else and we have this same connection."

"I don't know. Maybe. But we need to follow your father and stop what he's doing. So you need to phone him and get him to pick us up."

"Last time in Nice he got us to launch an attack on Violetta, Emile's mother. Emile was the other guy we lost on the way. He didn't appear here with us."

"Step by step. If Hamilton does a repeat performance, we know what to expect. We can stop him."

"But stopping one attack won't stop him. I know what he's like. Nothing will stop him!"

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