Touma Shimizu

by Luca

Chapter 2

"Hamilton didn't look pleased when he saw Touma," Lowerstoff said.

Zachary looked at him but made no reply. They were in the same hotel, the one with the bar and terrace overlooking the Promenade des Anglais and the blue, blue, Mediterranean. The sky matched the colour of the sea. It was difficult to draw the line where sea and sky met. Boats were out along the coast, traffic passing slowly on the promenade and people, lots of people. All manner of people, different ages, different clothes, walking, cycling, alone, in pairs, in small groups.

"What are you thinking?" Lowerstoff asked.

Turning from the window Zachary had an odd expression on his face. "I'm thinking we should just leave. Get out of here."

"And your father?"

"Yeah, that's a problem. Maybe we warn Violetta Cantagalli, get a message to her."

"That only moves the problem somewhere else. And Touma?"

"I told you what he told me. We were together when we were fourteen. In Switzerland. At least in this parallel universe. So you know why Hamilton dislikes him."

"I didn't mean that. Not exactly, more, what do we do with him?"

"We're a threesome now. He's important. He comes with us."

Lowerstoff paced around the room, he was not too happy about that idea. "Where is he anyway?"

As he asked that question the door opened and Touma entered.

"Where you get to?" Lowerstoff asked, not very friendly.

"I met with Hiroshi, he's part of the gang."

"Your whole gang is here in Nice?" Zachary was surprised.

"Oh yeah! The magnificent seven," Lowerstoff continued being belligerent.

"I learnt some stuff. You want to hear?"

"Pay him no attention," Zachary told Touma, "we want to hear what you learnt."

"Doctor Kanishoi was arrested by the police in Japan. He's in prison."

That was weird, a twist to this world that didn't make sense, didn't fit with the history he knew. Of course this was not the same place, the order of things was all changed.

"If that's happened then we aren't living any sort of groundhog day!"

Zachary almost laughed at the absurdly simplest idea, one which was easy to deal with. You change something here, it changes everything that follows. That wouldn't work, because everything doesn't follow. Events are not linear, they're all messed up.

"Groundhog day?" Touma was looking confused.

"He means we are not reliving all the same events we lived before."

"No, we aren't. It's not like that."

"So we don't know that anything we do will change things from what we know happened, because that doesn't work." Zachary looked from one to the other.

"Have you heard of a guy called Baragsen?" Touma asked.

"Sure, we visited him. Before, I mean. He was not very helpful."

"He sent us to Ibraka to see Kanishoi." Lowerstoff added.

"I was told he's an important player," Touma said.

"What do we do?" Zachary asked them both.

"I learnt some other stuff which is really technical, scientific, and complicated."

"Meaning you didn't understand it, right?" Lowerstoff said.

"What I did understand is this..." Touma frowned, "the universe is not held together by time, it's held together all the same, but not by time. You know the big bang theory? The universe is forever expanding, indefinitely. Well, Hamilton has reversed the flow. Not him of course, personally." Touma looked at Zachary. "Your dad's not that clever. But someone is and has. At least interrupted things if not actually reversed, because like I said time is not the glue of the universe."

"I guess that explains something, but doesn't tell us what to do, because anything we do might not have the desired effect."

Zachary was puzzled and looking at Lowerstoff, he was too. Touma couldn't provide any more answers.

"Did I actually die somewhere, sometime, shot by Hamilon?" Lowerstoff asked.

"I don't know," Touma replied.

"I saw my father shoot you and you were definitely dead," Zachary added.

"Then what we are living can't just be events remixed. You can't die and come back, not unless your name is Jesus!" Lowerstoff laughed.

"Or you believe in reincarnation," Touma added.

"Okay, we need to think," Zachary concluded, but he had no idea where they went from here.

The phone rang and Zachary moved to pick up the receiver from the bedside table. "Hello." He sat on the edge of the bed. "Okay, for lunch." He put down the phone. "That was my father. He wants to meet for lunch."

"With all of us?" Touma asked.

"He didn't say. He did say he had something for us."

"I don't like this. Not any of it," Lowerstoff said.

Zachary decided they would all meet Hamilton for lunch. When they entered the hotel restaurant, an impressively large and exquisitely decorated room with tables spaced wide apart, they were greeted by the maitre d'hôtel, who asked if they would be three to dine. When Zachary said they were meeting Hamilton, the immaculately dressed maitre d'hôtel smiled and said he would show them to their table and Mr Gode would be along shortly. As they sat down in the centre of the room the maitre d'hôtel left them in the hands of a waiter who requested their choice of aperitif. When they looked rather blank, he suggested a kir royal which they all accepted.

"I've never asked, but how come you don't have your father's surname?" Lowerstoff said.

"He took his mother's name," Touma replied, and Zachary smiled. "We all asked the same question at school."

Hamilton Gode strolled across the almost empty dining room. Only a few tables were occupied, probably by other guests staying at the hotel. Hamilton was dressed in civvies, sky blue jacket, white flared trousers and a white panama hat. He stopped a moment and looked around before taking his seat at the table. With a slight hand gesture he beckoned the waiter over and ordered a scotch on the rocks.

"Well boys," he addressed them like they were school students, "so glad you could join me." The greeting, if you could call it that, was said with an air of sarcasm. "No doubt you think I'm going to give Lowerstoff here a crate to take to the bar for a repeat performance." He paused and looked at each of them. "Not at all."

"No?" The reply slipped from Lowerstoff's lips, which made Zachary frown.

"No," repeated Hamilton, "I want you to go straight to see Baragsen, and take your buddy here with you." He nodded in Touma's direction. "Who, by the way, looks like a gangster the way he dresses."

Hamilton could not bring himself to address Touma directly. He took a sip from the whisky the waiter had returned with and stood up.

"Is that it?" Zachary said, looking up at him.

"Ah, not quite. I almost forget," he pulled a little envelope from the inside breast pocket of his jacket. "Give him this." Hamilton put the envelope on the table, took another sip of his whisky. "Not bad," he said to no one in particular and turned and left.

They watched him stroll back across the highly polished marble floor. Zachary tore open the envelope and emptied it onto the table. Inside was a usb key.

"So what is that for?" Touma asked.

"Are we going to go back to Morocco?" Lowerstoff asked in turn.

"Let's eat," Zachary said.

They called the waiter and gave their orders.

"You've adopted my philosophy," Lowerstoff said as he finished his kir royal.

"Oh yeah, well you got to enjoy life a bit," Zachary laughed.

Whilst they were enjoying life a bit and the rather delicious and exquisitely presented meal, Touma made a reflection that struck a chord with both of them.

"You have to have some means of manipulating the quantum state, don't you? I mean if you are going to control it, you need a way to do that. The key might be, well, the key!" He smiled like he was pleased with himself.

"I love you!" Zachary exclaimed. "That's exactly it!"

"You love me?" Touma looked confused.

"Its an expression. I love you for finding the answer."

"But how could a computer control quantum reality?" Lowerstoff asked.

"Not any old computer, Low. But a quantum computer."

"And where would you find one of those?"

"My guess," Zachary replied, "Japan."

"We need to go to Tokyo," Touma said. "There is a large computer there at the university."

"If things vaguely pan out in this reality, Violetta Cantagalli will show up at the hotel and we can try to get her on-board."

"You think that will work?" Lowerstoff asked.

"I said try." Zachary poured himself another glass of the very fine wine and topped up the others glasses.

By the time they had finished eating... and drinking, everybody was a little intoxicated. They were on a high from having formulated a plan, however bizarre it might appear, and they were buoyed up by the alcohol. Leaving the dining room and it's splendid decor they took the elevator up to their floor of the hotel.

"Touma, come and join us," Zachary said as he swiped the key card across the lock.

Not five minutes later they were all three naked in the spa, drinking champagne Lowerstoff had ordered and laying back in the bubbles which were nearly overflowing the tub.

"Ain't life grand," Lowerstoff said, raising his glass, and no one at that moment disagreed with him.

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