SNAFU: The World According to Schuldig

Part Fourteen
I don't know how to say 'We're fucking dying down here!'

    Tot ends up not staying long, in part because I'm starting to feel queasy again. She walks herself to the door- bounces, rather- and I decide that it's probably about time to try and get out of bed. I ease myself off the side and wander into the bathroom for a messy attempt at a shower that gets more water on the floor than it does on me. It's the thought that counts, though, so I go ahead and get out and dry off and go in search of clothes. Crawford and Farfarello are still gone by the time I'm dressed, and that's about when I realize we're out of bottled water. I know Moriyama keeps some in the downstairs kitchen, so I struggle into my shoes and head to the bottom floor.

    She's cleaning up a lunch mess when I show up but immediately starts chatting away about the weather and the morning news when she sees me, and I help myself to the water in her fridge as she piles a plate high with leftovers. My stomach hurts at the sight of the food but I don't know if it's in hunger or nausea, so I sit down at the table and just stare at it for a while. She makes herself some tea and sits down across from me, joining me in my contemplation. She gives me a few minutes of silence before deciding to try speaking again, and she reaches across the table to pat one dry hand against mine.

    "You look tired."

    "I'm sick," I answer, and I scoop up the chopsticks to make an attempt at my brunch. She fixes my grip and sets me free to have a go at it and then slides her hot tea across the table in offering. "Don't want it," I say through a mouthful of rice, but she's already up and making herself another. I only manage to eat a fourth of the plate before I have to push it away, but the tea she gave me goes down easier. Moriyama gets to her feet as I'm refilling my mug with water and comes around behind me to start playing with my hair. Bone-thin fingers pick their way through orange knots and start smoothing everything out and I sit still, hands curled around my mug, as the picking and tugging help take the edge off of last night's lingering headache.

    "My name is Moriyama," she says in English, and we start our English lesson for the day.

    After an hour, my headache has come back and hits a painful point that has me putting my head down on the table. Moriyama gives my shoulders an encouraging squeeze and goes to rummage through her cabinets. She comes back with a small white pill and sets it down on the table beside me.

    "What is it?" I want to know, tilting my head to one side to eye it through my bangs.

    "It is medicine," she answers, patting my shoulders again.

    "The last time someone gave me medicine, I thought I was pregnant," I tell her, but I don't know the Japanese for that so she just smiles benignly at the foreign words. Another spike works its way through my skull, so eventually I reach out and swallow it with what's left of my water.

    "Sleep," she tells me.

    It sounds like a good idea, so I abandon her and go back upstairs to bed.

    I don't know how long I sleep but I'm woken up by a rough hand on my shoulder and I crack open blue eyes to see Farfarello frowning down at me. "'tthe 'ell?" I manage, and he shakes me again. I groan and bat his hands away, but he moves my covers down where I can't reach them.

    "Are you ever getting up?"

    "I was up," I tell him, annoyed. "I got up, I showered, I socialized, I rocked the world as usual, and I came back to bed. What time is it?"

    "Night," Farfarello answers. "We're supposed to leave in an hour. Where's Crawford?"

    "Probably off infecting Tokyo with insanity. Why are you asking me?"

    "What, you can't use your telepathy and find him?"

    That sarcastic remark is enough to remind me of my talk with Tot that morning and I sit up so fast Farfarello has to take a step back. He eyes me warily as I stare back at him and I struggle with my quickly returning outrage and confusion. Looking at Farfarello is the only thing that can keep any of that in check, because I'm not sure he's the one I want answers from. Tot warned me not to trust him, but getting straight answers from Crawford is a rare thing.

    At last I decide to risk it. "Do you remember the diner in Germany?" I ask. "Remember when I tried to call Crawford on his bullshit?"

    "Which time?" is his dry answer.

    "I asked what happened to Darwin," I say, ignoring that. "At the time I was referring to the fact that some force of nature hadn't completely wiped Crawford out of existence, but Crawford misunderstood. He said Darwin was a telepath."

    "I remember that."

    "Tot said the same thing."

    "Tot again," Farfarello says, and I eye his expression carefully. That's all he says about it.

    "Was Darwin a telepath?" I want to know.

    Farfarello just stares at me for several minutes before sighing. He reaches up to rub his temples and I frown at him for making me wait on a response. "Schuldig," he says at last, "this is going too far. Handling one of you is hard enough, but two?"

    "There's only one of me."

    "Darwin was the last person Crawford tried to recruit into this insanity," Farfarello tells me firmly. "He failed to bite, so Crawford cut him loose and started looking for someone else. Darwin was not a telepath, just like you're not a telepath, just like Crawford can't see the future and Nagi is nothing more than a fat toy who jingles when he's shaken. When I said Crawford's insanity was contagious, I didn't mean for you to take it so far."

    "You lied to me about how long you've been with Crawford."

    "And that suddenly makes him right?" Farfarello asks, arching an eyebrow at me. It's an interesting feat for a man who has one eye covered by an eye patch. "I lie to you about that and suddenly everything he tells you is the truth?"

    "Tot backs it up," I point out.

    "What does Tot know?" he asks me. "She was taken in by him just like you were. If Crawford brought someone else into the team you'd go to them and tell him you're a telepath, that I'm a psychopath, and that we've intimidated the next prime minister hopeful into being our client."

    "When you say it like that you make it all sound stupid."

    "Because it is stupid," Farfarello insists.

    "Why did you lie to me? You come up with a really good answer to that question and I'll consider retracting my psychopath comment."

    "And not everything else?"

    I lift my chin defiantly. "I don't care anymore if he's right or wrong," I tell him. "He's paying me to be his telepath. That's what I'm here to do."

    "And to fuck him."

    I scowl at him. "So?"

    "Two weeks ago you'd have shot yourself in the mouth if you'd realized you were going to end up sleeping with him."

    "That was two weeks ago. I want to talk about Darwin."

    "We already talked about Darwin."

    "Tot said that Crawford's parents-"

    "Tot said," Farfarello interrupts me. "Tot said this, Tot said that. Who is Tot, anyway? Do you even know that? She's just a child that Crawford assigned to you to teach you about Japan and to be outside proof that his madness is right. Who is she, Schuldig? When you can tell me that, then I will tell you why I lied to you about those four years."

    I just stare at him in the face of that argument and wrack my brain for a smart remark. Words fail me and I scowl at him instead. Farfarello knows he's won and offers me a look of lofty arrogance as he starts away from my bed. I throw my pillow at his back just because I can, but Farfarello doesn't even acknowledge the hit. He rummages around in his room for a while and I pull my phone out of my pocket to stare down at it.

    For a moment I think about calling Tot to demand some answers, but I flip the cell closed before I hit dial on her name. I tap the phone against my head, staring at the kitchen counter across from me, and wonder where I'm supposed to draw the line.

    Everyone is lying to me to some degree or another. The problem is figuring out which person's lies are the easiest to live with, because I can't sit here and juggle all of this distrust and suspicion all the time. Either I can believe that Crawford can get us through this, and that Tot will fill in all the pieces he forgets to ramble my way, and that Farfarello just doesn't count, or I can believe Farfarello and lose everything Crawford and Tot are giving me. I already said I was going to stand by Crawford. Am I going to give Farfarello a chance to let me change my mind?

    "Jail was a lot simpler," I tell my bed. "Oh well. 'Liar' is a lot easier to say than 'Farfarello', anyway."


    I have the chance to see just how much simpler jail was three days later when Schwarz is called to act as bodyguards for a transaction. "Transaction" is what Crawford called it, anyway. I call it "Lots of creepy looking guys showing up in black cars to point guns at each other". Since I don't know how to say that in Japanese, I stick with Crawford's "transaction".

    We all come in separate cars and meet up at a warehouse. We're here to watch Takatori's guys, though I think they're fine enough on their own considering what weapons they're carrying. My gun feels really small where it's tucked inside its holster but Crawford just tells me to trust my gift. I spend a lot of time in those first few minutes willing none of them to want to shoot me and I smile every time one of them even breathes in my direction.

    Farfarello seems completely uninterested in what's going on and has sprawled against the side of the car to pick at his fingernails with a toothpick or something he found on the floor of the car. He doesn't even try to look intimidated by the men we came here with. I look at them and see their guns; he looks at them and sees a crowd of Japanese people. I'm taller than half of the people here, so I can almost forget about their weapons long enough to understand Farfarello's view on this.

    Crawford goes over to speak quietly with some of the men before the other half of tonight's transaction shows up. He's doing a pretty good job of looking sane as he talks, but for all I know, he's over there rambling about what he had for breakfast or how he thinks it's going to rain tomorrow. I'm not close enough to overhear, so I just sort of wing it and make up this whole conversation where the men promise they're not going to shoot anybody when I'm standing right here, most especially me.

    My idea of the conversation is sort of broken when the other cars show up, and Crawford makes his way back over to me as the men draw their guns. A bunch of other men climb out of their black cars with their guns, and I inch a little closer to Farfarello. As psychotic as I've decided he is, he might be the safest one to stand by if all hell breaks loose. He sort of gives the impression that you could shoot him ten or twelve times and he'd just spit in your face and kick your teeth in.

    "Hey, Farfarello, you're called Berserker for a reason, right?" I ask.


    "Presumably nothing. You've been with Crawford for four years."

    "Things change."

    "People change," Crawford corrects him, the same way he corrected him outside of Takatori's building. He reaches up and pushes at his glasses, watching as the back of the truck is opened up. A long line of children is escorted off and I frown at them, wondering who on earth brings their kids with them to work.

    "What's up with the kids?" I want to know.

    "They were brought over from Pusan to Fukui," Crawford tells me. "Now they're here. They're being sold."

    "Sold, as in…?"

    "Childhood pornography, black market slavery, things like that."

    I frown at him. "Come again?"

    "Childhood pornography, black market slavery, things like that." He gives me a reassuring nod. "They will make Takatori's associates very rich."

    I look from him to the long line of bewildered, frightened kids, then back at his face and over at Farfarello's disinterest. "We're selling kids?"

    "Oh, no, no," Crawford hastens to reassure me. "We're guarding the people who are selling kids. We're not making any money off of it."

    "Tell me that this is another one of your trippy illusions."

    Crawford nods at me. "Smile at them, Schuldig," he tells me. "They're looking at you."

    I look over at the new arrivals, who are sending cold looks my way. They can't understand what I'm saying but they can understand the disapproval, and that's enough that they're starting to look a little twitchier with their guns. I offer them my best smile. "Cute kids," I say, and they just nod and keep the line moving. "Crawford, you and I are going to have a long talk later."

    "Yes," he agrees. "We probably will. But not tonight."

    "What's wrong with tonight?"

    "Hmm." Crawford thinks about that. A siren goes off and Crawford looks over at me with a sage nod. "That's why."

    All but three children are loaded. Crawford raises his arm and calls something to the men, and they grab the last three and shove them in the nearest cars. The rest of the men are splitting up, hurrying back to their cars, and I look over at Crawford.

    "And those sirens would be…?"

    "The police, I think," Crawford says. "Maybe a special task force."

    "Sounds like four cars," Farfarello says as other wailing joins the fray.

    "Of course," I agree, watching as the cars come to life. I look over at Crawford. "So we're leaving, right?"

    "Oh, no. We should cover their exit." He nods and pulls his gun free.

    "What, like shoot at people?" I ask, but Crawford answers that by pulling the trigger. I drop and cover my head at the loud crack it makes, but Farfarello's already firing on my other side. Better than that, he's actually walking towards the wailing police cars as he does it. A bullet pings off the car at my side and I jerk to my feet again, deciding it's safer to be standing up. Tires squeal as the two transaction groups peel away to either side of our car, and then there's just us versus four cars. I've never even fired a gun, but I point and pull the trigger. Nothing happens.

    "It's broken!!" Crawford reaches over and flicks a switch. I pull the trigger again and it snaps my hand back when it fires. "Ow! God dammit!"

    A bullet actually goes through my hair when I'm flinching away. I hear it whistle past my ear and see the spray of orange strands exploding out from my face, and I start pulling the trigger in earnest. It's three of us against four cars and eight cops. The odds tonight suck and I hate Crawford and hate Farfarello and hate Schwarz I don't want to die don't want to-

    Somehow we're winning.

    Schwarz rocks.

    Two of the cop cars go wheeling out of control, one to cut across the street and hit a phone booth and the other to go crashing into the warehouse we're parked near. I see blood splatter up against one of the windshields of the remaining cars and it goes spinning to crash into the one beside it.

    "Schuldig!" It's Crawford, grabbing at my arm. The cars are going too fast to manage a crash like that and the bloody one starts rolling in our direction. Farfarello leaps backwards, up against the hood of our car, and it just barely misses him, and Crawford and I bolt to avoid getting run over.

    I didn't know cars could roll like that. It's kind of cool.

    Except the second one's rolling too, and it slams right into the hood of our car. Farfarello was paying attention to the first one, not the second, but the impact sends our car spinning to throw him like a rag doll. He slams up into the first car where's it's stopped on its side and crumples to the ground, and I pull away from Crawford to run after him.


    His hand slides against the ground, trying to find a brace to push himself up, and I grab him by his shoulders to haul him up onto his knees, only to let go when I see his bloody face. He catches himself before he can hit the ground and I whirl on Crawford.

    "Crawford, Farfarello's-"

    I forget what I'm saying. Crawford's gun is on the ground by his feet and his face is buried in his hands, but I can see the blood running down his face from his ears even from here. I look from one to the other, but Farfarello is shoving his eye patch up onto his forehead as he struggles to get back to his feet. He's taking too long to get there himself so I grab his arm and haul him after me towards Crawford.

    "Crawford, we have to go."

    Crawford says something I can't make out through his hands. His phone is ringing and he reaches for it, but I prop Farfarello up against him and grab it from his pocket. The voice on the other line is familiar; it's one of the men who was just here. I don't know how to say "We're fucking dying down here!" so I just have to offer up an "It's finished." The response sounds pleased, so I hang up and grab at Crawford where he's sliding towards the ground.

    "No," Farfarello snarls. "No. I won't let you-"

    He grabs at Crawford's throat with murder in his only intact eye. I react in an instant and slam the butt of my gun into the ruins of his face as hard as I can. He stumbles back a foot and collapses, and I grab at Crawford again and drag him towards the car.

    I can hear more police sirens as I go back for Farfarello and I stuff the Irishman in the backseat as quickly as I can. I've only driven this car once but it's not like either of the others can drive, so I climb into the driver's seat and grab the keys out of Crawford's pocket. It takes two tries to get the ignition to catch and I slam on the gas, pulling at the wheel to turn us around and get us on the road. I don't know where I'm going but I drive anyway, and it's a really good thing for all of us that there aren't a lot of people on the road at this hour.

    When we've gone from Hopelessly Lost to Is This Still Japan Lost, I hit the brakes and call Tot. She's the only one I can think of calling right now, because I sure as hell can't do this on my own.

    She answers on the second ring with a "Hi hi!"

    I answer back with an, "I think they're dead!"

    Startled silence follows that. "Schuldig?" she asks. "Who's dead?"

    "Crawford and Farfarello are bleeding all over the goddamned car and I don't know how to drive and I don't know where I am and we just shot like eight hundred cops and I need to get us out of here. Tell me where the Magic Bus is."

    "Where are you?" she asks.

    "Tokyo!" I snap back at her.

    "Subway station, subway station!" she tells me, and I climb out of the car to look. I have to go running down the street a block before I finally find one and she recognizes the name. "We come to you!" she assures me. "Wait for us! Okay? Wait!"

    She hangs up before I can even ask who 'us' is. It's not important enough to call her back, so I go running back to the car. I turn the overhead light on so I can see my teammates and look from Crawford to Farfarello. The entire left side of his face is a mess from his left eye to his nose and cheek and I grimace, reaching out to pull his eye patch over what used to be a red eye.

    "Shit!" I say. It doesn't fix anything, but I say it again. "Shit!!"

Part 15
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