Voyage of the Colonel Darvish

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Back to the ole grind

Maze

10 miles used to be nothing “back in the day” but jogging 10 miles to and 10
miles from has put most of a marathon on your much older legs. Your 2 hour time
for the 10 miles was far from even close to your best. Even Marines get old you
say to yourself. You strip off most of your sweat soaked clothing and wade out
into the Bay for a cool off. Charlie is there acting like he never left, you
know he was with you somewhere as you can tell he’s been “exercising” probably
jogging just out of site behind you, yet somehow that fucker beat you home.

Maze lets the water wash over him as he wades out into the bay. The salt water stings a few spots on his back where he’s had recent work done on the Chrysanthemums; had a local artist touch up some outlines. It cost him a prime cut on the next Tuna catch, but it was worth it. Young Hanzo did good work in the old style. He mixed his own inks and protected the formulas at gunpoint. Maze well knew that he wasn’t going see that particular shade of red on the flowers OR the unit patch on his left arm on any man he didn’t already know.

“At least that cocksucker ”/wikis/yasuda" class=“wiki-page-link”>Yasuda kept Uncle’s “kifu” motif. Not sure what the fuck I’d do if they made me change all my ink."

He rubs his aching thighs as he wades from the bay. He shoots his best “grumpy sergeant” look at Charlie. “Hey little brother. Toss me that t-shirt so I can dry off.”

As the boy approaches, Maze, always conscious of foreign eyes and ears, mutters, sotto voice, “Pick up anything interesting while I was inside?”

Charlie mugs a confused look “What’chu mean boss?” again with the stereotypical Asian voice. He then lowers his voice “You know Tan the zhongguo ren (Chinese person) who runs that huge rickshaw service.” Maze answers, “yea saw him coming out as I was going in” Well after you went inside I stopped him said “hi” we’ve always had good relations with them so I asked him a bit about what was inside.

Tan told me that he’s heard about the Navy starting to construct ships there again and wanted to take a look. Says he was only able to get into some limited areas and couldn’t get into the heavily defended inner area. His guys are in and out of there all the time and heard lots of rumors but nothing concrete.

Maze answers “yea that’s about all I saw” It was close to time that the fleet would be heading back in and Maze would be playing inventory boy again, Yasuda was seemingly trying to drive the spirit out of him, giving him the most ordinary middle management tasks possible.

Maze headed toward his bungalow, still wanting that air of authority he used to have and that a few of the boat crews still showed him. He pulled out his working clothes one of his pre war suits that was cut big enough to fit over the shoulder holster yet still let everyone know he was armed, not that everyone else wasn’t anyway. He then removed the coat and retrieved the scabbard that allowed him to wear a KA-BAR that was inscribed with the family name in Kanji, in the small of his back.

It was a short walk down to the docks……

As Maze heads out the door he adjusts the “organization pin” on his lapel. He feels the bulge of his sunglasses in his jacket pocket though a glance at the sinking sun tells him that those shades won’t be of much us at this point in the day. Yet another day of fish scales on his sleeves and salt stains on his boots that never quite come all the way out. “Eh,” he thinks “call me the working man, I guess that’s what I am…” he thinks. That thought triggers the memory of another version of himself, seemingly another lifetime ago.

“Dietz? Detzel? What the fuck was that kid’s name? Every time he got tapped for a patrol, he’d start belting out some Rush tune in all its Geddy Lee nasally best… “It seems to me, I could live my life a lot better than I think I am. I guess that’s why they call me, call me the workin’ man….” was usually the last thing we heard before he went outside the wire. Better than all those white kids who thought they were Flavor fucking Flav, I guess. Detweller. That was his name. Funny the shit you remember”

Maze realizes can’t remember what the kid looked like before the PPK round took the top of his head off. That helmet might as well have been a fried chicken bucket for all the good it did him… He’s lost touch with all the live ones as moved on, one by one, to new lives in the After days. But the dead ones? Yea, they still stop by for a visit now and again after all these years.

He shakes off the memories of a bygone life before heading to the corner; he can’t afford for any of Yasuda’s lackeys to see him distracted while “on the job.” “There are standards to uphold,” they’d tell him, like any of those low-rent gangster wannabes had the first idea of what “honor,” “duty,” and fucking standards might be.

“Christ, if I can’t get my shit together before I hit the waterline, it’s going to be a rough night.”

He takes a look at the sky and figures he’s got a few minutes to spare before offloading truly starts. He makes a quick detour, ducking down an alley a block from the waterline to see about paying off a debt. Spying the small Oni encircled in red, Hanzo’s “calling card” painted over an otherwise nondescript doorway, Maze ducks in and looks for one of the Korean women that play hostess and serve as door security. No one wants their irezumi wrecked because the artists dropped the needle to pull a gun, now do they? Just because Hanzo’s studio was considered “out-of-bounds territory” for all the Asian organizations, well, that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t the occasional conflict. It just meant the internal punishment—and payment—was particularly severe.

“Kim”—it’s always “Kim”, when it isn’t “Lee,” anyway—“the man in?”

The bored girl sitting just inside the door raises one hand and jerks her thumb back over her shoulder toward the rickety stairs up to the studio. “Client. Be at least 3 hours if the last time ‘round is any judge. You need more work? Don’t think he can get you in tonight; maybe tomorrow.”

They knew him and his ability to pay well enough here that he could generally get work done on credit if things were tight. That said, he was still pretty sure the hand he couldn’t see was on the butt of a shotgun… Maze shakes his head. “No. But if he’ll be here a while, I’m thinking of sending Charlie around in a bit with a package to pay down the tab.”

She nods and picks up a nail file as he turns to leave. Maze ducks back out and hurries to the corner, turning toward the docks. He can see a slowly-assembling forest of masts, which tells him it’s time to get down to business. Just before he hits the first of the slips where the larger boats in Yasuda’s fleet dock, he spies Charlie. “Stick around little brother, if this works out tonight, I’ll have a Maguro [Bluefin] head for you to bring to Hanzo’s studio. See if you can find one of those waxed bags they use for the Uni haul. And don’t stick yourself on an urchin spine.”

Maze hopes Old Man Ko got a decent tuna haul this time out. One upshot to a third of the world being reduced to light grey ash means the Bluefin, once nearly fished to extinction, run further and in greater numbers than they have since the Lincoln administration. But they’re still big unpleasant fish and competition is tough. Ever since Ko taught him that the fatty meat between the collar and gills—the kama toro—was actually better than those belly cuts prized since, shit, probably since Tokugawa and his samurai marched on Sekigahara—knowledge equivalent to a “secret handshake” among fishermen—Maze quickly used it as a reward for a job well done among his crews as well as taking the occasional cut himself to buy some good will and more than a few luxuries. Anyone who tasted it once craved it again like a drug; and it was harder to get than most drugs. You could grow or manufacture an awful lot of things, but there’s only 1 collar on a tuna…

That knowledge also served a practical purpose, though. When the big fish were being butchered dockside he could tell right away who thought they could get one over on the dock boss. He certainly noticed that it didn’t take long for the fish destined for Yasuda’s table to get shorter and shorter as the better cuts were being surreptitiously worked into the butcher’s trash. The disrespect was becoming palpable.

“But I ain’t dock boss anymore, so it’s not my problem, now is it….” Maze pulls out a pen and pad and starts making his way toward the boats and another long night of counting sea urchins, snappers, mackerel, and eels…

Diego
You walk along the Bayshore Freeway, occasionally straying off to see a site.
It is roughly 4 miles back to The City College of San Francisco, Airport Campus.
You and several other educators/intellectuals have carved a bit of a niche at
this campus. Finding the library and many classrooms untouched you’ve moved
into a loose collective of educators and students. Since the surrounding
communities are happy to have people around to teach the CCSF is guarded by
several community militia and has not seen a problem outside of a political
discussion that led to a pistol fight a few years back. By the time you get
home it is late afternoon.

Diego had been fond of long walks before he acquired that small boat in 2003.
His long pensamiento (thinking) walks had long ago been replaced with
pensamiento sails. He was still curious as to what the military was doing at
Hunter’s Point. Most of the world was oblivious to him, he was very content in
his surroundings, but was missing excitement.

It was too late to take the boat out so he sat down with some lesson plans for
tomorrow. His weeks usually consisted of classroom work teaching reading and
writing to local children, and teens. Mostly helping the Spanish to speak
English and visa versa. But also a host of Asian students Chinese and Japanese.
It sure wasn’t what he wanted to do, but it “paid the bills” It earned him the
right to live at this college and it earned him a good living in whatever he
desired food, clothes and occasional other items which were bartered for his
services.

Diego’s true passion was language and its evolution. Since the war there was a
need to communicate between the various ethnicities that their very survival
depended on. The people of California had evolved the language into a mix of
English and Spanish with elements of Japanese and Chinese.

Sailors from the North often had trouble communicating with traders from
California. In only a decade apart the north influenced by French and Inuit had
evolved in its own way. Diego was sure that this cultural phenomena was worth
categorizing and studying.

He’d learned Chinese and Japanese and after teaching the locals would push his
small sailboat out into the bay to contemplate, returning late at night to write
working on his Thesis of Language Evolution. When stuck he’d fire up his short
wave radio and when the atmosphere was clear he’d hopefully find another lost
soul trying to communicate across the many miles.

Levi
You’ve been freelancing about as a crew member but there was no work for you
today. Still good natured enough to and with enough contacts to hitch a ride on
a boat out in the morning as Hunter’s Point is about 15 miles away. You ended
up doing some work anyway, as you are never one to stand about and the Ship’s
skipper was more than happy to give you a ride for the help. The boat came back
at dusk, with a good sized catch. You arrive home at dark, but have been
offered a job to clean the catch tomorrow. Which will means food for a week for
you.

Levi walks to his apartment complex, you’ve taken up residence in what used to
be a nice apartment complex, you like it for it’s cinder block walls. You have a
few neighbors, but they generally ignore you Levi moves to one of the metal
shuttered windows to release the secret catch on the claymore mine attached to
the front door. If anyone breaks in through the front door they will become red
mist. And they ain’t getting in through the steel bars cemented into the
windows, further secured with metal shutters

It is dark inside and Levi lights a few oil lamps fueled with a mixture of fish
oil and alcohol. Levi moves over to a home built stove and takes some wood from
a nearby pile. The stove is fired, and you move to one of two refrigerators
sitting side by side opposite the stove.

One refrigerator is hooked to a small generator that is vented out through the
wall like the stove. It used to be enough for the fridge and a few electric
lights but you haven’t used it in years. Alcohol is expensive, light bulbs
scarce and its incessant hum kept you awake at night.

The other fridge holds about a months worth of dried fish, rice and noodles.
Pretty much what everyone eats around here. Fish and noodle stew, or fish and
rice soup you think for a second and choose the latter as the water begins to
boil on the stove.

Your cupboards are full of jars of “pickled” items mostly bok choy, sauerkraut
and your own “brand” of fish sauce. You have several large crocks of it
fermenting near the wall. Your fish sauce is occasionally traded as you have a
good recipe remembering the way your parents made it so long ago. You could
probably stretch this food out 3 or 4 months if needed.

Levi moved to one of the two bedrooms, one was for sleeping the other was for
his toys. He disarmed the trip wire double barrel shotgun and second claymore
by his gun cabinet. Levi knew the “second mouse gets the cheese” and it would
take 5 or 6 “mice” to get his “cheese” and WAY more than that if he were home.

Levi removed his pride an joy from the cabinet. An M25 a product improved M21
with lightweight fiberglass stock, Leupold and Stevens 10x scope, bipod and
large flash suppressor. He’d spend a nice evening with his “wife” cleaning and
taking care of this beauty. Levi had a good collection of weapons. He went
back to the living room, and re-engaged the front door claymore. THis area was
pretty safe, but Levi’s military training over rode any possible false sense of
security

Tomorrow he was asked to help with the catch just brought in. Separating all
the fish parts, bones head and tail to be ground into “edible” paste, innards
for different dishes and meat for fresh sale or prep to be preserved with salt
smoking and dying. He’d be paid a weeks worth of food for a days work.

Jose
You hitched a ride on a boat back from Hunter’s point. He’d served on this
boat several times when crew were ill or otherwise couldn’t work. He knew the
captain well and saw the disappointment on his face overlooking a mediocre
catch. He didn’t make any small talk with any crew, standing on the forecastle,
leaning on the rail, feeling the waves kick the bow up and down, just breathing
in being on the water.

Jose longed for the pre-war days, lots of boats, lots of work, lots of days on
the water. The last great Naval battles were fought years ago and once majestic
navies now rested on the bottoms of oceans and bays. The Navy absorbed the
Coast Guard even though most units retained their designations.

In the dark days after the turn of the century, famines, radiation, food riots
all led to our current situation. Milgovs “Navy” was mostly small alcohol
powered patrol boats with little more than keeping the occasional pirate at bay.

Soon man relearned the art of harvesting the wind. Pleasure sailing boats, once
a toy of the rich, became the savior of any an ordinary man. Jose had helped
with this transition. He’d worked on wind powered boats as a child and these
were technological marvels compared to some of the boats he had grown up on.

In the latter part of 2000s, a large fishing fleet had sprung up in the shelter
of San Francisco Bay. Milgov had an interest in protecting the food supply and
had commissioned Jose and others as armed guard on boats, even crewing complete
boats.

Recently Jose had been “promoted” by Milgov. His organizational skills had
“won” him the ability to organize the guards on the boats….whoopee a desk job.
Jose could usually mail it in, organizing a weeks worth of work in one day.

Jose always woke up early with the change of the local militia guard. First the early morning watch walked to their posts yapping about the local scuttlebutt out. About 20 minutes later, the night crew returned looking for dinner and to spend some personal time with the local bathtub gin. The community consisted of mostly Latinos — Mexicans, Peruvians and the like. Surprisingly, the rather large Sihk contingent was welcomed with open arms despite the language and religious differences.

Jose helped set it up. Boats needed skilled people to work on them, but skilled people were hard to come by. Jose convinced the base command to turn the old training barracks into live quarters for the families. The skilled workers were protected and the base had a ready supply of labor. The militia was mostly to protect the community from itself. Coast Guard Island was like Great Britain. A large group of troublemakers needed to put out a lot of effort.

Despite that, there was one enemy that no bomb, no missile, no shell could defeat. He knew her well. It was the sea. Yeah, she could murder violently like a storm, but it was the slow quiet way she killed and ended his livelihood. The salt. Take a piece of steel and some salt water alone and the water will win. As a young kid, his father and uncles would call him from playing to help chisel and paint, sand and paint. Repeat. He didn’t understand why then, but quickly discovered as an adult. It did not take long for a little chip to turn into a bubble of rust. Without paint to fix that chip it didn’t take long for them to pile up and a once sea worthy vessel was sitting in the dry dock a rusty hulk. The next problem was patching up these boats. Inch thick steel is tough to fix. Once the steel rivets were used up, there wasn’t a fire hot enough to make one. You could craft them from iron, but Iron, steel and salt water was a Titanic waiting to happen. Pine tar pitch worked great and was easier to make. Wood and fiberglass was much easier to work with without power tools. Jose had old timers who were steelworkers before the war, but no with supplies they cut fiberglass boats to make patches and used pitch to make the boat seaworthy. It frustrated him with boredom, but that wasn’t his biggest concern.

He knew he shouldn’t complain. His skills were rewarded. He knew he was appreciated. After helping to train the militia, he was never asked to stand guard. Many of those people owed him their lives. Without his help, they’d be living on the mainland and it was still hell there. MilGov appreciated him. Jose knew how to make Cutler’s resin. Pine trees were dry heated producing pine pitch and charcoal. The charcoal was used for cooking and heating. The pitch was mixed with bees wax and sawdust and turned hard once it dried and cured. While the manufactured products were much easier and faster, when times were hard, they turned to the old ways back in the village. He wasn’t a capitalist. He taught people how to do it and return, he was given a job. If he did it all again, he wouldn’t of given his knowledge for free.

So now, he pushed paper. To important to go to sea. Not wealthy enough to do otherwise.

That is why the poster so thrilled him. It would be like old times. It inspired him — so much so that he decided that he’d find a way to get on a boat for a day if he could. Someone might get pissed, but what were they going to do. He wasn’t MilGov. They like to remind him of that.

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