Curt banging jolted Eiji from his sleep and made Tama mew with fright.
"Rise and shine Darling!" A young American solider further roused Eiji awake. He unbound Eiji's numb wrist and poked his side with the muzzle of a Colt M1917 steel revolver.
"Seriously?" Eiji groaned apathetically at the soldier in plain English as he rubbed his side area better and rose firmly to his feet.
He picked up the kitten who had resettled in a tight curl against a pipe. She mewed and wiggled with protest, but was soon calm by his rhythmic pats. He was able to stow her snoozing body under his shirt.
Although Tyne had promised he would be protected from harm as a POW for a purpose, what was stopping other soldiers from finding out he was there and sneaking in to use him as a venting mechanism before tossing his dead carcass into the Philippine Sea? No matter what happened to him, he couldn't let anything harm Tama.
"Cute kitty." The American solider threw out the random comment.
It made Eiji go stiff with concern and his hold on Tama more protective.
"Right." He carefully responded. His eyes skirted about the holes in the pipes to see if they would be big enough for her to fit through if needs be.
The soldier surprised him further when he stowed the gun in the belt-holster against his hip and closed the door, enclosing both of them in the cell.
"You ain't going to do anything are you?" The soldier levelly asked.
"What about you?" Eiji gulped, taking a few steps away from him.
"It's too early for a scrimmage. I just wanna chat." The soldier coolly cocked his head to one side to observe Eiji from another angle. "Five minute truce. I promise I won't do anything to you if you do nothing to me."
He raised both his hands before him, so Eiji could see the pink flesh of his spongy palms and callouses that were a common sight on experienced gun-hands.
Eiji frowned, wondering what kind of psychology these American's were trying on him now.
"I'm on an enemy vessel in the middle of the Philippine Sea with a cat. There's probably a few squadrons on board..."
"Five." The soldier corrected him with a creepy grin.
"Right." Eiji gulped, concerned that he was balancing a fine act with a crazy man. "I'm not in any position to do a stupid escape attempt."
His concerns deepened when the soldier stood at ease before him. The soldier's smile lowered into a businessman's grin.
"You're the POW who is multilingual." The soldier surprised Eiji by speaking fluently in Japanese. "I must say, your English is bloody good. Better than a lot of the guys on this ship."
"Geeze, how many more Americans can speak their enemy's language." Eiji gulped nervously as his eyes darted around the room to further determine Tama's exit points if a fight were to occur.
The soldier chuckled. "Definitely two. You're speaking to one and you certainly owe your skin to the other. On another ship they have a classroom full a fluent speakers breaking your country's military codes with cereal-prize-box, code breaking toys."
Eiji sighed, dropping thoughts of Tama's escape. Now was a time of playing his cards right since it seemed this solider was intent on having his chat and so far didn't show any signs of wanting to cause harm. At least physically. He was conscious of maintaining his poker face when the soldier kept switching languages on him.
"Do you understand what I'm saying now?" the soldier asked him in Deutsch.
Eiji cringed, feeling like he was undergoing the intensive language test for his former junior assistant-engineering job all over again.
"Yes, yes, that too." He replied in Deutsch with a sigh.
"Brilliant!" The solider startled Eiji with a jarring clap.
Eiji studied the solider's stance and features, taking note of his mousy-brown hair peeking through his khaki peak cap, lean and toned body in the same colour uniform with chevron stripes of a marine corporal sewn on this right shoulder and army boots looking too clean to have suffered some hard ground. The solider was half a head taller than him, which wasn't very tall; about 5-foot-8. Unlike Tyne's manly features, his skin was light, a bit pinkish and soft, face slender, slightly effeminate and youthful with bright green eyes, making him appealing and unassuming to both sexes.
_"Like a Kitsune."_ Eiji concluded his analysis. Not a man to let your guard down that was for sure. _"Yep, a Kitsune-san."_
For now, all he could do was go at their pace. The first task was making sure he and Tama reached the mainland in one piece, alive. From there he could scope for a break to find his way back to Hinata.
The door opened to break their bilingual conversation. Tyne stepped into the room with three army packs and bundles in his hands. The door swung to a close behind him.
"Look lively ladies. We have ten minutes to board the Phantom before the carrier breaks Okinawa waters." Tyne ordered and threw a pack before Eiji's feet "Before anyone notices you."
Eiji's mind ticked madly at the word Phantom. Were they serious?
Tyne tossed a heavy bundle of material on top of the pack. Eiji carefully placed Tama down to inspect the bundle. He unravelled civilian clothes.
"Five minutes Takaki-san, if you want to reach the mainland."
Eiji refocused on dressing as quickly and smartly as he could in the brown victory suit, lightweight white stiff-peak collar shirt and plain brown Oxford lace-ups. He pocketed his teacher's letter and sighed, realising it had been a long time since he wore civilian clothes. The suit jacket was a bit too broad around his chest, making him feel like a kid wearing that school uniform he had to grow into.
"Did you rip these off some sad beefcake?" He complained that stirred a chuckle from the Kitsune-san.
"Nice going Takaki-san. Two minutes." Tyne ignored his question as he checked the time on a brass pocket watch with the seal of a German manufacturer etched on its back face.
Tyne and the Kitsune-san were also dressed in grey civilian business suits and hats. Eiji clicked on what was going on.
The door swung wide, startling Tama. Tyne managed to grab her before she was able to bolt out of the cell. He gently stowed her in one of the packs, leaving enough opening so her head could poke out.
"Lieutenant, Sir! I'm here to take you all to the Phantom, Sir!" A marine in green camouflage gave Tyne a stiff salute.
_"Too loud."_ Eiji groaned in his head.
The stink of metal, heavy oil and gunpowder wafted up his nose as he followed the escort out of the cell and down a narrow passageway where the bulkhead sconces were barely lit to guide their way up to the hangar bay.
A strong slap of the obscure, night sea air whipped Eiji's skin as he alighted to the dimly lit hangar.
He followed Tyne and his escorts through light rains that continued to slap their skin as they hurried for the dull unmarked fighter plane that was sitting at the start of the runway.
As he neared the low-profile plane, he realised it was a twin-jet fighter where the bubble-style canopy was in front of the wings, which were made with split flaps on the folding and fixed sections. It was a plane for stealth and high performance.
_"We're definitely sneaking into the country."_ He thought, not surprised considering it was the only way to enter without alerting a siren.
Yet could they really enter the country undetected?
He stepped into the passenger area of the cockpit with Tyne and the Kitsune-san squeezed into the chairs either side of him. Both of them were soaked with rain like him. What the hell was the point of them getting dressed?
"Wear this." Tyne said as he threw Eiji and the Kitsune-san a leather mask and helmet.
Tyne buckled up and hugged the pack carrying Tama to his chest, making sure she was okay before closing up just enough of the zip, so she could breathe. The kitten timidly mewed with frightful eyes staring back at him, but she was okay. He soothed her fears through the pack the best he could. He prayed that she was able to survive the flight. It had been his main concern, so he had fitted the pack with as much weather and soundproof insulin as possible to keep her snug. Doing so without alerting questions from others.
Eiji sighed and buckled up, securing the helmet and mask to his head.
An American pilot, wearing the classic heavy bomber jacket with a different insignia to Tyne's (Eiji guessed it was from a navy fleet) on his right breast, entered the driver's seat. He gave Eiji a narrow, dirty, look from his dark eyes before clicking his tongue and donning his leather helmet.
"Betta not cause trouble for me Jap." He issued his pilot's safety check to Eiji before fitting his mask over his mouth.
He revved up the plane and pulled it out for a take off.
Eiji stifled a laugh at the irony of having to rely on an enemy stealth vehicle to return to his own country.
"Destiny's a bitch." He mumbled.
His voice was pulled back into this throat when the Phantom jet-plane lifted its nose and zoomed off the carrier's runaway to take a secret route into Japan's mainland, away from the approaching fight on Okinawa.
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