Chapter 16: Connect It Together (3)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
An unpleasant impact ran through his skull and woke him from his light sleep. When Sakae opened his eyes, Motoi’s face was right above him.
“I-I’m so sorry! I didn’t think that someone’s head would be on the floor here…”
So he kicked me, did he?
Sakae sat up and shot him a glare, but when he saw Motoi in a pair of muddy rubber boots with his hair matted in sweat, his anger drained away, and instead Sakae brushed the mud off from his own head. If Sakae had been forced to go somewhere for work that he knew nothing about, he would have conveniently disappeared a long time ago.
“The sofa is empty. You don’t have to sleep here like some homeless person.”
You don’t know when to shut up, do you?
“Leave me alone. I’m out here because I don’t want to sleep too deeply.”
“May I ask where Shitara-san has gone?”
“We got a summon, and he’s over at NHK for a meeting.”
“Huh? I don’t understand the need to go all the way there for a meeting.”
He had a reasonable argument—more people would be able to participate in a video conference, and they could play it back later, which was more convenient.
“Why does the TV industry choose to be analog in the strangest ways?” Motoi asked angrily.
“Because it’s all old men at the top.”
Sakae headed for the vending machines to try to get rid of the lingering drowsiness, and for some reason Motoi came along and started making strange excuses.
“I don’t believe that everything old has to be bad though,” he insisted. “The director in the car today was talking about the Betacam, which I’ve never heard of before. When I asked him about it, he told me that it was a professional video cassette product. It had completely lost to VHS in terms of consumer use, but it had survived in the commercial space due to its quality and performance…”
The vending machines were out of unsweetened coffee (the vendor probably couldn’t come to restock them), so Sakae chose a CalorieMate beverage.
“I find that kind of story rather moving,” Motoi concluded.
“No one uses Betacam anymore now.”
Instead of inserting a tape into a deck, they now used a system where they uploaded the data to a server and broadcasted it. Of course, there were cases when they would spit something on a tape so that they could discuss the contents, but nowadays there were plenty of media that were more compact and had greater capacities than the Betacam. Now that he thought about it, it had been a long time since he last had to deal with one of those gigantic tapes as big as a multi-course lunch box. Sakae still had some extra coins in his wallet, so he bought a bottle of Pocari and tossed it over to Motoi. Caught off guard, Motoi rushed to catch it with both hands, and with a perplexed expression on his face, he said “Thank you.” Then he followed after Sakae again as he went back to the news floor. All while his rubber boots squeaked against the floor.
“How long are you going to wear those? You’ll get mud everywhere.”
“Oh, you’re right. Sorry… Oh, wait!”
“What? You still have more to say?”
“I really did like the special feature on My Document… There were no lies or excuses. It was very forthright, and when I finished watching it, it made me want to do my best too. Nothing concrete in particular, but I wanted to do my best in general. Like I had been empowered, I guess, um…”
Sakae stopped in his tracks and turned around. Motoi clutched the 500-mL plastic bottle to his chest like it was a living thing.
“—…I had wondered what kind of person could have made such a video piece. And I wanted to try talking to them about all sorts of things if I ever had the opportunity to work with them.”
“You wanted to talk about Betacam?” Sakae asked.
Motoi looked down in embarrassment for some reason.
“No, I should have had other subjects that I wanted to discuss with you… but I feel like they all vanished from my head. Partially because I never thought that you would be this kind of person.”
“Well, I’m glad for that.”
“Ah, see, that’s exactly what I mean. But it also makes me happy that you’re so different from what I had thought. It’s more fun when things don’t go the way that I expect.”
Motoi laughed, but he couldn’t see what was so amusing or fun about it. But if Motoi still had all this energy left, Sakae could probably work him like a dog some more.
When Shitara returned, they held a meeting in a small auditorium. The faces of the management team from the news and engineering departments were equally grim, and it was clear that the news was not good.
“We’re all busy here, so I’ll keep it short and sweet. We’ll make sure to prepare notes for the staff who aren’t able to attend. Mimasaka, please take the minutes.”
“Let’s start with an explanation from the Director of Engineering…”
Shitara passed the baton, and the Director of Engineering began to speak.
“I’m sure that you all know that there is a power outage at the Hiroshima broadcast station that operates the transmission tower. It is currently operating on backup power from a generator, and according to the manufacturer, the system is rated for approximately 10 days of runtime, and moreover, it has never operated continuously in actual practice, and right now it is unknown how long we can expect the generator to last. Furthermore, only 5 days worth of fuel is available at the site. And there is no guarantee that it will last that long either.”
“To sum it up,” the Director paused and took a deep solemn breath. “If either of these subsystems go down, the transmission of the TV signals will stop—and 1.2 million households that depend on terrestrial TV will lose access to the TV broadcasts. This includes every single channel in the area.”
The auditorium fell completely silent at the 1.2 million number and the extraordinary circumstances. Only the sounds of Motoi typing on the keyboard could be heard in the room.
“What kind of countermeasures have we come up with?” Sakae asked.
“We can only ask the power company to rush the restoration work. But unless we do something about the roads first, they won’t be able to access the site. We will submit requests to the prefecture and the power company—that is one step that we can take. At the same time, we will spearhead an effort to transport by helicopter a new generator and extra fuel. However, the generator weighs about 3 tons, and we won’t be able to secure a helicopter that is capable of such a load right away…”
“What about the SDF?”1
Shitara was the one who took the question.
“The five stations will submit a joint request to the Ministry of Defense through the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, but I wouldn’t pin my hopes on it. There are rescue operations being conducted all over the area right now. Although the helicopter would be used to aid the restoration efforts, they’re not likely to mobilize the SDF to move equipment for a few television stations.”
“In any case, we’ve assigned each of the stations different roles and responsibilities which includes reviewing consumer generator equipment. We will undertake the restoration work while sharing information with each other. Everyone here should continue to commit all your efforts to the news coverage and broadcasts. We will let you know if there is any progress on the power restoration. And with that in mind—”
“Please hold on.”
The person who raised the objection was the note taker Motoi.
“If things don’t end up working out, then it means that the TV transmission will stop in a few days. Shouldn’t we notify the viewers about it in advance?”
“No,” the Director of Engineering answered quickly. “We will do our best to prevent the transmission outage. We don’t want to cause undue confusion to the viewers when we’re still at risk for secondary disasters.”
“But what is the probability that we’ll prevent the outage if we all do our best? I don’t believe that anyone knows that answer. I think that it would cause more pandemonium if the TV suddenly goes out as people are watching it. In my opinion, we should explain it to them.”
“We can’t. The five stations have already jointly agreed to this decision. Please keep this information strictly confidential within the company.”
The director re-emphasized the “strictly confidential” part, but Motoi didn’t seem to accept the decision and dragged Sakae into the discussion.
“Souma-san, what do you think?”
What a pain in the ass.
Sakae answered, “I have no objections.”
“…Why is that?”
“It doesn’t matter why. The mass media operates on pretense and smoke screens after all.”
Motoi balked at the comment as he continued to type, and Shitara ordered him to strike the comment from the record.
See? What did I tell you?
“I understand what you’re trying to say, Mimasaka. It is better to make an announcement beforehand, but that only applies when you have access to alternative tools of communication. 140 thousand households have cable TV, but even if you add radio and satellite TV subscribers, it’s impossible to fully cover the households with terrestrial TV. So then what do you do?”
“I would say that you use social media to spread the information…”
“And what is the penetration rate of smartphones in Japan?”
“…I believe that it is about 60 percent.”
“That’s right. And the figure is even lower in the rural areas and among the elderly. It is the elderly who are the most vulnerable in the event of a disaster. While we’re here now, they could be in their homes or in a shelter, relying on the information that’s playing on the TV. That is why we can never allow this link between them to snap. …Let’s do our best here.”
Motoi was probably not entirely convinced, but he nodded and said, “I will clean up the minutes and send it out over LINE.”
“Then we’re adjourned. Oh, I’ll lock up and return the key back to the security office. I’m sure that everyone here is very busy.”
Shitara tactfully dismissed the room as he exchanged a look with Sakae, so Sakae stayed in his seat. When they were alone in the auditorium, Sakae asked, “What do you want?”
“Nothing, I just wondered how a truce settled between you and Mimasaka so quickly.”
“But he wanted to hear your opinion though?”
“‘S got nothing to do with me.”
If he was charmed over with a single bottle of Pocari, then he was a cheap pushover for a rich kid.
“What about you? You sure were enjoying yourself when he started to argue back. Do you want to be defied that much?”
“I like it when they use their heads to think for themselves. …Anyway, so it seems like we’ll be here for a little while longer. I don’t think we’ll be able to resolve this over the weekend.”
“And what about your own show?”
“It’s already past Friday, so it should be okay. Besides, I can check on all sorts of things even from here.”
True. Everything was tapeless now, and if they accessed the servers, they could take a look at the video pieces, the scripts, and the captions that were put together in Tokyo.
“We’ve gone too far to turn back now. So we might as well stay and see things through to the end.”
At least until there was nothing left to do but pray.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.