Chapter 18: Connect It Together (5)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
They went over to the smoking area for the first time since Friday. Sakae demanded a cigarette, and there was only one left in the box that Shitara offered up to him.
“What are you doing smoking them all?”
“I didn’t smoke them myself. I gave them away to people. Cigarette diplomacy is still very effective after all.”
Basically to initiate communication and use the cover of smoke to ask for small favors. If Motoi were here, he would probably call the behavior ‘behind the times’ again. The cigarette tasted better than it did last Friday. The situation wasn’t completely resolved yet, but the end was in sight. That was why he took successive drags of the cigarette and kept it to himself.
“You’re not sharing it with me today?”
Sakae made a show of blowing a long, thin trail of smoke when suddenly he received a LINE notification.
“Yeah. Says that he did everything that we asked.”
Sakae remembered the extremely aggrieved expression that said, Why me, and it put him into a much better mood.
“How did you even come up with such a scheme?”
“It just came to me when I was sleeping and heard you talk.”
“As always, the way that your brain is wired seriously baffles me.”
“Right back atcha,” Sakae retorted.
“What do you mean?”
“Plenty of guys wish that they could have worked here during the golden age of television for all the lavish benefits back then, but no one normally wants to experience the hardships.”
“You think so?”
“It’s like you though.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Sakae felt as if Shitara wasn’t trying to get him to say anything in particular—that he truly didn’t understand what he meant. Sakae chuckled a little and pressed his forehead to Shitara’s shoulder.
“…A weirdo, a damn masochist, or a pervert. Pick the one you prefer.”
“Aren’t they essentially the same? And doesn’t it come back to you?”
“Shut up. …That reminds me, when do I ever make you angry?”
“Oh, so it bothers you?”
“It’s a pain in the ass if I step on one of your landmines.”
“I guess it’s when I think you don’t seem to understand yourself or you don’t prioritize or take care of yourself.”
There’s no way to avoid that landmine then.
Sakae dropped the shortened cigarette into the receptacle for disposal, and Shitara grumbled, “You really kept it all to yourself.”
“You want a drag?”
Sakae lifted his head and poked at Shitara’s chin with a finger.
“Hmmm? What should I do? But I think I’ll save the fun for after tomorrow when all the work is done.”
And that makes you a damn masochist.
“Have you done everything you could and exhausted your options?”
“What I could, yeah. All that’s left to do now is to pray… No, wait, there’s one thing I can do. I should hang a good luck weather catcher so that the helicopter can fly safely tomorrow.”
“That’s something I haven’t heard in a while.”
Sakae could see the sky turning brighter through the window of the smoking area. Even without praying, the weather would probably be nice. The Kyu-Ota River flowing before his eyes was still a stagnant dull brown, but the light reflected from the morning sun was a pure brilliant white. A new day would dawn.
- Preparations for the flight.
- All checks OK.
- Final checks for Wednesday’s operations (details below).
- Final preparations in the morning (15 workers at the heliport, 30 workers at the Egesan site→Travel by vehicle and foot).
- 1 PM – Test flight. If no issues, commence transport of generator and fuel (10 trips expected).
- Upon transport, connect the generator and resupply the underground tanks.
- Site operations scheduled to finish around 7 PM.
- In the case of inclement weather, postpone operations to the following day.
- Single task from SoumaP (highly confidential)→Completed.
- He said that it’s fine if it whiffs and strikes out.
- If I get found out, I’m supposed to say that I did it on my own or else.
- ShitaraP just kept grinning at me.
- They’re completely messed up.
“What? I won’t get to ride in the helicopter? It’s not fair that only Souma-san gets to ride in it.”
It was now the final stage before departure, and Motoi started grumbling.
“It’s only natural. You can be the errand boy and cameraman on the ground. There’s no space for someone who wants to sightsee.”
“I bet you’re just sightseeing yourself, Souma-san.”
“I’m manning the camera. I don’t mind changing places with you, but are you confident that you won’t barf from watching the camera screen when you’ve never ridden in a helicopter before?”
“Or are you prepared to man the camera unperturbed as you barf the entire time?”
“…I’ll wait on the ground at Egesan.”
“So you’re a wuss.”
“Do you want me to stay or not!?”
“All right, all right. Let’s try not to cause any accidents or hurt yourselves, everyone.”
Shitara, who would stay behind at the station, clapped his hands together.
“It’s been a series of endeavors full of surprises and firsts, but today is the final showdown. However, I’m not worried about it except for everyone’s safety. I look forward to seeing you all return with smiles on your faces… Please take care of yourselves.”
Before they climbed into the vehicles, Sakae called out to Motoi.
“…Yes?” Motoi replied with a sour look still on his face.
“Remember how you said that there were no lies in the video that I had made? Well, there’s no way in hell that it can be. You just can’t see it yet. I mean, even if you serve up the simple truth on a plate, there’s nothing good or special about it.”
“Please don’t say something that’ll drain all my energy for the rest of the day.”
“You’ve got it backwards,” Sakae laughed. “Once you understand where the deception lies, that’s how TV gets you. You won’t be able to quit it.”
Although Sakae had taunted Motoi earlier, the heavy-duty, 21-seat helicopter was much larger and much stabler than the ones that they had used for news coverage. It took off with a 3-ton load attached to it, and the staff on the ground all waved up at them. The scene quickly zoomed out and disappeared in an instant, and Sakae watched the landscape in the distance through the viewfinder of the camera. There were houses, mountains, and the sea. From the sky, he could see the aftermath of the torrential rain everywhere—a world ravaged from the downpour of rain within a short period of time. There were exposed surfaces of mountains and distorted ridgelines from landslides. Cars and towns were submerged in brown-colored water, and muddy rivers snaked through the city areas. At the river mouths, the muddiness spread out and mixed with the blue of the Seto Inland Sea. The scenery, people’s livelihoods, the pain on the ground could not be fully captured within the frame. Five people were confirmed to be dead or missing, which could be viewed to be miraculously low when compared to the scale of the damage, but whether the number was one or one hundred, it was meaningless to the people who had been directly affected. Whether it was better to die or not die, Sakae couldn’t say. And so he just captured what he saw.
When Sakae saw the power transmission towers and the power lines that connected them all lined up neatly in a row following the curve of the mountain, he remembered the story that Shitara had told Motoi earlier. It would be more amusing if the towers were people.
If they were all lined up in a row, holding upside-down umbrellas high above their heads. With nothing to obstruct them, directly connecting something that couldn’t be seen, extending far into the distance, beyond the field of vision from above. If Sakae could film such a scene, it would make him happy.
And the one he wanted to show this scene to the most was Shitara.
They completed their mission, shuttling back and forth between the sites. When Sakae stepped out of the helicopter, it was only natural that he felt nauseous with all of the landings and takeoffs within a short period of time. But he powered through it enough to send Shitara a LINE message that said, Transport complete, and immediately he received a phone call in return.
“I’m heading back now.”
“All right, be careful. …Oh, by the way, the mission you issued to Mimasaka is going just as you expected,” Shitara added, suddenly lowering his voice.
“But we don’t know if it will all pan out in the end.”
“Well, it’s making its rounds pretty well still, so I hope that things can quiet down soon.”
Last night, Sakae had instructed Mimasaka to make a Twitter account.
“And don’t use your real name, of course. I want you to DM the account of that drone footage and tell them that there might be some activity over at Egesan tomorrow afternoon. …They’re up now, right? They’re tweeting. Hurry it up. DM them, and when they’ve read it, delete the account.”
“Huh? Why do I have to go through all that trouble to tell them that information?”
“I want them to film it. A giant helicopter is making a bunch of trips with a giant haul. It’s obvious that something big is going on. And if the account posts another video about it, all the other Twitter users will start speculating about it. They’ll come to the conclusion that countermeasures are being taken.”
There was no magic that could instantly dispel the fear and worry that had circulated to the public, but if the source of the fire posted a follow-up to the original news, the degree of attention would be different.
“There are several issues with that plan—uncertainties if you will,” Shitara had interjected. “What if they don’t take the DM seriously and do nothing? And what if in the unlikely event that the transport strategy fails?”
“If they ignore the message, that’s fine. It’s not something so dire that we need to put out the fire. And if the strategy fails, then at that point it’s not like we can hide it from the public anyway. We even made a heliport for all of this, so it’s possible that the news will leak somewhere. Actually, if people start panicking about it earlier, then the old fogeys will have to suck it up and make an official announcement about it. The temporary fixes are already in place, so the situation doesn’t require absolute secrecy in this case.”
“No, no, no. You’ve completely left out the biggest problem here! What happens if it’s discovered that confidential information was disclosed? No matter how you slice it, someone in the know had to have leaked it.”
“That’s why I’m telling you to make a new account and delete it immediately afterwards.”
“There are ways to trace it back to me if they decide to get serious about it. And what if this Twitter person decides to say that someone leaked it to them? It might even attract curious onlookers to Egesan and stir up trouble…”
“They won’t say anything about it.”
“How would you know?”
“Because they remember the thrill from their previous tweet, when they first let loose the faucet of information.”
That was when Motoi had looked at Sakae as if he had come across something horrifying.
“Going viral is a high. You get tons of new followers, and you get picked up by news outlets from all around the Internet. I’m sure that they’re feeling pretty incredible about it. And if they have the chance to experience it again, they’ll definitely chomp at the bit. There’s no way that they’d bother to say that someone had tipped them off to the story. Anyway, relax. Even if I’m wrong, and they disclose their source, no one in this business has time to search for the perpetrator.”
“Then you should do it yourself on your own cell phone, Souma-san!”
“And that’s where the insurance kicks in.”
In the vehicle on his way back, when Sakae looked at Twitter, there was a post with a video of the helicopter that Sakae had just been riding. The tweet said, “A large helicopter is transporting something to Egesan!” and the replies that came in suggested that it was a generator or fuel—which was exactly what he had expected. Helicopter enthusiasts immediately identified the specific model, excited to point out that it was quite a rare sight to see. It was a strange feeling to watch the number of likes and retweets skyrocket on the post. In the blink of an eye, the words and video rose over the sea and mountains and connected these people all over the country.
“We’ve completed the generator replacement and the replenishment of the fuel tanks!”
The news hit Peace TV a little before 7 pm, and the floor broke out into applause and cheers. At the same time, Shitara’s cell phone rang.
“Hello? Yeah, I just heard the news. Thank you for your hard work. Can you come back right away? I’d like to catch the last Nozomi back to Tokyo tonight. …Huh? Oh, really? I’m sure that they’d appreciate the help, and if the Contents Division has no issues with it, then I have nothing else to say. Yeah, okay, good luck then.”
Shitara ended the call.
“That was Mimasaka,” he explained. “He wants to stay a little longer.”
“Because he’s made friends here. And although the backup system is up and running, he probably thinks that he can’t abandon them with the situation as crazy as it is still.”
“He’s such a sucker.”
“Don’t say that, call him a nice guy.”
Sakae and Shitara didn’t have as much freedom to stay and help, given their positions, and so they finally had to return to Tokyo. Motoi rushed over to the train platform at Hiroshima Station just to see them off.
“Thank you very much for your help and guidance these past six days. But I should be back at the network by the end of the month though.”
“So, what do you plan to do while you’re here?”
Shitara had asked something that went without saying, and Motoi naturally answered with a look of disbelief, “I’ll be filming and documenting things.”
“Then what about after that?”
“You’re not rolling the camera to make memories here. I’m sure that there’s something that only you can do.”
“But I’m terrible at operating the camera, and I can’t really edit or structure videos on my own…”
“Have you thought about where you’ll release the final piece?”
“Well, um… I would like it if it’s eventually aired on a news or information program like The News.”
“This isn’t the time to hem and haw,” Shitara said bluntly. “Sakae has his footage from the helicopter, and you have your footage of Peace TV and the conditions at Egesan. We have really good material here. The video uploaded to Twitter is only a teaser of sorts. Shouldn’t we give the people a full-length feature as soon as humanly possible?”
Sakae had a good guess of what Shitara was scheming. Instead of trying to make something that had aired on TV go viral, he planned to use the viral tweet as free publicity for the story behind the helicopter transport video.
“You’ve been placed in the department that handles online content. Why even focus on releasing the piece over the airwaves?”
“Oh, right, we can release it on the Internet…”
Motoi looked down at the ground for a moment, muttering something in thought before lifting his head again. His eyes were shining like a great idea had come to him.
“Um! The other stations should have plenty of footage too. It might be hard to get NHK to agree to it, but I think that it would be nice to collaborate on a project together and give it a worldwide release on GRAPE.”
It would exceed each of the stations’ time slots—local or nationwide.
“The revenue would be shared equally, and I’d like to donate a portion of the proceeds towards the disaster relief effort. We could also screen it in the local movie theaters or community centers for free. Schools might even use it as teaching material for disaster protection education.”
“I think that it’s a good idea,” Shitara nodded. “You’ve sweated it out with everyone here, and you’re choosing to stay with them as well. I think that you’re the only person who can pull this off, Mimasaka. Connect the things with the people together and give it a shot.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll start putting a proposal together today. …So Shitara-san, both you and Souma-san had anticipated all of this.”
“No, not really,” they answered in unison.
“I don’t think about what happens afterwards,” Sakae said.
“As for me, I got onboard SoumaP’s plan, but I wanted to expand it a little more.”
The last Nozomi train bound for Tokyo pulled into the station. The announcements and the train noises filled the area all at once, and Motoi had to shout to be heard.
“You know, I haven’t given up on you two yet. I really would love to have you both come work at GRAPE.”
“I wouldn’t mind working there,” Sakae answered.
“—But only if the old man over there says it’s okay.”
Sakae pointed at Shitara with his thumb, and Shitara looked more surprised than Motoi at the response.
“Huh? What does that mean?”
“It means exactly what it means. I personally don’t care where I work.”
Motoi tilted his head as if weighing the seriousness of his words and redirected his question.
“So, what do you think, Shitara-san?”
Shitara gave a push to Sakae’s back and said, “Let’s get on the train.”
After ushering Sakae onto the train, Shitara turned around to face the platform.
“You’re twenty years too early to be using your pickup lines on us.”
Sakae couldn’t see Motoi’s reaction, but he guessed that he probably looked a little frustrated but also all too happy about it despite the rejection.
“Won’t you hit retirement age in 20 years?”
“That’s right. I thought that I’d secure myself a re-employment opportunity, just in case.”
“I don’t think that they’d want you anymore by that time.”
They had bought reserved seats in the standard-class car on the way to Hiroshima, but on the way back, they took the first-class Green Car.
The one who approved the invoices said, “We were forced into some unexpected work, so I think we deserve it,” which meant it was probably fine.
They took their seats, and Shitara said aloud, “In 20 years, I wonder what TV will be like.”
“Won’t it finally become extinct?”
“I feel like it might surprise us and eke out a continued existence. It connects society together, just like Mimasaka and how he’s now completely enamored with you.”
Sakae didn’t remember doing anything that would make him feel that way. He had just done his own work, but he remembered the words that Mutsuto had once told him.
—I think you could be a producer who leads by bulldozing ahead.
Sakae didn’t think that he had become one or could even become such a producer (let alone want to become one), but Shitara’s optimistic hopes for the future wasn’t so bad. Even if there would probably be bigger changes than the conversion of giant antennas to Wi-fi networks, and without a doubt, they wouldn’t be at the forefront of the industry by then.
Shitara pushed the luggage up into the storage space above the seats, pulled out just his laptop, and opened it up on the tray table.
“You still feel like working?”
“Well, I can’t just keep ignoring everything that doesn’t need my urgent attention. Plus, we can’t say that another disaster just like this one won’t ever strike again, so we’ll need to come up with a long-term plan to address it. But it might be a tough sell budget-wise to construct a power transmission tower that can reroute the electricity… If we were to install more emergency generators to keep in reserve, would we get a subsidy from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication as part of their program to improve disaster preparedness…?”
Sakae had no interest in the subject, so he left Shitara to his own devices and bought a beer from the food cart.
“So you’re drinking.”
The last time Sakae had abstained from alcohol for over six days was since he was hospitalized, and he wasn’t about to deny himself for a second longer. He casually turned his head to face the window, and he could see Shitara’s reflection against the night. He silently raised his beer can at the profile of the man who still couldn’t celebrate yet—pulled back the tab, and took a large gulp. So good.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.