Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Danger Bot

The hour in Nippon was dire indeed.


The clock’s digital face tells Kumiko Sakura it’s 10:44 pm, which is fifteen minutes ahead of time. She awaits clearance to join with the Hogosha, the metallic seventeen foot, joined from symbols in a form not unlike humanoid, for its bipedal symmetry. When the word comes, not a second can be wasted. Kumiko will stand here however long it takes, now. Nowhere else on Earth exists for her right now, save this unlit silo. The black telescope across the room catches a twinkle of moonlight through the opened dome.


“We’ll be out there soon, Danger Bot.” she says quietly. Sakura’s name for the cybernetic armor had come from her hours of practice at this, her dream to make a difference. She’d hated the training when she was a teen, sometimes, and what if it was for nothing? The crisis that befell her homeland, however, had solidified her feelings about the hard work and secrecy. When the tsunami swallowed the coast in its mindless, hungering mouth, the horror Kumiko felt, the tears she cried, all came crashing into a rebellion against despair that rose up like fire from her belly. In a time when no one knew what to do and everyone wished to help, she had given half of her life to the possibility that Kumiko Sakura could make a difference.



Before she was able to rush her grandfather’s creation to the place of disaster, however, his department---half-acknowledged, half-funded, half-appreciated---ran into politics. Kumiko wanted to argue that no one could stop Danger Bot if she arrived in it; a military stand-down would just be ridiculous, and a shame, for all the lives she might save. Grandfather had insisted they conduct the rescue by the book; mother had drawn up plans for coordinating Department Hogosha with other rescue services. Now, Hoshi Hayato, their scandal-embroiled friend in the assembly was conjoining a committee, to discuss the same possibilities that had been discussed before, basically. Red tape was prolonging the disaster.


An earthquake, nearly unequalled in size, and the deafening tsunami had obliterated the northeastern coastal settlements; worse, the emergency evacuation would still require tremendous outside effort, as though who were saved became the victims then of expediencies, as every hand grabbed for the bare necessities. The kindness between the people was the only saving grace of a miserable situation, which was still worse yet.


Meditation and exercise had become Kumiko’s preoccupation, as she reviewed schematics of both Danger Bot, the Jinzouningan Kikensei, and the failing plants. All of the preparations for the nuclear facilities could not save the vulnerable reactors from overheating, and she knew why, and she had a plan of how to reconnect electricity, move some rubble, and stop the irradiated waters from entering the sea. With the electricity reconnected, however, there was no guarantee the cooling rods would be in time to deal with the excessive fissioning. The hospitable nature of the rolling country hills and port streets of Fukushima was dangerously close to lost, for untold decades.


For that matter, she could not see why they did not let the robot participate in largely-demolished sites where the desperate were stranded, and then, as their possibility for life subsided, why she could not go out to these areas to aid in recovery. Grandfather told her she was welcome to do so in person. Never had he been more tight-lipped about the reasons for things. She suspected this was because he’d already found the situation in which he was going to offer the “Danger Bot” (she had gotten the name to catch on with him, though he rarely used it, in favor of “the prototype armor” in his typically clear-headed fashion).



The final debate for clearance had been moved continuously. Meanwhile, the horror at Fukushima remained Sakura’s fixation. She had slept in this very chamber for the past two nights, waiting to board her fantastic machine and attempt to save Japan from the dark side of its technology with a new and shining light.


Her meditation moved to the courage of those workers who chanced everything to work towards a safe shutdown of the nuclear plants. She had begun learning some of the names first hand. She thought about the fear and pride of their families. She thought of their discovery of knee-deep water, one thousand times more radioactive than the safe limit. Two hours in the plant were the maximum safe limit. As for herself, she counted on Danger Bot’s shielding. Sadly, she reflected there was only one mechanical marvel of its kind. She sat in seizen-no kamai, her hands clasping her knees gently as she balanced on her heels above her down-turned feet. The agony of preparedness, she reasoned, was the least of the stress to come, so she must endure, until she hears the word:

“Hajime (Begin).” It was Gorou Etsuko, her scarecrow-thin sometime rival pilot. His black shock of hair stabs the light invading from the opened door to the hangar, and their eyes meet just before the rest of the lights flash on. He held her helmet in his hands.

The metallic giant, activated, rolls out of the bay on wheels, supplemented by a tremendous battery; Sakura knows every circuit, chip and articulation. The hammered trees bow in still-dampened ground, scattered with debris from the sea and the woods, and the goliath lumbers more slowly through the valley, its treads mired by the drinking earth. As she drives across the savaged countryside, she surveys the horror of the tsunami devastated landscape. The people taking a casket on their shoulders stir her heart the most. She know they are going to a temporary, but thoroughly depressing temporary burial. It was the sacrilege of the culture’s most enduring rite. She swears to honor their spirits with bravery.

At last, the Jounzingen Kikensei---after her personal name for the droid body--- arrives in the middle of the night at the jeopardized power plant.
CONTINUES!

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