Itami Youji never thought he would have children. He was in the first half of his thirties when he was roused awake from his apartment on the outskirts of Tokyo, not by his own alarm or ambition, but by a general call for the deployment of his unit. He woke up as men of action always do: not too enthused to be awake.
He was a second lieutenant in the Japanese Self-Defense Force, part of the First Division, tasked with the defense of Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures. A duty no more, no less, important than what it had been described. In that new world, in a world where the threat of an Asiatic war hung over the Pacific, Itami Youji privately grumbled about it. He never intended to become a career military man. His family had never been one for it, and yet, he had wandered into the recruiting office as a young man, seeing it nothing more as the most stable job he could land. That's what he told himself in retrospective. That's not what the truth was.
In the years since he had become a lieutenant, in the new Japan more concerned with self-defense than ever, he had thought that late at night that it had actually happened: The remnants of the North Korean military had come to lash out against Japan for aiding the Imperialist Americans. The only reason why it had been personal, being roused awake that night, wasn't because he had personally been part of the JSDF divisions who had, for the first time in history, deployed in an offensive capacity. It wasn't even because he himself had any strong feelings for the wars of the present, even as a soldier himself; he never saw himself as one, truly. It was only personal because it inconvenienced him. Selfish thought that it was, Itami Youji was not a bad man.
Far from it.
That's why when he had gotten the call, and the reason behind it, he had suited up and ran to the base beneath the starless night.
It's why he didn't even double check his will on the way out, making sure everything was squared away as disaster dawned on Japan that was in an even greater magnitude than a war, or a tsunami.
Things like this: gearing up for natural disaster responses, it hadn't been new to him. Typhoons and earthquakes had been constant part of his life as a Japanese man, on both sides of the service, but this had been different. Far different as at the concrete lineup of men and women who had groggily made their way to base for a disaster response had assembled.
He had felt, in some measure, the earthquake earlier in the day on base as he was filing reports on a recent injury within his section. The man had his foot run over by a vehicle during joint-training with the Americans in country and had returned from that training deployment early. It was just a matter of life now that the Earth was, to his recollection, actively trying to kill humanity. Between the United State's own problem on its west coast between active fault lines and rampant forest fires, to the Middle East where, even before the last war, the sands of the Saudi peninsula had been burying entire cities. At least in Japan he had been used to the earthquakes, and his conscious was clear as he sat still in his seat as the shaking came and went. If it was his problem, it would be tomorrow's Itami's problem.
Unfortunately for him it didn't come to that.
The Commanding Officer had looked as surprised as anyone, for all his fierceness that Itami knew, often taken out on himself, he was now tempered, and, as he read of the script of the paper freshly printed from JSDF High Command, horrified.
"Urgent:" He read off, slowing his words, making sure what he read was absolutely true in his office as the officers all awaited form him. "Prior to deployment to Fukushima Prefecture, all personnel must be provided with potassium iodide pills. Any personnel working without prior application cannot be guaranteed health and safety."
He hadn't even checked where the earthquake had happened earlier today. Fukushima? Again?
Potassium iodide pills? Itami furrowed his thick angular eyebrows at his CO. He only knew them for one reason. He might've been an unremarkable officer, stuck at the bottom of the rung, but he was capable of more. To be pulled to that level of exertion beyond what he had wanted in his life, it was deemed punishment by an officer, long ago who presided by him. The training he had, the experience and lessons that were forced upon him, it, today, manifested in him knowing potassium iodide pills were anti-radiation supplements.
It dawned on him, hit him harder than if he had been shot: Where he was going, what had happened over a decade ago.
"What happened, sir?" Itami asked for all of the officers there.
To say was to admit insanity; a damage far worse than any terrorist would ever dream of doing, self-inflicted by Japan now.
"You'll be briefed on site, Lieutenant Itami." The CO tried to handwave as he moved asides papers, trying to move onto the next thing.
"Did the North Koreans detonate a dirty bomb? The Chinese?" Itami raised his voice, raised the stakes. "Are we at war?"
Of his training, it drew from, both in policy and by instruction, from nothing less than Delta Force and the Green Berets overseas. It was why he had known at all. "Potassium iodide pills were used by the American Special Forces in Iran sir, when they were hunting down their nukes. What happened sir?"
Iran had imploded, and with it, Peace in the Middle East. An American-led coalition gone to fight that final war in the Middle East for the sake of it. Whether it had been because of American or Western interference in the country's internal affairs, or via the natural progress of a liberal and progressive student population, Iran had torn itself apart in an uprising that, once again, sent the world into a downward spiral. It hadn't been Operation Iraqi Freedom again, or the Forever War, spilled over from Afghanistan and the rest of the Middle East, it had been a primal war, a war without the ideological defenses as provided by an American narrative. It had been three decades since the War on Terror began, and the justification for what had become of the Middle East held no water anymore.
In that new world, from that new world, their lessons were taught to countries seemingly unassociated.
Lieutenant Itami knew that-
The base commander gruffed his voice as he ripped the band-aid. "Radiation from the New Fukushima NPPs have been reported. The waste sites were destroyed. We're deploying as many people as we can to help contain the spread of contamination.
Itami Youji thought he would never have children. Not because he wasn't ready, not because he truly did not desire them, not because of some overarching stigma of Japanese society. No, he thought he would never have children because of what happened to him that day. What happened to him, and thousands of others in the JSDF as the sun rose over Japan and revealed the visible damage of a nuclear disaster.
It was half a day earlier, toward the tail-end of a shift at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and all hell had broken loose. The Shift Director hadn't been an incompetent piece of work; he had been a measured, responsible man who knew his responsibilities the moment the seismographs had went off and the redundant systems in place had already started the shutdown of Fukushima Daiichi. A decade earlier had made him know the mistakes of his predecessor, and as the rumbling began, the countdown started as he had peeked out from beneath his desk and started looking around the control room of the reactor.
All of his men and women beneath him on that shift, they looked to him, but there was no need as he finally stood and looked at what info he could get, between the dust kicked up and the flashing lights of the display. The power was still on, the shockwaves that wracked through the room beginning minutes earlier, stopping only now as they all sheltered in place. "We've trained for this, begin the reactor shutdown. We know what we have to do."
In that brightly lit control room it had seemed askew. He was only an adult still finishing his masters in nuclear theory when Fukushima had gone up, so very far away from his university in Hokkaido. Every moment after that day in the practice, where he was going, it was hammered within him about the exactness of what they had to do to prevent such another disaster from happening.
Fukushima had just begun to rebuild after all, more than a decade later. The plants had still been operational that entire time, but the surrounding region? A ghost town.
TEPCO, the company responsible for the reactors and the subsequent disaster in 2011, had been very busy on site as of late, providing infrastructure, cleaning up the last of the wastes that had been a product of the original nuclear disaster. The worst since Chernobyl.
The original facilities, the original nuclear power plant had been decommissioned in shortly after 2011. Times had changed though: Nuclear power was needed now more than ever, even if it meant working on hallowed ground.
If he had any say in it, he wouldn't let another disaster happen under his watch as he went to the plant phone, the damage reports immediately being siphoned in from the different facility sections. Injuries, of course, but as long as no one had fallen into the damn cooling pool and that had been okay.
"9.1." The seismograph station had reported to him. Another one. Just as bad as the one years ago. "It was close. Closer than 2011."
The entire building seized and then breathed out at once, the mechanical sounds intimidating, but not unexpected.
He overheard some of the staff. "SCRAM confirmed in all units!"
The control rods that acted as the nuclear fission's breaks had been inserted into their cores, ceasing their reaction as the arduous task of making sure the cores didn't overheat began.
"How much time do we have?" The Director asked.
"Hour and a half, max."
He sucked in his breath. Barely, just barely enough time to make sure everything was in place. The new generators for this facility had beat back the mistakes of the old by being raised much higher above ground, along with their routing channels. What was left then was making sure all non-essential personnel were evacuated to high ground. "Alright, thank you." The phone went back down as he sucked in his breath. "You know the procedure, after all is done, tertiary staff evacuate."
A strong affirmative had rushed around the room as the Director looked to his side, his young assistant making sure all department heads were reporting correctly and everything was going smoothly. He thumbed at him. "Yeah?"
"We have to go check on the Superintendent. Make sure everything's good on his end."
The young man nodded as the two left the control room, their one-piece hazard suits, shining white in the sterile corridors of the new Fukushima plant. Loose objects from trays and people who hadn't held on strong enough had been on the floor, but Japan had been a nation of earthquakes, so it wasn't anything anyone there hadn't dealt with before. The intensity was of note, but the length? Longer than most expected, dangerous in that regard.
It was a short walk over to the administration wing of the plant, the Director and his man stopping shortly where they could to make sure everything was well and going to procedure. The injured were being attended to, and non-essential personnel had been wafting out and away into safety as those that had to remain stood by, waiting for the waves. Staff on the outer seawalls had been most important, securing the bluff which Fukushima Daiichi sat on.
"Reports from the helicopters are calling in something fierce, sir." The Director's radio had rung. "We don't know-"
"We have to try."
The two men had looked at each other worriedly as they finally made their way to administration. The plans birthed from the worst radioactive disaster since Chernobyl had been mentally burned into each of them: If they did it to their best ability, then if something more happened, it was beyond them. On a normal day the walk from the control center to the offices would've been no more than five minutes, but on that day there was procedure: departments and sections walked through, cleared out, and if vital, making sure had been buttoned up and ready for the disaster coming. This plant had been made and designed not to repeat the disasters of the past, and as far as the Director could tell everything was going perfectly. This margin of error was practiced for, and even if it took him an hour and a half to make sure it was all okay, he did.
The checklist was important beyond words, which was why as they shuffled through the various offices at the end, they had hoped that the Superintendent in his office had done his part.
He opened the door, and saw something he didn't anticipate that day:
The Superintendent sent from TEPCO had been a particular man, shrewd, but a businessman that the Director as an engineer knew was necessary by some measure. He had thought of him lowly. Not lowly enough however to see him step onto his rolling chair, with a rope tied all the way to the ceiling and a noose around his neck and not do something about it.
The initial shock of seeing a man do this on that day of days, with what was happening, it paused to the two men as the Superintendent was shocked to see them open the door, panicking as the chair beneath his feet gave way and the rope around his neck began its purpose.
With a shriek the two men had immediately rushed toward him, the taller Assistant grasping onto the Superintendent's legs as the chair clattered away, the Director hopping onto the Superintendent's desk and, seeing where the rope was connected, breaking it down from the fan, the entire unit come from the ceiling in a messy clatter of dust and bolts.
The loud crash had narrowly avoided the Superintendent and the assistant, the two collapsing on the floor as the Director ripped the rope off of his neck.
"What are you doing man?!" It only dawned on the Director it wasn't what he was doing that he questioned about, but why. It was why his concern turned into rage as the Superintendent spit up the build up in his throat from his momentary strangling only to be pinned against the ground by the Director. "What's going on?!"
"We were too late! Too late. We didn't think-"
"What?! What?!" The Director screamed down at him, his own spit hitting the older man's face only to fall into his wrinkles.
"Get out of here. Get as far away as you can!"
The Director had hoisted the man up, only to pin him on the table. "Jesus Christ, what's going on?! What's gotten into you?! The plant is secure we're shutting down-"
"It's not the plant!" The Superintendent finally let out. "It's not the plant!" He spoke, screamed, as if a man mad. Denial was in his eyes and it translated out into the air, a tension, a weight, put on the two engineers that they didn't know had been there. It was as if they had just turned the corner and saw something new, something they could've never known.
"What?" The Director raised an eyebrow, a darkness coming over him, a tiredness that took his breath away. "What's the problem then?"
The Superintendent had sputtered as his mouth betrayed him, no sound coming out. "God dammit man!" The Assistant had raised his fist. "What's going on!? What's TEPCO keeping from us!?"
The Superintendent said nothing as he glanced out the windows. Glanced toward the great white structures that had surrounded Fukushima for years since the disaster. The headache of containment of the initial waste and the groundwater that had became irradiated. All of it had been sucked back up and, as best any human could, kept in containment in those great white tanks that were borrowed from the oil fields of the Middle East. The entire plant might've been designed to prevent another disaster, but the remnants of the last still remained.
"The waste facilities?! What's wrong with them?! Aren't they-"
"They're not! We've been trying to quadruple hull the basins but- but, we thought we would've found a solution by now!"
"A solution to- What do you mean?!" The Director had known far and away what he meant. It felt as if he was shot. If he was shot and killed and damned.
The sirens rose up and out, as if a war was coming. One cursory look out and the Director had seen something all Japanese were intimately familiar with: the swell of a tsunami, cresting over the levies. There was no way to stop the waves of that size, it would be impractical to do so, so that is why the building sized, frothy mass of sea water that was known as a tsunami had made landfall over the NPP in such a way it was designed to take. Nature was never mankind's enemy though, in the end.
The entire facility rumbled and groaned as the sound and measure of the monstrous waves came through, the Superintendent screaming the entire way as he was held down and the Director only looked out of the office's window to see the debris filled waters of the facility's alleys shift through, car alarms going off in a cacophony as he glanced out to the hills around. People were safely evacuated to them. He had done his job right.
Though it was always, always a possibility to do everything right and still fail. The entire world shook, thumbing the barrier of sanity as they all held their heads down and the sound of rushing water came not as liquid, but as thunder. Metal crashing, car alarms blaring as they were undoubtedly picked up and thrown. This was something that was planned for, so all the Director could do was put his hopes in that and let it pass.
It would've been easier to think of their families then and there, to hope that they had made it to high ground. Everyone who lived on the coast, especially in the area of Fukushima, knew the procedures for evacuation. What had been right however was to worry about this very power plant. The power that was endowed within it had come at such a great cost, their failure would be lethal.
"I need an update from all department heads! Get me damage reports!" The Director had taken his radio again as he stumbled to a stand, going to the window and seeing the murky water several feet higher than he thought, burying the first floor at least of the larger reactor facility, its smoke stack still standing defiant. They were trapped now, but it was no matter, the entire facility could be accessed above predicted waterlines.
His radio buzzed off again, the reports promising at least, but the Superintendent had still been squirming beneath the Assistant, his tie becoming undone as he finally held his arm against the back of his neck and pushed. "Keep squirming and see what happens!"
"Go ahead and just kill me!" The Superintendent's face rubbed against the dusty rugged floor, debris from the roof still floating in particulates in the air, noose still around his neck.
The Assistant had only looked up to the Director, with one flick of his chin motioning to the Superintendent's desk. In one haul the Assistant had picked up the older man, throwing him onto the surface of the wooden bureau, a suicide note brushed asides along with the rest of anything left on it.
As a Director, of course he had his fair share of strongarming people, his engineers who had slacked from time to time, uppity interns, but never would he actually think-
His back had hit the table with a breaking thud, the younger man that had been the Assistant former JSDF, his hands holding the man's shoulders down as his head bounced against the hardwood.
"You're gonna tell us what's going on, or we'll tear your teeth out!" The Assistant had been more than willing, his own teeth grit through. "People's lives are on the line!"
"It doesn't matter anymore! There's nothing we can do!"
"But what, dammit! What?!"
"The waste tanks! They're gonna give!"
Again the two engineers had looked out at those white tanks, adorned with hazard signs, sterile, dripping with debris as the waves had come over them as well. There had been so many, they lined the streets just outside of the facility like a uniform village.
"If you don't tell us we're gonna drag you over there and make you show us! Is that what you want?!"
"What?! You can't-!"
"Then let it out! What did you do?! What did TEPCO do?!"
The answer had been so easy: We saved money.
But if that was the answer the Superintendent had given he knew he would've been killed right there. Because that was the why of it down to its core. They saved money. His mouth had quivered trying to formulate an answer, but even that, with so much on the line, he had failed as he had fallen silent, the two engineers looking to each other and deciding.
The Director spoke into his radio. "Utilities? I need a boat over to Admin."
"I'm not going! I'm not going!" The Assistant had punched the Superintendent as he tried to scramble away, the secret in plain view would be his grave. From afar people were liable to mistake the waste storage for the great oil tanks of refineries the world over. The final remnants of a nuclear disaster years ago: poisoning all that were in its presence.
They dragged him by his very heels out to the water tanks, through halls that had been toppled over by the shocks of the earthquake, office supplies on the floor. Even as the waves of the tsunami kept rolling by there had been enough manpower present to get one of the emergency motorized dinghies out. They were provided for some impromptu rescue and transportation work, but that wasn't their goal today as a small fleet of them had gathered when the Director called, only to see him and the Assistant drag their greater boss and throw him into the rubber boat. The water level had gone over the fences cordoning off the waste facilities, they having to have boarded from a window out, however when they got there the imposing height of the tanks had still stood, and, more than that, they were leaking. Details hidden from afar brought to bear.
It was good, then, the Director thought that they had dragged the TEPCO rep to the very base of one of the water tanks that had held the debris and contaminated water of the Fukushima disaster, still yet to be processed and recycled. TEPCO had made a promise to decontaminate and eventually clean up the final remnants. As for how? A matter of secrecy, given the radioactive and nuclear nature of the cleanup. No one wanted to find out if the material for a dirty bomb was within grasp for whoever accessed or was privy to the waste cleanup.
The boats had pulled up as close as they would dare, the murky water streaming down below them. The radioactive warning badges clamped onto all of their clothing starting to crinkle. For the Director's boat, it was right up against it.
The Superintendent's shoes were rubbed raw because the two men had dragged him out of the building to the very base of a water tank, the debris of an Earthquake unignored as he was thrown against the rubber floor of the rubber dinghy the three of them shared.
Around them, staff who had joined them on their own boats to check the damage around the facility had started murmuring, panicking.
"What happened you bastard! What do we have to do?!" The Director yelled at him as he laid on his side, the steel of the tank echoing seemingly as the Superintendent crumpled beneath him. "Why weren't we told?!"
"It was too expensive! We hoped for the best!" Somewhere between hysteria and despair, the lack of care and the fear of death. It filled his voice as if a man who knew his own unkind faith and had been hopeless to stop it. Not a complete thought; or, at least one that the engineers wanted to hear as the Director rose his voice to fight against the disaster happening around them, the rush of waves further into the countryside only as loud as the sound of water leaking continually from the whites of the tank.
"I will fucking drown you right now if you don't tell me exactly what's wrong with these tanks! There is no reason why they should be leaking!"
He wasn't trained to deal with them, only the running facility and the reactiors.
"Go ahead! Drown me! It's what's going to happen to us all! That's because we're the lucky ones!"
The assistant's work shoes had been a far cry from his combat boots, but they had done well to wedge his heel into the man's mouth and then push, a distinct crack heard as several teeth had fallen out and the first screams of Fukushima rang out. All eyes had been on the Director's boat.
"I can make it hurt a lot more!" The Assistant had warned, had threatened, had promised.
He spit up blood onto the boat, pooling at its center as he began madly laughing, the Assistant taking him by the collar, half considering throwing him into the water or against the steel of the tanks.
"Aren't these things supposed to be drained out?!" The Assistant had pointed at some of the leaks, some as tall as the tank itself. They were all told that they would be done away with soon, seeing as the waste had been processed and already half of it shipped out to some confidential location, hinted to them at least to be the same place where Germany had been disposing of its nuclear fuel.
As he was held by his neck the Superintendent finally answered. "We built tanks underground! Sarcophaguses for the waste beneath the tanks that would drain down! Constantly keeping it in check with a pressurized manifold bubble! It would eventually drain the entire above ground tanks and we could dismantle them! Nothing can leak if it's being contained by pressure! That's why it only made sense to build it next to a facility that would supply constant power to it!"
TEPCO had been hiding their mistakes. Literally burying their secrets.
The Director had screamed before yelling at him. "You were supposed to build this thing to withstand future disasters!"
"It was easier said than done! We couldn't find a proper way to dispose of, of, all of this!" The Superintendent manically raised his arms to the sky, to the entire procession of tanks that surrounded them.
"It needed to be done!" The Director yelled again, so hoarsely that he wanted to spit blood.
The Superintendent recoiled as if attacked, begging for his life, "We thought it was going faster than we thought, so we began stripping down some of the tank material lining…"
The Director had to put it into words. It was the only way he could process it. His very first days had been in the backdrop to the dismantling of some of the tanks under those very same reasons. The only difference now was that he knew it was a lie. "You're telling me the feed water containment was stripped down too?!" Stripped down, laid bare, it wasn't a bomb, but rather a force of nature waiting to just be reclaimed.
"I was never supposed to tell you." The Superintendent had admitted as he was dropped, the Assistant speechless as he spun his head around, seeing nothing but containment tanks and nowhere to run.
A thousand miles a minute, and the Director's mind would never find the best, right, correct solution to all this. It was impossible. The damage was done. Still, he had to do something at least, raising his hands to his radio: "I need as many pumps to the waste facilities now! We're gonna try to-"
"We can't do that! We have to get the warning out! We have to tell people!" The Assistant had grabbed his Director's shoulders, shaking him, stopping him from summoning even more people here. They themselves shouldn't have been here, not if this danger was so close to them they could breath it in. "We need to get out of here!"
The drip, the sound of hissing water, the leaks had been ongoing and going, dripping into the flood waters beneath.
"How much time do they have!?" There was a look in the eyes of the Director as he begged the Superintendent for an answer. Though everyone there who had heard the conversation knew the answer: Not enough. It would never be enough as the horror erupted from his mouth, trying to articulate what was going to happen. "If those things blow-!"
If those things blow, they would've unloaded the contents of their hulls along the torrent of water making its way inward. A problem already brought to bear as water, even before the event, sank into the ground below.
Carried by the tsunami, it would've carried radioactive material miles inland, taking out farmland and residential areas just by the power of the waves alone. When it left, then, was when the radioactive material would leave itself behind, coating the land with radioactivity, that, at its source, measured at 53,000 Roentgens. The fatal level for the average person being 550 Roentgens. Nothing would be wiped clean by the receding waves, the nuclear sludge both from the old waste and new would coat a swath of inland Japan with an irradiated apocalyptia a mere one hundred miles away from Tokyo. Every single piece of debris that would be taken by the waves now left irradiated like nothing else ever seen on that Earth, seeping itself below the surface into the very ground water of Japan itself before the world would realize what was happening.
That's was what the Director would've said if had it not been for the great metal creaking, his worst fear manifested and, in a toxic sludge wave beyond what even judgement day might've brought, killed them as the earth below them opened up as aftershocks began, taking them whole: swallowed by water that, if they survived the drowning, would've thrashed them by debris and broken their bodies. Surviving that: the poisoning, the sickness, of the remnant of a nuclear disaster reborn. Their bodies would travel with the wave and the prophecy carried out.
It was a disaster that was both manmade and natural, as the waves crashed over the land, the breadth of events not able to be taken in until after the first day, and by that time, it had already been too late. Every car, every brick, everybody, that got caught up in that brown tidal wave, became nothing more, and nothing less, than a conduit for a catastrophe. The echoes of Chernobyl had found its home here, in the Fukushima Prefecture of Japan. Home to nearly two million people, the third largest prefecture in all of Japan, it was now fundamentally poisoned.
Only one person in the commander's room of Lieutenant Itami's base had understood that.
Her father had been a farmer. She knew right and well the area they were going to. Farm land in Japan had already been sparse, and for as much efficiency they could consolidate with renewed agricultural developments, it didn't hide the fact that agricultural was at a premium that Japan desperately needed.
"Sir, how much has been affected?" She asked urgently, pointing at the map of the region.
The CO knew better than most, but he wanted to be optimistic. He wanted to pray that only-
"Fukushima Prefecture, obviously, portions of Tochigi, Ibaraki, and Nigata Prefectures are also affected, and, as the waves drew back out into sea, we will see radiological damage along the northern coasts as the currents drag them out-"
The female captain's eyes sunk within her head, the white of her eyes coming to knowledge that she wish she didn't have. "Where, show me."
"Captain it isn't your respon-"
"Commander, please." She insisted, almost seizing the man's desk as Itami also leaned in. The officer corps deserved to know what they were getting into. They wouldn't leave without knowing, how could they? To be sent into what might've become a radioactive wasteland? He pulled up the map on his table, and, with one stroke of his pencil, made a circle.
Japan was bisected, cut in half, and the area caught in the center, it had been the worst possible place as the woman clamped her mouth with her hands.
She didn't see what was on the map, she saw the future: She saw famine, the rise of cost of food exponential, hunger and sickness, an entire nation losing its bread basket.
"Captain?" She was one of the ones that had been to war in that new world. She had been in North Korea, with the JGSDF expeditionary unit offering aid, and, at times, defending against the North Korean counterattacks. She knew war, and yet she found horror in tonight. The CO asked what she saw.
Instead she turned to those around her. "We have to go. We have to. We have to save as much as we can."
She pleaded. She pleaded not for her life, not for the life of those around her, but for the life of Japan's future, and all those yet unborn. Japan was at risk of becoming sterile, by hunger, and by radiation.
"I'm getting communications from the Americans. Their Seventh Fleet is already away, hospital ships and HAZMAT units enroute."
"We can't wait for them." The Captain had hurriedly said. "I don't care if I get cancer, Captain. We have to go, and we have to go now."
She was younger than Itami, and yet his superior. Though to be fair, anyone could've been. He didn't have the enthusiasm or the aspirations of command, for, perhaps, the very reasons that made the Captain almost swell to tears before the CO. Responsibility fell onto her shoulders, and she did not know what it mean to bear it until today.
How horrible it made her face, and how much it reminded Itami of why he was only a lieutenant. He sought an easy life for himself, and the life that was forced upon this young woman, it was not a kind life now.
"I'll go with her." Itami said, stepping forward. "It's the right thing to do."
One by one, officers of the JSDF stepped forward. The mission of the Self-Defense Force might've changed as years gone by, to today, but here and now, the purity of their mission was their pride. They were Japanese, and the Japanese people needed them.
Throughout Japan, the same story over and over: of people who knew better, who would, despite a danger of a force that the Japanese alone knew in history, because it was the right thing to be done. Because if they didn't, the innocent would die with no one trying for them.
Lieutenant Itami Youji was simple man, a good man. He was an otaku he'd freely admit, even as he aged into his thirties, and would go as so far to state his membership in the JSDF was in pursuit of that interest. But he was a man still, and he knew what was at stake.
"I cannot guarantee if you go out there and deploy for your health and safety." The base commander wasn't telling, he was pleading as his knuckled turned white with the memo.
And yet not one of them stepped back. The Japanese of today had been a new breed, born and raised with changing times. A certain understanding of the Japanese state ingrained in them as the world changed around the nation. Whatever it was to each of them in that room, it meant that it was at stake tonight, tomorrow, next week, next month, and, very possibly, for the years onward.
"Several HAZMAT units are already on site, in helicopters, trying to pick up people stranded." The commander had felt as if he was resigning his people to death. "If you should rally your men, if they shall go, understand that-"
"They are our responsibility, and their responsibility to volunteer, yes." Another office spoke, earning a solid nod from the commander.
"Link up with the first responders. Radio in to me when departing about your numbers, and I'll hand you off to the local division command." He pointed at several officers. "You, you can't go. You have to remain and wait for the rest of the men and the supplies to be delivered."
The rest had rendered one final salute to their commander, and he had saluted back as, with the permission of their sir, they had taken back running to their base's staging point.
The young woman had taken command so easily, fury and fire in her throat as she had taken a megaphone and outlined, on a stack of crates, yelling out to the hundred and more gathering servicemembers, what was at stake, and where they were going. Perhaps more important was her why.
"If you have children, this might be even more important!" She yelled out. "If we don't do what we can now, they might starve in their future!" There was pain in her voice: the pain of being a mother. "If I don't go, what will I tell my child?! This is something we have to do!"
Itami Youji might've never borne children. Though that did not mean he had not been responsible for them, that night, as service members raised their arms and volunteered as the helicopters of the JSDF found the helipads of their base. There had been too many to carry.
"Captain?" The woman had been among the first to go, she addressing the lieutenant before she boarded a chopper with her men.
"I'll go first. Rally the second group. If I find you slacking off I swear to god I'll-"
"I'm with you, captain." Itami's tall and square face did not betray the seriosity in his eyes: He was serious, and that was enough for her as she sat back into the chopper and made a circle with her fingers in the air, Itami backing off with the rest of the volunteers and the waiting officers for the next batch of choppers, those filled taking off into the air, and toward the north.
Every single helicopter in Japan, it felt, was rallied, civilian and military: moving north, picking up first responders to answer the call. The dead of night turned into the early morning and the deep purple skies as Itami's choppers found themselves, taking him and his men out north toward Fukushima.
The disaster of the Gojira films lied about destruction of the Japanese landscape. Not as Itami himself bore witness to a destruction he had never seen before on rural Japan:
Lush green pathways of the utilitarian and idyllic Japanese countryside, host to the population of Japan not beholden to the modern city life, hinted at in slice-of-life anime Itami knew, was gone. Disaster movies the world over, depicting the end of the world, got it all wrong. No fires. No towering buildings toppling over. No monsters or explosions. Just color seeped from the world and replaced with what looked like a stew of homes and the utilities of everyday life, moving along a current provided by a sludge of grey and debris.
While he waited for his chopper, the first Geiger counters were delivered, issued to as many officers as they could. The sound they made could never be properly recorded by fiction as slowly, the tick, the scratch, slowly building up, emanating from their devices, had started. Unstoppable: like the rising into the sky, they rose and rose like a scream of the earth.