The group of nuclear scientists and plant security were lined up in dozens, four rows deep in front of Mr. Itosan, their superior.
“How we react will be the enduring legacy of Japan for the entire world. You are doing very important and very dangerous work. Future generations will judge us on how we deal with this. I thank you to do excellent work. You are the warriors of the nation. I salute you.”
Mr. Itosan stood by the conference hall door to shake each of his warriors’ hand.
“Thank you, sir,” said Tak Oh, accepting his superior’s handshake and praise. Tak knew this was what he had been born to do. He knew that he was best qualified to cool the reactor, because he’d been working at the reactor fifteen years and knew everything about it.
Fifteen were the amount of minutes each shift allowed in and out, to reduce exposure to radiation. Speed was equal to performance. The faster Tak could get in and out, the more work he could do while inside. Tak was a passionate runner, specializing in under three hour marathons. Tak discovered he hadn’t been training for the Tokyo marathon, he had been training for this, cooling the nuclear reactor.
‘Ready, set, go!’ Tak thought before sprinting into the control room to work the board. Tak’s arrival meant Daisuke could run out.
Fifteen minutes. Time was contaminated second by second. Fast fast fast. Tak saw that Daisuke had left a file open to connect the main cooling system to the cooling system they were trying to implement. Tak took up right where Daisuke had left off, trying to get the old system to accept the new.
Tak typed as quick as he could. His replacement would be here in seconds. The old system was refusing to accept change. No matter what code he threw at it, the reactor’s computer system would spit the code right back at him.
The fire kept the control room cooking. It was barely bearable inside Tak’s thick radiation suit. Tak tried not to focus on the radiation, though, it was impossible. It was the reason for his work, it was the reason for the suit. He could feel it, gnawing at his bones with teeth of fire.
He imagined he was running the Tokyo marathon, and there was one kilometer to go. His time was at two hours and fifty-seven minutes. Tak had never run a kilometer in less than three minutes. He thought now was time.
But he was still far from the finish line when Mitsu Saito tapped him on the shoulder. Tak who finished every race he ever started, ignored the tap. Mitsu tapped harder.
“Come on, fifteen minutes, go, go.”
Tak respected his coworker. He didn’t finish his first race to let Mitsu start his work. Defeated, Tak ran back to get a shower, and go through the one hour de-contamination process, before being sent back in to fight the race of his race.