[Sunday, May 29, 2016]
Kanemaru Akio had just arrived
at the park where he practiced
with his Rajio Taiso group when
his computer shrilled an alarm.
An earthquake had struck
the West Coast of America,
or more precisely, a number
of earthquakes had chained
their way through the fault lines
running all up and down the coast.
Akio checked the times. It was
just after 8 AM in Osaka, which
meant that it was a little after
4 PM on the West Coast.
Seismic authorities would
issue a tsunami warning
for Osaka. Fortunately,
they had about ten hours
to evacuate people from
the inundation zone before
the first waves could arrive.
Meanwhile, Akio had
The Kobayashi corporation
kept go-crates of various robots
designed for rescue work, which
they could deploy quickly to
the site of an emergency.
Employees would need
to accompany the robots
and record their performance
or troubleshoot difficulties.
Akio promptly volunteered.
He had grown up in Ōkuma,
and when the nuclear reactors
melted down, America had sent
offers of aid for Japan to choose
whatever seemed useful.
Akio still had the white blanket
with little red crosses on it.
His parents had died during
the earthquake, and someone
had given him that blanket, which
he had clutched around himself
on the long ride to Tokyo and
his grandparents' apartment.
That incident had sparked
his interest in robots, too,
even though the robots hadn't
fared well in hot salt water when
they tried to investigate the reactors.
Now he had a chance to return
the favor by going to the West Coast
to supervise Kobayashi robots.
Within minutes, Akio received
an assignment to get on board
the Hercules plane headed
for Portland, Oregon.
He grabbed his go-bags,
one for emergency supplies
and for clothing and personal items
that he would need on the trip.
It look about three hours
to get the plane loaded
and ready to take off.
The flight to Portland took
ten and a half hours, which
Akio spent monitoring news
about the West Coast.
There wasn't much of it left.
Earthquakes had ripped through
Westbord from Rain City all the way
down to San Diego, not to mention
parts of Canada and Mexico.
Along the coast, tsunamis had
followed many of the earthquakes,
washing several whole towns
off the beach into the ocean.
Portland itself didn't have
as much water damage, but
the 9.0 earthquake had
pretty much flattened it.
After checking the news,
Akio napped so that he
would be ready to work
when the plane landed.
By the time they reached
America, the sun was rising.
Someone there had found
a working bulldozer and used it
to clear a landing strip for planes
that didn't need a perfect runway.
The landing was rough, but
Akio had survived worse.
As he and the other engineers
climbed out, local volunteers
rushed in to help unload
the crates of robots.
"Open these first,"
Akio said, showing them
the crates of firefly robots.
"We don't need to move these.
The fireflies will fly around and
find hotspots, then light up. Tell
your firefighters to follow them."
So they cracked open those crates
and let the robots swarm out, then
moved the empties out of the way.
Other crates needed to be
deployed more carefully.
Akio surveyed the area
and identified the remains
of apartment buildings, offices,
a transport hub, and a hospital.
Quickly he located the robot dogs,
some of which had been equipped
to detect chemical or nuclear spills.
He added snakebots and cyberpedes
to crawl through the rubble in search
of survivors, and some antbots that
could crawl, climb, cut, dig, search,
grasp, lift, carry, or drag things.
The antbots came in two styles,
a practical version that looked
a bit scary, and a kawaii version
with huge eyes holding many cameras.
The dogs were kawaii robotto too,
so they shouldn't frighten anyone.
You needed people to feel safe
when your robots approached,
instead of panicking over them.
"Nuclear symbol ... are these like
Geiger counters?" someone asked,
pointing to the robot dogs.
"Some of them, yes," Akio said.
"Hospitals that do nuclear medicine
have things that are very dangerous
if spilled. Many other medicines and
chemicals can cause trouble too.
So a crushed hospital must be
searched very thoroughly."
"What about the places like
Seaside and Ocean Shores
that washed clean off the beach?"
a volunteer asked with a frown.
"Some of them had hospitals."
"Well, we'll get to test out
the prototypes of robot crabs,"
Akio said, rubbing his hands.
Those were designed to explore
underwater wreckage, taking
samples and readings to locate
chemical or nuclear contamination
that would need cleanup later.
Akio sent out a message
to the other teams so that
the closest ones could cover
searching those areas.
Then he turned his attention
to the nearby apartments and
offices, deploying modular robots
that could change shape according
to whatever they needed at the time.
Those had brain, battery, cell, wheel,
gripper, communication, camera, and
spotlight modules. They also had
some sensors for distance, brightness,
temperature, radiation, and chemicals.
You just cracked open a crate or two
and let them hook up however they
wanted, then you could monitor
their progress through the debris.
"What are these for?" someone asked,
pointing to a crate of the robears.
"Those are nursebots," Akio said.
"Standard robears lift and carry people,
monitor health, and dispense some medicines.
The prototypes can do more complex care."
"Where do you want us to put them?"
another volunteer asked him.
"They need a smooth surface
to roll over," Akio said. "They're
designed for aid stations, to give
the human workers a break."
Robots didn't need to rest,
and wouldn't get upset by
seeing horrible things.
"The nearest aid station to
this landing strip is right there,"
someone said, pointing to a tent
with a red cross on it. "They put it
close to the resupply source."
That made sense. They
needed a safe place to gather
and treat the wounded, and
better it was somewhere they
could get fresh materials.
Akio directed the robears there,
then followed to make sure
that the site was suitable.
It was, more or less --
the warehouse had been
new, with a flexcrete floor
which buckled in places
instead of just breaking.
The robears would be able
to navigate much of the area.
Happily, Akio started opening
the crates, and people not already
engaged in health care came over
to help unload the robears.
"These are nursebots," he said,
explaining how they worked and
pointing out where they could
and probably couldn't go.
It felt good to help,
good to repay the favor
that America had done
for Japan years ago.
The weather didn't
feel so good, though.
The sky was overcast,
the air damp and chilly.
Akio shivered in his uniform.
"You look cold," a volunteer said.
"We have coffee or hot tea to drink,
along with instant ramen and soup."
"Hot tea and ramen, please,"
Akio said gratefully. He had
eaten on the plane, but that was
hours ago before he took a nap.
Ramen had always been one of
his favorite comfort foods, and
even instant ramen was delicious.
"Here, you look like you could
use this," a woman said, dropping
something warm and soft on his shoulders.
Akio looked down and saw a red cross blanket.
* * *
Kanemaru Akio -- He has fair skin, black eyes, and straight black hair buzzed short. He speaks English, Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin Chinese. Akio grew up in Ōkuma, Fukushima, Japan. On Friday, March 11, 2011, his parents died in an earthquake and the town was soon evacuated due to the nuclear disaster. After that, he moved to live with his grandparents in Tokyo, and he became fascinated by the role of robots in rescue and salvage work, especially the ones sent by American corporations. Akio attended the University to Tokyo to study robotics, then took a job at the Kobayashi corporation. He has become a talented designer of robots, adept at both hardware and software. His logical thinking and meticulous approach work best in the laboratory, but his quick hands make him valuable in the field. He enjoys field-testing new prototypes and doesn't hesitate to take risky assignments. As soon as news of the Cascadia Cataclysm reached Japan, Akio volunteered to accompany a shipment of emergency robots to America.
Qualities: Good (+2) Courage, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Honorable, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Meticulous, Good (+2) Robotics Engineer
Poor (-2) Existential Intelligence
Ōkuma in the Fukushima Prefecture of Japan was evacuated after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
* * *
-- Word Hippo
Kawaii is a particularly flavor of cute in Japan. Making robots adorable reduces the risk of them scaring people.
The earthquake strikes Seattle, Washington at 3:58 PM on Saturday, May 28, 2016.
The corresponding time in Tokyo, Japan is 7:58 on Sunday, May 29.
Shortly after 8 AM, seismic sensors in Japan pick up the traveling waves and people notice that communication access to most of the West Coast of America is going down. Seismic authorities issue a tsunami warning and begin evacuating the inundation zone. Kobayashi scrambles an immediate response of emergency robots.
Flight information Portland to Tokyo
Average flight time 10h 33min, total distance 4833 miles
In Portland, sunrise on May 29 is at 5:26 AM.
The weather was overcast and 57ºF around sunrise.
At 3:58:20, Portland has a 9.0 earthquake with intensity XI. The shaking lasts 4 minutes 50 seconds.
9.0 and above < 1 XI – XII great – extensive damage over broad areas, most buildings destroyed
IX. Damage considerable in specially designed structures; well-designed frame structures thrown out of plumb. Damage great in substantial buildings, with partial collapse. Buildings shifted off foundations.
X. Some well-built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry and frame structures destroyed with foundations. Rails bent.
XI. Few, if any (masonry) structures remain standing. Bridges destroyed. Rails bent greatly.
XII. Damage total. Lines of sight and level are distorted. Objects thrown into the air.
Read about Portland's earthquake risks and see a fault map.
The tsunami from the Cascadia Cataclysm will reach Taiji about 10 hours later, based on records of past events such as the May 16, 1968 earthquake in Honshu, Japan.
Rajio Taiso is a morning exercise routine popular in Japan.
Read about the Hercules aircraft. It's a military cargo plane capable of landing so long as it has a vaguely flat surface.
Kobayashi robot dogs are equipped with audiovisual and chemical sensors along with high-power communication gear. Different ones are programmed to track down human survivors or industrial spills.
Cyberpedes and snakebots are long skinny robots with ultra-stable locomotion in tight spaces. Unfortunately they look scary to many people. Fear of snakes and arthropods is an innate instinct designed to protect against venomous creatures, which spills over onto other things that look similar.
Antbots have many uses, and like natural ants, sometimes specialize in a particular job. They can crawl, climb, cut, dig, search, grasp, lift, carry, or drag things. They also have some ability to link with each other like natural ants to form larger structures. The more realistic versions can be scary. This type of antbot is designed for human interaction and has dozens of tiny cameras embedded in its head to create highly detailed, three-dimensional images.
Modular robots are released in large swarms consisting of many different units. These include brain, battery, solar panel, cell, wheel, gripper, communication, camera, touchscreen, and spotlight modules. Sensors include distance, brightness, temperature, radiation, and chemical; these are usually connected to a threshold module to determine actionable circumstances. They can travel outdoors over variable terrain.
See the front and back of the robot crab. They can swim, crawl, grab, and measure things. They're designed for harsh underwater exploration. They'll probably crash anyway, but they'll last longer than the American ones did at Fukushima.
Robot fireflies are released in large swarms to fly over an area. When they detect a dangerously high heat signature, they circle over the area and light up. This attracts more firefly robots and alerts human observers to a hotspot that could start an actual fire. Half or more of the damage from earthquakes actually comes from fires as a secondary disaster. So these fireflies probably have the best bang-for-buck of any rescue equipment.
Nursebots such as the robear are deployed to disaster sites because they don't need rest breaks and don't have emotional breakdowns. Standard models are used for lifting, transferring, and transporting patients along with health monitoring, dispensing simple medications, and communication. The prototype models are testing more complex types of health care.
Ramen is a popular comfort food in Japan, gaining popularity in America too. Even instant raman can be good, although the best is homemade with fresh noodles. Cup-o-soup has similar effects, and you can make your own instant dry soup mixes.
The Red Cross distributes blankets at disaster sites.