The Mecha Monogatari, Chapter III
Posted by Doug on November 14, 2008
“That’s what he said, Shōta,” Hijū said, cell phone held to her ear in one hand, a document from Seki’s file in the other, her feet propped up on the desk in her tiny office. As Arata had taken Seki in search of a clean shirt, Hijū had Iijima, Fujikawa, and Shigeki begin a full series of diagnostics on the simulator units. Promising she would take Seki away from Arata so she could help with the diagnostics, Hijū had repaired to her office to call Benkei. “I felt it, too, stronger than ever. So strong I couldn’t stay synced. Kind of scary, you know? Do you think it’s like what you experienced right before you went asynchronous?”
Eight years ago, as Asynchronicity Syndrome had begun eroding Benkei’s ability to merge with his titan’s operating system, he had started hearing voices—and later, seeing visions—whenever he was synced up. He rarely talked about those times, and Hijū hated asking about it, but she needed to know.
Hijū could hear music and a man singing karaoke in the background, but Benkei was silent for quite some time before answering. “I don’t think it is. He’s too young. But if it is, we need to find out quick. This sort of thing…it can mess him up, bad. We don’t want him to decide to move on.”
Hijū frowned. With their horrifying mortality rate, titan pilots tended to be very superstitious. Many carried mamori, items that to the owner were good luck charms or talismans. Some had esoteric rituals they performed, some before a battle, some afterwards. Almost all avoided speaking of death, preferring to use euphemisms like ‘to move on’ instead. “What can we do?”
“I’m not sure. I’ve never heard of this happening to a rookie pilot before—it’s always been veteran pilots with Asynchronicity Syndrome,” Benkei said. “That’s the way it was for me. Still, sitting on our hands and waiting for something to develop is foolish. First off, take him to Yamagishi-sensei—”
Hijū sighed. “You know I really don’t like him.”
“Grow up, Misaki,” Benkei growled. “Take him to Yamagishi-sensei, get him checked up. What’s Seki’s synchronicity index?”
“Twenty-five point three three seven,” Hijū said.
Benkei replied: “Have him put on reficroniphol, low dose.”
“Seki-kun’s allergic to reficroniphol. Says so in his medical file,” Hijū said. “He’s had problems disconnecting since day one, so they tried reficroniphol, but it made him break out.”
“Then othimetrol or calandatine,” Benkei said. “That will help keep the voices out of his head, and it will help him unsync easier. Then we got to give him some ties.”
“Ties?” Hijū echoed. “What do you mean?”
Again Benkei was silent for a long time before answering. “If he starts going through what I did, he’s going to feel less and less attached to this world. He needs ties, connections to people around him. You said he was an orphan, right?”
“Right,” Hijū confirmed.
“No family, separated from whatever friends he had, forced to fight, plagued by that damnable Presence in the system…it’ll wear at him. He’ll give up caring about anything, and when that happens, he will be at high risk for suicide,” Benkei said. “He needs people around him that he feels a connection to.”
He had never mentioned this before, but Hijū knew that he was talking from experience. “Well, we’re in luck. Mami’s already adopted him, I think.”
“Good. Just tell her not to overdo it,” Benkei said. “So where did you get Miyakawa-kun to put him?”
“What do you mean?” Hijū asked.
“Quarters,” Benkei said. “Is he staying in the dorms?”
“No. That hidebound idiot can’t do anything unless it’s on his Rikujō Jieitai regulation-issue checklist,” Hijū said. “I was going to have Seki-kun stay at your place.”
“What?” Benkei shouted, and then Hijū could hear him apologizing to the people on his end for disturbing their party. Hijū tried and failed to suppress a bout of giggling as Benkei returned, his voice low but very, very agitated. “At my place? What made you think that was a good idea?”
“Well, it’s not like I had a lot of options. There aren’t too many people I could foist him off on. I could put him up at my apartment, but that might be a little awkward,” Hijū said. “I wouldn’t be able to loaf around in my underwear.”
Benkei sighed. “And we all know how very important that is. Fine. It’s only until Friday, right?”
“Wednesday,” Hijū said.
“I hope he likes waking up at five a.m. for physical training,” Benkei said. “I got to go. I’ll be back in Tōkyō around eight or nine. I’ll talk to you then.”
“Bai bai, Shōta,” Hijū said, and then snapped her cellphone shut.