(Something I may be doing purely for my own interest. No promises. Thank god for Chinese Translations acting as a counter-balance and helping the editing process. Anyway – GODSPEED! HAHAHAHAHA!)
Iriya had a troubled face, but nodded. Asaba ran over to the handbag, and took out the game console. He turned it over. The rom-pack in the slit had “BARCAP-S06” scrawled on it.
She sat with him, clinging tightly to his back.
“Use headphones. Or you can’t hear anything.”
While saying that, she pulled out some headphones from the console’s reel and plugged it in his ears.
“What kind of game is this? What’s BARCAP?”
“Mission. Barrier Combat Air Patrol.”
I have no idea….but let’s try it out – he thought, and pressed the power button. The LCD screen lit up, and within the circumference, three laser-fields were projected.
And, nothing else happened.
Is there supposed to be a title screen? – he thought, but the LCD remained in a blank state, and the laser fields remained as light green squares.
Bending over his shoulder, Iriya whispered in his ear.
He felt her breath.
The sensation he had in his back of “this area” and “that area” touching him had a >99% chance of being her chest.
His heart pumped.
Pressing the start button.
In the four frames, things that looked like letters and figures appeared.
It reminded Asaba of a flight simulation. The front laser-field was probably the Heads-Up Display. That much he knew. He saw it in a film before. But that was all he knew. The left and right laser fields in the LCD display, and the data they indicated, was all complete Greek to him. The headphone started to play strange music – it sounded like a pipe-organ playing a bunch chords in one go.
Iriya firstly pointed to the main screen and the sub screens one by one.
“HUD, MFD, MFD, DED. ADI, VVI, HSI.”
Afterwards, she pointed at the various elements in the HUD.
“Above Sea-Level Altitude, Airspeed Velocity, Compass-Gauge, AOA Gauge, Flight Path Marker, Tadpole, Funnel, Gun Cross”
It was like a kind of incantation. But he sort of understood Altitude, Velocity and Gun Cross.
“In other words, when enemies come I just match up the Gun Cross and fire?”
There can’t be any mistake about that – he thought, but the feeling of Iriya shaking her head was transmitted to his body.
“The current mode is EEGS. This curve is the funnel, and the Manta’s maneuver data is displayed. You have to guide them into here.”
As he expected, it completely went over his head.
“Then, firstly should I…”
“Contact AWACS. Change the channel on the Sonohara TACAN from Vector-027 to Cross-01. Request a picture call.”
Anyhow, he pressed it. Some completely incomprehensible change occurred on the LCD.
“What the heck is this?”
“JTIDS update information. Target direction, range, and altitude. Bullseye is at 020, range is 40 nautical miles, altitude 120,000 feet, with 3 hostile objects. One unknown identity. That’s probably a Seed. The current Bullseye is Sonohara.”
“B button to transmit commands to the command element, missile carrier and dummy takes priority heading at 020, around 700 knots of increased speed. If a predator spike breaks at 30 nautical miles incoming, then the seven missile carriers go chainsaw. The brevity code for that is ‘Fox’.”
At any rate, he tried it out while listening to Iriya. The result was that he began to put a few things together.
In her explanation, the thing she frequently called ‘Manta’ or ‘Black Manta’ was the name of his own fighter. ‘Missile Carrier’ and ‘Dummy’ were unmanned ally units under the Manta’s control, while ‘Seed’ and ‘Predator’ were the enemies. When the allies had tracked down the boss character Seed then you had to ‘Fox’ – or set off your missiles to destroy it – that was the basic task.
You played BARCAP-S06 like this. You were the pilot of the Black Manta, with 14 Dummies and 27 Missile Carriers as a contingent named ‘Parabellum’ – appointed to patrol the airspace for sixty minutes at a 120,000 altitude. It was hard to imagine what it was like at 120,000 feet, but Iriya explained with a barrage of obscure jargon, that it was the very height of the stratosphere. The super-high altitude where the atmosphere was thin and one’s aerodynamic controls were limited. It was a game that tested one’s Stoicism – there was no fast-forward button, and within those 60 minutes enemies could appear many times in the airspace, or they might not even appear at all. In any case, the patrol had to be continued, and if one saw any enemies one had to deploy an attack formation. Under TWS, you had to lock to the target, seize the TD box within the reticle, and get the enemy into the carets of the DLZ bracket…
And until this point Asaba couldn’t follow anymore.
“Rightrightright! Right break! Reverse! No, not that – reverse! Getting closer… There! Theretherethere! B-button! B-button! B-button! Left! Left break! The TD box in the reticle… it’s coming… Fox! It’s coming! Fox! Coming! Hurry hurry chase it chase it chase it! No no – you’re too close! Coming! Now! Chase! A…ah…”
In a stroke of good (or bad) luck, a few minutes after starting up, he encountered an enemy cluster of three Seeds surrounded by Predators. Whatever Iriya said felt as if it was covered in code, and he couldn’t exactly understand the meaning, but it sounded like “we don’t have the equipment to handle this, so let’s suspend our duties and get out of there” – but the moment he vaguely caught that, it was too late. However, despite losing all his Dummies and 22 of his Missile Carriers, above all that, and anything else for that matter, it was the clinging force of Iriya, who was bending herself forward and transmitting her body temperature and weight to his back – that painted itself all over his mind. Iriya had decided that she would get Asaba back to home base at any cost, and that determination was matched up with her boldly pressing her own body even farther – shouting with a loud voice that was too distant from her usual state to be imagined:
“The Predator just spiked! Right Break! If you hear the Trace Alert, drop a flare and do a Beam Maneuver to get out! Break! Run! Get out get out! Run run run run! AH! Ah… ah, ah, ah, ah… aaaa…”
With her chest, and the firmness of her bra, pressed into his back, and her cheek stuck to his – and, in addition, Iriya’s “Coming! Coming!” and “Ah,ah,ah…” and all that kinds of stuff giving her voice a perverse edge to it, Asaba couldn’t take it anymore. Already, gaming was out of the question. His eyes couldn’t see anything on the screen, and his fingers couldn’t press buttons properly. I want to feel that breath on my ear forever, he voiced in his head, and I should probably get away from the feeling of her chest, he opposingly voiced in his head, and that completely tore him up. He was driven to the verge of fainting – but at that very moment,
The screen completely stopped.
Somewhere close, an off-point cicada cracked a single bar of noise in the dark. Asaba confirmed the lack of presence in his surroundings for a final time. There was only the open windows of three-storey school building glaring at him as if to say “I’ve caught your dirty deeds!”. To the slight left of the middle was the staff-room, and next to that was the so-called ‘Nap Room’ – which was a small & narrow tatami-matted inconspicuous room – that he happened to know existed. The teacher on night-watch duty was probably there, he thought. So, none of the windows bore any lights in them, but he also didn’t really know if their school had a night-watch duty in the first place.
His primary goal, the pool, was lined up to the gym, and was about 30 meters from the incinerator. There was no fence around it, but synthetic resin panels joined together into a wall. It was the notorious impregnable Berlin Wall that stood with unshakeable stature and absorbed the resentful cries of “We can’t peek at the girls’ swimming!” from male students. But, today it was his ally. He could enjoy his night-swim without anyone seeing his form from outside the wall. There was also an easy access point. The locker room entry had a completely worn-out door, and, key or no key, it was privy to immoderate force applied with a few twists of the knob, causing the lock to snap apart.
All you needed was guts.
There was definitely no one there. He absolutely couldn’t get caught.
But, he couldn’t wipe the anxiety.
If someone had seen him – they’d surely give him the evil-eye, and much else.
Duffel bag flapping by the side, undertaking that last 30 meters without cover, tumbling into the shadow of the L-shaped concrete wall that hid the entrance, taking a breath, peeking out once again at the environs – and finally feeling a bit of relief. He turned the knob with both hands, forcing the wear as the metal chafed with a clack, and feeling the sensations that ran through his palms. The lock snapped open without much resistance.
Forcing open the swing doors, he came to the poolside at night.
And, his humorous reminiscing was put to a halt when, at that moment, he was inattentive of his feet, and almost tripped over the squirming length of hose that proved hazardous to his balance.
And, that night, the poolside had another visitor.
It was a girl.
There was the normally large 25×15 meter pool. Magical calm settled the water’s sheen, where the depth of so many light years had been reflected, and the starlight drew the focus of his eyes easily to it. It was as if the pool had contained a strip of the night sky within itself. From the darkness of the lockers, the scene was unusually bright. And within that unusual brightness, the girl’s back was turned away from him – crouching at the right corner, tightly gripping the handrail next to her, wearing a school swimsuit and swim-cap. She stared into the pitch metallic blackness of the water’s surface, earnestly.