Chapter 2.Winter: Gifts
The meeting went on in front of the town's electronic map. People heatedly debated whether the town would search for them from the sky via helicopter, or from the ground. The best routes for the search were also considered. It would cost three million yen to search via helicopter. Mr. and Mrs. Kishigami thought a search via helicopter would be better, whatever it cost. However, an air search might not be possible due to the bad weather and waiting time till the weather improved. The next best option was a ground search, with the whole town participating. Since there were two options to choose between, the town would reach consensus by supporting the majority opinion. The residents would vote to choose which option, using their RUICAs.
"We have a critical situation. Please decide between two options. As the town cannot afford the full expense for an air search, we expect residents to donate thanks-tickets to pay for the deficit." Listening to what the mayor said, all the people who had RUICA pressed the vote button. The results were displayed on the electronic bulletin board instantly and on RUICA's screens as well.
After the voting was completed, the Mayor summarized the situation:
"The vote for residents' search versus helicopter search is completed. The result was 9456 to 4240 in favor of a ground search. We will therefore conduct the ground search. We also received many offers to donate thanks-tickets. Thank you all very much. In light of the bad weather, let us make our utmost effort. We are going to establish an emergency conference room on RUICA to coordinate the search and to share all information received. Please participate in the search operation and send your information to the system."
People who could travel got into their cars with their RUICAs. Information and suggestions were transmitted from everywhere in town to the system. "I crossed a black 4WD vehicle at Todoroki Pass at 3.30 pm. I wonder if that was Mr. Kishigami's car." "I think I was passing by there at that time." "Then, could you please send the digital photo of your car in the snow?" "O.K. If someone has a digital photo of Mr. Kishigami's car in the snow, please upload it to the system." Much information quickly accumulated on the online conference room. "I found a fairly recent tire track in the path to the woods. But I don't know what type of vehicle made it."
This sort of information, together with digital photos and position information were sent using the "Snap Memo" function of the RUICA. Kanalu and his staff concentrated on determining high probability locations of the car by plotting the accumulated information on time-space coordinates.
"Tsubasa-kun, do you think Takashi-kun has his RUICA with him?" Kanalu asked. "I thought he had taken it. I was unable to contact him, but he may have turned it off. I think it would be too much to ask Mr. Kishigami to return home and look for it. Besides, if he found it, he would be even more depressed." "That is right." Seeing how exhausted Yukio and the Kishigami family were, Kanalu and Tsubasa hurried to designate the search route. They had to save Ta-kun and Takashi before night fell. Outside, a mighty wind howled.