My life will never be the same again.
Everyone has said that whenever something significant happens. Graduating college, changing careers, getting married, having children. Some of the events in my life where I have said such a thing were typical events that almost all of us go through. But what I am about to describe is shared only by a very tiny fraction of the human population.
I began my journey in a Boeing 767 that served American Airlines Flight 11. I was sitting in the business class section, packed with hundreds of people. I felt the plane taxied down the taxiways at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. I felt the plane rise into the air. There were a whole bunch of people here, and I can hear snippets of conversation about their lives. I wondered how many of them were headed to where I was headed.
Six hours later, Flight 93 landed in San Diego International Airport in San Diego, California. I walked out of the 767 into jetway connecting the plane with the terminal. I looked at one of the viewscreens and saw that the flight to my desintation will leave in two hours. Nothing better to pass the time than hacing a hamburger and a Coke. The two hours were up and I went to the gate for Flight 77. I boarded the 757 and found my seat in business class. I soon saw all kinds of people sitting in the seats. All of them were excited, and they had every reason to be excited. Some of them reserved their tickets months in advance. My tickets were paid for by my employer, the Associated Press. This was not the first time I was sent overseas to cover a story. But this story would turn out to be the biggest story.
"All passengers, this is the captain speaking," said a male voice. "American Airlines Flight 77 now departing San Diego for Macross City."
I felt the plane rise into the air. Soon the California coastline disappeared from view, replaced by the blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean.
"We are approaching Macross City," said the flight captain. "We will be there in about ten minutes."
I looked out my window and I could see an island. Most of it was covered by a city, Macross City. I could see high-rise buildings, houses, shopping malls, parks, a stadium, and an airport.
And I could see the island's main attraction, the SDF-1 Macross.
The SDF-1 was built from an alien spaceship that crashed ten years ago. The governments of Earth joined together to study the spaceship and rebuild it. I saw pictures of it, read about it in news reports, and saw it on TV. And months ago, I was informed that I would be chosen to cover the maiden launch of the spaceship.
That was tomorrow.
I had all of my documentation prepared - my passport and press pass. Security is going to be tight, especially because of anti-unification forces. A few years back one of them even attacked the SDF-1. That was around the same time that a base on Mars was reported to be destroyed. My office had a reporter there at the time. It was the first death on the job from the New York office in at least seven years.
I felt a bump, and I knew that the landing gears made contact with the runway. A minute later, the 757 parked next to one of the terminals.
"We have now landed at Macross International Airport," said the captain. "Welcome to Macross City. Please proceed to customs."
The other passengers and I all got off the plane, walking along the jetway. We went to a door marked Customs. We had to place our carry-on luggage on a rubber conveyer belt passing through an X-ray scanning device. Customs officers questioned each of us.
"I'm a reporter from the Associated Press," I said. "I have my passport and press passes."
I was then waved through and I followed the path to baggage claim. The baggage claim was in a huge room. there were moving elliptical conveyers that had luggage riding on it. There were over a hundred people hereI quickly located my luggage; I thanked God that my luggage wasn't sent somewhere else like Bolivia.
I noticed how crowded the terminal was. I figured thousands of people were here, probably swelling the population of Macross City to a hundred thousand or so. I saw signs for car rental agencies, taxi services, and airport shuttles. I lined up behind at least thirty people for a courtesy phone. After waiting for at least an hour, I got to the front, picked up the handset, and dialed the number for the Macross Hyatt, which was the hotel where the AP booked me.
I went outside and waited among the sea of people. I noticed most of them were getting into cars, buses, and airport shuttles; very few were getting out. I waited for another few minutes. I then saw a red van with the Hyatt logo printed on it. I went to where it stopped at a white curb. The driver asked me who I was, and I answered.
"Hop in," he said. "We'll take care of the luggage. Don't forget to tip."
And so I hopped in. The van pulled from the curb. Traffic was heavy on the terminal access road. I probably would have walked if I did not have so much luggage.
"Traffic's heavy," I said.
"Well, you know the hotel is booked full," said the driver, a man in a suit. "Everybody's coming in. And it's gonna be heavy when everyone leaves. I'll probably make enough in tips to retire."
After about forty minutes, we left the airport. I could see the SDF-1.
"It's a beautful sight," said the driver. "I'll be watching the launch. I will miss seeing it from my apartment."
And then we reached the Macross Hyatt Hotel and Casino. It was a tall structure; I guessed there were thirty floors. It was dwarfed by the SDF-1, of course. It was late afternoon, the sun was almost gone. I got off and tipped the driver. The luggage handler volunteered to bring my luggage to my room.
The Hyatt was a luxury hotel. The floors of the lobby were made of marble; the desk made of oak. A brochure stand sat next to the main entrance, filled with brochures advertising the island's attractions. I could hear the noises of the casino which was just a few feet away from the registration desk.
"Your room is 1507," the desk clerk said to me.
The luggage handler and I went to the tower elevator. We shared it with some other hotel guests. As luck turned out, my floor was the top floor this elevator went to, so it took a few minutes to get to the fifteenth floor. After we got off the fifteenth floor, I looked at the signs and I noticed that my room was located near the elevators. I walked to Room 1507, used my room card key to open the door, and we entered. I tipped the baggage handler and he left.
The room was nice, with a soft carpet, a clean bed, a table with a General Electric clock radio. In the corner was a circular table for sitting. A room service menu sat on the circular wooden table.
I opened the curtains and I was impressed by the sight. The SDF-1 dominated the landscape. It was rectangular, almost a mile long, and probably a thousand feet high. I couldn't help but think that tomorrow, when I get my luggage out of the room, the ship won't be there.
My hunger had priority over my fatigue.
I asked where a good place is to eat, and the desk clerk recommended this Chinese restaruant just a few blocks from the hotel. A girl with black hair greeted me and gave me a seat. I ordered chow fun. I saw a whole bunch of people here, some of them in the uniforms of the United Nations military. I studied their faces, wondewring if I would see them again when I enter the SDF-1 Shipyard. I ate every peace of chow fun, and I doused it with cold water. I paid the waiter my food bill and headed for the hotel. Minutes after entering my room, I was asleep.
I woke up and about 7:00 AM on the day of the launch. I picked up the telephone that sat next to the clock radio and I dailed the number for the Associated Press's New York office.
"How are you doing?" asked Mr. Chegwidden, the New York editor.
"Fine, sir," I said. "What time is it over there?"
"Five o'clock. I actually had to work late. Is everything all right there?"
"Yeah. The ship launches in four hours."
"Well, I'm gonna have to head home. The subway's crowded at this time."
"It's crowded here too. There are at least ten thousand visitors here, you know. It's amazing. Between the spaceship and the nightlife and the gambling, this place is like Vegas in the middle of the Pacific. I'd better get dressed, eat breakfast, and get to the launch site."
"Make sure to finish your report by tomorrow morning."
"Where you are, tomorrow morning is eleven hours."
"Well, don't dilly-dally. Get to work. You're not there on vacation, you know!"
So that was what I did.
After dressing in a suit and eating the breakfast buffet that the Hyatt offers to guests for free, I went to the SDF-1 Shipyard where the SDF-1 is located. I showed the U.N. Spacy security policeman my press pass and she let me through. I was guided to a parade ground. There was a stage in the front, and behind the stage was the spaceship. There was a huge crowd of people- locals, tourits, and reporters from around the globe. According to the press release by the ship's crew, there was to be an air show scheduled before the launch.
""And now we present an amazing display of aerial acrobatics, demonstrating the amazing advances we have made through Robotechnology. Lieutenant Commander Roy Fokker, leader of the Veritech fighters' Skull Team, will describe and explain the action for us," said the announcer.
A man in a dark flight suit came to the podium. He had blond hair and a fuzzy face. I took notes to carefully record what this Lieutenant Commander Fokker said.
"Today, ladies and gentlemen, you'll see how we've applied human know-how to understanding and harnessing a complex alien technology," said the commander. "Keep your eyes on planes two and four. flying at speeds of eight hundred miles per hour at only fifty feet above the ground, they will pass within a few yards of one another. Robotechnology makes such precision possible."
And so I did. My eyes then caught another plane. it was not a jet fighter like the other planes; it was a small one seat fanjet. The other planes turned to avoid the small plane.
"Rick, is that you, Rick Hunter?" yelled Fokker. I guessed the commander knew the pilot of the fanjet. "Are you crazy? Get that junk heap out of here! Hunter, when I get my hands on you!" The commander then dropped the microphone stand.
Then I saw the fanjet climb high into the sky, catching up with the fighter jets. The crowd cheered, and I was certainly impressed with whomever was flying the plane. The little fanjet then landed.
"Excuse me, folks," said Fokker, running off the stage. I looked and saw him talk to the fanjet's pilot, this Rick Hunter. Apparently Rick Hunter was just a kid, younger even than me.
I looked around. There was this orange colored jet on display.
"This is one of our trainers," said a Spacy sergeant. "We use this to train the veritech fighters. It's a two-seater; the instructor sits in the back."
"What does it do?" I asked.
"Blow shit up. What else is it for?"
I questioned some other members of the crowd. They told me about how they saw this ship being built over the years, or they told me how much money they spent to book a flight and a room to witness this ship's launch.
And then it happened. There was a scuffle. I saw a crowd of people gathering around, angry for some reason.
"What's going on?" asked a Spacy policeman.
"He has a bomb!" yelled one of the guests of the launch ceremony.
All of us kept our distance. As they propped the man up, I could see dynamite strapped to his waist. He must belong to an Islamic anti-UN faction; they orchestrated homicide bombings over the years. It was lucky this guy was caught, or else this day would have been a tragedy. At least that was what I thought at the time.
"Everyone remain calm," said the announcer. "Our security has neutralized the threat."
Then some important people came in. There was this man in an expensive-looking suit, and with him was another man wearing a hat and a very fomral-looking military uniform complete with a cape. The man in the expensive-looking suit came to speak.
"This is the day we've all been waiting for for ten years," he said. "The Robotech project has been a boon to the economy of Macross City, as well as bringing advances in science. Most important of all, it brought peace to Earth, with the exception of a few malcontents."
I saw the military officer enter the ship. I looked at my watch; it was 10:30.
I saw Commander Fokker near that orange fighter. I walked up to him to ask him a few questions.
That was when I saw the light show.
A huge beam of light shined from the front of the SDF-1. It was brilliant. After that it faded. I immedaitely noticed a trenc h cut in the hills next to the city.
Fokker started running in my direction.
"Commander Fokker, may I have a word?" I asked.
He continued on without saying a word. I saw milityary personnel running about.
Then the siren blared. It was an air raid siren.
"All civilians must evacuate the premises," said a voice. "This is a full combat alert."
I left the base and walked back to the Hyatt. I could see fighters taking off from the SDF-1 Shipyard. When I got to my hotel, I looked up at the blue sky, and saw these explosions.
It seemed as if one of the anti-UN factions launched an air raid against the SDF-1. I wondered if it was related to the homicide bombing attempt minutes earlier. I noitced flaming debris crashing a few blocks away.
Some of the planes flew close enough that I could see some detail. I noticed a Jolly Roger insiginia on one of the fighters; it followed an enemy fighter, green in color, and fired a missile at the enemy fighter. The fighter then blew to bits, raining debris.
The battle above continued as the fireballs lit the blue sky. I was under the awning of the Hyatt's main entrance, to protect me from debris. It raged on for a few minutes.
Then I saw an enemy fighter go down. It was green in color and cone shaped. A trail of smoked followed it. It appeared bigger and bigger. I could see the emblem; one which I was not familiar with.
Then it crashed onto the street and skidded, coming to a stop right next to the hotel.
That thing was huge, about as tall as a six-story building, much bigger than our own fighters. That definitely was not a fighter plane. It could fit over a hundred people inside.
Then I saw the fighter open, and something stepped out. It was a man-shaped figure, about as tall as a lamppost. TI wondered if this was some sort of giant robot built by one of the anti-UN factions. The arms went for the head.
The head was pulled off to reveal an inner head. The head looked human, with two eyes, a nose, a mouth.
That wasn't a robot! That was a fifty-foot tall human. Apparently, one of the anti-UN factions developed a way to make giant humans. This giant then pulled out what appared to be a pistol, made for his size.
Then the giant made eye contact with me.