The landing gear tires of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules make contact with the concrete of the runway, and the cargo jet slows from one hundred fifty knots to a speed that a man can run. It parks at a taxiway near the terminal of an air station.
Ground crews roll a portable stairway to the portside door. The door opens, and one of the people that step out is U.N. Spacy First Lieutenant Roy Fokker. Carrying a duffel bag, he walks down the stairs before his feet step on the concrete.
And just a week ago I was aboard ARMD-13, he thinks.
He glances to this huge object in the distance. This is clearly the centerpiece of the whole island, let alone the base. Squeezed in with cranes and scaffolding is a huge spaceship that crashed here eight years ago, designated as Alien Starship 1 (ASS-1).
His billed service cap keeps his blond hair from being blown about by an afternoon breeze coming in from the Pacific Ocean. Having experienced base transfers since his days with the United States Navy, he knows where to go.
A blue shuttle van drops him off at the base housing office, just a quarter of a mile from the air terminal. It is a small building, much smaller than barracks where ground-based Spacy crewmen sleep.
The lobby of the base housing office is small, with several padded chairs. Posters decorate the lobby, a few of them being pictures of the base, and others being recruitment posters. At the service window are brochures informing newcomers of the amenities of the base as well as guides to Macross City, the city that sprung up around the alien star ship.
Roy stands at the window. After signing some paperwork, he receives keys and a map showing where his quarters will be. In his case, he is staying at the BOQ- the quarters reserved for bachelor officers with no dependents.
He turns and sees a man dressed in a uniform much like his. The man's uniform is olive green, and his brown hair is cropped short.
"Jarhead," he says. "It has been such a long time."
"And how are you, squid?" asks the man.
"Just got here. I supposed to be a test pilot. Top secret."
U.N. Space Marine Major Angus Beckett greets his longtime friend. He had known Roy since before the formation of the United Earth Forces, during the peak of the worldwide war now known as the Global Civil War.
"And how is…?" Roy begins to ask.
"Maribel and I are getting along great," replies Angus. "She and the kids are waiting. I'd better line up and register."
"I heard people married with kids get a bigger house."
"With my family, it's still crowded."
"0900 tomorrow. See you then."
Roy's quarters on base are what he expected- a small studio apartment. The coffee table sofas, and plasma television adorn the living area. In the back are two beds.
At least it's bigger than my old quarters on ARMD-13. I bunked with three other men.
Roy unpacks his duffel bag and unbuttons his coat. He hears the door open. A man in a white Class A uniform steps in.
"So we'll be sharing a room together," says Roy.
"Lieutenant Eddie Marsden," says the man.
"Lieutenant Roy Fokker," replies Roy. He looks at Marsden's badges and pins. "UNOP, eh."
"Yeah, we're the blokes who patrol the world's seven seas."
Roy removes his Class A service uniform and puts on the khaki pants of his more comfortable khaki service uniform. He can see through the window that it is late afternoon. "I'm going to get some stuff at the commissary," he says.
After renting a Toyota Tercel at the base's rental car service, he parks at the commissary parking lot. The commissary itself is a large building, and its main entrance is a set of automated glass doors. Roy can see that the interior is lit by bright fluorescent lamps. Taking a shopping cart and entering, he walks along the aisles, checking the prices, which are usually cheaper than Safeway or A & P.
The cart's wheels squeaking as they roll along the smooth floor, they suddenly stop when Roy pulls back on the shopping cart. The lieutenant had made eye contact with a woman on the produce aisle. Tightly curled black hair, thick lips, and khaki uniform with a silver bar on the collar. For three seconds Roy is speechless.
"Why hello Claudia," Roy manages to say.
"Roy Fokker," replies Second Lieutenant Claudia Grant. "Doing a little shopping?"
"That's why you're here."
"Of course," says Roy. "I notice you're not a butter bar anymore."
"I got promoted before being assigned to this Earth side base," replies Claudia. "If you want milk, it's just around the corner."
"I have to go get these groceries home," she says before pushing the shopping cart towards the checkout stands.
Roy picks up a can of Campbell's Beef Stew that happened to be on sale. After picking up a few more things, he proceeds to the checkout aisle. A young lady standing at the register smiles at him.
"You know, someone who looked like you was here earlier," says the lady. "He said he worked in construction of that alien ship. I'm in the Spacy Reserves- a crewman first class. I should ring you up."
"Sure," says Roy.
After paying the cashier, Roy walks out to the parking lot towards the Toyota Tercel he rented for things such as picking up groceries. As he packs the groceries, he sees a man looking at him.
And he sees the man wearing silver eagle pins. The nametag on his uniform reads "SHANG"
Roy salutes. Captain Shang then turns and salutes. Roy looks and sees a rear admiral walking by. The admiral returns their salutes. Shang then turns to Roy.
"You should be quick on the salute, flyboy," says the Spacy captain. "If you can't be quick on the salute, how can you be quick to react in combat flying?" Shang then lowers his arm, and Roy does the same.
What a way to start your first day here. Don't screw up when you report for duty 0900.
Ironically, you have more space on Earth side duty than deep space duty.
Claudia Grant unlocks the door to the one-story townhouse that she had been assigned just days ago. She enters what she considers to be a typical living room, with couches and tables and a bookcase and a wide screen plasma television.
"Claudia," says a teenage boy coming out from the bedroom.
"Vince," says Claudia, setting down some of the groceries that she had purchased earlier. "How was your day?"
"Great. How's yours?"
"I met up with some old friends," she says. She walks to the answering machine and presses the play button. A female voice comes from the speaker.
"Claudia, this is Lisa," says the voice. "Commander Yamada's assigned me to the late shift. I won't be back until about 2200."
"You getting ready for school?" asks Claudia.
"Yeah, I wonder what it's like here," says Vince. "It's not like this is a country."
"There are a couple of military brats already attending school in Macross City. Anyway, I'd better prepare something to cook."
The test pilots for Project Valkyrie all gather inside a large room on the third floor of a building. The runways are easily visible from the room. All of the pilots are dressed in Class A's.
Three men dressed in Class A's enter the room, and all of the test pilots salute. While saluting is usually not done without a cover, it is done when first reporting for duty to a new station.
The time is 0900.
The guy's punctual, Roy thinks.
"Good morning," says the ranking man, his English harshly accented. "I am Major General Ahmadu Sako, United Nations Space Marines. I welcome you to Project Valkyrie. To my right is my aide, U.N. Air Force Colonel Edwards. We are here to test a new type of aircraft with capabilities you have not even heard of. We have finished preliminary testing in the wind tunnels. Now we are ready for test flight operations. I will show you what you will be flying."
The general leads the test pilots out of the building and to a hangar where several people in overalls are working. Suspended by cables is a one-seat airplane, with VF-X on the tail.
"This is the veritech fighter," says General Sako.
"Looks impressive," says one of the men, speaking with a thick Australian accent.
"You're about to see what it can do, Commander Cramer," says Colonel Edwards.
"Switch this plane into Guardian mode," says General Sako.
"Yes, sir," replies a technician, who immediately presses a button on a remote control.
The sight that greets the men amazes them.
The engines fold down from the fuselage. Something also folds out from beneath the plane, revealing a pair of…hands.
Sako looks. The sight never ceases to amaze him, even though he had seen it many times during the early tests. Arms and legs had folded out of the aircraft.
"Wow," says another pilot. "Was this made in Japan."
"This is out of an anime," says another pilot.
"This is not even the half of it," says General Sako. "Switch to Battloid mode."
"Yes, sir," replies the technician with the remote control.
The airplane seems to fold in on itself. The feet of the legs touch the ground and a head emerges. The airplane now looks like a giant robot or a suit of armor.
"Whoa," says Major Angus Beckett. His mind's eye can see what such an airplane can be used for.
"What you see here is an aerospace craft powered by thermonuclear reaction furnaces," says the technician. "We would not have made this possible without the robotechnology from the alien star ship."
"Robo…what?" asks Roy.
"Robotechnology," says Sako. "It is from an alien word we believe refers to the advanced technology."
"You sure it's not the word they use for toilet?" asks another pilot.
"It would be a very big toilet," says the general, smiling. "We'll show you why."
Roy sits down on a desk in the briefing room, learning why toilets on board the alien ship would be very big.
"The ship was designed for a crew of average height of forty-feet," says the scientist, a man clad in a white coat.
"Forty feet?" asks one of the men. "How are we supposed to fight them?"
"The veritechs were designed for that," says General Sako. "You know about Destroids, that is why they were designed as well. For close-quarters combat with these giants. Veritechs do have an advantage of being able to arrive and leave quickly. In a space amphibious assault these would be tip of the spear. Of course, that is just theoretical. We must test these planes, and that is where you gentlemen come in."
"Do we go out and fly these things, sir?" asks Major Beckett.
"No, first you go under a medical exam," replies the general.
Here's my first lunch at school.
Vince Grant carries the tray and walks along Macross City High School's cafeteria. It is a stereotypical cafeteria, with benches and tables much like cafeterias back in America. Like Vince, everyone is dressed in a uniform- a black coat, white shirt with black tie, and either black slacks for boys or a plaid skirt for girls.
Amazing how ordinary everything looks even though we only blocks from an alien starship.
Finding an empty seat, the fifteen-year-old sits down. He briefly ponders his first day at school. Most of the kids attending this school speak different languages; he guesses that they come from places like eastern Europe and western Africa and southeast Asia. There are very few students from America, from what he can deduce.
The people at the table he is sitting at speak this foreign language that sounds Russian. Vince sees a boy with close-cropped blond hair, and the girl sitting next to him has long blond hair.
"You should sit over there," says the girl, speaking in an eastern European accent. "With the Nigerians."
Vince walks over to the table that the girl referred to. The kids here all have tightly curled black hair, thick lips, and dark skin. Their speech gives away the fact that they are from somewhere in Africa.
"Hello," says Vince after swallowing the entrée. "I'm Vince."
"David," says one of the boys, who appear to be about sixteen.
"I'm new here."
"Where are you from?" asks David, speaking in heavily accented English.
"South Carolina. It's in America."
"America." David speaks with a girl about his age. "My family moved me here from Nigeria three years ago."
Vince eats quietly, looking at these people who would likely be his classmates. He eventually finishes his food.
"It was nice to meet you, David," says Vince.
David wraps his arm around the girl's waist. "Just because you look like us does not mean you are one of us."
Charming fellow. Vince gets up and leaves the cafeteria, going towards the schoolyard. Many students mill about the schoolyard, and brick buildings house the classrooms.
"I heard you're from America," says a male voice.
Vince turns and sees a boy with blond hair.
"I'm from America too," says the boy. "I'm Zack Bauer. My dad, he's in the Ocean Patrol and is XO on the Prometheus."
"Vince Grant," says Vince, extending his hand. "I live with my sister; she's in the Spacy. She works with air traffic control. I just got here a few days ago"
"Welcome to Macross City High School," says Zack, shaking his hand. "We military brats gotta stick together."
"What you gotta remember, Vince is that each group sticks with its own kind. Nigerians, Ukrainians, Vietnamese. When I first started going here last year, many of the teachers thought I was Ukrainians, 'cause of my blond hair."
A bell rings, signaling the end of lunch and warning the students to get to their next class. "Got to get to class, Vince. Catch you later."
"Before we send you up in those planes," says Colonel Edwards, "you each got to learn everything about them, inside and out. These syllabi are classified. Remove them from this room, and your next assignment is the brig."
Roy looks at a syllabus that an Air Force corporal had given him. It is titled: Veritech Fighter Prototype. There are tables of information, as well as technical specs.
Of course, the capabilities are only theoretical.
Fokker recalls his days at the U.S. Navy Accelerated Flight School nine years ago. He had been eighteen then, fresh out of a small community in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Once out of basic training in Illinois, he went through a twenty-five week course in operating the F/A-18 Hornet. It was a crash course for some people…
He had been commissioned as an ensign upon his graduation, and was immediately deployed to an active duty fighter squadron.
"Remember, gentlemen," continues Edwards, "this information can save your life." He inserts a disc into a Sony DVD player hooked up to a Sony color plasma television. The plasma screen then shows images of the wind tunnel tests as well as close-ups of the transformations.
Lieutenant Claudia Grant looks and sees a red-haired man enter the control tower.
"Tower's yours, Sam," says Claudia. Lieutenant Sam Milliome looks at the radar screens and radio consoles that allow the crew to direct air traffic to and from the base.
Claudia steps out of the building. The sun hangs low to the west. She can see an open hangar and a bunch of people gathering inside.
That's Project Valkyrie. I wonder if I should check on Roy.
She walks across the tarmac of the airfield. The airfield is not that big, only the size of a municipal airport. Besides, she could use the exercise.
After some inquiry, she had learned that a bunch of test pilots were just recently stationed here on the same day she met Roy back at the base commissary. Looking into the hangar, she can see a huge aircraft suspended from cables, with its engines folded downward.
I wonder what that's for.
Her attention is then diverted to the blond-haired man standing in front of the aircraft whose innards are exposed.
"Hello there, Roy," she says.
"Hello there, yourself," replies Roy. He turns and sees who is talking to him. "Oh, hi Claudia. I can't believe it's you."
"Well, don't believe it, Roy," she replies. "It's only because I have some things to return to you." She takes out some small gift boxes she had received from the aviator so many years ago, when they were stationed at an airfield in Wyoming.
Roy recognizes the gift boxes. "I don't get this. Why are you returning this stuff now? Huh? Well, if you say so. No one can win them all. Except for this honey. It's the prototype for the new veritech fighter that our engineers have just developed. It's firepower and speed are greater than any robotech fighter in existence. And I'll be the very first pilot to test her out." Straws had been drawn to determine who would be the first, and Roy's straw was drawn. "Just thinking about flying this baby makes my head spin, Claudia."
"Huh?" asks Roy, confused. "Goodbye, Claudia? Don't leave yet."
The air traffic control officer is walking away fast from the hangar.
The sense of euphoria wears off. I'm going to be flying a plane that has never been flown before. What if the wind tunnel tests were wrong?
The Tomahawk Destroid is a large bipedal suit of armor, operated by one driver. It had been one of the earliest of its kind, the first models going into production just two years after the arrival of the alien star ship. It is equipped with a vast array of weapons that include two heavy beam cannons, three missile launchers, two machine guns, and a gun cluster in the chest.
The image of one of these Tomahawks appears on a 24-inch Toshiba plasma color television screen. The scene is a U.N. base in central Africa for peacekeeping forces.
Major Angus Beckett lies on the bed, watching the latest news.
"You could have been there," says his wife Maribel, a woman with shoulder-length chestnut-brown hair.
"Some of the people I served with are there," replies the Space Marine test pilot. "Yeah, in Africa, the end of the Global War didn't bring peace."
"We still got a lot of things to unpack."
They and their children had just been assigned to this house, due to Angus's grade as well as the number of dependents. The house has two levels with three bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms, a typical housing assignment for a field grade Space Marine officer.
"Right now, we should think about what to do around here on my time off," says Angus. "We can stroll around the downtown, or take a cruise to Haha-jima."
"What do you do?"
"Test pilot. Not much to say though, except what we're testing is brand new."
"I like men with a little mystery in them."
A twinkle appears in Angus's eye. "I'm shocked, honey."