"You're a...Kildren?"

The young girl's voice echoed a tone of both surprise and curiosity.

"Yes, that's right. My name is Shinjo Oshii." The visitor stood in the doorway to the farmhouse in which he was to be billeted as the young girl in her early teens stared at him curiosly as though he had just descended from heaven on the wings of a Dove and landed in front of her. That's how out of the ordinary he felt as she examined him oblivious to the rudeness she was emanating. "I take it you've never had a Kildren stay here before?"

"No," she replied. "In fact until today I'd never even seen one. Uh...I mean I've never met one of you before."

Shinjo smiled politely at the innocence of the girl who quickly stood aside to allow him entry to her home that was perched high on the side of grassy hill overlooking the deep valley below. Throwing the rucksack containing his few belongings over his right shoulder Shinjo made his way inside and the girl closed the door behind him. He found himself in a typical farmhouse kitchen that doubled as a dining room. There were few modern luxuries scattered here and there. The owners of the house clearly preferred a more traditional setting for preparing and eating their meals.

The young girl was now busily trying to make Shinjo feel welcome by pulling out a chair for him and offering him something to eat or drink while they waited for her mother to return from town where she worked as a vet. Shinjo graciously took the seat offered to him and sat down at the table. It was not long before he was joined by the girl who handed him a cup of golden coloured tea.

"Thank you...uh?"

"Oh!" she exclaimed realizing she hadn't given him her name yet. "Emma, Emma Denning. Pleased to meet you Mr Oshii."

"Oh please, call me Shinjo. Or just Shin if you like. I've never been one for formality."

"Ok, Shin," she said experimentally. "So you're a pilot? That must be exciting?"

"I guess so," he replied unsure how to answer the question. Flying was all Shinjo really knew so he had no way of comparing it to anything else. Was there anything more exciting than flying? He just didn't know. "What do you do? Do you work on the farm?"

"Sometimes," she explained. "I go to school in the town. It's not much fun. Not as much as flying I bet."

"I suppose so," said Shinjo as he took a sip of his hot tea.

"May I ask you something?"

"Sure!" answered Shinjo uncertain of what was coming next.

"How old are you? You look the same age as me."

"Well, how old are you?"

"Fourteen," she answered while eagerly awaiting his answer.

Shinjo nodded in acknowledgement of her answer before he subtly explained, "I'm eight months old."

She chuckled, "You're a baby!" She then broke out into a burst of infectious giggling that Shinjo found himself unabale to resist and soon joined in.

The two of them talked for over half an hour while they waited for her mother, Jenny Denning, to return from her work. Jenny was a polite woman in her early fourties with silver threads running through her otherwise dark brown hair, a trait Emma had clearly inherited. Once conditions for his staying with them were settled he was shown to his room which was a converted section of the attic that could be reached only by a fold away step ladder was pulled down from the ceiling of the second floor. The room itself was quite small with only one round window on the far side of the room adjacent to the low sitting bed. Opposite the bed was a chest of drawers which Shinjo used to place his rucksack down upon before sitting on his bed.

This would be his home for the forseeable future.

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The next day Shinjo Oshii returned to the nearby base located just over in the next valley. It was a small base intended for local defence against any Rostock aircraft that might try to attack the industrial complex located thirty seven miles to the north. There were two flights of aircraft based here. One was a flight of four J-7 twin engined heavy night fighters. These were almost the size of a typical medium bomber and had a crew of three; pilot, radar operator and tail gunner. The J-7 was twin engined, each engine being prop-forward types housed in nacelles on the wings. The pilot and radar operator sat up front in a bulbous compartment that gave the overall aircraft an ungainly appearance.

Shinjo didn't want to fly the cumbersome J-7. He was more at home flying the Rainbow - Loutern's primary fighter type. This too was a twin engined aircraft but featured two powerful push-prop engines mounted on the wings. It had a heavy gun armament of four 20mm cannons that when brought to bare on an enemy fighter could potentially cut the unfortunate aircraft in two. Against the Sanka F2B, the primary Rostock fighter, the Rainbow was at a disadvantage in terms of turning performance but had more power thanks to its engines.

Shinjo had reported to the base Commander the day before. He was a Kildren too by the name of Major Takeshi Oroyu. The Major's attitude towards the new arrival was largely one of indifference. They exchanged the necessary pleasantries and then went about their own individual business. Shinjo walked into the pilot's briefing room to view the rota for the day. To his surprise he found that he would be conducting a standard area familiarization flight, a common practice for new arrivals, but what wa so surprizing was that he would be conducting this training alone! Normal practice was always for another pilot familiar with the territory to accompany a new pilot. Shinjo knew he was being tested and he had every intention of passing. He prepared his flightplan and then went out to his aircraft.

The grey and green camoflaged aircraft sat basking in a cool morning on the airfield. Shinjo walked around his aircraft checking that it was ready for flight while at the same time becoming accustomed to its features as though it were a living thing in itself. He examined its body for even the tiniest of imperfections but found that he had been fortunate enough to be assigned an aircraft that could be described as being factory fresh. Once satisfied with it he climbed into the cockpit and began finished his pre-flight checks.

The starboard engine wined loudly as the starter motor began to turn the propellor forcing all the working parts to move before finally it growled into life. Blue and grey smoke surged from the exhaust as the fuel ignited and the internal combustion process repeated itself a thousand times a minute. A few short seconds later the port engine copied its neighbour and soon the Rainbow was sitting on the tarmac buzzing loudly like an angry Bee itching to take off.

Shinjo signalled for the ground crews to remove the chocks holding the landing gear steady and with that he opened the throttle slightly to begin his taxi out towards the runway. Aircraft marshalls followed the aircraft helping to identify any obstacles that Shinjo might miss from his viewpoint but there were none and soon he was turning onto the runway. As he did so he looked over to the control tower and saw that there were three green lights illuminated beneath heavily glazed top of the building. This was the visual confirmation he needed to begin his take off.

He reached down with his left hand for a single switch located beside the throttle. It was protected by a switch guard which he flicked down before nudging the switch from left to the right. This switch controlled the limiter fitted to the supercharger in both engines. He had just deactivated it meaning he now had the absolute maximum power from the engines available to him. He threw open the throttle and the twin engined fighter kicked and bucked before it began to charge forward.

Shinjo used the rudder to keep the aircraft steady as it made its take-off run. With this much power surging through the aircraft there were so many factors such as the wind or imperfections in the tarmac that could throw his aircraft off course. His eyes glanced down at the speedometer every half second or so as the needle began to climb out of the red cone indicating the aircraft's stall speed of under one hundred and twenty five knots.

Seventy Knots...Seventy-five...Eighty...Ninety...One hundred...One hundred and ten.

The airspeed seemed to take only a few seconds before it was out of the red cone and continued to climb. At this speed the aircraft was naturally trying to climb of its own accord. Shinjo could feel it as the controls became lighter now that the air was passing over the control surfaces at a higher speed. He obliged by pulling back on the stick and the nosewheel lifted off the ground as the aircraft tilted up and seemed to leap into the air. The wheels of the landing gear were still spinning from the ground run as Shinjo raised them into the fuselage thus reducing the drag.

Climbing at an angle of seventy degrees the Rainbow was quickly leaving the ground behind. The runway was soon reduced to a long grey strip embedded on a green landscape that soon appeared to go on forever. Passing through four thousand feet Shinjo dipped the nose back down until the aircraft was level. He took a few seconds to check his instruments and when he saw that they were working perfectly he turned to the compass and saw that he was heading in a south westerly direction away from the airfield. He was looking for a radio tower perched high on top of a mountain that was about two thousand feet above sea level. He knew it would be roughly on his two oclock position and so he peered downward ahead and to the right of the nose of his aircraft while at the same time being mindful for any other aircraft in the vacinity.

"Bingo!" he uttered to himself spotting the large box-like frame of the radio mast with his keen eyesight. He checked with his flight plan that he had placed in a transparent pouch on his right thigh and saw that he needed to make a sixty degree turn to the right as the tower passes underneath. He looked around at the airspace he was occupying and except for a few patches of grey cloud saw that it was safe to make his turn.

He threw the control stick over to the right and the starboard wing dipped sharply until it was almost at ninety degrees. He then pulled back hard on the stick to swing the aircraft around in a sharp turn until the compass needle passed through fifty degrees all the while steadying the aircraft with the rudders. The g-forces of the turn pinned his body down into his seat giving him a sensation not too dissimialr to having someone sitting on top of him. Once the turn was complete he rolled level again and started heading in the more westerly direction towards the next navigational reference point; a large pond with a red wooden bridge running across it.

No longer needing the extra power offered by the superchargers he reached down for the switch and turned it back to the right before replacing the switch guard that protected it. Once he had done this he chose a more economical setting for his engines and made himself comfortable as he settled into what seemed destined to be an ordinary training flight.