Any Highway In the Sky
C V Ford
Specifications, Douglas DC-3/C-47B-DK (Courtesy McDonnell Douglas Aircraft):
Crew: four (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radio operator)
Capacity: 28 troops or
Payload: 6,000 lb (2,700 kg)
Length: 63 ft 9 in (19.43 m)
Wingspan: 95 ft 6 in (29.41 m)
Height: 17 ft 0 in (5.18 m)
Wing area: 987 ft2 (91.70 m2)
Airfoil: NACA2215 / NACA2206
Empty weight: 18,135 lb (8,226 kg)
Loaded weight: 26,000 lb (11,793 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 31,000 lb (14,061 kg)
Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90C Twin Wasp 14-cylinder radial engines, 1,200 hp (895 kW) each
Maximum speed: 224 mph (195 kn, 360 km/h) at 10,000 ft (3,050 m)
Cruise speed: 160 mph (139 kn, 257 km/h)
Range: 1,600 mi (1,391 nmi, 2,575 km)
Ferry range: 3,600 mi (3,130 nmi, 5,795 km)
Service ceiling: 26,400 ft (8,045 m)
Climb to 10,000 ft (3,050 m): 9.5 min
Chapter 1: Creared For Randing
Location: Aboard Buffalo Airfreight C47 #3 NC202LY, 50 miles southeast of Anchorage, Alaska.
"Port ... starboard ... No matter where we turn this plane that ... THING ... shifts right with us.
"Any luck with the radio?"
The younger co-pilot looked up from the C-47s' panel. Jack Nakamura expressed exasperation in his vain attempts to raise Anchorage control tower. The heavy static disturbance caused by the anomaly the last couple minutes proved insurmountable.
"Damn thing keeps tracking ... moving with us, I'm not even gonna' try flying over it. We're turning this crate around ... head back to Juneau. Make another try for contact."
Calvin "Cal" Hobbes, senior pilot for Buffalo Airfreight put the twin engine craft in a steep bank doing a complete 180 from the the fast approaching anomaly.
"Anchorage control, Anchorage control. This is Buffalo Airfrieght C-47 number 3, NC202LY. We are for the lack of a better term, being pursued by a UFO that appears as a counter clock wise spinning vortex. Canceling scheduled course and returning to Juneau. I say again ...
"We cannot receive due to heavy static emissions repeat ... Can NOT receive due to heavy radio interference from what we think is the anomaly. Am switching from HF to 118.300, repeat ... "
Nakamura felt the vibrations in his seat as Hobbes pushed the twin Pratt and Whitneys to their limit in an attempt to outrun.
Location: Anchorage International Airport control tower, Anchorage, Alaska.
"We receive just fine sir. Their being closer to the source of the interference must be preventing them from hearing us."
"When he pauses for answer, try again," the chief traffic controller replied. "Has air/sea rescue been alerted?"
"Yes." An assistant answered. "Scrambling as we speak."
"Still getting a fix?"
"Negative ... ," radar op in answer. " ... Both blips just merged."
"Damn! ... Got us!"
Both pilots gazed out the windshield at the dark, stygian ... NOTHING. It was like looking at a flat 2d screen.
Feeling the machine mounting into a climb, Nakamura glanced questioningly at his immediate superior.
"It's a big sky but I'm gonna' make it bigger. Most instruments gone haywire ... altimeters' definitely out. Can feel gravity so I'm going on that. No indication any other craft in the immediate area before we ran into this thing. We're over water so we haven't reached the mountains yet ... so I'm taking a chance.
"Not gonna' have what happened to those guys at Chickens Shoals happen to us ... " (1)
The chief controller looked up from the phone as the rush of heavy static abruptly ceased.
"Sir! The anomaly ... along with the plane ... gone!"
"It's not on the screen ... One moment there, the next-"
"Notify air/sea. Give the coordinates. We may have a crash on our hands."
Almost ... but not in this world.
Jack felt his back slam into his seat as both he and Hobbes simultaneously pulled sharply further back on the yokes and shoved throttles forward, sending the plane into an even steeper, faster climb. But a moment before, the black "nothing" disappeared, like a screen coming instantly on, revealing the world again ... in the form of the top of a craggy ridge seemingly mere feet away.
Now seeing nothing but sky, they cautiously leveled the plane, throttling back. More ridges ahead but with more than ample warning this time, the craft in a steady climb.
"Feel that?" Hobbes asked.
"Yeah! Like we scraped bottom!"
"Go back and check. See everything's secure."
The younger got up to leave.
"Any holes ... Don't fall out."
Jack was soon back.
"Everything's fine. No apparent damage but that's the inside. Cargo's still secured." Jack glanced out the windshield. "Any other little surprises?"
"No problem clearing the rest. Damn! ... Altimeter's back working but now reads over five grand LESS than we had before! I coulda' sworn we were climbing."
"Me too. I KNOW we were. And we were over water!"
"Now that our heart rates are more or less normal, let's get a fix on where we're at."
The younger joined the older in scanning the mountainous panorama beyond the cockpit.
"NONE ... of this looks familiar. Hell ... Where's the Gulf!? See if you can raise Anchorage control."
"Got it, " the younger replied donning the phones. "Gonna' switch back to HF."
Location: Fort Alnus Hill airfield control tower. Alnus Hill, Japan Special Region.
"Ma'am," the radar operator turned toward the senior controller. "That anomaly on heading one nine five ... the one that disappeared a minute ago ... "
"Negative," turning back to the screen. "Same bearing and range, smaller this time. Registers as a definite aircraft."
"Let's take a look." The young officer stepped up next to the seated operator.
"Definitely not what was there a few minutes ago," she surmised. "Notify 'God' and 'Baron'. They should be on top of it in a few minutes."
The senior controller turned in the direction of the communications tech at the panels' other end.
"Scanners picking up traffic on 15.060 megs."
"That's a frequency on the HF civilian aeronautical band ... Used back in our world!"
"Yes ma'am, it is."
"Patch it on speakers."
"... I say again, Anchorage control. This is Buffalo Airfreight C-47 number 3, NC202LY. November, Canada, two, zero, two, lima, yankee ... Our last known position --------- . Can NOT get proper bearing on you. Can you copy?"
"English!?" The thought on everyones' mind.
"NC? The SC addressing no one in particular. "That's an American civilian registry prefix."
"Anchorage Control ... Alaska?"
The SC looked at the comm officer.
"Buffalo Airfreight ... C-47? ... whatever it is-," she turned to another comm tech. "Inform General Hazama. We now know this to be an actual aircraft ... Possibly of U.S. origin ... And inform base security. If we get that plane here, the general's gonna' want to have a 'reception committee' to greet them."
Picking up one of the comm mics she instructed, "put me through to that plane." (2)
"Any luck?" Asked Hobbes now putting on his own phones.
"Negative. Radios check out ... so does GPS but registers blank. Not receiving on any freq. Can't even get Anchorages' LF beacon."
"Try the beacon freqs for-"
"Buffaro Airfreight number 3, NC202erY ... Zhis is Fort Arnus Contror. Prease respond ... repeat ... Buffaro Airfreight number 3, NC202erY ... Zhis is Fort Arnus contror tower. Respond and re-identify yourserf."
The two pilots looked at each other in disbelief.
"Fort Ar ... Alnus?" Nakamura more than skeptical. "This some kinda' joke?"
"I say again ... Buffaro Airfreight number 3 NC202erY ... RESPOND AND RE-IDENTIFY."
"Sounds like she means business. Better answer."
About to speak, Jack was brought up sharply by Hobbes.
Nakamura looked up from the mic, quizzical look on his face.
"English only. Don't try to be 'friendly' in trying out your Japanese on her. We don't know what we're in for. Let's not tip our hand."
"For all we know ... someone ... for some weird reason or whatever ... might be trying to put one over on us. There's ... NO way ... we could be in the Special Region."
Something inside both said different.
"Buffaro Airfreight number 3, NC202erY ... RESPOND IMMEDIATRY!"
"Most insistant that babe!"
"Uh ... Fort Alnus control tower, this is Buffalo Airfreight flight 3, NC202LY. We read you five by five. Can you copy?"
"We copy ... Turn on heading 015 ... repeat ... zero ... one ... five."
Looking up from the panel, Jack looked questioningly over at Cal. Nodding, the chief pilot banked the transport onto instructed heading.
"That's affirm. Turning on 015 as we speak."
"Maintain present speed and artitude ... Stay ON zhis heading ... Do NOT dephiate."
"A head's a head," exclaimed Cal. "Better than nothing."
"I'm gonna' try something."
"Yeah," Jack went on as he tuned the low frequency receiver, "If this really is Fort Alnus Hill we're talking to ... If we really are in the Special Region ... Then their LF aero-beacon should be on 414 kilohertz ... HERE!"
The slow morse repeats of letters ALN came in loud and clear to both, radio-directional gauge on the nose.
"Remember reading that in the Below 500 column in Monitoring Times," Jack beamed. (3)
"Here's something else affirming it," replied Cal indicating with his nose to the planes' port side.
Leathery wings leisurely flapping, keeping up with the plane, the large green reptile scanned the twin engine craft.
"Doesn't seem hostile. Just checking us out," the junior pilot speculated hopefully.
"I read in National Geo they can get pretty territorial. It may be only half the size of this crate but you'd better call this in. Don't wanna' end up dead from getting humped by Rhodan."
"Worried about getting a greeting from Saint Pete?"
"With my luck it'd be Rod Serling ... and more appropriate." (4)
"Alnus Control, this is Buffalo Airfreight NC202LY ... We are being shadowed by a large ... uh ... dragon? ... Request possible assistance."
"Buffaro Airfreight ... We are arready on it."
"Sucker just left ... veered off."
Looking out port and starboard, both pilots could see why.
"Alnus Control ... It's an affirm. Aircraft appears to be Douglas C-47 twin engine cargo transport. Aluminum finish, Buffalo Airfreight imposed over red art deco striping on fuselage with winged buffalo artwork on stabilizer. No apparent armament to be seen so it's not a Spooky." (5)
"Alnus Control ... Confirmed. Civilian registration numbers on starboard wing, NC202LY matches their previous ID."
"Yup, old F4 Phantom 2s," Jack observed. "Just like the military magazines said. McDonnell Douglas design but these particular ones built by Mitsubishi."
"Makers of the Zero fighter and other fine World War 2 era products."
Location: T junction on the parallel road outside the Fort Alnus Airfield perimeter fence, northwest corner.
"Well Captain, I've really no idea what Lagann is about. What little I've seen, less than one episode, I didn't much care for ... I will say though ... Yoko is one FABULOUS character design ... Got a slew of her art on my hard drive."
("Probably hentai ... Oh GOD! Why ... why ... ")
The young lady sat slumped in the back of the Humvee wanting to be somewhere else.
("It's not fair ... not right. I shouldn't even have come on this ride with these two. Sure ... the vehicle needed a test drive after repair ... didn't need to go along. WHAT ... WAS ... I ... THINK ... ING! It's not like I had to go ... Was I THAT bored?)
("It's bad enough I babysit these guys on missions. Do I have to hang out with them? I mean it's not that I have anything better to do ... Which I DON'T ... DAMNIT! There has to be someone better to hang with than these two sketchy ... OTAKUS! ... And one of them's my commanding officer!)
("I don't get it! ... I JUST DON'T GET ... IT! ... Itami's a committed ... HELL! ... DED ... I ... CATED ... slacker and anime geek ... A freakin' OTAKU! ... Yeah ... Gotta' admit ... He's good on mission ... too damn good ... But other than that ...)
("Circumstances ... circumstances got him where he is. Only about a year ago he was ranked below me! I work my ass off and he just 'Forrest Gumps' his way through! IT'S NOT FAIR! ...)
("Takeo's no help either. Hell ... He's even more an otaku than Itami!)
("And they both treat me like one of the guys. Shoot! ... Half the men on base treat me the same way. I mean ... yeah ... I should be grateful for that but damn! ... I'm a woman ... and ... and ... why ... Why are the other half the guys on base act like they're scared to death of me? I say hi and they get nervous and ... and ... DAMNIT!")
"Well sargeant, Lagann takes some-," Itami in reply to Takeos' remark then noticing something off in the distance, " ... Hey! What's this?"
Kuribayashi snapped out of her negative muse, following the gaze of the other two.
"Looks like security detail," answered Takeo noting the two humvees with a hovering Cobra gunship pulling up at runways' end and turning. "As if they're going to flank something about to land."
"Off that way!" Shino pointing off to the west.
"Yeah," Youji acknowledged. "Jets and another Cobra escorting something in."
"Doesn't look like a C-130, too small ... it's- ... What the-!"
Two more Humvees and an LAV on the parallel road sped past, heading for the fields' main gate further east.
"The first hummer, that was the generals' vehicle!"
"With Yanagida driving. Guess they didn't have time to grab an aide."
"Think this has anything to do with-"
All three took notice as the two aforementioned vehicles on the runway started to move, accompanying chopper turning in that direction.
"Alnus Control, we are on approach."
"Arnus Control to NC202erY ... You are creared for randing".
"Unbelievable!" Takeo exclaimed. "Look what's coming in!"
With jets staying low overhead trying to keep from stalling out, the "ancient" aircraft came in low, landing gear out for touch down.
"A Douglas C-47!?" Enthused grin on the captains' face. "Last ones were made in 1946. Airframe's gotta' be over seventy years old!"
"In civilians colors?" Questioned Takeo. "And looks kinda' American."
"Looks ... IS!"
"How ... could an American plane get here?" Shino puzzled at the two 'geeks' enthusiasm. "Wouldn't we have noticed it being transported through the Gate? It would have to have been disassembled too."
"MOVE IT!" Itami ordered.
Wheels spinning, the Humvee turned onto the perimeter fence road in pursuit of the three staff vehicles and keeping pace with the plane, landing gear rubber barking its' protest on hitting the tarmac.
"Buffalo ... Airfreight? ... commercial?" Kuribayashi now more than curious.
This originally dull afternoon now shaping up into something more interesting than introspective griping.
"You don't think the Americans would have access to another portal, do you?" Takeo queried.
"If they did, they wouldn't be sending an independent commercial plane and an old one at that," the Captain speculated. "No ... If they had a gate they'd come in making as big an impression they could ... Lotsa' planes, not to mention other military goodies, with 'flags flying and bands playing' so to speak.
"Like you said Shino ... Either our people ... or somebody ... somehow snuck it through our gate for whatever reason ... or this is some kind of really fantastic accident!"
"After over a year here, NOTHING should surprise us."
Hobbes and Nakamura noted the other aircraft still aloft and the flanking vehicles.
"I gotta' feeling they don't trust us," exclaimed Jack in sarcastic, mock indignation.
"Ya' think?" Hobbes with wry half grin.
Grabbing the clipboard with manifest and other papers Hobbes continued.
"Taxi this in. I'm gonna' do a check and get our papers in order. No doubt they're gonna' be really curious about how we got here ... So am I!"
"You 'n me both!"
Cal shuffled papers as Jack took over taxiing duties. With a third Humvee in front sporting a bi-lingual "FOLLOW ME" sign, the co-pilot maneuvered the plane in accordance with the escorting vehicles movements to a farther parallel runway and diagonally opposite the bases' hanger area where the flying units were berthed.
"Where'd that antique come from?" A tech asked watching it in the distance.
"And what's with the security?"
"You kidding!? Somebody's got planes here other than us!"
"Can't be the empire-"
"No way! Can't y' see it's from the other side of the gate?"
General Hazamas' hummer stopped some distance from the now idling plane, the other two joining the three already surrounding. Takeo pulled up next to the generals'.
Yanagida was about to protest but a glance from Hazama assured one and all he didn't mind the extra three as backup. Getting out, Kuribayashi with her rifle at the ready, Itami and Takeo checking theirs.
"Looks kind of beat up," Takeo surmised.
"Yeah, but listen to those engines," Itami in reply. "Notice the fittings and control surfaces. This bird recently went through a rebuild."
"I like the nose art," the sargeant chuckled.
"Hmmph!" Shino hmmphed. "Sexist."
Under the pilots' window, the classic Sailor Moon symbol: A "rampant" Usagi Tsukino silhouette over crescent moon and stars ... nude version. Lettered beneath: Moon Mistress.
Power to the engines cut, the props broke their steady rhythm coming to a complete halt.
"Well Sundance," Jack peered out the plexiglass at the hostile looking gunship hovering in front, rotary cannon at the ready, "looks like they got us surrounded. We shoot our way out?"
Hobbes turned to his co-pilot.
"Yeah ... RIGHT!" The pilot grinned tossing over a white cleaning rag.
"Remember now ... English. Until we know where we stand. Just follow my lead."
The integral passenger door opening, airfield security massed about as a hand holding a white cloth was followed by a tall figure.
"Oh!" Shino exclaimed on seeing Nakamura stepping out and down. "They're Japanese!"
Her exclamation corrected as the slightly shorter but just as powerfully built figure of Hobbes emerged after.
"Not all Americans are of European descent, corporal," The captain explained.
"Kind of like here," added Takeo.
"What makes you think they're American?" Yanagida striding up with the general to the three.
"What else could it be?" Answered Itami. "I mean, look at it. Couldn't be anything but. As to how it got here ... "
"Good question," General Hazama cut in, "which should be answered soon."
The three joined the other two in looking out over the scene of the two foreigners being searched and frisked. Shino even more intently at the taller of the two.
|"Wow! ... ," she more than thought.|
"... He's a ... BABE!"
"Wow! ... ," she more than thought. "... He's a ... BABE!"
"Look at the military cap the older guy's wearing," noted Takeo on observing Hobbes' worn looking 'fifty mission crush' in contrast to Nakamuras' Padres ball cap. (6)
"Yeah," acknowledged Youji. "Looks like their Air Force. Judging by the 'scrambled egg' braiding on the caps' bill, I'd say he was at least a major."
"Think this might be a U.S. infiltration of some kind after all?"
"Doubt it. He's probably an ex-serviceman now working civilian."
Looking back ...
Frisking done, Jack backed away from the plane and turned.
"Woah!" Exclaiming to himself. "What she think SHE's looking at!?"
Tall twenty-something pilot and petite yet muscular soldier exchanged intensive stares across a twenty yard expanse.
Jack felt a heavy hand on his shoulder.
"C'mon gorgeous," interrupted a grinning Cal, "we got things to iron out."
Going to and climbing into the Base Security LAV, Jack when not looking back and noting the young lady watching, could feel her gaze heating up the back of his head and neck.
As the vehicle pulled away, they again exchanged long looks. His inquisitive ... hers ... hungry.
"That is one SCARY looking babe," he thought.
With two guards standing just beyond the door, four more, one in each corner, kept a wary eye(s) on the two gaijin seated across the table from the pair of interrogators. The captain opened first.
"Mr. Hobbes, Mr. Nakamura," she began. " ... I don't zhink I have to impress upon you the seriousness of your situation. You have trespassed on a miritary reservation of his Imperiar Majestys' gophernment. How you present the answers to our questions and the truzhfurness zhereof will effect the conditions of your confinement untir such time of your rerease.
"Do you understand?"
Both men looked at each other but a moment. Nakamura noted the wink from Hobbes. This was it ...
"What ... she ... say?" Cal asked in exaggerated pidgin Japanese.
"She say," Jack taking his cue, "We best answer questions best we can or divine rage of a thousand searing suns descend upon our unworthy posteriors ... Chop! Chop!"
The stony silence, lasting but a few seconds was broken by Hobbes.
"Forgive us ma'am," he apologizing in better Japanese. "Joking is a way we have in coping with ... uh ... situations. At times we find it eases tension. We can see in this case it does not. Again, sorry if we offended."
"We already know," the captain, also in Japanese and with slightly clenched teeth, referring to the preliminary inquiries made about the two, "you are both fluent in our language. We can continue in Japanese if you prefer."
She could almost feel, if not hear, General Hazama laughing on the other side of the one way mirror. Chop, chop indeed ... Comedians!
Turning from the one way glass and chuckling to himself, the general took the proffered sheets from Yanagida and examined them.
"Yes ... ," softly exclaiming to his aide. "This pretty much clinches it. Considering their cargo ... these two and their aircraft ... If things work out ... and I think they will ... couldn't have come at a better time."
"Then we go ahead with this part of the project on this end?"
"Lay the groundwork but don't proceed further until approval from Defense Ministry.
"Yes sir?" Yanagida attentive.
"See to it the heads of the appropriate departments here get tentative word of this. I want them ready to go on this if and when approval comes through. This includes down the line to the leaders of the recon teams."
"Consider it done sir."
"Good man! Make it happen."
"On it!" The aide replied leaving.
"Oh! And Yanagida?"
"We'll be starting out this part of the project ... slowly ... in conjunction with Recon Team 3 ... Itamis' unit ... As they happen to be the team here on base at the moment for refit and repair ... be sure to impress upon the captain the importance of this."
Yanagida strode down the corridor from the conference room/interrogation facilities and stepped out the front into the sunlight.
A single word ... in fact a name ... now in the forefront of his mind.
Muttering to himself, he spat it out involuntarily.
Time: Forty eight hours later.
Location: Yanagidas' desk, administration center, outer office to that of General Hazamas'.
"Well gentlemen," Yanagida shuffling the corresponding papers on his desk, "it seems all has been straightened out with you both."
"Just glad it's over with captain," replied Hobbes. "For a while there we thought we were in for a permanent stay in the pen."
"Everything checks out with both your stories. Your government and its' Federal Aviation Administration along with your Coast Guard and the two airports confirm ... All corroborate your story of how you came to arrive here ... That and at the very moment you disappeared there you appeared here. You've gotten rather famous too."
"A couple of foreign military observers were at the airfield when your plane came in. Word was going to get out sooner or later anyway. Your names and faces have been all over the news the past couple days."
"Thanks for letting me put in a call to my parents."
Yanagida turned to Nakamura.
"Yes, they were quite concerned about you. Heard about the incident through channels of their own before we could inform them ourselves ... Just how long have they been employed in your diplomatic service?"
"Almost ten years, Translations and Protocol. I attended Waseda the first few years they were at the embassy."
"Then you are of course quite familiar with Tokyo."
"Yeah ... ," the younger pilot paused. "Come to think of it ... They're probably not more than ten, fifteen miles from here."
"Give or take an extra parallel dimension or two," interrupted Hobbes. "Uh ... Captain? Are we to be released any time soon ... Preferably sooner?"
"About that Mr. Hobbes-"
"Oh I understand," Cal said. "You're no doubt impounding it. You could disassemble and get it through the gate and all but the hassle would-"
"Actually, we bought it."
"Bought ... it?"
"Yes ... and the cargo."
"Well ... It's such an old crate ... Can't see what you'd want with it and-"
"Actually we have a use for it."
"You being an experienced pilot and all ... Your familiarity with the C-47-"
"Familiarity?" Cal cocked an eyebrow.
Nakamura noticed Hobbes' initiated "give and take" the conversation took on.
"As we both know, the C-47 is a very versatile aircraft. Even though the last ones were made in 1946, no one has actually manufactured a replacement for it in reasonable quantity. It has the right flight range to payload ratio where most everything else is either too big or too small for many such intermediate jobs. You being a veteran of your Air Force, know how costly it can be for a C-130 to be used for such tasks.
"This is why so many have been rebuilt and put back in the sky for all the years they've been in service. And is why we bought the plane-"
"Oh but of course. Yes you can definitely put such a plane to good use. What I'm getting at is about our release and-"
"-with the cargo-"
"As we said, we were carrying those two engines to our shops at Anchorage International for the rebuilding of another plane and-"
"-one third of our program for getting three C-47s is virtually complete."
"Yes. And now we can scale our budget down to two. Your Hobart-san liked our offer while we saved a goodly sum in turn. Both sides came away from the deal quite happy."
"And for that sir, I too am quite happy. But what I'm getting at-"
"So ... We have one perfectly good and, I might add, recently rebuilt military cargo plane."
"Well I'm sure-"
"Along with spare engines, some parts and tooling-"
"A definite plus, I'm sure. Now what I was saying-"
"AND TWO HIGHLY QUALIFIED, EXPERIENCED PILOTS TO OPERATE IT."
"And I'm sure that whoever you've got as pilots will serve you to the best of their abilities. Now-"
"Uh ... Cal?"
"I mean, I'm gonna miss that old bird and-"
"Shut up, Jack!"
"I think he means us."
"Damn it Jack!" Hobbes hissed through semi-clenched teeth and mock irritation. "I'm in denial here. Help me out, will ya'? This IS just a bad dream or hallucination I'm having, right?"
"Check your feet Cal. Those flight boots you're wearing aren't ruby slippers."
"But," sighing in faux resignation, hands out, "there's no place like home." (7)
"Gentlemen," Yanagida cut in puzzled, " ... I don't know anything about ... ruby slippers? ... but you're not imagining this. Your new home is quarters here on base."
"Hobart ... He sold us out, didn't he?"
"If what you mean by that is your contracts were bought up ... ," picking up two folders from the desk, the generals' aide handed them over, " ... then yes. The papers have been redrawn. Check out the summary sheet to your respective copies. You'll find the terms to be quite generous."
"As from here on out, you are now both civilian contractors flying under the auspices of the Japanese Air Self Defense Force, subject to direct orders of Alnus Command." Yanagida informed then turned to a door opening to his left.
"Speaking of which ... "
The two newly acquired pilots rose from their seats along with the captain.
"Are you getting our two new fliers squared away Mr. Yanagida?" Asked General Hazama leaving his office.
"Yes sir! Have just informed them of their new situation and we're about to go into the paperwork and briefings."
The general approached the two and proceeded with a bout of vigorous hand shaking.
"Welcome to Fort Alnus Hill and the Special Region! It may take some getting used too but from what I've read of your records, you should both get into the protocol and swing of things in no time at all."
"Yes sir," replied Hobbes in faux resignation, "it certainly seems that way."
"So major," Hazama addressed the older pilot with his old U.S. Air Force ranking. "I understand you were based at Yokota for awhile."
"That was where they put me after Gulf War One before I mustered out. Flew C-130s for the 36th."
"So if we need a 130 pilot, you could do so in a pinch?"
"I'll need to restudy and get checked out on those first. Been quite some time since I flew any of those and a lot has changed with them in the interim. Been mostly flying C-47s and 54s for some remote area cargo lines since then."
"Though your 47 is your primary machine, you'll have plenty of time to get re-acquainted with the 130.
"And you young man," the general turned to Nakamura. "Three years ago, fresh out of airline training and you head directly to cargo carriers in Canada and Alaska ... Why?"
"Anyone can babysit passengers ... And I wanted to do some real flying."
"You'll get plenty of that here, I assure you." Turning to Yanagida. "When do they start, captain?"
"We'll be having them doing charts and navigation starting tomorrow. They'll be supercargo on several flights starting within forty eight hours to help them get acquainted with procedure and the routes they'll be flying. For the most part it'll be filling time with study and practice until the end of the week. By that time the retrofitting of communications, interior alteration and repaint of their ship will be complete."
Turning to a table opposite the aides' desk, the general continued.
"Some things to attend to but before I go ... I'm a bit curious," pointing to the objects lying thereon. "We, of course, had your ship thoroughly searched. Anything not on the manifest has been moved to your new quarters. We did however have these set aside until such time as we could ascertain your position here ... We know you Americans love your firearms ... Interesting selection you have here."
Two gun belts lay on the table. The large revolvers were a Smith and Wesson model 629 and a Ruger New Model Super Blackhawk, both in .44 magnum, 7 1/2" barrels, stainless. The rifle, a Ruger Number One, single shot in .458 Remington magnum.
"The critters get pretty big in Alaska. Bear are quite common and even moose get playful."
"Yeah," added Jack with a laugh. "Couple months ago a moose charged the ship as we were coming in at a remote strip. Had to circle twice before it left. Must've thought he owned the runway."
"The ... critters ... as you call them ... Get pretty big here too," warned Hazama.
"Every so often a wyvern makes a grab at someone here on base. No one's been snatched yet but keep on your toes.
"And with that," the general concluded, "I leave you to Mr. Yanagida here."
An exchange of salute with Yanagida, the senior officer took his leave.
"These are to stay on your aircraft at all times," the captain pointing to the tables' contents, "until such time you qualify with them on the range."
"Which should be in about ... "
Yanagida looked at his watch and then the wall calendar.
" ... seventy two hours.
"Now let's settle with the paperwork and particulars."
To be continued. Concluding chapter: Clear Skies Ahead.
Storyline and original characters (only) copyright © 5-19-2016
|Fort Alnus Hill|
1. Chickens Shoals is in reference to the disappearance of Flight 19 (Consisting of 5 Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo planes.) and a seaplane (A Martin Mariner PBM5.) on 12/5/45 in the Bermuda Triangle(Aka, the Devils' Triangle.) This is a region of the Atlantic Ocean where a number of ships and aircraft have disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
The pilots of Flight 19 may have become disoriented (Instruments were malfunctioning.) and flying "aimlessly" until their planes ran out of fuel.
2. While English is not necessarily a requirement for international air traffic controllers, it is commonly used.
3. Below 500 (By Kevin Carey.) is a monthly column in the radio hobbyist magazine Monitoring Times. The column covers "long wave" radio listening information for the enthusiast interested in monitoring signals below 500 kilohertz, mainly automated aero-beacons that repeatedly transmit their call signs in slow morse code. Example: HEH (524 khz), Newark-Heath Airport in Ohio transmits .... . .... (4 dots, 1 dot, 4 dots.) over and over. Another would be Ohio State Universitys' Don Scott Fields' OS (515 khz) --- ... (3 dashes, 3 dots.).
4. Rod Serling (1924-1975) was the host of The Twilight Zone, a half hour mystery/sci-fi/supernatural TV anthology lasting five seasons, 1959-64.
5. "Spooky" was the first of several converted C-47s used for ground support fire in certain situations. Mounted three 7.62 mm "mini-guns" (Rotary or "gatling".) out two windows and the cargo door. Would "orbit" around target area and be used for suppressive fire.
6. "Fifty mission crush" refers to the sides of a flight officers' peaked cap being "crushed" downward from the continual wearing of radio headphones while on mission. The "crush" eventually takes on a permanent set to the hat after so many missions, hence "fifty mission crush".
7. "Ruby slippers" and "no place like home" are two references to the film, The Wizard of Oz (MGM, 1939) starring Judy Garland and Frank Morgan.
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