Thursday, June 9, 2016

Any Highway In the Sky: Chapter Two of A Gate: Thus The JSDF Fought There Anime Fan Fiction Story

"She's really aggressive ... Likes to mix it up ..."

Any Highway In the Sky

Chapter Two of A Gate: Thus The JSDF Fought There Anime Fan Fiction Story

by

C V Ford

xxxxx

Chapter 2: Clear Skies Ahead

Time: Three hours later.

Place: Main hallway of administration.

The two made quite a sight in wending their way to the main entrance. Stares from staff and local workers (Stares in return on the more interesting looking ones.), followed the two Americans. Clad in leather "bomber" jackets (Buffalo Airfreight Co. logo on the back.), khakis and flight boots. Gun belts draped over shoulders, Hobbes carrying the large rifle in the crook of his arm, Jack with a small stack of manuals.

"Unbe-stinkin'-lievable!" Cal cursed.

"Yeah?"

"I still can't believe the old bastard sold us out the way he did."

"C'mon Cal," Jack returned, "you more than anybody else knows how old man Hobart operates. He knows a good deal when he sees one."

"Good for him that is. Probably figured they were going to impound the plane indefinitely anyway and decided to cut losses-"

"Yeah ... And cut with us."

"-and the Defense Force, wanting to keep on the good side of public relations, made an offer to buy."

With a mischievous grin, Hobbes switched to a new tack.

"Y'know Jack ... This IS all your fault."

"Say what!?"

"Those damn comic books and cartoons you watch."

"Uh ... Cal? They're called manga and anime."

"Mango's a fruit and sometimes I think you are too. I swear-"

"What's this got to do with anything and why's it my fault?"

By the look on Cals' face, Jack could see the older one was only semi-serious and it was one of the many ways the senior pilot had of needling him.

"You wished for this ... didn't you?"

"Wished?"

"Yeah ... Ever since the story broke on the news over a year ago. The Ginza incident ... Discovery of a whole new world next door ... And it turning out to be an anime fans' total wet dream!"

"Now waita'-"

"I remember you saying how 'kool' it'd be to go there ... take a look around ... Hoping your mom 'n dad might wheedle a way in for ya' ... Maybe even work ... live there ... HERE!"

"Yeah but-"

"But nothing! ... Then your lamenting Japan having pretty much a monopoly on the say on who could go or stay ... Then pretty much giving up on the idea."

"I could still dream."

"That's all well and good Jack. Dreams are what keep a lot of no-hopers 'n losers like you going-"

"Now just a-"

"-A wish is a wish ... and sometimes one even comes true ... Not often but ... when they do-"

"Get to the point Cal!" Nakamura could only play Hobbes' game so far and he could see the snarky grin on his seniors' face indicating the elders' enjoyment.

"What I'm getting at Jack," a painfully long pause, "is ... well ... Did you have to include ME in your wish? Did you really have to bring me along on your little journey to Oz?"

The younger turned to Hobbes.

"Yeah ... I did have a dream or two about it but ... Believe me Cal ... You WEREN'T in 'em!"

"All the same ... I'm stuck with you on this little trip down the Yellow Brick Road."

"Follow on Toto!" (1)

"Now just you wait a-"

xxxxx

"Are they the ones, dad?" Tuka asked on seeing the two exit Admin.

"Sure are. Let's go Takeo!"

xxxxx

Out the door and at the fence surrounding admin, the two newcomers scanned the semi-crowded expanse before them.

"Could make a run for it," suggested Jack jokingly on espying the Gate's domed enclosure.

"Yeah, right." Hobbes retorted. "They'd be on us in seconds. We don't know how long a walk it'd be in there anyway and we'd stick out like a hand full of sore thumbs once we stepped out on Ginza. That and the fact we didn't land here with visas so we wouldn't be able to get out of the country."

"How about hiding out at the embassy or even Yokota?"

"Nah! We already created enough of an international incident as it is. Your parents might wanta' throw you back anyway ... I know I would. Aside from retirement bennies, the Air Force is pretty much done with me. No, they'd have to let us go ... These contracts being ironclad and all ...

"Of course," continued Cal with a wink, "we could hole up at your old girlfriends' place until we figured something out ... What was her name?"

"Matsuri and I haven't seen each other in years. We broke up after all."

"Why was that?"

"She wanted me to stay and I wanted to take her back to the States ... Wasn't gonna' work out. Her parents were'nt happy with that idea either."

"I remember you telling me her parents looked a bit askance of you."

"That was before they met me."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. She was something of a practical joker. Only phoned that she was bringing an American home to meet them and mentioned just my first name. They about had a fit until they got a look at me and heard my last name." (2)

"Sounds like something out of one of those uh ... What is it? ... yeah ... hentai that you watch-"

"Now hold on just a- ... I don't-"

"Looks like you two could use a lift!"

The two broke out of their non-argument on the greeting from the humvee pulling up beside them.

"You must be Itami and 3rd recon," stated Hobbes shaking the hand on the arm extended from the cab. "You were part of the 'goodwill committee' at the airfield."

Jack noticed Cals' eyes light up on his scanning past the two in front into the vehicles interior.

"Uh oh," Jack surmised to himself, not being able to see past Cal. "What's he up to?"

"That we were," Youji replied. "Here to pick you up. Hop in!"

Before Jack could get any kind of a look into the hummer, Cal grabbed him by the arm and hustled him to the vehicles' rear, keeping him off to the side, doors halfway open obscuring the co-pilots' view inside.

Quickly levering open the rifles' breach, Cal handed the gun butt first to an unseen recipient.

"Careful with that hon," he warned then turned to Jack.

"What are you-"

"Here ... Lemme' take those," the senior said, grabbing the manuals from Jack.

Spinning back around, Cal handed the books in. Judging from the angle, Jack surmised they were to a different recipient.

"Here ya' go, hon."

"Hon? Must be women back there," thought Jack.

Stepping up, Cal first, the two piled in past some boxes and proceeded to sit. Jack was brought up short on seeing his up til then unseen bench mate to be.

Already seated, Cal took the rifle back from a semi-amazed elf girl and took in the spectacle seated across from them.

(("Omigod! ... It's ... the scary babe/the hunk!"))

Jack hesitantly sat next to Kuribayashi.

(("I'm/he's sitting right next to her/me!"))

Introductions and handshakes all around with Jack receiving the manuals from
Shino, their hands touching.

(("She/he shook my hand ... touched me!"))

"I take it there's more than just four of you," speculated Cal.

(("Damn boxes crowding us in ... So close ... Almost touching ... I can feel her/his body heat!"))

"One's down at the plane," Itami explained. "You'll meet most of the rest later tonight."

(("OHMIGOD! OHMIGOD! OHMIGOD!"))

The vehicle pulled away from Admin and proceeded on the journey to the airstrip.

"So," Takeo continuing the conversation, "you're the new civvy contractors ..."

"We like to think of ourselves as mercenary pilots," Cal smiling, not just at his remark. He was really enjoying the discomfort of the two across.

"Yeah," adding a nervous Jack, "answerable to no one yet everyone."

"And we get to eat at the senior officers' mess!"

Looking inquisitively at both Tuka and Itami, Hobbes, in continuing the conversation then asked, "I understand some of your team were at that hearing the Diet had awhile back."

"Um ... ," Tuka paused, "If you mean when we visited Japan government that one time, yes ... we were."

"It was all over the news. I liked the way that little demoness put that political hack in her place."

"Demon ... ess? I am not sure she would-"

"You could sorta'/kinda' say that," answered Itami while shuddering inwardly. If he hadn't intervened, Rory would have put that politico in more than just her place and turned the session into a slaughter for all the world to see!

"Didn't think you'd ever end up HERE, did ya'?" Takeo feeling his captains' slight uneasiness.

"The thought never occurred to me," the older man replied then indicated to Jack.

"This is the guy who dreamed about going to Miyazakis' Middle Earth!"

"Miyazaki?" Both the Captain and Takeo brightened up. "You into anime?"

"Good Lord, no!" Hobbes declared then pointed to Jack. "This guy's the uh ... ah-nee-may cartoons fan, not me."

("NO! ... Not ... another otaku! ... There is no God{s}. DAMNIT!)

"Car ... toons?" Takeo puzzled at the strange word.

"It's what we call non-Japanese anime. It's all cartoons to him," explained Jack.

"I'm really not a fan of anime as much as I'm a fan of the anime I like. Not that deep into it."

("Not that deep into-? ... Is there hope? Maybe there's a God{s} after all!")

"Like hell! You've got ... what? About fifty ... sixty shows on disc?"

"That's not much."

"Oh come on!"

"No, he's right." Itami

"We've got literally piles of it." Takeo beamed.

("Yeah ... Piles! ... Sketchy otakus!")

"Right now I'm more interested in these manuals and getting started," said Jack.

("Getting down to business. ... Yes! ... Is it possible? ... Please God{s} ... I'll never ask anything else of you as long as I live!")

"You said Miyazaki," a puzzled Itami turned back to Hobbes.

"At his suggestion," Hobbes again indicating Jack, "I got a couple of that guys' cartoon movies as Christmas presents for my grand nieces. They absolutely LOVE that krap!"

"KRAP!?" Itami

"Cals' idea of a great film is it has to be live action, black and white and at least half the cast is dead."

"Don't knock the classics, kid."

"I like ... Miyazakis' movies."

Jack turned toward the source of the last statement.

"So do I," replying as he gazed down into the liquid brown eyes.

"Watched them a lot when I was little," gazing up into his.

"I still do every now ... and then."

"Maybe ... uh ... "

"Kuribayashi-sans' problem," a grinning Takeo breaking the long pause between the two, "is she talks too much!"

("Sargeant ... before this day is out ... I ... AM ... GOING ... TO ... KILL ... YOU!")

xxxxx

Time: 1030

Location: Fort Alnus Hill Airfield

"Well they sure as HELL didn't waste any time!"

Fists on hips, standing with the group by the Hummer, Hobbes surveyed the scene before.

Berthed several spaces away from the end of a line of C-130s, the Moon Mistress stood. Two maintenance vehicles close by. All doors open with every so often one of several technicians enter or exiting between. Two of which, a male sargeant and a female officer now approached the group.

"And who might YOU be?" Hobbes demanded, bringing them up short.

The two saluted and bowed, introing enthusiastically.

"Lieutenant Yoko Hisaishi, navigator/communications!"

"Sargeant Taru Kurosawa, cargo handler/communications!"

As in the briefings, two new crew members bringing up to the standard military complement.

"(Figures the brass wasn't going to just let two foreigners fly all over the special region all on their lonesome ... ) Okay, listen up-"

"Hai! Hobbes-san, SIR!"

"First up ... None 'a that saluting business. In spite of circumstances, neither I nor Mr. Nakamura here are in the military and besides, it attracts snipers. No bowing either, I'm not the freakin' pope! You will either address me as Cal or sir depending on my mood and Mr. Nakamura here as whatever I might be calling him at the moment-"

"Thanks a LOT Cal!"

Ignoring Jack, Hobbes continued, first a thumb at himself,

"All the same," scanning the plane, "I'm the ramrod of this little outfit and BOTH of you," then an index at the two, "have some explaining to do."

"Explaining?" Kurosawa

"Do you mean the modifications being done with the aircraft?" Hisaishi

"Is that what you call the mandated damage I'm dreading to survey?"

"Damage!?" both

"Don't worry you two," Jack chimed in. "Once you get past Cals' rough exterior, you'll find that within beats a heart of pure lead and that he really IS an absolute horror to work with."

"Laugh it up Chuckles ... We got a short time to get things squared away," retorted Hobbes.

Doing another quick once-over of the scene, he continued.

"Take the lieutenant here and check out the cockpit and commo. You-," pointing to Kurosawa, "-and I are gonna' give the cargo bay a look-see. If things are going as I suspect ..."

The two pairs proceeding toward the plane, Shino reflexively starting to follow Jack.

"Kuribayashi-san." Captain Itami softlly bringing her up short. "I don't think he needs guarding."

"Um ... Oh!" A blushing Shino stepping back.

"We are soldiers ... Let's be professional."

That, coming from the likes of Itami, doubly stung.

"Besides," Takeo chimed in accompanied by Tukas' unsuccessful attempt to suppress giggling, "I'm sure Lieutenant Hisaishi will take good care of him."

As the saying goes ... If looks could kill ...

xxxxx

Quick inspections finished, the two pilots met in the cargo bay.

"Mil spec racks 'n rigging along with fold down benches and new anchor cable installed for static line jumps," stated Hobbes as Nakamura entered. "As briefed, we may be doing para drops from time to time. We've done smoke jumpers before so no problem there."

"As Yanagida stated in briefings," Jack in reply, "except for the mil spec commo, they've pretty much left everything else alone in the cockpit. They figured we'd be better off with things as is for the time being. Wanting to get us up and flying for them as soon as possible. Of course the layout with the two later planes'll be different ...

"There's something 'y gotta see though."

"Yeah?" Cal sidling past.

"Get a load of who and what's inputting data in the nav station."

Going forward, Cal couldn't help but notice the large, blue flower crystal top of the staff leaning at the entrance to the navigators' station, Lieutenant Hisaishi partway in, holding a conversation with an unseen occupant.

"Everything's correct Lelei, just as the spec sheets state. You're doing great!"

"Excuse me lieutenant," pardoned Cal then peering in.

Peering back up from the laptop connected to the panels:

"Oh! You must be Hobbes-san," the blue haired/eyed adolescent speculated.

"Lieutenant?" The pilot nodded his head for the officer to step with him to the cargo bay.

In the bay and out of earshot, Hobbes inquired.

"There is a CHILD, and a local at that, not much older than my youngest grand daughter if I had any, inputting frequency and telemetry data into our commo and nav systems. Would you mind informing me as to what's up with that?"

"Lelena-san is a Master degreed mage and scholar-"

"Mage?" Hobbes queried inwardly. "Yes ... Gotta' keep in mind, reality here has some different aspects to it."

"-with several published theses and has been invaluable as an interpreter. She also has taken quite well to the use of electronics and data processing and is in training and working under our supervision for certification in various technologies."

"Hmm ... Come to think of it ... ," Hobbes recollected, "Was she the interpreter during the Diets' inquiry some months back?"

"Why yes ... She was."

With a nod back to the nav station, the two found the young one still gazing up at the entrance as if she hadn't changed pose, a look of concern on the small face.

"Is ... anything wrong?"

"Nothing wrong, hon. The lieutenant informs me you are more than qualified for the tasks at hand and I'm taking her word on it. Capiche'?"

"Ca-peesh?"

"Uh ... Tu capisci?"

"Um ... Ah si! Io capeeshki. I understand." The girl turned back to the laptop and resumed work.

Hobbes stepped to the cockpit and gave it a quick once over. As Jack informed, except for what few additional components, the panels, controls and instrumentation were, thankfully to him, left unaltered.

Waiting in the bay with Nakamura and Kurosawa, Hisaishi inquired.

"You know their language?"

"Not really," Cal began. "From the newscasts and reading about it, the culture being mainly predominate of ancient/medieval, Italo-Roman, the language would have to be as well. This bears out the theories that the gate or gates opened periodically in our and other worlds from time to time letting in various cultures from other places.

"In the case of the Empire, Mediterranean peoples migrated here bringing everything that went with them including their languages. Hearing some of the locals talking among themselves in admin pretty much confirmed that for me.

"The pronunciation is different and words from a lot of other languages, some not from our world, are mixed in making it really interesting.

"My having taken Latin in seminary back in the day, certainly helped."

"Seminary? ... You were going to be a priest ... a holy man?"

"Yeah," laughed Jack. "Cal's anything but!"

With a snort Hobbes announced, "let's step out and do a 'walk around'. I wanna' check over the underside."

A goodly scan revealed only scratches.

"We lifted the deck plates before installing the racks and benches. Maintenance gave it a good looking over and found no structural damage," explained Kurosawa. "Some leaves were found caught in the riveting."

"Damn close!" Jack exclaimed. "Only brushed the trees."

"Actually the leaves came from a species of low lying shrub similar to the stuff growing beyond the perimeter fence."

Taru pointed toward the fence. Beyond were the aforementioned shrubbery.

"Shoot!" Cal hissed. "Another few inches we'd have had it!"

"Too ... damn ... close," declared Jack.

"Alerts were put out during your interrogations," said Yoko. "They stated the possibility of that anomaly that brought you here may be intelligent. Is that possible you think?"

"If there's any intelligence behind it," the older pilot in answer, "It's hostile. Damn thing almost had us do a perfect one point landing into the side of a mountain!"

During the conversation, Jack noticed a new presence having detached herself from Itamis' group and making herself feeling un(?)comfortably close. Feigning mutual interest in the non-damage on the fuselage.

("Not too close ... don't want to look obvious.")

("This kid is SO ... obvious!")

Both noted one another in their respective peripheral vision. Both blushed and abruptly turned away when the corners of their eyes met.

"No other damage to be found on inspection," Taru stated, "maintenance proceeded with retrofitting the required alterations."

"And with that," Cal concluded with a slight grin, "let's see what Sargeant Kuribayashis' team is up to."

The color on Shinos' face deepened even more as they joined the three standing at the aircrafts' nose.

"Hope you don't mind," said Itami holding up his phone. "Re-paint's about to start and we thought we'd best have a record of what the plane used to look like before they begin."

"Yeah," Cal sighed on recalling an earlier examination of the proposed paint scheme. "They're turning my gooneybird into a tabby." (3)

"They're turning my gooneybird into a tabby."

"I find your nose art interesting," mentioned Takeo pointing up at the depiction under the left windshield.

Shino re-sniffed her disdain.

"He's," Hobbes pointed a thumb back at Jack in mock derision, "the artistic one. I liked it until I found it was a character from one of his favorite shows."

"I wouldn't say my favorite. Great character design but the show itself is AWFUL!"

"I know what you mean," replied Youji. "Same plot every episode, only the villains and victims change."

"Now if they could get character designs like that and put 'em with plots like Puella Magi Madoka Magika," Takeo speculated, "they'd have a GREAT show!"

"Never thought of that!" Exclaimed the captain. "That'd really make one hell of a magical girl anime."

"Yeah! Madoka already has a killer Evangelion-like plot to it and-"

"Unbelievable!"

The two otakus looked questioningly at Hobbes as Shino continued her silent scorn.

"Just what IS it with you guys?"

"What do mean?" Itami puzzled.

"I mean ... Geez!" Hobbes momentarily searching for words. "Here you guys are ... In the most fantastic place imaginable ... A parallel wonder world complete with all the phantasmagorical trappings that come with it ... Things and places that up to now, were the stuff of pure fantasy that you could only read and dream about ..."

Sighing, Cal rolled his eyes and continued.

"I mean ... THINK ABOUT IT! ... Wizards, warriors ... castles ... uh ... Dungeons 'n Dragons © ... elves 'n animal people ... The whole fantasy/cartoon stuff of what dreams and nightmares are made of. It's real! ... And you're right in the middle of it literally living the dream.

"And yet ... You're still so gung-ho about those silly little movie and TV show fantasies you watch."

"Uh ... What's your point?"

"(Good God! They just don't get it.) My point is ... You don't need that stuff anymore ... You're IN it already!

"We even- ... Uh ... Jack?" Cal paused a moment then pointed to the planes' nose art, " ... What's the name of that show?"

"Sailor Moon."

"Yeah ... Sailor Moon ... We even have 'Sailor Moon' in the plane back there programming data into our nav and communication systems for cryin' out loud!"

"I never thought of Lelei as Sailor Moon," Youji in reply.

"She's more like Ami Mizuno to me," speculated Takeo.

"Now who the heck is Amy Mizuno?"

"That's Sailor Mercurys' secret identity."

"Sailor ... Mercury?" Cal with cocked eyebrow and semi-serious sneer. "I suppose there's also a ... what? ... A Sailor Venus and a Sailor Mars?"

"Actually," put in Jack, "... yes."

"Right!" Cal turned to Jack. "Next thing you're gonna' tell me is there's a Sailor Ur-anus, huh? Think of all the fun that could be had with a moniker like that! Why you'd-"

Noting the new stillness about, Hobbes turned and gave all the faces around the once over.

With the exception of a puzzled elf girl scanning one and all with him and Shino muttering something about "otakus being otakus", the rest looked at Hobbes with an odd mixture of smug puzzlement and upturned eyebrows.

"Uh ... Cal?"

"You're kidding me ... Right?"

xxxxx

"Gotta' hand it to 'em," said Cal as he examined the contents of the case before him. "When they said anything else not on the manifest was brought to our quarters, not a thing was left out ... or missing."

Lifting a bottle out of the case, the pilot examined.

"Gonna' have to drop a couple of these off at Hazamas' office when he's not there."

"Why's that?"

Taking a couple hours off for rest, the two repaired to their on-base quarters consisting of two rooms with an adjoining bathroom. Restless, Nakamura decided to look in on an also restless Hobbes taking inventory of what possessions he inadvertently taken along to the Special Region. One of which was a case of Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey they had picked up just a couple days before in Seattle.

"The old Asian way of doing business that goes double for Japan."

"Oh?"

"We may need to ask a favor or ten somewhere down the road," explained Hobbes. "It's best then to give a complementary gift well ahead of time. If ever the need arises, the general will remember it.

"So you couldn't get any shut-eye either, eh?"

"Finding ourselves dumped in Other-World Disney with a new employer and all the stuff to come ...yeah ... that and ..."

"And what?"

"Well, we're about to meet the rest of Itamis' recon team at that off base tavern and-"

"Wait! That reminds me." Cals' eyes lit up as he searched through his duffel finding and holding up what he needed.

"What's with the hip flask?"

"I understand it's only a beer joint," the senior pilot answered as he filled the aforementioned container from a now uncapped bottle of whiskey. "Itami told me the draft on tap is great but I think I might need something with a little more punch.

"You were saying?"

"Might as well cut to the chase. It's about Sargeant Kuribayashi."

"Oh?" Cal grinned.

"With what little time we've had here so far, I've been asking around. You know ... at breaks during briefings ... Itami and Takeo mentioning something when we were with them ... "

"What'd you find out?"

"Well ... First off, you pick up on anything about her maybe?"

"That petite, well endowed, shy yet magnificently ripped, very capable and frightening looking young lady who has been more than just undressing you with her eyes since the moment we arrived?

"Not a thing ... ," smiled Cal.

Jack let out an exasperated sigh.

"She likes you."

"Not sure I'd like her."

"Why the hell not?"

"There's rumors about her, Cal. Nasty ones."

"What kind of nasty? Good, you hope."

"She's really aggressive ... Pretty much into the martial arts ... Likes to mix it up ... Been in actual hand to hand combat ... taken a few lives ... Face to face-"

"Hey ... That's what soldiers do, right?" Cal stated more than questioned. "Y'know ... Killing people and breaking things. Did a little of that myself."

"And not only likes ... LOVES it!

"There's a story going 'round she even beat the living s--t out of someone over twice her size during a prisoner exchange or something ... Someone high up in one of the Empires' royal families ... And got AWAY with it!"

"I wouldn't believe rumors, Jack. More than likely over half of it's utter bullkrap."

"You don't understand Cal-"

"Understand what?" Still smiling.

"Even if only a fraction about her is true ... I mean ... The way she was acting this afternoon-"

"Think she's stalking you?"

"Cal ... She looked uh ... hungry? ... like she wants to eat me alive!"

"I could think of worse ways to check out."

"Oh come on!"

"I think you'll survive though ... You have almost as much muscle on you as she does."

"You're no help, Cal!"

"Hey ... I do what I can."

"Speaking of which ... Don't think I didn't notice the way you set me up earlier today."

"Whatever could you be talking about?" Cal asked in exaggeratingly feigned innocence.

"You know. Right after we left admin and met up with Itamis' recon team."

"You'll thank me later."

"Hnnngh!"

xxxxx

At Cals' insistence, the two pilots and their additional crewmen, instead of driving into the refugee camp, walked in instead. He felt it would give them a better view of things and a "feel" for the place in familiarization.

The "refugee camp" just outside Fort Alnus was that in name only. In a matter of months, from a few tents, it had sprung up into a full fledged town and trading hub complete with full structured buildings in the local "European" renaissance/medieval style. Shops, taverns, stores, inns, smithys, stables and more!

And the people! Cal noted that the newscasts, National Geo, documentaries, and other media did little justice. While most of the people were of seemingly
"European" with some "Asians" scattered about, the demi-humans were real eye openers.

It was like something out of Tolkien with even a bit of Lovecraft thrown in!

While most (Elves, "animal" people, dwarves etc.) looked reasonably human, others well ...  Cal felt Lon Chaney Jr. didn't have a thing over on them. (4) The occasional "Tinkerbelle"-like fairy would bring him up short and the odd goblin really stood out.

"If things keep going as they might," he thought, "the demographics of Japan, not to mention the rest of our own world might be affected to some degree."

The tavern, crowded as usual, a large room was reserved ahead of time for 3rd
Recon and a few from the other scout teams for the four newcomers' "orientation party".

About an hour into the occasion ...

Cal scanned the gathering before him. Along with the initial five he and Jack met earlier in the day were the rest and then some.

The senior non-com, Souichirou Kuwahara was a man Cal could identify with.
The older sargeant, now in his fifties, was in the pilots' age group and of the type that made up the backbone of the NCO corp of any military organization. A man Hobbes' hoped Itami depended on for direction and advice.

The hulking Tomita also another stabilizing element for the group.

Medic Mari Kurokawa, close friend of Tuka, was reputed to be more than dependable as a caregiver.

The two "locals" of course were eye openers.

A dour dark elf, Yao Ro Dushi seemed to offset Tukas' more vibrant and naive personality quite well. Inquiries of her past by the two flyers confirmed as to the why of her more formal disposition.

As for Rory Mercury ...

"So desuka ... demonessu, on neh?" The gothed one smiling at him from across the table.

Cals' reference to her from earlier in the day seemed to have gotten back to her.

Then in perfect English, "I personally know a few ... I could introduce you perhaps?"

"Uh sorry," Cal trying to be polite and humorous at the same time, "but I'm a bit wary of succubi." (5)

"Ah! I know someone perfect for you then. She was very good at that when she noviced. In fact ...  she EXCELLED!"

"Oh?" That made Hobbes eyebrows raise.

Snuggying up to a nervous Itami, the diminutive demi-goddess continued her appraisal.

"What do you think Youji-CHAN? ... Giselle maybe?"

Itamis' less than enthused reaction along with the coughing and rolling of eyes from everyone else at the table prompted Cal to wryly yet cautiously inquire.

"Hmmm ... Sounds French. So ... Who's Giselle?"

"Uh ... ," hesitantly Youji with nervous smile in reply, "you really ... DON'T ... want to know."

Nods, "oh yeahs", more eye rolling and tongue in cheek from those present all around confirmed Rorys' joke, she smiling at the effect on one and all.

"Maybe I'll just pass on the invite."

"A very wise choice," stated Lelei, nursing a non-alcoholic beverage.

To Hobbes, Rory was going to take some getting used to. He had to keep telling himself in spite of her looking like a thirteen year old that she was almost a millenias' age. The sight of an ostensible adolescent cozying up to someone seemingly almost three times her age and drinking everyone under the table, he was finding a bit un-nerving.

Itami could only nervously smile and shrug.

Shrugging back, Cal continued scanning the gathering.

"... so when we were told of the opportunity to get a jump on the rest of the handlers and navs in the program, we jumped at it."

Hisaishi was explaining Kurosawas' and her presence in the Special Region to Mari, Yao and the rest

"One day we're at Komaki, training in the Intermediate Transport Program," an also enthused Kurosawa, "the next ... HERE!"

Cals' eyes settled on the nervous couple next. Jack conversing with a very interested Shino sitting across from him.

"And you decided on airline training ... Just like THAT?"

"I always loved flying. Got my lessons and license and flew small private planes while in high school and college. Mom and dad wanted me to follow in their footsteps of public service but they saw it coming."

"I guess I'll never understand how Americans get so independent of their parents," the sargeant marveled.

"Pretty funny coming from someone so enthused about a miltary career," Nakamura smiling.

"Heh-," with a friendly scoff from a smiling young lady in kind.

Cal noted the now direct and more than congenial communication between the two. Kuribayashi didn't seem so anxious though "targeting" still as intense as before. Nakamura seemed a bit more relaxed.

With a check on his watch, Hobbes got up to leave and leaned over.

"I mean with all the-"

A hand on his left shoulder, Jack looked up in to the face of the elder pilot.

"Keep in mind Romeo," informed Cal, "we gotta be up early tomorrow."

Off to the side, Jack noticed Shino looking off to the right. An eyebrow raised, crooked smile on her face with some amused surprise thrown in.

As his immediate superior straightened up and turned, Jack tried a quick look at his beer.

"Hey! What the- !"

"SSHHHHH! ... Be vewy, vewy quiet!-" Cal leaned over again and cutting him off.

Cal was eyeing one of the tavern girls. A recently employed member of the bunny clan.

"-I'm hunting wabbits! Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh ..." (6)

Hobbes strode off ostensibly to converse with the tavern girl.

"Did he?"

Jack noted the now darker coloration of his beer and its' higher level in the mug.

"He did."

Sighing, Jack took a long pull from the mug.

Looking up slightly, he saw a more than happy Shino mouthing a "thank you" after the departing pilot now giving a thumbs up and pocketing a hip flask.

"Come to think of it," he thought, "I don't think I saw him take that flask out tonight until now."

Nakamura could only shake his head.

"Wab-bits?" Puzzled Shino. "What does THAT mean? And what's with the weird laugh?"

"That'll take some explaining." (6)

She again glanced past Jack at the older pilot, now in friendly conversation with the bunny girl.

"And," back at Jack, "how ... did you two ever ... Meet?"

Shino couldn't think of a more unlikely pair of friends.

Neither could Jack.

xxxxx

"Hey ... Chink!"

Chink?

Taking a draw from his mug, Jack set the mug down on the bar and turned.

"For a bunch of 'rednecks'," thought Jack, "this certainly is an eclectic group."

Three of them. White, black and one who appeared, interestingly enough, to be one of the indigenous of Alaska and about as "chink" looking as he.

"I take it you're ... talking to me?" Refraining from going into an Al Pacino moment though subtly slipping into fighting stance.

Though athletic and proficient in Shotokan karate, Jack was confident enough to distract/stall two adversaries and run like hell ... but three? That would take some doing.

"That we are ... chink." The white guy talking and edging up to him.

Having completed his moving into his quarters near Alaska International he was anxious to meet the one he would be working with. Informed of the whereabouts of the pilots' favorite watering hole at a certain hour, Nakamura repaired to Earls' Bar and Grille and waited.

Now ...

"Y'see ... Charley Chan," the belligerent one getting creative, "yer at our place at the bar an'-"

Jack noticed someone getting up from a corner table about to join the first three.

"Terrific!" The young man lamenting inwardly. "Four of 'em now! NO way I'm gonna' get outta' this."

"-we don't like people takin' up our place at th' bar."

"So's it looks like you gonna' be buyin' us some drinks." The black guy this time.

"Lotsa' drinks." Mr. Indigenous.

"Hey guys!"

The fourth one stepped up between Jack and the other three.

"Now ... Hold on a second."

"Wait ... what?" White guy.

"The guy's new here ... and besides."

"Besides what?"

Both white and newcomer facing one another.

"Besides what?" Newcomer questioning the question. "I mean ..."

Stepping off to the side just a little, the stranger gestured toward Jack.

"I mean ... Just look at him."

"Huh?"

"Can't you see?"

"See what?" The white guy getting a bit hotter.

"He's not a chink. Take a better look.

"Can't you see he's a jap? There IS a difference y' know-"

KA-WHOP!

The gunshot sound of the right uppercut connecting with the fools' jaw, resounded off tavern walls and 'syndromed' back on one and all.

"You CAN tell if you try."

The sight of the now prostrate belligerent froze the other two would-be bangers.

"If you're gonna' be racist," the older man moved in closer to the two gazing at their fallen leader, "at least be smart about it and get your pejoratives straight.

"And from the looks of you two, the Movement's got some purging to do."

He then changed the subject.

"The odds are now one to one. Definitely NOT ... in your favor. I suggest you leave.

"Think about it ... You're not THAT drunk yet."

Without any further prompting the two not so belligerents picked their prostrate comrade off the floor. The fallen ones' arms over shoulders they promptly left, staggering with their semi-limp load out the front.

"You can put the bat away, Earl," the savior said massaging his right hand. "Sorry 'bout the mess."

Jack then noted the barkeep going back behind the bar and sliding a substantial looking Louisville Slugger back under.

"Was about to 'ask' them to leave, Cal. You just saved me the trouble."

"And with that ... ," the man stepped over to his once occupied table sweeping the 'fifty mission crush' up and placing it on his head. He continued massaging his fist. "So are we. These old knuckles are only good for one good hit per day."

Before the man turned to Jack, he then noticed the winged buffalo logo on the back of the leather jacket.

"Cal? Calvin ... Then you're?"

"Yeah ... I'm Hobbes. Let's go."

xxxxx

"Here they come!" Tuka shouted.

"On the nose," noted Souichiro gazing in the direction where the throaty sound of the twin Pratt and Whitneys came from.

"Jack?" Shino looking up hopefully.

"He's sure to be up there too," snickered Takeo.

Shino pointedly ignored him.

They had been over a week out, giving a good recon of a sector in the Tanska region. At the rendezvous point they didn't have to wait long.

One by one, at low altitude, the three payloads chuted down to the eagerly awaiting team.

"Why wouldn't they land?" Youji questioned. "They said Rory would be with us for the rest of the mission at this point and-"

"And after we prepped this part of the road too!" Lamented Takeo.

All noticed the plane in the distance turn and drop altitude.

"Well that makes no sense," said Mari. "Why would they para drop and then land-"

"They're not going to land." Lelei stated matter of fact.

About a hundred feet up, the C-47 almost in a stall.

"You don't think-" Youji

"Think what-" Yao

"Too low for a chute! She's-" Tomita

"She wouldn't!" Mari

"She will." Lelei

"She IS!" Shino

"Wait ... what?" Tuka

"EEEEEEYAAAAAAA! HA! HA! HA! HAAAA!"

The bloodthirstily triumphant, high pitched, joyful scream from the small halberd carrying figure leaping from the cargo bay, hit one and all. Quick acceleration of the planes' engines  punctuated the cry.

The group could only stare beyond dumbfounded at the now exuberantly, insanely laughing sight of the demi-goddess seemingly plunging to her death only a moment away.

The excruciatingly loud WHUMP! and geysering dust cloud marking where she landed.

"Nothing could survive that! She's-" Mari

More dust but in a trail kicked up by fantastically moving platform boot clad feet.

Stopping in front of an aghast Itami, Rorys' smiling, giggling face mere inches from his.

"Miss me?"

xxxxx

Nakamura, wide eyed, exhaustively slumped into his co-pilots' chair.

"Just got word," a grinning Hobbes informed, moving a phone off an ear. "Fourth package intact."

"She ... "

"Yeah?"

"She ... "

"Spit it out, kid." Cal still grinning.

"She jumped! She actually ... JUMPED! ... Without a chute!"

"Just like she said she would, eh?"

"And she's ... Okay?"

"Not even fallen arches."

"I didn't think she'd do it. I almost grabbed her!"

A pause of silence, Nakamura calmed a bit.

"Cal? ... I know we've been here over a month now but ... "

"But what?"

"Just what the HELL you and I've been dropped into?"

"Shoot! ... THIS ... coming from the guy who wanted to come here!"

Cal let out a laugh and added:

"Welcome to the Special Region, kid."

Thus ... The flyin' fools flew there.

END

... for now anyway. Subject to possible later installments. Am open to ideas (hint, hint).



Storyline and original characters (only) copyright © 5-19-2016

xxxxx

1. "Yellow brick road" is a reference to the main road in the film (And related series of books by L. Frank Baum), The Wizard of Oz. (MGM, 1939.) Toto (Terry) was Dorothys' (Judy Garland) dog who accompanies her on the journey to find the wizard and persuade him to help get her back home.

Be sure to check out my Haibane Renmei anime crossover fanfic, Somewhere Over the Wall.

2. Be sure to check out my Lucky Star anime fanfic, My Gaijin American Boyfriend!

3. Tabby was the official NATO designation of Japans' version of the C-47 transport plane.

4. Lon Chaney Jr. (1906 - 1973) - An actor who portrayed various monsters in horror films during the course of his career. His most notable role was the title character in the film, The Wolf Man (Universal, 1941.).

5. Succubus (plural - succubi) - A demon in female form that appears in dreams for the purpose of seducing men.

6. The trademark phrase of Elmer Fudd. A Looney Tunes cartoon character most noted for his speech impediment and unsuccessful attempts in hunting Bugs Bunny.

xxxxx

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Disclaimer: The preceding is a NON-PROFIT work of fan fiction for entertainment purposes only. If you experience an erection lasting longer than four hours, seek medical attention. I make no claim to ownership of the names/characters, places and events mentioned in this work that are the intellectual properties of others. They are the sole properties of their respective owners. Please, by all means support the owners of such properties in the purchase and enjoyment of their works.

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