I had hoped to leave as early as possible, but the first plane didn’t get into the air until nearly noon. I ordered every plane to take off as soon as it was loaded, but that didn’t actually make as much difference as it seemed to because we ended up waiting for everyone at Vandenberg anyway so we could have a fighter escort for our flight to Hawaii. I slept nearly the whole first leg and only woke up as we were circling to land. My first impression of Hawaii was that it looked very beautiful, and it would have been even better if I had had the chance to get off the plane.
We were delayed for about five minutes by some FAA blowhard who was having a conniption over safety regulations. He was arguing with the pilots when I got on the radio and reminded him that this was a military flight filled with soldiers and live ammo. I invited him to come discus it with us personally, when he decided to give us clearance.
As soon as we were underway, I contacted the head of Prometheus’ Kyushu facility. Kentaro Tanaka came on the vid-link and I was hoping that the translation software was up to the task, “Good morning sir.”
“How are you this morning, Colonel?”
“Oh, good. You speak English.”
“I’m Japanese American. I was born in Osaka, but I was raised near Sacramento.”
“Thank Goodness. I only have one person that’s fluent in my entire company.”
“I’m already putting together a translator group with security clearances to serve as liaisons for Prometheus units.”
“You’re good, and I appreciate your efforts. On the other hand, I was calling about another matter. I need to know how extensive your underground facilities are.”
“We have about three times as much volume underground as we have above ground.”
“Really, I wouldn’t have guessed that you had enough time to get that much done.”
“We had a head start. Kyushu is riddled with old tunnels from when the government was getting ready for an invasion during the Pacific War. In many cases we just had to reinforce and expand what was already there.”
“I need room for a hospital, ammo storage and possibly some repair bays as well.”
“We’ll do our best with what we have, but why do you want the ammo underground?”
“One sneak attack could blow it and everyone around it to smithereens. Then without ammo for our weapons, we’d be up a creek without a paddle. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I’d feel a lot safer with it underground.”
“OK, I can see you point. What about the hospital?”
“I’ll have my medical chief contact you in a little bit and she can work out the details with you and your people.”
“OK I’ll see you in the morning, or rather eight hours from now as I doubt I’ll be getting any sleep tonight.”
“Sorry, and thanks.”
I signed off and found Doc Simmons and let her know who to contact. She looked ready to smack me for giving her something else to do. I said that she ought to try and get some rest after that and the resulting laughter had a bit of a hysterical edge, so I decided to hide in my room to give her some space.
Sylvia was working at the computer so I asked, “What’ve you been up to?”
“Trying to learn enough about your company and the rest of the Prometheus units to be useful.”
“Wow, what have you learned so far?”
“Well, first of all, we have 312 people associated with this unit going to Japan, of which 310 don’t know Japanese.”
“We have two? Who else beside Sukari?”
“Apparently, Rob Grumman in technical services is also fluent.”
“I have no idea who that is, but it’s good news. Even better, I have received word that they are organizing translators for us on the other end as well.”
“Now I feel like I was wasting my time.”
“Please don’t. That’s actually valuable information. I can tell you from experience that having a translator who knows what you are trying to say is a heck of a lot better than one who you have to explain the concept to.”
“OK, I can accept that. Have you given any thought as to where everyone is going to sleep?”
“Unfortunately, the lucky ones will get an empty warehouse; everyone else will have to make due with tents or an unused corner.”
“I’ll see if I can arrange for better when we get there.”
“If you can, you’ll be a hero. On the other hand, you look like your about to fall over. Why don’t you try and get some rest, and I’ll try and work quietly.”
“OK, you talked me into it. I just need someplace to change.”
“How about I stand in the hall, and you let me know when you’re done.”
“You have a deal, Mr. Spencer.”
I stood there and worried about running into Doc Sullivan until she told me I could come back in. She was in a long baggy shirt with football numbers on it.
“What are you smiling about mister?”
“This is the first time I remember seeing you not dressed up. I kind of like it.” and that got me the first blush I’d ever seen on her.
“Well, I need to get some rest, and you need to get you mind back on your work.”
“OK, sleep well, Sylvia,” and I logged onto my computer.
She sighed and came over and gave me a hug from behind, “This is going to be harder than I thought. Goodnight, Allen. Knowing you’re here makes me feel safer.”
“OK, Goodnight?” I knew I missed something again, but after mulling it over for a moment, I realized that I really didn’t have time to figure it out. Besides, even if having her here didn’t make me feel safe, but it certainly made me feel better.
* * *
By the time we entered the landing pattern for the Kyushu facility, there were three more flights in the air coming from the main campus and six coming from other Prometheus facilities … and they were not the only ones. The world’s focus was about to come upon Kyushu, and I only hoped it was in time, unless, of course, I was wrong. There was always the possibility that I had read the signs wrong. I had already worked myself into a full fledged panic when I heard Sylvia stirring.
Without turning around I said, “What if I’m wrong? What if they decide to hang me from the nearest tree for panicking the whole world for no reason?”
“What…oh. Don’t worry about it. You’re never wrong about this kind of thing. You couldn’t tell flirtation from a death threat, but this kind of thing; Perfect every time.”
I pondered that for a second. “Are you awake?”
“Check back after I’ve had some coffee.”
“We’re on approach. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until after we land.”
“Great.” She might not be awake, but she had the sarcasm down pat.
It was then I realized that with a couple of semi-coherent sentences, she had completely dispelled my panic. “Sylvia, I’ll catch up with you as soon as I can. I need to get things rolling as soon as I can. Thanks, you’ve been a big help.”
“OK…sure,” not sounding at all sure.
I headed for the back ramp as we made our approach (and only ran into the wall twice.) When I got there, Doc Sullivan and her people were already there. I asked her if she had gotten any rest, and she growled something that sounded like as a curse on my family, so I tried to move out of easy throwing distance. When we finally taxied to a stop and the ramp opened, I gave the Doc and her party plenty of room before I ventured out.
It was nighttime in Japan as I went down the ramp, but the lights on the airstrip/parking lot made the Humvee and the three men in US Marine gear clearly visible.
“Colonel Spencer? General Dupree is waiting for you in the conference room inside.”
* * *
I was escorted into the conference room by the marines. Have I mentioned how much I love and respect the US marines and how they scare the snot out of me in person? When they are decked out in their combat gear, I can never get out of the back of my mind how my continued existence is completely dependant on their goodwill, but I digress.
Ken Tanaka was the only person I recognized, but my eyes were drawn to the sixty-something marine who still looked like he could bench press me. I’m not a big believer in fate, but if there was ever someone born to be a US Marine, it was Charles Dupree. I would have wished that I could be in as good a condition as he was when I reached his age, but he was in better condition than I would ever be in my life. Anyway, there I was in a room with a bunch of big American Marines and regular sized Japanese men (yes, it was hilarious.)
The General stood and extended his hand, “Colonel, it’s an honor to meet you. We have a lot to discuss as soon as you get your men settled,” and sat back down.
“The honor is mine, sir,” and I meant it. In two sentences he had proven himself to be completely in charge of the situation.
I turned to my actual host and gave him my best Japanese bow (which was bad.) Poor Ken introduced me to his staff as quickly as he could, abandoned my translator and fled his own conference room. The General turned to my translator and said, “Son, would you mind waiting outside for a few minutes?” He fled, leaving me alone in the room with the General and six marines in combat gear. “Colonel, I’ve checked you security clearance, and you have access to this material. How closely have you been following weapons development by the US Armed Forces?”
“Not as closely as I should have sir.”
“Then you need to familiarize yourself with the latest generation of weapons we’ve deployed. Lieutenant!” The lieutenant produced a vid-player from somewhere in his gear and handed it to me. For about ten minutes they watched me while I watched the vid, but fear had been replaced fascination. When the clip ended the general said, “As you can see, while Prometheus has been perfecting battlesuits and their tactics, the US Armed Forces have not been idle.”
* * *
After escaping the marines, I took my translator and went in search my host, Mr. Tanaka. We were able to discover that he was in his office, but finding that office took nearly a half-hour. Once there, told his secretary, “I wish to talk to Mr. Tanaka alone at his earliest convenience … You do speak English, don’t you.”
His secretary just smiled and said, “Mr. Tanaka has been waiting for you.”
I walked in and his secretary closed the door behind me. Mr. Tanaka rose from his seat and offered his hand, “Good to have an actual chance to meet you, Colonel.”
“The same here, sir, and you can call me Allen.”
“Ah, but this is Japan. In public or any business setting, you will be called Colonel Spencer. You will refer to me as Director Tanaka or Mr. Tanaka, but in private or among friends, I’ll call you Allen if you’ll call me Ken.”
“So are you Ken or Mr. Tanaka right now?”
“Mr. Tanaka until we get some essential items out of the way. We have 153 top secret, and 27 eyes only level projects at this facility. All of them need decisions on whether to terminate, suspend, transfer, minimize or continue them.”
“Did the Director leave any directions? I mean the Main Director…how do you guys refer to the head of Prometheus here anyway?”
“He’s always the Director, while I’m always Director Tanaka. To answer you’re first question, he left everything up to you.”
“Well, that was certainly generous of him. It would probably only take a couple of weeks for me to familiarize myself with everything and make all of the careful decisions necessary, but I’m expecting about a million bio-soldiers to arrive this week.”
“A million? Please tell me you’re exaggerating.”
“I wish I was. I’ve estimated that we have a minimum five days before they are in position to attack.”
“I had no idea.”
“Not many people do. I only figured this out two days ago, and we haven’t had time for press conferences. So far, only key military personnel know.”
“How sure are these estimates?”
“The good news is that time wise it could take as long as three weeks. The bad news is that there is nothing stopping them from attacking before all of their forces get into position. Five days is just the earliest that their forces can all be in position. As for the numbers, that’s more nebulous. Every Taurian base seems to control about one thousand bio-soldiers. My estimate puts the number of bases at somewhere between eight and eleven hundred. That puts my estimate at the high end, but it’s better to prepare for more and get less than the other way around.”
“What are we supposed to do then?”
“You are going to look over that list and figure out what can be moved out of here. We are going to have over 100 flights coming in a day that you can fill with equipment and personnel that would otherwise be leaving empty. All I need to know is what can’t be moved and how to destroy it if this facility is overrun.”
“Destroy? Some of these projects are essential to the war effort.”
“Yes, and that why my other job is to make sure that this facility isn’t overrun. Unfortunately, the enemy may have other plans. I’m not planning on letting them anywhere near this place, but if this is their target, I may not be able to stop them. We have to have contingency plans, just in case. If you’ll arrange the evacuation, I’ll get the military end in place to try and make sure it’s not necessary. Now, what’s first on that list can’t be transported?”
“The bio-soldier research program.”
“We’ve rebuilt one of the alien assembler units in one of our deepest chambers. We feed it parts; it churns out bio-soldiers. As long as we don’t give them weapons they aren’t dangerous.”
“Terminate them now.”
“They’re well controlled and pose no threat.”
“The Taurian bases can see through their eyes and may just know where they are. I want every alien body and especially every alien core unit or weapon gone from this facility by tomorrow. We might as well have a flashing beacon over us telling them where we are.”
“I’ll get my people on it right now.”
“OK so what’s next …?”
* * *
Six hours later, I made my way back to the C&C plane in a state of exhaustion, which I blamed on a combination of exhaustion, jet-lag and lack of food. I had been so busy with planning that I hadn’t thought about eating. I walked up the ramp and found pandemonium waiting for me. Everyone was talking to me at once, trying to get me to hear some critical bit of information. It was completely overwhelming. Have you ever seen it in a movie where the camera flashes from one face to another and then everything starts spinning around? Well it felt just like that. My knees were buckling when someone put an arm around me and came up under my shoulder.
“ENOUGH! Everyone who has something where people’s lives depend on it follow me. Everyone else, head to the conference room and decide who is next among yourselves, and we will call you as soon as we can. Major! Have the nurse meet us at his room.” I had never been so glad to see Sylvia in my life, and never been more impressed. I was about to say something gushing when she turned on me, “And you! Did you even have enough sense to drink a glass of water in the last six hours?”
“Do I really have to follow you around all day to keep you in working condition?”
“Um …” I said with great suaveness.
“Just how do you survive without any form of common sense … ” and on she went. I knew that she was really furious, because she was starting to repeat herself. It was kind of odd that it wasn’t bothering me until I realized that although she was criticizing traits I had, she wasn’t attacking me directly. This was a good thing, because it just doesn’t look good when one of your battle leaders starts crying because someone yelled at him.
My head was starting to clear and Sylvia was running out of breath as we were climbing up to the deck my room was on. I glanced back to see that there were only three people still following us, and recognized one of the C&C plane’s pilots, “Pete, can you summarize it in ten seconds or less?”
“Eh … this place doesn’t have a control tower and the skies are getting hairy around here.”
“What have you been doing?”
“The other pilots and I have been trying to do it from the cockpit, but we can’t coordinate with anyone else because they don’t speak much English, and we don’t speak any Japanese.”
I thought for a few paces and came up with an evil scheme, “Have Eddie in communications put you in contact General Abe’s office, and then drop it in their lap.”
“That’s kind of …”
“They have the authority to order this problem out of existence. Get on it.”
I finally reached my door and Sylvia eased me down into the room’s only chair. The man at the doorway also was wearing the uniform of a Transport Aircraft Captain, “Do I know you?”
“No sir. I usually fly out of California.”
“OK, now give me the quick version.”
“Well, the people from the facility want to start loading cargo for the return trip, but they don’t have any manifests or authorizations.”
“Captain, I’m going to task you with spreading the word to other pilots. This facility and the region around it are considered an active battle zone as of yesterday. The entire island is under evacuation orders and we are going to do everything we can to assist in that effort.”
“Do we just throw procedure out the window?”
“No, we go according to my battlefield procedure. Once you unload your cargo, the people on the ground have an hour to load up as much stuff as you can get off the ground with. You leave as soon as you’re full, run out of time, or there’s nothing waiting for you. All authorizations are per the head of Prometheus military operations in Kyushu, which is me. We’ll worry about getting signatures after the battle. Manifests are on a ‘best guess as you have time’ basis.”
“Are there any restrictions on the loads?”
“Let me see. They can bring any Prometheus equipment, materials, personnel, relatives, personal items, pets … so no. There really aren’t any restrictions, but you need to let them know that your load-master has complete control over where and how they are loaded. Also, anything or anyone who endangers the flight may be thrown overboard in route.”
“Wow, so this is war?”
“Yes, and in war, time is lives, so get going.”
Sylvia handed me a hot soda which I downed in one gulp and some cookies that I inhaled. “OK, what’s next on the life threatening emergency list?”
“Sir, a large group of bio-soldiers were detected by sonar twenty miles from here entering Kagoshima Bay twenty … two minutes ago and they seem to be heading straight for this facility.”
Previous Chapter of The Taurian Invasion
Next Chapter of The Taurian Invasion
All comments and corrections are greatly appreciated. Feel free to introduce yourself in the comments. I love finding out about and connecting with my readers.