Meet The Parents
“So we're ready to go?” I asked as I stood on the tarmac of John F. Kennedy International Airport. Jenna and I were both wearing flight suits. Above us was the night sky.
“All we need is a last-minute systems check and clearance from the tower.”
I looked at the VF-1 Valkyrie, which was in its fighter mode. It was on this rig of some sort, was this booster unit attached to the back, so it could have enough thrust to reach lunar orbit. We both climbed into the cockpit. I saw the instruments light up as Jenna turned them on. She continued checking all the instruments and tested all of the warning lights.
“Check the pressure seals of your suit,” said Jenna.
I did so, checking the pressure gauge. “Suits fully pressurized,” I said.
“All systems are go,” says Jenna. “UNSM Flight Knight Three to JFK Tower, we are ready for takeoff.”
“Roger that, Knight Three,” says the JFK air traffic control.
We waited for a few minutes, as JFK was a busy airport even during these times of reconstruction. I looked around at the airport buildings.
“JFK Tower to UNSM Knight Three, you are cleared for takeoff.”
I felt pushed back as jenna activated the booster. I looked to my right and the ground appeared farther and farther away. I could see the lights below. Soon the land was replaced with the blue of the Atlantic Ocean. We continued climbing up and up. I could see an altimeter in front of me. We were passing fifty thousand feet. Soon we were at one hundred thousand feet.
“You all right back there?” asked Jenna.
“Yeah,” I said.
“We'll be pulling three g's now. You made sure you did not eat, right?”
And I felt myself squeezed back into my seat as Jenna hurled the Valkyrie upwards into the air. This was quite uncomfortable.
“I pulled more g's during combat,” she said.
“But you never flew in combat for more than an hour at a time,” I said. “This is gonna take hours.”
“total flight time is eighteen hours. That’s why we left so late at night, so you could sleep part of the way.”
Then the squeezing sensation stopped.
“We have now reached Earth orbit,” said Jenna. “Take a look around. We're going to accelerate to reach lunar orbit in forty minutes.”
And so I did. I looked at the blue planet below. I could see Europe and Africa and western Asia. I looked at the wreckage of Zentraedi vessels. I noticed construction crews salvaging raw materials from the wrecked ships for the reconstruction efforts back on Earth.
“How do we avoid collision with these wrecked ships?” I asked.
“The Spacy's Orbital Traffic Command assigns exit vectors for spacecraft leaving Earth,” said Jenna. “One exit vector is above the Atlantic Ocean, about two hundred klicks from New York. Another exit vector is in the Pacific Ocean, just a few klicks north of Honolulu, Hawaii.”
I continued watching the scene from Earth orbit. It had been months since I was last in space.
“Here we go,” said Jenna. “We will be heading for the moon now.”
And so I felt myself squeezed back as the veritech fighter plane accelerated towards the moon. The acceleration lasted for a few minutes, and then it stopped and I felt weightless again.
“We are now on course for the moon,” said Jenna. “You will feel heavy at times as the plane's autopilot makes course corrections.”
The journey from Earth to moon was the longest part, lasting some eighteen hours.
“So what will we do when we get there?” I asked.
“We'll rent a car from ALuCE base and drive to my parents' house in Apollopolis,” said Jenna. “Then we're gonn have dinner. You're gonna love my sisters and brothers.”
“I was wondering. Did you speak or e-mail your squadmates since you went on leave?”
“I’ve exchanged messages with Kevin and Akira and Joel and even Bri, Haley, and Damien- they were new recruits who joined up after our first return to Earth. They were a bit surprised when I contacted them. I never spoke to them before outside of work-related stuff.”
“What about Katie?”
“She ignores my e-mails.”
“She sent a reply e-mail to me. She…she hasn’t heard from her family.”
“I hope she’s…she’s not..”
“She still talks to Kevin and Joel, as well as Lani’s parents.”
“She asked about you. I called her and asked her why she didn’t call or e-mail you directly.”
“I can guess the answer,” said Jenna. “But can you tell me what she said anyway?”
“You shut her out when she was grieving,” I said. “She needed you, and you weren’t there for her.”
“So why would she ask about me?”
“I asked her and she doesn’t know. It’s complicated, so she said.”
I glanced around at the vacuum of space. It seemed so peaceful up here. Soon I fell asleep.
During the long flight, I shifted back and forth between sleep and awake. I saw the moon get larger and larger. I felt pushed back as the Valkyrie slowed down in relation to the moon. The moon eventually occupied half of the view. I could see the skeletal framework of a huge spaceship orbiting the moon.
“Make sure your seat belt is fastened,” said Jenna, “because we are approaching the entry vector. UNSM Knight Three to Lunar Orbital Traffic Control. We are arriving as scheduled to the ALuCE landing strip.”
We waited a few more minutes in lunar orbit.
“We will be descending now,” said Jenna.
I felt the retrothrusters ignite and we got closer and closer to the moon. I could see the cratered landscape, battered by meteorites for millions of years. The moon was not as varied as the Earth; there were no cities or farms or highways blanketing this world, just barren cratered rock.
“We're approaching ALuCE base,” said Jenna.
I looked forward and I saw some domes rising out of the ground. That was the Apollo Colony. Construction had started twenty-five years ago, and the first lunar habitats were finished three years later. Jenna had told me her father moved the family to an apartment in Apollo Colony during the Global Civil War. Later, as more people moved to the moon and the colony was expanded, they moved into a house built at the underground level of Apollopolis.I could see there were some half-finished domes, with huge construction cranes standing tall.
“Switching to guardian mode,” said Jenna, as she moved the G lever. The veritech slowed down even further. Soon we were hovering a few hundred feet above the surface of the moon. We approached a hangar and we touched down.
“Welcome to the moon,” said Jenna. “Make sure your suit's pressurized.”
I got out and looked about. There were other veritech fighters and Star Goose shuttles inside. People in spacesuits walked about, doing critical work. We got our luggage and then walked towards an airlock. I watched the air pressure gauges and the airlock cycled in air. Then we emerged into this corridor. There were Space Marines walking about.
“The motor pool should be this way,” said Jenna, taking my hand. We walked along the corridors of ALuCE base.
“This is a really impressive place,” I said.
“I saw most of it get built,” said Jenna. “When I first moved here, the colony consisted of habitation modules for the workers and their families. I would sometimes look through a window and see the pressure dome being built by the lunar construction crew.”
“Amazing how all of that was happening during the Global Civil War.”
“People wanted to build a society far removed from the troubles of Earth. Here's the motor pool.”
We were in an office with a desk. It looked like a typical office, with file cabinets and supply cabinets and Space Marine recruitment posters. A sergeant stood at the desk.
“I want to rent a vehicle,” said Jenna. “A two door car will suffice.”
“Let me get the paperwork for you, ma'am,” said the sergeant.
Jenna signed the paperwork, and then an Air Force airman handed her the keys. We left the motor pool office and walked to the garage.
“Here it is,” said Jenna, referring to a blue Mercedes. Jenna got into the driver's seat and started the engine.
“Vehicles on the moon use a methanol-oxygen fuel cell,” she said as she drove out of the garage and though a corridor. “There's plenty of stuff for you to see on the moon.”
“It must have taken a lot of engineering,” I said.
“Yes. The walls are six feet thick and reinforced with a forcefield. We have an agricultural dome where we grow on our food. With food prices on Earth really high, I would not be surprised if Apollo colony was exporting food to Earth. The air recycling plant is underground. The whole place is powered by a thermonuclear reaction furnace located in the industrial sector. Also outside is the original lunar habitat where we used to live before Apollopolis was built. I remember when the city was finally pressurized and we could all move in. There was a big celebration. Anyway, we're coming up on Apollopolis.”
And soon we emerged. I could see tall buildings and billboards and flashing neon lights. This was like Macross City. I could see cars driving down the streets and people walking along the sidewalks. I could see businesses like restaruants and clothing stores and casinos.
“Last time I was here, twenty-two thousand people lived here,” said Jenna. “It was a hell of a lot bigger than when it was just six thousand people.”
That was less than the exiled population of Macross City, who had to live inside a huge spaceship for a little over two years.
We made a right turn and then I noticed we were going down this circular ramp. “The residential section is in the lower level,” said Jenna. We were now driving along a residential street lined with houses. “Here we are.”
Jenna parked the car next to the curb. I looked and saw a two story house. A hundred feet above the house was a roof supporting by a great deal of internal bracing.
“Wow,” I said. “This was surely a feat of engineering. It must have taken years to build this.”
“It took ten years,” said Jenna. “It would have taken less time if the war had not slowed things down. The SDF-1 arrived on Earth just after the whole place was being pressurized. I was in my family's apartment in the habitation module where the engineers and construction workers lived while they were building Apollopolis. Well, ;let's go inside.”
We walked to the front door and Jenna rang the doorbell. A woman with blond hair answered the door. She was wearing a blue dress.
“Jenna,” said the woman. “It's you.”
“Mom,” said Jenna, giving her mom a hug.
“Is that really Jenna out there,” said this male voice.
“Hey Dad,” said Jenna, hugging this man with red-and-white hair.
“It's been two years,” said her dad.
“Is this the young man you were telling us about,” said her mom.
“That's me,” I said, introducing myself. “I sure have interesting stories to tell you.”
“Let's wait until the whole family's here,” said Jenna's dad.
I went inside. I looked at the living room; it was a typical living room with a television set, a coffee table, couches, and a bookcase. Next to trhe living room was a kitchen, and there were stairs leading to the second floor of the house.
Jenna led me upstairs. “This is my room,” she said, pointing to one of the wooden doors. She opened it and I entered. It looked like a typical girl's room, with a carpet and bed and a bookcase with stuffed animals along with books. Jenna sat on the bed.
“You know, I lived a very sheltered lifestyle when I was on the moon,” she said. “All of us lunar colonists were pretty close. The Global Civil War was only something that happened in news broadcasts. Construction expanded after the UN formed the United Earth Government. They built the ALuCE base a few years ago, as well as a civilian spaceport to facilitate travel between the Earth and the moon. I didn't want to stay here. I wanted to go up to Earth and see what it's like. I wanted to fly spaceships- that was one of my dreams. I learned that the UN Space Marines were looking to train pilots, so I enlisted. From Basic Officer Training I went to Basic Flight Training, and then to Veritech Fighter Pilot Training.”
“And you picked me up when the Zentraedi attacked Macross City,” I said.
I was sitting in the living room watching television when the doorbell rang. Jenna answered the door.
“Peter,” she said.
“Hi, Jenna,” said this young man with blond hair, giving Jenna a hug.
“Are the others coming too?” she asked.
“This is my brother Peter,” Jenna said to me.
“Hi,” I said, introducing myself.
“It's nice to meet you,” said Peter. This woman with brown hair entered the room, and she had a baby with her. “This is my wife Helen and my daughter Jamie.”
“Hi,” I said to them.
“Look who's here,” said a female voice. I looked and saw a brown-haired woman in her early twenties wearing a blue blouse and blue jeans.
“I'm so glad to see you, Daisy,” said Jenna, giving her a hug.
“Hi,” I said, introducing myself.
“You must be Jenna's boyfriend,” said Daisy, shaking my hand. “I'm her sister Daisy.”
“Hey guys,” said this young man with brown hair. “I heard Jenna's back and she brought a man.”
“That's right,” said Jenna.
“I'm Cameron,” he said. “Jenna's brother.”
“Hi,” I said.
“Hey guys,” said this high-pitched female voice. I looked and saw this teenage girl wearing this green shirt and khaki shorts. “I just got off work at the mall. So Jenna's really here.”
“This is my sister Grace,” Jenna said to me.
“Hi,” I said, extending my hand.
“Sup,” she said.
“Now that we're all here,” said Jenna's dad, “Let's have dinner.”
And so we did. Our dinner was pork chops. I had barbecue sauce along with the pork chops.
Jenna told her parents and brothers and sisters the entire story of her deployment on board SDF-1 and about how she got together with me.
“How did it feel every time you went out there?” asked Cameron.
“Every time I took off, I prayed I would come back safely,” said Jenna.
“I'm glad you came back,” said Daisy.
“I had one close call. My plane was struck and I was injured. Life support went offline. Fortunately, one of my wingmates found me and pushed me to the ship. I stayed in the hospital for a while. I'm grateful that she saved my life.”
“What happened to her?” asked Helen.
“She didn't make it.”
“So tell us about yourself,” Jenna's mom said to me.
“Okay,” I said. “I guess I got into journalism when I was in high school. I used to be shy, so in my freshman year in high school I volunteered for the school newspaper. I really liked it, talking to all these people and writing articles on them. I later went to Columbia University and I got an internship in the Associated Press office. After graduating from Columbia, I became a full-fledged reporter. This veteran reporter, Ned Brubaker, took me under his wing. When he was assigned to cover the launch of the SDF-1 Macross, he invited me as his assistant. On the day of the launch, we went to the shipyard to cover the event. That was when the ship's main gun fired and we had to take cover. I ran back to the hotel, and I saw the Zentraedi fighter crash. The pilot came out and he was forty feet tall. Later, one of the UN fighters came down and transformed into a battloid and shot the pilot. That was where I met Jenna and she gave me a ride to get me to safety. We went on board the SDF-1 and it took us to solar orbit near Pluto. The fold drive disappeared, so we had to go back using conventional propulsion. As Jenna said, Macross City was rebuilt inside the ship. I opened an office and started writing news reports. It took a year to get back to Earth, and because of the battle over Toronto, we had to go back into space. It was not until the final battle with the main Zentraedi fleet that we were able to return to Earth. Jenna later gave me a ride to New York and I submitted my articles. I'm on vacation now.”
“I guessed you covered the beauty pageant Jenna was in,” said Jenna's dad.
“That's right,” I said. “I made sure to keep detailed notes.”
“I noticed you've changed, Jenna,” said Peter.
“I know,” said Jenna. “I've been fighting the Zentraedi for two years. The war has changed all of us.”
“When do you have to go back?” asked Cameron.
“In about a week,” said Jenna. “I have my veritech at ALuCE, so I can just fly back to Earth. It's about eighteen hours.”
“Tell me about yourselves,” I said to Jenna’s parents.
“I took a job here as an engineer almost twenty years ago,” said Jenna’s dad. “The U.N. was paying people to live on the colony. People would come here, live for a few years, and go back to Earth. I helped with the design here. A year after that spaceship crashed, I did a tour of duty on construction of that Sara Base on Mars. It’s such a shame those terrorist wankers destroyed the place.”
“We all used to make sure the kids spoke with their dad when he was on Mars,” said Jenna’s mom. “There was this three minute delay.”
“I’m a lunar baby,” said Grace. “I was born here on the moon. There must have been babies born on that ship.”
“Yeah,” I replied.
“they were worth risking our lives for,” said Jenna.
The next day, Jenna took me to this place in Apollopolis. The sign on the building read LUNAR SURFACE TOURS. We went to the front desk which was inside the lobby. The lobby had all these posters with pictures of the lunar surface.
“I'd like to rent two spacesuits please,” said Jenna.
“Okay,” said the man behind the counter. He takes Jenna's credit card and runs it through. “Okay, ma'am.”
We both went through a door, and there was this room where a man took measurements. He then gave us spacesuits. He gave us instructions on how to put them on and make sure they are sealed. I fastened the helmet and then checked the pressure seals. The pressure inside the suit was at 760, which was normal.
We were then escorted to the airlock. There was a sign reading ALL PERSONS MUST HAVE PRESSURIZED SPACESUITS BEYOND THIS POINT. We and other visitors entered the airlock. I saw the pressure gauge go down. Then a green light came on, and we went into an unpressurized room. It was huge, with vehicles parked inside.
“Welcome,” I heard over the radio. “I'm your driver Dante. We will be driving to the landing site. Step inside.”
We all boarded this bus and I sat down next to Jenna.
“This tour bus carries its own fuel and oxidant,” said Dante. “Unlike driving on Earth, we have to carry our own oxidant. Let's roll.”
And so we did. I felt the bus move as it left the garage. It was nighttime, so the headlights lit the way.. We first drove around the complex, including the original lunar habitat and the Apollopolis spaceport and the ALuCE base. Then we drove off away from Apollopolis.
“Not much to see,” I said, seeing the barren mountains and plains.
“There's a lunar mining station under construction a few miles from here,” said Jenna.
The bus stops. “Here we are, folks,” said Dante. “Why not take a walk outside for a while.”
We all stepped out walked around. I looked and saw the lights of Apollopolis in the distance. I made sure to taker pictures; my digital camera worked in the vacuum. Jenna and I held each other and were about to kiss, buit our faceplates were in the way.
We all went back on the bus and Dante took us to the garage. Soon we all went through the airlock and returned our spacesuits.
During my stay at Apollo Colony, Jenna took me around. We went to theaters and casinos and restaurants. At least beer and wine were freely available, even if they were expensive. We went to a museum of lunar history, showing the geologic exhibits, as well as exhibits on lunar exploration and colonizxtion, from Neil Armstrong first setting foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, to the subsequent manned and unmanned missions to explore the surface, the discovery of the lunar aquifer, the original lunar research station, and the founding of Apollopolis. We even had a picnic in the park. It was under a clear dome, and there was grass growing on the ground and many trees. There were even clouds above us. We had pastrami sandwiches and potato chips and Petite Cola.
“Sometimes, it even rains here,” said Jenna. “This was one of the original structures dating from twenty-two years ago. I used to love to come here since the old apartment was cramped.”
But finally it was time for us to go. Jenna had to go back to her duties, and I had to go back to New York. We went back to AluCE base.
“It will take less fuel to return to Earth,” said Jenna. “We can use the drag from Earth’s atmosphere to slow down.”
We climbed into the VF-1 Valkyrie, which was in its guardian mode. Jenna checked the flight instruments.
“AluCe Flight Control to Knight Three,” said the air traffic controller. “You are cleared for liftoff.”
And so we took off from ALuCE base. Nineteen hours later, about seven of which I slept through, we touched down at John F. Kennedy International Airport in the Queens borough of New York City.
We get off and remove our helmets. “The plane will be refueled and then I will take off for my flight back to work,” she said.
“I wish I could have shown you more back here,” I said. “Went on a carriage ride through Central Park, took you to a Yankees versus Mets game.”
We kissed for the longest time. I then walked back to the United Nations terminal, glancing back every few seconds.
After waiting in customs for two hours, the airport shuttle service took me home.