41 Spring TN 1940
Jack Sanlander smiled as he stood in Banzaidyne's main aircraft hangar at Coronado's Kearny Field. Before him stood an aircraft and a person who had been to Hell and back ... and had survived the journey.
It had taken nearly three seasons to fully restore The Samaritan. The Orca-derived search-and-rescue aircraft had served for days as a forward base for Coronado's relief efforts at Peace River, and had picked up a great deal of fallout from the antimatter explosion which had destroyed the city-state. She had to be disassembled nearly down to the airframe to be fully decontaminated, and many of her systems and components could not be recovered. The engineers and workers at Banzaidyne, however, had been committed to reclaiming The Samaritan and returning her to service. Not only was the aircraft a vital asset for Coronado's Flying Circus, she had become one of many symbols of Terra Nova's recovery from the destruction of Peace River.
More importantly to Jack, though, the person who had taken The Samaritan to Peace River also seemed to have been successfully repaired. Nora Richardson stood a short distance from him, her gaze fixed upon the aircraft. Jack laughed quietly as he looked at her; she hated wearing her dress uniform, but he always thought she looked great in it.
His smile faded, though, as he remembered how hard the last cycle had been for her. It was difficult enough for her to learn how to face the horrors she had experienced. The hardest part of her therapy, though, had been to talk to Jack about the ordeal. She completely refused to discuss the subject at first, until she realized that doing so would relieve her own burden. Slowly and infrequently at first, she would describe moments and then events of a few minutes and of a few hours, until finally she had told him about everything that had happened to her and the other members of the Flying Circus in the two weeks she was at Peace River. The worst had been one night when between sobs, she told Jack about a little boy who had died in her arms from radiation exposure.
He walked up to her and embraced her from behind. Nora smiled at him as she held his arms. Turning back to the aircraft, she remarked, "She's pretty."
Jack said quietly, "So are you," and kissed her on the cheek.
From a nearby access hatch, they heard, "Um, excuse me, Governor? Colonel?" They turned to face Pierce Takahashi, the president of Banzaidyne. "We're ready whenever you are."
"Thanks," Jack said. Taking one more look at The Samaritan and the other aircraft in the hangar, Jack and Nora followed Pierce out the hatch and onto the airport tarmac.
All of Banzaidyne's employees, other airport workers and assorted dignitaries and reporters were gathered before a podium and reviewing platform, which had been set up to the side of the main hangar doors. The crowd broke into applause as Jack, Nora and Pierce approached the platform. They each shook hands with Major Maxwell Fuller of the Peace River Defense Force, who was a special guest for the event, and they each acknowledged the crowd with nods and waves of thanks.
The cheers continued until Pierce stood before the podium. "Thank you very much," he said as the crowd settled down. "I would like to thank all of you for joining us today for this special recommissioning ceremony." There was a roar of applause.
"A few days from now," Pierce continued as the crowd quieted, "will be the first anniversary of the bombing of Peace River. That day was among the darkest in our planet's history. But in that time of sorrow, men and women of our defense forces were the first of many to come to that city's aid. The Flying Circus brought emergency equipment, supplies and relief workers to Peace River around the clock for weeks, and those efforts were coordinated by the commander and crew of the vehicle we return to active duty today. It is my hope, and the hope of all of Banzaidyne's employees, that this aircraft will answer the call of duty to save lives anytime, anywhere for many cycles to come."
The crowd began to applaud again as Pierce turned to Nora and said, "Colonel Richardson, it gives me great pleasure to return to you - The Samaritan!"
On cue, one half of the hangar doors opened, and The Samaritan was towed onto the tarmac. The applause grew to a roar as the aircraft's new hull glistened in the sunlight.
The cheers began to die down after a short while, followed by a murmur that raced through the crowd as they eagerly awaited what was to happen next. Pierce chuckled himself as he turned to the guest from Peace River and said, "Major Fuller, we invited you here today for two reasons. First, on behalf on all of us gathered today, we wanted to express to you our admiration and our deepest regards for the citizens of Peace River and their families." After some polite yet heartfelt applause, Pierce continued, "We also wanted to express those sentiments in a more ... tangible way, and we took it upon ourselves to follow a suggestion from Governor Sanlander." The crowd laughed as at his signal, the other half of the hangar doors opened.
An identical twin of The Samaritan was then towed onto the tarmac. Where The Samaritan wore the insignia of the Coronado Defense Forces, however, the second aircraft carried the roundels of a Peace River Defense Force vehicle. The nose of the aircraft was also adorned with an image of a great bird rising in flight.
"Major Fuller," Pierce continued, "it is my great honor, on behalf of Banzaidyne and the government of Coronado, to present you and the Peace River Defense Force with - The Phoenix!"
The applause and cheers were deafening.