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8 – The Bear at Sunset

-Excerpt from VALKYRIE: A Pilot’s Life, by Maj. Gen Harris Goodman, USMC-JNAC. 1st edition published 2045 by the Institute for Military Studies.

 

Chapter 8: The Bear at Sunset

 

In the summer of 2035, Alpha Company and I rotated back stateside for both much needed R&R, and a retrofit of our Valkyries.  5 years in Kazakstan had done little to improve the region, and we spent most of our time praying that we wouldn’t have to use our walking death machines as they were intended.

 

You might think it odd for a pilot to talk that way about his craft, but there’s really no other way to think of the Valkyries. The brains called them VALCRs  at first (Variable Armament Load Combat Rigs), but those of us who actually drove those ugly pigs knew what they really were.

 

The Choosers of the Dead.

 

The name stuck, and eventually the world press applied it to all types of armored fighting suits. Last I heard, the Chinese are still calling it Dragon Armor. And the Japanese, well, that’s the story I’m about to tell you.

 

My promotion to full Colonel was waiting for me when I touched down, as were Elizabeth and our daughter Loretta. I’d seen little enough of both over the previous 5 years, and I was looking forward to spending as much time with my family as possible over the next month as Alpha got upgraded to the latest models. I set the company at liberty, and spent the night eating my first real dinner of 2035 in the company of the most beautiful ladies I’d ever met.

 

And while I was chewing my steak, the world went to hell.

 

I mentioned before how the Three-Cornered War didn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. Tensions between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China lead to the collapse of both empires, but while the Chinese reinvented themselves as “merchant-protectors” almost overnight, the Russians still clung to the notion that they were a superpower in anything but name. And while Alpha and I were due to get bigger, stronger, and deadlier-than-ever-frames, the Russian machines were literally on their last legs.

 

But they no longer had the resources to develop better Valkyries, and they certainly didn’t have enough fuel to keep the ones they had running. They’d already learned the folly of attacking a numerically superior force, and there was no way they could reasonably launch an assault on the US. But there was another technologically advanced nation on their borders that had plenty of what they were looking for, and then some.

 

The first Russian frames launched from Sakhalin island before dawn on their Saturday morning, and by breakfast time in Tokyo they’d taken Hokkaido with minimal opposition. Even the falling-apart Russian Valkyries were better than the light armor the Japanese had there, and the JDSF jets at Chitose never got off the ground before the control towers were destroyed.

 

On our side of the planet, we were scrambling to recall as many pilots as we could, and getting the ones who were on hand sobered up and ready to deploy. The new rigs were the most advanced weapons systems the world had ever seen, and our pilots the best of the best. The State Department issued our official “intent to intervene,” and scant hours after being welcomed home, I kissed my wife goodbye for the dozenth time, expecting as always to never see my girls again.

 

The wheels of diplomacy always move slower than the properly greased ones of the Corps, and despite being understrength we were ready to drop a dozen of the latest generation Valkyries right on top of the Russians as soon as we got a go order, with the rest of the company following in our “old” frames soon after. But before the jets were fueled, the Japanese politely declined our assistance, and it took a few hours and some of the sharpest cockpit footage ever recorded to understand why.

 

As part of our continuing defense treaty, the Japanese had access to the same basic research as any US allied nation. But unlike the Russians (or perhaps in spite of them), the Japanese programs weren’t satisfied with the baseline models, and added a few improvements to their designs. Quite a few, actually, and as the first Japanese Valkyries hit the battlefield work stopped on upgrading Alpha Company, and the United States started playing catch-up for the first time in decades.

 

To describe the resulting conflict as a rout would do a great disservice to both the skill and tactics of the Japanese pilots. Their were half the size of the most advanced Russian suits, and carried enough firepower to rival our own Valkyries. They attacked in waves, falling back frequently to reload and re-equip. They literally ran circles around the invaders, first removing the enemy’s mobility, then dismantling the suits with precise maneuvers and deadly accuracy. Rather than wasting time on destroying the Russians, they simply made them irrelevant, and retook the island long before sunset without losing a single pilot.

 

The Japanese didn’t denounce the Russians, or launch a counter offensive. They just uploaded the footage for the world to see. The Russians were broken, the Japanese could defend themselves, and there was clearly more we could do improve both our Valkyries and how we used them.

 

Unfortunately, the Chinese took a much different message away from the incident.

 

Where the US and Europe saw an opportunity to relax our posture on several fronts, China saw the Hachigami as a threat to their own security, and threw everything they had at Japan. The Chinese had fared a lot better over the last few years, mainly due to their aggressive “protection” contracts with other Asian nations.  Their attack force had three times as many Valkyries as the one the Russians launched, and satellite intel showed production facilities working overtime to build new suits.

 

We were in the air less than an hour after the Chinese attacked, bound for Sydney and another war no one wanted to either fight or lose. The Japanese didn’t bother replying to our renewed declaration, they simply started an even more impressive display of military might, this time broadcast live. By the time we landed, the war was over, but the repercussions are still with us today.

 

I’d like to say that it was our presence in the area that kept the conflict from escalating, but in truth it was Captain Hiroshi Kawamura. Cut off from his squadron during the Battle of Hakata Port, Kawamura engaged 6 suits of Chinese Dragon Armor for over an hour, while the world looked on. Long after both sides had exhausted their ammunition, he outthought, outfought, and outmaneuvered his enemies.

 

While the his fellow Hachiman were dealing with the rest of the invaders across the bay in Fukuoka City, he took down two with his guns, buried another under a pile of shipping containers before disabling its power plant with an uprooted crane, and was in the process of running his opponents out of fuel when the Chinese commanders ordered a full retreat.  But Kawamura was not satisfied with a mere withdrawal, he wanted to win the war. Historians and military strategists alike dissected what happened next many times in the years that followed, and could find no fault with his decision.

 

Tearing the arm off a downed suit of Dragon Armor, the brave captain literally beat his opponents back  into the sea, only pausing in his attacks to allow the Chinese pilots time to eject into the bay. He then dragged the disabled suits one by one to the docks, dismembering them and stomping the pieces flat. When his fuel finally ran out, Kawamura exited his Hachiman and continued sending his message with a hammer.

 

China lost half its clients to the Japanese overnight, and in the decade since Japan has allowed no other nation’s Valkyries within 100km of their islands.

 

After the shock wore off, the US and Europe saw an opportunity to relax our posture in hotspots around the world. Alpha and I spent a few more years in Kazakhstan, but Hiroshi Kawamura had for the most part done our job for us. When I finally retired, he was present at the ceremony. The picture of our handshake is hanging in the New Smithsonian not far from my first suit, right next to one of him hammering away at a downed Chinese war machine as the sun set across the Sea of Japan.

 

People ask me sometimes if I miss being a pilot. Of course I do. But it’s not because I enjoyed driving a Valkyrie for most of my adult life. It’s because the world is heading rapidly toward a point where all the Harris Goodmans and Hiroshi Kawamuras in it won’t be enough to turn back the tides of destruction. Before long, I think we’ll see fighting in the streets of Paris, Moscow, Beijing, and maybe even Los Angeles.  Allies will become enemies, and enemies allies, all to gain control of tiny pieces of land for some unseen masters.

 

And it will be someone else’s’ job to stop .