Bobby felt a sudden longing to be home, back in the arms of Lana, his wife, just the two of them the way it was before the war. Lana begged him not to go, even said it in multiple ways the night before he shipped out, each time just a little different, the aching tone in her voice trying to convince him to see it through her eyes. But he had to. As soon as Roosevelt's speech rang out across the radio, that day of infamy burned into the hearts and minds of every man on Bobby's street. The impact of those words hit like a meteor explosion. They shook the foundational security of each house, and every man had a strong urge to stand up and fight, to protect what was ultimately their existence, their way of life. That's how the President put it, so it had to be true.
Lana cried as he stepped aboard the bus. She walked along the concrete, matching him step for step as he made his way back and took his seat. He opened the window then and called out to her. "I'll be back before you know it. You'll see."
Now those words came back to him as he heard the old man tell it again, only saying it slower in mocking sort of way. At least, that how it came across.
"You say it's Hangar Twenty-three," Bobby said. "The sign says so, too, but there's only one hangar here."
Stanley shrugged a shoulder. "I didn't name it, son. I just work it."
Before Bobby could respond, Amelia spoke up.
"Stanley, you got any coffee?"
Hearing the woman's voice, Bobby almost looked at her. He fought against it, though. He wanted to see her, in a way some part of him needed to, but the thought of staring at a woman who went down in the Pacific years before Honolulu burned struck fear in his heart. It was as if seeing her would only make the dread more real. The longing fire for home that now burned in his heart would suddenly explode and reduce him to an ash heap of regret.
"Coffee's just inside the door," Stanley said. "Pipin' hot as always."
Amelia stepped around the two of them and headed toward the hangar. She called over her shoulder as she walked. "Oh, and my bird needs some fuel, too. Can you take care of it?"
"Sure thing, Miss E." Stanley turned back to Bobby and smiled. "She's a peach, that one."
"I'm sure she is," Bobby said and knew his tone belied his feelings, "but that's not... I mean that's not the real Amelia..."
Beside him, Mickey Carswell snickered, and Bobby suddenly remembered that he wasn't the only one who landed in the Dauntless.
"Oh, I assure you both, she is."
"But how is that possible?" Bobby asked.
"I think you'll find on this journey quite a many things are possible."
"Journey? What're you talking about?"
Stanley's smile returned.
"It's why you're here. Why you're both here. Miss E, she's gonna take you on."
Bobby looked at the twin-engine Lockheed, at the passenger door, a mouth opened and ready to devour. His heart raced. His chest tightened up.
This can't be happening, he thought. Not now. Not when I made a promise to Lana.
Carswell spoke up, and Bobby saw his gunner's face had turned pale with the realization of what the old man said.
"But where is she taking us?"
"Where she takes everyone, I suspect." Stanley nodded his head toward the sky. "Even him."
Bobby turned and looked down the runway. As he stared at the approaching plane, a silver body shaped like a lit cigar, the dread he felt vanished. It was replaced by a rage that compelled every muscle in his body to move. He wanted to run to the Dauntless, strap himself in, and take her up. But there was no time. The tarmac coughed up a cloud of smoke as the Zero touched down and approached the hangar.
"I know what you're thinking," Stanley said. "You want to kill him."
Bobby turned around and glared at the old man.
"Of course. He's the enemy."
"Him?" Stanley shook his head. "Nah, I don't think so."
"What're you saying? They attacked us."
"You don't really think he woke up and decided that, do you?" Stanley's face softened. "He's as much a victim as you are, only you can't see it yet."
The old man walked out and greeted the pilot, bowing and speaking in Japanese. The words rolled off his tongue as smooth as water. As Bobby watched, Stanley pointed the Japanese pilot toward the twin-engine Lockheed. The pilot nodded and walked to the other plane.
"Wait a minute," Bobby said as Stanley returned. "Amelia's taking him, too?"
"Of course. That's how it works."
"How what works?"
Stanley smiled. "You'll figure it out."
Amelia returned then. Steam rose up from her cup.
"We all ready then?"
"Fueled up and ready to go," Stanley said.
"Stanley, how do you do it?"
The old man smiled.
Bobby's head swirled in confusion. Nobody fueled up Amelia's plane, but somehow he knew the tank had been topped off just like the old man said. It was just as amazing as the landing strip that had appeared out of nowhere and wind that bent the grass but he couldn't feel.
"What if I don't go?" he asked.
Stanley pointed to the sky.
"Them clouds are comin' in. Just like always. And I don't think you'll want to be here when they do. It'll be a hell of a storm."
Bobby stared at the clouds, at the dark layers and flashes of lightning, and he knew the old man's warning spoke the truth. He wouldn't want to be here. He nodded, thanked Stanley, and then walked toward the Lockheed. He just wished that Lana could be here to go with him.