July 24th, 2036...
Paige stirred upon smelling breakfast and smiled. Ben always knew how to make his mate and children happy, but she wasn't just happy for that, but she'd recently got wind of Nathan Maddox, that wonderful young man who she adored like another son, having been reunited with his sweet mate, Joan Dromehauser after 7 years since he apparently thought she'd been killed in a terrorist strike on the USS John.F.Kennedy. Even though he'd married another plane, an A-5 Vigilante named Claire Raulerson, polygamy between planes was accepted since a law was passed a month ago. She shook her nose violently, bringing her thoughts back under control upon hearing her own children yell her name.
"MOM!!" they called from the main hangar space. "BREAKFAST'S READY!"
She chortled. Usually, she'd be the one yelling to get her kids up for breakfast! Rising up on her wheels, the F-106 rolled into the main gathering space where her family waited.
Ben smiled. "Ah, good morning Paige!" Paige smiled in response. How did she ever deserve such a wonderful husband as him? Kissing her nose, he smiled. "I made your favourite, dear."
Jo immediately buried her nose in her food, her appetite getting the better of her, much to her mother's amusement. Within seconds, she was full and happy and ready to play. Knowing her elder siblings and parents liked eating at a slower pace, she rolled outside, only to come face to face with a wheezing F-18 and a gasping A-5, who'd both looked like the devil was after them.
Jo instantly knew that something was wrong. But what?
"Claire? Joan?" She squeaked, having met them beforehand when she flew down to Lakeland to see the place where her mother resided for so long. The two planes in front of her yelped and jumped four feet in the air, before huddling together, their eyes wide.
Joan gasped in fright, but glanced down and exhaled, her frame rattling. "Oh, it's just you, Jo. Are your family in? We need to talk to them. Regarding... an old friend of your mother's."
Claire nodded in response, saying nothing. Jo rolled to the hangar doors and activated the switch to open them, followed by Joan and Claire.
Glancing up, Paige choked on her breakfast. "Claire? Joan?!" she managed between gagging and wheezing, her breakfast eventually being spat out and skewering itself expertly on Ben's nose probe, to his disgust, Claire, Joan and Jo's amusement, and her embarrassment.
"Sorry!" she squeaked, seeing her husband's unamused face, her aluminium nose turning redder than her Skyfire nose art in awkward embarrassment.
Claire laughed. "Well, that I didn't expect, Paige!" her voice raspy from giggling too much. "But anyway," she turned away and coughed forcefully to clear her throat. "It's about Nathan, Paige. He's been in a horrendous accident, and he's changed. A lot!"
Joan remained silent for a short while, before responding. "Yes. Ken and Douglas asked you to come and see him, though you may not remember him as this," She pointed at a framed photograph that Paige had been given by him, before she broke his heart back on that fateful day in 2016, twenty years ago. ", but he does remember you, albeit for your actions back then." Paige swallowed hard, as an unnerving sense of dread made the oil in her lines and heart feel like slushy ice as she took Joan's words to heart, and combining the memories of that day, she felt herself get choked up, as a tear ran down her face.
Getting herself under control a while later, the oddball group of jets approached the threshold of Philadelphia International's runway 9R. Ben was already airborne and holding just off the coast for the others to meet him.
"OK,Paige. Get a grip on yourself... Nathan's in trouble, I loved him as a son, so it's my duty to see him again" Paige thought to herself, her J75-P-17 afterburning turbojet whining at idle, as she tested her air brake, elevons and rudder accordingly. She looked ahead as she saw Claire raise her nose as she,Joan and Nathan number two did a combat takeoff ahead of her, soon followed by Corbin,Lucy and Jo.
9R was clear, she'd been given takeoff clearance, so what was she waiting for? Flexing her control surfaces as a final test, she pinned the throttle of her engine to full afterburn, and released her brakes, the jolt of the sudden acceleration nearly winded her, but she grinned widely as she raised her nose and roared into the air, pinkish-white,borderline light rose coloured flame blasting out her exhaust as she climbed to 10,000 feet in a matter of minutes.
Forming up with her family, whilst Joan and Claire lead the way,Paige grinned broadly. Soon, she'd meet Nathan Maddox again for the first time in twenty years!
"Twenty years too late" she mumbled to herself. "I shouldn't have left him in the dark, but I forgot,like an idiot, and I fucked up big time..." She growled to herself in self-loathing.
In Lakeland,Florida, however, the tension there was so thick, you could practically see it,let alone cut it like cheese. Jake,Rachel,Pepper,Maggie,Daniel and Jack all stared in shock and awe at their formerly human friend,Nathan Maddox, who groaned in pain as he came to from passing out after discovering he could change from a man, to a machine.
"Ugh,my head... What happened after that car crash?" he groaned, staggering to his gear,dizzy,disorientated and incredibly nauseous. "I know I was hos-" he began, before grabbing a nearby dustbin and vomiting hard into it, which continued for a further five minutes.
Pepper broke the silence. "Daddy?!" she squealed in surprise.
"Yes,Pep?" the CFA-44 said, smiling weakly.
"DADDY!!!" the Harrier squealed, dashing to Nathan, crying,mewing and weeping in joy. "A Winghug!"
She eagerly wriggled her way under her dad's port wing, near the root,purring like a cat and Nathan gasped, before laughing a little bit. "Ease up Pep," Nathan giggled. "I may be man AND machine now, but that doesn't half tickle!"
Jake stared in disbelief,his eyes wide. "Nathan?!" he blurted out.
Nathan rolled his eyes,in mock annoyance. "Yes, I got that,mate. Thanks for pointing it out!" He laughed softly, so as not to disturb Cedric and his younger siblings asleep in the next room.
The three new baby planes were adopted by him from a young mother who couldn't handle feeding three kids at one time, so she had to give them up,even though she couldn't bear to let them go at first, but thanks to Nathan's magic touch as "The Aircraft Whisperer", as he was known,prior to the second Taurus crash which completely robotified him somehow, she left them with him with a very tearful goodbye that caused him,Pepper,Joan,Claire and even Jack to break down in tears at. The three planes' models were, as followed, a female F-106, a male P-51 and a female P-39. The two propeller planes wouldn't gain their natural colours until 3 months time, but the F-106 was born an interesting little jet, having been born jade green with luminous silver eyes that melted Joan's heart.
Having been told by Ronnie Hauser about her parents, Nathan decided to honour their memory by naming the P-39 Dora and the P-51 Greg, after Paige's mother and father, after naming the little F-106 Paige Jr...
A sudden roar from a jet derailed their trains of thought, and woke the four sleeping planes, who promptly began mewing and crying from being awoken so rudely.
Lowering her landing gear, Claire sighed as she sailed into land on Runway 09, a serene smile on her nose. Turning off 09 and making her way to the foster home where she knew Nathan was,followed by Nathan 2 and Joan, she groaned as she felt her afterburners smarting from her constant use of them from Philadelphia to Lakeland non stop.
"Ooh,that stings a bit." she hissed as she rolled into the main hangar, a visible shimmer of heat wafting from her engines.
She bade the group farewell as she headed to her home hangar on the southern end of the airfield.
Nathan cocked his head.
"So,now what,Joan? Do we wait for the others,or shall we go on ahead?"
Joan shrugged. "I don't-" she began,only to be drowned out by a group of jets arriving one after another, finally followed by a SR-71. Ben, Corbin, Adele, Rosie,Jo and Lucy!
Turning off 09/27, they were awestruck at the sprawling complex of hangars at the southern edge of the field, outside of which young sentient aircraft of all types frolicked,sparred and lazed about in the warm sunshine. They'd been told about their mother's early years, and this was, simply put, paradise, Eden even, compared to Paige's foster home when she was a child.
"Oh,wow...." Lucy gasped. "This is amazing! Mom'd be surprised for sure when she sees this!"
The others nodded, having no words to speak as they were beyond stunned. 'A mere human man did all this?' was the thought going through their minds at the time.
However, eleven miles away at 5,000 ft, a nervous Paige was panicking, and rightfully so. Too many bad memories existed here, but for herself, and Nathan, she had to do this. To bury the hatchet and start anew.
"Huh,huh,huh." she wheezed. "I,I, I CAN do this!!" she roared, pinning the throttle and speeding her descent up.
Descending to 1000ft and now 2 miles out, she could spot Lakeland's runway directly ahead of her, so she slowed down to an optimal landing speed. She didn't worry about landing procedures, as they came to her naturally, as they'd do for any sentient aircraft.
"Here goes...." she murmured, trembling in nervousness "For Nathan...." she exhaled, and shortly aftewards, she flared, and made a perfect landing on runway 09. Turning off the runway, she spotted a strange complex, and her brakes locked,causing her to skid involuntarily.
Back in the main hangar, Nathan was having a hard time trying to get Paige Jr
to sleep when the screech hit his ears.
"Huh, must be a hard landing by a young plane or trainee pilot." he mumbled to himself,as the mini F-106 babbled and squealed adorable gibberish.
"Now,Paige. It's sleepy time!" he cooed at his daughter, who gurgled in glee.
Cedric and Greg were sleeping like doormats, Nathan thanking every deity that they were heavy sleepers. Dora however, was sprawled atop them as she always found the most amusing sleep positions.
Sniffing, Paige Jr suddenly started squealing, startling her sleeping siblings,who squeaked at her in annoyance.
"Mama! Mama!" she chirped.
Cedric squealed,irritated by his early awakening.
Dora squeaked and Greg growled.
Sure enough, Claire rolled in,earning mews from the four.
"Hi,Nathan." she soothed.
"Hello Claire...." he replied, sharing a loving kiss with his second wife, something he'd never been able to do as a human prior to his accident.
Purring contently, the CFA-44 and A-5 relished the tender moment a bit longer,as the four babies took the opportunity to feed themselves with considerable enthusiasm.
Nathan's elevons behind his cockpit flicked up when he heard laughter coming from the main hangar space.
"I'm going to see what that fuss is about,ok. Keep an eye on these tearaways,please."
"Ok.Love you,Nathan." came the A-5's reply.
Sharing another kiss, Nathan left.
In the main hangar, Paige's kids were having an absolute blast. Meeting a young P-51,named Tyler, a Harrier named Pepper and a F/A-18 named Daniel, the group of young planes sparred,chased each other, and had a great time. That all stopped when a CFA-44 rolled in, with sapphire blue eyes, and a smell Corbin and Pepper recognised instantly. Nathan Maddox.
"Daddy!" Pepper chirped. "Meet my new friends!" She pointed at Paige's children, in turn introducing them.
"Corbin,Jo,Lucy and Nathan!"
"A pleasure to meet you four!"
A babble from behind him, as Paige Jr,Dora,Greg and Cedric sat behind him under their second mother's wings, all begging for a wash. It was a request Nathan couldn't ignore and a sight that caused Paige's children to coo at in adoration, as well as Rosie and Adele.
Meanwhile, a trembling Paige was staring at Hangar 2-1 in fear,unsure of what she may find beyond the doors.
"Paige?" came a familiar voice. It was Ken.
"AAAAH!" Leaping a foot in the air, she howled in fright. "KEN!!" she squealed, her heart hammering madly and her oil pressure skyrocketing.
The blue Sea Dart simply laughed. "Jeez,Paige. You've certainly become feistier than a bag of cats!"
Paige pouted as a response,before she giggled. "Oh,Ken. Never change please!"
The two jets nuzzled each other in happiness as they remembered good times when Nathan freed her from her demons.
"Sooo," Ken began, pulling away from his old friend. "What do you think of the foster home?"
"Foster home? What do you mean?"
"Look behind you...." another familiar voice spoke. Paige gasped in realisation.
"Theee one and only." he retorted. Acommpanying her was a B-2 Spirit he'd met at RAF Fairford in the UK. Due to spending a whole year in Britain with Katherine, the two planes now spoke British English instead of American, and as a joke, Douglas had decided to repaint himself in the 1980's colours of British Airways, and reapplied a flag decal near his registry number of half Union Jack,half Stars and Stripes.
Katherine, also interested in this idea, resprayed herself in the colours of an Avro Vulcan. Specifically XH558, who'd she'd met and become fast friends with. She still kept in touch with her.
"Douglas?" Paige began, confused as to why he'd completely changed his voice,accent and paintscheme. "A new look?"
The Boeing nodded.
"Yep. I thought my aluminium could use a change of paint, so I'm now what you see currently!"
"And he's certainly British too!" "Not that that's a bad thing!!" he squeaked, upon receiving the stinkeye from a family of holidaying British planes nearby.
Paige laughed,forgetting her fear of hangar 2-1 completely at this point.
Remembering something about a foster home, she gasped.
"You said something about a foster home,Ken. What do you mean by that?"
"Come with me."
Seeing no reason to refuse, the F-106 accompanied the Sea Dart to the enormous complex of 10 small hangars, and about 30 more in various stages of completion. A slew of freshly laid tarmac connected them to the main taxiways, as they'd yet to be painted and have lights installed into them. Beyond that was a massive hangar wide enough for a B-52 to manouver in without scraping its' wings, and connected to that was a smaller hangar that was promptly identified by Katherine as Joan and Nathan's old hangar, which had now been converted into guest rooms for visitors or family. An enclosed taxiway linked the two together and finally, it appeared. Hangar 2-1. A bright shining beacon gleaming in the sunlight.
Paige was slackjawed. She'd have fought,killed and died for a chance to spend in an idyllic place like this as a child growing up.
"Nathan did ALL of this?!" she breathed,unable to believe her eyes.
"He sure did,Paige." Ken replied. "He named it after you anyway!"
That was enough for Paige. She had to find Nathan and apologise for all the heartache she'd caused him.
"Do you know where Nathan is?" she began. "I need to see him and apologise to him."
Instead of responding, Ken,Douglas and Katherine merely smiled and escorted her, to her confusion, to hangar 2-1.
"What,what are you, wai?.." she stuttered.
Looking up, she gulped and her brakes locked upon seeing the "2-1" emblazoned on the hangar in front of her.
"Are you ready,Paige?" Ken whispered, trying to sooth the F-106 to the best of his ability.
Swallowing hard, she nodded.
"Ok. Douglas?" he spoke, pointing his nose probe at the door switch.
"Ok,Ken." the 727 responded. Pressing the door switch with his nose gear, the motors squeaked and groaned in protest.Parting in the centre, beams of warm light blazed through the growing opening. Standing stiller than a statue until the doors opened fully, Paige softly gasped as her friends stood beside her. Inside were warm LED spotlights, yellow walls, and a clean cement floor. On the wall opposite of her was a gigantic mural of Paige in flight. Her ‘Skyfire’ nose art was prominently displayed. On the left wall, in a glass display case, was the old Magnavox CRT television and transistor radio that served as her link to the outside world for 37 years. Forgetting her fear entirely, Paige slowly entered, gazing around in silent awe and recognition. The place felt so much bigger than she remembered. It felt safe, welcoming. A place were individuals of all walks would gather. Paige blinked. Was this really the same place she spent 37 years of her life in, gathering dust in silent solitude? The dust, rust, and terrible smell were gone. Even the pipe she drank fuel from was gone. So overwhelmed were her senses, she didn’t notice the door leading from the connection to the other,more massive hangar open behind her. Looking back at her friends, Paige's eyes watered and her mouth trembled.
Eventually, tears cascaded down her nose as the memories flooded over her.
"Ken, Douglas...." she sobbed, joyful tears flowing freely. "Thank you...."
Her old friends smiled warmly.Hearing a startled gasp, Paige nearly jumped off her wheels in fright and slowly turned around.
Nathan was having a brilliant time talking to the visiting aircraft. Sharing life stories, spinning tales about his Navy adventures, he and his friends laughed and played,and generally had a good time.
"Now, let me get you all a drink." he offered. "You can come along and see hangar 2-1 too!"
Ben licked his lips at the thought of an ice-cold canister of Guiness. Or a Helldiver.
"Sounds good to me,Nathan." His flaps trembled.
"Come along then. ONWARDS!" Nathan cackled in a silly voice, earning laughter from the group.
Entering the corridor that linked both his residental hangar, and hangar 2-1, Nathan was unaware for who'd be waiting for him in the main space.......
Turning around, Paige stared at the mysterious jet. She'd never seen a plane like that before. Sniffing the aircraft who did nothing more than stare, she gasped as tears fell. Recognising his eyes, her mouth formed a shuddery smile. However, she flinched when said plane vanished in a bright white light, and standing before her was none other than Nathan Maddox.
The 38 year old man stared,wide eyed and in disbelief, before spotting a very familiar piece of nose art. Skyfire.
"Paihe,Pah, Paige?!" he stammered, mincing his words like garlic in a crusher.
Hearing her voice caused his own eyes to water heavily.
"Paige.... PAIGE!" he half sobbed,half wailed.
"NATHAN!" the interceptor replied, her own thoughts resuming, her cry emotional and heartbreaking.
Closing the gap rapidly, the man and machine met in a tearjerking embrace that was impossible to stay dry-eyed at.
"Paige.... can you forgive me for what I said when we last met?" Nathan choked, his voice breaking.
Paige didn't reply. She brushed his left cheek lovingly, then kissed it. Squeaking a faint "Yes!", she brushed his chest over his heart,and gasped when she felt him hug her nose.
"I missed you."
"I missed you,too. Nathan, I'm sorry for all the pain I put you through." Paige started.
She didn't finish as Nathan transformed back into the CFA-44 he was before, and hugged her again.
"Don't be,as I forgave you already....mom." he whispered.
There was a long silence. Everyone couldn't believe what had just happened. Except Douglas and Ken.
Paige herself froze.
"Did, did you?!" She stammered. "Did you call m-me M-m-mom?!"
A torrent of tears landed on Nathan's wings as Paige broke down again. A sob from Claire and Ben,of all planes, sadly broke the embrace.
Eyes marred with tears, Nathan and Paige faced their respective partners with smirks and, speaking together, they spoke.
"My,My Claire/Ben. Getting a little mistyeyed are we?"
The Vigilante and Blackbird both blushed.
"How can we not?!" Claire whined. "That,was just touching!" Her sobs began anew and she turned away from them,embarrassed.
"Ooh! Paige! We've four little ones who'd like to say hello!" the Superhornet spoke,eagerly waiting for her reaction.
"Oh! Where are they?!"
"Right here!" the F/A-18 spoke, carrying two propellor planes from WW2, and two vintage jets.
"The male A-5 is Cedric, and I'll let Nathan reveal the other names,after all."
"Ok,then." Nathan agreed. A smile spread on his face. "The P-39 is Dora. The P-51 is Greg, but..." He paused, noticing Paige's shocked expression.
The F-106 was rooted to the spot,her eyes showing shock and disbelief.
"Nathan.... how?" she whispered. "How did you know my parent's names?"
"Ronnie Hauser,he told me all about you. So, when these three adorable scamps..." he indicated the three planes who were running rings round him on their wheels, "came along, I had to honour them somehow. And this young lady," he picked up the baby F-106, who squealed like a rabbit in surprise, before resting her on top of his wings. "I named after you."
Paige's jaw dropped open, and only air came out.
All that Nathan got in reply was a few faint utters from her twitching throat.
"Pana???" Paige Jr chirped,then growled. "Paga?" "Paigr?" "Paige?"
The resulting gasp from the other aircraft could've sucked an entire Knock Nevis class oil tanker dry. Paige Jr said her first word!
A nanosecond later, Paige Sr blinked, her jade green eyes locking on the jade green minime's shiny silver ones.
Closing her jaw, her mouth trembled. This tiny Delta Dart,bearing her name, was so like her as an infant. Meek, cute, and innocent.
"Yes,dear?" she responded, her voice wavering and eyes watering.
"Paige!" the tiny F-106 squealed, sniffing her nosecone in curiosity and squeaking a sneeze out.
"Don't-don't..." the elderly jet choked, before letting out a wail and collapsing to the floor,overwhelmed from the series of events that bombarded her senses.
This baby plane would live the life she lost, the life she craved. Thanks to Nathan in particular, she'd grow up to be happy,loved and wanted.
A squeak from her younger self and the feeling of a tiny nuzzle earned more tears as a result.
"Aw......" Nathan crooned, taking a quick picture of the two Paiges together.
Deep down,he knew that, with these tiny planes in her life, Paige would be happier than ever before,and, feeling a breeze flow over him, he smiled, taking pride in the fact that her parents were still around,watching,waiting and loving her.
Far beyond the mortal realm, a small gathering of planes and humans watched the scene with earnest smiles.
A female P-39, a male P-51 and five human beings stood together.
Resting his hands on the Mustang and Aircobra, a man identical in every way to Nathan spoke.
"I'm with you,Nathan. I'm with you all."
Jason Maddox smiled at his friends and family as they embraced each other as families should, and waited some more. Until the day they would all be complete again.....