Thursday, September 26, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 113: Song of Silence

          "Havocs, what are your targets?"
          I itched my nose, sorely tempted to just mute the freaking comm. Today, though, I was tired and privately admitted to myself that I wouldn't mind a little backup on my mission. I keyed the comm. "I'm going for the bridge."
          Electro came back almost at the same time. "Bridge."
          Guaran jumped on the bandwagon, but with a slightly different approach. "Pizza."
          I shook my head. "You have got to be kidding me."
          "Finally, someone who has his priorities in order!" Callan joked.
          I snorted, checking my HUD. I had taken off a bit late. "Electro, you can have first crack at the bridge; I'll cover you from the east."
          "Thanks. You're gonna have to blow it if I miss. Why the heck do these things not have freaking bomb sights?"
          "I dunno. That used to be one of my favorite things about the Havoc, but the last round of upgrades removed it for some reason," I replied. "I think the Havoc got reclassified as a fighter."
          My A-20 Havoc, christened the Song of Silence in a rather unnatural and vaguely poetic moment of mine, was a powerful twin-engined weapon of destruction. My three favorite features in no particular order were her speed, her firepower (six 12.7mm machine guns in the nose, two in a dorsal turret and one in a ventral turret), and her resilience. I'd flown the Song missing half a wing, dogfought with a missing engine and (most notably) greased in a crash landing while missing the entire tail section. There was a definite bond with my aircraft; the same bond the probably formed between the other pilots in my squad and their planes.
          Not that I knew any of them. The aircraft scrambled for this mission were chosen randomly, and I didn't think I had flown with any of them. I probably would have remembered Guaran.
          New mission, same parameters as last time. Not that I minded too much; I loved flying in the mountains. It was also easier to shake pursuers than over plains; since I knew my craft so well, I was absolutely fearless at taking the Song between the tightest peaks and sending her hurtling low over ridges, barely 20 meters above the ground.
          Electro coughed. "Coming up, bridge in sight."
          "I'm on your six high," Guaran confirmed.
          "Three low," I called back.
          "MISSED!!" Electro cursed. "Radar, you're up!"
          "Lining up now," I confirmed, positioning myself carefully.
          "Radar, watch your six high--three bandits on your kiester!" Guaran yelled.
          "Three?" I switched to turret view, swearing as I saw the squad closing in for the kill. My Havoc was resilient, but there was no way she would survive a three-fighter attack. Still, there was no way we were going down without a fight. I abandoned my bombing run and lined my turret sights up on the lead plane as he opened fire, hauling back on the joystick as his bullets ripped through the air underneath me. My finger tightened convulsively on the trigger.
          There was no way I could have hit him, pitching and rolling as I was, but hit him I did--squarely in the fuel tank, if the explosion was anything to go by. I couldn't quite believe it, and kept the bullets streaming through the center of the blast. His wingmate, following close on his tail, was ripped apart by my bullets as he flew straight into my line of fire. The third fighter swooped in from five high, but he was now a lone fighter against the might of the Song of Silence. I cut both his wings off and pulverized his engine for good measure. He plummeted towards the ground.
          I checked the intel. Our side had taken off with eight planes; seven were still in the air. The other side had matched us, so, with my victory, I had removed almost half of the opposition. More than half, actually, because the first two fighters shot down were the most advanced the enemy had to offer. The rest would be easy prey for the other hunters of my squad. The Song was unmarked; not even a stray bullet had hit her.
          "I got the bridge!" Guaran cheered.
          "And I'm still alive!" I yelled back, swooping low over enemy tanks and unloading all four bombs over them. Two vanished in the ensuing explosions. Electro, the other Havoc pilot, had joined Callan's four-man squad and were harrying the enemy fighters back towards their own base. They were being bracketed by anti-airgun fire, and as I watched, two enemies fell to Callan's guns just before he was shot out of the sky by AA fire. He bailed out as the remaining four planes of our team's hunters broke formation and began zig-zagging across the sky.
          "Wanna give the AA something to think about?" Guaran suggested.
          "Darn straight," I agreed, lining up for a strafing run.
          Enemy fighters fell from the sky as, with the AA's gunfire concentrated on me and Guaran, the hunters above were free to kill. I made two successful strafing runs and was lining up for my third when a battery got lucky, shearing through my left wing just past the engine and killing my engine for good measure. I made the run anyway, avenging my wing, and fought to keep my A-20 on a course back to the village we were protecting, notifying Guaran that I was out for the duration. The Song twisted madly as I struggled to hold her on course; as low as I was to the ground, any miscalculation would be deadly. Finally, just past the boundaries of the village, the wing gave up the ghost and parted company with my wounded A-20. I slammed down hard on a street in a rather ungraceful belly landing, spinning madly until friction robbed the Song of momentum and she skidded to a halt.
         I pried my shaking hands off the joysticks and sat quietly for a moment before calling in rescue teams. My Havoc would be returned to base within the day, repaired within a few days and out for blood by the end of the week. I grinned suddenly.
          "Three kills at once! I'm an ace again!"

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 112: Warriors of the Air

          I checked out my A-20 Havoc idling on the runway before entering the cockpit. Both powerful engines were idling, begging for a chance to take off. I scanned the instruments quickly before throttling up and powering down the runway. The Song of Silence was ready for combat.
          My hands settled on A-20's joysticks, fingers resting on the triggers. Mission parameters flashed up on the head's-up display (HUD), followed by the chatter of my squadmates trying to form up and organize our attack. I tuned both distractions out. Normally I flew the Song as a lone wolf, and today would be no exception. My personal mission was to destroy anything in red that showed up on my radar. The gear retracted, and I banked hard, barely a hundred meters off the ground. My speed plummeted, almost putting me into a stall, but I kept the engines red-lined and the Havoc managed the turn, placing it disturbingly low above the river threading its way through the mountain range. Keeping low, I sent the Song hurtling through the valley, building speed as she went. The mission was underway.
          I spared a moment to flick over to my HUD over to intel. There were a few aircraft fielded by the enemy that the Song wasn't a match for, but most of them were easily within my combat capabilities. I grinned tightly, anticipating the dogfights to come, and red-lined the engines again. The Song thundered low over the treetops, leaping eagerly over mountain peaks and easily outpacing my teammates, all climbing to what they deemed the relative safety of the clouds. I grinned again. I would be on my own for the long minutes it would take them to catch up, but I wasn't too worried.
          My A-20 screamed out low over the beleaguered town that our squad had been sent to save. Ground troops, tanks and suchlike, were advancing towards the bridge over the river that led to the town. I beat them there easily, dropping two bombs to take out the bridge and throwing the remaining two down onto the advancing troops. My HUD informed me that the bridge was down and that I had taken out a tank and damaged another, but I didn't care. Enemy airplanes were in the air and out for blood.
          AA fire bracketed my Havoc; I dove for the ground, pulling up sharply just before I crashed. A few of the faster and better fighters took a few potshots at me, but all  of them had been caught off-guard by my unorthodox maneuver and overshot. No one came back for another round, since the main body of my squad was rapidly closing. I pulled a tight loop and prepared to make them pay for their negligence.
          My first target received a shredded wing, courtesy of the Song's six 12.7mm machine guns mounted in the nose of the aircraft. He jinked away, more sharply than I could follow him. My radar tracked him heading back to his base; I debated about finishing him off, but more targets beckoned. I twisted the joysticks and banked after my next target.
          The distance between us closed slowly; as I drew nearer, I saw he was a biplane. Frowning, I throttled up my engines; the biplane was unusually fast. It strafed a line of AA batteries and began rising. My fingers tightened on both triggers before remembering that I had no rockets and let up on my left hand. The plane began disintegrating, the pilot banking hard and sliding out from under my gunsights. I cursed. For all its strengths, the Song of Silence was not exactly a quick turner.
          The Song shuddered, HUD lighting up with the news that I was under fire. I switched to the turret view, using the dorsal turret to find my victim's wingman opening fire on me again. I returned the courtesy, twin machine guns shredding first his engine, then his wings. He veered away and exploded, probably courtesy of an incendiary bullet to the fuel tank. I punched the air before returning to the HUD and assessing the damage.
          The schematic of the Song appeared in the left side of the HUD, left wing and tail pulsing a gentle pink. The damage wasn't terrible; I'd ridden out far worse in the Song. I twisted the Havoc into a tight left turn and reacquired my first target, fleeing for his home base. I throttled up again and followed.
          It took long minutes to close the distance. I held my fire until he was about 250 meters away before I threw my engines into idle, dropped my combat flaps, and opened fire. He jinked desperately, but my speed was now slower than his and I could keep him in my sights as he twisted back and forth across my field of vision. A few bursts later, and his wings crumpled, spiraling away from the plane as it plunged earthward.
          I headed back to the town and was making a few strafing runs over the enemy's ground troops when my A-20 shuddered again. I flipped back to the gunner's turrets in time to see one of the enemy's aircraft line up for the kill. I poured fire from the turrets into his engine, causing him to break off his attack, then one of my squad mates dropped in from above for the kill.
          My HUD noted that all enemy aircraft had been shot down, so I peeled off and headed back to base. Score: 2 kills, 2 assists, 31 hits, and 3 ground units destroyed. I patted the Song of Silence's console and spoke aloud. "Let's get you back to base and patched up. Maybe some new engines; it's the least you deserve after saving my rear." The Song was a tough bird; but even after taking so much punishment in this last fight, she seemed reluctant to leave the battlefield.
          I grinned and looked out at the horizon, relaxing my grip on the joysticks. "Don't worry, girl. There's always more missions to fly."

The Song of Silence

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Captain's Log, Day 111: Experiments in Rocketry

          It was an ordinary summer day on the Midway farm--if by "ordinary summer day" you meant "the 4th of July," "night," and "the Midway brothers were loaded with enough explosive ordinance to take Guadalcanal."
          Actually, that last line was fairly ordinary, at least for them.
          Radar, tired of launching his modified bottle rockets by hand, had decided to build a rotating-barrel rocket launcher. Unfortunately, events had conspired to limit his time to design and build said launcher. Fortunately, he was a master of duct tape, and soon had a rig that utilized his dad's good drill and a propane torch to fire off a salvo of 12 rockets before it needed to be, as Radar pointed out to a skeptical Nemesis, if you were really fast you could conceivably load the new rockets on one side while the other side was firing. Nemesis withheld his objections and graciously offered to let Radar be the first one to test that theory. Radar ignored the sarcasm and informed his brother that darn straight he would be the one to test that theory, because Nemesis was going to be the cameraman. Nemesis inquired whether or not he could upload the video of Radar's demise to YouTube so the paramedics could identify his various body parts. A small debate ensued.
          After the bandages were administered (and ammo for both of their BB guns was exhausted), the brothers took to the driveway to put fresh burn marks on the cement. Radar was sporting a baseball cap, which he had grabbed for no reason on his way out of the house and insisted that he "could totally pull it off." Nemesis inquired when he would pull it off, because he looked stupid. The ensuing debate trampled the hat underfoot when it fell off Radar's head.
          The bandaids were brought outside in case of eventualities, and also because their mom was getting annoyed about all the blood in the house. Radar set up the rocket launcher, Nemesis started the camera, and Radar loaded the rockets. The rocket launcher promptly collapsed.
          Nothing daunted, Radar ignored his brother and, grabbing some nearby branches, duct-taped the sticks to the back of the drill and launch plate to brace the launcher. He reloaded the rockets, ignited the torch, and inserted the flame into the ignition hole.
          The rocket launcher promptly collapsed.
          Radar made up a few cuss words and duct-taped some more sticks to the launcher. He reignited the torch, inserted it into the ignition hole, and switched on the drill. The drill spun at roughly three million revolutions per minute, causing the barrels to extinguish the flame of the torch solely with the wind it was generating.
          The rocket launcher promptly collapsed.
          Radar punched his hysterical brother and set up the launcher again. By this point, most of the launcher was silver, owing to the amount of duct tape used (roughly one full roll). He readjusted the drill speed, loaded the launcher, lit the torch, inserted the flame into the ignition hole, and started the drill.
          The rocket launcher promptly fired.
          Radar danced around jubilantly as rocket after rocket arced into the sky. Nemesis recorded each rocket as it fired and exploded, but missed the one that jammed and blew up in the barrel. Radar was, predictably, annoyed. "That was the cool one!" he yelled.
          Eventually, Dad came out and decided to curtail further launches, mostly because his drill was involved. By this point, the brothers had fired off roughly 25 rockets, so they agreed with no more than the traditional token protest. Besides, there were bigger rockets to fire now!
          And, of course, the Roman candle war to be had.