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|