"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!"