Sunday, April 27, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 126: Ground Targets

          I throttled my A-20 Havoc up, the powerful engines purring. My squadmates were already gliding down the runway and leaping into the air, out for blood. Hands on the sticks, I sent the Song of Silence hurtling after them.
          The runway was perched quite near to the edge of a cliff, so I deliberately kept my speed down, gliding the Song over the edge and jamming the stick down to send her diving towards the ocean. I pulled up at the last second, sending plumes of water rising towards the sky behind me. I quit goofing around and turned towards the battlefield.
          The other Allied forces were strung out in front and above me, climbing into the sky. As I've mentioned before, my favorite strategy involved ground-hugging, so I punched the afterburners and drove hard towards the combat line. Let the others chase each other's tails up top; if someone tried to chase the Song's tail, he'd be eating an awful lot of lead, a strategy which usually worked well for me.
          At the breakneck speed I was making, I soon found myself at the battle lines. The forces were bogged down at a river, exchanging fire across it in a bit of a stalemate. I decided to give our side a bit of a push; targeting an enemy artillery battery, I squeezed the trigger and blew it away. Banking hard, I maneuvered down the bank, systematically blowing the artillery and AAA batteries away. I took a moment to turn the volume the comm, as the shouts and commentary of my allies dogfighting it out in the clouds was a bit annoying. Glancing at the radar, I saw basically everyone up there from both sides, leaving me in relative peace as I destroyed guns.
          Well, for a little bit. An ambitious fighter dropped out of the clouds a moment later to line up on my rear. I took the time to destroy one more battery before switching to my dorsal gun and opening fire.
          For some reason, I couldn't hit the bugger. He twisted madly, missing me with all of his shots as my shots blistered his paint, but did little else. We exchanged fire for about three minutes before he peeled off. I thought about letting him go, but decided I'd invested too many bullets in him to let him off that easily and chased after him.
          As I turned, I saw the enemy airstrip out of the corner of my eye. So that's where he was headed--for refuel, repair, and reload. I wondered if he was out of bullets, even as I lined my A-20 up on him and fired.
          Slightly better results. I saw metal fly from his fuselage, but he was, again, barely scratched. He skipped away; I twisted hard on the sticks, but couldn't duplicate the maneuver. I made a mental note to see about upgrading the Song when I got back to base.
          "A-20, come my way and I'll help you out."
          I frowned at first the comm, then my radar. I couldn't tell if that was directed at me or not, as I didn't see any friendlies on my scope. I shrugged, decided it didn't matter, and chased after my prey. A lumbering B-17 dropped out of the sky a moment later a few klicks ahead. The fighter decided that looked like easier prey than the fierce Song and charged it. It was blown out of the sky an instant later as at least three turrets locked on and destroyed it.
          I sighed. That was my kill, I groused to myself, but decided to be polite anyway. "Hey, thanks for the assist."
          "No problem," the B-17 replied, throttling up and heading back to the battlefield. I thought about following, but decided to have some fun with the base first. I dove.
          A few minutes later, all the base's defenses were nothing but a pile of shredded metal, and I'd gotten to test out the new rockets I'd upgraded the Song with. I grinned and headed off to find a new target. I decided on the cruisers anchored offshore and began heading that direction. After a few moments, I decided to check the stats as long as I was idling...
          "What the heck?" I yelped. All of my teammates were down, with myself and two enemy fighters the only craft currently in the air. I decided to conserve my rockets and broke off my attack run to search out the fighters. A moment later, the stats registered one of them crashing. I scanned the sky for the last one.
          There he was, diving on some of my side's tanks--a Spitfire. I grimaced. Great. Spitfires were notoriously hard to kill. This was going to be a bit of a toss-up.
          He spotted me a moment later and twisted hard to charge me. We bore down on each other; I had a slight height advantage, which I appreciated. At the last second, I threw the Song into a roll, opening fire with my six nose-mounted machine guns and simultaneously unloading all my rockets at him.
          Incredibly, somehow, he avoided all my rockets and only sustained superficial damage as he thundered past, dangerously close. I straightened out invitingly as he looped around to get on my tail, switching to the turret controls.
          The Spitfire opened up, pieces flying from my rudder and elevator. I returned fire, pulverizing his engine. It exploded, fire streaming around the fuselage. He wobbled into the sky. I poured more fire into him...he staggered and--
          Oh, crap.
          I twisted the sticks, but as fast as I was, I was just a second to slow. The pilot, evidently a sore loser, drove his fighter straight into my side, cutting off half my elevator and most of my right wing before dropping like a stone into the ocean below. The Song, mortally wounded, spiraled out of control. I wrestled with the controls, cursing a blue streak, as I tried to aim for the shallows. When I'd gotten her somewhat lined up, I bailed out.
          I watched the Song splash down, within easy salvage distance of the shore. "Sorry, girl," I told her aloud, again cursing the stupid rammer. At least I'd scored quite a few kills; last count, sixteen ground targets destroyed, an almost unheard of number. Plus, y'know, one plane and one assist. I sighed and looked down at the water, itching my nose.
          Gosh, that looks cold.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 125: Easter Incidents

          And now, it's time to recount some amusing Easter anecdotes.
          Well, okay, one in particular. I had to wait on this one for a few years, because a) I got teased enough for this one as it was, and b) it took me a few years to be able to bring this one to mind this one without wincing.
          As anyone who has read my quick introduction of myself knows, I'm a solid Catholic. Part of what that meant for me and my brother Nemesis was that we would occasionally assist, or "serve," for Masses. We both enjoyed it, and eventually got enough experience to get asked to serve for the big occasions, like Christmas, Easter, or for the bishop. This particular Easter, we were asked to both serve the big Vigil Mass on Saturday night (the two-and-a-half-hour-long one) and the bishop was going to be there. Needless to say, it was a big event.
          It got even bigger for me during the practice. Normally, alter servers are classified into groups; these guys get candles, this guy get the cross, and this guy acts as a bookstand. Good stuff. I was instructed to be what we called the "incense guy" because we couldn't remember what the correct term actually was. (Still can't.) My job involved hot coals and copious amounts of smoke. I hid my delight at being allowed to feed my pyromania and resisted the temptation to perform experiments with fire like a miniature saint. I did managed to burn myself slightly, but I was used to such occurrences and continued serving with no more than a passing thought to my singed digits.
          Near the end of Mass, all servers (except for myself with the incense thingy and Nemesis, who was operating the bells) were given tall candles and requested to stand for about twenty minutes with them. The candles looked rather heavy, making me rather glad I only had a solid metal incenser to deal with, even if the air currents were blowing the smoke straight into my face. I kept an eye on some of the other kids; we were all pretty young, but some of the newer guys were pretty small and I didn't know how they'd hold up.
          We all performed admirably. Once we were done, we servers processed from the main church into the sacristy, where we could put the candles away and get ready for the next part of Mass. We quietly reminded each other of jobs we had to perform before slipping back out, one by one, to the church proper. Nemesis and I, as the senior servers, would be the last ones to leave. One of the youngest and smallest kids set his tall candle down on the floor and attempted to blow it out, which limited success; it was taller than he was.
          "Here, I'll get that," I offered, closing my hand around the candle and blowing down on it. "I can put it back in its stand, too--I'll meet you out there."
          He nodded and vanished out the door. I grinned; he must have been tired. I closed both hands around the heavy candle and gave a mighty heave to pick it up.
          Apparently, the candle was nowhere near as heavy as I'd been led to believe. It flew off the ground. I almost yelped, reflexes stopping the candle before it smashed into my face. I didn't even have time to register gratefulness before the liquid wax left the candle and splattered all over the left side of my face.
          Fortunately, long years of childhood incidents had given me the reflexes of a cat; I was able to get my eye shut before the wax hit. I thought briefly about clawing it off my face pronto--the stuff was pretty hot--but decided to wait for it to solidify a little before peeling it off. It probably wouldn't burn me, I decided with the air of one who has encountered many types of hot substances (including this one, when I'd stuck half my hand into a just-extinguished candle out of pure curiosity). I scrambled around to try to find my handkerchief before discovering that I couldn't find the pocket in my robe.
          "Nemesis, I need your hankie," I staged-whispered at my brother's back, moments before he would step out of the sacristy.
          "Use your own," he returned over his shoulder, hardly pausing.
          "NEMESIS, give me your hankie or so help me, I'll murder you in front of the entire church!" I hissed at him.
          The death threat worked where persuasion hadn't. He turned around. "Why--oh, goodness," he interrupted himself when he saw my face. "Here you go."
          "Thanks. Can you get it wet for me?" I asked, already beginning to try to work the stuff off my face, and losing a few eyelashes in the process.
          Nemesis, the ever-protective of his possessions, gave me a look like I'd just asked him to murder the family dog, but obediently dampened the handkerchief and gave it to me. "Need anything else?" he asked with the air of a martyr.
          I ignored his expression. "Nah, get out there. I'll be out in a second."
          He shrugged--at least, I think he did--and vanished. It took me a few minutes to get the wax off and ensure that my eye was undamaged before joining the other servers.
          The rest of Mass passed without incident, although I forgot to steady the giant hanging candle when I lit it later and left it swinging slowly (an effect Dad claimed was vaguely mesmerizing and jokingly accused me of trying to hypnotize the congregation). It turned out later that the left side of my nose, hit hard by the hot wax, now looked sunburned, but it was dark enough in the church to pass unnoticed by all except the keen eyes of the parental unit. The priests and bishop, used to mishaps of one sort or another, graciously accepted my explanation with no more than token jesting. Fortunately, nothing like that ever happened at any of my future Masses...
          ...but needless to say, I've never heard the end of this one.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 124: A Battle for the Honor and Glory of the Realm!

          My stupid alarm went off, way earlier than I thought justified. On the other hand, it was eight o'clock, and I was pushing it if I wanted to get dressed and get to class on time. I sighed, rolled over, and reached over the bed to snag my phone and shut the alarm off.
          The "text received" light was flashing. Strange. I never got a text before 10am. I also usually didn't get texted until I messaged someone. Frowning, I unlocked my phone and checked my messages.

          Ben: Kings pawn to E4.

          This was going to be a good day.
          Ben and I had started playing mental chess during one of our classes together in undergrad--specifically, drawing. Two straight hours of sketching was usually more boring than either of us had liked, so we tried to play chess by telling each other what our moves were and then remembering what the board looked like. A difficulty arose in that some of the letters and numbers sounded the same, and since we were talking in low voices, we sometimes lost track of where pieces were going.
          But I digress. This was how my day went, at least on a mental level.

          Me: King's pawn to E5.
          Ben: Queens knight toA3
          Me: Queen's knight's pawn to B6
          Ben: Queen's knight to C4
          Me: King's bishop's pawn to F6
          Ben: King's bishop's pawn to F3
          Me: Queen's pawn to D5
          Ben: Queen's bishops pawn to C3
          Ben: Careful. This is the point where blood soaks the streets.
          Me: Right...but it's not mine! Queen's bishop's pawn to C4, takes knight
          Ben: Kings bishop to C4, takes pawn
          Ben: And i think you meant queen's pawn.
          Me: Whoops, yeah...king's bishop to C5
          Ben: Queen to A4. Check.
          Me: Queen's bishop's pawn (the real one this time) to C6. Uncheck.
          Ben: Queen's pawn to D4.
          Me: King's pawn to D4, takes pawn
          Ben: Queen's bishop's to D4, takes pawn
          Me: King's bishop to D4, takes pawn
          Ben: Queen's bishop to F4
          Me: King's bishop to B2, takes pawn
          Ben: Queen's bishop to B8. Takes knight.
          Me: King's bishop to A1. Takes rook.
          Ben: Queen tp c6, takes pawn, pins rook. Check.
          Ben: I think I just heard you scream "Son of a gun" all the way from Iowa.
          Me: Actually, I yelled "DANGIT WHY DIDN'T I SEE THAT????" but yeahhhh....
          Me: Queen's bishop to D7, uncheck, much cussing
          Ben: Gah. Traffic. Queen takes rook.
          Me: Ughh...queen's knight's pawn to B5
          Ben: Kings bishop to F7.
          Ben: Check.
          Me: Uhh, king to F7. Uncheck. Why?
          Ben: Because queen to D5. Check
          Me: King to G6. Uncheck.
          Ben: Rooks pawn to H4.
          Me: King's knight to E7.
          Ben: Rooks pawn to h5. Check.
          Me: Yeahhh, king to H6, followed by cussing
          Ben: Bishop checkmates king. Good game. :)
          Me: HA! Not quite. KING'S KNIGHT'S PAWN TO H5. BLOCKED.
          Me: ....did I just hear a "son of a gun" emanating from Iowa? ;)
          Ben: Well, crap....
          Ben: CHIN DAO SI SI MO TAE GORAM. I may need time to consider this move.
          Me: What the heck does that mean?
          Ben: Dunno. Heard it from Mal. I assume its cussin'

          So, anyway, that was Day 1. Day 2 started out with....

          Ben: Queen to G5. Takes pawn, check. Possibly mate.
          Me: King's bishop's pawn to G5. Takes queen. Uncheck.
          Me: ...was that cussing I heard?
          Ben: Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap
          Ben: Queen's bishop to E5
          Me: King's bishop to E5, takes bishop
          Me: I haven't moved that guy since I took your rook haha
          Ben: Nooooooooooooo
          Ben: King's knight to H3
          Me: Bishop to C3, check
          Ben: Queen's knight to C3. Takes bishop.
          Me: Uhh, queen's knight died a while ago
          Me: Right after your "blood soaks the street" comment, I pulled a "Queen's bishop's pawn to C4, takes knight." He's dead, Jim.
          Me: ...I did send flowers to his funeral, though.
          Ben: Drat you're right. Hold on, I need to set up a chess board. Sleep does bad things to the memory.
          Me: I need to go BUY a chess board haha
          Ben: King to G1, rook to F1.
          Me: Uh, you can't castle out of a check. My bishop's still covering your king.
          Ben: ??? Googling.
          Me: I've tried that on my computer chess program repeatedly before--it doesn't work, unfortunately
          Ben: Dag frabbit.
          Ben: I had you on the ropes too...
          Me: Thank goodness for the reserve troops
          Ben: I move my king you take my last knight with your bishop, pawn takes bishop, queen moves to 1st row, checkmate.
          Me: Clever of me, right? ;)
          Ben: Well played, my friend. A very good game.

          It was, at that. It was a very good game. As my old Humans versus Zombies team would say...FOR HONOR!! FOR GLORY!!! FOR VICTORYYYY!!!!!