The silver wing reflected the sky, blending into the perfect blue at the edges. Harren could only tell where his aeroplane ended by spotting the wingtip aerial. He rotated the turret and gazed down the expanse of wing on the other side. It was all wing, this impossibility of a flyer, pushed through the upper atmosphere by a combination of propellers and turbo jets. So ugly on the ground, up here it was a slice of light high above the occupied territories.
Harren unhooked his feet from the stirrups and lowered himself into the main cabin. Jenss, the bearded, miserable top gunner nodded at him as he commented, “You have one of the finest views in the aerial military up there.”
“And none of the Northern Countries can fly anything high enough for me to shoot at.” Jenss didn’t return to his post, merely reached up and locked the turret into its aerodynamic rest position.
There was so much space in the main cabin of the flying wing. Harren had flown his first combat missions in the single engine, two seat ‘Stumps’ which still saw service with the Defector Brigades. They were solid, slow and stable, but the engines died too easily and there was no space to move in the cabin. Each of the wing’s bomb bays could hold the fuselage of a Stumpy and the crew of eight- it could comfortably hold twelve in gun platform mode- could move around the pressurised cabin.
Harren plugged his remote talker into a panel above the navigator’s position. “About time to come around Mister Karn.”
“Coming around to…. three five two?”
The navigator nodded. “Three five two.” Harren unplugged and walked forward as the wing began to bank.
“I can’t understand why we fly these missions. It would better suit the cause to go over the damn mountains and take the fight to what’s left of the Northern Countries. Or we could block the Arril pass for good.”
“Good time, Karn, good time. They believe there is a whole army scattered over the plains and in the forests. It is hoped we can find some of it and rain down fire upon them.”
The black tower of smoke over the factory city of Reff came into view and the wing stabilised. Light glinted off the great river Mall as it lazily wound its way past Reff, having just as lazily sneaked out of the forested mountains of the unexplored far North.
“You have no need to lecture me. I am merely impatient and posing a rhetor…..” Karn craned forward as he trailed off, staring at something far above.
Harren strained for a moment before he spotted them. Twin trails of white vapour, almost vertical, inclined ever so slightly toward the far side of the mountains. The trails started and ended far above the wing’s upper limits, though the bottoms were coming ever lower. Harren plugged his RT in. “Navigator come forward.”
The navigator spotted the vapour trails without requiring a prompt. He did some quick calculations on a wipe clean map. “They shall fall well short of Reff.”
“Really? What about now?” Karn asked, pointing. The trajectories were shallower.
“If they keep changing direction at that rate, maybe the great oil store, possibly Reff itself.”
“Comms. Flash traffic to Reff aerial defence. Tell them to expect an attack. Gunnery, see if you can get me those things in the focals.”
The screen above and to the left of Harren made a low Punnnn sound as it turned on. In gun platform mode the optics and electronic imaging device under the nose turret would feed images for the pilot and gunner to target the recoilless cannons slung below the bomb bays. The image resolved and zoomed in. At maximum magnification the picture was fuzzy, but Harren could swear he was looking at a sleeker brother of his own wing- as if it had folded up at great speed. He pushed the throttles far forward, and brought the turbojets up from idle to full combat power. The plane surged forward as the jets’ whine became a rolling boom. Still they would not reach Reff before these falling arrows.
“The Northerners are experimenting with rockets to send their artillery further.” Karn repeated an officers’ club rumour. The trajectories were now almost flat, these were no dumb shells.
The objects, wing or bomb, were almost horizontal as they crossed Reff. Every aerial defence gun and rocket – and there were a great many- loosed several salvos. The air over the polluted city became darker still. The slave workers would have the threat of a shrapnel rain to add to the noxious fumes they breathed.
Both flying things entered the cloud, they could hardly avoid it. “Nothing could survive that.” opined Karn. The viewer zoomed out, just in time to see two objects, each trailing flame and smoke, burst out of the cloud. One shot high and to the South, the other low toward the ocean. “Rockets.” Karn repeated as they disappeared from view faster than anything had the right to travel.
I’ve serialised this story before, but it’s hidden somewhere in the archives that I’m having so much trouble republishing. Plus, I write more of it every time I do this and I think I may be able to finish it this time.