The flight crews that assembled in the rock hangar were not as enthusiastic as their new equipment deserved. They had all seen the pictures. They had each been through the stages and no longer lied to themselves that being there would have made a difference. Alive and angry, they were ready for a mission that would end in revenge.
Reed held them to a silence in respect of the crews and personnel who had died at their old base. Uncharacteristically, he made the sign of the Silver Tower, extending it into the circular motion above his head that signalled engines start.
They rolled out of the hangar onto the drained strip, turned right, taxied to the end and awaited their turn to take off. In the dark a parallax arrow was the only one thing to keep them pointing straight on take off. Reed throttled up, releasing the brakes at maximum thrust. Laden with wing tanks full of fuel the powerful Killer Wasp still managed to clear the ground without the aid of the kicker ramp at the end of the runway.
Organisation was crisp, they managed to send off a plane every thirty counts. In the air they stayed low, following the moonlight on the river down the valley. Some inhabitants were out to see them off despite the late hour. Some howled or waved whilst others watched in silence, pretending stoicism despite the rousing sight. No plane climbed to cruising altitude until they were over the flood plain. With luck, the ruse would give any distant observer a false idea of where the planes were launching from.
As the Wasps and Cicciles began to form up, Jay could finally split the seal on the flight plan. Her continued silence prompted Reed to look over. “So, where are we going?”
“What? We just turn back and….”
“No. Not that simple. We have to fly out across the ocean.”
“Even with wing tanks we cannot make that distance.”
Jay had a hand lamp. She shone it on the expanse of blue map. A circle marked their final destination, but there was not even a dot of land within it. “There are radio locators along the route, and somewhere the other side of the safe return distance we will pick up a signal to guide us to our destination, apparently.”
Reed turned on his radio, clicking to the agreed channel. “Wasps and Cicciles. All present?”
“Three lost an engine. They are continuing to the crash strip.” Two reported. None of them could return to Dreamland for security reasons.
“All present and correct.” Reported the Ciccile wing leader.
“I suppose you have all read your maps by now. Who offended Command so much they are sending us for burial at sea?” No laughter over the airwaves, this was not a night for humour. “Safe spread over the sky. You should always be able to see at least two other planes. Come about to Oh- Five- Seven and prepare for a long flight.”