The shockwave sank one of the log tugs and disintegrated the small biplane that had been closing on wing three. It bowled over the spectators who had lined the bank and shook the wooden buildings. A teardrop of burning fuel spread over the water and into the forest.
“Three is gone.” The tailgunner announced.
The pride of the Air Army had been torn apart by obsolete planes. Even with the element of surprise, they shouldn’t have been able to inflict so much damage. Mirl throttled up, he was going to survive this encounter and return to flatten the forest and destroy all the hidden bases. He just had to turn the wing around and head back, the damage wasn’t that extensive.
There was a shape below, on the water or just above, a crude cross decorated in yellows and greens with creatures dancing across its wings. A broken yellow line rose from the front of the cross, then another two from the middle. “Oh no.”
Each hit drew a hollow clang, like hailstones hitting a ferrous roof. Isolated thuds became a drumbeat counter-pointed by shrieks and whistles of broken pressure lines. The oil pressure gauge for engine two dropped to zero. Mirl pulled back the throttle and shut the engine down. “Two is on fire!” his co-pilot announced, flicking the switch for the extinguishers.
They could still make it on five engines. “Someone get a shot at that thing!” Mirl shouted into the remote caller. The oil pressure on engine four began to drop. Mirl cut the fuel supply. There was no response to his order.
The bullets stopped coming, but it was far beyond too late. There was smoke in the cabin and the caller system didn’t work any more. There was still enough of the control system connected for Mirl and his co-pilot to fight with and keep the plane in the air. They were turning, but far too slowly. Every count took them further and further away from their base. If they crashed into the forest they might survive, but that would leave them to dodge the Hidden Army.
The treetops were drawing closer. The ground wasn’t rising, so they must be falling. It was so hard to get any sensation of their general direction over the shaking and churning of the damaged plane. If the wing went into the branches nose down it would cartwheel and break up. Mirl pulled back on the stick and powered down the engines and the plane sank into the green canopy.