Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 84

“X-Ray Three is first on the hook, then Ace flight’s damaged planes.” Joe searched the sky for the British fighters which had survived the aerial minefield, and caught the sun glinting off of them as they winged their way back toward the ailing British airship. “Yankee flight will fly rear guard. Everyone else lands in takeoff order. Yankee One, out.”

Joe led Emma mile behind Inconstant, then banked into a lazy turn. After a few minutes, Emma’s voice came over the radio. “I’m gonna be right miffed if I have to land in the dark again.”

As much as his harness would let him, Joe shrugged. “Don’t want to write off another Kestrel. Can’t always get what you want, though.”

 

Emma did, at least—the rest of the air wing got aboard in good order, and Emma and Joe hit the skyhooks just as the sun dipped below the horizon. Sparrow fell further back with each passing minute. Already, between the dark and the haze, she was hard to spot. As the winches pulled Joe’s Falcon into the hangar, he felt the zep turn. If he knew Cannon, they’d be turning again after an hour or so, once full dark settled in, to put the last touches on their escape.

The deck crew moved Joe’s fighter toward its parking spot, and Joe felt the tension going out of his shoulders. Even in this line of work, wilder weeks were few and far between. The Long Nines hadn’t lost a single one of their number, and the payday would do to replace the planes too far gone to save.

Joe cranked his canopy open and waited for the deck crew to put his ladder up. Unstrapping and climbing down, he headed forward amid the lively bustle of the hangar. First, he had a report to deliver to the boss. After that, he had an appointment with some down time.

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Commentary, Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 84

Three blog links today:

1. Me, writing on the DCS MiG-21bis.
2. A post from my fiancée Katya, on feminism and egalitarianism and grace.
3. A post from an old college friend of mine, on studying the Bible and how there are benefits to sticking with one topic or area instead of jumping around without ever gaining depth. (Although I would probably claim that it’s important to gain an overview before you can start in depth with the proper context, but I haven’t developed that thought well enough to turn it into an argument.)

Hopefully, Many Words will soon be listed as part of the Open Directory Project, which might go some ways toward correcting its abysmal pagerank. Here’s hoping.

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Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 83

Sparrow drew near, and the bombers split into two groups of three, breaking left and right to bracket the British airship. Joe joined the right-side group as it turned onto its attack vector. Without heavy and fragile aerial torpedoes hanging off the wings, the bombers were free to jink as flack began to burst around them. Joe weaved around the black puffs, then gunned his engine to pull ahead of the bombers. He settled his sights on a defensive machine gun position atop the forwardmost engine pod and squeezed his triggers. Tracers impacted all around the turret, but Joe had no time to inspect his handiwork. Sparrow went by overhead, and he pulled into a steep climb.

“Nice shooting,” Emma’s voice said in his headphones. Beneath them, lines of thick white smoke filled the sky, linking planes to fireballs against the zeppelin’s left flank. He glanced over his shoulder and saw the same picture playing out on the right side. Already he could see Sparrow losing speed.

“That’s that,” he said. “Flight leads, report in and head to home plate.”

“Robber flight here. Everything’s a-ok.”

“Charline One, nothing to report.”

“Ace One,” someone said—Marcel Lecocq, leading the bomber flight. “Two Vultures with light damage from flak. Otherwise we are fine.”

“X-Ray lead,” Takahashi crackled. “X-Ray Three took a long burst. She is holding together for now.”

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No update update

There is no update today, because I’m extremely irresponsible, and I have a new toy to play with: the DCS MiG-21bis, which is a rocket. I’ll probably have a brief write-up of my experience with it so far tomorrow afternoon, and probably a mission log in the evening. (With the Huey, though, not the MiG. I know my limits, although my three charges at an Osa SAM launcher might suggest otherwise.)

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Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 82

Six fighters sped into it. Five parachutes twitched, then turned nearly horizontal as fighters struck the steel cables hanging beneath them. Three of the fighters shook violently as their propellers and the cables tore each other to pieces. The other two parachutes fluttered in the wind a few seconds more, before explosions bloomed on two more fighters as the charges at the ends of the cables went off. In several pieces, the two stricken fighters fell past the three who had taken less critical damage.

The remaining British fighter passed through the minefield unharmed, rolling inverted and diving away, headed back toward its zeppelin. The way was clear for Inconstant‘s bombers.

Joe ordered them in, climbing above Inconstant as they lumbered by, all carrying loads of high-explosive rockets. They skirted the slowly-descending minefield, and Joe followed them, circling overhead. A mile south, Charlie flight herded the British bombers away from Inconstant, making quick slashing attacks and breaking off before the defensive gunners could draw a bead. As Joe watched, one bomber’s left engine belched black smoke, its propeller seizing. It turned out of formation, barely able to keep altitude as it followed one of its fellows toward HMS Sparrow. One of Charlie’s pilots must have winged it earlier.

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Commentary, Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 82

The weapon here is a take on the WWII-era British Unrotated Projectile, which is well-known enough in this universe to go by the more descriptive moniker ‘aerial minelayer’.

The weather’s been nice lately, and so I managed to run outside for the first time since spring, a nice change of pace from the usual indoor stuff. Dinner tonight is breakfast food, which has me pretty excited, as it ought to, so I’m going to get to it. Here is someone running Doom on a printer.

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Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 81

Joe watched Inconstant‘s Vultures launch. The British captain knew his game, to have tracked the Long Nines for a week. He had to know he wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance of keeping pace with Inconstant if he lost even one engine, and now that the pirate pilots had an edge in numbers—Joe saw a third British plane fall away from the fight with Takahashi’s flight, and a pair of Long Nines break off to help Robber flight finish off its opponents—he couldn’t plan on winning the dogfight before dealing with Inconstant‘s bombers. Sending his pilots around the pirate zep at any real distance would expose them to her flak guns, and to repeated attacks from the pirate fighters. That left him with one good option—gun for Inconstant‘s bombers as quickly as he could.

Almost in unison, the remaining British fighters broke from the dogfights, careful to do so when their opposite numbers were off-balance, gaining a few thousand yards before the pirates could turn after them.

Joe keyed his microphone. “Chase them, but leave room.”

The British fighters bore down on Inconstant, aiming to run close along her flanks, so that she couldn’t bring her guns to bear before they were past. A respectable play, against most zeps. Unlike most, Inconstant could answer it. Panels opened all along her stern to reveal hundreds of stubby tubes. Smoke erupted from them, rippling down the rows of launchers. Joe could just see dark blurs as projectiles flew up and behind Inconstant. Puffs of smoke dotted the darkening sky, and a cloud of parachutes descended all around the British planes.

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