"Fight or Flight"

Tales of the Interstate

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"Fight or Flight"

Postby Fnork » Tue Mar 16, 2004 7:41 pm

Here's a short story I started writing shortly after we finished up Kids 'N' Vigs. It has a small tie-in to that story, but this one goes off in a slightly different direction (literally) than normal Interstate fiction...


The near silence in the hangar was broken by the sound of several piston engines passing overhead. He replaced the open engine panel, and climbed down from the wing of the slate gray Lockhart F-38 Reaper. Retrieving a polished black walnut staff lying under the wing, he limped to the small access door that faced the runway. Leaning on his staff, he watched as a mismatched trio of vintage warbirds rolled to a stop near another hangar.

The nearest was a Messernacht Mn-109, one of the best German fighters of the Second World War. Next was an Ultramarine Pitfighter, a classic British design, instantly recognizable because of its elliptical wings. The lead plane was what drew most of his attention, though. He recognized it as a Japanese Nagasaki Ik-43, better known as an ?OSAKA?. It wasn?t as fast or heavily armed as the better-known Zen fighter, but was so light and nimble that it could fly circles around virtually any other piston-engined combat aircraft ever built.

The propellers of all three slowed to a halt, and the pilots climbed out. The butt of a gun was momentarily visible on one of the men. They quickly scanned the area as if they were looking for something, and one of them pointed in his direction. All three began hurriedly moving toward him with the Osaka pilot leading the way, their boots crunching softly on the snow covered ground.

?Can I help you?? he asked indignantly as the three men pushed past him and into the hangar.

?Perhaps?? the Osaka pilot said, and gestured toward the Reaper, ?We are looking for the pilot of this aircraft. Is he here??

?Yes, he is. What business do you have with him?? the man with the staff replied. He noticed that a name tag on the pilot?s flight suit bore the name ?Viper?.

?That is none of your concern. You will take us to him now,? Viper said.

?I?m afraid that it is my concern. Tell me why you?re looking for him and I may find him for you.?

Viper frowned. ?He and a few of his associates had some?dealings with my father four years ago. I?ve come to? reward them for their efforts, and the pilot of this aircraft has the distinction of being first on the list.?

The man with the staff stared back for a moment. There was something strangely familiar about the Osaka pilot?s face.

?Who is you father?? he asked.

?My father was Akihiko Tan,? he paused. ?You will waste no more of my time, and take us to the pilot now.?

?I?m afraid I can?t do that. He doesn?t wish to see you.?

?Now. I insist.? Both of the men flanking Viper drew a handgun.
The man with the staff didn?t move.

?In that case, you?ll be pleased to know that the man you are seeking? is me.?

The three were surprised by the revelation, and in their moment of confusion, the other man struck. The base of the black walnut staff swept up and caught the Osaka pilot in the stomach, and he doubled over. Before the others could react, the staff whirled around and sent both guns flying. The staff leveled, and struck both men in the upper chest simultaneously, sending them sprawling backwards. The man spun away, hit a switch near the doorway, and half-ran, half-limped to the F-38 Reaper.

Cold winter air flooded into the hangar as the massive doors slowly opened. The pilot of the F-38 Reaper separated his staff into two pieces, dropped them into the space behind the cockpit, and climbed into the seat.

The twin engines were already beginning to spool up when the Osaka pilot stood back up and yelled ?STOP HIM! HE?S SUPPOSED TO DIE!?

Gunfire bounced off the fuselage of the Reaper as it wheeled out of the hangar and onto the tarmac. Out of ammo, the three men sprinted back to their own planes to pursue as the F-38 accelerated down the runway...

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Postby Fnork » Sun Mar 21, 2004 6:17 pm

The Reaper lifted gracefully off the tarmac and climbed into the overcast sky as the pilot looked back between the twin tails to get a clear view of his pursuers. The Messernacht was already in the air and in hot pursuit, while the slower Pitfighter and Osaka lagged behind.

As he climbed above 4,000 feet and approached a cloud layer, the pilot took another look and was surprised by what he saw. The Mn-109 was right on his tail and was gaining ground incredibly fast. The phenomenal acceleration of the small German fighter could only mean that it was a variant from the end of the war, most likely a late-model G or a K. That also meant it was most likely armed with a 30mm cannon in addition to the standard pair of 12.7mm machine guns.

Clouds obscured his view, and the pilot considered his options. Running was pointless because the Messernacht could catch him in a chase, and even if he did get away they could simply wait for him to return to the airport. The late-model 109 was no match for the F-38 in a turn fight, but getting into that situation would make him easy prey for the Pitfighter and the Osaka. His only chance was to divide and conquer, but it wasn?t going to be easy.

He cleared the clouds to reveal the bright blue sky above, made an abrupt ninety degree turn to the North, and leveled off. Seconds later the Messernacht shot out of the clouds like a bullet, but it had momentarily lost sight of the Reaper and was going the wrong direction. It made a wide turn and aimed toward him, but in those few critical seconds a considerable gap had opened between them.

The Mn-109 accelerated to gain ground on the Reaper, but as their speeds climbed over 350 mph it wasn?t gaining nearly as fast. It would be only a handful of minutes before the 109 was within firing range again, but that little bit of time would put a great deal of distance between them and the other two fighters.

The Messernacht closed to less than 1000 yards behind and continued to crawl even closer. As it came within 500 yards, the pilot of the German fighter squeezed off a few short bursts from the machine guns. Tracers streaked toward the Reaper, but the few that didn?t miss had lost so much momentum that they could do no damage.

The Reaper pilot glanced back to check the range, and muttered to himself. ?Just a little bit closer?closer??

A deadly stream of machine gun fire from the 109 tore through the air, but at the same instant the nose of the F-38 dropped.

Both planes cut through the cloud layer in seconds as they plummeted toward the ground. The Messernacht fired again, but was losing ground on the much heavier Reaper in the steep dive. The speed of the Reaper was approaching 450 mph, and the twin Antilles engines started to groan in protest.. The pilot risked a quick glance backwards and saw that the Messernacht was still following.

Big mistake.

The snow-covered farmland below was coming up dangerously fast, but the Reaper pilot waited until he had dropped to almost 500 feet to react. He activated the speed brake, reduced the throttle, and pulled back hard on the flight yoke. The hydraulically-boosted controls of the F-38 responded instantly and easily pulled the plane out of the dive. For an instant he felt the plane shudder as poorly aimed machine gun fire peppered the tail, then his vision narrowed and everything went black.

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Postby Fnork » Wed Mar 24, 2004 5:43 pm

In his rush to escape the attackers, he had forgotten that he wasn?t wearing his G-suit. When the F-38 Reaper pulled out of the steep dive, the extreme G-force caused the blood to rush from his head resulting in a blackout. For nearly 30 seconds the Reaper rocketed skyward completely uncontrolled, and when he regained consciousness the plane was in a gentle climb at over 5,000 feet.

Disengaging the speed brake, he quickly scanned the skies for any sign of the Messernacht, but saw nothing until he dropped back below the clouds and spotted a small scorch mark in the center of a farmer?s field. As predicted, the unboosted controls of the Mn-109 had locked up in the high speed dive, and turned the plane into a giant lawn dart. The pilot of the German fighter had managed one last desperate shot, but it was far too little, far too late.

The Messernacht Mn-109 was a revolutionary fighter when it first came into service in the mid-1930?s, and continued to be a potent fighting machine throughout World War II. It was steadily upgraded during the war with ever increasing firepower and much more powerful engines, but little was done to improve the airframe itself. As a result the controls became increasingly heavy above 300 mph, and beyond 400 mph they would all but lock up. The problem came from the fact that the late-model Mn-109s could exceed those speeds in level flight. By the end of the war, it had become so fast that it was as much a danger to itself as it was to the enemy.

Lifting the F-38 back above the clouds, he looked back to the South for any sign of the Osaka or Pitfighter, and moments later spotted a pair of dark spots against the blue sky. Sliding the throttle back to full power, he turned to meet them head-on.

It took less than a minute to close the gap, and the Reaper quickly approached weapons range. Clearly aware that a head-on pass with an F-38 was suicidal, Viper veered his Osaka away at a sharp angle, but the Pitfighter pilot charged on. The wing mounted guns on the British fighter flashed, though it was still well outside of convergence range and the tracers streaked harmlessly away to either side of the Reaper. The nose mounted guns of the Reaper answered, and traced a much deadlier path directly toward the target.

Bullets hammered into the nose of the Pitfighter as it pulled back into a desperate, last second barrel roll, but black smoke was already erupting from the engine.

The Reaper pilot banked hard to the left to avoid a collision, when the entire plane was jolted violently. The accompanying crunch of metal striking metal was nearly deafening, but he barely noticed as his plane went into a deadly spin that slammed him hard against the sides of the cockpit.

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Postby Fnork » Tue Mar 30, 2004 7:23 pm

My apologies for the slow updates to anyone reading this -- I haven't had much time the past week or two to write the rest, but I will try to get back to it later this week.

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Postby Ace English » Wed Mar 31, 2004 6:02 am

Gah!

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Postby Fnork » Fri Apr 02, 2004 3:48 pm

His view flashed between bright blue and a brilliant white, than abruptly changed to white alternating with gray as the aircraft fell through the cloud layer. He firewalled the throttles, and fought hard with the yoke and rudder to pull out of the death spiral.

The spin began to slowly stabilize, and several agonizing seconds later the F-38 leveled out, only a few hundred feet above the ground. He looked back to the right and caught a glimpse of a fiery, black-tailed comet as it plummeted towards the Earth and exploded into a large fireball.

There was no parachute.

Then his eyes fell onto the tail of his own plane, and his jaw dropped. Where the starboard rudder should have been, there was nothing. The collision with the Pitfighter had completely torn away the entire vertical stabilizer and rudder, and left a gaping hole with a few severed control cables dangling in the wind.

He trimmed the controls to compensate for the missing section of the tail, then started to scan the sky for any sign of the missing Osaka, when the plane was rocked by machine gun fire. A line of fire raked the left wing and cut into the port engine, as the dark green Japanese fighter screamed past and curved away to the West.

The F-38 Reaper banked to the East and accelerated as smoke started to pour out of the port engine. He shut down the engine and readjusted the controls to bring a precarious balance to the heavily damaged plane.

The Osaka circled back to pursue, but it had lost much of its speed in the tight turn and fought to catch up. It was now faster than the one-engined Reaper, but not by much.

Knowing that he could no longer outrun or outclimb the Osaka, and that outmaneuvering it was impossible even under the best of conditions, the pilot of the Reaper had to think of something fast.

A familiar looking city appeared ahead in the distance, and he turned the plane slightly to the North to avoid a confrontation over the heavily populated area. He looked back to get a view of the Osaka, and saw that it was closing slowly but was still almost half a mile behind. He turned back to the city, then looked toward the massive lake that stretched out for miles to the South. With his eyes he traced a narrow white line that indicated a crack in the thick layer of ice covering the lake, and followed it to a large dark spot at least a mile long. Several days of unseasonably warm weather the week prior had softened the ice enough that heavy winds split the ice sheet in two, revealing a large patch of open water. A few more days of freezing weather and a heavy snowfall the day before had started to mend the wound, but it would still take days to seal the crack in the ice.

Open water, cracked ice, and day-old snow meant little to an aircraft flying overhead, but desperate times called for desperate measures, and it gave him an idea.

He carefully rolled the wounded plane to the southeast, aimed the nose toward the beginning of the crack in the ice, and went into a shallow dive. The Osaka followed him into the dive, and continued to creep closer and closer to weapons range.

When he reached the lake, he turned the Reaper due South to follow the white line, and dropped to less than 30 feet above the ice. Viper, in the Osaka, either did not notice or did not care about the low altitude, because he copied the Reaper?s flight path precisely.

Both planes leveled off with their propellers cutting through the air less than a dozen feet above the water. The Osaka inched ever closer to its wounded target, and was only seconds away from a clear shot at the cockpit...

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Postby Fnork » Tue Apr 06, 2004 8:18 pm

Viper squeezed off a few rounds that bounced off the rear armor plating of the F-38?s cockpit. The pilot of the Reaper held the controls steady, and watched as the ice at the edges of the water began to close back together. Under ideal circumstances, he would have side-slipped the plane to avoid most of the incoming machine gun fire, but flying at extreme low altitude with heavy damage was as far from ideal as one could get.

The southern edge of the water was approaching quickly, and he made a quick glance over his shoulder to take one last look at the Osaka. He reflexively ducked as tracer fire streaked all around the cockpit and slammed into the armored glass behind his seat.

He turned back to the front, then flipped a series of switches to restart the damaged engine. With the oil completely drained from the engine, the pistons would seize within seconds, but a few seconds of power was all he needed. The port engine groaned back to life, but instead of bringing it up to full power, he dropped the starboard engine to an idle and activated the speed brake.

The Reaper?s airspeed dropped abruptly as he crossed the threshold between the water and the snow-covered ice. Gunfire hammered the back of the plane as the Osaka closed to point blank range, when something happened that Viper could not have hoped to anticipate.

The Reaper pilot deactivated the speed brake, tipped the nose of his plane slightly downwards, and shoved the dual throttles all the way into their War Emergency Power positions. The plane dropped so low that the propeller tips were nearly touching the surface as nearly two-thousand horsepower coursed through each of the Antilles engines. The sudden burst of power blasted the snow covering the ice with the force of a hurricane, sending it flying up into a massive cloud of blinding white directly behind the F-38 Reaper.

To Viper, trailing in the Osaka, it is was like flying into a blizzard spawned by Hell itself.

The Japanese-built radial engine fought its way into the maelstrom, but almost immediately it began to choke on the impenetrable cloud of snow. Viper struggled to retain control and escape, but by the time he overcame his surprise at the unexpected attack, it was too late. The right wingtip touched the ice and the impact bounced the plane to the left. The left wing dug in, and the entire aircraft slammed onto the ice. It skidded for several hundred feet before leaping back up into the air.

The final flight of the Nagasaki Ik-43 Osaka lasted only an instant until gravity reclaimed it. It crashed back to the ice and started to tumble, before disintegrating into a million pieces on the frozen surface of the lake.

The Reaper climbed away at maximum power for several seconds, and the port engine finally gave out with a resounding bang. Thick black smoke poured from the engine as the F-38 made a gentle turn to inspect the smoldering wreckage below.

Charred metal and wood stretched out in a line for almost a quarter of a mile, and the only remaining piece that could identify it as an aircraft was a small section of the wing that had snapped off in the initial impact.

He circled the debris field for a few minutes, then turned West to return to the airport.

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Postby Fnork » Tue Apr 06, 2004 8:23 pm

The battle-damaged Lockhart F-38 Reaper touched down on the runway, coasted into the still open hangar, and slowed to a stop. The pilot shut down the starboard engine and flipped the canopy open, but did not climb out. Sweat was running down his forehead and his heart was still racing, but he was safely back on the ground.

After several minutes, he finally climbed out of the cockpit and stood up on the wing to survey the damage. Only the missing tail section and the ruined engine had been visible from inside the plane, but the damage was much more extensive than he had imagined. The mid-air collision with the Pitfighter had destroyed not only part of the tail section, but it had also removed at least two feet from the right wingtip. The attacks from the Osaka had punched countless holes in the left wing and fuselage, and the port engine was a complete mess. Considering the damage, the fact that it had managed to bring him back at all was a testament to the durability of the World War II fighter.

He retrieved his staff, slid to the ground, and started to walk away. He couldn?t help but think of the events that had taken place four years earlier. They had all thought it was over when Redline Fox killed Akihiko Tan, but there had been one final loose end to tie. He could only hope that it was the last.

As he crossed the hangar, he passed a lowly mechanic that was swearing at the engine of a brand new Seneca 172 Scimitar that refused to start. The mechanic had paid no attention when the Reaper first pulled into the hangar, but looked up as the pilot passed. Before he could say a word, he caught sight of the severely damaged plane. His eyes went wide and his mouth fell slack.

The pilot of the Lockhart F-38 Reaper put one hand on the mechanic?s shoulder, and said with a half-hearted grin, ?they just don?t build ?em like they used to, do they??

As he walked away, the only response was the sound of the stupefied mechanic?s wrench clattering to the floor.

--------------------------------------------------------------------
And that's it! Thanks for reading, and for waiting patiently for updates.


Feel free to post any feedback or questions in this thread

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Postby Ace English » Wed Apr 07, 2004 7:02 am

What a guy!
What a plane!

Nice work :)


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