Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 77

“Copy that,” Joe said. “Hit her engines, she drops like a rock.”

“That’s right,” Cannon said. “Simple.”

Joe eyed the British planes, still circling Sparrow. He counted sixteen, four bombers and twelve fighters, against Inconstant‘s fourteen fighters. The Long Nines’ six bombers waited on the hooks in the hangar. “Sure. Simple.”

Before his eyes, the British planes wheeled, settling into loose formations. Four of the fighters stayed low, near the bombers. Four continued climbing to meet Takahashi’s flight, while two broke off to join the remaining pair. “Here we go, boss,” Joe said. “Over and out.” He switched his radio to the mission frequency. “X-Ray flight, stay high and deal with the overhead cover. Robber flight, dead ahead. We’re right with you. Charlie flight, left hook. Hit the bombers. We’ll be in to help as soon as we can.”

The flight leaders replied with acknowledgements, and Joe shifted his focus to staying in formation with Robber flight. The six Falcons charged toward the British formation. Facing off six against four was Joe’s idea of decent odds. Between that, the Falcon’s sturdy frame, and the British habit for light armaments, he wasn’t worried. The British planes closed to within a mile, and on the radio Robber One called, “Spread out.”

The six Falcons banked away from each other in pairs, and before the British pilots could react, the pirates were past them. Joe spared a glance up, where tracers drew burning lines across the sky as Takahashi’s flight engaged the British top cover, then stood his Falcon on its right wing and pulled as tight a turn as he could manage.

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