The g-forces pressed him deep into his seat, and the corners of his vision went black as he turned through one hundred eighty degrees. A pair of British fighters flashed by. Joe glimpsed a British pilot looking back at him from a canopy a mere twenty yards away, then rolled wings-level to make his turn a half-loop. He glanced over his shoulder—Emma still hung with him—then rolled right-side up. now in a diving turn toward one of the British fighters. The Tommy pilot jinked as Joe pulled into a leading turn and thumbed his triggers. his machine guns rattled, and tracers filled the sky before him. They fell all around the British plane, but Joe saw no hits, and his quarry rolled inverted and dove away. Joe hauled back on his stick to pull up into a steep climb. Two thousand feet below, his target regained its leader, and they circled away to reset the engagement.
In the space of a few seconds, Joe took stock of the situation. He was almost perfectly in between the zeps. Ten miles toward the setting sun, Inconstant fled. Ten miles the other way, Sparrow pursued, engines straining. A mile or two north, Robber flight fought in disciplined pairs, two of the pirate fighters baiting the Tommies into an attack, while the other pair waited to pounce in counterattack. That approach had paid off—one British fighter, leaving a long trail of smoke behind it, fell away, barely under control, toward the desert below.
A few miles toward Inconstant, the four British bombers drew nearer their target. Four British fighters circled above, waiting to attack as Charlie flight angled in toward the bombers.