Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 79

“Robber One, this is Yankee One,” Joe said into his microphone. “We’re going to give Charlie a hand real quick.”

His radio clicked, and he looked over his shoulder. Emma gave him a wing waggle. He leveled off and said, “You have lead on the first pass. Hit the fighters.”

“Roger.” Emma’s fighter pulled past him, and together, they gained on the British formation, now only a few miles from Inconstant. The bombers disappeared under the nose of Joe’s Falcon, and a moment later, Emma began her dive. Joe followed her, checking his six as he did. Two thousand feet below, the bombers’ defensive guns opened up as Charlie flight began its attack. The four British escorts, their eyes on Charlie flight, leveled off to attack.

Joe focused on keeping formation as Emma made minute adjustments to her controls. At twelve hundred yards, she fired a two-second burst, her plane jerking at the end as she lined up on a second fighter. Joe saw bright flashes, solid hits, as Emma’s first burst fell all around its target. Flames burst from its side, sprouting a line of oily smoke. Smoke wreathed the nose of Emma’s fighter as she fired a second burst. For an instant, a bomber appeared near Joe’s sights, and he pulled his triggers to little effect, then rolled away. He and Emma screamed through the formation of bombers, a tailfin passing near enough to his canopy that he could have reached out and touched it.

His altimeter unwound at an alarming rate. G-forces crashed down on his shoulders as he pulled out of the dive. The airframe groaned as the plane strained back to level flight, accompanied by Emma’s whoop over the radio. “I have lead,” he said, climbing back toward the fight.

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