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.”