Crimson Skies: Pirates Gold (Novel)

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The Ace's Dream
I've always been lucky, although you wouldn't necessarily know it to look at me. Take now, for instance, 15,000 feet off the ground in the seat of a baby Nieuport, Archie bursting shells all around me, German Pfalz buzzing around like someone stirred up a wasps' nest, machine guns tracing lines of fire through the air. But not a single bullet-hole marring the canvas of my Nieuport, much less me.

Like I said, lucky.

A Pflaz roars past, guns chattering. I pull back on the stick hard, pulling up my machine's nose and climbing up after him. I roll to the side and come up right behind. The Hun pilot doesn't even see me. With a grin I get him in my sights and hit the trigger on the paired machine guns mounted on the nose of my machine.

They yammer out 650 rounds a minute, tracers lighting the way to the Pfalz's tail. I see smoke pour out in a steady stream and the Pfalz starts to go into a dive, the wind fanning the flames spreading across his tail. He's finished. I don't bother watching him go down, not when there are so many other tempting targets to deal with.

I climb up to 20,000, the ceiling of my little Nieuport, and look down, spotting another Pflaz some 4,000 feet below. I bank to the left and come down in a dive, putting the Hun directly in my sights. Machine guns roar and the tracers announce my attack, but too late. The Pfalz banks one way, then the other, trying to get away, but I stay on him, my rounds ripping through canvas and cracking framework, looking for a vital spot or the pilot himself.

I find it when some rounds reach the Pfalz's engine, which starts to smoke and the machine goes into a long, slow dive, trailing smoke like a flag of surrender. Making a close pass, I give the Hun pilot an ironic salute as he starts to drop, almost close enough to imagine he can hear me, even over the roar of the wind and the crackle of the flames starting to spout from his crippled engine.

"When you get to ground, tell 'em Nathan Zachary sent you!"

There's no reply, and I don't wait around for one, banking and climbing toward another Hun just above, less than a thousand feet. He thinks having the high ground gives him an advantage but he hasn't had to deal with the likes of me before. You'd think even the German pilots would know enough to quit when they're losing so badly, but if they want to be beaten there's no one better to do it than

"Nathan! Nathan Zachary! Mr. Zachary?"