Action Air Tales: Privateer's Bane!
Hello, listeners; it’s that time again! It’s time for the Aero-News!
Zachary Hahn is at it again, folks, topping this week’s List of Infamy! That dastardly Kyrii spent this week in and around the Mystery Island area, raiding airships and flying circles around the escort fighters, giving a bad name to Moltara’s own Bishop’s Air Force. Rumor has it, though, that Hahn made a hefty sum in taking the mercenary contract, though who issued it is still largely unknown.
In a statement released today by Bishop’s Air Force-
The radio crackled and cut as the knob on the dashboard was twisted by a brown paw, and then finally left the cabin in relative silence. Fluffy white clouds drifted past the oblong windscreen and the roar of the motor still penetrated the airtight cockpit of the plane from some ten feet behind the pilot.
“You know, Zach, for all the news attention you get, your jobs pay dirt,” the radio said, crackling to life again with a female voice.
Zachary Hahn leaned back in his seat in the confined space and got as comfortable as he can. The brown Kyrii had a leisurely, laid-back attitude about him as he stared blankly out the front of his plane, steering with one hand.
“This isn’t the time to be complaining, Dorothy. Just tell me our state of affairs,” he said aloud to the radio in response. Apparently, it heard him, as there was a scoff and shuffling of papers and the sound of scrap metal hitting a concrete floor.
“You made approximately 20,000 NP off the last job. Based on your plotted course and my calculations, that should cover about a third of the ammunition and gas you used to actually get there and do the job. It doesn’t factor in the two Air Police planes you roughed up over Mystery Island on your way back, nor does it factor in those five holes in your right wing and the two in your canopy. I can tell you now, duct tape is NOT going to fix the problem. But, I think I managed to fix our problems,” Dorothy said back.
The brown Kyrii let out a loud, audible sigh. “Please tell me it’s not another escort mission. If I have to follow around another one of those large, lumbering, moving targets, I’d probably be more likely to fly into the nearest cliff or the sea than see it through,” he said snidely.
“You’re in luck. It’s not another escort mission. It’s a group escort mission, and the money is enough to keep us out of financial trouble for the next year: 10,000,000 NP!” This news was followed by squeals of excitement, as if Dorothy could hardly contain her excitement over the wondrous, mechanical upgrades she could do to Zachary’s custom-tooled F-77 Beekadoodle. His plane was her crowning mechanical masterpiece; Zachary wasn’t ace because he knew how to shoot well and fly better. No, his plane was one of the fastest, well-armed fighter planes out there, and its upkeep fell to Dorothy, Zachary’s mechanical genius.
Zachary perked up from his relaxed state at the mention of such a hefty payout. As he came in to land on his uninhabited island of undisclosed location, he found himself strangely eager to join up with this mission as soon as possible, both to get it over with and to see to it that he lived comfortably under the radar for a while with no one trying to shoot him or his plane down.
He was off again in a matter of hours; Dorothy had done some quick patching of the holes in his wing (the ones in the windshield would have to wait for the money and free time brought by the payout), and then she filled him in on the latest job by handing him a manila envelope and sending him on his way into the sky. The job was simple, according to the top sheet of five papers inside the envelope:
“You have been selected as one of the premier freelance aces to undertake a confidential mission to protect a classified cargo as we move it along the route on the next page by airship. You will be working as a member of a squadron along with other premier aces like yourself. Bickering and infighting will not be tolerated. Please rendezvous with us at 0700 hours at the point marked on the map and provide escort to the airship. So long as the airship remains intact and the cargo safe, all surviving squadron members will be awarded the sum of 10,000,000 NP, wired swiftly and directly to their bank accounts.”
Zachary shuffled the papers to the mentioned map and studied the route. The airship intended to take a path from a murky smudge of an island near Terror Mountain, down the coast of Shenkuu and Altador, then cut across over Altador and travel over the desert and arrive in a fairly barren stretch of isolated sand. There was a point marked a fourth of the way from the initial island, and that was where Zachary pointed his plane at.
The swift, light Beekadoodle got him to the assignation inside an hour or two, and he easily made out what he was to be protecting: a large, long cargo zeppelin making its way slowly across the vast and open ocean. As he got closer, the radio crackled to life in an instant as the radio chatter between the wingmen already giving escort to the plane fell into range. He also spied a designation along the side of the airship, denoting it as the ASBAF-986 PRIVATEER’S BANE.
“ASBAF-986 to unidentified plane on northwesterly course of twenty degrees: identify yourself,” the radio demanded, its voice authoritative, demanding, and controlled; the voice of a true, hardened airship commander that could only come with years of experience.
“This is Zachary Hahn, coming to join in on the little... business venture we have going here. I hope you don’t mind that I’m running a few minutes late,” he said in response. He thought he heard a scoff or two over the radio from the other pilots, but he wasn’t sure.
“Ah, Mr. Hahn. So nice of you to join us,” replied the airship as he fell in alongside it, matching its speed and heading along its right flank.
“Zachary Hahn? The Zachary Hahn? I thought we were all respectable pilots here, not some no-good mercenaries,” retorted the radio as a plane fell in above and behind him. Zachary glanced back and caught the markings and color scheme to identify the plane as belonging to Sir Charles Vernor, an ace he knew to be employed by Bishop’s Air Force as a protector of the skies. Apparently, he was still angry over Zachary’s last undertaking.
“Sorry, Vernor, but the thought of being one of Pavlov’s pets doesn’t appeal to me,” Zachary shot back, venom dripping from the very words he spoke.
“Enough, you two. We’re here to make a nice sum of money; let’s not break our contract,” interrupted another voice and another plane, butting in to separate the two. The voice was female and pompous at that, and the plane red and black and sleek in design. He knew the pilot inside to be the aristocratic Lady Dame, a woman of refinement that spent her time residing in an unbelievably pricey abode in Faerieland.
Her words seemed to come too late, however, as while Lady Dame, Zachary Hahn, and Sir Vernor were dealing with their own little squabble, tensions between two rivals on the other side of the Privateer’s Bane flared and escalated into a dogfight. Zachary rolled his plane out of the way as the airspace he had previously occupied was immediately filled with armor-piercing slugs and two planes shot past.
As the planes pulled to the other side of the airship once more, Zachary steadied his plane and watched as the airship began to bustle with activity. He watched crews of three or four move along narrow walkways towards their flak cannon stations that ran along the lateral lines of the behemoth ship.
As the two quarreling aces swung around the airship again, the guns quickly swung up to track their targets and opened fire; there was no warning and no chance for the hapless pilots as they both their planes succumbed to the concentrated fire of several gun batteries.
“Keep in line, ladies and gentlemen; pirates on the radar, 10 o’clock high,” came the radio as the Privateer’s Bane called out to remind the pilots of their job. Zachary watched for a moment as the two burning planes spiraled and coasted towards the ocean blue; two parachutes opening like two sets of angelic wings, setting the two pilots gently down upon the crests of the waves and the wreckage of their planes. Then, he pried himself away from the sight and barrel rolled left and up to meet the incoming raiders.
Vernor flew in close behind him on his left side and Lady Dane took up his right. “I may not like you, Zachary, but you’re an apt pilot,” said Vernor over the radio. “You’ll make a decent enough wingman, I think.” Zachary scoffed at his remark, and then broke out into a laugh.
“Sure, I’ll be your wing-mate... That is, if you think you can keep up with me!” Zachary gunned his engine as he spoke, pulling away from the two. They both picked up the pace, but Lady Dane had the faster plane and took the spot between Zachary and Sir Vernor.
That was when the bullets started flying; Zachary caught sight of the squadron of pirates moving to engage the airship and pointed his plane at the frontrunner. He lined up the reticule and squeezed back on the trigger, his machine guns blazing to life and eschewing the incendiary rounds he preferred.
He dove quickly and slightly, the return fire skimming over the top of his canopy, and throttled back; Lady Dane and Sir Vernor shot over the top of his wings and engaged the wingmen of the plane he had shot at. His plane rolled to one side, and he doubled back, firing off a few shots at another aircraft he registered as belonging to the pirates.
The plane blew up into a plume of smoke and spiraled violently as the pilot bailed out; Zachary moved on to another target, satisfied with his kill. He began to line up a shot at another plane when the sound of bullets whizzing past and bouncing off of the armored skin of his plane caught his immediate attention.
“Zachary Hahn?! I’m going to shoot you down and get renowned fame as the world’s best pilot!” cried the radio. Zachary looked back to watch as the plane suddenly burst into a fireball and drop sharply towards the sea. Lady Dane shot across his field of vision and remarked across the radio: “I obviously couldn’t let you have all the fun, dear Zachary.” Zachary turned back to find his next target, pulling back on the throttle. “Thanks, Dame. I owe you one,” he said, nonchalant in response.
Zachary straightened out, coming down on top of a pirate brigand and putting a great number of holes into the fuselage. The engine stalled on the enemy plane and smoke billowed from one of the wings as the pilot carefully stepped out of the cockpit onto one of the wings, taking a leap of faith to escape the useless, downed plane.
The radio was abuzz with pirate and allied chatter, but the Privateer’s Bane always seemed to cut through and seemingly structured the chaotic messages. “Another fighter group, six o’clock sharp. We’re taking sporadic pirate fire; where’s our support?” Despite the urgency of the battle and the literal minefield the airborne bullets made the sky, Zachary noted the airship’s bridge to be abnormally calm and collected throughout the ordeal.
Zachary probably would have taken note had several bullet holes riddled his left wing. “Blast!” he exclaimed, rolling his plane ninety degrees. “I’m on it! Hold on a moment, Zachary,” said Vernor. He pulled out of his sideways maneuver and pulled up to join Vernor in the fray.
He was too late, however, as Vernor sent a short-ranged missile spiraling into the aft-mounted engine of the fighter plane, blowing the entire back off and leaving the pilot to make a jump for it. As he flew close and over the burning plane, he noticed the paint was wet and had begun to peel away from the fire. Where once there had been brown and gray and green camouflage patterning, there was now a blue and gold undercoat he knew all too well.
“Bishop!” he cried out, the pin dropping.
“What’re you on about, Zachary?” Lady Dane asked, but her remarks were overshadowed by a sinister chuckle from the airship.
“Hello, Hahn, and all the rest of you listening in,” the airship commander said, collected and calm over the radio.
“It means a lot you’d come all this way just to settle a little score. I’m touched,” Zachary remarked sarcastically. He rolled his plane and dove for the zeppelin, moving to slip under the front and avoid the gun batteries along its sides.
“Commander Bishop? What is the meaning of this?” Vernor chimed in, confused.
“Wait, you’re not in on this, Vernor?” Zachary asked.
The zeppelin’s bridge chimed in to answer both their questions: “You are no longer needed, Sir Vernor. Consider our contract with you void, and we’ll be paying your last paycheck in lead and flak.”
“Vernor, Dame! With me! We’re gonna put a stop to this and take out that zeppelin,” Zachary said. The gun batteries had moved to track Zachary and his two comrades as they made a dive at the airship. The air erupted around them as bullets whizzed past, glancing their planes as they gunned the throttles and dove for the water. A few Bishop Air fighters peppered the water in front of them as they joined the chase to stop them.
“All fighters, engage Zachary Hahn! Pilots, to your planes, and prepare for launch! Shoot them down, and let’s end these scourges of the skies!” Bishop cried. The droning of the airship was audible as it drew ever closer by the second. A plane shooting out from somewhere under the zeppelin pulled up sharply and opened up into a spray of bullets, before Zachary returned the favor and peppered the craft with bullets of his own. The plane shot up under the belly of his plane, and Vernor and Lady Dame adjusted their courses slightly to allow for the plane to pass between them as a large fireball.
After what seemed to be an eternity of adrenaline and aerial acrobatics between bullets, Zachary Hahn, Sir Vernor and Lady Dame pulled their craft up sharply and shot under the massive airship. They spread out and compressed their triggers, shredding the delicate airship fabric in a spray of bullets.
“Fighter 5, prepared for launch,” came the radio. “Now! Now! Go!” screamed Bishop, and a cargo bay door flipped open to reveal a plane ready to launch, lowering slowly on a cargo hook designed specifically for aircraft launches.
“Zachary!” Lady Dame cried, but Zachary was ahead of her. “I see it, I see it!” he exclaimed in response, thumbing a pad on his joystick. Beneath him, off one of his wings, there was a roar and a streak of smoke as he pulled up slightly, sending a perfectly lined-up rocket into the open cargo bay.
“Vernor, Dame, let’s get outta here!” Zachary shouted, diving and swerving as an explosion rocked the Privateer’s Bane, tearing the airship apart in the center and setting it drifting slowly and uncontrollably towards the ocean. The radio exploded into a cacophony of confused and worried messages as the crew bailed out and tried to figure out what to do.
“I’ll get you yet, Zachary! Mark my words,” Bishop threatened, but he was cut off as another, smaller explosion knocked out communications on board the airship.
“Yeah, like that’ll ever happen,” Zachary remarked. The trio of newly bonded pilot aces flew off across the open ocean, leaving Bishop’s Air Force to crumble around their fleeting airship.
Dorothy was there to greet the trio when they landed. The yellow Lutari scampered out of one of the two hangars at the end of the short tarmac Zachary used as a runway. One by one, the planes alighted on the ground and came carefully to a halt before the wide open doors of the hangars.
“Zachary! Glad to see you made it back in one piece, for the most part!” Dorothy cried out over the roars of the engines. Zachary pushed the canopy of his plane open and stepped out onto the wing. He gave her a glare as he unzipped his flight jacket.
“You are never allowed to sign me up for missions ever again, Dorothy! I swear you tried to get me killed that time!” he called back. His own engine sputtered and died, and soon after those of Sir Vernor’s and Lady Dame’s planes died as well.
“Who’re your friends there?” she asked, cocking her head to one side like a confused child.
Sir Vernor was the first to step out from his plane; he was a lean-built Royal Eyrie with an authoritative posture and a commanding air about him. He stepped out onto the wing of his plane and surveyed the land around him. “So this is where you’ve been hiding out all along, eh, Zachary? With the kind of fame you have, I would have thought there would have been a mansion or bags of money strewn around carelessly.”
“It’s modest, and it could definitely stand some work,” Lady Dame called out to Vernor as she lifted herself out of her plane. She was a tall and thin Faerie Lenny who carried herself haughtily with her wings always crossed and her long beak always somewhat raised.
Dorothy trudged over to Zachary as he clambered down off his plane. “The Eyrie’s kinda cute, but the Lenny scares me a bit. Where’d you pick these two up?” she asked in a hushed voice.
“They saved my hind end from the trap you managed to walk me right into, Dorothy. Now get with tooling their planes. They’ll be staying for a while,” Zachary said. He turned to the two new additions to his unofficial team and watched as they bickered back and forth as to whether or not Zachary had an underground base.
“Vernor, you’re out of work with Bishop’s Air Force, and Dame, you’ve got no work, either. How about you two both join up with me?” he asked them. They stopped bickering and turned to look at Zachary in unison as he strode forward, then looked back at each other.
“You mean become pirates? Like you?” Vernor asked, scoffing and hesitant. Lady Dame shook her head. “He’s right,” she said. “You’ve got nowhere else to go.”
Vernor looked dismayed, then reluctantly nodded. “I’m in,” he said. “Same here, Zachary,” Lady Dame followed.
“Well, then, Sir Vernor and Lady Dame, let us be known from here on out as the Raiders of Destiny!”