I hope you all don't mind me using this thread as my personal waffling space, I've become very invested in Kolb. almost 12 hours of flight time and we know all the clouds above the Aisne by their first names

Kolb had no time to mourn Laack, he was flying again after lunch. The weather cleared and he was sent to patrol over Rosnay, keeping an eye on the field for signs of enemy activity. It was an uneventful flight, Kolb spotted Kobes on the way to Rosnay and flew alongside him for a while. Flak greeted them when they arrived and they circled, climbed and dove to throw off the gunners aim. Kolb was quite busy evading flak, watching the field and scanning the sky, too busy to keep track of Kobes who vanished after a while, leaving Kolb alone over Rosnay with nothing but dirty white puffs of flak to keep him company. Kolb was starting to hate flak, the indifferent brutality of it and the knowledge that if a shell has your name on it then, the fact that it bears your name is immutable. Looking down at Rosnay Kolb could see the indistinct silhouette of a French machine on the ground, he didn't recognise the type but he took consolation in the fact that he had finally sighted his first enemy machine. Kolb left Rosnay and headed towards Reims, it was a short flight, 15 miles or so and it had occurred to him that there might be French machines aloft in the area, perhaps patrolling Guignicourt or using Reims as a staging point for a patrol. He thought he saw another machine over the lines but it was merely a balloon, the balloon reminded him of Laack so he flew away from it and headed for home.

*****

In the mess that night the emptiness of Laack's chair drew a few glances from the others but little discussion, Meinecke had told them what happened. They glanced at the chair occasionally, then at Kolb between mouthfuls of stew. Kobes, Kolb's flight commander broke the silence,

"Kolb, I heard that you took your training at Maubeuge under Hauptmann Auslosers?"

Kolb, who had been avoiding the gaze of the others fearing that he may be judged for returning alive when Laack, an experienced pilot with 5 victories, had not was surprised to be the object of curiosity and not resentment.

"Yes Herr Leutnant, I was at Maubeuge with Hauptmann Auslosers for flight training"

"Please Kolb, two 'Herr Leutnants' a day only, once in the morning and once at night ok. Between hours call me Josefs, survive here a month and you can call me Jacob."

The other two, Weiss, a white haired Balt from Peenemunde and Dombrowe a stocky Swabian chuckled, Meinecke smiled thinly.

"Is it true you puked on the Hauptmann's boots after your first flight?"

A tide of crimson flooded Kolb's cheeks, his ears began to tingle. He nodded.

"He took it quite well, I had them cleaned for him of course"

"Well, we shall have to call you 'Boots' then."

Weiss and Dombrowe erupted in gales of laughter, even the stern Meinecke tittered. Kolb listened to their laughter and noticed that It wasn't directed at him, it was laughter for the sake of having something to laugh at. It was infectious laughter and it swept Kolb away with it. Looking at their faces Kolb began to feel as though he were beginning to be accepted among this group of withdrawn, sardonic, often intense and penetratingly perceptive strangers.

"Did you know that Laack suffered terribly from nausea?" Kobes asked, Kolb nodded, Laack has confessed to him that he often felt queasy in even mildly turbulent air. The laughter slowly faded at the mention of Laack and Meinecke discretely gestured to one of the mess attendants. He whispered something to the man when he came over and the attendant promptly went over to the bar and brought back a bottle of schnapps and six glasses. He placed a glass before each man and the final glass in front of Laack's empty chair. Pouring a tot of schnapps into each glass as he went.

When the attendant was done, Meinecke lifted his glass. The room became silent.

"Hals and Beinbruch." He toasted, raising his glass toward the empty seat, the others followed suit and drained their glasses. Laack's glass stood untouched for the rest of the evening at his place. His ghost, if he had one, would drink it in Valhalla.

*****

3th April, 1916.

"#%&*$#." Kolb swore.

He didn't swear often but this was a unique circumstance. Kolb was at 5,000ft over Fismes and the sound of his own voice shocked him. It was strange to be able to hear it so clearly at this height and the hollowness of his single expletive seemed to resound among the absence of the usual clattering racket made by the Oberursel engine of his Fokker E.II which, at this moment, was silent having been starved of fuel. Apart from his own vocalised sentiment pertaining to the situation, all Kolb could listen to now was the whistle of the air through the bracing wires and the faint buzz of Kobes and Weiss' machines circling above him as he descended towards the Aisne. It was clear to Kolb that he would not be making it home to Vivaise that day, there was no way he could stretch out his glide to the brownish haze of no man's land in the distance. Distantly, the guns rumbled their agreement with Kolb's assessment.

Flak had been the culprit, over Rosnay. Kolb had been assigned to Sperrflug, watching over any two seaters operating in the area, and had reached his patrol sector only to find the air completely devoid of any two seaters to protect as usual so he had decided to snoop around Rosnay in search of French machines. The gunners had been waiting for Kolb, they didn't like having Eindeckers visiting their field and they had prepared for Kolb's visit by using trigonometry to estimate the cloud base and range their guns accordingly. Kolb had been surprised at the accuracy of the flak when he arrived at Rosnay and quickly turned away, but he had come too close. Kolb had heard the impact of shell fragments striking his machine and frantically slammed open the throttle and veered North towards safety, jinking, diving and climbing as he went. He escaped the barrage but the smell of petrol alerted him to the fact that his machine was in trouble, a glance at the fuel gauge confirmed it, his fuel was running out fast. Kolb climbed as steeply as he dared, knowing that he would need all the height he could get but it was no use, the lines were too far distant and the Eindecker was a reluctant glider. The thin, shining ribbon of the Aisne cut across the landscape below and Kolb decided that he at least would have to make it over the river if he were to have any chance of escape. He nosed the Eindecker down toward a flat looking field on the northern side of the river and steered his machine deftly between two stands of trees at the edge of his chosen landing ground.

Fortunately the field was quite large and, except for a gentle incline, relatively flat and well grazed. Kolb's machine rattled and bumped to a stop and Kolb sat for a moment waiting for a sign or an idea as to what he should do next. His problem was solved for him when a quintet of blue clad figures emerged from the trees along the riverside and pointed their long rifles at him. Kolb dismounted from his machine and they took him with them to an outpost where, after some animated jabbering and gesticulating, they pushed Kolb into a small shed and locked the door behind them while they presumably went to find an officer to interrogate him. The shed had one door, a table, chair. some shelves that were strewn with dusty tins and papers and one window that was closed over with wire instead of a window. Kolb sat on the chair and, much to his chagrin, a bolt of pain shot through his left buttock. Reaching down and expecting to have sat on a nail Kolb was surprised to find a ragged tear in the backside of his flying breeches and blood on his hand. The wound wasn't serious, the undercarriage strut had absorbed most of the force from the shell fragment and sent it spinning though the bottom of the Eindecker cockpit, the wicker chair and Kolb's breeches where it finished it's tumultuous journey by making a small nick in Kolb's backside.

Eventually an officer came to interrogate Kolb, his German was terrible and the man seemed more interested in the long black pipe that he had brought with him to smoke than he did in any of Kolb's replies. Kolb managed to impart to the officer that he was hungry and that he had been injured, the officer sniffed, prodded his pipe some more and agreed that Kolb should be seen to by the camp medical officer and then fed. They took Kolb to the infirmary where he was given a perfunctory examination and a small dressing for his battle honour and then they took him to the field kitchen where they served him some kind of gruel and stale bread. Kolb choked the stuff down and they marched him back to his cell shed when he was done. Kolb sat and waited, there was nothing for it he supposed, at least his backside wasn't aching too much but he felt as though a cushion would make sitting more bearable. Looking around the room Kolb spied a blanket on one of the shelves, that would provide some padding at least. He walked over to the shelf and reached for the blanket and, as he did, his hand closed over something hard and cold that had been left lying underneath it. It was the head of a claw hammer, the handle had long ago been broken and the broken tool must have sat abandoned in the shed for some time. None of the soldiers had thought to search the place it seemed or they had not been very thorough. Kolb eyed the glassless window and the wire that secured it, he could easily use the claw of the hammer to prise away the nails that had been hastily hammered in place to fasten the barbed wire across the gap and prevent egress via the window but Kolb would have to wait until night, or someone may see him. Kolb replaced the blanket and the hammerhead, went back to his chair and distracted himself from the ache of his buttock by praying that nobody came to move him from here until tomorrow.

His prayers were answered.

[Linked Image]
Kolb's machine in a meadow on the north bank of the Aisne.

Last edited by Ace_Pilto; 04/19/17 07:00 PM.

Let's pretend I got the BWOC badge to embed here.

Wenn ihr sieg im deine Kampf selbst gegen, wirst stark wie Stahl sein.