"Mein gott." Muttered Kolb. "Why can't you people understand that I'm not a bat."
It was still dark outside, Cauldrons had been making regular early morning raids and the Fokker Eindeckers of KEK West were the only aircraft available int he region to intercept them. There were some Aviatiks based at Sissonne but their aircraft were busy on other duties so KEK West got the unenviable chore of ascending to 10,000ft each morning to hunt the French. Kolb went through the motions and it wasn't until he was standing before his machine with Klaus and Werner fussing over his flying kit that he truly woke up, it was a feeling of mingled fear and excitement building in his stomach.
'Perhaps today would be the day!' he mused, or 'Perhaps today would be the day...'
Kolb briefly thought of Marie, it had been a while now since he had written to her. A pang of guilt teased at him but was soon overrun by nervous excitement as the sound of a siren cut through the morning air and reached his ears. This morning he would do hid damndest to bring down one of the cursed French monstrosities.
5,000ft over the trenches, the sky was full of cloud and the red glow of dawn began to peep through the gaps in the clouds from the east. Kolb had made good time to get to the lines, the air was relatively calm and a wind from the SSW gave his wings a little more bite as he climbed on his way to the Aisne where he would begin his hunt. Kolb didn't have long to wait. Ahead of him anti aircraft fire burst into the air, picking out Kolb's target for him.
"One, no two of them."
It was a long chase, the Frenchmen spotted Kolb and opened the throttles on their machines, climbing with all the power they could muster, Kolb climbed in pursuit, keeping pace with them until they reached 10,000ft where the lumbering French machines lost the climbing race and Kolb began to catch them when suddenly they turned toward the northeast. Kolb was surprised, these men were very confident in their machines. He had expected them to remain over their own lines until or to flee but these men meant to go about their business despite Kolb's presence, they were brave men. This was Kolb's first clue that he had a fight ahead of him. Kolb managed to maneuver underneath the French machines after they made their turn and he continued ahead of them, looking back over his shoulder to make sure that they had not changed course. Soon enough he was a mile or so ahead and at the same level. He turned as tightly as he dared for this height and aimed his cowling at the rearmost machine, hoping to cause such consternation in the French formation as to cause them to break up and thus allow him to attack one machine without needing to concern himself with return fire from the other. The tactic was a dangerous one, his closure speed would be high but Kolb had lost some height in his turn and it was all he could do to bring his gun to bear in time. He managed a brief burst into the number two machine before they merged and then he made a wide, climbing turn that positioned him above the pair, poised, like a hawk preparing to swoop.
Kolb focused all of his with on the second machine, allowing nothing to distract him. He watched as it grew in his gunsight, an ungainly lattice of struts, canvas, engines and men. When it seemed as though he could reach out and touch the rudder of the French machine he opened fire. Kolb's burst hit the crew compartment, a sort of bathtub type arrangement suspended between the wings and engines. The Caudron lurched, staggered through the air sideways for a bit and finally fell out of control. Kolb, watching in disbelief was aghast, what had he done? Had he killed them? He, Kolb, who calculated business earnings in a small Cologne firm? Was this a trick? Surely they must pull out! Arcs of tracer from the first machine sped over Kolb's machine, a ranging burst, Kolb ducked instinctively and veered away while attempting to see what had become of the second machine but ultimately losing sight of it. Kolb didn't know but there would be empty chairs in the French mess at Rosnay that night, his burst had killed the pilot, and wounded the observer, almost severing his arm. The observer sat, looking at the blood that was pouring from an artery sloshing in the cockpit around his feet to the ground that was spinning up to smash him to pieces. Mercifully he fainted before things got any worse for him.
There was still one French machine in the air and Kolb was confident that he could force them both down, he had plenty of ammunition and fuel and he had a better machine. The French pilot on the other hand was equally confident, he was a veteran and he'd dealt with Fokkers before. Kolb had lost a little height in evading the gunfire aimed at him after he had shot down the first G.4 and the pilot of the lead machine knew his aircraft well, leading Kolb in a climbing left hand turn that Kolb found almost impossible to follow due to the gyroscopic forces generated by his rotary engine, the thin grip his monoplane's wings had on the air at this altitude and the tiny rudder of the Fokker. The Caudron seemed to hang in the air above Kolb, ahead of his turn and just out of reach, try as he might he simply could not bring his gun to bear without nearing a stall. The only thing to do was to gain speed in order to be able to cut across the turn of the French machine, Kolb eased the nose down and let the rudder bar feel the full force of his left boot, struggling to balance the angle of bank as his aircraft plunged into a sharp turn that first descended and then ended in an ascent that placed the Caudron within reach of his Spandau machine gun. Tak-tak-tak-tak-tak-tak-tak-tak-tak the gun roared as Kolb fired a long burst into the Frenchman, seeing his hits strike all over the starboard engine and wing. Kolbs maneuver had brought him dangerously close to the machine and he cut his engine back to half, blipping to stay in position and fighting the Fokker's tendency to stall in the thin air. Kolb closed again, fired. No Tak-tak, his gun had jammed. Kolb's long burst had overheated the barrel and now the Spandau refused to chamber another round. Kolb leaned forward and struck the cocking lever, thumping the gun with his gloved fist, struggling to stay behind the French machine all the while. He inadvertently climbed while struggling with the gun, placing himself in the line of the observer's fire and a hail of lead spattered across the cowling, starring his windscreen which sent a few razor sharp fragments into Kolb's cheek. Kolb wouldn't notice until after he landed.
For minutes Kolb struggled with the gun, the Caudron, his Fokker until the reluctant Spandau finally accepted another round. Kolb felt the cocking lever slide home and he pointed his aircraft once again at the enemy. Tak-tak-tak-SPANG. Return fire smacked into his Oberursel which began making an alarming metallic clanking to accompany its' usual disharmonious buzz. Kolb fired a final defian burst and broke away to the Northeast, heading for Bruyeres, checking his fuel, RPM and the general state of his machine. The Caudron, now much the worse for wear also, was in a wide descending spiral over the front. Kolb glanced at it, hateful and pitying at the same time, conflicted between being denied his victory and the feeling of respect he couldn't suppress, they had put up a good fight. Kolb couldn't spare anymore time for the Frenchmen however, more pressing matters required his attention. The clanking racket his engine was making alerted Kolb to the fact that he had probably lost a cylinder from his engine. It was no problem, provided the leaking fuel didn't catch fire, or providing bits of connecting rod didn't find their way into another cylinder or providing the fuel and oil lines weren't completely destroyed. Apart from those factors, losing a cylinder wasn't as bad as it sounded, the engine could run one or even two cylinders short provided the others weren't compromised. Kolb would just have to be extra careful.
He nursed his machine home, switching back to half ignition when he could to give the strained Oberursel what respite he could and taking care to stick to terrain which afforded him a safe landing ground should worst come to worse. When Kolb finally arrived back at Vivaise he made a quick check of his height, picked a clear patch on the field, switched off his engine to avoid the possibility of a fire and landed heavily just past the stand of trees that still bore the scars of their encounter with Weiss. Werner and Klaus had heard the hesitant spluttering of Kolb's machine approaching and they ran to his machine to help him from the cockpit. Kolb was deathly pale, exhausted, his face spattered with blood from his superficial wound and, despite it all, he grinned at them.
He'd put a score on the board.
Kolb discovered that he was reasonably safe from return fire beneath the tail of the Caudron
Let's pretend I got the BWOC badge to embed here.
Wenn ihr sieg im deine Kampf selbst gegen, wirst stark wie Stahl sein. "The best techniques are passed on by the survivors." - Gaiden Shinji