Fullofit: Darn it, that was over too quickly. Obi was a good 'un. So hard to survive in 2-seaters as the war progresses. Commiserations, onto the next!

Lederhosen: Balloons are fun but they present their risks. Glad you two made it out ok.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN - A NEW BOY ARRIVES, BALLOON DISPUTE

Konrad Berthold von Blumenthal
August 2nd, 1916. Sivry-sur-Meuse, Verdun.
Fokkerstaffel Sivry

Days passed with little excitement. Routine patrols and no enemy aircraft to be found. On the morning of August 2nd, Konrad was woken from an afternoon nap by a knock on the hut's door.

"Enter", he growled, annoyed at having his rest disturbed. He wasn't due back up for another couple of hours. The knob twisted and the door was opened cautiously. Konrad looked over from his cot and saw the fresh, youthful face of Gefreiter Horst Leipner peering nervously into the room.

"Oh dear, I do I hope I didn't disturb you", the young pilot stammered, turning beet red in the process.

"Yes you did!", barked Konrad in reply. "What the bloody hell do you want? Are you the new orderely?".

"No no"" said Horst, alarmed, "I'm, er, I'm your new wingman! The name's Horst, er, Horst Leipner, sir. I am very sorry to have disturbed you, but I was, er, ordered to my new billet, so here I am.

"Yes, here you are," sneered Konrad, sitting up, "how wonderful". Horst wasn't convinced that his new room mate was being entirely sincere. "Have you actually ever flown before?".

"Oh, yes sir! I've actually been in service for four years, but only recently transferred to aircraft. I have thirteen flying hours already!".

"Oh I see! So I have the honor of flying with the next Max Immelman I take it? Wonderful stuff. Ever flown over the front lines?".

"Not yet, sir."

"Well, we'll fix that this afternoon. We're going south to Verdun to pick off one the French observation balloons. You'll fly the EIII I'm guessing. Try to keep up, there's a good fellow. Otherwise you might find yourself taking a trip into the mud below". Konrad snorted and lay back down. Horst took that as his queue to start unloading his personal belongings and get settled into his new home.

At 16:42 hours, B flight had already passed the city of Verdun and were approaching thier target, an observation balloon close to a nearby French airfield. The new chap had managed to keep in formation. Konrad had already decided he was going to go in for this particular balloon before any of the Halbs did. Pastor Loezer was leading and he was a pretty lenient fellow. Konrad though that, as long as he didn't mess things up, Loezer would be fine with it. Konrad could see the airfield ahead and in front of it the shape of a pale colored balloon became increasingly clear. He readied his guns and pushed his craft forward. As he got closer he noticed an ominous plume of grey smoke rising upward. It could have been a fallen craft, but no. #%&*$# them, thought Konrad. Mallencrodt and his boys must have already had a crack at it! They were supposed to be providing top cover, not taking out the target! He pushed forward anyway, letting off two salvos. The second burst definitely appeared to have done the job, as the balloon exploded instantly. Good enough for a claim, thought Konrad, eyeing Loezer over to his right. I'll have the boss vouch for me. His smile soon left his face as ground fire ripped into his craft. Konrad executed evasive manouvers and turned for home. No serious damage.

A day later word came through that the balloon had been awarded to Mallencrodt. Konrad was disgusted.

"Note well, Horst Face", he said to his new room mate. "Even when you do the job they want you to do, you don't always get the credit you deserve."

"Well, it did seem as though it was already hit, sir", Horst ventured. Konrad turned and clipped the young airman hard on the side of his head.

"Stupid boy! Not a word more from you tonight, unless you want to feel the back of my hand once more!"