MFair, excellent introduction. Young James is learning the ropes quickly. Congrats on first victories and good luck with the claims. I'm sure more are to come. Trooper, Toby's inexperience almost cost him his life. That was an invaluable lesson for this Sopwith Sailor. One he will not forget soon. Harry, oh dear! Sounds like poor Konrad is about to receive some painkillers in his butt cheek from some attractive nurse. Hope the Nieuports followed you down that road and are now scattered all over it. Can't wait to find out what's next!
The rain continued to come down for two straight days. Toby didn’t mind it. He was used to long stretches of gloomy weather, but the Canucks continued to curse this type of weather. Snow was preferable to this misery, they would say. The days passed slowly and Toby’s wallet was getting much lighter after constantly losing at the Crown and Anchor game, even when it was his turn as the banker. Finally on the 13th the weather cleared up enough to resume operations. Toby was being led by FC Edwards and accompanied by FSL Sharman on another arty spotting mission near Luneville. He had this distinct feeling of deja vu. It seemed like exactly the same conditions as his first mission. His butt even seemed to fall asleep at exactly the same time and place. All they needed now was a trio of Fokkers to complete the sensation. And as if someone had read his mind three specks appeared ahead. Mulberry had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Two tan and one green monoplanes flew underneath the quickly scattering formation of Sopwiths. Each pilot picked his target and wouldn’t you know it? Toby got stuck with the green Fokker again. This time it seemed easier than last. Was it because he had altitude advantage? Or simply it was preordained? Either way Mulberry had the Fokker in his sights and firing in a short order. After numerous attacks he watched the Fokker evade, but then something happened and the German pilot went into a spin. Toby watched the tumbling Eindecker go lower and lower and expected him to come out of the spin any moment now. Aaaany moment now. Last chance. The Fokker wasn’t faking it. It smashed into the ground with such force that the pieces exploded in a circular fashion like an artillery shell, scattering debris in all directions.
Toby looked around and found both of his flight mates still toying with their Fokkers. He decided to follow one pair in case help was needed. The other pair was now below, getting to the last dozens of feet of altitude, skimming the treetops. Then the Fokker went too low and was caught by the tree branches, crashing into the woods. But the Strutter that followed him was caught in the same trap and also ended up in tree branches, but in a much better position. The plane simply came to a stop on the branches and continued to sway in the breeze. The pilot was okay and already attempting to free himself from the predicament. Mulberry watched the whole scene with amusement and was startled to see the other pair dive to the deck as well. They disappeared below his wings and continued their fight. Toby was about to turn back when he noticed the tan Fokker on his own with the engine off and gliding for the Hun lines. He was alone with the remaining Strutter nowhere to be found. Toby didn’t have to be asked twice and directed his crate behind the Eindecker. A few bursts later and the monoplane was in a vertical position with the tail pulling him down. He eventually was able to flip the plane around and dive nose first, but he was too low to recover and ploughed into the trees beneath. Toby watched as the Eindecker broke apart and exploded into a ball of dust, dirt and smoke. He then turned around and went straight for the home base.
He had to be halfway back to Luxeuil when he noticed a pair of dots flying in the opposite direction. He was certain they were friendly as there was no tell tale of AA fire nearby, but he changed his course to intercept, just to be sure. He was surprised to see black crosses on the wings flying this deep into enemy territory. Two Aviatiks were returning home from their mission and Mulberry decided to teach them a lesson. He followed them behind and approached from below. He set his sights on the trailing machine and continued to fly straight and underneath, being sure Alford behind will rake the belly of the Hun bomber with the rear gun. He waited, but nothing was happening. His gunner had exactly the same idea, but he was aiming for the lead machine which continued to be obscured by the top plane. They failed to fire on their first pass. It was an unfortunate misunderstanding and the element of surprise was squandered. By now the enemy bombers were alerted to the attack and opened fire of their own. Toby had to go around and do this the hard way. He lined up the sights and opened fire. The rounds landed directly inside the fuselage. Smoke started to trail from the engine and the two-seater began to lag behind the leader. Now that the two Huns were separated Toby could be much bolder with his attacks. He continued to harass his foe as it descended lower. The engine finally ceased and it was that much harder to get in a good position before the enemy was too close and risked a collision. It’s as if he were hanging still in the air. Eventually the stricken Hun reached the ground and overturned on landing.
Mulberry could finally return to base. He claimed all three enemy machines, but doubted they would be confirmed. There weren’t any witnesses he could call upon. Hopefully someone had seen something.
"Take the cylinder out of my kidneys, The connecting rod out of my brain, my brain, From out of my arse take the camshaft, And assemble the engine again."