Thank you, Lou. I like those bars much more than those wound stripes. And Harry, what's all this nonsense about some joysticks and something called TrackIR? All I understood from all of this was a fixed gunsight. Good for Lazlo, bad for us.
MacGegor and Draper were leading in front with Mulberry acting as the escort for them. They were on a recon mission of the front sector north of Baccarat. They were nearly there but something spooked them. A flight of Eindeckers came over the lines to wreak havoc. Just the appearance of them had the ‘A’ flight on the run. Toby noticed one below and dove to intercept. The Hun saw him coming and evaded, but not for long. The Vickers machine guns on the nose of the Strutter gave the Hun a warm welcome. He dove and was able to get some distance. Toby followed and suddenly was under fire. “- Was he this low?” Was his first thought. He immediately rejected that theory. They were at least 5,000 feet high and on friendly side. “- Another plane! There has to be another plane behind. Don’t look, just turn!” It was too late, it was a reflex reaction and Toby was looking back. There he was. Another Fokker right behind. It was a trap and he fell right into it. His hands were already going through the motions and forcing his plane to bank. He lost the assailant from view. “- Where are you!?” His plane was standing on its port wing. “- There! There you are!” He was speaking in his mind to the German in front. “- Let’s see how you like some of that hot lead up you keister!” Toby was angry and firing with little precision. He wanted to hurt the other pilot. He wanted revenge. He followed the Hun closely, matching his moves. His bullets were not hitting the fuselage. Toby was spraying them into the wings. He wanted to cripple the Fokker and then take his time and enjoy the final kill. At this moment he realized his rage. He realized it was controlling him. His finger moved away from the trigger. He was scared of what he was becoming. Killing was a sport, not necessity. It was too late for the Hun. Toby followed alongside and watched as the German pilot wrestled with controls. The controls that controlled nothing. He was falling, helplessly, inevitably. Mulberry watched as the monoplane’s shadow followed the falling craft along the ground. It was catching up to it, closer and closer. There was no escape and no chance to land. The plane was on its side when it hit the ground. The wing snapped off first, sending the airframe with its heavy engine into the ground breaking into pieces. The wrecked fuselage made half a somersault and disintegrated into tiny bits spreading them all around. In the same instant the petrol tank ruptured and ignited. A large sphere of fire spilled like a bursting balloon engulfing everything in flame. The pilot ... there was no pilot. There was no sign. Was he even there? Was he a living and breathing person just a second ago? Was Toby a person? Was he human? Could a human being kill another without even blinking? Without thinking? Without remorse? Toby was disgusted with himself. It was easy to blame it on war. People kill other people during war, right? Toby searched his soul for absolution. It was not forthcoming.
“- So, you’re quitting?” Captain Elder was sitting in his chair, lighting up a cigarette. As always, he reclined as if to be regaled with a great story. He was not looking at Toby standing in front of his desk at attention. “- Yes, Sir!” Mulberry’s answer was simple and to the point. “- You think you’ve become a murderer? Is that it?” Elder was not admitting defeat yet. “- Have you thought that instead of taking, you are saving lives?” “- Sir?” Toby was certain that ‘Daddy’ has finally lost it. “- Think about it. If you have not shot down that poor S.O.B. he may have shot down one of your mates, maybe even you?” Mulberry didn’t answer. Elder smiled, he knew it was working. “- How would you have felt if instead of that Hun it was MacGregor or Draper that was laying crumpled in that heap over there? And all because you hesitated, because you had doubts. Would you want to quit or take your revenge then?” “- Not quit.” Mulberry’s voice was nearly inaudible. “- Well, that settles it then.” Captain Elder picked himself up from the chair. “- I don’t want to hear any more of that quitting nonsense. You’re here to make a difference, not be different. Is that understood Commander Mulberry?” He was looking directly into Toby’s eyes, searching for any signs of doubt. He didn’t find any. “- Loud and clear, Sir” Elder was congratulating himself in his thoughts: “- Works every time.” “- One more thing!” The C.O. stopped Mulberry from leaving. “- This came for you this morning. I think it’ll go very nicely with that matching ribbon you already have.” He pulled out a box out of his desk’s drawer and handed it to Toby. Mulberry opened it to find a bar for his DSC. ‘Daddy’ continued: “- Fifteen Huns! That calls for some sort of a celebration. Congratulations!” Toby smiled.