APAGear - Volume 5, Number 5 - August 2003
Continued from part one. -ed
"YEEEHAAA!" Yuri screamed, kicking his feet almost randomly against the rudder pedals to help his fighter spray 37mm tungsten-tipped tank-killing shells down onto the hapless tanks and walkers below. Inept return fire streaked past as several tanks and halftracks angled their turrets and machineguns up in a futile effort to shoot him down, but either passed harmlessly by or struck glancing blows that pinged divots out of the paint and little more.
"Yuri! Pull up! We're under two hundred meters!" Pavel screamed, and Yuri momentarily imagined his gunner clutching his pocket altimeter like a rosary as shells swept by and the ground neared.
"It's only a sixty degree dive, you coward!" He roared, firing two of his four armor-piercing rockets as a parting gift to an unlucky tank and then heaving mightily on the control yoke. With lightninglike reflexes, he retracted the flaps and throttled the engine to emergency power, all while one-handedly pulling the protesting plane out of its' dive and into level flight scant meters above the rippling grassland.
"Jesus, Yuri!" Pavel screamed, firing back at the diminishing germans with his 12.7mm machine gun, "You cut that one too damned close!"
"Don't distract the pilot!" Yuri sceamed back, banking hard into a snap-turn as he dodged first one tree, then another as his plane lumbered back into the sky.
"Oh my god, we're going to die! Who the hell thought a stupid-assed cossak peasant like you should fly the god-damned plane!?" Pavel screeched in response, the steel barrier behind the pilot seat doing nothing to mute his voice as it bellowed through the intercom and into Yuri's ears, interrupted only for a second when he worked his jaw to equalize the pressure within them.
"Shut up! Just shut the hell up and let me fly this damn thing properly or we're all going to crash into the ground! This piece-of-shit cannon is making this plane about as agile as your mothers' lard ass!" Yuri retaliated, watching the obstinately slow altitude needle dial itself toward five hundred meters, even as the engine heat gauge increased twice as quickly.
Then, with a great wrenching heave of the controls, he heeled the fighter onto its' side and into a tight reversal of direction. Simultaneously, he throttled back the engine to idle and deployed his flaps to full, gulling them out like airbrakes as his fighter gently nosed back down toward the shaken line of German armor below.
"Damnit! We just nearly crashed! Fly level! Fly level! Just try it for one fucking minute! Cut it out, you crazy bastard!"
Grunting with the effort required to make the turn, Yuri still responded to his gunners' commentary. "Toyvhu maht, right back at you, you muscovite jackass! Now let's introduce the fritzes to Comrade Tesla!"
With another whoop of savage glee, he began to rake a cluster of antiaircraft halftracks with his cannon, grinning as each shattered under the impact of the heavy tank-killing shells or burst into flame while panicked crewmembers boiled out in all directions like bipedal ants.
Finally, the ground neared, and once again Yuri retracted his flaps and throttled back up, this time dropping his two general-purpose bombs on a radio truck in the center of the formation as he passed. Relieved of a half-ton of weight, the aircraft buoyed upwards somewhat, and grew more responsive to its' pilots' demands.
"I thought you were going to use the Tesla Cannon!" Pavel chided, once again firing short controlled bursts at the few unburning vehicles in their wake.
In response to one of his chattering bursts, a massive explosion rocked the charnel field, sending debries and wreckage flying in all directions as a fireball bloomed into the sky.
"I hit something good that time!" Pavel shouted gleefully and pounding on the armor partition that kept his nemesis at bay. "That makes four trucks this week!"
"Pavel, you dumb shit, we timed the bombs for ten second delay! You want the fucking things blowing up right underneath us?" Yuri explained patronizingly, immensely gratified to be able to so absolutely deflate his gunner.
Unfortunately, the barb was ignored as a squadronwide shout echoed in his ears.
"All soviet fighters, jet-craft inbound from the west! Repeat, fast-mover are inbound bearing one-one-zero! Estimated four, count four, ME-209 escorting two JU-87Gs and two Messerschmitt P-92s! Possible gunpods on the Stukas, Yaks break to engage, Sturmoviks be ready to take evasive action!"
"Oh hell." Yuri cursed, glancing back and forth inside his cockpit, vainly trying to spot the incoming fighters. Messerschmitt model ninety-two turbojet fighters. Bastard rocketplanes that mounted an automatic 75mm antitank cannon so large the barrel was also the spine of the plane.
At least the damn stub-winged things would fall from the sky if they slowed to his speed. But it only took one lucky pass, and when a three-kilometer loop-back-around took all of three seconds...
"Oh shit!" Pavel wailed, then began chanting "We're going to die!" like a mantra.
Heeling the Akula over for another pass, Yuri rocked the plane to throw off the sporadic flak beginning to track his position, and screamed unintelligibly at his gunner and the germans for sake of distraction as he dove into the malestrom of armor-piercing shrapnel and proximity-fused antiaircraft artillery streaking up from the lines of armor below.
A light tank round caromed off his turret with the deafeaning gong-clash of steel meeting steel, and Erik Hessmeier winced as his walker staggered from the impact, hydraulics and metal protesting as the driver struggled to keep their Panzerkampfer upright and the gunner tried to swivel their turret around in an effort to spot the enemy that had fired at them without having the motions of their massive 128mm compounding the present instability and tipping them over.
With a clanking lurch, Wilhelm fired the cannon, and the war machine bobbed from the recoil as its' legs bent slightly to absorb the shock. Gratifyingly, this time their target acted as it should when struck with a hihg-explosive shell, and the once-proud communist T-34 erupted in a geyser of sparks and sooty black smoke, licks of flame fringing the base of the turret and shooting meters into the air through the remnants of the blown-off commanders' hatch.
But there was no time to gloat.
"Achtung! Sturmoviks indekung!" Someone screamed over the radio, and the remainder of the "flak-trak" mobile antiaircraft platoon opened up, the halftracks blazing with fire and smoke as they geysered 55mm rounds into the air with a sinister mechanical clacking so fast it was almost a hiss. Blue-white tracer rounds cast stark shadows even in the midday sun as they stabbed toward a growing black speck, and the death-rattle of the antiaircraft cannon struggled against the whining of the tank-killers' engine as it rose in pitch and volume, coming inexorably nearer and nearer.
For a split second fear and duty warred, but training and resolve seemed to move his hands of their own volition as Erich unbolted his hatch and rose from the safety of the turret, grabbing at the heavy 12mm machinegun in a measured panic and swinging it toward the swelling drone, even as the tank battle continued to rage around him.
"Okay now, Pavel. I'm going to try out the zap-gun now!" Yuri conceded, trying anything he could to shake his tailgunner into a more productive monologue.
Unfortunately, at that instant some unknown piece of german-engineered ordinance impacted the Akula. There was a lound sound of ringing metal, and a slight shudder as the round hit and deflected, doubtless leaving a new crease in the robin-egg blue underbelly of the fighterbomber.
"Don't worry. No damage." Yuri intoned, checking his gauges with a critical eye, and gently testing his controls for damage to their cabling.
"To you! You're the one sitting inside a six-centimeter iron bathtub, you jackass! I'm the poor bastard flying ass-backwards into the unknown crouched on a canvas sack on top of the god-damned fuel tank!" Pavel responded, distracted from his litany. "And god damnit, I don't even have armored plexi-glass like you! I've got a piece-of-shit wind visor bolted over my head- a wind visor, not a canopy! And someone who shall remain nameless but whose father was named Vilyem took it from the wreck of an I-153, and only did that to keep the draft from sucking me out of my fucking se- Oh shit! We've got a Bayerische Flugzverke 209 coming around out of the dogfight above! I think he's looking at us!"
Lurching the Akulas' rudder left and right, Yuri began to dodge the aircraft, keeping it a randomly moving target for its' newfound admirer. "Well, must I tell you your job? Bloody his nose with some machinegun fire if he comes too close, and wait for the fighters to catch him." He growled, toggling the squadronwide. "Fighter wing, this is Sturmovik Zveno-one with a fucking em-two-oh-nine coming around after us, would someone please get off their fucking cloud and distract him?"
"Da, this is Vulture seven, engaging." A slurred voice announced, as a Yak snap-rolled out of the tumultuous dogfight above and hurtled past to engage their pursuer.
"Thank you, seven. Keep him busy. Over." Yuri responded graciously, snugging his shoulders against the padded frame of his nosecannon stocks as he peered into the reticule reflector.
Below, a miniscule entourage of armored trucks and halftracks spat hatred and fire up at him, even as he settled the gyrating ring of the crosshair around the lead vehicle.
Taking a deep breath, Yuri thumbed the hastily-added trigger-switch on his yoke and blinked hard in preparation for the muzzle flash as heshouted "Firing tesla cannon!"
And the world exploded around him.
It was like touching his tongue to a lightsocket while sitting on a jackhammer, as the ominous weapon squealed and then vomited forth a sun of unimaginable brightness, tremendous tongues of electricity swirling from the searing core of power like medusas' serpents, while the blazing ball of lightning flickered from Akula to the antiaircraft column even as it formed.
It happened so rapidly Yuri was shocked. Well, shocked was a bad word, he reflected, blinking owlishly as he levelled off and tried vainly to clear the fluorescent afterimages from his vision, despite having had his eyes firmly shut against the anticipated glare.
"Pavel! What the hell did this oversize sparkplug just do to the fritzes?!" He shouted, his voice strangely high-pitched and weak in the echoes of his mechanical hellfire.
"Holy shit!" The tailgunner replied incredulously. "Holy fucking shit, comrade! Holy shit! That fucking zap-gun just took out the entire fucking flak column!"
Pavel almost sounded positive. Impossible and blasphemous, Yuri reflected, but a pleasant diversion nonetheless.
"What about that Messer-" He began, just as the Sturmovik shuddered and his ears were filled with a noise like hail on a slate roof, as machinegunfire riddled the underside of his aircraft.
"SHIT!" Yuri screamed, reflexively heaving the yoke as far back as it would go. The Akula shuddered in protest and the engine whined, but the horrific pinging ceased and, as his ears finally ceased their ringing, he could hear the departing screech of the german fighter as it overshot the ascent-stalled bomber, followed by the throatier growl of the pursuing Yak as it closed on the Messerschmitt.
"Pavel?!" Yuri grunted, feeling the Akula lose momentum at about a seventy-degree inclination. With a deft chop of the throttle, he allowed the plane to backslide while he held yoke back, keeping the alierons at their maximum curvature and allowing him to glide backwards after a fashion.
As the plane settled back towards a reasonable inclination and his stomach settled securely into the roof of his mouth, he advanced the throttle back to full-power and shoved hard on the yoke, dropping the nose and letting gravity and the engine begin clawing the lumbering aircraft back into powered flight.
"Pavel!" Yuri shouted again, rapping his knuckles on the partition behind his headrest.
A loud and angry thud aswered his knock, as Pavels' quavering voice roared in his ears. "Jeeesuuuus Christ Yuri! Could you try to fly the fucking plane forwards? Or keep the fucking fighters from ripping our plantes' guts out and leaving us to crash and get captured? I almost shit myself back there!"
"No wonder your head is full of shit, then!" Yuri shouted back, swallowing several times in a vain effort to slide his guts back into their proper location and orientation. "And what the fuck were you doing, you cowardly dipshit? I thought you're supposed to be the fucking tailgunner, and yet my fucking plane just got shot up by a Messerschmitt that you spotted two minutes ago!"
"He got underneath us and the Yak was right on his tail!" Pavel shouted back, punctuating his grievance with an angry thump. Ignoring the reaction, Yuri angled the Akula away from the frontlines for a moment and bent to peruse his instruments.
"Oil pressure looks good, and nothing else is slipping." He determined, incredulous that despite the chewing their underside had taken, the protruding Achilles Heel of their oil radiator wasn't leaking. Visibly. Yet. "Pavel, any visible damage back there?" He called, making a quick check of his airspace as he circled a safe distance from both the ground battle and still-raging dogfight.
"Nothing I can see." The gunner replied promptly.
"That's what you thought right before the Messerschmit ripped into our plane. Check again, comrade."
Hessmeyer was at least as shocked as his crew. A single blast from that Sturmovik had reduced their air-defenses to cinder and even now the residual electricity in the air disrupted radios and made tesla-weapons unreliable, all while the damned Russians refused to stop their advance, let alone fall back! To worsen things, the fighter cover was being tied up by twice their number of the damned "PAK-Yaks"- those accursed fighters with their snout-mounted cannon were death even against heavy walkers, but the crazed communists used them as much against aircraft with a tenth the durability. And to murderous effect, as he had just witnessed.
And then to have the Luftwaffe Messerschmitt rip into the Sturmovik where it was most vulnerable and yet accomplish nothing!? He shuddered, chilled despite the heat and choking dust, and watched disgustedly as the pursuing Yak gouted a ten-meter plume of flame from its' colossal tankbusting cannon. The Yak jerked to a standstill midair from the recoil, as though a giant tether had suddenly snapped taut, but the Messerschmitt disintegrated into splinters of aluminum under the single enourmous shell, birthing a fireball that spent itself into a greasy smear of black smoke before it had even fallen a fifth of the way to the ground.
"Shitzen." He breathed, raising his field glasses in the vain hope of spotting a parachute. Instead, he saw the ominous shape of that dreaded skyborne predator, the soviet Sturmovik, circling back around towards his already-beleagured command.
To be continued...
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