Dragons and Coal Cinders
Chapter 1B

Copyright© 2016 by Myrtle Lane

Varying tactical turns, rolls and other universal maneuvers were second nature to me. This plane's capabilities were the problem, this wasn't my trusty crop duster nor my familiar, online, single-seat fighter.

"I'm going to try something," I said calmly. "Stay on the male."

"Right-o," he said.

I flew straight and level, there weren't any bullets to worry about, only the speed and geometry of the diving creature. Flying by feel, I kept my eye on the falling mass of our opponent. The Lewis gun spit a quick burst, but I steeled my eyes on the real worry. At the last minute, I cut the throttle and let the plane fall off to the right.

The wyvern blew past us as we all but hung in the air, relative to us the creature was a rocket. It couldn't adjust its trajectory enough to snatch us. The wyvern extended its wings to increase drag and slow down. It glided towards the red-stone abbey. Opening up the throttle I pursued it, clearing my gun to make sure I understood how to operate it.

In diving we picked up speed, cold drafts of air smothered my face. I turned the plane slightly and lined up on the monster, as it began to flap its long wings to gain altitude. Seeing us, it glided a moment to turn and face us.

"They're all swooping," Alfred exclaimed in a rising tenor tone as we flew over the town's red-stone buildings.

"Steady now, this is going to happen fast," I thought.

Like a game of chicken, our speed built and the distance between the low flying wyvern and us contracted to a face-to-face confrontation. The creature filled my crude gunsight and I pulled the trigger. It roared against the knock-knocking of the Vickers, as my long burst chewed away at its flesh and bones. As soon as purple blood erupted out an eye, I lifted us above the crippled monster, lucky to have our wheels clear its head.

Twin towers flanked the ruined abbey and its impressive gatehouse. The ruin was hundreds of feet long. "It must have been a grand place in the distant past" I thought, as we dropped behind it.

"Oh, you got him!" Albert sang out, as we dodged around an abbey tower.

A long burst from the Lewis responded to another smaller wyvern's appearance over the other tower. A painful roar confirmed hits from Alfred's gun, which abruptly stopped its chattering.

"Oh, that's it then," Alfred cursed.

He was out of bullets or his Lewis machine gun just jammed. I knew from my simulation game, jammed guns from long bursts of firing plagued aviators during this time period.

"Ha, Ha! He hit the tower!" Alfred hooted and hollered louder. "We just killed two of the bastards."

Taking a crazy chance, I turned tightly around the ruin and started climbing the direction we arrived from. Fortunately, all the other wyverns swooped and dived, assuming we would continue in the direction we'd been racing.

"Clever," a voice in my mind purred.

I thumped on my Vickers gun in pleasure, and then looked over my shoulder at the three wyverns that now glided over the sleepy coastal town. A sea-washed lighthouse stood near the tidal harbor, and its companion signal tower was on the shore. A red rocket burst above the signal tower alerting the dirigible and town folk, as if they hadn't already seen the spectacle of the flying monsters in the morning sky. A wind-up siren droned higher and higher in pitch, which spooked the monsters, and they darted in all directions. It reminded me of the air raid sirens you hear on war movies. The teeming towns people paused to watch us fly overhead.

If seeing flying dragon-like creatures wasn't strange enough, the sight of black smoke building and bellowing from cylindrical stacks off the rear of the dirigible added to the weirdness of this world. As we continued our painfully slow climb, I couldn't keep my eyes off the cigar-shaped balloon. Propellers started to whirl on the side of the hanging iron frame under the balloon. A large union jack on a raised flagpole at the front of the green balloon waved in the sea breeze. It gave the vessel an odd, misplaced unicorn horn look that wasn't like anything from the Earth's past that I'd ever seen or heard about. Everything about the airship looked wrong, giving me an even more uncomfortable feeling about where I was.

Taking it all in had me shaking my head. Another red rocket exploded above the town and the dirigible ran up a set of signal flags that meant nothing to me.

"Enemy in sight," Alfred said in my headset. "The navy loves their signal flags. Jack, I'm sorry. I didn't ask the lads for another full magazine for the Lewis gun. It was just a training exercise you see."

I sighed. We were down half our firepower.

"Look! The Wyvern Balloon Corps are on the ball here. It's cast off its mooring lines. They'll show those creatures what for."

"I see it, Alfred. Also, the wyvern seem to have remembered us. They're done being scattered; they are following us."

"Well, just drag them over to our chaps. Perhaps we should be following combined arms doctrine? What with my gun out," Alfred offered.

Climbing at 80 m.p.h. wasn't getting us far from our pursuers nor much higher either. The male had glided over the harbor, and then climbed over the sea before turning around towards town. The two females had split left and right out-of-town, and hadn't attempted to climb, being confused by the blaring siren.

Seizing an opportunity to engage one of the creatures alone, I screamed, "Tally Ho."

Half-rolling our two-seater, I inverted and executed a descending half-loop, resulting in level flight in the exact opposite direction at a lower altitude. Normally a defensive maneuver, our Split S put us on the same plane as the right-side wyvern that now was climbing towards the larger male. Having the right vector on her, I triggered our Vickers and lead poured across her back, up to the back of her head, which shattered and came apart. The dramatic explosion of purple splattered our left wing as I entered a breaking turn towards the other female.

Doing a quarter-aileron roll and pulling back on the stick caused some serious stress.

"Holy hell," Alfred whined. "Where did you learn that one?"

The flat turn put us at the other female's three o'clock, low. She barked outrage, as did the larger male, at the death of their third companion. Not having any sense, she banked and glided towards me, giving me a huge profile to shoot. Knock, knocking sounded from our Vickers as I squeezed off another long burst. The synchronized gun fired through the propeller. All I hit was a wing, but it was ripped to shreds. The wyvern spun out of control. We raced through the space it had occupied, and I made for the coast not more than fifty feet above the white-caps.

At the edge of the outer harbor, clear of the metal framing of its mooring, the airship started to turn. This allowed its machine guns to take long-range shots at the male wyvern. The green balloon with its gray colored gondolas, slowly moved to protect the center of town. Compared to the wyvern, the dirigible lacked any real mobility. It was more like a pillbox than aerial cavalry.

"You've got to be kidding me. Where have you been hiding during our dog fighting exercises?" Alfred asked, bubbling praise concealed in his words.

Not wanting my secret life to be noted, I said, "Our good luck is truly embarrassing."

"Mavis is going to kiss you and I won't mind," he proclaimed, laughing into his speaking device. "Now bring us home in one piece to claim the reward or I'm going to be sore I can't tell this tale."

Our engine disgorged more oil onto the engine cowling, and coughed to announce its disapproval of our treatment of the Bristol. The airship stopped firing, which caught my attention as we sped over the water. We banked around a steaming fishing boat, which was running for the safety of the harbor guns. The crew had their shirts off, waving them in the air.

"They're pleased with us," I commented, feeling rather smug.

Only my decision to bank again towards the lighthouse, saved us. The surviving male wyvern had swooped and hovered to grab us. An inner voice told me, "Go watch the sea washing the base of the lighthouse."

The bone chilling roar was just feet from my head, a green spit splattered me and the cockpit. It tasted like a jalapeño pepper, a disgustingly hot and spicy taste. I twisted my head half-off to see what the angry monster was going to do next. It bashed the metal funnel off the boat behind us, having dropped lower to vent its wrath. Black smoke engulfed the boat for a minute before a boiler blew up, creating a calamity among the crew. The wyvern dashed away from the noise in pursuit of us. I suppose the fishing crew was really trying to warn us.

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