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Aces Up by Covington Clarke

Here is a howdy do sure 'nuff


There, dark, dim and shadowy against the cloud were more German planes than he had ever before seen in one group, and their angle of direction left no question as to their purpose.

Again he tried the sun. Yes, there they were! No question about it now. They were coming down, and in so doing were no longer completely within the eye of the sun. Pretty slick! A group behind to cut off retreat and another group coming out of the clouds at an angle that would intercept the line of flight. And that cloud was fairly raining German planes!

"Well!" Larkin exclaimed aloud. "Here's a howdy-do!"

The planes to the eastward were looming up with surprising speed, and no one could say when the ones behind and above would open up their murderous guns. What would Cowan do? What would any of these green pilots do in such a dog fight? Larkin looked down at McGee. He was still climbing for all he was worth. Cowan, if he saw anything, was too paralyzed for action. But perhaps he had not seen. Air eyes come through experience, Larkin knew, and something must be done right now.

In the moment that he determined upon a course of action he saw another group of planes come streaming out of the cloud to the south. Curtains! The whole sky was full of planes. Then, as they swerved sharply, he saw the sunlight play on the allied cockade. And how they came! Spads, French Spads! Going up to the front, perhaps, as a covering flight for the observation crates far below. But now they were swinging into this grand and unexpected melee.

Larkin grinned. "Here _is_ a howdy-do--sure 'nuff!" he repeated and went into a tight, climbing turn that brought him squarely around, facing the planes streaming down out of the sun. Taps for Mr. Larkin, he thought, but he would at least give them pause, and by so doing not only provide Cowan with a chance to wake up and manoeuver, but it would give the oncoming Spads the one thing they needed--time!

The lightning-like movements and happenings of an aerial dog fight cannot be followed or seen by any one man. Fortunate indeed is that pilot who can keep track of what is going on around him. One moment he may have a single adversary; the next he is the target for two or more planes. If he shakes them off, or by marksmanship reduces the odds, he may check in for mess that evening; failing to do so, a squadron commander will that night requisition a new pilot.

As Larkin came around on the quickly executed turn he was only faintly conscious of the fact that a considerable group of Fokker tri-planes were sweeping down on him. He gave no thought to the number. His eye was fixed upon a bright green and gold plane in the lead. As he pulled up the nose of his Camel and thumbed the trigger release for his first burst, he sensed the strange exultation that comes to that man who, facing death in a forlorn hope and knowing there is no escape, accepts all chances and sells his life as dearly as possible.


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