Segmentum Tempestus 997.M41
System: Harkonnen IV; Planet: Arrakia
Location: Air Camp Velch
Hydra flak batteries unleashed their ordnance at the approaching planes. Tarquin only became distracted by the battle when a flaming piece of wreckage smashed into the airstrip outside the hangar doors and slid down the runway. “Air Wing Zeri, mount up! Command decreed we're first in the air. Rookie, zip up; you're with me this fight!” Lt. Commander Scarpia announced before running to the plane.
“Aye Commander,” Tarquin replied. He finished getting in his suit, and dashed to the remaining Lightning. They quickly went through the start-up routine as autocannon fire sounded above their heads. Tarquin closed his canopy and pushed the stick forward. They flared their engines after straightening out on the runway. Hell Blades flew at them with guns blazing. Shots hit Tarquin's plane as it lunged forward.
Fireballs and bursts of autocannon fire lit up the night sky. A nearby flak tank exploded. The race down the runway felt like an eternity to Tarquin. More shells pounded their planes as they lifted off. Scarpia hit the afterburners and let loose with her own autocannon. The rest of Veri Wing followed suit.
Hell Blades flew by so close that Tarquin's cockpit shook in response. “Air Wing Veri, break off and engage at will!” Scarpia ordered. The other six pilots went in different directions, forming their own pairs. Tarquin followed the wing leader into a steep climb. They levelled off seconds later and turned back to the base. Many of the buildings burned brightly, giving the location of any plane flying near it. “I found a nice fat target. Rookie, follow me!” Scarpia proclaimed joyously.
They inverted and dove before flipping the planes back upright. Wind roared past the canopy as they picked up speed. Scarpia levelled out behind a small group of eight. A short burst from the autocannon tore the wing off one of the planes, causing it to fly into another Hell Blade alongside it. The rest scattered while taking additional casualties. Scarpia turned in pursuit of the larger clump. Two of them made a sharp turn right, but the third split left. “Go get him rookie!”
Tarquin made a turning climb left. He got into his opponent's turn radius and fired a volley of autocannon shells. But, the Hell Blade jinked to the right, levelling itself. Tarquin copied the maneuver, but overshot the exit. He flung the plane to the left as the enemy turned to get behind him. They weaved back and forth until the enemy turned wider left than normal. A tight turn brought Tarquin on his tail. Two lascannon bolts struck the engines, and the Hell Blade exploded.
Tarquin consulted his radar to find that Scarpia was being pursued by two enemies while she was chasing three more.
An inverted split-S dive built up speed for him as Tarquin raced to protect his wing leader. He approach them diagonally; but when he fired at the tail group, the lead planes made a climbing right turn into his line of fire. One of them took a few shots before dropping out of the sky. Tarquin unleashed another lascannon volley at the tailing enemies. One turned into a ball of flame, and the other went into a vertical climb.
Tarquin went up in pursuit. The opponent dived before he could take a shot, so Tarquin headed into a rolling dive. They both got uncomfortably close to the ground before zooming back up in a climb. Each cycle grew longer as each climb reached a higher peak. On the seventh pass, the Lightning was nearing its ceiling. The stall warning blared as Tarquin nosed the plane over. In the second before the dive began, he witnessed the Hell Blade fall tail-first. After plummeting a few feet, it entered an uncontrolled spiral. Tarquin stomped the air brakes and aligned himself above the opponent. A hail of autocannon shells tore apart the fuselage and eventually caused the plane to explode.
Tarquin dove back down to his squadmates and levelled off when the vox sounded, “All air wings, break off pursuit. Those interceptors are too fast to catch. Return to base and refuel.”
“Hey rookie, how many did you scratch?”
“Only four, ma'am; only four,” Tarquin responded as he headed back to the base.