Flying Officer Colin Roberts, leading D Flight, was above and behind the other three flights of the squadron of Hurricanes.
Sydney Camm, the chief designer for Hawker Engineering, had designed the Hart biplane light bomber and the Fury, the RAF's first 200+ mph fighter, before creating the Hurricane. For many years Hawker had used a system of metal tubular construction with fabric covering. It had the merits of simplicity and was capable of taking a lot of punishment. This system was continued in the Hurricane. The undercarriage was retractable, very advanced for its time, and in view of its high speed, the pilot was given a sliding canopy above his cockpit for protection. These features, and the monoplane configuration, were not the only novel elements in Camm's new fighter. Equally revolutionary was the armament, eight Browning .303 machineguns in the wings.
The absence of the second wing, far from being a deprivation, was a liberation offering much superior all-around visibility. Unfortunately, right now Roberts could almost wish he didn't have such good visibility. He had never seen so many aeroplanes in the sky at one time, and almost all of them were German.
There had to be at least forty twin-engine bombers just in the nearest group, and some of the farther groups had to be even larger. And there were many more of the faster, more maneuverable single-engine fighters darting about the bombers, as if daring him to approach.
Roberts's squadron hadn't been among those sent to France. Not that another squadron --- or even ten squadrons --- would have made much difference to the German armored juggernaut that had swept through France like a hot knife through butter. It had taken Guderian's panzers less than two weeks to reach the mouth of the Somme at Abbeville, completely cutting off the Allied armies to the north. No more than a couple of thousand men had been rescued across the Luftwaffe-dominated Channel before the remainder had been forced to surrender. Roberts didn't know how many men had been lost but the scuttlebutt put the number between a quarter and a half million.
Whatever the actual number might be, it was clear that the Army was in no shape to contest an invasion across the Channel. It was now up to the Air Force --- and the Navy, of course --- to keep the Germans on their side of the Channel.
Scanning the sky again, the twelve Hawker Hurricanes of the squadron suddenly seemed a pitiful number against the oncoming tide.
Feeling like they were trying to dam the Thames with a dozen pebbles, there came to his mind the prayer of Sir Jacob Astley at the battle of Edgehill in 1642. "O Lord," Roberts prayed, "Thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget Thee, do not Thou forget me..."
Roberts had just finished reciting the prayer when he saw out of the corner of his eye something streak between him and the rest of the squadron. He snapped his head around to try to reacquire the object, and then blinked when he saw it again.
It was a person... a girl! A girl flying through the air!
Even as his mind tried to wrestle with the concept of a flying girl, she positioned herself ahead of him and to his left, above and behind C Flight. She hung there for a moment, keeping station with the Hurricanes, then raised her left hand to her face. From behind her Roberts couldn't tell exactly what she was doing, but the gesture oddly reminded him of the kiss his girlfriend had blown him when he was leaving home at the end of his last leave.
Suddenly the Numbers One and Three of C Flight jinked violently and came together in a violent fireball. Number Two spun away from the fireball, but it didn't look like a controlled maneuver. If anything, the Hurricane looked like a leaf caught in its namesake, spinning and rolling. Could the girl have blown a kiss that powerful? Even as Roberts watched, the metal began peeling off the leading edge of the starboard wing. And then the entire wing crumpled, folding up at the root. The Hurricane rolled, hanging on its remaining wing, then plummeted toward the ground.
There was a blur, and Roberts saw the girl closing on B Flight. Even as he shouted a warning into his radiotelephone, she grabbed the tail of Number Three. For one brief moment the Hurricane pointed straight up into the air and then the girl swung the aircraft around as if it was nothing more than a cricket bat. It smashed into Number One and drove it into Number Two. All three aeroplanes disappeared in another fireball.
A Flight broke away, but the girl was having none of that, streaking after them at what Roberts estimated as at least twice their speed. She caught up to Number Three and plowed right through it, severing the right wing at the root. Now ahead of the other two Hurricanes of A Flight, she turned and collided head-on with Number One, resulting in yet another fireball.
For one brief moment Roberts entertained the hope that the fireball had destroyed the mystery girl. But she emerged from the fireball and headed after Number Two, who had nosed over into a dive, heading for whatever safety he might find closer to the ground. But long before he could get there she caught up to him, plowing through the rear of the fuselage and separating the tail from the rest of the aircraft.
Then she was coming for his flight. "Stay with me!" Roberts shouted at his wingmen over the R/T even as he pushed the stick over hard and firewalled the throttle, even though he'd already seen that the mysterious flying girl could easily outpace a Hurricane.
Sure enough, it was only a matter of seconds. Coming up on Roberts's left, she started to pass above Fowler's Hurricane and then dropped down, landing between the back of the cockpit and the R/T mast, riding the Hurricane as if it was a horse.
Now that she was closer, he could see more details. The girl was wearing a dark blue, almost black, garment that showed off every curve of her most definitely feminine body. Matching gloves and boots covered most of her long limbs. A red sash hung around her hips, streaming behind her in the slipstream. Something that looked like a golden lightning bolt adorned her most generous chest. Even with the mask covering much of her gold-framed face, she had to be the most beautiful girl Roberts'd ever seen.
He chased that thought away. This was neither the time nor the place to be thinking of the girl who'd just so easily downed nine planes of the squadron as beautiful. He yelled into the R/T, telling Fowler to bail out.
It was too late. She leaned forward, raised one arm, then brought it sharply down, and Fowler's canopy shattered in a shower of glass. A moment later the remaining glass turned crimson. The unguided Hurricane heeled to the left and plummeted toward the ground.
Dismounting the stricken Hurricane she came toward him, and he instinctively ducked, making himself as small as possible in his seat. But she passed over him and mounted Jameson's Hurricane on Roberts's right, this time in front of the cockpit, facing backward.
For a moment nothing seemed to be happening. Then Jameson's Hurricane began streaming smoke, and Roberts thought he could see the cowling crumple between the girl's booted legs. The engine seized and the aeroplane went into a dive, still streaming smoke.
Roberts didn't see Jameson bail out before the Hurricane disintegrated in a fireball.
Then the girl was beside him, smiling as she stood on his starboard wing. No, not on the wing, but about a foot above the wing.
Pushing the stick over, he pulled his Hurricane into the tightest turn he could.
Unfortunately that had absolutely no effect, the girl continued to hang in midair beside him, still smiling.
He jammed the heel of his hand against the throttle, trying to squeeze more speed out of his Hurricane.
The girl stayed with him, as if she was somehow attached to his wing. Then she turned, facing forward, and she began walking. Walking, for crying out loud! In midair! While he was doing better than three hundred knots!
She "walked" perhaps twenty feet ahead of him, then turned and began to "walk" directly in front of him. He pushed the stick over again into another tight turn, this time in the other direction, but again it seemed to make no difference to the girl. Once she was directly in front of him, she turned to face him and put her hands on her hips. If not for the golden hair whipping around her face, she might have been standing in a garden and not moving backward at over three hundred knots.
He jabbed his thumb at the firing button and the Hurricane shuddered as the eight Brownings mounted in the wings fired, but she was too close; the tracers merely streaked past her on either side.
She took one hand from her hip and wagged a finger at him, a gesture surprisingly like the one his mother used to employ on those not infrequent occasions she caught a much younger Colin Roberts doing something naughty, like sneaking a treat before supper. Then, putting her hand back on her hip, she began to "walk" toward him.
She stopped just before she reached the nose of his Hurricane. Then she rose, until her smiling face cleared the arc of the spinning propeller. And a little higher, until her generous bosom also cleared the arc.
When she started to descend, the twin mounds behind the golden lightning bolt began to jiggle. With a start, he realized that she'd moved closer and that the propeller blades were striking her chest. For one moment he entertained the possibility that the whirling blades would chop her up, make mincemeat of the strange, beautiful girl who'd downed the rest of the squadron.
That hope vanished as quickly as it had come as he saw the smile on her face. That smile seemed wider now, as if she was actually enjoying having the propellers pummel her breasts.
The Hurricane shuddered again, and he realized that she was moving lower, her breasts actually shortening the propeller blades. In fact, looking closer, he could see the blades splintering, the hardwood apparently no match for that normally soft part of the female anatomy.
Tearing his eyes from the vision before him, he glanced down at his instruments and discovered he'd already lost a hundred knots. If she chopped off much more of his propeller blades, his Hurricane would become a glider despite the powerful Rolls-Royce engine in the nose. He pushed the stick forward and went into a dive, anything to try to get his propeller blades --- and the rest of his aircraft, not to mention one Colin Roberts --- as far away from the beautiful mystery girl and her lethal breasts as he could.
It didn't work. She was still there, still smiling as she continued to whittle away at his propeller blades with her breasts. His airspeed was still dropping, despite the dive, as the propeller lost more and more of its grip on the air. He was rapidly losing control over his aircraft and he tightened his grip on the stick and scanned his instrument panel, wondering whether there was something --- anything --- else he could do to salvage what he could of this unbelievable situation.
The Hurricane shuddered yet again, and looked up to see that the girl had finished destroying his propellers. Still smiling sweetly, she backed away, gave him what charitably might be called a salute, and then shot straight up into the air fast enough so that the Hurricane pulled out of its dive, pulled up in her slipstream.
Just as he'd feared, the Hurricane had become a glider. Though at least he was still in the air, unlike the rest of the squadron.
He shut off the now useless engine and the aircraft steadied somewhat. Not that the Hurricane was a very good glider even under the best of conditions. If he was lucky he would be able to stretch the glide to an airstrip. If not, he'd just have to bring her down on a farm field.
Assuming the mystery girl didn't come back to finish him off, that is. He scanned the sky fearfully but could see no sign of her.
Then Colin Roberts saw another fireball in the distance. He hoped that this one was a German aircraft, but a feeling in the pit of his stomach told him the mystery girl had struck again.
Übermädchen was more than halfway to her next objective, another squadron of British fighters, before she realized she was lightly fondling herself, her fingers pressing against her breasts not much harder than the last Hurricane's propeller blades had done. She pulled her hands away, feeling her face flush, and extended her arms over her head, at the same times flexing her thighs for more speed. As she closed in on the fighters from behind, her airspeed nearly three times theirs, she resolved to keep her mind on the mission at hand.
She recognized these fighters as Spitfires from their broad elliptical wings. But Spitfires or Hurricanes, it made no difference to her. They bore red-white-and-blue roundels on their wings instead of black crosses, and that was all that mattered to her.
Reaching the rearmost Spitfire, she took hold of its tail and swung the aircraft into its neighbor. As the two Spitfires disappeared in a fireball, she grabbed the next one and tore off its right wing.
The other three trios scattered at the sudden and unexpected onslaught. They couldn't possibly hope to match her speed, but then she couldn't go chasing them in three different directions at once, either. She took off after the group on her right.
Five seconds later, three more Spitfires were spiraling down toward the ground. It took her ten seconds to catch the next trio of Spitfires and knock them out of the sky. The final thee took another twenty seconds.
Oberleutnant Ludwig Langer pulled his Messerschmitt 109E into a tight left turn.
The Bayerische Flugzeugwerke design team, under the direction of Professor Willy Messerschmitt, had set out to create the smallest possible single-seat monoplane fighter that could accommodate the most powerful engine under development in Germany, notably at Daimler-Benz, although ironically the prototype was powered by a Rolls-Royce Kestrel imported for the purpose. The 109 was a low-wing, all-metal monoplane, sharply purposeful in appearance. This variant was armed with two cannon in the wings and two machineguns sited on the engine crankcase and firing through the upper nose decking. The cannon not only permitted the pilot to open fire at a greater range than the British Browning machineguns but also had no difficulty in piercing the British armor.
Langer's turn had gotten rid of the Spitfire on his tail but then the other one was diving down on him from the right. Reversing his turn, he pulled back on the stick and pushed forward on the throttle, climbing to meet it. Tracers flickered in the rapidly diminishing space between them and Langer wondered whether the other pilot intended to ram, but then the two fighters passed each other, separated by less than ten meters.
The Spitfires were more maneuverable than his 109. He had a slight edge in speed, especially in a dive, but they had been following him down and now he had lost too much altitude to escape them by diving. His only hope was to claw for every meter of altitude and run.
Langer had shot down one Spitfire, but the other two Spitfires in the flight had shot down Langer's own wingman. And now they sought to do the same to him. They'd only gotten one burst into his aircraft, but that burst had damaged his radiotelephone, cutting off communication with the rest of his staffel. And if the rest of Langer's staffel didn't find him soon, the Spitfires were likely to succeed.
Langer glanced down at his fuel gauge. If he didn't get out soon, he wouldn't be able to make it back to France. He desperately scanned the sky for any sign of his staffel, but the sky stubbornly remained empty.
Except for the first Spitfire, now back on his tail again, lining up for another shot. He turned right, continuing to climb, and when the Spitfire matched his maneuver, he turned right again. The Spitfire matched that turn, and he turned again, but that put him dangerously close to the second Spitfire, and he turned yet again.
Suddenly the first Spitfire disintegrated in a fireball. Langer looked for the cause, thinking that one of his staffel mates had finally come for him, but the only other aircraft in the sky was the second Spitfire. Then he saw the small dark object heading directly for it. It was much too small to be an aircraft, and its speed made it barely more than a blur.
The Spitfire pilot must have seen it as well, for he immediately reefed his plane into a tight turn and then dived for the deck. But it didn't work, for the mystery object made an even tighter turn, without slowing down, and crashed into the Spitfire.
Langer watched in amazement as one of the Spitfire's broad elliptical wings folded up and came off. Out of control, the rest of the plane spun toward the ground. The detached wing followed, fluttering like a leaf caught in a strong wind.
Then the mystery object was coming toward him. He pulled his 109 into the tightest turn he could, even as a corner of his mind told him there was no way he could evade whatever it was that was coming for him. He braced for the impact, hunching down in his seat to make himself as small a target as possible.
No impact came. Unhunching himself, he looked around and discovered he wasn't alone in the sky.
But it wasn't an aircraft hanging off his left wingtip. Instead, it was a girl, hanging in the air with no visible means of support.
He could see the dark blue, almost black garment with the golden lightning bolt on her chest, the matching gloves and boots, and the red sash around her waist. Both the sash and her golden hair streamed in the wind as she kept station on him. Even with the mask on her face, she was easily the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.
Seeing him looking at her, she moved in closer, floating just above his wing. He gave her a thumbs-up signal, knowing it didn't come close to expressing his full appreciation for her saving his life. She returned the thumbs-up, sketched something that vaguely resembled a salute, and then, with no apparent effort, shot off into the afternoon sky with a speed he could only dream about.
But this was not the time to be dreaming about anything. He scanned the sky again, finding empty once more, and then, checking the compass, set course for home.
He continued scanning the sky as he flew homeward, but it wasn't until he'd almost reached the Channel before he encountered anybody, half a dozen small specks flying south. He let out a sigh of relief as he recognized the square wingtips of 109s. He approached, waggling his wings. Pulling up next to the trailer, Langer used hand signals to indicate that his radiotelephone was out of commission.
The others weren't of his staffel, or even of the same group, but Langer felt a lot better now that he had company, even if they were heading a little west of his own base and they weren't the company he would really have preferred. Even as he continued to scan the sky, he wondered what it would be like to have Übermädchen as his wingman --- or wingwoman, rather. Hell, he'd be her wingman any day.
Hell, he'd do anything she asked of him.
Crossing the French coast, he hand signed that he would now go on to his own base. The man next to him saluted and Langer, after returning the salute, turned east.
The rest of the staffel had made it back several minutes earlier. His ground crew swarmed over the 109 as Langer popped the canopy and lifted himself out. "Where's Leutnant Tandberg?" the crew chief asked as Langer jumped off the wing onto the grass.
The expression on Langer's face was enough to halt any further questions about his wingman.
The first attack by Luftflotte 5 had not gone very well. Believing that Fighter Command was fully committed in the south, a two-pronged attack was launched against northeastern England. Leaving their base at Aalborg, Denmark, fifty Junkers 88 bombers headed for the fighter station at Driffield, flying without fighter escort due to the distance involved. Unfortunately for them, Fighter Command was not fully committed in the south, and the bombers were met by a squadron of Spitfires and a half-squadron of Hurricanes, which proceeded to decimate their numbers. All told, they'd lost eleven of their number, though they did manage to hit four of the station's hangars, destroying ten aircraft on the ground.
At the same time sixty-five Heinkel 111s, accompanied by twenty Messerschmitt 110 twin-engine long-range fighters, left Stavanger, Norway to attack airfields in the Tyne-Tees area. They were met by two squadrons each of Spitfires and Hurricanes. The 110s, despite their speed, were no match for their more agile opponents, losing a third of their number before the survivors sought cloud and escape.
The unprotected bombers began to pay their toll at the same time over the sea and over Sunderland and Newcastle, where they scattered their bombs haphazardly. Their losses were even heavier than those suffered by the Junkers flying from Denmark.
As long as Fighter Command still had fighters in the north, Luftflotte 5 could not hope to strike England in the daylight. As a result, Reichsmarschall Göring had managed to "persuade" Standartenführer Weiss to provide an escort for today's strike against the airfield at Acklington, even if it meant leaving Luftflotten 2 and 3 on their own for most of the day.
That was why, shortly after sunrise this morning, a seventeen-year-old girl found herself flying high over the North Sea, her bright blue eyes searching the water for the surfaced U-boat that was supposed to mark the rendezvous point.
Übermädchen soon found the submarine but there were no bombers in sight, German or otherwise. Squinting, she focused on a watch one of the sailors was wearing, and saw that she was early. This had been the longest straight-line flight she'd ever made and she'd made much better time than she'd allowed for.
Well, there was nothing she could do about it now. She settled herself to wait, circling nearly twenty thousand meters about the U-boat.
Finally the bombers came into sight from the east. A quick count showed thirty-six Heinkel 111s in two wings of eighteen each. Holding her arms at her sides, she swooped down like a hawk and then came to a near standstill, flying just to the left of the leading bomber. She waved to the pilot, letting him know that she had made the rendezvous. When the pilot acknowledged her --- after staring at her for a couple of seconds --- she turned and climbed back into the air, taking up a station about six thousand meters above and ahead of the bombers, occasionally looking back to make sure she was still on the proper heading and wishing they weren't so slow.
In the cockpit of his Supermarine Spitfire, Flying Officer Colin Roberts scanned the sky nervously. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't forget the images of the beautiful and lethal flying girl who'd downed the rest of his squadron the previous month.
He'd brought his propellerless Hurricane down in a cornfield. The farmer, even as he helped Roberts down from his crippled fighter, demanded to know why the bloody hell he couldn't have come down in the next field. It took the rest of the day to get back to the base, where he learned that he was the sole survivor of the squadron. He gave his report, fearing that he was destined for a padded room. But apparently other pilots had reported seeing the flying girl for, instead of being sent to a padded room, he'd been reassigned to a new squadron stationed near Acklington, in the northeast.
Despite the deaths of his old mates, he could almost feel gratitude to the flying girl. Switching from the Hurricane to the Spitfire was like switching from a plow horse to a thoroughbred. Structurally, the Spitfire was more advanced than the Hurricane, its fuselage being not only slimmer but of light alloy monocoque construction. The wings were of were of single spar type, with a stressed metal skin covering, except for the fabric-covered control surfaces. But for all its fine qualities, a corner of his mind kept telling him that a Spitfire would likely fare no better than a Hurricane against the flying girl.
Roberts had been as surprised as anybody else in his new squadron when they'd been ordered to scramble last week. As the controller vectored them to intercept the German bombers, he'd half expected to see the flying girl swooping down upon him again. Even up here in the north, the rumor mill had continued to bring tales, each one seemingly wilder than the one before, of a flying girl destroying Hurricanes and Spitfires, and Roberts had been grilled endlessly by his new squadron mates about his own encounter with her.
Thankfully, they hadn't encountered her, just the Heinkel bombers and their twin-engined Messerschmitt escorts. Roberts had gotten quite a bit of satisfaction out of flaming one of the Heinkels, though some of that had evaporated during the debriefing, when he found out that two of his mates also claimed that particular bomber, resulting in only a third of a kill each.
After the bloody nose Roberts had helped give the Germans, no one seriously expected them to try again. But they obviously had, which was why Roberts once again found himself in the air, nervously scanning the sky for German aircraft.
Despite the tortoiselike pace the bombers and their unique "escort" steadily approached the English coast.
Übermädchen's bright blue eyes were searching the sky ahead of her at least as well as the British RDF system. Far sharper than mere human eyesight, they picked up the climbing interceptors long before they could pick up the larger bombers, let alone her far smaller body. Holding her arms at her sides, she again swooped down like a hawk. But this time she didn't slow down as she approached her objective. Instead she extended her arms over her head, and her clenched fists struck the right wing of the leading Spitfire. The rest of her body followed in a fraction of a second, and the wing came apart.
Übermädchen sliced through the rear fuselage of a second Spitfire before the other pilots even knew she was there. Not that it did the next four pilots any good. As nimble as the Spitfire was, they'd barely started into evasive maneuvers before she hit them.
The other six Spitfires of the squadron had broken away, but that merely prolonged their flight by a few paltry seconds.
Having finished off the first squadron, she turned and headed for the second squadron, also of Spitfires, about eight kilometers away.
At this distance Flying Officer Colin Roberts couldn't see the aeroplanes of the other Spitfire squadron, but he did see some fireballs. A second later he spotted the trails of smoke as other aeroplanes plummeted toward the water far below. He didn't need to hear the brief, confused gabbling over the radiotelephone --- before it abruptly cut off --- to know what must have happened. How else to explain the sudden destruction of the lead squadron? What else could destroy twelve Spitfires in a matter of seconds?
Roberts was already banking into a left turn, his wingmen glued to his wingtips, when the squadron leader ordered the squadron to scatter. But before the four flights could put any separation between them, a fireball off his right wing told him his Number Two had bought his ticket. Perhaps it was the explosion, or maybe it was a separate impact, but in either case, Roberts's Spitfire shook violently and half of his right wing shattered.
Roberts lost all track of the battle as he fought to bring his aircraft back under control. Not to fly it, but to bail out of it.
It had taken Übermädchen less than a minute to destroy two dozen Spitfires. But her job wasn't done yet; there was a squadron of Hurricanes, still climbing on an intercept vector. Turing toward them, she flexed her thighs for another burst of speed and flew to meet them.
The Hurricanes were already beginning to scatter, obviously having been warned of her presence by radiotelephone.
Not that scattering did them all that much good. It merely meant that the last Hurricane survived about forty seconds longer than the first.
Flying Officer Colin Roberts felt completely helpless. Dangling below his parachute, he could count three more parachutes. Including himself, that was only a third of the squadron, for none of their Spitfires were still airborne. He was too far away to see any parachutes from the lead squadron. His heart hoped they had more survivors, but his gut told him otherwise.
Distant fireballs to the west had told him that the Hurricanes hadn't fared any better.
Far above it all, he could see the contrails of the enemy bombers, still heading serenely toward England as if nothing had happened.
Nothing had happened to the bastards, he thought bitterly. We never even got into visual range of them, let alone firing range.
At least the flying girl hadn't seemed to have any interest in the parachutes and the helpless men dangling from them.
After finishing off the last of the interceptors, Übermädchen climbed back into the sky until she was well above the bombers again. The bombers separated for their bombing runs, disturbed only by sporadic antiaircraft fire, which from her altitude looked like puffs of black cotton candy.
She stayed with the bombers as they completed their bombing runs and then turned to head back out to sea, just in case more interceptors should come up. But after nearly half an hour without seeing any more RAF fighters, she decided they were safe. Descending to the lead bomber, she waved goodbye to the pilot and turned south for the long flight home.
Climbing until she was about ten thousand meter above the water, she accelerated until the buffeting told her she had just broken the sound barrier. She stayed well out to sea, more or less paralleling the coastline.
The few fishing boats and auxiliary patrol craft she saw far below weren't worth bothering with. She did briefly consider attacking the small convoy hugging the coast, five coasters escorted by a pair of destroyers, but decided against it as well. She'd already accomplished her mission and still had a long way to fly before she got home. Then, approaching the Thames Estuary, she saw three British aircraft heading northward, apparently on a training flight.
In 1935 the Air Ministry issued a specification calling for a two-seat fighter with its main armament in a revolving turret and a speed around the 300+ mph of the future single-seat fighter. The result, in 1939, was the Boulton-Paul Defiant. Powered by the same Rolls-Royce engine fitted to the Hurricane and Spitfire, it looked every inch as modern as its contemporaries with lines more reminiscent of the Hurricane than the Spitfire, but spoiled by the massive four-gun turret set into the fuselage behind the pilot's cockpit. In spite of this burden, it handled pleasantly and without any vices. Its virtues were loudly extolled at the time, and the press wrote of the "fighter with the sting in its tail." However, like the Stuka dive bomber, actual combat had quickly exposed its unsurvivability when confronted by modern fighters.
Übermädchen didn't know much about the Defiant's history and even if she had, she wouldn't have cared. She simply remembered what she'd been told about them in her Luftwaffe briefings. And those had been concerned more with recognition than specifications, for obvious reasons. The Luftwaffe didn't want her accidentally --- or otherwise --- knocking down any of their aircraft, and her abilities rendered aircraft performance virtually irrelevant.
The one feature that piqued her interest now was the big four-gun turret, and she decided she wanted to try herself against them. Thus, when she dived down upon them, she pulled up about three hundred meters behind them. Rotating upright and matching their speed, she put her hands on her hips and then began "walking" toward them.
Even though her pace relative to the aircraft was somewhat faster than an ordinary person could have walked, it was several moments before they spotted such a small object overtaking them from behind. The fighters turned and dived for home but, as she'd been hoping, they tightened their formation instead of scattering. Had they scattered, she'd have had to chase each one down.
The left plane opened fire first, but the other two quickly joined in. And while the turret-mounted armament might have been all but useless against darting, maneuvering fighters, this time their target was all but stationary relative to them. A dozen Browning 303s spat out their lead, and the intermingled tracers converged on the target with deadly accuracy.
Rather, the stream of lead would have been deadly against an ordinary airborne target. But this target was anything but ordinary. Keeping her hands on her hips, she continued walking toward the aircraft. As the bullets struck the front of her body, she picked up her pace a little though her legs moved no faster. Then the hail of lead slackened as she overtook the lead aircraft, the two gunners on either side ceasing fire lest they hit the other, though they continued tracking her through their gunsights.
The third gunner ceased firing when she reached the tail of his aircraft and "climbed" onto the horizontal stabilizer. From there she "stepped" up onto the rear fuselage. The gunner tried to resume his fire but the interlocks intended to keep him from shooting off his own tail kept his guns from firing, and he could only watch helplessly in wide-eyed amazement as she "walked" right up to him.
His last sight was of a booted foot as it smashed through the turret and crushed his skull.
Two more strides, and the pilot's skull suffered an identical fate.
The other two Defiants broke off, heading in opposite directions. Turning right, Übermädchen leaped off the pilotless aircraft in pursuit.
It wasn't a long pursuit; the gunner was still trying to turn his turret to bear on her when she rammed into the tail from directly behind. The men's bodies all but dissolved in red mists as the seventeen-year-old girl's body continued straight through the fighter, the pilot outliving his gunner by only a fraction of a second. The engine exploded another fraction of a second later as she passed completely through the aircraft.
Now there was only one Defiant left. In the time it had taken her to destroy the second one, this one had managed to flee a couple of thousand meters. She turned to pursue, flexing her thighs for more speed, and caught up to it in a matter of seconds.
At the last moment Übermädchen swerved underneath the diving aircraft and slowed down to match its plodding pace. Aluminum scrunched between her gloved fingers as she reached up and took hold of the underside of the Defiant near the joining of the wings and fuselage. Then, flexing only her calves this time, she accelerated --- though not to her earlier velocity.
Pilot Officer Stephen Fuller was slammed back into his seat as his Defiant suddenly leaped forward. He struggled with the controls, but nothing seemed to make any difference. He could only watch in horrified fascination as the airspeed indicator spun wildly. The instrument wasn't designed to register such a high airspeed, and he could only guess that he was now doing more than five hundred knots.
Übermädchen thought about simply diving into the water with the Defiant, but then decided to have a little more fun with it first. Pulling out of her dive, she skimmed mere meters above the wavetops. She kept her velocity well below the sound barrier, not wanting the shockwaves to shake the aircraft apart and end her fun prematurely. Then, climbing a few meters, she started to roll to the right.
Pilot Officer Stephen Fuller hung on to the stick with all his strength as the Defiant suddenly started to roll to the right. Despite full left aileron, the aeroplane did a complete right roll, then another. It leveled off, but only for a moment, then rolled to the left. Once, and...
Upside down, he could see the wavetops whizzing past only feet from the top of the canopy. He knew there was no point in bailing out, even if he could get the canopy open at this speed; hitting the water would be like hitting a brick wall.
...twice. Finally the aeroplane finished the roll, and he was flying level again, though still faster than any Defiant had ever flown.
Flying at wavetop level, Übermädchen didn't see the auxiliary patrol craft until she crossed its wake no more than a hundred meters astern. But it gave her a chance to kill two birds with one stone. She pulled up sharply and followed with a half-loop and a half-roll --- a maneuver christened an Immelman in the previous war --- and dived straight at the patrol craft.
Pilot Officer Stephen Fuller almost blacked out as the Defiant went into a rapid series of maneuvers violent enough that the control surfaces tore off its wings and tail, though he didn't see them. His last sight was that of a Royal Navy auxiliary patrol craft rapidly filling his windscreen.
For the fourth time in as many minutes, Oberleutnant Ludwig Langer glanced down at his instrument panel.
The oil pressure was still dropping, and the engine temperature was still rising. He pulled the throttle back another millimeter, putting his Messerschmitt 109E even closer to the brink of a stall.
The streamer of thick black smoke pouring out of his cowling marked him as an easy target. His wingman had wanted to stay with him, but Langer had ordered him to return with the rest of the staffel. There was no point in getting both of them shot down.
Looking ahead, he could barely see the gray expanse of the Channel. Thick black smoke continued to pouring out of his cowling, and there was a good chance he wouldn't even make it to the water. And even if no British fighters came for him, if the engine cut out now, he knew he didn't have sufficient altitude to glide all the way back to France.
He wouldn't have minded his predicament quite so much if he'd been bested in aerial combat by a superior enemy pilot, a fellow knight of the air. But to be shot down like this! It was so ignoble!
His staffel hadn't encountered any RAF fighters on their sweep. They had found a train pulled into a siding, and swooped down to strafe. He saw no antiaircraft guns, only a handful of soldiers shooting back with rifles in a futile attempt to knock down fighters.
Except it hadn't been completely futile. As the staffel had gone in on his second pass, a Britisher had gotten lucky and a bullet had found Langer's oil cooler.
The aircraft shuddered as the engine seized, turning his 109 into a glider. He quickly hit a series of switches, shutting off systems. The smoke from the cowling thinned, but didn't disappear completely.
If he was lucky, he'd be able to ditch in the Channel and be picked up by Air-Sea Rescue, one of the seaplanes or fast boats designated to pluck downed aviators from the Channel. If he wasn't quite so lucky, he might be picked for dinner by a shark. Maybe it would be best to just bail out now and take his chances in a British POW camp --- he'd only have to be there until the invasion came to free him.
He was just feeling for his parachute when the 109 gave a gentle shake. He looked around, and his eyes widened when he saw an angel. it was flying just above his right wing, one hand holding the wingtip.
Of course, he knew it wasn't really an angel. And while he'd seen Übermädchen destroy enemy aircraft, could she carry his? Even as he was asking himself that question, she gave him a wave, then let go of his wing and dropped out of sight under the wing. There was a small bump, and then he was pushed back into his seat as the aircraft surged forward. He watched amazed as the airspeed indicator dial reeled and then steadied at about eighty km/h above what his 109 could do at full throttle in level flight. He wondered whether this was as fast as she could fly with her load or she was keeping her speed down to avoid overstressing the 109's airframe.
The altimeter also steadied, telling him that Übermächen was also keeping him from losing any more altitude.
He obviously was no longer flying his aircraft, but he continued scanning the sky out of habit and, just as they were crossing the English coast, he spotted two aircraft to his right and high above. They'd also obviously spotted him, or at least his tail of smoke, for they banked, preparing to dive down to attack.
He was wondering how he could alert Übermädchen --- maybe try to waggle his wings? --- when the bottom seemed to drop out from under him. Tightening his grip on the stick, he managed to keep the horizon level, though he was again losing altitude.
He had just enough time to identify the two RAF fighters as Hurricanes before they both disintegrated in fireballs. Then there was another gentle bump, his 109 surged forward again, and the altimeter stopped dropping. The airspeed steadied at the same point, about eighty km/h above the normal maximum speed of his aircraft in level flight.
The entire sequence, he estimated, had lasted less than five seconds. Five seconds for the amazing girl to intercept the pair of diving Hurricanes and knock them down, and then come back for him, carrying his 109 as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
He snorted. Yeah, right, he thought. There's absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about being carried through the air by a girl --- at a speed my fighter couldn't match on its own. A girl who knocks RAF fighters out of the air in her spare time. The most beautiful...
Then they were crossing the French coast, her pace making the inbound crossing much faster than the outbound had been.
Since he had no control over his aircraft, he could only wonder where she was taking him. Then an unfamiliar landing field --- not much more than a level, grassy meadow --- came into sight, and they started descending toward it. It was the weirdest landing approach Langer had ever experienced. Instead of flying into the wind as was normal, Übermädchen simply flew over to one edge of the meadow and then started dropping straight down. She stopped about twenty meters up, and the 109 rocked gently forward and back. For a moment he wondered what was happening, then realized that in his unaccustomed position of merely watching his own landing, he hadn't lowered his landing gear, which was still retracted. He quickly rectified the situation, and the descent resumed.
There was a gentle bump as the main gear touched down and then the tail lowered until it too touched down. Popping open the canopy, Langer unbuckled himself and all but leaped out of the cockpit onto the wing. Übermädchen was standing on the ground below, brushing off her gloved hands. He prepared to jump down, hoping he wasn't about to make a fool of himself by crashing into her.
But suddenly she was directly in front of him. "Allow me, Herr Oberleutnant Langer." She reached out to put her hands on his hips, and then he found himself standing on the ground. "Are you injured?"
Her question didn't register as his mind whirled. She knows my name! he was thinking exultantly. The beautiful and powerful Übermädchen knows my name! Then he realized that she hadn't exhibited another of her incredible abilities; she had simply read the rank and name stenciled on the fuselage just below the cockpit canopy.
"Are you injured?" she asked again.
This time the question registered. "Uh, no, no, Fräulein Übermädchen. I'm fine, thanks to you."
"That's good." She started to turn away.
"Uh, Fräulein Übermädchen?"
She turned back. "Yes, Herr Oberleutnant?" There was a trace of impatience in her voice.
"I, uh, I just wanted to thank you, Fräulein Übermädchen. This is the second time you've saved my life."
"We've met before, Herr Oberleutnant?" Her eyes, barely visible behind her mask, narrowed in thought, and Langer could swear he could see her mouthing his name as she tried to place it.
"Eight days ago, near Biggin Hill," he prompted softly.
Her eyes then widened in recognition. "Oh, yes. You're the one I saw bravely attacking two Spitfires by yourself, aren't you?"
"Yes, Fräulein Übermädchen, that was me." She said I was brave! he thought, sketching her a quick bow, but then, tearing his eyes away from his beautiful rescuer, realized she'd said that for the benefit of the pilots and ground crews who were gathering around, drawn by the unconventional landing --- and the beautiful girl who'd performed it. "Thank you again, Fräulein Übermädchen," he repeated.
"It was nothing," she said, waving a hand in a gesture of dismissal. "Now, if there's nothing else I can do for you, Herr Oberleutnant, I have a war to get back to."
He could think of a million things she could do for him --- and to him. But this was not the time and place. And even if it was, he was not about to proposition a girl who could knock down Spitfires and Hurricanes with her bare --- or rather, gloved --- hands. "Of course, Fräulein Übermädchen. And thank you once again."
Then she was gone, needing no more room to launch herself into the sky than she'd needed to land.
Ludwig Langer continued staring into the sky, long after his beautiful rescuer had dwindled into a black dot and then disappeared.