“Do you need a bigger engine?” Alkeemer queried.
“No,” said Moses, “I like the balance. I only have to touch the controls to make her dive or climb. Can you get anything more out of the engine?”
“Yeah, there’s a few things I can do.”
The keys of the computer clicked somewhere in Moses’ consciousness. Then the final plane in his sights leapt into effective range with the slamming open of his throttle. A short burst sent the plane into a lazy uncontrolled dive beneath him.
He flew into a wide arc around the next group of four planes to materialise. Their tracer fire missed, trailing crossing arcs behind his tail.
“What did you do to her?” asked Moses.
“Nothing you’d understand, but you’ve now got four hundred horsepower under the cowl. By the way, that’s the ASA limit. Which is just as well. I couldn’t get any more out of her, if I wanted to. How is it?”
Moses dived beneath a plane firing head on then pulled a tight loop, hoping to outturn and fire on his quarry. It stayed just beneath his sights, long enough to necessitate him abandoning the move as another fighter engaged him.
“It’s fast but a bit sluggish in the turns,” Moses said. “Could we add slats.”
“We want to make her lighter, not heavier. I could trim a few things, making for less drag.”
The computer keys tapped.
“I’ve just been given a table of possibilities,” said Alkeemer. “Each one’s only small, but if I go through all the drag eliminations, it might make a difference.”
Keys tapped continually as Moses flew. He fired head to head with another fighter. The simulated biplane banked aside, as Moses performed a flat spin turn whilst still firing. Rounds cut through the struts, separating the top wing. The simulated fighter fell away from Moses, disappearing in mid descent.
Computer keys never ceased to chatter, as Moses flew on. Whatever changes Alkeemer made to his plane, made it feel as if it shed minor hindrances with his every turn and roll.
“It feels good,” he said.
He dived, raking rounds through a fuselage on the way. Evasively he flew for several seconds until satisfied that the remaining planes all followed him. Abruptly, he pulled up, corkscrewing into their midst as he fired, cutting into them all. They faded from view as he climbed above them, then levelled out into clear skies. His simulated view of the passing clouds died, revealing to him the interior of the workshop.
He slipped off his leather cap and goggles to see Alkeemer’s excited face by the computer.
“I don’t think Dad’s ever flown like that,” she said. “It looked easy.”
“Your design made it easy.”
“But it still needs colour; still needs a name.”
Moses knew this was his cue to think of a name, according to the behaviour of their latest creation. It angled sharply, aggressively, it’s trajectory unhindered by gunfire. Only one type of bird reminded him of the plane. A dangerous, aggressive bird that would brazenly attack people in the spring to protect its nest.
“Can you paint it in black and white stripes?” he asked.
He thought Alkeemer, might have either, made regular stripes lengthways, or an irregular patchwork of black and white. Instead, stripes started narrowly at the centre of the top wing and fanned out over the rest of the plane… he liked that better.
“That’s her,” he said, “that’s our plane; the Magpie.”
Click here for other chapters Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8