Book V of the Order of the Air
By Melissa Scott & Jo Graham
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As the threat of European war looms, the Kingdom of Ethiopia is one of the first to come under attack from the Fascist powers. When Dr. Jerry Ballard’s long-anticipated dig in Alexandria is interrupted by the arrival of his old friend Iskinder on a secret mission for the Ethiopian Emperor, Jerry has to make a stand — even if it means delaying his dream of finding the lost tomb of Alexander the Great. Fortunately, the rest of the Lodge, Alma, Lewis, Mitch, and Stasi are in Sicily showing the Catalina flying boat at a prestigious European air show. Bound by oaths and friendship, they undertake a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean and into the heart of a battle where they will be tested as never before.
Robinson’s voice crackled in his ears. “Potez, take off in order starting with Two. Breda, Breuguet, follow Five in that order. Head west on two-niner-zero and be ready to take formation.”
“Roger,” Lewis said, his voice drowned by the others, and advanced the throttle, taking Potez Five out of the hangar. On the bumpy, red-brown taxiway, he eased into line behind Mitch, waiting as the first two planes lifted off. They were quick, bounding into the air, and he began to hope they might be good enough to hold the Italians back. It was Mitch’s turn now, and Lewis watched intently as Mitch turned the little biplane into the wind. This was one of the new designs, with the small lower wing; it was supposed to be more maneuverable, though Lewis hadn’t really noticed the difference in the planes he’d flown so far. Mitch opened the throttle, Potez Four skittering down the dirt track, tail lifting almost at once. Then he was up and away, banking sharply west into the sun, and Lewis swung into line, opening the throttle. The engine roared, he released the brakes, and Potez Five leaped forward. He checked his instruments, everything in order, and felt the tail come up. He pulled back on the stick, and the little plane rose sweetly into the air. He climbed steeply, a hundred feet, three hundred, and banked onto the ordered heading. He could see the rest of the flight ahead of him, dots strung out in the glassy sky almost obscured by the sun: Robinson already maneuvering to get the advantage. Below, the ground showed broken scrub and fields; the airstrip and the village fell away, and he craned his neck to see north toward Gondar.
“All right, boys,” Robinson said. “We’ve got the sun behind us. Potez Two, Three, Brueguet, form up on me. Potez Four, you take Potez Five and Breda. Let’s go find them.”
Lewis brought Potez Five around in a wide circle and took his place on Mitch’s left wing. He could feel the excitement building, the familiar delight that he hadn’t felt since the War. Mostly he was ashamed of it, even in Italy where he had seen it in the other pilots’ eyes, but this time, he could use it, could let it go. He settled himself more comfortably in the cockpit, feeling Diana’s seal heavy in his pocket, warm against his leg, and scanned the sky ahead. They’d come down on the Italians out of the sun: that was all the advantage they had, but he’d made less work for him before. This time the hound could run.