Chapter 5: The Battle of Berlin, Part 1
Radar Station B-1121
The German-Polish Border
10 February 1940
Felicia sat at her console, staring at the random patterns almost in a trance. It was difficult to concentrate sometimes, looking for the telltale spike of a radar contact. Every day was tense, since the tower had begun daily attacks now. Everyone was being secretive about it, but Felicia knew something was up. The station chief was always getting confidential secure communications from headquarters nowadays. On a recent trip to the coast it was plainly obvious that ships from around the world were arriving daily.
Signs in English, Italian and what she guessed was Japanese and Russian were popping up all over Berlin, as were men dressed in uniforms from all over the place. Her cousin, who had a farm in Prussia, says his field was rented out to the Hollywood militia. Hollywood, imagine that! He says there are all sorts of movie crews running around his property. They claim to be making a movie, but he says there are tanks and planes making lots of noise. Good thing he didn’t have a herd of animals, he had told her, because he didn’t think they could deal with all the noise the giant machines made.
Well, that was all good and fine, but until whatever plan the higher ups could put into place, radar was the only real defense they had. Spotting tower fighters on the radar was really difficult too. Human aircraft made really distinct spikes that were really easy to spot. The tower craft were a lot harder to see. Back in September, nobody even noticed the tower attack until the aircraft were already over Berlin and visual spotters picked them up using plain eyes and ears, but by then it was too late.
After the September attack some science lab looking types came by the radar site and installed some boxes and ran some odd tests on every one of the operators. Felicia noticed that after that day, all the male radar operators were reassigned, and only some of the female operators remained. All she knew is to identify that radar spike she had to put her hand on the little box on the table and keep watching the screen. In her mind it was a small thing, but her station chief kept telling her that it was a vital part of the war effort and that the radar operators were the eyes of the League. That was the thing that kept her focused. She also noticed that since then her security clearance went from Secret to Top Secret, and that they added a “Tuner” bonus to her paycheck. Nobody ever explained it, but she wasn’t going to turn down the extra Marks. With everyone fearful of what the Tower would do next, prices for all of the basics seem to be climbing every day.
Suddenly her screen lit up with the pattern of a Tower strike craft. The strike aircraft were much harder to see than the fighter types, so she nervously double and triple checked that it wasn’t some random pattern. After confirming her readings, she reached over to the phone for the third time that week.
Berlin, Prussia, German Union
Schwarzenberg Airfield (Schwarzenberg Conservatory)
10 February 1940
Wilhelmina made sure that she, Adalwolfa and Brunhilde were drilled constantly. The drills all had the same pattern. First the phone would ring. Wilhelmina would answer the phone, get the flight information and then move outside to the three Luftritter which was always kept in a ready state by a small army of technicians. Adalwolfa and Brunhilde, who were always nearby would also scramble immediately upon hearing the phone ring. They would start their engines and get ready to take off. About 3 minutes later they would get a call to stand down, at which point they would shut off their engines and return to their restless wait.
For almost a month the buildup for Fall Weiss had been underway. Despite all of the operational secrecy after the first few weeks the Tower took notice, and air attacks against Germany and the League forces building up there became daily occurrences. Everyday hundreds of aircraft were sent to intercept a handful of tower aircraft. Wilhelmina had seen the intelligence reports and the losses had been dreadful, with very few victories. Still, high command seemed very reluctant to use the Einzelganger. The ongoing air battle, which had already been dubbed the Battle of Berlin, had raged over the skies of the German-Polish frontier for nearly a week.
Wilhelmina was afraid it was just another drill and expected to hear the usual order to stand down. Today was different. No recall was given.
Wilhelmina nodded to the girls and they quickly took off. Brunhilde looked pleased and even Adalwolfa showed relief. Still, the girls were visibly tense. Wilhelmina understood their feelings exactly. Waiting was agonizing, but the prospect of combat filled her with an ambiguous mix of fear and excitement. A lot was at stake, she knew for the next stage of her plan they had to engage the enemy in combat and they had to perform well. If they could repeat the success of their first encounter, then her plan had a genuine chance. The trio took to the cool February skies above Berlin.
The Tower Frontier
10 February 1940
It had been unusually cold, but as usual when using the MUSE system, it felt like a pleasant Spring day. Rapidly gaining altitude, the three Luftritter rapidly sped eastward, towards the Polish border. As they rose above the cloud cover the ominous tower could be seen, glimmering in the sunlight, a thin thread of light stretching from the ground to to the heavens.
The silence of the moment was broken by the crackle of the radio.
“Schwarzenberg Evaluation Flight, this is Airfleet Command. Radar indicates a single enemy contact bearing 170 range 50 kilometers, altitude 500 meters, speed 800 kilometers per hour. Profile says Tower Strike unit. You are authorized to engage. I repeat you are authorized to engage. JG20 and JG2 have also been scrambled, but estimated time to intercept is 15 minutes after your intercept. Please acknowledge.”
Wilhelmina drew in a deep breath. “Airfleet Command, this is Schwarzenberg Evaluation Flight Einzelganger, acknowledge enemy bearing 170. We are clear to engage.”
“Good hunting, Einzelganger.”
Brunhilde was smiling, and gave Wilhelmina the Victory symbol. Adalwolfa simply nodded to Wilhelmina.
Wilhelmina did some quick calculations in her head and decided on the best intercept course. The three Me JgLR 109A throttled up their engines and sped eastward, slowly dropping their altitude. As predicted, the Tower strike craft appeared, a small grey speck moving at incredible speeds. Since these aircraft were meant to hit ground targets, they often ignored their interceptors, speeding rapidly past them. Even with the enhanced speed of the Luftritter, Wilhelmina knew they only had one chance.
“OK girls, just like we drilled. Formation Stretto, Hildy has the melody…”
The three girls formed into a flattened inverse triangle, with Wilhelmina and Adalwolfa at the top, and Brunhilde between them, below. As they flew at an angle to the Tower Craft’s course, the distance closed with frightening rapidity. In mere seconds, they had closed to firing range. Much closer now, the features of the strike craft were evident. It looked like a giant cross, with enormous rocket-like engines attached to the rear. Dangerous looking weapons hung off of almost every surface. Wilhelmina had seen the reports, but to see it up close it was obvious that these aircraft were capable of delivering devastating firepower against the human forces.
“Fire plan 1 now!”
Wilhelmina and Adalwolfa began peppering the Tower craft with a mixture of machine-gun and HE cannon fire. Tracers whizzed by the grey cross shape, and the explosions of HE cannon fire filled the air with shrapnel. The tower craft reacted, deftly dodging the bursts of fire from Wilhelmina and Adalwolfa. Wilhelmina watched her ammunition gauge closely, knowing that she only had a few precious seconds of sustained fire.
Avoiding another burst, the Tower craft adjusted its flightpath once again.
Executing the plan they had practiced countless times on the ground, Adawolfa and Wilhelmina alternated fire. The Tower Strike Craft used its powerful enginges to skillfully dodge each barrage.
Brunhilde, who had been patiently flying slightly below Wilhelmina, Adawolfa and the Tower Strike craft had been carefully lining up her shot. Locking onto the target with her eyes, she caught the craft dead center as it tried to dodge the fire coming at it from its two flanks. Herded between the alternating shots from Wilhelmina and Adalwolfa, the enemy had been maneuvered right into Brunhilde’s sights.
Brunhilde opened up with a stream of fire from her machine gun and cannon. Caught by surprise, the stream of fire tore into the strike craft, sending debris flying everywhere. So much debris flew off that Brunhilde had to dodge a burning chunk of aircraft as it flew past her. The grey cross shuddered and moaned as round after round impacted its hull. It tried to bank away from Brunhilde’s merciless fire, but Adalwolfa and Wilhelmina had tightened the noose and fired from the flanks, pouring more fire into the enemy. The volley of rounds caused a giant fireball to appear at the rear of the craft as one of the two massive jet engines was destroyed. Strips of tortured metal erupted from the massive engine, sending dangerous debris flying everywhere.
Tower Strike craft, unlike their fighter counterparts, were built to attack ground targets and were considerably thicker skinned than the fighter they had engaged before. Brunhilde’s devastating attack had hurt it badly but the Strike Unit was still flying with its remaining engine. Fortunately, it had slowed dramatically and could no longer dodge, making an easy target. Mindful of her ammunition gauge, Wilhelmina was tempted to finish it off herself but the hairs on the back of her neck told her to hold off.
“Hildy, finish it off, but conserve your ammunition.”
The three Luftritter trailed the Strike aircraft. Recovering from the shock of the devastating attack, the strike aircraft came about like a cornered animal looking ready to fight, banking hard to the right trying to come about. The damage it had suffered from Brunhilde’s attack was too great, however. Before it could fire one of its guided rockets, Brunhilde released another salvo of cannon fire, ripping off the last pod filled with weapons. Toothless, the Strike craft now banked back towards Tower space, looking to run for home.
A blur of motion caught Wilhelmina’s attention. Wilhelmina saw something rapidly approach. As it drew nearer, it seemed to change shape and color, turning from black to grey. Once it was close enough to see clearly, she recognized the all-too familiar arrowhead shape they had fought before. This time, it seems, the Tower Strike craft had a hidden fighter escort.
Adalwolfa noticed it immediately as well. Brunhilde was still distracted, putting the last few rounds into the strike craft, sending it diving towards the ground trailing smoke. Like the fighter before, before the plane crashed, a square box ejected from the Strike unit, shooting upwards into the heavens.
“Yes! I got my first kill! Can I paint a Victory mark on my aircraft?” asked Brunhilde.
Wilhelmina had no time to respond, she immediately throttled her engines to maximum and sped towards the Tower fighter. Adalwolfa also immediately changed course, forming up slightly behind and to the left of Wilhelmina.
As they raced head-on towards the Tower fighter, it fired off one of its guided rockets that streaked towards Wilhelmina.
Wilhelmina tracked the rapidly approaching rocket with her eyes. One short burst of her machine gun caused the guided rocket to explode. Several pieces of debris struck Wilhelmina’s windshield. She pushed forward, still outside the reliable range of her guns. Both Wilhelmina and the Tower fighter refused to yield to the other as they flew towards each other.
Wilhelmina waited for a second rocket attack, but the Tower fighter was either unable to or unwilling to fire a second rocket. There was no time to figure out why, this was her chance. She surprised Adalwolfa and continued to close distance with the enemy, picking up speed and accelerating towards the enemy fighter. Adalwolfa watched in horror as two thin lines of fire erupted from the enemy aircraft, on a direct collision course with Wilhelmina.
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