Projekt MUSE Chapter 8: Vom Winde verweht
The Tower Frontier
2 March 1940
Catherine struggled to secure her tether to the back of the Luftritter that was vaulting into the sky. She made the mistake of looking at the ground far below, which nearly paralyzed her with fear. As they soared higher and higher, she was able to focus herself and steel her nerves as she readied the special camera and helmet that had been rigged for her by her crew.
Berlin, German Union
25 February 1940
Once it had been decided that she would shoot film of the Einzelganger Squardon, Catherine and her crew had a number of technical problems to solve. One of the biggest questions was how to shoot aerial footage of the Luftritter. Her crew had agonized over the problem at the hotel restaurant after dinner.
Earlier in the day Catherine had asked the General that very question. His response was not very positive. Apparently most human made aircraft, including the Messerschmitt Me-109E, the English Spitfire and the Hollywood made Lockheed XP-38 were all unable to keep up with the Luftritter. He did offer to have aircraft from either the German Union or the Hollywood Air Patrol assigned to her if she needed. It was time for the experts to consult, which is why they all met at the hotel restaurant that night to discuss their plan of action. They had talked about it all through dinner, but now that dessert and coffee were being served, the conversation started to get serious.
“If we use a chaser aircraft to shoot them, they will have to slow down a lot…so it can only be staged shots. But golly, I’d love to get some real action shots.”
“What about using the gun camera movies?”
Catherine, who had been silent, responded this time. “I think those would work great, but it kind of misses the drama, don’t you think? These girls fly around riding these things like knights on horseback. I’d really like to get shots in there with the pilots visible.”
“Those Luftritter things are supposed to be really small right? Did they did say it could lift two people in a pinch?”
Catherine nodded slowly, putting down her coffee. “Only if it is someone light. One of you big guys would probably affect their combat ability too much.” A round of laughter. “I’ve been thinking about it. I think I can ride pillion on the back of one of them. They have special breathing gear that I can use. Apparently the Pilots…oh excuse me the Tuners don’t need them.”
“OK. That would work. But there is no way Catherine could hold on to a 16mm camera, while holding on to the back of the pilot and still be able to shoot film at the same time.”
The group fell silent for a moment. Catherine looked around the table. These were some of Hollywood’s finest news cinematographers. She knew someone would think of something, but she was out of ideas.
“What about 8mm?”
“Yeah, yeah! 8mm is perfect. Small, light…not ideal, but it works. We can reshoot it in 16mm later and cut it up with stuff we shoot in 16mm. It is a pain, but we could do it.”
“We could probably hack up a camera and give it a bigger film canister, and then splice a few rolls together for a longer shoot time.”
“Catherine, what did the breathing apparatus look like? Was it kind of like a mask? Did it have a helmet?”
Nate’s eyes sparkled. “What if we rig an 8mm camera to the helmet?”
Immediately one of the other guys grabbed a napkin and started scribbling a diagram.
“Hey, then how do we keep it level? What about the trigger for the shutter?”
Catherine smiled and sipped her coffee. She knew these guys would figure something out.
The Tower Frontier
2 March 1940
Catherine fingered a stopwatch she had in her pocket that she had brought along with her to keep track of how much film time she had left. The crew had marked the time they estimated that the film would run out on the face. They had already run a few tests with the jury-rigged camera they had set up, and everything had checked out. Not wanting to waste a precious second of film, she had held off triggering the camera so far. They had been flying for a few minutes now, and her intense fear had slowly ebbed away, replaced by the adrenaline that was now surging through her.
Catherine observed the three figures that were racing towards an unseen enemy. Her attention turned to the beauty with the long, silver hair. Captain Schwarzenberg, was composed, focused and sharp. The Brunette flying next to her, Lieutenant Schulman looked very intense, her concentration nearly visible as she hunched forward riding her fighter craft. In comparison, the blonde she was riding with seemed quite relaxed. In fact, at several points it seemed like she was humming a song.
“Ms. Sculley, was it? Can you hear me?” It appeared that the blonde was talking to her over the headphones that were built into the helmet.
Catherine responded. After a moment, the blonde turned her head back and motioned towards the push to talk button attached to the throat microphone she was wearing.
“He…hello. Sorry about that.”
“Not a problem. My name is Brunhilde, but everyone just calls me Hildy.”
“Hi, my name is Catherine. Thank you very much.”
“You’re very welcome. Actually, I’m pretty excited. I love Hollywood movies!”
Catherine simply nodded. She heard that a lot when travelling outside of Hollywood. It was always really difficult explaining the differences between the folks who made fictional movies and the folks who made newsreels, but she decided that detail wouldn’t be important at the moment.
“Catherine, right now we’re going to intercept Tower Strike craft. We should run into them in another 5 minutes or so. They seem to be very interested in our transportation facilities right now, particularly ports and rail stations.”
Briefly Wilhelmina’s voice cut in. “I’m not sure what General Weaver told you, but I would appreciate if you don’t give out too many details when you make your news reel. We really don’t have any idea if the Tower is capable of monitoring such things, but if they can, we’d prefer not to give them too much information about how much we understand about them.”
“I will be very careful about that, Wilhelmina. Thank you for being so open and frank with me.”
“OK Catherine, once the fighting starts we’re probably not going to be very talkative, except to each other, so please bear with us.”
This time a new voice came in over the headset.
“This is Airfleet Command to Einzelganger Squadron. Be advised that JG21, equipped with Netzgeweb, is also on an intercept course with the Strike Craft. They have the lead on the strike craft intercept. Top priority should be to engage any Tower fighters should they appear, otherwise render assistance to JG20 with the strike craft.”
“This is Airfleet Command to Einzelganger Squadron, we estimate that you should have visual contact with Tower forces.”
“This is Einzelganger Squadron, Airfleet Command. We have a visual contact with the Tower craft. Confirm 2 strike craft. No fighter escort visible at this time.”
“This is JG20 to Einzelganger Squadron, we are in position and ready to go with Netzgeweb. Please stay clear of enemy craft.”
“Einzelganger Squadron to JG20, we are clear, good hunting.”
The Tower Frontier
2 March 1940
Hauptmann Trautloft made one last check of his formation, glancing over both shoulders. Satisfied, he locked his view straight ahead, his finger on the extra switch that was added to his flightstick. The Tower craft were so fast, someone on the ground had to relay the information to them when to fire the new weapon. If they waited until they could see the target with their own eyes, it would be too late.
“JG20 this is FA201, fire fire fire!”
At once, the 24 Me 109E3 burst into flame and smoke as rocket pods attached to the underside of their wings spat out a volley of deadly rockets.
The barrage of rockets moved forward like a wall, leaving a giant cloud of thick, acrid smoke behind it. After a second, it erupted into a giant fireball as the rockets simultaneously detonated. His fighters immediately broke formation and turned away from the deadly shrapnel. In the corner of his eye, he could see the two Tower strike craft as they sped past his position. One of the craft was trailing smoke. The Strike craft seemed too stunned to respond, and JG20 rapidly sped away.
“This is JG20 to Einzelganger Squadron. No kills, but we hurt one of them for you. Hope that helps. We are disengaging and the target is all yours. Good hunting.”
It wasn’t the revenge he was hoping for, but at least they hurt one of them, without taking any losses himself. It wasn’t much, but it was something.
The Tower Frontier
2 March 1940
Wilhelmina analyzed the situation. From what she could see the speed of the two attack craft had dropped substantially; still too fast for the Me109s, but well within the speed of their Luftritters. The undamaged strike fighter had slowed down to match the speed of his damaged counterpart, but apparently the damage was not sufficient for it to consider running for home.
Letting the Luftwaffe get a first strike was purely political. Morale was at an all-time low among human forces, and giving them some sense of accomplishment would keep them in the fight. Pride satisfied, now it was their turn.
Engaging two strike aircraft would not be impossible, they had defeated them in the past. The big problem would be escorts. The Tower would be on alert now, and no doubt those radar invisible fighters would be closing in to protect these strike craft. Letting them hit their target was out of the question, they were making a straight line for Berlin. That meant working quickly, and taking more risks. Her lack of numbers was proving to be a real liability.
“Hildy, intercept the wounded strike craft. Ada, stand guard for any fighters that show up. I’ll engage the undamaged strike craft.”
“Verstanden,” responded the stoic brunette.
“Verstanden! Catherine, hold on!” shouted the blonde, giving a thumbs up.
And with that, Hildy sent her Luftritter speeding downwards, picking up frightening speed. Catherine did all she could to prevent from throwing up.
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