Bertha Ryder whooped as she sent Madame Stork, her biwing aeroplane, into another dive. The clouds scattered before her. A great vista of patchwork fields and small towns spread below as she plummeted to the ground. The wings groaned under the strain. Her payload cried out.
“Be quiet, ya babies!” she hollered.
The engine thundered as the wind whipped through her short blond hair. Her goggles pressed into her face.
There. That was the house she was bombing. The Fezziwig homestead. Darlene probably had no clue what was about to happen to her.
Bertha grinned as she brought her finger over the toggle that would open the bomb bay doors. She had to time this right.
A shadow hid the sun. Bullets ripped through the air. Another biplane buzzed by her. “Abort! Abort!” a masculine voice cried out as the craft passed.
Bertha glanced around her fuselage. Some bullets had pierced the canvass over her wing, but nothing that should stop the mission. She refocused on the biplane that arced below her. A skull and crossbones had been painted on its black tail.
She looked behind her. She rolled Madame Stork just in time. Another biplane ripped through the space she had just occupied.
But with that change, she wasn’t on course. The ground rocketed up toward her.
She pulled back on the stick. The G’s pushed her down into her seat. The goggles pressed harder into her face.
Madame Stork arced back up into the blue, blue sky.
Two black biplanes followed.
Bullets filled the sky. Bertha pulled a barrel roll aft, and then went into a power dive. She had to shake these two so she could deliver the payload. If she waited too long, it would all be for naught. There wasn’t time for this.
Up into the clouds. Bertha finessed up into the thick white fog. Up, up! She couldn’t see a thing, but could hear her pursuers. Good. They were as blind as she was for the moment.
She burst into bright sunlight above the clouds. Right behind her, the black biplanes followed. Their machine guns blasted. Bertha wiggled her wings and held up a finger, tracing several large circles. Message: Come close so we can talk. Parlay.
She pulled back on the throttle, letting the aeroplane slow. The other two came to either side, flanking her.
To her left, all she could see of one pilot in the cockpit was flying cap, goggles, and teeth. To her right, the same.
“Talk!” called one in a guttural voice.
“Parlay!” the other screamed.
“How are you boys? Feeling fine?” Bertha leaned back. “Got a cigar I could borrow?”
“Cigar?” the one on the right leaned over. “You give cargo.”
“Sorry, your czar won’t get my babies.”
“Give, or we shoot down!”
“Oh, sorry. Too late.” Bertha shrugged. “While you were chasing me through the clouds with zero visibility, I dropped my payload. Darlene Fezziwig should be startled by what’s arriving on her doorstep!” She cackled. “Oh, well. I outsmarted some flying goblins. One more to add to the memoirs!”
She dove down into the white carpet below. The goblins didn’t give chase. No need. They were already too late.
Bertha circled down so she could buzz the homestead, make sure she had delivered on target.
The farm was there just as before. And there –
Yes. On the front porch stood Darlene, cradling a tiny bundle of crying baby.
Madame Stork had delivered again. Bertha patted the dash. “Good girl. Let’s go home and get a drink, eh?”
This is a Barrelbottom Tale.