AN EVENING IN - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)

 

    Joe Delany dragged himself into the tent and flopped down on the bunk.  They were in the air longer on the Vrattsa mission, but
today's mission had been far more exhausting.  As 'tail-end Charlie' they had seen more action -- which required greater concentration on his part -- than on the Bulgaria mission, and his nerves had been stretched to a tight wire throughout the trip. Having Straw and Haversham get badly hit had increased his anxiety level, too.  He sat up slowly and began removing his shoes, preparing to sack out for the night, when Barstow and Pike bustled in.

 

    "What's this?" asked the co-pilot, a touch of reproach in his voice. "Ain't ya coming over to the O-Club, Joe?"

 

    Delany shook his head. "I'm bushed," he replied.  "I'm just going to turn in for the night, and be ready for tomorrow."

 

    Verne Pike paused for a moment in his preparations.  "Tomorrow," he repeated, "we flying again?"

 

    Delany shrugged tiredly.  "Don't know yet, but I hear the weather's supposed to be good.  Which means we're likely to be up there again."

 

    Charlie Barstow spoke for the first time. "Joe," asked the navigator. "Did you get to see Monroe and Jack?"

 

    "Nope, no visitors tonight," responded Delany. "Monroe was still under the knife when I stopped by.  They told me Jack was going to be okay, but the war's over for him.  By the way," he added, as he got into his bunk, "you did a nice job on his leg. Probably saved his life."

 

    Barstow shrugged and busied himself with the buttons on a clean shirt, embarrassed at the praise.  Pike laced up a boot.  "You sure you don't want to come with us, Joe?"

 

    Delany yawned loudly.  "Nah, not tonight, guys.  Have fun, and don't wake me when you come in."

 

    "We'll be as quiet as church mice," said Pike with a grin. "Just like this . . ." and he and Barstow tiptoed out the door into the
night, but Delany was already asleep.


AMOORE BREAKS HIS SILENCE - (submitted by Neil Amoore, 317th Sqn)

 

    “Barman, get me a bottle of this establishment’s finest, and bring me five glasses,” Amoore said to the enlisted man behind the counter in the Officer’s Club.

 

    He’d asked his remaining four senior pilots top meet him for a drink, and to catch up on what was going on the 317th.  Paperwork and demands from HQ had kept him pretty much out of things lately, and he felt he’d let things slip a little.

 

    He looked at the four men seated around the battered table in what passed for an OC.  Jeez, but the guys in England would laugh at these facilities.  Those boys had at cushier on base that the 15th.  Here the mud, ever-present, and culture shock made it hard to feel at home.  They did the best they could, though, he guessed.

 

    O’Connor, Yoshikawa, Peterson and the new boy Clay made up his group for the next few hours.  Montague – the man couldn’t seem to shake the hold the bottle had on him – and Flynn (on leave) were the only absent faces.  He would have invited Forrest to join them, but the looks on the others’ faces when he mentioned it killed that idea.

 

    The little prick had kept out of his way between missions.  That was a good thing, considering the number of screw-ups and chewing-outs he’d been through at Amoore’s hands after recent missions.

 

    “Drinks are on me, gents.  We haven’t had a chance to formally congratulate everyone on their shiny new captain’s bars, so here’s to you boys! Wear them well and with pride, ’cos God knows Uncle Sam is going to expect you to earn them in the weeks to come.”

 

    “Secondly, here’s to the new blood.  Welcome to the 317th, Clay, hope you’re happy here.”


AMOORE BREAKS HIS SILENCE, part II - (submitted by Paul O'Connor, 317th Sqn)

 

    O'Connor raises his glass, mumbles something throws back his shot.  Sits up straight, or straighter than before, at least.  The silence stretches.  Wish someone would say something.  He hates these things.  He hates anything that points him out.  He’s survived a baker’s dozen worth of missions without a scratch.  Don't rock the boat.  “Yeah, welcome, Clay,” he manages.

 

    He thinks about Tieger, going home now, with a hole in his stomach.  Only three guys left from the old crew.  “You’re going to do great,” he says.  It sounds like someone else is saying it.  Like a voice from the bottom of a well.  He regrets it immediately.  It’s insincere.  As if he had luck to give away.

 

    He thinks about the next mission, afraid that destiny is going to spear out like a spotlight and illuminate him for a coward behind
the controls of his ship.  His luck is going to run out.  He’s going to be exposed.

 

    He pushes his empty tumbler toward Amoore. Jesus, pour another drink, already.


AN EVENING OUT (Before Mission 25) - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)

 

    Lieutenants Pike and Barstow sat at a table in the OC, sipping beers.

 

    "You think Monroe and Jack will be okay?" asked Verne Pike.  "Neither of 'em looked too good comin' off the plane today."

 

    Barstow shrugged.  "I don't know.  I hope so."  Then he added, "War's over for them.  I hope the replacements are good."

 

    Pike said, "Whoever our new bombardier is, I hope he can hit the dang target.  You know, some of the guys were calling Straw 'One-eyed Jack'?"

 

    The Navigator nodded, then looked around. "Kind of dead in here tonight, eh Verne?"

 

    Pike surveyed the room. "Yep." His eyes settled on a table nearby. "Hey," he said, dropping his voice. "Get a look at those old guys! They having a reunion of Great War Veterans here tonight, or what?"

 

    Barstow looked at the table his Co-pilot had indicated, and burst out laughing. "Jeez, Verne, you can be awfully dense sometime!  Half those guys probably aren't any older than you and me!"

 

    "Aw, come on," responded Pike. "They have to be. I mean, look at 'em!"

 

    "Verne," said Barstow quietly. "If you'd spent any time getting to know people here, you'd know who these guys are. THAT one," he added, tipping his beer bottle at one of the men, "is Major Amoore, CO of the 317th. I hear he's a hard-ass, but fair. The other guys must be his pilots."

 

    "No kidding? Well, who's the Captain over there?" asked Pike. "I bumped into him on my way over with the beers, he damn near jumped out of his skin! I thought he was gonna keel over with a heart attack."

 

    Barstow's brow furrowed in concentration.  He knew the man, but it took him a second to remember the name. "Oh, that's Captain O'Connor," he said. "What's his plane?  Oh, yeah, Darkwatch, that's it.  You know why he looks like that?"

 

    "No."

 

    "Because he's flown nearly twenty missions, that's why."

 

    Pike whistled through his teeth. "Jeez," he said.  "What'll we look like when we get to fifty?"

 

    Barstow's hand tightened on his beer bottle.  IF we get that far, he thought, but he didn't dare say it aloud.