Watch out below (2001)

Over the past few years I'd gotten somewhat addicted to an Internet WWII Aviation game called Air Warrior.  I fly on the Internet against buddies all over the world.  At any given moment there might be hundreds of folks flying, defending one of the 3 Air Warrior countries, or flying bomber missions/fighter sweeps against the other countries.  Is about the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

Imagine, for example, you and your fighter have linked up with a buddy flying in a bomber.  The pilot is a guy you've flown with, laughed and cried with, perhaps even had a beer with, for years.  His son, off at a distant college is manning the tail gun.  Another buddy, this guy from far away New Zealand pulls up in another fighter to help you escort them.  

It's all about communication.  Either by voice or typing, the 4 of you are communicating constantly.  Talking strategy, contingency plans or about that girl (or boy) that hasn't returned your phonecall.  You get tight with these characters, most of whom you will never meet.  They're your buddies.  Air Warrior is about buddies.

Spring '00. It was getting a little too toasty in my 3rd floor computer room/cockpit so I  installed a little window air conditioner.  It's a fairly small unit, but it blew right on me, keeping me nice, cool and collected as the blazing sun beats on the roof above.

I'd gotten my neighbor hooked on Air Warrior too.  And his computer was also set up on his third floor.  In fact our windows are so close you can almost reach out and touch the other.

My personal preference ran to Focke Wulf's, although I did spend a fair amount of time in a P51 Mustang too.  The FW family bled energy something fierce in a turn, but sometimes even that that could be used to advantage.  Usually though, it's energy loss characteristics meant that you needed to keep dogfights really short.  If you couldn't settle it in a turn or two, it was time to go.  And god help you if you didn't retain enough energy to break away.  The FW 190A4 had a mean set of guns 2X 25mm and 2X 14.5 and was agile enough to go an extra turn in a dogfight.  The FW10A8 was a tank.  It bled energy like a sieve but one burst with it's 4X 25mm and 2X 14.5 was enough to turn anything into powder.  The FW190A8 contained the firepower of an entire modern mechanized Infantry (Bradley) platoon.

So this day I'm flying along and, looking down, I see my neighbor's plane flying low and slow.  We're heading for Indian country.  Where low and slow creates low and dead, in short order. The player's name is visible next to each plane.  I called to him..."Murph, good to see you bro, but you better gain some altitude or you're hosed".

No response.

"YO MURPH!"

No response.

I went thru a couple more iterations of that, then finally gave up.  Nucklehead. "Well, nothing like death to make a lesson memorable", I thought.

But I figured the least I could do for my buddy/neighbor was to loiter above him.  A guardian angel, so to speak.

As we crossed the border into an enemy country I started calling him again.  "Murph, Murph, for Christ's sake answer me Murph".  And a couple more like iterations.  This was looking bad.  Was also getting a bit tiresome.  It was going to be work together or die alone.

And then I saw it.  Damn.  It had to be a Spitfire.  Now there are some things that my Focke Wolf A4 can do better then a Spit, but darn few.   The Spit is such a feared opponent that it is the natural choice of newbies.  It has no real weaknesses to exploit.  A Focke Wolf, on the other hand, although it has it's charms, has some serious weaknesses.  And that Spit had altitude on me.  Oh how I hate a Spit with altitude.  That gave me 2 and only 2 choices.  Run......or.......Die.

I called to Murph again several more times.  "Murph, Murph, Spitfire".  "Murph we either work together or we're dead".  "Murph, for christ's sake work with me here or we're both dead."  Nothing.  Bastard.

My window to run away was closing fast.  With a sharp expletive I kicked right rudder and turned underneath the Spit's probable course.  I couldn't just leave my buddy to die.

Nose down and gaining speed I watched the Spit approaching from above.  I'd have one chance and one chance only.  If the Spit was a complete newby I might be able to drop out of sight under his belly and pull up, pure vertical and get a shot.  If it didn't work....I was lunchmeat.  Or in this case, Wurst.

Watching his descent like a hawk, predicting his exact path, I chose my moment and pulled up hard.  I was risking all to save my friend.  The Spit saw my maneuver and went nose down to meet me.  I was purely hosed.  A heartbeat later I was nose high and slow.  That Spit made one of those impossible Spit-turns and BLAM I was one Ex-Focke Wolf pilot.

GOD I WAS PISSED!  If that idiot Murph had made the least effort to coordinate we'd a had a chance.  But he hadn't tried for shit, I'd risked all to save his sorry arse and now I was dead as a mackerel.  That Bastard!

I jumped up, and whirled around to the window to throw it up and give Murph an ass chewing that would rock the neighborhood.

I threw up that window with a strength born of fury.   

And, with utter astonishment, watched something big fly out from underneath.  And then with an expression of sheer stupid puzzlement, looked down and watched the air conditioner plummet 3 stories below.

Still locked in my posture of abject stupid puzzlement (it's a posture I've had  opportunities to refine), I noticed Murph's window come up, 6' away.  Out poked the small blond innocent face of Murph's son, visiting for the weekend.

He looked down, surveyed the wreckage 3 stories down with confusion, and then looked back up at me.

He said, "hey, in this Air Warrior game, how do you talk back to someone"?

Sigh.

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