A fat, balding man wearing a stained pair of overalls burst from the doorway of the depot office carrying a double-barreled shotgun. "Get out of there now, you crook!" he yelled. "Stop now or I'll shoot!"
Loyle ignored him. Almost there, he thought.
He looked back at the fat man in time to see the distraught fellow cock both hammers on the gun, take aim
and fall backwards gracelessly. The fat man flew backwards, the shotgun discharging harmlessly into the air.
Nathan Zachary flexed his hand, grimacing at the pain in his abused knuckles and the bullet crease along his arm. With a jaunty mock-salute and a sardonic smile, he waved Crawford off. "Get going!" he yelled.
Crawford gave him a quick thumbs up in return, then concentrated on getting the unfamiliar little autogyro aloft. Loyle released the brakes, and sent the tiny autogyro hurtling down the taxi depot's "runway"little more than fifty feet of relatively clear road. Hauling back on the stick, he sent the autogyro hurtling into the cold Chicago night.
Loyle's eyes darted back and forth across the city skyline. To the east, he could see the running lights of another aerotaxi zooming away at high speed as it headed towards the bright lights of the skyscrapers in the downtown district.
Loyle opened the throttle all the way and felt the surge of power as the aerotaxi zoomed off in pursuit of the pirates. He kept the nose up and continued to climb, going much higher than the pirates he was chasing.
The cab's radio squawked. "Crawford? You listening?"
Loyle grabbed the mouthpiece and pushed the transmit button. "Roger. Where are you, Zachary? Over."
"Look to your portside, low. Over." Loyle peered out the window, as Zacharybehind the stick of another stolen aerotaxisidled into position to Crawford's left.
Loyle was once again surprised at his fellow pilot's ability, as Zachary's autogyro gracefully slid around a power line. "You've flown these before, I see," Crawford radioed to his wingman.
"Once or twice," replied Zachary.
The two autogyros zoomed over the Chicago skyline, rapidly gaining on their fleeing prey. Within minutes, they could clearly make out the shape of the pirate's captured aerotaxi.
Suddenly, their quarry banked nosed up sharplyusing the autogyro's rotary wing as an impromptu brake. In a heartbeat, the autogyro slowed, then swung back around as the pilot increased his throttle and worked the rudder.
As the pirate autogyro flashed between them, Loyle spotted the muzzle flash from a Tommy gunaccompanied by the twang of bullets as they ricocheted off the metal body of his craft. Loyle cursed as the bullets crashed into the windscreen, sending splinters of laminated safety glass slashing into the cockpit. With the catlike reflexes of the born fighter pilot, he sent his autogyro careening into an identical stop-and-go turn. The horizon flashed past the windscreen as the autogyro's nose whipped around, its engine whining in protest.
The maneuver worked; his target's tail rotor was now a dozen meters away.
"Crawford!" yelled Zachary across the radio. "We've got company! Two more gyros, eleven o'clock low!"
Loyle quickly glanced low and to port, and saw the running lights of the newcomers. They were flying in close formation and climbing rapidly to meet them. Loyle pushed the transmit button again. "Try and draw them off. I've got my hands full with this other joker."
"Got it." Zachary replied. Zachary's purloined aerotaxi dipped and headed down towards the pair.
Loyle looked back towards the gyro with the pirate leader. It was rapidly turning back towards the downtown area. Crawford's hands made minute adjustments to the control stick, as he used every ounce of his skill to coax more speed from the aerotaxi.
He lined up the taxi's nose as best he could, then gripped the control stick between his knees. He quickly drew his pistol, jamming the barrel through the largest bullet hole in the canopy. He snapped off a pair of quick shots; there was a brief spark as one of the bullets glanced off his prey's engine cowling.
The impact of the bullets must have tipped off the pirate that he was under fire. The autogyro ruddered to port.
The pirate's side door slid open as it flashed past the front of Loyle's craft. The muzzle flash of the Tommy gun licked out again, and a row of star shaped holes stitched themselves across the other side of Loyle's windscreen. Loyle ducked as more glass fragments sprayed through the cockpit.
The pirates turned back towards the city, diving for the ground. Their autogyro dropped down until it was only feet above the North branch of the Chicago River. Loyle pushed the yoke forward, his autogyro's nose dipping to follow.
As he came up on the starboard side of the pirate's aerotaxi, Loyle drew a bead on his quarry. Steadying his arm against the window frame, he aimed carefully at the base of the rotor shaft. If he could take that out, the autogyro would drop out of the sky.
Just as he was about to pull the trigger, the pirate slowed suddenly, dropping behind Loyle. The muzzle flash of the Tommy gun appeared through the side window and Loyle heard the pinging of rounds as they careened off the side of his autogyro.
Loyle hauled back on the throttle and spun his gyro's nose around. The pirate taxi banked suddenly just before the fork in the river and disappeared down a street. Loyle banked sharply to starboard, in hot pursuit.
Crawford had to admit, the pirate was a hot hand at the stick of an aircraft. He sent the little autogyros hurtling over power lines, around antenna masts, through narrow gaps between buildings, and skirting disaster at every turn. He was damn good.
But he wasn't a Broadway Bomber.