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Chapter One:
The Best Laid Plans

Chapter Two:
Facing The Music

Chapter Three:
From Bad To Worse

Chapter Four:
Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Chapter Five:
Scene of the Crime

Chapter Six:
Dancing with the Devil

Chapter Seven:
Turn of an Unfriendly Card

Chapter Eight:
The Cold Hand of Death

Chapter Nine:
So Close...

Chapter Ten:
Hunting Season

Chapter Eleven:
Leap of Faith

Chapter Twelve:
Incriminating Evidence

Chapter Thirteen:
Unhappy Homecomings


Stripped of Honor!

- A Tale of the Broadway Bombers -

By Geoff Skellams


Chapter Ten: Hunting Season

Loyle Crawford rammed the throttle forward on the autogyro and waited until the rotor spun up to speed. Settling the radio headset on, he watched the tachometer impatiently. The needle wound steadily upwards, moving closer to the moment where there was enough power to send the tiny autogyro hurtling into the sky.

For more information see:
Loyle "Show-stopper" Crawford

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 Zachary—behind the stick of another stolen aerotaxi—sidled 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 sharply—using 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 gun—accompanied 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.

For more information see:
The Broadway Bombers

The pirate banked hard to starboard and vanished around the side of the giant Merchandise Mart, which sat on the North bank of the Chicago River. Loyle looked across the river at the skyscrapers on the other side.

Instead of sitting on the pirate's tail, Loyle pulled hard on the stick and let his instincts take over. The aerotaxi rocketed up over the roof of the Merchandise Mart, engine and wind roaring like an enraged lion. As he cleared the green pyramid atop the tower on the front of the building by only inches, Loyle couldn't resist a wolfish grin. Despite the grim situation, taking to the air again was like coming home.

Crawford kept climbing. He wanted to make sure that he got high enough over the city to be able to follow the pirate, no matter where he went. He'd flown enough missions through city streets to know that altitude could be a decisive advantage.

Sure enough, he spotted the pirate autogyro with ease. The pirate was flying his gyro low and fast, taking an evasive course that would have been virtually impossible to follow. The pirate traveled south for two blocks before banking sharply to port. He swung east and headed towards the shores of Lake Michigan. But no sooner had he straightened up, he banked again, this time to head south, one block over.

Loyle pulled his autogyro into a tight starboard bank around a gothic white stone tower. He lost sight of the pirate momentarily, but caught it again as it banked to the right again, doubling back on itself one block to the south. Crawford slowed the aerotaxi, and moments later, the pirate flashed past beneath him, this time heading north on the same route he had crossed the river on before.

Keeping one eye on the pirate as he opened his throttle to give chase, Loyle pressed the transmit button on his microphone. "Zachary? Where are you?"

There was a brief buzz of static. "Over by Navy Pier. Hang on, I've got my hands full at the moment!" Loyle heard the staccato of a Tommy gun firing over the radio and looked out towards the pier. In the lights over the pier, he could just make out three autogyros stuck in a deadly tango. Bursts of flame licked out from two of them, but the third one swooped and dodged out of the way like a matador dodging a bull.

Loyle was impressed; Zachary really knew how to throw an autogyro around the sky. I wonder which militia unit he belonged to, Loyle thought. No one flies that well unless they've had military training. I'd love to have him flying with me in the Venturers.

Loyle's thoughts were interrupted as his quarry banked again, this time turning east just past the Merchandise Mart and heading towards the lakeshore. Loyle poured on the speed and dove after his prey. It was time to try and take this menace out.

He fell into a position fifteen feet above the fleeing pirate, taking a position slightly behind and to the right of his prey. Once again gripping the control stick with his knees, he leaned out the window, aiming his pistol as carefully as he could.

The pirate followed the road as it turned slightly to the left, mirroring the bend in the river. Loyle—his eyes stinging from the rush of icy wind—squeezed the trigger twice in rapid succession, sending two shots into the engine cowling on the front of the aerotaxi. Loyle's luck held this time—there was a burst of flame from the engine, followed by an eruption of black smoke that bellowed from the exhaust ports.

The pirate snapped the gyro to the right as he reached the Chicago Tribune Tower, dropping down to a scant few feet above the road. The smoking aerotaxi shot back across the river to the south.

Despite the late hour, there was some traffic on Michigan Avenue as the pirate roared across the bridge. They screeched to the side of the road, trying desperately to get out of the way of the screaming, madly-maneuvering autogyro. Loyle caught a glimpse of one car careening into the guard railing as he sailed over the river and down the main road after his prey.

Loyle smiled grimly as the pirate struggled to accelerate away from him. A burst of flame appeared from the side door as the gunner opened up on Loyle, trying to dissuade him from following. Loyle jinked up, and the bullets passed harmlessly below him. "Nice try, pal," he growled.

The pirate rocketed over the top of the Art Institute building and changed course slightly, heading for the stately silhouette of the Field Museum.

Crawford closed the gap between them slightly, as they careened between the buildings of the downtown area. As the pirate aerotaxi's engine struggled, Crawford saw his opportunity. He sideslipped, then cut in front of the pirate.

Loyle felt his spirits begin to rise; he'd prevented the pirate from cutting back into the concrete jungle behind them. "Now I've got you, you bastards," he crowed. His grip on the stick tightened, as he moved in to force his enemy down—

—and was nearly blinded when a harsh beam of light painfully slashed through his night vision.

Alerted by the sound of gunfire over Grant Park, the searchlights on the Northerly Island aerodrome snapped on. The crossed beams lit up a small passenger zeppelin before they arced out over the park, looking for the source of the trouble. Loyle held his hand up in front of his eyes to shield them from the harsh glare, spots dancing before his eyes.

Damn, Loyle thought. Now its only a matter of time before the ISA militia shows up.

For more information see:
The Industrial States of America

The pirate dropped low to the ground, clearly not at all eager to face the anti-aircraft batteries on the airfield's perimeter. He shot between the Field Museum and Soldier Field, banking hard to port to race back out over the lake near the Shedd Aquarium.

Loyle shook his head, trying to clear his vision, and sent his autogyro screaming after the pirate.

The airfield gunners tried in vain to shoot at the disappearing autogyros. Lines of tracer rounds arced ineffectually into the sky, only to wink out somewhere over the dark waters of Lake Michigan.

Loyle pressed the transmit button on his microphone again. "Zachary? I could use some help here. He's heading back across the park towards the city."

The red receive light on the radio blinked on. "This pair still has me playing cat-and-mouse with them. You're going to have to do it without me!"

"Some help you are," Loyle muttered, switching off the radio.

He closed on the pirate as they flashed back over the shoreline. The other autogyro looked as though it was headed for Michigan Avenue again. Loyle fired through the shattered canopy once again, snapping off another pair of shots. This time, the slide locked open on an empty chamber.

Loyle tossed the pistol aside. He pulled back on the stick and zoomed over the Goodman Theatre, just as the pirate banked and headed north back up Michigan Avenue.

Loyle followed in hot pursuit, the buildings flashing by on either side. Come on, Crawford, he thought. How are you going to get this guy?

Just as Loyle roared back up Michigan Avenue across the Chicago River, another pair of autogyros swooped down and fell into formation on either side of him. The passenger doors of the two newcomers slid open, revealing a pair men in each autogyro. Each man carried a Tommy gun, complete with fifty-round drum magazines.

He was boxed in.

 


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