Lincolnshire: United Kingdom, Earth
"Alright Gents," Phil said as he did his best not to fall over. "Going through a transporter blindfolded was weird enough, but being led around like this is getting a tad disorienting."
"Just relax, stick boy," Scharr said holding one of his arms.
"We're almost there," Tigranian said holding the other.
"But why the blindfold?" Phil asked.
"Because, without it, you would know exactly what your bachelor party was," Tigranian said.
"As long as it's more fun than yours was, Sir," Phil replied.
He knew they were walking across a concrete pad of some kind. Then, they seemed to enter some kind of large, cavernous space. Their footsteps echoed in his ears from every direction.
"Really appreciate the invite to come along, Phil," Doctor Kinzo Katan said from behind him. "I'll be honest. I didn't really expect one."
"Nonsense," Phil said still moving his head around trying to gain some auditory clue to their location. "One crew, one team, one family, Doc," said smiling. He immediately stopped smiling as his shin banged into a piece of metal equipment. "OWW!"
"Tren!" Tigranian said angrily.
"Sorry, sorry…" the Andorian muttered.
"I think we've gone far enough," Tigranian said bringing them to a halt. "Alright, Phil. You ready for the blindfold to come off?"
"Can't wait to see what you have planned for me, Captain," Phil said smiling.
"Oh, I didn't plan anything. Tren set this whole thing up."
Phil's expression turned from one of happiness to terror.
"WHAT!?" he shouted. Scharr's antenna curled with annoyance.
"You're welcome, Pink Skin," he muttered as he ripped off the blindfold. Phil nearly collapsed to his knees. He was in a massive aircraft hangar filled with vintage prop aircraft from the Second World War: Hawker Hurricanes, Avro Lancaster Bombers, Mosquitos, and Phil's favorite: the Supermarine Spitfire. He looked over to a huge sign painted on the wall that read:
BATTLE OF BRITAIN MEMORIAL FLIGHT
ROYAL AIR FORCE MUSEUM
"If the British Empire and its Commonwealths last for a thousand years, men will still say, this was their finest hour."
"How did you get access to this place?" Phil said in amazement to Scharr. The Andorian shrugged his shoulders.
"I've been a Starfleet Engineer for over twenty years. You get to know a lot of gear heads with some pretty awesome connections."
Suddenly, Phil felt a strong pair of hands grab him from behind and lift him off the ground.
"The old planes ain't the only surprise here, Sab!" He broke free and spun around. It was Daredevil.
"DEE!" he screamed throwing his arms around his old wingman. "I thought you weren't getting in till tomorrow night?"
"I'm your best man!" she exclaimed happily. "Do you think I would miss this? Besides, old Captain Tigranian there did me a solid. He called my CO and convinced him to let me go a few days early. Cobra Squadron can last for a while without me, even though I am its best pilot," she said grinning.
"Only because I'm not there," Phil said crossing his arms.
"Alright, alright," Scharr said beckoning them to follow. "We've got a schedule to keep." He led them down the center aisle past the rows of ancient planes still painted in their liveries from the 1940s. Phil had spent countless hours on the holodeck flying simulations of each and every one of these warbirds, but he had never been this close to operational originals. These were national treasures of the United Kingdom, each over four centuries old and preserved in flying condition for posterity. He hoped against hope that he would get to see one fly today, but they took off so rarely anymore, it was unlikely.
The rear sliding doors of the hanger leading out to the runway were open. The wintery English countryside was brushed with patches of white snow and yellow grass, but the sky was unseasonably clear and crisp for this time of year. Parked at the maw was the most beautiful Spitfire Phil had ever seen, holographic or not. It's sleek, polished fuselage was painted with green and brown camouflage. It's British Bullseye Roundel in blue, white, and red was almost winking at him. One man in dressed in green coveralls gave orders to a man in a pilot's jacket who was checking the instruments. Phil sucked in a quick breath as he realized it looked like they were doing a pre-flight. Maybe he actually would get to see this beautiful girl fly.
"Well, well," the man in coveralls said turning to greet them. "If it isn't the Blue Baron himself." He reached out a warm handshake to Scharr who smiled as he accepted it.
"Henry Rothford," he said introducing himself to the others from behind his mustachioed face.
"You know Commander Scharr?" Phil said in surprise.
"Know him?" Rothford said indignantly. "I used to work for this bastard when I was in the service," he said with his thick English accent. "Luckily, I was smart enough to get out and get a job here. I'm the senior Mechanical Engineer in charge of keeping these beauties airbourne."
"Using what you learned from me, Rothy," Scharr said holding up a finger.
"Right," Rothford said rolling his eyes. "You must be the bachelor boy," he said shaking Phil's hand. "I hope you enjoy your time with us. It means a lot when we get people here who know what these planes really mean to the country."
"I appreciate that, Sir. Thank you."
"Don't 'Sir' me, Boyo," Rothford said. "I'm not in uniform anymore. But when I was, I was one of the best."
Scharr only shrugged.
"I guess so," the Andorian finally admitted.
"So you're a Starfleet fighter pilot yourself are you?" Rothford asked Phil.
"Yes," Phil said proudly.
"What's your rating?" Rothford added.
"Still got my Class III Astral/Atmospheric certification."
"That'll do," Rothford muttered. "Hey Willy!" Rothford called up to the pilot who dropped down from the wing and shook Phil's hand. "This is Willy Masterson," Rothford explained. "He'll be the pilot going up with you today."
"What?" Phil asked confused. "This is a single seat fighter."
"Yeah," Rothford said unaware that Phil wasn't in on the secret. "And you'll be the one in the single seat. Willy's going up in another bird."
"I'M GONNA FLY A REAL SPITFIRE!?" Phil screamed loud enough to echo off the ceiling. The other members of his bachelor laughed with glee as they realized they pulled off the surprise.
"Are you sure about this, Scharr?" Rothford said. "Boy seems a little highstrung to be flying an old lady with this much horsepower."
"Phil is the best fighter pilot in Starfleet, Mr. Rothford," Tigranian said.
"Hey!" Daredevil said indignantly.
"Sorry, Dee," Tigranian replied. "When it's your party, you can be the best." She rolled her eyes.
"I don't believe this," Phil said. "I wish I had my World War II pilot kit. I would have loved to use it off a holodeck."
"You mean this?" Katan said holding up a duffel bag. "Thank your fiancée. She raided your closet for us."
In a manner of minutes, Phil was dressed from head to toe in a brown leather, fur-lined flight suit with a reproduction leather helmet on his head. He nervously climbed up onto the wing and then into the cockpit. As he slid down into the pilot's seat, he marveled at the controls. It was identical to all the planes he flew in simulation, but somehow this plane seemed more alive.
"Alrighty," Rothford said climbing up next to him. "I suppose I don't need to tell you how to turn this old girl on, do I?"
"No," Phil said shaking his head and smiling. "I have over five hundred hours on Spits on the holodeck at one hundred percent realism."
"That's good," Rothford said, "but this isn't a hologram. It's the real deal and she's over four hundred years old. Means she doesn't handle like she's fresh off the factory floor. On this one, the left rudder sticks a little so you have to trim it out with propeller torque. Can you do that?"
"Yes, I know I can."
"Ok," Rothford replied. He handed Phil a paper map. "Here's your approved flight plan. Once you taxi out, take off along Runway 11, then climb to Angels 6 and turn heading 090. Once you're out over the North Sea, we'll give you a call. Spin her up and taxi out. Get a radio check with the tower. We'll be on Freq 246."
"No worries," Phil said still smiling.
"You ready?" Rothford asked.
"I've been waiting for this my whole life."
"I feel you, Boyo. Just make sure this isn't the end of your life. Don't do anything stupid."
"Understood," Phil replied. Rothford tapped him on the shoulder and slid down to the ground. He pulled out the wheel chocks, grabbed two reflective batons and then moved to the front of the Spit. He flashed Phil a thumbs up, which Phil returned.
"Warning in the hanger! Aircraft cranking!" Rothford shouted before spinning his right hand in a circle. With a final deep breath, Phil hit the ignitor and the powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engine began to crank. She wheezed and groaned as the powerful forward propeller started to spin. Final, she roared to life with a tremendous growl that echoed off the walls of the hanger. The spectators on the ground cheered as they saw Phil's face light up. The noise was deafening, but it still couldn't drown out the excitement. Rothford held up the sticks and guided Phil out onto the tarmac.
With a graceful turn, Phil nosed the Spitfire down the runway, gunned the throttle, and shot off into the English sky on a pair of elliptical, duralumin wings. After a few graceful arcs to get a feel for the old girl, he pointed her nose east and headed towards the North Sea.
Phil passed the shoreline and was soon out over open water. He gracefully arced through the blue sky and pulled his Spitfire above the clouds. It was incredible. He took a deep breath through his oxygen mask and felt he could smell the history coursing through the airframe as it obeyed his every command. It was one of the most incredible experiences of his entire life.
"Tower to Lexington," Rothford's voice crackled through his headset.
"Lexington here," Phil replied clicking his radio switch.
"We have you on sensors now. You're approaching our maneuver box 12 nautical miles off shore. Masterson will meet you there."
"Jolly good," Phil replied as his natural Englishman began to come out. "What is he flying? Another Spit?"
"Not quite," Rothford replied. "Careful, he's coming in now."
Phil cocked his head around just in time to see a flash streak by overhead. Another ancient fighter pulled directly alongside off his starboard wing, and Phil's jaw dropped inside his oxygen mask. It was a pristine Messerschmitt Bf-109. It's brightly painted yellow nose led its mottled grey fuselage through the sky. An imposing black iron cross stared him in the face from behind the cockpit. A man in German flight gear raised his gloved hand and gave a friendly wave towards Phil. Phil could only wave back.
"Do you see him?" Rothford asked through the radio.
"I believe so…" Phil replied. He had to be dreaming. There was no way this was real.
In the tower back at the airfield, Rothford, Tigranian, Scharr, Kazan, and Daredevil huddled around the radio. The base's sensors gave them a real time visual image of what was happening on a small viewscreen mounted to the wall. They all laughed as they saw Phil's surprise at his flying companion for the morning.
"I think the kid died and went to heaven," Tigranian said chuckling.
"As long as he doesn't do it in my airplane," Rothford said before keying the radio. "Alright, Lexington, you have a good amount of free space to maneuver the Spit up there. Just be sure you stay inside the boundaries marked on your map."
"Roger Tower," Phil replied when he finally got his senses back about him.
"If you don't mind, we thought we would give you a little sport," Rothford continued. "Just remember, your plane is a little on the old side. Keep it gentle.
Both of those aircraft have had their machine guns replaced with targeting lasers. Masterson's mission is to shoot you down. You have to stop him. If your plane registers a hit, you'll start trailing white smoke and things are over. You ready for a little dogfighting?"
"Tower, I've been ready for this since before I could walk!" Phil shouted. They could see him raising his hands on the viewscreen triumphantly.
"Masterson's not exactly a green pilot, Lexington," Rothford responded. "Let's see if you can give him a challenge."
"C'mon Saber," Dee said reaching down and keying the radio. "You're an ace twice over in real life!" she said taunting him. "But let's see you if you can actually handle your dream ride!"
Rothford turned and looked at the others with surprise.
"That skinny kid is an actual fighter ace?" he asked.
"We both are," Dee replied plainly. Tigranian and Scharr merely nodded.
"God in heaven…" Rothford muttered. He reached down and pressed the radio again.
"Both of you, be safe and don't be stupid. Tally ho!"
Masterson pulled his German fighter into a sudden climb and peeled away from Phil. He then gunned his engine and pulled into a tight spiral trying to get behind the Spit. Phil's eyes grew as he realized that his opponent wanted to end this quickly. He knew the performance of their two aircraft was nearly identical, but Phil had been studying for this fantasy moment for a very long time.
"If you want to beat me," he whispered to himself. "You have to catch me."
Without warning, Phil kicked up the throttle of his Merlin engine and nosed down into a powered dive. The negative G-Force lifted him out of his chair as he plummeted through the clouds back down at the water. Masterson wasn't expecting such an aggressive move and quickly put his plane into a dive to catch up.
Phil was grinning from ear to ear as his altimeter clicked downward towards the blue wave tops of the North Sea below. Warning chirps beeped in his ears as he realized that the Bf-109 was shooting simulated bullets at him. Phil kicked the rudder over but soon realized what Rothford was talking about. He quickly adjusted with his propeller blade angle and began twisting his Spit back and forth, artfully dodging the Messerschmitt's attacks. Phil actually cheered in his cockpit at the sound of his roaring engine and the feel the plane rolling around him. He looked into his rearview mirror to see Masterson begin preparations to pull out of the dive. It was obvious he was afraid of smashing into the water a full speed.
"You have to trust your plane," Phil said to himself grinning. "This girl might be old, but she's the best that was ever built!"
"What is he doing?" Rothford asked concerned. It was obvious he was coming up with excuses in his head for explaining how a priceless pair of historical aircraft were lost during a stag party.
"The right thing," Dee said completely calm. She stared at the screen with a little smile. "This is already over."
"What?" Kazan said asked dubiously. "There's no way. He's out of sky and that other plane is right behind him."
"Would you please enlighten us as to your logic, fighter jockey?" Scharr said putting it more succinctly.
"Masterson is treating his bird like she's made of glass, not a partner," Dee said shaking her head, "but it doesn't matter if it's a 400 year old prop fighter or a brand new T-Bat: a combat platform wants to fight. Phil is showing his bird respect and letting her do exactly what she wants. He's not holding it back and flying without fear. That's why he's going to win."
At the last moment, Phil yanked back on his control yoke and pulled back with every bit of strength he had. The Spit's engine roared as it turned skyward with an enormous G-shift. If Phil hadn't been ready for it, he would have passed out. He roared back towards the clouds with Masterson trailing farther and farther behind. He's heavier aircraft couldn't hope to match Phil's ascent rate.
They roared back towards the clouds and gained nearly a thousand meters of altitude in less than minute. The Bf-109 kept firing wildly, hoping to land a lucky shot on the Spit, but Phil knew that he was a near impossible target at this speed. Phil could feel that his plane was working harder and harder to maintain its climb and the Merlin engine could barely keep up with the throttle level. That was exactly what Phil was waiting for.
He nosed the bird over into a stall and gracefully rolled backwards in freefall. He could see Masterson's giant, amazed eyeballs looking up at him as he rolled over the top of his opponent and fell directly into perfect firing position on his opponent's tail. Then, it was all Phil.
Masterson gunned his throttles trying hopelessly to outrun Phil's advance, but the Pershing's helmsman rolled and yawed back and forth: dumping just enough speed to stay right behind Masterson. Phil began opening up with his machine guns and he could see simulated streaks of tracers slice through the air on the other side of his gunsights. Phil was laughing out in sheer jubilation.
Masterson tried in desperation to copy Phil's diving tactic, but the Spit's pilot was expecting exactly that. He held down the trigger button on his control yolk and put a few hundred rounds right into the center of the iron cross behind Masterson. As a plume of white smoke began trailing behind the Messerschmitt, Phil climbed back upwards and rolled the Spitfire triumphantly in a 360 degree victory roll. Everyone in the tower could hear his cheering through the radio.
"Told you all he would like this," Scharr said with a smirk as both his antenna and his arms crossed triumphantly.
"Shoulda have sent me up there," Daredevil said magically producing a cold can of beer from her jacket. "You would have had more time to drink before he gets back."