Night Witches

Free Night Witches by L J Adlington

Book: Night Witches by L J Adlington Read Free Book Online
Authors: L J Adlington
nudges me meaningfully. I glance at Reef again. He’s looking right at me. For a moment I’m back in the snow roses at the edge of the tree-eaten rift. Then he turns and leaves the hangar. So much for the wonderful reunion I’ve been fantasising about.
    Furey smiles as if that alone will make everything super-fine and dandy.
    ‘It seems we have a very short time to get you trained up and operational. We’re starting with just nine aircraft, crewed by a pilot and navigator in each, plus a tech team and armourers. The Storms are to be used for scouting and bombing Crux positions in and near the Morass. Don’t get me wrong, this is no heroic path to glory. We’re dealing with a slow, massively flammable plane with limited range, uncertain capabilities and an untested crew.’
    ‘ Now you’re talking my language,’ says Fenlon with a grin. ‘But tell them the worst bit.’
    Zoya and I swap a quick look – What could be worse?
    Furey says, ‘I was coming to that. It concerns our tactics for overcoming the Storm’s obvious limitations. On the one hand we’re borrowing the Crux innovation for non-bioweave structures, so it shouldn’t suffer effects near the Morass. On the other hand we’re adding a twist of our own that the Crux haven’t thought of yet. The fact is, in daylight you’ll be sitting targets for Crux anti-aircraft guns or fighter planes. So you won’t fly by day. You’ve been picked for your youth. For the ability to retain some vision in the dark. You’ll fly by night.’
    Instant consternation. Night flying? Did she say night flying ? How will we survive without bright lamps? That’s sick. Do you really think she means it?
    I think back to the flash image I saw just now in the crew-room – the black birds flying across a night sky. I sneak a look at Furey’s face, so strong and honest. Yes, she means it.
    Our chatter dies down as Fenlon coughs and says, ‘Er, that wasn’t quite the worst bit, Furey.’
    She sighs. ‘I know. The fact is, our choice of flight instructor is rather unusual. He’s the only person we have who’s ever flown one of these things before, though I use the word person in the widest possible sense . . .’
    Reef’s back. He’s not alone.
    Lida swears quite loudly.
    ‘That is unexpectedly one of the enemy,’ states Dee, as if we can’t see for ourselves thanks to the hideous cross shaved on to his scalp.
    ‘Yash Crux!’ mutters Yeldon. ‘Your soldiers burned my grandpapi’s village on the border. He’s homeless because of you!’
    From the corner of my eye I see Henke grip his sister Rill’s hand so tightly it must hurt.
    ‘Murderer!’ he cries out abruptly. ‘You bombed our home town. Our parents are dead because of you!’
    It’s Steen Verdessica.
    They’ve got him in tight handcuffs, and he’s looking warmer than he did in the forest, but there’s no mistaking that weird Crux style of cropped hair and non-bioweave gear. I suppose some people might say he’s handsome. Attractive even, if he wasn’t so Crux . He manages to saunter across the hangar as if he’s inspecting us, not the other way round. Reef stands guard.
    ‘For the record,’ Steen drawls, ‘I’d like to point out I’m brought to this backwater against my wishes and strictly under duress.’
    ‘Your objections are duly noted,’ says Furey through gritted teeth, ‘and your demands are being fulfilled as far as possible, not least your absurd request that we keep you alive, which very much goes against my wishes.’
    ‘ Duly noted ,’ mimics Steen. ‘Good – you brought the pilot I mentioned. If anyone can fly your version of my Catapult, it’s her.’
    Overhead the corvil fights the roof so hard black feathers fall down. If only the lights here weren’t so bright! I suddenly need a dark, dark corner to hide in because every single person in the hangar is following Steen’s gaze to stare at me .

Q uite a crowd turns out to watch the first actual flight of a Storm. They

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