by Sand Witch
Historical fiction. B-24 on a real WWII mission altered somewhat with a Gremlin in a box.
|Old Scratch was aboard the air ship, the B-24 bomber, hidden away in a tightly sealed wooden crate right next to the bombs meant to be dropped on Ploesti. Airman Roberts was given strict orders to ensure nothing happened to that crate, which was something, considering that the bombs should be the more serious concern. Airman Roberts was dusting off the crate with his hand in an effort to clear off some of the dust from the Libyan dessert, when he tore open his hand from a sliver protruding from the box and dripped blood on the crate which immediately caused something inside to begin laughing hysterically. Roberts gasped and jumped away from the crate. “Holy Crap!” No one seemed to notice; they were too intent on watching the deep blue sea of the Mediterranean. The plane hit another air pocket and dropped a bit before rising back to its original position in the group. The roar of the engines was enough to deaden any other sound until the gum he was chewing cleared his ears once again. The laughing must have been his imagination.
There had been other missions exactly similar to his that had been previously unsuccessful, or at least of limited success. Colonel John Riley Kane, A.K.A. Killer, or JRK as Airman Roberts privately took his initials to mean ‘jerk’, though, not without a certain amount of respect. Apparently, Colonel Jerk found something poetic in the stars before the battle, but that was a bunch of nonsense meant to feed the history books. To succeed, all they had to do was get there and the seed would be planted that would rock the Nazi empire. That, Airman Roberts did believe. Something dark was in that crate. Something EVIL, he could feel it. His wounded hand ached, even throbbed because of a mere sliver from the crate that had embedded itself in his hand. It pulsed with a certain darkness with teeth that had managed to find an open nerve, yet somehow, he found comfort in knowing that this was simply a taste of the pain he was giving to the Nazis. What was in the box was more than pain, it had to be.
Directly below the plane, Greece spread itself open. It looked so calm, so peaceful. Someone made a comment about wanting to drop some bombs just to wake them up. Had Airman Roberts heard the comment, he would have laughed. Another laughed like this was the funniest thing, but Airman Roberts' focus was on the crate with the faded symbols etched into it.
“Radio’s out. I can’t get com’s up! Dammit all! What do we do, Sarge?”
“Pick a plane and follow it.” Sergeant Mead placed his hand firmly on the pilot’s shoulder. “I promised the Colonel we would deliver his package and that's just what we're gonna do. We’ve come this far and I'm not letting him down.”
“So many things have gone wrong, Sarge.”
“I know, son. It will all be over soon.”
It felt like an eternity, but they arrived at Ploesti where they were met with a wall of firepower enough to tell that there was no surprise they were coming. They had flown in under radar, sometimes as low as fifty feet, but death stood waiting for them and of all the planes in the raid, the one carrying Airman Roberts was the one who knew they were the least likely to return from their mission. Other planes were put in position to take the brunt of any fire in order that Airman Robert’s plane could drop its load the target but there was so much damage sent their way that it was nearly impossible for them to complete their mission. By the look in Sergeant Mead’s eyes, this was a one way delivery none of them would return from. They were going to deliver the package as Colonel Jerk ordered. Something the Colonel said to his crew stuck in his head. It was about the chicken and the egg, and what came first. “The beast comes first. It is always the nasty gremlin, Old Scratch, that comes first. But know, even though we may unleash the unholy beast into the world, know that the beast can be caught and tamed. Once we get this gremlin to the Germans, they will have unholy bad luck….” Airman Roberts remembered this conversation with some misgiving. They were carrying a ton of bad luck and menace.
Fear and pride ripped through him as he realized their time was finally up, but they would successfully deliver the package as was demanded of them. The whole crew wore a grin which could only be wiped clean by their expected landing within the Ploesti confines. No one would survive their landing. No one but the beast, that is.
The last words shouted on the plane came from Sergeant Mead. “We were told to deliver Old Scratch and all the holy hell we could bring with us, but it’s not for us to defeat this enemy today. We’re just delivering the package. The Russians will be by to pick it up cause we told them where to get it.”
Damaged laughter broke with the plane and once the skies were cleared and the firing had stopped, Old Scratch let loose a maniacal laugh that would have chilled the bones of any sane person. Old Scratch knew what to do.