There sure is a lot to think about these days.
Pilot stands on the shore of the lake, holding his hands against the Kestrel as he turns his head, looking back at the giant world tree standing there, towering above the valley. “Bastard,” mutters the man, perhaps just because he feels like it, before turning back to the Kestrel. Down at his feet is an absolute heap of plundered scrap metal, taken from the bodies of the thousands and thousands of undead, which are stripped of their gear and loot before being tossed into the cauldron on the eastern edge of the valley.
One of the abilities he gained from the last invasion was one that allowed him to modify the Kestrel’s structural frame. He’s not really sure how far he can go with this and how safe the results will be. The plane was a highly experimental prototype that was perfectly engineered to sit within a hair’s distance of ultimate discomfort for its Pilot. The engineers spent months, maybe even years, designing it to be as much of an uncomfortable death trap as is humanly possible. It may even be the pinnacle of anti-human creation itself.
Also, the aerodynamics are fiddly. If he does something radical, it will obviously affect the flight mechanics of the plane. The question remains, then, how far can he go? He’s a pilot, not an engineer.
One way to find out. If he stays small-scale, the risk should be minimal.
The glow leaves his hands and flows into the metal exterior of the Kestrel, the plane and the sand beneath it both crunching as things pop, bend, and break, pulling together again as an unseen force flows through the machine, visible only because of its bright, white light.
As the shine fades and Pilot lets go of the plane, he finds himself standing in front of the same machine as before, except for the fact that it is a good way longer, the fuselage having increased in length by about the span between two arms. The glass canopy has stretched out too, lengthening itself.
Pilot climbs up onto the wing, lifts the canopy, and looks inside the cockpit.
The Kestrel’s interior has lengthened itself to match the exterior. The space behind the pilot’s seat has been hollowed out and fitted with a co-pilot’s seat. All of the internals, such as the ammunition canisters and self-destruction charges, have been rearranged toward the back.
Very, very interesting.
In theory, he can modify the plane to be any size he needs it to be, can’t he?
A two seater, long range bomber. A single man fighter with eight guns. A ten man aerial gunship. Anything is possible, as long as he makes sure the plane can still get up into the air again. Hell, he’s already learned that he can duplicate the machine-guns from the Kestrel; that means he can duplicate the rest of it too, piece by piece. He can manufacture and modify planes.
Of course, teaching people to pilot them is another story entirely. But the schematics of the plan — a long term development, certainly — run through his mind as he continues to make some minor adjustments to the Kestrel.
Pilot nods, content, and looks behind himself.
His young, alchemically talented compatriot came out of the forest a while ago, wearing her usual outfit of an obscuring mask and many hiding layers of fabric. She has been watching him silently ever since, as she often does.
He tilts his head to the side, toward the plane he’s next to. “Want to join?” asks Pilot. She points at herself, staring up at him from down below the wing. Pilot nods, bending down to lend her a hand to help climb up. Warily, the young girl holds her arms out straight at her sides. “Yeah, fly,” confirms Pilot, pointing up at the sky with his free hand.
She looks around the shoreline and the forest, then back at him. “Why?” she asks quietly from beneath her mask, speaking for the first time since the night of the invasion, the single word barely leaving its muffling prison.
Pilot thinks for a moment, trying to find the words for his response. It’s so tricky; the language has a lot of quirks that he doesn’t really understand the nuance of yet. “To kill monsters,” replies the man after a while, looking back at her.
She stands there for a moment with crossed arms.
But then, after a second, she warily lifts her gloved hand a little, but not enough to reach him.
Pilot bends down further, holding onto the edge of the Kestrel with his other hand as he grabs hold of her, hoisting her up onto the wing.
The Kestrel roars above the ashlands, swaying as Pilot pulls on the throttle and turns the plane onto its side.
— He lifts his gaze to the mirror, looking at the back of the plane as he flies.
His co-pilot is just sitting there quietly, not even screaming or terrified like Caretaker was. More, she just sort of… sits there, with her face pressed to either the windows at any angle or the array of mirrors, as she watches the world go by.
Pilot straightens the Kestrel out again, its wings taking a moment to re-balance as he gets used to the new feel of it in the air. Despite the change to the frame being ‘modest’ in some sense, the flight dynamics have certainly been altered. As a whole, it feels somewhat less snappy, but more streamlined in its lateral movements.
Looking down at the ground, he sees some wild Tango traveling the wastes. They look like some kind of goblin, but larger, more lanky, and far more muscular.
“Wanna shoot?” he asks.
In response, he gets no words, but rather only the clicking of metal as something moves and ratchets behind him as the grip of the in-built gun is manned.
The weapon in the back works a little differently than the guns beneath the wings. The lowest gun is mounted on the bottom of the Kestrel’s fuselage in the forward-center on a ball-mount that can be swiveled from the co-pilot's seat. On the back of his own seat is a small set-up with a marked mirror in a sort of pseudo-periscope set-up, attached to a firing handle that strongly resembles the back of a stockless rifle, but there is a grip on each side to allow easier turning of the mount.
The man flicks a switch, unlocking the co-pilot’s weapon as he flies over the wastes, making another pass at the hobgoblins they’ve just flown over. He pulls the air brake, slowing down as much as he can, to allow for easier ground targeting.
In a way, it’s just like their shooting the rifle together in the woods, except it’s very, very different. But similar. As for the girl, Tango consists of monsters, so this is legitimate and not suspicious, and he won’t face a military tribunal.
“Now,” says Pilot as they fly overhead.
— The Kestrel shakes, a deep rattle carrying through the metal of the plane all the way up to him and into his bones, even through his cushioned seat. The new machine gun fires a short burst, and the ground below them responds by sending up a plume of ash as the fine dust that makes up the wastelands is thrown into the air by the impact of some thirty to ninety shots.
He looks in his mirror as they fly past, looking at Tango. A few of them were shredded, but a few others are alive, and they’re scattering in terror, spreading out.
However, unfortunately for them, there’s nowhere to hide here.
Pilot pulls on the stick, making another pass. “Good work,” he commends, looking at his all of a sudden very excited co-pilot in the mirror. She looks up at him, staring at his reflection. “Again,” instructs Pilot.
She focuses back on the mirror, taking off her mask to see better into it as it was obstructing her sight into the viewport, and fires again, this time holding down the trigger long enough to create a serpent across the desert that spans from here to where they fly to the edge of the horizon.
And somewhere along its streaking path lie the pieces of many monsters.