As ever, Ah don't own them, somebody else does:):) Enemy Ace, Hans Von Hammer, and all associated characters belong to DC comics. The other pilot in this little Elseworlds Tale belongs to himself. He is the stuff of legend:):)
Rated NC-17 for some really, really naughty words and some violence. If'n that sort of thing bothers ya'll skedaddle:):) Otherwise enjoy!
The Hammer Of Hell
By Dannell Lites
Ich bin Hans Von Hammer ...
Meine feinde rufen der Hammer der Holle.
My name is Hans Von Hammer.
My enemies call me The Hammer of Hell.
More than seventy men have died at my hands.
No, that is not so. *I* did not kill them. In truth, it was the skies that slew them ... the killer skies. They are the death of us all.
From the moment I glimpsed my first aeroplane, I knew that I was destined to fly. Eyes wide at the sight, I brought my father's new Duesenberg automobile to a lurching halt with the heavy hand brake.
"Hans!" my sister Ingrid exclaimed, clutching at her hat. "Leiber Gott! You'll kill us all if you're not careful!" I ignored her, foolish girl.
Transfixed, I watched the fragile thing of wood and cloth wheel and soar among the high clouds, chasing the shouting wind along, topping the windswept heights with such easy grace. My gloved hands gripped the steering bar so tightly the blood could not reach my fingers, leaving them cold and numb even in the warmth of our gentle German summer.
"To fly like that!" I cried aloud in wonder, "Ach, to fly like that!"
The freedom! Dear God to be so free ... My spirit longed for it, craved it, as the body craves food or the mind craves knowledge; with a hunger that would never leave me.
"Herr Baron ... " prompted Ingrid's friend Greta with a smile, " ... the party ... we shall be late ... "
Releasing the brake, I eased the vehicle forward, onward to Munich, the Albennstrasse and the Count Von Troepitz celebration of his daughter's eighteenth birthday.
But I did not forget the sight of so much freedom.
I never forgot that.
Since before there was a Germany, there have been Von Hammers, the 'sons of the hammer', to serve and protect the Fatherland. The Romans knew the fury of my family as did the Magyars in their Carpathian retreats; even the soldiers of Saladin, those chivalrous Saracens, knew the Von Hammers amongst the Frankish Knights of the Order of St. Tueton. So, it was no great surprise that I came, in my turn, to serve the Fatherland in time of war. It was expected. But the nature of that service ...
"Hans!" my father bellowed, "you are to give up this foolish notion of aeroplanes! Toys! They will never make an effective instrument of war." His back stiffened and he waved his hand in dismissal. "We are Junkers! Our place is in the Army. I forbid it!"
I walked in the Black Forest for hours, heart sore and defiant. My father meant what he said. As far as he was concerned there was an end to the matter. I would obey or ... I was not his son. From the corner of my eyes, I caught sight of the great black wolf following me like a dark shadow and smiled. Since I was a child he has been there, in the forest, waiting and watching me whenever I journey there. It is the same wolf. Don't ask me how, but somehow ... I *know*. As he knows me. Slowly, I crouched and regarded him. His predatory yellow eyes studied me evenly. Giving him his proper respect, I made no sudden moves, intruded no further upon his domain.
"Well, my only friend," I greeted him, "have you come to advise me? What, then, shall, I do?"
We have spoken many times before, we two, and never has he failed me. My father is a difficult man, you see. He is sometimes hard to talk to, especially for a growing boy. My lupine friend, on the other hand, has never once failed to understand me. His tongue lolled and I swear that he smiled back at me in brotherhood. We are kindred spirits he and I.
With pride, he threw back his midnight black head and howled. Then, like a passing breeze he was gone, running through the forest, wild and free. Watching him disappear into the dark green foliage, I nodded my thanks. To be free is his nature. His nature ....
"No, father," I explained in patient sadness, "I cannot obey you in this. I will fly free."
His words were terrible, but the look of pain and disappointment in his eye was more terrible still. I have never forgotten that, either. It was a heavy price to pay, but pay it I did.
And so, I learned to fly. Now I am Rittmeister of my own Jagdstaffel, Hunting Squadron #17 of the German Flying Corps. My father never forgave me for disobeying him. Neither did my mother. The War was not the sole thing that kept me from his side when my father died. He did not ask for me.
From the air, this war is tolerable. The few times, I have seen it, walking reluctantly upon the ground, I have disliked it very much. There is no honor in this so called 'trench warfare' that I can see. Here there is only creeping death that crawls from one hole in the ground to another, like the gasses that blind soldiers and steals the breath from their lungs. There is no skill need to aim an exploding artillery shell and slaughter dozens of men with one blow. No skill ... and no honor. But, from the air ... Ach ... from the air ...
Even destruction has an eerie beauty all its own. Fire dances and sparks. Gotterdamnerang becomes a lovely thing of flashing light and piercing darkness, seen from a distance.
Seen from the air.
No, I prefer to fight my battles in the cleanness of the skies where there yet remains some small vestige of beauty and honor. But even here, in the freedom of the skies .... death always awaits, lurking just out of sight; just over the next rise. The skies are the killer of us all ... And for many, many, *I* have been the instrument of those killer skies, passing judgment on the skills of lesser flyers. But not always. Even I have lost my share of aerial duels.
One of them I shall never forget ...
************************************************************************************** The whole consarned idea was turnin' into a big ol' mess to tell ya'll the Gospel on *that* subject.
For one thing, there was only enough high octane gas in the whole of wartime France to fuel the goddamned plane for *one* mission.
"Don't study on it, Gen'rl," I assured the anxious Frenchman regarding me nervous like and dancing from one foot to the other. And then I smiled.
"One's all Ah'll need."
"Generale!" he insisted loudly, his pencil thin mustache quivering like a cows hide under a fly bite. "M'nom est Generale Henri Petain! Petain!" I nodded. Sounded to me an awful lot he was calling hisslef Ornry or some such. Now if'n *that* wasn't the God's truth, I'll speak true and shame the devil!
"If'n you say so," I drawled, not a hellova lot impressed. Wouldn't be the first brass hat with a poker up the backside I ever met. "Ah don't rightly parlee-voo much French-talk." No need to tell him I spoke three other languages. I like being underestimated just fine, most of the time. Wasn't a lie, after all. I don't speak a word of French. 'Less you count cussin'. Since I used to spent a good spell of time off Edwards Air Force Base at Pancho's Happy Bottom Riding Club, I learned Spanish from Pancho Barnes herself. That lady could cuss up a storm in *six* languages. It was a pure pleasure just to listen to her sometimes. Indolently, I kicked back, gesturing with my head at the 'Glamorous Glennis' looming in the shadows.
"Tell ya'll what Ah *can* do though ... " I said, lazy confidence masking my irritation. I was a mite riled, see? Back in Hamlin, West Virginia there in Lincoln County, my Mama always told me, "Chuck, don't ya'll be cussin' now, heah me? Tain't right!" And she tanned my hide with my Daddy's belt when I did. The way I see it, some things just call for profanity, I figure. Staring at the French General, I curled my lip.
"Ah may not speak proper French -- hell, some folks say Ah can't even speak *English*! ... but Ah *can* fly that plane straight up the Kaiser's ass and back out his nose; see if'n Ah don't. And all Ah need from *you*, Mon-sewer Pee-tain is some goddamn gas to do the job." He got real red in the face, then, and his mouth popped open but he couldn't seem to get anything past his teeth. Only made me madder. I never could abide a fool. But, history was gonna pass a hasher judgment on this idiot than I ever could, anyways. Along about 1945 cooperating with Nazi's was gonna get down right bad for his health. They take treason real serious like in France. Hell, if the old turkey hadn't been near ninety at the time, they'd a lined him up and shot him sure as hell. Right now I couldn't feel a bit sorry for him. I was about ready to grease him myself.
"Listen up, ya'll want to win this war or *not*? It's up to you. Personally, Ah think it's a no-brainer, mahself." The little fella sputtered at me and commenced to harumphing something fierce.
Seemed like folks been jawing and yakking at me since first I got here, asking all manner of tom-fool questions. How in tarnation should *I* know how I got here? I'm a pilot and a mechanic not some think tank college boy egg head. Ask me anything about aerodynamics or aircraft maintenance and I can palaver with the best of them but this kind a stuff? How a man and his plane could wind up sixty some odd years in the past in one piece? Couldn't tell ya'll the first thing about it.
All I know is that I painted the name 'Glamorous Glennis' on that new Mirage jet prototype from France, the one with the big engines, whilst she was sitting on the runway at Edwards of a morning and by twilight I had her up, wringing her out a bit. Set me a new altitude record, too. 107,000 feet .... about half a mile into outer space. I was a by God astronaut and piss on those brass knockers at the Cape and their 'college graduates only' noise. Didn't matter a damn to me, anyhow. Never had. The only thing that mattered was flying the plane; pushing the outside of the envelope.
THAT I did.
But on the way back down, though ...
Look here, I don't study on it. I know what I saw, nary a doubt in my mind about that. But are ya'll gonna believe some fly boy that says he saw a big ol' round, transparent UFO with four, youngish looking kids in it ... one with green skin and blond hair? Didn't think so.
"Oh, grife, Brainy!" I heard a high pitched female voice bitch, "now look what you've done! We've sprocking well *hit* something with the time bubble!"
"I *hate* it when that happens," complained the green skinned kid.
Then, there come a hellacious WHUMP and every blamed instrument I had went slap dab crazy, spinning all whoperjee whilst the 'Glennis' started to pitch and yaw like a giggling girl at a Sunday afternoon Church Social.
"Christ almighty!" I swore, not wanting to risk taking The Good Lord's Name in vain right then. I figure one of these days, I'm gonna buy the farm in an airplane. Odds have got to figure, you know?
But not today. Not if I had anything to say about it, and I figure I did.
I set my teeth and fought the controls. I managed to pull the 'Glamorous Glennis' from outta that nose dive by a hair, right smart, but when I landed, I wasn't in Kansas anymore, Toto. Nor even California. Before I could say 'didley squat', I was hip deep in jabbering French fools trying to tell me I was crazy. That this was 1917 and I was a prisoner of war. My interrogator wanted to know all about the 'Glennis', though.
"This ... this ... " he sniffed, haughty like, appearing lost for words until he stumbled on them " ... this *monstrosity* ... this is a *aeroplane* ...?"
Now that made me mad. Nobody slams the 'Glamorous Glennis'. Nobody. Every plane I ever flew, I named after my wife and every one them was a lady just like she is, sleek and maybe hard to handle sometimes, but pretty as a picture.
When he picked himself up off'n the floor, he threatened to have me shot. My translator soothed his ruffled feathers and smiled.
"C'est moi, de Gualle," he introduced himself, "Charles de Gualle. And I wouldn't worry about his threat, mon ami. By the time the good Colonel has filled out all the paperwork, in triplicate, to have you shot and submitted it to the proper authorities, you will have expired from old age. Ah beaucracy! Amazing isn't it? Soemtimes I despair. How can one govern a nation with 350 different varities of cheese in it's diet? But I think I know someone who can help you ... "
And that's how I come to be smoozing some French fried big brass named Petain, standing my ground and waiting for him to get it through his thick head that the Lord God had dropped a powerful opportunity straight from Heaven into his overflowing lap. So far it didn't seem to be working real well. His face was growing redder'n any tomato I ever did see and he looked like he'd swallowed something downright *vile*.
"Non, non!" he shouted.
Well, now, *that* was plain as day, sure as I'm living. In a few he looked to be a tad more calm. He was almost making good sense when he finally spoke up.
"You must understand, Monsieur ... Monsieur ... " he began in heavy accented English and then wriggled like a landed catfish trying to recollect my name.
"Yeager," I stuck out my hand, grabbed his and pumped it vigorously. "Colonel Chuck Yeager, United States Air Force. Pleased to met you, Ornry."
************************************************************************************** I left my Jagdstaffel in the early morning hours and, as is my custom, flew alone to challenge my enemies. I am a hunter by nature. And I prefer to do it alone without the safety of companions. I am a solitary man in all my pleasures and vices. This has caused some concern among those of my Jagdstaffel who do not understand me.
"Herr Rittmeister," they ask in their ignorance, "why do you not fly with us? Are we so far beneath you?" How shall I explain it to them when I scarcely understand it myself? The words do not come. And so I am thought an aristocratic snob. Little matter, after all. Wilhelm, my mechanic, though, *he* understands.
"You are a selfish man, Herr Baron," he tells me, his smile wide and open, then points to the sky. "Not even for the sake of your duty will you spoil your perfect freedom of the skies by sharing it with others." Wilhelm is a very wise man. He has seen through all my pretenses with clear eyes and cut deep into my heart. I do not fly with others because, then, I am not as unfettered as I wish to be. Loneliness is liberating. There is great freedom there. My Black Forest wolf-friend taught me that.
The lovely young nurse Lili *wishes* to know me and she struggles to fathom my depths. But her bright, young eyes do not see as well as Wilhelm's tired old ones.
"You must not be so sad, Hans," she murmurs. "This war will end soon. It must." I nod in agreement, but I do not smile. Yes, soon this war will be over, grinding to a halt as all such man-made things must. But ...
Where, then, shall I fly?
But for now, there is the cold crispness of the early morning and the vastness of the sky. I hunt. But I am soon disappointed. No one rises to challenge me. Frowning, I keep sharp eyed watch but still I find no opponent for my skills. Today is perfect flying weather and the early hours of the day are best for hunting so why ...? Ach! Of course. There is a battle in progress at Ypres. Thinking that I may find an opponent there or at least some use for my birds eye view of the battle for the Gruppenfuerher there to exploit, I fly in that direction. There I am not long in finding satisfaction in my restlessness.
Such speed! Never have I seen the like. The aeroplane was a blur, almost too fast for the eye to follow. Zum teufel! The beauty of it stole my breath. But ... how ... how could one fly such a craft? But my enemy in the great silver and red blur was managing very well. "To business, Hans," I chided myself, "else you are undone." Grimly, I pulled back on my stick, climbing for altitude. Think Von Hammer, think! How best to fight this thing and the skillful man who flies it? It was certain that I was no match for him with speed. Again, I watched as the craft sped past. It was moving so fast that I must fight to control my Fokker as the wash of air it left in it's wake threatened to tumble me about. So fast ... And then my lips pulled back in triumph.
Perhaps too fast.
Lili's white silk scarf fluttered at my throat and I smiled, pleased. He can't fly slowly enough to engage me, I realized with a rush of viscous joy. Even as I watched, the aeroplane disappeared over the horizon. Lazily I circled, watching him. And why not? My speed was quite useless so I did not concern myself with it. At the moment I had no idea of how he might be armed, he and his fantastic machine. After a few moments I caught the rhythm of his flight and decided to test *my* weapons against him. As he sped past me, I fired my Spandau chain guns at what looked to me to be the most vulnerable part of his aeroplane - it's enclosed cockpit. Was that glass I saw glinting in the morning light?
I flew at him out of the sun, blinding him, taking no chance that he might see me and so use his own weapons. Whatever they might be. If they were as remarkable a his craft, then I was, perhaps, not wise to tilt at him like Quixote with his windmill giants. It crossed my mind that a discreet retreat might be in order. That way I might at least report the existence of his incredible machine and thus do some good.
And then I thought of the men struggling below us in the mud and the bitter cold and I could not. Without me, they are at his mercy. And if he has none? In the end, I could not abandon them. I must try to defeat him. I was honor bound.
So be it.
************************************************************************************** I mean to tell ya'll I argued myself plumb blue in the face for that damned gas and I was losing sure as shooting. I was about ready to serve up skewered Ornry en brochette when it come to me in a flash of brilliance how I could get what I wanted. Ornry was stomping off in a huff, but I smiled and leaned possessively against the 'Glennis'.
"She's French ..." I said. "The plane, Ah mean."
That did it. He spun a right smart on his heel and glared at me.
"Francais?" he breathed reverently.
"As a Can-Can gal in the Folies Bergere," I assured him. "Take a gander." With my sleeve I polished the small golden plague welded onto the 'Glennis' sleek hull.
His eyes widened at the sight of the "Faite en Francais"* label there and his mustache began to twitch and vibrate like a scratching dog's hind leg.
"Vive le France!" he cried and I relaxed.
I had my gas afore nightfall.
So there I was, come morning, flying low over Ypres, looking to see what sorta trouble I could get myself into when I spotted this ... well, Ah guess ya'll would have to call it a plane ... maybe. It was sure a pretty sight, I'll admit it, all red like that. Whoever was flying that thing wasn't shy that much was certain. One thing I *was* pretty damn sure about, though, were those iron crosses on his tail flaps. He sure wasn't one of ours. Truthfully, I didn't pay much attention to him, really. Trouble was the last thing I expected from anybody flying what looked to be a genuine triplane and ya'll can quote me on that. So I more or less ignored him. At first.
Not the smartest thing I ever did, I can see that now. Hindsight's always 20/20.
"Chuck," my Daddy once told me, "don't ever take machinery for granted, son. 'Tis only as good as the man what uses it." My Daddy was a gas well driller so he knew what he was talking about. He might not have been to home a lot for us kids, but he *did* know machinery. I should have listened to him. But I was always a stubborn cuss. So, I didn't.
My first clue I'd had my tail waxed came upon me when my canopy blossomed sudden like with little star shaped reminders of ricocheting bullets. There wasn't room in there to dive under anything, but I damn sure tried. Holy Christ! That toadsuck was *shooting* at me! Now, I've been shot at before, it's true. Lots of times, Even been hit once or twice, but not by the likes of this joker. Whilst my dander was rising I heard the unmistakable sound of bullets bouncing off the fuselage under me. My jaw dropped.
I watched that red Fokker triplane sail majestically away at about the speed this hot rocket plane I was riding herd on trundles down the runway and gritted my teeth in frustration until they hurt. Arrogant sucker waggled his wings at me on the way, too. Fly with me if you can, he seemed to say. Hey! I may be out of my rightful time way back here in 1917, but some things don't change much, partner. I know when I been insulted.
"Okay, you bastard," I thought, mad as hell, "fly *this*!" And I reached to activate the first of my four heat seeking AIM-9P Sidewinder air to air missiles.
And just as quick found myself pounding on the console. What the - ? Why wouldn't the damn thing lock on? But it just sat there, blinking at me, waiting to find a nearby heat source. Not for love nor money would it target. It didn't make a bit of sense. And then it hit me. The damned triplane's engine wasn't putting out enough heat to register. I didn't even bother looking at the metal detector. The raggedy dinosaur of a plane that German was flying was made almost entirely of wood and cloth. Not enough metal there to attract rust, never you mind finicky electronics. And, of course, none of the damned geniuses who designed this multi-million dollar piece of hardware thought to install something as simple as a manual override. Not on the weapons systems, anyway.
"People make mistakes," I heard them tell me again in their oh-so-patient-I'm-talking-to-an-idiot manner when I pointed that out to them. "Computer's don't."
"Merde!" I cussed feverently, expending almost my entire French vocabulary right there in front of God and everybody.
"Well," I thought to that pilot, keeping my distance for the nonce, "this is one rocket jock who's not falling for any more of your stupid tricks!"
And then I watched him do a perfect, slow corksrew Immelman turn in that ancient crate of his and come out in back of me just over my left wing. I couldn't believe it. Snookered. Again. Jesus H. Christ on a Cruise missile (which I practically *had* on the 'Glennis' ... for all the good they were doing me ...)!
Cussing to beat the band (which is just what my Mama would have done if she'd of heard me) I put the spurs to her with the afterburners and high tailed it out of there. No way I was ready to screw the pooch again that bad. No way Susie Yeager's little boy Chuck was going to be outflown by some pudknocker in a souped up box kite! Be damned if I would. No sir!
But, by Christ that was a brave man. And a smart one, too. It didn' take him long to figure out that, well, if'n he couldn't catch me, then I sure couldn't slow up this pocket rocket, I was corralling enough to do a proper job of blasting him outta the sky, either. He had no way to know it, but most of my weapons were useless. Wily bastard was using the landscape to stay out of range and to keep me from eyeballing him long enough to target manually. I watched him disappear behind a low hill and swore.
When he did that flying outta the sun trick again and left a couple holes in the 'Glennis' polished sides, I had enough of *that*. All my fancy high falutin' tech weapons might be so much dead weight, but there's *one* sure way to bring *any* plane down, if'n a pilot has the belly for it.
He figured it out almost right away and started zigging and zagging like the dickens to avoid me. I overshot him might near half a dozen times it seemed like. I must have chased that son of a gun half way to Germany and back. I caught him at least three times in my jet wash and watched him fight to stay airborne. Damn, he was good. By the time I finally caught him flatfooted and sheared off his right wing neat as a scalpel, I was feeling right bad about it.
************************************************************************************** It was a grand, wonderful duel! It made my blood sing. The flyer in that remarkable aeroplane was a marvel. And deadly persistent. He came at me again and again, never losing heart. When I first realized that he meant to ram me in midair, I could scarce countenance it. What of his own aeroplane? Was he not worried what such a collision would do to it? Then I realized how foolish such thoughts were. My eyes brought me the glint of metal in the sun surrounding his craft. How such a thing was possible, I do not know, but his aeroplane was constructed of metal. The failure of my Spandau's to penetrate it was but further proof of this strange fact.
I managed to stave off the inevitable for as long as possible, leading him away from the battlefield and the vulnerable men below. But, eventually, he caught me, dispite my best efforts to the contrary. A determined man and a most skilled foe. On my sad journey down to the earth, I brought my hand to my forehead and saluted him as he deserved.
Stepping away from my burning Fokker, I drew my pistol and began to think how I would make my way back to my Jagdstaffel and safety. I was rather daunted at the thought. Nein, this would not be the first time I have lost an aeroplane. But never before had I returned to my Jadgstaffel like a crippled eagle; walking upon the ground as any other man. Humility is a sobering experience, is it not? But I would survive the smiles and the jests. And learn from them.
The dueling scar on my left cheek ached in sympathy and my flying leathers were somewhat singed and the worse for wear, but otherwise I was unharmed. Overhead, I watched my jubilant enemy wheel and soar, exulting in his victory and the freedom of the skies. In spite of my loss and sadness, I smiled. His dipped his sleek silver wings at me in a grand salute to an honorable enemy and I would have thanked if I could. In his wake he left a vapor trail that curled and flew merrily behind him like a saucy banner, spiraling his joy for all the world to see.
And then he began to climb ...
Up and up and up into the burning blue he rose, until I lost sight of him in the clouds. I shielded my eyes with my hand, staring into the sun and waited. Somehow I did not think I had seen the last of my foe. What an extraordinary pilot; as extraordinary as his machine, that one.
"I'm sorry I won't know you," I thought. "I should have liked that very much ... " With regret, I was turning to leave when an amazing thing happened.
He came shooting straight out of the sun, diving lower and lower until for one wild moment I thought he might crash.. But he did not. He buzzed the ground, then with awesome skill fought his way back up into the wide skies and freedom.
And then ... and then ... He saluted me again, in his fashion.
There was a great crashing, booming noise, unlike anything anyone had ever heard before, that made the earth tremble and sent me sprawling backwards, my eyes wide with wonder; I covered my ringing ears to shut it out but still it shook my bones.
Joyous, my heart leapt within my breast and I shot to my feet, thrusting my eager hands into the air, as if I could capture such an ephemeral, astounding thing as that marvelous aeroplane and hold it in the palm of my hand. My heart broke, shattering like Dresden china into too many small, broken pieces to ever be mended.
"To fly like that!" I cried. "Leiber Gott, to fly like that!"
End, Part One
Rip Snortin' Conclusion!