The Coming Storm: A DARKEST HOUR Short

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August, 1940

Somewhere off the coast of England.

There was a storm staring Briley Bannatyne down and no way around it.

She could tell by the impossibly high gray thunderhead coming right at her. The collision of cold and warm air currents, resembling the shape of a blacksmith's anvil, shot the cloud formation to the pinnacle of the sky, flattening the crown as it reached the thinner layers of upper atmosphere. Leading a section of five British biplanes, Briley knew there was no chance they could fly higher than that shock of turbulent air. The storm bank was a wide as she could see, stretching for miles and dragging along a dreary chain of black clouds.

Working the controls of her Konqueror Kestrel, she checked the compass and altimeter gauges mounted to the cockpit's wooden control panel. The aircraft was reliable, but outdated. Wing Commander Lumis, her superior officer, dictated that Kestrels would fly in sections of six to make up for their lack of speed and firepower. There was safety in numbers. Besides, Briley and the other five were attached to the 377th Observation Squadron. Squadron Leader Tanner had made it quite clear they were to observe, not directly engage, with the enemy.

Not according to Briley. Although she was only seventeen and barely at the cutoff for new pilots, she was an Air Corporal. That made her the lead pilot officer on this mission. Down on the ground, Tanner gave the orders. Up here, she made the decisions. Somewhere inside this briar patch of turbulent air and rain was a flock of deadly enemy bombers belonging to the Black Legion. Briley was determined to stop them before they reached their target.

Despite her fierce announcement to pursue the bombers, there was much less enthusiasm among some of the others flying with her.

"White Rabbit One. You've got to be joking," a familiar voice came over the radio speaker cups of Briley's leather flying cap. "We're not flying into that, are we?"

That was the voice of Helena Duxton calling from her own Kestrel just off to the right of Briley's wing.

Briley could almost imagine the disapproval on Helena's face while she sat in the cockpit, her ebony features forming a distinct frown. Helena was her closest friend in the Air Militia. Briley and her family were machinists by trade. She was raised on a farming village some four hours by railway line south of the airbase that protected the all-important port of Sky City.

The Duxtons, Helena's parents, were successful barristers within the legal profession; both were of the most-serious mind. They believed they had a strong influence on their daughter. At university, Helena planned on following in their footsteps in the law, but she fell in love with flying instead. So it could be suggested the young woman had a rebellious streak inside of her. A very tiny one. She still didn't like taking unnecessary chances.

"White Rabbit Two, this is Rabbit One. I didn't put the storm there," Briley replied using the microphone embedded in her flying cap's chin strap. "We have to go after them."

"White Rabbit One. Squad Leader Tanner's exact words were..."

"I know what he said," Briley shot back before she could finish. "But they have no fighter cover. We can take them."

"But he said..." Helena tried again.

"The longer we argue here, the greater the chance we'll miss them," Briley cut her off. "We're going after those bombers."

"By flying straight into a storm..." the girl's voice pointed out the obvious.

The dark clouds lurching towards them must have been a dead giveaway, Briley reasoned.

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