A breezy field of clouds, stained in gray and gold by the layers of shadow and sunlight, churns below the airplane. The small craft tentatively dips in and out of the swirling masses. Painted a pale Camoutint pink, it is practically invisible from below, seamlessly blending with the thick stratus formations. This miniscule plane, a battered Spitfire, is on a reconnaissance assignment. It has been designated the clandestine task of photographing enemy terrain. The solo, ten-hour mission is simple: fly low, photograph the targets, keep radio silence, and attempt to remain unseen.
The diligent teenager at the controls intently gazes at the rearview mirror. The pilot is checking that no contrail is visible; such vapor would immediately betray him to the Germans. The pilot sighs. Lacking a navigator, he is relying solely on dead reckoning and estimation to get him through this flight. This is not his first reconnaissance mission, and if all continues to go well, it will not be his last. He is only seventeen, eighteen according to his military application, but he naturally looks and deliberately acts beyond his years. Lacking the clumsiness that characterizes most of his peers, this pilot has displayed an unprecedented aptitude for sensitive military operations. The photos and data he has collected for the British military have provided vital information for the Allies. Most airmen are shipped off to combat, this one has been trusted with the essential duty of spying, a responsibility that this young man has taken on with quiet enthusiasm.
But he is naïve. Bored and arrogant, he allows his eyes to glaze over. His hands are still at the controls, but he is flying on an autopilot of sorts.
Flying into a trap of sorts.
Continuing to weave, the pilot carelessly loops above the cloud cover. There they are. The Germans. Buzzing and gleaming like a swarm of sunray-striped locusts.
The pilot blinks.
Wrenching the controls, he flips into a wild half roll. His plane is unarmed, helpless against the menacing German machines. All he can do is mutter some prayers and curses and attempt to gain altitude. Clawing above the fleet of Nazi planes, the Spitefire zooms away, darting in and out of the clouds. The German planes give chase. A mob of buzzing, iron hounds pursuing a startled fawn.
Twirling and swooping recklessly, for a moment the young man appears to have lost the pack of Germans. Then, bursting heat everywhere.
The young pilot's world quakes for a second. He feels the controls jerked away as the Spitefire begins to tremble, a bird with a rickety, broken wing. He braces himself, all alone in the cramped cockpit, as the wind whistles past his plummeting plane. Somehow, he manages to snatch back the controls. But it's too late. He's going down, fast. The ground rushes forward, leaping up to swallow him. The cramped cockpit erupts in roaring flames.
Fumbling with a parachute, he pushes at the hood of the plane. It does not release. The fire wafts about him, numbing him with its intensity. The pilot pounds at the unmoving roof of the plane; he gasps, struggling to breathe. The Spitfire becomes just that, a flaming, smoking column of fury; a fallen angel slipping towards earth. Ripping at the controls, the pilot manages to regain some aerial composure before he crashes down into a field. The plane slides and bounces, tumbling to a stop eventually. Nearly consumed by the ravenous flames, the pilot kicks off the roof, leaping to safety before he is incinerated.
Wheezing and shaking, he collapses onto the grass, crawling away from the wreck. Weak, he lies down for a few moments, staring at the burning flames. They envelop and blacken the cameras that are fastened to the craft. The lenses stare at him disapprovingly. Fair hair singed, blue eyes clouded by soot and involuntary tears, he lies, crumpled in a faint, on the scratchy grass. Years, months, seconds limp by: time and vision become too wobbly to account for. When he hears voices, he stirs. A pair of shiny black boots stomp into view. The pilot looks up at the Nazi standing in front of him. There are several encircling him, their guns drawn.
"Hello there," he coughs, cheerfully. The scowling expressions are reply enough.
"Cameras," one of the soldiers grunts, gesturing at the flaming skeleton of the Spitfire.
"A spy," the commander hisses, staring down at the fallen pilot.
"Just out taking some pictures." The young man shrugs, brightly. "A bit of a hobby of mine…"