Beth didn’t bother keeping her plane in the clouds. Her plane was already painted up in Italian colors, and these were Italian skies. She wouldn’t run across any other planes all the way out here (not likely anyway), but anyone on the ground would see a plane exactly where it belonged. Nothing suspicious to see at all.
She heard the Australian shout something over the roar of the wind, then felt a shifting in the plane’s balance as he detached himself from the wing. His jetpack made its own roar as he zipped away to his position, a trail of quickly vanishing steam tracing his path. Beth turned her plane to make a wide perimeter sweep before dropping her payload. Alchemical charges, brewed up by Garrett himself, which would punch a terrible hole in the side of a mountain, and send half of it careening down over the pass. The Italians would have to spend the better part of a year making the road traversable again. Less if the Germans pitched in, but if things went as planned relations there would be somewhat strained.
“If things went as planned.”
Beth found herself once again thinking on the message from her ‘patron’, as they had once identified themselves. She tried to push the thought away, but it had wriggled its way to the front of her mind and latched on quite firmly. Something was going to go wrong.
Garrett landed on the mountain side a bit harsher than he intended. He stumbled and fell, rolled a bit of a ways, then stopped. He remained stopped for a moment while he waited for something to explode, but after half a minute he decided that anything jostled by the fall that was going to explode would have done so by now, and he picked himself up. Not all the way up of course, as stealth was still nominally his mission.
He made his way to a ledge, flattened himself out on the ground, and pulled up a pair of binoculars. His eyes traced the road through the rocky valley below until he came to the point where it disappeared behind a cliff. Keeping his eyes on the corner, he hummed a cheery tune to himself, listening for the sweet sound of an explosion.
There are many experts on explosions. Alchemists, physicists, engineers, and some soldiers who could all be relied on to destroy something. If you need a building demolished, a canal dug more quickly, or an enemy position obliterated, these experts will no doubt get the job done.
There are fewer artists, who work exclusively in the medium of explosions. An artist is, after all, someone for whom the work is not a means to an end, but an end in itself. No engineer thinks the canal is less important than the application of dynamite through which it is made. An artist though, may not even consider the canal as he selects not the right dynamite but the right dynamite. Not the proper fuses but the proper fuses. The explosion is a work of art that lasts but for an instant. Momentary, ephemeral, and magnificent.
Any expert could cause a landslide, an artist could make it look nearly natural.
Bombardier Garrett Frances O’Reilly was such an artist.
Suddenly, there was a crashing boom like the sound of thunder in the far distance, followed in quick succession by a series of smaller crashes and O’Reilly cracked a smile from ear to ear.
Jackson had dropped the payload.
One of his own creations. Designed to cause the desired landslide, without leaving the mountain looking like it had clearly just had the absolute hell blown out of it. It most certainly had, but now it wouldn’t necessarily be obvious that it had.
Garrett kept his eyes on the road, and he waited. It was more than an hour before the Germans came around the bend. A few miles ahead they would run into the landslide and be forced to take the detour. He watched their convoy reveal itself, occasionally taking a note on the size and armament.
He counted twenty weaponized automata at the head of the train. About fifty men and women in the motorcade that he could make out from here. About half of them were diplomats and civilian personnel. The vehicles were mostly unarmed, but there was an anti-airship gun, and few machine guns. The rear guard was, again, twenty weaponized automata and a car pulling a-
Garrett paused. He set down the pen and adjusted the focus of his binoculars. He set them down, rub his eyes a bit and looked once more.
“Bugga ol,” he muttered.
“O’Reilly ta Skymarshal,” a voice whispered over the radio. Victoria turned to her radio quickly. Her orders at this stage were for radio silence except in an emergency. This did not bode well.
“Da got a fliga,” O’Reilly whispered back.
“A what?” Victoria turned to Ms. Burrows at comms.
“I think he meant Fliege, Ma’am,” she said, “A German manufactured small flying automaton.”
“What in hell are they doing with that!?” Victoria spat. If that flyer got out over the mountains it could easily inform the Germans, the Italians, or both that the diplomatic envoy was stuck. That wouldn’t do.
“All craft on perimeter,” Vic said into the receiver slowly, “Prepare to move in. That flyer does not leave the canyon.”
“Jackson here: I’m still en route to drop the second payload.”
“Oi can git ‘im, Marshal,” O’Reilly whispered back, “Da krouts see a plane an’ et’s dun. Oi can git ‘im no fuss.”
Victoria considered this for a moment. Then issued new orders.
“Perimeter detail: keep your distance. Jackson: drop your payload and circle back double time in case the flyer gets past O’Reilly. Mr. O’Reilly: I want that thing scrapped.”