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datatime: 2022-11-29 00:16:48 Author:GWCSTFZu

"As bad as that, sir. We hadn't a chance. Straight up, we really hadn't. First off, the weather was against us- the jokers in the Met. office were about as right as they usually are."

The commodore nodded again, and Jensen touched his sleeve.

"As bad as that, Bill?"

"Yeah. Clear weather. It was ten-tenths over the target," Torrance said bitterly. "We had to go down to fifteen hundred. Not that it made any difference. We would have to have gone down lower than that anyway-about three thousand feet below sea-level, then fly up the way: that cliff overhang shuts the target clean off. Might as well have dropped a shower of leaflets asking them to spike their own bloody guns. Then they've got every second A.A. gun in the south of Europe concentrated along this narrow 50-degree vector-the only way you can approach the target, or anywhere near the target. Russ and Conroy were belted good and proper on the way in. Didn't even get half-way towards the harbour.... They never had a chance."

The commodore nodded again, and Jensen touched his sleeve.

The commodore nodded again, and Jensen touched his sleeve.

"Just one little question, Squadron Leader. You don't fancy going back there again?"

"Because I don't believe in suicide. Because I don't believe in sacrificing good blokes for nothing. Because I'm not God and I can't do the impossible." There was a flat finality in Torrance's voice that carried conviction, that brooked no argument.

"Patience, laddie, patience-as our worthy commodore has just advocated. Time is endless. To wait, and to keep on waiting-that is to be of the East."

"They gave you clear weather?"

"Yeah. Clear weather. It was ten-tenths over the target," Torrance said bitterly. "We had to go down to fifteen hundred. Not that it made any difference. We would have to have gone down lower than that anyway-about three thousand feet below sea-level, then fly up the way: that cliff overhang shuts the target clean off. Might as well have dropped a shower of leaflets asking them to spike their own bloody guns. Then they've got every second A.A. gun in the south of Europe concentrated along this narrow 50-degree vector-the only way you can approach the target, or anywhere near the target. Russ and Conroy were belted good and proper on the way in. Didn't even get half-way towards the harbour.... They never had a chance."

"Thanks." Jensen looked across at the burly Australian and smiled faintly.

"So's my life. So are the lives of all these jokers." Torrance jerked a big thumb over his shoulder. "It's impossible, sir. At least, it's impossible for us." He drew a weary hand down his face. "Maybe a Dornier flyingboat with one of these new-fangled radio-controlled glider-bombs might do it and get off with it. I don't know. But I do know that nothing we've got has a snowball's chance in hell. Not," he added bitterly, "unless you cram a Mosquito full of T.N.T. and order one of us to crash-dive it at four hundred into the mouth of the gun cave. That way there's always a chance."

Both men screwed up their eyes in automatic reflex as the fierce glare of the landing lights struck at them, the flare path arrowing off into the outer darkness. In less than a minute the first bomber was down, heavily, awkwardly, taxi-ing to a standstill just beside them. The grey camouflage paint of the after fuselage and tailplanes was riddled with bullet and cannon shells, an aileron was shredded and the port outer engine out of commission, saturated in oil. The cabin perspex was shattered and starred in a dozen places.

Both men screwed up their eyes in automatic reflex as the fierce glare of the landing lights struck at them, the flare path arrowing off into the outer darkness. In less than a minute the first bomber was down, heavily, awkwardly, taxi-ing to a standstill just beside them. The grey camouflage paint of the after fuselage and tailplanes was riddled with bullet and cannon shells, an aileron was shredded and the port outer engine out of commission, saturated in oil. The cabin perspex was shattered and starred in a dozen places.

"Four hours' sleep, Captain Mallory," he said quietly. "Four hours. I'm beginning to think that you can count yourself damn' lucky to have had even that much."

"May I have a word with the Squadron Leader?"

"It is impossible, you say?" Jensen persisted. "This is terribly important."

"Of course you didn't!" Jensen cut in briskly. "You weren't supposed to. Just wanted to find out if you were the man for the job. I'm sure you are-I was pretty sure you were before I pulled you out of Crete. But where you got the idea about leave I don't know. The sanity of the S.O.E. has often been questioned, but even we aren't given to sending a flying-boat for the sole purpose of enabling junior officers to spend a month wasting their substance among the flesh-pots of Cairo," be finished dryly.

"Too bloody right, I don't!" Torrance growled.

"So's my life. So are the lives of all these jokers." Torrance jerked a big thumb over his shoulder. "It's impossible, sir. At least, it's impossible for us." He drew a weary hand down his face. "Maybe a Dornier flyingboat with one of these new-fangled radio-controlled glider-bombs might do it and get off with it. I don't know. But I do know that nothing we've got has a snowball's chance in hell. Not," he added bitterly, "unless you cram a Mosquito full of T.N.T. and order one of us to crash-dive it at four hundred into the mouth of the gun cave. That way there's always a chance."

"Of course, Captain. You don't have to ask."

"Too bloody right, I don't!" Torrance growled.

"May I have a word with the Squadron Leader?"

For a long time Jensen stared at the holes and scars of the damaged machine, then shook his head and looked away.

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