Chapter 6: Party Up
Rated PG-13 for Violence
At the intersection of two landing strips some little farm pickup came flying up to them as if his bumper was on fire and nearly ran Clarice over.
“Hey, what’s the hurry?” Skipper demanded.
“Fight,” the winded truck managed between pants, “Inside Honkers.”
“A fight? Who?” asked Clarice.
And that was all he said, speeding back around and tearing off the way he came. Clarice and Skipper exchanged looks before she jumped onto his wing and they sped off after him.
There was already quite a crowd in and out of Honkers. Some of the spectators looked as if they wanted to step in and put a stop to it, but were too afraid to get between the two warring planes. Skipper bullied his way to the front of the crowd to see what was happening. Tables were broken and strewn everywhere, and in the midst of it all the two aircraft, Ripslinger and Dusty, were pushing into the crooks of each others wings, biting and snapping at anything they could get a hold of. Fights on the ground between aircraft were messy, clumsy affairs involving a lot of teeth and wing-slapping. Clarice made to jump off of Skipper’s wing even though she hadn’t the foggiest idea of what she was going to do to get them to stop from tearing each other to pieces, but then he stopped her.
“It’s alright, let them go,” said Skipper, never taking his eyes off the fight, “They need this, the both of them. It’s got to happen sooner or later.”
Clarice silently agreed, resting a hand against his fuselage as if to try and borrow some his quiet, trustful patience. Dusty had just recovered from being thrown and was crouched down into his landing gear, several dents already marring his body. That morning Ripslinger had been sleeping peacefully for once when the loud knocking of who could only be Dusty had woken him. The smaller plane then surprised him as he wordlessly unlocked his cell door and opened it. Shocked, the P-51 had remained motionless. Dusty had beckoned him out, saying that they were going on a little outing.
Suspecting some kind of trickery Ripslinger didn't move, but orange and white racer persisted. When the two guards had seen who was exiting the room they had immediately bolted. Nothing was said as they rolled out into the sunshine. Still, Dusty was no fool, and was keyed into his every move should he try to escape despite the fact that it appeared that Ripslinger was unable to fly now. Once they had reached Honkers, Ripslinger had settled down at a table with Dusty calmly enough, but then someone had called out to Dusty, and as he turned to say hi, Ripslinger took advantage of the distraction and struck. The few patrons that were there fled at the terrible noise and spectacle of the two planes tangling with each other. Before long, and despite Dusty’s diligence, Ripslinger had managed to get in behind him and grabbed his tail in his teeth, dragging him around backwards before tossing him away.
Dusty turned to look at him then. His expression was not angry. Not fearful. Just disappointed, and it only infuriated the Mustang all the more, but then the next moment Dusty sprang forward and sank his teeth into Ripslinger's left wing, just where it joined the body. Ripslinger jumped back in pain and surprise, dragging Dusty back with him as he continued to hold on for all he was worth, even shaking from side to side a bit. What, was he trying to rip his wing off or something?! Ripslinger tried to push against him, his propeller spinning so close he could feel it nick into Dusty's side every so often, but his tires couldn't get proper purchase on the smooth floor. He reared up, and as he did so, he finally felt his propeller blades score deeply over Dusty's back and flank. Dusty screamed through his teeth but still managed to keep his grip under the immense pain. He thrust upward, nearly putting Ripslinger over onto his canopy. Ripslinger lashed out again but Dusty had already loosed his hold and had backed out of range.
Ripslinger struggled back up. He could feel the burn of fuel and hydraulic fluid flowing from his wounded wing as it leaked and ran down the inside of his landing gear and started to pool on the floor. He could barely keep his weight on it. The hoses must have been damaged. But his propeller blades, stopped now, were coated in sickly red fluid, too.
Ripslinger knew he couldn't win. Even if he did kill Dusty, he would never survive the pack of other aircraft and vehicles that had them surrounded. He spared a second to look over the crowd now. His focus came to rest on Dusty's closest companions. The Corsair's stony expression gave nothing away, and that green fuel truck and the little blue forklift seemed like they were on the edge of hysterics. But Clarice was just staring back at him with that same disappointed expression that Dusty had worn before they had started beating each other to death. Then Dusty spoke from in front of him.
“Well,” he panted, “here we are again. Doesn't matter if we're in the air or on the ground, you're still getting your aft beat. When are you ever going to learn to know when you're licked?”
“I'm going to kill you this time, Dusty,” Ripslinger replied coldly, “and that damned Corsair won't be able to do one thing about it!”
Dusty's taunt had been deliberate as Ripslinger started to advance once more. He had hoped that he would come flying at him, but as he waited, hunkered down into his landing gear, Dusty realized that the larger plane wasn't going to be drawn again. Always quick to size up any new situation, Ripslinger was coming forward very slowly, keeping close to the ground himself. He meant to use his propellers again. Afraid, paying close attention to Ripslinger's approach, Dusty's eyes were drawn to the uneven movement as he rolled forward. He backed further away, and as he did so a thought came to him: The left landing gear is dragging a bit. Dusty immediately darted forward and down, starting his own engine as he struck out at Ripslinger's right side.
His propeller blades found Ripslinger's landing gear and he ripped sideways, but before he could draw back, Ripslinger's whole weight came down on him and the next moment he felt teeth in his tail again. Dusty screamed in pain, pressed to the floor and thrashing. Already getting a high from Dusty's fear and helplessness, Ripslinger loosed his hold on his tail and turned, rising above him, ready to bring his propeller blades down into Dusty's hood. For an instant, the P-51 stood above the helpless Dusty, crushing him, but then his injured landing gear gave way and he lurched sideways, sliding off from atop the little plane. Dusty scrambled out from under him the rest of the way and turned back, fluid like watered down blood oozing all down his body from his back and tail. He stood his ground and waited.
Dusty watched Ripslinger steadily where he lay on the floor, now slick with both of their fluids, still expecting him to leap forward at any moment. Ripslinger was waiting for his usual goody-goody lecture about how they shouldn't be fighting, but Dusty was silent. He only looked at Ripslinger with that same expression that he had when he'd first attacked him earlier. He was actually starting to get unnerved by it now.
“It's always going to come to this isn't it?” Ripslinger panted, finally, using the pause to try and recover himself as fast as he could, but Dusty didn't reply. “So what now? I'm not going back in that cell, you can count on it.” Nothing. “You'll answer me, damn it!” he snapped, but then, as he was able to get himself upright again, a thought came to him. “No? Are you sure you have nothing to say to me?” Ripslinger said slyly, looking pointedly in the direction of the crowd. He could see Dusty bristle and tense up as his control surfaces rose slightly.
“I'm warning you,” his engine growled through his voice, and Clarice's breath was stolen away. She had never heard their sweet Dusty make such a noise, but Ripslinger scoffed.
“Or what? Or you'll kill me?” Some of the bystanders began retreating away, but a few of them tensed up in preparation. “Let me go now, and no one get's hurt. Now!” he shouted, getting ready to lunge for the nearest victim.
“Don't make me do it, Rip, just drop it!” Dusty shouted back, moving closer.
“Hah! You won't do a damn thing! You come any closer and I'll kill you. And I know you won't kill me. What have I got to be afraid of?”
“Why can't you please just listen to me for once? Why?” Dusty demanded of him, his anger now replaced by rueful pain. Ripslinger was about to mock him when he continued. “Just stop it, now. Or I will make you.” Dusty moved very close then, despite the danger, and somehow Ripslinger did not lash out. “You've put me through a lot of slag; don't you dare think I'm beyond this.”
He's bluffing, Ripslinger thought. Wasn't he?
“But I don't want to hurt you. That's why I'm giving you this choice now. You either roll out of here and back to your hangar under your own power, or end up carted away under mine and Skipper's.”
After a long, tense moment, with everyone holding their breath it seemed, Ripslinger chose. He closed his eyes and sagged into his damaged landing gear. He refused to suffer through the humiliation of being maneuvered like some helpless invalid back to his hangar. Wordlessly he turned and began to limp his way out of Honker's. The spectators scattered in his wake but he knew that Dusty was following close behind.
Once he had been locked in and was alone once more, Ripslinger laughed. He felt a strange combination of hate, disgust, and pride toward his former rival. Well, bravo, Dusty. Bravo...