Mission 12: Operation Hydra (the second critical mission) is the second outright failure of the campaign. We knew something was up when Biggins walked into the briefing hut with a stern look on his face, even though we hadn’t done anything wrong recently. We figured he might cut us some slack for a little longer since we had, you know, just shot down an ace, but all he said was, “Operation Hydra is a critical mission. We need you to knock out these oil farms deep in enemy territory. The enemy is Germany, in case you were confused by the oblique game references to nationalities. Anything else?” We, of course, had nothing else. Turns out we should have been the ones asking him if he had anything else, because halfway into the mission, he comes on the radio and tells us to intercept a V2 rocket while it is taking off, and shoot it down, before continuing with our mission. Of course, that’s impossible, so we don’t do it, and then we try to get fancy and bomb the oil farms from medium altitude to stay above all the flak, but get confused by the cloud cover and hit one out of three. After confirming on all our fingers that “one” is not the same as “three,” we bolt for high altitude and scoot back over the clouds, with some nice dead reckoning by fishpockets getting us most of the way home. We get no money, but do keep our 4500 XP that we got for shooting down a lot of fighters.
Sadly, we had both “enemy armour down” thanks to the Bruges perk, and “enemy damage down” due to the Todt perk. The Todt perk has now expired, and the Bruges perk has one mission to go. We slink into Biggins’ office and ask sheepishly if we can try Operation Hydra again. This time, I buy all the lads some thermal boots and mittens.
Mission 13: Operation Hydra redux. We all think there is probably something wrong with Wing Commander Biggins. Halfway into this mission, despite the fact that it is called Operation Hydra again and it has the same objectives as last time, he once again breaks radio silence by exclaiming excitedly that a V2 is taking off from Cuxhaven and we have to shoot it down pronto. This is exactly what he said last time, but there was no mention of it in the briefing hut this morning. Fortunately, fishpockets plotted us a path to Cuxhaven because we all, well, we all had a hunch. And sure enough, once we got the call, there was that rocket, taking off from the same launch pad as last time. Maybe we should have just, I dunno, taken off slightly earlier and hit it before it went airborne? Since we seem to have exquisite timing and everything. We were ready this time, and all the gunners concentrated on it and down it went. Then we stayed at low altitude and Left_Empty deftly dropped all three big blockbuster bombs on the three oil farms in rapid succession as I scooted and skidded us from target to target like a whirling dervish. Then I hightailed it for high altitude, we were over the Channel by afternoon, and landed to the tune of 6100 XP and another ₤5300 to buy gear and equipment that the War Ministry should have been buying for us. We must be going to an American system. Oh yes, and we’re on to campaign step 3, and we have two missions in which enemy armour will be down, thanks to the perk from the last mission.
I buy some extra armor for the front of the aircraft because that’s where I sit. I also buy an ammo feed for the tail gun so that the tail gunner doesn’t have to walk back to the middle of the plane to reload. You’re welcome, MrCoffee.
Mission 14: Dusseldorf Flak Shell Factory. I choose a risky mission right off the bat because we have two missions in which enemy armor will be down, thanks to successfully completing Operation Hydra. We could have completed an easy training mission to test out the new “bouncing bomb,” but I felt strongly that we should use the reduced enemy armor to our advantage. It’s a decision I’m going to have to live with.
Our flight out was uneventful, until we got close to the target and started going through the flak. I hadn’t leveled up my pilot skills enough to have the ability “Avoid Flak,” so we just chugged through it on the way to Dusseldorf, despite the exploding bursts all around us. Left_Empty once again (dude!) was slow in opening the bomb bay doors, but he managed to release the bombs in time to not have to swing back around, so I won’t talk to him about it, not that my previous talks have had any effect. The flight back, though, was an agony of fighters. We somehow attracted a lot of twin-engined types, which got under the fuselage and forced Juan_Raigada to ping-pong between the top turret and the ventral turret. MrCoffee was spraying .303 ammo left and right from the tail guns, and destroyed one persistent Me-410 that just wouldn’t quit. Halfway over the Channel, I noticed that both Juan_Raigada and MrCoffee were down. Eric_Majkut raced back and revived both of them, but then an Me-109 hit us and ignited a fire in the aircraft. So Eric_Majkut gave MrCoffee a quick pat on the back – “You’re good to go, bud!” – before racing forward and grabbing a fire extinguisher. Then another fire broke out, and Eric_Majkut went looking for another extinguisher … but we only had one. The plane had three equipment racks, with one slot each. We had two med kits and one fire extinguisher. There was no second extinguisher. Eric_Majkut was overwhelmed by the fire, and McCoffee was critically wounded a second time by fighters while I desperately tried to get us to the airfield so we could get emergency services.
Eric_Majkut, unfortunately, died before we could touch down. MrCoffee was whisked off the plane by an ambulance and taken to the hospital, where he recovered. As he walked out to the jeep, he ran into a new guy looking for a ride to the Flak Magnet. “Hey, I’m Miguk, the new radio operator,” he said as an introduction. MrCoffee just nodded his head, and they rode back to the bomber in silence.
I spend all the money we earned from that mission to upgrade each of the equipment racks to two slots, and outfit each with one med kit and one fire extinguisher.
Mission 15: Mission Waldau Army Airfield Raid: Wing Commander Biggins seems to have found the only airfield in the war not run by the Luftwaffe, and sends us to go bomb it. We have reduced enemy flak thanks to the benefit we gained from the Dusseldorf raid in the last mission, but I take us to medium altitude as soon as we’re across the Channel anyway, just to avoid the low-level flak that seems ubiquitous over France. Another German ace makes an appearance, but lasts less than thirty seconds as Left_Empty, Juan_Raigada, and MrCoffee all use their Focus gunnery abilities to take him down to zero hit points before he can even make two passes. Nice shooting, guys!
For my part, I get us to Waldau Army Air Base without much difficulty, but for once, I have to apologize to Left_Empty for bringing us to the target at medium altitude while it is blanketed in low-level clouds. I fly past it in a dive, swing back over under the cloud cover, and Left_Empty drops three racks of bombs all over the airfield. At that point we get pinpointed by searchlights, and all of a sudden we have three separate flights of enemy fighters bearing down on us. Our gunners throw the Defensive ability into the mix, scattering bullets all over tarnation and back to keep the fighters at a distance while I push us to high altitude. Unfortunately, as the new guy, Miguk doesn’t have such warm clothes, and he passes out from the cold and starts taking damage. RichVR revives him as I dive to low altitude, where fighters again converge and we quickly lose two engines, then a third, to fire. RichVR can’t revive people and work engine extinguishers at the same time, but he can go out on the wing afterward and repair them (shown). We go from barely hanging in the sky on a single engine to being firmly fixed in the heavens on three powerful Merlin XX engines. We escape over the Water Wall to land in merrye olde Englande without further incident.