Panting, you arrive at the airfield where a single plane is parked on the apron and a crowd of recruits is milling about it. A uniformed man strides over to you, dressed in a dark blue suit, tie and matching forage cap sporting a badge with a crown, eagle and the words “Per Ardua ad Astra.”
“Welcome to the Empire Air Training Scheme!” says the blue-suited man with quite a nasal twang. “I’m Flight Lieutenant Wilco.”
“You mean we passed the test? We’re in the 7th Brigade?” you ask.
“Good Heavens no! This is the Air Force. The highest defence job anyone can aspire to. Ho-ho!”
You exchange a glance with your fellow recruits.
“Much higher than those diggers, anyway,” the Flight Lieutenant continues, rocking on his feet and raising his eyebrows.
“Not a very chatty lot, are you?” he continues, noticing his humour has fallen flat. “Nothing wrong with a few nerves on your first mission.”
“Mission? What mission?” you ask.
“Clever. Very clever. Deny all knowledge. You never know where Gerry may be lurking,” says the Flight Lieutenant, tapping his nose and winking conspiratorially. “I say, poor excuse for a uniform you’ve got there, but I can see you have the package in your pocket.” He nods to the pocket where you’ve put your stash of tanbark.
“This fine specimen of a machine is a P-47 Thunderbolt,” he continues, patting the nose of the plane. “It was designed as a single seater aircraft, but we’ve made a few modifications. You should fit comfortably. Take bearing east-southeast between those two copses of trees over there, then land in the clearing. You’ll receive further instructions on touch down. Well, what are you drongos waiting for? There’s a war on, you know.”
He ushers you into the plane. The controls are foreign to you, but you flick a few switches and the propeller starts turning. You find the throttle, the noise of the engine overpowering and the vibration of the aircraft a cause for concern, but you point the nose along the runway, floor it, and take off, flying east between the thickets. Your wings barely clear the treetops as you drop altitude to land in the clearing, managing to stop the aircraft before it plunges into the creek.