Read an Exerpt of Fortress - Beginnings

Ezra Standish groaned and pulled the thin pillow over his head as the sound of trucks on the move reverberated outside the barracks. It was full dark but the base was coming alive as the ground crews went to work. He brought his wrist close to his face and squinted at the luminous hands of his watch. Jesus! Four o’clock. It was briefing in just half an hour. He tried to muster his sleep-addled thoughts and wondered if he had slept through the wake-up call, deciding it was highly unlikely as that sadistic bastard, Lieutenant Preston, always shone his torch right in his face. He struggled from under the blankets and gasped at the shock of cold air. Goddamn country! At least in North Africa it had been warm.

He grabbed his flying gear trudged to the latrine before braving the shower. He was late, most of the warm water had already been used and he endured a necessarily brief but icy dousing that, if nothing else, woke him up. He dressed quickly, shivering as he pulled on his clothes, hoping Preston would at least have made coffee by the time he got back to the barracks. Shrugging into his leather flying jacket he hastened out of the shower block, his breath misting in the chilly pre-dawn air as he crossed back to the barracks wondering what Bomber Command had planned for the day. He found himself fervently hoping it wasn’t Schweinfurt again.

He had been part of that particular screw up – his first European mission -- and he still came out in a cold sweat thinking about it. A hundred miles in a dead straight line across German territory with the entire goddamn Luftwaffe, or so it seemed at the time, trying to shoot them out of the sky. Sixty bombers lost out of the 346 that had set out, 552 aircrew designated missing in action. He pulled his jacket closer around him but the chill now came from within. Fuck Schweinfurt!

He was the last into the briefing room and was rewarded with an icy stare from Larabee as he took up a position at the side of the room leaning nonchalantly against the wall. Good work, Standish, get the Captain offside before you even start. He had been transferred from the Mediterranean theatre of operations only five weeks ago and had since then been moved between a number of different crews, filling in for wounded flight officers, plugging the gaps; now it looked like he was being assigned to Larabee and the "Ace in the Hole" permanently. He shrugged mentally wondering how long he’d last.