Struggling to find a way out of what looks like a no-win situation where staying out of a fight is concerned is a tricky thing to pull. Maybe feels like I'm cheating my audience out of showing off all the blinky gewgaws on ship, but have patience. All things in their time and place. I have a general concept of what I"m doing.

    "Sir." Julian approached Deets with a stack of handwritten pages. "I think you should see this."
    Deets, standing by rather than sitting in the captain's chair, took the papers wit ha brief nod and skimmed them over. "you're sure?" When Julian nodded he reached for the phone. "Get everyone to ready stations." Pause. "No questions man. Just get moving." Slightly longer pause before Deets practically growled, "Because I said so. Now do it!"
    Julian eyed Yost's 'escort' ship warily. "Think they'll be any help?"
    "Hard to say." Deets voice was grim. "It'd be their own people and I just can't see them taking that last step." Almost as if his words were a signal the massive ship started moving between the Lady Hawk and the now threatening looking vessels ahead. While the gesture was a sign of solidarity that was greatly appreciated most on both ships knew they were outnumbered and outgunned.

    Edward watched the maneuver from his seat on the observation deck. A youngish genome woman tilted her way this way then that as if listening for something. "What do you think?"
    After a few moments thought, running simulations and for the nth time since this mess started wishing Sara were still with him, he grunted. "It comes down to how much aid Yost and his men are willing to give. They buy us enough time maybe we can work some magic." The odds were low, but Edward has found where Jack was concerned odds tended to get skewed to levels of absurdity that would make any trained statistician weep.
    The lady on his lap curled up with him and smiled. "Jack'll see us through. He always has in the past."
    "That reminds me," Edward played with the girl's hair. "Why won't anyone tell me about what Jack did before he got into the business of airborne insanity?"
    The lady again tilted her head quizzically and worked her mouth for several long moments before answering. "Very few of us have known Jack longer than a couple years. He shows up somewhere, takes a few people with him that seem to need somewhere to go, occasionally leaves other people behind, but he doesn’t really talk about what happened before he found this ship."
    "Ah." Obvious disappointment on Edward's face.
    "Why? Hoping for some dark and terrible secret?"
    "Not really, just curious s'all. Didn’t feel like troubling him about it." And this is where we leave these two. After all there are so many more interesting things going about we might as well shouldn't we?

    "Message away." Yost paced the length of the meeting tent. "I still don't know about this. They probably wanted this meeting called just to get me off ship, claim you shot first, they acted in self defense, and if my men go down in flames in the crossfire that's just the fortunes of war."
    Jack checked their prisoner's bonds. With the cook down the armed men circling the meeting seemed more than willing to cooperate. He smiled grimly at the newest of their collaborators. "Any of you want to chime in, now's the time." None seemed willing to speak. In fact all of them looked terrified. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact Jack had a pistol in hand and had shot one of them in the leg when they started misbehaving. Maybe not.
    Oh don't worry, the man he shot got immediate medical care. Still, not a pleasant way of saying hello.
    "Right." Jack joined Yost in pacing. "So how do we get ourselves back to our ships? I doubt very much the men firing will want to risk it is they know you're up there Sir."
    An affirmative noise from the Admiral. "True, but we'd make fine targets going up. Back to the problem of making sure they can't claim you shot first."
    The officer representing the hostile forces cleared his throat. "Our ascent balloon has a radio on board. Perhaps if the two of you were to use that to give a debate on the place of Gentlemanly conduct on the modern battlefield while making an ascent?"
    Jack and Yost both grinned. "So absolutely insane to try..."
    "...We'd make fine targets up there together..."
    "...Not like they could claim your men shot first if there was no doubt whatsoever you were up there with me though..."
    "Son," Yost patted Jack on the back as they started to the aforementioned balloon. "You remind me very much of the man I used to be. Shall we go tempt fate one more time?"

    "I'll be bitten by a blue-tailed mouse." Edward perked from the chair he dozed in. He'd left his internal receiver active in case word came in on ship movements and if he should start finding a place to hide. Instead he seemed to have tuned in on an ongoing debate on whether or not following a set of rules and limitations or so-called 'total' warfare was the superior method of fighting.
    Not only was the discussion, which had happened in one form or another ever since one ape slapped another for his banana, but the absolute animated vigor of both men seemed sincere. Of course while it was a hilarious distraction it was only that. After all once one person got to their ship the balloon would be shot out of the sky and claims could be made over who started it once all the smoke had cleared and they were in chains, or probably dead.
    Deets thoughts went along the same lines, but instead of sitting there forced the bridge crew to start moving, slowly and taking a wide arch around the other ships in the area, to a large field that served local air traffic.
    "Air control this is the Lady Hawk requesting landing clearance."
    "Negative Lady Hawk you are to remain airborne, or divert to Beth. We're currently serving an armed readiness drill and cannot accept new traffic at this time."
    "Understood." Deets's voice was tinged with bitterness.
    The navigator looked over at him. "Now what Sir?"
    "Go south."
    "Sir?" Confused voice. "We're just leaving Jack?"
    Deets growled low. "Contingency plan. We head to Aztlan, go to ground, and either wait for Jack to meet back with us or send people out to find him."
    "I don't like it either, but he's giving us time to get out of here in one piece. Yost'll treat him well, and if they plan on openly crossin' that man when we're not here to act as an excuse then whatever hell falls on 'em is they own fault."
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