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How I Fell in with Air Pirates, Part 8

As the plane from the Renegade pulled away, Morgan fought back tears. The last few hours had been a whirlwind of action and drama, but through it all she relied on faith and the training that her dad had put her through over the last two years. It helped when Grace was with her, because then she had to be strong for her little sister. Now, though, she was alone with someone that she didn’t know flying through the air headed back to the one place on earth that she wanted to avoid.


I can’t give in, she thought, if I do then they win, and they don’t deserve to win. She closed her eyes and began to pray, for protection and for peace. Just those two things, over and over again. She had no idea how long she’d been praying, or even that she’d started to whisper her prayer, until the pilot called over the intercom.


“Okay lady, I don’t care who you’re praying to, but since you’re only saying the same thing over and over again, I’m going to put on some music before I’m driven to hitting the ejection button.”


Morgan stopped praying, opened her eyes, and looked around. It was still dark outside, and the pilot had shut off the interior lights that had previously illuminated the cockpit when one of the parasites from the Renegade flew above them in that ridiculous reenactment of a movie scene and Morgan had waved at them. Now there was only the glow of some of the instruments. Since the pilot had made a first comment, Morgan decided to see if he was willing to have an actual conversation.


“So, you weren’t actually telling the truth when you told the parasite from the Renegade that you were more interested in getting paid for my delivery?”


“Oh no, that was the truth, but your repetitive mumbling was getting on my nerves, so I decided it was time to threaten you myself”


“That’s a pretty empty threat since the F-4 Phantom doesn’t have an ejection button. You have to pull the handles to eject. I’m guessing the rear ones are disabled and the only way for me to eject is if you also eject.”


There was a pause, then: “You’ve got a pretty smart mouth. Now I’m definitely putting on some music. You may as well get some sleep; we’ve got a few hours before our first refuel point.”


Morgan smiled. To her at least she scored some points by pointing out some knowledge of the F-4. While she had no desire to be a pilot, she was still fascinated by all of the different types of equipment that the Renegade used. She listened for a few seconds, waiting for the music to start. When it didn’t, she asked, “Are you the only one that can hear the music?”


“Quiet,” he said gruffly, “I’m trying to shut off your intercom and so I can hear my tunes.”


“What if I need to tell you something?"


“Ha, there’s nothing I need you to tell me. I’m the pilot, you’re just cargo. Why isn’t this working?”


“But what if a giant fire-breathing dragon flies over head? Isn’t that something you need to know?”


“A fire-bre…what? There’s no such thing! And how am I still hearing you, I turned off your part of the intercom!”


“Well I didn’t do anything; I can see that the intercom switches back here are frozen in VOX position with epoxy.”


“That’s normal for when I transport someone. What’s not normal is me hearing the cargo talk.”


“My name is Morgan, and it’s not my fault if your equipment stopped working.”


“This is what I get for rushing my take-off, and I don’t care what your name is, just as it doesn’t matter what you think you have to say.”


“So, you don’t care if I see a fire-breathing dragon flying next to us?”


“Sheesh, I told you there’s no such thing as a dragon, fire-breathing or otherwise.”


“How do you know? We see lots of weird things in the world today, why not a dragon?”


“I hear enough weird stuff from other pilots that I would know if someone saw a dragon breathing fire.”


“Weird stuff like what?”


“What? I shouldn’t be able to hear you, I hit play on my iPod.”


“Well obviously that isn’t working either. So what kind of weird stuff have you heard about from other pilots?”


“Fine. It looks like nothing is working right now. Look, pilots talk, and a lot of them have talked about seeing stuff like strange lights, or phantom airship sightings.”


“Oh, so you’ve seen the ‘Flying Dutchman’?”


“What? No, I haven’t, that’s what others have said, but no one ever mentioned the ‘Flying Dutchman’.”


“Well it had to have been the ‘Flying Dutchman’ since that is the only certified phantom airship in existence.”


“There is no such thing as the ‘Flying Dutchman’, that’s a rumor that won’t die.”


“No, a rumor that won’t die is that Renegade Interns are eaten as a food source. My sister and I help spread that one in town to the new interns. The stories about the ‘Flying Dutchman are true as the Renegade has documented its existence.”


“Wait, what? What did you say?”


“I said three different things, which one are you questioning?”


“All of them because now you have me completely confused. What rumors about cannibalism?”


“It’s a rumor, like I said, meaning there is no truth to it. Vlad likes to help. We just like to scare the interns with it since a lot of them have some romanticized views about air piracy and vampires.”


“Vlad?”


“Ensign Vlad, he’s an assistant engineer.”


“So, the guy likes to play-act that he’s a vampire?”


“Oh no, he’s a real vampire. He joined the Renegade when they went to Transylvania last Halloween.”


“Joined the crew? And they let him stay?”


“The Captain doesn’t like him for some reason, but he’s good at his job and really a nice guy.”


“Is that a touch of admiration I hear? Maybe some vampire swooning?”


“Really? I didn’t take you for a fan-boy of the ‘Twilight’ series.”


“Hey, work can take me on some long trips, I watch all sorts of movies.”


“I get that, but still, ‘Twilight’?”


“Hey, this isn’t about me, you’re explaining about a vampire that’s a member of an air pirate ship.”


“No, I’m telling you about a rumor related to the vampire that’s a member of an air pirate crew. There’s a difference.”


“Okay, whatever. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that you know a vampire.”


“Is that unusual?”


“Of course it is! They don’t just hang around meeting people in public. I’ve only heard of them from stories about bad encounters.”


“Oh, okay. Well I only know what Vlad tells us. From him most of the stories out there are exaggerations.”


“Like what?”


“That I can’t say, he made us promise we’d keep what he told us a secret. How do I know you aren’t working for a group of vampire hunters on the side?”


“Oh please, those guys are nuts. Besides, I like to fly. Hand-to-hand combat with a vampire does not sound like something I want to mess with.”


“Well that’s good to know. I’m still not going to tell you anything else about Vlad. I mean, you aren’t going to tell me anything about the contract you’re working that has me a passenger, are you?”


“Nope. All you need to know is that I’m to deliver you safely to Utah.”


“And you always fulfill your contracts?”


“I don’t get paid if I don’t, and I like to get paid.”


“You sound like a member of the Renegades.”


“Heh, those guys like to fight and drink if the stories are true.”


“They drink and they steal things, that’s their motto.”


“Why would you know their motto?”


“Because I’ve heard it?”


“Okay, now you’re starting to sound like an Air Pirate fan-girl”


“I’m not a fan-girl; I just pay attention.”


“Is that how you know some stuff about the F-4?”


“Yep. Too many people assume that just because you’re a girl, you don’t pay attention to stuff around you. You’re too worried about your hair, or your nails, or a cute guy, or a million other vacuous things.”


“That’s a pretty dumb attitude for someone to have. We’ve got women pilots in our company, and their just as good as any man.”


“Oh, it’s nice to know that you aren’t the sexist mercenary that I originally took you for.”


Laughter. “Hey, don’t judge based on my job.”


“I will do my best not to.”


"Fair enough. So how did you fall in with these air pirates in the first place?”


“I didn’t, I’m not a member of the crew.”


“Well then how do you know stuff about them, and why were their fighters trying to get me to turn around and land? The pilot we talked to seemed to know a lot about you.”


“Are you contractually obligated to tell your employer anything I tell you.”


“No. Normally my passengers are unconscious or they’re trying to bribe me, so I shut off the intercom. This is the first real conversation I’ve had in a while. But no, I don’t tell the employer anything. We aren’t interrogators, just transporters.”


Morgan weighed his words for a moment, saying a quick prayer at the same time. Telling him about her and the families background seemed like the right thing to do.


“My dad is the chief gunnery officer for the Renegade.”


“What!?! Seriously?”


“Yep! I’m being completely serious. He’s had the position for a couple of years now.”


Pilot did some quick thinking of his own.


“That’s about as long as the Renegade has been running rampant. Your dad is an original member?”


“No, he joined the crew after they rescued us, and he helped them to fix their Tesla cannons.”


“They rescued you? A bunch of air pirates?”


“Yes, they did. Is that hard to believe?”


“Kidnapped I would easily believe. Rescued is hard to swallow.”


“They only kidnap Russian Oligarchs so they can ransom them for money.”


“So, they don’t traffic women for slavery purposes?”


“No, my Dad would never work for them if they did. Probably most of the crew would quit too. For air pirates they’ve got some interesting morals.”


“Well that’s new. There are stories about how all these different air pirates are grabbing people and selling them.”


“Oh, I’ve heard stories about crews like that, but the Renegade isn’t one of them.”


The pilot thought about that for a few seconds. “How do I know you aren’t just telling me that?”


“Why would I? I mean seriously, what would I gain by lying about that? At the least it would poison any future discussion.”


“Okay, I’ll give you that. Tell you what, I need to prepare to land for our first refueling. Let’s pick this back up once we’re airborne again, okay?”


“Sure, can you tell me where we are landing?”


“It’s a neutral site in Bermuda. Hang on.”


Morgan couldn’t see much as they came in for a landing since it was still dark. That was disappointing since she had never been to Bermuda before. It also meant she really didn’t have a good chance to escape since she couldn’t see any place to escape to.


The Phantom touched down, rolled to the end of the runway, and then turned onto a taxi way. Morgan could see the lights of where a terminal was, probably, but she doubted that’s where they would be going. She could hear the pilot talking on the radio, acknowledging directions for what to do. Finally, the pulled onto a part of the taxiway and stopped. Morgan recognized the shutting down of the engines, then the pilot spoke.


“Okay, while the place gets refueled, we can refuel too. Now before I open the canopy, let me explain a few things. You will have an escort, she’s a member of the company I work for. Don’t try to mess with her; she would have no qualms about subduing you, got it?"


“Got it, be nice to the lady that’s going to show me to the bathroom.”


“That is probably more information than I needed to know, but you’ve got the idea. Okay, here we go.”


Lights came on and the canopy started to rise. For the first time Morgan could see her full surroundings, though not as well as she would if the sun had been out. Still, it let her glance around quickly as she also looked to see how to undo her harness. There wasn’t anything she could use as a weapon, or to call for help. She started to undo the harness as a ladder came along the right side of the cockpit, when she noticed a red sharpie marker sitting among the instrumentation. She had not felt it during the earlier part of the flight, but it was there now, and she quickly palmed it just before someone appeared at the top of the ladder.


Hands reached in from the side with the ladder and Morgan jumped.


“Hold still,” said a gravelly voice, “otherwise I can’t undo the straps, and I am not cleaning up after you if you make a mess.”


Morgan looked a