((Follows Five Women Jack Madison Shouldn't Have Married, But Did
"Move-move-move," Jack yelled through back through the door of the 'pit. The 'lifter shuddered with the impact of boots as the medics hauled the injured over the lip of the hatch with brutal speed.
A red-headed woman with the winged patch of a pilot stitched to her sleeve and the callsign 'Firetail' on her nametag followed them, pushed past to the 'pit.
"What took you so long, Pruzza?" she asked with a grin, swinging herself into the empty co-pilot's seat beside him.
"Stopped for a bit of sight-seeing," he said drily, glancing out the window at the marines now retreating toward the 'lifter, falling back in pairs, laying down suppressing fire as they did. "Garghikor River's very pretty this time of year, you know, with the defoliants and all."
She laughed, harder than the joke was worth. "Drop your second seat out the window as you banked for a better look?"
"Must have," Jack said. Running for the hanger with control yelling co-ordinates over the com, "Firetail's down, she's down, taking fire ... Milko's on his way, Prudence, hold on the runway, hold, hold!"
Fly this bird single-handed on my worst day. 'cestors take me if I'm going to hang around for Milko to get his fly zipped.
"Gonna owe you a drink later," Firetail - Gina
"Big enough to swim in, love," Jack told her. "Maybe it's time you learnt that full-throttle isn't the only way to fly."
Gina laughed again, a full-throated chuckle that Jack could have found distracting if it hadn't been punctuated by the low thump of artillery fire coming closer as the enemy gunners found their range. "I'm plenty sweet on the stick when I want to be," she said.
"Not what your call-sign tells me," he said. Come on, boys and girls. Twice as many of you as this old crate is rated to lift. Gonna be wallowing around over the top of the trees for too long as it is. Hurry it up, now.
"Oh, that," Gina said, leaning around on her seat to look back into the cabin. "Nothing to do with flying. Clear, let's go, go!"
He pulled hard on the stick, gunned the engines, the old 'lifter too simple for her systems to succumb to jamming, answering to brute force and subtle manipulation in equal parts. Come on, sweetheart, help your Uncle Prue out here, up, up, up ... good girl.
"How'd you get it, then?"
a drink and I'll show you," Gina said, still looking back into the cabin as they gained a few feet of altitude, engines straining with the load.
"Show me?" Come on, now, good girl, up, over the trees, not into them, there's a love ...
She turned to face him, eyes dancing, and Jack thought that even with her face half-over grease and dirt and her hair falling into her face, she was just about the prettiest thing he'd ever seen. "Well, Pruzza, carpet matches the dra-