Text appeared below the screen that showed our position and that of the other planes.
[You’re making yourself completely vulnerable. I’m not suggesting you attack, but landing and turning off your shields represents an unacceptable risk.]
I shut off the comm, and quietly asked, “What would you suggest?”
[If you have to appear vulnerable, lower the jet, but don’t land, and give me permission to turn on the shields whenever I think it’s necessary.]
“You need my permission?”
[Yes. My makers wanted artificial intelligences limited to minimize their risk.]
I thought about it, but not for long. “Go ahead.”
From the back, Cassie said, “You’re not really landing and turning off our shields are you? The gun will not shut up. He thinks it’s a bad idea, and that we’re all going to die. Well, except maybe for Izzy and Jaclyn.”
Haley frowned. “Flick said to cooperate, so I’m cooperating. If you want to take over, go ahead. Then Jack-in-the-Green can patronize you.”
I turned around a little as Cassie sat up in her seat and took a breath. “I didn’t mean it that way. Besides, I can barely fly this thing.”
Trying to lower the level of tension, I asked, “Does the gun have anything else to say? Any advice?”
Cassie gave a brief smile. “He thinks we should kill them all.”
We all sat there for a moment, the lights keeping the cabin just barely lit while the dashboard glowed with the light of several different screens.
With the gun and jet agreeing on something, I found myself feeling a little more nervous instead of less.
Over the comm, Jack-in-the-Green said, “League jet, why did you stop moving?”
Haley pursed her lips, and in a much nicer tone than I guessed she was feeling said, “Did we? Sorry. I was trying to figure out where you wanted us to land. It looks mucky straight ahead of us, and there are trees on the left. The right looks good, but there are rocks, so it doesn’t look quite level—”
“Just go right.” He sounded irritated.
Haley switched off the comm. “I hope no one’s recording this. I’m going to sound like a ditz.”
Daniel said, “We’ve got to assume that they’re recording. My dad says cops do it a lot with supers. It cuts down on people doing the, ‘Do you know who I am?’ stuff.”
Flick broke in. “You shouldn’t have to put up with it that much longer. I managed to get a hold of a couple of my contacts in the RCMP. They ought to be calling them by now.”
I couldn’t see Flick all that well with Daniel, Izzy and Sean sitting in the row between us, but Rachel evidently could.
“Why are you smiling?”
I managed to get a better view of Flick—by leaning, and looking between Daniel and Izzy’s heads. Flick was grinning.
“I was just thinking that you might stall for long enough if you ask about Jack’s name.”
Haley finished turning the jet, and started to make it go slowly forward. She gave a quick look back at Flick. “Why?”
Next to Flick, Rachel leaned back in her chair. “I wouldn’t. She’s much too amused.”
Flick shook her head. “It’s not that bad, but he’ll talk.”
The comm went on and we got another message—this one from Alex in the podjet. “Hey, I was half-tempted to leave, but Flick called Straka over here, and told us to stay. Is it over yet? Because this is pointless.”
Haley’s lips tightened, and I took the call.
“We’re not done, but it shouldn’t last much longer. Flick got through to a couple people. Now it’s just a matter of waiting a little while.”
“Good, but we’re not waiting too long. Straka thinks landing and turning off shields is crazy so we aren’t. Talk to you later.”
Alex cut communications as Jack-in-the-Green called.
I barely had time to feel a stab of worry that even Alex suspected a trap as Jack said, “I’d like you to move a little faster. That jet can leave orbit. I know it can go faster than you’re flying it.”
“Sorry,” Haley sounded apologetic, but she’d narrowed her eyes. “We’re using our gravitics. They’re really meant to be landing gear. They’re not fast at all.”
“I’m wondering,” Haley hit a couple buttons, increasing the power the Jet’s fusion based power system had available, and giving power to the engines. “Where did you get your name? I’ve never hear of a Jack-in-the-Green.”
He made a noise somewhere between a sigh and a growl.
“Who put you up to this?” In the background, someone laughed.
“No one,” Haley said. She sounded like she meant it too.
“Some people think it’s funny. It’s an old name. It comes out of folklore. Jack-in-the-Green was a lot like Puck–a rowdy, drunken wood spirit. I first heard the name on a Jethro Tull album.”
“Who’s Jethro Tull?”