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Tales from the Aces' Bar
A tale of pilots and perils in the Crimson Skies
 
An Ill Wind...

        As Cross began to answer Blood's question he felt a strong sense of foreboding overtaking him. Ellington’s gut had never failed him in the past. So when he heard the door of the bar being kicked open he wasn’t that surprised.
        With a slam the door swung open, as ten figures stood outside, sheltered by the shadows of the moonless sky. One by one they entered the place. Garbed in dark flight suits. Young and brash. They walked as if the world was theirs. They all carried the Black Swan’s mark on their sleeves.
        Ellington stared into Teach’s black glasses, observing the scene through the reflection. Letting out a sigh of disappointment Cross looked over to blood.
        "And everything was going so well."
        The pirates looked for all the world like they owned the place.  Or would like very much to have made it theirs.
        Captain Shepard took one last sip from his sour, and then placed it on the bar. It looked like the evening’s entertainment had arrived.
        Sitting with his back to the bar, Teach had a perfect view.  A Black Swan new-model mook squad had come to play.
        Teach looked at each of the gambling aces in turn.
        "Gentlemen," he drawled. "Looks like the evenin’s live...entertainment has arrived." The Corsair stood and reached inside his flight jacket and drew a nickel-plated Mauser Broomhandle. Cocking it, he said, "I think we’d bettah give these here performers our undivided attention." Smoke swirled from between his teeth.
        The jukebox played a waltz...

        The Vice-Air Marshal sat quietly in the corner of the poker table.
         Draco studied his cards for a few seconds before turning his attention to the two pilots at the bar. He barely noticed the captain who was slowly nursing his drink before he focused on the Lakota man. He had obvious native features that graced his face and a colorful decorated flight jacket that announced his membership in the elite Wind Warriors. Draco did not know whether it was the jacket or the face that brought up the once forgotten memory of his younger days piloting a Fury as he slipped behind a rainbow-colored Lakota Coyote.
        Draco slowly shook his head to try and dispel the painful memory. He tried focusing on his losing hand; a pair of nines.  He glanced up and watched the duel of words that was going on between Teach and Ellington Cross. Draco prepared himself to intervene just in case the duel of words became a duel of fisticuffs. He glanced over at Blood who sat rigidly, still wearing his dark flight jacket and that blood red scarf. After a few minutes studying Blood, Draco decided he would be a fearsome man to face in the air or the ground, even if he worked for those pansy Hollywood folks.

        The pirates looked for all the world like they owned the place.  Or would have liked very much to make it theirs.
        Captain Shepard took one last sip from his sour, and then placed it on the bar. It looked like the evening’s entertainment had arrived.

        Draco snapped out his chair, flipping it over.  He pulled out his  Colt .45 from seemingly no were. He moved to back up the strongheaded Teach and his impromptu actions. He quickly  glanced around to see what the other pilots were up to.

        Soaring-Eagle, slowly shifted his mug to his left hand, and rested his right on the butt of his Smith & Wesson .44. Then he waited, knowing that this had the potential to get real ugly really fast.

        Captain Shepard took off his aviator’s scarf and carefully folded it. He then tucked it into an inner pocket of his jacket. No sense leaving it out and possibly getting the blood of these brigands on it, he reasoned.
        Two of the pilots at the card table had already drawn their guns, and out of the corner of his eye, Captain Shepard noted that the Indian was more than ready to draw his piece.
        The Captain reached into his jacket and undid the clasp on his holster. He then began scanning the room for someplace to use as cover.

        Blood looks around a bit and up from his cards when the pirates walked in. He frowned when he recognized their patches and quietly lay his cards in a small pile on the table, face down. Easing back in his chair,  he unsnapped the holster at his hip and slid his scarf off of his neck, folding it just like the other pilot at the bar.
        Appearing perfectly at ease,  his body was tensed like a spring, ready to break into action. He scanned the room with his eyes taking note of the cover that was good enough to stop bullets.  Noticing the bar, he saw Ace frown and lower the glass he was polishing. The bartender glanced from the pilots to the pirates and his hands slowly went under the counter, for a shotgun perhaps?
 
        The pirates fanned out across the room as they entered, casually as it may seem. Several took to some tables across from the poker table while two, both female headed for the jukebox. What seemed like their leader headed for the bar and leaned against it right next to the Lakota. He looked over at Sally and gave her a leer.
        "Hey little Miss, mind getting me a bottle of J.D., and maybe some company while you’re at it."
        He smiled at her again, taking in more than just her face as she scurried to find an unopened bottle. Glancing over at the Indian, the black-haired swarthy pirate frowned and said, "How! Watch you lookin’ at Painted Man?" A look of almost disgust played across his face.
        Looking at the moron who just walked up to him, Soaring-Eagle's eyes hardened, his blue eyes looking as if they could turn the pirate into a block of ice.
        "Watch it Anglo," Soaring-Eagle said, "This Indian can speak English better than you."

Chairs rustled over at the poker table....

        Cross took an instant to take in the situation; ten Black Swan pirates, one in the bar, two at the jukebox and six at the tables to his right.  Lakota could clean the mook at the bar before he can say another word. Blood had at least two of the six covered and the Vice-Airmarshal could clock two.  He was sure Teach was capable of  handling the rest. That left the jukebox for Cross.
        Ellington looked at teach as he slowly stood up.
        "Almost seems unfair, don’t it?"
        Teach never took his eyes off the interlopers. A thin stream from his cigarette wafted around his face and flowed from about his mustache and goatee. His black-glass shielded eyes betrayed no
emotion, but his voice had acquired an excited edge. He glanced at Cross.
        "Sure ain’t," he said. The corner of his mouth quirked once, releasing another billow of smoke. "These squares just don’t stand a chance, now do they?"
        Slowly, Cross took his flight jacket off, revealing two holstered .38’s, one under each arm. The chrome finish gleamed in the dim light.  Taking his cards and placing them in his jacket pocket, he took a puff of his cigar followed by a shot of Jack.  He slowly paced over to the jukebox. The two female pirates stared at him as he drew near.
        With a smile, Ellington met their stare.
         "En el cielo deben estar de luto, porque dejaron ir a dos angeles tan hermosas como ustedes"
        Both pirates looked at each other.  They did not understand a single word he was saying.
        "I’m sorry but we don’t speak Spanish"
        Ellington moved in between them both and smiled a fox’s smile.  "Well angels, I guess that might be a problem."

        Teach glanced around the room. Draco was flying left wing for the Corsair. Cross sauntered over toward the jukebox and two hapless female pirates. The sap at the bar seemed about to get a
face full of Lakota. That left the pirates taking over a card table.
 
        The minions of the Black Swan mocked the Aces who stood and began to move around the room. "Hey, flyboys," they jeered.  "Back for some punishment on the ground? HAHA. They’re
prob’ly as bad at cards as they are in the air." A round of guffaws echoed from the metal walls of the quonset.
        Teach strode around his table, Mauser hidden behind his back and Draco on the left. The Corsair advanced on one of the pirates.  The two eyed each other, the Swan seeing his face mirrored in Teach’s shades. Without warning, Teach brought his Mauser up into the Swan’s face.
        The pirate took a full, cross-eyed second to register what was pointed at his nose. His first thought was of a subway tunnel with a trigger. Teach’s smoke-wreathed face grinned demonically
over the sights.
        The Swan smirked and ducked to his right just in time to meet Teach’s uppercut. Black Swans scattered as their comrade was lifted off his feet by the force of the blow to crash heavily on the
table, breaking it.  Teach stepped forward into the wreckage and placed a foot on the pirate’s neck. The click of his unchambered Mauser echoed below the Glen Miller waltz coming from the Wurlitzer.
        Teach chuckled and shook his head, his laughter growing louder as he chambered a round. "Back to the nest, chilluns," he exhorted. "Back to your accursed mama or suffer the wrath of Hell itself!"

        The Swan girls reacted to the sudden flash of steel in the hands of Teach. Ellington’s right hand flew from his side, and landed on the back of the girl’s head. She didn’t see it coming and wouldn’t realize it had happened until tomorrow, after she wakes up. In the blink of an eye a pirate was on the floor and one of the girls went for her gun.
        Cross thought of himself as an honorable man. Hitting a lady was considered dishonorable.  Exceptions always exist, and hell, this was no lady, this was a pilot.
        "I hope it doesn’t leave a mark sweetheart."
        In an instant his other hand went for one of his baby .38’s.  It jumped from its holster and ended up two centimeters from the cheek of the second pirate.  "Don’t make me do it angel. I’d hate to ruin that beautiful mug of yours"
        The Swan pilot smiled sweetly at Ellington. She pursed her full, red lips and wriggled suggestively for a moment. "Mighty good with your hands, there, big boy." She eyed Cross seductively.
        "Hope you’re not so quick on the draw in other respects," she purred.

        Draco whirled around striking one of the pirates upside of the head with his nickel plated Colt .45 before slamming another pirate with a left hook. Unfortunately for Draco this particular pirate was about 6 foot 5 and about 300 pounds. the pirates meaty hands grabbed hold of Draco’s jacket lifting him off the ground.
        "Don’t touch the fabric, Fat Ass," Draco said before he slammed his knee in the pirate's gut. The Swan man doubled over and was about to get back up when Draco cold cocked him in the back of his neck and put the once-mighty pirate out of action.

        A smile ran across Ellington’s face as he stared into the girl’s sweet eyes. His thumb slowly moved over the hammer and pulled it back, while pressing the barrel on the girl’s face.
        "I’ve been bitten enough times, to know a viper when I see one.  Now tell your buddies to be cool or sweet Sally over there will have to scrape your beautiful brains from the wall"
        The Swan pirate lass pouted for a moment, then brightened and hissed quietly for Cross’ benefit.  "’S OK, skycaptain," she breathed.
        She twitched at the crash and thud of bodies hitting the floor, expletives and the horrid laughter of the Corsair pilot.  Glancing sideways at Cross, she let loose a loud whistle...

        As the sound of the pirate’s whistle trailed off into the night, the gun that was just an instant before pressed into her cheek was now hurtling towards her head. Her body unconscious figure gracefully slumped to the floor.
        Ellington felt like s#it, this wasn’t the sort of thing that a Cross man was bred to do. A whistle can only mean one thing, backup. And as his previous experience with the black swan’s minions had taught him, where there was one...
        "Let’s mop up these goons quickly guys. I smell more Swan boys coming in."
        Ellington ran across the room, meeting another one of the Swans.  Standing face to face, the pirate threw the first punch, a quick jab meant for Cross’ chin. Ellington sidestepped to his left and followed with a right cross to the bogey’s face.  Rolling with the punch, Ellington snapped back with an elbow to the midsection. Another black swan wouldn’t fly home tonight.

        Captain Shepard made his move as soon as he heard the whistle.  Fortunately, most of the pirates had been distracted by the scene at the jukebox and then the sight of their large friend being dealt some serious blows. The Captain moved quickly towards the nearest pirate.
        The pirate, however picked up on his advance and quickly spun and threw a right hook at his new assailant. Gyr grabbed the pirate’s wrist and used the pirate’s momentum to throw the man to the floor. Gyr’s adversary was not to be handled so easily, however, and rolled to his feet.
        Gyr and the pirate circled each other for a moment, test each others reflexes. When the pirate made a jab feint, Gyr moved in to make some jabs of his own, only to meet the pirate’s fist halfway. As Gyr stepped back, the pirate seized the advantage and swung his foot around. Gyr had been anticipating this move, and grabbed the pirates leg. Pulling the pirate off balance, the pirate hit the ground a second time. As the pirate staggered back to his feet, Gyr delivered a solid roundhouse and the pirate slipped into unconsciousness.

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