A note from massivebacktrack

Captain Hernandez does some plotting

Olivia had been about to announce the abandon ship order and set a ramming course for once the lifeboats were clear when suddenly the sensor tech was reporting the hostile had suffered a catastrophic explosion and then a few minutes later that their shuttle had just emerged from the debris field. What was going on - how did they get there?

“Shuttle on docking course with us,” reported the Master of Arms, “your orders Captain - should I take it down?”

“No,” she said a bit too quickly, “that’s Mr Choudary and Ms Liu in there. They’ve just saved all our necks although I have no idea how they did it.”

“Very good Sir,” the disapproval not hidden one iota in his voice. Well he was going to like the next bit even less.

“Don’t bother sending a security detail. I’ll greet them personally, after all they just saved all our lives most probably, and certainly mine.” Commanding officers were not permitted to abandon their ship in combat.

“As you wish Sir,” the Master of Arms again disapprovingly.

Well he was right he supposed and under normal circumstances she’d have sent a security detail - but most of Mr Choudary’s surviving marines were in medical and scratching up a detail in the minutes they had for docking would have been nigh on impossible in any case. She thought of ordering one of the three surviving Lieutenants to accompany her but decided against it - the survivors were all aristos and she didn’t trust them. Not with this. So she headed alone off the quarterdeck just remembering to order “Lieutenant Asher, you have the ship.”

She headed down the service pipe alongside the main elevator which was still offline. It occurred to her she’d only just make it before they docked as she pushed her tired body to climb down the ladder. Once she was on the docking level she’d still have to weave across the entire deck to avoid sealed and depressurised compartments. God, she was grateful Ms Liu had survived as there was no way they’d be able to limp anywhere without a chief engineer; to be towed into port would be humiliating.

Finally, she reached the airlock just as she could see it was pressuring up the ship. Gods she hoped there weren’t just corpses strapped into acceleration couches left on board. Only one way to find out she guessed as the airlock confirmed it was now safe to open it. She punched the air lock’s control.

To her relief, and surprise, all four she expected were standing and upright. Captain of Marines Choudary looked tired, stressed and on edge but otherwise healthy. Ms Liu looked like she had recovered from whatever injuries she had sustained and was trying, but failing to look relaxed. It was the other two that concerned her -Sparrow, the emaciated girl with long straggly black-brown hair, with a hint of curls, and what was Lady Ellis doing in a seaman’s flight suit with a big duffel slung over her shoulder. Pausing before finally saying: “I think you four need to join me in my quarters for a discussion.”

“Yes Sir,” Mr Choudary answered tiredly as the most senior of the party.


About ten minutes later, the climb back up wasn’t easy for Sparrow and Lady Ellis, and the four of them were sealed and locked in the Captain’s quarters, just set off behind the quarterdeck. “I’m going to debrief these four personally,” she announced for Lieutenant Asher’s benefit before striding into her cabin, activating the privacy shielding and locking the door. Looking at the four of them she was struck at how weak Sparrow looked. “Is it ok if I gave you a hug Sparrow?” she asked quietly. Sparrow looked confused but eventually nodded and Olivia gave her the briefest of squeeze before - saying “It is good to see you out and about Warrant Sparrow.”

“Warrant Class 2 MacLeod,” Ms Liu interrupted.

“Yes I spotted that as I had to hastily delete reams of security camera footage and reconstruct it on the fly,” the Captain remarked, arching her eyebrows.

“Tech in charge of the water recycling detail,” Ms Liu continued

“Yes I’ve read her service record,” she replied, “anything you want to add Ms Liu?”

“No Sir.”

“One day,” she said, “me and you are going to have a little chat about this in quite some detail.”

“Yes Sir,” Ms Liu replied, poker faced.

“As for you Mr Choudary,” she continued, “congratulations on two successful evacuations and the destruction of an enemy corvette. We’ll go into that later but first - why does the Lady Ellis look like she’s a new recruit.”

Mr Choudary swallowed before saying, “That would be because I press-ganged her Sir.” Olivia’s mouth fell open in horror, “I needed her in naval uniform with a Naval ID to get her into the hospital and through the docks. This was the only way I could think to do that quickly without creating suspicion.”

“You realise what you’ve done?”

“Ruined all our careers and possibly put all of us at risk of summary execution, Sir,” he said resignedly.

“What do you make of this Ms Ellis?” she asked reverting now to naval address rather than civilian etiquette.

“I’m incredibly pissed,” she spat, before adding, “Sir.” She slumped down into one of the captain’s chairs and finally put down her duffel. “But these idiots did save my life at least twice and for that reason alone I’d be loath to see them shot. I’ll stick to my story but Mr Choudary better make good on his promise to get me into officer training - there’s no way I’m spending the next 45 years as a rating.”

“And what’s the story?”

“Ms Ellis was so moved by the deaths of the fire team that helped her escape she immediately decided to volunteer for a life of Naval Service out of gratitude.”

“That’s what you came up with?”

“Yes Sir,” Mr Choudary replied.

“Christ,” she sighed, “all I can say is you better get her up to officer standard Choudary.”

“Yes Sir,” Mr Choudary had clearly given up.

“Right, now we’ve dealt with the stuff that will get us all killed, onto how you saved our arses?”

When Mr Choudary failed to respond, Ms Liu ventured, “Captain, it appears Ms MacLeod is still able to navigate the slip through manual controls.”

“You’re kidding me?”

“No Sir.”

“You’re serious?” Olivia added.

“Yes Sir,” Ms Liu replied.

“Jeez, her twitch reactions must be incredible. Rig up some manual controls then - somewhere discrete - and then lock it down like it never existed.”


“I’ve got a crippled ship Ms Liu, something you’re going to rectify as soon as possible as a personal favour to me, and I need a means of escape if the attackers come back.”

“You realise Captain, if we slip without a pilot successfully we will be investigated.”

“Well that’s where you’ll do me a second favour,” smiled Olivia menacingly, “Engineering was sealed - we took some more hits after you got out -catastrophic hull breach. No survivors. But that does mean no one knows the pod was taken out. Get in there Ms Liu, repair it, make it look functional. As far as anyone knows Sparrow - or Ms MacLeod - is still in the pod.”

“If you say so Sir,” the Chief Engineer said confusedly.

“I do, Warrant,” the Captain replied, “but first you’ve got to get the ship back into some sort of space worthy condition as I do not want to limp into port right now and spend the next 6 months in a dry dock giving the admiralty a chance to investigate what happened to us. No, the best thing is to get under sail again and see if we can hunt down our attackers if they are still in the system.” She paused before continuing. “I need you Ms Liu to go alone, full suit, get the pod fixed. Once that’s done get out, call down a team and seal the hull and then get the drives back online asap - slip first. Once that’s done - the manual controls understand. No one else can know about that so you will have to do it during your sleep shift.”

“Mr Choudary,” she said, turning to him. “Get Ms Ellis bedded down in her old quarters, we’ll deal with a proper quartering tomorrow, and then both of you get some sleep. I’m not sure we still have a functional training deck - I’ve not even bothered to look at that yet. Tomorrow anyway, if we’ve still got comms you are calling your dad and making him swallow the cover story. Understand?”

“I can handle my dad,” Ms Ellis replied sullenly.

“Finally,” she said, “Sparrow - Ms MacLeod, your quarters are now in dormitory 4, the same as Ms Liu’s, you get your own cubicle as a WO2. Go there immediately. Don’t talk to anyone - everyone will be being reassigned all over the damn ship after dorm 3 was taken out and anyone you meet will be exhausted in any case. Just go straight into your cubicle, seal it and sleep. Ms Liu will give you your orders in the morning, 08:00 ship time. You know what you’re doing on water recycling?”

“Yes Sir, as I explained to Ms Liu I’m fully rated to operate any of the ships systems - as a failsafe to the AI being taken out.”

“Why didn’t I know that?” Olivia said, sighing.

“In the case of the AI going down the Admiralty felt that morale on ship would be best preserved by no one knowing the pilot was the redundancy system; even the commanding officers. My programming dictates I would perform a full system format as I would need to clear most of my data to accommodate the AI package I’d need to download; and then take control of the ship's systems.”

“Sparrow,” Ms Liu suddenly interjected, “are you saying in the event of AI failure your programming would delete your personality and memories?”

“Yes Ms Liu, that would be the inevitable consequence of the system format.”

“Can that still happen now you’re out of the pod?” Olivia quickly asked.

“I do not believe so Sir,” Sparrow continued softly, “I believe the systems needed to format me were contained within the pod itself rather than within my person.”

“Good!” Olivia and Ms Liu said in near unison.


“Right you four,” Olivia began her concluding remarks, “well we’re somehow in this mess altogether. If this gets out - we’re all for a firing squad so let’s see that it doesn’t. In the meantime we’ve got a ship to fix, attackers to hunt down and the admiralty to avoid.”

“We’re completely screwed aren’t we,” piped up the subdued Ms Ellis.

“Most definitely,” Mr Choudary roused himself to say.

“One last thing,” Ms Liu said, “what do we do about the pod and the missing pilot in the long run? I doubt Sparrow can get away with manually piloting this ship forever, Sir.”

“That’s the easy one,” Olivia replied. “Next time we exit the slip in friendly territory we jettison the pod and fry it - pilot gone rogue standard first response. We’ll say our pilot became increasingly divergent from acceptance criteria after the attack - something in the pod wasn’t functioning optimally and the pilot lost it. Cook something up for when we need it Ms Liu. Anyway you lot, you’re dismissed for now but we’ll talk again - discretely - soon.”

With that she unlocked the door to her quarters and ushered them all out before taking her seat on the quarter deck.


About the author


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Bio: Hello, I enjoy reading both original and fan-fiction and have recently taken the plunge to start writing some of my own. I plan to post my original fiction here and I also post fan-fiction on AO3 - find me here:

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