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Morgan slapped her hand on the panel that opened the door to the broom cupboard also known as her office. Lights flickered on as she entered. She really must bring in a broom and a bucket to finish the look. Another day in paradise. She flung her bag into its usual corner and sagged onto the chair. What riveting task would Cam have found for her today?Concentrating on the dataport, she flicked the mental switch in her implant to meld with the base’s computer system. The impersonal lens became a coloured highway, transporting packets of data back and forth. Morgan sent her ID, which she’d long since changed to system administrator, and looked around for changes.

Ah. A new frigate up on Gens Brasna Two, the larger of the maintenance base’s two orbital space stations. She sighed. Dead boring. Routine annual checkout and recalibration. They wouldn’t even ask her to move her backside out of her chair for that. Nothing in her in-tray. She’d finished this week’s work yesterday morning. Oh, well. Might as well play with the simulators.

She browsed the list of simulator scenarios for a star destroyer, meant for Fleet engineers, navigators or officers on advanced training. This one sounded good; Star destroyer in orbit around a planet, main drives failed, orbit decaying.

She’d barely started diagnosis when Commander Campbell’s voice jolted her out of the system.


Damn. She hated being forced out of a meld. She sat back in her chair, eyes closed, waiting for the woosiness to pass as her brain reset itself for the physical world.

“Hi, Cam, what’s up?” she said through her implant. “Got something for you, Morgan. Stop playing simulators and get yourself into my office.” Heat rose to Morgan’s face. She hadn’t realised he knew. But then again, she’d never felt

the need to hide the fact she played on the simulators. Besides, she could always call her activity research. Anything a Supertech wanted to know and then some. If they ever posted her somewhere worthwhile, the knowledge would be useful.

“On my way.”

She stood, a glow of hope flooding through her, and hurried down the corridor to Campbell’s office.

He sat behind his cluttered desk, top button of his rumpled uniform undone as usual. A sharp mind hid behind that scruffy exterior. He had little regard for regulation creases and mirror shine on shoes and that suited her fine. He pointed a finger at his visitor’s chair. “Sit.”

She sat. “What have you got? Another intermittent fault on that frigate upstairs?”

He grinned. “You enjoyed that, didn’t you?”

“Yep. Took me all of six hours.”

The smile faded from Campbell’s face. “I wonder when they’re going to see sense? You must have really, really upset Captain Jorvik, you know. Wasting a Supertech on a maintenance depot...” he shook his head. “I would have thought you’d been punished enough after six weeks.”

Six weeks. Was that all? It felt like six months.

She shrugged. “I guess they sent me here because they couldn’t send me to a prison planet with the rest of the no-hopers.”

She stared at the window simulation in Campbell’s office. Five levels above them drizzle fell from an overcast sky. Fat droplets collected on the virtual glass and ran down like tears. Jorvik’s face rose in her mind, a malicious glint in his eyes as he presented her with her ensign’s stripe and her first posting. Gens Brasna. High on minerals, low on weather and living conditions.

“I didn’t think even a martinet like Jorvik would have been quite so stupid. You’re too rare and valuable for that.” Campbell ran a hand though thinning hair, making it stick out even more around his head. “Never mind that. Here’s something that’s certainly worthy of you.”