“Roger that control. I have a visual now” Tanaka cut the comms and fired the Starbugs attitude thrusters to adjust their course.

“Landing bay one, eh?” Talon crowed from his position at the navi-comp “They’re really welcoming us back with the red carpet treatment, aren’t they?”

“I should hope so” Tanaka said “We just saved their arses back there”


“Ha, yeah” Tanaka grinned as he throttled the engines back for the final approach “You got that right”

“I reckon we should get medals”

“I’d settle for a party thrown in our honour, or some R&R time”

Sat through in the mid-section of the ‘bug, the change in the pitch of the engines made Cass glance up from her terminal. One of the monitors on the wall opposite her, was displaying the Blue Dwarf, looming ever larger as Tanaka bought them in on the final approach.

Home... of a sort.

Cassandra’s lips curled as she gazed at it.

It pained her to admit it, but there were times when she missed the old Dwarf. Sure, it was barely habitable and, in places, downright bloody dangerous; but after all work she’d put into trying to build a life there, not coming home to her Holly and her Dwarf was something she didn’t particularly enjoy.

Of course, it was nice being around other people aboard this new Dwarf; but here Cass felt little more than a cog in a machine, rather than the master of her own fate, free to chart her own destiny amongst the stars.

The job didn’t help much, either - The strictures and expectations associated with the role of the ship’s chaplain were a constant irritation; and for someone as avowedly atheistic and as socially prickly as she was, ministering her flock was tiresome. Funerals were awful, but the blackmail material she was slowly accumulating from the confessional might come in useful one day.

The main reason she hadn’t quit the job were the perks that came along with the position: her own stateroom on the officers deck, the captain’s ear (on occasion), and comparatively few people ordering her around other than her immediate superior, Bishop Brennan, who was by all accounts a comfortable sixty or so light years away.

Cass looked back down at her terminal as it chimed. Now they were back within range of the Dwarf, it had just finished syncing with Holly’s messaging subsystem. Her eyes narrowed as they scanned the list of new appointments and reminders; the usual rubbish, by and large, other than a few messages from people congratulating her on her part in saving the Dwarf from the karma field.

Tapping the screen, she opened the message from Mark Rackham; the guy she’d got off with six or seven months back, over new year. Standard congratulations stuff, but he cheekily suggested that she should let him know if she wanted to celebrate properly - It was probably just a ploy to try and get into her knickers, but fuck it; she dashed off a reply, asking what he had in mind for proper celebration.

By all accounts Rackham was something of a bad boy. Hooking up with him would probably be a bad idea, but as far as Cass was concerned: nothing ventured, was nothing gained. After Jay had fucked off and hadn’t bothered to get in touch, even after she had messaged him at the mining outpost, she’d been forced to accept that he wasn’t interested, so it was high time she looked further afield.

“Heads up everyone” Tanaka’s voice crackled over the P.A. system “We’ll be touching down in three minutes. We’ve got the Captain waiting for us, with a full hero’s welcome, so look lively”

Three minutes!?” Cass shot out of her seat “For fuck’s sake!”



The Captain had the good grace to look a little sheepish. “I’m not happy about it either” she said, soothingly. There was never going to be a good time to break this news to the returning heroes, so she had chosen to grasp the nettle as soon as they had disembarked.

“No” Cass shook her head “Send someone else. I’ve had enough fun for one day”

Jamie and the others all nodded at this and murmured their agreement.

“It wasn’t a request” the Captain said peevishly, before pausing and taking a deep breath “I’m afraid they were very insistent” she said, carefully avoiding mentioning the ‘worst crewmembers aboard’ bif of the GELF’s demands “They asked for you by name”

“How? Have they got access to our personnel files or something?”

“I - ah… Yeah, now you mention it, that’s a good question”

“You need a full security sweep. Get the techs to check for signs of quantum interference and ghosting across Holly’s nodes. You need to eliminate that first, since It’s the most likely attack vector...” Cass trailed off with the sudden realisation that she was giving orders to the Captain “Or so I’m told” she smiled disarmingly.

“Noted, thank you Chaplain” the Captain said, dryly “Now back to the matter at hand”

“What’s in it for us?”

“I’d have thought the honour of saving every life aboard this ship would have been more than sufficient”


“Of course we’ll do it” Jade said quickly, before Cass could say anything else.

“Excellent” the Captain looked somewhat relieved. She couldn’t remember the Chaplain ever being this belligerent or mercenary. Maybe it had been the shame of what she had apparently got up to in that cabaret club?

Turning, she gestured across the landing bay towards a new-looking Starbug, berthed near the opposite wall. “The rest of your party’s waiting for you aboard this newly refitted starbug. We’ve stocked it with a range of equipment, but quite honestly, we’ve no idea what you’ll need to succeed, so you’ll just have to improvise”

“Same as ever” Cass grumbled and turned away stomp towards the Starbug, leaving the others looking uncertainly between her and the Captain “Are you coming?” she called back to them.


“I’ll take the science console” Cass announced as she made her way through the ship with the others “I don’t know if the sensors will be able to glean any extra info as we’re on our way in, but it’s worth a shot”

Pausing as her terminal chimed, she took a moment to check it: Rackham again, promising her a night to remember. Cass smirked; she’d reply back to that in a moment. “Okay” she said, as she stepped onto the bridge “Let’s get this show on the road”

Jay span around in the pilot’s chair “Alright” he grinned “Did you miss me?”

Cassandra’s heart may well have skipped a beat, but she plonked herself matter-of-factly down at the science desk “Oh, about as much as you missed me”

“Heh, that much, eh?”

“Yep, that much” Cass frowned at the monitor in front of her and jabbed at a few buttons before turning to Tanaka, who had followed her through onto the bridge “He’s flying” she jerked her head in Jay’s direction.

“I thought he was shit?”

“Well, he won’t get better without any practice will he?” she turned back to the science desk “Let’s get underway, shall we?”


“God, it’s great to be flying again” Jay enthused later on, barrel rolling the ‘bug through space “I can’t believe how much I’ve missed it”

“Yeah?” Cass said, disinterestedly while she narrowed her eyes and peered at the sensor readouts.

“They wouldn’t even let me take a jetpack out while I was on that mining outpost”

“Must have been awful for you”

“You wouldn’t even believe it”


They lapsed back into silence, leaving Jay frowning in consternation. He’d been expecting a bit more of an enthusiastic welcome from Cass. Jade and Jamie had both been pleased to see him again, but she was being stand-offish, to say the least. He was even starting to suspect that she wasn’t entirely happy with him.

“Listen” he began “If this is about me just disappearing like I did, I didn’t-”

“What the hell is that!?” Cass pointed up at the main monitors.

Before Jay could answer, the communicator crackled to life “You bloody idiots” a voice yelled at them “You’ve strayed onto one of the practice ranges. FORE!”

What the hell is it?
What happens?

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