Chapter 8: Send Her Victorious
Samantha rose to her feet and put her hands in the air. "We surrender."
The Captain shook his head. "It's too late for that. Your actions amount to
piracy, and I am empowered to execute pirates."
"Can I say something?" Zoe asked. "'By what star does the wise man set his
"'The star of truth and the lode of logic,'" the Captain replied, seemingly
by rote. "'Who wrote the Premises, the foundations that we follow?'"
Zoe shook her head. "Sorry. I don't know."
"And so your impersonation fails. You're not a Logician."
"Well, I thought it was worth a try."
"Do you have anything else to say?"
"Only this--" Zoe began. Before she could continue, there was a bright flash
of light. The blaster in the Captain's hand exploded, throwing him to one
side. Jamie pointed past him to where Victoria was lying. She was still there,
but her eyes were open and the gun, which had been under her body, was now in
her right hand.
Heedless of the Captain, Jamie pulled off his oxygen mask and hurried to
her. The wind was still blowing through the corridor, carrying what was left
of the smoke before it, but the air seemed to be feeling thinner and colder.
"You'd better get out of here while you can, wack," Samantha said,
addressing the Captain. "'Cos we've got a gun and you haven't."
The Captain staggered to his feet, his face, as far as could be glimpsed
behind the mask, a study in fury. His right hand was raw and bleeding, and he
held it stiffly away from his body. For a moment his eyes held Samantha's;
then he turned and limped away, passing Jamie as he half-dragged, half-carried
Victoria back to the oxygen station. Both were gasping for breath as if they'd
just run a mile.
"The air's leaking away, isn't it?" Samantha asked, helping Jamie to fit
a mask over Victoria's face.
Zoe nodded. "Hull breach, or perhaps they did it on purpose. We need to
isolate the damaged section. Let's go this way and look for airtight doors
we can close. Jamie, are you all right to look after Victoria?"
Jamie, bent over Victoria, nodded briefly.
"Thanks for saving our lives," Samantha added.
"You're welcome," Victoria whispered. "But please don't make me do that
In their room on the upper level, Gia had managed to locate a portable
oxygen cylinder, similar to the one Captain Tseng had used. She, Isobel and
Emmi were now passing it among themselves in strict rotation. Emmi had
objected to the idea of sharing, calling it 'disgusting', but a few seconds
of trying to breathe in smoke had been enough to change her mind.
After the evacuation announcement, they had waited for as long as they
dared. Then Gia had switched the forcefields off and waited to see if anybody
attempted to force an entrance. When nobody did, she and Isobel pushed the
rack aside and opened the door. The corridor beyond appeared to be deserted.
"Now what?" Isobel asked.
"I suppose we should try and get to the bridge. It was this way, wasn't it?"
Emmi nodded. The three set off, making slow progress; just as in the
corridor below, the air was thin, hardly breathable, and they continued to
pass the cylinder from one to another. The door to the bridge, when they
reached it, had a palm scanner to one side of it. Emmi put her hand on this,
and the door slid open. It appeared that the evacuation had been complete:
the bridge was deserted.
They hurried in, and let the door close behind them.
"That feels better," Isobel said. "I can breathe."
"Yes." Gia glanced at a control panel. "I think the bridge must have its
own oxygen reserves. I don't know how long they'll last, though."
"Then we'd better get a move on." Deliberately, Isobel took her place in the
captain's chair. "Can you see about getting the engine stopped?"
Gia looked over the panels. "Let's see." She manipulated various switches,
to no apparent effect. "No. The controls don't respond."
"Let me try." Emmi hurried over to the same console, and repeated Gia's
actions, pressing the buttons harder. "It's locked out. We can't change our
direction or speed."
"What about a distress signal?" Isobel asked.
Gia shook her head. "According to this the shuntspace comms relay is out.
They must have sabotaged it before they jumped ship." She brought up various
schematics on a screen. "Maybe we could do something once the engine's shut
down and we're back in normal space. But it looks as if the only way we can
do that is in the engine room. You'd need something called an override key."
"Isn't there anything you can do?" Emmi demanded, wringing her hands in
"We'd better go and look for it." Isobel jumped to her feet, and tried to
open the door. "Um. Emmi? This won't open for me. I think it needs your
Emmi tried to open the door, with an equal lack of success. "It's no good.
We're locked in."
"I don't like that." Isobel sat down in the captain's chair again. "I don't
like that at all. This feels like a trap."
Gia was methodically working her way down a list of status displays.
"They've left us the intercom, at least."
"You know, for someone who doesn't know anything about the technology of
this time, you're quite the expert all of a sudden."
"There was a manual in the storeroom. I read it while you lot were running
"What, all of it?"
"I'm a quick reader." Gia's hands darted across the control panel. "Hello,
everyone. We've got to the bridge, but various systems have been sabotaged.
Now, listen carefully. We're looking for something called an override key.
It's a grey rod, about twenty centimetres long, with exposed circuitry at
one end. When you get it, go to the engine room and put it in the fourth
control panel on the right." She checked the screens again. "Another thing:
There's one escape pod left. Upper level, starboard side. I think it would
be a good idea if someone were to guard it."
She sat back, and looked at the other two.
"That's about all we can do for now," she said.
"Are you all right now?" Samantha asked.
"I think so." Victoria stood up. "It feels much better now you've stopped
the air leaking."
"We haven't stopped it, only slowed it down," Zoe said. "It's barely
breathable now -- it won't be long before it isn't at all."
"I'm sure I saw that override key thing in the captain's locker," Samantha
said. "Let's go and get it."
"Right," Jamie said. "Victoria, we'd better find yon escape pod thing."
The two groups made their way slowly to the stairs, pausing at each oxygen
station to sustain themselves. At the top, they split up and headed in
"The air seems better up here," Samantha remarked.
Zoe shook her head. "It's still only just within tolerances. They exposed
us to partial vacuum as part of our space training, so we'd recognise the
"So we'd better get a move on." Samantha pushed the door of the captain's
cabin open. It looked much the same as the last time she'd seen it, except
that someone had untied the chief engineer, leaving only the strips of pink
fabric he had been bound with. She pushed the locker open.
"We're in luck," she said, flourishing a grey rod that matched Gia's
description. "They could have taken this with them."
Zoe crossed to the intercom. "Hello, bridge? We've got the override key. Now
"Go to the engine room," Gia's voice replied. "Downstairs, at the far end
of the central corridor. Pop it in the engine."
"What's your air quality like?"
"We've got an independent supply. But I don't know how long it'll last.
Judging by the rate it's going down, maybe a couple of hours."
"Here's yon pod," Jamie said. "At least, it says so on the door."
"Good." Victoria slid the door open, and aimed her gun inside. The pod was,
indeed, empty. "I think we should remain outside." She pointed at a nearby
oxygen station. "There."
"Now just a minute. You're a lass."
"Yes, Jamie. I'm well aware of that."
"Well, it's not right. You should be in there, and I should be out here on
"Oh, don't be silly. We need to watch each other's backs. And I'm the one
with the gun."
She took up a defensive pose, holding her weapon ready for action.
"This is what comes of letting lassies wear trousers," Jamie grumbled,
taking up his post.