" Link us through to the headquarters for the twenty-fifth sector," he ordered, striding in.

The remaining staff all looked up; women far older than him.

No one spoke for a moment.

" Link us through to headquarters," he repeated.

One of them spoke up.

" Ah, Captain Masterson... The... The communications system was completely shredded in the blast," she said hesitantly. " We're trying to get it back up, but..."

" Give me your seat," he said shortly.

" Captain Masterson...?"

" I have certification for both bridge operation and emergency electronic repair," he said. " Give me your seat."

She made a sort of awkward face, full of misgiving, but stood.

It still all smelled like smoke and emergency sealant. Disgusting. He felt like his head was ringing...

He sat down and looked at the switchboard and screen in front of him.

" Senior Bridge Technician Joan Paacibel, go pull all of the concentric fiber keys from the ambient electricity operations," he ordered.

Her brow furrowed.

" Captain Masterson, that'll shut the field down-"

He yanked the panel open.

" We don't need the field. The enemy is pursuing us by following it. What we need is a link with headquarters. So go."

She went.