I have died and gone to hell.

Jenny didn't dare look up. He thought she could solve that? Her head hurt, her stomach roiled, and the only thing she could think was that at least she'd thrown up on the floor rather than the console.

He'd called the Eagle. Well, the Eagle had seen just how good she was in other areas. Not. Any minute now, someone would tell her that her services were no longer required and take her bracelet away. Would they make her face her team-mates? She wasn't sure she could. They thought they'd finally got their chance. They were going to be so horribly disappointed.

The door opened. "Mark's on his way," said a female voice. Not even Paula, which would have been bearable. Footsteps across the room, and an arm round her shoulders. "Jen, what's wrong?"

"I can't do it," she choked out. Just what she needed to complete her humiliation: all three senior members of G-Force.

"What's the problem?" Yup, that was the Eagle. "Shouldn't Rick be dealing with this?"

She gathered all her nerve and willed her voice to stay steady. "It's okay, Commander. I'll go give him my resignation."

"Like hell you will." That was the Condor. "Mark, she's been shafted. Some idiot gave her our last mission tape."

"The one with the solution so unstable they're still trying to replicate it numerically?"

"That's the one. Since she threw up when I started trying to explain it, I figured it was best coming from someone she knew."

Not that she knew Mark very well. But he'd been patient and understanding when she'd been in the throes of space-sickness. He'd helped her through it, an hour at a time when necessary.

Now, he snorted. "As if I can explain it. I agree, though. Not one for Rick, not yet. You need the simulator?"

"Computer'll do just fine."

"Then let's do this in the ready room. Come on, Kestrel. Go clean up, and then we'll sort this out."

She stood up shakily, vaguely aware that Princess had called for a janitor, and too unhappy to care.


The Condor was waiting for her when she came out of the bathroom, feeling a little better for having rinsed her mouth and splashed water on her face. He said nothing, just left in the direction of the ready rooms. Following him seemed the only thing to do.

The G-Force ready room was much like the Force Two one, except that everything was much more worn. They'd spent a lot of time in here. Years of sitting and waiting for the next emergency. She'd faced that for a couple of hours and already she couldn't handle it.

"Sit there," said Jason when she hesitated just inside the doorway, pointing to a computer terminal in the corner.

She did so. Princess presented her with a glass of something ginger-based, and she sipped it carefully.

Jason brought a second chair over, and sat alongside her, firing the terminal up. "You going to throw up again when I show you something you can't solve?" he asked.

"No." As she said it, she was sure. It wasn't unexpected now. Still horrible, still terrifying, but if she turned off the part of her brain which autotranslated equations to graphs, it was fine.

"I'm not going to explain the entire reduction process to you," Jason said bluntly as he set the computer up. "You don't have enough maths to understand it, and it doesn't matter to you. All you need to do is watch the red lights. If one of them's lit, there are values too large to be negligible. Abort if you can. If you can't, it'll be the jump from hell but you'll be fine. Two or more... well, the more there are, the less resemblance what you're solving bears to the real thing."

That made sense. A whole lot more sense than the previous explanations. Explanations given, she realised now, by mathematical theorists rather than someone who did her job for real.

Jason was looking at her. Expectantly, she suspected. And he was the one person who might understand.

"What if you have a bunch of red lights and you have no choice?"

"There's always a choice. You're in a warship, kid. If you can't make the jump then you turn and fight. Or you get that kickass pilot of yours to get you out of trouble in realspace. Or the Crane gets on the jump-comm and calls in help. It's not all down to you."

"But you..."

"I've done all those things multiple times. I've gone for jump through multiple red lights once, in five years, and it was three days ago - you've got access to the logs, check them if you don't believe me. I don't expect you to do it ever. You tell your commander there's no solution and you sit back. If anyone gives you grief about it, point them at me. If your pilots can't set up an approach which gives you decent numbers, that's their problem. Don't make it yours."

"And they can," said Princess from over at the table. "Jen, what Jason's talking about is really very unlikely. You've got to focus on your job and what you can do, rather than what might go wrong with everyone else's. You've just got to."

"Yes, mother," said Jason, and Jenny swallowed her own response in shock. That hadn't been aimed at her. It had been aimed at the Condor, and he'd acknowledged it. It wasn't just her. If he could feel like that, maybe she could do this after all.

"Now then," he said, and the sardonic tone was back, "I'm going to show you my solution to this, so you don't go spare trying to figure it out. And then you're going to go forget about it and remember that you can do the standard setups in your sleep. Deal?"

She nodded, and actually meant it.

"So," said Mark a couple of minutes after the door had shut behind a much happier Jenny, "do I go tell Anderson about this?"

Jason shrugged, flicking the computer switch off. "I don't think they're ready, period. But I don't think this makes them any less ready. What's the worst that can happen? Anderson sends them out, she freezes at the jump-point, they come home, we go instead. End of."

"I think she'll be fine," said Princess.

There was a long pause.

"So, said Mark, "I guess we're on vacation? We don't need to stay here. We finally get to have a break. Jason - you could go do one of those international races you keep having to turn down."

You don't get it, do you? Jason expected Princess to say something, but she was fiddling with something at the table. He knew make-work when he saw it.

"We need to be ready to go help them," he said.

"I..." said Princess. To his horror, she appeared to be close to tears.

"Nothing's changed," Mark said to her. To Jason, he said, "No, G-2. You've got to leave it."

"But what if -"

His commander got to his feet, almost smoothly. "Walk with me," he said. It wasn't a request.


Mark led Jason outside in silence, heading, it was soon apparent, for the clifftop overlooking the deep water bay. Down there somewhere was the underwater entrance to the Phoenix's hangar. In just the right light and tide conditions you could see some of the machinery housing deep underwater, if you knew what to look for. Today the light was flat and grey and the tide was high. Nothing to be seen except choppy waves, seagulls, and one lone seal.

"Princess needs a break," Mark said, sitting on the grass close to the edge of the cliff. "She's having a miserable time with her wisdom teeth, they need to come out, and it's complicated. Surgery, general anaesthetic, and painkillers afterwards. You have to stop making her think that putting it off for another few days is worthwhile."

"For toothache?"

Mark looked sideways at him. "Remind me how long you were sidelined with a headache."

"I guess." He sat in silence, watching the gulls wheel and dive.

"I hate this," Mark burst out. "Before, when I left, at least I knew it was still G-Force out there. Just me missing. Now..."

"Now it's Force Two, backed up by you and me." Jason shook his head. Reassuring wasn't exactly his strong point. "The others will be back. And if Princess needs her teeth fixed, now's as good a time as any."

"Maybe they won't be needed. Princess should be back inside a week. Tiny can't take much longer than that, surely? Keyop - I don't know, and I doubt Chris will tell me. But we've often had quiet patches for a couple of weeks. We just splashed three mecha. We could get lucky."

Jason groaned. "You had to say that, didn't you?"

They sat in silence, listening for an emergency siren. For now, the only sounds were the birds and the waves far below.