Backdoor Pilot

This year’s “We Hate DST” chapter has a secondary goal.

Ao3 Link

Augustus doesn’t understand how flying a Taxa fighter jet into the middle of nowhere is part of his training, which means either that it isn’t part of his training or that it’s part of some super awesome training programme he’s been selected for because he’s so cool.

It’s probably the second thing, he decides, though that doesn’t explain why Nathan is here with him. “Why are we bringing him?” he asks his mentor.

Lieutenant Syber Python doesn’t look up from the report he’s reading, even though he can interface with his unireader without visual input. “Because you are training partners and as such, your training should all be carried out in tandem, cadet.”

That is a predictable answer. It’s what Augustus knows to expect from a computer. “Whatever we’re doing, I’m more qualified for it than him.”

“That is demonstrably untrue,” Nathan says. Currently he’s a slender Savax youth whose tusks are just peeking past his lips, with deep eyes and blue shades under his earlobes indicating he’s ready to mate. “Our service records are identical, though you have received more reprimands for improper—”

Augustus taps his unireader to make Nathan stop talking. “Just sit there and let me fly the ship.”

“It’s not classified as a ship,” the lieutenant says.

Augustus’s neck vents open as he attempts to breathe normally. Even if on a very technical level Syber Python is his specific mentor while he’s in training with the Temporal Bureau, he wishes that Lieutenant Johnson were here. It’s nice not to be surrounded by machines that only talk to him in pre-programmed codes.

Which is apparently racist, so Augustus doesn’t say it. He doesn’t want to get stuck in another sensitivity seminar. So he just focuses on piloting the jet, which isn’t responding as well to him suddenly. He frowns, trying to open the thrusters. “What’s wrong with this piece of junk?” he asks, though technically it’s a more advanced piece of junk than anything he’d ever seen before joining the Bureau.

“It needs to be piloted by two people working in tandem,” says the lieutenant, finally looking up at Augustus. “It’s a training exercise to test your teamwork, which you’re both failing currently. Cadet Zimmerman, why aren’t you working your half of the controls?”

Nathan doesn’t say anything, but gestures vaguely at Augustus. Augustus very slowly blinks his eyes and gives another tap to return Nathan’s ability to speak. “Senior Cadet Quasar told me I wasn’t allowed.”

“Cadet Quasar is not your superior officer, I am. Fly the jet before we all die.”

“Yes, sir,” says Nathan, like a suck-up, which he is, and not just because he was designed to suck.

“We’re not going to die,” says Augustus, refusing to admit that the jet is flying more smoothly now that they’re both controlling it. “At worst we’d crash on this backwater and have to waste time cleaning up debris so nobody noticed it and accidentally invented electricity.”

“They have electricity on Earth in this time period,” the lieutenant informs him. “Alternating current, for the most part. They also have a sufficiently advanced telecommunications network that the probability of someone noticing an aircraft accident near a populated area and transmitting that information to others is very high.”

Augustus doesn’t care, and he tunes out the machine prattling as he flies the jet to their coordinates, which are in the middle of a population centre.

They’re just near the rendezvous point—who they’re rendezvousing with, Augustus has no idea—when the proximity alarms all start blaring and a hundred hostiles light up the screen. “What?” Augustus asks, jerking the jet to the left to get away from them. “Where did all these bogeys come from?”

“They’re Boogies, actually,” says Nathan, reading some data on his screen. “Boognarian war balloons, commonly known as Boogies. Have the Boognarians declared war on Earth?” he reads more data. “A temporal war? Who would send war balloons six hundred cycles into the past to a planet without interstellar tech?”

“The Boognarians, clearly,” Augustus said, readying the weapons. “Give me permission to fire,” he says to the lieutenant.

“Granted. Use of all weapons is permitted unrestricted for the next nineteen-point-three-five-four-eight-three-eight poina. Landing at the rendezvous point remains top priority.” The lieutenant doesn’t sound surprised or worried, which makes Augustus angrier.

“There are hostile readings appearing all over the planet,” says Nathan. “Catastrophic damage predicted to seventy-two-point-four-four-six percent of the planetary surface. Earth isn’t destroyed at this point in history.”

“Clearly it fucking is,” Augustus shoots at him, unleashing the Taxa fighter’s cool-ass laser torpedoes, which start blowing up war balloons and also the hovering volcano that’s just appeared. The destruction caused by the falling ice magma makes him feel a little better. Maybe this planet is useful after all, as target practice.

“I see neither of you has read the basic data on this temporospatial region,” the lieutenant says, and Augustus has to admit that whoever programmed his tones of voice did a good job on their prissiness coding. “This will be noted in your training logs. Earth experiences a temporospatial tear twice every orbital cycle in which people, objects, phenomena and events from across spacetime converge on the planet for the unit of time known locally as an hour. It is devastating and dangerous and it is entirely undone at the end of the period in question. There is no available explanation.”

“Wh…why did you bring us here in this? “Augustus demands. This level of combat is way above their training. This is so fucking stupid.

“I’m meeting a friend. Land the jet now.”

They do as they’re told, blasting more bogeys and Boogies out of the sky as they land on what a few minutes ago had likely been a field of local ground cover but was now on fire. Rather than using the cockpit hatch, the lieutenant goes to the front of the jet and opens the front hatch. He waves at someone outside.

“Get in, loser, we’re saving the world!”

“Jesus fuck,” says a human voice, and four humans race into the jet, three adolescents, one of whom is holding a crying juvenile. A large canine follows them. “Syber?” asks one of the humans.

The lieutenant nods. “Did I use that slang correctly? It is both derogatory and incorrect.”

The human smiles briefly. “You used it correctly. What’s going on, everything’s…”

“Everything will be fine,” the lieutenant promises him. “There’s a minor temporal anomaly occurring over your planet right now, but it will very shortly pass and everything will return to the way it was. Any damage or harm that was done to anyone will be undone. I promise.”

Augustus looks at Nathan as the lieutenant shows the humans where to sit. “Why are we rescuing civilians?” he fumes, as a portal squid appears in the sky above them and starts destroying Boogies.

He watches Nathan cycle through several response algorithms and settle on a Kevvelnar tongue-shrug. Dumbass doesn’t even try any Savaxa responses. How hard is it to stay in character? “I don’t know. But I do know that the lieutenant didn’t log this as a training exercise when we left Bureau headquarters. I believe he’s taken us on a personal outing.”

“That little…I’m going to report his synthetic ass to Command and they’re going to repurpose him into a sex magnet.” As Augustus says that, everything around them begins to explode, so he starts swearing instead, and he and Nathan take off.

“I’ve never met a sex magnet,” Nathan considers as they fly. He pressed a button and drops a thermonuclear scattershot on top of an iron behemoth from the Varr system’s ninety-third century that’s grown out of the ground beneath them. “Probably because doing so would corrupt my programming.”

“I thought you might like to see this with an experienced guide,” the lieutenant was saying. “Knowing that everything will be fine should diminish your fear, you see.”

“You…wanted to take me on a date to the end of the world?” the one human asks.

“Well…that was not my exact intention, as I have not yet asked permission to engage with you romantically, but…”

“Anyone with a time travelling fighter jet is allowed to have a night with Frederick,” says another of the humans.

“Oh. I…appreciate that.” The lieutenant looks flustered, as if his emotions are even real. “That’s very kind of you and gives me confidence for when I will ask you for that permission later. At a time when you will remember giving it. Consent given in an apocalypse is somewhat dubious.”

“I suppose…”

“Incoming,” Nathan warns, and Augustus stops paying attention to the front of the jet. There’s something big coming at them from above and he can’t manoeuvre fast enough to…


Augustus sees a shield go up and the jet’s escape pod engage, and so he doesn’t think the lieutenant is dead when the jet explodes, not that he’d care. He focuses on making sure he doesn’t die, tapping the gravity inverter in his chest to slow his fall.

He lands by himself in a torn-up street. “Lieutenant?” he asks, looking around. “Nathan? Nathan, where are you? Shit, shit, shit, Nathan!”

“I’m right here,” Nathan says in Augustus’s ear, just as Augustus’s hearts start slowing in fear. “I need to borrow the emitter on your uniform.”

Part of Augustus’s Bureau uniform powers up, and Nathan is standing there in front of him. Right. Right, that had been stupid. He looks away and takes his unireader out of a compartment in his thigh. “You’re responsible for the power waste you’re incurring,” he mutters, for something to say. Some proto-acid rain starts up, and Augustus throws up a shield over the two of them to block it.

“I understand. Are you hurt?”

“No. Are…” he trails off, resisting the urge to ask if Nathan is hurt. Nathan can’t be hurt. “I’ve never been outside of a Bureau space with you. I forgot this shithole doesn’t have the tech level to sustain holographic projections in all spaces.”

Nathan gives a Delb salute to show the affirmative. “Earth at this point in time has the same rough tech level as Caskada at the point where…”

“Whatever,” Augustus says, interrupting him. He doesn’t need another reminder that he’s a barbarian. He pulls his weapon out from the compartment on the side of his arm. “I don’t see these fuckers building an intergalactic ark ship.”

“No, they do not possess the requisite engineering or mathematical skills to develop space flight,” Nathan agrees. “Their telecommunications network is quite fascinating, though, it’s a non-integrated…”

“Save it,” Augustus says, materializing a sidearm as a triplex of…something that’s on fire appears from around a corner. He shoots them all, which prevents their advance but does spread the fire to several buildings. “Wish I had a cooler weapon.” Bureau operatives weren’t supposed to have weapons beyond their basic guns, but all the Temporal Law Enforcement guys had arsenals of cool shit that they wouldn’t fucking share with him. Even the lieutenant has enough weapons hidden inside him to destroy a solar system.

“Your sidearm is fully functional,” Nathan informs him. “Albeit only a sixty-four percent power. Did you fail to charge it again?”

“Stop talking like a robot, you don’t need to impress the lieutenant right now.”

Nathan gives him a smile. “Stop being mean to me, then.”

“Whatever, I’m glad you’re okay, okay?” Augustus kicks a stone, which turns into a slimy arachnid, so he shoots it. “I was worried the ship exploding might have damaged your programming.”

“That almost happened. I downloaded myself into the microships under your arm plating.”

Augustus was glad he’d brought them. “You’d better not have deleted the porn I keep there.”

“I didn’t. Sovv’iyke porn is really raunchy, you know.”

“Whatever. It’s not that weird.”

“I didn’t say it was weird. I said you were horny.” Augustus chooses not to answer that. Nathan’s a sex hologram. He always thinks Augustus is horny, and Augustus is still angry so he just doesn’t have it in him to admit when Nathan is right. Since he isn’t answering, Nathan says, “I do appreciate that you brought them.”

Augustus ripples. “You’re my partner. Can you get the lieutenant?”

“No. Communication is jammed. He successfully ejected the escape pod, however.”

“Okay.” He relaxes a little. “I guess it’s just us until this bullshit ends.”

“Yeah.” Nathan’s own sidearm appears in his hand. “This will drain quite a lot of power, I’m afraid. But I’ll help you recharge when we’re back at HQ.”

“I know you will.” There are some aliens coming around the corner, and Augustus’s readout identifies them as Escever pirates. He opens fire and Nathan does too, and after a second there are no pirates. “Hey, Nathan?”


“The real reason you’ve never met a sex magnet is because identical magnets repel each other.”

Nathan looks at him, a sly grin on his cheeks. He tilts his head the way Caskada do, which makes Augustus’s skin heat up. “Are you flirting with me during an apocalypse, cadet?”

“It’d conserve power if I took away your ability to speak again,” Augustus says, looking forward as they head down the destroyed street.

“Sure. When we get back, you want to experience some of that porn together while we recharge?’

Augustus lets his frills open for a second, then close, and he nods. “Yeah, sure. I modelled your current appearance off one of them.”

“I knew that when you did it, Augustus.”

Embarrassed now but in a comfortable way, Augustus starts moving. It’s different, with Nathan, when they’re alone. He feels okay being embarrassed, sometimes. Nathan feels okay embarrassing him, a little.

And he knows that when they find the lieutenant he’s going to go right back to treating Nathan like a computer program, but that’s comfortable too, and that’s okay.

After the temporospatial tear resolves itself, it takes the lieutenant a little while to find them, so Augustus and Nathan hang out on Earth for a bit. It’s the middle of the night and nobody sees them, but they get reprimanded together for failing to disguise themselves. The lieutenant lets them hang out until the late sunrise, though.

It’s almost like a date, except they have to write incident reports about it. Augustus makes Nathan write his and takes a nap instead. It works. They’ve found a way to make it work, and that’s what Augustus cares about. So he’s happy. So they’re happy.

Previous (Modern AU)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s