Well, not quite a thousand, but enough to matter.
I am, of course, talking about Jane herself.
Jane’s childhood home was the farmhouse at Hallsfield on the planet Mercia. Jane is only three generations from the original settlers, her great-grandfather built the original farmhouse. Of course it’s been remodelled and extended over the centuries, but there are a couple of the original composite panels in the back wall of the machinery shed.
Jane’s early years were spent in the shadow of her older brother, Tom. Jane’s small size and unconventional ways of doing things meant that Tom didn’t quite take her seriously. But she soon learned how to assert herself, and the repertoire of tricks she developed to get the better of him in the end led to the outrageous stunts she has pulled off as a space fleet officer.
From an early age she could see that Tom would take over the farm when her parents retired, and that the best she could hope for would be to spend the rest of her life as his deputy. This, and a growing dislike of getting up early to see to the cows, turned her towards the idea of a technical career. She studied computing and electronics, and would probably have gone on to be a successful engineer if interstellar politics had not suddenly intruded into her life.
Peter Dean, a renegade space fleet officer, and Simon Garrett kidnapped Jane, no easy feat. They took her to Garrett’s house on Topanga, where affection began to grow between Jane and Garrett’s son, Andrew.
Space Fleet were aware of what had happened, but their search for Jane was making no progress. She, on the other hand, had bluffed Dean into believing that she was interested in him.
Then things became really complicated. Dean and Garrett were involved in a deep conspiracy and to fund it they had sold Jane to both the Khan of Nineveh and Archduke Kalbstein of Bavaria. With both deposits secured they then attempted to deliver Jane to the Khan. As Jane put it “You do not want to know what he wanted to do to me, particularly not when you are eating.”
Thinking that Jane will not survive the Khan’s attentions Dean lets her read the technical manuals for his spaceship. As bad moves go this is a classic, Jane has now memorised exactly how the drive systems work and what can make them fail.
Helped by Andrew she almost escaped. Aware of the problems she could cause Dean and Garrett set off in Dean’s eighty-footer to make the delivery to the Khan. With Jane in a straight jacket and strapped to the floor in the storeroom they feel reasonably safe, at least until Jane gets loose and wires a dead short onto the orthodynamic drive controls.
The resulting implosive starcrash puts the ship out of commission. Dean manages to dead-stick it back to the takeoff field but crashes on landing.
Jane, meanwhile, has been transmitting and space fleet are not far behind.
They believe that they can take Jane back to the farm and that will be the end of the matter.
Jane has now discovered that she prefers spaceships to cows. She also has memorised the entire mechanism of the orthodynamic (faster-than-light) drive. This is not only highly secret but is also the key to Arcturian political, economic and military ascendency.
There was only one thing space fleet could do. They gave her a commission.
And that’s how a farmer’s daughter from a backwater planet ended up as an officer in planetary operations.