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Full Version: Science fiction novel. Saturn Situation Book One. Completed.
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Chapter 14:

Passing along the itinerary to Ted and letting him know I can be the Officer On Watch for the third shift takes just a minute so I head back to our quarters and change out of the work utilities for some civilian clothes per Terry's instructions. Once done with that I wheel on over to the airlock that is our connection to the station meeting Juliet there. Juliet smiles at me and asks “Ready for some Thai food?” Giving her a skeptical look I ask “No Tina and Terry?” “They'll meet us there.” Sensing a troublesome couple of hours ahead of me I almost change my mind but the lure of free Thai food is too great so we head on out.

Wheeling alongside Juliet and making some small talk we pass by an Italian restaurant and waiting in line is Cheryl talking with a tall blonde guy I don't recognize. It's mildly interesting that they are so close together and they holding hands while waiting to be seated. The Thai place is just a few dozen shops further down so Juliet and I don't break stride and keep heading that way. Cheryl must have spotted us out of the corner of her eye because she jumps and then gives us what seems to be a guilty look. Giving her a smile and a wave I keep rolling along and notice the frown Juliet is giving me. A problem for later I would imagine. If she is unhappy about something I generally hear it when she's ready and not a second sooner. Usually, it is at high volume and with her arms waving around.

Terry and Tina are waiting at the restaurant for us and have a table in a convenient spot for wheelchair access. As soon as Juliet and I are there the three of them decide they need to use the restroom. Probably to talk about me. Deciding not to take issue with it unless they start something I flag a waiter and order a couple of coffees for myself and Juliet. She may be a pain in the neck but she's my cousin.

A few minutes later the ladies are back at the table and they are all staring at me. I just sip my coffee and wait. A few minutes later we order food and go back to the silent waiting game. As long as I get to eat I can play this game all day and they know it. Tina finally cracks and asks about my leg. “It's fine. Healing nicely. I should be walking again in no time thanks to your excellent medical care.”

Juliet asks “Should we talk about what we saw on the way here?” Shaking my head I reply “No.” Terry snorts and says “We will talk about that and a whole lot more Eric.” I snort back and reply “Not unless you want people at this table screaming and starting a food fight we won't.” Giving me a dirty look she complains “I've been trying to get you to talk about Diane and what happened to break you guys up for almost a year now. What happened that made you volunteer for a second tour in the Canal? You just keep digging your heels in harder every time we try to get you to open up.” Going blank faced on her I quietly remark “Terry, we have not talked about it because I do not want to talk about it.”

Tina decides to give it a try. “Eric, you do need to talk about what happened. It's the only way to get past what happened. It's bordering on a medical issue now. The longer this goes on without you getting help the shorter your temper gets.” Shaking my head at her I respond “Tina, you just are not getting it. I refuse to talk about it because I want to let that drift away not reopen old wounds. It's not important enough for me to scramble my brains over anymore. I'm out of the Canal Zone again and working towards what I really want out of life and every time someone brings that mess up it distracts me from my goals.”

Juliet jumps in with "You may say it's not important but it's coloring every other relationship you have, even with old friends and family. You are becoming distant and detached. You need to man up and figure out that there actually is a problem and correct it." I give that a nod and then wheel over to the cashier's booth. "I'm paying for the meal that was ordered at the table I just came from." They run my card and I sign the tablet. Juliet walks over and asks "What are you doing?" "Going back to the ship. Go enjoy the meal. It's on me." Juliet starts to say something but stops at the lack of expression on my face. Looking like she's going to power through my blank look and actually says something she's going to regret later I interrupt and calmly and quietly say "Juliet. You're my favorite relative. Don't make me reconsider that by strapping on cleats and stomping on a button that I'd like people to just leave alone. I'll talk about it all when I'm damned well good and ready to talk about it."

Looking a little shocked and startled at the growl in my voice on that last sentence she nods and retreats back to the table where Tina and Terry are also looking a little stunned and maybe a little scared. Even the cashier is looking like she wants to duck behind the counter. The rest of the restaurant is just staring at me. Giving them all a wave I wheel out of the restaurant and head back to the ship. Two hours until I'm on duty and I think I'll try taking a nap.

As I'm passing the Italian restaurant Cheryl comes out and stumbles to a stop. I just give her a nod and go back to focusing on not running anyone over with the chair. I'm not sure what that look on her face is about. She's the one on a date, not me. It's not like we are even dating so it's back burner time for that whole issue while I try and remember which elevator we used to get to this level.

About halfway to the elevators, I spot Sean who meets me a half dozen yards from the first elevator and spins to walk alongside me. "Third one from here boss." "Thanks Sean.” It's a nice and quiet trip back to the ship where he sees me to my quarters and then heads off to do whatever it was he was doing before someone called to tell him I was wandering around alone and needed a bodyguard on a secure station.

Being too keyed up to sleep I decide to test my leg and find it good enough for government work. Doing a limping jog over to the gym I run through a quick upper body workout and then hit the showers. Showing up right on schedule on the bridge on my own two feet for a change I relieve the lieutenant who is Officer Of The Watch and start cycling through the reports from the varied stations while practicing with the therapy device for my hand.

An hour into the shift the bridge gets a call from one of the lower decks. “Captain. This is Sergeant Chano in the storage rooms. We have a scheduled delivery coming in.” “Copy that sergeant. Two armored Marines and a full NBC threat sniffing of everything coming in.” “Affirmative Captain. I can pull the required crew from those available.” “Are your regular security personnel on board or taking advantage of the day pass?” “Day pass sir. I have a Sergeant Paul Stevens and a Private Luisa Gomez on watch in their battle armor.” “They'll do. I'll help with the NBC threat assessment. No need to roust someone else.” “Copy that Captain.”

Turning to the bridge I say "Master Sergeant. You have the bridge. Get the main scanners online and do an additional scan of the delivery for me and report when it's done. I'll below decks if you need me." "Affirmative sir. Two minutes until the scanner is up and I'll have that report in five." "Thank you Master Sergeant."

Down in the cargo hold waiting for the pressure to equalize between the newly attached tube and the ramp door I go over the manifest of what's coming in with the Sergeant Chano. “It looks like it's a shipment for you sir. Sixty of the newly designed battle suits.” “That's what it appears to be. One for each of the crew I'll have on my new destroyer once we get to Sol Two shipyards. I have no clue which belongs to who though because I have numbers here but no crew list to go with it just yet. That's another thing waiting for me to discover when I get out there. I do love surprises.” Chano quips “Don't we all Captain.” A snort of laughter for that and we finally achieve air pressure balance and start lowering the ramp.

On my coms, I get a call "Captain. Security scan shows the all clear. The drivers are known and correspond with shipper's records for this delivery. The vehicle is known and shows no abnormalities. The cargo reads as battle armor with no NBC threats mixed in." "Copy that Master Sergeant. Thank you for the heads up." "Anytime sir. That's what we are here for." Disconnecting that I turn to the sergeant in charge and say "When you are ready. I'll scan and you store." "Yes sir. It shouldn't take long. I've handled these types of crates before and they are easy to move with the forklift if you use the grab paddles. Maybe an hour or two of work with the scanning.” “Affirmative sergeant. Let's get it done.”

A couple of hours later and back on the bridge familiarizing myself with the performance of the Asp class destroyer that I'll be commanding soon I notice someone in the door staring at me. Giving Cheryl a nod and going back to the data on the screen I hear her ask “Can we talk?” “Sorry, kind of busy right now Cheryl. Maybe later.” A soft “Ok.” and then silence. A few minutes later I hear her leave. I'm really going to enjoy commanding this ship. It's almost twice the ship that my previous destroyer was all packed onto the same sized hull. I'm really looking forward to trying out the new plasma torpedoes. If I stagger the fire times with the rail gun I think I can get hits going in a drilling pattern as long as the opponent ship doesn't change aspects on me.

The shift ends with another lieutenant relieving me and I head for the mess hall with my notepads to do some more research into where we are going. Planet six actually has a habitable moon that is warmed by a very highly radioactive core. The process is not yet well understood but it also has a gravity of point nine Earth normal despite being half the size. It must be a very metal rich core swirling around in there and that's born out by the fact that during its frequent volcanic eruptions the lava can be harvested and after purifying it contains a very strong iron blend. They are already using it for ship frames and armor components and it seems to be almost as resilient as our hemp steel if a little heavier by volume. That moon isn't really being considered as prime real estate considering how active the vulcanism is but it's a great place for research labs and training bases.

Lost in my research I barely notice the next shift change. A few hours later and still reading but now interrupted by Tony and Ming I hear Tony ask “How's thing going?” Mumbling “Fine. Fascinating reading.” Ming nods her head at that and says “Have you been off shift yet?” Heavily distracted I answer "Off shift now. Fascinating reading." Tony snorts and Ming says "Sleep cycle Eric. Have you taken one yet?" "Not yet. Fascinating reading." Ming nods and takes the datapad from my hand. "Hey? I was reading that." Tony looks like he's struggling to keep a straight face but Ming just gives me a look and says "You need some sleep. Go." Taking the data pad back I say "I'll sleep when I'm ready to sleep and I'm not ready yet. I'm too wound up. I'd just toss around like a brain damaged walrus if I tried right now."

Tony decides to weigh in and says "Why don't you hit the gym. A good workout may be what you need to settle you down and tire you enough to sleep." I shrug. "Not a bad idea. I'll be in the gym if you need me." After a solid two hour workout and a quick shower, I'm back in the mess hall sipping a vitamin drink and reading again. I can feel the burn that a good solid exercise routine leaves you with but I'm not in the least bit sleepy. Sitting there working the therapy device for my hand and reading I'm eventually joined by Cheryl. “Can we talk?” “Not right now Cheryl. I'm really into the biology and life cycle of the wolf analogs running around on the fourth planet. It's fascinating reading. I really wish they would settle on some names for these planets. Numbers just aren't cutting it in my mind.”

Cheryl goes on with “I know you're upset by what happened on the station but I think we really need to talk about it.” Glancing up from the data pad I ask “What makes you think I'm upset?” She smirks and says “Well for starters you skipped the sleep cycle so that you wouldn't have to be in the room with me.” Snorting at that I say “Too wound up to sleep right now. I'd have tossed and turned and kept you awake the whole cycle." Cheryl gives a startled glance down and says "And secondly you just broke the therapy device." Looking down I see that she's right. "Gods forsaken tinker toys. I can hear the damned thing squeak every time I make a fist." Cheryl gives me a quizzical look "The therapy device?" Shaking my head sadly "No. The new hand. The knuckles squeak." That earns me a puzzled look. Opening and closing my hand a few times I ask "You can't hear that?" She shakes her head. "I can hear it loud and clear. Now if you excuse me I think I'm going to go hit the gym." With that, I get up and walk away.

Another couple of hours in the gym this time working on my Judo and doing some Parkour I end up back in the main mess hall with my data pads reading some more and drinking coffee. I hear people talking about us shoving off in a couple of hours. I have the shift after that one on the bridge so it should be fairly quiet until the slingshot around the sun happens. Not my shift either which is fine. I can handle some boredom for a change. There really is a lot to learn about the Sol Two system.

I'm soon interrupted by Ann and four young ladies. “Got a minute Eric?” Putting the data pad down I nod. She says “These are going to be your squabs on your new ship. They passed the clearances needed for the trip out. Meet Sheila, Elisa, Margaret, and Sharon." "Nice to meet you ladies. Any particular career tracks in mind or just trying to get a sense of what you want to do?" Sheila and Sharon sort of shrug but Elisa squeaks "I'm thinking career military like my mom. She's a staff sergeant for Admiral Carmine on Jupiter Starbase Five." Sharon whispers "I was leaning towards environmental systems engineering. I'm pretty handy when it comes to the systems and I have a green thumb and like plants." "Fair enough. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you ladies to advance your career tracks. I'm assured that we'll have the complete database on the computers so we'll be able to set you all up with whatever educational needs you'll have."

Ann nods at that and says "All right ladies. Off to your quarters now. We'll be leaving the station in an hour.” Giving them a nod at their thanks for my time I decide to get back to what I was doing before being interrupted. Picking up my data pad I get back to reading and find myself getting distracted once again. “So what is with the grim face Eric. I'm pretty sure you scared a few feathers off of the squabs with that look.” “Not sure what you're talking about Ann. It's just my normal face.” Shaking her head she quips “Resting bitch face.” That earns her a startled look. “No Eric. You don't have that and that's why I'm wondering about why it looks that way now. You look like you're about to chew metal and spit bullets while trying to hide it.”

I give her a shrug and go back to my reading. Now with a concerned look on her face, she asks "Eric. What's going on? You're playing strong and silent with too strong an emphasis on silent, even for you.” Glancing at my watch I say “Nothing is going on Ann. I'm on duty in an hour and I'd just like to get some reading done before I wade into a thousand boring reports. I think I'm getting obsessed with the Sol Two system. I just wish they had named the planets instead of numbering them. It just doesn't seem grand enough to call a planet Four. You may as well just call the damned thing Bob.”

She's giving me a very strange look now. “Now I know something is wrong. You just are not the sort to snarl like that much less start swearing over something like a planet name. Spill Eric.” Heaving a deep sigh I look back up at her and say as calmly as I can “Nothing is wrong Ann. I'm tired but not sleepy and feeling a bit grouchy about it." Giving me a skeptical nod she says "All right. I'll buy that for now. If you decide that there is something wrong and feel like talking about it, you know where you can find me." "Thanks Ann. Appreciate that." With that, she gets up and heads off so I get back to my reading.

Towards the end of a nice quiet shift, I'm relieved by Ted who says "You're off the duty roster for the next few days. Compensation for being on the skeleton crew while everyone else was on leave." "Thanks Ted." "Eric. Steve asked me to pass you a message that he has a poker game set up and he'll meet you in the main mess hall. I think he mentioned getting some of the good stuff from the Mars commissary so smoke it if he's got it. That's some prime stuff." "Copy that Colonel." "Have fun." Giving him a wave I make my way to the main mess hall and see Steve and Tony waiting for me and waving to get my attention.

Getting to the room they set up for this I see Paul, Ann, and Juliet, as well as Steve and Tony, joining in the night's festivities. Ann looks up as we come in and says "Finally. We have an assortment of booze on the side table, snacks enough to last us eight hours of hard partying for two dozen people and enough of the good stuff to knock them all down for a day. Let's get this poker night going." Giving a laugh at that I sit down and accept the stick and a glass of scotch and we get things going.

Somewhere along the way Tina, Terry, Cheryl, Ming, Jerry, and Scott showed up to hang out, drink, smoke and talk with us. They set up another table and started another poker game over there and a few hours later the games are still going strong. Paul calls five card draw with deuces wild. I prefer Texas Hold em myself but that's cool. His deal his call. The conversations are pretty lively even between the tables and the longer the night goes the more ribald the stories and chatter becomes.

A few hours pass and some of the conversations are getting crazy wild in content with people trying to outdo the last crazy story told. Tony finishes telling one about a crazy night on Titan station with some friends on leave and a night club with some crazy ladies and his hook up in the bathroom. Jerry finally leans over behind Terry and asks “Hey Eric, whatever happened to that blonde you were dating and that moved in with you in Brazil when we were stationed down there. You know the one that you met just after we did our tour in the Canal Zone? Crazy curves and huge boobies and legs that went on for miles? You were with her for what? Six or seven months? You should have some crazy stories about that chick. She was pretty wild if I remember right. She certainly had crazy eyes.”

Taking a puff on the latest stick to be passed around I nod and say “Yup. Crazy. Definitely crazy. It didn't last because she was too nuts for me to take.” Scott asks “What sort of crazy are we talking about here? Sex in public places crazy or just plain out whips and chains crazy?” Musing to myself I comment “You know. I was thinking about asking Diane to marry me. Had a ring bought and everything.” Juliet mumbles “I didn't know that.” The rest nod at that and Ann gives me a weird look while asking “So what happened? I know you ended up back in the Zone around that time for a second tour.” Tina adds on “Not exactly the actions of a guy planning on getting married unless something really bad happened that would push someone towards an extreme action.” Nods all around.

“You know what Spark and Fire is?” Head shakes all around. “It's some of those new drugs floating around South America that people can take that essentially turns them into porn stars. With Spark, the guys have a four or five hour erection and it has some sort of tree frog poison in it that mildly numbs you so you don't pop quickly. Even if you do you don't lose your erection and can keep on going. It gets you all wound up too. Makes you very horny from what I hear of it. Fire is the female version of that but it makes the woman hyper sensitive and multi orgasmic as well as keeping the juices flowing so there is no discomfort to what it takes to get to the multiple orgasms that she has for four or five hours while on it.”

Tony looking a little startled asks “So she kept trying to get you to take it?” Smiling sadly at him I say “No not me.” Shocked looks and silence. Steve eventually asks “She was cheating on you with someone else?” I hold up three fingers. Shocked Cheryl blurts out “She was cheating on you with three guys?” Giving her a startled look I say “No I need three cards. I think Paul deals from a different deck for me with all these crap cards I'm getting tonight. Seriously Paul. Cards. I need some decent ones for a change.” Scott says “Not that fool. What about Diane?” “Yeah, that. I ended up walking in on her servicing six guys all of them on Spark and Fire. It was a pretty shocking scene.”

Extremely startled looks. Terry whispers “What?” Rolling my eyes I explain “I came home from my duty shift and she was in bed with six guys and there were empty Spark and Fire injectors all over the place along with some other drugs. It was enough to make me think this was round two or maybe three. When I asked for an explanation she stopped what she was doing for a minute and said that I was good. Really good but not six guys on spark good. She knew I wouldn't be part of a scene like that so she wanted to break up with me and went back to doing what I had walked in on her doing. Once she was done talking they all sort of ignored the fact that I was still standing there as if I didn't even exist. I eventually managed to get out of the house and ended up walking around for a couple of days.”

I'm not sure who said it but I hear a soft “What a whore.” I just shrug. “Different strokes and all that. She was right though. It wasn't the scene for me.” Paul who wasn't in the group back then asks “So what did you do?” “First I got the money back for the ring I bought her. Then I spent a week crawling around at the bottom of a few bottles. After that, I volunteered to lead some greenies in the Canal Zone for a year to shape them up. It pretty much guaranteed my getting command of something besides a corvette when I was done. They had a destroyer coming off the assembly line so I ended up with my captain's bars. If I waited a couple of months I could probably have gotten a heavy cruiser but I wanted my own ship."

Jerry whispers “Jesus wept on his cross.” Terry asks “So that's why you haven't been dating for the past year and change?” Nodding at her I explain “Well that and I also had a heavy course load in the academy to actually get my captain's bars in the time I did. I think I actually set a record for course loads. It would have taken me twice as long if I hadn't hammered down the way I did. That obviously means we wouldn't be sitting here now. I'd probably still be in the academy if I hadn't pushed as hard as I did.”

Getting handed a fresh stick I take a puff, take another puff and then pass it. Damned good stuff. I'm going to have to remember that Mars brand next time I have time off. Combined with the scotch it's a very mellow and relaxing high. It's a good thing that I'm so stoned and drunk. It was difficult to tell all of that even now but that would have been brutal to talk about if I were sober and straight. Which is probably why these manipulative idiots got me stoned and drunk in the first place. Bless their dark and devious little hearts. I'm glad they are on my side.

Cheryl asks “Is that why you were mad at me after you saw me at the restaurant with Samson?” Giving her a confused look I point at Tina, Terry, and Juliet while replying “I wasn't mad at you. I was mad about getting jumped by those three at the restaurant about a subject I wasn't ready to talk about yet.” Shaking her head she says “But you didn't want to talk to me about it and then you didn't come to the room for our sleep cycle.” Smiling at that “That wasn't about you. I was still wound up from those three ambushing me so I wasn't feeling talkative at all. That would have been a shouting match with the mood I was in. And I was still pissed later on and wouldn't have been able to sleep at all. I'd have just kept you awake all night with me tossing and turning on the couch.”

Juliet asks “So that's what you didn't want to talk about at the Thai place?” Nodding at her I say “Yup. Not the right time or the right place for any of that to be told. I'm still not amused that I ended up telling it now but at least it's not in a restaurant with dozens of strangers hearing me tell about how stupid little old me got played for a jackass by a woman I thought I could possibly settle down with.”

Dead silence for a few minutes while they all digest this. No one is even playing cards at the moment. Time to break the mood I think. “So I hear everyone in the fleet that is going out to drop off the satellite is getting battle suits. Some sort of new and improved version that is geared towards fighting the bugs on their own turf. I actually like the idea of ship crews having battle armor. Better survivability over our regular suits. More protection as well as more resources to keep you alive longer in an emergency.” I get a medley of strange looks at that and Cheryl finally squeaks “That's what you want to talk about after dropping that bomb on us?”

Giving her a shrug I say “Well we could talk about that blonde well built guy you were on a date with. Would that make you happier?” Now the focus is on Cheryl. Sadly it doesn't stay that way. “It wasn't a date you idiot. He's a friend from piloting school that I kept in contact with and he would be more interested in what's under your uniform than what's under mine. He's transferring out to be a pilot on one of the new destroyers. Probably mine if I can swing it.” Huh. Well isn't that a thing. With that settled we get back to poker and lighter conversations for a few hours until we are all so out of it that we call it a night.
I think one more chapter should wrap up book one of the sci fi series. One more big event to this before we really get going with the action and drama.

After that it's probably back to the zombie novel to finish up book two now that I have the technical problems figured out.
Chapter 15:

Going through battle simulations as pilot in the copilot seat under the keen observation of the PB Arkansas Alpha Lieutenant Commander and chief pilot Mickey Steele in order to get some continuing educational credits towards my next promotion and practice so that I can renew my pilot license that is coming up soon we hear some chatter in the background but keep our focus on the simulation. About half way through the simulation terminates and we both turn to the only person who has the authority to override it. Mickey asks the newly arrived Ted “What's going on Colonel? Why the cancel?”

Looking very frustrated and more than a little angry Ted snaps “The fleet is being recalled to Mars orbit. An emergency laser line caught up with us a few minutes ago. No reason specified but it was not a secure channel even if it was in code. Command authorization codes do match what is on records. Further orders will be coming in from Mars as we close. I will have the course plot for you in five or six minutes but we are to make our best speed there Mickey." "Affirmative Colonel. Best speed on the new course as soon as I have the track." "Good enough Mickey. You can go back to the simulation training afterward if you want." "Your call Captain. We have been hammering it for just over three hours. An hour past regulation training times." "Yeah, we can call it for the day. Thanks for your help Mickey. I think I can handle one of the big birds in an emergency now." "Anytime Eric. Let me know if you want to do some more training tomorrow and I'll set up the sims for you.”

Giving him a nod I make my way for the officer's mess hall and some coffee. It's been a long morning so far. Terry and Tina join me where I'm nursing my coffee and bracket me with their own beverages. Leaning against me on either side Terry puts a pill on the table. “If your hangover is as bad as mine was when I got up then you'll need this.” Mumbling while I scoop it up “Where were you four hours ago before I ended up in the hands of that insufferable martinet Mickey?” I hear soft laughs from either side as I swallow the pill and pray that it either helps me or kills me. I'm not sure which option I prefer at this point.

A few minutes later and feeling a little better Tina asks me "Are we turning?" "Yup. Recalled to Mars orbit for some reason. Further orders as we close and they can secure the transmissions." Terry comments "I wonder what that's about?" "No clue Terry. Above my pay grade right now. I was looking forward to getting my new ship." Terry nods and replies "We all are. I'm told that we'll have the full database installed this time and that my med bay and research labs will be fully functional and stocked. If you lose another body part I'll be able to force grow a clone replacement and attach it for you. Just don't lose anything important like either of your heads.” Funny.

“It still squeaks you know.” Terry looks a little confused. “What does?” I give her a little shrug. “My new hand. The knuckles squeak.” Now I'm getting a really confused look from both of them. “What do you mean it squeaks? There's nothing in there but bone matrix and your cloned flesh.” Shrugging again I note “I know that. I can still hear the knuckles squeaking.” Tina still looking confused says “The bone matrix and tissues come out stronger than the human norm but it's still based on your DNA. I don't know how that could squeak. There is no mechanical aspect to it besides the normal human functioning hand." Terry adds on “It's the exact same thing you had before except for the density. Is the wrist squeaking too or just the knuckles?” “Just the knuckles. I can bend and twist everything else without a sound but as soon as I make a fist those knuckles squeak like a rusty hinge.” They both give me odd looks as I open and close the hand making it obvious I'm listening to the squeaking that it's painfully obvious that only I can hear.

With the decision that it's all in my head obvious on their faces, they decide to change the subject. Terry starts with "Sorry about what you went through with Diane. If we had known we wouldn't have pushed you so hard." Great. Such a better subject. "Don't worry about it. I was playing that one close to the vest so you couldn't have known." Tina piles on with "Yeah but we knew something was wrong. You just didn't seem like the fun loving guy we knew anymore." I shrug at that. She's not wrong. "A second tour of the Canal Zone didn't help. I got right up front for almost the entire year I was out there."

They both shrug. They had their tours out there as combat medics and field surgeons. It wasn't front line fighting but it wasn't rear echelon in a safe zone either. They've seen a thing or three in their time. Just not the same things that the front line combat troops did. Maybe it was worse in its way because they saw the aftermath of what we were doing to each other across that line. We all still have nightmares about that.

A few minutes of silence and Terry asks “So how long until Mars orbit?” “Three days I think. Maybe four. It depends on how tight of a turn we make. We still have the speed from the slingshot and we are running at full burn so we'll probably get there quick." They both nod at that and then we all lapse into silence again. Terry finally says "Ten credits its Bugs.” Tina quips “Ten on Muslims.” Then they both look at me. Terry asks “You want any of this action?” “Ten credits says we forgot someone important and need to go back for them.” Tina barks a laugh and looks at Terry and asks “Should we make him pay up now or wait until we are fighting Muslims or Bugs?” Terry shrugs and says “I'm patient. I can wait a few days to see what's happening before collecting that debt.” Tina just nods and smirks at me.

Time to change the subject again. "I have a partial match on those suits down in the cargo hold. I know which is for who for those on board but I do not have the full crew manifest yet. A good number of those suits are unclaimed at the moment but yours are there. Tomorrow we start training with them so be ready for that." They both make faces. "Yeah I know but I want you able to get into them and have them at full capability in under half a minute. With the new clamshell design and better computer system, that should be more than enough time to boot them up and slide into them." Terry snarks "I trained on the old battle suits. I thought our regular space suits were uncomfortable considering the waste removal aspects of it. The battle suits are worse." "Look on the bright side ladies. At least we don't have to wear diapers like the astronauts of old did." I snicker at the faces they make from that one.

“All right. Let me up ladies. I'm going to hit the gym for a bit before my duty shift." Tina says "We'll come with you. Both of us have been slacking on our workouts lately." Terry nods and says "This has almost a vacation feel to it. I just haven't felt like getting back to the routines since Pan." Giving them both as stern a look as I can I say "You know that attitude isn't going to fly when we are back on my ship right?" They both give me seriously faced nods and then break into a giggle fit. I just roll my eyes.

A quiet couple of days later we are finally in range for secure communications with SysCom and heading fast towards Mars orbit. We start getting orders by the dozens and tons of information about what the emergency is. Once in Mars orbit, I'll be taking temporary command of a new Scorpion class corvette. All of us captains will be. They finally detected an anomalous energy signature on Earth and think it may be the ship that Gus was talking about after his capture. Emergency activation of the fleets is something we drilled on and we are being temporarily stationed at Earth Starbase One for the duration with set patrol routes.

The next day at Mars colony I'm introduced to my new crew. I don't think I'm going to enjoy this particular chapter in my career. My Lieutenant Commander on the Corvette is Liz Sterling. None other than the youngest daughter of my soon to be commanding officer Rear Admiral Rebecca Sterling. A younger, more attractive version of the Admiral but still the Admiral's daughter. Damn it all. She's cute too. Not Cheryl cute but not far from it. Long soft looking light brown hair and brown eyes filled with intelligence and humor, adorable oval face with killer cheekbones, incredible curves. All of which would get me spaced by her mother if I were anything but a professional towards her.

Getting the salutes from my crew of fifteen I return the salute. “At ease. A few things. Are all of you equipped with battle armor?” Liz says “Yes Captain. We are. We have suit times down to two minutes.” “Not bad. We'll be practicing that as we patrol. I want to see if we can get that to thirty seconds.” That gets me an assortment of shocked looks. “Next question. What is the situation as far as ship experience?” Liz looks a little subdued by that. “It's our first ship sir. We've all been trained but none of us has actually been aboard one yet outside of our squab time. This is our first real mission.”

Great. Greenies. Fresh out of the classrooms. "The first posting to your own ship as a full crew member. I remember that well. Enjoy this feeling people. It only happens once in your life. It does not matter that you are fresh out of school as long as you are trained. We can get you experience. That's just a matter of time on board doing your duties. We'll set up training and drill schedules on the simulators to get you further trained.” A relieved nod at that and the rest seem to relax a little more and I even see a few smiles. “That's not to say I'll be easy on you. I'm told I can be a task master and a perfectionist but if you give it one hundred percent then so will I and we'll all be better coming out the other side.”

Some more nods at that so it's time to see what else they know. "Engineering section. Tell me about the engines of the ship." A very pretty lady of obvious Hispanic origin with black hair and dark brown eyes steps forward and says "First Lieutenant Mercy Rodriguez sir. We are using the Type Three off of the Cobra class Destroyer. Three point seven G of thrust with gravity spinners to reduce that to one G for what we feel inside of the ship. It's powered by three thorium reactors generating one hundred gigawatts per hour each which is enough to power every single system in combat mode with a surplus of ten percent."

"Weapons and defense systems." An attractive redhead with green eyes steps forward and says "Master Sergeant Angela Driver sir. We have forward and aft gravity cannons with paired plasma torpedoes with dual printers for each in the forward arc. We are running the destroyer class shield emitters and have the new hemp steel armor at a thickness half again what this class usually carries. This corresponds with a fifty percent better armor rating than our old Corvettes."

A pretty woman of African ancestry steps forward and says “Lieutenant Veronica Archer sir. We have the upgraded communication console with the quick interpret software package. I personally speak eight languages fluently and am conversational in another five.” I nod at that and the next one steps forward. Another brunette. Still cute. When did I start noticing that sort of thing again? One after another introduces themselves to me. Lieutenant Donna Bernard my navigator. A pretty brunette with brown eyes. Warrant Officer Two Carla Adams my engine room chief is a pretty blonde. I realize I'm the only male on the crew and will be until we pick up our squad of Marines.

"All right. Load up. I'll be there in a few minutes. I need to make a call." They all salute again and start loading their personal gear and tools into the Corvette. I decide to make a call to Terry. She's usually in the know about things like this. As soon as she answers her coms I give her a dirty look and ask "What's the deal here?" She nods sagely and says "I know it's only a Corvette but you'll get your destroyer soon Eric. This is just because SysCom needs all the experienced captains at the helm right now and can't afford the time to train some up."

Pinching the bridge of my nose because I know she knows what I'm asking about I give her a minute and then say “Not that. I understand that. It's the all female crew. That never happens. Never. How did this happen?" I hear some barked laughter in the background. Multiple sources of barked laughter. From voices I'm very familiar with. Terry gives me a fake puzzled look and says "You don't say? All females? I'll have to look into that." More almost hysterical laughter in the background. Now I'm rolling my eyes in an obvious manner because I'm being pranked and I know it.

"Terry. I can hear the idiots in the back cackling like loons." She nods and it's obvious she's not going to keep a straight face much longer but she manages "I will look into this Eric." "Terry. I am stuck on a Corvette with fifteen ladies between the ages of twenty and twenty two. They are all fresh out of the academy. This is their first ship posting for all of them. Talk to me here." The coms device moves away from Terry's face and I see her mother. Major General Doris Beauchamp. smiling an evil grin I recognize from seeing on her daughter. "You have your orders Captain. Train them and bring them up to speed as quick as you can. That energy source we detected is getting stronger by the hour and we don't think we have much longer to find out what it is." "Yes Ma'am." Well, I'm hosed. A ship full of attractive ladies with one being an Admiral's daughter. Time to really dig into the professionalism and keep my libido firmly caged. I may as well find out how much work I have to do with these kids. Snorting to myself. Kids. I'm twenty four. Not much older than they are.

Strapping into my command chair I start tossing orders to get us out of here and into Earth orbit to pick up our Marine squad and start our patrol route. We'll be joined there by a whole host of other ships. I'm still not sure who will be on my wing. Corvettes do not operate alone the way a destroyer does. Pairs and wings.

Not bad. Very well trained and no hesitation to be seen. They know their positions well and are smooth with their actions. Very soon we are on our way to Earth Starbase One along with several dozen other corvettes a dozen destroyers and a few heavy cruisers. It's an eight hour cruise at the speed of the fleet so I schedule a suit up drill and a catastrophic reactor failure drill followed by another suit up drill to fill in the time and get these people up to regulation speeds.

At Earth Starbase One I pick up my squad of Marines led by Sergeant Yumi Amagawa. She comes highly recommended by Tony. I also get a Warrant Officer One combat medic to serve as ships doctor named Paula Bjerk. All of the Marines in my security squad are female as well. I'm being punished. I know it now. On the plus side, my wing consists of myself, Cheryl, Ann, and Jerry and we patrol as a wing. Earth Star Base One Black One, Two, Three, and Four. Also known by the new call signs Oak, Willow, Rowan, and Elm in that order.

Two boring weeks of patrol with nothing to report except for an increasing energy signature on the planet I get a call in my quarters from Jerry. “Hey Eric. How's the new crew shaping up?” “Not bad. Give me another couple of weeks and you won't be able to tell them from a main line battle crew.” Jerry nods and says “I've been keeping an eye on the energy signatures Eric. Aren't you going a little hard on them? I mean seriously. Intruder alert drills every day. Every shift has an emergency or combat drill of some sort. That's not even including the suit drills and assorted other training that I know you're doing. Has anyone dropped from sheer exhaustion yet?”

Giving that the eye roll it deserves I ask “Did you get a crew straight out of the academy Jerry?” “Well, no. No I didn't. But there's only so hard you can push them before they do start dropping.” “I know that Jerry. I have done this before and recently. Not only personally being trained up but training you lot of pirates.” Smirking at me he asks “Is this just to keep them too tired to flirt?” “Yeah. I'm cutting coms now Jerry. I need to devise my next devious drill for them.” Nodding wisely at that he quips “I see. It's to keep you too tired to flirt.” Shaking my head I ask “Have you ever known me to be the flirting type?” Jerry snorts at that.

“All right. You'll push them as you see fit. I can see your point though. A completely green crew just out of school on their first ship posting. So what are you trying for? Father figure or stern older brother?” “Yeah. Cutting coms now Jerry. I have work to do.” “Have fun with the Admiral's daughter.” “Bye Jerry.” Cutting coms I get back to work on the next drill. Something off standard this time. They've done most of the standard ones so it's time to look at exotic scenarios. I do have them down to thirty seconds for suiting up in emergencies. That's a plus.

I'm almost done working out the training scenario when Lieutenant Veronica Archer coms me. “Captain. We have an emergency broadcast through laser link. Ident confirmed. Code Red Seven confirmed. Do you want it in your cabin or on the bridge?” Damned. This is not going to be good. “I'll be right out Veronica.”

Reading the message on my command chair terminal I start barking orders. "Red alert. Spin the reactors to full. Grav nullification to full. Weapons charged. Shields at maximum. Emergency suiting. Prepare to vent atmo. This is not a drill. Battle net us with Willow, Oak, and Rowan and with our PB Georgia Alpha. Coordinate all maneuvers and firing with the net. Whatever that energy source is it spiked and SysCom thinks the launch is imminent."

Five minutes later we are in full combat readiness and atmo is vented. "Superb job people. Now we wait." A snort comes over the line and a giggle follows. Sergeant Mary Lucien my scan tech says "Readings coming in. Going to the main screen." Veronica reports "Confirmed connection with the battle net. Colonel Keely Maedoc offers congratulations for being first to full combat readiness." "Copy that. Return holding for her orders." "Sent Captain."

Watching the readings on the screen the energy signature keeps climbing in an almost exponential fashion I decide to lighten the mood some. “Soon ladies. Very soon. That's already exceeding the energy outputs of one of our dreadnoughts by half again. I don't think it can climb much higher without something going boom.” Some giggles and snorts of laughter on the line which is what I was hoping for. There is only so tense you can stay before things snap. What seems like an eternity later but is in reality only a few minutes Veronica calmly states “Incoming message from Georgia Alpha. We have activity. It looks like a tidal surge in the Mediterranean Sea just off of the Nile Delta.” Mary points out “Confirmed. Scans show something huge is moving.”

“How huge?” Mary says “Unknown. Based on water movement and everything else, I would hazard a guess at a little bigger than the size of a bug carrier.” Someone quips “Damn. This is going to suck.” Some snorts of laughter and I say “This is going to suck but cut the chatter. Focus on the mission ladies. We can make jokes later.” A variety of affirmative noises comes through the line.

A few minutes later we see the top of whatever it is starting to come out of the water. Mary quietly says “Waves of tsunamis over sixty yards high and getting bigger are now racing into Egypt. They'll be higher on the other side where they hit the Greek islands. I don't think anything around the Med will survive.” A soft “Jesus weeps.” comes over the line. I'm not going to bother rebuking anyone even though I recognize it as my engine room chief Carla Adams.

A few minutes later Mary says “Estimated size eight million tons displacement. I am now reading shields that compare to Mars Three before the updated shield emitters. Armor composition is hard to read but it's looking thick and I'm not seeing cracks. Engine thrust will get this thing moving at two G but I am not reading gravity displacement or gravity plating. Weapons pods read as laser and phaser. Two hundred of each. Missile silos and torpedo tubes number one hundred of each. I am not clear if it is one source or more but that thing runs on a nuclear reactor. The power source is centralized in the core but I think it could be more than one. It is venting huge amounts of heat aft to help it lift. I am reading gamma radiation. That thing is boosting with gamma instead of using microwaves in its ion drives. It's irradiating everything under it as it lifts." Another soft “Jesus weeps.” comes over the line. A sentiment shared by all of us.

"Veronica. Make sure everyone else is reading this and ask Georgia Alpha for recommendations and information on the drives." "Copy that Captain." A minute later technical specs start showing on the monitor and Veronica says "Stay out of its rear aspect. Our shielding and armor are not strong enough to withstand that amount of radiation. Georgia Alpha Actual doesn't think her PB has the armor and shielding to take that sort of bath either." Well, this is going to be interesting.

As I'm looking over the scan results coming in I make a startling realization. "Veronica. Put me in touch with Georgia Alpha Actual and read in the other Corvette captains." "Affirmative. Laser linking network call established. You are live Captain." "Colonel. That is a retrofitted bug ship. The design is almost the exact same thing but it has more weapons and armor with our shields and a variant on our engines. I do not think it is a carrier design like the last one we faced. I think this may be a straight up dreadnought class ship."

A startled squawked “What?” comes over the line and a desperate sounding Keely asks "Are you sure about that?" "No Colonel, I'm not. The schematics we are compiling would make sense for a dreadnought class but we have not seen one yet. Just the carrier variant. If this is the case then we will have a severe issue with the forward arc main weapons. The main laser on the carrier class was almost enough to take out a starbase at one hundred thousand miles. I hesitate to guess at what the main weapon or weapons on this ship could do.”

Mary reports “It has cleared the water. Altitude one hundred feet and climbing. The tidal waves are reaching one hundred plus yards high with local swells of one hundred fifty yards in spots. Gamma radiation increasing. It's picking up speed now that it has cleared the water for atmosphere.” Veronica reports “Orders coming in. All fleets converging at these coordinates.” “Copy that. Navigation plot our course. Pilot as soon as you have the plot engage.” Donna and Liz both nod and start working their areas of operation while Mary keeps a count of altitude.

A half dozen minutes later we are assembled with the four pocket battleships, three dozen new Asp class destroyers and over two hundred Scorpion class corvettes around Earth Star Base Two which the ship will pass very near in its escape from Earth gravity. Three more fleets are assembling at the cardinal points so that when it does come into our range we will have it bracketed on four sides.

Just as it's coming into weapons range of our network of combat satellites it starts opening fire with its forward aspect phasers and lasers. One by one the satellites drop from the sky or explode. Scans show several other fleets from the varied nations assembling further out in orbit or around the moon. It will make a moderately close pass to that as well when it finally does clear atmosphere. It won't be in range if it has the carrier variant main laser weapon but we are not sure what it is carrying right now.

As it clears Earth gravity it starts opening up its missile and torpedo tubes while firing what seems like every laser and phaser cannon it has. "Random walk Liz. Bounce us so it can't get weapons lock." "Affirmative. Random walk commencing." "Mary, give me some targeting coordinates. Look for weak spots. Angela, coordinate with the battle net to maximize our fire potential. Do not wait on my command. Target coordination comes through and you follow it instead of waiting on me." A pair of "Affirmatives" come back and we start our chase.

Veronica reports "Targeting coordinates coming in. Sent to fire control." Angela yells "Targets locked, the battle net has control of timing." Mary yells "Firing. We cracked the shields but did not break the armor. I am reading six yards thick of composite armor overlaps." Angela reports "Recharging. Two minutes." Veronica reports "Movement orders coming in. We are to follow the pack and take the west side and attempt to break through at previous fire coordinates." "Copy that. You heard the orders. Let's get going and keep hammering that thing."

Changing out crew every two hours the ship keeps accelerating towards the sun for a slingshot to build speed. Hundreds of ships chasing it and firing on it but it's not slowing down and we don't seem to be having much effect on it. At these speeds, it's hard to coordinate target locks over a battle net for maximum effect but we keep trying. It has the bug recycle times for shields so even if we do knock them down we need to actually destroy an emitter before we weaken the shields. That is happening but slowly. The same goes for the armor. We are drilling in but it's taking too long to accomplish in my mind. This is one tough ship.

Shortly after the slingshot we now have almost a thousand ships shooting at this thing and it's done a few flip around to bring its main weapons to bear. Almost a hundred ships are now damaged and having to drop out or totally destroyed and beacon marked for salvage. Mary screams out "There. Shield fluctuation." "Veronica, send a fleet wide message to target those coordinates. Fire at will." "Copy that." Almost two hundred ships lock on and fire as we do and the engines sputter to silence. Power is still being generated but it now seems cut off from the rest of the ship. Lasers and phasers are silent. Torpedo and missile tubes are quiet.

"Take us in. Land us right on that ship near what looks like an air lock on the port front aspect. I'm going to lead the Marines in a boarding action. Maps generated to our HUDs." "Copy that captain." Cycling into the airlock with Yumi and her squad I realize we are the first ones in. "Eyes open people. According to the map, this corridor should lead to the bridge. We take that and stop them from moving." We are soon joined by the Marines from a half dozen other Corvettes.  

Leading the way in with our battle rifles Yumi yells "Bugs coming from the bridge." We open fire and in short order, both of the roach suits are down. Getting into the bridge we kill another half dozen. "Yumi, find the database and transfer to the fleet. Make sure Veronica has a copy." "Copy that Captain." One of the corporals gets my attention and says in a horrified voice "Freeze pods, sir. Here's the manifest." Reading it I see why she's horrified. "Yumi. Make sure this is broadcast wide and clear. I want everyone to know that we found humans in freeze pods as a Muslim offering to the Bugs. We have five million sleeper pods filled with Kurds, Armenians, Berbers, Bedouins, Yezidis,  and assorted other minority groups that have been rounded up as an offering to the bugs for technology and help to break free from our blockades."
Well done @Angry Red Man !
Congrats..
Cheer

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(06-21-2017, 05:18 PM)Arkansas_Ted Wrote: [ -> ]Thank you for the many evenings of enjoyable reading.

Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of The Idiot and his Pirate Crew.

V6sRZf4
(06-21-2017, 05:20 PM)Angry Red Man Wrote: [ -> ]
(06-21-2017, 05:18 PM)Arkansas_Ted Wrote: [ -> ]Thank you for the many evenings of enjoyable reading.

Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of The Idiot and his Pirate Crew.

V6sRZf4

Pirate? Cheer
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Congratulations!!!

I have a question. Do people still use type writers? I am trying to write another book as well and I have always used pen and paper. I tried on computers but did not like it. I was thinking about getting a type writer. Maybe from a pawn shop. I don't know though.
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