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StarTroopers – Episode Four

Written by shadar :: [Thursday, 29 March 2018 21:19] Last updated by :: [Thursday, 29 March 2018 22:08]

StarTroopers – Episode Four

by Shadar

The next weeks passed in a blur of activity. While Ariel was back in Michigan taking her exams, I was studying everything documented on both the Roci and the Dreadnought, which Jacobs had named Enterprise. The name came from the famous line of US aircraft carriers, Carmen told me, not Star Trek like most people thought. But it fit both, which was cool.

Manufacturing thought they were going to have the Roci ready to fly in another week, with the Enterprise a few days later, assuming they could fix a problem with the fuel cells. That was damned impressive given they hadn’t finished building the Enterprise’s hull.

Her outer hull was 10” thick battleship armor, the secondary hull was 6” plate, and the tertiary hull 3”, so they had to build it up from the inside out. They were only halfway done placing the outer sections, which were taking longer to fabricate than initially planned. Even with Uber power, pounding old 10” armor plate into shape was hard work. It had initially been made from very hard steel that had become even less malleable over the decades. A dozen Ubers were working in the forming area now, and they were hard-pressed to keep up. The gap welding, required to ensure a solid weld went the full 10” deep, was also getting behind.

But by far the biggest problem was the fuel cells. The ones that had been immediately available were industrial grade, not aerospace grade, least of all military grade, and they weren’t surviving the shock testing. Too fragile. If we got hit hard, we were going to lose power, permanently, which meant we’d have to detail Ubers to spin generators to keep life support running just when we needed them out there fighting bugs. Kedrik had pulled together a special team to look for solutions such as shock mounting, but it didn’t look good.

I was working fifteen hours a day now, but still managed to spend another couple hours to help an engineer and a new and very controversial Uber named Alice to build something I felt they’d left out of the plans — a shuttle. We needed a way to carry Normals like myself between ships if necessary, not to mention getting us up and down from orbit. Even if we convinced Jacobs to only go with one Normal per Roci-class ship, we planned to build dozens of them.

We decided to form the shuttle by hand working scrap 2” plate, the same plating used on the Roci’s inner hull. The idea was to build an entirely sealed steel tube that had only a small hatch and docking ring on the bottom to mate with Roci’s airlock. I found a surplus oxygen-generator and CO2 scrubber system that I’d once used on a minisub. As long as the shuttle kept its pressure, an Uber and four passengers could breathe for the better part of a day without changing canisters.

One of Kedrik’s electronics wizards came up with the idea of using an off-the-shelf Microsoft X-VR box, along with enough flexible OLED displays to completely cover the ceiling, walls and floor. Instead of feeding the immersive displays with computer-simulated VR like the original Microsoft box, he rigged up a dozen external cameras that were protected behind thick quartz lens. They fed real-time video to the corresponding areas of the OLED displays. Once inside, you felt as if you were sitting inside a glass tube. It was a quick and dirty version of the more capable imaging system on the Roci.

The shuttle’s pilot station was a massive steel yoke that was welded into the exact center-of-gravity of the structure and designed to lot down snuggly around the waist of a seated Uber. It would tighten around her hips sufficiently to make her an integral part of the machine. Flight power did the rest. Two seats for Normals were in front of the pilot and two behind.

The problem was Alice, our metal bender. Given the need for construction staff, Jacobs had extended the qualification testing to any woman who wanted to take it. Alice turned out to have the right genes and she underwent enhancement, but she didn’t come from the ranks of military, police or Intel agents like the earlier Ubers. Her only credentials, beyond her special gene sequence, were that she was a tall, slender and exceptionally attractive blonde who enjoyed having sex in front of a camera. She was, in fact, a porn star. Of course, now that she was Uber, and there weren’t any supermen around, she was seriously out of a job.


The shuttle engineer, Tim Cook, and I were trying to get her to build our little ship from a huge pile of scrap steel plate. After a couple of disastrous days where she mangled everything into a blob, she kind of figured it out, although her fabrication style involved using every square inch of her body, unencumbered of course by clothing. Her amazingly long legs could shape the thick steel as she slid herself up and down the plating, bending and smoothing it between her thighs, forming it gradually into the rounded shapes we needed. She worked best when people were watching her. She was still doing porn, but now it was rocket ship porn.

Alice’s method was kind of hard to describe — sort of like having sex with steel plates one engineer said — but it was working. She was getting the shapes mostly right and she was getting good at eye welding, and while the finished result had all kinds of irregularities, it passed x-ray testing. The little ship wasn’t pretty, but she wasn’t going to leak air or fall apart. I named the first shuttle Alice, which greatly pleased our metal bender.

Carmen took the shuttle for its first flight, and she hit Mach 4 before it started to get hot inside. She took the shuttle into space and then a mile underwater. No leaks. No outgassing. The cameras and display system worked fine, recording video of the real Alice as she flew nervously alongside her creation the whole way, making sure her proud little spaceship was going to hold together — dressed as usual in nothing. A replay of that video, which she proudly showed everyone, was very popular with the workmen.

Now that Alice knew what she was doing, we sent her off to build the hulls for another half dozen shuttles. The slogan of the EarthDefense Force was true: there was a job for everyone.

A few days after that, I was sitting in my room puzzling over the problematic fuel cells when I heard a knock on the door. I opened it to find Carmen standing there, dressed is a deeply-cut exotic blue gown, her overly-blue eyes staring intently into mine.

“Holy shit!” came out of my mouth before my brain caught up with my eyes.


She laughed as she pushed past me to float in mid-air in the middle of my room. “I just finished having a heart-to-heart with the Old Man on the way home. He and I flew Alice down to Luke AFB to pick up my boyfriend, Sam, and then my Mom for her birthday dinner, which we enjoyed in Paris. I did my first suborbital hop in Alice. Forty minutes, Phoenix to Paris. They were impressed.”

“A super-daughter. A super-girlfriend. A shuttle named after a porn star. Sam’s a lucky guy.”

She grimaced. “Tell that to him. He’s not so fond of this whole inviolate crush-you-to-death during passion thing. It’s kind of a big strain right now.”

“Ah, you know, Carmen, that that’s not a problem everyone has. Some Ubers, after the later part of their training, have kind of figured it out.”

She stared at me. “No way.”

“Way. A friend of mine, her name is Ariel, is flying in this weekend. Talk to her.”

“You have a girlfriend? Who’s an Uber?”

I felt my neck reddening. “Not sure about labels yet, but we had a moment. She’s coming to see me, so that’s encouraging.”

“Yet everyone says…”

“Everyone says what they want you to hear, Carmen. Limiting Uber and Normal fraternization is a goal, for obvious safety reasons. They’ve over-publicized some rather disturbing fails along that line to scare everyone. Broken this, broken that. Even a death, if I was to believe the bullshit. But like everything else, reality is more complex than the stories.”

She shook her head, red hair flying. “This isn’t what I came to talk about. My father listened to my pitch about increasing the fighting posture of the Roci-class. I told him I’d made the same pitch to you and that you’d agreed. Sorry if I’m stealing your thunder, but it was better if he thought it was my idea.”

“If he listens to you, then we use that. I don’t need credit, only results. Nice work.”

“Anyway, talk to him tomorrow. We’re almost done with construction, so it’s time for crew selection.”

“Wish that was true, Carmen. The fuel cells aren’t going to hack it. Latest test results came in today. Worse than expected.”

“I’ll peddle the generators if I have to. We need to start killing bugs.”

“We can’t spin our way to Jupiter. Those stations aren’t made for continuous use. Just backups.”

She put her hand on my shoulder. “Someone will always find a way, Captain. Have faith.”

And with that she floated out the door, red hair flying.

It took me a while to get back to work. She was a uniquely beautiful young woman.

I was waiting at Jacob’s office when he arrived precisely at seven.

“I gather my daughter has been trying to convince you to change the crew makeup,” he said.

“Yes, sir. I think she’s on the right track. The Roci-class ships are going to get into the fight, whether we want them to or not. Bugs are smart. They’ll discover that crew recovery is our weak point.”

“Yeah, I heard it all last night. Get me a requested crew list by the end of the week. If Alana is on board with it, then you’ll be the only Normal.”

“The way I see it, sir, I’m just here for the first few battles anyway. Once Carmen and the others have some experience dealing with unconventional fighting, they won’t need me. My first order to her was for her to make sure the Roci survives, even if I don’t.”

Jacobs grinned. “Once a SEAL, always a SEAL. I’m glad I’ve got you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“While I’ve got you here, John, I think we’ve got a solution for the fuel cells. The Russians have a bunch of ruggedized fuel cells they were building for some military applications. They’re on the shelf and ready to go. Enough to equip the Roci and Enterprise.”

“That’s wonderful,” I gushed. “I was about to give you the bad news from yesterday’s testing.”

“Already saw it. That’s why I agreed to the Russian’s conditions.”

“Ah, which are?” I didn’t like the sound of this.

“They want one of their own on the Roci. An Uber by the name of Ivanka. You know her.”

I felt the blood drain from my face. “Yeah, and she’s fucking dangerous, sir. Damn near killed me. Probably would have just to make some bullshit point about the program if not for a couple of our Ubers who came to my rescue.”

“I read your report. But I’ve already agreed. You and Carmen are just going to have to handle her. Once we’re fighting bugs, she’ll be an asset. Based on the file they sent over on her, her powers are off the chart. Claim is the Russians are implanting their Ubers with larger crystal shards than we do. Apparently overpowers them, but also messes with their heads.”

“No offense, sir, but a hotshot, overconfident pilot and a combat crazy untrained arrogant super-Uber is a bad combo. Why not put her on the Enterprise? They’re the tip of the spear.”

“Carmen is at the top of her class, power-wise, John, and you have the experience to keep a crew together. We might change things up after the first few fights, but for now, she’s your problem. Because without the Russian fuel cells, we don’t fly.”

“Yes, sir,” I said glumly.

“Right now your crew list is Carmen, Alana and Ivanka, John. I want the other names ASAP. Kedrik just told me you’re going flying this weekend.”

“The fuel cells will be here by then?”

“Already in the air. We’re about to have an Antonov transport from the Russian Air Force landing here at Groom Lake. That’ll be another first.”

I found Alana and filled her in on the new plan. Turned out that Carmen had already talked to her, and she was already going through the personnel files, looking for Ubers with medical training. Carmen had jumped the gun in talking to her first, but I’d rather have an aggressive XO than the alternative. Easier to hold someone back than to push someone who wasn’t aggressive enough.

I called for Carmen so I could give them both the scoop on Ivanka. It didn’t go well. Neither of them wanted anything more to do with Ivanka than I did.

“Don’t think you’re going to change the Old Man’s mind on this one, Carmen,” I said. “It’s part of the deal to get the fuel cells. Flying with her is better than not flying.”

“I’ll kick her ass,” Carmen said through clenched teeth.

“Actually, you won’t. The Russians are souping up their Ubers. Implanting larger pieces of crystal. Makes them stronger, but also messes with their heads. Extreme arrogance is the first sign.”

I handed her file to Alana, who started paging through it.

“So, we assign her to a torpedo. Right?” Carmen said.

I nodded. “Absolutely. The tip of our spear. But until we get into a fight, we need to somehow live with her.”

Alana and Carmen looked at each other, and shrugged. “Doesn’t sound like we have a choice.”

“Nope. Right now our job is to fill the final crew positions. Carmen, I want your recommendation for three more torpedo crew ASAP. Alana, I need to talk with you a moment alone about your med techs.”

Carmen took Ivanka’s file from Alana and floated out the door.

“I’ve got something to tell you, Alana, but it can’t go beyond you. No matter what.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I know an Uber who has the ability to heal injuries. Likely just about any kind. Instantly.”

She stared at me. “Go on.”

I took her through the whole deal with Ariel. Including the fact that she didn’t seem to have the usual limitations when it came to men.

“And you’re sure its driven by orgasm and crystal proximity?” Alana asked.

“She believes that. Perhaps it’s true. Or perhaps that’s just when it happens naturally for her. With training, who knows.”

“And only men?”

“Again, that’s her experience. Seems odd to me that her power is that limited, but I suppose it’s a valid question whether anything works the same on Ubers and Normals. But if Ariel is willing to work with you, hopefully you’ll be able to figure it out. If it does have greater applicability, that’ll make her incredibly valuable.”

Alana looked doubtful, but nodded anyway. “When can I meet her?”

“She’s supposed to come in this weekend, but I’m trying to move that up a few days. I need to have my crew list done by the weekend.”

“So what’s the depth of your relationship with her, Captain?”

“I don’t really know. We had a day. She fixed my ribs before I made her break them again. Didn’t want to have to lie to Jacobs about myself or Ariel.”

“And I suppose she’ll fix them again this weekend.”

“That’s my plan. Nobody else has to know the details.”

“This is another serious complication for your crew. Captains aren’t supposed to be shagging their crew.”

“She won’t technically be crew until after Jacobs approves our list. That’ll be Monday. Technically, the weekend won’t count.”

“Not with him, because he won’t know. But it will with me.”

“That’s why I asked for your discretion. I never expected things to work out this way, but her abilities might save lives, especially if they also work on Ubers. That’s all I care about.”

Alana smiled. “Not to mention putting you back together if you splat. I’ll say one thing. You keep surprising me, John.”

“The real problem here is that I’m already violating Ariel’s trust by talking to you. This could get dicey when I tell her. But if you can reassure her, and if I can get her to work with you given your promise of discretion, then who knows. If we know what to look for, we may find more like her.”

“Except she obviously has to open up on this if we decide to look for more like her.”

“She’s just embarrassed by how it works. But if you can find a way to make it work in more, shall we say, clinical conditions, then she’ll be cool with it. I know that much about her.”

Alana smiled. “You know, I used to have a nice quiet job at a Canadian Forces base, keeping an eye on some very healthy pilots. I went home every night to a loving husband and two wonderful kids. Now I’m on a space ship with you, who I don’t even know how to sum up in words. I’ve also got Carmen the hotheaded, hotshot and Ivanka the arrogant crazy super-bitch and now an Uber who’s apparently an orgasmic healer. I may be Uber myself, but I might be on the wrong ship.”

“Or, you could be exactly where you were born to be, Alana. We’re going to save the world.”

The huge Antonov landed a few hours later, and Jacobs detailed several Ubers to help the logistics folks unload the fuel cells, flying them down into the hangar in minutes. The Russian crew looked a bit dazed with the scantily-dressed Ubers flying into their ship to lift the huge pallets of machinery from the floor by hand to fly them out the open nose of the huge transport. Apparently they hadn’t actually seen an Uber before. But given this was the fabled Area 51, they’d come prepared to see amazing things.

I asked the pilot about Ivanka, but he had no idea who I was talking about.

Jacobs signed some papers and the big Antonov taxied out and took off. We weren’t about to show them what we were doing underground. We might be cooperating on saving the Earth, but US and Russian relations were still very chilly otherwise.

I left a voicemail for Ariel, hoping she’d pick it up soon. The quicker she got here the better. I didn’t want to have to make a call about putting her on the crew until Alana had spent a few days with her. In any case, Alana had to accept her on her medical team. I might be Captain, but Jacobs had given her the deciding vote on her people.

The Life Support teams worked all night to replace the fuel cells, and Wednesday morning the final sections of outer hull were cut and ready to be welded into place on Enterprise. Even better, it truly looked like the Roci would be operational by that night. We’d need a day or two to test things out and complete the x-raying of all the welds, but it really did look like the Roci was going to fly by the weekend, and Enterprise by the end of the weekend.

I hadn’t told Carmen yet, but after proving we could fly and safely land and maneuver, and then doing some testing in Earth orbit, I was going to fly to the Moon and recover some old Apollo gear to return as a memento for the crew who built her.

I had visions of putting one of the old Apollo descent stages in the Manufacturing office, and I wanted to put the flag they’d flown on the Moon in Jacobs’ office. I figured an old Moon Buggy would look good in the Engineering office.

The idea was to demonstrate to everyone that we could now fly to the Moon in hours, on a lark even. We could make it to Mars in days and Jupiter in a few weeks. We were about to be a truly spacefaring planet.

After that, things were going to get deadly serious. We were building warships. We didn’t know where the bugs were, but they had to be hiding somewhere in the Sol system. For all we knew, we’d find them on the backside of the Moon. It was going to take time for the pilots and crew to learn to fly and fight their ships. I just prayed we had the time.

Ivanka arrived at Area 51 with a crash that shattered the thick concrete parking area outside the hangar, the shockwave of her supersonic arrival tipping an Air Police vehicle over on its side and sending bits of flying glass from its blown-in windows to cut up two APs. She casually flipped their truck back upright before walking over to the personnel elevator, where she rudely pushed the AP guarding the entrance to the side to rip the armored door open. Before the guard could do more than key his radio in alarm, she stepped inside to push the Down button.

I got a panicky call from Security in time to stick my head out of the Roci to see an exotic redhead descending in the plastic-tubed elevator. It didn’t look like Ivanka, but whomever it was, she was wearing another exotic costume, this one apparently some kind of black and silver Supergirl thing. She was just as tall as Ivanka, but with a broader face and she carried more muscle.

I was reminded of something I’d heard rumors about but never seen — Ubers who could shape change. If so, and if this actually was Ivanka, then that could be useful.

Looking closely as she approached the floor, I saw the same arrogant, haughtiness in her green eyes as she glared down at me.


I walked down the Roci’s steps to meet her on the manufacturing floor. She pranced across the floor, swishing her black and red cape behind her to draw every eye. She was almost to me when Carmen appeared in front of me like magic. “Welcome Ivanka,” she said, trying to be civil. “I’m Carmen, the XO and pilot of the Roci.”

“And he’s Captain?” Ivanka said, glaring at me.

“Yeah, he is.” Carmen reached out to clasp hands with Ivanka, who stood a head taller than her. They struggled for a brief moment, and then Ivanka’s green eyes turned blue and she easily pushed Carmen’s arm down and to the side. That at least confirmed the shapechanger thing.

“Silly game,” Ivanka said as she pulled her hand free. “No one is my equal.” She stepped past Carmen to face me. “I should have killed you then. Now I must work for you. Orders.”

“I’m really glad you’re here, Ivanka,” I lied. “When we get into a fight with the bugs, you’re going to be our main weapon. I hope your performance lives up to your, ah, new costume thingy. I need you to kill bugs.”

“I’ll kill your bugs. All of them. Just get me there.”

“Then how about if Carmen shows you the ship and then gets you a place to sleep in the dorm. We’re going to start flight testing Roci soon. You’ll have a cabin on board when we fly. Time enough after that for you to learn the systems you’ll need to know.”

Carmen glared at me, clearly unhappy with my tossing Ivanka into her lap. “Follow me,” she said icily. “But don’t touch a fucking thing unless I tell you. We’ve worked too hard to built Roci to have anything go wrong now.”

Ivanka sent a wave of heat flashing across my face as she turned to follow Carmen toward the ship, her cape swishing.

Kedrik walked over to stand beside me. “Jesus. What a bitch. She broke the entrance to the elevator, not to mention a two-foot thick section of pavement outside the hangar. Messed up some Air Police too. None of that was necessary.”

“Look on the bright side, Kedrik, she didn’t try to kill me this time. Sounds like she’s got orders to cooperate.”

“Did she really just push Carmen around? Carmen is the strongest Uber in this entire place.”

“You mean, she was. Hopefully I can convince Ivanka to save it for the bugs. All the more reason to get this show on the road.”

“Well, the good news is that the fuel cells fit and work as we hoped. Given their armored construction, I don’t think we need to worry about bruising them. Still, I’ve got one being tested by the Reliability guys, but I’m guessing they won’t be able to break it.”

“So, we fly tomorrow?”

“We at least try to fly, although Carmen hasn’t told me who she wants to fill the other three flight positions yet.”

“Don’t worry. She’ll be ready.”

I finished my long day before heading back to my quarters, hoping I’d find a message on my phone from Ariel. Cellphones didn’t work in the hangar bay, just the special internal Comm units that IT had given us. But there was nothing on my phone. Worried now, I turned to walk into the bedroom of my upgraded quarters, only to be shocked to see Ariel sound asleep on top of my bed. Her only clothing was a pair of jeans that she’d half removed before apparently passing out.

I stared at her perfectly lovely backside for a long moment, my heart pounding. Whatever questions I’d had about the next stage in our relationship, I think Ariel had just answered them.

Ariel 17

I carefully walked around the bed to gently remove her jeans, and then got undressed and turned out the lights before getting into bed with her, snuggling up to her warm back. She purred as she curled up in my arms, spooning herself into me, her body seemingly made of liquid steel, but didn’t wake.

It took me a while to relax, for obvious reasons, but eventually the exhaustion from my long days and short nights caught up with me. I fell asleep, dreaming about waking up with her in my arms.

I awoke to the soft brush of silky hair across my face. The room was completely dark, but Ariel’s warmth radiated from above. She was floating just above me.

“Sorry about last night, John,” she whispered in my ear. “Three weeks of studying around the clock and all my exams — I was wiped out. I couldn’t stay awake. Which is funny given I can bend steel in my bare hands like putty. I can fly around the world in an hour. I can stop locomotives with a single push. But my brain doesn’t seem any stronger than it was before.”

“I was exhausted too. We’ve all been working our asses off here. Sleep was what I needed too. But now with you in my arms, the world is suddenly a wonderful place again.”

“So, how about I fix those damn ribs for good. Before we have a little fun.”

“We haven’t got much time. Mornings start early here.”

“I need five minutes for the ribs. The rest of the time can be ours.”


Carmen awoke in the next room, wakened by some soft cries and the sound of the Captain’s shower running. Rising from her bed, she floated cross-legged in the middle of the room to look through the wall, surprised to see John standing in the shower with a lovely blonde, making love. The woman was clearly an Uber given her legs were wrapped lightly around him as she rose and fell in mid-air, his face nestled between her breasts. This must be Ariel, who he’d talked about yesterday — the Uber who lacked the usual limitations when it came to men. Carmen knew she should look away, but she couldn’t. What secret did Ariel know that no one else did?


Alana continued to sleep in her room down the hall, dreaming of her husband and children. A dream that grew terrifying when huge bugs began to crawl in through their windows. She was frozen in place, unable to move, and could only watch as the bugs prepared to feed on their helpless victims.

She awoke with a start, trembling in the dark. It was a familiar dream. The nightmare that kept her focused on her job. If their warships should fail to do their job out in the blackness of space, her dream might someday be reality. And she might not be around to protect her loved ones.


In several rooms in other parts of the dormitory, young Ubers lay several to a bed, some of them sleeping, others enjoying each other’s company in the dark, sharing and sharing alike. While most of them had preferred the company of men before their enhancement, they were now each other’s only companions. There was nothing in the Uber enhancement process that reduced one’s sex drive, if anything the opposite. Like everyone else on the program, they were making adjustments and accommodations, just as humans have always done to meet their needs. They might be saving the world, but a few minutes of pleasure each day made it all a bit easier.


Down on the still darkened manufacturing floor, during the few hours of the day when operations paused so technicians could maintain the equipment, three burly welders were working with blazing torches as they leaned over a very statuesque red-head who was sprawled naked on her back on the floor. As Ivanka had discovered back in Russia, only extreme heat seemed to release her passions now. She’d reward these men by not killing them. Assuming they did their jobs well.


Reveille sounded over the intercom, and pleasures and nightmares alike ended as everyone prepared for another day. Energy was high given they knew today was the day at least one of the ships would rise from her bed and try to fly. Today was the payoff for months of long hours and hard work.

The mess hall was fuller than usual this morning, with a few notable exceptions. John and Alana usually started their day together here, but both were missing.

Alana was helping the local medics with three welders who’d mysteriously been badly burned during the wee hours of the night when no one should have been working. It didn’t take long to get their story. She flew off to kick down the door of Ivanka’s room, only to find her sleeping naked in a bed of singed linen. Alana angrily shook Ivanka awake, only to be rewarded with a punch that sent her flying backward through two walls and halfway down a corridor. Alana picked herself up, covered in shattered sheetrock and insulation, and marched angrily back into Ivanka’s room. She was determined to hold Ivanka to her promise to work as a member of their crew, and as medical officer, she outranked her. Russians understand rank and authority if nothing else.


Things were going even worse in John’s room. Ariel had just punched her fist into the rough stone that formed the outer wall of his room, sending shattered bits of rock across the room.

“You told her what?!” she yelled at John.

“The information won’t go beyond Alana. I need you on our crew for the reasons I’ve just explained, and she’s the Doc. She can help you figure out if there are other ways to use your power. We’re going to be dealing with wounded Ubers. You could make the difference between victory and defeat.”

“Information won’t go beyond Alana?” she shouted back at him. “Just like when you promised me that you’d never tell anyone in the program?”

“You don’t understand how crews on warships work, Ariel. Think family. We don’t have secrets. We do whatever we can for each other.”

“Well, don’t assume that this morning is ever going to be repeated. I may be part of your crew, given you aren’t giving me a choice, but that’s where it ends. Captain.”

She stalked out the door into the hallway, only to realize that she was only wearing her jeans. She glared at me as she came back in, grabbed her top, and stalked out again. I watched her pull it on as she half walked and half floated down the hallway, passing a couple of men who stared at her in pleasant surprise.

Carmen came out her door to stand beside me. “Trouble with your girlfriend?”

“That seems to be over before it got much of a start, for more than one reason. She’s crew now. I need you to catch up with her, Carmen. Show her to the mess hall, get her oriented, and then introduce her to Alana.”

“I’m not sure I understand everything I heard her shouting. Seems she’s got a secret that she doesn’t want to share.”

“For now, that’s going to be between her and Alana. Just assume she’s got some medical skills that need development.”

“Like healing your ribs during sex, Captain?”

“Shit. You saw that.”

“Walls are thin. Eyes are strong. I’m your XO. My job is to take over your job if you can’t, so everything that involves you, involves me.”

“For now, Carmen, you are going to have to trust me. Don’t say anything to her about what you saw or heard. Let Alana work things out with her. But yeah, Ariel could be a real asset after a fight if her ability works on Ubers.”

“I’m not having sex with her, John, no matter what’s broken.”

I turned to grin at Carmen. “The key is that she can. Have sex, and with men. You should find that interesting. Likely its not genetic but rather a learned skill. Like meditation or yoga or whatever. And as far as the rest goes, my bet is that she can do more than she knows. Under more clinical conditions.”

“You two weren’t doing yoga in the shower.”

“Just go find her, Carmen. She doesn’t know anything about this place or the Roci. She didn’t even know she was coming here to be on our crew. She came to see me.”

Carmen sighed. “There are parts of this XO job that suck. Cleaning up after you is the worst.”

She floated off down the hall, moving fast.

I didn’t see Ariel or Alana the rest of the morning. Carmen arrived just before noon with the three women she’d selected to form the rest of the flight crew. All three of them were top ranked for flight powers, and above average in all other areas.

Bella was in her early twenties. She’d been a undercover policewoman in Copenhagen before her enhancement. Attractively slender and tall, she had characteristically Danish features including straight blonde hair. She also spoke English with only a slight accent. Beyond that, she was ex-Danish military, where she’d been an expert in cryptography and communications.

I promptly assigned Communications as her second job on the ship.


Caitlan was from Inverness, Scotland, a striking redhead with a preference for denim and short skirts and an accent that said Highlands. Far more importantly, she was highly ranked for flight power. To my pleasant surprise, she was also an engineer, with degrees in both Electronics and Electrical Systems engineering and she’d worked for the UK military, which had gotten her into the program.

I had my Chief Engineer.


The last was Kara, who was a real eyeful. She was the only 99 percentile rated flier in the program, a trait that she promptly informed me was due to her large breasts. I didn’t buy that, but given she’d grown up on a commune in California, she probably had lots of other odd ideas too. She was a dazzling redhead who dressed to show off her “flight assets” along with some kind of fur thing that sufficed as a short skirt. That was weird, but Carmen said she could fly better than anyone she’d met, so I was glad to have her. Carmen would fly lead position as Pilot and Kara would balance her out at the opposite end of the ship with Bella and Caitlan taking up the side stations.

Kara had also worked on fuel cells in her commune, and had maintained the systems for their commune’s attempt to build a sealed ecosystem, so she knew her way around environmental systems.

She was now my Life Support tech.


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