Star-Crossed Lovers Ch. 03byHLD©
"Commander?" the voice said. It was compassionate and friendly, with a touch of mischievous humour underneath it. "Commander Burke . . . Come towards the light . . . It's not a mag-lev about to run you over."
He felt distant and detached. His body was numb.
Eric blinked a couple of times and the room came into focus. A doctor was shining a penlight into his eyes, one at a time.
"Where . . . where is my Team?" he mumbled.
"They're safe, sir," the doctor replied. He had a friendly bedside manner. There were lieutenant's bars on his collar.
"Where am I?"
"Home," another voice said. This one was softer, feminine. He recognised it immediately. His wife. "You're back on Earth."
Eric tried to turn his head, but couldn't.
"Why can't I move?" he asked, feeling a little bit panicky.
"Because all you've done for the past two years is float in a tank." There was a subtle laughter in her voice.
"Two—?" he was at a loss for words.
"We had to grow most of your body back, Commander." The doctor's hand was under his chin and he turned Eric's head towards Maylene. "Some admiral with a chest full of medals tried to talk your wife into turning you into a full conversion borg, but she said she wasn't through with your body yet."
In the bed next to his, Eric's eyes took in the most beautiful sight in the world.
Two and a half years earlier.
"Master Chief, can I get another beer, please?" Maylene asked.
"Right away, Commander," he replied. "And stop calling me 'Master Chief'."
"If you'll stop calling me 'Commander'," she smiled back at him.
"I'll see what I can do, Mrs. Burke." There was a slightly taunting tone to his voice. Even though they were in a social setting, he still regarded her as a senior officer.
This was the last big party before the Team's departure from Earth. Eric had taken command and they went through three months of intense training, the "work up" phase before a deployment. Under normal conditions, this time might be anywhere from six to nine months, but with a war to fight, that time got shorter. And the new SOLARs only got younger.
Special operators are a family unto themselves, but they also have families of their own. The officers and senior NCOs recognised that in addition to having a Team that functioned well together, their families must get along, too. They were their own support network, just as the men and women in the field supported each other.
Like the Team itself, the Team's spouses and children had a structure. Ordinarily, as the CO's spouse, Maylene would have taken the lead in all things related to the homefront, but since she was an officer with her own responsibilities, that duty fell to the XO's husband, Charlie Wilson. Still, Maylene tried her best to get to know the SOLARs under Eric's command and their families as well.
There were 112 men and women who reported directly to Eric. That meant there were probably over 300 people at the Team's big cookout.
Most of the younger sailors were either single or newly married, but many of the older SOLARs had spouses and children. Ostensibly, the unit was based at the Naval Special Warfare Command's headquarters in Coronado, California. At least that's where their families were housed: in some of the high-rise condos along the southern California coast. They trained all over the planet and during the work-up phase were only home for a day or two at a time.
The gathering was on the beach, just north of the historic Hotel del Coronado. There was a friendly game of football going on in the sand, volleyball and even a few people surfing.
The Team was shipping out in less than a week. They were headed back to sector 12, where the Alliance was still fighting off a Federation invasion force in the Levari Six system. This was the last chance for the SOLARs and their families to see each other together.
Eric had disappeared with some of his older officers and NCOs. Knowing him, Maylene thought they were either spiking the punch or perpetrating some sort of practical joke on the younger Team members.
The Team's command master chief took his self-appointed station as the guardian of the kegs. Maylene and a couple of the other spouses were chatting idly as their husbands and wives milled about, often in some sort of silly competition with each other, like who could stuff the most mini-marshmallows in their mouth. Not that it really mattered, but each SOLAR wanted to be the best at everything.
One of the newer SOLARs came over and handed a couple of credit chits to the master chief, who dutifully refilled the young woman's cup with liquid libations.
"Master Chief, can I ask you something?"
"Sure thing, Hudson."
"You knew the skipper at BUD/S, right?"
"Are the stories about him true?"
"Some of 'em are," the older man shrugged non-committally. "Some of 'em aren't."
"I heard he carried a guy four miles on his back during Hell Week. Is that right, Master Chief?"
McDaniel winked at Maylene and rolled his eyes. "Keeps getting longer and longer . . ."
"So it is true?"
"Tell us the story, Master Chief," Maylene said playfully. She had heard this one before, and wanted to get one more dig in at the Master Chief by making him retell a story that was now part of the BUD/S folklore. Plus, as a TSN officer, she wanted some of the younger men and women to hear the story for its moral.
"This was . . . oh, maybe nine years ago." A couple of the other younger SOLARs and some of the teenage children began to gather around as Eric's former instructor went into storyteller mode, his thick southern drawl coming through. "I was doin' my first tour as an instructor at BUD/S. Commander Burke was fresh out of OCS; his butter bars were still shiny and he thought he was the shit. He had a big mouth and liked to show off."
The master chief took a pull of his own beer. "We're always harder on the officers who come through BUD/S than the enlisted guys, and we rode Mister Burke like there was no tomorrow. That shut him up real quick, but he always put out. He stuck up for his sailors and when a guy on his boat crew screwed up, he pushed 'em out with the other guy, no questions asked."
"By the time we got to Hell Week, their class had gone from 143 to 41. They ended up losing another 17 during Hell Week." McDaniel's gaze grew distant for just a second. "One of the candidates was a kid named Kasandra Tallmadge. Good girl, lots of spirit and always gave one hundred percent. Unfortunately, she had knee problems. She got rolled out of Indoc after she blew out her knee on the o-course and started over in Mister Burke's class after six months in rehab."
"Tallmadge was in a different boat crew and they were doin' well for most of Hell Week." He looked around at the young SOLARs who had stopped by. "You all know that most of the people who quit during Hell Week do it in the first 24 hours. After that, just about all the other DORs are injuries. Anyway, it's Wednesday night at about three a.m. and Tallmadge and the Smurfs are about forty yards behind Mister Burke's boat in an around-the-world marathon run, when she steps in a hole."
"She goes down, all screamin' and hollerin'. Same knee she blew up the year before. It's all over and she knows it." The Master Chief lifted his knee up for those around him to see. "She blew out the ACL and the MCL. Even with the best surgery, it's never gonna be the same without bionic reconstruction or a cloned leg."
"Mister Burke hears her and has his crew stop, drops their boat and he goes runnin' back to where Tallmadge is rollin' around on the ground. The corpsman is there and wrappin' it up in ice. They're about to put her on a stretcher when he comes up and tells them to put her down."
"Chief Olsen was in charge of this evolution and he's goin' apeshit. He tells Mister Burke to get his ass away from her." McDaniel took a deep breath and put his BUD/S instructor voice on. " 'Are you a goddam doctor, Mister Burke? What the hell are you doing, sir? Get back to your boat crew!' "
McDaniel switched back to his normal storyteller voice. "Well, Mister Burke just ignored the chief, which only drove him crazier. He's tryin' to find out if she's all right and makin' sure the ice pack's tied on tight. Finally, Mister Burke says, 'Kasi, you wanna quit?' This was her second time through BUD/S and as you all know, that means she's done. She's in tears 'cause she shoulda made it if not for that knee . . . Anyway, she sobs, 'No, sir!' "
The crowd had fallen silent, and more people were starting to drift in. "So Mister Burke gets in the chief's face and says, 'What are you gonna do, chief? Yer gonna put her knee on ice and take her in for an MRI. She doesn't wanna quit and we're not leavin' her! You can ring her out after this evolution, but not 'til we're done!' With that, Mister Burke throws her over his shoulder, orders the Smurfs to 'up boat' and then takes off."
"The chief doesn't know what to say. He's never had a student talk to him like that. Nor had he ever seen a look as wild as the one Mister Burke gave him." He took another swig of beer to clear his throat. "He carried that girl over a mile back to the grinder. All the while runnin' so his boat crew doesn't lose the race. When it was all over, he was out of breath and almost passed out. The chief was madder than a snake, but the el-tee said the lesson was worth more to the class than gettin' shown up by some punk ensign."
"If I hadn't been there and seen it with my own eyes, I'da thought this was some bullshit story," the Master Chief looked around, especially at the younger SOLARs, who had just earned their shooting stars. "But Commander Burke is the best goddam Team leader we've got. He won't just leave you, even if yer dead. He's got the IKC to prove that. He'll carry you if he has to, but he also expects you to carry the guy next to you if he goes down. One more thing, and this ain't really talked about as much . . . there were eight guys in Mister Burke's boat crew when they started Indoc. All eight of those guys finished BUD/S. Not a one of 'em quit. I ain't never seen that neither, and I know it was 'cause Mister Burke wouldn't give up on his guys and he wouldn't let his guys give up on him, neither."
There was some murmuring among the gathered. All of them had heard some variation of the story; it was, after all, now part of the SOLAR training lore. But to hear it from someone who was there—as an instructor, no less—gave it some extra weight. For some of the younger guys, in that moment they realised not only how privileged they were to serve under Eric, but also the responsibility of having to live up to the example he set.
The crowd started to disperse. But the young SOLAR who asked the original question stayed for a moment longer. "So what happened to the girl?"
McDaniel blinked a couple of times. No one had ever asked him that part of the story. He gulped down the rest of his beer and broke into a wide smile.
"She went back to the fleet, served out her enlistment, then left the Navy," he said.
"So she just gave up?" Hudson asked, a twinge of disgust in her voice. More than anything else, SOLARs hate quitters. "I thought you said she had a lot of spirit."
"She does have a lot of spirit. Wanted to be a SOLAR more than anything," McDaniel replied. "Enlisted sailors only get two shots at BUD/S. Tallmadge spent three weeks in a regen tank getting her knee grown back, which she paid for out of her own pocket, went to college, got a degree in business, then—thanks to some lieutenant with a big mouth named Burke who pulled some strings for her—got a commission and went through BUD/S as an officer. Some of you may know her; she got married a couple of years back and changed her last name to Frazier. Last I heard, she's a platoon OIC out in sector six with Team 19. . . . If you show him you'll work your ass off, Commander Burke will move Heaven and Earth for you."
Maylene cried out as Eric entered her.
Her fingernails dug into his skin. He grunted and thrust forward as hard as he could.
"Oh, god," she whispered.
Eric filled her up. He pushed all the way into her.
Maylene lifted her hips up to meet his thrusts.
After a romantic dinner, or at least what passed for romantic on a deep space battlestation, neither Eric nor Maylene was in the mood for much by way of preliminaries.
She let out a satisfied grunt every time he bottomed out. He moaned with pleasure when her lips sucked on his neck and ear.
Her legs were spread wide so she could take as much of him inside her as possible.
There was a slapping sound each time their bodies met, followed by a sucking sound as they pulled apart.
Both of their bodies were soon covered by a thin sheen of sweat. Their uniforms were left strewn between the door and the bed.
Eric bellowed when one of her fingers entered his ass.
Maylene squealed when he pinched her one hypersensitive nipple.
"Yes . . . yes . . . fuck, yes!" she cried.
His only reply was to pound into her harder.
"Fuck . . . me . . . harder!" Maylene's voice devolved into a series of unintelligible sounds. Feral.
Her husband's vision blurred as he tried desperately to stave off the orgasm. Eric tried valiantly to wait for her to start cumming before his own release, but he didn't know how much longer he could resist.
"May . . . I'm about . . . to . . ." he moaned.
"Yes, Eric . . . cum in me," she gasped. "Cum all over me."
With that, they both seemed to burst with pleasure. Neither stopped moving. Neither wanted the feeling to end.
It wasn't just the orgasm they savoured. It was the coupling. The joining of two people. As their broken bodies convulsed with pleasure, they each felt whole.
At the moment when their climaxes reached their peaks, both Eric and Maylene Burke melded into one being.
He vaguely felt himself shooting off inside her. She flailed her arms around, consumed by desire.
Eric's eyes rolled back into his head. Maylene tried her damnedest to keep her mechanical hands from peeling the skin off her husband's back.
They collapsed on to the bed, his weight pressing down on her. They tried to catch their breaths, but their lovemaking was so intense, both blacked out for a second.
When they came to, they lay in each other's arms. Their breathing was ragged. The blood pounded through their veins.
For each, nothing in the universe mattered except for the person in their arms.
Eric jerked wildly and then rolled off Maylene, worried that his weight was too much for her. She rolled with him, determined not to let him go.
Her head rested on his chest. Neither spoke for a long time.
Finally, she looked up at him, her eyes glowing softly in the darkness. Her hair, which had been so neatly styled earlier in the night was a mess. She unceremoniously brushed it aside.
He smiled gently at her. His strong arms wrapped around her. His heartbeat was comforting.
"I love you," Eric whispered. He craned his neck and his lips met hers.
The last week had been tough on both of them. The latest offensive had kept her busy on the citadel, running combat space patrols and managing the sky around the battlestation. He was preparing for a field deployment, running some final training drills and making sure his people were ready to go to war.
"I love you, too," Maylene purred.
Silence fell over the pair. As if neither wanted to be the first to break the spell. Or acknowledge that their time together was coming to an end.
"When will you be back?" she asked finally.
A long moment passed before Eric replied. "That depends on if we get our asses handed to us when we get to Iridian. . . . A couple of weeks, maybe a month."
Of course, he didn't know. The Alliance had been planning to retake Iridian from the Federation for several months, but after the first shots are fired, battle plans have a tendency to fall apart very quickly.
Navy SOLARs aren't frontline soldiers, but they would be needed throughout the campaign. In theory, Eric was a Team CO and that meant he would see very little direct action, but that didn't mean he would be far from the front.
He wanted to tell her more, but that information was only given out on a need-to-know basis, and she didn't have the need.
Their minutes ticked by on the chrono.
Promise me you won't do anything crazy, Maylene wanted to say, but she knew better. Eric was a headstrong leader who put the welfare of his sailors before his own. He led from the front, which made him a leader men and women would follow, but it also meant he exposed himself to unnecessary risks.
"What are we going to do when the war is over?" she asked instead. The war seemed to be winding down. The superior resources of the Alliances were slowly overpowering the Federation. The invasion at Iridian was stalled and it seemed to everyone around that a truce—if not an outright peace settlement—was coming soon.
Both of them had spent the past few weeks discussing their future together. Combat soldiers generally don't think any further than the moment they are in because distractions often lead to death, but for the couple, it was a way that they could connect and convince themselves that there was something greater for them to pursue.
"I was going to retire and live off my wife's admiral's salary," Eric teased.
"That's funny because I was going to wait for my husband to make captain and spend my time playing hopscotch while he was away," Maylene snorted.
They tickled each other playfully for a moment that ended in a warm, sloppy kiss.
"I was thinking that we'd cash in some of our leave," Eric said once his wife settled her body against his again. "Take a trip to a deserted island in the Caribbean or maybe out on Fiji Prime and make babies."
"That sounds like a good idea," Maylene replied after a moment. "Would you want to leave the Navy?"
Eric shrugged. "Would you?"
"I don't know," she said. "What would we do?"
"I've never thought about that, honey," his gaze grew distant for a second. "I've spent all of my adult life shooting things . . . I'm not good at much else."
"You're good for a few things," Maylene said with a cybernetic wink, and reached down to stroke his flaccid cock.
"I don't think anyone would pay me for that."
"I married you so I wouldn't have to pay."
"You should ask for a refund."
"How about I just wake up next to you every day for the rest of my life?" Maylene whispered.
They fell silent for another long moment.
"We could buy that cabin from Mom and Dad and retire," Eric said softly.
"You'd go crazy out in the woods."
His hand reached under her chin so she was looking him in the eyes. "I don't ever want to be without you. I don't want to lose you. Whatever happens, I want to grow old with you."
"Even if I'm scarred and ugly?"
"Computer," Eric called. "Lights to twenty percent . . . Maylene . . . I love you. I love every inch of your body."
He ran his hands over her burn-scarred skin. "When this war ends, we're going to reserve two tanks at the nearest hospital station and they're going to grow our bodies back. I'm going to touch you every day . . . I want to feel you with my own skin, not these machines . . . I'm going to make love to you every night and wake up with you in my arms every morning. . . . When you're sixty I'm going to beat the shit out of all the lieutenants who want to bag an admiral so they can get on the promotion fast track . . . I love you."
Maylene's eyes flashed. "If any twenty year old lieutenant wants me when I'm sixty, you'd better let me have him."
It was his turn to snort. He smacked her across the backside. "I might have to go down to pri-fly tonight and kick the crap out of that one kid . . . Henderson . . . who's always making those dough eyes at you."