tagSci-Fi & FantasyThree Square Meals Ch. 008

Three Square Meals Ch. 008


The Invictus followed the course laid in by Alyssa, making quick and determined progress towards Port Heracles. The communications officer who contacted them sounded surprised that the Assault Cruiser was a civilian vessel, but such things were not totally unheard of. He granted them docking clearance for docking bay four.

The Invictus stalked closer, before gliding into the docking bay under Alyssa's careful hand. It was a tight fit, but with her skilful guidance they avoided any mishaps. Lateral thrusters fired as their ship eased up to the docking gantry, and once they had finally made gentle contact, docking clamps locked them securely into place.

"Nice job," John said, admiring her handiwork.

"Thanks," she said, smiling up at him. "Flying something this huge is so much fun!"

They headed out of the ship across the docking gantry, and then up an elevator into the Spaceport proper. Although not on anywhere near the same physical scale as Olympus Shipyard, this spaceport had a large retail and trading emporium, so saw a lot of traffic from independent traders. Those traders included a broad selection of space-faring aliens, which had Alyssa whirling around wide eyed to take them all in. She gawped at the exotic creatures, marvelling at their bizarre shapes and colouring.

John leaned over to the gawking teen. "Try not to be too obvious," he whispered into her ear quietly. "Some of these species don't like to be stared at."

He smiled as he watched the curious young woman darting furtive glances at the various different aliens, whilst trying to be discreet. He looked around himself, and noted that the Kintark were conspicuously absent.

*Excuse me, young one,* a melodic voice sounded in Alyssa's head. She whirled to see a dark green, solid looking, gelatinous blob stopped at her side, waiting to pass by.

"Oh pardon me!" she exclaimed, before stepping out of the way. The creature squelched past, followed by a pair of robotic humanoid porters that were loaded down with boxes.

*It is of no consequence. Be well, young one,* the kind melodic voice chimed again.

"What was that?" she asked John quietly, as soon as the creature was out of earshot. It had no ears, so she hoped it couldn't overhear.

"That was a Bolon," John explained. "They are a friendly species, but communicating with them is very difficult as they can't speak. They use the robots as interpreters when trading."

"Ah ok, thanks," Alyssa mumbled distractedly. "How very interesting..." she thought to herself.

John led Alyssa to the Terran Federation medical facility where Calara was recuperating. John nodded courteously to a couple of soldiers standing guard outside, and they were ushered into the reception area of the facility. The walls and floor in the facility were blindingly white, which took a little getting used to.

The receptionist was a middle aged woman, who looked up from her work at her console, and smiled at them in welcome.

"Hello, can I help you?" she asked the smartly dressed visitors courteously.

"We're here to see Calara Fernandez," John replied, bracing himself for questions if it turned out that she had been hauled off to the brig.

"Certainly sir, one moment," the receptionist replied, before scanning through a list of names on the console.

"Ah yes," she said, finding Calara amongst the list. "May I see your identification please?" she requested politely. John and Alyssa handed over their IDs', which were scanned by a nearby reader, logging them as visitors.

"Take the elevator up to floor three, Lieutenant Fernandez is in room 347," the receptionist said, passing back their IDs, and pointing to the elevators in the corner of the room. "I'll let her know you're on your way," she added kindly.

John and Alyssa thanked the receptionist and then walked over to take the elevator up to the third floor. The hospital was well sign posted, and they found room 347 easily. John knocked politely on the door.

"Come in!" Calara's excited voice drifted out from the room.

He opened the door, and saw Calara standing by a desk, turning to face them as she closed the call with the receptionist. Alyssa glided past him, and the two young women came together in a warm embrace.

"Oh! It's so good to see you!" Calara gasped, delighted to see her visitors.

"You too!" Alyssa exclaimed, a beaming smile on her face. "You look so much better!"

Calara reached up to touch her nose self consciously, still swollen from the break that had been straightened. Her black eyes had mostly disappeared now, and John could see that the young Latina was actually very pretty. Unfortunately her lack of sleep made her look very tired, with big bags under her eyes.

John moved forward to greet her with a hug, and she moved into his arms, holding him tightly. "Thank you for saving me, both of you," Calara mumbled into his chest. "You don't know how good it is to see you."

Alyssa stepped up behind her, and they both hugged the distraught young woman comfortingly for a while. After some of the tension had relaxed from her shoulders, they stepped away, with John taking the nearby reclining chair, and the girls sitting on the bed.

"So, Calara, can you tell me more about the trouble you're in?" he asked gently.

A dark wave of depression seemed to crash over the poor girl, and her shoulders slumped in defeat.

"I'm being charged with 'dereliction of duty', and there's going to be a court martial!" she exclaimed, her voice panicked. Alyssa moved closer, and wrapped an arm around her, supporting her comfortingly.

John took out a small handheld device and connected to the station's security network.

"He said I'd have to answer for my shocking lack of judgement. That I was to blame for the Corvette being boarded, and all those people being killed!" Calara blurted out, on the verge of tears. "I was asleep at the time though! As the junior tactical officer, I had handed over the next shift to Lieutenant Crowe."

John had been searching the judicial log for formal proceedings, but he could find nothing logged in relation to Calara Fernandez.

"Who is 'He'?" John asked curiously.

Calara shuddered with revulsion. "Commander Rupert Grant. He's in charge of Port Heracles, and has jurisdiction of this sector. He was my commanding officer for a while, before I requested a transfer."

Alyssa guessed there was probably more to this story, as she watched the Latina visibly withdraw into herself. "Why did you ask for a transfer?" she prompted Calara gently, whilst rubbing her arm encouragingly.

Calara's eyes were downcast and she looked ashamed. "He... He kept coming on to me. I kept telling him no, so he threatened to end my career if I wouldn't go out with him. Then Commander Jericho arrived at the station on the Corvette Griffon, so I applied for an immediate transfer. He accepted, and I joined his crew the next day."

"This Grant guy didn't take that well then, I guess?" Alyssa asked speculatively.

"No. When I told him about the transfer, he was furious. He swore at me a lot, and called me all sorts of things," Calara said, blushing with embarrassment.

John's eyes narrowed dangerously. "I think it's time I met Commander Grant," he said ominously.

They calmed Calara down, reassuring her that everything would be fine, and promising they would be back shortly. She watched them leave, biting a nail nervously.

Alyssa followed along besides John as he strode angrily towards the elevator. He was absolutely fuming with rage, and she had never seen him like this before.

*Fucking with someone who has PTSD!* he snarled to himself. *What the fuck does he thinks he's playing at?!*

Alyssa decided to let John focus on the situation at hand and stayed quiet. She matched his pace as they stormed out of the medical facility, then walked briskly to the Station Commander's office in the main Terran Federation military compound at the Star port. Alyssa tuned in to John's inner voice, and was pleased when he calmed down, finally deciding against shooting the Station Commander. John swiped his ID at the entrance to the compound, and the guards waved him inside.

They travelled through a number of corridors in the base until they finally reached the Commander's office. John opened the door without knocking, and strode purposefully into the reception area.

A pinch faced man in a naval uniform looked up, and saw that two civilians had entered his office. "Yes, what do you want?" he said, making no attempt to hide his irritation.

"My name's John Blake. I'm here to see Commander Grant, about Calara Fernandez," John informed the adjutant through clenched teeth.

The man tutted in annoyance, before pressing a button on a console. "There's a John Blake here to see you about Lieutenant Fernandez, Sir," he said obsequiously.

There was a few moments pause before a voice on the intercom said "Send him in."

John and Alyssa walked towards the door, only for Alyssa to be stopped by the adjutant's raised hand. "Not you miss, you can wait there," he sneered, pointing at a nearby chair. She was relieved John didn't carry through with his fleeting desire to break the man's arm. Well a bit, anyway.

"I won't be long," John said to Alyssa, before he turned back and opened the door on the other side of the office, before walking in.

Alyssa watched John enter the room, and saw a portly man in his 50's slouched behind a desk.

"Ahh, the irrepressible Mr Blake. I read about your exploits in Lieutenant Fernandez's report, but I'm surprised to find you aren't eight foot tall and breathing fire. What can I do for you?" Commander Grant sneered.

"Shut the fuck up and scan this," John demanded in a tone that brooked no argument, as he tossed his military ID on to the Station Commander's desk. He closed the door behind him, cutting off Alyssa's view.

They were in there for what seemed like forever to the impatient teenager, who desperately wanted to know what was happening. She found that she was too far away to listen in to John's thoughts, so the silence was maddening. The adjutant kept throwing salacious glances her way, and she suddenly realised the reason why he had asked her to wait behind. She deliberately ignored him and tried her best to wait for John's return.

Eventually the Station Commander's door was thrown open, and John strolled out. Alyssa glanced inside the room as she got up to join him, and saw the corpulent Rupert Grant slumped in his chair, his face a mask of fear and dread. The couple walked away quickly, eager to escape from the horrible men.

"I've sorted it out," John said to a relieved Alyssa. "We just need to speak to Calara, and find out what she wants to do."

They walked back to the medical facility, eager to bring the good news to the troubled young woman.


Meanwhile back at the medical facility, Calara thrashed around violently on her bed, gripped in a terrifying nightmare.

It had been such a relief to see her two saviours again, and she had felt safe and protected when in their presence. When they had gone, she found herself fighting off waves of exhaustion, and had curled up on the bed to try to get some sleep.

The nightmare started as it normally did. The horrific screams gurgled to a halt as the second crewmate died horribly at the hands of the Largath.

"It's all my fault!", Calara berated herself. "Those women, and all the other crew died because of me!"

The twisted faces of the surrounding pirates loomed large before her dazed eyes, leering at her and baying for blood. A crude spear was thrust into her hand, and she was dropped awkwardly into the pit to face the hideous creature. Her back was a sheet of agony from where she had been flogged by that demented cyborg, and she struggled to find her footing again as the Largath approached.

She waved the metal pole in front of her, desperate to keep the rampant beast at bay. It was deceptively fast for something so huge, and she had to work hard to keep out of its grasp, as it lunged at her time and again. She misjudged one strike, and the Largath whipped it's arm to the side, catching her in the chest. There was a sickening crunch as her ribs broke, and she sailed through the air before landing on her back, the wind knocked out of her. Frantically trying to regain her breath, she struggled to her feet as the creature came forward, roaring to the cheering pirates, showboating for them...


The insistent buzzing of the intercom woke up the terrified girl, and she was desperately relieved to escape from the nightmare, her heart racing and her chest heaving for breath. She steadied herself before answering the call, and was overjoyed when It was the receptionist again, informing her that John and Alyssa were back. Her heart lifted at the thought of seeing them, and she darted over to the door to watch out for their arrival.

John and Alyssa left the elevator, and turned to walk towards room 347. They saw Calara's hopeful face looking around the door to her room, and she beamed a big smile when she saw them. She stepped out into the corridor, and ushered them in to her room.

They walked into Calara's room, and John turned her to face him. "It's over," he stated simply, looking into her big brown eyes as she stared up at him hopefully. "You won't have to face any charges, and there's not going to be a Court Martial. None of what happened was your fault."

Calara's face crumpled with relief as she fell into his arms, sobbing uncontrollably. He held her in a warm embrace, being careful not to aggravate the young woman's healing wounds. Alyssa stood at his side, and stroked the brunette's long dark hair comfortingly, her face filled with compassion. They stood like that for some time, until Calara was able to regain her composure. She looked up at them both, with sincere gratitude on her face.

"Thank you," Calara said fervently.

"You're welcome," he replied, as he held her in his arms.

John felt a lump in his throat. This poor girl had been through so much, and then that asshole Grant had made things so much worse. This was serious, he realised suddenly. He needed to report what had happened, and he couldn't do it from here using the Port Heracles comm network, as Grant might be monitoring outbound traffic.

"I need to report what happened here," John said apologetically, as the blonde and brunette looked up at him. "Grant isn't going to get away with the way he's treated you."

"It's ok, I'll look after her," Alyssa said kindly, as she smiled at the other young woman.

They agreed that he would come back to meet them after he had visited the ship, and he left Alyssa hugging Calara, murmuring to her soothingly. He made his way back to the Invictus, so that he could use its powerful communication relay to contact Terran Federation Command.


A short while later, John stood deep in thought, as he took the elevator back up to the Space port. He had made his report and recorded his detailed allegations against Commander Rupert Grant. He had lost some friends to PTSD in the past; good men, their lives taken by their own hand. He would be damned before he let anything like that happen to this young woman. The elevator door opened, and he was surprised to run into Calara and Alyssa as they walked towards him from the space port.

"Second Lieutenant Calara Fernandez reporting for duty, Sir!" The pretty Latina said formally, before snapping a sharp salute and standing rigidly at attention.

"What...?" John said, surprised by her actions.

"I told Calara we had a vacancy in our ship's roster, after my recent promotion," Alyssa told him, her beautiful blue eyes flashing mischievously. "She just agreed to join us!"

"Now wait just a minute!" John blurted out, remembering Alyssa's old job title.

"Uh-uh Commander!" Alyssa admonished him playfully, waving a finger from side to side. "As your Executive Officer, I'm in charge of all recruitment."

John was about to speak again, but she cut off his forthcoming objection with a piercing gaze that startled him into silence.

"Second Lieutenant Fernandez here, graduated top of her Academy class, specialising in naval tactics," Alyssa said, before she turned to face Calara. "Lieutenant, summarise your career for the Commander, please."

"I joined the Terran Federation Navy at sixteen and spent two years at the Academy. My first posting was at Port Heracles, before I transferred to the Corvette Griffon," Calara informed him, standing at attention, while listing off the achievements and citations of her fledgling career.

"Besides," Alyssa continued, once Calara had finished. "The Invictus has a lot of big guns. I don't know anything about ship to ship combat, do you?"

John paused, mulling this surprising turn of events over in his mind. He was a Marine at heart, specialised in ship boarding and infantry tactics. He realised he had subconsciously shied away from anything to do with the Invictus' gun batteries, feeling a little wary of their massive firepower. A Tactical officer could actually prove to be very useful, and he came to his decision quickly.

"Welcome aboard Lieutenant!" he said to Calara, snapping her a crisp salute, and then smiling at her warmly. The pretty Latina returned his salute, and then smiled back at him happily as she relaxed.

"Yay!!" Alyssa squealed, rushing forward to embrace her friend in a hug. Calara returned the beautiful blonde's enthusiastic embrace, wincing slightly at the sharp pain in her ribs.

"Oh, sorry!" Alyssa apologised, before quickly releasing her.

They walked over to the window overlooking the docking bay, which offered Calara her first view of her new home. The Assault Cruiser loomed in front of them, taking up most of the view, and Calara took in the intimidating sight of the many weapon banks bristling along the ship's hull.

"Oh yeah..." she said in a low voice, her head nodding appreciatively, as her mouth formed a wide grin.

"Come on, let's get you settled in. You're going to be so happy here, I promise!" Alyssa said eagerly.

The two girls strolled hand in hand towards the elevator that would take them down to the docking gantry, and John watched the departing eighteen year olds for a moment, before he moved forward to scoop up Calara's duffel bag. He carried it easily over one shoulder, and followed behind them to the lift.

The elevator took a couple of seconds to take them down to the docking gantry, and then the trio walked briskly towards the towering hull of the Invictus. Alyssa pressed her hand against the DNA reader, and the airlock spiralled open for them welcomingly. They walked inside and headed up to the officer's quarters, while Calara recounted what had happened while John had gone back to the ship.

"So, after Alyssa offered me the job as Tactical Officer on board the Invictus, I called Commander Grant to request the transfer. He offered me an indefinite leave of absence!" she exclaimed, still shocked by how eager he had been to help. "That means I can stay on the ship for as long as you guys want me here," she added with a happy sigh.

Alyssa grinned at John over the excited brunette's head as they walked along the corridor on Deck Two. He smiled back at her, both of them pleased to see Calara's dramatically improved mood. They reached the end of the corridor, and Alyssa pressed the button on the door to the left of the Commander's room.

"Our room is just over here, so I'd like you to have this one," Alyssa said, as the door to the officer's room swished opened quietly. "Then we'll be close by if you need anything," she added considerately.

Calara nodded her head agreeably and they walked into the room. "Wow these quarters are huge! This room must be at least three times as big as my berth on the Griffon," she exclaimed excitedly, as she looked around the corner. "And my own bathroom too!"

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