tagSci-Fi & FantasyThree Square Meals Ch. 019

Three Square Meals Ch. 019


The crew of the Invictus left the ship and strode out to meet the two uniformed men awaiting their arrival. As they left the confines of the airlock, John noticed the men were standing next to a brutal looking piece of Terran Federation engineering. It was some kind of dropship, lean and ferocious, the jutting weapon barrels telling their own tale of its lethal potential. He reluctantly pulled his gaze from the savage looking craft and focused on the two men standing to it's side.

John recognised his old friend Charles Harris of course, the middle aged man's stern face showing surprise at the new additions to John's team. His bushy grey moustache twitched in amusement as his eyes glanced from one stunningly beautiful young woman to another.

John didn't recognise the older man however. Distinguished, with salt and pepper hair and a closely cropped grey beard, the man was wearing full dress uniform and John could tell by the insignia on his epaulets that the man ranked as an admiral in the Terran Federation Navy.

"John! It's good to see you." Charles said in greeting. "Please let me introduce Admiral Cartwright." he said, turning to the older military man.

"Commander Blake, I've been hearing great things about you." The admiral said in a quiet voice.

"It's good to meet you admiral." John said, snapping a sharp salute. "I'm sure the tales have been greatly exaggerated." he said, self deprecatingly.

The older man looked at John with shrewd, penetrating eyes. "I don't think they have." he replied.

"So what can I do for you admiral?" John asked, curious as to why such a high ranking Terran Federation officer would come to meet him.

"It's more what I can do for you Commander." the man said. "Terran Federation High Command greatly appreciated your efforts against the Kirrix. The PR value of that battle alone is invaluable to us at the moment."

"Just happy to do our part admiral." John said. "Those Kirrix had to be stopped!" he said grimly.

"Yes, indeed." Admiral Cartwright said unemotionally.

"In any case, I'm pleased to be able to present you with a Raptor class gunship to show our appreciation for your efforts." the admiral said, looking askance at the terrifying piece of hardware to his side.

"Thank you admiral!" John said, looking up at the gunship, a big grin spreading across his face.

"Keep up the good work Commander." the distinguished older man said quietly, throwing him a salute and turning to leave.

Before he had completed the turn however, he suddenly looked back.

"According to Vice Admiral Harris, you've brought us another shipment of Tyrenium?" He said, with hunger in his voice; the first real emotion that the man had displayed since their arrival.

"Yes, sir." John replied succinctly. "20 tons of it."

Admiral Cartwright's eyes gleamed. "Outstanding work, Commander. Quite outstanding..." he said, before nodding to Charles and then walking away briskly.

John turned to look at his old friend Charles with a raised eyebrow.

"We'll talk in my office John." Charles said with a wry smile. "For now, I can't wait for you to introduce me to your companions." he said, his eyes twinkling.

John shook his head in amusement and then turned to his side.

"You already know my executive officer of course." He said, smiling affectionately at the beautiful blonde girl.

"It's lovely to see you my dear..." Charles said, before stopping in surprise as Alyssa strode up to him and planted a big kiss on his cheek.

"That's for all your work on our quarters!" she said, with a warm appreciative smile.

"It was my pleasure, Alyssa." Charles said, smiling at the exuberant young woman, before turning his attention back to John.

"This is my Tactical Officer, Second Lieutenant Calara Fernandez." John said proudly, introducing the gorgeous Latina.

"Vice Admiral Harris, it's an honour to meet you." Calara said, snapping to attention and saluting the man respectfully.

"Ah yes, the exceptional young officer who found the location of the pirate base. I've heard intriguing things about your exploits lieutenant." Charles said, nodding his approval.

"Thank you sir!" Calara said blushing, unsure how to respond to such flattery.

To save Calara further embarrassment, John moved on. "This is my Chief Engineer, Sparks." John said affectionately, introducing the redhead.

Sparks winced a little, hearing her name in this kind of formal setting. Since her conversation with the rescued engineer several days ago, she had suddenly become quite self conscious about her old nickname.

"Pleased to meet you young lady." Charles said, in a friendly voice.

"You too Charles." Sparks replied with a smile. "Oh! It's ok for me to call you that right? Not Vice Admiral or whatever?" she asked curiously.

"Charles is fine." the middle aged man said with some amusement.

"Finally this is Jade, our most recent addition to the crew of the Invictus." John said, turning towards the green skinned Nymph.

"This one is pleased to meet any friend of master's!" Jade said excitedly.

Charles looked at John with a startled look on his face.

"Don't ask." John said with a wry smile.

"Isn't she a..." Charles said falteringly.

"Yes, she is." John said, grinning.

Charles laughed loudly. "Ah, John... maybe I should have retired while I was still a young man!" he said grinning ruefully.

"Let me take you all up to my office." Charles said in a friendly voice. "We can relax while we talk business."

"Lead on, Charles." John said and they turned to follow the man out of the huge docking bay.

They walked away from the Invictus and Sparks managed to tear her eyes away from the fascinating looking gunship. She finally noticed the huge numbers of crates stacked in the docking bay and Charles spotted her drifting over to look at them curiously.

"We started receiving all these deliveries a couple of days ago. The deck officer was having a fit until I had a word." he said, smiling.

Sparks practically jumped up and down with excitement and glanced longingly at the large shipping crates as they walked to the heavy security door that led out of the bay.

"Come on." John said, grinning at her. "You can look later. They can't start loading anything until the retrofit is done on the cargo bay anyway."

"I prioritised that work order for you John, the crews will start work on that for you immediately." Charles volunteered helpfully.

"Much appreciated Charles, thank you!" John said gratefully and the older man waved away his thanks.

They followed the vice admiral to an elevator and headed up to a different office to the one they had met the shipyard commander in last time.

"New office Charles?" John asked curiously.

"My old one is being refurbished and extended." Charles said, smiling happily, "A reward for my 'outstanding initiative' in selling you the Invictus." he grinned.

The new office was approximately the same size as the last one, with a similar reception area outside. The young naval officer who had met them previously, saluted John respectfully and then looked on with wide eyes at the luscious bevy of young women following after him into the vice admiral's office. Alyssa grinned impishly and waved at him, causing the poor assistant to blush bright red with embarrassment.

John held the door open for them and they went to sit on the sofas set around the big window looking out of the office. Unfortunately there was no panoramic view of the shipyard from this office and instead it overlooked the docking bay where they had landed the Invictus. Sparks looked out the window and sighed as she looked at all the shipping crates full of machinery, all waiting to be installed in her workshop. John smiled affectionately at the redhead. She reminded him of a small child waiting impatiently to unwrap her presents on Christmas day. The naval officer assistant came into the room with a tray of coffee and began to hand out steaming cups of the hot drink.

Jade stood next to her auburn haired friend at the window and looked out over the docking bay. This was the first time she had seen the Invictus properly and as she looked at the massive assault cruiser, its distinctive shape triggered a memory from her past.

Decades before, she had belonged to an eccentric old fellow who had nicknamed himself the 'Collector'. The extremely wealthy man had been a benign master, who being too old to require her more sensual services, had meant for a calm if rather dull few years under his care. The man had been obsessed with collecting exotic creatures and as one of the few surviving Nymphs, Jade had been the pride of his collection. She recalled his assorted variety of animals and remembered a many toothed aquatic predator the Collector had told her was called a shark, a huge fish that hailed from legendary Terra.

Grey, sleek and angular, the Invictus had the same lean look as the Shark, the command deck and the fire control tower behind it even reminded her of the dorsal fin atop the ancient aquatic killer. The caudal fin was there too, but on the Invictus it housed the shield generator, flanked by the four mighty engines that allowed the assault cruiser to surge through space with such ferocious speed.

John had begun to talk again and as always she focused her attention back on him, so that she could listen to his lovely strong voice.

"So tell me more about Admiral Cartwright?" John asked curiously.

"He's here overseeing the construction of the Echelon class dreadnought you probably saw on your arrival." Charles said. "High Command are ordering a massive shipbuilding program and he wants to make sure construction stays on schedule."

"He's a bit detached, but he's very driven. He holds a lot of sway with High Command." Charles said, giving his honest opinion of the man.

"Very interesting." John said, intrigued.

"What do you know about the Raptor gunship?" he asked his old friend with a hint of excitement in his voice. "I haven't seen or heard of anything like that before."

"It's state of the art John, fresh off the production lines." Charles said enviously. "You must have made High Command very happy indeed, for them to give you one of those."

"It doesn't look much like a normal Marine transport." John said, recalling the blocky transports he had launched dozens of boarding actions from in his career as a marine.

"It's part of the new push towards carrier forces and dropship assaults. The raptor gunship is exclusive to Terran Federation special forces. It's fast, manoeuvrable and packs a lot more firepower at the cost of a much reduced troop carrying capacity."

"How many?" John asked curiously.

"30 men in heavy gear," Charles said. "but that should be more than adequate for your needs."

"Or perhaps not." The middle aged man said, casting his eye over the rapidly expanding crew of the Invictus in amusement.

"So shall we talk business and get that out the way?" Charles said, eager to complete the transaction. "I believe you have 20 tons of Tyrenium for sale?" he grinned excitedly.

"I do." John said, smiling predatorily.

"Same price as last time?" Charles said hopefully.

"Well we ran into a few mishaps along the way." John said leadingly. "Unfortunately I'll have to factor that into the price."

"And just how much is that going to be?" Charles said, suddenly wary.

"30 mil per ton ought to cover it." John said mildly.

"600 million credits!" Charles said in shock.

Calara and Alyssa gasped in amazement at the outrageous sum of credits. Jade had no interest in money so she didn't react at all, while Sparks was too distracted by the sights below and wasn't paying attention.

John turned to face the redhead who was pining out the window. "You've finished looking over the Kirrix dropship now, right Sparks?" he asked her directly.

"Oh yeah, I've learned all I can from that." she said distractedly.

"I'll throw in the Kirrix dropship we captured as a goodwill gesture. That's got to have some value for Terran Federation R&D." John said magnanimously.

Charles narrowed his eyes and churned through the numbers in his mind.

"You have a deal." he said a few moments later, shaking his head in grudging appreciation.

"I'm not sure if I should be awed or appalled at your blatant price gouging. When did you become such a sharp trader?" he said with a rueful grin.

"I've got a bigger crew now, more mouths to feed." John said with a smile.

Charles laughed out loud.

"Ok I'll get the credits transferred immediately." Charles said, as he went over to his desk and pressed a button on the intercom. "You can begin unloading the Tyrenium now Sergeant." he said to the waiting munitions team.

Sparks saw a group of men in grey overalls approach the Invictus, bringing anti-grav sleds with them to assist with the unloading.

"So what are your plans then John?" Charles asked his old friend. "You're an extremely wealthy man now."

"Well I promised the girls a vacation on Gravitus while we wait for the retrofit." John said, smiling at his crew. "After that, I'm planning to go on an extended shopping trip and pick up some upgrades for the Invictus."

"Oh really?" Charles asked, "Where are you thinking of going?"

"The Ashanath, Maliri, Trankarans and the Brimorians, in that order." John replied.

"Good luck trading with the Maliri!" Charles snorted. "They don't have a lot of time for the Terran Federation."

"Ah yes, but I'm an independent trader." John said archly, which made Charles laugh.

"All joking aside, I did a couple of small trades with them a few years back and they were pleasant enough." John shrugged.

"Well like I said... Good luck, I think you'll need it!" Charles said with a smile.

"By the way, did you decide what you wanted to do with that old freighter?" he asked John.

"Actually yes I did. I was going to take her for a last flight down to the planet." John said, thinking of his old ship fondly.

"After that, could you refit her with upgraded engines, life support and FTL drive and then have her delivered to a Jonah Bennings. I'll send you the address." John said with a playful smile on his face.

"Sure, that's no problem. Who's this Jonah fellow?" Charles asked curiously.

"I owe him a big debt. Hopefully he'll appreciate my old ship." John said, remembering how much Jonah loved his long jaunts into deep space.

"I'll make sure the freighter gets to him." Charles promised. "Do you want to leave him a message."

"Just say: Thanks for the tip about the worm girls." John said. "Don't worry, he'll understand." John said and grinned at the mystified vice admiral.

John and the girls bid Charles goodbye and then took an elevator to one of the shuttles, that would take them over to the other side of the shipyard where the Fool's Gold was currently docked. As they walked along the long wide corridors of the shipyard, marines and naval personnel did double takes at the group of beautiful young women as they passed by, causing the girls to smile self consciously.

Calara sidled up to John's side. "600 million!" she blurted in a hushed whisper. "I thought I was going to have a heart attack when you asked for that much money and he agreed!" the gorgeous brunette said in amazement.

"I think I'll need the money." John said. "I plan to live a nice long retirement and it looks like I'm going to be raising a big family." John smiled at the Latina affectionately.

That drew a happy sigh from Calara, who hooked her arm through his and squeezed it tightly. They soon reached the docking bay where the freighter had been mothballed and John stopped and smiled affectionately when he saw it. He had lived on the Fool's Gold for 11 years, ever since he had retired from the military and despite the wonders the Invictus held, John still couldn't help but think of this old freighter as home. The girls waited for him patiently as he stood and stared at the ship for a long moment, before they headed up to the airlock door at the side and went in.

"So this is where it all began?" Sparks said curiously.

"That's right." Alyssa replied. "If you hadn't suggested I stow away on the ship to escape from the Diablos', then things would have turned out very differently for all of us." she said, smiling at her oldest friend affectionately.

Alyssa walked up to John and held his hand, suddenly reminding him of the scared young girl that he had discovered on his freighter only two months earlier. Calara unhooked herself from his other arm and let the two of them walk together, realising that they were taking a trip down memory lane. The incredibly close bond John and his blonde lover had always left her a little overawed.

They all headed up to the cockpit, where John and Alyssa settled into the pilot and co-pilot seats. They glanced at each other and smiled coyly, remembering all the erotic adventures they'd had during that journey back from Karron to the Olympus Shipyard the first time around.

"A whole month with just the two of you." Sparks said enviously. "I'm surprised you were even able to move out of the cabin." She said to Alyssa, brushing her elegant fingers over her toned stomach wistfully.

"That does sound wonderful master." Jade said, sighing dreamily.

"There's a lot of perks to sharing!" Alyssa said, opening her arms for Calara who came to sit in her lap.

"That's true" Calara said with a coy smile. "I'm glad we got to be each other's firsts." she said affectionately.

The lovely olive skinned brunette leaned down to rub noses with the ravishing blonde girl and they smiled at each other lovingly.

John was always fascinated to see any of the girls together and found himself getting increasingly aroused.

"Let's get moving Alyssa." he smiled. "If you two keep that up, neither of you will be in good shape for a dress fitting." he said grinning.

Alyssa paused, torn with indecision. Her desire to satisfy John and the idea of recreating their initial encounters on the freighter, warring with her wanting to get everyone new outfits in a shopping bonanza.

"We'll have lots of time to have some fun in the hotel over the next few days. Then when we finish on Gravitus, we'll say goodbye to the Fool's Gold with style. I promise!" John said, playfully.

"Ok, let's go!" Alyssa said and rapidly plotted them a course from Olympus down to the Spaceport on the surface of Gravitus.

The engines of the old freighter rumbled in protest and they lifted off gently from the floor of the docking bay. Under Alyssa's skilful control they began their journey down to the planet's surface.

Once they were underway, Alyssa pressed a control on her console and brought up the vid-screen. She produced a card from a pocket in her suit jacket and then entered the contact number. John looked at her curiously, wondering who she was calling. A very pretty brunette filled the vid-screen a few moments later, which answered his question.

"Rachel!" Alyssa said happily, when the brunette answered the call. "We're back on Gravitus and wondered if you wanted to join us for dinner?".

"Alyssa!" The brunette said in surprise. She was wearing a pair of glasses this afternoon and she removed them to rub her eyes tiredly.

"I'd love to, but I can't." She said dejectedly. "The timing is terrible unfortunately. I ship out to the Dragon March tomorrow." The attractive brunette said with regret.

"Ship out?" John said with surprise. "I didn't realise you were with the military."

"Yes, it's my first posting." The sleepy looking brunette said and stifled a yawn. "I've been taking my finals this week and I finally qualified as a medic." She said proudly.

"Congratulations!" Alyssa said, clapping excitedly for the exhausted young woman.

"Thanks Alyssa." Rachel said with a warm smile.

"If you're training to be a medic, why were you working as a shop assistant?" John asked dubiously.

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