tagSci-Fi & FantasyThree Square Meals Ch. 026

Three Square Meals Ch. 026


Dana bounded out of the Invictus, leaving Alyssa and Jade behind her, as she hurried to meet up with High Councillor Rathus and the dozens of Ashanath engineers who were staring at her expectantly.

She was surprised at her surging confidence, having previously hated being the centre of attention, especially when there were more than a handful of people watching her. Instead of feeling the familiar crippling fear of public speaking, she was eager to get started and speaking to everyone at once was just the most logical and efficient way of proceeding.

"Hello everyone!" She called out boldly. "Thanks for agreeing to help!" she said, giving them her best winsome grin.

Councillor Rathus stepped forward to meet her and gave her a slight nod of his head.

"Please let us know how you would like to direct the teams." he said in his quiet whispery voice.

"Ok then!" Dana said excitedly. "Gather around everyone!" She called out to the horde of Ashanath engineers, who moved forward to listen to the perky redhead.

"You can call me Dana. I'm the Chief Engineer on the Invictus and I'll be co-ordinating the refit and repairs. Feel free to speak to me if you have any questions." she told them reassuringly.

"Firstly I'd like you to assemble two teams; let's call them 'Drive Team' and 'Core Team', to begin removing the destroyed FTL drive and the existing power core from the Invictus. I also want the replacements prepared for immediate installation. Choose one representative from each team to report back to me with status updates, as soon as the old components are removed and the new ones installed." she said, gathering momentum.

"Next I'll need a workbench out here so that I can review your schematics for the Drive and Core technology, as I plan to incorporate elements from both into the Mass drivers." she said, looking thoughtful for a moment.

"We need the Drakkar dropships removed from the hull and moved out the way. 'Team Armour' will need to let me know as soon as that's done, so I can take a look at what makes that armour so resistant to energy weapons. Once I've reverse engineered the tech used for their armour plating, we're going to re-armour every square inch of the Invictus' hull with upgraded plating." she said enthusiastically.

"Oh and let me know before you remove that one." Dana said pointing at the second dropship high up on the hull. "It's currently flooded!" she cautioned them with a grin.

"When that dropship is gone, 'Team Armour' will be able to repair the damage to the hull, so come and speak to me when you're ready to start." she requested.

"I'm planning to put in anti-grav tubes to replace the lift, so someone from 'Team Elevator' will need to consult with me, so we can come up with a blueprint. I want the central elevator in the assault cruiser removed and the elevator shaft widened." she ordered. "I'll give you the new dimensions for the lift shaft then." Dana mentioned helpfully.

"Assemble another group called 'Team Defence'. They will be tasked with making the Invictus more resistant to boarding. I'm thinking anti-personnel turrets, reinforced buttresses for protection in firefights and ways of locking down and sealing sections of the hull to slow down the progress of boarding parties. Draw up plans with potential ideas and I'll review them with the team as soon as they're done." she suggested.

"We need a group called 'Team Gear'. I want you to collect the 10 sets of Body armour and 10 Assault rifles I plan to upgrade and bring them out here so that we can begin prototyping and fabricating the components I'll need. I'll give you their current locations when you come and speak to me. I'm going to need miniaturised versions of your power core tech for the armour, so let me know if you don't have anything suitable already and I'll see what I can whip up." she said with a smile.

"I need 'Team Cleanup' to begin work immediately. There are Drakkar corpses on the bottom deck and deck 7. There are more in the flooded compartment, but I want to store two of them in the med bay for later analysis. I'll let you know when I drain the room and you can move the corpses right away. I want samples of their body armour, weapons and shields, so please find me a couple of undamaged samples of each and hand them over to 'Team Gear'."

"Finally I need one Engineer to act as my consultant on your technology. I'll need to know how best to make use of the equipment you have here in the drydock." she explained reasonably.

The assembled Ashanath stared at her in stunned silence as she finished her long list of orders. Dana frowned and clapped her hands sharply, the sound echoing like a gunshot in the deathly quiet of the drydock.

"You have your instructions, proceed!" she demanded imperiously.

The silver garbed Ashanath exploded into a flurry of frenzied activity as they dashed around, grouping themselves into teams and following Dana's detailed instructions. She grinned and turned towards Councillor Rathus.

"The workbench and schematics?" she asked him with an arched eyebrow.

"I will have them here for you immediately." the robed Ashanath replied in his whispery voice and glided away to follow up on her request.

She smiled to herself with satisfaction, as just over 50 alien engineers rushed to follow her bidding. One of the Ashanath engineers stepped towards her tentatively and she turned to face him with a disarming smile on her face.

"Are you my consultant?" she asked him in a friendly voice.

"That is correct, Dana." the Grey said quietly.

"Great!" she exclaimed. "What's your name?" she asked the alien curiously.

"Engineer Zanthus." the Ashanath said softly.

"Well it's great to meet you Zanthus." Dana replied. "I want to know more about the silvery metal I've seen you use on all your ships. What is that exactly?" she asked inquisitively.

"It is an alloy of Etherite crystals and the element you know as Aluminium." Zanthus explained for her.

"Your ship hulls are made out of Aluminium?" Dana asked dubiously. "That doesn't sound like it would be very strong."

"Adding Etherite crystals makes the metal more malleable to our tools and then the metal hardens once the shape is formed." Zanthus said quietly. "The finished alloy is quite resilient and is known as Etherium."

"The shape is formed?" Dana asked, puzzled. "What do you mean by that exactly?"

"I can demonstrate if you wish." Zanthus offered in his neutral tone of voice.

"Great!" Dana said eagerly. "Lead on!" she smiled.

She followed after the Ashanath engineer as it led her to a large machine on a pivotable arm with three large emitters on one end. At the other end there was some kind of sensor array next to a floating display that was currently blank. She looked at the equipment, trying to figure out what it was exactly.

"We call this device a Psi-Shaper." Zanthus murmured.

Zanthus stopped in front of the machine and grew still, closing his eyes and looking like he was concentrating. Another nearby robotic arm swung into action, rotating around and then sinking downwards, as it moved to pick up a block of silvery material from a nearby stack. The arm rotated back towards them and then carefully placed the silvery metal near the elaborate machine. The arm with the emitters pivoted into place and loomed ominously over the block of metal.

"What form would you like me to shape?" Zanthus asked softly.

"Oh something simple. How about a section of armour plating?" Dana said, thinking about how she was most likely to need to use the device.

Zanthus turned back towards the Psi-shaper and closed his eyes, concentrating intently. The sensor array seemed to be swathed in a green glow and the display began to list numerous alien glyphs before finally showing an image of an armour plating section. The three large emitters began to glow with an ethereal green radiance and the block of silvery metal rose off the ground and began to flatten and elongate, moving like liquid as it oozed into the form currently rotating in the display. Finally the shape was complete and the newly created armour plating section lowered to the ground.

"Wow!" Dana exclaimed excitedly. "That was amazing!"

The Ashanath engineer turned back to her, it's expression neutral. Dana darted over to the armour plate and lifted it up, surprised at the seemingly dense nature of the plating.

"This doesn't feel like aluminium." she said intrigued. "It doesn't look like it either." she observed, noticing the sparkling flecks that she could only assume were the Etherite crystals embedded in the alloy.

"The Etherite in the alloy makes the Etherium much denser and tougher." Engineer Zanthus explained. "Once formed into a shape, the crystal lattice within the structure locks into place adding strength."

"Reforming again is possible, but significantly harder." Zanthus added after a pause. "Twice reformed Etherium is much tougher, but the Psi-strength required to reform the alloy again makes such efforts impractical and beyond most conventional equipment."

"So if all your ship hulls are made from this Etherium, I'm willing to bet that all your refitting equipment in the drydock only works with this metal in mind?" she asked. "Oh and what was the green glow?" she asked, pointing at the emitters.

"Yes, you are correct." Zanthus said, confirming Dana's guess. "The sensors on the Psi-shaper receive telepathic instructions from the operator, that are boosted by this machine and then directed at the metal by the emitters. The Etherite crystals in the alloy respond to the psionic waves and then shape the metal accordingly."

"Hmm. So If we're going to use your drydock to replate the ship, then I'm going to have to come up with an Etherite based alloy using the metal we identify in the Drakkar plating." the redhead deduced.

The Ashanath Engineer paused and studied her for a moment.

"This will be extremely hard, if not impossible. The only common metal we have found that is conducive to Psi-shaping has been aluminium." the Grey whispered quietly in its echoing voice.

"Well we better get on that right away then!" Dana said with a grin.

Two Ashanath engineers walked over towards them and Dana turned to look at them expectantly.

"I am from the Team Gear group." the first one said quietly. "You said that you would provide the locations of your weapons and armour that you wished to enhance?"

"Ok good, I'll let you know those locations now." Dana said and looked at the second engineer with a raised eyebrow. "And who are you?" she asked the Grey curiously.

"I am from Team Elevator. You requested that one of my group consult with you on adapting our anti-grav technology?" the alien murmured.

"So I did." Dana nodded. "Ok then, let's start off with the locations for the assault rifles and the body armour..."


Nearly an hour later, Dana was standing next to the floating workbench that Councillor Rathus had provided for her, listening to the plans that had been drawn up by Team Defence. They had uploaded their schematics to the displays above the workbench and she was studying them with great interest. She had been impressed so far with the Ashanath's intellect and work ethic and the engineers had come up with some interesting ideas for her to review. She particularly liked the hidden pop-out turrets and the lock down protocol that the Ashanath had proposed and she ordered them to begin work immediately.

Team Gear had collected the suits of Phalanx armour along with the XR75 rifles, all of which were stacked neatly to the side of the workbench, along with samples of the Drakkar gear. The Ashanath had already developed a miniaturised version of the power core technology that would be small enough to fit in personal body armour, so that was one less thing for her to think about. She had sent the team off to return with the components needed for upgrading the Phalanx armour and tasked them with coming up with an improved power supply to use in the stock of the XR75 rifles.

Team Armour had removed both of the Drakkar dropships and she was eager to get started with figuring out how the sinister black armour plating was so energy resistant. The Etherium alloy once hardened, seemed to be comparable in strength to the reinforced titanium that was typically used in Terran hulls and armour plating. She had therefore given the go ahead for that team to begin repairs to the bored out section of the hull, fixing the damage the Drakkar had done with their breaching charges.

The sudden reappearance of the Raptor Gunship swooping and diving above her head, reminded her that she would need to allocate a team to look at upgrading the power core in the gunship too. She wanted to add stronger shields to the Raptor, as well as replate it once the Invictus had been upgraded. The sleek and deadly looking craft executed some daredevil manoeuvres at the hands of Jade, Alyssa's new protégé pilot and Dana then noticed that John and Calara had just been dropped off at the drydock too. Her attention was drawn back to the plans of Team Defence by some more questions and when she looked up again, John, Alyssa and Calara were walking arm in arm back to the Invictus.

"Hey guys, wait for me!" Dana called out to them and they turned to wave at her.

The redhead grinned excitedly, knowing full well what the trio were likely to get up to and began to walk over to join them.

"Dana, we are about to begin examination of the Drakkar armour plating. Would you care to join us?" One of the engineers from Team Armour asked her quietly.

Stifling a yawn, she turned towards the Ashanath Engineer nodding enthusiastically.


Several hours later at approximately 4am Terran standard time, Dana tiptoed wearily into her own bedroom. She didn't want to disturb the others who were all likely to be fast asleep, so she decided to sleep in her own quarters for the very first time. Jade had come to see her a couple of hours ago when the Nymph had finished having fun in the Raptor gunship, to see if she had wanted to come to bed too. Dana was in the middle of her analysis of the Drakkar armour at that point though and had been reluctant to leave until she had finished. Jade had given her a passionate kiss goodbye which had caused quite a stir amongst the Ashanath engineers.

Dana flopped down on the bed, her mind turning over how she was going to incorporate the new hyper warp drive technology into the assault cruiser's mass drivers. Upgrading the power core was going to have huge immediate benefits and would allow for much faster firing, tripling the fire rate of the massive rail guns. She was convinced she could use the Tachyon field technology from the new FTL drive to enhance the speed and potential impact of the shells, but she realised she'd probably need to look inside the mass driver barrels at the magnetic rails themselves to check her theory. It was likely to be a very dirty excursion indeed and she sighed despondently at the thought of crawling through the long maintenance tunnels.

Next she began to turn over the armour plating conundrum in her mind. Taking apart the Drakkar dropship had proved to be absolutely fascinating. The Drakkar dropship technology was fairly basic and offered no new improvements, but their armour was significantly more advanced than anything she had seen or heard of before. She strongly suspected that there was no way the relatively primitive Drakkar had come up with something so advanced, which begged the question of where did they get the technology from?

The oddly gleaming black armour was mildly reflective, immediately dissipating nearly a quarter of the strength of incoming energy based attacks like laser beams. What seemed to make the armour so effective was the mysterious element in the alloy, that allowed energy to be absorbed and channelled via a complicated hexagonal webbing matrix built into the plating and then funnelled into awaiting capacitors. These absorption properties were what really sapped the strength of incoming energy attacks.

This technology meant that laser weapons were striking at approximately 20% of their normal effective strength. The energy absorption also had the added benefit that when the armour was hit by energy attacks, the surges of power could be redistributed to other systems in the ship. There was a risk of overloading the capacitors if they absorbed too much energy too quickly, but Dana reasoned it was better that, than some beam weapon slicing your ship in half.

The Ashanath were familiar with the mysterious element, their word for it roughly translating into Onyxium. This element was so rare however, that it was unknown to the Terran Federation. The few sites in Terran territory where it had previously existed, had already been harvested by the Ashanath, back during the time when the Ashanath Collective claimed ownership of all the present day Terran systems. The Greys had found no practical application for the element so far, but they had stockpiled the incredibly rare metal out of curiosity and novelty value.

Dana had tasked High Councillor Rathus with gathering as much of this element as possible, so that she could work on an alloy that would combine Onyxium with the Etherite crystals. Harnessing the psychic conductivity of the Etherite crystals, was the only way that the Ashanath shipyards would actually be able to fit the armour plating to their hull. Her head throbbed with a mild headache and the redhead rolled on to her side and tried desperately to fall asleep.

She napped for about an hour before waking with a start, feeling inspired. Dana had taken a quick look at the portable shields the Drakkar had been carrying and she had discovered that the shields contained a powerful magnetic field emitter that deflected incoming ballistic rounds. She leapt out of bed, eager to test her theory that had come to her in her sleep. She still felt tired, but the headache had gone, so she darted out of the room and padded down the corridor to the lift, creeping along quietly so that she didn't wake anyone.


John slowly opened his eyes, breathing a big contented sigh as he awoke. He had thoroughly enjoyed himself with Alyssa and Calara last night and seeing them together had been tremendously exciting. He wondered to himself why he had found it particularly thrilling seeing those two together, having watched all four girls playing together before. He thought about the way the different girls interacted with each other and realised that although all of the women were very close with each other, only Calara and Alyssa seemed to have such a strong lustful connection between them.

Dana and Alyssa were obviously very close to one another, but that was a connection that had a strong foundation in friendship, after their many years spent growing up together on the Karron asteroid. All three of the teenagers were extremely fond of Jade and she clearly felt the same way about them too, especially after they had saved each other's lives in the heat of combat. John realised that truth be told, Jade was so totally besotted with him, it eclipsed her having such a strong connection with any of the other girls. Well at least so far, he mused.

Perhaps it was the thought that Calara and Alyssa were strongly attracted to each other, enough that they could be lesbian lovers, combined with the fact that he could join in with them at any time to 'straighten them out' was what he found so enjoyable. Either that or it was simply because the beautiful blonde and gorgeous brunette looked so aesthetically pleasing together, with their contrasting skin tones and hair colours.

He grinned to himself, thinking just how insanely lucky he was to be able to pose this intriguing question to himself. He looked down to check on the girls and saw Alyssa looking up at him with a coy smile on her face. She winked at him seductively, letting him know she had heard his entire train of thought and thoroughly approved.

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