tagSci-Fi & FantasyThree Square Meals Ch. 33

Three Square Meals Ch. 33

byTefler©

The room was peaceful and still when John woke up, and a quick glance at the ship's chronometer told him it was nearly two in the morning. During the night he'd rolled on to his back, Calara and Jade rolling with him, and they now lay asleep in his arms. He glanced down at them with an affectionate smile on his face, and looked to both sides to check that Alyssa and Dana were asleep too. The blonde was sleeping contentedly behind Calara, but his mischievous redhead was currently missing, the rest of the bed looking cold and empty.

He listened carefully to see if he could hear Dana in the bathroom, but he just heard the rhythmic sound of the other girls breathing. The last time Dana hadn't come to bed was during their time on Ashana, when she'd got caught up in the ship's refit. It seemed unlikely that she would have stayed up tonight though, as she wasn't really preoccupied with any major projects at the moment.

Carefully extricating himself from Calara and Jade's loving embrace, he moved stealthily off the bed, being careful not to wake anybody. He padded down the corridor to check on Dana's room, to see if she'd gone in there to sleep for some unknown reason. Finding her unused room to be as empty, just as he'd expected, he walked further along to the grav-tube, thinking he should head down to deck seven, and see if she was in her workshop.

He smiled to himself for a moment, thinking it would be much easier if he had simply woken up Alyssa, and asked her where the redhead was hiding, but where would the fun be in that?

All thoughts of fun and games disappeared instantly when he heard the faint sound of crying coming from the officer's lounge. He strode over to the double doors and pushed the button, the portal opening with a quiet swish. The lounge was cast in shadows, starlight from the passing systems providing the only illumination in the room. Now that the door was opened, the heartbreaking sound of a girl weeping reached his ears, and he followed the desolate lament over to the sofas. Dana was sitting on one of the seats with her feet up on the cushion, her head tilted forward, as she cried into her arms that were resting on her knees.

John strode over to her purposefully and sat beside her, wrapping her up in his arms.

"Dana, what's wrong?" he asked her, his voice echoing his concern.

"It's nothing," she mumbled between sobs.

"Come on now, you know you can tell me anything," he said soothingly.

She paused, her breathing ragged from the crying, and then leaned into his chest, her tear streaked face brushing against him. "You'll think I'm a terrible person," she whispered hopelessly.

"You know I'd never think anything of the kind," he laughed, attempting to buoy her spirits. "Tell me what's troubling you, and maybe I can help make you feel better."

Dana took a deep shuddering breath, and then chuckled helplessly. "Okay, whatever you want," she said wryly. "I'm feeling so jealous... of Calara," she whispered haltingly, looking chagrined.

"I'm sorry Dana, I spent so much time trying to impress her family, I pretty much ignored you while we were on Jericho." he apologised, feeling awful for making her so upset.

The redhead sniffled and laughed. "No, it's not that, I was proud of the way you won them over," she said fondly.

"Then what is it?" he asked her, feeling confused.

"She had such a perfect life growing up with a wonderful family, and I was abandoned; discarded like a piece of rubbish," she said, her face crumpling again at the overwhelming feelings of loss the visit had dredged up.

"What makes it worse, is her family were so caring; only wanting to keep her safe and happy, and it was like a hundred times better than I'd thought a loving family would be like. All those times I sat scared and alone, just wishing for someone to love me..." she sobbed, and broke into a fresh round of tears.

"Shush now, everything's going to be okay, we all love you," he said comfortingly as he held her in his arms, and rocked her gently. She hugged him tightly, as though clinging to him for reassurance.

"I know it's not her fault, and it's stupid for me to feel this way, but I can't help it... I guess I'm just a horrible person," she whimpered, looking up at him dejectedly.

"It's only natural to want to belong to a loving family," he told her reassuringly. "You and Alyssa had a terrible start, but everything's going to be so much better now, I promise!"

"He's right," Alyssa said to them, as she walked gracefully across the darkened room to join them.

"About what?" Dana sniffled, looking at her friend who came to sit beside her, and stroke her back gently.

"That we all love you, and that it's only natural to want to be a part of a family," she murmured comfortingly.

"But I feel so jealous of Calara, it's awful!" Dana moaned, looking forlorn.

"I know how to make all that go away, and to give you what you've always craved," Alyssa said softly. "You're part of a wonderful new family now."

"Sisters?" Dana said with a hopeful smile.

"That's right. Sisters, who all love the same amazing man," Alyssa said with a smile, as she glanced at John.

Dana looked up at John lovingly, and nodded enthusiastically, but then her face shadowed in confusion. "I already know all that, but I still feel this sense of loss," she sighed dejectedly.

"That's because you know it, but you haven't been able to truly feel it," Alyssa said soothingly. She opened her arms invitingly. "Let me make everything feel so much better, Sparks."

Dana nodded willingly, and John released her from his embrace as she turned to face her oldest friend. Dana sat in Alyssa's lap, with her legs wrapped around her friend as they hugged each other tightly, while John stroked her back soothingly. Alyssa pulled back slightly so that they were staring into each other's eyes, only inches apart.

"Let me feel how much you want to be a part of our family, little sister," the blonde girl said, staring into the redhead's sky blue eyes.

"Oh, I want that so much," Dana sighed wistfully.

*So do I,* Alyssa's thoughts carried through to her friend.

*I can feel it!* Dana gasped, the golden coronas around her pupils flaring with excitement.

*We all feel this way about you, Dana,* the blonde girl replied, as her thoughts and feelings swelled up, surrounding and embracing the redhead lovingly.

*My family...* Dana murmured, as she stared into Alyssa's piercing cerulean eyes in awe.

John watched as the girls seemed to fall into some kind of trance, staring unblinkingly into each other's eyes as their breathing deepened, and their chests rose and fell in an identical rhythm. He had seen this happen when Alyssa had bonded with Calara, and if Alyssa followed the same pattern with Dana, the girls would be unresponsive for a while. He walked quietly back to the bedroom, and returned with a couple of blankets, one of which he draped around the nude girls, the other he pulled over himself as he laid out on an adjacent sofa, settling down to keep an eye on them.

He half dozed, drifting in and out of sleep, but watching them both warily for any signs of change. After an hour or so, he noticed some movement from the young women, their blanket shifting, as they began to rouse from their hypnotic state. He threw off his own blanket, and darted over to their side, looking at both their faces with concern.

"It's okay, we're fine," Alyssa said to him lovingly, as she raised a slender hand and cupped his face tenderly.

"I feel wonderful, the emptiness is just gone..." Dana signed happily, gazing across at the blonde girl with deep gratitude in her eyes.

"Let's get you two back to bed, and we can talk about this later," John said soothingly, and gently helped them up. They rose and then embraced him, and he led them both back to his room, a tired girl leaning against him on either side.

***

John awoke later that morning, to find Jade watching him with a happy smile on her face. He looked around at the other young women, but they were all slumbering serenely.

"Let's go make them breakfast for when they wake up," he whispered conspiratorially, and the nymph nodded eagerly, and grinned at him.

John extricated himself from the tangle of lithe female arms, and then got dressed silently with Jade. He held out his hand for hers when they were ready, and she slipped her cool hand through his, intertwining her slender fingers with his own. She looked up at him adoringly, and he gave her a quiet peck on the lips that made her sigh contentedly.

They stole away quietly, being very careful not to wake the other girls, who were recovering, having just undergone a seismic shift in their relationships. They walked along the corridor into the officer's lounge, and remained quiet until they entered the kitchen.

"How are you this morning?" John asked her curiously, as he reached over to collect some eggs from the fridge. "Dana was quite upset last night after visiting Calara's parents. It made her realise just how much she'd missed out on, while she was growing up."

"Ah, that's what was bothering her," Jade said with a frown, as she leaned back against one of the counters. "I wish she'd spoken to me. I could tell she was upset, but she wouldn't talk to me about it."

"It's okay, Alyssa did that mind sharing thing with Dana last night. I have a feeling she'll be fine now, but you haven't answered my question," he said with a smile, as he cracked an egg into a pan. "Did spending time with a close family like that upset you?"

"No, I've never felt happier!" Jade replied, accentuating her statement with a beaming grin.

"Well that's always good to hear," he said with some relief.

Jade laughed merrily, and then glided over to his side, and ran her fingers through his hair affectionately as she looked up at him. "You guys just see me as a green skinned Terran most of the time, which is sweet, and I love that you accept me so wholeheartedly. But like you, I'm different. I might well have had a family many centuries ago, but I just can't remember back that far. When you've lived that long, you gain a different... perspective on things." she said softly, suddenly looking far older and wiser than he'd ever seen her before.

"What do you mean?" he asked her curiously.

"I don't really feel that same need that drives Terrans: to have roots, a history, and a sense of belonging to some kind of shared heritage. I just need..." she paused and smiled wryly.

"Tell me, what do you need?" he asked her, quite fascinated.

"A strong master..." she sighed ecstatically. "I know you don't like the idea of me being so dependent on you, but you're just so powerful, and kind, and loving. After all the sad little pathetic 'masters' I've experienced over the last three hundred years, you're the only one who genuinely deserves the title."

"When we were role-playing the other day, and the other girls pretended to be hopelessly devoted to me, you weren't pretending, were you?" he asked her perceptively.

Jade's sparkling emerald eyes looked up at him adoringly, and she shook her head, confirming his suspicions. He turned towards her, pulling her into his arms and she sighed contentedly.

"I'm honoured, and I can't deny it doesn't turn me on more than a little," he said looking down at her beautiful dark green features. "But I thought you'd changed when you stopped calling me 'master' all the time. I was happy for you, that you seemed to have grown beyond that."

The nymph leaned back from him a little so that she could study his face more easily. "Oh, I have changed, very much so. You've given me a sense of self, and purpose, and... awakened me, in a way I hadn't thought possible," she answered him earnestly, her tone and expression uncharacteristically serious.

"But you still have an instinctive need to bind yourself to someone powerful, a 'master'?" he asked her, beginning to understand more of her psyche.

"I love that you've welcomed me into your family, with you and the girls on this ship... But the simple thought that I belong to you, and that you're happy with me, is more fulfilling and rewarding than I can hope to describe," she confirmed as she stared back at him.

John studied her lovely face as she gazed up at him with hope in her eyes, sensing her longing need to hear those very things. He cradled her head in his hand, and leaned her back slightly, so that her top rode up and exposed her slim midriff. He stroked her toned stomach possessively as he stared into her eyes.

"You do belong to me," he told her fiercely. "I'm delighted with you, my gorgeous little nymph, and I fully intend to breed your perfect body many times."

Jade's cat-like eyes stared up at him wide as saucers, and she let out a little gasp as she shuddered in his arms, her entire body vibrating with desire. "Oh, you understand me so well," she sighed reverently.

She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately, her normally cool skin feeling warm to the touch as she burned with lust. John returned her kisses fervently, his lips firm and insistent against her full, lush mouth.

Suddenly an alarm went off in the kitchen, a heat alarm having been triggered, and they stopped their passionate embrace looking up at it in surprise. John stared at the smouldering, lusty girl in his arms in wonder, before the smell of burning eggs reached his fevered brain.

"Oh shit!" he exclaimed, and quickly moved the blackened charred ruin in the pan, that had once been a fried egg, off the heat of the oven.

"You thought I'd triggered the alarm for a moment there, didn't you?" Jade laughed delightedly.

"Hey, you are smoking hot!" John said in his own defence, as he laughed along with her.

They exchanged an affectionate glance, wide grins on both their faces, as he disposed of the incinerated egg.

"I think we better concentrate on breakfast properly this time," Jade said as she sidled up to him, and brushed up against him. "I promise I won't distract you... too much."

"I don't think that's possible," he laughed, "But thanks for being honest with me," he said, turning and holding both her hands. "It's important I get to know everything about the women I love."

"Careful, you might set the fire alarm off again!" Jade grinned, and then leaned in to kiss him gently.

They smiled at each other fondly, and then set about making breakfast.

***

Alyssa stretched and yawned, finally awakening from her deep slumber. She glanced to her left reflexively, her first instinct upon becoming conscious to look for John. Instead of his rugged male physique, she found the coffee skinned Latina curled up against her. When she looked to the other side, a mass of dark auburn hair filled her view. Both teenagers awoke a few moments later and after stretching themselves, gazed up at her contentedly.

*Good morning ladies!* Alyssa thought to all the girls.

*Good morning, Alyssa!* they all chorused back happily, including Jade who was currently keeping John company.

Each of the girls began to chatter away to her, her mind filling with their excited, happy thoughts. Sighing contentedly, Alyssa snuggled back into the covers, and struck up three simultaneous conversations. Calara was walking on air after the successful visit to her family, overjoyed that they had approved of John. Dana's worries and sadness had completely evaporated, and she was revelling in the warm loving emotions that Alyssa was sending to her. Jade was also deliriously happy, having opened up to John, and was feeling more connected to him than ever before.

Alyssa allowed herself a contented smile as she chatted with her friends, all the while listening in to John's ever present voice in her mind. She examined their ethereal presences that she had tucked away into little compartments of her consciousness, and was surprised to see that the nebulous swirls of emotions that had represented Calara and Dana had changed. They had coalesced into perfect crystal images of her friends faces, their expressions frozen in delight as thoughts and feelings poured from each of them. Her metaphysical introspection was interrupted however, when John and Jade returned to the bedroom, balancing a tray full of tasty smelling breakfast as they strolled over to the bed.

"Morning girls," John said to them happily as he placed the tray down in front of him. They all gathered around and began to serve themselves cooked bacon, sausages, and eggs.

"This looks amazing," Alyssa said as she speared a sausage on her fork, and took a big bite. "And it tastes even better, thanks guys!" she added appreciatively, once she'd swallowed the tasty morsel.

"How are you feeling this morning?" John asked her with concern. "You had a busy night."

"I feel amazing!" she replied happily.

"No headaches, tiredness, anything like that?" he asked her with a worried frown.

"None!" she confirmed with a grin. "I feel perfectly fine, well so much better than fine, honestly."

"What do you mean?" he asked her curiously.

"I can hear all of you," Alyssa sighed rapturously as she looked around at them. "I wish I could explain how wonderful it is to share this bond with everyone."

"We can hear your thoughts and emotions too, so I can imagine what it must feel like." John said with a smile, leaning over to give her a kiss on the cheek. The other girls all reached out too, and touched her folded legs affectionately as they smiled at her.

Not having the heart to explain how exponentially more powerful the sensations and depth of connections had become for her, Alyssa returned their affectionate smiles, and continued to eat her breakfast.

"We should arrive at Port Medea in about six hours." John said, glancing at the ship's chronometer. "If the Dragon march is as dangerous as Jack seems to think it is, we should stick close to the bridge," he said thoughtfully.

"I can continue working on my latest project from up at the engineering station anyway, so that's no problem," Dana said cheerfully.

"What are you looking into next?" John asked her curiously.

"An automated series of responses for the ship's computer, so that it will automatically react to things like interdictions until we can get there to take over." The redhead said excitedly.

"You're not messing around with AI, are you Dana?" he asked her sternly. "I'm no computer expert, but even I know about the first law of robotics."

"No, nothing as sophisticated as an Artificial Intelligence. Don't worry, I know about the Ganymede incident," she replied, rolling her eyes.

"What do you mean?" Jade asked curiously, having never heard of either before.

"The first law of robotics states that an AI will always turn homicidal." John said emphatically. "Every time it's been tried, it turns into a horrific bloodbath..."

"Ganymede is one of Jupiter's moons." Calara explained. "There was a military research base there, which was looking into building AI flight computers for the Terran Federation Navy. The AIs formed a collective super-intelligence across the network, killed all the researchers, and then started building a robotic fleet to try and wipe out humanity. The Navy lost a lot of ships and men, before they were finally able to obliterate the moon with mass drivers."

"That happened nearly two hundred years ago, and every few decades some idiot tries it again with similar results." John said forebodingly.

"Hey! I'm not that reckless, honestly!" Dana said indignantly. "This will just be a series of automated responses. So if we get interdicted for example, it will raise the shields, power up the weapons, and set us on an escape vector, whilst attempting to dodge incoming attacks. It will give us some valuable time to react, and get up to the bridge, so we can take over."

"That sounds reasonable enough, but be careful, ok?" he asked her cautiously.

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