Three Square Meals Ch. 055


"That's a Pulse Cannon," Irillith explained, recognising it instantly. "It's the Maliri equivalent of your Gatling Lasers."

Staring at it the schematic in open-mouthed wonder, Dana said in a hushed voice, "I would never have thought to do that! The Maliri use some kind of photon-folding, and phased-channelling techniques to massively amplify the power of their lasers."

"Is it compatible with our tech?" John asked her curiously.

Dana closed her eyes a moment, having already memorised the schematic, and she built a perfect replica in her mind. She stripped out the old barrel, replacing it with a reshaped one forged from Crystal Alyssium, then upgraded all the heatsinks with those she had reverse-engineered from the Kintark. Making dozens of complex calculations in her mind, she imagined pumping steadily increasing power through the Pulse Cannon, until she reached a theoretical maximum.

When she opened her eyes again, she nodded, saying, "We should be able to do a straight swap with the Gatling Lasers. If my calculations are correct, an upgraded Pulse Cannon should be roughly three times as powerful as the old weapons, and with no wind-up times."

Calara looked overjoyed, and said, "I can't wait to see them in action! If they're as powerful as you say, they'll rip strike craft to pieces, and might be strong enough to be a threat to corvettes or destroyers!"

Irillith chuckled and said, "If you like those, wait till you see what else I've acquired for you." She smiled at Dana and said, "Do you want to move on to the next schematic?"

Dana had an acquisitive gleam in her eye, and her fingers trembled on the remote as she pressed the button again. The schematics for the Pulse Cannon disappeared, and were replaced by the Maliri Beam Lasers. "Oh, wow!" she gasped staring at them in awe.

"That schematic must be wrong," Calara murmured, her eyes widening in astonishment. "Ten meters?!"

Irillith smiled at the Latina, and said, "No, it's correct. Maliri Beam Laser tech is highly advanced, and greatly superior to the crude Terran weapons the Invictus currently possesses. The Beam Lasers are more potent, and small enough to be fitted in a turret, like those you saw on the cruiser that tried to interdict us."

In an instant, Calara's mind imagined a complete refit of the Invictus, calculating all the angles, vectors, and elevations of their fire arcs. She swung around to face John, her expression one of barely contained delight, and as though unable to believe what she was saying, she gasped, "We could replace all our Laser Cannons with Beam Lasers!"

John looked highly sceptical and said dubiously, "There's no way that's possible." However he paused for a moment to mull it over, considering the remarkably smaller size of these new weapons, and the vast power surplus they had on the Invictus. When he turned to Dana, he sounded hopeful as he asked her, "That can't be right, surely?"

The redhead nodded slowly, still staring at the schematic, quite enthralled. "Oh yes, it's possible alright. With all the other tech we've acquired, they'll be much more powerful as well..."

"Twenty-four turreted Beam Lasers!" Calara crowed ecstatically. "We've just quadrupled our long range firepower!"

Alyssa was getting excited too, as she said, "We won't have to worry about facing towards the target so much now! We'll have the equivalent of our old Beam Laser battery in all directions!" She paused, and correcting herself, added, "Actually with the overlapping fire arcs from the turrets, we'll be able to use twelve in any direction!"

Calara nodded eagerly, and said, "If you can roll the ship, I can hit a target with sixteen beams off the topdeck!" She turned to John, her eyes flashing with excitement, and said, "Holy shit, this is crazy!"

John returned her broad grin, as equally astonished and delighted as the rest of his crew. His attention was drawn away from Calara's jubilant grin to Jade, who cleared her throat politely.

"Go ahead, Jade, what's up?" he asked her curiously.

The Nymph glanced at the Beam Laser schematic and replied, "There are two Laser Cannons fitted in the Raptor Gunship. Do you think we could swap them out too?"

Dana grinned and replied, "I don't see why not!"

Jade's face lit up in a sparkling smile, and said, "I almost feel sorry for any fighters we go up against!"

Calara marvelled at this, and said, "Beam Lasers on a gunship! That's unheard of!"

Irillith smiled at her crewmates as they cheered and celebrated, and let the noise settle down before she said, "I have one other weapon schematic for you, and with these fitted on the Invictus, It's still going to be worth your while to stay head-on to a target." She turned to Dana and said, "Do you want to take a look at the last schematic? I saved the best for the end."

Dana's sky blue eyes sparkled, and as she nodded exuberantly, she looked like a child being asked if they wanted to open their biggest Christmas present. The room went silent as they all stared up at the holographic image, their faces fixed in expressions of eager anticipation. Dana pressed the button on the remote, and the Beam Laser disappeared in an instant, to be replaced by something entirely new, staggeringly complex, and exotically alien in design. Dana just stared at it in open-mouthed amazement, while everyone else tried to puzzle out what they were looking at.

John eventually gave up trying to figure it out, and asked, "Alright, what is it?"

Irillith smiled at him, then said quietly, "That's the schematic for a Nova Lance. They're too big and draw too much power for the Maliri to fit them on cruisers. Only battleships can carry this class of weapons. The Maliri used them to eviscerate 'The Warning'."

At her mention of the massive holes bored out through the huge derelict Terran merchant vessel on the approach to Geniya station, they darted awed glances at each other. Everyone finally turned to look at Dana to hear her verdict, and she gazed back at them in stupefied disbelief.

"What do you say Dana?" John asked her enthusiastically. "Can we fit one of those on the Invictus?"

It took Dana a moment to realise he'd asked her a question, and she glanced at him distractedly. Still overwhelmed by the destructive power these schematics seemed to suggest, she speculated quietly, "If we strip out the existing Beam Lasers, we can replace each bank of three Beams with a single Nova Lance." The redhead looked hesitant for a moment, and added, "The power draw off these is phenomenal though. With all the extra power we're going to need for the Trankaran engines and all those Beam Lasers, if we add Nova Lances as well, we won't have enough power for the Mass Drivers."

Calara grinned and said, "If we can blast huge great holes out of ships, like those we saw on 'The Warning', we won't even need the Mass Drivers!"

Dana shrugged and said, "I can take them offline until I can figure something out. What do you say, John?"

"Go for it!" he replied with a broad smile on his face.

He noticed Irillith darting him a furtive and hopeful look, and he beckoned her over to him. She rose gracefully, and sashayed around the table trying to appear reserved, but the telltale gleam in her eyes gave her away. He rose to meet her with open arms, and when she melted into his embrace, he leaned down and gave her a tender kiss. When he pulled away from her tantalisingly soft lips, the pupils in her violet eyes were fully dilated as she gazed up at him.

John raised a hand so that he could brush his fingers through her silky white-blonde hair, then said, "Thank you for everything you've done since you joined us. You've been amazing."

Irillith had been fixated on John, but when the girls murmured their heartfelt agreement, she turned to look at them and gave them a grateful smile. "I'm sorry I made things so tense between us to start off with, but I'm going to do my best to fit in with you guys, and make myself useful," she said sincerely.

The girls gave her welcoming grins in return, and John leaned down to whisper in Irillith's blue, delicately pointed ear, "Good girl. That was nicely said."

She smiled as she glanced up at him, and gave him a quick kiss before returning to her seat. She had an added spring in her step as she went, and shot him a flirtatious glance.

Alyssa watched her in amusement, and when John had sat down again, she said, "We've only got a couple of hours left until we start the refit. We should probably get cracking on the planning."

John gave her a grateful smile, and said, "Alright, so let's think about what we have to get done. First of all, Dana needs to fabricate her Crystal Alyssium, as we'll need that to make everything."

Rachel chimed in and said, "We can start stripping the plating off the Invictus, and boring out the hole for the central core we need for the Inertia Negation Device at the same time. We don't need to wait for the new material for those."

"Good point," John agreed.

"Are we going to add one of those devices to the Raptor too?" Jade asked eagerly.

Dana smiled at her, and replied, "Yes, definitely! We'll have to, if we're going to make full use of the Trankaran engines on the gunship."

"We could start removing the weapons from the Invictus and the Raptor as well," Calara said, sounding increasingly excited. "That way we can fit the new guns as soon as they've been built."

John thought this over for a moment, and said, "I think it would be best if we each look after a different part of the refit. I'm thinking: Calara on the Invictus weapons, Jade on the Raptor, Rachel on the central core, and I can oversee the armour plating removal. Dana's going to be busy creating her new elements, then Alyssa will need to be on hand to shape the new material with her telekinetic powers."

"I could just strip the Alyssium plating off the Invictus myself, all in one go," Alyssa offered with a grin.

"True," John conceded, "but you might as well save your strength for all the reshaping. We'll have a bunch of engineers sitting around with nothing to do for a few hours anyway."

"That makes sense," Alyssa said, with a shrug. She gave him a sly smile, and added coyly, "If I'm going to be shaping this much Alyssium, I think I might need topping up half-way through, just to make sure I don't get exhausted."

He chuckled, and said, "I'll see what I can do." Turning to Irillith, he added, "I'd like you to go with Dana and Alyssa to make sure they get full cooperation using the shipyard's reactor. Once that's done with, I want you to be our liaison with the Maliri engineering crews. We need to make sure everything goes nice and smoothly."

The girls all nodded obediently, their beautiful faces attentive and serious as they watched him. Dana raised her hand, and he smiled at her, saying, "Go ahead."

"Once I've fabricated a big supply of Crystal Alyssium, and supplied Alyssa with the schematics for the weapons, I won't have much to do. Replacing our electronics with the Maliri equivalent will greatly boost our internal network, so do you think you might be able to buy some?"

Irillith laughed and said, "Edraele can get you anything you need."

John looked thoughtful, and said, "We're going to need Maliri weapons to replace everything we're going to upgrade. I'm guessing Makaela is going to balk at a request like that coming from you?"

Irillith hesitated a moment, then said, "I think you're right. Handing over weapons like that is totally unheard of. We'll need Edraele to order Makaela to give us what we need."

Quickly adding up the weapons they would require, John said, "OK, so we'll need two Nova Lances, twenty-six Beam Lasers, and fifty-four Pulse cannons, to be able to fully refit the Invictus and the Raptor. Does that sound right to everyone?"

Calara had a gleam in her eyes, as she nodded eagerly, and said, "That should do it."

Edraele's voice rang through John's mind, and she sounded eager to please as she said, *I will supply you with anything you require, my Lord.*

*Wonderful, thank you Edraele,* John replied to her telepathically.

While this discussion had been going on, Jade had been looking thoughtful, and she waved at Dana to get her attention as she said brightly, "I'd like to make the flight controls on the Invictus more responsive, so we can make full use of the new engines. I had some ideas on that, if you're able to help?"

With an accommodating grin, Dana replied, "That's a great idea! If you let me know what you had in mind, I can start working on refitting the Pilot's Station as soon as I'm done with my tasks. I can start replacing the electronics in our subsystems once that's finished."

"I'd love to help, too!" Faye volunteered excitedly. "I could write some programming code for the maintenance robots, then they could install the electronics for you! It would save you hours of work!"

The thought of an AI programming the levitating robots made John's eyebrows rise in alarm, especially when Dana said to the tiny purple creature, "That sounds fantastic! Thanks, Faye."

*It's okay,* Alyssa said to him soothingly. *Dana told me she'll thoroughly review the code before she installs it into the bots. It's actually a really good idea, Faye will save her a lot of work.*

He looked across the table at the redhead, who gave him a reassuring wink over Faye's head. He fought down his feeling of foreboding, and gave her a tentative nod, and she smiled back at him in gratitude.

Looking around the table, he then said, "Alright, let's do some quick estimates so we can figure out how long this is going to take. Do you want to start, Dana?"

The redhead tapped her index finger on her chin as she thought it over, then said, "If the experiments with the Fusion Reactor work perfectly, it's going to take me about four hours to fabricate about a ton of each new element I need. I can prepare all the schematics we need as soon as this meeting is done, and I can get the mass fabricators working on manufacturing upgraded heatsinks for the new weapons."

John looked to Alyssa next, who said, "Reshaping metal doesn't take very long, but I'm going to be doing loads of it. A lot depends on how many times you want me to try reshaping as well."

"Only so often that it's effortless," he said firmly. "I don't want you straining with every piece, we have too much to do."

Alyssa pondered this for a moment, and said, "I'll have to see how it goes. Reshaping the Maliri crystal was harder than regular Alyssium, so I'm not sure how malleable Dana's new material is going to be. I think it's probably going to take me several hours to get through it all."

Nodding his understanding, John turned to Calara next, and asked, "How long do you think to strip the weapons off the Invictus?"

The Latina darted a glance in Dana's direction, and said, "The turreted weapons should be quite quick to remove. The Beam Lasers are built into the hull, so they'll be much more time consuming. I was just thinking that removing them would be much easier if you did it. With your super-strength, it's going to be much faster than moving winches and hoists into place."

"True. I was just going to be overseeing the armour plating removal, so we can swap jobs if you'd like?" he asked her in return.

"Sure!" she agreed readily. "Pulling off all the old plating shouldn't take all that long. It largely depends on how many engineers we have available to help."

"We have four teams assisting, and each team consists of twenty engineers," Irillith informed them.

John mulled it over for a moment, then said, "If I'm going to be removing the old weapons, then I won't need all twenty engineers to start with. I'll just need a few to keep ahead of me, disconnecting power supplies, and uncoupling the weapons. You can borrow some of my team to help remove the plating more quickly."

Calara nodded and said, "In that case, we should be able to fully strip the Invictus of armour plating by the time Alyssa starts forging new armour panels."

"Perfect!" John said enthusiastically. He turned to Dana, and asked, "So that really just leaves preparing and fitting the Inertia negation device. How long is that going to take?"

"I can make detailed plans for cutting out the central core section, but it's still going to take probably at least twelve hours to cleanly cut through all the decking. Unfortunately there's power and data cabling that runs through that area, so we'll need to reroute those as well," she explained with a pained expression on her face. "Then, fitting the central core will probably take at least six hours. Once the new core is in place, I'll need about four hours to install the anti-grav generator that powers the device."

"So we're looking at a couple of days to get everything done?" John asked as he thought over the estimates. "I'm assuming that we'll be able to fit all the new weapons and armour plating in about six hours? If so, then we'll mainly be waiting on the installation of the Inertia Negation Device."

Dana nodded, replying, "The Raptor is much smaller than the Invictus, so one team will be able to get all the work done on that in the same timeframe. I should have enough time to refit the flight controls on the Invictus by then, and as each of you finish your tasks, you can help me with the electronics upgrades if the bots haven't finished."

John laughed as he suddenly realised he had no idea what the current time was, he'd been so wrapped up in the frenetic pace of recent events. Glancing over at the ship's chronometer, he saw that it was six in the morning, Terran time.

"Alyssa and I slept earlier, so we're rested. Have you all managed to get some sleep too?" he asked the girls with concern.

Calara nodded, speaking for all of them, as she said, "We all got some sleep after our sudden burst of activity yesterday." She looked around at her friends and said, "We're all in good shape to get the bulk of the refit done today, right girls?"

They all nodded eagerly, and Calara smiled at John afterwards. He turned to Irillith and asked, "How about you? Did you get some sleep while we were out of it for twelve hours?"

"I'm fine, I managed to get some rest too," she smiled at him, appreciating his concern.

John looked pleased, and rose from his chair, saying, "I think we've got our plan then, ladies. Now, I've got something very important to attend to. I need to thank Alyssa for saving me from my evil alter-ego." He smiled as he turned to his blonde XO, and said, "What do you say, beautiful?"

Alyssa laughed, and the lovely musical sound resonated around the room as she stood gracefully. Her eyes sparkled as she turned to the girls, and said, "I'll let you know when it's time for breakfast!"

The girls all laughed as they watched John and Alyssa depart, then they gathered around Dana to discuss the finer details of the refit plans.


John and Alyssa walked hand-in-hand into their bedroom, glancing at each other coyly. When they finally reached the bed, Alyssa said shyly, "This feels strange. You've screwed me senseless more times than I can count, but I'm nervous like it's my first time."

He chuckled pulling her into his arms, and she looked up at him with wide eyes. "I know what you mean," he agreed, his heart skipping a beat as he leaned down to give her a kiss.

Their lips brushed together, and they both felt the exciting tingle of electricity between them at the intimate contact. Alyssa moaned into his mouth, kissing him passionately, and he felt himself grow hard as steel at her obvious arousal. They were both breathless when they finally parted, and with eager grins, they quickly stripped off their clothes, and climbed onto the bed. Alyssa lay on her back, with John lying alongside her, and he trailed his fingers over her exquisite body. Her skin was smooth, soft and supple, unmarred by any physical imperfections of any kind, and he marvelled at her exquisite beauty.

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