tagSci-Fi & FantasyThree Square Meals Ch. 056

Three Square Meals Ch. 056


They were soon underway, with Jade skilfully bringing them out of the asteroid belt, before racing away to reach the Nav beacon. As soon as they were clear of the pull of the system's gravity wells, Jade engaged the Tachyon Drive, and the Invictus leapt effortlessly into hyper-warp. They watched the icon representing their ship, as it followed the glowing green flightpath across the Sector Map, flashing past system after system as they headed back to Terran Space. The tag next to the flightpath showed that it would take them four days to pass Geniya Station and return to Terran territory.

John got up from the Command Chair, and said, "It's late, so we'll head off to bed in a minute. Let's have a quick meeting in the Briefing Room first though, I'd like to discuss the weapon test."

The girls rose obediently, then trooped through the door on the right hand side of the Bridge. He waited for them patiently as they walked inside, smiling at them as they fanned out to take their seats. He strolled in after them, then took his place at the head of the table, and sat down in the plush, comfortable chair. Alyssa, Dana, and Rachel were on his right, with Calara, Jade, and Irillith on his left, and the six women watched him attentively. Faye sat cross-legged on the desk itself, her indigo features lit up with a broad smile.

He looked at them quizzically with a raised eyebrow, and asked, "So, what are your thoughts on the field test?"

"We're fucking badass!" Dana immediately squealed with delight.

All at once the room erupted with excited chatter, as the girls all enthused about the new weapons, and the incredible new tactical speed of the Invictus. John chuckled as well, absolutely delighted with the unparalleled firepower at his disposal. Irillith grinned with delight at the gleeful reaction from her crew, feeling overjoyed to have made her friends so happy. She smiled at the girls as they thanked her profusely, and felt a surge of pride at having been able to make such a valuable contribution to their ship. Eventually everyone calmed down a little, with a bit of telepathic soothing from Alyssa, and they turned to look at Calara when she spoke up.

"I'm inclined to agree with our Chief Engineer's assessment," the Latina said, with a wide grin on her gorgeous features.

John returned her grin, and said, "Alright, break it down for me. How do the new weapons perform?"

Calara paused a moment as she assessed the capabilities of their vastly upgraded arsenal. She smiled at him eagerly as she began, "Firstly let's start with the Pulse Cannons. They're radically advanced compared to the old Gatling Lasers, and are much more powerful. It's probably better to think of them as being more like the old Laser Cannons, but instead of firing single blasts, they shoot extremely rapid bursts of laser bolts. They're fast-tracking like the Gatling Lasers were, so we'll be able to use them to absolutely devastate strike craft, but out at Laser Cannon range."

Dana nodded animatedly, and said, "The pulsed shots they fire will really let them slice up armour! When lasers start doing damage, they leave bits of liquefied debris in the way that reduces the power from a beam. By hammering away with pulsed shots, debris will dissipate before the next shot hits, which is much more efficient than the solid streams of energy from the Beam Lasers. We'll be able to pump out a shit-ton of damage with the Pulse Cannons, while hardly using any power."

John smiled at the pair of them, then looking Calara's way, said, "They certainly looked very impressive. You seemed to have no problems completely shredding the smaller asteroid chunks."

Looking thoughtful, Calara said, "They have a lot of stopping power. I think they'll pose a threat to anything up to a cruiser, but anything that size usually has too much armour for them to be effective."

"Good to know," he said appreciatively. He smiled at her enthusiastically, and asked, "So what's your evaluation of the new Beam Lasers?"

She grinned at him, and leaning forward, she replied eagerly, "Same range as before, but double the firepower! The really significant difference is we've gone from six forward-mounted Beam Lasers with a narrow fire arc, to twenty-four turreted Beams with three-sixty-degree coverage. I can't really describe how much more deadly that makes us in a firefight."

"Why don't you give it a try?" Alyssa suggested to her lover, with a playful wink.

Calara laughed, then sat back in her chair to think about it for a moment. With an excited sparkle in her eyes, she eventually sat up and said, "Okay, think about it like this." She raised her right hand, holding it flat and parallel to the tabletop. "Imagine my hand is the Invictus, and my fingers are the old Beam Lasers. If we're being chased by some bad guys, like those Trankarans, we couldn't hit them with our main offensive batteries." To illustrate this point, she lifted her left hand and held it behind the right, then moved them from side-to-side as though the Invictus-hand was trying to shake off its pursuer.

"That fight was awful," Jade agreed with a troubled frown. "It was horrible, not feeling in control of the battle."

Dana gave her a cheerful grin, and exclaimed, "Don't worry! With our new engines and retro-thrusters, no other ship in the galaxy will have our manoeuvrability!"

The Nymph gave the redhead a warm smile, and looked greatly relieved. Her lovely green face lit up with a wicked grin as she said, "I'd love to see the faces of the next fighter pilots who try to tangle with the Raptor!"

They all laughed at her look of eager excitement, and she joined in with their merriment.

Calara glanced at Jade and asked, "Would you mind taking over as the bad guys for my demonstration? I'm about to run out of hands."

"Sure!" the Nymph agreed readily, and lifted up her slender green hands to represent enemy ships. She scowled fiercely, to make it more authentic, and remind everyone she was a bad guy.

After shaking her head with an amused chuckle, Calara brought her hands together, placing one atop the other. "Now, after the refit, we've got twenty-four Beam Lasers. Imagine my right hand is the topdeck: we've got sixteen turreted Beams, four on each facing, which can fire in one-hundred-and-eighty degree arcs, as well as being able to fire straight up. My left hand represents the underbelly of the Invictus, which has two Beam Lasers on each facing, or eight in total."

"That's a lot of guns," Rachel said in a sober voice.

Calara smiled at her, and said enthusiastically, "It certainly is! In practical terms, we can fire up to twelve Beam Lasers in any direction on the horizontal plane, or sixteen straight up off the topdeck, and eight firing down from the underbelly." She glanced at Jade, and said, "Now, bring your enemy ships forward to flank the Invictus."

Jade nodded, standing up so that she could lean over Calara and place her hands as the Latina requested. "Like that?" she asked, checking to make sure they were positioned correctly.

"Perfect!" Calara said gratefully.

Faye piped up, and asked, "I could set up a holo-simulation for you, rather than representing ships with your hands?"

Calara smiled at her, but shook her head, replying, "We've got this for now Faye, but maybe next time?" The Purple AI construct nodded, and started planning ways she could help the friendly Tactical Officer.

Calara looked around at her captivated audience, and said, "Now, before the upgrade, if we were caught like this between two Trankaran cruisers, they could have hit us with broadsides from their flank-mounted Fusion Beams. We'd have only had twelve laser cannons per side to trade broadsides with them, and we would have been massively outgunned, and quickly ripped to pieces."

John was easily following her explanation, but he smiled as he asked supportively, "And now what would happen?"

"Now, it would be a whole different story. We'd be able to hit each enemy cruiser with twelve Beam Lasers per side-facing," Calara replied. With a dangerous gleam in her eyes, she carefully rotated her hands on a horizontal axis, and continued, "But I'd actually engage them like this. That way we hit the primary target with sixteen Beams off the topdeck, taking it out thirty-three percent faster, whilst still hitting the secondary target with eight Beams."

Jade made an exploding motion with the hand facing the topdeck, then did the same with the second one shortly afterwards, as Calara rotated her hands to face that with the topdeck.

Dana looked especially excited as she chimed in, "Don't forget that before the refit we were only hitting targets with six Beams! They were hitting harder than normal Terran Beam Lasers because the upgraded heatsinks let us pump more power through, but our new Beams hit twice as hard as that! If we do that topdeck trick, we've basically got over five times the long-range firepower as we had before."

Calara nodded eagerly, as she said, "Plus with all our extra speed and manoeuvrability, we can basically pick the range and positioning for a battle. So if we go toe-to-toe with something nasty, we can stay at range, hitting it with sixteen Beam Lasers as we circle it."

John gave her an appreciative smile, and said, "Thanks gorgeous, great explanation." He paused for dramatic effect, then added, "Now let's talk about the Nova Lances."

Calara let out a wistful sigh, and said, "The damage those Lances put out was beautiful. I just can't believe the kind of firepower they can unleash."

Irillith nodded, saying, "Those are the most powerful weapons the Maliri possess. Only battleship class Maliri vessels are big enough to mount them, and the most they field is two per vessel. A battleship has two Power Cores, one of which is purely dedicated to supplying enough power for the Nova Lances."

Dana grimaced, and said unhappily, "That explains our power problems then. I had to shut down the Mass Drivers completely, as well as reduce the extra power I normally channel to the engines and shields. Even then, we were right on the wire, and we wouldn't be able to use any other weapons while we're charging a Nova Lance blast."

"I'm just amazed you had enough power to be able to fire them at all," Irillith said, shaking her head in astonishment. "Your Power Core must be immensely powerful to be able to handle the load."

"It's a state-of-the-art Ashanath Power Core," John explained. "The one they fitted for us was intended for a battleship class vessel."

Rachel saw Dana's troubled expression, and asked, "Can we build a second Power Core? We could copy the Maliri, and use the same solution they came up with for their ships."

Dana gave her an affectionate smile, but replied ruefully, "I wish it were that simple, babes. We probably do have the space available for a second Core, but the problem is all the power conduits. It would take weeks to set up and install all those, as well as routing through all the power feeds to the prow weapon arrays."

John was unsettled to see Dana looking pensive, so with an encouraging smile on his face, he said, "It's not like you to get downhearted, Dana. What ingenious solution have you got fluttering around in that beautiful head of yours?"

The redhead glanced at him in surprise, then smiled when she saw he was just being supportive. She looked away for a moment, and said in a quiet voice, "I'm not sure, but I think there's something wrong with the Power Core."

This had everyone sitting up in alarm, and John looked worried as he asked, "What's the problem? Is it structural? Are we at any risk of it blowing?"

She frowned as she shook her head, and replied, "No, we aren't in any danger, and I didn't mean quite like that. When I was copying out the schematics for the refit, the Power Core looked really familiar, but wrong somehow..." she faded out as she struggled to describe what she was feeling.

"What do you mean, it looked wrong?" Alyssa asked her curiously.

Dana turned to look at her, and said helplessly, "I'm not sure, but it felt like the Ashanath didn't really understand the tech when they designed the Power Core. I got the exact same feeling with the Tachyon Drive as well."

"It was their most advanced tech," Alyssa replied with a tentative smile. "Maybe they just haven't mastered the technology yet. Not many of their ships had the new Power Cores, so perhaps we just got an advanced prototype?"

"Yeah, you're probably right," Dana agreed half-heartedly.

John looked puzzled as he asked, "Do you think you can improve on their designs then? If so, that would be amazing."

"No, I don-," Dana started to reply before faltering, and after rubbing her temples she continued, "Yeah, maybe. I'm not sure."

Rachel had turned in her chair, and gently rubbed Dana's back as she asked with concern, "What's wrong? Is your head hurting?"

Dana looked at her and frowned as she tried to explain, "I'm not in any pain, it just feels like the answer's there on the tip of my tongue. This isn't like those times I upgraded the Kintark heatsinks with my own design, or tweaked the Onyxium alloy we got off the Drakkar to come up with Invictium. I feel like I -know- this already, but I can't quite visualise it to put in a schematic."

John got up, and walked around the table to squat beside her. He took her hands in his own, and looking into her troubled face, he said soothingly, "You're tired, and it's been a long couple of days with all the work on the refit. Forget about it for now, I'm sure it'll come to you eventually."

"Yeah! Like when you hear a familiar song, but you can't quite remember the name of the band," Alyssa said with a grin. "It'll suddenly hit you when you least expect it!"

Rachel smiled at Dana and said, "She's right. Your brain will be much more efficient when you aren't stressed or tired."

John nodded, and said, "Don't worry about it for now. We can always shut down the Nova Lances, and bring the Mass Drivers back online until we can figure out the power problems."

Calara pouted, but her expression quickly smoothed out into a smile, as she said, "With the Beam Lasers, we've already got a ridiculous amount of firepower. Those and the Mass Drivers will still be a massive upgrade on what we had before."

"Alright," Dana said buoyantly, "I'll adjust the power allocation tomorrow."

"Good girl," John said, pleased to see her looking upbeat again. He stood up and stretched, saying, "I don't know about you girls, but I'm worn out. I think it's time for bed."

They nodded, rising to their feet, and began to walk out of the door, and through the Bridge.

"We got attacked by that House Ghilwen fleet last time we left Maliri Space," Alyssa said, looking at Irillith. "Are we likely to be in danger again this time?"

Irillith nodded, saying, "You never know, but it's a distinct possibility. Any of the major Houses could have spies at Genthalas Shipyard."

"We should probably set up watches then," John said decisively. "Then we'll have a bit more warning if anything appears on the long range scans. I'd rather not have to rely on the Automated Interdiction Response, and then fight our way out of trouble."

"I don't need to sleep!" Faye said eagerly, having reappeared in the Bridge. She was standing on top of John's console up on the Command Podium, and she gave them an excited grin, as she added, "I'd love to stand watch for you guys, then you can all get a good night's sleep. I can let you know if I see any sign of approaching bad guys."

Irillith smiled wryly as she said, "Bad girls would probably be more accurate in this case."

John frowned, not liking the idea of trusting the ship to Faye one bit, but Alyssa's voice sounded clearly in his mind as she said, *Dana said it should be perfectly safe. Faye won't have control of any systems, and she'll just be watching the long range sensors. She's proven herself trustworthy so far, why not give her a chance with this?*

He glanced Dana's way, and she smiled, giving him a slight nod of reassurance. Looking up at Faye's cute face, he saw she was waiting for his answer with eager anticipation.

"Alright then, Watch Commander," he said to the diminutive AI construct with a smile. "You're hired."

"Yippee!" Faye cried out exultantly. "I won't let you down, Commodore, I promise!"

"Contact us immediately in the Commander's Quarters on an internal comm channel if you spot any Maliri ships acting suspiciously," Calara interjected. "Watch out for any ships moving into interdiction range, or anything lying in wait for us."

Faye nodded, her little face looking serious and alert as she listened to the Latina. "You can count on me," she told them earnestly.

Waving her goodbye, John and the girls walked up the ramp to the grav-tube, then stepped into the red glow, and floated silently down to Deck Two. They stepped out into the corridor that contained the Officers' Quarters, and began to walk down to the big room at the end.

"Remind me to allocate you a room up here," Alyssa said to Irillith as they strolled along. "In fact, just take the one next to Jade's."

The Maliri shot a glance at John, and said hesitantly, "I had been hoping to share a room with all of you."

Alyssa smiled at her, and said, "Don't be silly, of course you'll be sleeping with us. John will want you nice and handy for when he wants to fuck some smoking-hot blue pussy."

Irillith blushed, and John slipped his arm around her waist, as he said, "She's quite right, you are gorgeous." He smiled as he added, "The other girls just use their rooms for storing clothes, but you should have your own space, just in case you want some peace and quiet."

She smiled at him gratefully, and said, "That's a nice thought, thank you. I only really took the quarters on Deck Four so I could snoop on you guys via the video feeds."

Alyssa gave her a flirtatious wink, as she said, "Now you can watch us all screw in person!"

Irillith's blush deepened, her cheeks turning a darker shade of blue. John frowned at Alyssa, and said, "You naughty girl, you're embarrassing her."

The blonde had an extra spring in her step as they walked along the corridor, and she smiled at Irillith apologetically. "I'm sorry," she said with a lovely smile. "I'm just excited to have you joining us properly; all that time with Progenitor-John didn't count. We've also got our surprise for John!"

Irillith's beautiful azure face lit up, and she shared a happy smile with Alyssa.

"Surprise? What's all this?" John asked the playful blonde.

Alyssa backed smoothly into their bedroom, beckoning him in with a waggle of her index finger. "Come and see!" she said with a delighted giggle.

John strode in after her, then stopped in surprise as he surveyed their bedroom. The huge four poster bed that had previously been centred against the far wall was gone. In its place was an enormous replacement, nearly twice the size of the old one, and covered in beautiful, pristine white sheets. The new bed still had posts, but now they were formed of a glossy white material, and the silvery flecks caught the soft light in the bedroom. White drapes hung off the frame, giving the entire room a lighter, airy kind of feel to it.

He nodded appreciatively, as he walked over, and ran his fingers over the white bedpost. "Is this what I think it is?" he asked her with a smile.

Alyssa nodded, then glanced at Jade, who stepped up onto the bed, and swung elegantly around one of the posts with incredible balance and poise. "Alyssa thought it might be fun to make the bed a bit sturdier," Jade said to him coyly, as she wrapped her legs around the pole and tilted herself backwards to gaze at him upside down. "Opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities..."

John walked over to her, and ran his hand over her luscious figure, which was suspended in the air supported only by her legs. The Nymph purred appreciatively as he caressed her, relishing his touch. "It does seem like an inspired idea," he agreed, but he turned to look at the bed and said, "But this thing is huge! How did you fit it in here?"

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