tagSci-Fi & FantasyThree Square Meals Ch. 064

Three Square Meals Ch. 064


The vast fleet in the Delta-Draconis system was the largest that John had ever seen. The Tactical Map showed the precisely arrayed formations of the Terran Federation navy, which had smashed the system's Kintark forces in a major fleet engagement, leaving behind a widely dispersed field of debris and wrecked vessels. Squadrons of corvettes and destroyers were patrolling the outskirts of Delta-Draconis, while clusters of cruisers, carriers, and even larger vessels formed neat, precise battle groups in the staging area closer to the centre of the system.

There were three huge dreadnoughts here, forming the core of each of those task forces. As awe-inspiring as those massive ships were, John's eyes were drawn to the behemoth in the centre of all those vessels. Taking pride of place amongst the terrifying display of military might was Fleet Admiral Buckingham's flagship. He was commanding a colossal fleet carrier, named 'The Retribution of Zeus', and it was the first time John had seen this moving fortress. At nearly four kilometres in length, it was even bigger than the dreadnoughts, and it was breathtaking in its enormity.

Calara highlighted the 'Zeus' in the tactical targeting view, and the mighty ship now rotated as a hologram, floating silently in the middle of the Bridge. John leaned forward in his Command Chair, unable to take his eyes off the titanic spacecraft. He immediately spotted the distinctive shape of spinal mounted singularity drivers standing out from the topdeck, the weapons themselves nearly as large as the Invictus. They reared up over sweeping batteries of Heavy Cannons, Beam Laser arrays, and row upon row of Missile Racks. The Zeus wasn't just armed with conventional weaponry, it was also host to several squadrons of strike craft. He watched as fighter wings launched from the ship, then peeled away to begin their exhaustive patrols of the system.

John saw the blinking warning light on his console, alerting him to an incoming call. Rachel accepted it with the click of a button from her Communications Console, and checking the caller ID, she looked up at him, and said, "I have a Rear Admiral Carmela Moreno on the comm for you."

He nodded to her, and replied, "Put her through, please."

The viewscreen crackled to life and an attractive olive-skinned woman in her early forties appeared before him. She saluted sharply, and said somewhat haughtily, "This is Rear Admiral Moreno, Chief of Staff to the Fleet Admiral on 'The Retribution of Zeus'. What are you doing here, -Commodore- Blake?"

*If Admiral Lynton arranged a meeting, there's no way Buckingham's Chief of Staff wouldn't know about it, or your new rank,* Edraele advised him as she carefully listened to his thoughts. *She's probably either threatened or jealous of your rapid promotions, and trying to assert her dominance over you. You can either go for the diplomatic approach, or be a bit more direct in how you deal with her.*

John was still feeling disappointed by Sakura's point-blank rejection of his offer to try and give her a normal life, and this obnoxious officer provided a convenient outlet for his frustration. He gave her a condescending smile, and said, "I'm here to speak with the Fleet Admiral, Carmela. I believe he's expecting me."

She ground her teeth in anger, and snapped, "You will address me as 'Rear Admiral Moreno', Commodore!"

He gave her a dismissive way of his hand, and said, "You know full well I'm a Rear Admiral too. Surely we can dispense with ranks?" Without pausing, he continued relentlessly, "As for what I'm doing here, it's classified. So be a dear, and run along and let the Fleet Admiral know I want to speak to him, please."

"I'll do no such thing!" she snorted indignantly. She sneered as she added, "He's in a meeting with senior Admiralty, and not to be disturbed!"

John shrugged, and said, "That's fine. I'm coming aboard then, and I'll wait until he's done. My meeting with the Fleet Admiral would be better held in person, anyway."

"Absolutely not!" she protested looking flustered. "You can jus-."

"See you soon, Carmela," John replied with a wink as he cut her off. He glanced at Rachel, and she cut off the comm channel while stifling a giggle.

Edraele sounded amused, and said, *She'll be absolutely furious, but Buckingham's expecting you, so there's nothing she can do. I've seen this kind of thing before, and I'd wager she earned all her promotions behind a desk.*

Calara had been raised to show high ranking officers the utmost respect, and she looked shocked at his blatant indifference to the Terran Federation Officer's rank. She stared at him wide-eyed and gasped, "She was a Rear Admiral! You can't speak to her like that!"

John gave the appalled young woman a grim smile, and said, "She was playing games, and I'm already tired of that bullshit." His expression lightened then, and he chuckled as he added, "I've said far worse to Charles, and he's a Vice Admiral."

Jade turned in the Pilot's Chair, and asked, "Do you want me to fly you over in the Raptor?"

"That would be great, thanks Jade. We'll head off in a few minutes," he replied with a smile. He looked up at the holographic map, noting the scores of cruisers and light carriers identified amongst the sprawling fleet, and turning back to Calara, he added considerately, "Why don't you scan through the transponders on those ships, and try to find the Damocles and the Hydra."

Calara gave him a grateful smile at the mention of her father's and brother's ships, and said, "I've actually started looking already, but I haven't found them yet."

*Before you go, John, I want to talk to you about something,* Edraele said to him, her voice suddenly very serious.

*Go ahead, you can talk to me about anything,* he replied, surprised by her tone.

The Maliri Matriarch wasted no time in saying, *I have my suspicions about Admiral Lynton.*

John didn't seem surprised, and he said, *Yes, me too. With a Progenitor running around this corner of the galaxy, and knowing my species' affect on women, it seems awfully convenient that her video comms broke down just before we arrived. Especially considering we know there's traitors involved in the Dragon March. We saw battle damage to her ship, but to still not have it fixed after six hours...*

*The old Edraele would have had the relevant technicians flayed alive for such incompetence,* she replied in a sombre voice.

*Why send me to destroy the nebula base though?* he asked her with a puzzled frown. *If Gabrielle's a traitor, then why set us up to deliver a devastating blow against the Kintark Empire?"

*To build trust perhaps?* Edraele speculated. *I must admit that aspect of her dealings with you has me perplexed.*

*Perhaps to keep us busy while she tipped off Norwood?* John guessed. *He seems to have defected within hours of us arriving in the Dragon March.*

*Very good, John, that makes sense,* she replied. He could hear the proud smile in her voice as she added, *Something for my daughter to look into?*

*Agreed. Excuse me one moment, please,* he said to her courteously.

Looking out at his Bridge Crew, he said to Dana, "Sparks, I've got some suspicions about Admiral Lynton. Would there be any reason her video comms could still be out after more than six hours to fix the comms array?"

The redhead pulled her attention away from a complex array of sensor data in a glowing hologram floating above her Engineering Console. She pondered the question for a moment before she replied, "The ship did get a bit melted by a plasma torpedo, but the damage looked pretty light. They should have been able to repair it by then, and there'd be no excuse by now."

John was half-tempted to call Lynton immediately to resolve his doubts one way or another, but he didn't want to tip his hand. Instead he turned to the Maliri girl sitting at the IntOps Station, and asked, "Irillith, could you look into something for me please?"

"Of course," she agreed immediately. "What do you want me to investigate?"

His eyes narrowed as he replied, "I'd like you to check to see if Lynton contacted Norwood before his ships attacked the loyal forces. Can you do that?"

The blue-skinned girl looked thoughtful before she replied, "It might take me a while. I can't hack either ship directly to find out, as we're not even in the same system. The only way would be if the comm logs had been automatically archived. If they have been, then I'll just need to explore the Terran Federation data archives on Mars and find the new secure repository."

He gave her a grateful smile as he said, "Sounds like a good plan, but stay safe, and try not to flatten the data fortress this time, okay?"

The beautiful Maliri girl gave him a sparkling smile as she replied confidently, "This time, they'll never even know I've been there. As soon as I find out, I'll notify Alyssa, and she can update you."

Calara's voice drew his attention to the front of the Bridge, and he could hear the relief in her voice as she announced, "I've found the Damocles!"

John grinned at her, feeling relieved himself, and said, "That's brilliant news! So we know your Dad is safe, but what about Mateo?"

Her face fell as she replied, "I've checked all the light carriers in the area, but there's no sign of the Hydra."

"They might be guarding the supply lines, don't start worrying until we know for sure," he said soothingly. Rising from his chair, he continued, "We'll call Jack when we return from meeting Buckingham, but we better get changed before we meet the Fleet Admiral. Full dress uniform I think, Commander."

She rose from her chair, smiling at him as she walked up the ramp towards the grav-tube. He looked out over the Bridge from atop the Command Podium, and said, "Hopefully we won't be gone long. You should be safe here, but don't take any chances. Get Alyssa immediately if you suspect even a hint of trouble."

The girls nodded obediently, and wished him a safe journey as he jogged down the steps to join Calara at the grav-tube. They stepped into the anti-gravity field, then dropped down in the soft blue glow to Deck Two and the corridor leading to their quarters.

*You should wear your new uniform. Make a statement...* Alyssa suddenly said to him, halting him in his tracks. By the look of surprise and consternation on Calara's face, he guessed the psychic blonde had said much the same to her.

*I'm not sure that's such a good idea,* he replied tentatively, recalling the form fitting uniforms that Alyssa had designed for the girls. They were extremely flattering, and they'd looked sensational, but he didn't think showcasing his ass would set the right tone when dealing with the upper echelons of the Admiralty.

He could feel her amusement over their bond as she listened to his thoughts, and said, *Trust me, you'll look spectacular!*

Calara seemed to have been similarly cajoled by the mischievous blonde, and she had a look of dread on her face as she opened the door to her room. Her eyes met his as she murmured, "I'll meet you in the corridor."

John walked into his bedroom, then through to the walk-in wardrobe, feeling apprehensive as he wondered exactly what Alyssa had in store for him. He suddenly realised he was being ridiculous, and if he didn't like the new design, he could still wear his old uniform. With that thought in mind, he felt a surge of relief when he spotted his grey Terran Federation dress uniform hanging where he left it.

*As if I'd do anything with that stuffy old thing,* Alyssa chastised him with a telepathic frown. She sounded like she was enjoying herself far too much as she continued, *Look at the end of the rail, I've covered your new uniform in a black shell cover to protect it.*

With his curiosity piqued, he strolled up to the end of the wardrobe, and found the black protective cover she had described. Holding his breath, he touched his thumb to the tag at the top, and it peeled back, revealing the new uniform she'd designed for him. He was shocked by it at first, but once that wore off, he smiled as he reached out to brush his fingers over the material. Pulling off his clothes, he started to get changed.

He quickly got dressed, pulling on the trousers, buttoning up the formal shirt, and putting on the jacket. The fit was remarkable, and as he tugged his boots on, he marvelled at the exquisite tailoring with which Alyssa had fashioned these clothes. It was definitely the most comfortable formal outfit he'd ever had the privilege to wear.

*Of course. Nothing but the best for my man,* she replied, listening to his thoughts with a deep sense of satisfaction. *I know your body almost as well as my own.*

There was a peaked hat that went with the uniform, and he smiled as he turned it around and saw the Terran Federation insignia. He placed it on his head, and just as he was about to go and examine himself in the mirrors, he heard a gasp from the doorway. When he looked up, he saw Calara had entered the walk-in wardrobe, and was staring at him in amazement. His own eyes widened as well when he saw her uniform, and when she noticed his expression, she smiled shyly.

Nodding appreciatively, he said, "You look incredible, Calara. Alyssa's done a magnificent job."

"I know," she replied, feeling a little shamefaced for not trusting her lover.

Her new outfit was cut to look very similar to her original Terran Federation Officers' dress uniform. It was demure and respectable, with knee-length boots, trousers, a long jacket that came down to just above the knee, and finished with a peaked cap. That was where the similarities ended however. The uniform was subtly tailored to emphasise her femininity, without undermining her rank and aura of authority. Her boots had a slightly higher heel, and the jacket fit just a little more snugly than the standard uniform. At first glance you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the cut, but the overall effect was dramatic, and as sensational as she looked, she would definitely turn heads.

Her boots were black, but the uniform itself was immaculate white, the jacket, belt, and trousers edged in gold. The colour scheme was identical to those the other girls had worn for the award ceremony, clearly setting her apart from the conventional military, and identifying her as one of the Lionesses of the Federation.

She watched him studying her intently, then asked, "Have you seen yourself yet?"

He shook his head, and smiled at her, as he replied, "No, not yet."

Grinning at him, she beckoned him over to stand before the cleverly designed mirrors, which would let him see himself from all angles. He had to admit he felt some butterflies in his stomach as he stepped in front of the mirrors, but he was amazed when he finally did so.

His own uniform followed the same design ethos as Calara's. The style was very similar to the standard Terran Federation dress uniform, but his was cut to make him look more commanding. He exuded imposing authority in the new uniform, but there was a certain predatory edge to it that made him seem slightly intimidating.

It was the same pristine white as the other uniforms that Alyssa had designed; the jacket edged in gold, as were the trousers that he'd tucked into his black boots. The jacket buttoned down the right side of his chest, but where it radically differed, was the golden lion that was frozen mid roar where it was emblazoned across his torso. It left absolutely no doubt as to the identity of the man in the resplendent uniform. The outfit was topped with a white peaked hat that had the bright gold Terran Federation insignia on the peak. The familiar insignia consisted of a sword flanked by wings, with the sword tip pointing towards a star.

"You look so handsome," Calara said breathily, walking over to stand beside him. Lifting her beautiful face to stare into his eyes, she asked him, "Is it wrong that I really want to drop to my knees and give you a loving blowjob?"

"As long as you wear your uniform too, I'm sure that'd be fine," he replied with a playful smile. With a sigh of regret, he added, "It'll have to wait until later I'm afraid, gorgeous. We've got a Fleet Admiral to see."

*You can both thank me later,* Alyssa thought to them both smugly, then smiled as they both began to imagine all the things they'd do to her in gratitude.


Alyssa watched Sakura thoughtfully, as she sat in one of the chairs around the long table in the Briefing Room. The Asian girl was quiet, lost in her own thoughts as she desperately tried to adjust to all the shocks she'd had since being freed from Mikaboshi's insidious grasp. It was heartbreaking to see her like this, but Alyssa had been through more than her fair share of traumatic events in her relatively short life, and knew it was simply going to take time for the girl to recover.

Of course, there was a simpler and much faster way of helping her deal with everything, but the poor girl had been the subject of enough mental tampering for two lifetimes. With that in mind, Alyssa waited patiently for Sakura to rouse herself from her grief. She occupied herself by listening in to John and Calara's thoughts, and tried not to chuckle at their reactions as she encouraged them to try on their new uniforms.

Sakura seemed to slowly collect herself, until she finally glanced at Alyssa, and asked in a quiet voice, "You said you wanted to talk to me?"

The blonde girl nodded, and replied, "There's no hurry, though. If you need time to yourself, just let me know, and I'll leave you in peace."

The petite girl shook her head, and replied, "I want to talk. I've been locked away for what seemed like forever, and it's nice to be able to speak to someone."

Giving her a radiant smile, Alyssa said, "Well you're in luck, because I like talking!"

Despite herself, Sakura laughed, then seemed surprised at the sound. She gave Alyssa a sad smile, and said, "I don't think I've laughed in over seventy-five years. How tragic is that?"

Alyssa's answering smile was sympathetic, and she said, "You have a nice laugh. I hope we'll get to hear it a lot over the next seventy-five years."

Sakura sat up straight then, but she missed what Alyssa was alluding to, instead picking up on the more obvious as she asked, "I thought John said-."

Rolling her eyes affectionately, Alyssa replied, "Yeah, forget what he said, he's just trying to be noble." Rising from her chair, she added, "Want to get out of here? We can go and relax somewhere a bit less stuffy."

"That would be nice, thanks," Sakura replied gratefully.

Alyssa offered her an arm, and Sakura linked hers with the taller girl, then they walked out of the Briefing Room onto the Bridge. Aside from John and Calara, all the rest of the crew were there, and they gave their guest warm and welcoming smiles. The girls didn't try to introduce themselves, assuming Alyssa was trying not to overwhelm her.

Alyssa leaned over, and whispered, "Are you feeling brave enough to meet them?"

When Sakura nodded shyly, Alyssa turned to the others, and said, "Ladies, this is Sakura. Sakura, these lovely girls are Dana, Rachel, Jade, Irillith, and Faye."

She pointed to each of them in turn, and Sakura's eyes grew wider with each progressively more exotic girl she was introduced to. They each waved to her and said hello in turn, and once the brief introductions were done, Alyssa led her up to the Ready Room. She pressed the button to open the door, but before she walked inside, the Asian girl glanced back across the Bridge, frowning as she looked at Jade once again.

"Would you like a drink?" Alyssa asked, as she waved Sakura over to one of the comfortable sofas.

Sakura hesitated, then replied, "An iced tea would be lovely, thank you."

Walking over to sit next to her, Alyssa smiled as she said, "She'll just be a minute."

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