tagSci-Fi & FantasyThree Square Meals Ch. 81

Three Square Meals Ch. 81

byTefler©

Alyssa smiled to herself as she listened to John and Dana chatting on their way out of the Legacy. He was trying his best to concentrate on the detailed technical benefits of the new Progenitor tech that they'd just acquired from the ancient ship, but he was more than a little distracted by thoughts of the Maliri twins.

The blonde girl was currently floating in the air, her body shrouded in a soft white light as she set about systematically repairing the damage to the Invictus' armour. She was studying several pieces of battered plating at that moment, the armour sporting an ugly blackened crater where they'd been struck by a Heavy Cannon shell. Of course, the impact point would have to be right on the join between all four plates, which meant she'd have to repair four instead of just one. She mused that John was very lucky she wasn't a regular repair crew, charging him for each plate they'd have to replace!

With a come-hither motion of her right finger, she pulled the armour plates off the hull, then melted them into a rotating sphere of liquid metal. Filtering out the impurities from the shell fragments only took a moment, with the resulting shrapnel raining down in a gunmetal cascade into the silver hopper beneath her. Quite a substantial chunk of material had been blasted clear of the armour as debris, so she made a gesture with her left hand, drawing a stream from the second, much larger, Alyssium orb. When she'd added just the right amount, Alyssa formed the image of one of the Invictus' armour plates in her mind, then split the smaller sphere into four white streams of metal and shaped the replacement pieces simultaneously.

*Would you be able to spare a moment, Alyssa?* Edraele asked respectfully. *I have a couple of questions if you aren't too busy.*

The blonde smiled to herself as she locked the four quint-shaped plates into position on the hull and began to glide further along the ship. It was still taking a little getting used to, having these much older Maliri women treat her with such deference. *Of course, Edraele,* she replied in a warm and encouraging tone. *You know I'll always make time for you. What's on your mind?*

Alyssa knew full-well what the Maliri was about to ask, but she enjoyed drawing out these conversations with her fellow Matriarch. Edraele was in the unique position to truly understand what it was like to be able to read John's thoughts, as well as appreciating the sense of responsibility that being one of his Matriarchs entailed. It was comforting to know that there was another woman out there who shared a similar perspective. With such high stakes riding on most of their encounters recently, they both knew they had to support him to the very best of their ability.

Edraele sounded frustrated as she said, *My connections with the Young Matriarchs and my trio of bodyguards have been strengthening daily, but I still haven't experienced that feeling you described. You said that you felt a sensation of deep intimacy that heralded you being able to bond with your girls.*

*That's interesting,* Alyssa thought back to her with a smile. *Tell me, what've you been doing so far to build your relationships with them?*

The Maliri Matriarch's amusement was quite clear over their empathic connection. *I suppose you'd like to hear all the salacious details?*

*Mmm, of course!* Alyssa purred, her blue eyes sparkling at the thought. *I want to hear all about how you're making them cum their little blue brains out!*

*You do realise that Maliri brains aren't actually blue, only the pigmentation of our skin?* Edraele enquired, punctuating the last with an image of her raising an eyebrow.

*You learn something new every day!* Alyssa replied with a grin. *Now, tell me about every last saucy lick please, Edraele.*

Alyssa smiled to herself as the Maliri woman began to describe in exquisite detail everything she'd been up to with the Young Matriarchs and her bodyguards. Alyssa stayed quiet as she listened to Edraele talk and she couldn't help flushing with arousal at the evocative descriptions. Her fellow Matriarch certainly had a way with words, describing in intimate detail the Sapphic orgies between John's inner circle of Maliri concubines.

As Edraele was describing a gloriously sensual encounter, Alyssa paused in her silent flight above the Invictus' hull. She looked down at the ugly black Drakkar dropship that was attached to the sparkling white battlecruiser like a bloated tick and frowned with distaste. Reaching out with her right hand, she tugged the thirty-metre-long vessel off the hull, the grappling claws shrieking in protest as she snapped them in half. She would have just tossed the dropship aside, but the Ashanath probably wouldn't appreciate the huge dent it would make in the docking bay, so she sought out a clear space on the deck and set it down gently instead.

There were four broken grappling claws still left jammed deep into the Invictus' armour, so she gently eased them out, wincing at the grating sound of metal grinding against metal. As she plucked each of the five-metre blades clear, she dropped them into the silver debris hopper on the deck below with a mighty crash. While continuing to listen to Edraele, she examined the hole blasted through the superstructure by the breaching charges, then began to fill it in with crystal Alyssium.

She felt a pulse of warning in her subconscious, drawing her attention to their earnest young doctor. *Be careful not to overdo it, Rachel,* she warned her, while continuing to feed the girl a stream of energy to fuel her psychic healing. *I can feel you getting tired...*

*Just a little while longer?* the brunette pleaded. *There's only another twenty-seven Ashanath on the critical list!*

Alyssa could feel Rachel's soaring sense of elation as the girl worked to save one diminutive alien after another. Sending her an indulgent telepathic smile, Alyssa said cautiously, *Alright, just those last ones, but then I want you to come back for a rest. John won't be happy if Sakura has to carry you home two days running!*

*I promise,* Rachel readily agreed, overjoyed to be able to save more lives.

Just to be on the safe side, the psychic blonde reached out to Sakura too. *Hey, gorgeous. Can you make sure Rachel calls it a day after patching up the next two-dozen Ashanath? She might get carried away and I don't want her wearing herself out again; she's still new at this.*

*I was actually going to suggest she stop soon; she's looking tired,* Sakura immediately agreed. She hesitated, then sounded awed as she added, *She's already healed so many I've lost count! We've gone through at least a third of the ward...*

Smiling at the thought, Alyssa asked, *How are the Ashanath medics reacting?*

*Facilitator Makiri called her a 'radiant goddess' a few minutes ago. I think they're quite impressed,* the Asian girl replied wryly.

Alyssa laughed out loud as she finished filling the hole in the Invictus' hull, then pulled away the perforated armour plating and began to reshape it as she added replacement material. Delighted to hear how everything was going in the medical facility, she said to Sakura, *Rachel's a good girl. It's wonderful to hear she's being appreciated for her talents.*

*I agree completely,* Sakura remarked, her voice full of affection for the kind-hearted brunette.

*I could say the same about you,* Alyssa said tenderly to the raven-haired ninja. *Thank you for coming to rescue both of us.*

Sakura's empathic bond throbbed with the strength of her emotions as she replied, *I said the same thing to John - you never have to thank me for protecting any of you. I was so lost, until you found me and brought me back to the living - I owe you everything.*

*Come and find me when you get back to the ship,* Alyssa said with a loving smile. *We should really spend some time catching up together.*

*I'd really enjoy that,* Sakura replied, pleasantly surprised by the suggestion.

*To give you fair warning, you naughty law student, I'll be wearing my cheerleader's uniform,* Alyssa teased her friend, recalling Sakura's unrequited crush on an athletic blonde from her college's cheerleading squad. She grinned as she felt the Asian girl's shock over their bond, quickly followed by a heated flush of arousal.

At that moment, Edraele was describing how Luna and the rest of the girls had been intent on overloading her senses with pleasure, helping her recover from draining too much of her own energy to help John. Alyssa's eyes suddenly widened in alarm as she read the rest of the Maliri Matriarch's thoughts and realised what she had intentionally failed to mention.

*You drained your own life-force?!* Alyssa blurted out in a strangled gasp, losing her concentration and dropping the metal orb on the deck of the docking bay. It splattered all over the ground with a sticky crash, showering everything in rapidly crystallising Alyssium.

Edraele stopped mid-sentence and the accompanying rush of guilt across their bond answered that question. *I was just trying to help him...*

*We both swore we'd never do that!* the blonde exclaimed, shocked that her Maliri counterpart would even think of disobeying John's explicit orders in that way. *How did you manage to keep that from me?!*

*Actually, I just said I'd never burn out one of the women I'm linked with, so I didn't break my promise by tapping into my own life-force,* Edraele replied quietly, although she did sound contrite now. *I was just working on instinct at the time, I didn't really stop to think about it.*

Alyssa's retort was stern as she said, *That's not good enough, Edraele. You understood the intent behind that order!* Her voice was passionate as she added, *You must know how much he cares about you! John would've been distraught if you'd overdone it and something terrible had happened!*

*I'm so sorry!* Edraele whimpered, truly remorseful.

Blowing out her breath in a heavy sigh, Alyssa began gathering the metal from the deck, reforming it into a perfect white sphere once more. *You should really be apologising to John, not me,* she told the upset Maliri. When she felt a sudden surge of anxiety over their bond, she continued, *Relax, I'm not going to tell on you. Please be much more careful in the future though, okay? There's a lot of people who really care about you now, myself included.*

*I promise, I'll never do that again!* Edraele said vehemently.

*Good girl,*Alyssa said in an approving tone, aware of the irony of having to console a woman one-hundred-and-forty-four years her senior. *Now, summon Luna to give you a nice hug and I'll tell you where you're going wrong with your girls.*

After a moment's pause where Edraele asked the former assassin to join her, the House Valaden Matriarch said, *Luna's on her way now.* She hesitated for a moment then added, *Should I continue from where I stopped? I hadn't finished telling you about everything we've been up to together yet.*

*I know, and you can keep telling me about your orgies later, that was really turning me on!* Alyssa confided with a lusty grin. Her tone turned serious as she added, *You've made a great start and that shared intimacy between all of you will really help. It's not enough to just fuck each other senseless though; you need to work on building the trust between you. Here's what I suggest you do next...*

Edraele listened attentively to the young woman, nodding thoughtfully as she hung on her every word.

***

Admiral Lynette Devereux sat in her plush office on Terra, scanning through the event plan for the upcoming award ceremony and double-checking each item to make sure everything was now in place. The more mundane logistics surrounding the venue had been carefully prepared weeks ago, with Victory Square on Terra primed for the extravaganza she had in mind. Reading through the attendance list was like viewing a snapshot of the power brokers in the Terran Federation and she felt a thrill of excitement as she pictured the event.

All the Admiralty would be there, each of them eager to bask in the reflected glory of what had essentially been her own triumph in defending Terra. They all knew John Blake was her agent and that he'd performed magnificently in crushing the rogue AI while simultaneously saving the homeworld of the Terran Federation. Even more importantly, that entire Nexus debacle had been initiated by Admiral Gabrielle Lynton, one of Fleet Admiral Buckingham's protégés. Just as Devereux gained prestige by the Lion's actions, Vincent Buckingham had no way of avoiding being damaged by Lynton's treachery.

That wasn't the only mark against the Fleet Admiral. Admiral Leonard Norwood had been another of Buckingham's lackeys and his betrayals ran even deeper, being directly responsible for horrific fleet asset losses in the Dragon March. Norwood had led Buckingham by the nose right into a vicious trap and the ill-fated invasion fleet would have undoubtedly been annihilated in a vicious encirclement deep in Kintark territory. That catastrophe had only been avoided by the very narrowest of margins, with John Blake intervening just in time to warn them of the impending danger. The Lion had then gone on to save Buckingham's forces a second time from Lynton's ambush at the Battle of Regulus - all of which had been at the behest of Admiral Lynette Devereux, of course.

Yes, Buckingham was to blame for all the recent disasters befalling the Terran Federation, or at least that was the narrative that Devereux had been promoting amongst the rest of the Admiralty. If all went according to plan, Buckingham's career would end ignominiously and very soon at that.

This ceremony would be the capstone on what had been a gloriously executed piece of political manoeuvring - Devereux's finest work, if she did say so herself. There'd been a four-point increase in High Command's approval rating after the last event and she could only imagine the impact that this one would have. She allowed herself a broad smile of satisfaction as she leaned back in her chair, steepling her fingers together as she mulled over the successes of her champion.

Ah, the "Lion of the Federation", what a fateful day it had been when she'd come up with that moniker. The people always loved a hero - manufactured or otherwise - and it was wonderfully convenient that she didn't even need to fabricate any tall tales of the Lion's various exploits. She'd thoroughly reviewed the files detailing John Blake's recent adventures and since emerging from relative obscurity, he'd managed to rack up an impressive tally of victories.

With all those thoughts of John Blake buzzing in her head, Devereux felt a slight tremor of fear run down her spine. She'd woken up on more than a few nights soaked in sweat, remembering his casual displays of superhuman strength and the even more disturbing way he'd manipulated objects using only his mind. In the middle of the night, she'd tried to convince herself that she was just suffering from an overactive imagination, but she could still remember it now - the way he'd strolled around carrying a two tonne fuel-injection system so effortlessly.

It wasn't just John who possessed such supernatural gifts. The rest of his crew seemed to possess similar talents, or at least it was obvious that Calara and Alyssa did, after that eye-opening visit to the Invictus. Leaning forward again, Devereux tapped in a number of commands on her console, bringing up an exhaustive report. She had launched a secretive investigation into those girls, eager to learn as much as she possibly could about them.

Calara Fernandez had been a promising candidate at the Academy, but nothing in her academic or limited service records even hinted at the uncanny ability she'd displayed in sniffing out the Dragon March traitors. Alyssa Marant had drawn a complete blank in the Terran data archives. Devereux's team had found a few score of similarly-named girls existing within the Terran Federation, but not one of them remotely resembled the statuesque beauty accompanying the Lion. The rest of his Lionesses had also proven to be a total mystery, with not a single lead drawn on the third Terran girl, Dana, or his Nymph, Jade.

John Blake had continued to recruit since the last award ceremony, with Rachel Voss - the billionaire's heir - inexplicably joining his crew. She'd thundered onto the media stage by giving away a miraculous cure for the dreaded Kintark plasma burns amongst a storm of publicity. Such crippling and disfiguring injuries had been a constant fear amongst any facing the Kintark. Tens-of-thousands of personnel had been afflicted with burns after the Battle of Regulus, in addition to the thousands more who'd been wounded in earlier skirmishes in the conflict. When it was announced that Rachel's cure provided total recovery from the terrible skin damage those wounds inflicted, it had been a tremendous boost to morale throughout the fleets.

Obviously, the eager excitement over this new development was another welcome feather in Devereux's own cap, aiding in her relentless quest to replace Buckingham as Fleet Admiral. However, she couldn't help feeling a nagging doubt in the back of her mind. The Terran Federation was accruing a tremendous debt to the Lion and his Lionesses, and while he remained a steadfast ally now, she might have to take steps to curtail his influence in the future.

The buzz of an incoming call on her comm interface roused her from her introspection. Swiping her hand across the Vice-Admiral's name, she accepted the call and Charles Harris' moustachioed face appeared as a holographic image before her.

"It's good to see you, Charles," Devereux said, smiling at the Olympus Shipyard Commander. "I read your recent report on the status of the refits; you're making excellent progress."

"Thank you, Lynette. We should have the rest of the fleet fully repaired in just under two months," Charles replied, returning her smile.

Noting the sparkle of excitement in his eyes, Admiral Devereux said wryly, "Alright, out with it, Charles. What're you really calling me about?"

He leaned forward, smiling as he replied, "I just had an intriguing conversation with your Lion."

"What did he say? Has he re-entered Terran Space yet?" Devereux demanded anxiously.

Charles made a calming gesture with his hands as he replied, "He's still planning to attend the award ceremony, don't worry. He's also added a few more girls to his crew; I believe he's up to nine now, although one of them definitely won't be able to attend and he's unsure about two others."

"Nine!" Devereux exclaimed in shock.

She felt a flicker of trepidation at the thought of even more unnaturally gifted women working with John Blake, but her agile mind quickly started considering ways she could turn this to her advantage. The Lion seemed to have a real eye for the ladies and the pictures taken of him after the last award ceremony had been an unexpected godsend. The adverts showing a renowned hero of the Terran Federation surrounded by a bevy of stunningly beautiful women had already resulted in a two-hundred-percent increase in recruitment. During a period of active warfare, such a phenomenon was unheard of!

"That's very good news," she said distractedly to Charles, while imagining the photo opportunities. "I'll make the appropriate arrangements to cater for his full crew, just in case."

Charles grinned at her, his moustache twitching. "Actually, Lynette, that's not the main reason I'm calling. There's something far more important we need to discuss."

"I'm too stressed for games at the moment, Charles," Devereux said in exasperation. "Just tell me what it is, please."

"John wants to trade technology. He knows about the high-yield Kintark heatsinks we acquired from High Prelate Zorlin's Battlecarrier," Charles explained, his hawk-like eyes sharp and predatory.

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