tagSci-Fi & FantasyThree Square Meals Ch. 093

Three Square Meals Ch. 093


Lieutenant Commander Ryan Murphy pulled off his flight helmet and relaxed back in the seat of his Claymore fighter. Running through the shutdown routine, he powered off the engines, then deactivated the rest of the impressive new fighter's systems. He'd just spent the last two hours on another test flight, this time shooting up agile target drones.

Although he was still in love with the highly advanced craft, which was a huge upgrade over his old rapier, the initial awe was wearing off and he'd started spotting quirks and idiosyncrasies of the converted gunship. Adjusting to the extra pair of Gatling Lasers in the loadout of six had been easy, but landing rounds on target with the Gauss Cannon built into the fighter's fuselage was proving a trickier prospect.

The airlock popped open with a hiss and a deck engineer poked his helmeted head through the portal. "Leprechaun! The Captain wants to speak to you!"

"Hey, Garv," Murphy replied, climbing out of his seat and heading for the airlock. "Could you take a look at the alignment of the Gauss Cannon's sights. I'm still not convinced they're properly calibrated."

Garvy laughed and rolled his eyes. "I've told you before; you have to lead your targets! The projectiles are slower, it's not like the Gatling Lasers."

"I know you told me, but I'm sure it's fucked up," Murphy protested, before giving him his most endearing smile and clapping the engineer on the shoulder. "Indulge me, would you? There's a six-pack of Trankaran ale in it for you..."

The Engineer sighed and nodded. "Alright, I'll take a look."

"Cheers, fella," the young pilot said with a grin.

Murphy squeezed past the tech and climbed out onto the wing of his ship. Following his ritualistic habit, he placed two fingers to his lips, kissed them, then pressed the digits against the image of his lucky charm painted on the Claymore's fuselage.

"Thanks, darlin'," Murphy murmured under his breath, as the portrait of the beautiful dark-green lioness beamed a glittering smile back at him.

Sliding off the wing of his fighter, he jogged over to the maintenance gantry, then climbed the steps out of the hangar and joined the main concourse. The vast Flight Deck on the Terran Federation flagship, The Retribution of Zeus, was bustling with crews eager to get more practice with the new Claymores. He spotted Whiskey leading four young pilots towards the hangar and the two officers exchanged respectful nods. Murphy suppressed a smirk, not envying the experienced fighter-pilot the job of training up those rookies.

When he finally arrived at the Captain's office, he saw two more familiar faces standing outside and he smiled at the two young recruits. "Hey, lads! Not in trouble already, are ya now?" he teased the two ensigns.

"No, Sir, Lieutenant Commander!" Ensign Halifax replied, snapping to attention.

Baker gave him a sharp salute, then smiled and shook his head. "Nothing like that, Leprechaun."

"Catch me after I've seen the Captain, and I'll give you those pointers on the Rapier I was talking about," Murphy said with a good-natured smile.

The two ensigns exchanged nervous glances, unsure how to respond.

Before they could reply, the door beside them opened and Captain Lewis stepped out. "I thought I heard your Irish brogue, Leprechaun. Can I have a word?"

"Of course, Captain," Murphy replied, following the older officer into the room and closing the door behind him.

"Take a seat," Lewis said, gesturing to the chair as he sat behind his desk.

Relaxing into the chair, Murphy studied the Captain for a moment, not liking the way he brushed his finger across his moustache. That usually meant his old instructor was on edge. "What's up, Gator?" he asked, figuring he might as well get to the point.

"I'm assigning you your own wing, Ryan," Captain Lewis said, leaning forward and looking at him intently. "You think you're up to it?"

Murphy blinked at him in surprise. Being offered command of five fighters was the last thing he expected his commanding officer to say. He couldn't help grinning as he said, "Binary's gonna be pissed!"

The Captain leaned back in his chair and shook his head. "I've already assigned him a wing of his own. You guys are the veterans now, you'll need to train up the new replacements as your wingmen."

Suddenly ensigns Baker and Halifax standing outside the Captain's office began to make a dreadful kind of sense. "But they're flying Rapiers, Gator!" Murphy protested. "They'll never be able to keep up with my Claymore!"

Shaking his head, Captain Lewis replied, "I'm not mixing fighter classes in a wing, don't be ridiculous. Your four wingmen will be assigned Claymores the same as you."

Murphy hesitated for a moment, then said dubiously, "It's a very powerful fighter, Captain. I'm not sure giving one to a rookie is a good idea."

Lewis shrugged. "The entire squadron will be switching to Claymores when we get more from Olympus, so they'll need to learn to fly them sooner rather than later. I've split the first batch of twenty into four wings and you'll be leading the second." He saw Murphy's look of surprise and smiled. "You've logged fifty-percent more flight time in the Claymores than any other pilot on the Zeus... Teach them all the tricks, Lieutenant Commander. You're dismissed."

Rising from his chair, Murphy saluted the Captain. "Thank you for this opportunity, Gator. I won't let you down."

Lewis nodded towards the door. "I don't know what you said to Baker and Halifax, but they specifically requested they be assigned to your wing."

Murphy grinned at him. "Is that right?"

Laughing, the Captain shooed him out, "Get out of here before I change my mind!"

Opening the door to the office, Murphy strode outside and found the two ensigns staring at him, wide-eyed with anticipation. The sudden weight of responsibility came crashing down on his shoulders and he froze, realising the lives of these two young men were in his hands. Memories of Angel, Snakebite, and Romeo flooded back, as did the feeling of guilt that he'd let his old wingmen down. If only he'd trained harder before Regulus, improving his piloting skills, practicing his shooting, maybe he could've saved them. He'd been trying to atone for that with all the hours he'd logged in the Claymore, hoping to be the best wingman he could be, but now he was going to be the Wing Commander it mattered more than ever...

Fighting down his doubts and fears, he put on an air of bold confidence. "Alright lads, let's go!"

The two ensigns looked at him in surprise, then scurried to fall into step beside him. "Where are we going, Lieutenant Commander?" Halifax asked hesitantly.

"To the Flight Deck. It's time you two popped your cherries on Claymores," Murphy said with a grim smile.

"Oh yeah!" Baker crowed, pumping his fist in the air.

Murphy darted a frown at Ensign Halifax. "But cut that Lieutenant Commander shit out, alright? Every time I hear my rank, I keep expecting to get a bollocking from the Captain. Leprechaun is fine."

"Yes, Sir!" the young ensign said, before sharing an eager grin with Baker.


Dinner aboard the Invictus was a great success and after praising Sakura for the delicious Italian food, the contented crew retired to the sofas to watch the stars racing by. Alyssa had redesigned the lounge with exactly this kind of thing in mind, so John and all the girls were able to sit in a comfortable semi-circle, chatting quietly together and sipping drinks.

John emptied his glass of whiskey, then set it down on the coffee table, waving away Calara's offer to top it up. He put his arms around Sakura and Alyssa, then let out a happy sigh.

"You sound like I feel," the Asian girl murmured, snuggling closer. "I can't remember feeling this wonderful before."

Alyssa smiled at her fondly, then glanced at John. "I think you might have to come up with a new punishment for our Head Chef. I don't think she was supposed to be having the time of her life!"

"She's a good girl, leave her be," John said to the blonde, knowing Alyssa was only teasing. He drew Sakura closer and gave her a tender kiss.

The raven-haired beauty closed her eyes and had a blissful expression on her face by the time he pulled away. "I stand corrected. This is the happiest I've ever been."

John squeezed her shoulder then turned to look at Alyssa. *Thanks for all your work behind the scenes today. I really wanted to thank the girls and they all seemed to have a great time.*

*They really did,* Alyssa replied earnestly, looking around at her smiling friends as they chatted quietly together. *I might get a bit carried away and seem a bit manipulative sometimes, but it's only because I know all of you so well. I just want to give you what you all need...*

John studied her beautiful face for a moment. *You don't need to keep beating yourself up over what happened with Niskera. For what it's worth, I think we did the right thing. I've been very impressed by her and I think she'll be able to make a huge difference for the Trankarans. As for you being manipulative, we've discussed all that and it's water under the bridge as far as I'm concerned.*

Her expression softened and she tangled her fingers in his hair. *I'm glad you're not mad at me. I agree with you too, about Niskera.* She paused looking undecided for a moment, then admitted, *You asked earlier if you were missing something between me and Niskera. I was just-*

*Telling her she'd be welcome to join us on the Invictus in the future?* John guessed, giving her a knowing smile. *Don't worry, I'm not mad about that, we did discuss the possibility after all. If Niskera isn't happy settling down with the Trankarans after all the changes she's been through to save them, there's no question that we're obligated to offer her a place here with us.*

*But would she make you happy?* Alyssa asked softly. *I could feel how impressed you were by her personality, but I know you have a certain... type.*

John frowned and said, *It feels wrong to so casually talk about essentially changing Niskera's species, even if that is what she wants.*

Alyssa shook her head. *If Niskera decided to join us properly, I don't think right or wrong will come into it. The fact is, that if you keep loading her up, she's bound to start changing.* Her eyes darted off to the left to look at Jade's lustrous dark-green skin. *My gut tells me that if she went through the full Change, she'll end up looking like a grey-skinned version of our lovely Nymph, but with the permanent lightshow. You told Niskera she was beautiful earlier, but I know you were thinking of her more like an exotic sculpture than a girl you wanted to fuck.*

*I wasn't lying earlier, the glowing lines were beautiful,* John protested. He hesitated when he saw the knowing look Alyssa gave him, then conceded, *But you're right... I know it makes me seem ridiculously shallow, but I still don't find her all that physically appealing.*

*You can't help what you're attracted to,* Alyssa told him, stroking the side of his head. *But more importantly, do you think you'd be attracted to her if she looked like a grey version of Jade?*

John stopped to picture Niskera like that for a moment, but struggled to see the stocky, bald Trankaran woman changing appearance that radically. He found it easier to imagine how Jade would look with grey skin instead, her luscious nubile body covered in swirling, glowing lines. He had to admit, the image was quite intriguing...

*Good to know...* Alyssa said with a coy smile.

*Hang on,* John said with a cautionary look. *There's absolutely no guarantee Niskera would change to look like that; it's pure speculation on our part. Let's just say that I hope that Niskera finds happiness with the Trankarans, but if she doesn't, I'm willing to offer her a home with us. Okay?*

The blonde nodded, knowing not to push this any further. *Understood. I promise I won't try and persuade her to join us, subtly or otherwise. I'll just focus on looking after her either way.*

*See, you're a good girl too,* John replied, sharing a smile with her.

Alyssa leaned in so her lips were almost brushing his. *Do I deserve a kiss for being good?*

*Definitely,* he agreed, pulling her closer.

The rest of the evening rolled on and they had started the day early so they decided to call it a night when it turned ten. Drifting out of the Officers' Lounge in a group, John reached out to clasp Jade's hand, then pulled the surprised Nymph into the red glow of the grav-tube.

"G'night, ladies, see you in the morning!" he called out to the rest of the girls, who grinned and waved back at him, all well-aware of his plans courtesy of Alyssa.

"We're not sleeping with the others?" Jade asked him in surprise as they descended in the anti-gravity field.

John shook his head and guided her out onto Deck Three. "I thought it might be nice to spend the night in the Observatory, just you and me."

She stroked his jawline, a soft smile on her face. "You didn't need to single me out for special treatment."

Turning as if to head back to the grav-tube, John said playfully, "Oh, okay. If you don't fancy it, we can catch up to the others..."

The Nymph pulled him back and hugged him tight. "I never said that!"

"Well I'm all yours for the night, so wherever you want to spend it is entirely up to you," John replied, stroking her back.

Her eyes lit up with excitement and she led him by the hand down the corridor towards the Lagoon. John laughed at her enthusiasm and followed behind the eager girl. When they entered the big room, Jade pulled her dress over her head, leaving it crumpled in a heap with her abandoned shoes.

She spun away from him, bounding ahead along the path that led over the softly-lit lagoon. "You're wearing too many clothes!" the Nymph said with a grin, waiting for him at the apex of the bridge.

John quickly stripped off and walked over to join her, admiring Jade's spectacular viridian body as she posed for him like some kind of wild forest sprite. "We're going to get wet, aren't we?" he asked wryly, already having a pretty good idea what the answer might be.

"I already am..." Jade replied, her emerald eyes glinting with arousal.

Turning to face the still dark waters of the lagoon, the strong muscles in her legs tensed and she launched herself off the bridge. Jackknifing in the air, she straightened as she dove into the pool, barely making a splash as she cut through the surface of the lake. The Nymph surfaced a few moments later, her feline eyes reflecting the light as she gazed his way.

John followed Jade's example, leaping in after her with an impressive dive of his own. He plunged through the water, then breached the surface, to find Jade waiting for him. "Hello, beautiful," he said, pulling her close.

Jade wrapped her arms around him, then looked into his eyes with a mysterious intensity behind that loving gaze. "There's something special I'd like to do with you, Master."

"What's on your mind?" he asked, watching her curiously.

The Nymph gave him an enigmatic smile. "Your thoughts..." she murmured, stroking her fingers across his temple. "They're quiet though, like whispers behind a closed door..."

John looked at her in surprise, his eyes widening as he felt a light flutter against his mind.

"You let me in once before, when we first met," Jade purred, her velvety green skin warming up against him.

"When you shifted form into Alyssa," John said in sudden understanding. "I must have let you in subconsciously... I didn't feel a thing that first time."

"I had to read your mind to learn how I could best serve my handsome new Master," she whispered, giving him a gentle kiss. "Perhaps you recognised my nature by instinct."

He looked at her in confusion. "Don't Nymphs normally just do that the once? So that they can find out what their master considers to be the perfect woman?"

"Many things have changed since then, with you and with me," the Nymph murmured, her cat-like pupils widening as she gazed at him with longing. "Would you share your thoughts with me again?"

Doing as she asked, John opened a breach in his mental fortress for the fluttering presence waiting patiently outside. He felt Jade's mind brushing against his, gentle and tentative at first, then growing bolder as she deepened the contact between them.

A look of wonder spread across her beautiful face and she gasped, "I'd forgotten what it was like... your mind is glorious, Master!"

Jade mewled into his mouth, kissing him with abandon as she hugged him tighter, wrapping her legs around him too. They sank below the surface of the water and her kisses slowed as she started breathing for the pair of them, using a set of gills she formed on her neck. They slowly dropped to the bottom of the lagoon, Jade lying on the sandy floor with John resting on her supine form. He experienced a strange sensation of weightlessness being fully supported underwater like this, the disembodied sensation magnified by the Nymph embracing his mind too.

*Just relax... let me take care of you,* she murmured, the pure joy in her telepathic voice tempered by the tenderness in her mental and physical touch.

Putting his full trust in her, John did as Jade asked, losing track of time as he enjoyed the pleasantly soothing embrace. She started asking him about his past; beginning with how he'd grown up with his grandparents, helping them run their restaurant. The Nymph seemed to delight in reading his thoughts and she began to ask about his time in the military, prompting him to talk about his friends and colleagues, the battles he'd fought in, and the reasons why he'd eventually retired. Then she moved on to his years as a trader, the deals he'd struck and all the exotic places he'd visited. Finally, she asked him to talk about each of the girls on his crew, while she purred in euphoric bliss.

John paused for a second and framed a question in his mind. *Why did you ask me to talk about the girls? You know them all really well.*

*I can sense how you feel about each of them and all your fond fleeting thoughts,* Jade explained, *This must be what it's like for Alyssa... I feel like I'm finally getting to know the real you!*

*Not yet,* John replied. *We haven't discussed how I feel about my beautiful Nymph...*

Jade's breath caught, her eyes filled with anticipation.

He shook his head. *Not like this. Let's go to the Observatory and I can show you properly.* With that he closed the portal in his mind to stop her getting a sneak preview.

Jade was filled with a sense of profound loss and her eyes widened in shock, but she wasn't able to communicate with him telepathically now to tell him of her anguish. They bobbed up to the surface, then swam to the edge of the water, padding out onto the sand. Jade had a deeply conflicted look on her face, her eagerness to hear more warring with disappointment at being shut from his mind. She looked at him and was about to say something, then faltered.

There were fresh towels on the sun-loungers, so John picked two up, passing one of them to the Nymph. "What is it, honey?" he asked gently.

She held the towel against her bust and looked at him with her big emerald eyes. "Being separated from your mind... I already miss listening to your thoughts."

John wrapped his towel around himself, then pulled her into his arms. "After tonight, I'll give you permanent access as if you were one of my Matriarchs, like Alyssa and Edraele. Would you like that?"

Jade swooned in his arms, looking like she could scarcely believe her ears. She nuzzled into him as they walked up the slope and across the bridge towards the Observatory, seemingly wanting to stay as close to him as possible. They practically fell onto the bed together, both of them eager to physically consummate the intimacy of their new psychic connection.

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