Authors: David Guenther
Arizona Space Ship Cornucopia in lunar orbit
18 August 2128
Brewster was tired nursing a major headache and had not even made it to his ship yet. The Shuttle from earth had delivered him to the Arizona Space Ship Phoenix and he spent almost a day trying to catch a shuttle to the Arizona Space Ship Cornucopia. Once onboard he got lost a half dozen times trying to find the hangar area. The stench of cat piss and unwashed bodies only added to his headache. The hangar made him feel slightly more at home even if everything was foreign. It was the same song only a different dance, his hopes started to improve. The maintenance and sense of urgency around the forty or so assorted ships was just right.
Chief Wright saw the Sgt looking around like a tourist and knew at that moment he was watching the “expert” he was expecting. The Sgt was still carrying his field gear including his beamer, but no bags. He was definitely a recycle, as tall as himself and with no hair on his head. He looked like he was used to carrying himself. Guns walked up to the sergeant.
“Are you my new crew chief for the Arizona Space Ship Beater?” Guns asked.
“That’s an affirmative. What is the Arizona Space Ship Beater?” Brewster asked. Guns turned and pointed to the raider. “That is the Beater, any experience with them?”
“Only experience is working as crew chief on birds that beat the air into submission, 160 SOAR thirty years.” Guns just listened to him then had to laugh.
“Twenty years Naval Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman working small boats. Guess the Gray Panthers are as good as Uncle Sam for finding the right peg for the right hole,” Guns laughingly said.
“Well from the job description in the orders, it’s a good fit. Show me to my new home and what we have ahead of us,” Brewster suggested. He walked up to the ship. The fact that it was old and rusty didn't faze him. Once inside, going down the passageway the narrowness became too evident. Trying to get by a pile of boxes, Guns pointed towards a small open hatch, “Officer Country, we have a twenty two year old lieutenant.”
Looking through the hatchway, Brewster only commented, “Hope he’s small.” The comment set both NCOs off in a loud round of laughter.
“OK, here’s the port weapons station, your new home.” The cabin was twenty foot by twenty foot. The entire exterior wall was a window. A large weapons console on one side of the cabin faced the window. The rest of the room was filled with a bunk and huge built in wall lockers. “I made the command decision that you should be immediately available if we are attacked. If you prefer there’s a cabin next to the lieutenant, just not as big as his. I’m in the starboard weapons station.”
“Looks like you did us right chief. Now what do I call you and which of us is senior?” Brewster asked, warming up to the Navy puke.
“Call me “Guns”, for what it’s worth you can be in charge until the officers get onboard and start mucking things up. What do you answer to?”
“Just call me Jimmy. There any food on this thing? I always did like Navy chow.”
“Prepare to be disappointed. Just stow your gear and we’ll head for the ward room, maybe we’ll see the lieutenant.” Entering the ward room a strange rancid smell was coming from the food processor. Opening the door to the small unit there was a plate with something that looked like brown pudding. “You hungry Jimmy?”
“You are a sick fuck, Guns. What is that?”
“This stuff just shows up. If you tell it what you want, it will make it for you. Call it chef.”
“Chef, I would like a quarter pound of french fries please.”
Noises started to come from the food processor then there was a “Ding.” Opening the door to the unit a pile of white pudding was on a plate. Removing the plate Jimmy smelled the concoction and almost dropped the plate. “Well there’s still time to stock up on field rats and condiments I guess.”
“Don’t sweat it, Jimmy. I found some boxes of uniforms and made a deal with a Master Chief on the Arizona Space Ship Nike. They have human modified food processors. He is sending a detail over to install it today. So be sure everything is secured when they come on board or they’ll steal us blind.”
“Should be interesting to see how it fares with whatever we have for an electrical system.”
“That’s why you always hire a professional! Come on, I’ll show you the rest of the ship.”
Lt. Commander Kyle Johnson was personally supervising the simulator being off loaded in the bay of the Arizona Space Ship Cornucopia. After 5 days he decided it more important to have it near the real thing so he could make comparisons and learn the real ship. The chief of the boat was helping him as the ships commander expressed an interest in there being no problems. Seeing the raider for the first time Kyle suddenly heard, “Oh gawd help us we’re all doomed.” Looking over to see who made the comment Guns turned, came to attention and saluted. “Looks like we're not done with each other yet sir.”
“Damn it’s good to see you, Chief. What’s your assessment of the situation,” Kyle asked jovially.
“I believe we may have a chance to survive if we start running now sir,” Guns replied seriously.
“Explain, Guns,” Kyle replied as he started to tense.
“Sir, I’ve been here almost three days and haven’t learned a damn thing other than the food processor is shit. Haven’t gotten shit for help other than the team that removed the weapons that then disappeared. Haven’t got squat for documentation or manuals. Our other crew chief is Army with only helo experience, looking to me for guidance. We also got our weapons/nav officer. I was going to take a moment and teach the tyke about the birds and bees. Seeing you sir, has given me my first thought we may survive. Rant off sir.”
“Chief, I come bearing gifts. I have a simulator for this beast and multiple files on maintenance and operations that the AI Grub was able to translate. They are also looking through the POWs for anyone that knows this bitch. Main problem is that almost all of their pilots and crews were over on the other ship when we blew a hole in it. This ship did not ordinarily have our raider on board, so the best they could do is connect external power and tie it down. The engineers that are coming over to incorporate the weapons will also be reviewing all systems. If you don’t agree with me when I say we are mission ready we don’t launch, fair enough, Chief?”
“Sir, I have absolute confidence in your leadership. It’s great to be working with you again. Now if only we were working boats instead.”
“Carry on, chief. We will catch up later.”
Gray Panther Space Academy, Arizona
19 August 2128
“My butt is dragging and I have sore muscles I did not know existed, but damned if those fighters ain’t the bomb,” Scott was saying to everyone in the shower. The new simulators had the ability to simulate pulling g-forces as they maneuvered so pilots had to be tightly strapped in to avoid being bounced around the flight deck while having to flex muscles to avoid passing out from the force of the Gs. For one of the rare times he didn’t even notice the gals from the flight showering as he replayed the ten hours of simulator time in his head. The fighters required constant attention to navigation, ships status, maneuver, as well as monitoring threats, all the things the AI on the shuttle did for the pilots. The experience had left a bad taste for some as they realized the maneuvering ability of the fighters was less versatile than the shuttles as they had to plan new tactics to work with their new fighters. Simple formation flying had each of the cadets initially fighting with their ships until they learned where they did and did not need to compensate to keep in formation. Autopilot of the ships was crude and did not inspire confidence among the cadets. Scott was brought back to the present with the snap of a wet towel across his ass.
“Come on, Scotty. Let's go over the flight deck configuration, if you can pull yourself out of the shower today.” Bronia was laughing as she lined up on him again with the towel and he realized they were alone in the shower. Looking at his assailant he quickly turned his water to freezing and directed it at the tall blonde as he turned to hide the effect she was having on him.
“Sure, give an old man a few more minutes peace and I’ll help you with your homework,” Scott replied starting to redden as he hoped she had not noticed.
Bronia left the shower feeling good, Scotty was always good for lifting her spirits when she wanted to feel appreciation for her feminine assets. She also realized she was starting to be attracted to him for both his wisdom and that he was always a gentleman and she found she liked the added respect it entailed. He was also the one that always seemed to find the best way to teach her new things when others seemed to give up on her. She knew he was interested in her but wondered if it would be right for them in reality to hook up after they graduated with the effect it would have on the flight and her two brothers who were still overly protective of their little sister.
Gray Panther Head Quarters, Arizona
23 August 2128
Dan looked at the occupants around the table reflecting on each one. “Abby” Bahadur, at his left, was for all purposes his second in command, he was also the one responsible for production and planning of all equipment. Next to him on the other side was William "Black Jack" Black, ninety eight, the commander of all ground forces. At his side sat Colonel David “Dusty” Rhodes, seventy, senior ranking pilot. At the other end of the table Butch "Butcher" Bad, seventy two admiral of the space fleet was quietly talking with Lieutenant James Young, 30, ops forces commander, and former Marine. He was the only person at the table who had not been rejuvenated with nanites. Grub, the avatar from the Flem space ship materialized in the last chair. Dan silently laughed to himself as he often did debating to ask Grub if he had found any evidence he was related to Earth's ground hogs as the only difference was that he was six foot tall and had fangs.
“OK gentlemen, let's get this over with. I know you all have busy schedules, we’ll start with Abby. So what have you got to report for us today?” Dan started.
“Well, now that the ship builders have all come online; they have actually made up for the time they played “slow down” we are doing good. Our in-house manufacturing has been going smooth without any problems for making shuttles and assorted weapons. We are well beyond the numbers needed for the Gray Panthers and could easily look at selling or supplying to the Army. That’s my snap shot for the moment.” Abby turned and nodded towards Grub to proceed.
“Good morning all. Mining for raw materials has started to slow down in the United States. I would like to be allowed to tunnel through waste centers and recycle those materials. There are also many offshore deposits of waste that can be recycled as well. I believe your green movement would be happy with that. The operations on the moon have stayed at full capacity and even at the present speed and quantities being mined and processed it will take eight thousand years before a new source is needed in the absolute worst case scenario. The power project to establish power plants for each major population source is working well, there has been agitators from groups demanding we remove the defensive beamer batteries that are part of those systems, except for a few cities on each coast that agree with these agitators there are no problems. I predict if they are successful in having the batteries removed, when the free power is gone and they see the cost of producing their own power now that there is no longer a national power grid they will relent quickly. I have been able to review the requirements for the ships Nike and Bia, their original engines were intended for in system use. The new engines are FTLMS, Faster Than Light Multiple Speed. Rather than just defend this system, the new engines will take the battle to your enemies door step. The engines on the captured ships conform to those usually found by their species, barely faster than light, these restrictions are primarily because those engines that are FTLMS were only made by the Flem and were very expensive, no one has been able to copy the technology yet. Repairs to both ships and the raider continue to proceed without any major problems. This concludes my report,” Grub stated as he leaned back in his chair.
Lt. Young got up from his chair and proceeded to give his brief. “Our training of dissimilar combat seems to have been a success; now my Opposition Forces need to actually use some effort to win any engagements,” Young said with a smile. Then continued, “With the size of the GPs increasing I would like to triple the size of the OPFORCE so that we can give more realistic training to more units, we are not able to take on all challengers, and many of my men need some down time. I have been told of a mission for my flight and we are all ready to take it to the enemy, if the mission ends up being a go.”
Admiral Bad stood and proceeded with his portion. “Both our original ships are working better than anticipated, crews have been quick to learn their jobs and have made numerous improvements. The addition of the new engines will be the topping on the cake. We still need to figure out just how many ships we need, and to accept the fact we will need to partner up with the Navy to crew them, after we get the games over with concerning command and control of assets. I think it is important to help the Navy to modify their ships to the task at hand. We provide the material and expertise and they can use their manpower to do the conversions. I see them protecting earth as we take the battle to the enemy and destroy their fleet before it gets too close to home. When the repairs are finished to the captured ships and our four newest ships launch, I recommend we go on the attack at that time. In the interim, I’d like to use our raider to sneak and peek, and maybe make a little mischief behind enemy lines.” Dan looked to Black Jack. “And what have you got Jack?”
“Dan, we have our strategies, and tactics mapped out, we have to figure out how far we are going? Do we give the enemy a bloody nose and tell them to go away, or do we wipe them out as a species so no one else will want to mess with us. Do we beat their ass and occupy their planet? Will they have allies unknown to us that will try to get retribution on their behalf, depending on what we do, or will we just get our asses kicked into extinction?”
Grub replied to the open questions, “Most likely when they see our technology and determination to defend ourselves they will back off and look for easier pray. They are out for power and profit, it is not personal for them. Most likely they will make an offer either for your professional services or for your ships.”
Dan stood and waited a sec until all side chatter ended. “The only thing I see to do for the moment is to put everything into the raider mission to get as much intel as possible. Admiral Bad, as I understand it, the raider can hold ten indigenous fighters and two shuttles. The fighter crews are still in training for two more weeks and the raider itself is still having familiarization issues and maintenance problems. Did I miss anything?”
“No sir, your information is all current. Since it is not in the best of shape, we not only are learning as we go along we are replacing anything that appears worn or suspect. The crews and maintainers for the raider were all killed on the other ship when we detonated the shuttle in their bay. The crews and maintainers for the major ships appear ignorant on the ship and aren’t cooperating other than showing how to connect power to it from the ships bay.”
“Excuse me, Admiral there is one alien familiar with the raider but has been overlooked. He is actually one of the Jacka Mercenaries; he was what translates to cabin boy. During the attack he was not with the rest of the crew. According to tradition, if we want his help we will have to negotiate with the senior mercenary for his services. I only discovered that he existed when he was overheard talking with the other POWs about his duties on the raider. From what I have deduced, he is a sort of outcast among his own since he is a dwarf. The only reason they let him live is that there is a ceremony that babies are killed after failing a test of spirit, he passed the test and was allowed to live. He is too small to be a warrior so he is what they call a techie, one that supports the warriors,” Grub informed the group.
“Here is our plan then, Butch, Dusty, and Captain Young coordinate everything you need so you are mission ready in three weeks. Abby be sure to give them any assistance they need materially. Black Jack, start opening dialogue with the Army about joint training and operations. Butch, same deal for you with the Navy. When you have their requirements, give them to Abby so he can figure things out. I will work with the politicians about raw materials, might be easiest to setup a location in Africa. If nothing else it looks like we’re done here.”
Young just sat for a moment as the others at the table congratulated him on his promotion. While happy with the promotion, he worried, what type of mission he was heading into?