Saturday, May 21, 2016

Bark: Incursion - Chapter Ten

2701. – In transit; CFV-B Pallas

Our stay at κ Orion had been a short one. The transit station in the system was secure and there had been no recent enemy activity. The station commander had informed us that they had picked up an unusual signal in the nearby star system of ε Gemini about a week ago, but as it had not been repeated, they had not wanted to send a ship from their defence force to investigate. After consulting with Kat, I had decided that it wasn't too great a diversion from our patrol route to warrant a look. ε Gemini was a G-type star, similar to, but slightly larger than Sol. Unlike Sol, however, ε Gemini didn't have any planets, only a smattering of unremarkable iron and silicate asteroids too small to be of strategic value. As it had been deemed so insignificant a star system, it wasn't on the sector patrol list. I checked the records and saw that the last system survey had been performed fifteen years ago.

When I informed the rest of the ship captains in the battlegroup of our unscheduled detour, Fforde-Hughes had bemoaned the necessity of diverting the entire task force, no doubt considering the task of investigating an anomalous signal beneath her mighty ship, Tartarus. I had shot her down, reasoning that there could be quite literally anything awaiting us in a system that had not been visited by humans since long before the start of the Thrinax war. I wasn't going to take chances and split my forces, just because Fforde-Hughes might throw a hissy fit. The detour also meant that I'd kept hold of Sub-Commander Marciano for another few days. As promised, he had come up with a new set of engagement tactics that simulations suggested could allow us to successfully disable a Thrinax cruiser or dreadnought, based on Lieutenant Mitchell's theorised internal layouts of the alien vessels. Marciano called it 'the jack-in-the-box'. It was a modification of the standard screening formation commonly used across the Confederate fleet, except here the picket ships formed a cube rather than a globe, the idea being that a cube gave the heavy-hitting dreadnoughts and battlecruisers at the centre of the formation a wider field of fire that minimised the risk of 'blue-on-blue' collateral damage. To complement the new ship formation, Marciano and Mitchell had also created several new closure manoeuvres that should increase the probability of being able to achieve engagement vectors that would minimise the risk of having mass driver shells piercing the antimatter reserves on enemy vessels. It all looked good in simulations, though the increased duration of the closure manoeuvres in scenarios that had more than one enemy ship were a concern. Not only that, on their own initiative, the two of them had also devised three new fleet formations and closure manoeuvres that reduced the time it took to target the antimatter storage vents on Thrinax cruisers and dreadnoughts by as much as 35%, for situations where the priority was elimination of the enemy force, rather than trying to disable a ship for study.

'That's great work. Now see if you can do it with only half of the friendly casualties.' I had told them. After that, I'd not heard from them in a couple days, and I was wondering whether I'd demanded a little bit too much. There had been no sign of them that evening in the wardroom, so on my way back to my quarters, I ran an ArtEMIS query to check where they were.

RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{ArtEMIS, where are Lieutenant Mitchell and Sub-Commander Marciano?}-
AI.#CFV-B Pallas -{Lieutenant Mitchell and Sub-Commander Marciano may both currently be found in Science Lab #1.}-

I made my way there, thinking that it was unusual for them to be working this late, only to find the door to the lab locked. 

RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{ArtEMIS, are you sure they're here?}-
AI.#CFV-B Pallas -{Yes, Admiral Kincaid.}-

It was a stupid question. ArtEMIS could use the RF transponder of a crewmember's neural link chip to place them within an area of five square centimetres if they were on the ship. I shrugged and used my thumbprint on the ID scanner to override the door lock. When I stepped inside, I immediately understood why the door had been sealed. Mitchell and Marciano were indeed there, intimately entwined. Marciano's hands were deep inside Mitchell's open jumpsuit, and she was sitting on the edge of a workstation with her feet hooked over Marciano's shoulders, in the middle of a loud and intense orgasm. Mitchell gave a long, low moan of pure, unadulterated pleasure, her eyes tightly shut as Marciano kissed the side of her neck. I waited silently a moment for Mitchell's legs to stop trembling before I coughed quietly. The two young officers jerked in surprise and panic.

"Wha-? Oh, fu- Admiral!" Mitchell exclaimed when she opened her eyes. They quickly pushed each other apart and I caught a brief glimpse of the raw bite marks on Marciano's shoulders and chest as they re-sealed their jumpsuits, standing to attention. 
"I'm not sure whether I should be appalled by your lack of discretion, or impressed by your flexibility. I don't think I've ever heard of anyone achieving full penetration while still wearing their uniforms." I chuckled. Mitchell and Marciano both looked like they wanted the deck to open up and swallow them whole. "I think I'm going to go for impressed."
"Uh, Admiral..." Mitchell started, but I cut her off with a wave of my hand.
"You're dismissed, Lieutenant. I'll deal with you tomorrow." I said, before facing Marciano. "Commander... a word, please."

We both stood silently until Mitchell had left.

"Admiral, I-" Marciano started, but I silenced him by pointing for him to take a seat on one of the high stools next to the workstation. I sat opposite him, a dry smile on my face.
"Before you open your mouth and dig that hole you're in any deeper, Commander, I'm not going to report this to Captain Nyhus."
"Thank you, Admiral." Marciano's shoulders sagged in relief.
"Do you love her, Commander?" I looked Marciano in the eye and watched his body language carefully.
"Sir, I... I respect her. Ally's a brilliant scientist, very intelligent, but she's got a great sense of humour, too. We were working, chatting, one thing just led to another and... yeah. I really like her. I like her a lot."
"Good. I'm very protective of my officers, Commander. I'd hate to see one of them hurt by the fleeting affections of a handsome, hot-shot officer who's just looking to have a bit of fun while passing through."
"Sir, it's not like that at all." Marciano looked offended, which I took as a good sign. He seemed sincere enough.
"Marciano, I don't mind my crew having relationships. On the contrary, provided that it doesn't distract them from the job they need to do, it's a positive thing. As long as you can still do the job I've asked you to and you treat Allyson with the respect she deserves, we don't have a problem."
"Thank you, Admiral. I'll keep that in mind."
"Away you go, then. You can give me an update on your progress in the morning."
"Yes, Admiral." Marciano saluted me gratefully and then made quickly for the exit.

I smiled, shaking my head as the hatch closed behind him. I checked to see if Kat was still online, before sending her a message.

RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{You'll never guess who I just caught going at it like tigers in the research lab.}-
CMR. Jmsn#11894118 -{Do tell.}-
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{Allyson Mitchell and Guiseppe Marciano.}-
CMR. Jmsn#11894118 -{Shut up! No way!}-
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{Way.}-
CMR. Jmsn#11894118 -{Why, Ally, you little tart! I didn't think she had it in her. I'm impressed. Marciano's a fox. Good for her!}-
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{You wouldn't think she's his type, would you?}
CMR. Jmsn#11894118 -{Smart is sexy, Gus.}-
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{I know I'm only interested in you for your brain.}
CMR. Jmsn#11894118 -{That's it. No more benefits for you. Ever.}
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{I was kidding!}
CMR. Jmsn#11894118 -{Too late.}-
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{Come on... We both know you'd crack first.}-
CMR. Jmsn#11894118 -{Yeah, I would, actually...}-
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{How are you, anyway? You've been quiet lately.}-
CMR. Jmsn#11894118 -{I'm alright. Just trying to keep on top of the morning sickness.}-
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{I can swap your duty shifts with Hal's, if you want.}
CMR. Jmsn#11894118 -{Would you? That would be great. It'd be nice to be able to report to the bridge not smelling vaguely of puke.}-
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{No problem. Hal's an early bird. He likes the mornings.}
CMR. Jmsn#11894118 -{So I can have a lie-in tomorrow? If I weren't already having babies, I'd offer to have yours.}-
RADM. Kncd#11892166 -{I love you, too. Get some rest.}

First thing the next morning I summoned Lieutenant Mitchell to my Ready Room. She reported in looking terrified that I was about to call time on her career.

"Morning, Admiral." Mitchell tried to put on a brave as she stood to attention before my desk stiffly, anticipating the worst.
"Take a seat, Lieutenant." I instructed her, watching Mitchell's face closely. She was rigid with tension, so I decided to be merciful and put her out of her misery quickly. "First of all, I think you and Commander Marciano have done an excellent job over the past couple of weeks. I'm not surprised you've gotten close. As for what happened last night; I don't expect that from my senior officers, Lieutenant."
"No, sir. It was unprofessional. It won't happen again, sir."
"There's a time and place for that kind of behaviour, Lieutenant." I told her with a smile. "You had the time right, but your judgment on the location needs work."
"Yes, Admiral... Sorry, sir." Mitchell's cheeks turned beet red. She waited for me to chew her out again for her indiscretion. After a minute's silence, it finally sank in that it wasn't going to come. "Is... is that all, Admiral?" Mitchell asked uncertainly.
"We don't get to pick and choose who we're attracted to, Lieutenant. Or when, for that matter." I told Mitchell, who stayed rooted to her seat, not quite able to believe yet that I was going to let the incident go quite so easily. "Just remember to be more careful in the future."
"Yes, Admiral. I will."
"How are the revised simulations coming along?"
"Quite well, Admiral." Mitchell seemed understandably much more comfortable with this topic of conversation. "I don't think we'll be able to reduce casualty rates by the 50% you asked for, but we're getting close to a 30% reduction in scenarios with up to five enemy contacts. We might be able to eke it up to about 35% with a little more tweaking."
"That's very good." I was pleasantly surprised. I hadn't expected them to do that well, as it was the CO's prerogative to routinely ask their crew the impossible. "You two really do make a good team. It's a shame I'm going to have to give Marciano back to Captain Nyhus. Carry on, Lieutenant. We don't reach ε Gemini until 1400 tomorrow, so you've still got some time."
"Thank you, sir." Mitchell saluted me and made her way back to the science lab, wondering how her future career prospects had made it through the meeting intact.
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