“Astra, take a break and let’s grab some coffee,” Rory said as they wrapped calibrating the new drive numbers.
“Sure skipper, anything wrong?” she asked.
“No, no, I just wanted to chat,” Rory said as they stepped into the passenger lounge and grabbed a cup.
“OK, what’s up?” Astra said, sitting.
“Um, how are things with you and Forest?” Rory asked.
“Amazing. Why? Skip, you’re dancing around like a Algarian Jumping Bean, spill before I get concerned.”
Rory sighed. “OK look, you know that Sheila is this bigshot scientist and works with Forest on some secret squirrel research…”
“Yeah,” Astra said. “I do. Totally above my paygrade but I generally know they’re doing some seriously secret shit.”
“OK, well they need me to help them and it means that as part of that I’m likely going to need to sleep with Forest, and I want to make sure that isn’t going to cause a problem with us.”
“OK, I don’t own Forest and he doesn’t own me. I don’t tell him what to do and I’m not going ever put up with him or anyone else telling me what to do. Or who to do,” she added with a twinkle. “Now, putting aside my natural curiosity about secret squirrel sex research, let me ask you something. How long have we been friends?” Astra asked.
“What is it, ten years now?” Rory replied.
“Almost eleven,” Astra nodded. “And we’ve been on how many deployments together?”
“Including our Dragonstone, three.”
“And how many times have you saved my life?”
“I don’t keep score.” Rory said.
“Twice,” Astra replied.
“Any you pulled my ass out of the fire just as many times, so what?”
“So why haven’t we fucked? Don’t you think I’m pretty?”
It was Rory’s turn to blink.
“I mean I know you like girls, you fucked Sheila. Why not me?”
“Well, I mean, you’re my friend, and Dee, and…”
“And Captains don’t fuck crew in the Navy. I understand why. Bad for discipline. But we’re not in the Navy anymore. Besides, you fuck Colin.”
Rory started to speak and Astra overrode her.
“Yeah, yeah all that Letter of Marque crap, but no, we’re NOT in the Navy anymore. We’re partners. Family. Yes you’re the Captain. I don’t obey orders because of discipline, or the traditions of the service or any of that shit. I obey orders because you know your shit, I trust you, there’s no one better at this job than you are and because I love you. Same reason Colin does and same reason Dee does. Hell, for that matter same reason that Rock does.”
Rory blinked back tears. “Uh…”
“So if you need to fuck Forest, go for it. He’s great! Guy’s got a cock that could cut diamonds. Look, I know we’re about to pull out of Nueva Madrid, but when we get back, I want you for an evening and Captain… Rory, I’m going to rock your socks off. In fact, I may take Dee with me if I can pry her off Rock for a couple of hours and really blow your mind.”
Rory gaped for another moment and then started laughing. “Well this conversation did NOT go as I expected, and I’m really glad.”
She leaned over the table and kissed Astra who very happily kissed back.
“OK, when we get back, it’s a date. And I love you too, asshole.” Rory burst out laughing again.
“What’s so funny?”
“A few weeks ago I said we weren’t a ‘flying fornicathon’. I may have been wrong about that.”
Astra laughed too, “Shit, too bad we couldn’t bottle that energy, we’d never have to refuel.”
Rory choked on her coffee, looking up.
“C’mon, boss, it wasn’t that funny,” Astra said, pounding her back.
“Ah, yeah, no it was. Good one,” Rory covered.
A few hours later, Rory called a crew meeting in the passenger lounge.
“Hey boss-lady,” Colin said, raising his hand like a school-boy.
“Yes, Colin?” Rory asked.
“I move that since we’re out of the freight business for the foreseeable future and since this mod is more-or-less permanent now that we just call this ‘the lounge’ or ‘the galley’ since we really don’t have a galley and the food here is a LOT better than the reconstituted crap in what the the shipbuilders claim is a galley. Ma’am.”
“Here, here!” Dee added.
“I see I have no choice if I don’t want to order the grating rigged and lashes all around,” Rory said, amused. “Suggestion adopted.”
“Um, if I may,” Sheila raised her hand.
“Yes?” Rory asked.
“If there’s to be any lashing, I would like to be involved, Captain, ma’am.”
This provoked general laughter.
“I shall handle the whip myself,” Rory said, smiling, “and now, to business please. We’re fully provisioned and will be leaving dock in less than an hour. Forest is going to brief us on where we’re going. Forest?”
“Thank you Captain,” he said in his formal way, “With the information we’ve received from the three incidents involving the Rexes we’ve been able to recognize an energy signature associated with their technology that is rather unique. We’ve found traces of that signature on the planet Sigma 4.”
“Great. Send the fleet in and slag it,” Colin said.
“While that might be the most satisfying result, there are concerns with that plan of action. The first is that while the Sigma system is ostensibly a part of the Federacion, it’s barely one. It’s literally on the edge of Federacion space and is a very recent member.”
“It was an independent world?” Astra asked.
“Up until recently,” Forest agreed. “The Sigma system was a pirate haven. Data smuggling, illegal tech, data mods, you name it, they did it. But we’re assured that’s all behind them.”
“I thought AIs didn’t do sarcasm,” Colin said.
“You would say that, wouldn’t you?” Rock replied.
“I fart in your general direction,” Colin replied.
“I waive my privates at your aunties,” Rock countered.
Rory looked at Dee.
“They were watching the 2Ds again,” she said, shaking her head.
“No one expects the Altarian Inquisition!” They shouted together.
“As I was saying,” Forest went on, mildly, “politically, an armed intervention is a non-starter. Additionally, there are other concerns.”
“Such as?” Rory asked.
“Your experiences have showed that the Rexes work through humans whenever possible. We’ve suspected but are now sure that they’ve moles in the Gubernmiento. The more people we involve in this, the more likely it’s going to leak.”
“So the Dragonstone is going to the Sigma System,” Dee said.
“Precisely,” Forest confirmed. “Sigma 4 to be precise. The main inhabited world is Sigma 3. 4 is a dwarf planet that had been extensively used for manufacturing. Few safeguards were in place and it became an ecological disaster. The planet is barely habitable. Little free water, horrific storms and lingering toxic waste.”
“Will we need suits?” Rory asked.
“Likely not but we should be prepared,” Forest said. “We’ll make landing on Sigma 4. Our cover is we’re a Federacion eco survey team. The readings correspond with a waste dump in the southern hemisphere of the planet.”
“I’m assuming we’re going to need to overland to the site?” Rory asked.
“Yes, There are no suitable landing sites nearby.”
“Ok. We’ll use the pickup. This time everyone goes. We’ll send the ship back into orbit. Rock can you run the ship while also maintaining a presence with us? So if something threatens the ship you can warp out? I don’t want to leave it a sitting duck.”
“Easy-peasy skipper,” Rock confirmed. “Forest taught me a neat trick so that even if I have to warp, I run as two me’s until we’re back together and we rejoin. It’s kinda cool.”
“Alright, good,” Rory nodded. “Then we overland to the site.”
“Armor?” Colin asked.
“We’ll bring it,” she confirmed. “We may need the enviro suite capability of it if it’s super toxic there but I’d rather not wear it if we don’t need it.”
“Concur, but it’s just that when you need it, you need it,” Colin said.
“We go armed. Sidearms for all, blasters for those who qualified,” Rory said.
“Meaning not me,” Sheila said.
“Meaning not you,” Rory replied, amused.
Dragonstone left Nueva Madrid on schedule and dropped into warp.
“Are you ready to try this?” Shiela asked.
“No,” Rory replied as they walked to the med bay, “but it makes sense.”
Forest was already in the med bay.
“So what do we do?” Rory asked.
“You and Forest will make love. I’ll monitor you very closely, both with the instruments in the bay as well as with my own senses. If you give off life energy I’ll try to channel it into a beaker of water. The goal is to raise the temperature of the water.”
“What if I hurt you?” Rory asked.
Sheila removed her sweater. “I’ve got these on,” she indicated her bracelets. “This should allow me to act as a conduit for the energy without being hurt.”
“Well Forest, you ready to do your bit for science?” Rory asked, unzipping her coverall.
“I’m a dedicated researcher,” he replied.
“Jupiter Optimus Magnus, this is awkward,” Rory laughed. "I think I just forgot how to do it."
“Just kiss him,” Sheila suggested.
She did. It was a bit odd at first but only at first.
“You’re good at this,” Rory sighed.
Sheila laughed, “He is.”
It was hard for Rory to shed the awkwardness of being some kind of lab rat. Being on the treatment bed in the med bay both made it harder and also, in a bit of a kinky way, made it a little sexier. Forest was indeed skilled and she genuinely liked him so her body responded to his touches fairly quickly. Forest brought her off orally as Sheila tried to be as unobtrusive as possible up by her head.
Rory was definitely giving off life energy, the readings matched those she had been able to generate herself. She attempted to channel it into heating a beaker of water. She could feel the energy moving through her but she was only able to affect the temperature of the water a few degrees.
“Don’t stop,” Sheila told them.
“Uh, I think that’s my line,” Rory quipped, breathlessly. “Forest, come up here and just fuck me."
Forest climbed onto her and slipped his engorged member into her, thrusting smoothly.
“Oh yeah, like that. Only harder. Yeah, yeah! Give it to me!”
Forest pulled her legs up and back and shifted position to get some leverage and started thrusting quick and hard, their skin making wet slapping sounds as their pelvises came together.
“Yeah! Yeah! Like that! Give it to me! Yeah! OH!!!”
Rory gasped and groaned as she came hard. Sheila felt the life-energy flow through her and into the water. It quickly came to a boil as Forest groaned himself, cumming. Sheila saw the amount of energy coming from Rory increase noticeably but felt nothing from Forest.
“I just got some fascinating data!” Sheila exclaimed.
“Yeah I just got some fascinating data too,” Rory quipped, laughing. “Shit, if bio class was like this in the Esquela I might have paid closer attention.”