Jareth brought in a tray of sandwiches and drinks for the group and started setting up on the sideboard.
“Oh, Jareth! Thank you so much for thinking of this. I am still struggling with the time,” Danielle said.
“No worries. It takes a while,” he said. “Let me know if you need anything else.” He smiled and then left the room to all the women calling thank you after him.
“Okay, everyone grab something,” said Danielle.
After everyone had food and sat back down, Danielle continued as they ate. “As I see it, the most pressing issues are medical. The maternal death rate is outrageous, followed closely by the childhood death rate. The maternal death rate is close to fifty percent. Only 269 of the 487 children born in this fleet have survived. The third issue is preventative healthcare. There is none. The fourth issue is the conception rate is far too low. Only 1100 pregnancies have happened with over six thousand couples. Even taking into account the staggered arrival of the females, this is far too low. Let’s start with the easiest. There are three things we need to find out to determine the cause,” said Danielle.
“Such as?” asked Emily.
“First of all, are the women using some kind of unofficial birth control? I would bet my eyeteeth they are. We are forced into mating, so it would not surprise me. There are herbs that act as abortifacients and suppressives. Make sure, when you ask, that they know that I will not ban it. There are conditions for its use. For example, if the female has not had periods for at least five years or has been with their partner for less than a year, they should use it. Both conditions set up a woman for pre-eclampsia and contribute to poor maternal outcomes. A woman should also be able to space her children at least 18 months apart for the healthiest mother and baby. Abstinence or the Rhythm method never work,” explained Danielle.
“I also need you to check hydroponics for lemons, parsley, ginger, feverfew, rosemary, sage, mugwort, Queen Anne’s lace seeds, pennyroyal, angelica, rue, tansy, and juniper root, Stoneseed root, thistle, Smartroot, rutin, black yam, cohash, and wild carrot. I will send the list to you because it is just too many to remember. Please be clear that we only want to know what is in use. Everything can have side effects, even herbs.”
“What else?” asked Jada.
“Get details about their diets. I am suspecting that they are not getting enough of either iron, folic acid, vitamin B12, or omega-3s. I know insufficient selenium and CQ10 affected my sister. Find me a nutritionist if you can. I pissed off the only one I know of because I couldn’t break her mating,” said Danielle.
“Let me guess. First night?” chuckled Linnea.
“Yep. And boy, was she unhappy,” said Danielle.
There were lots of nods.
“Okay, the third item we need to check is if they are even having sex or if they are, are they douching afterwards? I based my number of expected births on an average of sex twice a week. The numbers are just not gelling. The ancient Egyptians used to douche with vinegar after sex to kill the sperm or used half a lemon like a cervical cap. Check with the Vinters on your ships to see if they have a little black market going,” Danielle told them. “Again, I am not stopping it. I just need to know.”
“Anything else?” asked Emily.
“We need a list of children, genders, ages, and if they got any childhood immunizations on Earth. I am expecting only those children who came with their mother to have gotten them. We apparently do not have an immunization program since the previous Medical Director did not understand what I was talking about, so we are going to have to figure that out,” Danielle said. “Our mandate is the survival of the humanoid species. If we do not tackle medical first, it is a lost cause. Anyone interested in learning to be in the Medical Corps needs to be flagged.”
“Oh. Last thing,” Danielle said as everyone was getting up from their seats. “I need to have the resumes or Circa Vita or every Earthling over the next three days. I do not guarantee that roles will be changed, but we definitely need to re-look at the assignments. We all spend entirely too much time at work not to be happy,” said Danielle. “Once we get them together, let’s meet again to review what may need to be changed. Some of you have education that can be better served doing other things. The men are very used to military mind set about women’s roles. Some of their decisions make sense, but not all. Please sort them by job type or education to make review faster. Especially flag medical. That is the most critical issue,” said Danielle. “I will send out the meeting schedule. We will meet at least weekly to tackle whatever gets thrown at us as a group.”
“Why as a group?” asked Zoya.
“Because we are stronger that way. I doubt these men are any different from those on our planet. Have you ever read the story about the Peloponnesian War?” asked Danielle. Only Linnea laughed.
“What the hell is that?” asked Zoya, glaring.
“Linnea? Can you tell them?” asked Danielle, raising an eyebrow at her.
“Sure. The women in ancient Greece got so sick and tired of their men running off to war, leaving everything to them only to come back for a long weekend to knock them up and leave again, that they developed a strategy. They cut the men off from sex. Every female, including the prostitutes. The men caved to their demands to end the war,” chuckled Linnea.
“That is a scorched earth option, but there you go,” laughed Danielle.
“Interesting battle strategy,” said Spartak, looking at Evgen after he turned off the video.
“Yes, it is,” he agreed. “One I am pretty sure would work.”
* * *
Danielle and Bethany were in the gym one floor above their suite, in a sparring match after warming up on the treadmill. Erica walked on one of the treadmills at a leisurely pace, watching.
“That’s it. Step into it and keep your arm close to your body as you jab through,” said Danielle, repositioning Bethany’s hand. “Okay, let’s try that again.”
Bethany repeated the action as instructed.
“Good. When you jab forward, shift your weight onto your front foot. This will let you put more power behind the jab,” she instructed. “Speed comes with practice. Focus on technique.”
“If I have to give a shot to the balls, how is it different from this?” asked Bethany, continuing to practice.
“That is a two-part answer. The actual hit is just angling to that spot. The harder part is not telegraphing what you intend to do. Men will protect their jewels at all costs if they know that is what you intend,” explained Danielle.
“Yes, we will,” said a deep, masculine voice. “Of course, assuming that jewels means what I think it does.”
All three women snapped their heads towards the large man leaning against the wall.
Spartak stood, leaning casually with his arms crossed in front of his expansive chest, his eyes glued to Danielle. “Nice to see you in something other than your uniform,” he acknowledged. “Where did you find those?” he asked, nodding to the yoga pants and sports bra they were both wearing.
“A significantly long and irritating argument with the dispenser in my suite. I finally had to have it look up exercise wear in the Earth archives and forward it to the dispenser. The uniform is too heavy and hot to exercise in,” Danielle said. “The women also want more clothing options when not on duty. Most of us do not like sleeping gowns and would prefer to wear something comfortable when off-duty.”
“We have not had complaints before,” he grumbled.
“You have since the first Earthlings arrived, but they never made it to you. Jareth thought it trivial,” she told him. “I checked.”
He harrumphed as he looked at her.
“This is a simple fix with little impact to the Fleet. You can limit it to in-suite if needed. I have Esmee creating some designs for your approval for casual and exercise clothing. I will get your sign-off before we make them. It will help the Earthlings feel a part of things,” she said, ignoring his grumblings. “Why are you here?” she asked, eyeing him suspiciously.
“I checked in with Aengus and he said you were here training. I want to see what you were doing for that,” he said, shrugging.
She looked at him to see if there was another agenda. Deciding that she didn’t know him well enough to know if he was bullshitting, she said, “I was teaching Bethany the take down that I did the other day.”
He nodded. “Show me,” he said.
“All right,” Danielle answered. “Bethany, stand facing me,” she started.
“No. Show me directly,” he said and moved directly in front of her, lightly moving Bethany out of his way.
“Okay,” she said, standing there with her hands on her hips. He should have melted under her glare.
“Well, do something,” he growled.
“Krav Maga is largely defensive. Are you sure about this?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes. I am a threat to your safety. Neutralize me,” he baited. “Unless you cannot.”
“Remember that you did ask for this,” she said, frowning at him. She turned to Bethany and said, “I will talk you through this after.”
Bethany nodded and stared at her with rapt attention.
She turned back to Spartak. She stepped diagonally forward, lifted her knee as she turned to her left slightly, kicking backwards at the cuff of his left leg with her right one. She then raised her leg behind her at the same time as she forced his weight forward as she grabbed his arms. She then took the leg she had lifted behind her and swept around his right leg, striking him in the lower part of the calf muscle near the Achilles tendon and knocking it out from under him. He hit the mat hard. It was over in a matter of seconds.
He looked up at her, surprised.
“By stepping forward into him, it forces him to shift his weight and reduces the advantage that he has with his upper body strength by reducing the area he has to work with. By slightly turning while kicking backwards, it forces him to shift more of his weight towards his front foot as he loses contact with the ground with his back foot. Swinging your leg around gives you power when you hit his right leg. He is already off balance and moving forward. The power of the sweep keeps him going forward if you hit near the Achilles tendon when doing it. If you hit near the knee joint on that side, it just bends. They might fall, but then they might not,” she explained. “Once he is down, you can decide if you want to continue to attack or move away from the danger zone. Make sense?” she asked.
Spartak wordlessly picked himself up from the mat. He looked her up and down, trying to assess her abilities.
Without warning, Spartak lunged at her.
Danielle side-stepped his lunge, so she ended up slightly behind him. She then put one hand on his hip, pulling his pelvis closer to her core and slammed the other into the middle of his back, pushing hard between his shoulder blades as she bent her knees. The leveraging motion between her two hands and his own momentum forced Spartak slightly up on his toes, allowing her to lift him a little at the same time she pushed. She kept her upper body straight and did not bend forward. He landed hard on his knees. “From here you can finish pushing him down using mostly his own momentum and putting your knee in the middle of his back and riding him to the floor, or you can use the opportunity to run,” she explained. “This was basically what I did the other day. Once I had him on his knees, it was pure leverage.”
Spartak jumped up warily and spun facing her.
“What happened to him when you led him away?” she asked him.
“He was punished,” growled Spartak, who then shook off his irritation at being bested.
“What do you mean punished?” Danielle asked.
Spartak sighed. “He was whipped and then put in solitary. I specifically ordered him to stay away from you women and he ignored a direct order.”
“Oh, God,” blanched Danielle.
“What?” he asked. “They had already pulled him out of rotation to meet a potential mate because he kept getting into brawls with his squad members over who got first crack. He sneaked, thinking he could get around my orders. I don’t tolerate insubordination in the ranks.”
She just stared at him. She knew it wasn’t a democracy, but the reality of it was harsh. She opted not to say anything.