Chapter Two: Space Station Duo
"When the UASE V1 retrieved its full compliment, Commander Corrolles first showed her hand. Ignored, she began to believe herself safe from the rumors of enslavement of her people. She would learn her lesson, and come to regret that certainty."
Admiral Greyson and Captain Mathis of the Space Station Duo greeted Captain Gireau with back slaps and congratulations. Gireau escorted them and the Duo's own executive officer to the cargo hold, where he revealed the months' food stores and other goods he brought. "Commander Thoreau, please see that these are delivered post-haste."
Melanie saluted them and set to work, overseeing the Star Killer's and the SS Duo supply officer's teams. "Bring that transport truck in here. Careful; you don't want to be responsible for losing the five tons of goods in that crate, Graves!"
Greyson and Mathis waved Gireau into step with them. "Welcome to the Space Station Duo, Captain Gireau."
"Captain Gireau's infamy had spread all the way to Space Station Duo. He would spend the next seven years cleaning up his act, getting ready for the honor of joining himself to a great Lady. Of course, he didn't know that when she came aboard. It would be a secret he'd have to pry free; however, it was a poorly kept secret, as she would show her hand before they retrieved the Remillions."
Kevin Limn and Teresa Mays wandered the upper level of the SS Duo. "What do you think it's like, the United Alliance Space Exploration Vehicle One?"
Kevin chuckled at the pretty brunette beside him. "I heard they call it the Star-Killer."
Mays shook her head. "Well, that certainly inspires confidence. Do you think the rumors about the captain are true?"
Kevin waggled his eyebrows at her. "His appetite for women, you mean? Or that he single-handedly won the Battle of Terrors by disobeying direct orders? Or that he's not really on a mission of aid and peacekeeping, but that he's being sent to dominate unexplored worlds?"
Teresa blushed. "Th - the Battle of Terrors." She hesitated and Kevin waited, unsurprised at her next words. "But - do you think he has a healthy appetite?"
He burst out laughing at her wide eyes. "Legendary. I've heard it's legendary." Teresa swatted his arm and strode down the crisscrossing halls overlooking the docking bays.
"Which one is it, Kev?" He stood behind her and rested a hand on her shoulder, pointing below. The ship was massive, and looked all-black. The closer they looked, though, they could pick out the almost imperceptible blend of colors. It was so dark, and non-reflective, that it would look like it had snuffed out the stars as it passed by. Kevin pulled her back into step and led her away from the windows.
"Tomorrow, Mays. We leave the Space Station for the first time." He meandered into the Duo's library and led her to a seat. Handing her a book, he grinned. "Everything you need to know about the Battle of Terrors. It's an original work, so handle with care." Mays shot him a startled glance then reached out for the bound news releases. Kevin laughed and let go, leaving her to her investigation.
As Gireau strode with determination to the docking berth he heard the grumblings, the rumors and whispers about his ship; the ship his crew dubbed the StarKiller. Already his ship had been tasked with keeping and enforcing the peace between peoples. Alien, human, anything Alliance governed, his ship and crew intervened as requested. The farther out they traveled, the farther the ship's name became known. Gireau saw no reason to put to rest the stories, no matter if they were impossible feats credited to his crew. He planned to use his name and his ship to instill fear and obedience in new and old allied planets. For now, he would scope out the new crew members, their families, their friends, and their lives aboard the space station. With that thought, he went in search of a filling meal.
Captain Mathis cornered Gireau on the restaurant level at many a military family's favorite eatery, a multi-ethnic food source. "Captain, are you certain that I cannot send our station psychologist with you? At least for the colonists." Twenty years was a long time to be away from a stable family base. The crew, civilians, families, and passengers aboard the UASE V1 would lose all sense of reason and ability without a firm psychological and spiritual foundation. Mathis was willing to assign his own station psychologist to Gireau's StarKiller.
The captain of the ship in question frowned in thought. "I see the value of a psychologist, with such a long journey ahead of us." He cocked his head to the side. "Dr. Hopper has served me faithfully for the last five years in many capacities and psychologist is one of them. I believe we'll be fine."
"You know your core crew, of course, but what about the junior officers?" Mathis eyed the other man warily. The captain of the UASE V1 was still relatively young, and barely tried. The Terrors had been absolute luck.
Gireau stared at the stars, considering what he knew to be true of his new people. "I hope that I am an approachable captain. If they can't trust their captain and their ship's doctor, then who do they trust?" He forced a grin to his face, not wanting to appear overconfident but also not wanting to come across as too weak.
They turned towards the hostess waiting to seat them and Mathis motioned the young woman into action. "Very well, Gireau. I can recommend a good psychologist if you change your mind."
Gireau nodded at the menu he held in his hand. "There is one thing I do need." He met Mathis' knowing grin. "I've served several tours now. I don't remember the food ever tasting that bad." He grimaced in remembrance.
Mathis chuckled. "You wouldn't. For a ship that large, your recycled materials, storage needs, stocked goods - they're all geared towards nutrition, not palate. My personal chef's niece just graduated culinary school. She wants to open her own restaurant in a few years. Take her on; the experience will be good for her. Do you have galleys and canteens on every deck?"
Gireau shook his head. "No. Our lower decks are reserved for the galleys, recreation areas, eateries, and the like. Canteens are also located there, but also scattered throughout the ship. Each family suite is fully equipped with its own kitchen, though experience has taught us that most families prefer to eat as one larger unit."
Mathis rested his chin on his forefingers for a moment. "I'll have Pierre gather a small crew for you. Hire among the civilians for serving staff. Keep them well-fed and you'll keep morale up."
Gireau ordered lamb chops and new potatoes. "Our conservatory comes fully stocked, but Dr. Lee informed me that a productive garden may need several years to take hold and be a viable fresh food source. I believe potatoes are on her list of hardy plants." He handed the menu to the server.
Mathis nodded. "Potatoes. When we first moved here, we were given crates of potatoes and some other hardy stock. It was lean times for a while. Now, all the food you see here is either produced or traded for within this star system."
Gireau felt hope take root. With a halfway decent chef and good staff, maybe the crew's complaints about their nutritional options would die down. He dug in, eating a hearty meal for the first time in several months. Midway through the meal, Mathis' comm chimed and he excused himself. Gireau waved him off and finished the food at leisure.
Half-an-hour later, Gireau's jaw dropped as a beautiful, buxom creature sat at the table. "Captain? Joy Nuveaux. My uncle sent me to interview with you."
Things were definitely looking up for the crew of the StarKiller!
This was the opportunity of a lifetime. With orders direct from President Green herself, Commander Leo Phelps, the Star-Killer's new Chief Security Officer, knew what everyone said. But 20 years - away from home, away from everyone he ever knew - his friends, his family....he watched the children on the lower level of the living quarters of the space station chase each other. He would miss this.
At 19 years old, he'd taken his assignment aboard the International Space Station. At 25, he'd traveled to the first finished United Alliance Space Station. Space Station Duo had put in for a Security Chief on his 30th birthday. He'd been here for 9 years. He'd seen these children born, watched friends get married. He'd fought in several skirmishes, and he'd been on the frontlines when the Terronians had attacked Earth and the surrounding colonies. The ISS had been destroyed in that war. He'd been reassigned to the SSD after the war, resuming his original posting, and had mourned the loss of many comrades. They'd celebrated their lives together. He would miss them. He would miss this.
Commander Phelps moved aside as three children ran up to a waif in a uniform. She was delicate, almost too pretty, and such sorrow filled her eyes that he hurt for her. She smiled at the children and knelt to hear their tales. The sorrow gradually faded as she chuckled at a child's simple joke. The girl grimaced as a heavily pregnant woman waddled by; reaching out a gentle hand, the girl spoke in lowered tones. The woman frowned, rubbing at her sore back. The girl gestured towards the medical suite located on each level. The woman gave a sharp nod and barely took two steps before collapsing, the waif only just catching her.
Phelps jumped to help, lifting the laboring woman. "Please, take her to the medical bay. Her contractions are too close and the babe is in distress."
The waif lifted clear blue eyes, imploring anyone to lend aid. She smiled at the woman, stroking the hand clasped in her own. "All will be well. This man, here -" Her eyes widened and she flushed. "The Commander, will take you directly to surgery. They'll save you and the babe, if you just hold on a little while longer." The mother-to-be looked from the girl to Phelps and he rose, taking three long strides, ignoring the blood and life waters staining his once-pristine uniform.
"Here, girl. Attend me." The waif hesitated and he shook his head. A Good Samaritan with limited willingness. He snorted under his breath then halted as she ran forward to grab a hovering gurney. She guided his arms, as he couldn't see over his burden. He watched the doctors rush out, surrounding them. He saw the laboring mother's fear-filled eyes flit from face to face. He noticed the lines of strain bracketing the mouth of the waif as the fear faded and the woman breathed deeply.
"That's right. Calm. All will be well. The doctors will tend you now. All will be well. Your baby will be fine." The doctors scowled at the child, the girl in uniform playing at war, and shooed her away. Phelps followed behind her, intrigued.
He wasn't entirely sure, but he felt that he'd just witnessed an impossibility. It seemed that the girl had taken the woman's fear and pain. She neared the docking bay and saluted the officer on deck. Phelps moved aside, allowing a transport cart passage. He would find out more about the waif. It appeared as though he would have plenty of time to learn her secrets. The ship she boarded was the very same ship he'd just been assigned to. He clapped his hands together and rubbed them briskly. He'd miss the Space Station Duo, but he now had a mystery to solve. Why had President Green suddenly assigned me away? Who was the mystery waif, and what were her intentions for the ship she served? Was the captain aware of her capabilities? Was President Green? Leo grinned to himself. This would be exciting. He spun on his heel, now eager to retrieve his orders and have his transfer approved; he set out at once to find Captain Mathis.
The watcher stalked his prey. She moved with grace, a fluid motion in every step. He observed her from a distance, imagining himself her protector, her savior, and her guide. He sneered when he realized another man had taken an interest in her. He snarled as the man jumped to her rescue. He faded into the shadows of the dimly lit hallways and corridors, trailing his prey and her new friend. He would make life a living hell for whomever interfered in his plans. He hadn't lied, cheated, and killed his way to the top for nothing. Just a little longer. He could bide his time. The powers that be had promised him his heart's desire; he needed to be patient. Whatever game the girl played, her ignorance he felt sure to be an affectation, he would play along. The victory, the win, would be even sweeter for it. In time, they would rule the galaxy, side by side.