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Introduction:

I have been playing. I will accept bug reports and bitch sessions.
Ticonderoga – Episode 1: Adrift

Cast of Characters;

***

Name: Phillip Irving Graves

Rank: Captain - commanding officer

Call Sign: Pig

History: He was born on old earth in the area known as the Western Territories of North America. As a youth he was a trouble maker this, being virtually unheard of in his century, forced the military to deal with him. He was given a choice. Join the United Planets peace keeping and research force or be remanded for mental conditioning to fix his behavioral problems. His career in the military was a great example of how not to advance. After twenty years he was still only a petty officer third class. That was when he was caught pulling off his worst infraction yet. Fleet Admiral Tigrat caught him in bed with his wife, and both of his daughters, at the same time. Phillip was doomed to go back to base rank again. But instead the admiral made him an offer. Find a wife, get promoted to captain, with a ship, and go deep.

Description: He is six foot tall, with jet black hair and brown eyes. His body type is thin and muscular with tan skin tone.

Mate: Mrs. Millishia Jaunu Steppen-Graves

***

Name: Mrs. Millishia Jaunu Steppen-Graves

Rank: Commander - Ships science officer and fourth in command

Call Sign: Marijuana

History: She was born a simple farm girl in the Midwest Territories of North America. She led an exemplary life, with no problems, until she came of age. Then she found she had a taste for bad boys. To try and curb her appetite for self destructive behavior, she joined the service. Her career was in good order and she was happy after five years but she longed to go deep. The only problem was you had to be married and no one was asking. There was also the problem of Phillip; she thought he was just dreamy. He was everything she wanted in a bad boy, but his career meant he would never even manage to make it into space. She only had one more rank to go then she could go. That would take another six months. Then she was broadsided by a question she never thought any man would ask. “Will you marry me I need a wife before I can go deep?”

Description: She is a five foot six inch tall, blond haired, blue eyed beauty, with medium sized breasts. Her body style is lithe and athletic.

Mate: Phillip Irving Graves

***

Name: James Mitchell Penzo

Rank: Master Chief Petty Officer - Chief engineer and mechanic.

Call Sign: Jazz hands

History: He was born on the emerald isle of Europe. He was a good kid and went to college. After school he joined the service to set up a little nest egg. There he met his wife and fell in love. He had a promising career ahead of him, and then everything hit the fan. He discovered the medicinal effects of the engine solvent. Just a little nip of it could make any man happy. He stayed happy a lot after that. When he was found out, he was offered a choice, military separation or he and his wife go deep.

Description: He is five foot eight inches tall with dark green eyes and brown hair. His body type is thick with just a slight spare tire.

Mate: Leafa Tiski Mikia-Penzo

***

Name: Mrs. Leafa Tiski Mikia-Penzo

Rank: Senior Chief Petty Officer - Chief of off ship security.

Call Sign: Demoness

History: She was born on her native world of Liskia. She is strong and fast and excelled in her career as military police, until her husband introduced her to the solvent. Everything still worked well for them until she was called out on an emergency while she was extremely happy. Six weeks later she boarded her new vessel, The UP Ticonderoga.

Description: She is six foot two inches tall. Her race has red skin and hair with light grey eyes. Many people say they look like the mythical demons, right down to the two tufts of hair on their foreheads that resembled horns. Her body type is thin and lithe with a well defined muscle tone.

Mate: James Mitchell Penzo

***
Name: Malcolm Leroy Libbshitz

Rank: Lieutenant Junior Grade - xeno-biologist.

Call Sign: Buster

History: He is a native of Ling, a human colony, joined the service to go deep, he wanted the life of an explorer, he was also married and his wife joined at the same time looking to ship out with him. He is an expert in xeno-botany and xeno-zoology and loves to study new species of both plants and animals.

Description: He is five foot eight inches tall with mousy blonde hair and blue eyes. His body type is thin and non muscular.

Mate: Melonie Michelle Russel-Libbshitz

***

Name: Melonie Michelle Russel-Libbshitz

Rank: Lieutenant Junior Grade – ships doctor.

Call Sign: Melons

History: She is a native of Ling, a human colony, and was married to her college sweetheart. She joined the service to go deep with him.

Description: She is five foot six inches tall with platinum blonde hair and very large breasts. He body type is voluptuous.

Mate: Malcolm Leroy Libbshitz

***

Name: Lorka Dumont Willock

Rank: Commander - Security officer, second in command.

Call Sign: Mountain

History: He is a Tithian warrior. Born on Tithia and joined the service to get a chance to do battle in this time of peace. He is very popular with the ladies because his race believes that love play should be as tender as war is violent.

Description: At well over seven feet tall and four hundred and fifty pounds of solid muscle he is by far the largest member of the crew, except for his wife. His black skin looks like a shadow come to life. The only break in his darkness is his red eyes.

Mate: Tanka Lundt Cravis-Willock

***

Name: Tanka Lundt Cravis-Willock

Rank: Commander - Weapons officer, third in command

Call Sign: Everest

History: She is a Female Tithian warrior. She joined the service with her husband, in the hopes of finding battle. She is a foot taller than her husband, and a hell of a lot meaner.

Description: She is eight feet four inches tall with shadow black skin and red eyes. Her body type is extremely muscular.

Mate: Lorka Dumont Willock


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I stared at the blank view screen in front of me. My ship had been adrift for three days. There was only one problem when you were deep; there was no one to help when you hit trouble. The nearest ship to us was two months travel away. It had taken us two years to get this far out.

“Going deep” is a euphemism for getting lost. We were sent out here to find inhabitable planets that we could colonize or resources we could mine for. The fun part, the rules say the first crewman to set foot on a planet gets to name the planet.

The united races had managed to colonize or mining camp every rock for sixty light years around earth. We were one hundred and twenty out. It took about a year to travel sixty light years with the snort drive as it was called. It got its name because the matter and antimatter explosions inside it made it sound like it was snorting. We could put up with the annoying sound to travel at sixty times the speed of light. The problem right now is our snorter had a stopped up nose.

I thumbed the communications panel on my chair to life. “Jazz hands, What the hell is taking so long down there? If you are nipping at the solvent again I’m going to take you off of relief rotation for two weeks. ”

“Not a chance, Pig, I am trying to repair the damn damage those cockbiter rats did to the engine wiring. The fucking little beasties chewed through every light wire in the main fire control cabinet.”

“How long before we have engine power again?”

“Another day at least, we have over a thousand wires to replace in this cabinet.”

“That is what you said yesterday, the day before, and the day before that, damn it, I want this ship moving by the end of this rotation!”

“Captain, even if I get this repaired that is no guarantee we will be able to move. We have no idea what else they damaged before we could kill the little bastards. Go take a relief break and let me do my damn job.”

I stalked off of the bridge. The damn lifts were down so I had to climb down the access ladders to get to the crew decks. I guess we could call ourselves lucky; those little varmints had not reached the life support equipment yet. Twenty cockbiter rats had managed to chew through our main power control, lift control systems, helm control interlink, navigation, and engine fire control in less than twenty four hours. Twenty rats had crippled a ship, with crew of one hundred people on board. Only fate knows what else was damaged. Jazz Hands was right I needed stress relief; it was time to head to the crew lounge.

There is a major set of rules about going deep. The first one is all crew members must be mated couples. The second rule is all relationships are open on the ship. When off duty personnel need stress relief any off duty person of the opposite gender is available to them, unless they are in their sleep cycle. Any same sex liaisons are not forbidden but are open to be refused. Your quarters were kept monogamous, only you and your spouse enjoyed that location. The lounge is where you go to arrange liaisons with other crew members. That is also where the “training” rooms are. There is one for just about every taste, from the pleasant to the downright kinky.

Rank has its privilege as well. Command officers are allowed to take stress breaks during duty if there is no pressing need for their attentions. As of right now, there was no pressing need for me. I could not command this ship to move if I were a god.

I no sooner walked into the lounge when Melonie saw me and came over. I knew what she was after, she loved my oral techniques. “Need some stress relief, captain?”

“At least a week’s worth, Melons.” I said as I took her by the arm and guided her towards the bar. “I believe the lady is drinking a cobalt breaker, and I would enjoy a calum tea.” I told the bartender as I caressed melons stomach. I always enjoyed her very large breast and today would be no exception.

When we received our drinks, she took a sip from hers then asked, “Floaty?”

“That sounds like a wonderful idea,” I nodded towards the one of the zero-G rooms. When we entered the room I adjusted the controls on the holographic display to make it look like we were in the clouds. I had seen enough stars already today. All of them stars I couldn’t reach. We attached the lids to our glasses so our drinks would not float out and then I touched the activate button. Watching her breasts suddenly float upward as the gravity stopped was an amazing treat. We floated in the air together as I started to undress her. As was standard when in the lounge, her clothing was simple and easy to remove. She wore a pullover shirt and miniskirt with no panties on underneath. Her shoes were simple slippers very comfortable and quite attractive. The slight static charge caused by pulling her shirt over her head caused her hair to stand out like a hallo of platinum blond silk. By a lot of standard this woman would be considered overweight. She weighed about twenty pounds over ideal weight for her five foot six inch frame. To me the extra softness just made her voluptuous.

Once her clothes were floating around the room like cast off feathers, she started to undress me. My uniform was a little more complicated to remove. It was a tough button up pants and shirt, with a jacket over it, all in black. The shoes were polished perfection in black natural leather. Underneath it all was my regulation underwear, also black. Add the dark gray belt and chest bandolier as well as my captain’s hat to the whole thing and I looked like a trained monkey. Soon all of these clothes were floating around the room as well.

I pulled Melons to me and began to kiss the skin of her neck and chest. This elicited several moans of delight. Her legs wrapped around my stomach and squeezed me hard enough to be slightly painful. She began to flex her hips rubbing her pert bottom on the top of my cock. I was very tempted to take what she was offering right then but I had other ideas. Zero-G has one real advantage to making love on any surface. I guided her legs out from around me as she pouted with those full lips that were just made for what I had in mind. Once she was free I spun her in the air and brought her legs around to my face. There in front of my eyes was a small landing strip of platinum blond hair that pointed right to the object of my desire. I moved my head forward and inhaled the fragrance of her arousal. With deliberate slowness I extended my tongue and began to make small circles through that sweet landing strip.

I felt her mouth as she started to lick and kiss along the shaft of my cock. Her mouth and lips were delicious warmth on my skin. The vibrations of her moans made my cock jump and twitch as I touched the tip of my tongue to her clit and flipped it quickly back and forth. I nearly forgot what I was doing when I felt my cock slide down her throat. She was so smooth and hot on the inside. I moved both of my hands around her delightful bottom and started wetting my fingers in the honey flowing from her tight cunt. When I felt her legs starting to tighten around my head, I slid two fingers from one hand into her tight pussy. My middle finger of my other hand pushed into her silky asshole. I started pumping my fingers in and out of her at different speeds. Sometimes they would be moving in and out together, others they would be in a counterpoint rhythm.

I felt her stomach begin to tighten and vibrate against my chest. Then her legs slammed shut on my head like a clamp. Her flow was floating in droplets around my head as she orgasmed. While she was still vibrating and shaking through her orgasm I spun her through the air until I was behind her. I plunged the length of my rock hard cock into her from behind. She let out a moan that was bordering on a scream. I began to pound with all my might as we floated in the air. Then we both arched our backs as we thundered into our orgasms together.

Ten minutes later we left the floaty room freshly showered. As we exited the room, I set the controls to clean and sterilize the room. I kissed Melons and left her drinking and smiling at the bar. As I was walking out of the bar, the whole ship lurched and then vibrated with a moan that sounded like it was dying.

I slapped the communications panel at the doorway. “Jazz Hands, are we moving?”

“Yes sir, but not under our own power any more.” James answered.

“What do you mean any more?”

“We got the system online, and fired the engines up. They immediately shut down. It seems our inertia control system is down as well.”

“Security I want every one of those damn rats killed again.”

“Sir, we have no weapons control, would you like my wife and I to throw rocks at their floating corpses?” Mountain said back facetiously.

“No, throw Buster at them; he’s the prick that brought those fucking rats on my ship.”

“How soon, Jazz Hands?”

“We are looking at the damage now but I say at least a day.”

“You always say a day. I want this damn ship moving under its own power by end of cycle or I am going to give you to Everest and Mountain as a target dummy!”

“Yes sir. Have you gotten that stress relief yet?”

“No, and I am looking for your wife right now, so move it.”

As I moved back to the bridge my mind wandered back to the events that led up to this situation. We had found a planet with no beacon on it. It was unexplored. Scans showed it to be a lush oxygen rich planet with plant and animal life abundant on the surface and in the seas. I organized a landing party to investigate the surface.

***

The party, consisting of Marijuana, Demoness, Buster, Melons, Mountain and myself, left the ship in a shuttle. Several orbital passes and scans later we determined a rich area to land and investigate.

It was a soft touchdown nothing at all out of the ordinary. There was the scramble for positions to see who could make it through the door first. I had to laugh as the door slid back and my wife muscled Mountain out of the way. I walked down the ramp to see my wife dancing in a field of penises. Yes I said that right, all of the plants in the area were short maybe twelve inches tall and shaped like that portion of the male anatomy.

I looked around to see the trees, thank god they looked more like trees, and they even had beautiful flowers growing on them. A closer look at the flowers made me think I had lost it. They looked like pink penises with two balls hanging underneath them. I thought it was pretty appropriate that my wife would get to name a world covered in penis shaped plants.

“My god it is a world of dicks!” my wife exclaimed as she looked around.

“So plant the beacon, give it a name and register it. The beacon will send back the info via short space.” I said as I walked down and resisted the urge to smell any of the flowers.

My wife set up the beacon station, as the rest of us looked around.

“I don’t want to bend over on this planet.” Mountain said quietly beside me, making me laugh.

“It does have a certain menacing presence doesn’t it?”

Buster was the first one to see an animal. It was floating gently on the breeze towards one of the trees. It had large flat wings with bladders underneath them. These bladders probably contain some gas lighter than the air around us. By paddling its feet it would move through the air like a duck swam across the water. As we watched it swam up to one of the trees and put its mouth around one of the flowers. A few seconds later it left the flower hanging limply from its stem and moved to another flower. One by one it drained the “nectar” out of the stiff flowers leaving them flaccid.

“We need a couple of those birds on the ship,” Buster said as we watched. “I bet we could take them back to UP space and sell them for a fortune.”

“Get some samples for study, we will stay overnight and take everything back in the morning.” I told Buster and his wife. They set about collecting plant and animal samples. They caught one of the birds but it died in less than an hour in the cage. They must need to eat constantly.

Buster gave me a report a couple hours later. The flowers on the trees produced nectar that made the shaft stiff. When the Bladder Winged Cocksucker Birds would suckle at the flower they would empty out the nectar and take some of the pollen away on their mouths. Those moving from flower to flower accomplished fertilization for the plant. The limp flower would take about an hour to generate a full load of nectar again. There were several other animals and plants that he reported on.
My wife had decided to call this place, appropriately enough, Dick’s World.

As evening started to darken the skies we saw several, rat like, creatures come out of holes in the ground. They started to climb up the trees. We watched as they moved to the ends of the limbs and bit the flowers off the trees and ate them. Every man in the group cringed watching this. I think Mountain even turned a little pale. These animals quickly became known as cockbiter rats. Buster thought they wouldn’t sell well.

Our sensors could not detect any animal larger than the birds within five hundred clicks of us so we bedded down in the shuttle for the night.

I awoke the next morning and shook Demoness awake next to me. She smiled as I retrieved two cups of coffee from the energy solidifier. I looked around and noticed all of the others had already moved outside. Buster must have awoken my wife when he got up to check his traps.

We got dressed and moved outside. Buster was studying a cage of twenty of the cockbiter rats he had captured during the night. They seemed a bit hardier than the birds. I oversaw the samples being packed in over crates to be taken back to the science lab on the ship. Then we did a low level fly over of the planet to take scans and images of the plant and animal life. In twelve hours we cataloged over six thousand new species.

The flight back to the ship was uneventful and smooth. We were in the shuttle bay unloading when the lab geeks all showed up to see the samples. I tried to tell Buster to make sure the crates were in the lab containment area before he opened them, but I was too late. He popped the latch on the rat crate and rats exploded out and ran all over the deck. It took less than a minute for them all to disappear down an open access hatch. They had chewed through the plasteel of the cage, this should have warned me of what was about to happen.

“Do not open any other crates!” I yelled. “At least we don’t have any penis flowers here for them to eat. I want them all caught and then you are to see me in the command office, Buster.”

“Yes sir,” he said with a gulp.

I stalked to the bridge to get my status report. That overzealous science geek had let rats loose on my ship. I was on the bridge receiving my report when the first sign of trouble happen. The navigation screen went blank. We were suddenly flying blind. “Navigation, what the hell are you doing over there?”

“I didn’t do anything, sir, my console just lost link with engineering.”

“Helm control, bring us to full stop, now!” I shouted as I stood from my chair. Suddenly my ship lurched and I fell on my face. “Damn it, helm, you can’t just cut the engines, how long have you been flying this crate?”

“I didn’t even touch the controls, sir, the consol has lost link.”

I stood and slapped the communications panel on my chair. “Engineering! Report! What the hell are you doing down there? You can’t cut links while we are in flight!”

Jazz Hands came on the intercom, “Sir we didn’t do anything. When the navigation bank went power dark, we opened the panel and rats came running out. How the hell did we get rats on the ship?”

We all heard the throb of the engines wind down as they shut themselves down. “All hands find those mother fucking rats and kill them! Now! Security, issue inducers to everyone with fingers. Lock them all on stun, we don’t want any accidents. I will give everyone that stuns a rat an extra relaxation cycle.”

Turning to our tactical station, “Everest, take us to alert status.” She thumbed the alarm system on her console to on.

The yellow warning lights on the ship came to life. The computers voice could be heard all over the ship as she said, “Alert, all personnel are to maintain Alert Statuuuuuuuussssssssss…” Then the warning lights went out and the bridge went dark.

***

I shook myself out of my reverie as I entered the bridge. The first thing I noticed was the view screen was no longer blank. It now showed a large, dense asteroid field, and we were moving towards it slowly. “Everest, give me a situation report.”

“We are drifting towards the asteroid field at approximately fifteen hundred kilometers per second. Estimated time to entrance into the field is six hours.”

“Bring our shields and targeting online. Get the gunners in their stations and tell them we may need to have a little target practice.”

“The gunners are reporting to stations, but the weapons links are all still down, we have no guns. The shields are on but we cannot detect if they are working.”

“So my day just got worse. We may or may not have shields, we don’t have guns. And we have no control over where the ship is going. Does that sum it up?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Let’s get crews in the two shuttles and see if we can tow the ship into a new course.”

Activating the communications in my chair I called down to engineering. “Jazz Hands give me some good news. Please.”

“Pig, I promise you I will have the helm control and inertial controls back on line in eight hours. My people are working around the clock.”

“That is good news, now I have some great news for you. In six hours you will no longer have to worry about repairing the ship. Those big rocks out there are going to finish the job those rats started. At the speed we are traveling one of those rocks is going to turn this ship into slag.”

“Do you know a good wrecker service that may be in the area?”

“We are sending the shuttles out.”

I thumbed off the com panel. “Babe, give me some good news.”

Marijuana spoke without looking away from her console. “We have an estimated impact time of seven hours and four minutes. Then we are going to be landing on a large asteroid dead ahead. We are caught in the gravity well of that large gas giant on the other side of the field. I am running the calculations on the shuttles now.”

“I asked for good news, you could have told me you smuggled a bottle of whiskey on board or something.”

I stared at the view screen that I now wished was blank again. My mind started to drift back to the rats again.

***

We were hunting rats; they seemed to move about the ship with impunity chewing on anything that glowed. The light wires were natural targets. “We need one of them alive so Buster can tell us why they are after the light wires.”

Our group split up into pairs. I was teamed with Demoness, our plan was simple; move about the ship opening access panels. If anything ran out pull the trigger and stun it. I noticed mountain had put on his ceremonial armor for the hunt. It had a thick codpiece for protection down there.

Chatter over our helmet com was kept to a minimum. Demoness opened the first panel, it was to life support. There was nothing. We moved to the lift control panel. When I opened it there was an explosion of fur and teeth. Then there was incredible pain as I was hit by the blast from the inducer. Damn I am glad it was set to stun.

I woke up in the medical lab with a huge pair of breasts hovering over my face. “Hi, Melons,” I mumbled as I shook my head to clear it. “Did we at least manage to get one of the rats?”

“Demoness caught four of them, and bagged a captain with only four shots.” Melons said as she leaned to look past her breasts and into my face.

“Damn! That hurt.” I could see Demoness out of the corner of my eye. “Why did you shoot me?”

“We had to stop the rats, I knew the weapon was on stun and wouldn’t hurt you.” Demoness said with a mater of fact tone.

“Melon’s dear, would you please hand me my inducer; I want to show Demoness just how little they hurt.” As Melon’s looked at me with big eyes, Demoness quietly slipped out of the room. I reached over for the com panel next to the bed. “Buster, tell me some good news.”

“My retirement account is up fifty thousand.”

“Don’t worry, if you don’t stop the rats you are not going to need a retirement account, now what about the rats?”

“I am studying them now; I should have a report in two hours.”

“In two hours they are going to eat every light wire in the ship. How do we stop them?”

“The only thing I know is they are attracted to the light wires because they glow on the same wavelength in ultra violet as the flowers do. As to why they are attracted to them.”

I jumped out of the bed and headed for engineering. Mountain was in the hall. “Get every marksman armed with rifles and meet me in engineering. We are going to have an old fashioned turkey shoot.”

Mountain headed off to gather men and women. I went to engineering. “Jazz Hands, get over here, I have an idea.”

“Yes sir,” James said as he ran up. “Sir we are really busy trying to repair the damage. Can this wait?”

“No. How long would it take to get a pile of spare light wire in the center of engineering and attach it to the main generator?”

“About twenty minutes.”

“You have ten, I also want the main link from the generator to the rest of the ship ready to disconnect on my command.”

“You want us to switch to the backup?”

“No I want power cut completely. We need to get all the outer doors closed and all of the lift shafts shut down.”

“The lifts are no problem the rats chewed them up about fifteen minutes ago. The outer doors may be a problem. The main shuttle bay doors are stuck open and the observation window in the forward cartography lab is non-operational.”

“Evacuate those areas, tell everyone they have twenty minutes to secure everything and get out. We are going to bait a trap for the rats.”

“But sir, If we cut the main power then the computer will go down. We will be completely defenseless.”

“We are facing a superior enemy, in an unknown tactical situation. We are completely defenseless now. If the rats continue at this rate we will have no ship in twelve hours. It is time to make a last stand. The rats are attracted to the light wires so we will give them the only batch of glowing wires on the ship to come for. Now get them set up or I am going to hang you from the prow of the ship like a figurehead.”

“Yes sir.”

I moved to the upper balcony, as the others started to gather. I set people up in positions so we had full coverage of the engineering deck below. The pile of wires was a center of fire anything that moved was a target. “All right people there are sixteen of these rats to kill. I want everyone’s weapon set to overkill. We cannot afford for a single rat to escape this trap.”

As I took my position as the last of the personnel left the lower level. Then the lights went out. It was such a long wait. But after almost an hour the first rat came out of an access hatch and started moving toward the wires. He was hit by the beams of over forty weapons. The little bastard was nothing but a lump of charcoal.

It took about an hour for the rats to start showing up. It took twenty minutes for the last one to fall. I stood and hit the com panel. It was dead like everything else. “Jazz hands, lets get the system rebooted and repairs started.”

***

I rose out of my woolgathering to see a large rock on the view screen. “Tactical, how far out is it and estimated time to impact?”

“We are five point six seven million kilometers from the asteroid. Estimated impact time is one hour and three minutes.” Everest answered.

“Reduce the magnification to ten times.”

“It is already at ten times, sir.”

“Shit! How big is that thing?”

“It is four thousand kilometers long by two thousand wide.”

“So if we hit it, it will dent my ship?”

“Definitely, sir.”

“How is the attempt to change our course with the shuttles going?”

“Not good, sir, the attitude correction jets are firing and locking us on course.”

“Bring them back in. We are going to need the shuttles along with the life boats to evacuate.” I looked at the screen. My heart sank. This was not exactly how I had envisioned ending my command. If we made it back alive we would get full honors and retirement benefits as admirals. My mind drifted back to the day I had been informed of my choices.

***

“Petty officer third class Phillip Irving Graves, reporting as ordered sir.” I said as I walked into admiral Tigrat’s office. He looked up at me with a shit eating grin on his face. He motioned with his hand for me to sit and be at ease.

“Phillip, I am at a loss for what to do with you. If I press charges then everyone in the fleet is going to know what you did. If I don’t press charges then you get off Scott free and I cannot let that happen either.” He looked at me with open hatred in his eyes.

“Sir, we could just let this go with a private punishment.”

The smile that cracked his face was one of pure evil. “My thoughts exactly, so here is the deal. I am going to recommend you as the captain of the Ticonderoga. It is scheduled to depart at the end of the month. Then you are going to go deep. Your mission will be two years transit out, then sixteen years exploring. When you return, you will have admiral’s benefits.”

“Sir, I am not married.” I knew the record, not s single ship had ever come back from going deep. Most disappeared without a trace. He was consigning me to a death sentence. My own command weighed heavy on my mind. I had always thought I could do it better than any of these blowhards. Out there I would be the voice of authority. I would be the only command chain. The buck would stop with me.

“You have until the end of the month to find a wife or I will choose one for you.”

The smile he gave me had me thinking through the women I knew. I sure as hell would not let him decide. Then Millishia came to mind, she was one hell of a science officer. Her career was golden. Maybe I could get one over on the old ass in front of me yet. “Do I get to choose my crew?”

“You will be given a list of volunteers for deep service. You may choose thirty couples from it. The other nineteen couples I will choose. I already have one of your engineers and doctors picked out. Plus a couple of security people you will just love.”

“Do normal deep rules apply?”

“Yes, the ship must run efficiently.”

Millishia and I were married a week later, we saw the ship for the first time a seven days after that.

The Ticonderoga was a thing of beauty, long and sleek with four engine nacelles under her body carriage. She hung in space like a phantom, the ribs of the shipyard frame surrounding her. The long narrow body looked like an arrow with atmospheric stabilizers on the rear half. The broad head of the arrow was where the command decks sat. The slightly wider body was the crew area. Under the main body hung engineering and medical. She was designed to cut through space like a weapon. She was one of the sexiest things I had ever seen. I was supposed to report aboard and select my crew via interviews.

A few of my crew was already onboard, my engineer, James Mitchell Penzo, and his wife, Leafa Tiski Mikia-Penzo were two of them. I had read their files, they were solvent addicts. She was also a Liskian, they were reputed to be a tough lot.

I had looked at the files of over a thousand volunteer couples, I had to pick thirty. I had discovered something profound. Most people that wanted to go deep were nut cases. These were no exceptions. The volunteers ran the gambit from mad scientist to psycho killers. I was at a loss for anyone I trusted on a long flight let alone wanted there.

I spent the next week interviewing hopefuls; it was the hardest week of my life. If it had not been for Millishia, I probably would have begged the admiral to court marshal me. The next three days were spent choosing my crew and filing their new ranks. One thing nice about being a captain of a deep ship, rank onboard your ship was your choice. You set the chain of command and the duty roster. The captain was the first last and only line of command once you left the space port.

Four days later the mooring lines fell away from the ship. My new helmsman only managed to hit the dry dock once on the way out. I now had an untested crew, a new ship with all the bugs inherent and two years to turn them into a functioning crew before we made our first planet fall.

***

Again I pulled myself out of my memories, that rock was much bigger. The countdown on the screen said thirty-one minutes. My mind started flying through the possibilities. I had to come up with an answer. I would not lose my ship and command after our first planet fall.

A plan came to me. It would take some fancy flying. I hit the com unit in my chair. “Jazz Hands, Prepare to disconnect all power on my command. Demoness, I need your piloting skills, you have shuttle two, I have shuttle one, we launch in five.”

Jazz Hands came on the com unit, “Captain we have to have power to do repairs, if you make me cut it off again it will take an hour to completely restart the system.”

“I know, James, if what I have planned works I will buy you the time you need.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“Then it won’t matter anymore, you don’t have time to fix the ship before we make our second planet fall. Do me a favor, Jazz.”

“What, sir?”

“Take care of my wife.” I thumbed off the console and left the bridge before anyone could ask any questions. I had a plan; if it worked I would save my ship. Either way I was going to die first.

I burst into shuttle bay one and walked aboard the shuttle. I could hear the com traffic as Demoness launched. I thumbed the com unit between the two shuttles to life. “Demoness, I am going to fly this ship into direct contact with the body of the Ticonderoga. Then I am going to have Jazz Hands cut all power. That should stop the thrusters from firing. Once that is set I am going to fire up the engines in the shuttle and give her the gas. If this works I will deflect the ship by enough to escape the asteroid field.”

“Sir, if you do that your engines will overheat and flame out in seconds. The inside of the shuttle will be a half million degree fireball.”

“That is where you come in. I am going to eject, I need you to scoop me up fast and get me clear. Get my body back for a decent funeral.”

“You don’t have a spacesuit, Pig, have you lost your mind?”

“I don’t have time to put a suit on; if this is going to work I have to do it now.” I shut off the com channel. It took me less than a minute to position my shuttle. I contacted Jazz hands, “Cut the power now!” Then I put the engine power to full and locked the throttle. The on board computer started telling me I was going to die.

“Imminent engine overload in twenty seconds. Imminent engine overload in nineteen seconds. Imminent engine overload in eighteen seconds.” I dove for the controls for the ejection system. I let all of the air out of my lungs and pulled the handle. “System detects non suited personnel, ejection system disabled.”

Fuck! I pulled my side arm and shot the console. Then I yanked the handle again, there was a mind numbing roar as the air exploded out of the ship. My head hit something solid a few seconds later and the world went dark. My last thought was, “fuck, that hurts.”

***

“Captain Graves, I do not expect you to come back from this. I expect you to die a bloody and horrible death.” Admiral Tigrat said as I was in my last interview before launch. “Do not disappoint me.”

“Respectfully sir, my entire crew will be at your one hundredth birthday party. There I will give your wife and daughters a kiss right in front of you. How did you ever manage to get a ring on the finger of that woman? She has to be at least forty years younger than you.”

***

My head was pounding out a rhythm that sounded like a hangover. “Where?” I managed to ask around the pain in my head.

“Med lab,” the huge pair of breasts above me said quietly.

“How?”

“Liskians are tougher than humans, she had the shuttle decompressed and waiting on your ejection. Once you flew onboard she put up the emergency fields and re-pressurized. You may have a few aches and pains plus blurred vision for a few days, but you will be fine soon.”

“Melon’s, what about the ship?”

“The ship is out of danger and flying under its own power again, captain. You got us clear of the asteroids and bought him the time to fix the ship. By the time I let you out of here we will be fully functional again.”

“Tell Jazz Hands and Demoness to take an extra relaxation cycle, they even earned a nip of the solvent.”

“Jazz flushed the rest of the solvent out the airlock. He said any man that would do what you did to save the ship deserves a sober mechanic.”
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