Space Opera Part 36 – The Natural Worm Hole

JJ and I were on the New Jersey bridge, waiting to be relieved by Cyrus, Tim, and Izzy. They arrived after about fifteen minutes.

“Hi, Captain,” Izzy said. “JJ.”

“Hello,” JJ said.

“Thanks so much for coming up,” I said. “We’ve been up too many hours. You’re our relief team. You’re all well enough rested to work, I hope?”

“I’m good,” Tim said.

“Me too,” Cyrus said.

Izzy smiled. “I was bored. This will be a welcome change.”

“Good. We should get to the natural worm hole in six hours. We’ve got battle pilots watching for Overlords ships, and the AIs as well, although the main focus of the AIs at present is to find any weak spots we might have in the New Jersey.”

“Ah, don’t want Simone to do unto us what we did unto her, huh?” Cyrus asked.

“You got it.”

Tim’s brow furrowed. “They wasted two of our fighters. We were patched into the video. Not good.”

“That’s why we’ve got the pilots working with their AIs. They should be able to handle the rear-seat fighting much better than the onboard AI system.”

“Hey, when you get a chance, come down to the Zephyrus and check out Barney,” Izzy said. “He’s through the rest of his training. Those Neanderthals are wicked smart. I had no idea.”

“Yeah, he’s not the mascot anymore, that’s for sure,” Tim said.

“Has that changed his relationship with Deneuve very much?” JJ asked.

Izzy chuckled. “It’s like a parent child relationship, when the child is an adult.”

“Interesting. We’ll have to make sure to use his capabilities well. I’ll head down there once we’re in the jump. Has he been off the Zephyrus yet?”

Tim chuckled. “Not yet, Captain, but he’s been asking about it. He’s been looking at the video feeds of the bay and asking loads of questions. He understands fully that the Zephyrus is inside a larger ship.”

“Fascinating,” JJ said.

I finished giving a few instructions to them, and JJ and I left the bridge.

“Let’s get food and take it back to your stateroom,” JJ said.

“Love too, but we both need sleep after we eat.”

JJ nodded. “I know, honey. I won’t keep you occupied for more than a few minutes. I promise.”

We had our food and were back at my stateroom in less than twenty minutes. We sat at my table to eat.

“What is that?” I asked, looking at her meal.

“Meatloaf,” she said, taking a bite. “Not bad. Tastes like real beef.”

I opened my package, which had turkey breast with mashed potatoes and veggies. The smell reminded me of grandma’s house. I ate quickly, the urge to sleep overpowering.

“You ate that fast,” JJ said. “Smelled good.”

“It was good. They must be farming turkeys someplace on this ship.”

She chuckled. “They’re just getting better and better at fooling us. Let’s go to bed. You don’t mind if I sleep with you, I hope?”

“Oh, you were planning on sleeping here?”

She eyed me silently, then got up and walked to the bed, her clothes coming off on the way. “C’mon.”

“Turn around,” I said.

“I thought you wanted to sleep.”

“I do, but I also want a better look than I had before.”

She sighed, then turned around, revealing her curves to me. “There. Is that okay?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said, getting up. I put the trash into the waste unit and followed her, pausing next to the bed to take off my clothes and the Nano suit. “When we get up I need to cleanse. Wonder how we wash these suits?”

“I suspect you don’t,” JJ said, climbing under the sheet. I got in next to her. She turned towards me, her arm going over my torso. “Wow, a little clammy. Those suits need some cooling capability.”

I laughed. “Hell, they might have that. I’ve just barely touched the surface.”

“Weren’t you supposed to spend more time training with the designer?”

“I was, but then the Razor ships showed up. Now I’ll have to wait until after our trip through the natural worm hole.”

“You know enough to train others, though, right?”

I nodded. “The basics, anyway. How to fight. There’s documentation on board. I’ll work through that, with some help from Butch once he’s done leading the effort to find flaws in the New Jersey.”

We cuddled for a few minutes. I drifted off to sleep quickly, not waking until my PA buzzed, JJ shoving me in the shoulder.

“Oh, good morning.” I kissed her lightly on the forehead.

“Only a peck? I don’t think so.” Her mouth found mine, kissing me deeply. It felt good, but my PA buzzed again.

“Somebody’s trying to get my attention.” I turned my arm towards my face and tapped. It was Andrea.

“Hey, Andrea, what’s up?”

“We’re just about to that natural worm hole, Captain.”

“You’re on the New Jersey bridge?”

“I am, and I’m a little perturbed that you didn’t call me with the others.”

I laughed. “Butch checked your biometrics. You were the only one who didn’t sleep during the time we were on the bridge.”

“Oh,” she said. “Now I feel stupid.”

“Did you sleep any?” JJ asked.

“Oh, JJ is with you, huh? Hmmmm.”

“Stop,” I said. “Answer the question.”

“No.”

“Okay, we’ll be back there in about half an hour, and then you’re going to get some rest. Got it?”

“Yes. At least I’m finally tired.”

“It’s been quiet, sounds like,” JJ said.

“Yep, no sign of any Overlords activity. The New Jersey has been working like a dream.”

“Good,” I said. “See you soon.”

I got out of bed. “I’m going to cleanse.”

“Does it hold two?”

“It’s supposed to, but I never tried it.”

“First time for everything,” she said, getting out of bed and following me. We both got inside the unit, the sensor picking us up and automatically setting for two people. The water started, then the cleansing solution. We soaped each other down, me taking the time to play a little, JJ’s face and neck flushing.

“You’re liking this,” I said.

“I am, you bad boy. C’mon, let’s turn on the dryer. They’re waiting for us, and we’ll get enough kidding as it is.”

“I can hear it now.” The drier finished with us quickly, and we got out and dressed.

“You’re putting that suit back on?” JJ asked. “Is it still damp?”

“No, it’s dry as a bone.” I lifted it to my nose and sniffed. “Wow, it doesn’t smell bad either. I’m surprised.”

“Let me,” she said. I held it in front of her face and she took a whiff. “You’re right, it smells clean. Interesting.”

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing down to a small clear capsule, sitting on the floor where the suit had been. I picked it up. “It’s got some kind of liquid in it.”

“Careful. Is it dangerous?”

I looked at it more closely. “It smells like detergent.”

“Interesting.”

“Butch, wake up please.”

<Butch> Hello, Trey. How was the canoodling?

<Me> Don’t even. We just slept. Do you know what this capsule is?

<Butch> That’s from the Nano suit. Did more study on them after we finished our assessment of the New Jersey. Those suits are alive. They’re built of strings of Nanos woven together. They self-cleanse after you take it off, provided you’ve worn it for at least twenty-four hours. The capsule is the byproduct of that. Just throw it in the waste unit.

“What’d he say?” JJ asked.

“These suits self-cleanse. It’s waste from that process. I’m to throw it away.” I opened the waste unit and dropped it in. “Wake up Emerald and you should be able to listen in to my conversation with Butch. I don’t want to put this on speaker outside the bridge.”

“Such a rules follower. Emerald, wake up please.”

<Emerald> Wow, you’ve got some sexual thoughts running through your head.

<JJ> Trey can hear you.

<Butch> So can I, and you’re not the only one. Trey would like to take you back into bed right now. He’s got willpower, that one.

<Me> All right, stop with that. Did you find weaknesses in the New Jersey?

<Butch> Yes. Not as many as the Razor ships have, and they weren’t difficult to correct. Some only required software adjustments to the shields. We did have the same problem with ports from the drives, though. We figured out a way to harden them against plasma guns and railgun projectiles. Good thing we figured that out before the Overlords did.

“Emerald, sleep please,” JJ said. She looked at me. “Put Butch to sleep.”

I shot her a quizzical look, but then shrugged. “Butch, sleep please.”

<Butch> As you wish. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

“Okay, there you go.”

She pulled me into her arms, both of us still naked from the cleanser. “What did you want to do, exactly?”

“I think you know, and I could ask you the same thing. We don’t have enough time.”

She kissed me passionately, then backed away, staring into my eyes. “I want you to tell me what you want.”

“Canoodle.”

She cracked up. “Talk about a wet blanket.”

I pulled her closer. “I’d like to take you to bed and make love. For the whole day.”

She swooned into me, trembling, then looked up at me. “I’m falling in love with you, Captain.”

“You already know how I feel, but we have to go. Before we won’t.”

She giggled. “I guess we’d better. We’re not going to wait too long, are we?”

“Probably not, at the rate we’re going. C’mon.”

We got dressed and headed back to the bridge, Nolan getting there at the same time.

“Good morning,” he said.

“Hi, Nolan. You did get some sleep, right?”

“Almost five hours. You were right. I needed it. You two?”

“We’re both rested up,” JJ said.

“Dojo gave me a report on the weak spots of the New Jersey, and they’ve already fixed them. We were in danger with the Samson Drive ports.”

“We got the rundown from Butch and Emerald on the way here,” I said, shooting a glance at JJ, who nodded in agreement.

“There you are,” Sondra said, sitting next to Skip as we entered the bridge. “We sent the others back after a quick debrief. Everything’s fine, and we’re about five minutes from the natural worm hole.”

“Good,” I said, sitting down in the Captain’s chair.

“I’d better scan for more new documents real fast,” Nolan said. We could see him dictating the instructions to Dojo.

“You still have the Nano suit on?” Skip asked.

“Yep, the designer suggested that I wear it as much as possible for at least a few days, so the suit learns me and I learn it.”

Skip grinned. “When do we get a chance to try them?”

“Maybe while we’re in the jump,” I said. “I know enough to get you started with the basics.”

“We should wake our AIs,” JJ said. “Emerald, wake up please.”

“Butch, wake up,” I said.

<Butch> Blew your chance back there, huh? Or are you minute man?

<Me> I’m glad I didn’t put you on speaker.

<Butch> I’m sure you are. I’m tied into the navigation system, getting ready for the jump.

<Emerald> I’m helping.

<Me> Good, then I can sit back and relax.

JJ and I exchanged a knowing glance.

“Should we put them on speaker?” JJ asked.

“Nah, let’s wait on that until they get tired of teasing us.”

<Butch> Like that’s going to happen.

I ignored Butch for the moment, watching as Nolan looked through some documents on his screen. “Got more?”

“Yes, Captain. Once we’re in the jump I’ll put them up.”

“Excellent.”

Skip turned towards us. “We’re at the entrance. Permission to launch into the jump.”

“Permission granted,” I said. Then we all felt the dizziness as we surged forward.

“Whoa, these natural worm holes feel a little different, don’t they?” Sondra asked. “Been a while.”

“The dizziness hits me harder,” I said.

“Wonder if we’ll have competition from the Clan for the Boron on Boroclize?” JJ asked.

“That’s been in the back of my mind for a while,” Nolan said. “Let’s hope not. It’d be nice not to have to fight as soon as we get there.”

“We’re going in cloaked,” Sondra said. “They won’t see us until we want them to.”

“We might want to enlist Barney when we go down to the surface,” JJ said.

“I’m okay with that, as long as he is,” I said. “We’ll have to talk to him about joining the crew. Right now I consider him to be a passenger. I suspect he’d be willing to join, but the choice will be his.”

“Shall I put up the news items?” Nolan asked. “We only need to look at the last two. The prior articles had mostly speculation that they were able to confirm and add to in the last two articles.”

“Fine by me,” I said. “Put them on screen.”

Nolan nodded, and the big center screen lit up. “This one is from the Central Authority outlet.

As we reported earlier, the Overlords attempted a coup, their agents arresting two-thirds of the Central Authority Legislature. Most members of the Legislature not in the Overlords Caucus were arrested. Prime Minister Aeon evaded capture thanks to his Secret Service detail and Central Authority Marines. The Overlord Razor battle ships broke free of impound and went into orbit around Devonia Axxiom, sending two legions of troops to the surface.

The resistance showed their strength, attacking Overlords troops on Devonia Axxiom while convincing the Central Authority to launch an attack on the orbiting Razor ships with sixty Centurion Class battle cruisers. The Centurions weren’t successful in beating the Razors, most having to jump away after a third were destroyed. After that engagement, all but two of the Razors jumped away. Later twenty Centurion battle cruisers returned and attacked again with their fighters, this time killing one of the two Razors left behind. The Overlords legions were fought to a stalemate on the planet surface, and promptly surrendered after the bulk of the Razor fleet jumped away. It’s safe to say that this coup has ended, and it was not successful. The arrested legislators have been released, and the Overlords Caucus members have been arrested. Closed door meetings are going on now with the remaining Legislature and Prime Minister Aeon.

“Well, they said as little as possible,” Skip said.

I nodded. “Pretty much. Let’s see the other one.”

“Yes sir,” Nolan said, switching to the next article.

Greetings, Fellow Travelers. It’s your old buddy Hamilton Zenos. Hard to believe how fast things are moving right now.

A few days ago, I was working on two rumors. I haven’t been able to completely confirm either one (with on-the-record statements, that is) but I do have more information than I had then. Yes, there have been other engagements between the New Jersey and Razor ships. They haven’t gone well for the Razor ships, and why would they? We have a company called the Samson Corporation who have been building battle ships for four hundred years. They’ve gotten very good at it. Now we have an unknown upstart company putting together new ships, but they’re output isn’t at the same level as the Samson Corporation. Not even close. They can destroy Centurion-Class battle cruisers that are nearly two decades old, but they have a problem with cutting edge output from experts. No, it’s worse than that. Of the two Razor ships left in orbit around Devonia Axxiom, a group of Centurion ships destroyed one with their fighters. Do I sound like I’m cheerleading for the Samson Corporation a little bit? So sue me.

Anyway, the latest rumors are that there have been two engagements between Razor ships and the New Jersey. The first is about like we heard initially, from what I can tell, and the second was worse, with several Razor ships destroyed. I’ll say more when I can confirm more.

“Dammit, where are these rumors coming from?” I asked, glancing at Nolan.

Nolan threw up his hands. “Believe me, Captain, I haven’t leaked anything. Really. Might be coming from the Chairman’s back channel communications.”

“He’s right,” Sondra said. “If I had to bet, I’d say that’s where it’s coming from. And frankly, it’s not all bad. I’d rather be thought of as heroes than fugitives.”

I sighed. “Okay, sorry.”

The Central Authority news outlets have come back to the center after the ejection of the Overlords from their ranks, so I don’t feel the need to correct the reporting on the Devonia Axxiom battles. Suffice it to say that Simone and her thugs did a massive overreach and took a lot of damage as a result. The Overlords have lost their position of power in the Central Authority, and have taken their remaining Razor ships and gone into hiding. Their other ships have disappeared as well, from the space docs orbiting Mars and three other planets. Does this mean that the battle is over? I doubt it. Simone is a maniac, and she’ll try again, probably after fixing some of the problems seen with her hardware and tactics. Message to the New Jersey. Find the Razor production facilities and destroy them as fast as possible. If anyone can do that, it’s Captain Clarke and his merry band of freedom fighters.

There is one other item I would like to discuss, which worries me and should worry every one of you. Word from the crew cleaning up the wreckage of that Razor ship over Devonia Axxiom is that there were only about ten thousand humans on board the Razor ship. Yes, that’s what I said. Ten thousand. A ship that size, especially a battle ship of the type we’re talking about, would require a crew of roughly two-hundred thousand humans. This isn’t dictated by practical needs. It’s dictated by law. The law was originally put into place during the robotics crisis three-hundred years ago. The reason was economic. There weren’t enough jobs to keep people employed after the robotics revolution, and the Central Authority Legislature used this law to keep people busy. The alternative wasn’t pretty. It was like Earth’s early twentieth century depression, with people moping around penniless and hopeless.

We’ve solved most of the economic problems caused by the robotics revolution. We don’t need this law in regards to starships. In fact, that law now causes more problems than it solves, except for one thing. To mount an action like the coup attempt that the Overlords just tried, you’d need to have a massive number of humans involved. Just to give you an idea, the twenty Razor ships which were in orbit around Devonia Axxiom should have required about four million souls. The Overlords were able to field this juggernaut with a mere two-hundred thousand people. Huge difference. Dangerous difference.

My final statement is a series of questions. If anybody is listening out there, love to hear your thoughts.

  1. Where did the Razor ships flee to?
  2. How many more Razor ships are out there?
  3. Where are the Razor ship manufacturing facilities?
  4. How did the Overlords hide the massive supply chain required to build a fleet of these giant ships?
  5. Who developed the AI capabilities they were obviously using to run the Razor ships?
  6. Why were the Overlords so obsessed with finding and destroying the New Jersey and the other remaining Samson Corporation ships?

 

Love to know the answers to those questions. We’ll see what happens. That’s it for now. Ta ta.

 

Hamilton Zenos.

 

“Wow,” Nolan said.

My heart was beating a little too hard in my chest. It must have shown on my face, because JJ made eye contact and nodded towards the door. I excused myself and followed her outside.

 

To be continued…

 

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