JJ and I looked at each other.
“Did you stop it, Butch?”
<Butch> Yep, that message went nowhere.
“Do we know if they’re expecting a return message?” JJ asked.
<Butch> We don’t know, but we will shortly.
JJ glanced at me. “How?”
<Butch> They’ll try again. Don’t worry. I’ll just stop it again.
“Can you tell the approximate source from the ship?” I asked.
<Butch> Somewhere towards the front third of the ship, on the right side. In order to find them I’ll have to ping their device.
“That’s what they’d see, correct?”
<Butch> Yes, Trey, they’d probably get a warning on their device.
“What if they have a bomb planted on this ship someplace?” JJ asked.
I shook my head. “Not likely. Hard to get explosives on board.”
“With all the stuff we’ve got on this ship, a good chemist could cook something up,” JJ said.
<Butch> All precursors are monitored. You can’t just wander into a storeroom and grab those types of materials.
“I was just gonna mention that,” I said. “We can’t do anything about this until tomorrow or the next day.”
“We’ve got eight trained Nano fighters,” JJ said.
“True, but I’m the only one who’s had the balance of the speed training, and we need our trainees wearing full suits, too. We’re not ready.”
<Butch> Trey is correct. We probably should wait three days, maybe four if we can get away with it. That still leaves us with plenty of buffer time in this jump.
<Emerald> If they expect a quick return, they’ll try again, probably repeatedly, until they’re forced to accept that we’ve stopped their transmissions.
“That’s what I’m worried about,” JJ said.
<Emerald> Don’t be worried about it. We’re in much better shape than you two are thinking.
<Butch> Yes, and we learned something else.
<Me> What’s that?
<Butch> Their transmissions can’t get past our jamming capability when we’re not in a jump.
JJ smiled. “Shit, he’s right. If they could send transmissions when we’re not in a jump, they would’ve been able to target us in the last few battles. They couldn’t see us at all.”
<Butch> Precisely, my dear.
<Emerald> My dear? What is this, an English drawing room?
JJ and I laughed.
<Butch> Hey, I’m just trying to be colorful.
“Okay, let’s cut the crap. Bottom line, we’ve stopped their message. How much exposure did we have in this jump, before you started monitoring for transmissions?”
<Butch> I started monitoring when we got to the natural worm hole, Captain.
“Perfect, that’s what I was hoping,” I said. “Thank you. We’re good, and they might not know we’re on to them as quickly as we think. Hell, there might not even be a return available, which would mean they have no idea if their message went through or not.”
<Emerald> I’m beginning to think that’s probable.
<Butch> Me too.
“Why would you think that?” JJ asked.
“It’s much easier to send a transmission from a jump than it is to receive a message in a jump,” I said. “That’s the beauty of those new holographic communicators. Those are the result of a technical breakthrough in the reception of messages, not the sending of messages.”
“We’re a hundred percent sure they can’t tell we’ve stopped their message?”
<Butch> I’d say 99.932100%
<Emerald> Close enough for government work, or close enough for Butch.
<Emerald> Don’t be so sensitive. I agree with you.
“Are we gonna be like that when we grow old together?” JJ asked.
I laughed. “In some ways we already are. Let’s go eat.”
“Can I have a kiss first?” JJ asked.
<Butch> Oh brother.
<Me> Butch – Sleep.
<JJ> You too, Emerald.
<Emerald> You did it again, Butch. Just when it was gonna get interesting.
<Butch> Oh well. Thanks, Trey. You want me to wake and let you know if there’s another transmission, correct?
<Me> Yes, please.
“Now, where were we?” I asked, taking JJ into my arms for a passionate kiss.
“Wow, nice preview.” I watched her flustered expression with a grin on my face.
“Okay, now we can go.” I opened the door for JJ, and we left her stateroom.
“What about the helmets?” JJ asked as we got outside.
“Do you want to carry them around and answer questions?”
JJ thought about it for a moment. “I’ll bet they fit in the standard issue backpack. I’ve got one. Do you?”
“In the Zephyrus stateroom. We can go there after dinner and pick it up. Where’s yours?”
“In the New Jersey stateroom,” JJ said.
“Grab it if you want.”
JJ shook her head. “My helmet hasn’t been fitted yet, remember?”
“Oh yeah. We’re probably safe, based on what we were just talking about.”
“Yes, we convinced each other we’re safe quite nicely.”
I shot her a smirk as we neared the Officer’s dining room. “You aren’t buying the logic?”
“I’ve seen so many things go sideways over the past few weeks. You know what I’m talking about, right?”
I held the door to the dining room open for her, and she walked past me.
“Yes, I get it.” I followed her to the reception stand. “Two for dinner, please. Private room if you have it.”
“Yes, of course, Captain,” said the receptionist. “Good to see you again.”
We got seated and ate quickly, not talking more about the plants. A text came onto my PA, and I looked at it.
“Crap, another transmission?” JJ asked.
“Reminder from Butch. Vermillion had a request today. It involves you.”
“You are hereby an Ensign on the New Jersey. Welcome to the crew.”
“Vermillion said that only crew members can legally have the AI assistants and the Nano capability. It’s illegal for civilians. I’m sorry about the rank.”
“I don’t care about that.”
“I would’ve made you a direct report, but given our relationship, you can’t report directly to me. That’s against Samson Corporation rules. Vermillion insisted.”
“That means I’m in a way nicer stateroom than I should be,” she said.
“Well, yes and no. You’re still the chief technologist of the Samson Corporation. Being part of the crew doesn’t change that.”
“Regulations are regulations,” she said.
“I like you being across the hall from me.”
“Can we move in together?” JJ asked.
“Oh, are you proposing?” I quipped.
“No, but let’s be real. We’ve spent the last few nights together. Do you want to stop that, or do you want me in your bed when you wake up?”
“Is that a trick question?”
“You and the old movie references. Seriously, do you want me with you or not?”
“I want you with me.”
“Good, then I’ll move my stuff to your stateroom. What about the Zephyrus? Mind me sharing there too? That’s a much smaller stateroom.”
“Well, it is our love nest.”
JJ laughed. “I’m glad we put the children to sleep. They’d be all over us for this.”
“Don’t care.” We ordered our food, and relaxed with drinks, spending more than two hours in our private dining room. After that it was back to the New Jersey stateroom, were we made love and fell asleep in each other’s arms. I awoke the next morning to my PA buzzing.
<Me> Butch, wake up.
<Butch> Good morning, Trey. The Tristar students will be at the mustering room in ninety minutes. Time to get moving.
<Butch> Dojo asked me to have you contact Nolan when you’re awake.
<Me> Okay, I’ll get him on the PA in a few minutes.
<Me> Anything wrong?
<Butch> Nolan has been reading up again. He soaks up data like a sponge.
<Me> Yep, that’s why he’s my Science Officer. I need to cleanse and get dressed. Talk to you soon.
“We have to get started already?” JJ asked.
“Yeah, Butch just reminded me that we’ve got the Tristar bridge crew coming to training pretty soon. You’re going to finish the speed training today before you start on the refinery, right?”
“Yes. No more transmissions?”
“Did you have Butch check it out?” JJ asked as she got out of bed.
“No need, he’s been monitoring, and I ordered him to let me know if there was another transmission. Need to cleanse?”
“We can share again, right?”
We got into the cleansing booth, JJ wanting to linger and play, me pushing her to get done. I was anxious to talk to Nolan. I contacted him right after I got my full suit on.
“Nolan? You wanted to chat?”
“Good morning, Captain. Yes, I discovered something about the full suits.”
“You’ve got yours on?”
“I do, Captain. The adjustment didn’t take as long as expected. You?”
“Butch told me to get used to them. I don’t see using the short suit unless we need to be under cover. What have you found out?”
“The long suits include a function called muscle assist.”
I laughed. “Of course they do. The speed capability is exactly that, so why wouldn’t they be able to enhance our strength as well?”
“It’s both strength and speed,” Nolan said. “Can’t wait to try it out.”
“You’ll get your chance a little later. The second round of training will start after I’ve trained the fighter squadron leads this afternoon.”
“Yes, I see where I am on the schedule. Dojo said there were weights we could use to test the strength. Surprised Butch hasn’t mentioned it.”
<Butch> I like to lead the training through the proper order, Nolan. You tend to read ahead.
<Nolan> So I do.
<Dojo> I helped.
<Butch> Way to go, Fido.
<Me> All right you guys, don’t start. We’ve got to get a move on. Butch, you’ll be showing me this capability today, right?
<Butch> Job one is training. Don’t worry, we’ll get there, but it’s not the most important part of the capability.
“Well, Captain, that’s all I had. See you later.”
“Thanks, Nolan. Keep on reading ahead.”
Nolan left the call.
<Me> Who, Nolan or me?
<Butch> Both. I’m only kidding. Better grab breakfast. If you want to play with the strength enhancement capability, you’d better make sure to get through the scheduled training on time.
JJ glanced at me, already dressed. “Heard all of that. Interesting. We should’ve expected it, I guess.”
<Me> Butch, how much strength are we talking about?
<Butch> You’ll be able to lift about two metric tons.
“What?” I asked. JJ chuckled.
<Butch> Why do humans always do that?
“It’s not just humans,” JJ said. “Barney did the same thing, when we told him how large the New Jersey is.”
“Yep, it’s just your standard double-take,” I said. “It represents shock.”
<Butch> Neanderthals are very close to humans, and you just gave Barney an intense human education.
I laughed. “He has a point there, you know.” I grabbed my backpack and slipped the helmet into it.
“Oh, I need to do that. I’m going across the hall to get it.” JJ left, and I met her at her door. We grabbed a quick bite on the way to the mustering room, and were there about forty minutes before the Tristar bridge crew.
<Emerald> Ready for the helmet fitting and speed training?
<JJ> I was born ready.
<Butch> Not that again. Trey, sit over to the side. You don’t want to get hit. Trust me.
I sat, watching JJ as she fit her helmet and ran through the speed modes. When she finished, she pulled off the helmet, grinning at me.
“That was fun. You gonna try with the long suit?”
“Yeah, I’ve got just enough time.”
“I’m leaving,” she said, putting her helmet into the backpack, then putting her street clothes on over the suit. She gave me a peck, then left.
<Butch> Ah, young love.
<Me> We’re not that young.
<Butch> I was trying to be nice. Ready to try the speed modes with the long suit? You’ll be surprised how much better it works.
<Me> Yeah, let’s get started. Anything different in how it works?
<Butch> Nope, same mind-dictation commands and all that.
I stripped out of my street clothes and put on the helmet, then went through each of the modes. It felt more effortless than the day before. I was barely winded when we finished, even though I ran about twice as much as the first time.
<Me> Wow, this is something.
<Butch> Told you. Cyrus is at the door. Perfect timing.
I took off the helmet and sat, watching Cyrus walk in.
“That’s an interesting look,” he said. “I get one of those?”
“You get a short suit and this long suit, but we’ll begin the training with the short suit, and you’ll need to wear it for a day. Tomorrow we’ll fit you with the long suit and helmet.”
<Butch> His AI is ready to go.
<Samson> I am.
<Me> Interesting name.
<Cyrus> I’m surprised it wasn’t taken.
I watched as Cyrus’s AI ran him through the program, adding the low speed enhancement. He finished with a big grin on his face.
“That’s almost as fun as flying fighters,” he said, walking over to me.
“Butch, does it make sense that he change into the long suit and get used to that?”
<Butch> No, short suit first. It helps with the transition. We’ll fit his long suit and helmet tomorrow.
<Samson> It’s already planned out.
“Good, then I’ll see you tomorrow, Cyrus.”
He grinned, putting his clothes on over the short suit and leaving, the next student arriving as he went out the door. We managed to keep to our schedule through the Tristar bridge crew. I had an hour break between the last of them and the first of the fighter pilots, so I called JJ.
“Hey yourself, honey,” JJ said, her face showing on my PA. “Get through Cyrus’s folks?”
“Yep, and now I’ve got an hour for lunch. How are you doing?”
“Making great progress again. We’ll be ready almost a week before we get to Boroclize.”
“Excellent news. Want to meet for lunch?”
“I’d rather keep working, if you don’t mind. We’re at a complex part of the process.”
“Okay, then I’ll see you tonight.”
I left the mustering room, eating a burger at a nearby bar and grill, turning down offers of a beer from the crew members who were there. I was back to the training room with about ten minutes to spare.
<Butch> Your first pilot trainee is here already.
<Me> Let him in.
The door clicked, and Commander Klemperer entered. He was shorter than I expected, with a shaved head, his broad shoulders showing that he liked to work out.
“Good morning, Captain Clarke,” he said, extending his hand.
“It’s not morning anymore,” I quipped as we shook hands. “Very good job the other day.”
“It was okay, but we lost a couple men.”
“True. Hopefully the AI capability will make a difference next time.”
Klemperer nodded, and I took him to the equipment room, his AI getting involved right away. He went through the training like he’d done it before.
<Butch> Private. Another natural.
<Me> I was thinking the same thing, but it’s not surprising. You must have a certain level of coordination to get into fighter pilot school.
<Butch> You’ve been through that program, and didn’t take to the training as well. No offense.
<Me> No offense taken. I’m about fifteen years older than Commander Klemperer.
<Butch> You’re in very good shape for your age, but age doesn’t matter much with this technology, as long as your mind is sharp. This technology had it’s start in research for disabled people.
<Me> Where’d you hear that?
<Butch> Early research I was doing. Of course the prototypes I’m talking about didn’t have the fighting capability.
I finished up with the rest of the fighter pilots on the schedule, running a little late when Nolan showed up for his second session.
“How’d it go, Captain?”
“Very well, Nolan. Ready for your speed training?”
“Of course. Dojo gave me a preview. I’m ready to hit the ground running, no pun intended.”
I shook my head, grinning. “Let’s get to it. We’re slightly behind schedule.”
I watched Nolan go through his paces. He was barely able to contain himself when he was finished.
“That was amazing,” he said. “I’m already used to the long suit, too. Wonder why we don’t just start with them?”
“Butch said something about the body handling it better in stages. I’ll just take his word on that.”
“Try the strength capabilities yet, Captain?”
I chuckled. “I knew you’d ask. Not yet. I have to keep my eye on the ball. I’ll probably check it out at the end of the day.”
“Want some company?”
I shrugged. “Sure, Nolan, I’ll send you a message when I’m almost done with the last student.”
He grinned, then put his street clothes on over his suit, slipping his helmet into the backpack he brought. Sondra was coming in as he was leaving. I got through the other second sessions quickly, making up some time. I was about to call Nolan when JJ buzzed my PA.
“Trey, you just about done?”
“I’m going to spend another hour or so checking out the strength assist technology.”
“You aren’t doing that alone, I hope.”
“No, Nolan is coming over. We’ll do it together.”
<Butch> Dojo and I will be involved too, and we can shut down the system if there’s any problem.
“Good,” JJ said. “I’ll show up there when I’m done. It’ll probably be half an hour into it, though.”
“You’ve made good progress, I take it.”
“I have. See you soon.” JJ’s image left my PA, and I sent a quick message to Nolan.
<Me> How do we begin?
<Butch> There’s a door on the other side of this room, to your left. It leads to the weight training room. We can get started in there.
<Me> Standard weight machines? Those aren’t anywhere near two metric tons.
<Butch> Why do humans want to go all the way right now, before they’re ready?
<Me> We have to work up to this?
<Butch> The suit adjusts to your muscles during the training, just like they do for the enhanced speed functionality. Don’t worry, you’ll be benching about ten times what you are capable un-assisted. You can still brag to JJ about your male prowess. Not that you need to anymore. She’s hooked.
I was laughing when Nolan came in.
“Something funny, Captain?”
“Butch. We’re going into the weight training room.”
“I figured we’d have to start small and build up,” Nolan said. “The documentation I can access doesn’t say much about the training procedures.”
<Butch> On purpose.
“Probably because of folks like you who like to snoop,” I quipped.
To be continued…
Bug Out! Texas Book 1 is now just 99 cents in the Kindle Store! Free in Kindle Unlimited! This is the story of Texas Patriots and their struggle against enemies, foreign and domestic, during the Bug Out! War. Chock full of action, adventure, suspense, and romance. Pick up your copy of Bug Out! Texas Book 1 today!
The first of my full length novels has been published in the Amazon Kindle store, available now. For those of you have have been readying the Bugout! series, the story involves George and Malcolm, and is set about seven years earlier. This book R rated, instead of the PG-13 of the Bugout! Series, so be warned. Here’s the link to “Never A Loose End”
Copyright Robert Boren 2018