Two Worlds – Chapter 247

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Argo, United Commonwealth of Colonies

Coop felt the transition in his bones, but he just shrugged it off. He’d been too busy chuckling. He’d seen Ben, and then not too much later, the LT come out of his cabin. He wasn’t sure if the two were trying to keep their relationship on the down-low, but if they were it was the ship’s worse kept secret. Everyone knew the skipper and LT were doing to no-pants dance.  Hell, half the crew probably knew Eve and him were doing the same. Although, they’d only had time for a quickie in a cramped engineering space since leaving Thurgood Station. It wasn’t exactly what Coop was promised when he agreed to her terms.

As Coop watched the LT pass before she entered the bridge, he couldn’t help but stare. She was a good-looking woman, but despite that, he didn’t find his glance lingering on the curve of her ass. That was a first for him.

It wasn’t that he wasn’t into her. Coop was into all women. He’d been with women of every color, even unnatural colors that were popular at certain brothels on certain planets. He’d been with big women, small women, enhanced women, and natural women. Hell, he’d even been with woman who’d spliced on anatomical bits to themselves to increase their allure.

<I guess I’m just into a ‘blondes who can crush my head with their thighs’ phase,> he grinned.

After the transition, the LT reappeared. “Briefing in the armory in five, you’re relieved,” she ordered. He was cool with that. He was tired of standing around.

By the time he got to the armory, half of the team was already starting to suit up in their new LACS. Weapons were being issued, checked, and double-checked by SSG Hightower, the team’s armorer, and then the soldier themselves. Like always, Eve was close to the front of the line.

Coop had to wait in line to return the weapons and armor he’d been issued for guard duty before going to his charger and struggling into his LACS. Then, he had to get back in line to be issued his new weapons and load out.

He was glad when the SSG told him to step on the auto-loader and open his ports. The machinery whirring was a comfortable sound as his full complement of artillery rounds was placed in his internal magazines. It soon became obvious that the LACS were being overloaded with everything the SSRT could get their hands on. Not only did he have an area shield generator, but he also had a backup, a grav-sled was being loaded with extra ammunition, and even a portable 100mm mortar tube. The last seemed a little redundant. In the end, he was responsible for hundreds of thousands of rounds along with enough medical supplies to sustain a company.

“We’ll be meeting up with resistance leaders when we arrive on planet,” the SGM explained why they were stripping the armory clean. “They need weapons and supplies for their insurgency. Since they are our people, even if they don’t like us that much, we’re coming to their aid. They’ll be able to give us the lay of the land, current intel, and provide targets of opportunity. It will be up to leadership’s discretion whether or not we’ll engage in combat operations against the Windsor’s, but we’ll be ready if we do. Questions?”

The few questions that were asked revealed that everything was situation-dependent. Despite the intel download that had been transmitted from Argo, it became abundantly clear that there was more unknown than known about Harper’s Junction.

When the brief Q&A was completed, the SRRT shuffled, bent, and maneuvered themselves in the cramped, too-small corridors down to the Splitstream room. Once there, they were told to wait.

{Hey,} he opened a link with Eve. {Is it me, or do we not seem to have enough intel on our own planet?}

{Harper’s Junction has always been passively hostile to the Commonwealth. They even passed laws to have a meager Infantry contingent, and no Fleet forces guarding the planet. I guess they thought their isolation was their biggest protection. They guessed wrong.}

{And now we’ve got to go in and sneak around to figure out what’s going on.} His frustration translated through the IOR.

{Coop,} Eve had that tone she always did when she was going to start a lecture. {This is what the SRRT teams are built for. We’re the only people physically and mentally capable of making the instantaneous transition from point to point. We’re always going to be going into situations where we don’t know enough, and have to figure it out for the follow-on forces. That’s the job. Get used to it.} She was clearly in no-nonsense mode, so he quit his bitching. Call it a high school cliche, but he didn’t want to be arguing with his girlfriend on the night of the big dance. “Dance” being the million-plus kilometer travel into hostile territory after atomic disassembly, digitization, and reassembly.

Call him old fashioned, but Coop liked to know what he was stepping into.

At some point, they crossed an invisible line in space where splitstream was now a go.  One team at a time, they stepped onto the raised platforms. Coop couldn’t help but think he looked like an idiot. He had extra materials strapped to every centimeter of his armor. He’d be able to disassemble everything and get in into the folded up grav-sled currently magnetized to his left hamstring when he arrived. That of course meant he didn’t drop into shits creek where he would be screwed six ways to Sunday.

“Alpha Team, ready,” the SGM stood on the forward-most platform. He was similarly laden down with supplies, but not as bad as Coop. The V4A was the pack mule after all.

The LT gave him a thumbs up and Coop was immediately overcome with the numb sensation of being instantaneously transmitted through space.  The landing wasn’t much smoother than when he arrived back on the Hegemony planet. It still felt like he’d been punched in the nards, but there was an odd tingling sensation in in his face. He could have sworn it felt like someone hooked his inner ear like an angler and gave him a good yank during the nearly instantaneous journey, but all sensations from the trip were already faded. <At least I kept my meal down.>

He gave himself a full body shake while his LACS’ sensors took in the LZ. That was when he got the first error.

Since Harper’s Junction was a former Commonwealth world, it had been fully mapped. With this intel, they’d carefully chosen the SRRT’s insertion point so they could quickly link up with friendly forces. From the error message displayed on Coop’s HUD, he was out of position by several hundred kilometers. That was 242 kilometers to be exact, and those 242 kilometers were in the direction of the capital city, currently occupied by the Windsor’s army. Even worse, he wasn’t picking up any friendlies on his IOR’s bandwidth. That meant no one was in vicinity of the unit’s twenty-five-kilometer radius, or within five hundred kilometer of the military-grade boosters each of them had strapped to their backs.

<We really need to upgrade our planets with these new networks,> he grumbled. New tech was good, but at someone point it became a hindrance.

If there was any good news, it was that he wasn’t inside the gradually expanding perimeter that army was creating, but it wasn’t by much. He could pick up the edges of their active sensor scans only a few kilometers away. Appearing in the middle of a cornfield wasn’t helping him either. The corn stalks were high, but not higher than a V4 LACS.

He hurriedly crouched down and hoped no one had seen him. His arrival had flattened the crops for a few meters in each direction, but no one would notice until they physically came upon it.

<Why can’t anything work out the way it’s fucking supposed to.> He grumbled as he went through his contingency options.

They weren’t many. He needed to go to ground and send out an encrypted, sporadic signal that he hoped the rest of the team would notice. Then he needed to send a tight beam to Argo, at the prearranged time, that he’d missed the LZ. Or, he needed to move to the rendezvous. He went with option two, while still prepping a transmission to the ship. It had to be fired off at the exact right moment, and from a precise angle, or the gunship would miss it entirely. He set his LACS’ AI, something new that he hadn’t trained with at all, to that task.

He was too close to the city for comfort, but moving almost 250 kilometers with all the crap he was carrying was going to be tough. At the very least, he needed to wait for nightfall.

Previous                            Next

Advertisements

Two Worlds – Chapter 246

Benjamin Gold

Location: Argo, United Commonwealth of Colonies

{It’s time to wake up…It’s time to wake up…} A high-pitched, shrill voice announced in Ben’s head repeatedly.

The alarm clock was one of mankind’s worst inventions. It was right up there with splitting the atom. With the advent of the IOR, the next generation of alarm clocks had taken shape, and they were an even greater pain in the ass. Ben had heard some of the troopers bitching, but now that he’d experienced it for himself, he finally understood the IOR was a dual-edged sword.

With a loud yawn, he acknowledged that he was awake and rolled out of bed. As he did so, his hand gently caressed Jacobi’s thigh in passing. She stirred slightly but didn’t wake.

As the Captain, his cabin was the most luxurious on the ship. Since the ship was only 125 meters long, that meant he couldn’t fully stretch his arms out to either side without hitting the opposite bulkheads. Since he was 220 centimeters, and had an impressive wingspan, that meant he at least had enough room to move around in, or in this case, share a bed.

The bed was rated for HI troopers, so it was long enough to accommodate him and Jacobi. They were still they were sleeping nut to butt, which wasn’t normally an issue, but it normally led to one waking the other when they went onto duty.

<We don’t get to spend enough time together.> Ben sighed as he stepped into the small, adjacent shower.

A small amount of water and powerful bursts of air cleaned him up. A cheap nano-gel, popular with soldiers, quickly ate the stubble off his face. He had to be careful to make sure it didn’t get anywhere else. One previous misapplication had led to a bald spot on his chest that Jacobi called adorable, but he thought was embarrassing.

Cleaned and ready, he donned his CMUs and stepped back into his larger cabin. Jacobi was softly snoring on the bed, which she’d promptly sprawled across. He just stood there for a moment and watched. He smiled at the way she’d tangled her legs in the sheets, how her normally-controlled, raven-black was fanned chaotically across the pillows, and how her mouth was slightly open and drops of drool had slowly formed a wet spot overnight. He knew he wasn’t getting as much time as he wanted with her, but some was better than nothing, which was what most unmarried people in the military had to deal with.

<Marriage would fix that…wait…where did that come from!> He went from happy and content to confused and anxious in a moment.

Where unmarried soldiers didn’t stand a chance in hell in being assigned together, married soldiers had the bureaucracy working in their favor. It wasn’t a guarantee, as everything was still needs of the service, but regulations required the human resources personnel to make every available effort to station spouses together; especially if they had kids.

Ben knew he loved her, and he was sure she loved him, but neither of their careers were conducive to marriage. Thankfully, a buzzing sound in his head announced an incoming message, and stopped that thought process.

{On my way.} He sent his reply and stepped out of his cabin, but not before giving her a peck on the cheek. He could at least give her that.

“Hello, Coop.” He greeted the man guarding the bridge, and the only other man he knew of that was in a disclosed relationship aboard his ship.

When the SGM had come to Ben with the news that the two SGTs were in a relationship, he was more than surprised. Coop always seemed like the ‘never settle down’ type, but Eve Berg had an aura about her. <If anyone could do it, she could.> He thought at the time.

“Sir,” It took a second for Coop to respond and brace to attention.

Ben knew he was probably watching something on his IOR, another downside about the new technology, but he’d let it pass. There was nothing going on aboard the ship at the moment, and just standing in a corridor for several hours had to be boring as hell.

“As you were.” Ben waved him off and entered the bridge.

PO3 Lee was on duty. As the only two naval personnel onboard Argo, one of them had to be on the bridge at all time. It was a rough watch rotation, and he was about to start his twelve hours. As the skipper, he had the privilege to choose his shift, and he took the 0600 to 1800 one. However, Lee needed to stay around for another few minutes.

“Transition in ten minutes, Sir.” She fought back a yawn, but didn’t succeed.

Argo was currently rocketing through FTL under her Alcubierre drive. Portaling might be the means of travel for the future, but there were no QE buoys for the gunship to lock onto. Argo was forced to travel to the nearest linked system, and then hop toward its destination under the older drives. They’d had to resupply their exotic fuel twice on classified asteroid storage facilities, but now they were almost to their destination.

Harper’s Junction was in the ass-end of nowhere. He didn’t see any strategic importance to it, which meant the Windsor’s knew something the Commonwealth didn’t. While the SRRT was infiltrating the planet, it was his job to find out what that was.

“Give me the latest readings, Amber.” Ben queried the ship’s AI, and the data appeared in front of his eyes. He quickly scanned it and saw everything was in the green.

The gluon power plants had been reduced to their lowest power setting, with all of that power being directed to making Argo look like a hole in space. The naval intelligence people had no idea how good the Windsor’s scanning tech was, but they’d wisely assumed it was at least as good, and probably better than, their own. With that in mind, he was doing everything in his power to not be seen.

He made sure their transition back into normal space took place in the outer system, far beyond the limited infrastructure in the system’s one asteroid belt, and behind a massive gas giant to boot. It was the stealthiest arrival he could plan, and unless the enemy had a ship placed to cover that area, he would be fine. The infinite vastness of space, even in a single star system, played to his advantage here. That and there was no way a comprehensive drone network could have been established to cover even one percent of the outer system since Harper’s Junction had fallen. That was assuming the Windsor’s even had the resources to do so, which considering their large-scale offensive…

He stopped himself before he could go back down that rabbit hole. He’d thought about all of this during the planning phase of the operation. In conjuncture with Jacobi, the SGM, the naval intelligence spook that briefed them back on Thurgood Station, and Argo itself through Amber, they’d all agreed this was the best plan. He took a deep breath and reminded himself of that.

He was just about back to normal when a hand grabbed his butt and gave it a firm squeeze. Since a skipper jumping out of his CMUs on his own bridge was undignified, he didn’t even wince. He just looked over his shoulder into the mischievous grin of Jacobi. At least she’d surprised him. She’d only made it to bed a few hours ago.

She read the question off his face. “If on the off chance there is a destroyer waiting for us and blows us to stardust before we know what’s happened, I’d rather be on my feet than asleep in my bunk.”

Ben accepted the rationale. He wouldn’t want to just go to sleep and never wake up, but by the way she was grinning, he knew she had something else on her mind. From the ass grab, the way she was standing close to him, and the look in her eye, he could tell she wanted to do something. She was about to take her team onto a hostile planet where she could very well not come back from. She wanted to do something life affirming, and nothing quite did that like boning.

He had heard rumors of people screwing during a transition.  The somewhat violent conversion from FTL to normal space caused several reaction in the human body. He barely noticed it anymore since he’d been doing it for so long. It was a great way to get a release if you were stopped up, was one thing he’d heard, but never tried. Then there was the Transition Club. Apparently, it had evolved from sex on airplanes before humanity ventured into space and outside the Sol System, but as humanity spread, so did the tradition.

He guessed, if Jacobi had her way, that she’d want to join the Transition club. He was more than willing to participate, but they both knew they couldn’t. The whole, transitioning into a hostile system took precedence.

<Needs of the service.> Ben grumbled as the clock ticked down and the eventually entered Harper’s Junction.

Just to let her know he understood where she was coming from, he made sure to give her a small pinch on the ass at the moment of transition. If they were blown out of space, he was comfortable with that being his last act.

With that thought, Ben knew he was in trouble when it came to Lieutenant Jacobi Wentworth. He’d been with many women, even thought he’d loved a few, but they all fell far short of the warrior woman standing next to him on his bridge.

Previous                             Next

Two Worlds – Chapter 245

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Argo, United Commonwealth of Colonies

{On your right!}

Coop’s breath was ragged as he finished off one opponent. He was lightly armed in something similar to Dragonscales. It would have been simple enough to put a few plasma-tipped rounds from his Buss into the guy, but the shields made that a non-starter.

<Fucking shields!> Coop was still pissed as he rotated as fast as he could. He had only enough time to see a wall of red, set his feet, and bring his arm up before it felt like Atlas dropped the world on his shoulders. <Son of a …>

Even in the newly improved LACS V4A, the biggest individual war machine in the Commonwealth’s arsenal, the Windsor’s mech still towered over him by a few meters. With the disparaging mass difference, Coop was just glad his arm didn’t snap and allow the mech to cleave him in two. He still had to put all his augmented strength behind the block, and if the angle was worse, the mech would have easily overpowered him.

The ground still cracked around him from the force of the blow. Pain radiated through his shoulders, down his spine, and into his knees. Coop knew he needed to move fast, so he reacted based on training. He used the mech’s height and mass to his advantage. He twisted, which caused a painful pop in his back, but it allowed the mech’s giant nano-blade to slide off his own sword and into the ground. Using his core Coop spun and chopped at the mech’s midsection. His blade sang through the air, but came to an abrupt stop a few centimeters from the mech’s rust-colored armor.

“Fucking shields!” Coop repeated as he pushed against the flashing blue barrier. The shield gave under the pressure, but not enough to pierce the armor.

Thankfully, the tech wizards at Gold Technologies had studied the recordings they had from New Lancashire, and the recent offensive mounted by the Windsor’s, and they’d come up with a counter. Coop activated that counter through his IOR a second after his nano-blade made contact with the shield.

The developers called it the chainsaw feature. Coop didn’t get it, and when they explained how the devices were used to cut down trees centuries ago, Coop still didn’t get it. He hadn’t seen a tree for the first time in nearly two decades, and he didn’t see the point of a cutting instrument when you could just fire a clear laser-burst and cut it at the base more efficiently. His comments sufficiently rained on the engineers’ parade, but they eventually explained the gist of it to him, and he got to see it himself while testing his new V4.

Through some mechanical process utilizing the power of the LACS’ miniature gluon power plant, and some grav-tech, the molecularly-honed edge of the nano-blade had been configured to spin. The high-speed rotation created the sawing motion that sought to disrupt the integrity of the enemy shields. It was a pretty sweet technique, and he had quickly fallen in love with it.

A slight whirring noise filled the air as Coop activated chainsaw mode through his IOR. The mech’s shield sparked brighter and there was infrequent resistance as Coop applied pressure. The shield still held for about three seconds, before the new and improved nano-blade made it through. Of course, the mech didn’t just lie down and take it up the ass while Coop was trying to fuck up its day. Coop’s blade had barely eaten a centimeter into the mech’s armor when the behemoth swatted at Coop like he was an irritating fly. Since Coop was holding the blade with both hands to maximize the power he put into the chop, all he could do was duck his head and raise his shoulder to avoid his skull taking the brunt of the blow.

It worked, but it felt like God bitch-slapped him. He lost the blade, which was still wedged into the mech’s armor, but he was able to execute a combat roll and look somewhat graceful. In doing so, his mind whirled with possibilities. He liked to think he was quick on his feet, and this time, he had a plan just as he got his feet back under him.

<The IOR might be a pain in the ass while walking down the street, but it’s good for at least two things: porn and quick decision making.> Since the IOR basically recorded everything you ever did, unless you subverted the settings, Coop had a wonderful first-person recording of his trip to pound town with Eve. Since they were on opposite teams, opposite shifts, and opposite anything else the SGM could think of, it had kept him sane for the last few days.

At the moment, it was the quick decision making aspect that he was referencing. Using the IOR, Coop toggled to his weapons system, activated his spine-mounted 250mm cannon, and had a round chambered when he came out of the roll. He braced himself upon completion, which made him look like a kneeing man offering up his neck to the mech’s sword, but what it really did was angle the cannon right on target. Through the LACS sensors interfacing with the IOR, Coop didn’t have to look where the face of his suit was directed. He could have been aiming out the ass section if he needed to.

The mech had wheeled on Coop, and wasn’t bothering to take Coop’s blade out of its side. It knew the real threat was Coop, with him out of the picture, the mech could take the blade back to its armory and learn the secrets of the chainsaw function.

<Maybe another time.> Coop sent the command to fire, and the HE round shot from his cannon. At the same time, he activated his ES shielding. The nanites of his armor fused on a molecular level just as the HE round impacted the mech. Due to Coop’s position, and the height difference, an inferno erupted right around the mech’s crotch area.

“Endex!” the voice of God announced.

The dusty plain Coop had been fighting in dissolved around him to reveal a black VR station. Coop took a deep breath and squeezed his fists tight together. He’d just gone from mortal combat with a Windsor’s mech to sitting alone in a quiet space. The VR crash was unavoidable, but he had found ways to cope over the year since he’d been in the infantry.

He flexed and opened his fist a few times before shaking his whole body like a wet dog. Once his breathing was back under control he got up and exited the cube. There were two in Argo’s grunt country, and the SGM had battle buddy teams rotating through them to test their new LACS features since they couldn’t do it in the real world.

“Cooper!” GYSGT Cunningham’s voice cut through the adrenaline that was slowly fading from his veins. “What the fuck was that?”

“I was staying alive, Gunney,” Coop replied a little harsher than he should have to his team leader.

“The exercise parameters stipulated you were only to use your new nano-blades.” The Gunney crossed her arms under her impressive chest and glared at him. “We want to get a good baseline on where you are with your swordsmanship, where you need improvement, and the new weapon’s effectiveness against the enemy.

Coop thought the last one was a stretch since they were doing it in VR, but he knew they were loaded with the latest and greatest data the Commonwealth had on Windsor tech. What he’d just been through was the closest he was going to get to a mech without facing off against an actual one again.

<I’ll pass.> He had no intention of doing that again if he could help it.

“I can help you with that,” Coop continued. “The chainsaw feature is good, but unless three other team members are holding the guy down, we’re not going to have time to saw through his shield and armor. It’s a good try by the Gold tech weenies, and it’ll fuck up the Windsor’s regular troops, but the mechs are still going to be a tough nut to crack.”

The Gunney scowled back at him, but her eyes unfocused for a minute before she sighed in defeat. “I’ll give you your formal review later. You have bridge guard duty in ten minutes. Get suited up and hit the armory.”

Coop didn’t need to be told twice. It would have been nice to get a shower, and not stink up the place, but there wasn’t any time. He walked the short distance to the armory where SSG Hightower was on duty. He signed out an oversized Dragonscale vest to him, and then an M3. The guard duty was largely a traditional, ceremonial deal. If shit really went down, the rest of the SRRT team would have time to suit up with their specialty gear before the enemy arrived.

“Ma’am,” he passed the LT in the corridor and greeted her with a salute. It was the first time he’d seen her today, so he’d just give her respectful nods from here forward.

“Good morning, Sergeant.” It was only a little after 0900 shipboard time. Coop had been up since 0400, but the officers didn’t keep to the same schedule. If anything, the LT looked like she hadn’t slept yet.

The SRRT’s new mission, since dropping off the diplomats at Thurgood Station, was a recon of an enemy occupied system. Harper’s Junction was one of the systems taken in the Windsor’s latest offensive move, and it was the SRRT’s job to go get up-to-date intel on ship disposition as well as troops on the ground, and civilian resistance efforts before the Commonwealth Fleet showed up and fought to retake commonwealth soil. There was no word on when the counterattack would come, but Coop hoped the warring politicians in the midst of election season could put their differences aside and come at a mutual enemy as a unified force.

<Might as well wish for a blowie from the Gunney.> Coop thought he had a better chance at that, despite the GYSGT batting for the other team, than politicians getting along.

He reached his post next to the bridge hatch and settled in for the next few hours. He slung the weapon across his chest, muzzle down, and made sure a round was loaded but the weapon was on safe. He did the same for the sidearm on his leg holster. Both were good to go.

That left Coop alone with nothing but his thoughts. The bridge was pretty quiet. Argo was taking a roundabout route to where they would portal out of the system and to Harper’s Junction. They’d portal into a nearby system and then jump with their Alcubierre Drive into Harper’s Junction because there was no QE signal to lock on to. Gold Technologies had sent one of their buoys, but they’d received a self-destruct message before losing the signal two days ago. That added days to their timetable, but it didn’t affect their mission much.

Once they arrived at the edge of the enemy-held system, they’d spend a while coasting in ballistic at maximum stealth. They knew the Windsor’s ship had state of the art tech, but with Argo’s own upgrades, and the extra precautions, LCDR Gold thought they’d be able to pull it off. Once they were close, the SRRT would beam down to the planet and link up with the local resistance. They’d gather intel from the ground while Argo did the same for the space surrounding the planet.

This was the part Coop didn’t like. It was the LT and LCDR’s call if the SRRT team came back to Argo or stayed on planet and worked with the resistance until the fleet showed up. Coop didn’t want to be on an enemy-held world one second longer than he had to. It didn’t matter how fancy his gear. He’d read up on Harper’s Junction once he learned that was where they were going. The population wasn’t overly fond of Commonwealth governance before they got annexed, and he sensed they wouldn’t be fans now.

He just shook his head at no one in particular in Argo’s empty corridor. <Well I might as well have a little fun,> he thought as he pulled up his IOR, subverted some of the settings with the code he’d been working on for a while, and pulled up some recordings of him and Eve from memory. To anyone checking in on him, it would look like he was religiously scanning the corridor for hostiles. When in actuality he was watching Eve’s tits bouncing beneath him as they made ferocious love to one another.

Previous                                 Next

Two Worlds – Chapter 244

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Thurgood Station, United Commonwealth of Colonies

“Rise and shine!” Something solid hit Coop in the ass and woke him from a deep sleep.

“Wha…” Coop looked up through bleary eyes and wiped some drool from the corner of his mouth. He looked down his backside and saw a red handprint glowing against his pale skin. “Oww!” he protested without meaning it.

The groan after he rolled over had nothing to do with Eve’s playful smack. Coop was sore. Everything from his balls to his pecs had a well-used feel to them. Eve had been…demanding to say the least.

<Speak of the devil.> Coop looked over toward the small bathroom nook in the cheap motel room. Eve had already showered before rousing him, and she was standing in front of the mirror in nothing but a towel. The towel was only covering her hair. <God, what a great ass.>

Eve must have seen him looking because she smiled. “Down boy,” she chided when she saw his anatomical reaction to her fabulous gluteus.

“We’ve got time for one more,” Coop tried his best to sound seductive and not desperate.

The previous evening had been a whirlwind. The fancy dinner had gotten him the deal of a lifetime, and his defense of her honor at the dive bar had sealed it. He’d only had to trounce half a dozen of the Station’s hardier fellows before everyone got the picture. Then he bought them all drinks and mended that fence. Things had gotten a little more interesting when a few marines had stumbled into the establishment at the end of a self-imposed bar crawl. They took one look at Eve through their beer goggles and wanted to chat her up. Coop had taken the moment of peace after establishing diplomatic relations with the locals to take a piss. He came out of the head to the marines hitting on his girl.

The brawl that had ensured ate ten grand in damage from his hundred grand chip, but he’d taught those grunts a lesson. Hell, even a few of the locals joined in. The only one who didn’t raise a finger was Eve. She just stood at the bar and sipped her drink while her eyes did all the talking. When they finally busted through the door of the hotel, half disrobed, and with each other’s tongues doing the tango, she did a lot more than raise just a finger.

“Don’t give me those puppy dog eyes,” Eve shook her finger at him and turned her attention back to the mirror. “Check the time.”

Coop brought up his IOR to see they had just over an hour to report back to Argo. With the time it would take to get through the station’s congestion they’d have to leave soon, which meant Coop had to act fast if he wanted to get some before got back to the ship. Once onboard, it would be much harder to get some quality time together.

Coop opened his mouth, with his best line locked and loaded, but his eyes were drawn to something just below the perfect curve of her ass. “What’s that?” Coop slid off the bed to investigate.

“Not now,” Eve batted behind her as Coop got down for a better look.

“No, seriously.” Now that Coop was closer he could clearly see it was an exit wound. “What happened?” The change in his tone must have alerted Eve he wasn’t just looking to get his dick wet.

“I told you already,” she resumed studying herself in the mirror. Coop didn’t know what she was doing to an already perfect body, but he knew better than to ask. “I was wounded on the Yangon operation.”

“Right,” Coop tried his best to recall the story, but he’d been in murky waters with her back then and was pretty sure they’d been arguing about something. “When you saved Sullivan?”

“Yeah.” Eve let out a sigh. “A round got through my LACS when I had to fight my way out of a PDC supply depot. It’s no biggie.” There was suddenly a self-conscious tone in her reply. “I got healed up back onboard, but the medical personnel were stretched thin after a major offensive. I told the nurse just to get me patched up and I’d deal with the rest later. Then I got ordered to report to New Savannah and the SRRT. After then it was the attack and the anti-terrorism ops, and then we went off to the Gold City. Once I have time I’ll get to a clinic and get it taken care of.”

“Taken care of?” Coop was mesmerized by the star-shaped patch of scar tissue. “Why? This is so hot.” He gently pressed his lips to her wound.

He felt Eve’s whole-body shiver in response. “Oh,” the surprised word slipped through her lips. “Well, I guess we have time.” She turned to face him. “Let’s go, soldier.” She gestured Coop to his feet, grabbed him, and led him back to the bed. She didn’t grab him by the hand, she went for something much more essential to the boning process.

In the end, their tight deadline to get back to Argo wasn’t an issue. The congestion in the main concourse wasn’t nearly as bad as yesterday, and they made good time. They had a whole ten minutes to spare when they confronted the SGM at the airlock.

“Berg, Cooper,” the SGM mentally checked them off the list on his IOR. “Cutting it a little close.”

“Sergeant Major,” the SGM looked a little surprised when Eve replied to what was clearly a rhetorical question. “Per Fleet Regulation 1165, and UCMJ Article 134, I am informing you that Sergeant Cooper and I are engaged in a sexual relationship. The relationship in question is within the bounds of regulation and maintains good order and discipline among our unit.” Eve stated calmly and clearly.

“I’m the judge of whether or not it affects the good order and discipline of the team or it calls into question your objectivity when executing mission priorities.” The SGM replied casually without any bite or judgment in his tone.

“If it helps Sergeant Major,” Coop piped up, “Eve and I had sex back after Basic and it has not affected our performance on any of the missions we’ve served together on.”

“Cooper,” the SGM sighed. “That information doesn’t help or hurt you, nor should it be shared judging by the expression on Sergeant Berg’s face.” The SGM gave Coop a look of pity. “But considering everything I’m going to move Sergeant Berg to Bravo Team effective immediately so there is no chance of questioning either of your objectivity. Sergeant Cooper, please inform Sergeant Enders that he is now with Alpha, and then get him up to speed. You’re dismissed.”

“Thank you, Sergeant Major,” Eve replied respectfully before heading for the airlock. Coop followed behind her.

Once they’d passed into the space between the boarding tube between the station and the ship, Eve rounded on him. “Don’t share our private business with the Senior NCOs and Officers, Mark!” She seethed. It was the first time Coop had ever heard her use his first name, which told him he’d seriously stepped in it.

“I thought it would help show our objectivity.” Coop still felt the need to defend himself.

“You’re lucky the Sergeant Major didn’t throw us in the brig,” Eve spun on her heel and walked away from him.

“But you said our relationship was kosher!” Coop yelled after her.

“That was my interpretation of the regs,” Eve replied. “My interpretation doesn’t matter. It is what the OIC thinks that matters. He has discretion, but he’ll take the Sergeant Major’s advice.” Eve pushed through the next airlock to Argo, and Coop wisely kept his mouth shut and let her have the last word.

Mike met them before they hit grunt country. “I got an alert to check the roster. I’m with alpha now, and the guard rotation got switched up in the last minute.”

It was the SRRT team’s job to have a permanent guard posted on the armory, bridge, and Splitstream compartment at all times. It was a nice break when they were ferrying all the diplomats, but it would be a pain now that it was just the eight team members, and Coop was officially in a relationship.

He checked the roster and groaned. The SGM might have blessed their relationship, but that didn’t mean he was giving them time to spend together. From a preliminary glance at the training and guard schedules, Coop would be lucky to see Eve at all this cruise.

<Good thing we have that last quickie.> Coop would have to file that away in his spank bank because he knew he’d be fiddling the flesh flute for the near future.

 

***

 

Queen Josephina I

Location: Harper’s Center, Barrowsford, Star Kingdom of Windsor

“Presenting Her Royal Highness, Her Majesty the Queen, Josephina the First, Ruler of Barrowsford!” A man called out over the loud speaker as Josephina descended the steps of her shuttle. This was her first time setting foot on her new planet as Queen, and she wanted to make a big deal of it.

At the same time, she couldn’t make it seem like she was making a big deal out of it. The planet was fresh off a hostile takeover. Her fleet had grievously wounded the system defense force, destroyed the Commonwealth garrison, and bloodied the local militia. With their antiquated weapons and armor, they stood no chance against even the small amount of lancers she’d brought with her. The left over military forces were still standoffish toward her, and several cities around the world weren’t recognizing the annexation of Harper’s Junction, now Barrowsford, by the newly christened Empire of Windsor.

It was the local population that had backed her, and was ensuring her peaceful rule of much of the planet without further bloodshed. That local population were not fans of big hoopla for the few at the expense of the many. They’d had enough of that from corporate overlords and their elected puppets.

So, Josephina had to make sure she walked a thin line with everything she did until she really got her claws into the planet. Step One was to make this whole welcome home ceremony for the new queen look very candid.

“You are too kind,” she made sure to smile at the local they’d hired and paid handsomely for his service and silence afterward.

A line of her soldiers, in their gleaming red armor, flanked her on either side, but the area in front of her was packed with civilians. They looked unsure what they should be doing, but many had clapped and cheered when she stepped off the shuttle. She took that as a good sign.

“I bring good tidings from the Empress. She has bestowed upon me the title, but more importantly, that title’s responsibility of being your steward. She has vowed to me, as I vow to you, that we will govern you wiser, better, and more justly than the Commonwealth. We want to ensure that every citizen of Barrowsford has access to education, healthcare, and job opportunities. Our empire is expanding, and it needs every one of us to pull our weight. In return, that empire will care for us and our families. This I swear to you!”

The end of her impromptu, but carefully crafted speech was met with much greater applause than her arrival. She took it all in stride as she smiled and waved at the gathered commoners. She turned her back and headed up the stairs to the lavished governor’s mansion, which was now the royal palace. She’d made sure the shuttles containing her personal belongings landed out of sight of the crowd.

Her staff’s first job was to redecorate the palace and make it suitable to entertain members of the government that was being formed by the commoners. She would need to manage their radical ideas carefully. When people had a real taste of freedom for the first time, they tended to go a little crazy, and when push came to shove, she needed to remind them that they were commoners. She was the Queen, they all served the Empress, and the Empire was at war with the very people who had previously oppressed them.

She knew deep down, her dynasty on Barrowsford would never share the complete devotion that Victoria’s people felt for her. It wasn’t engrained in their new commoners…yet. Medical care was one of the top priorities. Children needed proper, updated vaccinations, and her team of doctors were making sure to slip in a little genetic coding. The side effects of the viral injection would be minor, and explained as a side effect to worried parents, but they would instill new genetic code into the young population’s growing bodies. By the time they became adults they would be habitually more loyal to the monarchy than any previous generation.

Josephina was playing the long game with her new home, and she was playing for keeps.

Previous                                 Next

PCS to Eden – Epilogue – Clubhouse

Death arrived early and alone.

Her eyes warily scanned her surroundings, but there was only one other creature in existence, and it posed no threat. After she felt secure, she studied the aesthetics of the meeting place.

<I’ll give him points for attention to detail,> she mused as she sauntered in.

As the architect of this parley, God had chosen the decor. He’d opted for a traditional English pub. Dark, pinewood paneling covered the walls. The single, round table was oak. The five throne-like chairs sitting around the table were beautifully carved, cherry wood masterpieces, and the bar itself was sturdy timber. The only things not made of wood were the creature behind the bar whose sole purpose for existence was to serve drinks to the most powerful beings in the universe before being snuffed out like a scented candle. Him, and the electric, neon signs behind the bar representing the various breweries. Ironically, there was only one tap for whatever Divine brew her brother planned to serve.

Behind her was the door. The only way in and out of the space, which was much more than a room. The little primordial clubhouse was a pocket universe specifically created when the remaining primordials left their creational womb to build their own realms. The æther in the space was neutral, which made the practically invincible beings vulnerable.

She had thought about ignoring the summons sent to her by her brother. It was the first summons since the Earth took shape in the cosmos, and it was a test. Could the rulers of creation come together to talk things out?

<At least it’s something new.> She’d ultimately decided. For something as old as she was, new experiences were in short supply.

The bartender didn’t say anything, but his eyes tracked her as she tossed her jacket and purse on one of the thrones. She picked the one facing the door. She was wearing a strapless dress made of diamonds, or at least that was what it appeared to mortal eyes. In fact, the light-catching, scale-like ensemble was made up of souls. They flashed with their own internal energy as much as they reflected the room’s dim lighting. The æther in the room was neutral, but she knew better than to show up to a potential knife fight without packing some artillery.

The dress was slit up both legs all the way to the hip, so two floor-length flaps covered her modesty. If not for the power the dress represented, she would have come in ass-less chaps to see how her brother reacted. The thought made her smile, but the bartender didn’t react.

“Give me whatever’s on tap, Jeeves,” she snapped her fingers and pointed to the table. With the creature busy behind her, she focused on the opposite side of the pub.

That side was covered by mist, or more specifically, the physical representation of æther. It was their conduit to the outside realms while holed up in this place. She went over to it and dragged her finger through it. It responded to her thoughts and formed into an image occurring far far away.

Hippolyta rode Gerry like a bucking bronco. Her hair was slick with sweat, her eyes were rolled into the back of her head, and her head was thrown back and looking at the ceiling. Since Death had an aerial view, she saw all the goods.

<Mmmm,> she purred and her hand caressed her neck. Her fingers traced across her collarbone andsent a thrill through her. Her opposite hand grazed inner thigh and…

“Please maintain some common decency,” a harsh voice chided from the door.

Death smirked and spun around to face God. Only he looked completely different. Gone was the fat, Santa-like man in a plain brown robe. Now, God was tall and muscularly thin. He was wearing a navy-blue suit with a red power tie. His hair was close-cropped white with flecks of silver, and his beard was neatly trimmed. He looked like a Wall Street power broker at the height of his game.

“You look hot,” Death saw if she could push his buttons early and throw him off balance.

God scoffed, but his face grew red as he saw what was on the æther in front of the table. “Come on…” he averted his gaze.

Death looked back to see Gerry and Hippolyta had switched positions. He was behind her now and seemed determined to drive her straight through the bed.

“It’s just sex,” Death shrugged. “You do indulge yourself at some point, Brother?” Death watched as Gerry reached under the amazon queen to grab handfuls of her full breasts. When she looked back at God she could stop her jaw from dropping. “Seriously?”

“It is beneath me,” he scowled and threw his briefcase on the chair farthest from her. “I have no time or need for sins of the flesh.”

“No wonder you’re so pent up,” she waved dismissively. “You haven’t gotten off in…ever.”

“Enough!” He spat and his fist hit the table. Instead of shaking the cosmos, it simply rumbled the drink the bartender had placed in front of her.

“I’m telling you,” she picked up the drink and gave it an experimental sniff, “Just let yourself go to town on one of your little angelic minions once and you’ll feel a lot better. I’ve seen some of them flying around with those short skirts acting so righteous and proper, but any Catholic schoolgirl could tell you that underneath that they want it bad.”

“Those are my children,” God looked horrified.

“Well…technically, but where is the fun if you didn’t create them the old-fashioned way.”

“Enough of this,” God repeated. “This is not why we’re here.” He opened his briefcase and tossed a thick stack of bound papers at her.

They thumped on the table in front of her, and the cover page was pretty clear what it was about.

“Oh,” she gave God a sad look. “Don’t be jealous of your nephew.” She motioned with her thumb over her shoulder. Gerry and Hippolyta’s coupling was growing faster and more frenzied.

“I’m not jealous of that abomination,” God sneered. “And he is not my nephew.”

“If your angels are you children created by whatever asexual osmosis you call birth, then Gerry is just as much my son as they’re yours,” she replied calmly as she opened the papers and started to peruse them.

“And you clearly want to lay with your son, Sister, so what does that make you?” he looked down at her victoriously, as if he’d finally backed her reasoning into a corner.

“By your logic he’s not my son, so what should I care,” she shrugged uninterestedly, which got a roar of frustration from him.

“You’re impossible!” he shot back.

“Thank you,” she smiled over the pages of legal nonsense he’d thrown at her.

Sensing the end was near, she turned her eyes from God to the æther. With one final thrust, a look of complete ecstasy shone from Gerry’s face as he let loose inside the Amazon Queen. Conversely, Hippolyta had a look of sinister triumph shining from ear to ear.

“Your newest son clearly has no knowledge of the Amazon’s foulness,” God scoffed.

Death just shrugged, but savored the look of complete satisfaction on Gerry’s face. “We’ll see.”

“I can already feel it taking root in her,” God’s scoff became a sneer. “That is yet another transgression against you, Sister. More blasphemy and abomination.” More pages appeared in the legal documentation in front of her, so she ignored it by tossing it aside.

“This isn’t something you can ignore.” God reprimanded as the papers reappeared at the center of the table. “Just like that thing is something Gerald will not be able to ignore.”

Hippolyta and Gerry had disengaged and she was shoeing him out of the room now. His job was done.

“Maybe so,” Death really wasn’t that concerned. “Killing family members is kind of our thing, right little brother. It builds character.”

Fury burned on God’s face, but it was interrupted by the door opening. Death was more than a little surprised at the new entrant.

“Baby sister,” she recovered quickly enough, and stood as the third primordial entered the room.

It was customary for a primordial to take the shape of the creatures in the realm they were visiting. If God or Death were in Mab’s realm, or she’d sent the summons, they would take on the shape of one of the many Fey she had created. Unfortunately, Mab’s take on reality was much skewed from her siblings. Heaven, Earth, and Hell were all relatively similar in their base creation. Mab’s realm was not. As such, the youngest primordial looked like a collection of geometric shapes piled on top of one another to somewhat resemble a human being.

Her head was a dodecahedron with diamond shape eyes, ears, and nose. Her neck was three stacked tori connected to a hexaconal prism torso. Her arms and legs were two cones with the tiny ends meeting at an octahedron that was supposed to be a knee or elbow. Her feet were the simplest things about her. They were basic spheres that she rolled on, while her hands were two pentagrammic prisms.

<Siblings.> Her neutral voice spoke in their minds. She had no mouth.

“Thank you for coming, Mab.” God gave her a bow and gestured to a chair.

<No one else will be joining us. I am the representative of the outer realms and have the confidence of our other siblings.> Mab announced before rolling to sit on her throne.

Death thought it would be difficult due to her unique construction, but her body sprouted more shapes to accommodate the action.

“Very well,” God took the announcement in stride. “I have called the parley because our sister has committed a heinous act. Knowingly and willfully, she created an ætherial hybrid. She ripped out the core of one of my most beloved children, molded it with some of her own essence, while keeping the spark of Cronus’ creation alive. The result is an abomination that must be exterminated from the universe.”

<Is this true?> Mab asked, her diamond eyes peaking.

“I wouldn’t say knowingly and willfully,” Death couldn’t fully hide her grin. “Gerald Fuller’s Infernal and mortal essence was already infused when I met him. He even had a touch of the Divine in him through no work of my own. I simply enhanced it…for fun.”

“She admits it!” God focused on the second half. “You’ve always wanted to create chaos. You children are monsters who’ve ravaged the realms for eons.” He pointed an accusatory finger at her.

“I like to think of it as expressing their individual identity,” Death replied calmly with a smile at Mab. “But what does this have to do with you?” she addressed the youngest of her kind. “I have no ambition for the outer realms, and I know you can hear the truth in my words. I simply want anyone and everyone to live the life they wish to live. He seeks to control them and establish order through fear and judgement.”

God sputtered like a stalled engine. “This has everything to do with all of us. We all agreed to keep our ætherial works separate for good reason. They feed off our essences. If everyone starts feeding off everyone else’s essences then it will be…”

“We know,” Death waved her hand dismissively, “you think everything will be chaos if it doesn’t go according to your plan. But as I said, Mab, I didn’t do this. He was already like this. Forces combined by no primordial hand to create this unique creature. I simply gave him a bigger battery.” She let her carefree nature fall away for a moment as she stared resolutely at her youngest sister. “Who are we to influence the natural order?”

The three beings in the room might all be primordials by creation, but over time, a hierarchy had evolved. Death was at the top. She defeated and consumed another primordial before leaving their cosmic womb. God was next. He’d beaten Cronus, conquered Eden, and consumed what was left of their brother. However, there was a big different between a primordial post realm-creation and one who hadn’t used their power yet. It took a lot of juice to create unique realities, so God had power, but not Death’s type of power.

After God were the three remaining primordials ruling what Mab described as the outer realms. They’d deliberately put space between themselves and their more ruthless siblings. Two didn’t even want to show up to this parley. Mab must have drawn the short straw. That was why, when Death turned her full gaze on Mab, the younger primordial was afraid.

Of course, no one knew what the other primordials’ true level of power was, but in that moment, Mab knew she was outclassed, and she didn’t have her other two siblings to back her up.

<This…this doesn’t concern us,> she stuttered out a reply and got a smile from Death. <As long as you do not bring this violence to the outer realms, your business is your own.> Mab stood abruptly and started rolling toward the door. <I have fulfilled my duty to the summons.> She exited and fled back to where she came from as fast as possible.

God seethed at the retreating back of his sibling, and he turned his glare on Death. He knew his only chance at actually punishing is older sister was to get the other primordials onboard. Together with Mab he thought he could get Death to back down, with one more of his siblings he was one hundred percent confident he could defeat her.

Death looked back at him with unabashed triumph. “Are we done here?” She kicked her feet up onto the table showing off all of her legs. “Don’t feel bad, Brother. At least have a pint before you go.”

God snatched her glass from the table and threw it into the æther. It cut through the misty split-image of Hippolyta cradling her stomach while Gerry walked the streets of Manhattan looking like a million bucks.

“One of these days something is going to backfire on you, Sister,” he replied through gritted teeth. “When it does, I’ll be there to revel in it.”

“I’ll look forward to that day, but until then,” she accepted the new pint the bartender produced for her, “stop sacrificing pawns to save your own ass. It’s unbecoming and your underlings are starting to see it.”

Instead of cowering, or looking pissed, God smiled savagely. “Count on it.”

“Ohhh,” Death smiled at the challenge. “I think you just gave me a hard on. Wanna wrestle?” her tone shifted to a backwoods drawl, and succeeded in sending God off in a huff.

She laughed as the door slammed closed behind him. She took the brew and chugged it down in a single gulp. <Damn that’s good,> she sighed as she focused her attention on Gerry.

<I’ve got plans for you.> She licked her lips.

A snap of her fingers and the bartender disintegrated into ash. She left the primordial clubhouse and it too was reduced to a ball of independent æther floating in the nothingness of this pocket universe. She thought about going straight to him, but decided against it. She had a few errands she needed to run first.

<Hell it is.> In a rush of æther she returned to her creation.

 

***

 

God was still fuming as he walked through the Pearly Gates. For the first time since the Rebellion, a full legion stood at the ready to repel invaders. His children bowed and scraped as he passed, but they kept a wide berth. They hadn’t seen the Old Testament look on their father’s face in a long time, but many of them knew the expression well. He’d worn the last one before starting a war.

He returned to his throne where the Seraphim Guard waited restlessly. They couldn’t go where he had gone, and couldn’t protect him even if they could. He furthered their unease by banishing them from his presence. He stood alone in the Divine Hall and roared his displeasure. Unlike in the clubhouse, all of Heaven shook with his rage.

But all was not lost. He thought he’d been able to convince Mab to support him, but he underestimated his sibling’s weakness and complacency. They had lived fat, happy, and peaceful for eons. They weren’t going to risk that by getting on Death’s bad side.

<It’s up to me to end the madness once again.>

That was the reason he’d fought Cronus in the first place. His brother never knew when to quit. He kept creating and experimenting. His creations grew more dangerous by the breed until it threatened Heaven and Hell. Naturally, Death didn’t care and she was nowhere to be found. It had been up to him.

It was always up to him.

He crossed the expanse of the hall in single step. He was at his most powerful here on his throne, and he would need that power for what came next. A battle map of Eden shimmered at the foot on the dais leading to his powerful conduit. Red showed where the Infernals had started gaining ground. Gold showed his own limited forces on the field of battle. He was yet to fully commit because he wanted Satan to overcommit, and his former-favorite was not disappointing. God would strike back hard when the time was right, but he also needed to play another card. He had billions of holy warriors just waiting for his call. The Infernals always underestimated the ingenuity and subtle brilliance of humanity. God would use that against them. With a thought, a big red switch appeared in the air in front of him. He’d never shown anyone else his Armageddon switch, but with a flick of his finger, he set in motion pre-arranged subroutines that had been in place for two thousand years. Over the next few weeks the more reasonable portions of the Book of Revelations would come to pass. Humanity would unite against the Infernals and help the Divine host push them back to Hell.

But that was only the first step of what he needed to do today. The second sat idly on his throne. His rage was tempered as he looked at the golden Hand of God. Its presence brought home the fact that he would have many hard decisions to make in the coming months and years. War was hell, he knew it better than anyone else, and he hated that he had to debase himself and his ideals in order to win.

With a deep breath he picked up the Hand of God and sat on his throne. Aether filled him as every aspect of Heaven and Eden – that was still under his control – filled his mind. The power was unimaginable for a human. Their brain would burn to a cinder trying to comprehend it, but to him, it was business as usual.

<It’s been a long time.> He pulled a mold from his deepest memories and set to work crafting and shaping it.

God did not create beings of immense power often. In eternity, he’d only created a handful, and today another would join their ranks. He grasped the Hand of God and dove in looking for something…anything…<Yes.> It was almost undetectable, but it was there. <She’s there.> He sighed in relief as he pulled out the last vestige of Ava.

If not for the Hand she would be dead and gone, but now he could make her better. <She needs to be more than better.> He paused the process and contemplated.

<Michael.>

<Yes,> his greatest general replied.

<I need an infernal prisoner brought to me immediately.>

If the archangel thought the request weird, he didn’t express it. <Yes, sir.>

<Castor,> He called the Cherubim Guard captain next. <I need a heroic human willing to sacrifice paradise for the greater good of all souls.>

<Yes, sir.> The other angel was equally as willing.

God hated what he was about to do, but his hand was forced. He couldn’t just make someone to replace Gabriel. He needed someone to take on Gerald Fuller. The abomination would continue to grow more devious and powerful the longer he was in Death’s thrall.

He needed his own abomination.

<I’m sorry, Ava, but I require your services once again.> God went to work as Death schemed and Armageddon kicked off with its foretold bang.

Time became an abstract concept as he sculpted his newest warrior. The coming battle would be the most trying yet, and not even he knew how it would end. He disliked that he couldn’t influence the outcome of events, so he set about stacking the deck in his favor however he could.

<I just hope it is enough.>

Previous

Bonus Chapter – Two Worlds – Chapter 243

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Thurgood Station, United Commonwealth of Colonies

Heads turned as Coop and Eve walked hand-in-hand down Thurgood Station’s main concourse. The place was packed with the flow of humanity, but despite that, a small bubble had formed around them. It was probably because they were the two biggest people in sight, which obviously pointed to them being military, and not average military at that. Despite that being the obvious reason, Coop liked to think it was because they were the best-looking people in the concourse and people were respecting that. It was a pipe dream, but to him, everything since Eve took his arm felt like a dream.

He’d thought long and hard about his feelings for Eve. She wasn’t his first love. That title belonged to Hailey, although he hesitated to call it love. Fuck buddies with a mutual interest in survival was a better description, but if he really sat down and thought about it there might have been something deeper. Still, even a stubborn, wool-headed man like Coop could see that Hailey’s own career aspirations, and their violent reunion, weren’t conducive to rekindling a relationship.

His own reunion with Eve at the start of their SRRT tour together wasn’t all sunshine and daisies, but things had thawed since then. They’d found their rhythm just like back in Basic. Coop knew a little more now. He wasn’t a stupid PHA Rat anymore, but she still had a leg up on him with her Ranger training. He was more than happy to play her right-hand man. It was familiar, and they worked well together.

In Basic, that had led to the best weekend of his life. He still had wet dreams about it. Sometimes, before he’d found Aiko, and had to settle for some fair-priced hooker, he imagined Eve’s face and body writhing beneath him. Hookers didn’t care whose name he shouted out during orgasm as long as he paid.

Needless to say, he had high hopes for the evening, but he also wondered what Eve’s intentions were. Past Coop wouldn’t have given two shits what the girl wanted as long as he got his dick wet, but Present Coop had evolved a little. He’d fought fellow PHA Rats, pirates, hulking mechs, and even alien squids. He was by no means changing his cavaliering ways, but he’d taken enough lives to know it was short. Even with cellular rejuvenation therapies, all it took was one well-placed bullet to punch your time card. Because of that experience, he was a firm believer of living life to the fullest, and right now that meant trying to get back into Eve Berg’s panties. Although, judging by the dress, she might not be wearing any.

He nearly walked into a vending machine when that thought crossed his mind. He tried to play it off like nothing, but her sharp eyes caught it, and the way they twinkled made him think she knew what he was thinking.

<What are you up to?> Coop wondered. Not that it deterred him one bit. In fact, it made this game they were playing that much more exciting.

Coop had another ten minutes to think over Eve’s motivations before they took a lift up to the higher levels. Like most space stations, the level you were on was a status symbol. All the machinery that allowed humans to function in space was in the bowels of the station, and the people that needed to fix that stuff tended to live close by. People who tended to manage the people who fixed things lived farther away along with people who’d moved to the station to sell goods and services. Some services took the newcomers closer to the machinery, and others farther away. Inevitably, the rich and powerful ended up in the rarified, artificial atmosphere with breathtaking views of the cosmos, while the people who kept the gears turning didn’t see anything but artificial light.

The restaurant Coop had selected was near the top, because a hundred grand was a small price to pay to make it with Eve. Her eyes widened slightly as they exited the lift at their destination, which was a good thing. The hostess at the door gave them a glance to see if they passed muster. Neither of them were shoddily dressed, but they didn’t exactly scream blue-in-the-eye either. She scanned Coop’s GIC for his reservation, and seemed slightly surprised that it beeped green back at her. He’d had to put a deposit down for the reservation, and he smiled smugly back at her when she took them to their seats.

Out of habit, Coop scanned the rooms for threats, opportunities, exits, and developed a strategy for multiple scenarios before he even sat down. Like a gentleman, he held out Eve’s chair and let her sit first. It made him feel like he was living in a holo-drama.

“Wipe the grin off your face,” Eve’s reprimand was robbed of its power by the smile tugging at her lips.

“Yes, Boss Lady,” Coop fell back on the title he’d given her in Basic, and her smile fully formed.

He took his own seat and the wine guy arrived. He had a fancy name that Coop couldn’t pronounce, but wine guy summed up his duties nicely. Coop let Eve order the bottle because he knew nothing about it. He thought the guy would leave and give them a chance to talk, but he stayed by the table until another man appeared with the requested bottle. Two sip-sized portions were poured into actual-glass cups and provided to them. She swirled it around, sniffed it, and took the time to savor the taste before nodding her approval. Coop just threw his back and nodded. It was a bit sharper than he liked, but he was used to cheap beer at strip clubs. Tonight was about Eve. Whatever she wanted, she got.

“So,” Eve placed her napkin in her lap and turned her gaze on him. “You’re really pulling out all the stops, Coop. You trying to get lucky?” She cut right to the point.

“You wound me,” he replied mockingly and placed his hand over his injured heart. “Can’t I take you out to a nice dinner?”

“No,” she replied matter-of-factly. “You never do anything for free. You’re hoping to get laid. I’d respect you more if you came out and said it.”

<Seems like a trap.> Coop bought himself a second to think by taking a sip of water.

“Of course I want to fuck you. Who wouldn’t? And having done so before, I can guarantee that I won’t be the only one having a good time.” He laid it all out on the table.

“Honesty from Mark Cooper. I never thought I’d see that day.” Eve’s return smile said volumes about his chances.

<Holy shit, this might actually work.> He could barely contain his enthusiasm.

“On the other hand, we are eating dinner on a hundred-grand chip that you got for doing your job. A chip you should never have accepted in the first place, and a chip you told me you were going to share with the rest of the team.” With a few words, all of his hopes and dreams came tumbling down. It must have showed on his face, because Eve let out a short laugh. “Relax, Coop. You’re secret is safe with me as long as it doesn’t harm anyone or endanger the mission or the team.”

“They’ll never even know about it,” Coop guaranteed, as new life was breathed into his chances.

The waiter arrived and put a hold on the conversation until they’d ordered. There was a five-course, pre-prepared meal available, and that was something their enhanced metabolisms would healthily embrace.

It was a steady stream of good food and conversation from then on. He even forgot about boning her until the dessert course. Surprisingly enough, she was the one who brought it up over some type of cheesecake that Coop swore had drugs baked into the crust.

“I’ve booked a private room at a cheap motel for the night,” Eve stated conversationally as if she was talking about the weather. “It’s not quite a by-the-hour establishment, but its close. I don’t plan on doing much sleeping, so it’ll do.”

Coop nearly choked on the delicious dessert and had to smack himself in the chest to dislodge the creamy content. “Um…ok.” He didn’t know what else to say.

Eve primly put down her fork like a queen and regarded Coop with a serious expression. “I want to propose an arrangement with you.”

“Ok. I’m listening.” He nearly threw his own utensil onto the table. Something told him this was important.

“I have certain physical needs that I can’t pretend I don’t have around you anymore.” She said the words confidently, but it was as close as Coop had ever heard to her saying he made her horny. “Due to our enhancements it is difficult to be with other people.”

<Translation: she likes it rough and doesn’t want to snap some poor sap’s dick off.> Coop translated, but continued to pay attention.

“My proposition is simple. We fuck when and where we want. I will make the Sergeant Major aware of our relationship, but since we are the same rank it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Coop knew the LCDR was screwing the LT in his free time, so there shouldn’t be anything stopping him and Eve.

“I have a few conditions though.” Her eyes grew serious. She’d dangled the carrot, but the threat of the stick was there as well. “First, when we are together, it’s just you and me. I don’t want you checking out the petty officer’s ass unless you’re planning to tap mine. Got it.”

“Got it.” Coop would never pass up that opportunity.

“Second, and this is for your benefit, this is only when we’re stationed together. When we inevitably get transferred, we’re both free to screw around with anyone else we want. I’m not looking for marriage and a family; only fun and the occasional stress fuck after things go to shit on a mission and we make it back alive.”

“Understood,” Coop nodded.

<Oh my god, this is the perfect woman,> he thought as Eve laid out the best-case relationship.

“Lastly, I don’t want any more of this shit from you.” She waved her hand at Coop.

“What, the dinner?” Now he was confused.

“No, taking the money chip from the diplomat. Engaging in shady shit when we’re on planet, or any of the other questionable stuff I know you’re up to. I’m not going to kill my career by being associated with that. Understood?”

Coop hesitated, but then he remembered her thighs wrapped around him in that motel outside Stewart-Benning… “Clear as crystal, Boss Lady,” he replied confidently.

“Good.” She popped the rest of the cheesecake in her mouth and smiled. “Pay the tab and let’s get out of here. I appreciate the effort of a refined meal together, but I need a stiff drink in a dive bar on the lower decks. We might have an agreement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ply me with liberal amounts of alcohol first, Sergeant.” The way she said his rank sent a thrill through him.

“Your wish is my command.” He signaled the waiter, paid the man, and grabbed Eve by the hand. She giggled a bit at the speed which they left the fancy restaurant, boarded the lift, and headed back down to the lower decks.

Inside the crowded lift, her hand found his quad and gave it a squeeze. It was like being struck by lightning, and he jumped at the sensation. “Sorry.” He apologized to a small man he nearly flattened against the wall in the process. The man just grumbled and got off at the first opportunity.

They got off shortly after on a deck where the smell of cooked meat, spilled beer, and artificial fragrances trying to overtake working-men’s body odor was the norm. Coop selected the first bar he could find and pushed open the old-fashioned door. The chatter in the place nearly stopped when Coop and Eve entered, and all eyes went to her.

<This’ll be fun,> he scowled at everyone and headed right for the bar.

“You’re doing this on purpose,” he whispered to her as the set themselves up and got their drinks. A line of men already looked like they were working up the courage to come talk to her.

Eve just smiled in return.

<Challenge accepted,> he thought. She was testing him again, trying to see if he was worthy in the oldest way known to mankind: by seeing if he was the alpha among the gathered males.

Coop cracked his knuckles and neck in anticipation. The men in the bar were a rough bunch, who’d had enough to drink to think it was a good idea to take on someone his height and weight.

<Here we go.> Coop intercepted a man’s hand as it went to pinch Eve’s ass. Eve would have taken the guy’s head off before he got within a meter of her, but she was putting her honor in his hands. <This is going to be a long night.> But he knew the reward was worth it.

Previous                               Next

Two Worlds – Chapter 242

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Thurgood Station, United Commonwealth of Colonies

“There she is,” Coop yawned at the holo-screen mounted to the bulkhead in grunt country.

They were still several thousand kilometers away, but Thurgood Station was an imposing sight. The station was owned by the Marshall Collective, a group of financers who’d played the long odds and hurried out to the Outer Rim before the rest of the corporations and governments started to expand.

It was a gamble that paid off. When the Diablo Sector was officially established, Thurgood Station sat in a resource-rich junction system at the center of it all. If the system had a habitable planet it would have been the sector capital, instead it had to settle for the economic hub of the region.

The station itself had been expanded from the first structure that was established over a century ago. Now, Thurgood Station held over thirty million permanent residents. Nearly double that were trading on the station at any given time, and the station’s owners had contracts with everyone from the Commonwealth government to Gold Technologies, and even down to independent ship owners. Corporations and entrepreneurs rented berths for their ships while the Commonwealth paid a discounted fee for the anchorage they had in a private part of the station.

When Coop and the rest of the SRRT had left for ET world there had been two battlecruisers and four destroyers docked at the anchorage to provide commerce protection and security for the station. Now, Coop saw an additional two battlecruisers, four battleships, and an assault carrier occupied the entirety of the anchorage’s berthing. Conversely, civilian commerce seemed to be lighter. Thurgood had hundreds of docks rented out to companies like Gold Technologies, but only about a third of them were full.

“Looks like they’re on a war footing,” Eve commented as she walked in and plopped down next to Coop. Coop was hyper-aware of her thigh against his, but he tried not to let her know.

<Play it cool, Coop. You’ve got her right where you want her.> Their trip to ET world had done wonders for his relationship with Eve. It was just like old times. Now, he only had to worry about Aiko slipping something poisonous into his chow.

“We’re docking in ninety-three minutes. The skipper and LT want us underway again in less than twenty-four hours.” The GYSGT announced as she entered the room behind Eve.

“Come on,” Coop grumbled louder than he intended.

“Do you have a problem with that, Sergeant?” Cunningham stressed Coop’s inferior rank.

“No, Gunney. It’s just that we’ve been on this tin can for nearly six weeks. It would be nice to stretch our legs and breathe some less-recycled air,” Coop replied.

“Our officers agree.” The GYSGT’s words surprised Coop. “And that’s why our turnaround time is twenty-four hours instead of six. Everyone will need to help offload the diplomats’ luggage, load on our new V4s, and the supplies for the duration of this mission. After that, you have a pass on Thurgood until our departure time. Does that meet with your expectations, Cooper?”

“Yes, Gunney. You’re running a five-star establishment here.”

Cunningham turned and walked out, but Coop was pretty sure he heard her mutter some choice four-letter words about him.

“So what do you say, Eve?” He turned to her and gave his best smile. “You want to grab a drink?”

“Only if you’re paying and we get a little shitfaced.” She winked back at him. “Too much time in a duro-steel tube isn’t healthy.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Coop smiled.

Ninety minutes later, he was playing baggage claim as they hustled to get the Minister and her team’s crap off the ship. The LCDR had wanted his own berth to speed along the resupply, but that was vetoed by the Rear Admiral in command of the small battlegroup assigned to the protection of Thurgood Station. The officers and SGM had briefings to attend, and the RADM wanted them on his ship for easy access. The arrangement also provided better security for the Minister. When Argo finally settled into her cradle in the carrier’s gunboat bay, the place was crawling with diplomatic security agents. The PM wanted the Minister safe and sound back on New Washington ASAP.

The woman stopped and talked to the LT and LCDR Gold for a few minutes, which ended with handshakes and salutes. Of course, the people who’d actually put their asses on the line to rescue her ill-fated diplomat were busy unloading luggage and trying to match it to its intended recipient. Thankfully, the diplomats were just glad to get out of Argo’s confines. The carrier was palatial by comparison, and they wanted to take advantage of that before they were put on a fast courier for the three-day trip back to New Washington.

Once the last bag was offloaded, Coop was ready for chow, so of course that was when the Gold Technologies people showed up with eight very-large crates. A small argument ensued between them and the SGM, before the NCOIC came over to the rest of the team.

“They need us to run a full diagnostic before they’ll sign the suits over to us, plus a short briefing. It’s going to take a few hours.” That got groans from everyone. Their free time was shrinking by the second.

“Let’s get on with it then. Over here wrench monkey, I’m first.” Everyone glared daggers in his direction, but Coop didn’t care.

{You snooze, you lose.} He let them all know it over the IOR.

As much as he wanted to get the hell out of here, Coop couldn’t rush the fitting process. This directly affected combat readiness and performance, and if he ever wanted to have another rumble between the sheets with Eve Berg, he’d have to be alive to do it. On the bright side, all of his favorites had been saved in his IOR, so when he booted up his LACS, it was like the other one hadn’t been destroyed, which begged the question, how had the other one been destroyed.

“A software glitch,” the Gold Technologies engineer explained when it came up during the briefing. “Integrating some of the new technologies with our existing designs required some inventive patches by our software team. Unfortunately, from what we could determine in your after action reports, the enemy combatants during your mission were able to scan the LACS, find the weakness, and exploit it.

{I’ll believe the Squids did this when Jasmine Cunningham shows up at my quarters and blows me, video tapes it, and makes me a star by putting it on the net.} Coop sent the message to everyone below the rank of SSG.

{Yeah, the universe will be so impressed by how small your dick is,} Aiko shot back immediately.

{Hahahah.} The laughter rang in Coop’s ears.

{She got you good,} Mike shrugged and gave Aiko a respectful nod.

“Lock it up!” GYSGT Cunningham snapped at them. For a second, Coop thought she’d heard him talking about her sister, but it turned out she could just tell they were having an off-the-books conversation when the engineer was talking.

{Coop does have a point.} Eve quasi came to his defense. {There is no way in hell the Squids were capable of detailed scanning of our shielded LACS. My money is that the Stormbreakers, or another Hegemony species, got it when we were pulling security, and forwarded the info to the Squids. The Minister did say the whole thing was some type of test. Hopefully, we passed it.}

{We turned them into fried calamari. I’m sure we passed.} Coop backed her up.

The engineer continued without any knowledge the grunts were having a side conversation. He explained the small upgrades to the new V4s they had: higher bandwidth for limited QE function in the command models, better battlefield AI assistance, which the SGM would be doing training on in route to their destination. Best of all from Coop’s perspective was the shield was now ingrained in the V4A’s instead of just fastened to the armor. The engineer concluded that the software glitch had been fixed, and all other patches triple-checked for the same issue.

“Any questions?” The engineer asked at the end.

“Can you take some customer feedback back to your bosses?” Coop inquired.

“Sure thing, Sergeant. We always value a feedback loop to make better products.” The engineer was using buzzwords that made Coop’s anger spike. It confirmed, in Coop’s opinion, that this was only a game to them measured in dollars.

“Can you please tell your software geeks that they can firmly shove their heads up each other’s asses. You fucktards nearly got us killed with your ‘overlooked’ glitch.” Coop added insult to injury by using air quotes. “Next time, don’t fuck it up.” He was seething by the end.

“That’s enough, Cooper.” The LT shot him a glare that said not to say one more word. Coop bit his lip, but stayed silent.

The engineer was red in the face, but his retort was waylaid by the SGM, who was out of his seat and steering the man away from the SRRT. That left the GYSGT to deal with the rest of the grunts. She stared Coop down until he looked away.

“We all know they screwed up, Cooper. The LT drafted a heated correspondence to Thomas Gold himself about the fuck up. Don’t rub salt in the wound. Those software geeks are going to be working on your LACS through your entire military career. It’s a good idea not to burn bridges. Understood?”

“Yes, Gunney,” Coop took a few deep breaths, but he was already feeling better now that he’d given the wrench turner a piece of his mind.

“Good.” The GYSGT’s eyes lost focus for a second, which told everyone she was consulting her IOR. “It’s 21:16 now. We docked at 12:15. Everyone will report back to Argo no later than 11:45 tomorrow morning.” Argo’s shipboard time synchronized with Thurgood when they arrived, which would give the crew wicked spacelag if they were staying here longer. “If you are late, you spar with me first thing after arriving on board. We clear?”

Coop might be bigger than the Gunney, but she was a cruel bitch when it came time to throw down. Her strength, experience, and speed made her a nightmare, and she was known to inflict injuries on her sparing partners. Unless ordered to, people usually stayed clear of that part of the gym when she was practicing.

“Yes, Gunney!” Everyone yelled back with enthusiasm for their impending freedom.

“Good. You are released until formation. Keep your IORs open for inbound traffic in case you are immediately recalled. The safety briefing is simple. Always have a battle buddy who is sober enough to take you back to the ship. Wrap it before you tap it, and don’t end up a guest of the MPs. We’re an SRRT, the best of the best, don’t act like an idiot. Dismissed.” She wasn’t halfway through the word before everyone was moving with a sense of urgency usually reserved for combat.

Coop really wanted to get out of his CMUs for once, and he had one pair of civvy smartcloth tucked into the bottom of his locker. He gave it a good spray of odor and grime cleansing nanites to make it more presentable. He also tapped into Thurgood’s net with his IOR. The station accepted his connection like it was a PAD and gave up the requested information. He made a reservation for two at a high-priced restaurant. After all, he had money to burn, and a girl was more likely to put out if you spent some money on her.

He gave the nanites a minute to work before changing and giving himself a once over. <I look good.> He thought to himself as he headed for the airlock to the station. Eve said she would meet him there.

He surfed the net for a minute while he waited for Eve. He nearly missed her when she appeared, because the woman who stepped into view was wearing an honest-to-god smartcloth dress. Coop had only ever seen Eve in CMUs and her birthday suit. For some reason, her dress was even more exciting.

Coop couldn’t help but give her a head to toe appraisal. She looked hot. The dress clung in all the right places while still being airy and carefree. He suspected it was something women wore in the summer, that was meant to catch the breeze and excite male imaginations. Coop knew he was seeing an all new Eve, and it made him slightly frightened what that meant.

“Shut your mouth, Cooper. You’re drooling all over the deck.” The voice and attitude was good-old Eve’s, but the expression on her face betrayed that she was glad his jaw dropped at her appearance. “What’s the matter? Have you never seen a dress?”

“Um,” Coop didn’t know how to respond, but the grin he got told him that not being able to respond was the correct reply.

“So are we going to go, or are you just going to eye fuck me until our pass is up?” Eve raised an eyebrow that spurred him into action.

“You look fantastic,” he finally got out the compliment as he extended his arm.

“You clean up decently yourself,” she replied as she took it and led the way to the airlock. “Let’s have some fun. Who knows how long it’ll be until we get time alone together.”

<What is happening?> Eve’s sudden attitude change was throwing him for a loop, and he knew he had to find out before the pass was over.

He wasn’t sure if he would like what he found. He’d never been a fan of change.

Previous                               Next