The First Command
Caution: This Science Fiction Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, DomSub, Prostitution, Military,
Desc: Science Fiction Sex Story: Prologue - Sometimes you can use multiple problems to solve each other. Which is fine for everyone except for the 'problems' who get used. The Humans of Earth would never have been contacted if the Confederacy hadn't been desperate...
The ship's AI told me that Admiral Sykes wanted to talk to me one last time before we went and got my ship, so I walked down the central corridor of Freighter Number Twelve towards his office. Until we built special-purpose stations for our use, either in space or on one of the planets, the Darjee had turned over several of their freighters for whatever we needed space for. By now we actually had a few structures built, including something we were calling Jupiter Station, but it wasn't big enough for everyone who wanted to use it yet so we were still here on F12. Since this was temporary and the freighter was already earmarked for later use as a passenger transport, we (meaning the Confederacy Navy) hadn't named this one yet. It was just the 12th freighter we had been given access to.
Lending these freighters to us served several purposes at once. To start with, they were starships, ships that traveled from one solar system to another. Just standing in one answered a lot of questions about the universe that us humans had been asking the heavens for as long as we had been around. Second, they gave us valuable hands-on experience with how starships worked. How the engines functioned, how they navigated, how the environmental systems worked, on and on and on. Not that we were actually allowed to mess with anything, but we could see all the equipment and get training on how it worked.
And, just as important, we got practice dealing with the shipboard AIs. For now, each of these freighters had a crew of Darjee that were available for consultation and for help in emergencies, but they stayed as far from us as they could. As strict pacifists, they felt very uncomfortable near us. Something about our eating meat that came from animals, maybe.
I'm not saying that they are vegetarians, because I don't know that. They probably are, but I don't know. I'm saying that they aren't comfortable around us. I guess monkeys in a zoo don't like their cages to be too close to the lions, either. No, I'm not saying that they were or even looked like monkeys. It was clear that they had evolved from birds of some kind. I'm just saying that they probably felt trapped on these ships with us.
Officially, if I wanted to go somewhere on the ship I had to talk to the AI first and let him know where I was going, then wait for the all clear if there was a Darjee in my intended path. I could get mad about it if I wanted, but why bother? They were who they were, and neither of us was going to change. Anyway, as soon as we could get competent crews trained up the Darjee caretaker crews would be leaving and these ships would be ours for good.
As it was, this particular ship had been set aside as a combination squadron office, berthing facility, and training center for our first set of warships, and it was pretty much crawling with human crews at all times. Once we came onboard and started exploring, the Darjee just stayed in the crew's berthing area unless we needed them, and the AI was supposed to prevent any of us from 'accidentally' even going down that access corridor.
Humans being humans though, some of us just had to find out what that meant. 'What that meant' turned out to be a good example of the Confederacy's force-field generation abilities. The intrepid group of explorers who went down that path first, just a couple of weeks earlier, found their progress blocked by an invisible wall across the corridor. Then, they found their retreat blocked by another one. Last, they found both walls slowly moving, forcing them back. Admiral Sykes had been woken up -it was in the middle of the night- about this, and he had everyone else on the ship woken up to see the entertainment.
This ship, like the rest of the freighters they had given us, had 96 removable storage pods attached in six circles or rings of 16 pods each. The front three rings housed all the scientists and engineers trying to understand the advanced technology. The back three rings had been turned over to the squadron, so we had 48 pods. The Darjee themselves lived in the crew's quarters in the central ball.
The very back ring was being used for offices, training, and test facilities. The other two back rings had all been converted to berthing for sixteen of us PreCom -pre-commissioning- units. Each crew was given two pods. One was a combination of offices, meeting rooms, and quarters for nine officers. The other pod was berthing for the crew; twelve sets of triple bunks for the junior crew and three sets of double bunks for the senior people.
That gave us 51 bunks per crew, although we had no idea how many people we would actually be taking on the ships yet. My crew only had 47 assigned, and as we were designated for the first ship we were probably the best-manned. Even so, there were probably more than 500 of us crammed into the freighter's main fore-aft access corridor when the invisible moving walls brought the four explorers back out to us. Of course, only the front few dozen actually saw anything.
When our intrepid explorers were back in the central corridor again, the AI had stated <These personnel were attempting to access a section of the ship that they are not authorized to enter.>
Admiral Sykes, up front because he was told first, had asked "Please check your records of their time onboard this ship. Can you verify for me that each one was ordered to avoid that corridor, and that each one acknowledged that order?"
<I have found a video record for each person receiving this order. Each video record shows their acknowledgement of this order.>
"Thank you. Does the ship still have an unused pod that can be used to hold these personnel pending a review of their conduct?"
<There are several unused pods that can support human life.>
"Please put them in one of those pods. Secure the door so that they cannot leave without my prior approval, or that of my properly authorized replacement."
<Your instructed action will be done.>
With that, the four miscreants -look, 'evil-doers' sounded better to me; their crime was silly, but at the same time serious- were boxed in to a smaller area and the box moved to an unused berthing pod. As we could see on the video that we all 'got to' watch later, when the box got to the pod, the hatch opened, and the box pushed the four into the hatch, then the hatch closed again. Meanwhile, the admiral had dismissed us to quarters or previously assigned duties, with a caveat: "COs to my office." Great.
It was tight with nineteen people in that office, the admiral, sixteen prospective COs, and two aides, but we've all seen worse. At least I grew up in nuclear submarines. Many of my brother COs had served in navies that didn't have nuke boats, and their boats had been considerably smaller. With roughly the same size crews as ours.
"At ease. They are all officers and supposedly have some common sense. I can't hold any of you accountable for their actions, not with proof that they were warned. On the other hand, as long as this is all still a big secret, we will have to deal with problems like this by ourselves up here, so this is our headache. We have to get rid of them somehow and we can't send them back to Earth until the UN decides to make our alien contact public. For what it's worth, execution is out of the question. Even if we decided it was appropriate, it would upset the Darjee even more."
Cdr Sorensen asked "Admiral, can you specify exactly what crime they are guilty of, beyond simply violating orders?"
"Oh, that's the only specific charge, violating a direct order. The problem is, spitting on the sidewalk in front of the base commander's house is different from spitting on the sidewalk in front of a bar. So, the real problem is more like 'Conduct Prejudicial to Confederacy Cooperation', like when you are visiting the Turks and you spit on their statue of Kemal Ataturk. If you do that, you're going to jail for a few days and there's nothing your ship can do about it. And if you are drunk enough to pee on the statue, you're staying a Turkish prison for a few years."
"This is the same thing. The Darjee find us far too violent for their taste, and this is too much like stalking for them. Those guys are off the ship as fast as we can move them, but I don't know where we can send them. I need ideas."
Lt Jackson, the Admiral's aide, asked "Well, what are the outside parameters? They have to go somewhere, they can't go to Earth, what's left? Back to the Moonbase? Another ship? Are there any ships yet that have been completely turned over to us with no Darjee at all?"
The Admiral looked up at the ceiling. "AI?"
<If we understand your need, you are looking for a place to house your four deviant crewmembers. Is this correct?>
"Yes. We consider them to be damaged or injured, but repairable or at least of further use in the future. However, for now we must get them off this ship."
<May we suggest leaving them in the pod they are in, but releasing the pod itself from the ship? Each pod has a rudimentary AI which can monitor their health.>
"How rudimentary is it?"
<It is sufficiently capable to monitor the pod environment, engage in four conversations, and stay in contact with this ship. It will have to stop any conversations if it takes on any further tasks, like running the replicator.>
"How will the pod get power?"
<All pods have an integrated power supply. It will maintain the pod as a residence for several months. We will monitor that and ensure that it is refueled as needed.>
"Can the hatches be secured so that the four men cannot exit?"
<The pod AI will accept that the cargo is semi-sentient and must be kept secure. It will prevent them from leaving.>
"Will this action satisfy Freighter Number 12's Darjee crew that we are taking steps to ensure that they are not disturbed further?"
<We believe so. However, once you receive the patrol ships you can use them to train crews. Then, once you have designated a human crew for this ship, the current Darjee crew of this ship will be able to turn control over to your people and leave this ship. They can return at that time.>
"Are the patrol ships similar to this one then?"
<No, they are much different. However, a crew that has trained on a patrol ship will be able to run these freighters.>
"Okay, if there are no objections, we'll do that. Any questions?"
One of the other captains I hadn't really met yet asked "Does the pod have a propulsion system?"
<No, but the pod will extrude station-keeping jets. The pod's internal storage tanks are being filled, and the pod's AI will use water as reaction mass to keep the pod positioned. What distance do you want the pod to maintain?>
"I think 20 miles is a good round number. If they get the hatch open, they will rethink their plans if they have to float 20 miles."
Just to make a friend, I whispered to the man next to me, a Brit from their submarine service. "That's about 30 kilometers, right?"
He whispered back "Did he mean your Statute or Nautical miles?"
"Fuck, I dunno. Don't let us bring that crap up here. And what do you mean, 'our' units? It was you guys that invented that shit."
That answer came with a smile. "That may well be, but that doesn't mean that we're stupid enough to keep using it when something better comes along. Even if it was invented by the French, the metric system is far better."
This was officially a UN show, but it was effectively a NATO operation, and, in turn, that meant that there were more Americans than anyone else. Us Americans could have been jackasses and brought feet and inches and furlongs and acres and God knows what else out here, but no, the metric system was far better. I'd learned to convert distances in my head when I learned navigation so I already knew the answer, and the rest would eventually become automatic.
I had no idea why the Admiral had specified miles; we had all agreed to use the metric system up here. Maybe he was just stressed; we did NOT need to upset the aliens who were trying to help us build ships. It didn't matter in this case, though. Whether he meant the 32 kilometers that 20 statute miles converted to or the 37 kilometers that 20 nautical miles converted to, the Admiral was right; no one was going to try to float that far.
Our uniforms, a kind of coverall with slippers, were space-rated if you added gloves and a helmet. The gloves, replicated with the coveralls and sized to fit your hands, should still be in the thigh pocket they came in, and the helmet was a one-size-fits-all affair with several placed in every compartment, basically two at every control station that might have a crewman at it and several more at each hatch. And, if you couldn't get to a helmet in an emergency, the coverall had a kind of a hood that would work as an emergency helmet for a very short time.
However, the coveralls did not include any kind of propulsion system. Trying to jump twenty miles would be, um, awkward. So, moving the pod 20 miles -of either kind- from the ship would pretty well strand our four explorers.
While we were discussing measurement systems someone else had brought up Jupiter's radiation field, since we were deep in Jupiter's shadow. Jupiter itself emitted a lot of electromagnetic radiation, and on top of that there were several orbital mechanisms like Earth's Van Allen Belt but much stronger. Unprotected humans might survive a few minutes, but not much longer.
Yes, some of us had run THAT experiment, too. The AIs would advise against actions expected to injure or kill the actor, but they wouldn't out-and-out prohibit them. Some people just don't listen well, and we had lost people running that and other 'experiments'.
That was all before my time, before I came out here. Actually, when you got right down to it, those losses were the real reason I was out here in the first place.
Anyway, not to worry, the pod would maintain the same force field the ships had. No, actually, it would be the weaker one that the smaller personnel and cargo shuttles used. The men might be marooned, but they would be safe.
With no other questions, the Admiral dismissed us. There had been one more question, but no one wanted to ask it: How long are those guys going to be stuck in that pod?
And, since that midnight meeting, we had all been careful to make sure that the Darjee were safe in their quarters before we wandered around on our own. Someday this would be our ship, but for now we were just visitors.
I understood why I'd been drafted into this Confederacy Navy thing. The Air Force was choking on admitting it, but spaceships had a lot more in common with submarines than they did with airplanes. And, if we were building our own spaceships it would make sense to have the designers teach the operators about their new toys. If we were getting hand-me-downs, though, maybe having an engineer go over them for an open-minded look was a good idea. So, getting hired from our retirement condo for 'a consulting job in Naval Engineering' made sense to me.
But, command? I was still choking on that. I'd 'commanded' sailboats and fishing boats. I'd 'commanded' small planes; I'd gotten my pilot's license when I was younger, before I retired from the Navy after 23 years in engineering. But, command of a STARSHIP????? How did they decide I was command material? And, just as much to the point, why the fuck had they selected me to command the first one? My service record showed that I had 27 minutes (and a few seconds) in command of a ship large enough to have a crew, and that hadn't ended very well.
"Roger, thanks for coming by. I just wanted to congratulate you on your selection as our first starship captain and make sure there weren't any last-minute questions. If all goes as planned, within a few years we will have hundreds and thousands of starship captains, but you are going to be the first."
"Thank you, Admiral. I'm honored, but I'm not sure why I was selected over all the others to be first. Surely some of the others have more relevant skills."
"Not from our viewpoint. We agreed on that early on, when the Darjee told us they were turning some ships over to us. We already know those things aren't going to be warships as we understand them; they are merely ships we can learn on while we figure out what we want for warships. Meanwhile, 'Any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic' and all that. We can't adequately train our people until we know what to train them on, and of the fifty-odd officers we selected for our first group of starship COs, you are the one officer we trust above all the others to actually come back from your first jump into hyperspace with these things. Admiral Andrews isn't too keen on you but I think you are our best bet and Admiral Kennedy sided with me. We're pretty sure it's just a nationalism thing, since Admiral Andrews' candidate was from his own Royal Navy. If he'd proposed someone who wasn't RN we'd have looked at him a lot closer. He'll get his own ship, but only after you've proven that we can run them."
"Well, fine, but why me?"
"Because you aren't one of the COs. As commanding officers, the rest of the COs are the best of the best. They've proven it in emergencies all over the world. Any idiot can survive an airplane breaking in half in mid-flight, or a terrorist attack that destroys a hotel building. We all agree that you aren't in their class as a warfighter and CO. However, you are the only one of them who is paranoid enough to realize your instruments are lying to you, bypass the automatic controls, and bring the whole submarine to the surface so that everyone still alive gets out."
"My father would have said I'm not paranoid. It's just common sense to remember that precision doesn't mean the same thing as accuracy."
I remembered that day far too well. At the same time the psychologists were telling me I needed to put it behind me and move on, I'd had to go over it in excruciating detail over and over and over again with everyone who could possibly justify being involved in the investigation and the following witch-hunt...
The final report had stated that my actions had probably precipitated the disaster, but at the same time they had prevented it from being worse so I was given another medal at the same time I was being interrogated.
Let the flashback go. The Admiral is still talking. "I knew your father. He was an engineer like you, and I expect I know stories that he didn't tell you because he didn't want to frighten his little children. That's the other thing. Once we have these ships under control, they'll all be commanded by ops weenies like me, tacticians who want to be Captain Kirk of the Enterprise. We aren't getting them, though, until they've been gone over by engineers like you and your father who don't blindly trust man or machine. Until we understand these ships, we don't need Captain Kirk. We need paranoids like you in command."
"Right. We can only learn from our mistakes if we survive our mistakes. Okay, what's the overall turnover plan?"
"As you already know, we are expecting the first of the corvettes, the small ships we are going to try to use as warships, tomorrow. We should get the next several over the next week, but you and your crew get the first one. As discussed, you need to certify the Environmental, Communications, Propulsion, Navigation, and Combat systems, and we recommend that you do them in that order."
"Of course, sir. If we can't breathe the air, we have no business trying to fight the ship."
"Yes. With what little the AIs have given you on these ships, it's dead certain that you'll get surprises."
"Yeah. At least when we captured a German or Japanese or Russian ship we could be pretty sure we could breathe the air in it."
"Exactly. THAT's why you get the first one. YOU won't make any silly assumptions about everything working right."
"Yes sir. Hopefully Environmental Control, at least, will be a non-issue. All of these freighters are set up for our needs pretty well, so we know it can be done. Besides, even if air turns out to be a problem, these suits are pretty comfortable to work in, even in vacuum. We've been wearing them for a couple of weeks now, and we are all good with them."
"Of course. You can even sleep in them, but you cannot eat, drink, pee, or fuck in them, so it's just temporary. And, that leads me to what will hopefully be my last two orders to you and your crew, at least until you can report back to us. First, none of your companions will board that ship until you can report that it is safe for civilians. Certainly, not until you've spent at least two days onboard without your helmets on."
"Yes, sir. That will keep the boys motivated."
"Right. Second, I don't want you, your ChEng, or your Doctor to take your helmets off until at least one hour after someone else has. I want the three of you monitoring the environment and the others."
"That's not right, sir, I should be first, but yes sir. I was planning on keeping at least two men fully suited up at all times, at least until we feel confident we know what we're doing."
"That's a good idea. Whatever rotation you set up, make sure the oncoming safety men suit up at least five minutes before the offgoing men stand down."
The AI woke me up just after 0500 (we were keeping Zulu time up here, on all of these alien ships, just to keep things simple) when my ship popped out of hyperspace. It would still be several hours before it was here, but it's my ship and I wanted to know when it arrived. Okay, I'm up. Somehow I got up without disturbing Ellen. I left the men alone, too. Reveille wasn't until 0630.
I cleaned up and walked over to the squadron ops office. Like everyone else, the squadron staff had been mostly practicing tactical exercises with the sleep-trainers using the freighters as our 'warships'. They were the only alien ships we had seen so far and the AIs would not give us any information on any other designs so we had to use them in our exercises.
Inside those sleep-trainers we could make up just about anything we wanted, and then figure out how to use it. One exercise might have three freighters armed with Russian anti-ship missiles trying to guard an unarmed freighter, while two 'enemy' freighters with the same weapons tried to take it out. Another exercise might have a freighter trying to sneak up on Jupiter Station and clean us all out.
Maybe that one would be armed with a dozen of the Army's main battle tanks chained to the outside hull. Without knowing anything about the warships we were getting, there was no effort to make the exercises realistic. All we were trying to do was get used to thinking in three dimensions and develop tactics that dealt with planets being in the way. The exercises also gave us a rough feel for what use we could get from various weapon types when we could get them.
My ship would be the squadron's first ship besides "Freighter Number Twelve", and F-12 hadn't moved under human direction. It was where the Darjee crew had put it, in a parking orbit around Jupiter, where almost everything was for now.
Why hadn't it moved under human direction? Why not have the aliens show us around and train us on these simple freighters first, then have us graduate to the more complicated warships? Because they didn't trust us, that's why. No Darjee was going to risk his life by being on a starship crewed by half-trained humans. They weren't leaving these ships until we had crews for them, but at the same time they were unwilling to train us on a ship that they themselves were on.
Pointing out the logic flaw here, that if they were competent to run the ships, they had the knowledge to train us to the same level of competence, was not possible. The AI would apologize, but would not translate and pass on any communication that included the scary concept of the Darjee actually being on a starship that us untrained humans operated.
So, we studied equipment and theory, but we weren't going to really get our hands dirty until we had our own ships. The question of who was going to teach us about them was left uncomfortably hanging in the air, of course.
Anyway, we were in orbit around Jupiter, where "in orbit" really meant the AI used their propulsion systems as needed to keep us behind Jupiter and thus hidden from Earth. Until the UN decided to admit that we were working with aliens, nothing was kept in Earth orbit or anywhere else that Earth's astronomers could see. "They" were working on a base on (or in) the Moon, I'd passed through it a couple of times, but it wasn't clear who "they" were, much less what the base would do or when it would be usable.
It was clear that there were multiple levels of technology, though, and the aliens were still deciding what-all they would let us have. For instance, we were using shuttles to get around out here in Jupiter orbit, but when I had been 'hired', we had used a teleporter. My interviewing 'corporate recruiter' had said that they "were also testing an experimental transportation device" and we got to use it.