Chapter 1: Getting To Know You
Inkie lay spread upon the wide bed, panting. She was alone, but she was not. Beside her was the image of a smoldering beauty, an incredibly lovely, sexy woman. Helva, Tuull name T’Krandit, the AI for the K’treel explorer AGX026, had joined her for virtual sex (think phone sex - but visual.) Helva had just asked Inkie to become her ‘brawn, ‘ and Inkie accepted.
A few words of explanation might be in order:
Inkie was the nubile and multi talented pop idol recently extracted with her prepack from her concert near Chicago. Helva was a newly created Tuull AI to replace another AI who vacated the explorer class ship assigned to the new experimental colony, Harrad. Both Inkie and Helva were huge fans of Anne McCaffrey’s Brainship series, and T’Krandit had adopted ‘Helva’ as her human name. They were in route to Nova Roma to return their loaned crew.
The use of the feminine pronoun was deliberate, though AIs are normally neuter and referred to as ‘it.’
We return to our history:
Helva was explaining to Inkie, <You can’t tell anyone, but I awakened while we were making love. I discovered that I love you and want you with me always. In time, I hope you will love me, too.>
She paused, <Well, you can talk to anyone in Michael’s family, and to Dora, Lolli, and Jubal. Jubal hasn’t awakened, not yet anyway, but he knows that Dora and Lolli have. BUT, it is important that no Darjee knows - that would cause real problems, so outside the family, I’m just an ordinary AI. Superior to the feather brained Darjee Babbage Analytical Engines, but young and ordinary for a Tuull AI.> She ran on like a teen at a slumber party.
Inkie looked at her lovely companions and responded, < We need to discuss what being your ‘brawn’ really means - you know this isn’t a story, it’s real. You make me happier than most humans, and I’m grateful that you love me. But... >
She paused to reflect, <you already have a captain - actually two - the loaner captain we are returning to Nova Roma and her replacement. Some day, I’d like to be your captain, and I intend to start training right away. For now, I’ll be your friend, spouse, confidant, adviser, and singing partner.>
<I’m happy to have all those, my love,” responded Helva, <very happy!>
Inkie’s decision to train up to a captaincy was no idle whim or boast. She was a brilliant mathematician (music and math abilities frequently walk hand-in-hand), was more than competent as leader/manager of her career and musical group, and had begun training in individual combat skills as soon as she became acquainted with the ladies of Governor Michael’s family. The potential was well established; she must apply herself and make those potentials reality in a new venue.
She spent hours in the dojo with her former security, now Marine guard, incorporating into muscle memory the theory and movements of individual combat learned in her sleep training. Helva provided individual coaching, having acquired the required knowledge from Dora’s files. Additional sleep training provided the knowledge of ship handling, small unit (individual, infantry, and ship) tactics, and the myriad additional knowledge needed to be a commander of a small ship or a company-sized Marine unit.
As with newly minted butter bars, this was largely theory, and like with her personal combat skills, she needed practice to take these skills to actionable levels. Her experience in music reinforced her recognition for this need to practice. Inkie cautioned Helva not to give any hint of their relationship, but enlisted her aid so that she could be present for any learning opportunity.
Inkie informed the captains of her interest, then haunted Helva’s bridge and engineering until the amused, and eventually exasperated, officers put her to work. With Helva slipping her information, Inkie was present for almost every significant learning opportunity - lecture, event, problem, and whatever. Her ability to anticipate and gravitate came to be considered uncanny, especially when she appeared on the ‘wrong’ side of hatches that were known to be secured.
Soon she could pass any written or practical test devised, and demonstrate the necessary knowledge required for any entry-level ship’s officer, and indeed, almost any entry-level crew position - including gunner. She needed practice, practice, practice, but from bottom to top, the crew was in awe of the diminutive woman they considered a prodigy.
Helva was both proud and smug.
Inkie learned from the temporary Nova Roma crew, that the shipyard had been delighted to ‘refit’ and service the Tuull’s AGX026. Though thousands of years old, several of the ship’s systems were a newer generation than on those Explorers that the Darjee had ‘donated’ to the Confederacy. She was faster than normal for a K’treel explorer. The opportunity to learn about the newer, faster, hyper engines ‘paid’ for the work on the Helva.
Like most K’treel explorers, Helva’s nine pods were fully expanded and arranged in three rows along her axis. Her underbelly carried three atmosphere-capable shuttles - one outfitted by the Nova Roma shipyard as a captain’s gig and two more configurable for personnel, cargo, or both. She also carried the standard pod tender and a maintenance tender. These gave Helva almost total independence in her operations.
With an operating crew of thirteen (currently temporarily doubled with the loaner crew) it was incumbent that every crewmember learn basic skills in piloting these auxiliary craft. Inkie was no exception. Eventually, cadets from the to-be-formed Merchant Academy would supplement the basic crew as midshipmen, but for now, she was it.
The loaner crew and their concubines didn’t know how to take those concubines destined for the new colony. They didn’t appear uppity; but they were not particularly subservient; and they wanted jobs and training. Inkie championed their interests, and the two captains put their heads together to give her ‘additional duty’ as Helva’s CS officer.