Star Crossed Lovers
Caution: This Science Fiction Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Romantic, Heterosexual, Fiction, Military,
Desc: Science Fiction Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Set in the future, Eric and Maylene are two space navy sailors whose paths cross after combat injuries. Their shared experiences bring them together, but the Navy has other ideas.
"Lieutenant?" the voice said gently. It was soft. Feminine. Angelic. "Lieutenant Burke? Can you hear me?"
The last conscious thought Eric Burke had was one of searing pain. It was gone now, replaced by numbness. He blinked his eyes. The room came into focus.
Eric was staring up at the ceiling. He tried to move his head but couldn't. His arms wouldn't move. Nor would his legs. He tried to sit up, but to no avail.
"Where—" His voice was feeble. "Where is my platoon?"
"They're fine," the voice said soothingly. Someone's head leaned over, blocking out the overhead lights. She was wearing a white overcoat with medical insignia and commander's stripes. A stethoscope hung around her neck. The doctor was Alliance, which meant he hadn't been captured.
"Where am I?" Eric breathed a sigh of relief.
"Citadel Haven." Bringing out pocketlight, she shined it in both his eyes. "Sector twelve, 40 Eridani system."
He didn't recognise the name of the base, but with the war on, there were lots of installations he didn't know about. The fact that he was on a citadel told him that he had been transferred to relative safety and away from the front lines.
"Why can't I move?" Eric asked as the doctor continued to poke and prod.
The doctor's brow creased for a split second. "Lieutenant, what's the last thing you remember?"
"Pain," he said. The memories came back, and not all of them were welcome. "My platoon was to breach a Federation space station ahead of the Marines. We had just planted the bomb and we were getting ready for extract. There was an explosion..."
Eric's voice trailed off. There had been a flash out of the corner of his eye. He heard nothing in the vacuum of space, but the explosion vaporised Jenkins, who had been standing next to him. He was thrown against the hull of the cruiser and then he blacked out. His arms and legs felt like they were on fire.
"Your suit was breached by shrapnel," the doctor said. "The failsafes cut your right arm off at the shoulder, your left arm off at the elbow and your right leg at the knee."
The Valkyrie Combat Suit is one of the finest all-purpose zero-g military exoskeletons in existence. Equipped with a variety of weapons and sensors, it represented the pinnacle of combat firepower, stealth and survivability for Alliance infantry. Their cost was also astronomical, which is why only the Army Special Forces and Space Navy SOLARs got them.
In the event of a major vacuum breech that could not be sealed, the suit would inject the wearer with anesthetic, cut off the exposed limb at one of several points, cauterise the wound and seal itself up, all in about four hundredths of a second. It wasn't pretty, but it sure beat freezing or suffocating to death in the black emptiness of space. With the widespread use of bionic prosthetics and cloned replacement limbs, losing an arm or leg (or two) seemed a small price to pay for survivability.
"According to your chart, your helmet also had a small crack in it which led to some air loss. It was patched by one of your shooters, but not before you lost consciousness and slipped into a vacuum coma." The doctor finished her examination and elevated the head of his bed.
"How long was I out?" Eric said. He had survived four deployments—three in the special forces—with only a couple of flesh wounds, now this. His body was covered by the sheets, but he could make out the silhouettes of his limbs. Everything looked normal.
Some of the guys in his platoon had mechanical replacement limbs. They all seemed to like them. After all, it made them faster and stronger, invaluable attributes for a special operator. Still, Eric hoped that he could get through his life as 100% flesh and bone.
"Two months," the doctor replied gently. Once in the sitting position, Eric noticed a nurse and two orderlies in the room. "You really had us worried with the coma, Lieutenant. We knew you didn't have any brain damage but for some reason, you didn't want to wake up."
Once he was sitting up, the nurse and orderlies came over.
"I'm going to release the spinal block in just a minute. Then we'll start moving your new arms and leg," the doctor said, stepping back.
Eric suddenly felt sensation return to his body. His arms started to twitch involuntarily. The room started to spin. He tipped over and blacked out.
Control over his new limbs didn't come immediately. Although the neural network of the prosthetics was integrated seamlessly with his own nerve endings, he had to learn to walk and pick things up again.
The biosynthetic arms and muscles were stronger, tougher and faster than his own arms; he gave himself a black eye trying to run his hand through his hair. Within a couple of days he was able to walk with assistance and then began four months of physical therapy.
Eric Burke came from a navy family. His mother was a career space warfare officer. His dad was an intel officer. Both retired before the war between the Federation and the Alliance, leaving it for him and his sisters to fight. After graduating from secondary school, Eric enlisted in the Terran Space Navy; even though he was smart enough, his grades weren't good enough for college or the Academy, and he needed direction.
The TSN gave him a swift kick in the ass; his mother may have been an admiral, but that counted for squat in his world. Chiefs loved to torture him, but what he didn't know until later was that they were building him up. After one deployment, his section chief talked him into going career.
With a couple of years in the fleet, he went to college, breezed through OCS and was recruited to the Naval Special Warfare Command, with the promise of being able to blow shit up. He somehow survived 24th Century BUD/S and soon found himself among the interstellar descendants of the old Navy SEALs.
Then the war started. He had three deployments as a SOLAR (Space, Ocean, Land, AtmospheRe), one as a platoon AOIC and two as an OIC because the SOLAR teams were stretched so thin.
He didn't really know what the war was about. He didn't care. Secession. Trade rights. Resources. Whatever. All Eric Burke wanted to do was kill things and bring the young men and women under his command back alive.
Now a full lieutenant, Burke was nearing the end of his third platoon deployment when he lost his arms and leg. The wounds wouldn't force him out of the service, but he did lose his platoon. At least until he was done with rehab.
While on Citadel Haven, he heard from his parents; they were worried, but understood all about the risks of having a child in special warfare. His dad told him he loved him and his mother told him to keep his head down.
After a month of physical therapy, Burke was reassigned out of the hospital section of the citadel to the barracks wing. The space station was almost brand new and had never seen combat. Of course, anyone crazy enough to assault a citadel was either completely insane or backed up by a fleet (or two) of warships.
He was inexplicably assigned to his own room. Rather, Eric was assigned a double-occupancy bunk, but no roommate ever showed up. He got used to it and his therapy was going faster than the doctors had anticipated. Burke pushed himself because he wanted to get back to the Teams. There were SOLARs with their plasma cannons in the fight and he was lollygagging around a cushy Navy base far from the front. He wanted back into the action.
Once a week, he attended group therapy, sessions designated for sailors and space marines who had lost limbs and were trying to adjust to their new prosthetics. PTSD and all that. Burke went because he had to; he'd just assume get on with his life instead of getting all touchy-feely.
That changed when a new officer came to the group.
Sub-Commander Maylene Torres hobbled into the session one afternoon. It was obvious to Eric that both her legs were bio-synthetic. From the looks of it, so were her hands. Underneath her coveralls, Eric saw skin grafts on her chest and neck. The skin on her face was the perfect complexion and perfectly smooth, the hallmark of tank-grown skin. Her eyes were the prettiest, but not quite natural, sparkling blue. That meant cyber-optic implants.
She sat quietly next to Eric the first day and didn't talk much. She seemed pre-occupied, as if her mind were somewhere else.
Eric had made a couple of friends in the group and they spent some afternoons in the officer's club. After two or three sessions, they invited Maylene along with them, but she politely declined.
Another week went by. Maylene and Eric again sat next to each other, and again, neither said much. They both listened a lot. Both responded well to the physical therapy and were well on the road to recovery.
One afternoon, after the group session, Eric stood to leave when Maylene's hand tapped him on the shoulder.
"You're Cheryl Burke's son, aren't you?" she asked softly.
Eric blinked a couple of times. He had never heard her say so many words at one time. "Yes, I am."
"I was a nugget on the Solar Storm when she was the Captain," Maylene said.
"She always said that was the best job she ever had," Eric smiled. "Mom thought she'd like being an admiral, but she said being a captain is the best job in the Navy."
The corners of Maylene's mouth turned up. "She was a good skipper. All of the crew knew she was watching out for us."
Eric smiled and filed a mental note to check with his mother about this woman. Everyone else had vacated the room, leaving the two of them standing there by themselves. "Listen ... are you busy now? Would you like to go get a drink or something?"
It was the first time she had looked him in the eyes. Her face was pretty. The newly grown skin was soft and free of blemishes. The grafts appeared to be healing well. Over the past month, she had developed a remarkable amount of control over her new limbs.
Eric and Maylene headed down to the officer's mess and got a bite to eat. She was still a little withdrawn, so he did most of the talking.
After some persistent inquiries—and some scotch—Eric got her to open up a little.
Maylene was a VR fighter jock. Even in the 20th century, advances in technology were hampered by the limitations of the human body. A fighter can simply take more g-forces than their pilots, so their development stifled. That changed in the late 22nd century when discoveries in subspace revolutionised unmanned warfare.
The same technology that made it possible for him to talk to his parents on Earth across 16 light years in real time also allowed pilots to remotely control fighters from the safety of a base ship that was half a solar system away. As a result, fighters got faster, more maneuverable and more deadly.
Of course, sometimes the dirty business of warfare required people on the ground and on the front lines instead of hiding in control pods behind sterile virtual reality screens two AUs from the fighting. That's what SOLARs, Space Marines and Army groundpounders were for.
"So how did you end up here?" Eric asked, pouring Maylene another drink.
There was a flash of pain across her face. Her artificial hands began to shake involuntarily. Taking a deep breath, Maylene calmed her racing heartbeat.
"I am ... er, I was ... squadron XO for the Crimson Knights on the Invincible," she said softly. "We were patrolling what was supposed to be a system free of Federation ships. We must have stumbled on something because when we got close to a small moon, the place started crawling with Locust-class fighters and Freelancer gunboats."
She downed half the drink. "Our squadron scrambled immediately and we tried to keep the rest of the battlegroup clear of fighters. A couple got through and hit us with two torpedoes. There was a fire near one of the magazines."
Eric watched her carefully. There was a distant look in her cybernetic eyes. "I ... I'm really not sure what happened next. I was in my pod when the screen blew up. I only remember bits and pieces, mostly the smell of smoke and burning flesh..."
She took a deep breath. "Next thing I know, they're waking me up here. The docs say I was under for almost ten weeks. They got me new eyes, hands and legs, but it took a while for them to grow my face back."
Reaching across the table, Eric took her mechanical hands in his. He squeezed them gently. She squeezed back. Their eyes locked together and for an instant, their shared experience brought them an instant understanding.
"They tell me that once I get back to a full medical base they can clone my arms and legs and grow new skin all over my body, but there are too many other needy sailors and Marines here, so I have to settle for biosynth limbs for now."
"I got the same thing," Eric smiled. "Of course, the sector COMSPECWAR tried to talk me into full bionic conversion."
"What did you tell him?" Maylene asked, already knowing the response. It was the first time he had seen her smile with her teeth.
"I told him to go to hell," he replied with a smirk. "Only not so nicely."
It seemed like the first time either of them had a reason to laugh since arriving at the medical base.
For the rest of the afternoon, the two talked. It was almost like their lives were back to normal.
When they parted, she was heading to a physical therapy session and he headed back to his room. They swapped comm numbers and promised to talk again before the next group session.
Over the next several days, Eric found a couple of excuses to call Maylene, but she was never there. She returned one of his calls, but he was over seeing the special warfare group commander trying desperately to get back in the war. He had heard that some of his men from Delta Platoon, SOLAR Team 23 were in the sector and he wanted to get back to active duty as soon as possible.
Eric was very disappointed when his doctors told him that he would need some more physical therapy before he would be cleared for combat duty. His fine motor coordination still needed some work, but they told him that he might be ready to get back to the Teams in a month or so.
Dejected, Eric returned to his room and found Maylene waiting outside the door.
His face lit up when he saw her.
"Hey, stranger," she said. They were both out of their hospital coveralls and in standard khaki uniforms. She had a hanging garment bag slung over her shoulder and a packet under her arm. "What are you doing tonight?"
Eric frowned. "I was thinking of having a 'no pride' night."
"What the hell is that?"
He flashed her a sardonic smile. "It's where I sit around with whatever liquor I can get my hands on and drink myself into oblivion."
Maylene took his hand. There was something different in her expression. "Well, then I'm going to be happy to save you from yourself. Open the door."
They went into his room. She hung the bag from a hook on the back of the door. Unzipping the garment bag, Maylene began laying out a white TSN dress uniform.
"Where did you get that?" Eric asked. It was his dress uniform.
"Admiral von Luck had it shipped here last week," Maylene handed him the sealed packet.
"You already know what it says." It wasn't a question.
"I made friends with the chief over in the comm station," Maylene smiled. "It seems your exploits have finally caught up with you."
"The dress uniform is a lot of trouble just to have me arrested," he replied dryly.
Eric opened the envelope and a thick stack of paper fell out. He began to shuffle through them. Awards. Lots of them. Not that he needed any more. Or wanted them.
After five years of constant deployments and fighting from one side of the galaxy to the other, all the paperwork that had built up at Alliance Navy Special Warfare Command had finally been processed and is somehow found him. Even in the 24th century, there was still red tape and bureaucracy.
Purple Heart. Sigma-16 Campaign Ribbon. Silver Cross for Gallantry. Omicron Prime Invasion Arrow. Navy Unit Commendation. New Berlin Campaign Ribbon.
The last one was sealed in a second envelope. There was a hand-written note clipped to it.
I told them you'd hate it, but the rest of the platoon and I wouldn't have gotten off that goddam rock if you hadn't pulled our asses out of the fire. We put you in for the IKC. It's our way of saying thanks.
We tried to call you a couple months ago but the docs told us they hadn't woken you up you. We need your gun, and soon! We're up to our armpits in the shit and the newbies are getting themselves killed faster than we can train them.
Don't go soft on us at whatever hospital station they've got you hidden on.
Eric swallowed hard. He hadn't realised how long he'd been gone. Sub-Lieutenant Stacy Kimble was his platoon AOIC and must have taken over for him, what was it ... Four months ago? She was sure to have made full lieutenant by now and his platoon had either been filled out with new guys or disbanded among other platoons in need of veteran bodies.
His artificial hands trembling, Eric opened the envelope. It held the formal notification of his medal, the highest award the Alliance gave out for military action including witness statements attesting to his heroism and courage.
What's brave about bringing two young men back in bags? Eric though to himself.
Maylene watched him go through the packet in silence. His dress uniform was laid out on the bed, but she watched his eyes. They had grown distant, as if the SOLAR officer suddenly felt the weight of command catch up with him. She knew what it was to command others, but few people died under her orders. When a VR fighter pilot gets shot down, another fighter is rolled into the launch bay and they're back in business.
A couple of decades back, VR robots were field tested in infantry situations. They didn't work as well as in the cold vacuum of space. When ground needed to be taken and held, having flesh and blood infantry had proven to be the best. Machines could take the ground, but the command and control bunkers were easy targets when trying to hold it.
Plus, the subtle cues infantrymen relied on to stay alive couldn't be passed through a virtual reality rig. As a result, combat suits and power armour were developed, but there still had to be someone in the field, living in the mud and paying a dear price for capturing and keeping a pile of dirt.
Lieutenant Burke had spent the past five years fighting. Not from the sterile bay in the belly of a star cruiser, but planetside. He had killed more men and women than he could count and ordered more than a few of his own sailors to die. There were lines on his face and gray hairs that attested to each person who had died by his hand or on his orders.
Maylene reached out and touched his shoulder. He turned to her and for the first time, looked vulnerable. The stoic mask commanders have in front of their subordinates melted for a second and she saw the pain in his eyes. He blinked back tears, then with a deep breath, the mask came back.
He compartmentalised his feelings once again. Maylene was probably the closet person he had to a friend on the citadel, but even she couldn't understand what it was like to be in a team of special operators. The bonds there are stronger than mere friendship, stronger than family. Infantrymen throughout the centuries have relied up on each other for their lives. That breeds trust and brotherhood. He couldn't open up to her; she wouldn't understand.
There was an awkward silence in the room.
"Congratulations," Maylene said quietly. She flashed him the coversheet from the packet. "You're getting your own party tonight on the parade deck, so you'd better get dressed."
Eric stared blankly at her for a second. The last thing he wanted to do was put on a stuffy dress uniform and listen to speeches from self-important admirals who hadn't been in combat for years. But it was all part of the game, and he needed to play, especially if he wanted to get back in the field.
"I don't suppose you'd be my date?" he said with an empty smile.
"I'd be delighted," Maylene said. She touched his shoulder comfortingly. "Pick me up at eighteen hundred?"
"I'll be there."
Maylene left, leaving Eric to himself. As soon as the door closed, he collapsed on the bed and wept.
" ... For this action, Lieutenant Eric Tanner Burke is awarded the Interstellar Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Diamonds. Congratulations, Lieutenant," the admiral at the podium said. There was polite, if reverent, applause from the gathered crowd. She pinned the medal on Eric's chest and shook his hand.
"Thank you, sir," he replied.
"You've made us all proud," she said, then snapped sharply to attention. Burke hated all the pomp and circumstance of award ceremonies. He felt that they covered up the dirty business of warfare with starched uniforms, and normally he would have done whatever he could to get away from even his own decorations.
This day though, he didn't feel so bad about being where he was. Fleet Admiral Bernadette von Luck was a legend in the special forces community. Her reputation was well-deserved and paid for in blood, much of it her own. A SOLAR herself, von Luck was known to watch out for all those under her command and she never hesitated to bring her own command ship into the fight with its guns blazing rather than hang back and give orders from a distance.
"Just get me back to the Teams, sir," Eric said quietly so only she could hear, then returned the salute.
Admiral von Luck smiled knowingly.
In addition to him, three others were awarded the Knight's Cross and a dozen other men and women were given other awards for courage, bravery and sacrifice. The ceremony then devolved into hob-knobbing and congratulations among the brass. Many of the honorees hated it just as much as Burke; they were soldiers and didn't get their medals by driving ships through space or sitting behind a desk.
Eric made his way through the crowd that parted easily for him. The Knight's Cross earned him admiration, but the other ribbons and medals on his chest—especially the SOLAR's golden sun device—bought him an extra wide berth.
Some of the people wanted to shake his hand. Some wanted their picture taken with a war hero. He smiled and endured the ceremony. After all, it was part of being a naval officer. Eric knew that he would be promoted out of his platoon soon—whether he liked it or not—and some of the people in the room might be overseeing his next duty assignment.
Near the bar, Eric ran into Maylene. She and the others with her came to attention; people who earned the Knight's Cross were saluted first, regardless of their rank. Eric noticed there was a glint of humour in her artificial eyes, as if she knew how much he wanted to get out of there.
The four other officers with Maylene were all VR fighter pilots. They all had awards for multiple kills and campaign ribbons from half a dozen star systems. Maylene introduced Eric to the others and the group exchanged some meaningless small talk.
Soon, though, Maylene took Eric by the arm and the two wandered off.
Although the room was crowded with officers, marines and sailors, the pair made their way to an upper level of the station's observation deck which was less crowded. The blast shields were pulled back giving them a magnificent view of 40 Eridani's three stars.
They stood in silence staring out into the emptiness of space. Her hand was in the crook of his arm, just at the point where it had been severed. It was a strange sensation. On the part of his arm that was flesh and blood, he could feel the tingle of her touch. The mechanical part, though, didn't feel anything. There were sensors in the artificial skin that sent signals to his brain that simulated tactile stimulation, but the sensation was different.
It was like a wetsuit was over part of his arm and not the other. Even though his fine motor skills were improving, he was still trying to adjust to the subtle changes in feeling in his fingers and along the artificial skin. A part of him wondered if he would still be an effective special operator. Touch was vital to handling explosives and other weapons, and he was now less than a whole man.
"It seems so far away," Maylene said finally.
"Earth," she replied softly. "Home."
Eric sighed softly. His free hand brushed Maylene's. Even though they came from different parts of the same navy, they shared a common bond as amputees with cybernetic limbs. He stared into her eyes, seeing her for the first time as a woman, and not a fellow patient or officer.
He started to say something, but heard someone walking up behind them. The steps were soft, as if the person were accustomed to moving silently. If he hadn't spent so much time in the field, Burke probably would not have heard her.
Maylene jumped when she realised someone was standing behind them. Both she and Eric reflexively stood at attention.
"Excuse me, Commander ... Lieutenant," von Luck said. The look on her face was all business. She smiled at Burke, as if she was going to let him in on a joke. "May I have a word with you for a moment?"
"Of course, Fleet Admiral."
Torres bowed slightly and walked off.
"How much longer are they going to keep you here?" von Luck asked.
Burke shrugged. "A month or so."
"You're dying to get back out there, aren't you, Lieutenant?"
"It's killing me, sir." The frustration was evident on his face. "My platoon needs me."
"Your platoon doesn't exist anymore," the admiral said softly. Eric grimaced. "Team 23 has been disbanded. Alpha and Foxtrot platoons were wiped out in the invasion of Kestellani. Bravo and Charlie were shot up pretty bad. Team 11 also suffered heavy casualties and what's left of Team 23 was folded in with them."
Eric's stomach started to churn. He hadn't heard any news of his old platoon, but the Kestellani campaign was only a couple of days old and the de-classified reports hadn't made it back from the front lines yet. He made a mental note to check up on his teammates.
von Luck's eyes were dark with anger, frustration and fear. "We're losing too many SOLARs, Lieutenant. It takes almost three years from the time a kid starts BUD/S until they get their shooting star. We've lost the equivalent of three whole teams in the past two years in sector seven alone."
She paused for a moment, staring intensely into Eric's eyes.
"I'm taking a temporary break in rank and turning the sector force over to Admiral Kaklamanakis. I'll be assuming the role of COMSPECWAR for this quadrant."
Eric looked shocked. He had never known of an admiral to willingly give up a star, much less two. Things must be bad.
"I'm re-organising the sector SPECWAR chain and putting many of our officers and senior NCOs back in the field to staunch the bleeding. I have three job openings and as our latest war hero, you get your pick of which one you want." She had a sly smile, as if she already knew which one he would take. "I know you're up for selection to sub-commander. The Special Warfare Center in Coronado needs some to run the JOTC. Would you be interested in that? You'll get to go home for a couple of years. Didn't think so, but I thought I'd ask.
"We're consolidating most of the SOLAR teams in the quadrant. Team 6 was dissolved last year when those four platoons were lost out on Mellura. I'm taking what's left of Team 17, Team 22 and some fresh meat right out of the Center and standing up a new Team 6. They need an XO. How about it?"
Paper-pusher and babysitter, Eric thought and shook his head. "What's option three?"
von Luck shot him a quick grin. "I can sit on your promotion for one more deployment. You'll still come over to Team 6 but as OIC for Alpha platoon. I know officers always want to operate more, and most only get two deployments. This will make four for you, although your previous one got cut short. In all likelihood, this will be your last. We need experienced officers and chiefs passing their knowledge on to the next generation of SOLARs, but we also need them in the field saving the asses of this generation, too."
"I'll take that one," Burke said with a broad smile.
"I thought you might."
"Thank you, sir." He reached out and she shook his hand firmly. Something in her grip told him that if she could somehow trade her stars for a lieutenant's bars, she'd take the platoon herself.
"I'll get your orders processed and we'll see you in about a month," von Luck turned and walked away.
Eric couldn't stop smiling. He was going to get back to the Teams!
He looked around the party for Maylene, wanting to share the good news with someone. As it turned out, he didn't have to look far. She was watching from a short distance away and when Admiral von Luck left, she walked towards Eric.
She saw the sparkle in his eyes and couldn't help but smile herself. "Good news, I take it?"
"I'm getting a platoon back," Eric said, as giddy and excited as she had ever seen him. "Come on, let's go get a drink."
People like to buy war heroes drinks and Eric cashed in.
They got back to his room sometime after 0130. Eric wasn't falling down drunk, but he was close.
He leaned heavily on Maylene's shoulder. She was in babysitter mode. Fortunately, most everyone else at the party either left early or was fairly drunk themselves, so it was no big deal.
Maylene sat Eric down on the edge of his bed and started to undress him. She hung up his tunic with its shiny medals and ribbons, then slipped him out of his pants.
"I should undress you, too," he slurred.
"Not tonight, Romeo." Maylene smiled to herself as she brushed Eric's fumbling hands away.
She pulled down the covers on his bed and laid the drunk lieutenant down.
"You're very pretty, Maylene," Eric mumbled. "We should ... we should go out some time."
Maylene ran her hands over her friend's muscular shoulders. Like all SOLARs, he was solidly built, and after five years in the field, he was in great shape. Her hand traced his left elbow, where the flesh and bone met the metal and biosynth skin. She stared admiringly at him for a moment and reached over and dimmed the lights.
Eric's eyes were heavy from all the drinks and it was just a matter of seconds after his head hit the pillow before he was snoring softly.
The fighter pilot leaned in and kissed Eric softly on the cheek.
"Sweet dreams, hero," she whispered. Then she got up and left him to sleep off the liquor.
Over the next week, Eric and Maylene didn't see much of each other. Both spent a lot of time in physical therapy. No one said anything, but each sensed that something big was about to happen. Both wanted to be back on the front lines.
After their group session, Maylene took Eric's hand. Both had a lot more control over their fingers than they did right after being fitted for their prostheses, and their hands locked together almost naturally.
"I have a surprise for you," she said with a smile.
"And what would that be?" Eric asked.
"You'll see," Maylene replied. "Pack an overnight bag and meet me in hanger charlie two-four at fourteen thirty. No uniforms."
Before he could say anything else, Maylene kissed Eric on the cheek and disappeared down the corridor.
Eric rushed back to his room and threw a set of utility coveralls and some other clothes into bag. He didn't have much by way of civilian clothes but still managed to scrounge together a couple of outfits. Checking his watch, he made his way to the hanger deck at the appointed time.
Maylene was there. She had a duffel over one shoulder and a camera bag over the other. Eric walked up to her. "Where are we going?"
They were in one of the citadel's smaller hangers, reserved mostly for civilian traffic. A couple of shuttles sat on one end. In the middle was a mid-range civilian transport.
"Somewhere special," she replied with a grin.
They boarded the transport and strapped themselves in to their seats. Following a quick pre-launch check, they were cleared for departure and were floating free in space. The ship moved slightly as the thrusters maneuvered it away from the space station.
Eric and Maylene held hands as a familiar hum filled the ship. An instant later the Burkhart FTL drive kicked in and the transport entered hyperspace.
The trip was quick, only about four hours. They reverted back to realspace around a shimmering blue planet. It wasn't Terra, but it was close. Eric didn't know sector twelve that well, so he didn't have any idea what planet it was, but it must have been an important one. The TSN didn't park six Dragon-class firebases in orbit around planets with no strategic value.
Within a few minutes, the transport entered the planet's atmosphere, crossed the terminator into the night side and landed outside a modern city.
"Welcome to Persepolis City," a pleasant, but automated, voice said over the intercom. "We hope your stay here is a pleasant one."
The fresh air was a welcome relief from the stuffy confines of space stations and starships. Lights from the spaceport gave off a busy glow. There was a certain amount of bustle around the civilian spaceport.
Maylene tugged at Eric's arm. He took her hand as she led him through the terminal. Cabs were waiting by the curb and they hopped in one.
It took off and headed to a set of coordinates Maylene rattled off to the autopilot. They were headed away from the city and out into some snow-capped mountains. The anti-grav drive was nearly silent.
Even at night, the moonlight shone off the mountains. Both of them took in the limited view and looked forward to seeing the planet in daylight.
"It's nice to remember that life isn't all gunmetal grey, isn't it?" Maylene asked.
Eric only nodded. Sometimes he forgot that there was a world outside the Teams. It was the warrior-monk mentality. When he took leave, it was usually doing macho things with those under his buddies or to see his parents. He wasn't married and had never dated much. Being a SOLAR was his life.
The small airspeeder dropped down to just above the treeline and they saw their destination. Built on the side of the mountain, a large resort jutted out. The cab settled down on the covered landing pad. The air was cold and brisk.
"I should have packed some warmer clothes," Eric said retrieving his duffel out of the back.
"Why?" Maylene asked, a seductive look on her face. "Who says you're going out in this?"
Eric's jaw dropped open, unable to respond.
She took his hand again and they went inside. The resort was busy, but not full. It was clearly upscale and catered to the winter sports crowd. Eric felt very under-dressed.
They went to the desk and checked in. He started to draw out his ID card, but Maylene stayed his hand. "This is my treat."
"You can buy dinner," she said with a smile.
They went to their room; each only had a carry-on bag and did not need a bellhop.
Against the far wall was a huge bay window that overlooked the valley and city below. Even at night, the view was fantastic. Compared to the Spartan quarters at Citadel Haven or the cramped berths onboard a space cruiser, the resort was palatial.
Eric set his bag next to the dresser. Maylene began to rifle through hers, finally finding a comfortable pair of pants and a sweater.
"I'm hungry," she said before stepping into the bathroom. "Let's go get something to eat and then watch the sun come up."
With that, she closed the door behind her. Eric dug through his duffel looking for something suitable to wear. He didn't know what to expect and hadn't packed much by way of dress clothes. He threw on a pair of khakis and a pull-over shirt.
A few minutes later, Maylene came out of the bathroom. Eric stared at her, dumbfounded.
Her short hair was styled back, not because she liked to wear it short, but because it had been burned off in the fire and was just now growing back. Her outfit covered all of her burn scars and did a good job of highlighting her generous curves. Eric had never seen her out of a uniform or hospital gown and just then realised how attractive she was.
He ran his hand nervously through his hair and then offered Maylene his arm. They went back down the lift to the main lobby. There was a little activity around them as the employees were beginning to get the place ready for the coming day.
The resort was located a little over 100 kilometers outside of Persepolis City on the planet New Persia in the Babylon system. It was a couple of light years closer to Terra from 40 Eridani. It had a breathable atmosphere, but there was no indigenous sentient life and it terraformed easily.
The Alliance settled the system because the nearby planets were rich in minerals. New Persia quickly became a major waypoint between Earth and the outlying sectors. Spaceports sprung up quickly, some of them just stopping points for supply ships, others—like Persepolis City—became tourist and military R&R destinations.
Eric and Maylene got a table with a stunning view and settled in to watch the sun come up. Once they got looking over the menu, both realised they were famished.
The food tasted like ambrosia. Even in the 24th Century, military food still tasted ... well, military. That is, it's not bad, but it's not worth writing home about either. And the galleys tended to serve the same five menus over and over and over.
They had local dishes recommended by the waiter, and their meal arrived just as dawn's first rays were breaking over the horizon. The large red sun slowly filled the sky as they ate, beginning the planet's 29 hour day.
The meal passed quietly. Eric didn't really know what to expect and Maylene seemed to have reverted back to her initial shyness from when they met.
Both had been in the service so long, they really didn't have anything else to talk about.
Other people began to trickle into the restaurant. Some were going to go skiing on the slopes, others were going to take airspeeder tours of the mountains. A group of teenagers was planning on going jetboarding over in a nearby valley.
As the crowd got larger, Eric found himself nervously scanning the room for snipers or looking for egress routes, and he had to tell himself more than once to quit being so paranoid. He thought it was odd that the people there seemed content pretending that there wasn't a war going on. Of course, they were far from the front lines and it seemed so far away.
Their meal over, Eric paid with his ID card and he and Maylene wandered around the resort. There was a full service spa, shopping, skiing instructors, a casino and basically anything you could want from an upscale hotel.
Most of the clientele appeared to be civilian, although Eric noticed several people who were in the military. They weren't in uniform, but he could tell. Soldiers and sailors can recognise each other instantly.
Maylene's hand rested in the crook of his arm as they walked. A couple of times, their eyes met, but she quickly looked away.
After a while, they ended up back at their room. Neither felt like partaking in any of the resort's activities. Although the day was just starting on the planet, Eric and Maylene were still on ship's time and they were getting tired.
Eric's companion was fidgety. And he was, too. They got back to the room and she went in to the bathroom to change. Eric put on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt then sat down on the couch, wondering what the sleeping arrangements were going to be. There was only one king-sized bed.
When Maylene came out, she was wearing a bathrobe that went down past her knees, pulled tight around her. Eric brushed past her and went to wash up.
He came out and found that Maylene had already crawled into the bed. Her robe was hung over the chair by the desk and the covers were pulled up to her neck.
"Computer," she called.
"Yes, Miss Torres?" a pleasant voice replied.
"Close the blinds all the way. Lights to thirty percent."
The room dimmed and the shields began to lower over the windows, blocking out the outside light.
In the dim light, Maylene motioned for Eric to join her in the bed.
"I hope I'm not being presumptuous," she said softly. There was a slight smile on her lips. "Lights to ten percent."
Eric could barely see, but he could make out the gentle lines on her face. Her artificial eyes gave off a soft blue glow in the darkness.
Maylene was lying on her back. She reached over and pulled the shirt over his head.
With a mental trigger that had become reflex, Eric dialed down the power in his artificial arms; he didn't want to injure either of them. He hoped she had done the same.
Her hand brushed against his chest. The hand then went behind his shoulder and pulled him towards her.
Their lips met. Her skin was soft, fresh from the rejuvenation tank.
Eric was tentative at first, but when Maylene pulled him closer he kissed her harder.
The sheet was still between them.
"Maylene," he started. "I—"
"Shhhhhhh, Eric," she replied softly. "Computer, lights out."
The room was almost pitch black. There was a dim emergency light over the door and a few cracks around the windows, but otherwise he couldn't see anything.
Maylene pushed him back and began tugging at his civvies. He sat back and undressed. Somehow Eric already knew she was naked.
He traced his way up Maylene's legs until he felt her take his hands. She pushed the sheets away and pulled him on top of her.
They kissed again. Desperately.
His body was pressed against hers. She wrapped her arms around him.
The pair held each other for a long time. After months in a sterile hospital wing and more months on an impersonal battle fortress, both needed some intimacy. They were always among strangers.
Soldiers don't attach themselves easily. Especially in combat. When new guys come around, the veterans often stay away from them, not because they don't like them, but because they know that until the first firefight is over, there's a good chance that the kid right out of training won't be around for a second one.
The loneliness had taken a toll on both Eric and Maylene. Their usual support networks of friends and comrades in arms were gone. All they had was each other.
How long would their time together last? Eric didn't know. He didn't care.
Biting her lip gently, he turned Maylene's head to the side and then started kissing his way to her ear and then down her neck.
Maylene responded to the stimulation slowly at first. She gasped slightly when he hit the sensitive spots. Her hands tensed when his teeth raked her collarbone.
In the darkness he explored and touched her. Not with his hands, but with his mouth and his face.
He brushed his cheek against her body, savouring its warmth. The skin on her neck and shoulders was soft.
Eric's hands were useless for this. They didn't have any nerve endings in them. Only pressure sensors and temperature indicators. He brushed his cheek against her because it was the closest thing to really touching her his battered body had.
Just below her shoulders, the feel of Maylene's body changed. Her skin was rough and scarred. Skin grafts.
Ever so gently, Eric brushed his cheek against her skin. He could feel her trembling. Her left side had been terribly burned and that's where the texture was harshest. The nipple on the breast was gone.
He kissed and rubbed against her, taking the time to explore every inch of her body. He needed to feel close to someone, anyone, even if it was only for a 72 hour pass.
The right side of Maylene's body hadn't been burned so badly. He could feel the goosebumps on her skin. Her nipple hardened in his mouth. She arched her back and moaned softly as he swirled his tongue around the sensitive areola.
He started to kiss his way down to her stomach, but her hands stopped him. She pulled him back up to her and kissed him.
Eric's naked body lay atop Maylene's. Her arms were around him, holding him close.
In a couple of spots, he could feel the rough texture of her skin against his.
He brushed his cheek against hers. It was wet. Her breathing was stilted. She was trying not to cry.
Propping himself up on his elbows, Eric pressed his body against Maylene. His cock was hard and he started to grind against her, his head looking for the opening to her sex.
She responded by spreading her legs.
Eric wanted the lights to be on. He wanted to see Maylene's beautiful face as they made love. But now wasn't the time and he knew it.
Both let out an audible gasp when he entered her.
Maylene arched her back as Eric pushed forward. Her hands grasped his shoulders as he sank into her.
Their bodies tensed until his entire length was inside her. Then Eric leaned in and they kissed.
Her lips were wet and tasted slightly salty. Tears.
Ever so slowly, Eric withdrew and then began to move his cock inside her. She responded tentatively at first, then eagerly.
None of the therapy Eric had endured over the past four months was worth the next ten minutes of his life. As the two made love, all of the tension, anger, loneliness and despair was washed away. Just being close to Maylene made Eric feel like a whole man again, not a broken soldier with machine parts.
Maylene wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close.
"Oh, god," she moaned. "Oh ... oh, Eric..."
He pumped faster.
"You feel so good inside me." Although her voice was soft, there was an edge to it.
Maylene arched her back as Eric continued to piston in and out of her.
Their lips met again. This kiss wasn't so gentle. It was hungry.
"Oh, fuck," she moaned. "Fuck me, Eric ... Fuck me hard ... That's it ... Right there ... Oh! ... Oh!"
With one final gasp, Maylene's grasped, then she threw her head back into the pillows.
Eric reached up and gently squeezed her scarred breast and then felt her pussy flood with warmth.
"Cum with me!" she cried out. "Cum in me ... please!"
That was all he needed.
His cock seemed to explode inside her.
Eric's hips kept moving until his balls were drained. He collapsed on top of Maylene and kissed her again.
The only sound in the darkened room was their laboured breathing.
They held each other for a long time, neither of them wanting to move.
Her touch was comforting and familiar. Finally, afraid that he was going to fall asleep on top of her, Eric rolled over on to his back.
Maylene snuggled up to him. Eric pulled her close, not because his artificial arms could feel her, but because he knew she wanted to be as near to him as possible and that they both needed to feel close to the other.
He could feel her shallow breath on his shoulder and her skin against his chest.
Neither said another word and soon sleep claimed them both.
The first blow hurt the worst.
Then his combat conditioning took over. He could hear his heart pounding and the blood rushing through his veins. Instantly awake, he absorbed Maylene's swinging fist with his shoulder and caught her wrist when she came back at him with her other hand.
His immediate instinct was to snap her elbow and then crush her throat, but years of training and discipline took over.
She thrashed around on the bed. Eric clicked something in the back of his mind and his cybernetic limbs were instantly powered up to full strength.
Pulling his lover close to him, he whispered into her ear and tried to rouse her.
Maylene continued to struggle against him, although she wasn't nearly as strong as he.
"Computer," he called. "Lights on!"
He had to close his eyes as the darkened room was flooded with illumination. Maylene jerked in his arms a couple of times. Her body went limp for a second, then she tried to sit up. Eric held her close.
She blinked back the haze. As soon as she realised what had happened, she tried to push Eric away. He held her closer.
Her body started to shake. He whispered soothing things into her ear. She started to sob.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm so sorry..."
"It's okay," he replied, rocking her back and forth. "It was just a dream ... It was just a dream..."
After several minutes, her breathing calmed. She still trembled in his arms.
"Eric—" Her breath came in short staccato bursts. She was trying not to cry.
His lips went to hers, silencing anything else she might have had to say. They held each other close; neither said a word, but their touch spoke volumes.
They spent the rest of the day in their room, holding one another. Maylene pulled her robe tight around her or stayed under the covers, still uncomfortable about showing her scars to Eric.
That night, they went out to dinner at a restaurant overlooking the valley.
When they were through with the meal, Maylene reached across the table and took Eric's hand. "Let's go up to the observation level, I want to watch the sunset."
They got a warm drink and went to stand by the big bay windows. The red sun was just starting to set.
Maylene folded herself into Eric's arms. Her head rested on his shoulder, her back to the window. He put his arms around her and knew that she just wanted to be close to him.
"Tell me about the sun setting, Eric," she whispered.
"I've turned my eyes off," she said quietly. "I don't want to look. It's ... it's hard to describe ... Having these eyes is like looking at a stereovision tank all the time. The colours and images are close, but they're not real..."
Her voice trailed off and she started to shake.
Eric squeezed her tight. Her cheek brushed his neck and she kissed him right below the ear.
He began to narrate for her. "The sky is turning red. There are a few clouds. They're orange and red and yellow."
She let Eric hold her.
"I remember a sunset just like this," he continued talking, as much to himself as to her. "I was ... maybe twelve ... Mom and dad both had a shore assignment and took us camping in the Grand Tetons..."
He shared with Maylene a couple of other stories as the sun fell below the horizon. She said nothing. They stood there, oblivious to the other around them, until the last rays had disappeared from the sky. He tried to narrate the scene as he would want it described to him.
"Thank you, Eric," she said quietly. There was a long pause before either of them spoke again.
"What would you like to do?" he asked. "Catch a show? Get some dessert?"
She blinked a couple of times and her eyes flickered. Putting her hands around his neck, she pulled him close and kissed him passionately. "Take me back to the room, Eric. I want you to make love to me."
He didn't need to be asked twice and they walked arm-in-arm to their room.
The blinds were open giving them a wonderful view of the valley. Persepolis City glowed in the distance while the stars shone down from the sky. Maylene led him to the bed and they made love again and again.
The rest of their leave passed quickly. Eric and Maylene held one another, sharing intimate touches and lingering kisses. They talked a little bit, but mostly just wanted to be near each other. Both knew that they had to get back to the base soon. Back to the war.
Just before they checked out, they lay in the bed. The sheets were rumpled around them. Still Maylene was quick to pull the covers over her.
"Thank you for this weekend," Maylene said softly. She lay in the crook of Eric's arm, her head on his shoulder.
"I should be the one thanking you," he replied. "This trip was your idea."
"How much longer before they're going to clear you for duty?" she asked. What Eric heard was, How much longer do we have together?
He turned and kissed her forehead. "I don't know. A couple of weeks. What about you?"
Maylene shrugged. "About the same. Technically, the can recall me at anytime. It's not like I do anything other than sit in a VR rig. The droud does all the work."
Eric put his hand under her chin and brought her lips to his. He could tell there was more she wanted to say, but neither of them wanted to be the one to bring it up.
Her eyes flashed over to the chrono and she pulled back.
"We have to get going," she whispered, regret and dread hanging heavy in the air.
She rolled out of the bed and pulled the sheet with her. As she stood, Eric looked away, not wanting her to feel more self-conscious than she already did. Maylene went into the bathroom by herself, as she had done for the past two days, to dress.
Eric got out of the bed and dressed. He kicked himself for not saying all the things he wanted to. While he waited, he packed up their things.
After a few minutes, Maylene came out, her body covered by a long dress. Eric took her in his arms and kissed her eagerly.
They gathered their bags around them and headed down to the main level of the resort.
As they waited for a cab back to the spaceport, Maylene got out her holo camera. The three satellite cameras came to life, their small anti-grav drives buzzing slightly. They formed a triangle around the two in the main lobby, took several 3-D pictures and then returned to her camera bag.
All the while, Erie and Maylene held on to each other, as if they could ward away their return to their regular Navy lives.
The shuttle came anyway and without another word, the couple was back at the spaceport. She took a couple more pictures of the two of them, and all too soon, they were back at the citadel. Back to the gunmetal grey navy.
Eric walked her back to her room. They absently held hands, and drew a few curious stares from those on the station.
She opened her door and then turned into Eric's waiting arms. He gave her a deep kiss that ended all too soon. She pulled back and stepped into her room.
"Thanks for a great weekend." Her smile had just a hint of bitterness in it. Their escape had only been temporary and each had responsibilities that could not be put off. Both knew it, but that didn't make things any easier.
He couldn't find any words to adequately reply. He stood there for a second, wanting to say more.
Taking a deep breath, he asked, "How about dinner tonight? I'll come by at nineteen hundred."
"I can't wait."
He started to say something else, but stopped. They shared an awkward smile and then he turned and headed back to his bunk.
Over the next week, Eric and Maylene both had lots to do. He was finishing up his physical therapy. Maylene was cleared for active duty and awaiting assignment.
Eric walked down the corridor, two envelopes in his hands. One was his orders. The other was for Maylene. He, too, had made friends with the comm chief and now it was his turn to surprise Maylene.
She was in her cabin. Eric hit the buzzer and a second later, her face showed up on the screen.
He waved the envelope. "I've got something for you."
"Give me a second."
The door opened and Maylene stood inside the small cabin. Her roommate must have been at physical therapy.
Eric handed her the envelope. She opened it up tentatively and read through the cover page. Her eyes got wide.
"Congratulations, Commander," Eric said.
She smiled slightly. A sad look flashed across her face, almost too quickly for Eric to see.
"Thanks," she whispered.
"Let's go up to Luigi's tonight for dinner," Eric said. "I'm buying."
Maylene stared blankly at him for a second, then gave him a big smile. "I'd like that."
"Dress whites," Eric said. "We're celebrating your promotion. Pick you up at eighteen-thirty."
She smiled at him. There was a distant look in her eyes. "I'll be here."
Eric gave her a quick kiss, and then disappeared down the hallway, happily humming a tune.
Extending from the top of the citadel is a spire that looks oddly out of place. Amidst the laser cannons and missile launchers that lined the station, the small tower seems to sit alone in space.
On the top deck is a restaurant, run by a civilian contractor to bring a little slice of "home" to the otherwise spartan battlefortress. Reservations were hard to come by, but Eric had somehow wrangled not only a table for dinner, but seats that had a spectacular view of the surrounding space.
They talked quietly. Both seemed to know that their time together was coming to an end. Maylene would go back to a squadron, Eric to the Teams. They each seemed determined not to squander the few days they had left.
After dinner, Eric and Maylene walked arm-in-arm around the observation deck. There were a few other people there, mostly couples trying to make the most of precious little time. There wasn't an empty couch or loveseat to be found.
"Let's go back to your room," Maylene whispered in his ear. "I want to make love to you."
Eric took her in his arms and pulled her close. Their foreheads touched and they brushed the tips of their noses together.
His lips went to hers. He gave her a series of short, featherlight kisses. Her hands went to the back of his neck and she pulled him to her.
There was something new to her touch. Desperation.
Maylene bit his lip and then took his hand. They went back to his cabin. Neither spoke along the way.
Just as they got through the door, Maylene's hands went to the buttons on Eric's tunic. He was all over her, too.
Their uniforms fell to the floor on the way to one of the twin beds. Eric pulled Maylene's undershirt over her head.
"Computer, lights to ten percent," he called, knowing that she didn't want him to see her burn scars.
"No," Maylene breathed. "Computer, lights to forty percent."
"Maylene ... are you sure?" Eric asked.
"Yes, lover," she replied, a hint of fear and nervousness in her voice. The lights were dim, but he could see clearly.
Eric pulled her even closer. He pressed his lips to hers. They were so soft.
His hands caressed her bare shoulders. His mechanical fingertips made her skin tingle, even the skin that was scarred. Her hands went to his belt and his pants fell around his ankles.
She pushed him towards the bed. He was completely naked, Maylene was still wearing her bra and the long skirt of her dress uniform.
"Lay down," she said quietly. Eric could see she was trembling.
Flat on his back, Eric looked up at Maylene. She stood at the foot of the bed. Her hands went behind her back and then the bra straps fell off her shoulders. She tossed it to the floor. Then she pushed her skirt over her hips.
Eric had to remind himself to breathe.
Almost all of Maylene's body had been burned, her left side worse than the right. Her skin was rough and coarse in places. The only places her skin was smooth were her face which had been grown back in a tank and her mechanical limbs.
She stood there for a long moment. Her arms were crossed nervously in front of her, as if she could cover up for him. Tears streamed down her cheeks.
"Maylene," he whispered. He knew what she needed to hear. She was opening herself up to him. She was vulnerable. "You look beautiful."
Choking back more tears, she tried to form the words. "You're just saying that."
Eric extended his hand. Maylene took it. He pulled her down on to the bed with him. He wiped the tears from her eyes and she straddled his lap.
"No, lover," he said gently. "I mean it."
Their lips met. Eric kissed her eagerly and pulled her close. Their bodies pressed together.
"Look," he pointed between them. "An erection doesn't lie..."
Maylene laughed slightly, her tears still coming. Her voice was barely audible. "Thank you."
He pushed her back for just a moment and looked straight into her cyber-optics, a serious look on his face. "Really ... Maylene, you are the most beautiful woman I know."
She sniffled and wiped her eyes. "I don't feel beautiful."
"But you are," Eric didn't pretend to know a lot about women, but he knew that complimenting them never hurt. Especially if he meant it. He caressed her face, his fingertips brushing her skin.
"Even with my scars?"
"Wounds heal," he replied simply. Sitting up, Eric's mouth went to her neck. He kissed her, his teeth raking the soft underside of her throat. She gasped. "Beauty is forever ... and you, my dear, are the most beautiful woman in this galaxy."
Maylene's arms closed around him as he continued to kiss her. Across her shoulder. Down the collarbone. His mouth went between her breasts.
She threw her head back and moaned with unmitigated bliss.
Carefully grasping his hair, she pulled his head back. It was her turn to kiss him and her tongue entered his mouth. Dueling back and forth.
His hands were all over her body and hers over him.
Pushing him back down on the bed, Maylene reached between them and took his cock in her hand. He was hard, there was no denying that. Her motor skills had improved to where she probably could have given him a world-class handjob, but she needed him inside her.
She lifted up and rubbed his head against her clit. They both let out low, throaty groans.
The head entered her and the labia spread to accommodate him. Ever so slowly, she sank down on his cock.
Eric lay back on the bed, his eyes rolled up into his head. His jaw had fallen open. His hands went to her breasts and she pressed forward into his steadying grasp.
"Oh, that feels so good," she moaned.
His eyes fluttered open. Eric looked up at his lover, her body on display for him. She started to ride him. Slowly.
Her body was scarred. Horribly. The fire that had taken her limbs left her skin splotchy in colour and rough in texture. Yet none of that mattered to Eric. If anything, it made him want her even more.
Their bodies were both broken. They each desperately needed the other. Their friendship, which had been borne of shared pain, was the constant that held them together. Kept them sane.
Eric pushed his hips up, trying to get as much of himself into her as he could. Maylene's hips gyrated in small circles.
She was rubbing her clit against him and pressing her ass against his balls.
Their eyes met. Eric swore he could feel his artificial toes start to tingle.
Maylene continued to grind on him. Their breaths came faster.
"Oh, god," she whispered. "I love having you inside me ... cum for me ... please cum in me, Eric."
He squeezed her breasts and rolled her one nipple between his fingers.
She moved her hips faster.
Eric met her thrusts.
Their moans became deeper. More urgent.
"Oh, Maylene," he cried out. His voice was little more than a whisper.
She lifted her hips up and then came down on him hard. He gasped again. She did it again, harder.
Eric's back was arched, his eyes shut. His balls started to jerk.
"Oh, fuck," he gasped.
"Yes," she hissed. "Cum for me ... cum with me..."
Her hips were a blur as she brought them both to a crescendo. She put her hands over his. Her knees dug into the bed at his sides.
"Fuck!" she moaned. "Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck..."
Finally, Eric couldn't hold it any longer. He thrust up into her with one hard stroke and then his cock erupted inside her.
He felt faint. In his tunnel vision, all he could see was the rapturous expression on Maylene's face.
Her pussy contracted around him, overcome by her orgasm.
Eric lost track of time as the spasms continued for each of them. Maylene collapsed on top of him.
His arms cradled her to his chest.
All he could hear was his blood pounding in his ears. His cock was covered in warmth, some of it his own, some of it his lover's.
Maylene was gasping for breath. Or was she crying?
He felt her hands on his face. Turning him towards her.
Then her lips were pressed against his.
He still couldn't see straight. His cock was still pulsing.
Maylene's teeth were on his earlobe.
Before he blacked out, Eric heard her whisper, "I love you."
Eric's eyes fluttered open. He was laying on his side, spooned up against his lover. The two of them took up most of the small twin-sized bed, but it didn't matter. He loved feeling so close to her.
He had a sleep erection that was buried in the crack of her ass. He bent forward and kissed the nape of her neck. She stirred slightly.
Wrapping his arms around her, Eric held her close, savouring the feel of their bodies together. He knew they only had a few days left together before the Navy inevitably separated them. They accepted that, but Eric silently vowed that he would do whatever it took to keep her once the war ended.
They went to breakfast as they had every day since coming back from their trip to New Babylon. They talked about the latest offensive. They talked about home. They did not talk about their tenuous future.
Maylene started spending the night with Eric. They each wanted to be together as much as they could.
She finished her breakfast and stood. When Eric started to gather his things up, too, she bent over and kissed him on the cheek, a rare public display of affection.
"I've got to run up to the hanger deck and see about getting my flight status restored," she said. "Meet me for lunch?"
"Sure thing," Eric replied.
Her hand lingered on his shoulder for just a second. She smiled gently at him.
"I love you," she whispered.
He looked at her curiously, but she wouldn't meet his gaze. It took him a second to find the words. "I love you, too, Maylene."
She squeezed his hand and then walked out of the officer's mess.
Eric had some business of his own to take care of and his morning passed quickly. He went to the mess hall and waited outside for Maylene.
Twenty minutes later, he was still waiting. Folks in the military are almost always punctual people. After all, being even a few seconds late can be the difference between life and death.
Checking his chrono one more time, he went to the nearby comm panel and called Maylene's room. There was no answer.
Maybe something came up and she had tried to get a hold of him. He called his own room. There were no messages.
With a shrug, he went into the mess hall and ate a quick lunch, always keeping an eye on the door for his lover.
She never showed. Eric frowned and headed back to his cabin.
When he opened the door, he saw Maylene. She was floating four inches above the holoprojector on the floor. Eric froze in his tracks.
The holo flickered every couple of seconds. There was a green arrow floating in front of the image. He reached out to start the message, but then stopped for a second. Did he really want to know how she was going to break up with him?
Finally, he swiped his hand across the arrow. The recording started to play.
"Eric," Maylene said. Her voice was shaky. "I'm sorry for leaving you like this ... I got my orders last week and I've been assigned to the Ark Royal. I couldn't bring myself to tell you..."
Her voice trailed off and she stared out blankly for a second. Eric felt like he was going to fall over. He pulled the chair out from the desk and sat down.
The image of Maylene took a deep breath. "I wanted to thank you for everything over the past few months ... your friendship ... your love."
He wanted to interrupt her. He wanted to say so many things. But the holo was oblivious to him and continued on with its recorded message.
"We're shipping out today and I couldn't face you ... If you were here, I couldn't say good-bye."
Her hand reached out. "I wish ... I wish it didn't have to be this way, but we knew we can never be together ... At least not as long as this war's going on."
Eric stood and stepped in front of the image. The image flickered as his hand passed through hers. His eyes started to water.
"Keep your head down out there, sailor. I'll be waiting for you." Maylene paused, a bitter smile on her lips. Her voice was little more than a whisper. "Come back to me, Eric ... Please forgive me ... I love you..."
It took him a second to compose himself. He replied, even knowing she couldn't hear him. "I love you, too."
The message ended and the image of Maylene froze, her hand still extended.
Eric closed his eyes and willed his tears away. He went to the desk and called the dockmaster.
"Has the Ark Royal departed yet?" he asked the young man whose face came up on the screen.
"No, sir," he replied. "She's just been cleared for departure."
"Can you get me a comm line?"
"Sorry, sir," he replied. "Not from here."
"Thank you," Eric said, switching the terminal off. He dialed the station's comm section. "I need a shore-to-ship channel to the Ark Royal."
"Hold on one second, sir," the operator said.
After a second, the duty chief came on, her face looking all-business. "Sir, is this personal or official?"
Eric faltered for just a second. "I need to speak to Commander Torres."
"I'm sorry, sir," the chief said apologetically. "I can't put you through. The Ark Royal is under a comm blackout."
"Chief—," he started, his voice getting louder, impatient.
"Sir? If I may ... Commander Torres said you might try to contact her. She left instructions ... she said to tell you that she's sorry." The chief sounded sympathetic, but Eric knew right then that he wasn't going to get in touch with his lover.
"Thanks, Chief." Eric's voice was hollow as he shut the monitor off.
The slumped back in the chair for just a second, then stood. He charged out the door and down the corridor. He raced for the observation lounge. People parted for him, and those who would not move quickly enough got a polite shove.
There were thirty or so warships parked around the citadel. Eric scanned them, looking for Maylene's carrier.
The Ark Royal had just pulled away from station, clearing the last of her moorings. Eric watched mutely as the big ship gracefully maneuvered clear of the station. Tugs scurried out of the way and other warships moved into positioned around her.
He reached out and pressed his hand against the transparent aluminum window. He imagined that his lover was doing the same.
Tears flowed unchecked down his cheeks. Unable to move, Eric watched the battlegroup assume its formation.
Then, without warning, the ships flickered and disappeared into hyperspace.
Eric stared into the empty space in the sky, wondering where she was going and when he was going to see her again.
Glossary of Terms
AOIC — Assistant officer in charge
AU — Astronomical Unit, the average distance between the earth and the sun, approximately 94 million miles (150 million km)
COMSPECWAR — Commander, Special Warfare
JOTC — Junior Officer Training Course
OIC — Officer in Charge
SOLAR — Space, Ocean, Land, AtmospheRe; TSN special forces and the direct descendents of the US Navy SEALs
TSMC — Terran Space Marine Corps
TSN — Terran Space Navy