When you're in command of a fast courier your time is not always interesting.
Granted, command is something of a misnomer since there is no crew and the extra space inside the life support system is only there for up to two critical passengers who, if aboard, travel in nanite-managed biostasis, so I couldn't have one of my concubines travelling with me.
Assuming, of course, that I had any, any more. I've been on this assignment for over 2 years and haven't gotten within a month's travel of home. Both of my women should have given birth long ago and I wondered what was happening to my family.
Realize that, for me, those two years feels like less than two months, actually, since I spent most of my flight time in biostasis to increase the endurance of the life support system. The main AI manages the ship for me and awakens me when the jump through hyper is done. There is enough redundancy in the ship that I'm not going to be required unless something that the AI can't handle comes up.
So I am not so much a commander as a set of hands and eyes that can fix things when they break, even if the ship usually goes where I tell it to.
A fast courier does carry two weapons, a mine and a missile, both of which require the ship to deliver them closely. A fast courier's drive systems-- both N-space and HyperSpace-- have been modified by human beings and given capabilities the Confederacy had never consider useful.
My ship can pop in and out of hyper with a level of precision and timing only now making it into more main-stream vessels. I can drop into normal space for less than 20 milliseconds, enough to drop a mine or fire the missile ... and stand a chance to make it out before a Sa'arm ship can react.
It got drummed into us, though, that these are only for self-defense, since the cargo-- usually information-- we carry is far more potent a weapon against the Sa'arm.
Even hauling physical mail-- usually as a set of replicator patterns-- is considered a critical part of the war effort. We carry the stuff that can't be easily carried over the hypercomms or would otherwise clog the bandwidth there.
As if human innovations hadn't expanded the bandwidth of the interstellar links to a great degree, there were still plenty of jobs for us couriers to handle.
This could be a very lonely job, but, sleeping through most of it keeps me from moping during the time I spent in transit.
I've spent a lot of time bouncing my way further and further away from the Colony world I had been assigned to, a colony with a bizarre name of Reck. I have no idea who coughed up the name for the system and thought that meeting that person in a dark alley while suitably armed.
All the same I was not all that eager to go "home" given what passed for our Governor. What I wanted to do was move my family to Demeter.
I was awakened on break-out of hyper in Earthat.
This was a first for me-- I had not been within 10 light years of Earth since I had been extracted almost three years before. As a courier I wondered what job I was here for.
Linking in with the AI-- not many of us humans were willing to get upgraded interfaces with the computers, but this job really required me to be tied closely to the ship-board systems-- we made our way into the system now known as Earthat.
Huh? You're more used to the subvocalized communicator? Well, due to the work I would have to do if awakened in deep space, I have been augmented with sensory overrides which provide for a level of virtual reality that is far beyond the efforts made pre-Contact, even if all it does is amplify reality. Having my eyes upgraded with built-in sensors and displays makes it a lot easier to have the various computers present training and recognition data to me.
Some of the side effects included a "gestalt" where the senses of my ship felt like my own skin. Being able to sense E-M radiation directly on my skin provided some interesting sensations.
One reason we tend to sleep in hyperspace is because the texture we feel is ... well ... pleasant. Not even the AIs can explain why this is.
Due to the small size of my fast courier, I was able to safely drop into the system near the moon. Entering hyper my small footprint meant that I could jump from closer to either a planetary body or a star than any other hyper-capable ship.
Considering that I knew my itinerary for this jump had not included Earth, I figured that we'd been diverted by a hypercomm signal.
My courier, with me providing the "body english", nosed up to the command ship of the Earthat Flottilla.
Disengaging from the ship left me back to being merely human and a bit empty. Arrival has always been a let-down.
I'd gotten my orders through the link, as had my ship. As my ship became dependent upon power delivered from the ship I'd docked with, I was disconnecting myself from the various support gear and peeling off the pressure suit I wore at all times while in flight. A quick run of the cleansing nanos over my skin had me fresh enough in my gray Fleet Auxilliary uniform to not worry about offending anyone down-wind of me.
I saluted the Officer who came to meet me. She returned the salute, and spoke up, saying "Leftenant MacGregor, if you will follow me, Admiral Whyte wants to talk to you."
"Certainly, Lieutenant, though there's nothing I know of that would be of interest to an Admiral, and, considering the kind of ship I fly, I do not see what would motivate one to talk to me."
This woman gave me a smile-- a kind of sad smile-- and told me "Well, that's for her to tell you. I am just your escort, here."
I nodded and shut the fuck up as I followed her through the ship, being deposited in an outer office. Lieutenant von Reiser shook my hand and left me with the receptionist behind the desk.
"Ah, Lieutenant MacGregor, I am Admiral Whyte's secretary, James. She'll be out in a few minutes."
I nodded and took a seat and just had my implants monitor the electronic environment present in the anteroom. There were some portals I could have linked in to, but, without express consent, doing so was considered a faux pas. I did consult my internal processors to keep track of the time.
Admiral Sarah Whyte was certainly far more prompt than any Doctors I had ever gone to, down on Earth, before my extraction. It was less than two minutes when her office door opened and a very pissed-off looking Marine General walked out with an equally tall woman with Admiral's rank tabs. He looked around and spotted me as I had jumped to attention and saluted. At least one of the reflexes implanted during Basic Training still worked and both the General and Admiral returned my salute before the angry Marine stalked out.
Admiral Whyte smiled at me ... with the same sad look as the Lieutenant who had escorted me had. I got waved into her office and bid to sit on her couch. She sat at the other end.
"Lieutenant, I have some bad news to impart, a job I would prefer not to have."
I nodded, "Yes, ma'am?"
She sighed. "Somehow, some idiot did not see fit to notify you over a year ago that your home colony world self-destructed."
There is no doubt that this woman did not like to be the bearer of bad news, but, then, in hindsight, I suspected a lot of the other places I had touched didn't have people with the balls this woman had to handle the tough jobs. My own reaction-- it might have been over a year for her, but for me it was less than two months-- was one of staring at her. I gasped out "What happened to my family?"
She shook her head. "Killed in a bombing by Governor while he was trying to suppress the efforts to have him recalled. Both of your concubines as well as your four children were killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time."
The world seemed to get distant ... and I fell back on the things that could stabilize me, the comfort of the network and AIs that I was used to communing with. In order to do this, I activated my implants and connected up to the network available on this ship and started to sift through the information available about my "home" colony.
When communing via my implants I have learned to disengage most of my emotions and this helped to mute the shock of learning how horrible Governor Richards had actually been. The knowledge of how he had gotten through CAP testing was a shock as well, but there were notes on how to avoid repeating both the mistake of giving someone like that a high score as well as assigning someone like that to the governorship of a colony world.
Being connected provided me with just enough distance from the swirl of my emotions to cushion the realization that I had lost everything I had excepting my work.
And, sometimes, it being able to bury myself in my work that had kept me sane, even before I had volunteered for Confederacy service.
I dropped my level of participation in the computer network enough to pay attention to Admiral Whyte who looked concerned. "Sorry, Admiral, I jumped onto the network to catch up on the details. I've also learned to lean on my ability to tie into the 'net to handle emotional stresses. It'll take me some time for me to fully absorb this, emotionally, since I'm not sure where to go from here. My going back out on another courier run is probably contraindicated."
She nodded, saying "Well, you are due for some down-time, if not over-due. We'd also like to have all of your implants upgraded to the latest spec and re-run your psych once you feel you are back to normal."
I nodded. "What is my next step, ma'am?"
She sighed and sat back. "If I was totally cold-blooded, I'd do as the AIs tell me, by telling you to collect a new stable of concubines in order get more children started by you. Given some of the issues we've had with extractions down there, the Civil Service has been driving the collection of 'extras', women volunteering to let us find them a Confederacy volunteer."
I nodded, like a bobble head doll, to let her know I understood her conflict. "Yes, I can see how the AIs would think that a human relationship may seem fungible, but this is not my idea of having fun."
She continued, adding "We've got an R and R site in the South Pacific that you can spend some time on. Again, the Civil Service has been handling the ... uhhh ... comfort needs of those in service. I understand the needs but I am not always comfortable with how they deal with them ... and the Tribune I talk to about this is not pleased with the necessity, either. At the same time, this is the way some girls are finding themselves a way off the planet ... and some of the women, oddly enough, like the situation." She shook her head.
I smiled at her "If it weren't for that fact that there are multiple examples of each exception to every proposed principle of human personality, we humans wouldn't be useful to the Confederacy."
"Oh?" she asked.
I laughed. "It really doesn't take all kinds of people, we simply have all kinds."