I awoke not having any memory of falling asleep, in a strange place.
It looked like a tube and the end-cap (and some of the side, above me) was open and a pretty young thing said "Good morning, Jeff. How are you feeling?"
This question had me thinking and I quickly did an inventory of all easily checked parts by stretching and feeling myself against the walls of this tank. I noticed that I was very nude and looked up to the girl, there, answering "I seem to be fine. Could you tell me, please, where I am? Nothing here makes sense!"
She smiled. "You've been picked up by the Confederacy and it was a bit of a panic. You may not recall much of the event given the whole madhouse but you were not well and needed to be put in a med tube."
I nodded. OK, I could deal with that. "Did I get a chance to pick my companions?"
She sighed and told me "You'll have to discuss that with the marines who ran the pickup. Sorry, I've not been informed of any details and don't have an A-iphone in my head." She smirked, adding "Not that I'm particularly interested in getting one."
She paused for a moment.
"Let's get you out of the tube. You've been in there for 42 hours so you should be feeling pretty chipper by now."
I nodded and then slid my body out of the tube. I seemed to be in much better physical condition than I remembered having being in some time and this turned out not being difficult for me to do. Once I was standing I looked down at myself and marveled at the lack of wrinkles on my hands which I could finally see without my glasses. Another part of me showed no wrinkles but that was due to inflation, getting me to blush since I was in front of a teen-age girl. "Can I get some clothing? I'm not exactly the kind of person who flashes teen-age girls."
She chuckled. "I'm actually over forty, hon, and, as a former nurse, I've seen enough of 'em. No problem, come with me."
She walked me up to a wall with a little door about waist-high and told me to ask the wall for a ship-board uniform. I did so and a voice spoke up from the wall "Uniform will be ready in 10 seconds."
The situation was so strange I started to hum the theme to "Jeopardy!".
I'd been left alone at the wall and the small door slid up revealing a lightweight coverall and shoes that looked like moccasins.
Let's just say that, even with a body that had been toned up, this fifty-two year-old man was happy to cover up the fact that his cardio-vascular system's power-on-self-test proved that he was in good shape. I have to admit that having a morning erection without feeling a full bladder was, well, reassuring. I turned back to see the Nurse working with another open med-tube just before the largest hand I have ever seen gently landed on my right shoulder.
"Hi, Jeff, I'm Sergeant Blank, Tony Blank."
I looked up and stared.
He chuckled. "I get that stare a lot. Really, my last name is Blank, bee ell ehh enn kay. I refer to the look you just gave me as a 'blank stare'." He chuckled some more. "Now that we got that little bit of trivial humor out of the way, I'm here to drag you to my boss' boss so that we can get you settled down."
I nodded. "Ummmm ... did I manage to pick any companions?"
"Concubines? Actually, no, you didn't. You weren't in any shape to do any picking and choosing before we got you up here. We've got one rejectee who is cooling her heels that you can decide to take-- or not."
Nodding seemed to be my standard response, kind of like how Noah, from Bill Cosby's skits, would say "Riigggghhhhhhttttt". There just wasn't much for me to add so I decided to just "shut up and soldier" despite never having actually been a soldier.
Sergeant Blank led me to an office not far from the medical center I had awakened in. The officer behind the desk stood up and I saw that she was as tall as my guide ... and, except for the chest, about the same size. Her height combined with my 5'6" frame left me with my eyes even with her bosom and her uniform was a lot less ... ummm ... uniform-ish leaving my eyes firmly trapped in her cleavage.
There was that moment that I realized that she could easily smother me to death between them and the thought struck me out of the blue "no wonder some men have a fascination for asphyxiation during sex".
Given the moments and my chuckle it took me more time than I care to admit to before my eyes escaped the bosoms of death and met her eyes. "Sorry, Ma'am, my 'Y' chromosome suddenly kicked in for a bit, there."
She smiled. "I am Marine Lieutenant Commander Colleen Collins." She paused as I reacted. "Yeah, my parents, God rest their souls, had a sense of humor and I think they read 'Catch-22' one time too many, and, since their last name was not Major, decided to have some fun, regardless. In any case, Commander Wallace, we have to figure out what to do with you."
There is no doubt in my mind that she recognized my open-mouthed stare as one of shock and she smirked.
"Yes, Commander Wallace, your naval rank has been set even though admittedly, it is provisional pending successful completion of training. You'll have to spend some time in command school to hone all of the skills needed to manage people in a military environment but your recognized mentoring skills will certainly not hurt you."
I finally nodded. "All right, so what do I do next?"
She grunted. "Your score of 7.1 should have netted you a total of four concubines. You were picked up late in the cycle and we had to leave Earth orbit shortly after we got you so we can't go back for more. Unfortunately, despite having started the trip with a pool of seven extras, we only currently have one ... ummm ... spare. She was traded in for one of the others."
Tony, standing at my left side, snorted. "Six fucking deaths. That's the highest body count I have ever seen on a pickup ship! It kinda puts me off any interest in a burger for days afterwards."
Colleen nodded, a grimace on her face.
I decided to speak up. "So ... what's wrong with the trade-in?"
Tony spoke up "She's a bit, well, feisty. Her original sponsor did not want someone who had any sense of independence. She's a 6.4 so his original command to recycle her was denied by the AIs who feel that, with the right sponsor, she can re-test and get higher than a 6.5."
I nodded. "I still don't see a problem."
Colleen sighed. "As long as she is only a concubine she needs to be submissive to authority." There was a pause. "Her former sponsor called her a shrew."
A voice from the overhead-- an AI, obviously, and it seemed like a real machine playing the role of deus ex machina, speaking up just now-- "Her CAP sub-scores are a surprisingly good match with Commander Jeffrey Wallace. While he cannot be forced to accept Gertrude Kramer he should, at least, be willing to interview her."
"OK," I answered the machine. "And, if I remember correctly, won't I be assigned a pod?"
Again, the machine spoke: "Acknowledged. We do not have a pod for you and could not arrange your transfer to another vessel while you were in medical. You have been assigned quarters with one of the crew."
I did get to meet Trudy and we talked over dinner. She was very laid-back and didn't seem to mind that my eyes explored her body. Tall, blonde, blue-eyed, one prosthetic leg, it seemed strange how well we hit it off. Things got even warmer between us after I had her take a turn in a med-tube for two days and got her leg back along with having her apparent age rolled back fromc "thirty-something" to "almost jailbait".
When I got to meet the officer I was sharing a cabin with she turned out to be a medical officer by the name of McCoy-- which prompted a shared chuckle-- who didn't want to admit her first name was Leona and was still fighting having people call her "Bones". Finding a Leona McCoy made me wonder if all of the people with unusual-- euphonious, suggestive or just plain bizarre-- names had been collected and assigned to the same ship leaving me with a belief that there might be a Jack D. Ripper or Colonel Sanders on-board.
So I established a fairly comfortable relationship with Trudy-- short for Gertrude-- that seemed to be a whole lot more comfortable than the one I'd had with my former wife.