Chapter 1: Chapter 01

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Sci-Fi and Fantasy Erotica  |  House: Booksiesilk Classic Group

Reads: 48

Where No One Has Gone Before


Book 1


by Saddletramp1956

Copyright© 2023 by Saddletramp1956, All rights reserved


Chapter 01



The end of “The Armstrong Incident”


When the door opened, I was met by an attractive female Captain who took my orders. I introduced myself and shook her hand.


Good to meet you, Commander Jones,” she said. “I'm Captain Hawkins. I'm familiar with your service on the Armstrong, and I've heard a lot of good things about you from Captain Simmons. I've also spoken to Alice Brewster.” I looked at her, not saying anything for a while. “She told me what happened, and I'm sorry. That won't be an issue here, I assure you. So, are you ready to take a look at your home for next few years?”


Years?” I asked. She smiled and led me to an observation platform. When I joined her, she pressed a button and the glass in front of us cleared up. My eyes bugged out of my head when I saw the monstrous vessel in front of me.


She's the largest, fastest and most advanced ship in the fleet, Commander. And you'll be my Operations Officer. That makes you my Number Two. Are you ready for an adventure?” I saw her eyes twinkle as she said that.


Absolutely, Captain,” I said. “What's our destination?”


If all goes well, Commander, Alpha Centauri.” I looked at her, shocked. That was just over four light-years away. “The plan is to break the light barrier. If everything works as advertised, we'll be there in less than two years.”


Is that even possible?” I asked. She smiled and nodded her head.


If the engineers are right, yes,” she said.


Damn,” I said. She laughed.


We launch in 15 days, Commander,” she said. “You have a lot of homework to do, so you'd better get to it. I like to hold staff briefings at 0800 every day.”


Yes, ma'am,” I said. She held out her hand and I accepted it.


I have to take care of a few things, but I'll be in touch. Welcome aboard, Commander,” she said before she walked away. After she left, I looked at the vessel floating in the giant bay. I looked on the side of the ship and smiled as I took note of the name: USS Enterprise.



And now, the beginning of “Where No One Has Gone Before, Pt. 01”


I walked to the entrance of the long covered gangplank, my gear safely strapped to the two-wheeled carrier, and was met by a crewman in a small electric utility vehicle. He stood and greeted me when I arrived.


Good evening, sir,” he said. “I'm here to ferry you and your gear to the ship. Let me take that for you.” He took my bags and placed them in the back of the small vehicle, treating my guitar case with special care. It was the one piece of civilian gear I was allowed to bring. Everything else was in storage at my parents house.


I got into the passenger seat as he sat behind the controls. Soon, we were quietly zipping toward the giant spacecraft. I looked at the ship as we drew closer and realized how big this thing is.


I had been on large cruise ships and seen some of the largest aircraft carriers in the Navy's fleet, but none of those held a candle to this monster. This thing had to be at least three times the size of the Armstrong, maybe four.


She's something, isn't she, sir?” the crewman asked as he drove.


You got that right,” I said. I looked and saw a number of workers floating around the vessel, getting it ready for launch. We finally reached the main entrance to the ship and the crewman jumped out, put my bags on a wheeled cart and handed it to me.


Welcome to the Enterprise, sir,” he said before turning back. Pulling my gear behind me, I walked to the entryway, stopped, faced the aft of the ship and saluted – a tradition brought over from the Navy, then saluted the Officer of the Deck.


Lt. Commander Jones, requesting permission to come aboard, sir,” I said, handing him my orders. The officer, a Lieutenant, Junior Grade, returned the salute and looked at my orders. He nodded his head before speaking.


Permission granted. Welcome aboard, sir,” he said. He handed my orders to a Commander standing next to him. After the Commander looked over my orders, he shook my hand.


Commander Axel Hurbi, First Officer,” he said. “Welcome to the Enterprise, Commander. Captain Hawkins said you were here. It's a pleasure to meet you.”


It's a pleasure to meet you, sir,” I said.


C'mon, let's get you up to your quarters,” he said. I followed him, pulling my gear behind me.


Is that a real guitar?” he asked me.


Yes sir, it is,” I told him.


You actually play that thing?”


I do, sir,” I said. “Been playing for years. This is the first time I've been allowed to bring it with me on a mission.”


Maybe you can entertain us in the Officer's Club one of these days,” he said with a smile.


Maybe so. This is quite a ship,” I said as we walked down the corridor.


Sure is,” he said. “A far cry from those tin cans you're probably used to, eh, Commander?”


Yes sir, it is. By the way, is it just me, or is the gravity a bit high?”


It's a bit higher than you're probably used to on board ship,” he said. “Captain likes to maintain it at .95 G when the ship's not moving. Of course, you can adjust the level in your quarters to whatever you're comfortable with.”


As we walked, I couldn't help but notice the difference between this vessel and every other ship I had served on. Instead of the stark utilitarian white walls covered with pipes and instrumentation, the walls of this ship were a soft, smooth pastel, with pictures and an occasional touch-screen console.


It was more like a luxury cruise ship or a hotel than anything else. I suspected that all of the wiring and plumbing were behind these walls. We entered a small lift and Cmdr. Hurbi spoke when the doors closed.


Deck Three,” he said. “That's the command and staff quarters,” he added as the lift began to move. When the lift stopped, I heard a female voice announce our arrival over the lift's speaker.


Deck Three,” the automated voice said as the doors opened. We stepped out and I noticed the carpet on the deck. Carpet? On a Corps ship? This was unheard of. I also noticed the lush green shrubbery next to the bulkheads on each side of the corridor.


Whoever designed this certainly intended to make it feel like 'home.' And the presence of the plants made sense to me, as they would absorb the carbon dioxide the crew exhaled while providing oxygen. We reached the hatchway to my quarters and I took note of the name already engraved on the door: Lt. Cmdr. William Jones, Chief Operations Officer. Axel reached into a pocket and pulled out a card attached to a lanyard.


Here's your security key,” he said. “You'll need that for all your access, so keep it with you. Breakfast is normally ready by 0530 in the Officer's Galley on Deck Four. Your shift starts at 0700, and the Captain likes to have her briefing at 0800. One last thing, before I forget.” He pulled out a small card and handed it to me.


The Captain has requested the privilege of your presence for dinner in her quarters at 1800 hours,” he said. “That's down there at the end of the corridor. She prefers dress uniform with ribbons, medals and badges. Welcome aboard, Commander. I'll see you in the morning.”


Thank you, sir,” I said. “I'll see you then.” I looked at my watch. Damn. I only had a couple hours before dinner, so I had a lot to do. Using the security badge, I opened the hatch to my quarters and got the shock of my life.


The first thing I saw was the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on. Her long blonde hair framed a beautiful, flawless face. Her deep blue eyes bore right through me and for a moment, I felt... speechless. I hadn't felt like this since the day I first met Tabby over ten years ago. I took note of her... uniform, if that's what it could be called.


It wasn't like any authorized uniform I had ever seen before. Black with red piping, it was short, revealing a lot of very well-toned bare leg. The top two buttons were undone, hinting at the cleavage underneath. It hugged her curves and for a moment, I thought I was going to embarrass myself with an erection. I saw the yeoman's emblem on her collar, sitting above two chevrons.


Good evening, Commander Jones,” she said with a wide smile. “I'm Kyra Williams, your personal yeoman,” she added, extending a hand. I took her hand and shook it. Personal yeoman? Since when does a lieutenant commander rate a yeoman, I wondered. “Please, sir, call me Kyra,” she said.


Um, good evening, Kyra,” I said. I suddenly realized I was still in the corridor and came into the room, pulling my gear behind me. Kyra took my bags and set them next to the wardrobe. I looked around at what would be my new home.


These quarters were at least three times the size of what I had shared with Tabby on the Armstrong. There was a large double bed against the bulkhead and to my amazement, it sat under a large porthole that included a very thick polarizing glass-like material with controls that let me darken it as much as I wished.


The room also contained a nice desk that held a workstation, a couch, a recliner and a small table with two chairs. I had my own head that included a large shower and a vanity that looked as though it came right out of a luxury hotel. A large monitor was mounted on the bulkhead across from the bed, in case I wanted to watch something before going to sleep.


I could definitely live here for the next few years, I decided to myself. Kyra interrupted my thoughts.


If it's okay with you, Commander, I'll go ahead and get your uniform ready for your dinner engagement while you set up your onboard profile. Then I'll finish stowing your gear,” she said.


Of course,” I said. “That would be perfect, Kyra. Thanks.” I removed my uniform jacket and fired up the computer. Using the information contained in my orders, I spent the next hour or so setting up my profile on the ship's network. I noticed that my shared drive already had several large documents and videos designed to help me get familiar with my new assignment.


After I finished that, I checked the time and realized I needed to start getting ready. Kyra had already placed my dress uniform on a hanger for me. I inspected it and found that all the medals, ribbons and badges were mounted perfectly.


I did a quick check for “Irish pennants” – those annoying little strings that sometimes pop out along the seams. I found none and figured that Kyra had already taken care of them. Perhaps, I thought, having my own yeoman isn't such a bad idea after all. Without thinking, I began removing the rest of my travel uniform. Then I realized she was still in the room and stopped.


I'm sorry,” I said. “I'm not used to having a yeoman. I'll finish up in the head.”


That's alright, Commander,” she said with an impish smile. “You don't have anything I haven't already seen before. Go ahead and finish what you need to do. Just pretend I'm not here.” I nodded my head in understanding, but went into the head to finish my business anyway. The last thing I wanted was an accusation of sexual harassment.


I showered, shaved and started dressing before realizing I had left my trousers and uniform jacket in my room. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought for a moment before opening the door. To heck with it, I thought to myself. If Kyra can't handle seeing me in my boxers, that's her problem.


I opened the door and walked into the room. Kyra looked at me for a moment, smiled, and went back to her work. That went well, I thought. I pulled on a t-shirt, then my trousers, shoes and socks. I didn't need a shirt as the dress uniform jacket had a stand-up collar and buttoned all the way up to my neck.


I put the jacket on and inspected myself in the mirror. After watching me fumble with the top button for a couple minutes, Kyra came over and gave an assist. She adjusted my medals, making sure they all laid perfect, adjusted the belt around the jacket to make sure my military alignment was perfect, then stepped back to give me the once over.


You look marvelous, Commander,” she said with a smile. “I'm sure the Captain will be very impressed.”


I certainly hope so,” I said. “First impressions mean an awful lot.”


Yes, they do,” she said. I took one last look at my watch and realized it was time for me to head out.


Showtime,” I said.


You'll do fine, Commander,” she said with a smile. “I'll finish up here, then I'll take the rest of the evening off if you don't mind. Remember, I'm right next door and if you need anything – anything at all – let me know. I'm available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”


Next door,” I said, looking where she pointed. Then it hit me. There was a hatchway between my quarters and hers. We had adjoining quarters. Interesting, I thought. “I... I'll keep that in mind, Kyra. Thanks.”


You're welcome,” she said. “Now, you go have a nice dinner. I'll see you later.”


Okay, Kyra, I'll see you later,” I said. I grabbed my cover and made my way down the corridor to Captain Hawkins' quarters. When I got there, I took a deep breath and activated the door chime. The hatch slid back and I was face-to-face with a tall, lanky man in a dark uniform jacket.


Commander Jones. Please come in, sir. Captain Hawkins is expecting you,” he said.


Thank you,” I said. He reached out and offered to take my cover, so I handed it to him. I looked around and saw her quarters were quite larger than mine – the privilege of rank, no doubt. Her suite was also quite well-appointed and reminded me of a luxury apartment I once saw on television. There was a table set for two at one end of the living area, complete with fake candles.


When Captain Hawkins came into the room, I was shocked. Instead of her uniform, she wore a very nice gown that fell just below her knees. One shoulder was bare and as she moved, I could see a slit in one side of the gown that appeared to go well above her waist. As far as I could tell, she wasn't wearing anything underneath. I looked and saw that she wore sandals, showing off a set of well-cared for toenails. I began to wonder if this was just dinner, or if she had another agenda.


Good evening, Commander,” she said. “Punctual and you clean up very nice. I'm impressed,” she added with a smile.


Thank you, Captain,” I said. “And may I say you look very nice. I especially like your sandals.” She smiled as she walked toward me.


Why thank you, Commander,” she said. “You seem to know how to make a woman feel good about herself.”


Is anyone else joining us tonight?” I asked.


No,” she said. “It will just be the two of us. I wanted to get to know you a bit better, both as an officer and as a man, and I thought a nice dinner would be the best way to do that. I hope you don't mind.”


Not at all, Captain,” I said.


Please, when it's just the two of us in my cabin, feel free to call me Leesa,” she said. “That is, if I can call you Bill.”


Of course, Cap... uh, Leesa,” I said.


Good. Let's sit down, shall we? I hear Jonathan has something special for us tonight,” she said. I helped her into her chair and took my place across from her as Jonathan brought two covered dishes from a cart. He set the plates down and removed the cover. The distinctive odor of freshly-grilled meat hit my nostrils.


Filet mignon, with a side of garlic green beans and garlic mashed potatoes,” Jonathan said.


Is this... real meat?” I asked, shocked. Real meat was a rare commodity ever since the Great Global Warming Scare of the 2080s, and something as extravagant as filet mignon was even more rare. These days, most people consumed synthetic or vegetarian “meat.”


Of course it is,” Leesa said, laughing. “And before you ask, yes, the rest of the crew eats this good as well. Personally, I can't stand that fake crap they sell these days. We do carry the fake meat burgers if you'd rather have that, though.”


No, real meat is perfect,” I said. “I've had my fill of fake burgers.”


They taste like crap, but they fill you up, right?” she asked with a smile. Even Jonathon got a laugh out of that. He poured us each a glass of red wine and placed the bottle back on the table.


If that will be all, ma'am, I'll report back to the galley,” Jonathan said.


That will be perfect, Jonathan,” she said. “I'll let you know when we're finished.”


Yes, ma'am,” he said. “Have a good evening and enjoy your meal,” he said before leaving. I waited for her to take the first bite before digging in. I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I took the first bite of the meat.


Nothing like real beef, is there?” she asked.


No, there's not,” I said.


So, what do you think of the Enterprise so far?” she asked.


I'm overwhelmed,” I said. “I never imagined anything like this was even possible.”


It's certainly a far cry from those tin cans called capsules we used to send people to space in 140 years ago, isn't it?” she asked.


Sure is.”


Personally, I'm amazed anyone even survived those early flights,” she said.


Me too,” I told her. “Can I ask a question, Leesa?”


Sure,” she said.


Why me? Surely there were officers more senior and experienced than me,” I said.


Yes, there were,” she said. “And they were all considered. But none of them threw Bull Travers out of an airlock into open space.” Bull Travers was the First Officer of the , and my immediate boss at the time. He was also the man who destroyed my marriage to Tabby.


I'm not proud of what I did, you know,” I told her.


I know,” she said. “Admiral Cartwright told me about you. Gave me a copy of the report by the board of inquiry. As I told you before, I've spoken with your superiors on that ship. When I read the report and watched the videos, though, I knew I had found my Number Two. You know, your ex-wife wasn't the only one Travers seduced, or tried to seduce.”


He tried it with you as well?” I asked.


Yes, once. I kicked him square in the balls and filed a sexual harassment claim against him. That's why he never made Captain,” she said.


Maybe if my ex had done that when we were in the Academy, we'd still be married,” I said.


Maybe, maybe not,” Leesa said. “You'll never know for certain. But there's nothing we can do about the past, is there? All we can do is deal with the here and now. I am curious about one thing, though.”


What's that?”


When you hit that button to open the outer door of that airlock, did the thought of revenge ever cross your mind?” Ouch. I had a feeling Leesa's BS meter was highly-tuned, and there would be no masking my true feelings.


Honestly, it did,” I said.


Any regrets?” she asked.


At the time, the only regret I had was that Tabby wasn't in that airlock with him,” I said. She smiled and nodded her head.


Thank you for your honesty, Bill,” she said. “How are you handling everything, by the way?”


Well, I've been told I still have some anger and trust issues,” I said.


And the dreams? Yes, I've seen your last psyche eval,” she said. After the incident, I experienced a number of bad dreams. In one recurring dream, for example, it was me shot out of the airlock instead of Bull. As I looked back, I could see him and Tabby pointing at me, laughing as I went further into open space.


Before my lungs exploded, however, I would wake up, gasping for air. I hadn't had that dream for a while, but the memory of it disturbed me a great deal and I sometimes had a very difficult time going to sleep because of it.


They're not as bad as they used to be,” I said. “But they still bother me from time to time.”


I understand,” she said. “Maybe you should speak with Kyra about them.”


Kyra? Kyra Williams? My yeoman?”


That's Dr. Kyra Williams. And yes, I think you should talk to her about them. I think she can help you overcome them. And your other issues.”


She's a doctor? What is she doing here serving as a yeoman?” I asked.


Well, she's not actually a yeoman, per se. She has the position, but that's simply for purposes of the ship's manifest. She holds a doctorate in psychology and she's a certified counselor. She's also working on her second doctorate. Perhaps this is a good time to explain a bit more about the Enterprise.”


I'm all ears,” I said. Was all of this an elaborate set-up? I needed answers.


As you have probably figured out by now, Bill, Enterprise is a highly experimental platform, in more ways than one. Naturally, our first mission is one of exploration and scientific discovery. And like every other ship in the Corps, we're equipped to help deal with any threat to national security.


But when this project started two years ago, Command realized that some things would have to be closely evaluated and perhaps changed, due to the nature of interstellar travel. One of those being the rules regarding fraternization. As I'm sure you're aware, those rules are in place to maintain good order and discipline. And those rules generally work well on missions lasting a few weeks or even a few months.


But once Enterprise launches, she won't be anywhere near human civilization for at least five years, if everything works as planned. Under the old rules, that would mean five long years with absolutely no intimate contact whatsoever. Do you see where I'm going with this?”


I think so,” I said.


I'm no expert on the subject, but I understand that human beings are social creatures by nature. We need contact with others to help us remain grounded in reality. There's 250 souls aboard this ship. Can you imagine what they would be like after five years cooped up inside this vessel with no intimate contact whatsoever with anyone?”


There would be a lot of pent-up frustration, I'm sure,” I told her.


Exactly,” she said. “So, Command has given me a great deal of leeway to adjust those rules to meet our particular needs. We've gone to great pains to make sure the crew is as balanced as possible. Every demographic has been carefully considered in the selection of this crew. I can tell you we have the most capable crew in the entire Corps. And I can also tell you there is absolutely no excuse for anyone to feel alone while we're deployed. Unless, of course, they deliberately choose to be alone.”


Why not just assign married crew members?” I asked.


That was considered, but rejected after what happened to you on the Armstrong. The last thing any of us wanted was a bunch of pissed off spouses at each other's throats in such close quarters with no escape. That would probably do more to damage morale than anything else,” she said.


That makes sense,” I said.


Yes, especially given the divorce rate in the Corps is almost twice that in the civilian world,” she said. “We did, however, decide to keep the rules in place for command and staff officers. I'm sure you're aware of the ancient saw that says familiarity breeds contempt?”


I am,” I told her.


So, we developed the concept of a 'companion' for those officers. Someone who isn't necessarily part of the chain of command, but someone who is as compatible with the officer as humanly possible,” she told me. “You remember the profiling you went through when you first went to Advanced Ops School?”


I remember filling out a bunch of forms and questionnaires and giving a DNA sample. I remember speaking to a Corps psychologist, and I remember going through some sort of hynotherapy. I don't recall anyone calling it profiling. I was told they were building up my psyche folder for later use. I was never told the results of that, though,” I said.


That was the profiling. Dr. Williams – Kyra – helped put that all together. She also helped analyze the results. When she saw her name at the top of your compatibility list, she instantly volunteered to be your companion on this assignment.”


Wait, you're saying that her and I are 'compatible?' What, exactly, does that mean? And she put her career on hold to be here with me?” Leesa nodded her head.


Yes, she put her career on hold for you. Like you, she's been burned by a cheating spouse. As for compatibility, the test identified the two of you as being, for all practical purposes, soul mates. Don't ask me to explain it. All I know is that it works.” So, I thought. Perhaps that explained my reaction to her earlier.


Do you have one of these... companions?” I asked Leesa.


As a matter of fact, I do,” she said. “His name is George Herman. He has a degree in quantum mechanics and astrophysics. Like, Kyra, he volunteered to join me on this mission. In fact, he's in his quarters getting ready for our date.”


Date?” I asked.


Yes,” she said. “After dinner, we're going to the club on Galileo Station for some drinks and some dancing. After that...”


Well, that explains the dress,” I said with a smile. She smiled in return.


Yes, it does,” she said. “I didn't want to keep him waiting, so I decided to wear it for our dinner. I hope you didn't get the wrong idea.”


Well, I have to admit, I was... surprised,” I said.


Smart, and diplomatic, I see,” she said with a smile.


I take it Commander Hurbi has a companion also,” I said.


Yes, a sweet little thing named Myra,” she said. “She's an artist who also dabbles in interior design. She painted quite a few of the pictures you may have seen on the ship, and she helped with the layout of the quarters.”


So, what will Dr. Williams be doing when she's not analyzing me?” I asked.


She has volunteered to help provide counseling services to the crew when she's not working on her doctoral thesis. But her number one task, quite frankly, is keeping you sane, and content. She's not here to analyze you. Don't forget that.”


And how far can this relationship go?” I asked her.


As far as the two of you want,” Leesa said. I considered that as I finished the last couple bites on my plate. Leesa pulled the cart toward her and took off two small plates.


Ah, I see Jonathan has given us some cheesecake for dessert. He makes the best cheesecake.” She put a plate in front of me, then took the other for herself. I took a bite and was impressed. This was the best cheesecake I had ever eaten.


I understand you have a seventh-degree black belt in Grav Tac,” she said as we ate. Grav Tac was a form of martial arts designed specifically for use in mid to low-gravity. I had just qualified for my latest belt before graduating from Advanced Operations School.


Yes, I do,” I said.


Wonderful. Maybe you can hold some classes for the crew. I've always been interested in learning something about it.” Technically, I was qualified to teach the form from the time I received my fifth-degree belt, but I was a bit nervous as I had never taught anyone before.


Of course,” I said nervously.


I take it you've never taught anyone before?” she asked.


No, I haven't,” I said.


Well, then I guess this will be a perfect opportunity for you to grow as a leader,” she said with a smile.


I suppose so,” I told her.


When we finished, she called for Jonathan to collect the tray and the dishes. A few minutes later, the door chime sounded off and she answered it, letting Jonathan in the cabin.


I hope dinner was satisfactory,” he said as he put everything on the tray.


It was perfect as always, Jonathan, thank you,” Leesa said.


Good,” he said. “We have prime rib on the menu for tomorrow night. I hope you like prime rib, Commander.”


Prime rib?” I asked, surprised. “I love prime rib! And that cheesecake was wonderful.”


I'm glad to hear that, sir,” he said. “Nothing but the best for my officers. Well, good night, Captain, Commander,” he said as he wheeled the tray out of the room. I turned to Leesa.


Thank you for dinner, Leesa, I enjoyed it,” I said.


As did I, Bill. I also enjoyed our discussion. Now, I'd better go see to George. I'll see you on the bridge at 0700 sharp,” she said.


Yes, ma'am,” I said, collecting my cover. She walked me to the hatch and closed it after I left. I had a lot going through my mind as I walked the few feet to my quarters. When I entered my cabin, I saw Kyra turning down the covers on my bed. I also noticed she had changed into something considerably shorter and more transparent than the “uniform” she had on earlier. I also noticed the only thing she wore under it was a tiny pair of panties that left nothing to the imagination. She turned to look at me as I entered.


How was dinner, sir?” she asked quietly.


It was excellent, Kyra, thanks for asking,” I said as I began to remove my uniform jacket. I hung it up in the wardrobe and removed my shoes and trousers, placing them in the wardrobe as well.


I'm glad, sir,” she said as she handed me a robe. I put it on and looked at her. God, she was so beautiful, so graceful. I could see everything she had to offer and I was tempted to just take her in my arms and make love to her on the spot.


You don't need to call me 'sir,' Kyra,” I told her. “My friends call me Bill. I'd like it if you called me Bill as well.”


Thank you, Bill,” she said. “I'd like that as well. I took the liberty of making some hot chocolate. I find it helps me relax. Would you care to share a cup with me?”


Hot chocolate sounds wonderful,” I said. “Yes, please.” She smiled and ran to her cabin, coming back a few moments later with two large cups of steaming hot chocolate.


Careful now, it's really hot,” she said, handing me one of the cups.


Thank you,” I said. “Why don't we sit on the couch and enjoy this together?”


That sounds like a wonderful idea,” she said. We sat down on the couch and took a sip of the hot liquid. It tasted delicious, and was the perfect end to a perfect dinner. I put the cup down on the small coffee table, placing a coaster under it.


This is delicious, Kyra,” I said.


Thank you, Bill,” she said quietly. “It's my own recipe. I used to make it all the time, but I haven't for a while.”


As far as I'm concerned, you can make it any time you want,” I told her, causing her to smile wider. “So, why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself, Kyra.”


There's not much to tell,” she said. “I finished high school a year early, so I went to college and got a degree in psychology. I went on to get my doctorate and got certified as a counselor. I met my husband in college and we got married after I finished my first four years.”


What happened?” I asked.


I loved him with all my heart, but I guess it just wasn't enough. I came home one day after school and found him in our bed with another woman. The rest is history.”


Was he abusive to you?” I asked.


Not physically,” she said. “But he was quite verbally abusive.”


I'm sorry to hear that, Kyra. You certainly don't deserve that.”


Thank you. I did everything I could to keep him happy. I don't know why he did what he did.”


Some people are just assholes, I guess,” I said, causing her to smile. “Captain Hawkins said you put your career aside to be with me on this trip. I'm curious to know why. You seem to have set aside a very promising career. Certainly one that pays more than I make.”


When I saw my name at the top of your compatibility chart, I just had to meet you and get to know you. I had dated some after my divorce, but I couldn't find anyone who really did it for me. You know what I mean?”


Yes, I do,” I told her. “I went through that myself in Florida after my divorce.”


So when they gave me the option of joining you on this mission, I jumped at the chance,” she said. “Something inside me told me this was my last shot at true happiness and I didn't want to miss out on it. I would've given everything up for that, Bill. Does that make sense to you?”


Yes, it does,” I said.


I have a confession to make. I hope you don't think bad of me. When I first saw you at the door, I felt like a giddy schoolgirl meeting her prom date for the first time,” she said. “I'm surprised you couldn't hear my heart beat. It was all I could do to keep from wrapping myself around you. I've never felt that way about anyone, not even my ex.”


I have a confession to make as well,” I told her. “When I first saw you, I was literally speechless. I hadn't felt like that since the first day I met my ex.”


Really?” she asked with a smile.


Really,” I said in response. “In fact, I'm extremely attracted to you right now.”


You are?” she asked.




I'm extremely attracted to you as well,” she said.


So, what do you propose we do about this?” I asked. She smiled as she lifted her flimsy lingerie over her head. Oh God, I thought as I took in her erect nipples and her smooth skin. My little brain reacted the same way, getting instantly hard.


This,” she said as she wrapped her tiny arms around me and gave me a scorching hot tongue kiss. I responded, kissing her back just as hard. She moaned in my mouth and I picked her up and carried her to the bed. I laid her down and slid her tiny panties off, revealing the smoothest, most perfectly-formed pussy I had ever seen in my life.


She responded by pulling my robe and the rest of my clothing off. Somehow, she managed to get me on my back and began covering my body with kisses. We ended up in a 69 position on my bed, my cock in her mouth as I buried my tongue inside her. I couldn't get enough of her.


She stopped and turned around, straddling me on the bed. Looking down at me with lust-glazed eyes, she grabbed my rock-hard cock and positioned it at her entrance.


Make love to me,” she whispered. “Make me your woman. Please, Bill. I need you inside me right now.” What could I say? I wanted her as bad as she seemed to want me. I kissed her deeply.


Do it,” I said. The next thing I knew, I was balls deep inside the softest, wettest, tightest pussy I had ever experienced in my life. We bucked on the bed, her on top, riding me like a cowgirl trying to tame a wild horse. I never wanted this to end.


We held each other tight as we thrashed about on the bed. The room was filled with our joint moans and I felt the urge to ejaculate. Apparently, she sensed that as well.


Cum inside me, Bill,” she begged. “Please, cum inside my pussy. I need it so bad. Don't worry, I'm on the pill. Just fill me up with your seed, baby. Give it to me. Fuck me, lover.” That was all the encouragement I needed. Soon, I was spurting jets of fluid inside her and that seemed to trigger her orgasm.


Ahhhh... Yes,” she cried as her orgasm ripped through her body. I felt her vagina grip my cock, causing me to spurt even more inside her. We kissed as our orgasms tapered off. I held her tight to me and we looked deep into each other's eyes.


That was the absolute best,” she said after she had calmed down a bit. “I've never felt anything so... intense.”


Me neither,” I said. And it was the truth. Sex with my former wife had always been good, but I could never recall having such an intense experience with her. Kyra, however, made me feel... complete.


Is it okay if I sleep here with you tonight?” she asked.


Of course,” I said. “In fact, you can sleep here with me every night if you wish.”


I can? Really?” she asked in a way that almost reminded me of a little girl asking for a cookie.


Yes, if you want,” I told her. She held me tight and kissed my face. We laid down in the bed and I held her close to me. I had questions – plenty of them. But I didn't want to spoil the moment. Besides, I thought, there was always tomorrow. “Don't forget, I have to get up at 0500 tomorrow. Breakfast is at 0530 and I report to work at 0700.”


Okay,” she said quietly as she put her head on my shoulder. We both fell asleep a few moments later. I woke up the next “day” when my alarm went off at 0530. I rolled out of bed and looked at the blonde goddess in bed with me. I kissed her on the cheek, and she slowly opened her eyes.


Is it 5:30 already,” she asked.


Yup,” I said. “If you want to join me for breakfast you'll need to get up.”


If you don't mind, I think I'll stay here and get some more sleep. You wore me out last night,” she said.


Sure,” I said, giving her another kiss. “I'll just go get ready.”


Okay,” she said in a sleepy voice. As I watched, she took my pillow and held it close to her like a teddy bear. A few moments later, she was snoring softly. I smiled and went to the head to do my business.


As I prepared for the day, I realized that I was falling for a woman I had met less than 24 hours ago. In just a few short hours, she had made me happier than I had been in nearly two years. I hoped I wasn't taking things too far too fast.


After I put my flight suit on, I went to the bed and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She smiled and mumbled something in her sleep. I covered her up, turned the lighting down for her and darkened the porthole. From there, I went to the galley for breakfast, where I ran into Cmdr. Hurbi.


Good morning, Commander,” he said as I got in line.


Good morning, sir,” I said.


Good dinner last night?” he asked.


Very good, thank you,” I told him.


Sleep well last night?”


Very well, sir, thank you,” I said.


Please, join me,” he said after we got our breakfast, which consisted of an omelet, bacon, toast, milk and coffee.


Thank you,” I said, following him to an empty table.


My pleasure,” he said. We both dug into our breakfast, thoroughly enjoying the well-prepared Denver omelet and bacon. “I'm sure you're used to working a 12-hour shift.”


Yes, I am,” I told him.


Well, just so you know, we do things a bit different here,” he said. “The Captain doesn't want the crew fighting their own fatigue, especially on the bridge. Too many things can get screwed up that way. So, we do three eight-hour shifts, with a one-hour lunch. That'll give you plenty of time to rest in between shifts. That doesn't mean you're completely off-duty, by the way. Being third in command, you're technically on call 24/7.”


I understand, sir,” I told him.


So, you're on station from 0700 to 1600 hours, with a one-hour break for lunch,” he said. “Second shift comes on at 1500 hours, so you'll have plenty of time for turnover.”


That makes sense,” I told him.


You've got a lot to catch up on before we launch, so I want you to take as much time as you need to go through the operations manuals. After this morning's briefing, I'll give you a tour of the ship and introduce you to some of the others,” he said.


Sounds like a plan to me,” I said.


Good,” he said with a smile. “By the way, what do you think of Dr. Williams?”


Kyra? She's quite an impressive woman. We got to know each other a bit last night.” He gave me a knowing smile as he nodded his head.


I figured as much,” he said. “Myra heard the two of you. Sorry, she didn't mean to intrude. It's just that sound sometimes carries through these air vents.”


Sorry about that,” I said, feeling a bit embarrassed.


Don't be,” he said. “But I should warn you. Myra can sometimes be a screamer. So if you hear any strange sounds, don't worry, everything is alright.”


Thanks for the warning,” I said with a smile. He smiled back as he finished his coffee. We finished our breakfast and headed up to the bridge, on Deck One. I gasped as I walked into the ship's control center. I had never seen anything so advanced in my life and for a moment I felt a bit intimidated.


Don't let it scare you, Commander,” Axel whispered to me. “It's not as complicated as it looks. It's pretty much like any other ship, just laid out a bit different. I nodded my head and walked to the Operations console. The Lieutenant on the station looked up as I approached him. He saw my name patch and my rank and stood up.


Senior Flight Lieutenant Greene, sir,” he said as he extended his hand. I accepted it and introduced myself.


Lt. Commander Jones, good to meet you, Lieutenant,” I said. “Quiet shift this morning?”


Yes sir, very quiet,” he said. I knew that basically meant nothing had gone awry as the ship was being prepared for launch, a process that continued 24 hours a day. “Everything is in the shift log. With your permission, sir, I'll go ahead and sign out.”


Of course,” I said. He logged out of the system and turned to leave.


Have a good shift, sir,” he said as he left.


Thank you, Lieutenant,” I told him. I sat down and logged into the system and spent some time familiarizing myself with the layout and the display. Axel was right. It was basically the same as what I had seen before, but it was laid out quite different. To me, the layout was far less clunky and made more sense than what I had seen before.


At 0800, I joined Axel, Leesa and the other senior officers in the Captain's ready room for her morning briefing. She started by introducing me to the rest of the officers. After a brief introduction, she continued with the meeting.


From what I could gather, the launch preparations were proceeding as scheduled. Better yet, some sections seemed to be ahead of schedule. While Leesa was pleased to hear that, she urged the section heads to take some time to double-check everything to make sure no corners were cut.


After she dismissed everyone, Axel took me on a tour of the vessel and introduced me to a number of my new shipmates. I knew I would never remember all of their names after this brief intro, but I knew I would get to know them much better in fairly short order.


I was especially impressed with the communications section, and the officer in charge explained some of the challenges we would face once the faster-than-light engines engaged.


Since electromagnetic waves don't require a medium to propagate, the chief comm officer explained, they can travel through the vacuum of space at the speed of light. The only problem with that, he added, is that once the FTL, or faster-than-light, engines engaged and we reached our operating speed, we would be traveling faster than those electromagnetic waves.


What that meant, he said, is that standard communication technologies weren't practical for our use. If we were to send a message to Houston from Alpha Centauri, for example, using the old standards, we would literally reach Houston a year or more before the message we sent, providing we returned at our maximum operating speed.


To get around this, he explained, scientists and engineers used a combination of quantum tunneling and tachyonic emissions to achieve what was called superluminal communications. They jokingly referred to it as “subspace,” using a term made familiar by an old science fiction series.


The only problem, however, was that the signal degraded significantly over about three light years or so. To overcome that, they developed a relay that could clean up and boost the signal before sending it on to its destination.


Two of these relays had already been placed in strategic locations above and below the ecliptic plane of the Solar System. Two more had also been launched into interstellar space using experimental FTL engines.


One relay would end up about halfway between Alpha Centauri and our sun and would be in operation well before we needed to use it, while the other would be placed between our sun and Bernard's Star, which was just over five light years from Earth.


He went on to say more relays would be launched in the coming months and years in preparation for further exploration. According to him, engineers and scientists had been hard at work on this technology for at least the last 15 years.


You know, Commander, I can see a time when we'll have a whole network of these in place. Hell, before long, we'll have whole relay stations out there that'll double as depots for things like refueling, or even R&R,” he said.


Impressive,” I said.


You bet it is,” he said with a smile. “Welcome to the future.”


From there, Axel took me to Engineering, where I got yet another mini-education. I was used to seeing the engineering sections of the ships I had been on before, but nothing prepared me for what I was about to see here.


Although the Enterprise had the standard thrusters for maneuvering, and plasma-ion fusion power plants for interplanetary operations, the FTL system was what I was interested in seeing. Admittedly, it was way over my head, in terms of understanding the technology. The lowest-ranking crew member on the team had two doctorates from MIT and spoke tech-talk almost like it was his first language.


Fortunately, his boss, Lt. Commander Sorenson, was present, and she translated what her crew member said into something that almost resembled English. In layman's terms, the system, once engaged, formed a “shell” or bubble, around the ship. When the FTL system engaged, everything inside the bubble operated as normal, while the entire bubble was propelled at speeds faster than light.


As I understood what Cmdr. Sorenson said, it was literally impossible for the human body to travel at speeds faster than light, since human nerve impulses are slower than the speed of light. To alleviate that, the “warp” bubble, as it was called – again, borrowing terminology from an old science fiction program – was designed to protect the ship and its inhabitants, while being propelled at the greater speeds.


In short, life would go on as normal inside the bubble, even as the bubble itself was transported at speeds faster than light. There was, however, one problem. Well, there were other problems, but one of the biggest problems, at least to me, was what might happen if the bubble deteriorated, or disappeared, while traveling so fast.


Commander Sorenson explained that in the unlikely event something like that were to happen, then the ship and everyone and everything inside would be instantly dematerialized into subatomic particles. But, she assured me, the system, which had three levels of redundancy, was designed to prevent that from ever happening.


While the system accepted a certain amount of fluctuation, and automatically made adjustments as necessary, if the bubble deteriorated beyond a certain point, the vessel would drop out of FTL, or “warp,” mode and revert to the plasma engines until the bubble could be properly reformed.


You've got nothing to worry about, Commander,” she told me. “This technology has seen hundreds of hours of testing, and we've got the best crew in the Corps. There's nothing we can't handle.”


I hope so, Commander,” I told her.


If you have any questions, Commander, please feel free to stop by and see me,” she said.


I'll do that, Commander, thank you very much,” I said. After we left Engineering, Axel turned to me with a smile.


I hope you got all that,” he said. “There'll be a test later today,” he added with a wink. We spent the next couple hours going to various parts of the ship, meeting the officers and crew in those departments. The more people I met, the more impressed I was with what Leesa had put together.


Of course, being a weapons officer, I had to see the ship's defensive systems. Axel took me around and showed me the upgraded weapons platforms on the vessel, which were quite impressive. From what I could gather, if this ship had been in operation during World War II, it could probably have single-handedly decimated the German military machine.


By the time we finished, it was lunch, so we wolfed down a ham sandwich and made our way back to the bridge. I spent the next four hours poring over manuals, learning as much about the as I possibly could. I had a long way to go, but I made good progress that first shift.


I messaged Kyra and had her meet me in the galley for dinner. I wanted to see her and I also wanted some prime rib. She met me there and we got our dinner. I was concerned when I saw how little food she took.


You know, you're gonna need to eat more than that to keep your strength up,” I said.


Thanks for your concern, but I've always been a very light eater,” she said. We sat down and jumped into our meals.


I'm curious, Kyra,” I began. “Captain Hawkins tells me you helped design that compatibility profiling system. Can you tell me a little bit about it?”


Sure,” she said. “What would you like to know?”


How did you come up with that?”


Are you familiar with someone named Lawrence Wilder?” she asked.


No, can't say that I am,” I told her.


He did some ground-breaking work back in the early part of the 21st century,” she said. “He hypothesized that the key to a perfect relationship was already programmed into us, in our DNA. He put forward the theory that genetics dictates a person's perfect 'soul mate,' not emotions. From what I could gather, he had a great deal of success with his process. Unfortunately, much of his work was lost after the world-wide Internet hack back in the 2050s.”


Interesting,” I said.


I certainly thought so,” she said. “I pieced together what I could, and that's how I came up with the test. Think about it for a moment. You remember your reaction when you first saw me?”


Yes,” I told her.


You said you hadn't experienced that since you met your ex over ten years ago. Likewise, I hadn't felt that way, well, ever. Have you ever wondered why it is you can have such an intense initial reaction to one person, but not another?”


To be honest, I never thought about it,” I said.


Take a look at that Lieutenant over there in the corner,” Kyra said. I glanced in the direction she indicated and saw a very pretty brunette eating her meal. “Would you say she's quite pretty?”


Yes, I would,” I said.


But did she take your breath away? When you looked at her, were you rendered speechless, overwhelmed with the desire to approach her, possibly have sex with her?”


Not really,” I said.


Of course not,” Kyra said. “And there's several possible explanations for that. One, it could be that you're a gentleman who has already given your heart to another woman, or, you're simply not the type to act like a cad in public. It could be your military training and discipline prevents you from engaging in what you know to be fraternization. Or it could be that genetically, you already know she's not your soul mate. You told me you dated after your divorce, but you didn't fell a connection to any of them. Is that right?”


Yes, that's right,” I said.


Did none of them take your breath away? Or render you speechless?”


No, none,” I said.


Why do you suppose that is?”


I honestly don't know,” I told her. “Maybe it was just too soon after my divorce.”


That's possible,” she said. “But I doubt it. Before you met me, when was the last time you were with a woman?”


I don't know, maybe five or six weeks,” I said.


And did anything happen in those five or six weeks that took away your anger and trust issues? Did anything happen in that time to make your nightmares go away?”


No,” I said. Damn, I thought. This woman is good.


When was the last time you had a nightmare?” she asked.


About three days before I reported here,” I said.


I can help you with that, if you'll let me,” she said quietly. “But it'll cost you,” she added with a sly smile.


Really?” I asked. “What do I have to do?”


Play your guitar for me,” she said.


Is that all?” I asked.


It'll do for a start,” she told me, smiling. “How long have you been playing?”


My Dad gave me my first guitar when I was just 10 years old and I've been playing ever since. They let me take lessons and I used to play in a band when I was in high school. We had delusions of reviving the old music of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s,” I said.


Oh wow,” she said. “Talk about oldies.”


Yeah, well, in my view the music of that time was some of the best ever made.”


What about Tabitha? Did she like to hear you play?”


Her taste in music was a bit different. She likes that electro-splooge crap,” I said.


Yech,” she said. “I can't stand that stuff. It's just porn with some noise disguised as musical notes thrown in for good measure.” I couldn't help but laugh.


My thoughts exactly. She dragged me to a concert once and I thought I was gonna get sick.”


Who did you see?” she asked.


Some group called the 'Kentucky-Fried Mutha Fuggas.' Believe me, I wasn't impressed. In my opinion, they'd have to improve to suck.” She laughed.


Really? I read somewhere the lead singer claims to have a 12-inch dick,” Kyra said.


Artificially-enhanced, I'm sure. They did one song that almost sounded like it could be decent. Then the lead vocalist dropped his pants and started masturbating while moaning into the microphone.”


No way,” Kyra said.


Yes, way. The girls went nuts, Tabitha included. I thought I was gonna have to hold her down to keep her in her seat.” I recalled that concert with revulsion. Tabby had torn her panties off and started rubbing herself as the lead singer stroked his giant dick on stage. Several girls in the audience had thrown their panties on stage, spread their legs and exposed themselves.


One girl stripped completely nude and ran on stage. She jumped into the singers arms, wrapped her legs around the guy and let him fuck her to completion right there on stage, standing up. When he put her down, she bent over and spread her ass cheeks so everyone could see his goo dripping out of her.


Tabitha was a wildcat in bed later that night. I had no doubt she was thinking of that vocalist while I was fucking her. A friend of mine later told me that was tame compared to what they normally do on stage. When I looked them up, I found he was right.


Well, that should've been a clue to you right off the bat,” Kyra said.


I guess so,” I said. “Did they ever produce anything that made the charts?”


I think they had one song that was on the top 40 list for a couple weeks. It was called something like, 'Whose Cum Is Running Down Yo Leg, Bitch?' At least that's what I think it was called.”


Sounds like a real classic,” I said sarcastically, causing her to laugh.


Yeah, in the key of X minor,” she said, causing me to bust out laughing.


So, what kind of music do you like?” I asked her after I had calmed down.


Depends on my mood. Sometimes I like to listen to classical music, other times I like to listen to soft acoustic music. I'm not really a fan of a lot of the modern stuff. I'd love to hear you play some of those old songs though,” she said.


Do you play anything?” I asked her.


I took piano lessons when I was a little girl. I've also learned to play the violin and the flute. I've messed around with some other instruments. Do you know what a mountain dulcimer is?”


Yes,” I said. “Dad took us to a little town in Arkansas once. Mountain View, I think it was called. They were having a folk music thing going on and I got to hear some of those folks play. That was a good time, believe me. You know how to play one of those?”


Yeah, I do,” she said. “It's been a while since I've played one and mine is in storage now.”


I'd love to hear you play it one of these days.”


Maybe one day you'll get your chance.” I found myself enjoying this time with Kyra and I couldn't remember ever having such a nice discussion with Tabby. “If you're finished, why don't we go back to the cabin and you can entertain me,” she said with a smile.


Sure, why not,” I said. “I'm a bit rusty, though.”


That's okay,” she said. “I'm sure I'll enjoy whatever you play.” We put our trays away and made our way back to the cabin. After we got out of the lift, she took my hand in hers. I looked at her and smiled.


When we got to the room, she took a seat on the couch and looked at me in anticipation. I grabbed my guitar case and pulled the instrument out. I tuned it up and sat next to her on the couch.


So, what do you want to hear?” I asked.


Your choice,” she said. I strummed the instrument a bit and stretched out my fingers as I thought about what I would want to play. Then I made my decision.


Here's one of my all-time favorites,” I said. “As I recall, it came out around 1968. In my opinion, it's one of the greatest instrumentals ever made.”


What's it called?” she asked.


Classical Gas,” I said. “Ever hear of it?”


I don't think I've ever heard that,” she said. I started playing and watched her reaction. As I picked up the tempo, she started bouncing her head to the music. Her eyes literally twinkled as she smiled and “bopped” to the tune. I had to admit, I liked seeing her reaction. When I finished, she clapped her hands.


That was wonderful,” she exclaimed. “Play another song, please,” she begged.


Well, okay,” I said. “What would you like to hear?”


I don't know. How about something with words. I'd love to hear you sing. I bet you have a great singing voice.”


Only if you're into torture,” I said, causing her to laugh.


I don't believe that. C'mon, sing for me. Please? Pretty please?” How could I resist that?


Well okay, you asked for it,” I told her. I thought for a bit and picked a song that I thought would make her laugh. “Here's a real oldie, put out by a guy named Arlo Guthrie back in 1967. It's called 'Alice's Restaurant Massacree.' You ready?”


Yeah,” she said, laughing. “I'm ready.” I began picking the guitar and when the time came, I began singing as best I could.


You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant


From there, I went into the 15 or 20-minute story and I could see her laugh as I got deeper into it. I used my best Arlo Guthrie imitation, causing her to shake with laughter.


You ready? You have to sing the ending with me,” I told her as I picked the tune. “We just have to wait for the song to come to the guitar here.”


I have to sing with you?” she asked.


Yup,” I said. “Wait for it. It's coming real soon.” I picked a bit more. “Alright, here it is, just follow me, okay?”


Okay,” she said nervously. She joined with me as I began singing the end.


You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant


We finished the song and Kyra gave me a big hug, kissing me on the face.


That was excellent,” she said. “It was funny, too. I've never heard that before. And you have a wonderful voice.”


Did you enjoy that?” I asked.


Oh, yes,” she said. “That was fun.” Just then we heard the door chime sound off. I opened the door to see Axel standing there with a much shorter woman sporting a long mane of raven hair. I figured this was Myra.


What the hell is going on in here?” he asked. “We were just walking by and thought you guys were having a party in here.”


Come on in,” I said. “We're just playing some old songs. Wanna join us?” Myra looked up at Axel with a smile.


Let's do it,” she said. “Please?”


Oh, what the hell,” he said with a smile. They came in and I invited them to have a seat. “What was that you were playing, anyway?” he asked.


An old tune from 1967 called 'Alice's Restaurant Massacre' by a guy named Arlo Guthrie,” I said. Myra looked at Axel.


I heard that once, a long time ago. They were playing some of those old songs from the hippie days. As I recall, it was funny as hell.” She looked at me. “You know how to play that?”


Yeah, you wanna hear it?” I asked.


Please,” she said. I looked at Kyra.


You really want to hear that again?” I asked her. Her face broke into a wide grin as she nodded her head.


Oh yes, please. I loved that,” she said.


Well, alright,” I said, slipping back into my imitation as best I could. I began picking the guitar and went through it again, this time coaxing Axel and Myra to sing with us at the end. We all had a good time singing the end of the song together and I was surprised to see Axel get into it with gusto. He actually had a good voice.


You know, you're pretty good with that thing. Maybe you ought to play in the Officer's Club now and then,” he said.


I might be coaxed into that,” I said. He laughed and stood up.


That was fun, but I need to hit the rack. See you in the morning,” he said. Myra got up and joined him. After they left, Kyra wrapped her arms around me.


That was fun,” she said. “Think we can do that again?”


I guess so,” I told her. We cuddled on the couch for a while and shared another cup of hot chocolate, then went to bed. The next morning after breakfast, we had our usual briefing with Captain Hawkins. She called me out at the end of the meeting.


By the way, Number Two,” she said. “Just for future reference, if you decide to have another sing-along in your cabin without inviting me, we're going to have a problem. Understand?” she asked with a smile.


Yes, ma'am,” I said, smiling back.


The next two weeks went by fast as we prepared the ship for its launch. I managed to find some time to work out in the gym. Kyra surprised me when she expressed an interest in Grav Tac. At first, she just wanted to watch me work out, which was fine. Then she expressed an interest in learning the form.


You ever spend any time in zero-g?” I asked her.


Only when I went through my orientation,” she said. “It felt really... strange.” I laughed at that.


Trust me?” I asked.


Implicitly,” she said. I held out my hand.


Go ahead, take my hand,” I told her. After she had my hand, I turned the gravity down to 0 G. I watched her eyes go wide as she felt the gravity diminish. We both began to float and I used my feet to push against the floor, taking her up with me. “Watch your head,” I told her as we approached the ceiling. She put a hand up and stopped her upward motion.


I brought my feet up and pushed against the wall while holding her hand, propelling us into the middle of the room. She looked like she was about to panic, but I calmed her down. I let go of her hand and began going through an exercise that involved a lot of rolls, twists and turns.


Why don't you try it?” I asked when I finished.


Are you sure? I'm scared. What do I do?”


It's okay. Breathe slowly. Concentrate. Start by bringing your knees up as close to your chest as you can. Pretend you're in a swimming pool. Then use your body and force yourself to roll, like a ball.” I watched as she brought her knees up. She hadn't developed the flexibility yet, but she did pretty good for someone who had never done anything like this before. I helped her go through some of the routines. I stopped her before she went out of control and eased her out of the position she had assumed so she could get her bearings.


The trick is to gain control over your own muscles so you can overcome the reduced gravity,” I said. “Once you get the flexibility and control, you'll be amazed at what you can do.” I took her hand and gently brought us back to the control, where I turned the gravity back up. As the gravity took hold, we both ended up on the floor, and I steadied Kyra as she got to her feet.


Wow,” she said. “That was fun. A bit scary, but fun. You looked so graceful up there, it almost looked like a mid-air ballet. How long have you been doing that?”


About ten years now,” I said. “I took martial arts when I was younger, and started doing this when I got to the Academy.”


Would you be willing to teach me that?”


Sure, I'd love to,” I told her. I finished my workout and we headed back to the cabin. After taking a shower, we sat down with a cup of her hot chocolate. Then the door chime sounded.


It's open,” I announced. The hatch slid back to reveal Leesa and Axel. “Please, come in,” I said.


Are we interrupting anything?” Leesa asked.


Oh no,” I said. “We're just having a cup of hot chocolate. Would you care for some?”


That's alright,” Leesa said. “We won't be here long. We just wanted to stop by and ask a favor of you if that's alright.”


Sure, anything,” I said.


Well, I'm planning a little bon voyage party for the evening before our launch,” Leesa said. “We've reserved a venue at Huygens that can accommodate all of us, and we were wondering if you'd be willing to provide some entertainment.”


Sure,” I said. “But I don't play any of the modern stuff.”


That's okay,” she said. “They have a band that can back you up if you want. Is that okay? I can give you some time to get with them and rehearse if you want. Kyra can join you if you want.”


Well, okay,” I said.


That's terrific, Bill,” Leesa said. “Here's the band leader's contact info. I told him I'd get with you first, and he said for you to send him the list of songs you want to play. I'll leave the rehearsal schedule up to you.”


Thank you,” I said, taking the card from her.


Just make sure you've got everything under control here first,” she said.


Of course,” I told her.


Thank you so much,” she said.


You're welcome,” I said. After they left, Kyra and I looked at each other.


Sounds like it'll be a lot of fun,” Kyra said.


Yeah,” I said. One more thing on my plate, I thought. Oh well... I instantly started putting together a list of songs in my head and before the night was over had a good idea of what I wanted to play. I didn't know if the band was familiar with any of these tunes, so I put together a file that included audio and sent them off.


I heard back from Jason Roberts, the band leader Leesa told me about, the next day. He seemed fairly excited to get my list and told me he was familiar with a lot of the songs on it. We worked out a rehearsal schedule that would see Kyra and I going to Huygens four times over the next six days. The party itself was set to go seven days from today. I gave the schedule to Axel and he approved it, then arranged for transport.


Kyra and I enjoyed our trips to Huygens and we all had a good time in the rehearsal. I was surprised the band seemed to be familiar with many of the songs I had chosen. Jason had a request for an old Doobie Brothers song, one I really liked, but I knew I wouldn't be able to do it on the acoustic guitar I had.


No problem,” he said. “I've got an old electric guitar in the back gathering dust that'll be perfect.” He pulled it out and brought it to me. I was stunned to see it was an ancient 1950s-vintage Fender Stratocaster with a reverb bar, and it looked to be in near-perfect condition. I checked it over quite carefully, and saw the strings were fairly new. I looked at Jason.


Is this for real?” I asked. “Where did you get this thing?”


Ran across it about a month ago when I was cleaning out an old storeroom out back,” he said. “I have no idea where it came from. Tried to find the owner, but had no luck.”


This thing has to be worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.” He nodded his head.


Yup,” he said. “I just replaced the strings, tuned it up and tested it out. Probably hasn't been played for 50 years or more. Strangely enough, after all these years, it still works like new. Go ahead, let's see what ya got.” I checked the tuning and plugged in the amplifier. I was a bit nervous about turning it up, but Jason didn't seem concerned.


What the hell, I thought. I began by playing the opening to an old song made famous by The Animals back in the 1960s. I liked the way this ancient guitar sounded and it felt good in my hands. The band began following me and I started to sing. Of course, I'm no Eric Burdon, but I did my best.


There is a house in New Orleans,” I began. “They call the Rising Sun. And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy. And God, I know I'm one.” Kyra listened as I sung and applauded when we finished.


Not bad,” Jason said. “We'll need to work on the timing some, but I think it'll work. What do you say we ramp it up a bit. Wanna try that old Doobie Brothers tune?”


Sure, why not,” I said. After a bit of discussion, I turned up the volume a bit and started playing the familiar opening of “China Grove.” The band picked right up and before long, we were rocking the place out. Kyra clapped and bobbed her head as we played.


Outstanding!” Jason said after we finished. “Commander, if you ever decide on a career change, let me know.” We all laughed at that. We went through the rest of the songs and worked out a play list for the evening. After confirming our rehearsal schedule, we called it a night.


Kyra and I made it to the venue early on the night of the party and set up the stage. It had been years since I had played in front of an audience and I had butterflies in my stomach. We ate dinner with the crew and listened as Leesa gave us all a stirring message.


She turned on a large overhead monitor and we all watched as the president made a few remarks, supposedly live from the White House. Then Admiral Cartwright, wearing his full dress uniform, stood up and gave another speech.


Each and every one of you have been carefully chosen for this mission,” he said. “And tomorrow, each and every one of you will go down in history as being the first to go where no human being has ever gone before. The hopes and prayers of every single one of us go with you. Godspeed, Enterprise,” he said, raising his glass in a toast. We gave a hearty “oorah” and joined him in his toast.


And now, let's hear some music,” he commanded with a smile, eliciting shouts and cheers. That was my cue, and I made my way to the stage as Leesa introduced us. The crew clapped as I took my place at the front of the band and picked up the ancient guitar.


We opened with a rousing version of “China Grove,” then played the rest of the tunes on our list, which included a couple of old Gordon Lightfoot tunes, “House of the Rising Sun,” “Have You Ever Seen The Rain,” “The City of New Orleans,” wrapping up the set by asking the audience for requests.


Alice's Restaurant Massacree,” Kyra yelled out from the audience. I turned to the band and smiled. Somehow, I felt they knew this was going to happen. So I put the Stratocaster down and picked up my acoustic, plugging it in.


The little lady has asked to hear 'Alice's Restaurant Massacree,” I said. “Who am I to turn down a request from such a lovely lady? Well, here goes,” I said, slipping into my Arlo Guthrie impersonation. “Just so you know,” I said, picking the tune, “'Alice's Restaurant' isn't the name of the restaurant. It's just the name of the song. That's why it's called 'Alice's Restaurant,'” I said, getting some laughs.


I went through the song, and everyone seemed to like it. At the end, I encouraged everyone to sing along, which they did. But that wasn't the end of it.


That was horrible,” I deadpanned, still in “Arlo Guthrie” mode, causing many to laugh. “We need to do that again. This time with some gusto. Why don't we let the universe know that 'Enterprise' is on her way.” That brought out a series of whoops and “yeahs” from the crew. Leesa smiled as she heard the crew shout.


We went through the ending one more time, and everyone sang even louder. A table full of engineers shouted out “just a half a mile from the railroad tracks” and Jonathan ad-libbed, “except for Alice” after I finished the first “you can get anything you want” line in the song. That brought about a lot of laughter. I put an end tag on the song and brought it to a close after that. Everyone stood and applauded loudly. Clapping, Leesa came to the front of the group.


Thank you, Commander Jones,” she said, still clapping. “Everyone give it up for our own Lt. Commander Jones,” she said. Everyone clapped and whistled at that. After a few minutes, Leesa continued.


That's gonna have to wrap it up for tonight, everyone,” she said. “Tomorrow is the big day. Have fun, see the rest of the base and enjoy yourselves. Shuttles will be flying every hour on the hour. Just be back on board by 0400. Launch is at 1000. Goodnight.” She turned to me, smiled and shook my hand. “Thank you for that, Bill,” she said. “That was wonderful.”


Thank you, Captain,” I said.


Why don't you and Kyra take the rest of the night off. I'll see you back on board by 0400.”


Will do,” I said. I was in the middle of putting my guitar away when I heard a familiar voice behind me.


I guess they'll make anyone a Commander these days.” I turned to see Alan Simmons, the Captain of the Armstrong, along with his First Officer, Commander Alice Brewster. I stood up and motioned for Kyra to join us. After the introductions, I turned to Alan.


I didn't know you would be here,” I said.


We've been assigned escort duty,” he said. “They want us to shadow Enterprise to her Q-point tomorrow. I guess they thought you might need a guide dog or something.” The “Q-point” was where would engage its FTL engines.


Well, I can't think of a better one,” I said with a laugh.


How are you doing these days, Bill?” Alan asked.


I'm doing well, sir, thanks for asking. Kyra here gets a lot of the credit for that,” I said, turning to her.


You take good care of this man, you hear me?” Alice said. Kyra smiled.


I will, don't worry,” she said.


By the way, I didn't know you could play a six-string,” Alan said. “You sounded pretty good up there.”


Thank you,” I said. “This is the first time I've been able to take my guitar with me on a mission.”


At least I got to hear you play. I look forward to hearing you play again,” he said.


That could be a while,” I told him.


It'll be worth the wait,” he said with a smile. “We'd better get going and let you two finish celebrating. It's been good seeing you again, Bill. And it's good meeting you as well, Kyra. Take care of yourself out there.”


It's good seeing you as well, sir,” I said.


Good luck to you two, Bill,” Alice said. “We'll see you when you get back.”


Thank you, Alice, and thanks for coming by.” They left and I turned to get my gear when Jason came up to me with a guitar case and a small amplifier.


Don't forget your guitar,” he said.


I've already got it,” I said. “Thanks.”


No, I mean, this one,” he said, handing me the case with the Stratocaster.


I can't take this,” I said. “I'm sure you can sell it and get good money for it.”


I could,” he said. “But I'd rather see it get a good home with someone who knows how to make it sing.”


Are you sure about this?” I asked.


Absolutely,” he said. “Just do me a favor.”


Anything,” I said.


Next time you're in town, come by and play with us again.”


That could be another five years,” I said.


Then it'll be worth the wait,” he said. “Take care of yourself, Bill. You're always welcome here.” He extended a hand and I shook it.


Thank you, Jason, it's been a lot of fun,” I said. “And I'll be back.”


I'll be here,” he said. We said our goodbyes and left the venue. By now, most of the crew had left, so Kyra and I got a room for the evening where we spent hours making love. Kyra wrapped herself around me when we finally finished and put her mouth next to my ear.


I love you, Bill Jones,” she whispered.


And I love you right back, Kyra Williams,” I said before we fell asleep.


0400 – that's 4:00 am for those not familiar with military time – comes awful early. Kyra and I made the last shuttle to Galileo Station and reported to the Officer of the Deck just in time. We made it to our quarters where I stashed both guitars and changed into my flight suit.


The ship was bustling with activity as the crew prepared for launch. I heard a lot of compliments as I made my rounds to verify things were getting under way. Then it was time for me to report to my station. After the Captain's quick briefing, we took our stations and I began my pre-launch checks.


Finally the time came for departure. Everyone nervously sat in their places making their final checks when Leesa began now-familiar rundown.


Ops,” she called out.


All systems go for launch,” I said.




All systems nominal and within normal parameters. Go for launch, Captain,” said Lt. Commander Sorenson, who was at the engineering station for launch.




All systems calibrated and locked, sir. All weapons accounted for,” the Weapons Officer said.




Communications five by five, Captain,” the senior communications officer said.




Course laid in and locked, Captain. ETA to Q-Point three hours,” said Lt. Torres, the senior navigator.


Number One!”


All personnel present and accounted for, Captain. All systems and stations report go for launch,” Axel replied. Leesa punched a button on her console.


Houston, this is Enterprise. Request clearance for launch.”


Clearance for launch approved, Enterprise. Godspeed,” said a voice from the communications speaker overhead. Leesa nodded her head and punched the console again.


Roger that, Houston,” she said. She punched another button and spoke again. “Galileo Station, this is Enterprise. Clearance for launch granted. Disconnect and retract all lines.”


Roger that, Enterprise, lines retracting,” said another voice from the speaker. We heard the noise of the lines disengaging from the ship reverberate throughout the ship and knew that we were on our own power from this time forward.


Open space doors,” Leesa said, speaking into her comm unit.


Space doors opening,” a voice said from the speaker. We watched and saw the giant doors open in front of us. Leesa waited until she got the green light indicating the doors were fully opened.


Maneuvering thrusters only, helm. Take us out, nice and slow,” she said.


Maneuvering thrusters, ahead, Captain,” the helm answered. I felt the giant behemoth begin to move and as we went forward, I glanced out the porthole next to me. There, on the station's observation decks, were a number of people, standing at attention while giving a hand salute. Leesa flashed the running lights in response as the ship moved forward. We cleared the station doors and heard the announcement from station control shortly thereafter.


Enterprise, you are clear and free to navigate,” a voice said from the speaker.


Roger that, Galileo Station,” Leesa said in response. “Helm, ahead one quarter.”


One-quarter, aye, aye, Captain,” the pilot said, adjusting his controls. I felt a bit more pressure as the g-forces pushed me further into my seat. I looked at a monitor on my console and saw the Armstrong following behind.


Set vector for Q-point, navigator,” Leesa said.


Vector set, aye aye, Captain,” the navigator said. “The road is clear.”


All ahead half, helm,” Leesa said.


All ahead half, aye aye, Captain,” the pilot answered. The g-forces built up even more as the ship picked up speed.


Warp status, engineering,” Leesa asked about a half hour later.


Warp bubble forming, Captain.”


Increase to full, engage plasma engines,” Leesa said.


Increasing to full, plasma-ion engines engaged,” the pilot said. The ship shook just a bit as it picked up speed. I looked in the monitor and saw the staying with us.


Take us to max-Q, helm,” Leesa said after a while.


Increasing to max-Q,” the pilot said, pushing the controls even further. I felt the ship shudder just a bit as it picked up speed. Looking at the monitor, I saw start to fall back slightly.


Warp status,” Leesa said about an hour later.


Bubble forming, Captain. All systems nominal.” I looked and the Armstrong had fallen back quite a bit by this time. Then I heard Alan's voice over the comm.


Looking good, Enterprise,” Alan said. “Armstrong at zero-point. Will monitor from here. Fair winds and following seas, as it was no longer able to keep up with us.


Thank you, Armstrong,” Leesa said. “We'll see you on the flip side.”


Roger that, Enterprise,” Alan said. Leesa punched a button on her console to address the entire crew.


All hands, stand by for Q-point,” she said. That was the final warning – there was nothing that could stop us from this point forward.


Warp bubble formed and stable, Captain. Light speed at your command,” the engineer said.


Q-point in 10 seconds,” the helm said. I saw a countdown timer show on my monitor. This was it. Showtime.




Standby, helm,” Leesa said.







To be continued...


Note: Lawrence Wilder and the work he participated in came from my story, “LW's: Satisfaction Guaranteed.”

Submitted: January 23, 2023

© Copyright 2023 Saddletramp1956. All rights reserved.


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