Mar 26

The Furies – must read

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The Furies – must readIn the quiet, backwater system of Halderon IV, the old war horse had been put to pasture. She floated majestically in geostationary orbit over the gas giant that star maps called HV-16 and the locals called Lesvous. A bevy of smaller ships darted around the system, all of them hopelessly obsolete by modern standards, consigned to system defense duty and anti-piracy patrols. Compared to the old campaigner, they were state of the art. Almost one thousand years had passed since her massive, s*******n mile long keel had been laid down in the long ago vaporized shipyards at Arnhem. She had been the first of fifteen ships of her class. Massively built, heavily armored, carrying the then revolutionary, fifteen inch Particle Projection Cannons, and internal bays for a whole wing of fighter/bombers. In her day, she had been the pinnacle of space going naval technology and, with her sisters, had been a thorn in the side of the Terran Authority’s reconquest of the galaxy. For one hundred bloody years, she and her sister ships had protected the Gunarian Confederation from being annexed into the Terran Authority. The Treaty of Sol III in 3745 had marked the end of hostilities, as the Confederation had bowed to the inevitable and joined the Authority voluntarily, rather than face long years as an occupied power. Four years later, she had been refitted and with a loyal Terran crew and joined the Authority Navy. In her nearly limitless positronic database, the bloody history of the reconquest was stored. She had rained fire and death on the rebellious planet of Sig-Alpha five, taken part in the great naval engagement on Centauri Prime, provided fighter support in the final battles against the Volluskuns and taken part in more skirmishes and fleet actions than most people could imagine. When her battle board was lit, she was as close to sentient as any machine humans had ever constructed. Eventually, time and technology turned her cannons into pea shooters and her hangar decks into less than today’s auxiliary carriers boasted. She had been consigned to the scrap yard, when some bean counter realized she was the oldest active duty ship in the Authority fleet. Rather than scrap her, the powers that be had parked her here in orbit and turned her into a training ship for new pilots. The old warhorse was quiet now. The only sound and fury aboard came from raw recruits shooting at targets or blowing off steam. Her great guns had been silent for more than a century and the battle circuit that would bring her to full wakefulness had been dark for twice that. She slept, and perhaps she dreamed of battles in days long gone by. She remained as a living monument to man’s determination to conquer the galaxy.***Erica Davies sat in the darkened conference room, watching the gas giant spin beneath the ship, through the big armalite picture window. Ancient wind storms left mottled yellow spots in the planet’s dark green face. A belt of them along the equator had been ancient at the time the Yorktown’s keel had been laid.Departing from a small intra-system liner she watched the shuttles that were bringing in a new batch of recruits. For the last five years her job had been training others to go into combat. At forty-three she felt as old as the ship she was assigned to. Like her, she had been put out to pasture. Unlike her, Erica was still in her prime.There was no hell for a combat pilot quite like the one she was living in. She felt like the attendant at a filling station, watching the cars go by, but forever kept away from the action. Despite the reams of requests, she was stuck, away from the adrenaline rush and excitement of active duty on a combat vessel. She held her hands up and examined them, turning them from front to back again and again. She saw long, delicate fingers, with the nails cut short. The skin was still soft and supple, but for how much longer? she wondered. Time, the fighter pilot’s most deadly enemy stalked her now. One day those hands would no longer react with lightning speed. The reflexes would fade and the strength would succumb to the ravages of old age. She still had them now and wasting away here while a major war was being fought was slowly killing her. Every one hundred and twenty days she sent a new batch of freshly minted pilots to the combat zone in Delta quadrant. She had seen the casualty lists and knew that over eighty percent of them never lived to draw their first month’s pay. The Trog were the first race humanity had met who matched them in both technological accomplishment and ruthless determination. They actually called themselves the Slanesshs, but the Terrans referred to them as troglodytes, which had been shortened to Trogs. They were a reptilian race, taller and more heavily built than humans and covered in a scaly greenish hide. They breathed an atmosphere that was very similar to human tolerances and thus, both races coveted the same kind of planet, although the Trogs couldn’t survive on the more arid worlds.Exploration had led to incidents, incidents to threats, threats to confrontation and now a hot war raged. The Trogs had a numeric advantage, the Humans a slight edge technologically, and for the past decade they had been killing each other with zealous abandon. Stalemate gave way to frustration and frustration lead to atrocities on both sides. The war was basically a bloodbath, centered on the jump bottleneck at Yalo. Each side felt it could win a war of attrition, so the plasma kept flying. Yalo was the key. The only planetary system with a star that provided enough energy to recharge a jumpship’s engines, that was strategically placed to bridge the great stellar void called the abyss. Whoever controlled it could make incursions into the other’s space with impunity. It was said that more beings had lost their life in that system than all the other systems in space combined. Erica doubted that, having some personal history that let her know better, but the Terran media repeated it like it was gospel in all the war newscasts. Erica brushed a lock of her long blonde hair from her face as the door to the room slid open on almost silent servos. She didn’t have to ask who was there, she already knew. Sgt. Major Tucker. With his arrival she scooped up the folders on the polished table and tucked them under her arm. Erica rose smoothly, with a fluid grace that was almost feline and turned on her heel.”They’re landing now,” the grizzled veteran said in his customary soft voice. “Bring ’em to the squad bay, Earl, and don’t spare the fists. We need to toughen them up more, we’re losing so many.””Not your fault, Boss, don’t even go there,” he said quietly.Ten years together did something to people. A mutual respect developed that was almost as deep and strong as lovers shared. Erica was a tough disciplinarian, and a stickler for the regs and military courtesy. The big NCO was the only man on the ship who could even think of being so familiar with her except the captain. To everyone else she was a straight-laced, no fun, kill-joy of an old bitch. Old tight-ass, they called her, though never when she was in earshot. Tucker had watched over her when she was a raw recruit, d**g her ass out of uncounted dives after William had been killed, and saved her from demotion or discharge on a dozen occasions or more when she was younger. It was something they never mentioned, an unspoken understanding that her gratitude was beyond words.”Mercy. Just be prepared to ride ’em hard. New policy is in effect, we are getting criminals with high aptitude scores who are given a choice of prison or the military again. We aren’t winning this one, Earl, and the Authority heads are getting desperate.””You got it, Boss,” he said before turning and disappearing into the cold steel hallway. Erica glanced out at the stars one last time before heading for her office in the squad bay.***Leigh Collins trudged down the shuttle gangway and reluctantly fell into line with her group, purposely standing a half step back from the crisp imaginary line the others toed. While they all gawked at the ship she kept up an air of disdain. What a bunch of rubes, she thought. There was nothing impressive to her, the shuttle landing, massive machines, or scurrying techs. Even the raw size of the cavernous bay made no impression upon her.Unlike most of her fellows, she hadn’t volunteered and couldn’t give two shits about getting her citizenship. She had grown up on the hive world of Taltos III and before her twelfth birthday she had become an accomplished thief. She would still be there, happy and living below the official radar screen, if her shithead of a boyfriend hadn’t ratted her out to save his own skin. She still owed him and he had better be praying she didn’t survive this ordeal. Leigh zoned out as the ship’s PR officer began to read a prepared speech. She had been sleeping in an abandoned storage room when they came for her. Tall, grim men in black armor and helmets that covered their eyes. The dreaded TAC unit, storm troopers of the Terran Authority’s tenuous grip on the planet.She had fought of course; her preternatural reflexes and experience from years of living on the mean streets, coupled with her desperate fear had almost gotten her out of it. She had dropped five of them, and was squeezing past the last one standing when he tagged her in the ribs with his stun stick. Leigh remembered the pain, like a million needles being jabbed into her body, especially in her nipples, mouth and pussy. She had come to in a holding room, with her hair frizzed and everything she owned, including her teeth, aching. They had stripped her, bathed and disinfected her and tattooed a number on her left hip. She was still disoriented when the door to the ten by ten holding room had swung open and a burly man in uniform had walked in.”Got a name girl?” he grunted as he eased his bulk into the chair on the opposite side of the table that was the room’s only furnishing. “Speak up.”When she remained grimly silent his face softened slightly and his body language changed minutely. Less threatening, but she could tell he was still alert.”Look k**, I don’t need a name, I can just call you by your number. Hell, you don’t even have to talk to me, but it would do you well to listen to what I have to say.” “Leigh. My name is Leigh.””That’s better. Okay Leigh, I’m Sergeant Brannanberg. I don’t think you need me to tell you, you’re in deep shit.””Why? I haven’t done anything,” She bluffed.”Shit girl, half the whores on Balefeas didn’t do anything. Most of ’em were just like you, unregistered and grabbed for some petty crime.””What’s that got to do with me?””That’s where you’re heading, k**. First they’ll open your head up and stick a nice nano processor in there, it’ll make you pliable. Hell, you won’t be able to say no. Probably give you a boob job while you’re out since the titty fairy wasn’t kind. Then it’s off to a life devoted to getting off any swinging dick that has the creds your owner demands for your services. Should be easy on you at first, you’re young and pretty. But after a while, you’ll end up in one of the sleazy places, blowing sailors for a cred or two and engaging in the most depraved shit your little mind can come up with for a fiver.””I’ll die before that,” she said. Her voice was steady, but she had heard of Balefeas. Her body was suddenly covered in a clammy sweat. No one deserved that, especially not her.”Nah, the NAC will keep you from harming yourself, unless a paying customer demands it. Hell, I saw a girl take a horse up her ass there when I was still a wet nose with the one-oh-eight.”Despite her wish not to, she knew in her heart he was being truthful.”Why are you telling me all this?” she asked. She could hear the fear in her voice and hated herself for showing weakness.”Well, you’re quick. Damned quick. I watched the vid of you taking out most of the TAC team that went to get you. Not bad for an untrained k**. I’m the recruiter for the Space Marines here, but I also fill a small quota for the Naval Air Service if I get one who qualifies.””And?” she asked cautiously.”And if you have the brains to go with the reflexes, this is your lucky day,” he said, fishing a sheaf of papers out of his black brief case and tossing them on the desk.Leigh looked them over, but she had never learned to read. The man seemed to understand and took them out of her hand.”Full pardon, for all crimes against the authority. Registration, as a full human, don’t bother telling me you aren’t, I know that, doesn’t make a fucking bit of difference to me and application for citizenship.””What do I have to do?” she asked tentatively, expecting the worst.”Just put your X on the dotted line, k**. You get the pardon, registration and an application for citizenship. Of course you have to earn that, five year commitment to the Navy. Odds are you won’t live long enough to draw your first paycheck, but it beats sucking cock for the next thirty years don’t it?””Some deal.””If we weren’t getting our asses handed to us by the Trogs, it wouldn’t even be offered, sweets. You’d already be on a transport and sporting a shaved head, big tits, some new hardware and a different attitude.””Five years and I’m done?””That’s the deal. Don’t expect to live to see it though, unless you’re even better than I think you are,” he said, extending a pen to her. “You’re mighty fucking encouraging,” she snapped.”I save the ass kissing for people who have a choice, k**. Honor, glory, duty, great pay, see exotic places, the girls will be creaming their panties over you in the uniform, all that crap. Why not be straight with you? If I told you, you were signing up for a firing squad, I figure you’d take that over the life of a pleasure girl.””Life sucks,” she said resignedly and made her mark on the line.”Beats the alternative, k**, always remember that,” he said as he stuffed the papers in his briefcase and stood up. ***Katie stared around the huge landing bay with wide eyes. She had never seen anything remotely like it back home. She had chosen the space corps to do her five years of service right after graduating from intermediate school. Well, chosen might be a bit of an exaggeration. The recruiter had been tall, handsome and dashing in his aviator’s uniform. His pitch had been smooth and polished, but the whole time he had been staring at her with come hither eyes.Her pussy still tingled when she remembered meeting him after the job fair for tea at the local pub. Tea had given way to ale and she had been pretty tipsy when she agreed to go back to his room for a night cap. The night cap had tasted a little funny, but she was too far gone to worry about it.The room had been cheap, but to her eyes it was grand. He had wasted little time, getting her to sign on the dotted line, and then tossed the papers into a stack on the desk. She remembered his strong hands on her shoulders, pushing her down to her knees. She had felt so incredibly naughty as she undid his dress trousers and fished inside for his cock.She was already well acquainted with the male anatomy and couldn’t wait to see what this man had in his pants; she was sick of pale, thin boys.The sergeant certainly didn’t disappoint. He was easily two inches longer than the biggest she had ever had, and much thicker. She gently stroked the satiny skin, watching his pulse in the thick blue vein that ran the length of his cock. It was large and thick, with a pinkish purple head. She was still just watching and stroking him when he tangled his hands in her dark black hair and pulled her towards it. The head bumped her full lips and she parted them, gently sucking it into her mouth. Katie swirled her tongue around the head, enjoying the strong masculine flavor. When the sergeant groaned, she began to stroke the shaft, sucking until her cheeks hollowed and using her tongue on the underside.”God damn, who’d have thought it? A cocksucker like you on this backwater,” he exclaimed. Katie preened at the praise and redoubled her efforts, twisting her hand on the shaft as she stroked and cupping his balls with her other hand. Soon he grunted, and his hands locked onto her head. He began to pump his hips, slowly fucking her face. Each time his cock head hit the back of her throat she would gag, but she was loving it.Without warning he pulled her to her feet and undid her tight pants. He shoved them to the floor and then put his weight against her, riding her down on the bed. Lying with his weight on her, he reached between their bodies, grasped his cock and rubbed it up and down her moist lips. When he found her entrance he thrust himself forward, driving four inches of his hardon into her yielding body.Katie gasped, and then moaned as he sank the rest with another thrust and began to stroke into her. She wrapped her legs around him, raising her hips to meet his thrusts. Soon she was groaning and whimpering as he relentlessly pounded into her. It felt indescribable and she realized what she had thought of as good sex was c***d’s play. He had come with little warning, pumping his load into her and rolling off while she was still panting. Her head was foggy and she thought this was how a girl was supposed to feel after sex, before the darkness had rushed in to claim her.She awoke alone in the room, with someone pounding on the door. She had scrambled into her pants and opened the door, only to be grabbed by a strong man in shock armor who twisted her arm and lead her downstairs to a bus. He had been a great fuck, but she swore she would rip the son of a bitch’s dick off if she ever met him again. They hadn’t even let her tell her folks good bye. Just a quick trip to the space port and she was on her way.Bastard.***Rachel Loudelk’s mind was also drifting as the PR officer’s speech dragged on and on. The tall girl with dark hair and bronzed skin stood head and shoulders above the girl on either side of her. Even the one size fits all, unisex, gray jumper she wore couldn’t disguise her lush curves or proud breasts. Unlike her fellows, she hadn’t volunteered for service. She was the eldest daughter of a tribal elder on Crotius, a reservation world. Her people had a centuries old agreement with the authority. In return for letting them live their simple lives, without interference or exploitation, they sent a guaranteed quota of warriors each year. It was a mater of tradition and honor that the eldest c***d of each member of the council always went when they came of age. She wore a small medicine pouch around her neck, a parting gift from her mother. It was also part of the agreement that she could wear it while on duty. Her people were the only members of the military who could wear non-regulation ornaments. She wore it with pride, and felt superior to those around her. They were all in it for the money, or the glory or personal gain. She was there as part of her people’s warrior tradition that spanned back across the ages to when man hadn’t even left the tiny ball of dust that had spawned him.She was physically gifted and had breezed through boot camp, the mental games being c***d’s play compared to the grueling training she had undergone while studying with her mother, a tribal shaman. Long before her drill instructors said so she was tough, capable and confident. She kept a cultivated aloofness among her peers, which many took for a feeling of superiority.Beneath the façade she was a warm and vibrant girl and her gregarious nature chafed at the isolation. She was hoping to make friends among the pilot trainees, now that the mind games of basic were over and she could lower her guard. “All right, listen up,” a deep baritone bellowed.The cadets were all snapped from the near catatonic state the endless speech had produced. The PR officer was smiling and saluted before he exited, leaving the standing on the pad with only a giant of a man in an NCO’s uniform that had more stripes than any of them had ever seen.”I’m Sergeant Major Tucker and for the next four months, your sorry asses are my responsibility. The officers will make pilots out of you, I’ll make soldiers out of you. I want you ladies to get your gear and form up over by blast door C. You’ve got two minutes to get whatever it is you’ve got in there, out of your system, or I’ll be taking it out personally. Move!”Leigh moved slowly over to the gear bags and located hers. She shouldered it and moved over to the blast door with the rest of the excited cadets. Her contempt for her fellows was barely contained and was sufficient to keep anyone from introducing themselves.”Form up, follow me,” the sergeant bawled, then exited at a swift route step.They had learned to march in basic, but Leigh would be damned if she would become a faceless cog in the Authority war machine. She intentionally stayed out of step. “Halt!”The big man walked back to Leigh and stared at her from under the smokey bear hat.”Did you forget to take your dildo out this morning, sweet pea?” he asked with a big smile.”No, Sergeant,” Leigh replied, ignoring the suppressed giggles from her fellows.”Well, are you just too stupid to stay in step?””No, Sergeant.””Listen girly, you got hot panties or something? You looking for some dick?””No, Sergeant,” she replied through clenched teeth. Everyone was staring and laughing at her now.”Well, sugar britches, why you trying to get daddy’s attention then?”Leigh was fast, incredibly fast, but she never even saw the backhand that sent her sprawling to the deck. Big, ham sized hands seized her jumper front and jerked her to her feet. She kicked out, landing a solid blow between the big man’s legs. To her amazement he just smiled.”Keep it up sugar, I like it rough,” he said.She was jerked up and slammed to the deck, the shock of her feet hitting so hard sent waves of pain up her legs and into her knees and hips. Before she could move he drove his knee between her legs. Leigh screamed, she had never felt pain like that. With total disregard the big man slammed her, face-first, into the bulkhead, causing her to see stars. Several backhanded slaps, delivered in rapid fire had her tasting blood. He beat her casually, unhurriedly, and without the faintest hint of emotion. In her life she had been beaten by several men. Angry men with fire in their eyes, aroused men with lust showing on their faces and even a sadist with unholy ecstasy as he inflicted pain upon her. Tucker’s face showed nothing, he might have been swatting a mosquito for all the concern she saw. It was calculated, brutal, and at the same time almost casual. It was the most frightening thing she had ever witnessed.He stepped back and executed a spinning kick, driving the sole of his combat boot into her stomach. She fell to the deck and retched. Her body screamed and she tasted the smoky taste in her mouth that let her know a tooth was broken. He pulled her up to her feet by her jumper and locked eyes with her.”Now darling, you fall back in with these other twats and keep up. If I have to stop this collection of split tails again, I’ll pull every hair out of your cunt while the whole damn ship watches on closed circuit.”Leigh staggered back to her place and fought the nausea and dizziness. She was disoriented and in pain, but she kept up, certain of only one thing. If she screwed up again, he would do exactly as he promised. ***Holly Dupree marched along, occasionally stealing a glance at the small girl struggling next to her. Holly was from old earth, the scion of a very rich family. Her parents had protested violently when she chose to earn her citizenship in the Navy, rather than taking the civil service job they had arranged for her.She was regretting her idealism now. The beating the small girl had taken could only be described as brutal. Holly had never even been spanked before she arrived at boot camp. In the thirteen weeks there she had been slapped repeatedly, punched, kicked, and pinched. Her big breasts had seemed to be an inviting target and they had been so bruised and swollen before boot camp ended she had gone up a cup size.The DIs had been merciless, and she had always been a target. It wasn’t that she was clumsy or dumb, just that she had never had to do for herself. There was a maid back home to clean up and make the bed. A valet to help dress her and a cosmetologist to do her makeup and hair. Despite the abuse, she had persevered and was now excited to be training on fighters. Her black belt, or primary drill instructor, had made her take the aptitude test a second time, not believing how well she had scored. The greatest thrill of her young life had been marching up to him after graduation and receiving her first salute from the son of a bitch. The dark haired girl stumbled and started to fall. Holly’s hand shot out, grabbed a handful of her jumper and kept her on her feet. “Lean on me,” she whispered urgently. The girl looked up at her though pain glazed eyes and nodded dully. Holly slipped her arm around the girl’s small waist and half-led, half carried her through the maze of corridors.She wondered why she was helping; the girl had been so mean tempered on the flight no one would talk to her. Then she remembered boot camp. The first five k run. She had been the one stumbling then and if it hadn’t been for another dark haired girl, doing for her exactly what she was doing now, she would have washed out on that hot summer day. She had paid her back, on a hot sultry night. Allowing the little butch to suckle and nuzzle her big tits until she fell asleep. She had thought that evened the score, but she realized now she was really evening it. Helping someone in need with no expectation of reward. As they filed past the Sergeant Major, into the squad bay, Holly held her breath. He saw them, she could see it on his face as plainly as day, but he said nothing.***Mindy closed her eyes as her hips moved into the fast driving rhythm she knew Leia adored. The room was dark and smelled heavily of aroused women. Sweat dripped off her lean body as she drove the thick dildo into the lush redhead beneath her.Mindy was naked, save for the red harness around her waist. Leia wore a thin olive drab tee-shirt that covered her full breasts and the thick, fire proof socks all techs wore. Mindy was between Leia’s splayed legs, holding her body up on her arms and working the big dildo into Leia’s tight, pink pussy.The insistent alarm continued to buzz, but for a few more strokes they both pretended it didn’t exist. With a soft moan and sigh, Leia came. Her pale body arched and her hips shot up to meet Mindy’s. The lithe blonde collapsed onto the redhead’s soft body and for a timeless moment they lay still.Mindy rolled off her body and lay panting as the redhead sat up. “Thanks love, nothing like a quickie to make the shift seem short,” she said with a giggle.Before Mindy had even caught her breath Leia wiggled into her coveralls, leaned over and kissed her damp brow and slipped out of the room.The tall girl rose and unbuckled the harness, tossing it and the slick dildo into the dirty clothes hamper. She showered quickly and slid on a pair of issue boxers. An issue tee and issue knee stockings came next. From the closet she retrieved the long black trousers, grey blouse and black dress jacket. Another induction day, another class, another night of missing her girl. What a fucking way to live, she thought as she placed her cap on her head and sprinted for the squad bay.***Raven “Lucky” West sauntered into the squad bay. She wore the same dress blouse and trousers as Mindy, but instead of a dress jacket, she wore a leather bomber’s jacket. 151st fighter group, Hell’s Angels was stenciled on the back, along with a logo of a starfield with a scantily clad female devil on a motorcycle. On the left sleeve was a stylized hand of cards. Five of diamonds, two of clubs and three aces of Diamonds. Only an ace with over fifty sorties to their credit could wear the jackets, in lieu of a dress jacket. The patch was her badge of honor, the five and two representing sorties flown and the three red aces each represented five confirmed kills. Hearts indicated ten, Clubs twenty. An ace of spades represented fifty. Any pilot who saw her would know immediately she had flown fifty two combat sorties and scored fifteen confirmed kills. Lucky wore hers mostly because “Surfer” Gibson couldn’t and it gave her a leg up in the pussy contest. Lucky was a tall girl, with wide hips and heavy breasts. Her face was pretty, but not stunning and the glasses and long brown hair softened her appearance a bit. She was excited today, more so than she usually was with an incoming class. She had seen the new policy regarding training. Thirty fresh bitches, straight from planet side and not a swinging dick to be seen anywhere they were allowed to go. A dyke’s dream come true. She couldn’t wait to get a look at them and decide which one she was bedding first.”Surfer” Gibson was a tall, lithe girl with a toned body and jet black hair. She was stunningly beautiful and the uniform showed off her trim body to best advantage. She was casually leaning against an RFD MkII trainer and had the same hungry look Lucky was sure she was wearing. The two butch flight instructors had a friendly standing wager. They kept score on the recruits they bedded during each four month cycle. Whoever lost had to play the bitch for the other during the two week down period between classes, when they kept each other company. When Captain Davies entered the bay from her office they both came to attention. Lucky suppressed a grin when she noticed how gingerly Surfer was moving. She had gotten in her last fuck before the new class arrived less than an hour earlier and she could still see visions of the lithe girl’s upthrust ass as Lucky’s big red dildo pounded into it.”Ladies,” Erica said with a nod.”Captain,” Lucky replied with a salute.”Boss,” Surfer replied before saluting.”Where’s the Goose?” Erica asked after returning the salutes.”Here,” Mindy called as she entered the squad bay at a trot. “They should be here any minute. I don’t need to tell any of you we’re taking a beating out there or that our pilot losses are unacceptably high. Command is asking us to put more emphasis on defensive formations and evasive maneuvers. Tucker will enforce stricter discipline. Goose, they aren’t hitting what they shoot at, that’s the word from the field, any ideas?””Yeah, take the skirts off and turn ’em loose on real time targets. You’re never going to learn gunnery shooting at stationary targets and drones,” she replied. “Lucky?””I agree, Captain. Letting them go live is going to result in more training accidents, but you can’t substitute for the real thing, even the simulators aren’t the same.””Surfer?””If we are going to go live, lets change up the flight training and stress landings first.” she replied thoughtfully. “That’s where we have the most accidents.””I don’t know,” Erica said thoughtfully.”It’s up to you, Boss,” Lucky said, “but if you want them to survive longer in combat, you’re going to have to risk losing a few in training. That’s the way it always works.””All right, I’ll run it by the man.”The sound of marching feet echoed in the squad bay, suspending the brief meeting. Tucker marched them in sharply.”Platoon, halt! Left face! At ease!”Erica surveyed them, the expectant faces and bright eyes. She read them all, from the farm girls to the city girls, the cocky to the shy. It had become routine for her. And it killed her to know she would be sending most of them to their deaths in about four months. One in particular caught her eye, her face was bloody and she marked the girl as a troublemaker if she had already earned Tucker’s ire.”Welcome aboard TAS Yorktown. I’m Captain Erica Davies, Boss to you all. I know you’re all tired, so I’ll keep this brief. I assume Lt. Commander Haniford has already bored you to tears,” she said, waiting for the titters and giggles to die.”Yorktown is the oldest ship in the fleet, the last with a fully functioning civilian city onboard. York is completely off limits to you all, for now. Anyone caught there will be jailed. No exceptions. Don’t say you weren’t warned.”She looked at them for a long moment before continuing.”We’ll be your training crew, so let’s get the introductions over, and let you draw your temporary bunking assignments. I’m Yorktown’s Air Boss, anything that flies is my responsibility. I’ve been a combat pilot for longer than most of you have been alive. Lucky?”The stacked woman moved confidently to the front of the formation as Erica stepped back.”All right girls, my name’s Raven West, but you’ll call me by my call sign, Lucky. We do things a little different here, you’ll each get a call sign and you’ll be known by that for the rest of your training period. Get used to it, get used to responding to it. In combat, it’s what you will hear from your wing mates and you need to answer to it as naturally as you do your given name.”She paused briefly, and then continued.”I’m the senior flight instructor here. I’ve got five years combat experience and over fifty sorties. I can teach a monkey to fly one of these birds, and I can train you if you’re willing to learn. Surfer.”The dark-haired girl glided to the podium. She surveyed them quickly, settling in on a tall, busty blonde for her primary target.”Marina Gibson. Surfer to you. I’m also a flight instructor, but my primary job will be to teach you unarmed and armed combat techniques, as well as a physical training regimen to get your bodies ready for the Gs you’ll be pulling. I have four years combat experience and have killed a Trog, hand to hand. Goose.””I’m the Goose,” she said, from her place near one of the planes, “I’ll be your primary gunnery instructor. If you don’t kill them, they will kill you. Lucky and Surfer will show you all the acrobatics, with me it’s deadly serious. I wash out half of those who fail each training class. Anyone can fly one of these things, but it takes dedication to be a good shot. If I think you aren’t as serious as you need to be, I’ll form forty-four your ass, most ricky tick. Tucker.””I’m Sergeant Major Tucker. Don’t have no fancy call sign. You’ll call me Sergeant Major. First one to call me sir, I’ll take you across my knee and tan your ass. I’ll teach you how to perform effectively as a unit. Discipline here is my responsibility and you girls are going to be as disciplined as the emperor’s guard, mark my words.””All right,” Erica intoned, “fall out, find your rooms and stow your gear. I’ll be conducting interviews this afternoon and all of tomorrow. You have free run of the flight crew service area. Get to know your way around. Come Monday, be ready to start learning. Dismissed.”***The express lift that took her from the flight deck to the bridge rose soundlessly. Only the slight sense of motion in her stomach gave away that she was moving at all. It rose five hundred decks in the space of a minute before it stopped with a gentle bump and the doors hissed open.”Air Boss on deck,” the sentry called out before she even got out of the lift. Everyone on the bridge snapped to attention.”As you were,” she said and the crew went back to work. They were all young and fresh faced. Command rotated them every six months; just about the time they started to figure out a bridge crew on a parked ship was about as useful as tits on a boar hog. This crew had just arrived with her cadets and would get a thorough, if narrow, taste of life on the bridge of a star ship.Captain Quarrels sat in the padded skipper’s chair, with his ever present cup of tea. He was in his eighties now, at that point where you either get promotion to flag rank or start thinking about life after the service. He was qualified, but knew he wouldn’t see another promotion. Command of the Yorky was a highly prestigious way of easing you out. His days in uniform were numbered, just like hers, and the two career military personnel shared a bond. “Captain,” she said, offering a salute.”Erica,” he replied with a mischievous smile.”Permission to speak to you in your office?” “Of course, of course, come along young lady,” he said, rising stiffly and limping to the blank door that marked his office. Inside the room was sumptuously appointed, with real wood furniture and real silk upholstery. He sat behind his big desk and smiled easily.”What can I do for you? Haven’t decided you’re hard up enough to take me up on my offer of bed and breakfast, I suppose.”Despite herself Erica laughed. He drove her to the brink with his lack of formality, and made passes at her that were so intentionally clumsy they were comical. One day she swore she was going to take him up on it, just to see his face, but not today.”I suppose you saw the directive from command?” “Which one? The one that reprimanded the chef for cooking too much or the one that directed me to institute harsher measures to stop fraternization, as if I can control hormones with orders, or the one directing me to begin live situation training, forgetting the ship hasn’t moved since before I was born?””The one directed at the flight crew,” she said, shaking her head. “Oh come on, smile. Yes, I saw it. Stupid. It isn’t as if you are sending them off half-cocked, so to speak.””Perhaps we are,” she began.”Poppycock. Utter balderdash. You do as fine a job training these c***dren as anyone in the fleet.””I’d like your permission to go to live fire gunnery drills, sir.” “Do you think that’s wise?” he asked, suddenly serious.”I think it’s the only way we are going to give them an edge. The instructors all agree. I’m just concerned about safety.””You’re the Air Boss. I’ll rubber stamp whatever decision you make, my dear. I too, think it’s the only way we can give them a more realistic training program, but I would never have stepped on your toes to suggest it…””Thank you, sir,” she said, saluting. He smiled and gave her a wave as she exited.***Lucky, Mindy, and Surfer all sat at the wooden table and downed beers as fast as Bel, the crippled bartender, could bring them. It was their last evening of liberty until after the initial flight training was completed and as usual, they were tying one on, speculating and telling lies. Bel sat with them often, as much one of the girls as any man could be. In fact, Lucky had dubbed him an honorary lesbian. He wore that title with as much pride as he did the small medal of honor around his neck.His bar was the place where the pilots on board hung out. Small, smoky, and filled with memorabilia from his flying days, he had bought it off the last owner, who had also been a combat veteran. There were no patrons this early and the bar girl knew better than to go near Lucky or Surfer when they were drinking. The last time she had found herself mildly drunk and sandwiched between them. Not something she would normally mind, but the two of them were so competitive she had missed three days of work before she could walk straight afterwards. Bel was a short man, with thick arms and a barrel chest. He had been crippled when his Executioner had been too close to the line of fire of a battleship’s main battery. Both legs had been vaporized below the knee and he now got around on prosthetics. He passed more tankards around and eased into a chair.”Indian girl is hot,” Lucky commented.”Straight as an arrow, too,” Goose observed.”Ya think? I kinda got a good vibe from her,” Lucky went on.”Indian, shmindian, I can’t wait to get between the legs of that blonde bombshell,” Surfer added.”She’s straight, too,” the Goose predicted.”Honey, there ain’t none of ’em straight once I get between their legs. She’ll be giving me head before she knows thrust from yoke, bank on it,” Surfer said with almost arrogant confidence.”Go ahead, set your sights on her, it won’t be my ass Lucky is tearing up,” Goose said, smiling evilly when Marina blanched.”You bitch,” she hissed at Lucky. “Not me, I swear it,” Lucky said holding her hands up even as she started laughing.”She didn’t rat on you. I know how a girl with a well fucked ass moves. I’m not above taking the back door from time to time and Leia loves it,” Goose said while pouring another drink.”You are so whupped,” Surfer said, trying to change the subject.”Oh Lucky, that’s it, tear me up baby!” the Goose cried in a reasonably good imitation of Surfer when she was playing bottom.”One of these days, Goose, I’m going to tear your ass up,” Marina threatened.”When did you girls get so into ass fucking?” Bel asked.”It wasn’t my idea,” Surfer said petulantly.”You’ve got a cute ass, you didn’t complain when I started,” Lucky said.”Shut the fuck up,” Surfer growled. Lucky managed a big shit-eating grin while Bel and the Goose hid theirs behind their steins. A group of techs came in and Goose checked them out, disappointed to see Leia wasn’t among them.”How bout that farm girl, the one with the nice ass?” Goose said.”Straight,” both Lucky and Surfer said in unison.”I think you’re both wrong.””I wonder if she’s a natural blonde,” Surfer said, returning to the current object of her attention.”It’s probably shaved, she looked pretty freaky to me,” Lucky opined.As the hours passed, their speculation grew from orientation to shaved or natural to wild and freaky or missionary only. The bar filled, then slowly emptied and still they carried on. It was well past 03:00 before they staggered out, leaning on each other for support.***Leigh had been dreading it for several hours when her turn came. She entered the Air Boss’s private office and sat stiffly in the chair before her desk. The tall woman took her time going over Leigh’s dossier before looking up.”Nasty shiner, you’ve got there,” Erica commented.”Yes ma’am, should have been watching where I was going,” Leigh replied instantly.She wasn’t a faceless cog. But she wasn’t dumb either. Alleging on the Sgt. Major would get her run out of the service, and Balefeas was waiting if she washed out. “At least, you’re not a rat.”Erica looked into the recruit’s eyes and felt her breath catch in her throat. There was something there, something disturbing. She was an excellent judge of people, but this girl was an enigma. And something about her was disturbingly captivating.”Well, recruit, I’ve looked over your folder. Pull your weight, learn the job and respect your fellows and the past will carry no weight with me. Screw up again and I’ll personally see you on the next transport back to that shit hole you were born on, and you know what that means as well as I do.”Erica saw the anger flare in her eyes, and felt the challenge.”Permission to speak freely, recruit. Get it off your chest, it’s the last time you’ll be free to show your ass around here,” Erica said, coming around the desk. “I don’t care about your fucking navy. I’m not intimidated by your trained gorilla. And I’m not intimidated by you!” Leigh shouted, before launching herself at the tall woman. Leigh was angry. Angry with the world for turning on her, angry at the Sergeant Major for embarrassing her, angry at herself for losing it, knowing full well she was throwing her life away, but more than anything she was angry with this tall woman, who brought home to her in a threat, just how out of her control her life had become. Leigh’s sudden attack caught Erica off guard and the short girl quickly caught both her wrists. Erica drew her right arm back quickly, while forcing her left arm out. This pulled Leigh close to her body, and allowed the Air Boss to use her weight. She pressed forward with her chest, but the small woman surprised her, releasing both of her wrists, sliding under her arm and locking her arms around Erica’s waist. Erica grimaced, and then used her legs to propel herself backwards. The lip of the desk hit Leigh in the small of her back, and both women went across the desk, landing in a heap on the other side, as the roller chair shot out of their way and things crashed to the ground. They came to their feet, but Leigh still had all the leverage. She was suddenly aware of how soft the tall woman’s body was in her arms. She smelled the faint scent of lilacs from her hair, and saw her pulse beating in her elegant neck. There was something disturbingly sensual about her commander now and Leigh felt an unfamiliar thrill at being in control.Erica smashed back with her elbow and the air left the small woman’s lungs in a rush. A second vicious jab and Leigh released her hold, realizing she could be battered in this position with no way to defend herself or exert control over the taller woman. Leigh kicked free of Erica’s body, knocking the tall woman to her knees. Both women came to their feet, facing each other and panting.They circled warily, each looking for an opening. Leigh saw one first, skating to her left she feinted towards Erica’s midsection, and then threw herself at the tall woman’s legs. It should have knocked her down, but Erica had not been fooled by the feint and drove her knee up, catching Leigh squarely in the chest.The wind was knocked out of her and before she could get a breath, Erica kicked her hard in the ribs. She rolled over onto her back and was staring down the barrel of Erica’s dress pistol. Leigh’s anger burned out as suddenly as it had risen and she relaxed on the floor, trying to breathe.The door opened and Tucker stepped in. Seeing the big man, Leigh died inside, realizing she had just let her temper seal her fate. She wondered if the Air Boss would shoot her. Suicide by design was better than what awaited her.”MPs are on the way, Boss,” he said. Leigh noticed his voice was different, softer and deferential, almost meek.”Belay that.” Erica said, still breathing hard.”What’ll I tell ’em?” he asked, cocking his head and giving her a quizzical look.”Tell ’em to get the boys from Bio down here, I saw a rat. And get this piece of shit out of my office,” she said, indicating Leigh with her boot toe. Tucker nodded, reached down and bodily lifted Leigh by the scruff of her neck. He walked out of the office, with the small woman’s feet dangling two inches off the floor.As the door closed four men in shock armor came running around the corner. Leigh found herself with her feet on the floor and stood there, weighing her chances of making a break for it. “Relax, boys,” Tucker said easily, “False alarm, the Air Boss has a furry visitor. I’ll put in a call to Bio, sorry to have shook you out,”The leader smiled and took his helmet off.”Don’t sweat it, Sergeant, first action we’ve had in months. I’ll need a signature though,” he said, pulling a pad from his back pocket. Tucker signed it and the MPs headed back, grousing about women and their frailties.”What the fuck is going on?” Leigh asked as Tucker propelled her towards her quarters with a shove. The tall man said nothing, until they were in Leigh and Rachel’s room and he shut the door. With that same casual disinterest, he smashed his balled fist into her stomach, doubling her over. With both hands he caught her jumper and jammed her back into the bulkhead. Her head smashed into the wall and she saw stars. Her face was even with his and her feet were dangling well off the deck.”I been doing this a long time, girly. I was whipping recruits into shape before you got your first period. I know your story and it don’t mean shit to me. I’ve washed out hundreds of pukes like you, who don’t belong in my beloved Navy.””I don’t want to be in your fucking Navy!””If you’d rather be working on your back, just say the word,” he replied in that strangely soft voice.Being reminded of what she was avoiding by being here took the fight out of her. Her temper had nearly cost her again and she was still not sure why it hadn’t. “I’m sorry, Sergeant. I thought that was where I was heading when you showed up.”He looked long and hard at her, his brown eyes boring into her. Leigh met his gaze, even though she felt an overwhelming desire to lower her eyes.”Sorry don’t cut it here. You got a chip on your shoulder the size of this ship and you’ve been throwing a personal pity party since you landed. Woe is me, I’m so put upon. Everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms, Boo hoo hoo,” he said with sarcasm dripping from the high falsetto he used.Leigh saw contempt in his eyes and anger, but she also saw something that hurt even more, pity.”I am being screwed over,” she protested, but it sounded hollow even to her.”Yeah, that’s some screwing. That’s twice the Boss has stuck her neck out for you. Twice she’s risked twenty years of spotless service to keep you out of trouble. I’d have form forty-foured you from the get go, but I have less tolerance for uppity pukes than the Boss does””I never asked her for any favors!””No, your real tough, a real lone wolf. But she’s done it just the same.””Why?” Leigh demanded.He shook his head and sighed.”You think you’re the only one who ever came to the service to avoid Balefeas?” he asked.Tucker dropped her to the floor and, spinning on his heel, exited the room. For a long time, Leigh sat on the floor in shock.***Erica was returning the things they had knocked over to their rightful place when Tucker slipped into her office.”All square,” he said.”That girl is going to be the end of me, Tuck. I just feel it.””Lotta rage in her. Lotta hate. Maybe too much to salvage. You’re running a lot of risks, Boss.””I know, Tuck, I know. But I can’t condemn her to Balefeas without trying, you know I can’t.””I know. For what it’s worth, I think she has the makings. I just don’t know if she can let the hate go, but I’ve seen worse in my time. I remember this one hellion from Hell’s Kitchen…””That’s enough out of you,” she scolded.”I haven’t started yet,” he replied with a grin, before exiting her office.Erica sighed and collapsed in her chair. Leigh’s file was still open before her. She had only to fill out a forty-four and she would be rid of her. Discipline case, unfit for flight training. It was that easy. Instead she scrawled ‘attitude problem’ in the notes field and tossed the folder in with the others. As she sat there, she wondered if she was really taking chances because she didn’t want to send the girl to a life of sexual slavery or if there was another reason.Erica hadn’t been physical with anyone since her fiancé William had been killed. She was in her sexual prime and still she avoided men. But when the small woman’s hands had locked around her waist, she had felt it. A thrill that had nothing to do with the danger.She was very proper, but she wasn’t dumb. She knew all about Lucky and Surfer’s activates as well as the Goose’s girlfriend. She had never felt herself attracted to any woman, but in the dark, quiet of her office, she couldn’t get the small girl’s face, especially those angry eyes, out of her head***They all stood at attention in the big bay. It was the first day of training and a big day. Their numbers had already been thinned by three. Two medicals and one reassigned by the Air Boss after her interview. It was a big day for them for another reason. Today they got their call signs. A training call sign wasn’t the same as the one your mates chose for you when you joined a group, but a surprising number of pilots kept the one they were given. This was because the call signs usually were tied to some personal trait of the pilot.They all waited now while Tucker read out a list of infractions. No one was spared, everyone had done something wrong in the last forty-eight hours. Unlike boot camp there was no harassment for infractions, just a demerit. Enough of them and you washed out, so it was serious business. When he finished he stepped back, saluted Lucky, and marched off.”Okay, girls. It’s time.”She stepped up to Holly and saluted.”Welcome to the one hundred and first training wing, Jugs.”The blonde rolled her eyes and Lucky winked, causing her to blush.Katie was next in line and waited expectantly.”Welcome to the one hundred and first training wing, Lou.””Why Lou?” she asked in confusion.”You remind me of the girl from the cartoon, watch that first step, it’s a lou lou,” Lucky replied with a smirk.On down the line she went, when she stopped in front of Rachel Loudelk she paused.”As I understand it, you Indians already have a warrior name. What’s yours?””Little Cloud,” she replied without hesitation.”Cloudy it is then, welcome to the one hundred and first training wing.”She paused in front of Leigh a few moments later.”Had one for you, but Tucker insisted, so welcome to the one hundred and first training wing, Rebel,” Lucky said, with a wink.When she finished with the unofficial ceremony, Lucky walked over to a table that had been set up and grabbed a clipboard.”Listen up, girls. The basic unit in the Terran Air Service is the flight. Five fighters make up a flight or four bombers. Flights are arranged into commands, commands into groups, groups into wings and wings into flotillas. There are enough of you for several flights, so we are going to break you up that way to begin training. You’ll each be assigned a flight for the duration of training. You’ll bunk together, attend classes together, and train together. In your training, the instructor will assume the position of fight leader. For you girls who end up short sheeted, an extra instructor will fly. When I call out your names, get to your quarters, get your gear together and report back. Do it as a group, you’ll be reassigned rooms together.” “Cloudy, Jugs, Lou, Rebel, group one.” She waited until they had made it to their rooms and grabbed their gear.”Boxer, Red, Wolf, Tease, group two.”***”I still like vixens,” Jugs said hopefully.”No fucking way, I know it’s cute and all, but I’m not calling myself a bitch,” Cloudy responded.They were sitting in their room, discussing what to call their flight. Cloudy sat on her bunk in just a tee and the white cotton panties they were issued. Her long black hair was worn in a pony tail and even after weeks with no sun, her skin had a golden bronze tone to it.Lou sat next to her, wearing the simple bra and boxers she had been issued. She was tapping her foot on the floor and had a thoughtful expression on her face. Her skin was pale. Next to the big Indian, she looked like a ghost. Jugs sat on her bunk across from them, topless and wearing her BDU bottoms. She seemed totally at home with her large breasts bared and no one seemed inclined to ask her to cover them.Rebel lay on her bunk above Holly’s head, still fully clothed and staring at the ceiling. “I suppose the flying circus is too long?” Lou said.”Yeah, Surfer said one word, at most two,” Holly replied.”Bollocks,” the country girl exclaimed.”We’re supposed to learn to work together, but here it is past midnight and we can’t even agree on a name. Rebel, you’ve been pretty quiet, what do you think?””Black.””Black what?” Holly inquired.”Just black,” she said with a shrug.”Black flight? That’s not half bad,” Cloudy said.”Works for me,” Lou said, standing and removing her bra before mounting the top bunk.”I still like vixens,” Holly said as she wiggled out of her BDUs and got under her blankets.”Off,” Cloudy commanded and the lights died.Rebel lay quietly with her hands behind her head, staring up into the inky blackness. In time, she was able to make out the soft breathing and sleep induced mumbles of her mates. She was desperately tired, but after last night, she was even more afraid of sleep.She wasn’t really sure why she was afraid, the dream had been far from scary. It had actually been her first really erotic dream. She had wakened with achingly stiff nipples and the uncomfortable wet feeling in her boxers that she associated with dressing quickly after sex. All in all, it had been very pleasant. The problem was the object of it had been her tall, straight-laced commander and that revelation had been far from pleasant.***The lights came on automatically and reveille was piped into their room. Boot camp had made its impression and they all rolled out, making bunks and quickly dressing. They moved quickly to join the other girls lining up outside the cafeteria. It would take weeks before they were able to untrain themselves from the boot camp habit of doing everything as if the very hounds of hell were following them. Breakfast was hearty, but plain and all were surprised to find coffee and tea. In boot camp they had been forbidden caffeine or nicotine, here they could have both, but it was still a shock.They ate quickly and with few words, shoveling the food down and hurrying back to their quarters to make sure their gear was stowed before formation.Tucker was there, looking immaculate and wide awake. He took a head count from Corporal Sands and then ticked off a few things on a clip board.”All right, ladies. This is your last formation for the next two weeks. You will spend the next two weeks in small group exercises. Discipline will be maintained, inspections will continue, and demerits will accrue.”A hubbub of voices broke out and Tucker cleared his throat.”I’ll still be watching you, ladies. I expect you to maintain proper discipline. Infractions will get you a lot worse than demerits,” Tucker growled.***For the last five minutes Rebel hadn’t been able to keep her eyes of Holly’s boobs. The large, soft orbs bounced under her leotard and, during many of the exercises that left them inverted, obscured her face entirely. Cloudy and Lou were both having trouble as well, and for once, Rebel was happy to have small tits.The four of them wore drab green leotards and grey leggings. Surfer wore a tight blue sports bra and shorts.”Spin…No, use your legs only, like this,” she patiently instructed.Zero-g calisthenics. Rebel had never been so completely worn out. Intricate moves, with no resistance at all. Isometrics, yoga, dance, the routine seemed to be designed to kill her.Surfer proved to be a far tougher taskmaster than even Tucker. She was relentless, forcing Rebel to go on when her body shrieked in pain. Muscles she didn’t even know she had ached, throbbed and protested, but still the dark haired girl wasn’t satisfied. Holly broke first, doubling over and clutching her breasts. Lou was next, curling into a fetal ball and whimpering as she clutched her sides. When Cloudy finally stopped, panting and sweating, it was just Rebel and Surfer.On and on it went, far past the limits she thought she could bear. Yet she refused to quit, refused to give up, and more importantly, refused to fail again. Surfer pushed her, pushed her hard, but eventually the exertion began to show on even her beautiful face.”Take the grav back up, Penny,” she called at last.They all descended slowly to the floor, and as the weight of gravity made itself felt, Rebel collapsed on the padded floor along with the others.”Not bad for first timers. Jugs, you’re coming with me this afternoon, after I clear it with the Boss. Cloudy, Lou, hit the whirlpool. Expect pains in places you didn’t even know you had. Rebel, no one has ever stayed with me for a full session the first time out. You just might make it, girl.”With that, the tall girl rose and exited the training room.”Ohhh, fuck,” Lou groaned. “What was that shit?” Cloudy asked in a breathless whisper.Holly just made a sound like a wounded a****l. Rebel stood dazedly and took a faltering step towards the exit and the short hallway to the whirlpool. Unaccountably, she stopped and turned back. Cloudy was trying shakily to get up. Lou hadn’t moved and Holly was still curled up in a ball. Rebel felt something strange, a compulsion she was unfamiliar with. Deciding she was too tired to fight it, she trudged back and extended her hand to Cloudy.The warrior’s eyes were defiant for just a blazing second, and then melted into a grateful smile. Rebel helped her to her feet and together they helped Lou up. It took all three of them to get the nearly u*********s blonde to her feet. In a shaking, quivering group, they slowly aided one another to the whirlpool. Rebel pulled her clothes off with difficulty, finding even the usually automatic ritual to be too much to do without conscious thought. Her arms and hands were shaking so violently by the time she was naked, she was forced to hug herself and breathe deeply, like she had just run from the authorities after a heist.Cloudy ended up helping Lou undress and Rebel aided Holly. The poor girl was in agony and Rebel felt for her. Despite her pain and fatigue, she couldn’t help but ogle Holly’s big tits and smiled when she saw her soft blonde pubes. She helped her to her feet and together they hobbled into the deep whirlpool to join Lou and Cloudy. ***Holly was lying on her bunk when Surfer walked in. She looked fresh and fit, totally recovered from the work out.”Oh come on, girls, it wasn’t that bad,” the superbly fit pilot chided.She wore olive drab coveralls and seemed none the worse for wear from the morning’s exercises, unlike the rest of them who were in varying states of immobile pain.”Surfer, kiss my ass,” Lou declared vehemently.”Love to, but you have to earn it,” she replied unflappably.”Up and at ’em, Jugs.” “Screw you,” the blonde blurted out and then moaned and cradled her aching breasts.”Damn, I should have brought my strap on with all the invitations I’m getting today.”The dark haired girl grabbed Holly’s hand and bodily pulled her to her feet. Every muscle in Holly’s body seemed to protest and knot at once and she would have fallen if Surfer hadn’t held her up.”Come on,” Surfer said, half leading, half carrying the tall woman with her. Parked outside was a jeep, which Surfer helped Holly into and then got in herself. She drove carefully through the squad bay, but opened it up some once in the long service corridor. When they passed the large yellow line painted on the floor that signaled the boundary of the flight area Holly managed to speak.”I can’t leave the fight area, Surfer.””Yes, you can, with the Boss’s permission.””Where are you taking me?””York, of course.”The town of York was housed within a huge armored cocoon in the center of the ship. Today’s ships were basically floating cities in their own right, with recreational facilities and other amenities built right in. When the Yorktown had been laid down, each of the massive ships had been built with a city inside. Crews would often go crazy, back when space flight was young, because of the enforced boredom. To forestall this, ‘City-ships’ had been a stopgap measure. The small cities provided recreation, a place to spend money, women, booze and all the things sailors were missing. The next generation of ships had foregone the city, but had expansive facilities for recreation and were Authority mandated to put in and give shore leave every three months. After that, as Cosmo-psychology began to isolate the exact factors involved and their effects, ship interiors were tailored to incorporate the findings. The citizens of York were all descendants of former crew members, with some families tracing their line back to one of the original volunteers. They lived in a bubble, with a strict set of laws dealing with births, deaths, and immigration. c***dren were forced to leave at age eighteen. Those who wished to could return after they earned their citizenship. Holly didn’t know any of this, nor did she care. Each time the wheels hit a new deck plate the resulting shock seemed to speed directly into her boobs. All her body was one screaming mass of pain and she wished again she had listened to her folks. “We’re here,” Surfer announced, as the jeep came to a stop. The building was a carbon copy of the one next to it, thirty stories of reinforced concrete and shatterproof glass. Surfer helped her out of the jeep and guided her into the building. The inside was hollow, with a huge atrium and glass elevator at the center. Shops of all descriptions were stacked, tier up on tier.On the twenty-seventh floor they got off, crossed the narrow catwalk and entered the second shop they came to. It was a lingerie shop, filled with every possible type and style of undergarments, from fetish to functional. A short woman with blue hair walked up and embraced Surfer, then gave Holly the once over.”Let me guess dearie,” she said in a kindly voice, “thirty-eight double D?””Thirty-eight E,” Holly mumbled, feeling like she was about to pass out.The woman shook her head and laughed. “Zero-g rig?” she asked, turning back to Surfer.”Yeah,” the dark haired girl said with a smirk.The woman took Holly by the hand and led her back to a dressing room. She pulled out some material and began working with it, chatting all the time.”Strip to the waist please,” she called as she took a large pair of shears from a drawer.Holly tried, but her fingers wouldn’t cooperate. Suddenly Surfer was there, casually removing her clothes, but the look in her eyes was anything but casual and despite herself, Holly blushed. Surfer stepped back then, but made no effort to leave the room. Her dark eyes were locked on Holly’s big tits and when the blonde caught her eyes, the dark haired girl theatrically licked her lips.”I don’t understand you girls. I’d just get a reduction myself, but hey, we all have our preferences, right sweetie? Arms up please,” she said, wrapping a thin green sheet of gauzy material around Holly’s chest. She took out a small blowtorch and lit it, causing Holly’s eyes to get big.”Relax. That material is a synthetic, it’s totally non-flammable, but heat causes it to stiffen while staying soft,” she said matter of factly as she applied the flame to the material. Holly felt nothing at first, but soon the material seemed to be shrinking, molding itself to her breasts.The woman put out the torch and removed the material, taking it over to a machine which cut the now hardened cups out. An hour of sewing, fitting, sewing, refitting and finally Holly found herself wearing a light, but extremely strong and supportive bra. She could jump up and down and her breasts would barely move, not that she had any intention of jumping, she still felt like death warmed over.The woman led her out, Surfer signed a receipt and they were on their way back to the barracks before Holly’s dazed mind could really come to grips with anything.***Once the lithe instructor and their blonde flight mate departed, the room returned to silence. The dinner tones came over the speaker, but still no one moved. “Rebel?” Cloudy said quietly.”Yeah?””Thanks.””No sweat,” she responded, feeling silly.”Thanks both of ya. I was so knackered, I don’t think I could have gotten up by myself,” Lou added.”We better try and make it to dinner, or it will be a long night,” Rebel said, trying to change the subject.”True enough,” Cloudy replied, rising slowly.Lou went on about how much she appreciated their help as they all dressed. She was sweet, Rebel decided. Not the kind of sweet she was used to, wheedling, cold, calculated to get by on charity. Just a simply and genuinely a sweet person. She had no experience with that.Or with friends. That was something she could never have afforded back home. Everyone had ulterior motives. Everyone was out for number one. Anyone could be the one who would sell you out to save themselves. Even lovers. Friends were a liability. They caused you pain and made you weak.She kept reminding herself of that as she dressed, as they all shuffled out to dinner, as they ate. Lou talked about her home, her family, and her life, totally openly and in unguarded terms. Rebel was used to people barely speaking about themselves and volunteering no information without need. Cloudy was less forthcoming, her world being ruled by different values, but she opened up a little, here and there. Rebel said little, but she listened and read between the lines. Friends are dangerous, she reminded herself as she lay down and the light went off. “Bullshit,” she whispered to the immortal darkness before she plunged into the abyss of dreamless sleep.***Holly moaned softly and spread her legs wider. The Jeep was parked in a disused dead end access tunnel. Jugs was leaning back in the seat, with her new bra pushed above her ample breasts; her BDUs were around her ankles and Surfer’s insistent fingers driving into her pussy. While three fingers plunged into her, the flight instructor’s thumb repeatedly brushed her now engorged clit. Surfer’s mouth was busy too, sucking on Holly’s nipple while her tongue feathered it. Holly could hear people walking past the entrance and the thrill of possible discovery only added to the rapidly building tension in her stomach.”Oh god!” she gasped, when a particularly strong tremor rocked her.Surfer ceased tonguing her nipple and stared into her eyes.”Come for me. Come for Daddy,” she demanded.Her fingers continued to plunge into Holly’s tight passage, but she added a twisting motion that made it seem like even more were in her. Surfer’s thumb pressed hard on her clit now, pushing down and relaxing in rhythm with her fingers. They were demanding, confident and strong, which was exactly the kind of lover that made Holly’s knees go weak.She tossed her head back, grimaced as she fought back the elated scream that wanted to burst forth when her pussy spasmed and sent waves of heady pleasure shooting to her brain. “Uh…Uh…Uh,” she cried, fighting to keep the sounds from bursting forth and giving them away. As the orgasm subsided, delicious little ripples and occasional shocks passed through her. She felt Surfer move and opened her eyes in time to see the lithe beauty toss her boxers over the steering wheel. She climbed up on the seat, her legs on the back deck and lowered her slippery cunt onto Holly’s lips.Holly looked up her body, past the shaved mound, small, pert tits capped with dusky nipples, and into those amazingly sure eyes.They seemed to sparkle in the dim light, like a cat’s. “Eat me, you hot bitch.”Holly quickly closed her eyes and extended her tongue. She licked gently up the silken lips, enjoying the strong, musky flavor.Surfer wasn’t in the mood for gentle lovemaking, she grabbed two handfuls of blonde hair tuzla escort and pulled Holly nose deep into her wet cunt. Using the handfuls of hair like the handles on a bicycle, she began to grind her pussy onto the blonde’s face. Holly shifted her body slightly, while bringing her hands to Marina’s firm ass and holding on. The new position, as well as extra stability, allowed the lithe girl to begin riding Holly’s upturned face for all she was worth.”That’s it. Eat that pussy. Ohhhh, yeah!” Surfer groaned. She came quickly, surprising Holly with the volume of her juices, which quickly coated her face and filled her mouth. She was still licking when Surfer dismounted and dressed, throwing the Jeep into reverse almost before Holly got her bra back on and tunic closed. The dark-headed girl tore through the service corridor, leaning on the horn and cursing as people dodged out of her way.”What’s the hurry?” Holly asked, still in a euphoric state.”Boss gave me permission to take you into town and get you a zero-g rig, but she didn’t give me permission to fuck you. She’s a tight ass, but she isn’t dumb.” Surfer said.”Well, that’s good,” Holly said smiling.”Good?””I thought you were in a hurry to get away from me,” she said quietly.Surfer laughed out loud as they crossed back into the flight area.”Baby, that was just an appetizer. Wait’ll your first liberty, I’m gonna fuck you raw,” she promised.***The next morning the four of them made their way towards the cafeteria. They moved slowly, with variations on a shuffling gait that kept their legs from parting. The groin muscles in Rebel’s legs felt tighter than a guitar E string. Other things hurt, but the muscles in her groin, abdomen and vaginal area were by far the most sore. From the looks of things, her mates felt the same.On a big board hanging over the entrance to the mess hall were two names, Dutch and Wizzo. Next to each the word Goose was neatly stenciled.”What’s that for?” Lou asked.”It means they washed out,” Cloudy said solemnly.”And the Goose part?””It means she washed them out,” Rebel volunteered after a few moments of silence.”Know either of them?” Holly asked.”I was in boot camp with Dutch. She was that big Swede. I didn’t think she would make it, great reflexes, but she was a little screwy,” Cloudy volunteered.”What happens when you wash out?” Holly asked.Rebel suddenly realized, she didn’t know. For her washing out was unthinkable, but what about for regular recruits? She had no idea.”I’ve heard it’s bad,” Lou said quietly.”Not so,” a strong voice boomed behind them. They all turned to see Corporal Sands standing there smiling.She was a rail thin woman with flat features and dark skin. As Tucker’s right hand she was mostly feared, but none of them had any reason to dislike her, at least not yet. Today she was in her BDUs and a slouch cap. She was an impressively attractive woman for all that and her smile was contagious.”Wash outs go to bomber school. It’s easier in a bomber, you have a bear to handle the weapons.””Bear?” Rebel asked.”Yep, a back seater. Weapons officer. Your bear handles all the defensive weapons, you just point your ship at the targ and let your missiles go, then get the hell out of dodge.””And if you wash out there?” Lou asked.”Non-combat flight. Shuttles, skiffs, in system or in fleet cargo transfers. And before you ask, if you wash out there they retest you and try you somewhere else. Of course if you are the worst of the worst, you know where you go don’t you?”All four girls looked expectantly at her and she smiled broadly.”Cooks and bakers school,” she roared, clapping Lou and Holly on the back as she breezed past them and into the mess hall.They looked at each other and, slowly, grins broke out on each of their faces, followed by giggles as they followed the Corporal into the mess hall.***Erica sat in her office, poring over the reports from her instructors. As usual, the majority of wash out recommendations came from Goose. She looked up as the thin blonde entered her office, saluted, and then sat in the chair across from her. Erica returned her salute.”I know you’re a professional…” Erica began.”But you want me to pass marginal cases,” the Goose finished for her.”Damnit Mindy, this isn’t peace time. You can’t wash out half a class just because they aren’t crack shots!””I don’t care if they are crack shots when they come to me, but if they aren’t when they leave, I’ll recommend a forty-four.””We can’t do that.””So you want me to send out pilots who can’t fight?””No! I want you to teach them to fight. Why do you have to be such a hard ass?””Because pilots who can’t shoot are dead men walking. I won’t be a party to murder.”Erica massaged her eyes and sighed.”I know. You’re the best gunnery instructor in the fleet, maybe in the Navy. But we have to find some kind of middle ground, Goose. The first two I agreed with, but these next six? You haven’t even had them in the simulator yet.””And I’m not putting them in the simulator. And I’m damn sure not putting them in a fighter!”She was mad, Erica could see that. She didn’t really blame her. Of all her instructors, Mindy took her job the most seriously. Privately, Erica agreed with her stance, but the higher ups didn’t.”How’s Leia?” Erica asked, shocking the instructor and diffusing the hot confrontation she could see coming.”I don’t know. Haven’t seen her in a couple of days. You know how it is first week or two. Why?””Because you’re a lot easier to deal with when you’re getting laid on a regular basis,” Erica said with a ghost of a smile. Mindy’s face showed complete shock. She then blushed and grinned. “I guess I am.””Take the evening off. Here’s a pass. Go get laid before you drive me back to the bottle.””I’ll take the pass, but I won’t get laid. You know the techs are working overtime to have the birds ready when flight training begins.””Yeah, and I sent Carson a bottle of synthscotch. Leia is off duty tonight.”Mindy was laughing as she took the pass from Erica’s hand.”Doesn’t this count as bribery?””I prefer to consider it morale building,” the tall captain said as she returned to her paper work.***Mindy ambled out of the boss’s office and towards the service corridor. She wanted to put the conversation with her superior out of her mind, but knew she couldn’t. At least not yet.She and Erica had gotten off to a rocky start. The Air Boss had been instrumental in blocking several requests for transfer back to a combat unit and Mindy had resented it. Two or three times they had nearly come to blows in the heated arguments that followed each denied request.That all changed after Mindy met Leia at Bel’s place one evening. Mindy had watched her for hours as she and a group of techs celebrated another graduating class. She was a part of the group, but seemingly separate from it. Quiet and shy, with a captivating smile and dancing green eyes, she had returned Mindy’s stares with interest. It took three weeks of asking, cajoling, and finally shameless begging to get a date. On that date, Leia had been beautiful, in a green sheath dress and heels. Mindy had worn her dress uni, with her flight jacket.The evening had been comfortable, but Leia had remained distant and Mindy had all but given up on an invitation for a nightcap from the shy woman. That changed the instant they were alone in Leia’s quarters. From innocent to a****l, the redhead had rocked Mindy’s world. She was deeply in love and it changed everything. Twice now, the Boss had saved her from transfer to a combat unit. Mindy missed the atmosphere and camaraderie of a combat post, but she wouldn’t give up her post here for anything now. Not as long as Leia was here.With a sigh, she decided to be less critical of her charges. Erica put her neck out all the time for her people and she deserved some loyalty, even if she was a hard-ass. Mindy would still form forty-four the worst of them, but she decided to back off some, too. The thin blonde stopped in the middle of the corridor and laughed.She marveled at her commander yet again. She hadn’t even got a hug yet and she was already coming around to the commander’s way of thinking. That was the Boss’s greatest gift as a leader in the Goose’s opinion. She could read people and worked on their better instincts instead of their worst. When she opened the door to her small apartment in the city she heard the shower going. Knowing only Leia had a key, she quietly disrobed and slipped into the small bathroom. She leaned against the basin and just stared, with a happy grin on her face.Leia’s long red hair was almost black when it was wet and she looked very much like a brunette at that moment. Water sheeted off her head and rolled down her back, splitting into two rivulets at the rise of her ass and rolling off her generous hips. Her legs were parted and Mindy couldn’t help but gaze into the dark cleft between them. “Ohmigod!” Leia exclaimed when she felt eyes upon her and turned suddenly.”Sorry baby,” Mindy said with a grin.”No, you aren’t. You do this every time I come over,” she pouted.”I’ll make it up to you,” Mindy said, sliding into the shower with her and enjoying the hot spray. She slipped her arms around her shorter lover and cupped her breasts. Mindy loved the satiny feel of Leia’s skin and the water made it slippery. The tall blonde mashed her generous tits together as she ground her pelvis into Leia’s plump ass.The redhead giggled and plopped a bar of soap and wash cloth into her hands.”If you’re going to take liberties, you might as well soap me up,” she teased.Mindy smiled and went to work, thoroughly soaping up her soft breasts and flat tummy, before delving between her legs. She kept her hands firm as she knelt and did each leg. There was a sensual element to showering together, but Mindy never let it get to her. She washed each millimeter of her lover’s skin tenderly but thoroughly, overkilling if she thought she might have missed even a spot.She would never forget the first time her little angel came in from work and they showered together, the water had turned an oily scummy black as it ran down her body. Leia worked with the big ships’ engines and she picked up all kinds of toxic materials during a twelve hour shift. The soap was special, carrying no scent, but made specifically to neutralize and remove any toxin.Once they were done they both rinsed off and climbed out of the shower. Leia wrapped a towel around her head and another around her body before padding into the bedroom. Mindy followed admiring her lover’s backside. A day together this early was rare and Mindy wondered if dinner wouldn’t be appropriate. She wasn’t hungry, well, not for food anyway, but she didn’t want to seem like she was only interested in sex.Leia dropped the towel, climbed onto the bed and pulled a pillow out from under the sheets. She slid it under her ass, lay back and spread her legs. With her fingertips she opened her flower, exposing the soft inner folds.”Don’t just stand there looking edible, we only have f******n hours before I have to get back,” she said with an impish grin.This was the very thing about Leia that Mindy was so enchanted with. She was so shy, so very proper and ladylike, but then she would do something like this and just blow the thin instructor’s mind. Mindy no longer tried to understand it, she just enjoyed it. Moving to the nightstand she retrieved her harness and buckled it on. She then crawled between her lover’s legs and kissed her inner thigh. Leia moaned softly and tangled her hands in Mindy’s short blonde hair. She tried to guide her lips to her clit, but Mindy was having none of it. She kissed and licked the redhead’s inner thighs unhurriedly, alternating from one to the other and her hands snaked up the girl’s sides and began to knead her breasts. Another soft moan set the blonde’s blood on fire, but she wouldn’t be hurried.The fat nipples hardened and the aureoles puckered, allowing her to capture one between each thumb and forefinger and gently roll them. She kissed around the fleshy mound of her lover’s pussy, thrilling when the faint musky odor became stronger and Leia’s hips began to jog. The scent of Leia’s arousal mixed with her own as the redhead’s lips became puffy and slick. Only then did Mindy begin to tongue them, using the tip of her tongue to outline her lover’s sex. Leia gasped and her body arched, trying to force herself up and into more firm contact with Mindy’s warm mouth. The blonde took the hint and flattened her tongue, running it up her girl’s slit, between the puffy lips and over the hard pebble of her clit. She latched onto the erect pebble and laved it with her tongue as one hand abandoned Leia’s breast and slipped to her entrance.Mindy used an aggressive cock, and enjoyed filling her girl completely, but despite this, Leia remained extremely tight. Mindy gingerly worked a finger into her, thrilling to the massage the silken glove was giving her finger. She intensified her lashing of Leia’s clit and smiled happily when she shuddered and her internal muscles clamped down on the intruding finger. Her hips jogged and she wailed as her orgasm washed over her.Mindy rode out the thrashing, staying glued to her clit, but as soon as she calmed, the blonde moved up her body and captured her lips. Leia kissed back passionately, her hands moving between them to grasp Mindy’s cock and bring it to her entrance. The blonde eased herself down, enjoying the sensation as the fat head met resistance and forced the base back onto her own clitoral hood.Slowly the big cock sank into Leia’s passage, until it was all the way in and Mindy’s mound rested on her lover’s. She began to work her hips then, slowly and languidly fucking her little lover. As Leia’s passion was reignited she began to moan and raise her hips to meet each thrust. Mindy felt herself tensing and felt the knot of desire in her tummy. When Leia wrapped her legs around Mindy’s thighs and sank her nails into the sensitive skin of her ass, the blonde bit her lip. When she began to pull Mindy into her with each thrust she groaned and lost it, smashing her hips into her lover’s in a paroxysm that soon had them both orgasming hard.Mindy’s hit her like a ton of bricks, shooting up from her pussy to her head and exploding in starburst behind her tightly closed eyes. The waves were thick and heady, each one carrying her higher and higher, until at last she felt herself floating down on a cloud of euphoria.As the pleasure faded and her sanity returned Mindy rolled off her partner. Leia caught her head and guided it to her breast. Content, sated, and now very sleepy, Mindy suckled as her lover stroked the skin of her face. ***Rebel was staring at Holly’s tits again. She couldn’t quite explain her fixation, but she had to admit they were nice to watch with no explanation. A week into the zero-g workouts and she was already seeing the results. They were all leaner, suppler, and their stamina had increased dramatically. The obvious changes weren’t the main thing though. Rebel had gained a remarkable degree of control over her vaginal and abdominal muscles. The muscles in her thighs and ass were more pronounced as well. All of this was seemingly secondary, but their course work had given her insight that this, and not the overall suppleness and tone, was the main objective.The fighters pulled tremendous G-forces. All pilots wore a compensator flight suit that was filled with liquid. The suit would automatically fill, compressing her lower extremities and forcing blood to her chest during high G maneuvers, but it wasn’t always enough. With some effort she could now tighten her muscles voluntarily and restrict blood flow. The techniques weren’t meant to replace the flight suit, but to compliment its abilities and help prevent black outs and red outs.Along with course work came unarmed combat training, but the zero-g workout still took up their morning. Class work was being cut to two hours so they could get a full workout in the afternoon as well. Rebecca excelled at the physical, but her course work was borderline at best. After the first couple of days, her frustration with her limited ability to read and write had reached the boiling point. The horrors of basic training had been double for her, as a remedial course in Terran standard had been added to her daily load, cutting into her already abbreviated sleep time. The standard course hadn’t prepared her at all for this course work, with its jargon and big words. Her mind could grasp the concepts, but repeating them on paper proved difficult at best.She had been up against a wall, fearing she would fail, when a strange thing happened. It began with Lou, sitting up all evening and “studying” with her. It took her a couple of days to realize the beautiful country girl wasn’t really studying, but was teaching. Cloudy joined in and then Holly. Without a word, without a single incentive that she could see, her flight mates took turns giving up their evenings to help her through. It was humbling, but at the same time awe inspiring. All she had learned on Taltos was proven to be wrong. Friends weren’t a liability, they were the greatest asset you could have. She would have felt shamed, but she was able to repay them with help where they were weak. Holly and Lou were both struggling with unarmed combat. Rebel had started taking them to the gym after hours and working with them. They would never be dangerous opponents, but with her help, they were both scoring high enough to pass. Cloudy was the exception, she seemed to have no weaknesses. Her course work was top notch and she was easily as physically gifted as Rebel was. Rebel watched her often, paid attention when she was talking and had slowly developed a great respect for the tall girl’s sense of right and wrong.A lot of things had changed for the ex-thief. An appreciation of feminine beauty was one. She found herself watching her fellows and appreciating their beauty, grace, softness and more. She was growing too, learning a great deal about interpersonal relationships and the value of friends. The real change was in her mindset, though. She didn’t realize it, but every day she was less the outsider, less the lone wolf. The process was slow, but every day lessened the anger and rage that she carried inside.Of course, watching her roommate’s tits was embarrassing, especially when Holly caught her at it and winked. Yet the blonde never mentioned it or let on she knew Rebel was checking her out. That was something else she was learning about friends. Letting them know the real you wasn’t a bad thing. Secrets were not ammunition to be used against you later. They could be fun, something shared and enjoyed. The revelations just kept coming.***”Welcome, ladies, to Combat Flying 101,” Lucky said.There were sixteen of them there, the first time since they had separated into flights that they had had any contact with the other trainees. Standing in a loose group on the flight deck, next to a sleek fighter, it was the first time any of them really felt like they were doing something real.”This is our old friend, the RFD Mk. IV Condor trainer. She’s a two seater, with dual controls. The instructor in the back can take over at any time for safety’s sake. These fighters are not as powerful or as fast as the Mk III Ghostdogs or Mk VII Swallows that most units are equipped with, but they are plenty to learn on.”Cloudy examined the machine with interest, but didn’t tune the beautiful instructor out.”Today we are just going to take each of you up for a little joyride. I’ll be taking Black flight and the Bandits. Surfer will take the Rowdies and the Witches.”Once the two groups separated, a tech took each woman to a locker room and helped them into the form fitting flight suit. They had all been measured before flight training began. Cloudy’s suit was black, although she had been offered a choice of colors. She was the first one fitted and returned to the flight deck to wait for the others. Lucky was wearing her suit already. It was a deep aquamarine color and seemed painted on, with only the hoses detracting from the image of a mermaid with legs. Cloudy could easily see the outline of Lucky’s pussy and was sure her suit made hers look just as prominent. “Climb in Cloud Warrior, the tech will help you get settled.”The seat was deep and heavily padded, she had to adjust it to make sure her feet hit the pedals correctly. The tech, a girl named Maria, attached the hoses and powered up the console. Cloudy felt the cool liquid as it filled her suit, making it almost uncomfortably tight in seconds. The tech put her helmet on and attached more cables. When the HUD superimposed itself on her view plate Cloudy started, but relaxed immediately. The tech held up a hand, with one thumb up and Cloudy mimicked her. “Ready to go, Cloud Princess?” Lucky’s voice purred in her ear.”Yes.””Hold on to your ass then,” Lucky said as she taxied the fighter across the bay and into the catapult chute. Techs quickly attached cables to the launcher and gave them a thumbs up.”I want you to relax, this is a little hard on you first time out.””Okay.”Lucky depressed the launch button and the hydraulics fired, accelerating the craft to launch speed in microseconds. Cloudy was thrown back into the deeply padded seat and felt her suit squeeze her like a deranged anaconda. In the blink of an eye they were out in space and the ship’s engines fired. “You all right?””I think I know how a bullet feels,” Cloudy replied.Lucky chuckled as she brought the ship into the first training course. The turns were easy and Lucky expertly maneuvered the ship. Cloudy watched the stars, felt the motion, the forces and found herself mesmerized.”Don’t usually do this, but you want to try the controls?””Can I?””Yeah, let me go off preflight. Don’t tell anyone. I normally don’t do this, but you seem miles ahead of your classmates, so I’ll risk it. Hands on throttle and yoke. She’s all yours in three, two, one.”Cloudy eased the throttle forward, feeling the g forces push her back into the seat as the sleek warbird accelerated. A slight adjustment on the stick and she broke to starboard. “What do you think?””It’s not bad. The controls are touchy,” Cloudy replied as she made an adjustment to get the fighter back on course.”This is nothing, girl. On a Ghostdog interceptor that little nudge you gave would have put you into a roll.” Lucky let her work the ship through the course for a few minutes.”Guess I better take her back and take you in.””Thanks.” Lucky reassumed control and turned the ship into the control pattern, lining her up on the ship’s outboard landing bay.Cloudy was silent, watching intently and realizing she had found her calling.”Landings are the toughest part, you see the blinking lights?””Yes.””You just line up on them and bring her in. Put your hands on the controls if you want, they are locked out as long as I am using mine.”Cloudy did so and felt the throttle easing back and the yoke making constant minute adjustments. The rudder pedal under her feet moved and a red light snapped on as Lucky deployed the flaps.”Flaps won’t help in space, but the moment you pass the Z barrier and enter the atmosphere in the landing bay, they will slow you.”When the ship touched down it was smooth as silk and Lucky taxied back to where her classmates were waiting.***Alarms screamed, the stars rotated violently, and the g forces pressed Lou back into the padded seat. “Bollocks!” she exclaimed, punching several buttons and jamming her foot down on the tail rudder petal. The ship continued to spin, increasing the Gs, until her hands were forced back to her body and she couldn’t move them. The planet was rising to meet her, filling the view port and she felt like she would pass out as her vision began to go red.The motions stopped, alarms went silent, the screens went dark and the star field and planets faded, leaving her panting and staring at gray walls. “Fuck me,” she panted.Lucky stood next to the cockpit, staring at her. Lou was apprehensive, removing her helmet and looking up at the instructor. Lucky’s face was grave and Lou started to worry, until she realized the tall woman was fighting back a grin.The dark headed trainee smiled tentatively and Lucky chuckled while shaking her head.”Bollocks?””It means bullshit,” she said, blushing slightly.The busty instructor burst out laughing before climbing into the simulator behind the startled trainee. “Nina, take it back up,” she called.Lou felt Lucky’s full breasts in her back and shivered when the instructor’s fingers closed over her hands on the controls.The star field faded back into existence and the lights came back up on the control panel.”This isn’t hard,” Lucky whispered in her ear.Lou shivered, feeling an unfamiliar, yet familiar stirring in her tummy.”Left hand is thrust. Ease it forward to increase, back to decrease,” she said, slowly moving the control forward then back. “I understand that, it’s the other little thingy that’s not cooperating.””The yoke?””Yes, that’s it. Term slipped my mind, the yoke.”Lucky’s next question shocked the country girl.”Ever give a guy a hand job?””Erm, well, once,” Lou stammered.”Same concept. It’s sensitive, so be gentle. Which ever way you move it, the ship is going the opposite way. Just like if you pull down on his cock, a fellow will stand on tip toe.”As she spoke, Lucky gently moved the yoke back, causing the nose to rise.”No need to be rough with it. In fact the more severe you are, the less likely it is to do what you want, just like with a guy.””So, um, just move it slowly?””Not slowly, gently, there is a difference.””What’s that?”Lucky’s hands left the controls and cupped Lou’s generous breasts, causing her to gasp. Those hands began to gently, but firmly, knead the sensitive orbs. When her nipples hardened Lucky captured each between thumb and forefinger and began to gently, but quickly, squeeze them.”Gentle, but not slow,” she whispered, nipping the startled girl’s ear.”Oh my!””Indeed. If you are having trouble with thrust just let me know, I’ll give you a private demonstration in my room,” Lucky whispered before shouting for the tech to bring the sim down.***Lou stood outside the door to Lucky’s room and chewed on her lower lip. She knew she shouldn’t be here, if Tucker caught her he would go ape shit, but the itch between her legs wouldn’t be stilled. She had tried masturbating, cold showers, even black coffee, which only made her gag. At the oddest times she would feel Lucky’s hands on her breasts again, and she was forever staring at the tall instructor’s crotch in her tight flight suit.Tonight had been the last straw, waking up to find Holly gently masturbating, just a few feet from her. She had feigned sleep, but the blonde had been so hot she had found herself wet and wanting. Now she stood here, indecisive. What if the invitation had just been a joke? She would really feel foolish.Screwing up her courage, she gently rapped on the door. A few moments later it opened and a sleepy Lucky, wearing only a long tunic top, was staring at her.”What’s up?” she asked by way of greeting.”I…erm…that is…I was wondering if I could get that lesson in thrust!” she blurted out, blushing furiously.Lucky poked her head out, looked left and right, then grabbed her by the arm and jerked her into the room. Her quarters were larger than the one Lou shared with the rest of her flight. There was a big bed and a private bathroom, as well as a kitchenette and small living room.Lucky turned her back and walked into the kitchen, her bare ass plainly visible beneath the hem of the shirt. She came back and handed Lou a tumbler.”Drink it,” she ordered.Lou did so, choking on the alcohol as it burned her throat. Lucky laughed and stood back to admire her.”You must need it bad, girl, to risk this.””Well, yes…I suppose I do need a good shagging pretty badly.””I love that accent. Okay, baby, I’ll give you some lessons in thrust, but it’s going to have to be quick. Reveille is in two hours and I still have to figure out how to smuggle you back to your room without Tucker nailing both our asses to the wall.”The tall instructor pulled the shirt off and tossed it to the floor. Lou felt her pussy twitch when Lucky was revealed in her naked glory. She moved purposefully to the night stand and pulled out a strange harness which she began to buckle around her waist.”Don’t just stand there Lou, get naked, times a’wastein” she called.The dark-haired trainee quickly kicked off her boots and started undoing the buttons on her blouse. She was just removing her bra when Lucky turned to her and she froze. The belt around her waist held up a prick! Not a real one of course, but it looked real and was larger than even the recruiter had been.”What’s the matter? Never seen a cock before?” Lucky asked with a smile as she stroked the monster dildo.”Never on a woman!” Lou exclaimed.Lucky chuckled and turned back to the nightstand, grabbing a tube of lubricant and slicking up the dildo as Lou finished disrobing. Once she was naked, Lucky approached her and the grabbed her. Spinning her around, the instructor grasped a handfull of hair and jerked Lou’s head back hard.”Something tells me you’re the kind of girl who likes it rough, am I right?” she purred.Lou felt a shiver run through her and was only able to nod, no words would form in her suddenly dry mouth.Lucky chuckled again, a sound Lou found incredibly sexy and exciting. Without warning she shoved Lou to the table and roughly bent her over it.”Spread ’em,” she grunted, kicking at the inside of Lou’s leg. The petite trainee let her legs slide out, exposing her pussy to Lucky’s fevered eyes. “Fuck,” she said, grasping the base of the thick dildo and rubbing it up and down Lou’s lips.Lou moaned, feeling the big cock at her entrance and tensed when she felt Lucky grasp her hips. The air was forced from her lungs and her eyes teared up when Lucky drove into her with a wicked thrust of her powerful hips.”Geezus. I’m sorry, baby,” Lucky said, pulling all the way out.”Are you all right?” she asked, stroking Lou’s back.”Yes, I think so,” she managed.”You should have told me you weren’t experienced,” the tall instructor chided as her hand gently massaged Lou’s abused pussy.”I thought I was,” she groaned, causing the instructor to laugh out loud.She returned the head of her cock to Lou’s entrance and pressed forward slowly. Lou groaned as she felt it stretching her open and fought to relax as her muscles clenched. Lucky went easy, feeding her an inch or two at a time, and stopping frequently to let her adjust. Lou felt stuffed. She had never even imagined she could feel this full before. Nothing had prepared her for it and the signals shooting to her brain from her abused tissues were nothing short of mind blowing. Thick, heady pleasure mixed with both sharp and dull pain. Her mind couldn’t sort them out, they were too intertwined and she wasn’t sure if it was pain or pleasure, but whatever it was she liked it.Eventually Lucky’s hips bumped her shapely rump and she knew it was all the way in. Lou surprised herself by letting out a deep breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding.”All right, pilot, ready for some thrust?” Lucky purred.Lou nodded and looked back over her shoulder to see Lucky setting her feet and she thrilled when the cute instructor’s warm hands clamped down on her hips. Lucky drew back about half way and thrust forward, eliciting a groan from her lovely partner. The dildo dragged a little on the way out so she thrust back in before getting as much out this time. Lou moaned and her hand snaked between her legs to begin wildly massaging her clit.Lucky smiled and began to pound into her, enjoying the squishy sounds the big cock made as it forced tissue aside. Lou was in heaven, Nothing had ever felt this good. Her body shuddered through another mini climax and her inner muscles clamped down on the huge cock. She felt her body tense and bit her lower lip as the first of several powerful orgasms began to tear at her sanity. Wave after wave of outrageous pleasure assaulted her mind and with each one she felt more and more disconnected from her body and reality.”No…no…no..please..no more…”She found it odd to hear herself mumbling that, the last thing she wanted was for Lucky to stop. The instructor seemed to know this and picked up her pace, causing Lou to shudder violently. She felt another orgasm coming, this one seemed to be building in her stomach and when it exploded she felt something in her head tear loose. She gave a feral cry and thrust back wildly on the plunging dildo, driving it deeper into her hungry pussy. It hit something deep inside and a lance of pain-pleasure blotted everything from her mind.She came back to reality to find Lucky no longer inside her. Her pussy throbbed, but she felt so empty she couldn’t believe it. She wanted more. “You gonna make it?’ Lucky whispered, gently stroking her back.”Yes,” she managed, her tongue seemed cloven to the roof of her mouth and speech was difficult. “You’ve got a fantastic ass,” Lucky said, pushing a finger into Lou’s anus up to the first knuckle.”Oh!” she exclaimed.”Ever had anyone in there?” Lucky asked in a hushed tone.”No! Never.””Want to?” she asked with a big grin.The very thought was so naughty it made her tingle.”I don’t know, isn’t it supposed to hurt?’ she asked tentatively, fighting down the urge to just say yes to whatever this magnificent woman wanted to do to her.”It can, but not if you do it right. How ’bout it, sugar? Want to feel this big dick in your ass?”Lou bit her lower lip and nodded slightly. Lucky smiled and placed the head at the entrance to her pussy, shoving it deep into her.”Oh! I thought…””Gotta get it all slick for you,” Lucky interrupted, pulling out after a few quick thrusts and bringing it to Lou’s tight pucker.Lou tensed, waiting for it, but Lucky just held it there and stroked her cheeks gently.”Relax. You have to stay relaxed or it will hurt.”Lou nodded and forced herself to relax. Lucky applied firm pressure and the dark haired girl felt it begin to enter her body. She fought the urge to tense, and groaned as the head opened her sphincter and passed into her anus.Lucky took it slow, but she knew exactly what she was doing. When the head butted up to Lou’s internal muscular ring, the one she couldn’t control, Lucky slapped the girl’s ass with all the power she could muster.Lou squeaked in surprise and before her body could react, Lucky jammed forward, opening the internal sphincter with only a slight stab of pain.After that, it took only a short while for Lucky to bury the entire dildo in her lover’s quivering ass. She just watched for a while, immensely enjoying the way Lou’s muscles were working beneath the pale skin of her ass.Lou felt stuffed. If she thought the big toy in her cunt was something, the way it lewdly stretched open her ass was even more powerful. When it began to move inside her bowels she felt a shudder of pleasure. Her hand snaked down to her wet pussy and began to stoke her hyper-sensitive clit.Lucky grabbed two hands full of her hair and pulled hard, making Lou’s back arch, allowing the instructor a better angle to really tear her lover up. The huge cock moving in her ass was nothing short of incredible and the orgasms quite simply destroyed any conception she had entertained before of what sex was all about.It was almost time for reveille before Lucky arranged a diversion and Lou managed to drag herself back into the room. ***”This is a gun,” Mindy said, holding up the short-barreled shotgun.”It’s different from a rifle, in that there are no grooves in the barrel. All naval guns are smoothbore, although few fighters or capital ships use slug throwers anymore. In general, you will only see mass drivers on bases, stations and other static defenses. The exceptions to this rule are the Ghostdog interceptors, which use eight, fifty-five millimeter autocannon as their main armament. The other standard fighters use Particle Projection Cannons commonly referred to as PPCs or phased laser arrays, commonly called phasers or pulse cannon.””In this course you will learn the nomenclature of every weapon in the Terran arsenal. You will learn to fire each of them and you will learn to hit what you are shooting at or you will wash out. There are no half-way measures. Being able to hit what you shoot at is like being pregnant, you either are or you aren’t.”Without further ado, she turned on her heel, brought the gun to her shoulder and fired a shot, breaking one of the targets down range. Several girls jumped at the sound, having never heard a gun fired for real.”Accuracy is attained through two means, practice and knowing the physics involved. Accuracy in a fighter follows the same principals, so before you learn to shoot a ship’s guns, you will all learn to shoot here on this range.”Goose nodded slightly and several young men passed out rifles, coated in a thick viscous liquid. The next two hours were spent learning to clean and care for the Mk XI combat rifle.***Rebel rolled over in her bunk and gasped when the cold metal of her rifle pressed between her breasts. “Bitch,” she mumbled to the weapon she now called Erica. They all slept with their rifles, ate with them, even showered with them, which of course demanded a through cleaning and oiling afterwards. And they all had to give them names. She had named hers after the Boss, provoking a lot of laughs. Only she knew there was more to it than met the eye.Rebel could take hers apart and reassemble it in the dark. She knew every part by name and could identify them all by touch. She could also shoot, scoring perfect at 100 meters. The Goose was dedicated, thorough and tireless, drilling proper gunnery into their heads.From day one they had progressed from shooting at static targets, to a moving platform to shooting at moving targets from a moving platform. Rebel and Cloudy were the best shots in their group. Lou and Holly were barely scoring in the adequate range. Three girls had washed out and two more were on the cusp.Rebel just didn’t give a damn. Three sleepless nights in a row had her on edge. She knew what was wrong, she was just plain horny, but she couldn’t bring herself to take care of it in the presence of three other people. As stealthy as they tried to be, she had plainly heard Lou and Holly masturbating. The furtive moans and soft sighs had done nothing but inflame her own lust. Tomorrow was the final qualifying day and she just had to get some sleep, but the itch between her legs was incessant and unremitting.Sighing, she rolled onto her back and let her hand glide down her bare tummy and into her boxers. She needed release, need it too badly to keep ignoring it. Her fingers traveled through her sparse pubes and traced the lips of her sex. It took a few minutes of gentle exploration for her to lubricate and for her lips to gape open. She found her clit and began to massage it, but as horny as she was, orgasm remained elusive. She knew why, it was holding her breath and trying to be stealthy. “Oh, bullshit,” she hissed.The bed moved and she held her breath. Rebel was shocked when Holly carefully climbed over the foot of the bed and placed a knee on either side of her feet. The blonde gingerly knee walked up her body until her rump settled on Rebels thighs. She wore only a tee shirt and panties and rebel couldn’t take her eyes of the girl’s huge breasts. She was obviously braless as Rebel could make out the coaster sized aureoles as darker patches behind the thin material.”What are you doing?” Rebel hissed, glancing over at the bed across the way.”What were you doing?” Holy replied with a barely suppressed giggle.”Nothing,” Rebel said, feeling the blush rise to her cheeks.”Really? Felt like you were rubbing your pussy real hard,” Holly teased.”All right, so I was playing with myself, get down before someone catches us.””No, not ’til you get off. You haven’t slept in three days, you’re irritable, on edge and you’re risking screwing up. Your scores have fallen today and yesterday. You gotta sleep, baby.” “This isn’t helping!””No? Well, how bout this?” She said, catching the hem of her shirt and whisking it over her head. Her large breasts literally bounced free and Rebel’s mouth went dry. She tried to move, but was paralyzed with indecision. “Oh, come on, baby. I’ve seen you checking them out, it’s okay, they don’t bite,” Holly said, taking Rebel’s hands and guiding them to the incredibly warm, satiny orbs.Rebel squeezed, finding the texture amazing and the resilience fascinating. Despite herself she was soon kneading them, caressing them, mashing them together and releasing them to watch them bounce.After several minutes of this Holly moaned quietly.”Enough play time,” she whispered.She fell gently forward and rolled onto her side. Her breasts were even with Rebel’s head. Holly took one, guided the nipple to the young woman’s lips and cooed when Rebel almost involuntarily sucked it into her mouth.She sucked gently, like a c***d and Holly cooed in her ear, gently caressing her cheek. Rebel woke with a start and looked about in confusion. It was still a long time to reveille, but far later in the night than it had been when she rolled over. She had no idea when she had fallen asleep or how Holly got back to her bunk without waking her. Her pussy was throbbing with need and she let her hand slide back down her body and began to vigorously stroke herself. Giving up on keeping her mind blank, she let it roam and of course, she found herself again in a big bed with Erica beneath her. She didn’t even understand the how, but she was fucking the beautiful commander and when she moaned, Leigh felt a massive contraction in her pussy followed by pulses of pleasure, radiating out from her center and rocking her world. She woke to reveille with her hand still wedged between her sticky thighs. ***Rebel sat ramrod stiff in the chair across from the Boss. She had been dreading this, but knew it was coming. Everyone went through an interview as flight training came to a close and they prepared to graduate.The boss looked over her file and then looked up, staring into her eyes.”Life is strange. I’ve seen a lot happen in my years doing this, but I’ve never seen a malcontent go to the top of the class. Want to let me in on your secret?””I wish I knew, Sir.””I wish I did, too. I’d feel a lot better doing what I am about to do if I knew what had motivated the change of heart.””What you’re about to do, Sir?””Rarely, a cadet graduating will prove to have the reflexes, speed, and mentality you see only in the best of the best. Such cadets, upon recommendation from their instructors, will receive advanced flight training on the Ghostdog interceptors. Each fighter flotilla has one squadron of ghostdogs. They are the elite. The best of the best. The very epitome of what combat pilots should be. It took me five years and fifty confirmed kills to earn an invitation to join an interceptor squadron. For that reason, I have never made such a recommendation, until now.”With that she stood and handed Leigh a single sheet of paper and saluted.”Cadet Collins, you are hereby brevetted Lieutenant, Second Class and will not be moving on with your class to combat, but will head to earth and the two f******n training wing. Congratulations.” Leigh saluted, too stunned to even say thank you.***Rebel’s face hovered above her and her naked body rested upon her own. They were kissing passionately and the girl’s small breasts were pressed into Erica’s.”Now hear this, Now hear this, General Quarters, General Quarters, this is not a drill.”Erica snapped up out of her bed and was pulling on her BDUs before her fogged mind could even begin to grasp what she was doing. The dream still lingered, herself in her bed, locked in a passionate embrace with her problem c***d trainee. Shoving it from her mind she pulled on her blouse and charged out the door of her room.”Tucker!” she shouted above the din and chaos of the flight bay.”I’ve got it under control, Boss, you’re needed on the bridge!” he shouted back. She nodded and jumped into the jeep, firing it up as several techs leaped into the seats and back. Erica tore down the corridor, abandoning the jeep at the service lifts, to see the tech who had been riding next to her take the wheel before the vehicle stopped rolling and screech away in a cloud of smoke. “Air Boss on the bridge” the sentry shouted. There was no need to say at ease, if the bridge crew heard they didn’t respond. They were all working feverishly at their consoles and twenty different conversations were going on. Erica saw the chief engineer standing at his post and the flight officer at his. “What in god’s name?” she blurted.”Indeed,” Captain Quarrels replied. He looked different, sober and his tea was missing. He smiled at her and motioned for her to take the small flag officer’s chair that was rigged next to his. Erica couldn’t remember the last time an air ops chair had been in place on the Yorktown’s bridge.”Captain, I…””Shhh. I wanted you to be here for this, explanations will come later.””Report!” the old man bellowed. His voice had changed; it was strong, vibrant and commanding.”Environment, point oh nine nine, maximal!” the sciences officer called.”Helm, point oh five five, nominal,” the helmsman shouted.”Flight deck secured, hangers closed.””All sections reporting ready to get underway.” “Weapons?” the Captain asked.”Main batteries charged, secondaries charging, Deck crew reports twenty percent completion on loading of launchers,” the harried weapons officer responded.”Mack?” he said quietly.”The battle board hasn’t been lit in two hundred years, Carl. I just don’t know,” the chief engineer replied.”Helm, activate the battle board,” the captain ordered.The lights dimmed, and a huge part of the ship went to emergency lighting as power was drained, rerouted, and ancient circuits came to life.”Battle Board activated at 21:04 and thirty-eight seconds,” a pleasantly modulated feminine voice declared to the bridge. “Welcome back, old girl,” the captain said quietly, in the suddenly hushed bridge.”Thank you, Captain, although I haven’t really been gone.””Everything working?””I am reporting minimal problems, maintenance has been alerted.” “We’re going to war, old girl. Activate defense sequence delta and stand by.””Affirmed.” “Helm?””Standing by.””Ahead two thirds,” the captain ordered.”All ahead two thirds,” the helmsman mimicked, before sliding the lever on his console forward.With painful slowness, the old warhorse defeated the gravity of the gas giant and began to move away from it. Erica was stunned, watching as the star field slowly began to move and smaller vessels scurried out of the giant ship’s path. This was beyond belief. Never in her wildest imaginings had she ever considered the possibility that Yorktown might be recalled to wartime service. Something told her it would only be in the blackest of emergencies and a chill went down her spine.”Computer, set course for Deneba Seven,””Working.”A few minutes later the computer spoke up again.”Calculations complete. FTL engines online, awaiting your signal, Captain,””Action,” the old man ordered in a hushed tone. “Acting.”Red alarm lights flashed, giving warning. Crew members braced themselves all over the ship and then, with a sickening lurch, the giant ship sparkled and disappeared from the Halderon system.”Estimated flight time, forty two hours.” “Helm, you may stand down from general quarters,” he ordered as he rose, pointed to Erica and retreated to his office.Once inside Erica took a seat while the old man eased himself into the chair behind his desk.”Surprised it went that smoothly,” he commented finally.”What the fuck is going on, Carl?” she demanded, forgetting military courtesy for the moment.”News from the front. The Trog have introduced a new kind of capital ship. It’s severely under gunned, but shielded so strongly that even a fleet’s worth of PPCs can’t get penetration.””So what’s that got to do with us? The old girl’s fifteens can’t be needed that badly if the big boys can’t penetrate.” He looked at her gravely, swallowed hard and spoke in a near whisper.”You’re standing on seventh fleet’s biggest boy, Captain,” he said, fishing a bottle out of his desk drawer and taking a deep pull.”My god…” Erica exclaimed, collapsing in her chair.”The Trog introduced this new ship class en mass. The intelligence boys must have been jerking off the last two years, but they hit the fleet anchorage at Yalo and caught us with our pants down. The casualty reports are still coming in, but nothing bigger than a destroyer escaped.” “So they are just sending us out to die gloriously then?” she asked as he passed the bottle and she took a deep swallow.”No. We are heading for Deneba to take on a new series of fighter-bombers and a new experimental weapon.””What kind of weapon can possibly make the Yorktown able to stand up to a fleet that’s thousands strong?” “I don’t know. My orders don’t say. How would you rate this class, Erica?” he said, seemingly changing the subject.”They’re pretty good. Not the best overall class, but perhaps three or four of the best pilot prospects I’ve seen in a long while. Why?””They got all seven fleet carriers and most of the auxiliaries. You, your officers, and this class are the only active air group left in seventh fleet”.”We’re it?” she said incredulously.”At this time, Yalo is scr****g the bottom of the barrel to even field a single command. There might be some flights that were on TDD, but we won’t know for a while about them. As of right now, you are all we have.”***”They’re out of their fucking minds, sue for peace!” Lucky declared.”She’s right, these k**s are green as grass and haven’t even checked out on advance designs, much less an experimental one,” Surfer added.”And half of ’em can’t hit the broad side of a barn,” Goose added.”I didn’t bring you here to decide policy. I’m just telling you what our orders are,” Erica said wearily. “I know, Boss, but this is insane. I don’t mind dying for the cause, but I don’t want to be a sacrificial lamb,” Surfer replied.”We have to buy time. Third fleet, Sixth fleet and the Home fleet have all been mobilized, but it could be three or four months before they arrive.” “So what if they do? Seventh fleet was the pride of the Navy. If they wiped us out in one stroke, what the fuck good are the rest of ’em? Do they hope the Trogs will get confused by too many fucking targets?” Lucky exploded.”That’s enough, Lieutenant.””What’s this new wonder weapon?” Goose asked.”Your guess is as good as mine, but it’s fighter mounted whatever it is.””Oh great. Just great. Fan-fucking-tastic. Us four and forty-three wet noses in experimental fighters with experimental weapons versus the Trog fleet. What idiot dreamed this up?” Lucky groused.Erica shot her a look, but said nothing. She knew Lucky well. The flamboyant pilot wasn’t worried or scared, she was just complaining. It was in her nature to bitch and moan rather than get intimidated by long odds or bad news.”How long can we afford to train?” Goose asked. That encouraged her. If Goose was putting her mind to the task at hand, it was a very good sign.”Two weeks. Maybe three. It depends on the Trog. They had to retreat from Yalo, the starbase’s big mass drivers proved too much for even this super ship to repel. But they’ll be back. Yalo is the critical jump point. If they take that, the entire eastern arm of the empire will be open to them.””Pull up your skirts and bend over,” Lucky said in a much less strident tone. Erica had a good feel for her people and she could see the enormity of it was setting in.”Take the evening off. I’ll have Tuck cut the cadets loose too. Go out, get drunk. Get shit faced if you want. Fuck ’til you can’t walk straight. Just be ready for the demonstration when we get to Deneba.””Great idea, Bel’s?” Lucky enthused. Surfer and Goose both nodded. Erica smiled and admired their courage. The end of the world could be upon them, perhaps it was, but these three would spend the night drinking and face it when it came. She might not live too long with this command, but she knew she would never have one with finer people.”Meet up at the mess hall in say, an hour?””Make it an hour and a half, might as well do it up right, may be our last hurrah,” Goose said.Lucky and Surfer both rose and exited, talking excitedly, but Mindy stayed a moment.”You coming with us, boss?””No, I’d better stay here.””Oh, come on. Live a little. Even if you get rip roaring drunk and do a table dance, what will it matter tomorrow?””You know Goose, you’re right, I’ll be there,” Erica replied with a smile.***Erica sat on her bed and watched the steam rise from her flushed skin. She felt better after the hot shower, but was now at a loss. She moved to her closet and examined the contents. A flight suit, five dress uniforms, three A uniforms, her flight jacket and that was it. She hadn’t worn civies in years, but found herself wishing she had a dress. She closed the door and looked at her reflection. Her long, toned legs looked good for her age. Her large breasts were still firm, but she could detect a slight sag that hadn’t been there before. Her waist was trim, and her hips slim, but over all they gave her a nice figure. She wasn’t all that caught up in her appearance, but lately she had found herself looking more often. “Damnit,” she whispered. Try as she might, she had to come to grips with the truth. She had been looking ever since she first locked eyes with Rebel. The short girl, with her angry, sullen eyes and defiance had turned her on. There was no use denying it. It was the same excitement she had felt with William.Shaking her head, she put both lovers, past and dream, out of her mind and quickly dressed selecting her bomber jacket rather than a dress tunic. She was going out tonight and she was going to get drunk. Not just drunk, but shit faced. She was going to live tonight, like there was no tomorrow. Frankly, she wasn’t very confident there would be too many more tomorrows for her or the rest of the people she knew.She met Lucky, Goose and Surfer at the appointed time. Lucky wore black pants, a black top and black leather jacket. Surfer had on blue jeans that barely stayed up, and a top made of some red, shimmery material. Goose wore dress blues, along with her flight jacket. “Damn boss, you look like one of the girls. Ready to tie one on?” Lucky asked.”Lead on, Mcduff,” Erica responded with a smile.***Rebel, Lou, Holly and Cloudy all sauntered into Bel’s place. This was it, the last rite of passage, the holiest of holies. For several generations, through several owners, every class had their first drink as pilots here. Normally, they wouldn’t be allowed into town until after graduation. The change in procedure and the ship’s jump had tongues wagging. There was scuttlebutt with a thousand different reasons and destinations, all wrong.The place was packed, most of their class already here and drinking. At other tables techs, mechanics and administrative staff laughed too loud and drank. Something big was going down, they could all feel it.”Well, grab us a table, I’ll get the drinks,” Cloudy said.”Purple passion for me,” Holly said.”I want a brain buster!” Lou said with a laugh.”Rebel?””Never had a drink in a bar. Just homemade stuff. Get me whatever,” she replied.As Cloudy moved towards the crowded bar, Rebel made her way to a table that was just being cleared by a tired looking waitress. She and the others had just sat down when three guys walked up.”Mind if we join you?” a tall black man in Marine dress blues inquired.”Please!” Lou enthused.Cloudy returned with the drinks and soon they were all conversing, laughing and joking. Rebel sat back and sipped her drink, enjoying the fiery sensation and smoky taste of the amber liquid. She wasn’t interested in the guys and only kept up with the conversation sparingly. Her restless eyes roved around the crowded bar, singling out individuals for a few moments before moving on.A loud laugh got her attention and she found herself staring at a corner table. Lucky was laughing, holding one of the new pilots in her lap. The Goose was holding hands with a cute redhead in tech coveralls and Surfer had a girl on either side of her. She noticed these in only an oblique way, she was focused on the woman who had her back to her. She was blonde, slumped in her chair, almost huddled into the heavy brown jacket she wore. She seemed to be a spectator, not part of the crowd at the table, alone even surrounded by people. She was vaguely familiar, but Rebel couldn’t place her. The woman seemed to feel eyes upon her and turned suddenly. Rebel had just taken a sip of her drink and almost spit it out. Erica!The Air Boss stared for a moment, smiled tentatively and raised her glass. Rebel raised hers, and took a sip. The commander did likewise then turned back to her table.”Rebel? Rebel?…hey you!” Cloudy shouted.”What?””You okay? You look like you just saw a ghost,” Cloudy said with a concerned look.”Yeah, fine. Just noticed the Boss and the instructors are here,” she said quickly.”Damn, I didn’t think ole tight britches knew how to relax,” Holly commented.”The Air Boss?” Brian, one of the Marines inquired.”Yeah,” Holly replied.”She’s got to be the most hard up bitch in history. I’ve been stationed on this scow for two years now and have never seen her out. Old tight-ass, that’s what they call her.”To everyone’s shock Rebel bristled at the remark. For a few moments it was very tense, but Lou grabbed Mark by the hand.”Let’s dance!”The three women and their respective suitors all hurried to the dance floor, with only Cloudy throwing Rebel a concerned glance.She relaxed, wondering what had gotten into her. She glanced back at the boss, to see her sitting alone at her table. Nearly everyone was on the dance floor as music blared and people gyrated. The lights dimmed to almost nothing, with only the strobes casting harsh light at intervals. Not exactly sure what she was doing, Rebel got up and walked over to the table.”Boss?”She looked up suddenly, obviously startled from some deep reverie. Her face was flushed and her long lashes were damp.”I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude.””No, it’s all right,” she said, wiping tears from her lovely blue eyes.”I..uh..well…””Yes?” “Fuck it. Would you like to dance?” Rebel blurted out, blushing from head to foot.She was waiting for the fireworks, maybe a lecture on fraternization, or quoting some regulation or other. Shocked outrage that she thought the boss was a dyke. Righteous indignation or something. What she got surprised the hell out of her.”I’d love to, but I don’t know how,” the tall woman said softly. She blushed and lowered her eyes. Rebel felt her heart leap. She had never imagined the Air Boss to be shy, but the words and actions were almost painfully so.Rebel laughed and it became even harder to control when Erica’s confusion became evident on her pretty features.”Hell, Boss, I don’t know how either. We’ll just wing it,” she said, extending her hand.Erica’s hand was soft and warm. Rebel guided her to the floor and then hesitantly took the tall woman in her arms. She could see Erica was unsure, but she wasn’t about to let her go, so she just started moving.While everyone else cavorted and gyrated, they just rocked in each other’s arms. No words were exchanged, and half the time Erica had her head down so Rebel couldn’t even see her eyes. Leigh had never felt so sure, so right. Never in her life had she wanted something as badly as she wanted this woman. It didn’t make sense, but she didn’t care. Her heart told her it was right and her head was easily outvoted. The song was ending and Rebel had to make an agonizing decision. She didn’t want to let go, but she knew the lights would come up and she felt in her heart it would hurt the Boss to be seen dancing with her. Reluctantly she released her hold and lead Erica back to her table.By the time the lights came up, she was back at her table, sipping thoughtfully on her drink. The night wore away and the guys disappeared. Cloudy along with them. Lou ended up leaving with Lucky and Surfer came to drag Holly away with her. The boss remained, drinking and conversing with the Goose and the little man Rebel assumed owned the place. They were still there when she finally got up, and staggered back to her room.***Holly was tipsy still and stumbled slightly as Surfer gently shoved her into the zero-g workout room. She giggled as the dark haired instructor shut the door and pressed the button that took the gravity down. Holly floated up, laughing and trying to keep her skirt down, while she rolled onto her back.While the blonde twirled and played, Surfer was busy. Using simple techniques to keep herself neutrally posed, she removed her shoes and tunic, followed by her bra, boxers, and pants. From the small gym bag she had picked up in her room, she took out her harness and buckled it on, adjusting it a few times, until she was pretty sure it had just enough slack in it to allow for the “give” in her partner in the zero-g environment.”Get naked,” she called to Holly as she removed several straps from the bag. In no time the blonde’s dress, bra, panties and shoes floated with Surfer’s clothes. The instructor aimed herself at the free floating blonde and pushed off from the wall with her legs. She shot across the room, grabbing one of Holly’s ankles which caused them both to spin.Surfer slapped the quick-close Velcro cuff around the blonde’s ankle. From her bag she pulled out a round object, with steel clips coming from each side. She clipped one to the manacle and applied another slap manacle to Holly’s other ankle. Once it was secure she caught the other clips and ran it out, attaching it to the D ring on the manacle.”What’s this for?” Holly asked.She opened her legs wide, watching as the strap reeled out of the black plastic sphere. When she stopped using her muscles to hold her legs open, the straps, under tension reeled back in, pulling her ankles together at the edges of the sphere.”Zero-g sex is a blast, but it takes some extra equipment,” Surfer explained as she wrapped a wide black girdle around Holly’s slim waist. It closed at the front, like a cummerbund, but Holly could feel heavy protuberances at the small of her back, and the cold chill of metal on her skin. Surfer took an expandable spreader bar, with Velcro wraps at the end and attached it to Holly’s legs, just below her knees.She then reached around the girl and spread her hands, grabbing a mammary in each. As her hands began to knead them, she gently tongued the blonde’s ear. Holly moaned and tried to push back against Surfer, but found she only sent them spinning. The butch didn’t try to stop them, but continued to knead her breasts and worry her ear. The ripples of pleasure from her breasts soon became disjointed as she grew dizzy from the uncontrolled spin. As the blood rushed to her head, the jolts of pleasure from her nipples gained in magnitude and clarity, far surpassing anything she had ever experienced from them before. Surfer nipped her ear and growled as she captured the now erect nipples and began to roll them, jacking up the pleasure Holly was feeling.She moaned and gasped, her mouth working but only squeaks escaping. Surfer laughed softly and let her hands trail down to Holly’s pussy. Contact there was strangely less powerful than she expected.Surfer didn’t spend much time there, apparently she was well used to the way sensation was changed. She reached behind her, locating a button on the sphere and when she hit it, the straps retracted fully and locked.She then brought the head of her strangely shaped dildo to Holly’s entrance and slowly pushed it in. The hook at the end settled deep in her pussy and with a flick of a button, it began to gently vibrate.”Oh my god!” Holly exclaimed.”You ain’t seen nothing yet, babe,” Surfer whispered.She took the last two items from her bag and let it go spinning off into space using her body to slow the spin until they were barely rotating.She put the slap shackles over her ankles and then used the handles on the belt Holly wore to pull herself deeply into the blonde. Surfer then extended a foot out under Holly’s body. The cuff on her ankle was attached to another cuff with a miniature version of a ratcheting sphere between them.”Put the cuff on your wrist, babe,” Surfer commanded.Holly attached it and then the other one.”Done,” she moaned, the vibe really starting to get to her now. “Ready for the ride of your life?””Yes!” She gasped.Surfer immediately kicked down with her legs. When the spheres had let out all their slack they snapped tight and the pair began to rotate in a slow tumble. Locking her hands into the steel handles on the belt, she wrenched to one side as hard as she could, beginning the pair spinning as they rotated. Holding tight to the bars and letting her thighs rest against the spreader bar, Surfer just relaxed and let physics fuck Holly to oblivion.Centrifugal force tried to move them apart, but there was only enough slack in the arm cuffs to allow Surfer to get far enough away to remove about half the dildo from Holly’s dripping pussy. When the spheres hit the end, they would ratchet back, sinking it into her again. The spin seemed to send blood speeding to her pussy even as the rotation sent it to her head. The sensation was pleasant at first, but Surfer continued to shift her weight slowly adding to the spin and rotation. As she did so, Holly began to enter an altered state of consciousness. The highly oxygenated blood rushing to her brain began to disjoint her perceptions. The sensations coming from her pussy took on a more and more exaggerated importance as other sensation began to wane. The pleasure was unimaginable as she began to feel she could distinguish every minor ridge and bump on the dildo as it sliced into her very juicy pussy. The vibe was working on her G-spot and each rotation threw Surfer to a point where the vibe dragged along her clit as it slid back into her pussy.”Omigod, omigod, omidgod,” she chanted as the waves of bliss began to take on unparalleled precedence in her perception. The first orgasm was so powerful it demanded she scream. She had never been very vocal before, but nothing short of a scream would do. After the first, more followed, a mind shattering deluge of contractions, relaxations, pulses of pleasure that were stronger than any she had previously known.It didn’t stop, if anything it got more intense and she couldn’t pass out. The pleasure became unbearable, so stark and raw it was exquisite agony. She couldn’t stop cumming or even control the flow of sensation to the point she could make a coherent thought and keep it. Eventually, something happened in her head, her conscious mind splitting from her body. She was able to truly enjoy the rush then, as she became for a while a pleasure addict, screaming and satisfied in cycles that lasted only seconds. She could not tell if they were individual orgasms or if her sense of time was so warped that she was enjoying each pulse from one orgasm to its fullest extent, making it into its own discreet orgasmic event.Everything blurred into a red haze and her mind floated away, riding the peaks and waves without any conscious connection to the trip being a single event. When her mind came back to her, they were laying on the floor of the gym. Surfer was still fucking her, but in the old fashioned way. In a few strokes the dark headed girl came and collapsed on Holly’s back.Holly couldn’t feel her legs. Her arms, her pussy, even her tits were numb. “I can’t feel anything,” she whimpered.”Shhhh, shhhh, it’s okay babe. You’ve just hit burnout. It’ll be okay. Come one now, let’s get you to my place and get you something to eat. You need to replace all the nutrients you’ve used up.”The trip back to Surfer’s was a blur, as was the meal she mechanically ate, and the pills the lithe girl made her take. She faded off to sleep in Surfer’s arms.When she woke her whole body tingled. Her pussy throbbed and her head was spinning. It was all good though. She was suffused with a euphoric well-being that defied description. She doubted she would be able to get the well fucked smile off her face for days to come.***”What the fuck is that?” Lucky demanded of the rather timid little man in his white lab coat.She was looking at the new wonder weapon. It looked like a pickle, about fifteen feet long and a foot or more in diameter.”It’s an oxly torpedo,” he replied.”A fucking new missile is the wonder weapon?” Lucky exploded, causing the small man to cringe. A sharp look from Erica silenced the tirade the stacked pilot was about to launch into.”How’s it work?” Goose asked.”Well, we’ve managed to miniaturize a C plus engine. That drives it. The housing and core are neutronium.””Neutronium? That stuff weights a ton,” Surfer said.”Actually, one cubic centimeter weighs just less than a standard ton. The weapon is super dense, it has to be,””Go on,” Mindy said when he paused.”It works on a simple enough premise, as an object nears lightspeed, mass is converted to energy. With one of these, the total energy is staggering because the mass is so great. Planetary shields would burn out trying to repel it.””So it can break through the Trog’s new shields?” Lucky enquired.”In theory, it will vaporize the whole ship,” he replied.”How’s it guided?” Goose asked.”There we come to a problem,” the little man said with a heavy sigh. “They’re unguided. We simply can’t build a computer with enough power to do the necessary computations and make it smaller than this room,” he said, waving an arm to encompass the twenty by twenty vault.”Bullshit! The computer in my watch can do simple telemetry calculations,” Lucky shouted.”Have you ever been on one of the old FTL ships?” the officer asked.”No.””The pendik escort computers are massive and are locked in a shock proof armored cacoon. This isn’t to protect them from enemy fire, it’s to protect them from the radiation an FTL engine produces. The computer components are small enough, we just don’t have anything we can shield them with that is small enough.””Oh.” “So how do you fire them?” Goose asked.”You eyeball ’em in.””You’re out of your damned mind! You expect a pilot to make visual adjustments and calculate the track of an enemy vessel? Even I couldn’t hit more than once in a blue moon doing that,” Goose exclaimed.”You can if you don’t fire at more than four thousand meters,” he replied.They all stared at him like he had three heads. Standard tactics called for missile launch at fifty thousand clicks and even that was in optimal conditions.”You’ve got to be k**ding,” Erica finally said.”I wish I were. We’ve been working on guidance system shielding for three years, that’s why they haven’t been introduced. That was the hold up. Now…it’s a one in a million chance we’ll be around long enough to solve the guidance problem.””It can’t be done,” Surfer said flatly.”Yeah, this is a suicide mission and even if we succeed, so what? We take out one or two ships,” Lucky exploded.”It isn’t suicide. The torpedoes come with a twenty-one second delay before the FTL fires. At three quarters boost, you can be well outside the detrimental blast radius in that time. In a Corsair, at full boost from attack speed, you can be out of there in ten seconds. The damage is massive, but it spends itself on the shields, creating a sphereical blast that emplodes, rather than a conventional explosion. You have only to escape the resultant expanding post explosion photon sphere which is many times less destructive.””Has this been tested?” the boss asked.”Yes, the torpedo design makes the energy release react to the specific physics of shield generation fields. It will work.” “In combat I mean.” Erica said.”No.””I’m afraid I agree with my officers.””I don’t like it either, Captain, but what choice do we have? Unless you want to see three hundred trillion people wiped out as the Trog overrun the Eastern Arm?””Please ladies, it’s not as bad as you think,” the little man said.”What the fuck do you know?’ Lucky barked, physically shoving the scientist who beat a hasty retreat behind the Admiral.”We designed a new ship to deliver them,” he squeaked. “Go on,” Erica prompted.”It’s a variant of the E-2A Corsair,” the Admiral said.”Corsair? You mentioned one before. What are they?” Surfer asked with a raised eyebrow.”I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of them. Only a handful exist. They’re basically multi-role fighter bombers with a limited cloaking device.””You can’t cloak a fighter. Hell, you can’t cloak anything smaller than a battle cruiser!” Lucky cried as her face got red.”No, full cloak is hideously expensive in terms of power. Any ship that has one is of necessity massive, with the majority of its internal workings comprised of the engines. But we have developed a limited cloak that a fighter can use.””How limited?” Lucky asked.”Basically, no seeking weapon will be able to get a lock on. That will defeat 90% of their capital ships and escorting ships anti-fighter defense systems. You’ll only have to worry with direct fire point defense systems and fighters.””And how many of these fighters do you have available?” Erica asked.”Fifty-two,” he replied.”What about escort fighters?” Goose asked.”We have two groups, the one hundred and forth composite wing, formed from orphans of the carrier task forces.””And the other?””The two hundred and seventh interceptor group,” he said through clenched teeth.”Texas Thunder?” Lucky asked, incredulous.”The same,” he said with a big sigh.”What’s Texas Thunder?” Erica asked.”You want to tell her? Or should I?” Lucky said, drawing a scowl from the admiral.”The two oh seven is the two hundredth fighter commands penal group,” he said testily.”That’s putting it mildly.” “That’s enough, Lieutenant, unless you’re bucking for some brig time,” he exploded. “Hell, put me in irons, at least I’ll be alive,” she replied defiantly.Erica stepped between them.”Is this the best we can come up with, Admiral Scot?””Yes.”Erica nodded and motioned to her officers to go.”Well, at least now we have them right where they want us,” Surfer quipped as they walked away.”You know my pilots are all rookies. I would never say it in front of my officers, but this is mad,” she said quietly.”I’m sorry Erica, I truly am. If we had any other option you know I would be the first to put it forward.””I know. They don’t call you the pilot’s Admiral for nothing. We’ll just have to make do I guess.””Godspeed,” he said as she turned and walked away. ***Erica watched as the sleek black fighter taxied to a stop and Lucky wearily climbed out. “Well?””It handles superbly, but our girls will kill themselves with it.””Well, it’s simply up to you and Surfer to prevent that.””Don’t worry about us, worry about the Goose. She still hasn’t gotten back from trial runs with the dummy torpedoes. I’ll let ya off light because I expect her to pitch a fit to end all fits,” Lucky said with a weary smile as she headed towards the locker rooms. Erica watched her go and waited impatiently for Goose to get in. It was another twenty minutes before the fighter she piloted nosed into the hanger bay and she got out.”Well?””It isn’t easy, but it’s doable. I got Christian in munitions modifying a couple hundred reflex missiles to mate with the torpedo mounts. Should be ready by the time we make Yalo. If they are, we can go to ’round the clock training exercises. If the Trog give us half a chance, we should be ready.””I thought you said it was impossible,” Erica said with a smile. “I was figuring run time, like a regular missile has, but when the FTL kicks, delivery is almost instantaneous. All you really had to do is lead the target ship enough so the torpedo is still pointed at it when the FTL kicks, twenty-one seconds after launch.””How are we going to simulate that?””Christina is putting timers on the reflex missiles, they won’t fire their after burners for twenty-one seconds. It will give them, about the same run time as a torpedo,” Goose said as they walked towards the lockers. “And after it kicks?””Nose camera, sending back real time video. We will know exactly where and if the torpedo would have hit. Wasteful of cameras and missiles, but I don’t have a better solution and with only five hundred prototype torpedoes, we can’t afford live tests.”***Rebel sat in the audience hall with her classmates. They all wore dress blues and were thinking this was to be the graduation ceremony that had been skipped. At the head of the auditorium was a podium and the excited buzz of voices died down as Captain Quarrels approached the podium.”Ladies, your attention please,” he called.”I know you were all looking forward to graduation, I’m afraid that can’t be now. As of this moment, you are all commissioned as ensigns and assigned to seventh fleet’s only operational air wing, the one aboard this ship. The enemy has unleashed a new weapon and we have suffered a grievous blow. His majesty now calls upon you to stand between the enemy and the civilians of the eastern arm. I wish you all the best and will now turn this meeting over to the Air Boss.”He saluted and left, there was a hubbub of hushed conversations as Marines with live weapons moved to the doors. The Air Boss mounted the stage and moved to the podium.”Don’t mind the security men, what you are hearing now is top secret. Not a word of it is to be breathed to anyone outside the flight group. Do you all understand?”She waited for a moment, but no one asked a question so she pulled down a projector screen and took out a laser pointer.”Computer, lights,” she called and the auditorium was plunged into darkness.”This is the E2-A3 Corsair,” she intoned as a sleek, but very large computer-generated hologram of the fighter appeared in the space over her head.”We’ll all be equipped with them. You’re all going to have to cram advance fighter courses into your heads this week and you’ll learn on the job after that. We’ll skip most of the rudimentary stuff and the courses that don’t apply to the Corsair. In addition, you will all learn to use our new secret weapon. I’ll turn you over to the Goose.”Goose stepped up and took the pointer from Erica.”This is an oxyl torpedo. It isn’t like the other missiles you have used and will require a lot of practice. There is a 21 second safety interlock feature, so you will have to learn to judge distance and speed on a target vessel. It’s going to be hard, but it can be done. We start a week’s training in fifteen minutes. Get to your ships and get ready.***”This is our new birdy, the Corsair,” Lucky intoned to the gathered pilots.”It’s fast, ungodly fast, and as agile as an interceptor. Main armament is the eight PPC model tens in the wings, you are all familiar with those. She doesn’t carry many missiles, the two underfuselage hardpoints are specially configured for torpedoes, so your only fire and forget weapons are the copperheads on the wing tips. They work like usual, select ’em from your stores, track till you get tone and release. Each ship has a pair of underwing hard points, for you girls those will remain empty for now, since adding anything changes the flight characteristics and you will have your hands full with the standard load. You all have the ship’s spec sheets, study them and get ready for the worlds crashingest crash course in advanced avionics.” The week that followed was frenetic, with the pilots in the cockpit twenty-two hours out of every day. By week’s end they were all zombies and most were barely cognizant when the Boss announced that their escort wings had arrived, they were taking on stores, and would jump that evening. They had suffered already, six pilots lost and ten fighters in training mishaps. Rebel was as tired as the rest, but she loitered around the hangar deck after everyone was dismissed. She didn’t have any excuse and was past the point of making one, she wanted to see Erica in her flight suit. So she took her time putting on her uniform and was still tugging up her trousers when the Boss entered the locker room. Her face was drawn and haggard, the blue eyes dull and vacant. Rebel barely noticed, she was staring at her superior’s figure. Erica’s suit was black and fit like a second skin, her breasts were revealed to be full and heavy, much larger than Rebel would have believed, although nowhere near the titanic proportions of Holly’s. Her hips were slim, and her ass was heavy, but tight. Her pussy was fat and the crease in the suit seemed to be pulled between her lips, causing Rebel to have to swallow a lump in her throat.”What are you doing here?” the Boss snapped.”Nothing,” she replied.”Jezzus Christ Rebel, all pilots were ordered to hit the sack. You’re one of my officers now, I expect you to lead by example.””I didn’t ask to be an officer!” Rebel exploded, storming out of the locker room.She felt like a heel almost as soon as the door closed behind her and almost went back to apologize, but her pride wouldn’t let her.”Damn girl, you look mad enough to chew a horseshoe and spit nails,” Lucky said.”I don’t know how she does it. I get along with everyone else, but she just has a knack for pissing me off!””Comes of being the boss,” Surfer replied.”What are you guys doing here?” Rebel asked.”Waiting to see our fighters,” Goose replied.”What’s to see?””Well, we’re all aces. Since we are now active combat again, we can personalize our ships. The tech crews are just about done with the paint schemes, and reconfigs” Surfer said.The first ship to roll in was Lucky’s. It was painted red, with black markings and white detail. On the nose was a naked girl who resembled Lou and the words Lucky’s Baby, were done in script over her. On the underwing mounts she had two sets of quad copperheads, which drastically augmented her dogfighting capability.Surfer’s ship was painted blue, with aquamarine lettering and black detail. The nose had a girl in a skimpy bikini holding a surfboard and the words, Wipe Out done above her head in black script. She too had the extra quads of fire and forget missiles.Goose’s fighter was the most elaborate, done up in white with feathers, yellow claws on the landing gear and a yellow nose cone that looked just like a beak. Tiny eyes were located near the cockpit and in gold script along the pilot’s housing was the word Gosling II. True to her nature, her underwing mounts were 55mm gunpods like those on the ghostdogs. “God damnit Rebel! Get your ass to bed before I bust you back to invertebrate!” the Boss shouted as she emerged from the locker room.”Shit,” Rebel declared, before racing off to her room.The ship jumped while most of them were asleep and neared arrival while they still slumbered.***”Captain?” the voice of the Yorktown called.”Yes?””I’m picking up massive ship movements in the arrival zone.””Friendlys?””I would think not. No IFF codes in my data base for them and massive life form readings. According to the files from Command, there aren’t thirty vessels left at Yalo and I am currently tracking close to eight hundred.””Helm, sound battle stations. Get me the Air Boss, pronto.””Battle stations. Battle stations. This is not a drill, I repeat this is no shit,” an excited voice called over the PA.Erica grabbed the red phone on her desk and pressed the Bridge call.”Erica?””Yes, Captain.””Get your people to their craft and get ’em loaded hot, the old girl is tracking eight hundred bogies in the drop zone.””Right away,” she replied before hanging up and rushing out of her office.Pilots were milling around in confusion. Techs were running this way and that, only Rebel and Cloudy had their flight suits on.”Tucker!” She shouted.”Here Boss!” the big man called.”Get these idiots into their flight suits and to their ships.””I’m on it, Boss,” he bellowed above the din.”Rebel! Cloudy! Come with me!” she shouted to make herself heard above the din of klaxons and the buzz of at least a hundred voices. She raced to her ship and bounded aboard with Tucker’s curses sounding above the noise. Techs quickly connected her suit and helmet.”Good hunting, sir!” Chavez called before closing her canopy. The big engines whined as she let them out and taxied towards the catapults. “You girls with me?” she asked over the tac net.”With you skipper,” Cloudy responded.”Right on your ass, boss,” Rebel said in an excited voice.”Cloudy, cat two. Rebel, they are bumping the ready alert fighter from cat three.””Roger,” they replied in unison. Erica hadn’t done this in a long time, but she could feel the adrenaline, the rush. It was addictive and she marveled that she had gone so long without a fix.”Cap, what’s the status on escorts?””Two Ghostdogs, fully loaded. Callsigns Hammer and Thunder.””Just two?””That’s it, Captain. Portside catapults are down, ten minutes estimated to repair.””We come out of hyperspace in what?””Four minutes, twenty three seconds.””Great.””Putting you over to defense net.””Roger.””Hammer, checking in,” an excited male voice called.”Thunder, checking in,” a more mature masculine voice called.”Cowboy, checking in. I’m on the broke launcher, Boss.””Nice to have you with us boys. I’m the Boss, Cloudy and Rebel are with me. We’ll form up off the port quarter.””Roger, that,” all three said in unison.”Boss, it’s Goose. We’ll be launching right after you.””Who’s with you, Goose?””I’ve got Jugs and Lou. Lucky’s got Red and Ghost. Surfer is still trying to get responses, it looks like half of ’em forgot to turn their radios on, the flight deck is pandemonium.””Roger, don’t launch until I give you an assessment. I’ve only got the Texas Thunder pilots and they have a cat down. No word from the other escort wing.””Roger.”On her HUD the seconds slowly ticked down as Erica wondered what would await them.***Rebel squirmed in her seat and fidgeted. The blood was pounding in her temples and the clock seemed to be going in slow motion. She had never felt this jacked up and wondered if Cloudy was feeling it too. “Were coming out of hyperspace, launch on my mark,” Boss called.There was something sexy about her voice, so confident, even and in control. It was sexy, but not as sexy to Rebel as that soft, confused, shy, ‘I don’t know how’ at the bar.With the compensators and her flight suit on, Rebel didn’t even feel the lurch of the ship coming out of hyperspace.”Launch!”Rebel hit the button and felt her suit try to squeeze her intestines out. She clenched her body, aiding the suit to keep the blood in her core as the Gs forced her small frame deeply into her seat.As she came out of the chute, her engines kicked and she fought the ship’s controls. She still wasn’t used to the superb handling of the Corsair. Rebel broke to port, crossing over the lower decks to join Boss and Cloudy on the port side. When she looked up, her mouth dropped open.The star field was filled, literally filled, with ships. Great, silver hulls as far as the eye could see. Far away the huge red disk of Starbase Five gleamed. A million lights seemed to wink as the Trog attacked. Occasionally, a bright mushroom of flame marked the places where the starbase’s mass drivers found the range.”Get out here Goose, we’ve got trouble plenty,” Erica called.”Soon as they get the cables back and attached.””Boss, three cruisers have detached from the main body and are headed this way,” the cap officer reported.”Roger, Hammer, Thunder, Cowboy, where are you?””Got your six, Boss,” Thunder laconically replied.”Still waiting on this fucking cat,” Cowboy raged.”Rebel? Cloudy?””On your wing,” Rebel responded, noticing how high and excited her voice was.”Here,” was all Cloudy said.”They’re beginning launch operations, Boss,””Roger, Goose, form up with Lucky and Surfer, wait for them to get more fighters out before you begin your attack runs.””Roger that.””All right Boss flight, accelerate to attack speed.”Rebel eased the throttle forward and the sleek fighter leapt forward like a greyhound, quickly gaining attack speed. She was hyped, nervous and now watching as the tiny dots began to grow larger. “Arm torpedoes.” Rebel flipped the red cover that shielded the arming switch up and flicked the switch on first one, and then the second. “Rebel, take the one on your side, Cloudy, take the one on yours, I’ll take that big bastard in the middle.””I’m on it,” Cloudy replied.”Rebel?”She was so excited and concentrating so hard she had forgotten to respond.”Roger,” she hastily called.In the black space between the far away cruisers, tiny lights flared to life.”Enemy fighters, watch yourselves.””Let us worry about ’em Boss,” Thunder called.”Just the two of you?””Me and Hammer are more than enough,” he responded confidently.She watched as the distance to target quickly fell. Fifty thousand, Forty thousand, Thirty thousand. Suddenly her entire view screen was filled with hurtling missiles. She tensed, but the massive barrage passed by to her port side.”Ignore them, they’re firing blind,” Erica snapped.Twenty thousand, fifteen thousand, ten thousand. The metal behemoth filled her view screen, blotting out all else. Beams of light streaked out, flashing like searchlights in the dark. The shark nosed prow seemed to be coming right for her and Rebel felt a moment’s doubt. The Boss seemed to sense it and her calm voice settled the butterflies.”Don’t worry about the point defense batteries, even if they hit they won’t penetrate your shields. Remember what Goose taught you about head on attacks.””I’ve got fighters on my scope,” Cloudy called. For the first time Rebel heard some emotion in her voice.”Don’t panic, the ghostdogs will take ’em. Just watch your launch meter.”The range meter ticked from kilometers to meters. Six thousand, five thousand, at four the red lights on her HUD went green. Rebel depressed the trigger on her yoke and pulled back hard on it. The ship, suddenly divested of several tons in gross weight yawed hard and she had to fight the stick. “It’s away!” she called as she righted her ship and pulled up.”Away!” Cloudy called almost simultaneously.”It’s away,” the Boss called.As soon as the view screen cleared and she was looking at open space, Rebel eased the yoke back to neutral and jammed the throttle forward. She squeezed her internal muscles to help the suit as the fighter jumped from attack speed to supersonic.On her HUD the seconds ticked by. Five, four, three, two, one. As the digital readout clicked to double zero a massive shock wave rocked the small craft. Rebel held on and grimly fought the controls as the expanding sphere of photons from the three explosions buffeted her.”Rebel?””I’m good,” she said through clenched teeth, easing back on the throttle.”Cloudy?””Good to go,” the Indian woman replied.”Roger, form up on me. Thunder, you guys still with us?””Roger that, I’ve got your six, Boss.””Hell of a show!” Hammer enthused.Rebel brought her craft into line with the blip on her screen that was the Boss’s ship and throttled up until she was back on her wing. Below her, the detritus of three Trog cruisers floated, the largest piece was barely the size of a playing card. “Boss to cap, do you copy?””Roger, Boss.””Tell the captain it’s a go.””Roger.””Goose?””Roger””Bring up what you have out and form up on me. Leave Lucky and Surfer to bring the rest of the flights.””On our way,” she called.Goose and her two wingmen were with them in no time. The white ship, with goose feathers and a beak painted on it looked garish compared to the flat black of the rest.”Boss, this is Cap, turning you over to Yalo station. Good luck and good hunting.””Roger.””Boss flight, this is Yalo station, do you copy?” a new voice called. “Copy, Yalo,””Good to have you with us, Captain. We’re taking some major heat from those battle cruisers, can you assist?””Roger Yalo Station, just give us a vector and get your fighters out of there.””Done and done, good hunting.””All right ladies, accelerate to attack speed. Goose, y’all armed?””Roger”Rebel accelerated quickly, moving slightly ahead of the Boss’s fighter. “Ping your targets, ladies,” Boss called.Rebel depressed the button on her fire control grip and sent out an infrared beam that painted her target. She chose a large battleship, a little off from the main battle line. The numbers were falling fast when someone shouted.”Fighters!””I’ve got one on my tail!” Jugs called.”Me, too!” shouted Cloudy.”If you’re targeted, take evasive maneuvers,” Boss said, her voice grim.”Relax Jugs, break left on my mark, three, two, one.” Thunder called.No sound. Nothing, but seconds later she heard Jugs.”Thanks,” “I can’t shake him!” Cloudy screamed, her transmission cut short by a burst of static.”Boss?” Goose inquired, the question hanging in the air.”Stay on target.” Erica called, her voice stony.”You can’t leave her to die!” Rebel exclaimed.”Stay on target, that’s an order!””We have to help her!””You turn that ship around and I’ll burn you myself,” the Boss declared in a tone so icy it froze Rebel’s heart.Rebel bit back an angry reply and turned her head back to the immense ship now filling her view screen. Six thousand, five thousand, four thousand. On the all green she triggered the launch with all her pain and anger and pulled up hard. Again the dizzying sense of vertigo and then heavy Gs as she accelerated away. She wasn’t exhilarated now, she was sick to her stomach and hot tears were pouring down her cheeks.The blast effects were worse this time and Rebel fought the bucking ship’s controls with grim determination. When she came out of it, she leveled off, to find herself alone in space. No fleet of ships, nothing.”Thanks for the assist, Boss flight. Looks like the lizards decided to take their toys and go home.””What we’re here for,” Boss replied.”Form up on me, those of you with torpedoes left, disarm them.””Boss,” Thunder called.”Go ahead Thunder.” “Cowboy got launched late. He’s on a different frequency, wanted me to let you know he’s got your lost duckling. She’s nursing her ship in. It’s beat to hell, radio’s out, but she flashed him with her blinker and she’s all right.””Thanks, Thunder. We owe you boys a drink.””Lets call it even, if we had been faster you wouldn’t have had to worry about her. Meet you all at Bel’s, Thunder out.”***While the rest of the group made ready to head for York and Bel’s place, Erica donned her dress blues. She had quietly picked the Goose to accompany her to the meeting. She had no idea what kind, only that Captain Quarrels left her a message she needed to attend along with a brief and cryptic warning to be prepared for anything.”Hurry up, it’s a meeting not a date, fer Christ’s sakes,” the Goose called.Erica donned her cap, checked her reflection in the mirror and joined the tall blonde in the jeep.”What’s this about, Boss?” Goose asked as she negotiated the heavy traffic in the service corridor. “I don’t know, but something tells me it isn’t good,” Erica replied pensively. “You know I’ll hold you personally responsible if I miss getting laid tonight,” Goose said, trying to lighten her superior’s mood. “You expect sympathy from me?” Erica countered.”It isn’t my fault you build walls around yourself, Erica,” Mindy replied seriously. In her time on the ship she had never used the boss’s first name, but she did so here.”No, I suppose there is no one to blame but myself,” she replied in a quiet voice.They rode in silence after that, Erica was deep in thought and the Goose was afraid she would over step her bounds if she got going. They took a lift up to C deck and proceeded to the conference room. Two MPs in shock armor and armed with assault rifles stood guard. A Lt. Commander also stood outside.”Name,” he demanded.”Davies, Erica. Captain.”He checked a list and motioned them inside. Warning lights went off in the tall Air Boss’s head as she stepped in. Around the table sat Captain Quarrels, three admirals, two vice admirals, the ship’s engineer, executive officer, and department heads, a man she pegged as a fighter pilot and a civilian.”Gentlemen, my Air Boss,” Captain Quarrels said. An old admiral, with graying hair and leathery skin rose immediately.”I wish to thank you Captain, your people really pulled our bacon out of the fire.””Not just her people, Paul, she lead the flight personally,” Quarrels added.”There will be enough time for ass kissing when we are done,” the civilian said in an affected high falsetto. He was a pretty-boy, with long hair, white skin and a double chin, wearing voluminous robes that Erica felt would be more appropriate on a stripper. It was however haute court and she immediately pegged him as a politico. Probably a courtier as well.”Please be seated, Captain,” another admiral said. He was a tall man, with red hair and ruddy skin, a big roman nose and dark, intense eyes. His uniform seemed to barely fit around his barrel chest and his stance was ramrod straight.”Before we begin in earnest, I’ll pass out the sugar, since there is damn little of it before we get to the vinegar. Captain Quarrels, by order of His Majesty, you are elevated to the rank of admiral and will assume leadership of seventh fleet.””Some command, what’s left of seventh fleet? This old derelict and a few destroyers. When will sufficient force be in place to defend the eastern arm?” the civilian demanded. The big admiral gritted his teeth before continuing.”Captain Davies, by order of his majesty, you are elevated to Chief of Air Operations, seventh fleet, with a commensurate advance in rank to commander.””Wonderful. My prefecture is practically unguarded and you military types are passing out ribbons,” the fop said sarcastically.The big admiral turned on him with such fury in his eyes the thin man visibly cowered. The admiral mastered himself and spoke in an icy calm voice.”I am sure his majesty will be heartened to know his prefect greets his decrees with such enthusiasm. Perhaps I should send the security tape of this meeting to him, so that he can see for himself how supportive you are of his decisions and military staff.”Erica had to suppress a laugh as the young man’s face blanched. His mouth worked, but no words would come and he seemed to shrink back into his chair. The admiral turned back to the table, ignoring the prefect’s discomfiture.”Quick introductions. I’m Admiral Harris, C-in-C for the fifth military district. This is Admiral Tibbets, Yalo area commander,” he said, gesturing to the man who had said thanks earlier. He nodded to Erica and gave her an encouraging smile.”The quiet gent next to him is Admiral Hosegawa, Liaison with the general staff.”The elderly, oriental man nodded gravely.”This is Vice Admiral Ricks, commander of Starbase Five,” he said, indicating a dashing young man with a black goatee. Erica glanced at him once and made a snap judgment, she had met him before. A hundred times, in a hundred different guises and with a hundred different commands. Career military, hard driving but fair. He, and hundreds like him were the backbone of the Authority Navy. The men on the firing lines who made the tough decisions and wore the inner scars to prove it.”And Vice Admiral Grew, Liaison officer with command, research and development, Navy.””The fat fellow, typically out of uniform is Bill Torbin, and leads the interceptor squadron.””Call me Rambler,” he said, extending a hand which was firm and strong.Erica had met him too, a thousand times over. Tough, competent, a pilot’s pilot. The kind of man who led by example and was always in the thick of it. He was alive today because he was that good and his men would charge hell with a bucket of water for him.The big man started to speak, but paused. “Oh, and this gentleman,” he managed to make the word an epitaph with his tone, “is Prefect Lombra, of the eastern arm.” “Now to business!’ he said clapping his hands and rubbing them together.”Jack?””It isn’t pretty Ed,” Vice Admiral Ricks began, “the base is about forty percent depressurized. We lost a bit over s*******n percent shield capacity and one battery of mass drivers is inoperative. Vin estimates he can get the drivers back online in seventy two hours, but it will take six months to get hull integrity back to one hundred percent. If the Yorktown hadn’t showed up when she did and if they hadn’t pressed the attack and if the results hadn’t been so spectacular, I’m afraid we would have been goners. That’s a lot of ifs coming together to save us and we can’t count on it again.””Paul?””We’ve sent a recall to all line ships of the Seventh that were on TDD. That’s two battle cruisers, Gallant and Defiant. Three heavy cruisers, two light jobs and about forty destroyers. They should all be in within the next seven days.””What do we have right now?””The battleship Potempkin should be out of the fleet repair dock within thirty-two hours. The heavy cruisers Hawthorn and Graves, light cruiser Pygmalion, and s*******n modern destroyers.””That’s it?” Harris asked, visibly shaken.”A handful of patrol craft. The obsolescent battlecruiser Mines. That’s it.””Good lord,” the big man said, sinking into his chair.”We got hurt.””All destroyed?” he said, regaining some composure.”No. We only lost the carriers, auxiliary carriers, six battle ships, twelve heavy cruisers, thirty-odd destroyers and the minesweeper Dove. The rest either made their way to the fleet yards at Camperdoon or were towed there. The first reports made it out to be a lot worse than it was, you know the story Ed. A fleeing soldier counts every foeman twice and every casualty three times. That said, we had a lot of total hull breeches,” he said quietly.”Casualties?””Not totaled, but in six months we’ll have a lot more ships than we do crew.””Hosegawa?””Sixth fleet, Third fleet and the Home fleet are being mobilized, but expecting their arrival in less than one hundred and twenty days would be dangerously optimistic. Even when they do arrive, the weight of broadside will not be significantly higher than Seventh fleet had at the time of the attack. Even then, I seriously doubt they will be committed to action until their carriers are outfitted with the new fighters and torpedoes.””How long will that take?” he said, turning to Grew.”The Skoda works are retooling all lines to produce the modified Corsairs,” Vice Admiral Grew responded.”Assuming the change over goes well, and assuming they hit full production and assuming there are no interruptions in the raw material supply, I still can’t see them being able to outfit a single fleet air arm for at least six months.” “And the torpedoes?””We’ll be lucky if enough can be produced in the first three months to keep this ship’s air complement stocked. After that, production should skyrocket when the Amspurn and Quintilla armories come online.””Admiral Quarrels, how long can you hold out here?””I think that question is better answered by my Air Boss, the ship’s guns will only play a minor role in any defense.””Commander?”Erica considered her words before she spoke.”Am I right in assuming this new ship class is still a small percentage of the Trog fleet and is being used as a kind of shock attack group?” “Our intelligence points to that. I think it’s a safe assumption.””In a nutshell then. I have thirty-six pilots, forty-two fighters and just under five hundred torpedoes. The Trog have over a thousand ships and god only knows how many fighters. Sooner or later they are going to realize what hit them and they will adapt their tactics. That means beefed up direct fire escorts and more fighter cover for the capital ships. Had they understood the threat, they would have stood and fought. If that had happened, they would have won. They can afford to lose thirty capital ships for every fighter they destroy and should they destroy Yorktown, that will be all remaining fighters and our stock of torpedoes. When they come back, they are going to win, unless we have more fighters and more pilots on the way I don’t know about.””That’s defeatism!” the prefect yelled.”It’s a pragmatic assessment of the situation, your grace,” Erica replied.”Have her arrested, immediately!” he demanded of Admiral Harris.”Guards!” the big man roared.In moments a team of troopers poured into the room. They looked around tensely, as if they expected Trogs to be everywhere.”escort that twit out of here,” he said, pointing a stubby finger at the prefect.”You can’t do this!” he squalled, but the guards paid no notice to his curses, his threats or the dignity of his office, simply manhandling him out of the room. When quiet was restored they all looked at one another and slowly everyone, even the stoic Hosegawa, broke out into grins.”Nice move, Ed,” Admiral Tibbets said.”Damned civilians. He was right about one thing though, that’s a pretty bleak assessment, Commander.””I’m not an ass-kisser sir, you asked for my opinion, I gave it.””Quite right, I did. So in your opinion, we’re licked?”Erica didn’t know what to say. She hated to admit it, but she really didn’t see any way out.”She didn’t say that, sir,” the Goose piped up.”Who are you?” Harris demanded.”She’s one of mine,” Erica responded quickly, “go ahead Goose,””What the Boss was saying was we don’t have a chance, IF we sit and let them figure out what hit them and come back. Despite the fact we took a beating, we now have the advantage. If we press them, go over to the attack and keep them off balance, we could well buy enough time to regroup and get our production facilities up to speed.”Erica had thought no such thing, but the Goose quickly stepped back, leaving her to expound upon the idea.”Well, at the very least they won’t expect it,” Harris said in an awed tone.”Thoughts?” he asked after no one spoke up.”We have two capital ships, just a handful of escorts, only a madman would attack with that. At least here, they can supplement the station’s mass drivers,” Ricks said.”Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Hosegawa said thoughtfully. All eyes turned to him, but he took a while before he spoke again.”The Trog jump here from three systems. At any one time their fleets are divided between those systems. Theoretically, if we attack, we will face only about a third of their fleet. If we force that fleet to retreat, it will make it impossible for it to link up with other elements. A jump to a non-defended system would then force them to come after us. The Trog think very linearly. They can’t know how much damage they inflicted or our fleet strength here. With a fleet driving into their interior and no idea what awaits them here, they will most likely leave screening forces on the border and go after that fleet with all they have.””And when they catch it, they will annihilate it and return, more sure than ever they can take Yalo,” Tibbets opined.”They have to catch us first,” Erica said.”And they will, Commander, eventually they will.””But the key word there is eventually. We aren’t talking about having to run forever, merely leading them a merry chase that takes a few months,” Quarrels said.”But they will catch you and when they do, they will destroy you to a man,” Ricks stated flatly.”Perhaps. But we will be just as dead, if they concentrate force here at Yalo. At least if we take it to them, we stand a chance of surviving and our deaths, if that should be our fate, will serve to buy time.””I would point out that you will have to take on bombardment ordinance. Are your pilots prepared to rain death on unprotected worlds?””I don’t know. My pilots are green,” Erica said thoughtfully.”Mine are,” Rambler said, “Every man jack of them has lost friends and most saw the ruins of Deneb IV after the Trog let loose on the planet.””All right. Paul, what can we send on this offensive in say, one week’s time?” Harris queried.”How much do you want to leave for defense?””Nothing. I want the call sent out to every system to send their system defense boats.””They’re mostly obsolete destroyers, Ed.””I know, but they create a sensor signature. That’s the best defense we have now, deception.””In that case, they can have all of the seventh fleet units that arrive. I have a handful of fighter pilots we can send, to bolster the cover groups.””Provisions?”‘The base’s stores weren’t hit, we can outfit a fleet this small with ease from our own stocks,” Ricks added. Erica felt good that she had been right about him. He made his argument, but when out voted, threw himself into helping anyway he could, including putting his own folks on short rations.”What about parts?” the Goose asked. Although not of flag rank, no one seemed ready to question her speaking.”The carrier Kurishima wasn’t totally destroyed. The hulk was towed out of the way to keep it from being a navigation hazard. I can send some salvage crews. The hanger decks were more or less intact, I’m sure some of the parts lockers survived,” Ricks said.Erica got the feeling the ship wasn’t in bad shape or a navigational hazard, but had been towed out of sight for morale. If that was so, they could even hope for a few more fighters.”Excellent. Paul, you and Jack coordinate with Admiral Quarrels. Get the small ships to work within the hour ferrying out supplies. As the TDD ships arrive, make sure they are fully stocked too. I’ll get our people to work on the salvage project. Grew, see if you can get a fast freighter to drop its load and pick up any torpedoes or fighters at the R & D center, give it top priority clearance. We’ll meet back here on Sunday for a final briefing. Quarrels, give your non-essential people base leave.”***Rebel eased into a seat at Bel’s and ordered a scotch, which is what she had been drinking the last time according to Cloudy. The Indian woman was dancing with Cowboy, the pilot who had saved her. Jugs was at the old guard table, apparently she had caught Surfer’s eye. Lou was back and forth, between this table and others. She seemed to be making friends everywhere and Rebel envied her for that.The entire place was suffused with an air of celebration, but Rebel wasn’t part of it. Not because anyone was keeping her from joining in, in fact Lou, Cloudy, Jugs, even Lucky had tried to get her to join in the fun, but she felt apart from everyone. Like a spectator at the big game, she was watching it all, but detached from it. She had killed today. Not just a single person, no she had killed on a grand scale. She had been credited with a Trog heavy cruiser and a battleship. Even the Boss had only scored a cruiser and battlecruiser, making Rebel the Ace of the day. While everyone else had been celebrating she had plugged into the ship’s computer and looked at the specs on those ships. Just under five thousand crewmen had died in less than ten minutes. All by her hand.She had known a few veterans, deserters mostly, who talked about the horror or war. The spoke in hushed whispers about looking into a man’s eyes as you killed him. About a million other things that made each death seem personal. Compared to what she had just done, sticking a bayonet into a man’s ribs seemed clean. Maybe it was different in the army. Rebel had decided in the Navy, the horror of war wasn’t personal, the most horrific thing was how impersonal it was. Five thousand deaths and what did that earn her? A lot of congratulations. A few offers to buy her a drink. Another day at the office. It bothered her now, but even that was perverse. When she pulled the trigger it had been with exhilaration and when she thought they had killed Cloudy, she had hated like she never thought possible. No one else seemed to be wanting to reflect on it or maybe they were drinking, partying and planning on screwing so they didn’t have to think about it. She wasn’t sure.She had been the first to embrace the Indian woman when she made it back. Tears of joy spilling down her cheeks. They had both been embarrassed, but Cloudy had winked just before the rest of the group showed up. Rebel slipped away after hearing how a pilot in Texas Thunder had showed up in the nick of time for the third time. That same pilot was dancing with Cloudy now.She kept glancing at the old guard table, hoping to see the Boss. As the night wore on and the drinks kept coming, even the faint hope of seeing her diminished until Rebel was too drunk to care.***”Jeezus Christ, Lucky. We’ve been doing this shit for six days running, give us a break?” Jugs whined.”Ain’t my fault, sweety. Blame the Goose. You c***dren aren’t hitting more than eighty-five percent of your side and rear quarter approaches and that just won’t cut it. Frankly, I think you’ve all hurt her feelings.” Lucky teased. “My feelings only get hurt when my girl has a headache.” Goose replied.”See? Can’t you tell she’s heartbroken?””Lucky? Fuck you.””Anytime you’re ready, Goose.””Talk to me when you can hit more than eighty-five percent of your side on approaches.””Ouch!” someone called.Lou suppressed a laugh and armed the two missiles on her ship. She was one of those who was hitting better than ninety percent and hoped she would get the afternoon off. The round the clock flying had worn on everyone and her in particular. Flying was an incredible rush for her and she now felt like she had a hangover. She desperately needed a long sleep rather than the cat naps she had been grabbing. Actually, she needed a good session with Lucky and her big friend, then a few hours sleep, she thought with a sexy smile.”Tell you what Goose, what say if I hit this one, you come to my quarters and put out for me?” “And if you miss?””Then you come back to my place and put out!” Lucky replied, laughing like a hyena. Several other girls joined her.”Knock it off,” Rebel commanded.”Yes, ma’am!” Lucky replied.Lou marveled at that. Rebel had been named flight leader of black flight. She hadn’t seemed to be too happy about it. In fact, she had been very withdrawn and distant since their first combat experience. She meant to talk to her, but Lou had a healthy streak of caution in her and just plain old common sense. Something was eating the short woman and when it came out, Lou had no doubt it would be explosive. As much as she wanted to help, she didn’t want to get caught in the blast.”Black flight, form on me,” Rebel called.Lucky was flying with them, to give Rebel the feel of a full flight. Once they formed up Rebel spoke again.”Accelerate to attack speed.”Lou eased the throttle forward, blushing when she remembered her lessons in thrust. Their target today was an old destroyer called the Thames. It had been “killed” about a thousand times in the last week.Lou watched the numbers fall and eyeballed her release point. Everyone wondered how she did so well at this and she had refused to say. The reason was that she had been a champion dodge ball player back home. Much of that had to do with hitting someone with the ball and she had become adept at judging motion. This run proved to be even easier when the small ship started to wallow to port. Two more shots. Two more hits. Ninety-seven percent on the week and an afternoon of snoozing were hers. After a long session of getting her brains fucked out, of course.***They were all assembled in the conference room again, minus the prefect and most of the department heads.”Well?” Admiral Harris said.”The ship and her escorts are all primed, fully provisioned and ready to go,” Ricks said.”Recovery on the Kurishima went better than expected, Yorktown will leave with a full complement of one hundred and fifty fighters plus parts. Unfortunately, we only managed to find another eighteen combat-effective pilots. So that will give them less than one hundred and thirty available fighters for any sortie.””Research and development managed to round up another eight fighters and two hundred and seventy five torpedoes. One fighter was damaged beyond salvage in the defense of the starbase so Commander Davies will start with fifty-nine Corsairs.””Yorktown is ready, operating at one hundred percent efficiency, according to the old girl,” Quarrels reported.”I have some good news from signals intelligence,” Harris said with a grin.”Our cold blooded friends have no idea what hit them.””How is that possible?” Hosegawa asked.”Well, it’s part a big gun mentality and partly due to this ancient battlewagon. Yorktown class battleships were removed from the registry of active warships two or three hundred years before we ever encountered the Trog. Since their intelligence on our ships and ship types come from captured ships, they have never seen anything quite like her. Fifteen inch PPCs in turrets look nothing like today’s thirty sixes, which you all know are mounted in tandem centerline.”Everyone looked at him expectantly and when what he was saying didn’t register he continued.”Basically they put two and two together and got five. New ship type. New gun design. Massive damage…””They think the Yorktown blasted those ships!” Quarrels blurted. “According to the signals boys, that’s what they think,” Harris said smiling.”About time we caught a break,” Tibbets said.”This mission is approved by the high command, but they stress it is offered, not ordered,” Hosegawa said after the laughter died down.All eyes turned to Erica. She cleared her throat and paused before replying.”My pilots are hitting about ninety percent of the time. Taking into account the uncertainty of combat conditions, my weapons expert estimates that will translate to no better than a fifty percent hit to fire ratio. Considering the devastating effect of the torpedoes, I say we go with what we have. We’ll jump to Alpha One and beard the lion in his den. If we fail, we fall. If we succeed…””We’ll face that challenge when it comes,” Quarrels finished for her.”I don’t have to tell you the level of bravery and commitment you are showing. Nor do I have the words to express the awe and respect of those who send you into harm’s way. And I certainly could never express the hope of the trillions whose very existence rests with your bold gambit. What I can do is this,” he said, reaching under the table and producing two bottles with red ribbons on them. “Scotch. Thirty year old single malt. Distilled in Conewegh, in Scotland, on old earth.”Erica’s jaw nearly hit the floor as she accepted the dark green glass bottle. A parting gift of booze from an admiral was out of the ordinary, but not unheard of. A bottle of real earth alcohol was. She hadn’t met five people in her life who even claimed to have had real scotch. The stuff was rarer than gold and far more precious. Even planetary governors couldn’t afford such a luxury.”I only ask that you at least crack the bottle tonight and lift a toast to the Navy.””Aye-aye, sir,” they replied in unison.***Rebel sat quietly in her fighter, staring stoically down the long chute of the catapult. Black flight would launch first, with Cloudy, Jugs and Lou coming out from the portside launchers and herself and a new girl, Troy, coming from the starboard. Texas Thunder would be launching as their cover group. Five groups, five fighters in each. Rowdy flight. The Lucky Strikes. Surfer girls. The Goslings. And her group, Black flight.It didn’t seem possible that she would be leading a group. Out of all the graduates and ten veterans, it just boggled her mind that she had been selected. She wondered why, pondered it, went over it in her mind and still came up with a giant question mark.Six months ago she was the ultimate outsider, now she wore a brevet lieutenant’s bars. She wasn’t even in charge of herself and now she had four people’s lives in her hands. If the weight of it didn’t kill her, the Trog probably would.”Five minutes till we exit hyperspace,” the Cap officer called.Five minutes. You could live a lifetime in five minutes if you were a fighter pilot. Out there in the cold, hard vacuum of space, life was measured in split seconds. She wished Cloudy had been made flight leader, but understood why she hadn’t. She was in love. Stupid, sappy, in love with the pilot they all called Cowboy and she called Dran. She was still one of the best, but she was so caught up in him that she wasn’t all there and the Boss had noticed it.The Boss. That was her real problem. They fought when she got her promotion. They fought when she was made a flight commander. Every time they were near each other Rebel lost her temper. Like clockwork. And what really killed her was, Erica Davies was the one person in the world she wanted to impress. Instead she always came off feeling like she was acting like a petulant c***d. Five minutes. It was enough time to think yourself to death.***Alpha one. The system was the first of those that was controlled by the Trog. It consisted of a binary star pair, with some fifteen planets. The Trog had colonized the third and forth planets out from the star pair. The system was a border world and so they had constructed a fleet repair dock, battlestation and some static defenses on the various outer worlds. The fleet stayed close to the occupied planets and batlestation. Beyond that, they knew very little about what they would face.On the far edge of this system, space twinkled, dissolved into a fuzzy patch where outlines were blurred, and then cleared, to reveal the Terran battle fleet, where before there had been only blackness.”Tactical,” Captain Quarrels demanded. The view screen immediately had a tactical map overlaid on the view field.”Now tracking three hundred and ninety-five hostiles,” the computer reported.”Foghats?””None.”Quarrels turned to Erica and smiled. They had won the first throw of the dice, picking a sector that had none of the new super ships with the strange code name. She smiled back, pressing a button on her repeater screen. She would have preferred to be in combat, but as Air Boss, she would be coordinating and she just couldn’t accomplish it from the cockpit.”Fleet order, Line ahead,” Quarrels barked, as the huge ship began to overcome inertia and move towards the enemy fleet. Potempkin took the lead, being the lone battleship, Yorktown eased in behind her, followed by the battlecruisers Gallant and Defiant. The heavy cruisers Hawthorn, Graves, Triton, Imperious and God’s Hand formed the rest of the battle line. Destroyers and light cruisers darted out to the edges, forming a protective ring around the heavies.”Beginning launch operations,” Erica reported.As the fleet moved slowly forward, gaining speed, the catapults and launch bays came alive, filling the empty space with multitudes of small ships.***”Black flight, form on me,” Rebel called, trying to keep the excitement from her voice.”Roger,” Cloudy called.”Right with you,” Lou responded.”On you,” Jugs called.”With you sir,” Troy reported. “Thunder?””Got your six, Rebel,” he said in the drawl she was getting used to over the tac net. He didn’t talk like that in person and Rebel thought he affected the drawl so he always seemed calm to his pilots. “Black flight in position,” she reported on the air ops net.”Roger Black flight, hold your position,” the Boss’s clipped response came.A few minutes of lonely calls as orphans found their flights and the whole air wing jockeyed into position. “Listen up. We have six cruisers and three destroyers who have separated from the main group. Black flight and the Rowdies, disengage from the wing and proceed to take them out,””On it,” Red, the leader of the Rowdies called. “Roger,” Rebel called, switching back to the tac net. “We’re going after that group of stragglers, follow me.”Rebel accelerated to attack speed and her group pulled away from the wing and quickly opened the distance from the Terran fleet. “Arm torpedoes,” she called, before opening the safety locks and arming both of hers.The cruisers were broadside to her, apparently attempting to sprint out and form a wedge that would trap the Terran fleet between two forces. “I’ve got fighters coming, Thunder,””I see ’em. All right boys, the lizards want to play, let’s go humor them,” he called. Erica watched as the six Ghostdogs flashed past them and accelerated towards the incoming fighters. At fifty thousand clicks they were buffeted by missiles, but the majority passed by them and even those that were close enough couldn’t penetrate the Corsair’s formidable shields. “Paint your targets,” Rebel said. When she depressed the red button her computer cycled through several of the cruisers before finding one that wasn’t already painted. This method of selecting targets was primitive, but with so few torpedoes and such a good rate of killing with one shot, it prevented several pilots from selecting the same target, over killing it while letting others get by uns**thed. She moved now to line up on her target, watching as the numbers fell on the targeting scope.”It’s away,” someone called.The declaration was followed by several more in a short span, but Rebel was on the farthest ship and so had to close more than the others. This put her in the most danger, as the running torpedoes would already be nearing their FTL boost before she even fired, putting her much closer to the explosions. She accepted that, the way Erica had when she lead. It was part of being a flight leader.When her scope went green she fired and pulled up hard. She jammed her throttle to wide open, risking black out to get as much distance as she could from the blasts that would come any second.***”Get out of there, get out of there, get out of there,” Erica whispered under her breath as she watched Black flight’s attack run.”Boss?””Yes,” she snapped, looking up quickly.”We’ve got two groups of bogies approaching from planetside,” the sensor tech informed her.”Rambler, you have bogies coming, two o’clock low,” she called after examining her scope.”Roger Boss, engage?””Affirm.””Goose, take your fighters and move them to quadrant three in the protection grid, engage any fighters that get through at your discretion.””Roger.”Erica glanced back at the scope.”Black flight, Rowdies, reform and close on this vector,””Roger,” Red called.”Affirm,” Cloudy said.The Indian’s voice rattled her. She desperately wanted to ask if Rebel was all right, but her professionalism prohibited her from doing so. Inside, however, she was dying.***The first thing she was aware of was her suit. It was slack on her body rather than tight. The next thing was the smell of ozone and burned plastic. She remembered pulling up, remembered giving the fighter all it had, and remembered vaguely the massive thump that seemed to lift her fighter and threw her forward so violently that her head had smashed into the canopy.The control board was fried, with black scars where fires had burned and melted plastic covering most of the dials, not that they were working. She tried to move and was rewarded with throbbing pain from her shoulders where her harness had stopped her forward momentum.”Fuck,” she said, enunciating the word like a prayer.It was dead silent, no buzz from the tac net, no hum of the engines. Far, far away she saw the lights and explosions of a battle through her shattered canopy. From here, it was beautiful and the tranquility around her lent an even more surreal quality to the scene. With no boards she was going to be doing a lot of guessing, and the first had to be the engines. She felt no throb, heard no sound, so she guessed they were dead. She flipped up the safety cover on the manual start and tensed, as she hit the switch. If they were already on, she might well blow her ship up, but she had no choice.There was a solid thunking sound and jolt, followed by the hum and lights winking on.She sighed heavily, only then realizing she had been holding her breath. She saw steam when she breathed out and realized it was freezing in the cockpit. She must have been out for quite some time. “Rebel to Black flight, anyone copy?” she called. Silence greeted her, not even the white noise that would let her know she was transmitting or receiving. She placed her hand on the throttle and then removed it. Her suit was still slack. Looking down she saw the floor of the cockpit was coated with black fluid. She returned her hand to the throttle and eased it forward, again holding her breath. The ship smoothly accelerated. She couldn’t believe how far away from the ships she was. And she didn’t dare use more than a quarter power without her flight suit. It was going to be a long ride home.She brought up her stores list and fired both her copperheads, then tried to fire her lone remaining torpedo. Nothing happened when she depressed the trigger. It sat their in her stores list, glowing red. She opened the switch and tried to disarm it, but nothing happened. Giving up on lightening the load and decreasing her danger, she aimed towards the far distant battle and throttled up.***Cloudy pulled the stick violently to starboard and kicked down on the rudder pedal while jamming the throttle to full. Her vision clouded with red as she pulled nearly negative ten Gs at the top of the inverted loop. Her ship came out of it, with the bastard who had been pummeling her rear shields directly in front of her. She flipped the selector on her stick from auxiliary to primary and took the slack out of her trigger. Eight PPCs fired, sending bluish arcs of light into the enemy fighter. It wavered and then exploded in a ball of flame. “Help!” Lou screamed. Since the first attack run, things had gone swiftly downhill. They had lost Rebel and Cloudy had taken over. The Air Boss had vectored them onto a contingent of battlecruisers that seemed to be making for the fleet. Their torpedoes had decimated it, but in the confusion they had lost the covering ghostdogs and were now surrounded by enemy fighters.Cloudy frantically looked for Lou, she saw the country girl’s ship away and below her. The tall Indian nosed over into a dive.”Run straight, Lou,” she commanded. “Straight? Are you out of your friggin mind?!!””Just do it!” Cloudy ordered.Lou’s ship leveled out and the fighter behind it did so as well, to get the killing shot, but in doing so he flattened his flight path right into Cloudy’s guns. She flipped her selector from guns to missiles, got tone and launched her remaining copperhead. The small missle shot off her wing pylon and tracked right into the Trog’s tail, obliterating the stout fighter in a silent explosion. “How bad are you hit?” Cloudy asked as she swooped in and took up station in Lou’s six, a little behind and above her.”All kinds of electrical problems Cloudy, and it’s responding sluggishly.””Jugs?””A minute,” came the clipped reply.After a few seconds of silence, one of the Rowdies called, “Thanks Jugs,””What ya need?” the blonde called.”Form up on Lou. We’ve lost Rebel and Troy, I’m taking us in,” Cloudy said.”Roger.””Boss?” Cloudy called. “Go ahead,” the boss replied.”I’m bringing Black flight in,” Cloudy said.”Roger, use the center landing bay, How many you bringing in?””Three, but we are nursing a cripple,””Roger, get your cripple in, then join up with the Lucky Strikes. They are rearming for another sortie,””Roger,”Cloudy heard something in the Boss’s voice. A kind of dead flatness that lacked resonance. She wondered what it meant.***”Fifteen battleships approaching,” a sensor tech shouted.”Thirty degree turn to port, all guns to fire at the turn!” Quarrels bellowed.Erica braced herself as the big ship began to turn, a deep, throaty boom echoed through the ship, followed by more as the ancient PPCs added their volume to the outgoing fire. The ship suddenly shuddered and the power went down to emergency lighting.”Damage report,” the Admiral demanded.”All communications out below G deck!” a tech shouted.Another massive blow rocked the old warhorse and Erica struggled up from her seat.”Where are you going?’ Quarrels shouted.”Hangar deck!” she shouted back, stumbling as the deck rocked beneath her under another hammer blow.Erica took the lift down to the hangar deck, it opened on a scene of chaos. Fires burned and the service corridor was choked with massive I beams and smaller debris. She ran down the hall, climbing over and dodging under debris. Farther along she had to shove her way through the press of wounded and bewildered civilians and deck crews.Thankfully the hangar deck was in good shape and she tore off her uniform as she crossed the bay. Her ship sat on the ready alert catapult and she jumped on the wing while kicking off her shoes. Chavez tossed her boots up to her and unchoked the wheels as she pulled them on. Another massive blow rocked the old ship as Erica settled into the cockpit, nearly taking the short tech off the wing. She held on grimly, attaching hoses to Erica’s flight suit, which she had worn under her uniform.As soon as the helmet was on, Chavez closed the canopy and leaped off the wing. Erica hit the launch button and switched to her secondary weapon as she accelerated. Once in space, she flipped the red covers and armed the torpedoes. Two of the battleships were directly in front of her, at about thirty thousand yards. They were the ones hammering the Yorktown.Erica accelerated to attack speed and brought the targeting reticule to one, then the other. At four thousand yards she launched, but rather than pull up she slewed her ship violently to one side, gained tone on the other and launched her second torpedo before pulling up and boosting away from the doomed ships. She didn’t know it, but at almost the same time, the Lucky Strikes had fired on the two ships companions. The vaporizing of a battleship squadron was too much for the Trogs. Less than a minute later their ravaged fleet jumped, leaving the system to the Terrans.***It was a quiet night in Bel’s place, but the old warrior wasn’t happy. He kept turning his eyes to the regulars’ table and the Air Boss, who seemed intent on drinking herself into a c***. Bel was a good man and he understood how the losses of a major battle could wear on the officers. He also understood the dangers of letting alcohol give solace and he was more than passingly familiar with the Air Boss’s past.He had been debating and ruminating for about an hour when she called for another bottle. That had done it for him. Once he delivered it to her table he slipped to the phone in the rear and made the call.Less than twenty minutes later, Tucker walked in. “Let’s go, Boss,” he said, striding up to her table. “Fuck you,” she slurred.Tucker didn’t even flinch, but turned to the three pilots at the bar. They were all new and had been part of the last training class.”Turn your backs,” Tucker ordered.Despite outranking him now and despite being off duty, they all complied instantly. The burly Sergeant Major grabbed Erica by the shoulders and hauled her to her feet. She started to curse at him, but he hit her, his balled fist striking right on the point of her chin and driving consciousness out of her. Her body collapsed back onto the table.He picked her up, slung her limp form over his shoulder and walked out, pausing only to toss a handful of script on the bar.She came to in the Jeep as it bounced over the hastily laid temporary coverings that masked the deep scars in the old ship’s deck plates.She groaned, and then sat up, rubbing her chin.”Tuck?””Almost home, Boss,” he replied.”I’m going to cut Bel’s balls off the next time I see him,” she said. Tucker wasn’t surprised she was lucid. It took a hell of a lot to get her drunk and even ripped she could fool most people. She had made it five months in a combat command, drunk off her ass. “Say something, Tucker,” she demanded.He knew better. She just needed something to latch onto and the tirade would begin. If he left her to her own devices, she would be asleep before they made her quarters. When they got there Tucker lifted her out of the jeep and put her to bed. Walking out of her quarters he found the Goose standing next to the jeep, resting a foot on the running board.”Figured you would be getting some of that redhead’s pussy,” Tucker said.”She’s working, all the techs are, I’ll be lucky if I get laid again this month.””What brings you here?””Worried about the Boss. I know you watch over her, but there are some things a woman can only tell another woman. Feel like letting me in on it?”He didn’t respond but climbed into the jeep. When he looked at her, she shrugged and got in with him. He said nothing as they made the long drive back to York. He stopped outside Bel’s and they both went in and got a seat. Bel brought them both their regular drinks and Tucker savored his before speaking.”Don’t suppose you know much about the Boss,” he began.”No more than she’s told me, which I admit isn’t much,” Goose acknowledged. Tucker nodded slightly, refilled his tumbler and seemed lost in thought for a while.”Ever hear of Quantro?” he said at last.”No,” she said.”Doesn’t surprise me. The place that doesn’t exist. It was a border world, out near Persephone. The population fucked up and let some religious nut get control. First thing he did was declare God, not the emperor, was supreme and that the planet was seceding from the empire.””Good lord.” “Yeah. Well, no surprise that went over like a turd in the punch bowl on Earth and the three seventy-fifth was dispatched on the carrier Ajax to deal with it. Planetary rebellion, no big deal right? Wrong. This holly roller had purchased a shit load of old CVD-Tomcats. Caught us with our pants down and most of the air wing was annihilated. Among those killed was the boss’s fiancé, William Tripper.”Goose sipped her drink and waited. She had never known Tucker to say so much, and he seemed lost in memories now. A good judge of character, she figured he would speak again only when ready. In the end it was almost half the bottle of whiskey before he spoke.”Trips was a son of a bitch. He treated the Boss worse than a whore. Cheated on her with every piece of ass that came along. Everyone could see it but her. Most of us were glad to see him gone, but the boss…she loved him, ya know?””Yeah, I’ve been there,” Goose replied.Tucker looked at her hard and then nodded.”Yeah, you have the look. We knocked all the fighters out, were getting ready to send in the marines to retake the capitol when word came down…”She waited a long time, but he seemed to have stopped talking.”What word?””No invasion. An example had to be made.””And?” “Total sterilization of the planet, by thermonuclear bombardment.” He said grimly. “My god!” Goose exclaimed.”There is no God.” He declared bitterly, before killing the tumbler and taking his next hit directly from the bottle.”Twenty-three,” he whispered.He seemed to be struggling with himself, so the next words came out haltingly, with long pause between.”She was twenty-three…Just a k** who joined up to avoid jail time for being unregistered…Lost her first lover…then they ordered her to kill four and a half billion people…in cold blood.””Did she do it?””Course she did. What choice did she have? But it unhinged her. She hit the bottle. Hard. I watched. Looked after her. Covered for her. But I couldn’t make it better. She came out of it on her own, after I found her in her quarters with her wrists slit. Hospital time, de-tox, they didn’t bust her. I pulled some strings and Admiral Graff ruled it was stress so they reassigned her here.””You love her, don’t you?” Mindy blurted.”Not like you’re thinking, but yeah, I love her.””Does she always get drunk when she loses pilots?””No. I think it’s losing a particular pilot that got to her.””I don’t get you.” He smiled at her and took another slug of whiskey.”Ever seen her go out? When was the last time she went on a date? Ever seen her even look twice at a male recruit?”Suddenly a light went on in Goose’s head.”No,” she said, shaking her head.”I don’t even think she knows it yet,” he said.”That’s just not possible, Tucker, I’d have known. Lucky or Surfer would have for sure.””Nope. None of you know ’cause she doesn’t, or at least hasn’t admitted it to herself. She don’t act like one, but I think she’s a muff diver,””You sure you kartal escort aren’t just saying that cause you love her and she isn’t interested?” Goose asked. She instantly wished she hadn’t said it, but Tucker only smiled.”I don’t love her that way, little lady. I lost my…equipment in action on Quartermine. Ball-buster mine. She’s more like a daughter to me, and one I have spent a long time watching after. I tried for a while to hook her up with a good man so I wouldn’t have to worry so much. No dice. After a while I started to wonder. So I finally asked a bull dyke friend of mine to talk to her. They hit it off pretty well, nothing sexual, but Cindy told me she was pretty sure the Boss was into girls, but was in denial. I trust that girl, trust her judgment.””So who was she interested in?””Who do you think?””Fuck. Rebel. Has to be.””Give that girl a cigar.”They finished the bottle in silence. Min went home after they parted ways, dodging through the streets that were still being cleared of rubble by deck crews, even at four in the morning. She couldn’t sleep, her head filled with rational denials. By seven the next morning she was out of them and convinced Tucker was right. ***”Captain, we have an unidentified craft approaching,” the sensor tech called.”What kind of craft?””Fighter by the looks of its profile.””Any communication?””No sir,””Scramble the ready alert,”She saw them coming and tensed. Rebel had no way of communicating. Her radio was out and her blinker broken, even the running lights wouldn’t come on. Worse than any of that, she had a live torpedo that she couldn’t disarm. She eased the throttle back to dead idle, killed the engines again and waited as the four fighters surrounded her. They were Ghostdogs. Interceptors and probably would let her have it for the least provocation. She sat and waited while they buzzed her ship. She hoped the leader would be one of the less brain dead ones, but that hope faded as time passed and the cold began to creep back into the cockpit. She desperately wanted to reengage the engines, but she had been through to much to risk being killed by an overzealous reprobate.***Goose was sitting in the Boss’s office when the red bridge phone rang. Tucker was off filling out a fake sickbay report while Goose covered the office. Erica was still sleeping it off in her quarters, but they had taken all her clothes to make sure she stayed there and didn’t ruin the deception. The big sergeant had been grateful for her help, even though he hadn’t said so. “Flight Ops,” she said, after hesitantly lifting the receiver.”I need the Boss,” the voice demanded.”She’s sick, I’m acting. What’s up?””Got an inbound. Ready alert says there is no communication and it looks like one of yours.””I’ll check it out,” Goose said before hanging up.She pondered a moment and then went to the flight line, shedding her uniform in the locker she hastily squeezed into her flight suit and went to the ready alert cat.”Out!” she shouted to the pilot, a thin girl named Victoria, but called Vic the Knife by everyone because of her sharp tongue.Goose climbed up on the wing and helped the girl out before jumping in and attaching her hoses. She then put on her helmet and pulled the canopy down. Goose hit the launch button and was soon in space.”This is bridge to unidentified craft,” her radio squaked.”IFF you dumbass,” she called.”Oh. Sorry…”A few seconds later another voice came on.”Sorry ma’am, we’re trying to train some civilians to take the place of bridge casualties.””Give me a vector to the unidentified craft,” Mindy growled.”Coming up,” he said, her board almost immediately lighting as she turned sharply and followed the beacon.”This is the Goose, what ya got out there, Hammer?” she called after locating the ships and checking the IFF.”Beats me. Looks like one of those fancy ships you girls fly, but this one is beat all to hell.””No communication?” “Not a thing.””Call letters?””What?””Call letters you Neanderthal. You know, the letters they put on the fucking tail so you can identify the fucking ship.””Geeze, don’t be so bitchy. BT-1458B.”Goose ran it through her computer and then ran it again. She couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t make herself believe it, but when she got there and saw for herself she had to believe it.Rebel watched as the Corsair came in close and started a blinkered message. ‘Rebel. If that’s you, accelerate slowly and wag your wings’She quickly did so. Then eased the throttle back until she was at station keeping again. The warm air felt deliciously good and she felt her feet thawing.’Can you jettison torpedo? If so wag wings again’When she didn’t the blinking started again.’Follow me’The ship moved in front of her and began accelerating. Rebel fell in, watching the red light on her board that showed her torpedo was still armed.”Goose to Flight Ops.” “Go ahead, Goose.””I’ve got an injured bird with a hot package. Clear the flight deck. Get the damage control parties and an ambulance. I want a path cleared so get every ship out of the damned way. We are coming in hot on the starboard landing bay.””Roger”Rebel was sweating and shaky. Over twenty-four hours in the cockpit had her limbs numb and the cold had her teetering on the edge of u*********sness. The ship was just a blur through her shattered canopy and she was now fighting the ship, which seemed determined to yaw to starboard.The Corsair in front of her was her only real guide, its running lights a blazing beacon. She locked in on that, shut out all else, the pain, the cold, the fatigue and her quickly ebbing strength.When it broke off, she willed herself to lean forward and peer out. The landing bay was coming up fast, far too fast. She kicked down on the rudder pedals and jerked the throttle into full reverse. Even that wasn’t enough and she braced as the ship hit hard on the deck.The impact jarred the active torpedo loose and it skittered out ahead of her, skipping across the deck in a halo of sparks. Luckily, her approach had been head on and the unguided missile skipped down the length of the bay and out the launch door. Rebel fired the emergency deceleration assists, but they didn’t respond. She was bouncing towards the launch door herself and realized if she went out, she wouldn’t be able to make another pass, her consciousness was ebbing too fast. The young pilot played her last card. She whipped the stick over and fired the thrusters. This threw the ship into a diagonal sk** that brought it up hard against the bulkhead. It broke apart on impact and darkness claimed her.***”Wake up!”Erica groaned and rolled over to escape the unbearably loud voice. Her head was throbbing and her stomach protested violently. The tall Air Boss threw up right there in her bed, heaving until her stomach was empty.Strong arms grabbed her and hauled her out of the soiled bed clothes, propelling her naked body into the bathroom and the icy cold shower that was already running.The shock of it nearly stopped her heart and she struggled feebly against the arms that held her pinned to the side of the shower. She threw up twice more, retching up stomach bile before she was hauled out of the shower.She felt a mask placed over her face and her next breath cleared her head somewhat. A sharp prick in her arm was followed by a pill being jammed down her throat. Her tormentor left her sitting on the commode. The pure oxygen helped and the IV of saline finally got her rehydrated. The pill coated her abused stomach and brought relief to the queasiness. To her shock, Goose walked in with a steaming mug of coffee.”How do you feel?””Like shit.””Drink some coffee. It’s laced with phenobarb, it should bring you around.”Erica sipped the coffee and watched through the doorway as the thin blonde gathered up her bed clothes and dumped them in the chute that lead to Bio. She scowled, then turned the mattress and made the bed.Erica felt good enough to remove the mask and needle. She staggered into the bedroom and had to sit on the floor suddenly dizzy.”Easy, boss,” Mindy cried and jumped to assist her to the bed.”What are you doing here, Goose?””Spelling Tucker,” she replied.”Just what I need, a spare Jiminy Cricket””Got no one to blame but yourself. If you hadn’t been so good to me and Leia, I wouldn’t give a shit.””Go home, I’ll be all right,” Erica said with a tired smile.”Will you? I don’t think so.””What do you mean?” Erica asked. Rather than reply, the Goose moved in front of her and then placed her hands on Erica’s knees. She looked deeply into her eyes and then, without warning, leaned forward and kissed her.Erica’s eyes shot open, but she melted into the kiss and passively let the thin girl’s soft tongue explore her mouth. When it broke Mindy stood back up and went to the small kitchenette, returning in few minutes with a bowl of hot soup.In the interim Erica had gathered her thoughts.”What was that all about?””You’ve got a hot body, Boss,” the Goose said, ignoring her question as she moved to Erica’s dresser. Erica felt the blush creep into her cheeks. She suddenly was very aware she was naked and wished she had something on.The Goose laughed and pulled a pair of boxers and T-shirt from her dresser, tossing them to the now red from head to toe Air Boss.”Pretty drab wardrobe for a femme,” Mindy commented as she pulled up a chair and sat down.”Femme?” Erica questioned as she pulled on her boxers and the shirt.”Yeah, femme, as opposed to butch.””I’m not following, Goose,” Erica said.”Damn, you are green aren’t you?”When Erica just looked at her the Goose kicked her feet up on the bed and stared at her.”A femme is a girly lesbian, Erica. As opposed to a butch, who is more manly.””I’m not…””Stow it!” the Goose ordered. She wasn’t shocked when the Boss clamped her mouth shut.”I didn’t believe it either, not until I kissed you. I don’t know how you kept it hidden so long or so well, have to give you props on that one.””What are you talking about?””I’m talking about the fact you’re into girls.””I’ve never!””No, you probably haven’t and that explains why you are out making a damned fool of yourself.””I have reasons.” Erica said, feeling her anger rise.”Yeah, like losing Rebel and knowing we are gonna bomb the hell out of that planet,” Goose said coldly.”I…” Erica started, but the Goose was on her, riding her down to the bed and staring into her eyes.”It’s Quantro, all over again. First you lose your love and then you eradicate billions,” the Goose said coldly.”Please…””You’re feeling sorry for yourself. While your people need you, you’re hiding in a bottle,” she went on, twisting the knife.”No, No ,No!” Erica cried, trying desperately to get away, but the Goose was stronger than she looked.”William is dead. Quantro is gone. And you couldn’t stop it.” “No…please…” she whispered.She felt the pain welling up like a volcano and bursting forth in hot tears that burned her eyes. “Let…it…go,” Mindy said, in a softer voice, but no less demanding.Erica lost it then, sobbing like a baby in the thin girl’s arms. It all came out, all of the things she had suppressed for so long. Blinding, shuddering sobs wracked her tall frame as she let herself do what she hadn’t so long ago. She grieved. Through it all Mindy held her, saying nothing, but allowing her to let it go by protecting her. She had no idea how long she cried, but at last no more tears would come.”Better?” the Goose asked in a hushed voice.”Yes.”Mindy got up, and took Erica’s soup back to the kitchen to reheat it while the tall woman collected herself. When she got back, Erica gratefully accepted it and ate, finding herself suddenly ravenous.When she finished, she sat back and pulled up a pillow to hug. Mindy smiled at her and Erica smiled too. “How’d you find out?””Can’t say.””Tucker, of course. He’s the only one who knows.””He loves you.””I know.””Do you love him back?”Erica laughed.”You’re good, Goose, but you don’t know everything. Tuck’s been like a father to me. He was married once, had a daughter. She would be about my age, but she was killed in action over Dorchetshire. Tuck was devastated of course, and a week later, a tall blonde, with a bad attitude who looked very much like his beloved Tess was shipped to him for training. He loves me and I love him, but there has never been anything sexual about it. I’m the daughter he lost. He’s the father I never had.”She smiled as comprehension dawned on the thin girl.”And when I get my hands on him, his name is mud.” she added, but without any rancor.”Don’t go to hard on him, I twisted his arm,” the Goose said with a grin. They both laughed as Erica finished her soup and put the bowl on the floor.”Thanks, I needed that. Have been needing it for a long time.” Erica said seriously.”You’ve been needing it all right, but I can’t give it to you. I already have a girl,” the Goose said, smiling again when Erica blushed.”I don’t think I’ll be getting that,” Erica mused.”Why not? You’re a lovely woman. A trip into town, some creds dropped to get some sexy clothes, maybe a stop at the salon. You’ll have girls falling over themselves to bed you, guys too.””I have to feel something to want to and I don’t even know where to start.””You start by putting your regrets to sleep, Boss. You’ve already taken that step. Next you find the woman you want and you go after her.””I wish it were that easy.””It is that easy,” Goose said as she rose and headed for the door.She stopped and looked back to see Erica still sitting on the bed, with her head down.”Oh, by the way.””Yes?” she replied, looking up.”Rebel just got back. She’s in the infirmary, but should be ready to resume her duties in a day or two,” Mindy added. She laughed all the way back to her place at the mixture of shock and joy she had seen on her now not so hard-assed boss.***Rebel opened her eyes to find three expectant faces staring at her. Cloudy, Lou, and Holly had never looked so good.”She’s awake,” Cloudy said, smiling radiantly.”About time, I’m getting tired of taking up her slack,” Lou said.”I don’t know, she’s kinda cute when she’s asleep.” Holly added.”Fuck the lot of you,” Rebel managed.”Me first!” Holly cried and they all began to laugh.Rebel was sad to hear that the new girl hadn’t made it, but she was delighted to know the rest had. They talked about the mission, how Cloudy had earned enough kills to become an ace and about how Lou had managed to get her beat up ship back.Rebel tired quickly and soon a large and grave nurse dispersed her visitors with the admonishment that her patient was too tired to get excited like this.When she came to again, the only one in the room with her was the Boss.”Glad you made it home in one piece,” she said, by way of greeting.”Thanks,” Rebel said, not knowing what else to say. When the silence became awkward the Boss suddenly said, “Well, get better,” and hurriedly left.Rebel wondered what in the hell that had been about.***Erica was drinking again, heavily. She didn’t even look up when Goose, Surfer and Lucky strolled in and joined her at the table. Bel came over, assessed the situation and, like most sane people would, dropped off their drinks and made himself scarce. “Gonna tell us about it, Boss, or do we have to beat it out of you?’ Lucky cracked.She looked up then, but smiled. It was a sad smile, but Goose was glad to see it wasn’t a self pitying one.”Texas Thunder just returned from the raid on the planet,” she said quietly.The others looked down at their drinks and for a while it was a very somber table.”Look Boss, I know it isn’t pretty, but it’s war. They’d do the same or worse to our people if we let them,” Surfer said. “I know. I accept it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it,” Erica said.”We lose anyone?” Goose asked. “No, the Hawthorn and Graves did an outstanding job with the prepatory bombardment. Not a single defense installation survived. It was a cake walk.””So why ya here?” Lucky asked.”It’s private.””Talked to Rebel yet?” Surfer asked.Erica’s head came up sharply, but all three were smiling.”Damnit, Goose,” she said half-heartedly.”Don’t blame me, I already tried and you wouldn’t listen, so I enlisted more troops,” the blonde said with an infectious grin.”I did listen. I went to see her in the infirmary. I just don’t know what to say. Hell, I’m hopeless,” she said, killing her drink.”You went dressed like that?” Lucky asked.”How else should I dress?””Damn, you are in need of help. Getting laid isn’t war, boss, you can’t order her to fuck you, you’ve gotta convince her to,” Surfer said.”It’s hopeless. I’m over it. Come on, lighten up and drink, I need some cheering up and discussing my lack of a love life isn’t helping.””I don’t know Surfer, what do you think? China’s?” Lucky said, studying Erica intently.”I’d think she’s more of a Pampered kind of girl,” Surfer replied as Erica looked at them in confusion.”Maybe, you really think she’s that femme?” Lucky said, looking doubtfully at her.”A what?””Goose?” Lucky asked, ignoring the Air Boss.”Doesn’t really matter does it? It’s more what kinda girl is Rebel after, isn’t it?””Ya know, you’re right,” Lucky said.She and Surfer looked at one another and both blurted out “Pampered” at the same time.”What are you talking about?” Erica asked.”She’ll need the works,” Goose said.”What the fuck is going on? Am I invisible or something?!” “I know fuck all about salons,” Lucky said.”Yeah, not my thing either,” Surfer said.”No problem, I’ll get Leia on the phone,” Goose said, standing up and walking over to the bar.Erica gave up and poured herself another drink. She was about halfway into it when she noticed Lucky and Surfer were both staring at her.”What?” she exploded.”Up,” Lucky said.”Down,” Surfer asserted.The two looked at each other, then as if by magic each pounded her fist into an open palm in unison. On the third time Surfer held her hand flat while Lucky held out two fingers.”Up.””Bel!” Erica shouted. The crippled man made his way to the table.”What?” he asked.”Just sit down and talk to me, my officers seem to have lost their collective minds.”He laughed and pulled up a chair, pouring himself a drink. Lucky and Surfer both looked under the table.”Heels?” Surfer said.”Flats,” Lucky replied.They again did the little ritual and this time Surfer won.”Heels,” she said.”What are they doing?” Bel asked.”Fuck if I know, I told you they’d lost their damned minds,” Erica said sourly.The Goose came back to the table and the three of them huddled briefly, when it broke they all moved to the side of the table Erica was sitting on and grabbed her.”What the fuck!” she shouted, but they paid no mind, hustling her out of the bar and into the jeep while Bel laughed and waved good-bye.Surfer and Lucky sat in back with her and held on to her as Goose negotiated the narrow roadways of York. When she reached her destination they all got out and Surfer and Lucky pulled the hesitant Boss along with them, into the building and up the elevator. When Erica saw the shop they were leading her to she dug her heels in, but they easily overpowered her, dragging her in amidst her cursing.***Rebel walked out of the infirmary and right into Cloudy’s arms. After a hug from the tall girl, they started walking back towards the lifts that would take them down to the flight deck. They stepped over a temporary covering and taped off area that passed through a shattered bulkhead.”I saw the damage from the outside, but didn’t realize it was this bad.” Rebel said.”The worst damage is above us. All of the quarters for the ship’s maintenance crews are depressurized still.””Christ,” Rebel exclaimed, imagining the thousands who must have died.”Not that bad, all of the maintenance guys are auxiliary damage controlmen. Thank god we were at batlestaions, almost no one was hurt in that hit.””How long will repairs take?””Who knows,” Cloudy said with a shrug.They got onto a lift and started down before she spoke again.”We’ll be jumping tomorrow, regardless of the repair status.””Why not wait until repairs are done?””We’re in Trog space. We can’t afford to sit still, have to keep them guessing. If we are still sitting here when reinforcements arrive, we could get trapped.”The lift stopped and they got out. Rebel noticed all the hasty repairs as they made their way towards the squad bay. Techs with welding arcs were locking down huge sections of temporary sheet metal coverings where the armored deck plates had been damaged. Others worked on electrical or hydraulic lines in the fissures created by Trog Naval guns. Some used arc-cutting torches to remove I-beams that had collapsed into the corridor.The activity was mind boggling, and Rebel wondered just who was coordinating it all. Whoever it was deserved a medal, she thought. Compared to what she had just seen, the squad bay was calm. It was actually fairly chaotic, with people bouncing around and chatting, but where the corridor seemed to be a hive of activity, the mood here was almost festive.”What’s up?” Rebel asked.”Big party tonight, we’ve won a great victory. Everyone is planning on a trip to Bel’s,” Cloudy replied with a grin.”Why is everyone still in their flight suits then?””We won’t stand down ’til the jump. Everyone is on alert ’til then. If they jump into the system before we are ready, it will be up to the fighter wings to keep them at bay until the fleet is ready to move.”Rebel started to speak again, but the PA interrupted her.”Now hear this, Now hear this, Jump stations. All section officers report jump status, all techs to station, that is all.””Guess we better get to our stations,” Rebel said.Cloudy laughed and clapped her on the shoulder.”You don’t have a jump station, you’re still in the care of the infirmary. Best get to the room and lie down, see you in a bit,” she said before hurrying off to her ship.Rebel sighed and made her way to her room, she climbed up in the bunk and waited for the jump to be over with. She didn’t realize how tired she was and was snoring quietly long before the red lights came up.***”Stand down from jump operations, I repeat stand down,” the PA announced.Erica looked up from her desk and then back down, filling in the final few blanks on the requisition forms. She hadn’t been here long, but it felt like hours. With the ship now in hyperspace, she could turn her pilots loose. Erica walked out of her office and called Tucker over.”Cut loose your wolves,” she said softly, turning before he could reply and retreating to her quarters. Even moving swiftly, she heard the first whoops and hollers as the girls charged the lockers to get out of their flight suits. It was going to be some party tonight at Bel’s, she almost wished she were going.In the quiet of her quarters, she made some tea and fixed herself a bite to eat. She wasn’t really hungry, but knew she needed to eat. She was about to lie down with a good book when one of the pink boxes caught her eye. Erica blushed as she remembered where they came from.”No!””Shut up, this for your own good,” Lucky admonished as she and Surfer dragged Erica past the scantily clad mannequins and racks of lingerie.Goose led them into the shop and up to the counter. The saleslady was more than a little taken aback by the shouting, kicking, and cursing that Erica was doing.”We’ve brought our friend in to get some things, but she’s been drinking, to pluck up her courage you see, unfortunately she’s had a little more than we planned on. I hope you don’t mind the inconvenience?” Mindy said smoothly.As she spoke she pulled out her wallet and opened it, revealing the fresh pink of military script. The woman’s eyes lit up and whatever reservations she had died on her lips. Citizens of York used Terran standard creds, which were very devalued way out here, but military script was always welcome as it was legislated to hold the same value no matter where in the empire it was used.Erica had stopped screaming and was looking around now. She had never ventured into such a place, always content to stay with her simple issued underwear. She hadn’t owned so much as a pair of panties in over twenty years. Coming up where she had, she hadn’t seen any of the fanciful things she was now looking at. Bustiers, camisoles, corsets, frilly garter belts and sexy stockings, robes, nighties, negligees, peignoirs, and peek-a-boo bras. Everything in here was so delicate and decidedly feminine. Despite herself, she began to imagine what she would look like in some of it and how it would feel.”I think she’s getting used to the idea,” Goose said, smiling back at Surfer and Lucky.The rest of the day was a blur, a whirlwind of images. She tried on more clothes than she ever imagined possible. Not just lingerie, they dragged her to dress shops and shoe stores, a hairdresser and salon.And now you’re letting your fears get the worst of you and turning all their efforts into a waste, she thought to herself.Erica turned, but found herself looking back at the boxes. Despite all the trying on, her purchases had been very modest. They would have been even more modest if her instructors had let her plead poverty, but when they started to check their own money she had given up fighting them.She smiled then, remembering what good friends they were and appreciating how they were trying to help her. Her face went from a soft smile to a frown and she glanced at the clock. She still had plenty of time to get ready, if she chose to. “Fuck it,” she said out loud, stripping off her blouse as she entered the bathroom.***Rebel sat at their normal table. It had kind of become the Black flight table in the same way the instructors claimed the old guard table. There weren’t any signs or anything, but Bel knew and he somehow discouraged anyone from taking either of them. Cloudy was on the dance floor with Cowboy, twirling and laughing happily. She was so graceful and looked so happy. Rebel smiled. It took a few moments to realize she was happy for someone else. Happy for her friend. Rebel considered that, and found there was no jealousy, no envy, she was just happy and that made her smile even more broadly. She had come along way from Taltos and she had overcome a lot of things. She was an officer now, leader of a group of very fine people whom she was glad to call her friends. She had overcome her bad start in life, her anger, rage and lack of education. She was no longer the consummate outsider, she had a home. And a family, she thought, spotting Lou at the bar and Holly at the old guard table with Surfer.She noticed her drink was empty and was about to go get another when a familiar voice spoke.”Mind if I have a seat, k**?”Rebel looked up carefully to find Tucker standing there. He looked out of place in civvies, a tan shirt and blue jeans, but he was smiling for once and she actually smiled back.”I thought fraternization was frowned upon Sgt. Major?” she replied with a crooked grin.”So’s drinking and fucking, gonna let the regs stop you from those?””Nope. Don’t give a damn about the regs, you know that,” She said with a grin as she kicked a chair out for him.He sat heavily and signaled to the waitress. She nodded and scurried off.”You get pretty good service for an NCO,” Rebel observed as the waitress returned with a bottle and tumbler.Tucker tossed a big tip on the girl’s tray and opened the bottle, filling his own tumbler and hers.”You get more by being nice, remember it. You officer pukes get all full of yourselves and forget the little people,” he philosophized. “I take it that means leaving a big tip?””Nah. Not always. Cali there, she has two k**s at home. Her husband was killed near the start of this thing, so they’d be..thirteen, f******n maybe a little older. The tips she makes here mean the difference in new clothes for those girls or recycling last year’s. She’s a proud woman, wouldn’t take charity from nobody, but she’s in a bad way and doesn’t protest too much when you overtip her.””How do you know all this?””I asked”Rebel said nothing to that and for a long while they drank in silence. Eventually Lou returned to the table and drank with them. When she got up and moved towards the old guard table Rebel looked at the grizzled Sergeant Major.”Tucker, tell me about the Boss,” she said.”What do you want to know?””Everything,” she replied with a grin.To her amazement he returned it.”That’s asking a lot. And there’s a lot I don’t know or…””Or won’t say,” she finished for him.He looked at her oddly, for a long time he held her eyes.”You’ve grown up.””Some. Maybe.””There’s a lot I wouldn’t tell a rage filled k** that I might be willing to tell a young officer who has her shit together.””Don’t let me fool you, Tucker,” Leigh said with a smile as she refilled their glasses.”I’m not the same person I was when I came here, but I don’t have my shit together. I lead my friends out, but I don’t know what to do and if I ever lost one…””The k** who came in here and couldn’t march in step wouldn’t have given a rat’s ass if she lost ’em all, as long as her own life were spared.””I was pretty much of a shit, wasn’t I?””Yeah, but that’s why you’re an officer now,””What do you mean?””I mean the service doesn’t want thoughtless killing machines. We want those who are able to adapt fast, make decisions and think. You had the most growing up to do when this class arrived, you had come farther in a shorter time than any of the others. The Boss brevetted you because you care, not because you didn’t care.””But, she left Cloudy to die on our first mission! I could never do that!””Yes, you can. And one day you will. I like that Indian girl, but she’s just one person. You fail your mission, trillions could pay for it. When a mission is entrusted to you, you will make the right call, k**. Believe it or not.””Well, I need to be going. See ya around, k**,” he said, getting up and tossing a handful of script on the table. Rebel watched him go, wondering what that had been all about. She glanced down as the waitress collected the script.”Should I leave the bottle, hunny?” she asked.”Um…Yeah…leave it,” Rebel said distractedly. She was watching the entrance, she could almost swear she saw someone peeking around the door frame. Like a k**, but way too tall to be a k**. She wondered if maybe some of the local girls were hoping to sneak in unnoticed. Her first instinct was to tell someone, but then she relaxed.”I may be all respectable now, but I’m not a snitch,” she said to herself with a big grin.Another peek, a flash of creamy skin, frightened blue eyes and thick blonde hair piled high on her head. It wasn’t a k**, not even an older one. Her interest piqued, Rebel turned her chair slightly.When she stepped into the doorway, Rebel nearly spewed her drink. It was Erica, but she had never seen the Boss look like this. Her dress fell only to mid-thigh, leaving her long legs bare, save for the delicate black stockings. Black strappy heels, matched the small black bag she had slung over her shoulder. The dress was blue. Not just any blue, but a royal blue that was almost purple it was so deep. It had a scoop neck, which showed off the boss’s cleavage, and a cinched bodice that nipped her waist allowing the swing skirt to flair out, giving the illusion of wider hips. Her hair was up and Rebel couldn’t fathom the changes a little make up made to her face. The face was the most arresting part, that and the eyes. She wasn’t confident now or in control, she was scared. That same fetching shy-scared that she had been when Rebel asked her to dance that night, a lifetime ago. Her neck was long, elegant, and she wore a black choker that seemed designed to draw the eye to the nape of her neck, where an antique silver silhouette hung. Rebel felt her mouth go dry and her heart was hammering in her temples. A knot of desire tightened in her tummy with each passing second. Biting her lower lip, the boss seemed to make a decision. She glided across the floor towards the old guard table, her steps deliberate, but no less sexy. The heels gave her ass a delicious sway Rebel had never noticed before and she felt a queer feeling in her boxers. She moved her legs and a kind of squishing feeling let her know she was aroused to a degree she never would have though possible from a few seconds staring.She watched as the boss sat down and Bel brought her a drink. Everyone at the table was acting normally, at least she thought they were, until Rebel noticed that Holly was staring and not talking. “At least I’m not going crazy,” she said to herself and took another swallow of her drink.Cloudy and Cowboy returned to her table and soon Lou joined them. The bar was packed, it seemed everyone was out celebrating, and Rebel was forced to fend off multiple requests to dance. Lou was less successful, her innate kindness made it hard for her to say no and hurt the asker’s feelings. After about the tenth dance she returned to the table and collapsed in her chair, fanning herself.”Goodness, I’m knackered,” she said, grabbing up a stein and draining it.When she put it down, she looked at the ceiling and groaned.”Oh, bollocks!” Cloudy followed her eyes and saw yet another fellow approaching the table.”Dran, Why don’t you and Lou go out and have a smoke?” Cloudy said quickly.”Come on Lou Lou, let’s beat it before they get here,” the dashing pilot said and grabbed her hand. They were out the door in a flash and something in Cloudy’s stare convinced the fellow he wouldn’t have much luck with her or Rebel.”Didn’t know Lou smoked,” Rebel said.”She doesn’t,” Cloudy remarked as she lit her own cigarette and deeply inhaled.Rebel said nothing, her eyes returning again and again to the old guard table and the Boss.”Enchanting,” Cloudy said, snapping Rebel’s head around.”What?””I said, the Boss is enchanting. Never figured her for the frilly type.””Yeah. Always figured her for the masculine kind, like Lucky and Surfer.””Something tells me you aren’t disappointed,” Cloudy remarked.”What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Rebel said, only half joking.”It means I think you have the hots for the commander and I don’t think you know what to do about it.””What gave you that idea?””Which? That you want to jump old tight ass’s bones or that you don’t know what to do about it?” Cloudy asked with a smile.”Both, either. Hell, I don’t know.””Come on, Leigh, you’re my best friend on this crate and you know I’m not prejudiced. Lou’s sleeping with Lucky and Holly’s getting fucked by Surfer haven’t changed my opinions of them.””Didn’t realize Lou and Lucky had a thing going,” Rebel commented, still avoiding the unspoken question.”Sure you didn’t. Bet you didn’t know you talk in your sleep either.””You’re shitting me!” Rebel exclaimed.”Not normally, but you did when they put you under. I was with you the whole night after you crash landed and you said…some interesting things.””Fuck me running,” Rebel said, with a heavy sigh.She took a long swallow of her drink and even though she didn’t smoke she nabbed one of Cloudy’s and lit it, inhaling deeply, then coughing.”It’s all right, girl. If it means anything, I think you’re pretty cute. If I swung that way, I’d be more than willing to take you to bed,” the Indian said matter of factly.”Shit. I wouldn’t have a clue what to do.””Oh come on, I know you’re not a virgin.””No, and yes,” Rebel said, taking another drag and managing not to cough.”Being a virgin is like being pregnant, as Goose would say, you either are or you aren’t.”Rebel ignored it. Glanced again at Erica’s back and sighed heavily. She wondered if she would regret this, but she felt a powerful need to get it off her chest.”I’ve never told you much about my homeworld, have I?””No,” Cloudy said, refilling both their glasses from the last of Tucker’s bottle.”Know what a hive world is?””I’ve heard of them, some kind densely populated manufacturing world aren’t they?””They’re hell. Pure and simple hell. People stacked on top of each other, literally row upon row of ten by ten cells to house a whole family, rising so high that the upper ones have to be pressurized. Everyone is a faceless, personalityless cog. You work in twelve hour shifts, on twelve off twelve, day in and day out. No time off, no breaks when on.”She paused and wet her lips.”Alcoholism is endemic. d**g abuse, the norm. Women have c***dren and don’t even bother to report ’em, much less register them. Most don’t live to see working age anyway. Life is short and brutish. **** is the way most girls lose it. It just happens, men who don’t care anymore lose any sense of shame. The bio guys clear dead bodies out of the corridors by the thousands every day, at least a quarter are suicides.””Damn,” Cloudy said, visibly moved.”You either join the faceless throngs or you go solo, like I did. Stealing your meals and living below the Authority’s radar. It’s some better, hell, it’s worlds better, but I didn’t realize how bad even that was ’til I got here.”She took another drag, stubbed out the cig and lit another. Cloudy seemed to realize she needed to talk and just lent a sympathetic ear.”You learn to cope. No one has your best interest at heart, everyone is scamming off everyone else. I thought I had friends before I met you guys, now I know I didn’t have a clue what friendship was. It isn’t about using someone, it’s about being there for them, not taking their strength, but sharing their joy. I was worse than any whore, I slept with my boyfriend because he offered me the best protection. I’ve never loved anyone, and I’ve never touched anyone with intent to just make them feel good, with no ulterior motive. So you see, I’m no virgin, but I’m less experienced with love than your average twelve year old.””It’s good, Reb,” Cloudy said simply.”What is?””Loving someone. I can’t give you directions, but I can tell you this. You’re a good person, your past isn’t you anymore. You have a lot of love to give to the right girl. You came here and you learned to be a friend, it’s not so different learning to be a lover. It’s up to you of course, but if you are half the person I think you are, you’ll go over there and ask her to dance.””I did once,” Rebel said quietly.The Indian woman picked up her cigs and put them in her tunic pocket. She killed her drink in a gulp and stood in one fluid motion. “I know,” she said simply, before moving into Dran’s arms and dragging him back to the dance floor. Lou sat, but was gone in a minute when the next guy asked her to dance. Rebel sat and pondered all that Cloudy had said or more precisely, the things she had left unsaid. She glanced back at Erica’s back, snorted, killed her drink and stood to take the longest walk of her young life.***Bad ideas seemed to be her lot in life, Erica thought. At least for tonight. It had started with the decision to go ahead and go out. The lilac scented bath gel and shampoo had been all right, but from there it had all been downhill. Who would have guessed a combination cincher and garterbelt would be that hard to get on? Her rational mind knew it had so tenaciously refused to comply with her tugs because her skin had still been slightly damp, but still, the thing was a damned nuisance. And stockings, oh lord, she didn’t even want to get started remembering that struggle. The back seams never did line up exactly right. The satin thong had provided its own surprises, the soft material had caressed her mound while the back felt like she was flossing her butt. It really became a problem when she pulled on the half slip and felt the cool silk on her bare cheeks. Between it and the thong she could add growing sexual arousal to her tally of problems. The demi bra was really beautiful, but having the tops of her breasts bare made her feel like she was falling out of her dress and she kept tugging it up, even though it was perfectly fitted.Clip earrings or heels? Did her feet hurt worse or her ears? The jury was still out. The dress itself was a problem, making her feel open and exposed and very vulnerable. And the hair, putting it up had nearly driven her to just skip the night out and go straight for the bottle of scotch Admiral Harris had given her.Now she was sitting here feeling perfectly ridiculous, afraid to move because every time the thong pulled tight across her mound she had to bite back a moan and everyone was acting like it was normal.Goose looked at her and gave her a wink and despite herself and her woes, she smiled. At least she wasn’t having to fend off dance partners like poor Holly and Lou had. Seated between Surfer and Lucky, their combined scowls had turned the bravest back.Now they were all gone, everyone was out on the floor. The DJ had taken a break and apparently loaded some slow songs as his last words had been this is for all the couples out there. The lights had dimmed and one by one her tablemates had slipped off to the floor.She hunched deeper into her chair as she heard footsteps coming up behind her. Despite being the Air Boss, she didn’t feel up to fending off anyone’s advances. ***’Crazy, this is crazy,’ her mind said, but her body continued to shuffle towards the table. She stopped directly behind Erica and just stared, her courage failing her. ‘Say something you idiot,’ her mind screamed.”Boss?”At the sound of her voice Erica’s stiff body became fluid and she whirled in the chair. Her face was beautiful, radiant and yet, the eyes were shy and she could sense there was some inner struggle taking place. Her eyes darted to the scoop neck and the hint of the valley between the boss’s breasts. She looked good enough to eat and at the same time, vulnerable and in need of protection. The thought was silly, this woman was one of the deadliest pilots Rebel had ever seen, but she felt it nonetheless.”Yes?” she finally said.Rebel blushed when she realized she had been standing there, just staring.”I…I mean…Oh fuck it, would you like to dance with me?” she ended lamely. Erica brushed a stray lock of blonde hair from her face and smiled softly.”I thought you’d never ask,” she whispered.She rose and for the barest instant tottered before her wonderful reflexes and sense of balance came back. She blushed and looked at the floor.”Sorry, I’m not used to heels.””You should wear them more often,” Rebel said as she took her hand and led her to the floor. Rebel turned, looked left and right at the people near them and hesitantly put her hands around the commander’s trim waist. Erica rested her arms on Rebel’s shoulders and they slowly began to rock in each other’s arms.Heaven? Perhaps not, but having Erica in her arms had to be damned close to it. She was so soft, so warm, and she smelled so good. Rebel pulled her tighter, until they were pressed against one another. She fancied she heard a small sigh of contentment, but couldn’t be sure.Time lost all meaning. The world around them faded from her consciousness, there was only the scent, the sound, and the sensation of the woman in her arms. How long that went on, she would never know.”Coming back to the table or are you going to just stand here all night?” Lucky said, while clapping her hand on Rebel’s shoulder. The music was back to a roaring thumping crash and couples were leaving the floor as the singles crowded back onto it. Rebel blushed and led Erica back to the table, she held out her chair for her and once she was seated, Rebel started to turn away.”Where the hell are you going?” Surfer asked.”Yeah, pull up a chair you dipshit,” Lucky added.She was drunk and way too loud, but Rebel decided to ignore the insult. She looked for a chair, but there wasn’t an empty one near them.”Why don’t you sit in the Boss’s and she can sit in your lap?” the Goose said in a mild tone.Erica stood and Rebel sat, then nearly lost it when Erica smoothed her skirt and demurely settled into her lap. At first Rebel sat stiffly and kept her hands on the arms of the chair, but as the night wore on she found them wrapped around Erica’s trim waist and thrilled when she snuggled back against her. One by one, the place thinned out. Erica was snuggled against her and slowly, the air boss’s head settled onto Rebel’s shoulder. Lucky, Surfer, Bel and the Goose were telling war stories and Rebel listened to them with astonishment. “A safety mechanism?” Lucky asked.”Yeah. The 21 second delay is a safety feature. You can disable it by disarming the weapon and rearming with your trigger depressed, but why would you? Nine times in ten the FTL going active on launch damages or destroys the fighter.””I’d rather have it direct fire,” Surfer said.The argument lasted a few minutes and then they moved on to another topic. Rebel said little, just soaking up the incredible feeling of Erica sleeping in her arms. At last, there were only a few tables in the place still occupied. At them, subdued conversations were still going on.Lucky threw a giggling Lou over her shoulder and staggered out with Surfer dragging a stumbling Holly behind her and trying to keep up. Bel rose stiffly and took an armful of empties back to the bar with him. Across the table the Goose was watching her intently, with her redheaded girlfriend asleep in her lap.”I guess we should be going, too,” Rebel said hesitantly.”Probably, but stay a minute.””I don’t really want to move,” Rebel admitted, gently squeezing the woman in her arms and thrilling when she softly murmured and tightened her grip on Rebel’s shoulders. “I didn’t think you did. Nothing quite like holding your lady close is there?””No, it’s like nothing I have ever felt, but it’s not like you and your girl.””Oh?””I mean…You’re a couple. I’m just…””You’re just an idiot if you finish that thought,” the Goose interrupted.”I mean…I don’t know what to do,” she finished with a helpless shrug.”Have to figure that out for yourself, sport, but I’ll give you some advice if you want it.””Please, I just don’t want to screw up again.””The Boss is a special one. You won’t find another like her if you looked for the rest of your life. Were I you, I’d take her back to her room and do my damndest to make her mine, before someone else comes along.””Goose, I don’t even know how two women…I mean…””Don’t matter none. We were all new at it once. A very wise woman told me before my first time to just do it, you’ll figure it out, I’m passing that on to you.”She leaned across the table and locked eyes with Leigh.”Just do it Rebel. If you don’t, you’ll regret it forever. And so will she.”With that, the thin blonde stood carrying her girl up and kissing her awake. Rebel stood gingerly, helping Erica gain her feet.”Oh, I’m so sorry, I must have fallen asleep,” she said, blushing.”No problem, Boss. I’ve got a jeep if you two need a ride back to the squad bay?”They piled in and drove back, Goose and her girl in front, Rebel and Erica in back. The Air Boss’s head was on her shoulder and she was leaning on Rebel. The short girl could feel Erica’s breast against her side and once again marveled at how aroused she was.The Goose dropped them off and Rebel walked Erica the short distance to her quarters. She turned and they faced one another, the silence stretching out into minutes.”Well, thanks for the evening, I had a good time,” Erica said when the silence became too awkward. Her hand was on the door and she turned to open it. Seeing the door slide open Rebel realized how close she was to losing the moment. Her indecision was washed away by a galvanizing drive and she pressed forward, pushing Erica back against the door jamb. She had to stand on tip toe, but she did, pressing her lips against the startled woman’s.Everything was riding on that moment and she feared she had gone too far when Erica stiffened. For an agonizing second that held and then her lips parted and her body melted into Rebel’s arms.Rebel knew how to kiss, at least she was on solid ground there she thought, but she realized quickly she was in unfamiliar territory again. She was used to being kissed she realized not kissing. With some trepidation she pushed her tongue out and into the warm, sweet cavern of the boss’s mouth.Erica responded immediately, sucking on her tongue which sent Rebel’s blood pounding into her temples. She felt a rush and heard a strange roaring in her ears as she gently explored Erica’s mouth with her tongue. This deep soul kiss lasted for an indeterminable amount of time before Erica pulled away from her embrace.”I’m sorry,” Rebel blurted, feeling silly and at the same time hurt.Erica’s eyes sparkled and her face was flushed, her chest was heaving and through the soft material Rebel could clearly see her nipples making small tents in the fabric.”Don’t be, please don’t be. I’ve had all the sorry I can take in my life.””All right, I’m not sorry at all. I wish you hadn’t broken that kiss, I could have gone on forever.””So could I, but not in the doorway, won’t you please come in?” she said, blushing again.Rebel smiled, realizing they had been basically making out in full view of the squad bay. This was going to be a strange relationship, one that would be hard to hide. She wasn’t even sure if she wanted to hide it, but she would do whatever it took to win this woman. She stepped in and ran her hand over the touch pad, causing the door to slide closed.They stood, staring at one another with hunger in their eyes and confusion on their faces. Rebel realized she would have to make the move. Erica was all lady now, soft, vulnerable and shy. The problem was she didn’t know what to do. The absurdity of it made her chuckle and then laugh.”What?” Erica asked with the most adorable, confused smile.”This is so funny, you, me, this. I mean, I want to take you, but have no idea how and you look to be as lost as I am.””It’s my first time with a woman,” Erica said, blushing furiously.”Mine, too.”They stared at each other again and then both began to nervously giggle. Rebel looked at her and shrugged, holding her hands out.”Maybe we should call Goose and get some expert advice,” Erica teased.”Fuck it,” Rebel growled, scooping her taller lover up and carrying her to the bed. She gently placed her on it and then fell on top of her. Their lips sought each other out and they resumed the deep kiss. Her tongue gently explored Erica’s mouth, finding the taste of her drinks and a sweetness that was all her own. Rebel didn’t know what to do with her hands. She could feel the soft swelling of the Boss’s breasts and wanted to touch them, far more than she had ever wanted to touch Holly’s and that obsession had been very strong, but she was afraid of going to far or too fast. She kept her hands on the bed, resting her weight on her elbows and kissed her love.Eventually the temptation grew too great and Rebel eased her hand along Erica’s side and gently squeezed her left breast. The blonde sighed into her mouth and arched her back a little. Her skin felt warm through the thin material and her breast was tantalizingly soft, yet resilient. Rebel squeezed again, marveling at how good it felt. After a few more gentle squeezes, she felt the hard nipple pressing into her palm.A strange fascination seized her and she found herself obsessed with seeing them. Still kissing, she slipped her hands behind the commander’s back and found the zipper to her dress. Erica pushed her shoulders down into the mattress, raising her back and making it easy to pull the zipper down. Rebel tried to lift it off her shoulders without breaking the kiss, but it just didn’t work and eventually she was forced to raise herself up on her elbows.The Boss was flushed, but helped and soon the dress was down and her midriff was bare. Her heavy breasts were encased in the light blue satin demi-bra and Rebel felt her breath catch in her throat. They were not as big or as full as Holly’s, but beautifully formed and on the commander’s frame, seemed even larger. Rebel hesitantly placed a finger on one and traced around it, causing Erica to gasp. Rebel moved her hands to her lover’s shoulders and gently lifted the straps off, peeling the satin down and exposing Erica’s tits. Erica’s nipples were small and pink, the aureoles barely the size of a bottle cap. These were puckered and the dainty nipples were standing out from the surrounding flesh. Rebel lowered her head and sucked one into her mouth. She rolled her tongue around it and gently nipped as she sucked. Erica moaned and her hand came to rest on Rebel’s head.The ex-thief pushed her face into the valley between them, reveling in the soft, satiny skin on her cheeks. She licked along the valley, coating it with her saliva, before moving up and sucking the other nipple into her mouth. For along time she alternated between the two, loving the feel and slightly salty taste of her lover’s skin. Erica moaned and occasionally gasped, but she seemed totally willing to let Rebel dictate the pace of their lovemaking. At no time did she try to direct the young pilot’s mouth to a specific location or urge her to go faster.The change in her personality was so strange to Rebel, even as she enjoyed the tactile sensations she just couldn’t help but marvel at it. This woman was a leader of men and one of the most skilled pilots in the fleet. Every day she took charge, made decisions that affected lives and did what had to be done, with no regard to the cost to herself. Yet here in this bed she was utterly feminine, soft, sensual, and u*********sly sexy. There was nothing of the hard driving career officer in her. Painfully shy and marvelously soft and pliant. She could have been no different if she had been two separate people, but Rebel realized what made her so special was that she was just one person with two different sides to her personality.Rebel stayed there, working on those soft, wonderful breasts, not sure where to go next, until her poor lover was tossing her head and babbling softly. She could feel Erica’s hips, jogging gently beneath her and knew she must be going crazy, but Rebel was still not sure enough of her self to strike out into totally unfamiliar territory. “Oh… Oh….oh…Rebel…I’m…I’m…I’m going to cum!” she gasped as her body jerked and twitched. Rebel felt so good she wanted to shout as she watched Erica coo and moan through her orgasm.She became aware of a strange odor in the air. Musky and at the same time sweet. Realizing what it was Rebel decided she was going for it, like the Goose had told her, and slid down her lover’s supine body, dragging the dress with her. Once it was off her feet, Rebel let it fall to the floor and her eyes locked onto the light blue thong. It was darker in places and clearly showed the Boss’s arousal. With trembling hands, Rebel hooked her fingers into the thin sides and pulled it down as Erica raised her hips.Even though she was dying to see Erica’s pussy, her eyes were drawn immediately to the number tattooed on Erica’s hip. It was in the same place and the same color as the one Rebel wore. Apparently Tucker hadn’t been lying. Ripping her mind from such depressing thoughts she concentrated on her lover’s sex.Erica’s mound was fat and fleshy, capped with a neatly groomed triangle of golden fleece. Her coral colored lips gaped open, revealing the brighter pink of her inner folds. Her opening was visible and a pearly ooze of her love juices had collected near the bottom of it. Rebel had never viewed another woman’s pussy close up and she found herself in an almost trancelike state as she leaned closer to Erica’s. That drop of cream seemed to hold special fascination and before she was really sure what she was doing, she scooped it up on her finger and held it close to her nose. The strong aroma of Erica’s arousal was enough to make sniffing useless and Rebel almost absently closed her lips over her finger.The explosion of flavor in her mouth was unexpected, combining both sweet and musky into an earthy taste that seemed to excite all her taste buds. She lowered her face to Erica’s sex and wrinkled her nose as the strong scent overpowered everything else, but she closed her eyes and stuck out her tongue, tentatively swiping the damp flesh.More of that strangely addictive flavor, plus the tactile stimulation of velvety soft slipperiness. Rebel began to lap like a kitten, enjoying the sensation and the added bonus of Erica’s gasps and moans. Her body suddenly tensed and she rose to an almost sitting position before flinging herself back onto the bed and screeching. Her body arched and her hips were frantically bouncing, but Rebel locked her arms around her lover’s trim waist and went on lapping at her quivering sex.”Ewwwwwwwww….Fuck!” she cried, as the grimace on her face gave way to a beatific smile. She was panting and tossing her head as Rebel continued doing exactly what she was doing, loving the reactions and reveling in the power trip of making her feel so good.”Please…please…please baby,” she groaned as she threw her arm over her forehead. A few more breathless pleas and she came again, crying out like some feral a****l as the pleasure ripped through her.”Rebel…please…you’re killing me…” she begged.Rebel reluctantly ceased what she was doing and slithered back up Erica’s damp body. When she kissed her she half expected her not to, since Rebel knew her face was coated in her juices, but Erica kissed back passionately and hugged her so fiercely she could barely breathe. When she had recovered, her delicate hands began plucking at Rebel’s clothing. Rebel helped where she could and soon was as naked as the day she was born. She lay back and watched with some amusement as Erica’s face went through the same emotions she was sure her own displayed. Erica’s soft warm tongue caused shivers of pleasure as it grazed her lips and shocks of pleasure when it found her clit. Rebel enjoyed the orgasm that followed, but she knew in her heart she was spoiled now. Nothing would ever feel so good as making her baby cum. Her own orgasms just couldn’t compare. ***”Report,” the Captain ordered.”Alpha-five. Preliminary scans indicate one M class planet and one hundred thirty-one ships.””Sound battlestations, get the fighters to their launch stations,” he said. Rebel didn’t need to hear general quarters. Lying in Erica’s bed with her arm around her lover’s waist, the screaming Klaxon was the last sound in the world she needed to hear. Erica looked like she felt the same way. There was no way around it, they both threw on trousers and blouses and ran out towards the lockers. As usual, the flight deck was pandemonium. None saw them both leaving the Boss’s quarters, they just came pounding into the lockers to find girls in varying states of dress and undress. Rebel wanted to kiss her, or at least hug her, but their lockers were far apart and there was just no way to manage a hug without everyone seeing.With the Boss now too far away to intoxicate her, Rebel’s mind cleared some and her fingers began the automatic process of donning the skintight flight suit. She was ready before most of them and in the cockpit well before anyone else. Rebel was fast, but it was obvious everyone was moving a little slower today. She wondered how many of them were hung over. The tech used her batons to direct her onto Catapult two. She settled in and waited, knowing it might be a while before launch.On the internal band, the one they used preflight, Erica’s voice crackled.”Who’s on the cats?””Red on one,” the redheaded leader of the Rowdies, called.”Rebel on two.””Cloudy on Three.””Lou on ready alert.””Roger. We have about five minutes, Red, give up Cat one. Jugs get over there. Black flight will launch first.” “Roger,” both Red and Jugs replied in unison.”Ginger, Cobra, Phantom and Copper, form on me. You girls are now in Boss flight,” Erica called.Rebel frowned and reached up to touch her throat mike before pulling her hand away. Telling the Air Boss on an open channel she shouldn’t be flying was probably not very bright, she chided herself. Lover or no, she was still the Air Boss and still the best pilot Rebel had ever seen. Still, the thought of that tall, soft body protected from harm only by the thin armor and shields of a fighter unnerved her. If she had her way she would make her pretty lover go hide in one of the civilian shelters in York, they were the safest places on the ship. It was thinking this that triggered the first epiphany of her life. Nothing would ever be the same for her. For the first time in her eighteen years, she had something to lose and it frightened her.She felt the hyperspace jolt this time, her body now more attuned to the ship and the suppressors.”Launch!” the command came and she hit the red button. She was barely in space when the Cap officer came over her tac net.”Black leader, this is CAP, how are you armed?””Two oxyl torpedoes.” “Thank god, take your flight and follow this vector. Four hostile cruisers at seventy thousand clicks and closing at flank speed””Roger, Black flight, form on me, arm torpedoes and accelerate to attack speed.”Rebel activated her torpedoes as she eased the thrust up to attack speed. She no longer had to worry about where her people were, if one of them wasn’t in position, Rebel knew she would let her know.”Paint targets,” she said while her ship pitched and bucked as it passed through a missile barrage.”Scopes.”The red numbers were falling fast. She saw no fighters, which was fortunate, as they had no fighter cover. When the numbers went green, she launched her torpedo and pulled up. She rode out the after effects and leveled out, checking the sensors to make sure everyone was with her.”Rebel, this is Goose. Come to oh four seven and link up with the Goslings. We’ve got another group of cruisers closing.””Roger,” Rebel called, banking sharply until her heading indicator was on oh four seven.Black flight and the Goslings formed up, Mindy immediately assuming command, since she was senior. They started their long attack run on a pair of massive ships, two of the new super ships.”Boss flight, form on me, accelerate to attack speed.” Erica called.Two screams rang out over the net, followed by the Boss cursing.”God damnit, where’s my fighter cover?””Destroyed,” the cap officer called.”There’s too many of them for just the three of us! Vector me some fighters.””None available.””Hang on Boss, I’m coming!” Rebel shouted, reaching to disengage her targeting scope.”Negative, I just lost Phantom and Cobra, stay on your attack run.”So cold. Those words meant her death and she knew it. Rebel heard Tucker’s words, when the time comes, you’ll do the right thing.”The fuck I will!” she shouted, disengaging her targeting scope and banking hard out of line. “Goslings, arm secondary torpedoes,” the Goose called.”God damnit, Boss, you stay alive. I’m coming!” she shouted, blinking the tears from her eyes and jamming the throttle to full.”Too many of them, you’ll never get here in time. Stay on your attack run,” she called, and then went silent.With the speed of thought Rebel had her HUD lock onto the Boss and magnify. One hundred thousand clicks, she was alone with at least fifteen fighters swarming around her.The one on her tail was bracketing her fighter. There was no way Rebel could get there. Desperation dredged up a snippet of the conversation between Goose, Lucky, and Bel at the table last night. “The 21 second delay is a safety feature. You can disable it by disarming the weapon and rearming with your trigger depressed, but why would you? Nine times in ten the FTL going active on launch damages or destroys the fighter.”Rebel didn’t hesitate. She thought she would only use this if she ever got in a spot where she had nothing to lose. The irony of it wasn’t lost on her that she took such a great risk now because she had everything to lose.When it came back up, the small screen noted safety interlock disabled. The weapon glowed a baleful blue on her stores list, rather than the usual red.”Boss, come to one eight oh,” Rebel ordered.”No dice, Rebel, he’ll…””Just do it, god damnit!” she screamed.Eighty thousand clicks, her targeting reticule appeared. Rebel led the target just a little, hoping against hope that she was right about the flight time. The boss’s ship leveled out on one eight zero and the Trog fighter closed for the kill. “No,” she mouthed and depressed the trigger, pulling the stick violently to the left and slamming her foot down on the tail rudder.The torpedo went active immediately, closing the distance in an instant. The Trog fighter wasn’t big enough to trigger the release of energy, but it wasn’t enough to stop it either. The torpedo carried on reaching the speed of light and blazing like a miniature star as it left the system and plowed on into the endless night of the interstellar void. The fighter simply ceased to exist, some particles joining the mass of the torpedo, others flying off in all directions.”Hang on, Boss,” Rebel called, tracking onto one of the fighters. She quickly keyed up a copperhead and sent it off, followed in seconds by its mate.It was hopeless of course, even with her reflexes and Erica’s skill, the odds were just too great. Still, as the distance closed and she switched to primary weapons, Rebel was at peace.At ten thousand meters she keyed her PPCs, the blue-white arcs pouring into a Trog fighter that broke apart under the onslaught. She broke on another that was lining up on Erica’s crippled fighter.”Fuck you,” she said as she ripped it to shreds with her PPCs.Another was coming head on. It was a common Trog tactic; they had discovered humans cared if they lived or died. The idea was the human pilot would flinch first and break, allowing the Trog to get an easy shot. Rebel however, knew she was going to die and wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction. She depressed the trigger and flew right at him, guns blazing. The PPCs found the range and the Trog fighter exploded in a spray of debris. She passed through them, crossing Erica’s back trail and several broke off to engage her. Her ship rocked as plasma cannon bracketed her, but no maneuvering could shake the pilot who was quickly wearing down her shields. An alarm screamed and she snapped it off, watching as her rear shields flared and went black on her tactical screen. The next shot would burn through her armor, the one after that would finish her. She turned her head, looking over her shoulder to see it. Curiously, she wasn’t afraid to die. She had never felt so serene. The Trog fighter lined up on her as she quit juking and prepared for the kill. It suddenly shuddered and blew apart as a scream of “Yee-haw!” came over her net. Cloudy’s fighter flashed though the debris and broke hard onto another target.Lou came in below her and took out two fighters with missiles. She executed a flying S to track onto a third. Jugs flashed across the axis of one, peppering it with shell fire and blasted another off the boss’s tail in the same pass. Surprise and joy mingled with wonder and a warmth in her chest that defied description.”Join the fun, Rebel, before they’re all gone!” Cloudy called.In no time the small corner of the huge battle was empty of Trog fighters. Rebel closed up on Erica’s crippled fighter and matched speed with it. The rest of Black Flight formed a protective arc around the two damaged ships.”You all right, Rebel?” Lou asked.”Yeah, thanks to you guys,” she said solemnly.”All for one and one for all,” Holly said, giggling.”We were with you all the time, where you go, we follow,” Cloudy said.”To the end,” Lou added***The battle was over well before they got back to the ship. The boss, being in the worst shape, landed first followed by Rebel and her, the rest of the flight. Rebel taxied her damaged ship to its place and killed the engines. She sighed heavily and gratefully let the techs help her unhook and climb out. Plasma had scorched the armor in several places, leaving deep gouges with edges that looked like liquid where the molten armor immediately hardened in the cold vacuum of space.”Take good care of her, Connie,” Rebel said to the crew chief.”You take better care of her and I won’t have so much to fucking do,” the brassy redhead replied. Rebel smiled and walked across the hanger towards the lockers, but she saw the boss standing there waiting for her. She knew an ass chewing was coming, if not demotion and brig time. She didn’t care. Just seeing Erica alive and in one piece made any price worth it. “Lieutenant…” the Air Boss started.Rebel didn’t let her finish. Wrapping an arm around her waist and the other around her shoulder, Rebel quickly dipped her backwards, kissing her deeply. Erica stiffened for a heartbeat, and then kissed back with so much passion it took Rebel’s breath away. Her arms tangled around the short girl’s shoulders, fiercely hugging her.Rebel heard applause breaking out all over the bay, followed by hoots and cat calls. It should have embarrassed her, but it didn’t. The choir celestial would have sounded no nicer to her. She loved this tall woman and now that she had her, she was never letting go.***Erica leaned on the table in the darkened conference room, staring out the picture window as Texas Thunder formed up and headed towards the planet with three heavy cruisers. She heard the door slide open, but didn’t turn.She felt long arms wrap around her and a chin come to rest on her shoulder. Nothing was said for a long time.”I wish this wasn’t part of it,” she said at last.”War is hell,” Rebel responded simply.”Perhaps. But what are we becoming?””We are what we are, baby.””And what’s that?” she said, perhaps a little too harshly.”You’re a human being and a woman. And you are in for a serious fucking,” she added, playfully nipping Erica’s ear. “Oh, I am, am I?” Erica replied.Rebel didn’t respond immediately, but her hands slipped to Erica’s hips and she pulled the tall woman’s ass tightly against her pelvis. Erica gasped when she felt the hard bulge there press into her soft ass.”Damn right, you are. Present from Lucky and Surfer,” Rebel said with her crooked grin.”Those two,” Erica said shaking her head.”Awww, come on, they just want us to be happy.””They want you keeping me well fucked and agreeable is what you mean,” Erica replied archly.Rebel scooped her up, into her arms and carried her out of the conference room and down the long hall. Human. It was really the only word that described them, in all their strength and frailty. She was human. She was a woman. She was about to be well fucked. She doubted anyone could ask for more.****END****

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