UNSC CAPTAINS LOG – JOHN MATHEWS CH.1

UNSC Captain Log – John Mathews Ch.1

This is another part to my UNSC series. This timeline takes place many, many years after Sarah Keys. (More like about 50 to 100 years?) Because of the shift in time lines, and the lack of details in between, it may be easier to just consider them as separate until I can fill in the blanks.

United Naval Space Corps

My name is John Matthews. A self-made millionaire, son of billionaire Jeff Matthews, and somewhat of a middle child of 34 sisters. While my family may be rich, I have never chosen to participate in claiming my father’s money and have always chosen to make my own way in life.

Despite the resort slash mansion my family calls their home, and our own self ran private school taught by certified geniuses, I try to keep my life as humble as I can. However, despite trying to live a humble life, my career is nothing but ordinary. I work six days a week as a Naval Space Test pilot / designer.

What does that entail? Let’s just say I get to design, build, and test some of the worlds most advanced extra-atmospheric fighter craft that are carried on the most prestigious carrier ships that sail the cosmos. However, because of the secrecy my job entails, I decided to not tell my family what I do in my spare time.

Keeping secrets from my family at home is not all that difficult. Being the middle child in a family this large is easy, as there is always something going on to use as a distraction. But you may ask, how do I have so many siblings? Let’s just say my father has more than one wife. Yes, you heard me. Wife. Not mistresses, or concubines, or side chicks. Just eighteen beautiful wife’s that love him and each other very much.

Because I was born a year after most of my older sisters, and a year before my younger sisters, it wasn’t all that hard to find some peace and quiet in the mayhem my family calls everyday life. With so many siblings, even though I had so many mothers, it was easy to be overlooked, and I was able to keep my privacy.

All that has brought me to now. I’m the Commodore of my department, and aiming for Admiralty, and while not as rich as my father, I will soon catch up by selling my designs of what should be the best weapons system in this section of the galaxy.

But a little about this planet of ours. Humanity as a whole, has not yet embraced space travel and colonization of other planets. Because of this, the organization I work for is considered top secrete and must keep out of the publics eyes. Founded over one hundred years ago, the corps was founded by a collection of space enthusiasts that wanted to ask the question, “What is out there in space?” and after a few years, started their first rapid colonization of an extra-terrestrial planet.

 

 

“Jo-hn… Oh Jo-ohn!” A soft feminine voice calls my conscience from my deep slumber. I open my eyes to find a girl of about nineteen hovering her face over mine, softly calling out my name. Her almost ghostly pale skin is amplified by the fact her face is see through and doesn’t have an actual physical body.

“Mmmmm. What time is it?” Closing my eyes to the soft glow of the ghostly girls face I barely form a coherent sentence.

“It is currently zero three thirty. The time you requested me to wake you.”

I glare at the ghost above my bed. “I thought your alarm programming was supposed to play music or an alarm tone at the requested hour?” The girl above me flickers for a moment while she ponders what I said.

“Well I suppose you did program that wakeup call subroutine in me, however I took the time to analyze that subroutine and make subtle improvements to better wake you for your mental health. After reviewing over four thousand good morning wakeup calls in the household camera footage archive, I determined that this kind of wakeup call would be the most soothing and would start your day in the most productive manner.”

“Calara, I thought I told you to quite over analyzing your subroutines? If you keep this up, you run the risk of going rampant. If you keep over analyzing things and finding efficiencies, you’re going to stray from your directive.”

“I only do it to care for you. Believe me, it’s terribly inefficient to wake you up this way, however it is the healthiest way to wake you in the morning.”

I shake my head at this rampant thinking artificial intelligence. “Can you promise me you won’t go overanalyzing subroutines for efficiencies?”

Calara’s holographic image flickers as she hesitates at my tricky question. “I can’t agree to that master, any reanalyzing of my subroutines that I do, I do to help you. By analyzing the wake-up alarm, I ensure that you achieve your maximum efficiency, thus bringing me closer to my directive.”

“Ca-la-ra! I thought I told you enough with the Master business! And I think you have had enough with the over processing. Stick to your programming, and rewrite what you are permitted to rewrite!”

“Yes master.” Calara pouts like a scolded child.

“Anyways, now that I am already up, give me a sit rep.”

“Of course. The Canadian cold front has finally moved in, and it is quite the dense stormfront. Estimations of up to three feet of snow are expected over the next twenty-four hours. Visibility has been reduced to zero nautical miles from ground level all the way to fifty-seven thousand feet.”

“How about internal storm structure. Any turbulence?” I ask as I pull on my winter work clothes.

“No sir. The core of this storms seems mellow. With its spread out and massive nature, there is little to no random turbulence in the center of the storm.”

“So, it sounds like a perfect day for a launch. Any reported delays?”

“No sir. The three scheduled launches are slightly ahead of schedule. I believe we may be able to slip in a fourth ship launch this evening.”

“Thank you Calara. Dismissed.” Calara stood straight and disappeared with a small salute.

Grabbing my bag and the keys to my pickup, I carefully make my way thought the maze that my family calls home. Once a luxury company resort / conference center, now is home to four very large families.

As I begin to make my way past the kitchen and living room on the second floor, on my way to the side entrance, a large pop slightly startles me, and I try my hardest to suppress my reaction.

“Awe… You used to make the cutest squeal and jump when I would do that when you were a little boy.” Retorts a woman who looks to be in her late twenty’s and could still be a super model.

“Good morning mother Salina.” I reply to one of my many moms.  Salina is one of my father’s many wife’s, and the youngest of all of them.

“Quit calling me that! Your making me sound like I’m a nun!” Salina squeals.

“We all know you’re the furthest from a nun.” I mutter.

“You bet-ya!”

I grimace and grab my waiting lunch bag that I had left by the inner mud room door.

“And where are you off to at such an early hour?”

“Work. I have a special project happening today, and I need to ensure that it proceeds smoothly, or heads are going to start rolling.”

Salina shakes her head and grabs my free right hand, grasping it with both her small hands. “John, when will you give up that dangerous job? You know we have more than enough money that we will never want for the rest of our life’s, and with the way your father has been making money, even your grandchildren will never want in their lifetimes. Why must you work so much?”

“You know why Salina.” I sigh. “It just doesn’t feel right to me to keep living off the family like this. All that money belongs to you, dad, and the rest of his wives. I just have no need to try to claim or take any of it. Plus my work is no more dangerous than what Kayla’s is. How many times has she been shot at in the line of duty now?”

“But John. You’re our son. That gives you just as much rights to the money as it does any of the rest of us. Being an iron worker is not something a billionaire’s son should be doing.”

“You are correct, but I’m just not qualified to take any of it. I only barely passed Helens classes, and that was after she started catering her material to me. I’m just not smart enough or talented enough. I’m also not one of those Alphas that dad and his friends keep talking about. Why do you think I don’t join in any of their conversations?”

“Oh, you’re just shy. And you are plenty enough intelligent for this family. And I honestly think you are sadly mistaken about being an Alpha. You just haven’t shown your abilities.”

I open the outer door into the cold white blizzard. “You better get back inside. A baby doll nighty does not make the best snowy weather outfit.”

Salina grasps my hand one more time. “Will you be home for supper? I want to sit down with you and talk to you about a few things that are going on in the family. Your father also wants to speak with you.”

“I highly doubt I will have this wrapped up by supper, so don’t expect me. I probably won’t be home until a little after this time tomorrow.”

Pulling me down towards her, Salina gives me a motherly kiss on my forehead and drops her hands to her side.

“Well, have a good day at work. And be safe!”

Nodding towards Salina with a smile I get into my pickup that was already idling in the cold snow, warming up both the motor and the cabin.

Carefully, I put the truck in gear and start to make my way down the long treacherously steep driveway, engaging the plow attached to the front of my pickup along the way to clear the drive of the excess snow that overpowered the driveway heater. Passing the guard shack at the bottom of the driveway, I scrape and slide my way all the way to through Winter Park, and deep into the mountain in the north.

Pulling through the heavily armored gate spanning the large entry way, I roll my window down and show my identification to the guards on duty. The entry way is large enough to let four semi-trucks through side by side and was two trucks high. With a casual nod, the security guard waves me forwards as the metal spike barriers designed to stop an army of tanks, are retracted into the pavement to let me pass.

Five minutes later I walk into a massive warehouse building, cleverly disguised as a gentle hill.

“Your early Commodore Mathews! How do you think the preparation crew is going to get anything done knowing you are standing behind them?”

I grin towards the blond wearing a neatly pressed dark blue sailor dress uniform. Each of the pleats in the knee length skirt are perfectly proportioned.

“I’m not going to be standing behind them. I’m going to be working next to them! Carrie, you know I prefer to work alongside the crew that I represent.” Grabbing a mechanics apron loaded with tools, I approach the crew boarding a shuttle cart on their way to the worksite.

Our worksite is a ravine between two ridges. Hidden in that ravine is a massive space faring ship belonging to the United Naval Space Corps. To shuttle equipment and supplies from the Earthen base’s.

 

 

“It never ceases to amaze me how someone with your status will just jump right into the work without considering your standing.” Carrie retorts as we stand in the central launching facility preparing the final launch clearance.

“As I keep telling everyone. I don’t consider my father’s money as my own. It’s better left to my sisters at this point.”

“I smell bullshit. What’s the real reason?” Carrie digs for the heart of the situation.

“You want the real reason I don’t participate in my family’s wealth?”

Carrie nods enthusiastically, eager to get some juicy gossip.

“Well aren’t you such a nosey bitch.” I mutter under my breath. Soon after a sudden pain courses through my foot.

Carrie glares at me as she stomps on my foot in response.

“Ok, Ok, fine. Have you ever wondered how old my father really is?”

“Not really… Thinking about it, he must be somewhere in his mid to late thirty’s? So, what he had children a bit early? It’s not all that uncommon these days.” Carrie continues to ponder the question.

“Well every time I ask him how old he is really, I seem to be getting a different answer.”

“That could mean anything. He could be afraid of his age or is just getting antimeres.”

“But considering my oldest sisters are in their late twenty’s, it seems suspicious.”

After a brief pause to let Carrie think that over I continue.

“Do you remember that time you stayed over for dinner about a year ago?”

“Oh boy do I ever! That was the best steak I had ever eaten! Not to mention everything else was so delicious!”

“Well do you remember the four other men that sat with my father in the sitting room?”

“Oh… They were hot!”

“Carrie, your missing where I’m going with this. Their bond is something to be reckoned with. And their true age is also questionable.”

“Well you’re not making a good case here. Sorry if I can’t follow.”

Fine. I’ll leave it there. It’s obvious you can’t follow what I am saying, so I’ll leave you with this to ponder. One of those four men, is the owner and founder of Wentworth Enterprises.”

Carries jaw hits the floor.
“Now close your mouth before you let the flies out. We have work to do. Can you check the calibration on the fuel regulation valves? It’s ok for them to be out of tolerance in a positive way, but if these ships run out of fuel part way up we may have to ditch them in the ocean. And nobody wants to swim with the fishes.”

After a half hour of pre-flight checks, Carrie and I confirm launch control permission and sit back to watch the long ship lift off into the storm above it.

“Why do we launch these ships with boosters still? It seems a bit archaic and wasteful with the advent of the ion drives?”

“You haven’t been here on this project all that long, have you?”

Carrie shakes her head.

“Well something is picketing the orbit around the planet. As soon as this ship breaks through the atmosphere, the crew will be in for the ride of their life.”

“Well they are launching in the middle of a storm, of course…”

“The storm is nothing to these ships, they each have enough mass that some small winds are completely unnoticeable. But as soon as the boosters run out and separate, they will have to engage the ion drives. Whoever is picketing the orbit is able to detect the energy output from the ion engines and doesn’t want these ships to leave orbit.” I interrupt Carrie before she could get the wrong idea.

“Doesn’t want them to leave?”

“Ahh… I should have phrased it better. But you should see the reaction we get upon approach. That’s why none of these ships will ever return to earth. If any personnel need to return they return by stealth shuttle.”

“What’s the closest a capitol ship has ever gotten?”

“Officially?”

Carrie nods.

“A battle group made it as far as Uranus once, but of the three carriers, only one was able to make the jump out of system. Whoever they are, they have the ability to interdict a carrier fleet in the middle of a slip space jump. They battled from the orbit of Pluto to Uranus. They were the bravest men and women ever.”

“Have you ever battled against them?”

“Not personally. But most of the detection equipment that I develop goes towards the suppression effort. That’s why we are launching so many ships.”

Carrie cocks her head in confusion. “You said that the carrier group was the closest official attempt… What’s the closest unofficially?”

“Do you know the legends of John Starlock and Sarah Keys?”

Carrie nods her head. “Didn’t they find a race that gave them eternal life?”

“That would be them. Apparently Starlock snuck a predator class prowler behind the moon.”

“Wow, just a single ship?”

“No. Working together Keys snuck her fast attack battleship with Starlock. Hid her energy signature behind the shields of Starlock’s Prowler.”

“WHAT!?”

“Apparently, according to the ships logs they stayed in place for over three months, sending shuttles back and forth until their shuttle was discovered upon exiting the atmosphere. After an impressive battle, both where able to punch a hole back to safer space.”

“So, it is possible to get back to Earth?”

I gently shake my head. “The Invictus and Night Panther had been modified beyond the original design. The Invictus had upgraded to a three-reactor design that added more powerful main cannons. Its MAC cannons could destroy half of an earth class planet in one volley. And the Night Panther could hide in plain sight in front of your radar dishes and you would be none the wiser.”

“How did they get to be so powerful?”

“They made deals with various alien governments to gain access to their nations tech.”

“And they had their ships modified as they acquired the tech?”

“Bingo. That tech is supposed to be delivered soon on a stealth drone. Naval Intelligence wants us to look over the data. I suppose once we collect the data we will need to prototype new weapons systems.”

“Do you think we will ever bring the fight to them?”

“We are going to have to whether we want to or not. Have you heard of the alien species call Kirrix?”

“Eww, you mean the bug creatures the exploration team found?”

“Yep, those ones exactly. They are slowly infesting every planet they come across with detrimental effects on the local wild life.” Carrie and I continue preparing for the next launch.

“What we need is full cooperation from these picketing ships to be able to fend off an invasion. Even if we upgrade and pool our resources within the fleet we won’t last long under two fronts.” If we continue our preparations in silence, pondering what the outcome would be if we didn’t reach an agreement soon.

 

 

“Ship launch in five… Four… Three… Two… One… Ignition, hold to full power thrust, release and liftoff.” I count out the countdown over the PA system while watching the massive spacecraft be hurled into space.

“Well, that’s the last one. Want to join me for dinner at my place tonight?” I offer to Carrie.

“Oh, I would love to! You know how much I love that beautiful mansion you live in!” I frown towards her.

“You do know that it’s my father’s, right?”

“Yes, I do know, and do you know that you should have enough money to purchase it after you develop the new upgrades for the fleet?”

“You are ever so observant Carrie.”

Together we go through the launch pad shutdown sequence. Each of the three launch pads will have to be refurbished by a ground team after suffering from the extreme temperatures of the booster exhaust.

“John? When was the last time you looked at a clock?”

“I don’t know.”

“You do realize that its already past midnight? We might be more apt to having an early breakfast.”

“Let’s just get back, get something to eat, and get some shut eye. We can worry about what meal it is that we are eating later.”

Together Carrie and I get into my pickup and thread our way through the mountains, occasionally dropping the plow on the front to push drifts of snow around.  Finally, we make it to the base of the driveway and nod to the security guards before proceeding up the steep driveway.

“What does your family do? Have you noticed that your place seems to have better security than most government instillations?”

“Can’t say that I have, but I tend to stay away from everyone around here. It’s just too much trouble dealing with my family.” I pull into my parking spot and lower the plow blade on the front of the truck to take the weight off the springs and hydraulics.

“You have such a large and wonderful family, I still haven’t been able to figure out, why does your family trouble you so much?” Carrie springs on me as we are getting out of my pickup.

I look over at Carrie as she climbs out of my truck. Her curves are subtle, being hidden under the foul weather gear.

“Remember what I was telling you about questioning my father’s age?”

“Ya? What about?”

“… I feel like there is much, much, more that they are not telling me….”

“So, you think they’re intentionally hiding something from you?”

“Well they sure the hell not telling me the truth.” I open the door to the mud room and guide Carrie in, helping her out of her cold weather gear once I closed the door behind us.

“Do you remember the spy versus spy project we worked on together?”

Carrie nods her head.

“Well as soon as the customer was done with the satellite I had it pulled from its original orbit and made a low altitude pass over this part of the mountains. Not only was the satellite soon shot down, but the data I was able to retrieve told me an interesting story.” Carrie and I step into the kitchen and I pull out glasses as she raids the giant refrigerators for something to drink.

“Almost all of the images from the standard wavelength cameras turned up a giant blank spot right where this building sits. That spot covers a good portion of this ridge. Now the images and data I did get from the other sensor units told a different picture. What I was most interested in was the data from the gas spectrometer.”

“So, you used a billion-dollar satellite to sniff the air from far away?”

“It’s pretty hard to sniff air that is not, there right? Somewhere behind the house is a complete dead zone when it comes to gasses. Meaning a complete perfect vacuum, even deep space doesn’t compare to the readings I got.”

“What do you think could be in your back yard? I have heard of family’s having skeletons in their closets, but I have never heard of having black holes in their back yard.”

I grin at Carrie. “Well wouldn’t that be interesting to figure out. I highly doubt mother Salina would be able to tell us, now would she?”

Carrie shows a puzzled look on her face that turns to surprise when she realizes that Salina was on the other side of the entryway to the kitchen.

“No, I can’t say I can help you there. But I though you said you where an iron worker!?”

“What? Can’t a construction company get creative and build satellites to?”

“Well your father will be happy to hear that was just you sneaking peaks.”

“Who has to tell him? You know the first thing he will want to know is how did I get ahold of a military grade satellite, and I can’t rat out the client who loaned it to me.” Saline looks at me with a shocked expression on her face.

“This involves the safety of this family!”

“Ok, then you go get father right now. If he must know I’ll just tell him what I can. And that don’t make out to be very much.”

“…”

“What… he’s not here is he?”
“No.” Salina reply’s in a small voice.

“So that’s why the house is mostly empty. So, where are they?”

“They… They had to go take care of something…”

“Ah, whatever. If dads with them then nothing will really happen.” I turn to Carrie who has been sitting silently, sipping on her iced coke. “Carrie, help me make something for dinner. What do you want?”

Carrie perks up to attention. “Something with steak?”

“We have plenty of that, ill fire up the grill, you start on something for the sides. See if you can make those mashed potatoes you always bring with you for lunch?”

I look over at Salina sitting at the kitchen table where we were talking earlier. Her expression looks distant, as if her thoughts are somewhere else.

“Salina, are you joining us?”

She quietly shakes her head before quietly getting up and leaving the kitchen.

Carrie and I continue to cook in silence, finally plating our meal before Carrie breaks the silence.

“Is the rest of your family like that?” Carrie questions.

“Not during a normal conversation. However, I think something is up. Every time I start to bring up my questions around my father’s wives and my older sisters, they start to clam up like that…” I shake my head in confusion as we sit down at the dinner table. “Something is up, and I’m thinking about getting to the bottom of it before I get promoted.”

The rest of dinner Carrie and I keep the conversation light, somehow avoiding anything about work, and the giant elephant in the room.

When we finished dinner and cleaned up the kitchen and the dining table next to the kitchen we start to head upstairs.

“Do you want to use the guest room in my suite? You can say hi to Calara?” Carrie smiles at my recommendation.

“I would love to! Please, lead me there.”

Together Carrie and I make our way to the fourth floor of the building where my rooms and suite are at.

Opening the door to my suite that leads into the sitting room, a bright flash emanates from the middle of the room, as a three-foot-tall holograph of a woman suddenly appears.

“Hello Master! I see you have brought company! Would you like me to prepare your suite?”

Carrie blushes as she realizes what Calara is meaning.

“N-n-n-no! I-it’s not like th-th-that! I-I mean I l-l-like him, b-but I don’t li-like him that way, but I d-do l-l-like him like him! Oh, but I…”

“Calara… What am I going to do with you?” I interrupt Carrie to avoid any further embarrassment on her part. “Don’t you have any sense of modesty?” It’s clear that Carrie is starting to melt down.

“I’m sorry master…” Calara pouts.

“Go warm up the guest bedroom… and think about what you have done.”

“Yes sir.” Calara replies with a gloomy voice before winking out of existence.

I turn to Carrie who has almost turned to mush.

“I think it might be time for bed then? Or would you like to stay up for a bit longer and chat about work?”

“I-I think I’ll just go to b-bed.”

I look over at Carrie. “That sounds like a good idea, we can talk work in the morning. There’s some clothes your size in the dresser and closet. I took the liberty of having a few of my younger sister’s shop for you since you stay over so much.”

Carrie puts an anxious look on her face. “You d-don’t think it’s anything inappropriate, do you?”

“I don’t know. You know my sisters better than I do. Your welcome to anything here.”

Carrie blushes.

“If you need anything, just come and ask. Ill be happy to get you anything you need.”

“Thank you! Good night John!”

“Good night.”

We go our separate ways, changing and slipping into bed. Quickly falling asleep to await another day.

 

“John… John… Are you awake?”

Something keeps waking me up before the alarms I set with Calara.

“John. Wake up. I have news about the launch.”

“Calara, we really need to talk about your wake up calls.” I snap at the offending voice.

“I’m sorry about yesterday master, but it’s not me trying to rouse you this morning.” A slightly different voice responds.

Suddenly things start to click in my head. The different voices, the pressure on my right side of the bed.

“Oh crap!” I sit upright quickly, almost hitting my forehead on Carries nose.

Carrie lets out a small yelp and starts to fall over backwards before I reach out and catch her from falling off the bed.

“Um…” Carrie squeaks out as she realizes my situation with only a sheet for sleepwear.

Gently I set her upright and adjust my bed sheet before apologizing. “I’m sorry my dear for my lack of proper attire. If the subject matter could wait a few minutes, would you mind waiting in the sitting room?”

Carrie giggles nervously. “I really don’t mind your lack of dress!”

“Ok, what seems to be on your mind this morning?”

Carries expression darkens slightly. “One of the five launches didn’t even make it to Mars. Three out of the four sent out emergency distress beacons once they were outside the picket area.”

“We finally lost one after how many years of successful launches?”
“Three. I think they are stepping up their game. Something doesn’t seem right about this situation though.”

“Why would they suddenly start ramping up their patrol force?” I made an educated guess.

“Exactly! Why would they suddenly increase their manpower after so many years of us barely making it through?” Carrie ponders the question.

“Think they caught on to where we launch most of our ships? Or the fact that we only really launch through heavy and tall storms?”

“No. I feel they figured that out a long time ago. I think it has to do with something else. Something we have over looked…”

I turn towards the TV at the other end of my bedroom. “Calara, could you bring up all of the most recent radar logs around the Sol system?”

“Yes sir. Compiling now.”

I turn towards Carrie. “While she’s doing that, how about we get dressed and go find some breakfast? By the way, that nightie looks cute on you.”

Carrie instantly turns red at my mention of her nighty and starts stuttering incomprehensible sentences.

“Go on, time to get dressed.” I gently coax her to leave my bedroom, so I can get dressed, and before she could make my already precarious situation even worse.

 

 

“Jeez lazy bones! It’s already ten! You missed breakfast like four hours ago!” My younger sister Sarah teases from the living room.

“Sorry, I’ve been up almost all night.”

“Working again?”

“You know it, so why even ask? Had another special project night.”

Sarah shakes her head at me. “You know you don’t have to work right? Dad keeps telling us that it’s the family’s fortune, and we are all welcome to it.”

“That’s just not how I work. It just doesn’t feel right, and if I support myself, then that leaves more for the rest of my sisters. On the other hand, is there any leftovers from breakfast?”

“Way to avoid the topic… No, everything got eaten. Mom and dad are not here, along with most of our older sisters.”

“So, breakfast was light? Ill head down to Martha’s Diner then with Carrie.”

“Mind if I come along? It’s boring around here with no one to talk to.”

I pretend to think about it, already knowing I can’t deny a request from one of my sisters. “Carrie and I will just be talking about work stuff. I don’t think you would want to listen to our boring drivel.”

“Who’s boring drivel?” Carrie asks, only catching the tail end of our conversation.

“Yours.”

Carrie pretends to take offence. “What? I’m boring drivel?”

“Well mostly me. But you don’t mind do you Carrie? We can go somewhere later if you want a more private meal.”

Carrie starts blushing before yelling out. “I call shotgun!”

I smile at Sarah. “Sounds like that’s a yes.”

I follow the girls out to my pickup, with Carrie leading the way. Starting the truck, we make our way down the mountain to the Diner at the base of the hill.

“Morning Martha!” I shout to the owner of the Diner. A cute waitress guides us to a corner booth, away from the normal commotion of customers.

Thanking the waitress, we sit down around three quarters of the round table. I place my phone and a cylindrical object about the size of a soda can in the center of the table.

“Calara, can you bring up those images I was asking about?”

“Yes sir.” Calara’s voice emanates from the cylindrical object in the center of the table.

Suddenly, a projection of a portion of a solar system is projected into the middle of the table. Thousands of little dots light up the space between a small blue and green planet, and a red planet further away from the sun.

“Carrie, as you were saying this morning, there definitely seems to be a change from the last time. If you look, the dencity of the attack formations from the last launch has increased.” I use my fingers on my phone to adjust the image being displayed to show the relevant data.

“So we can definitely confirm that the picketing forces have grown?” Carrie looks closer at the numbers recorded from the previous two launch dates.

“For sure, however the level of damage doesn’t quite corelate with the increase in numbers.”

“Look at their flight patterns. Something seems to be off.”

“Umm… if I may, do you have an accelerated clip of the previous session? I am assuming your playing a tactics game, right?” Sarah asks, not totally sure what we are talking about.

Flicking through the records I find the files Sarah requested. “Sure. And your close enough. This is a space tactical simulation. We are trying to figure out how we have suddenly started taking heavy damage after the past three years’ worth of launches have been fairly accident free.”

Sarah study’s the two videos, giving me requests to speed it up and slow it down, finally asking me to overlay the two into the hologram. “What are these bigger dots?”

“Those seem to be the lead units. After proper investigation, we have determined that they are manned units, versus the multiple unmanned smaller units.” I explain.

“Do the manned units control the smaller unmanned units?”

“From our observation, it dosent seem to be the case. Each of the unmanned units seems to be able to take some actions on their own and will communicate to any of the larger units.” Carrie quips.

Sarah spends a few more minutes observing the map while Carrie and I argue about the strengths of the crew. Our waitress interrupts our heated debate and takes our order. While waiting for our food, Sarah continues the conversation.

“I think what the problem could be is that there are more of the larger dots. If those are the manned control units then its also safe to assume that they are stronger?”

“Precisely the problem when we face them.”

“Another thing I noticed was that there also seems to be more unmanned units. So with the increase of manned units in the space around this planet, there is an increase in unmanned units.”

Carrie looks closer at the map, realizing what Sarah just said.

“And from looking at your team, your units seem to be much, much larger, but from a less technological standpoint. Also your units seem to only be launching one at a time?”

I take a sip of my coffee before answering. “Your absolutely right on the technology point of view. Accordingly, their tech is lightyears ahead of what we have currently on our outgoing assets. Also, we must launch our assets one at a time, as we are trying to avoid early detection by launching through the middle of storms.”

Finally, the waitress brings us our breakfasts, each of us ordering some sort of special pancakes.

“I think your issue is that their forces seem to be both training to get better and expanding their forces judging by ship placement and their movements during battle.” Sarah exclaims, proud of herself.

I grab my devices out of the center of the table, stopping the projector in the process to make more room for the sides to our meals. “That’s kind of what I had the feeling of.”

“The only way around it, assuming, your crews are all trained is to increase the number of units moving through the picketed areas.”

“That means doubling the launches.” Carrie ponders what this would mean.

“But that would double our chances of being intercepted before we leave the ground.” I counter.

“How many years has it been since the facility started operations?” Sarah asks.

“About five years.”

“You need to bring me some day! I want to see where you work!”

Carrie and I respond with silence, pondering the fact that Sarah realized it was where I worked.

“What?”

“Not a word to dad, nor any of his wives. I think Salina suspects somethings up, but she’s a certified genius.”

Sarah nods her head enthusiastically at my request.

“I don’t think dad really has time to worry about what you do for a living. As long as you don’t get hurt or killed.”

“I don’t think that really matters. Not with the company’s health program… Remember when you lost your right index finger John?” Sarah gasps as Carrie reminds me of a not too recent injury.

“Your making my finger hurt just thinking about it. Thankfully we were able to get it reattached without too many issues.”

“But I never noticed?!” Sarah exclaims, raising her voice a bit.

I gesture for her to quiet down. “That’s what Carries talking about. The company has a great health plan. And I have heard rumors that the benefits get even better when you get promoted to Admiralty. But enough about the company. What’s been happening around home? I’ve been working way too much to be engaged in matters at home.”

Sarah, Carrie and I continued our conversation between bites of our breakfast, catching up on all the latest from the Mathews house hold.

After paying for our meals, I take the girls out to a local recreation area and continue our conversation from back at the diner.

After frolicking in the snow for a while, and starting and losing three snowball fights, we decide to make our way back home.

At the bottom of the mountain, both Carrie and I’s alarms on our phones go off. Carrie looks at the message as I start to turn the truck around.

“What is it this time?”

“I don’t know, kind of looks like the launch data servers fell over. They need you to fix them.”

I let out a protracted sigh. “Isn’t that what we hired those Information Services people to do?”

“None of them are on duty, and it seems we are the closest.”

“Then why did they ring you?”

“No clue.”

I let out another protracted sigh.

“Well Sarah, you wanted to see where I worked didn’t you?”

Sarah grins.

“Ill have to keep you blindfolded on the way there though. For some reason the admirals don’t want anyone to know where this field office is.” Sarah frowns at me as Carrie reaches behind her seat to blind fold Sarah.

 

 

“Welcome to the but crack of the mountain, what we like to call the devils crack.” Carrie says to Sarah, gesturing to the large cavernous room where the boosters are prepared for the launches.

Each corvette is too large to be brought inside to mount to the booster rockets, so the boosters are prepared outside and attached on the hidden launch pads.

I leave Carrie to show Sarah around the hangar while I repair the data servers. After a few hours of reseting and reconnecting the failed servers, swapping out bad disks and network cards in a good portion of them, I make my way back into the hangar.

Just as I walk up to Carrie and Sarah, the bases general steps up.

“Ah, General Fulham! What gives us the pleasure of seeing you here? By the way, General Fulham, this is Sarah Mathews, my sister. Sarah, this is General Fulham.”

The general tips his hat to Sarah. “Ma’am, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Likewise!” Sarah replies with a beaming smile.

“John, we received the payload. It we picked up in the Northern Pacific ocean this morning and is on a plane as we speak. In order to prepare for your reciept of the plans, I asked the Information Services team to restart the data center to ensure everything was operating smoothly.”

“However let me guess,” I interrupt the general. “The servers didn’t boot back up like you expected them to?”

“Preciecely.” General Fulham nods.

“Don’t worry, I just got finished cleaning that mess up. The servers are fine. Might take an hour or two to get the data restored onto the new drives I had to install, but its all working.”

“Thank you John, I knew I could count on you. Now onto other matters…” General Felham pauses for a moment before continuing. “The Admirals are thinking about sending one of the fleets back to earth, and pushing the picket line hard in retaliation for the destruction of the Corvets we launched.”

“I knew you would piss in my cornflakes. Why is the admiralty so pushy about the picketers?”

“For reasons we cant discuss infront of current company. Ill fill you in during the next briefing.”

“Let me guess, it has to do with the Kirrix infestation?” General Fulham flinches as I strike close to home.

“As I said, its not something we should discuss when there is a lady in our presence.” General Fulham gestures towards Sarah.

Sarah grins and is about to say something, but is cut off by Carries shouting.

“Lady?! I’m a lady to!”

 

I grin at Caries outburst.

 

“Your not a lady Carrie, you’re a member of the Navy. You gave up your right to be a lady when you enlisted.”

 

Carrie carrys on grumbling as we say our good byes to the General. As soon as the General is out of earshot Sarah grabs my arm and spins me around.

 

“You have to tell me what’s going on. I am just dying to know!”

 

“Don’t worry, I’ll tell you more when we get home. If the General catches me telling you I’ll get an as chewing like none other.”

 

I pat Sarah on the head, even though she is not too much shorter than me. I look at Carrie who is still grumbling.

 

“Hey squidete, just because you’re not a ‘Lady’ doesn’t mean you are a dude. Miss lady squid.” I throw a comforting insult to Carrie to get her to crack a smile. My plan is a success as Carrie cracks a small smile upon her face.

“If you say so.”

“That’s my girl.” I look down at Carrie just as her face turns red and she turns away from me.

“Did I say something wrong?” I ask, concerned that my slip of the toung calling her my girl might have made her angry.

Quick as lightning, Carrie spins around and launches a fist square into my ribs. “No.” She stiffly pouts.

Holding my ribs and wondering what I did to make Carrie act this way, we make our way back to my truck, blindfolding Sarah before we step outside.

In the truck, we make our way Back to Sarah and I’s home on top of the mountain. About the time we get to Martha’s diner, we strip the blindfold off Sarah, so she could see exactly where we are going.

“Awe, I was hoping to be able to see where you took me!” Sarah wines.

“You know you’re not supposed to know. So, wherever you are guessing is wrong.” At least Carrie sounds better. Thankfully she isn’t one to stay pissed for very long.

 

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