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Writing an novel, or series, or something


#161

Volsola, Ki, and Versi were the last to enter the room. Apparently they were discussing some details over previous experiences. But the conversation ended before anyone inside the room could gain any details. The two cousins walked directly over to Jahqu. They gave Aroth a nod of greeting before looking back to Jahqu. Unfortunately, Jahqu still could not quite tell which was which when they began to speak. “We only have seven weeks of training before we go to the Terran system,”, “And it has been decided that the N.A.U. pilots will put on a show for their President,”, “Training for that show begins this evening,”, “We get to see how well you fly tonight.”

They turned around and walked to the front of the room. Aroth said in New Latin, “That was strange.” Jahqu gestured back that he knew. The lesson began. Jahqu found some of it interesting, while several others were busy taking many notes. The four linguistics officers were assigned to tutor the rest of the group.

Volsola spoke after the lesson, “All of us will be given a crash course of Terran history. We also need to train in Terran social interaction. I have been informed there are several differences that are significant enough to cause issues. We only have a few weeks to get this done, so I expect everyone to study hard. Also, after the N.A.U. show we will put on for their President, we are doing a formal proclamation ceremony for him as well. We will start preparing for that soon.” Jahqu realized he would not be getting much rest any time soon.

Later that evening, after going over and practicing parts of the designed N.A.U. demonstration, Jahqu took a quick sonic rinse in the N.A.U. quarters. He made a note to himself as he put up his uniform into his assigned locker that he needed to take a true cleansing bath soon. He ate a quick meal of a variety of foods before cleaning his teeth and heading to the resting area. The room was dark, but the circle of sleeping beds was outlined by sparkles of light. Focusing his eyes more in the infrared, he saw the two heat outlines of Ki and Versi already occupying two of the beds. He detected them earlier by feel and smell and knew neither was asleep yet. Both had removed their clothing and were resting. Jahqu chose a bed nearer the door when, he could tell it was Versi now, asked, “I wonder what Terran social interactions Volsola was referring too. You met some, Jahqu, any idea?”

Jahqu hand gestured no. He lay back against his bed and tried to get more comfortable. Ki spoke next, “Guess we will find out later. Oh, Jahqu, excellent flying today. No wonder Volsola said you have natural talent. We might be giving your name to our clan sisters, if you prove yourself in a few other areas. I believe massage is next, then cooking?” Versi gestured yes. Jahqu groaned to himself and wished that the Volsola would join them soon. He was starting to need reinforcements; these two were now acting like older clan sisters. That brought its own set of dangers.


#162

The sensation was just like the time Jake connected to the training N.A.U. He could feel the limbs and systems of the simulated machine as if they were his own. The simulator matched the cockpit of the current common model of N.A.U., the NSA-8.6. The censors should him a 360 degree picture of everything around him. The virtual plains with patches of tree clumps provided excellent maneuvering room, but little cover. It was awkward feeling still, but he managed to dodge the incoming virtual shot that Hana just made. The difference in sensation between his real body and the N.A.U.s was taking time for him to adjust to, but he got down on one knee and fired a shot back. Though he was taking the simulation seriously, he couldn’t help but feel some fun. Oddly, his instructors hadn’t said a word in awhile.

In the control room, Commander Orbindar watched the pair in silence, his color ridges blank. The lieutenant in charge of the simulator did the same but with a face of shock. The only person in the room that did not seem surprised stood in the shadows where it was hard to be seen. Suddenly the door opened up into the control room and Rear Admiral Cho entered.

The admiral spoke aloud, “I know the military intelligence officer is in here. I want to talk to him. I do not like…” He glanced at the monitors and became confused. “Commander Orbindar, you usually do not let third week trainees goof off. Why is there an exception today?”

Commander Orbindar turned to the admiral and gave a quick salute. He spoke in the same tone as he always did, but the ridges remained blank, “My apologies Admiral. However, these are not third week trainees. This is their first session in the simulator, basic arm movement training.”

The admiral looked at the commander with the expression that he must be joking. However it was quickly apparent he wasn’t. He watched the video feed with a growing sense of amazement. It took nearly a week for a neural system to synchronize with a N.A.U. system. The process took several sessions of just learning to move the arms, head, legs, and eventually the hard part of learning to walk. Things quickly moved on after that. Yet, here were two cadets firing practice shots at each other, nearly running to avoid the incoming shots, ducking and crawling. “Wait a second, they are firing shots at each other?! How did they figure out that?”


#163

A voice the admiral didn’t recognize spoke out from the shadows. It was hard to tell if it was male or female. “The N.A.U. system is designed to be very instinctive. Since these two fully synchronized with the interface system within a few moments of plugging in, they were bound to figure out how to activate the weapons systems. Fortunately the instructors kept some pace with them and made sure everything was in pure practice mode. Also, by my request, the flight systems are deactivated for the time being. I do want them to learn as quickly as possible, but I did not think they or the instructors were ready for that.”

The admiral turned to the voice. “Ah, there you are. I trust you have an explanation for this,… I am sorry, I don’t have your name.”

The person in the shadows answered back, “I do, and I will tell you as soon as we get in a more private area. In the meantime I would recommend skipping the whole movement training with them and start them on the third week program. Also, I am sure they could handle accelerated training in the other aspects of piloting.”

The admiral gave the figure a stern look, “I am the one who makes protocol around here.” He turned to the commander. “Get those two out of there now, and get them started on the third week courses. Add the extra lessons and simulations we have until the rest of the cadets catch up. If needs be, add some actual back seat flying time in to draw it out. I want everyone on the same page by week six. And I do not want those two fooling around anymore.” Everyone stopped as each cadet scored a direct hit on each other while both were moving. “Damn.” The admiral became aware he said that out loud.


#164

Hana laughed out loud as she heard Jake over communications yelp. His face popped up on a screen and he said, “Dang, that didn’t work too well for either of us, or maybe it worked too well?” Hana quickly figured out the intercom and put her image into Jake’s cockpit.

She replied, “Well, you know how great minds think alike. That is what makes you taking the same action I did unbelievable.” She barely hid her grin, though the helmet helped, as Jake gave her a cold stare. She counted down to herself, and was sad that she was one second off before he laughed.

The monotone voice of the commander came out of nowhere, “Flight Cadets Misoto and Betterson, this training session was to synchronize you enough to move your units’ arms in some basic motions. You have gone well beyond the parameters set up for it.” Hana cringed and could see that Jake did as well. Without anyone talking to them, they ended up doing what the commander would consider ‘fooling around’. Hana was about to speak when the commander continued. “You are to disengage from the simulation immediately. A new simulation training program will be designed for you by tomorrow. From now on, do not go beyond the instructor’s parameters.”

With a few thoughts and some buttons pushed, the virtual images disappeared and the simulator entered standby mode. The neural plug disengaged from her neck port, and Hana walked outside the simulator to greet Jake. Jake spoke first, “Wow, I never dreamed it was like that. The feeling was incredible! And we were doing it, not just enjoying the ride like first time.”

Hana placed her hand on his shoulder. He quickly calmed down, but she smiled as she answered, “I agree! But don’t get too excited, I think they are watching still.” She leaned in closer, “I never dreamed it would feel so, well, ‘natural’. They were not kidding with the name, Natural Armored Units.”

The door to the training room opened. Both looked around the other simulators to see a person already standing in the shadows. The person spoke, but the gender was unidentifiable. “The rest of the cadets are now slowly moving the simulated arms of their N.A.U.s. You are not to mention to them or anyone in general that you accomplished more. Your ‘ratings’ for this training exercise will simply be rated as ‘advanced’.” Both heard what could have only been a slight laugh, “It does seem it was wise of me to make sure you two were linked to a separate simulation.”


#165

Jake stared at the person, “Who are you?”

“Do you really have to ask? Well, I guess you know what I am, but I cannot tell you who. I will be watching. Don’t worry, I will just be watching.” Very quickly the person left the room.

Hana gave a slight sigh, “Well, training just got more interesting.” A voice over the intercom announced the first lesson was over. Soon all the simulators disengaged and the other cadets started coming out. Conrando quickly walked over to Jake and Hana.

His face seemed pleased, “That was the strangest sensation I have ever felt. I had two pairs of arms! But I must say, I think I pleased my instructor. I got ‘excellent’ ranking. What did you guys think?”

Jake and Hana flipped a mental coin, but the quick look Hana gave Jake told him he lost. Jake answered, “Well, it is very different from the probes we flew, but both Hana and I were already use to that different sensation. We got ‘advanced’ scores.”
Conrando’s eyes widen, “I guess experience does help. Perhaps you can give me some tips?” Hana laughed a little, and Jake tried to think of something to say.
Hana beat him to it, “We can tell you about some of the tricks we learned flying the probes. There are similarities that should cross over. In the meantime, I believe we have crash survival retraining with N.A.U. components next. Should we be on our way?”

Memories field all three cadets’ minds of the crash survival training they took in basic. The landing in water test was the scariest memory to creep back into their thoughts. As N.A.U. pilots, they have to retake the courses with special N.A.U. conditions added into the mix. Jake said, “Well, that crushed the mood, Hana.” Hana gave him a slight glare, but the three moved off together for the next grueling experience.


#166

After Jahqu finished with procedure lessons, he finally had time to take a swim in the river next to the base. He strapped a water purifier to his mouth and dove into the pleasant waters with nothing else. It was a freeing experience, similar to the feeling he sometimes had in his N.A.U. when not on a mission. Sadly, it didn’t last long. Four others entered the water quickly after him, and with a quick shake with his head, he knew it was the marines.

They swam to him, and began to harass him lightly with some vague taunts. Jahqu was familiar with over seven Henthshraq languages, but the underwater dialect they were using was not well known to him. Eventually he answered back in the prime underwater language, “If you want to start a challenge or duel, just do so. Speaking insults that I do not understand just makes us all look rather foolish. Besides, shouldn’t we try to become friends?”

The marines circled him from all angles. Di’zalna was there, but she did not seem to be leading. The leader was Marshal Krav’volta from the clan Red Dragon, a very close clan to Silver Dragon. He finally spoke, “Where we come from, having an unproven youngster fight with true warriors is considered a great insult. Why should we have to carry you in battle? How can we trust our lives to someone who hasn’t even passed the seventh tier of his style?”

Jahqu gave a low growl, “The ones I have defeated in battle would be baffled by your talk. And it is just talk. If you do not trust me with your lives, then fear for them. I will not, for I will keep you safe and do my duties. If there is something you want me to do to prove myself, you can forget it. I am Jahqu’kortanshow, and I will not be bullied by mere words.”

Krav looked over to Di’zalna with a look of confusion. When Krav spoke to Jahqu, he really did not seem truly committed to his words. Now, with his confused expression, it appears that Jahqu failed to fall for some scripted event. However, the look didn’t last long, and Krav turned to him, “I should have suspected such talk from a Night Fox. It is rare to see a warrior from that bunch of sly cowards. If you are unimpressed by talk, then action will have to do. A cut challenge, if all four of us cut you, we win. If you cut each of us, you win.”


#167

Jahqu felt the other two marines moving around him. He turned to Krav, “Let me guess, you do not think you can trust me if I cannot handle overwhelming odds?” Krav gave another confused look.

He replied, “If that was a complaint about the numbers…” Krav then realized that it wasn’t. Jahqu began to suspect there was a script and he was not following it all. Krav spoke again, “Actually, you are correct, Night Fox. Do you accept?” Jahqu’s stingers flared out, and the roar of challenge echoed through the water. The fight was on.

Very quickly it became apparent that the fighting styles for each one involved varied greatly. Jahqu had a major advantage; he actually trained in two styles. The underwater style of octopus was not a common one, but the greatest of N.A.U. pilots learned that the style worked well for space fighting. Jahqu used 360 degrees of attack, where the marines were not used to attacks from below and above.
Jahqu kept his speed up, making sure not to get entrapped by the marines. As one shot over him, he struck like a large shark surging from underneath. The female was cut on her left leg, and she called the acknowledgment and swam further up out of the battle. Jahqu didn’t have time to pause, as the others quickly tried to ensnare him. One charged in like a torpedo. Jahqu, used his own momentum against him, used the current he generated to get over him, and left a cut on his back. The smell of blood from two Shraq now polluted the water.

Di’zalna’s stinger nearly struck his face. He felt her move in but only barely managed to avoid the strike. Time seemed to slow down when he realized the danger. Her stinger was in the perfect spot to cut his face on its back draw. His other style of raptor kicked in, and he bit her stinger. His teeth cut her near the elbow. She kicked him hard in the stomach and swam away. Her acknowledgment call was barely audible. Krav tried to move in but Jahqu already moved out the way. Now the two circled each other.

“I can see you have merged two styles together. Perhaps I should have done this on land.” Jahqu couldn’t resist answering back.

“Wasn’t it you who commented on complaints? Save them till after we are done.” Jahqu heard the return call of the first marine he cut. This type of challenge only called for a cut combatant to withdraw for a minute. Soon they all would return. All four still need to cut him, but he only had to cut Krav. “Don’t rush it,” he thought to himself.


#168

Krav did not like what Jahqu said. His charge was sudden, and this time Jahqu couldn’t dodge it completely. In a surprising move, Krav managed to twist he bodily in a sudden and violent roll, and one of his stingers sliced Jahqu’s right leg. The pain was sharp and strong, but Jahqu bore it as he called the acknowledgement. He swam away, and started to count to himself. He will be facing all four again when he reentered, and he was now injured. He had to think quickly. Remembering a game from childhood, he formed a plan.

All four waited for him and followed him as he swam well below them. Di’zalna cried out a call to charge with Krav staying back. When the three charged down, they were greeted by a large cloud of dirt, dust, and debris kicked up from the bottom. Stinger toxins leaked into the water stung their senses with the clay and mud. The speed in which Jahqu shot past them caught them off guard. This time Krav was unprepared, especially when Jahqu copied his own maneuver and cut his right arm.
All left the water after that. Upon the shore, a large crowd had gathered.

Volsola, Ki, and Versi instantly walked over to Jahqu and checked his wound. But the fact that so many were there began to confuse him. Krav finally spoke after removing his purifier. “Volsola, the next time you ask me to fight a N.A.U. pilot as good as he is in the water, forget it. But, as a master in raptor style and studier of octopus, he has passed the trial for both. I declare he is now tier 8.”

Jahqu removed his purifier. “In the expression of the Terrans, Are You Kidding Me? That was a test?” Several of the people laughed around him. Volsola chuckled a little himself.

He said to Jahqu, “It was a very long overdue one, and I didn’t have time to set up a formal one. Besides, I wanted to do a stress test as well. You did not give into anger and responded very wisely to his taunts. In fact, you did too well. Krav had to adlib most of it.” Krav gave Jahqu a strong pat on the back and a very proud look. Volsola continued, “From the records over your past four cycles of service and your passing of this test today, you are now declared a tier 8 in the caste of warrior and promoted to the rank of Knightshield.”

There were a few cheers from the crowd. Ki and Versi each gave him a small head butt. Volsola called out, “All right then that is enough of a break. Everyone get back to training!” Everyone instantly began to run off back to where they were supposed to be. Volsola turned to Jahqu, “I will arrange a special meal for you tonight in celebration, but I am afraid we don’t have time for much more than that.” He leaned in closer, “I see one day you might get near to my skill. Try to hold back a little, I got a record to keep.” Jahqu looked at him and saw a smile stretching across his face. Both laughed a little before Volsola turned and headed off himself.


#169

One person remained behind. Jahqu did not know whether it was a good or bad, but Di’zalna had barely moved since leaving the water. She looked at him with a bit of anger, but there was something else there that was hard to place. She looked over her elbow. “Did you have to bite that hard?”

Jahqu stepped a bit closer to get a good feel on the elbow. He shook his head and sniffed the air, and said, “That should heal by tonight. I do apologize though if I took it too far.” Di’zalna responded in an uncaring manner.

“Listen, I know we do not get along. But, for this mission, we both have to be High Clan members. I just wanted to say I am sorry for what I did on Henth. I am not saying let’s be friends, but the attempt on each other’s lives should end.” Jahqu could tell she was being truthful. When one can feel the neural pattern of the person speaking in front of them, it rules out the chance of lying. Still, the conversation was an odd one.

“I agree to a complete cease fire. Though, I still would like to have the option to be friends one day remain open.” Even he did not know where that came from, but it probably was because it upset him that Kaysayra always got so worried about the two of them fighting.

Di’zalna gave him a quizzical look and shook her head at him. “You don’t seem that delusional. Anyways, I will keep that under consideration. Kaysayra asked me why Mahria was talking to members of the clan Shadow Shark, so it is possible one day that I will not have to worry about you being a Night Fox.” He could tell that she enjoyed his reaction to that statement. She began to walk away, but called back, “Oh did my blood taste good? You should be careful about biting a postdon female. It might send the wrong impression.”

Still rearing over the fact that Ki and Versi were that serious about claiming him for one of their clan sisters, he nearly missed what she said. After it sunk in, his reaction must have been very evident for he heard Di’zalna’s laugh from a far off distance.


#170

Later that evening Jahqu faced the holographic image of a Shraq that looked very similar to him. The image was projected by a long range communications terminal, and the origins of the communication came from Henth. The image spoke, “You mean Mahria has already talked to clan Shadow Shark? I swear she gets ahead of herself sometimes. Do you want me to talk to her blood-brother?” Janvo’kortanshow, Jahqu’s very much older brother, did truly have a look of concern on his face.

Jahqu sighed, “Would she listen to you? You might the oldest of us, but when you got mated to Safvial and joined clan Winter Wolf, she has become the pseudo matriarch for Tisohsho and I. And it doesn’t help that you now live so far off from Henth.” He paused for a moment, “How is the terraforming project going on Dandravion 6?”

Janvo tilted his head slightly, “The team I am leading and the rest of the terra form specialist agree we have made tremendous progress.” He suddenly gave Jahqu a hard stare, “Now don’t change the subject. Little bro, you are a Knightshield, diplomat, and very strong person. Why are you so cautious with Mahria?”

A voice came from behind Janvo, “Because warrior or not, she can still bite his head off?” Tisohsho joined Janvo in the holographic image. She grabbed Janvo and made a large sigh. “Things would have been a lot more fun if the two of you could have been here together. How is training Jahqu?”

Jahqu repeated the same story to his little blood-sister. At the end she said, “Clan Shadow Shark? Wow, that is a nice clan. How do the freak cousins feel? Clan-sisters often don’t vary by that much. Do you think they would join our clan? Have they tasted your blood yet?” The looks her brothers gave her indicated that the joking was going a bit too far. “Fine, you are right. It is a bit early for Mahria to be doing a suitor list, but it is not too early to get your name out. She just wants what is best you Jahqu. And it is concerning for both of us that you have been gone from Shraq contact for so long and are about to be again.”

As if she was summoned, Mahria entered into the image but from another projection source. “Sorry everyone, I am still stuck at work. Taking a break right now. It is nice to see my blood-brothers at the same time, though sad that this is the only means to do so. What have I missed?” Both Tisohsho and Jahqu said nothing much, but Janvo went ahead and told her Jahqu’s story.


#171

Mahria responded, “Ah yes, blood-father did say you got promoted. Sadly, he is still extremely busy. And Jahqu, I am not trying to get you a mate right now. Relax, I am just making preparations for such a valuable young male of our clan. And Tisohsho, don’t act smug, your next on the list.” Several minutes of idle conversation passed between the siblings when the timer signal gave its first warning.

Jahqu sighed, “Sorry. Time is running out on my end. This really is a promotion treat that Volsola prepared for me. We need to sign off soon.” His elder siblings sighed lightly while Tisohsho actually snarled a little.

His younger blood-sister quickly spoke, “Well be sure to say hi to Volsola for me, and hi to our blood-aunt from all of us when you get to Sol system! And tell you-know-who hi from me as well.” Mahria gave Tisohsho a sharp look at that last commit.

Mahria spoke, “Jahqu, take care now. If you think I am bad about match-making, beware our blood-aunt. She makes me look like an amateur. And be careful about you-know-who.” Tisosho cringed when she realized Mahria knew who that was. Mahria continued, “I know you two actually do not get along, but it still concerns me that you are so familiar with her.” Janvo started to seem interested, but Tisohsho stopped him from asking and gestured she will tell him later.

Jahqu actually laughed a little, “Blame that familiarity on fate dear sister. But don’t worry, she will be on a separate ship and more than likely a separate squadron. Also, I got clan-cousin Aroth to provide me some cover for when we all gather.” When Mahria looked away for a brief second, he hand gestured to Tisohsho that he would say hi for her. The warning chime started to beep continuously, and Jahqu quickly spoke, “I will see you all when I get back. I love you.” The images disappeared before they could respond. He sighed. The fact that he barely had spent any time with his family and clan for so long started to wear on him, but he knew he could manage. A thought crossed his mind, “Good thing I didn’t mention that I bit Di’zalna.” The imagined look on Mahria’s face finally got a smile back onto his face as he left the communications room.


#172

Jake flipped his N.A.U. over its back and fired. His momentum kept his unit going the direction it was, but now he had a clean line of fire against the three units chasing him. He instantly launched two missiles at two of the targets while firing his mounted rifles at the third. The pursuers broke their formation to dodge the line of fire, but only one managed to survive. It intercepted the incoming missile with one of its own. Jake made a quick thought and instantly a message was sent. Before the enemy unit could get a bearing on him, three shots punctured its frame and it disintegrated. Hana’s accuracy was deadly.

The whole simulation gave Jake the feeling he was underwater, swimming in around in a pretend war with his friends. However, this space battle simulation was the toughest one that Hana and he had done yet. The focus of this exercise was torpedo interception with some dog fighting thrown in. With the last enemy destroyed, all of the cadets were told to dock with their mothership and exit the simulation.

As they flew back to the simulated battleship, Conrando appeared on Jake’s screen. “This simulation mirrored the battle for Morocco system in the TAC independence war. Strange how it turns out so differently with newer systems.”

Jake got curious. “How did the battle really go?”

Conrando replied, “CIENS sent a large task force to the system. It contained six battleships, two heavy cruisers, three cruisers, and eight destroyers. However, they were from three different nation states, had vastly different equipment and abilities, and the commanders didn’t get along. The TAC fleet of three battleships, one support carrier, four cruisers, and six destroyers managed to take full advantage of the enemy’s confusion. They routed the CIENS forces, just like the historic battle of Tsushima.”

Jake quickly got lost in what Conrando was saying, but the battle name did ring a bell. He would look up the battle of Tsushima later. Hana popped up on his screen. “My, this is very different from the actual battle. The real one went like Tsushima for the CIENS government.”


#173

“Knock it off you history buffs.” Jake disconnected the two and focused on his flying. Seven weeks had passed since they had arrived in the N.A.U. training facility. The battle simulations had greatly intensified, and soon they will fight in simulations focused on actual battles instead of just parts. Fortunately, this drill marked the last one for a couple days. Tomorrow they will get to fly a real N.A.U. without a copilot. Jake couldn’t wait.

Suddenly his simulator went blank. Immediately Jake checked to see if his N.A.U. just did a simulated power loss, but the interface wasn’t there. A voice spoke over the speaker. “Relax, it is me. Very good flying Misoto. You and Hana are natural pilots. Even without those neural systems, the both of you would be top aces.” The military intelligence officer never showed his or her face, and the voice always sounded computer generated.

“What do you want?” Jake asked.

“Just to tell you a couple things, and I am telling this to Betterson as well. Tomorrow, when you plug into your actual N.A.U., take about two minutes before you start moving. No one plugs into a fresh N.A.U. and starts moving right away, and two minutes is actually very fast to do so. Second, I have arranged for the both of you to get the latest model to practice with. I do hope you enjoy, but don’t bang them up to much. The top ten cadets will be using them, so it should not draw attention to you.” The voice left, but the simulator did not reactivate. The door simply opened later.

After he was able to leave the simulator, he quickly found Hana. She confirmed that she received the same information. “But why do we still have to be so cautious in showing what we can do? Just how are they keeping our abilities that secret when several people on this base know of it?”

Jake shrugged, “I really don’t know. But now I feel like we are back in that damage recognition simulation.” One of the first simulations that Hana and he did was on how the N.A.U. relayed damage information. They just stood still as different parts of their N.A.U.s were shot. The system actually caused them to feel pain on their bodies matching the location of the N.A.U. damage. The pain felt unnatural though, so their real bodies did not overly react to the sensations. While greatly annoying and painful, it proved the fastest way for the pilot to quickly ascertain damage information.

He continued, “We are now to stand still while they poke and prod our neural system. I am starting to wonder just what they hope to figure out by watching us. How long will it be until they get tired and cut us up for inspection?”


#174

Hana looked lost in thought. Before she could say anything, Conrando appeared from nowhere. “You guys will not believe it! The top ten cadets will get to train in EAA-13’s tomorrow. It’s the latest and best multi role model yet! Its weapons systems are so interchangeable that it can be outfitted for nearly any mission. Well, what else would one expect from the Euro-American-Asian company? Those guys have the British, German, U.S., Japanese, Russian, and Chinese engineers working for them. Of course they have plants and research facilities scattered across the colonies too, and…”

Jake and Hana put their hands on Conrando’s shoulders. Jake said before Conrando could continue, “That is good news. I am truly excited to see this model. But save the extra information unless it is requested, okay?”

Conrando looked confused for a second, then said, “Yes. But wait! I forgot to say, you two and I are in the top ten! Not only do we get to see them, we get to drive them!” Both Hana and Jake feigned excited looks and cheers. Conrando didn’t notice any lack of credibility in the celebration. “Oh, more cool news! Tonight they will be showing coverage on the Henthshraq liaison officers arriving for the Exhibition Fleet. It is said that they are putting on a N.A.U. show for the President. I can’t wait to see that!”

Hana and Jake stopped their celebration. Jake knew about the Exhibition Fleet. In fact, there was a strong chance that it will be his first assignment. However, he had not heard anything about liaison officers. The two looked at each other, then to Conrando. In unison, both asked, “What Henthshraq liaison officers?”


#175

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile here. Came to bit of a writers block and got distracted by other things. If anyone was actually waiting for more, here it goes.


#176

Commodore Lu Rea took her seat in the second row of the small stand. Although there was not much room in this observation lounge, she and the other officers there had an excellent view of the space in which the demonstration was to take place. She glanced down again to the embroidery at the end of her sleeves. The pattern at the end had the markings of a captain, but the small new addition indicating her new rank still was taking some getting used to. She was promoted only a few weeks ago.

She looked over the fellow captains, commodores, and other officers sitting in the stand. Although she was not the only female there, she was the only full blood Chinese. Others had some mix of Chinese decent, but the days of seeing a full blood nationality were becoming fewer and fewer. For a woman of forty-five years of age, she showed remarkable leadership skill and dedication. For many, it was not surprising that she was now the youngest commodore ever in the Terran Federation Fleet. Next to her sat the three other commodores of the Exhibition Fleet and the admiral in charge of it. All seemed eager to see the demonstration.

Vice-Admiral Anna said in his pleasant yet seemingly always serious voice, “They should be starting on time. I received word that their ship arrived on schedule and is already being escorted to us. I wonder just how much they are actually going to show us though.”

Rea could not place the admiral’s accent. He did appear to be mostly of Hispanic in heritage and he was somehow related to the famous Santa Anna, but the accent did not sound Hispanic. The other three commodores nodded and proceeded to make educated guesses as to what they were about to see. Rea added in at one point, “I doubt they are bringing their best models of N.A.U.’s or combat suits with them. It would be too great of a security risk. I am surprised they are sending such high quality officers though. If they are indeed as skilled as the ambassador claimed, they are showing great trust by having them join us.”

It wasn’t long before the outline of the Henthshraq tender and supply ship Hospas6 entered into view. It reminded Rea of a large whale shark, big yet smooth and agile. It seemed to be swimming through space at a gentle pace. Tentacle shaped cranes sprang from its hull at several locations, and their slow gentle movement gave the ship a life like semblance, yet they were the only truly moving parts. She noticed from one of the images on the viewers that the hangar bay door was already opened. She looked at the clock next to the viewer and said, “Well, they did arrive on time, but they only have 15 seconds to launch the N.A.U.’s and get them into position. I wonder what has delayed them.”

All were now watching the hangar bay doors, but when the clock reached the designated time, one of the captains gasped loud enough for everyone to look back at the demonstration area. One N.A.U. was there already, but before they could try to guess how they missed seeing it, another shimmered into existence next to it. The machines struck an unusual pose that mirrored the others perfectly, giving the audience the feeling there was a mirror in space. Everyone was staring now as the last two appeared, moving at a fast speed and nearly slamming into the others, only to stop and strike poses that completed a dramatic image. No one was able to talk. Instead they just watched, captivated by the dancers.


#177

The N.A.U.s of theirs looked humanoid, but that is where the similarities between theirs and human versions ended. There was no armor plating on their units; the skin just appeared to be metallic. No visible guns or missile launchers were there, only some strange curves and bumps that appeared where such items would normally be located. A few spines poked out near the elbows and near their hands and feet. The heads were shaped similar to a Henthshraq’s, and the bodies matched theirs as well. Rea always thought a human N.A.U. looked like an athletic man wearing protective padding and a biker helmet. In comparison, the Henthshraq ones looked like male ballet dancers in leotards.

The N.A.U.s all turned and faced where the President’s observation room was located and bowed down. They also moved their right hands and put it over their bowed heads in a strange manner. Rea remembered that was the most humbling gestures that a Henthshraq can make, and it was reserved only for heads of states and ritual matters. After the bow, each instantly took off at a blinding speed. Then, to Rea, it seemed they danced. If one could combine ballet and ice skating, put into three-dimensional space, this would be the result. The maneuvers they performed could only be matched by the best stunt N.A.U. pilots that Rea had seen. Using their own momentum, they did spectacular turns, flips, and spins with an effortless appearance. The graceful nature of it was fascinating. At points, they even interlocked with each in a manner of dancing partners. It was incredibly dangerous, yet they seemed to be at perfect ease doing the maneuvers. She actually found herself being moved by the performance, nearly forgetting that these were military pilots.

Suddenly, she was reminded of that fact. Light flashed from the N.A.U.s. Targets scattered around the demonstration area began to disappear in small explosions. Everyone leaned closer to the monitors and viewers to get a closer look. One person spoke aloud, “Impressive. They are firing plasma bolts, or more like plasma particle beams, and the shots seem to be surrounded by a space disruption field.” Rea could then see the slight disruption appear a brief second between two of the bumps on a forearm as the plasma bolt appeared and was launched. Their accuracy was perfect. They still were doing extreme maneuvers and yet had not missed once. The targets were stationary though, but it was still impressive.

Rea nearly gasped while others actually did so. Two of the N.A.U.s began to spin violently and fire sporadically. However, they were still hitting targets. The two became whirlwinds of death in space. When done, they once more struck mirrored images of each other before bowing down. The other two, having disappeared during the others performance, reappeared at opposite ends of the demonstration area. They charged at each other while firing their weapons directly at the other unit. Each shot intercepted the others. The explosions flashed brighter and brighter as they moved at ever greater speed. Right when it seemed they would slam right into each other, they suddenly stopped, and simply bowed. Everyone let go of breaths they didn’t realize they were holding.

They bowed again to the President before flying back to their ship. An announcement with a female’s voice came over the intercom, “The Henthshraq vessel will be docking with the station soon. Those attending the proclamation ceremony are asked to head to the banquet hall on level C now. Ambassador Mora’han conveys her hope that everyone enjoyed the demonstration.”


#178

Several people started talking at once. Most were impressed with what they had seen, but several were not sure what this demonstration was supposed to prove. Admiral Anna turned to her and gave her a look that indicated he wanted her opinion. She simply said, “Well, Admiral, we now have definite proof that there is another race besides ours that can make war an art form. Also, I think they learned from our history. Ballet is a way of speaking softly, and their weapons demonstrations show they carry a big stick. It shall be interesting having them onboard for this mission.”

“I agree Commodore Lu. Shall we go greet our new guests?” Anna asked the question to everyone in the room. In answer, everyone moved to the door and lifts.

(Going to post more later.)


#179

When Rea entered the main meeting hall, she immediately searched for two particular guests. Luckily, she found them together near one of the observation windows. One was a Seccuvain woman, young with pink hair and tall and wearing a tight uniform. She was talking with a Greymax. Greymax were not humanoid. They walked on four legs most of the time. The front two looked like a cross between claws and tree trunks, massive, thick armored covered limbs that were extended ahead of the body. The back legs were more like a cats or dogs. Their body shape was roughly a mix between a dog and a horse. The head was closer to an ant eaters, but with two very long trunks. It was those trunks and the tentacles at the end that acted as the hands for the species. Even though they averaged at only four feet in height, their mass was quite impressive.

As she walked towards them, the Seccuvain must have sensed her approach and turned to her. Her voice was soft and almost seductive, “Commodore Lu! It is a pleasure to meet you. I am Salsha, daughter of Malsian. I will be your linguistics officer on board the Memphis. This is, well I can’t physically pronounce her actual name, but she will go by Greget.”

Greget’s translator activated, “Greetings Commodore. I will be assisting your engineers aboard the Memphis. I look forward to this historic mission.” Greget raised her trunks in a formal salute. Rea returned the salute and offered a slight smile. This was the first time for her to meet these two officers, but from what she has heard, they were going to be great assets to her crew.

Rea spoke with a soft but sincere voice, “The pleasure is mine. I know it might be difficult at first for both of you to get used to being on a Terran ship, but I do hope that you become as much part of the crew as everyone else. Let me know if there is anything you need, but be warned. I will treat you equally as I do the other crew members, so I won’t be doing many special favors.”

Salsha smiled and said, “So that would be a no to arranging for a few sex slaves to be brought on board?” Rea paused for a moment before slowly turning to Salsha. Salsha’s face turned to a look of panic, and she quickly said, “Sorry, I am still getting use to verbal jokes. That did not come out the way I meant it.” Greget started to snort through her trunks in a small laugh.


#180

Rea forced back her smile and answered calmly, “That would be a no to sex slaves. I understand that you have mastered a large number of languages, Salsha. I am curious what drove you to learn them, being a telepath and all.”

Rea listened to Salsha as she talked about her advance schooling and when she first met other species. Just as she reached the part where she had to make a career choice, she stopped talking. Rea saw her give a look of slight discomfort as she immediately began to look around. She stopped looking and made an awkward smile at someone walking up behind where Rea was. Rea turned to look herself.

Ambassador Mora’han was amazingly quiet when she walked. Rea was surprised at how close she had come without her noticing. The outfit she was wearing reminded Rea of several island cultures on Earth. Mora’han nodded to Greget and Salsha before saying to Salsha, “I do apologize, my dear. I need to talk to Commodore Lu about a small matter, so I hope you don’t mind me being too close? It is something that might interest you too.”

Salsha answered back in Henth, “I do not mind, Ambassador. Part of this mission is to experience new things.” The ease in which Salsha changed languages impressed Rea, but she noticed that Salsha’s distress from having her telepathy blocked was still quite evident. Mora’han made a surprising move and placed her hand on one of Salsha’s shoulders and started a light massage. The effect was instantaneous as Salsha calmed down considerably.

Mora’han said to her, “Don’t worry, if I lost any of my senses I would be quite upset myself.” She turned back to Rea. “Sorry for the interruption Commodore. I saw the proposed placement of the Henthshraq liaison officers, and I was wondering if I could suggest a change.”

Rea’s curiosity was peaked and she answered, “What change would you recommend?”
“I see that you have Ki assigned to your ship. Jahqu is assigned to a ship in the fourth task force, but not the lead ship. His military rank is lower than Ki’s, but his rank in the diplomat core is far above hers. His placement would be better served on a lead vessel, I believe.”

Rea nearly cursed herself for forgetting that Henthshraq used multiple rank systems. When she and the other commodores divided the Henthshraq liaisons up, she only looked at the military ranks. It was a secret goal of hers to have the best task force of the fleet. She would have to look at the records provided again and see if she could get Commodore Rabine to agree to the switch if she decided it would help her goal. One thought immediately crossed her mind.

“I will look into it, Ambassador, but one thing to mention is that I am trying to have as many female crew members on board as possible. Partly due to one of our guest, it was also decided that we are going to try to make the crew compliment at least 65% female in an experiment. Currently, most of our ships’ crew have only 28-32% female compliment. We want to see the effectiveness of a ship with an opposite composition. Jahqu is a male correct?”