Ad Astra Chapter 3: To the Stars

28Jan12

nude in a showerOur story started here.

The atmosphere on the Ad Astra’s bridge had changed with Captain Dane’s coming. It was both quieter and yet at the same time more bustling. The set of Dane’s back seemed to discourage the usual chit-chat and instead, Dale made more of an effort to visibly work more quickly. She had even changed out of her civvies and into her old grey officer’s overalls complete with the two solid and one empty circle-pips of her rank; the official garb for a licensed freighter.

Captain Dane, she noticed, wore a black-tailored military one-piece ship-suit with four solid circle-pips of a post-captain on his chest pad. He really meant what he said about by-the-book it seems, she thought. What is a man of his talents doing on a small freighter like ours? She wondered. A full captain could have his pick of ships.

The captain sat enthroned in his chair on the bridge running numbers on his personal console while Dale sat at the nav-station programming all known jump points within a parsec of her new commander’s proposed itinerary. The jump points were all available on downloadable pre-sets, but Dale liked to be sure that she confirmed all the calculations personally. It was getting so easy these days that a child could navigate out-system, but one day she knew some factory somewhere would screw up and send out a recall. When you were 50 light years from a friendly base ‘whoops sorry’ was just not good enough. Besides, Dane was proposing a run that took them pretty close to the edge of known space. It was conceivable that she would have to plot some virgin jump points and that was no kid’s game.

Unlike the rest of the habitable areas of the ship, the bridge had a low ceiling and felt almost claustrophobic and even the sight of the vast cavity of the Ark on the screens beyond the ship’s nose did nothing to lessen that.

The five crash couches, like big wrap-around chairs formed an inverted V with captain’s station at the back flanked by the nav-station on his left and the pilot’s seat on his immediate right. Tracking and coms were port and starboard respectably and forward of that.

There were no windows, but the walls and ceiling merged to form a ‘better-than-life’ representation of the Ark’s port outside and once in deep space this could be changed to long-range scans with other ships and bases highlighted as virtual decals on the screen.

All this was home to Dale and the Ad Astra was more than home it was like an extension of her personality. So when a light went on at the coms station, she noticed at once and patched it through to her own couch.

“Darius reports that 10,000 tons of leather goods have arrived for loading,” Dale said incredulously.

“Is the other cargo aboard?” Dane asked casually.

Dale was aware that her jaw had dropped so she closed her mouth. She reached out and touched a signal switch on the coms desk. “Michelin, is the cargo stowed yet?”

“Miscellaneous crates of luxury good all stowed in the upper holds,” Michelin reported.

“Good. Then have Jen and Tammy assist Darius with the loading, I want to be underway as soon as possible,” Dane ordered.

Dale was impressed. Luxury goods were a hard enough cargo to get, but bulk leather goods usually only went to the big boys. These were five, 10 and sometimes even 15 credit items, with a point-two per cent carriage fee for each crate that was a hefty chunk of change. They might clear five or even 10,000 credits.

“Luxury goods I get, but what does Rigel want with this many leather goods?” She asked.

“Maybe they don’t, but we can offload any we don’t sell at Maelstrom,” Dane said without looking up.

“Sell?” Had Dale heard him right? “What do you mean?”

“I mean I bought them. No carriage fee, just what we can get for them,” Dane said finally meeting her eye.

“You what…? But they must be worth…”

“About two million credits,” Dane said sharply. “I got them for 100,000; a really nice little deal. Our credit’s still good anyway.”

“You borrowed the money? Is that against the business?” Dale felt sick.

“Just a small loan, I only had to mortgage half the ship.” Then seeing Dale’s stricken face he added. “Don’t sweat it, it’s how I work. It’s the only way to make the big money.”

Dale felt her world dissolve. At that moment she could have killed the reckless fool.

*

Michelin punched a number into the hand-pad as another crate was stacked. She was somewhat embarrassed that although she was in charge, handling a loader was one of the few ship skills she didn’t have. Even Darius had manned a loader, the crates being too heavy for him.

Michelin had been watching the three of them run loaders back and forth all morning, occasionally ducking between them checking for problems. Not that Darius would miss any. At this task she felt surplus to requirements.

To make matters worse, Dane insisted that she wear officer grey, instead of the burgundy boiler suits that the general crew and even Darius wore; just one more thing to separate her from the others. Although despite standing orders, her grey one-piece boiler suit was a little too snug and she wore it rolled up at the calves and forearms. A little bit of her conditioned sexuality leaking out.

Not that the others had given the distinction any thought. Jen was used to wearing a burgundy ship suit and had even had hers altered over the years to flatter her figure about as closely as she dared. Not that she could compete with Michelin. Tammy had also switched out of her combat armour and into borrowed burgundy overalls. Although hers were turned up through necessity on account of her small stature and it hung a little loosely in places.

Michelin keyed in the tally at the loading station by the door and then uploaded it to the cargo office forward. “Looks like we’re done here, but I’ll just do the final checks and go through the manifest,” she called out. “Jen, show Tammy where to stow the loaders and Darius, you can report to the captain for further orders. I’m done with you here.”

“Yes ma’am,” Darius said in his even sing-song voice and stepped onto the cargo hoist for a lift back to the upper holds; the quickest route to the bridge.

The motor buzz-clunk of the loaders gradually fell silent as each was maneuvered into place aft and shut down, until finally Jen was able to step down back onto the deck for the first time in hours. She had never been so grateful that the loaders were the walker type that you had to operate standing up. Nevertheless, after a day of labour it still felt like some demon was clawing at her bottom. With a sigh of relief she clamped her hands to her rear end and couldn’t help massaging her bottom. “I hope to God I don’t have to take us out of port,” she groaned, thinking of the hard pilot’s couch way up on the bridge.

Tammy suppressed the urge to throw out a quip as she remembered catching sight of Jen’s backside on the way back from the showers that morning. She didn’t know what Dale had used on her daughter, but she was beginning to regret that she too was to be under the woman’s authority. Maybe the Captain’s belt was not so bad after all, she thought ruefully.

“The captain wants us on the bridge in 90 minutes when he takes her out. That will be 20.00 ship’s time and the start of a long four-hour first watch, so I am going to grab a bite and have another shower,” Tammy sighed flexing her own sore muscles. “Hell, I am already beat.”

“That figures,” Jen said still gingerly rubbing two handfuls of bottom. Then gazing in the direction of the departing second mate she added, “How does she do it?”

Tammy frowned and then saw where Jen was looking. “Michelin you mean? Beats the hell out of me.”

Both girls watched the grey-clad second mate stroll towards the cargo office as if she had just stepped off the set of a magazine shoot, rather than the end of a near full day’s work loading the hold of a deep space freighter. Her knees turned in like a majorette in a parade as she walked and the perfect circle of her bottom rolled in time to some music that only it could hear.

“I prefer boys, but for her I could make an exception,” Tammy grinned appreciatively.

Jen cast her new shipmate a sideways glance. Tammy was cute, but the whole tomboy thing she had going just came out ‘boy’ next to Michelin Hollister. “I know exactly what you mean,” Jen sighed.

*

Dale had finished programming the navigational array and had slipped off the stifling bridge to get some air; anything to get away from that man. At the back of the bridge deck was stairwell leading up to the upper hold and adjacent to that was an emergency airlock that cut through to the main cargo bay. With the outer door opened, it served as a balcony overlooking the hold or if it was full, a quick access to the stacked freight.

Dale overrode the locks and went onto the ledge to look at the hold. Today for the first time in quite a while the main cargo deck was half full of crates. Only instead of being a healthy shipment, she was the part-owner of 10,000 tons of millstone which threatened to sink her whole life.

Despite her foreboding, she found herself thinking that if they could shift the goods at anything close to even half its value then they would be home free with more money than the freight charges could ever have got them. It was a pipe dream. “Fool,” she berated herself aloud. “Fool,” she screamed at Dane, knowing he couldn’t hear her. She sighed. “Maybe we can recoup enough back not to bring us down.”

Across the hold from her the crates were shiny black and filled the space almost up to where she stood. She couldn’t see the floor of the ship, but nevertheless there were wide spaces between the stacks, which were laid out like some vast dark city in a grid pattern of ‘streets.’

Somewhere way off there was a crunch of retaining clamps and Dale guessed that Jen and Tammy were shutting the hatches on hauler storage bay in the ship’s rear section. Then as she watched she saw the central cargo-hoist lift up and then retract into the ceiling.

“I suppose I had better finish drawing up the duty roster and do a final check of our provisions,” Dale sighed.

*

Tammy idly soaped one small breast as she watched Jen under the shower. The stain on her new shipmate’s bottom was darker than yesterday, even if the swelling was down a little. That had to hurt, she thought ruefully, a hand slipping to her own vulnerable bottom.

Both girls had hit the showers together and after hanging back so that Tammy wouldn’t see again, Jen had finally decided what the hell. There was no way Tammy wasn’t going to be a witness to many more spankings this trip. Dale was bad enough at the best of times, but with a rage on about Jen’s druggy exploits and having to step down as captain, she would be impossible for weeks.

“What… what did she use?” Tammy had to ask. Ever since she could remember she had been fascinated if not obsessed with all things spanking and two years under the belt of Bradley Dane had only served to fuel her interest.

Jen swallowed down a blush and suddenly became more self-conscious of her bottom than she was of her rather thickly-haired sex, which stood in stark contracts to the smoothness of Tammy’s. As she turned, she shielded herself with her arms and regarded the girl with suspicion. Not that she was altogether opposed to any sexual interest on Tammy’s part, but with her standing so close to the captain and being so young, caution seemed the order of the day.

“I have to say, that marking looks like paddle-spore to me,” Tammy continued eagerly.

“You may as well know, but it was Darius who spanked me. At length and with optimum efficiency,” Jen said sullenly.

“No shit,” Tammy gaped. “He can do that?”

“My grandfather was a busy man and I guess he… well he furnished Darius with some extra programming to handle Mother and Aunt Lidia sometimes.”

“Does he always spank so hard?” Tammy felt something tingle and she was a little light-headed. A spanking android was well cool.

“It’s not a regular occurrence; mother usually handles it, but this time well… I pissed even Darius off I guess.”

“You get spanked a lot? I mean, where I come from it’s a bit old fashioned. I mean I guess I am still a kid, but you… you’re older and well I heard that even much older women get it too. Here I mean.”

Jen shrugged. “Something to do with the first settlers and tradition. Well not just tradition, I mean it is part of Sororian law. Anyway, I am not so much older than you.”

“I’m only 19, you’re in your 20s I guess,” Tammy said sagely.

“I’m 20-years-old,” Jen said indignantly.

“That’s what I mean. You’re older.”

Jen laughed. “Your behind is almost unmarked now. You said something about an attitude problem?”

Tammy blushed. “I sassed the captain. He wields a mean belt when he’s pissed off. I had it coming I guess.”

Just then a claxon sounded and Tammy gave a start.

“Last call to anyone on board. We lift off in 30 minutes,” Jen explained.

“Who’s left aboard who’s not coming?” Tammy raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“No one silly, it’s just… tradition.”

“Come on,” Tammy squealed suddenly shutting off the shower. “Last one to the bridge is a…” But Jen was already ahead of her and two naked wet squealing girls bolted from the shower room heading for their respective cubicles.

*

The bridge looked more like a war room than the control room of a commercial freighter. All the random detritus of sloppy family life that had accumulated in odd corners had been carefully stripped by Dale before Dane could say anything and Darius had worked overnight to bring everything up to factory spec. Also for once everyone was in uniform, although Jen, Tammy and Darius had not bothered to put on service tags or rank insignia.

However, Dale noticed that a small corporate logo, ‘Hanson Freight’ had appeared on the sleeve of Darius burgundy ship-suit; she nearly cried at the gesture.

Gail wore a tailored warrant officer brown one-piece ship suit that Dale had bought her as a birthday present shortly after she had passed her ship’s grading exams, which Dale now envied as apart from Dane in his black overalls, Gail was the only one with her own colour.

Dale sat at the nav station between Dane in the captain’s chair and Gail at the tracking station. To the captain’s right sat Michelin in the pilot’s chair with Tammy far right on coms.

As second pilot, Jen stood at the back eyeing the spare couch next to her and hoping she was not directed to it. She was more than happy with her current upright position for once, and she only hoped, no prayed that she didn’t have to relieve Michelin any time soon.

Darius stood to Jen’s left at the system control to monitor the engines and generators, although the solid state technology was hardly likely to fail. For a moment she had a flash back to her experience on quay four and blushed, thank god Tammy hadn’t seen that or the captain come to that.

“Okay people we are about to get this show on the road. All stations report,” Dane said casually, although he was already pleased with what his readout summary was telling him.

“Navigation set,” Dale said easily.

“Tracking online; departure codes on screen,” Gail said thickly, her mouth had suddenly gone dry. This was worse than her first time out, she thought.

“Harbour thrusters operational; inertia drives online. All set here.” Michelin felt totally at ease. She had been made for this.

“I-I have a green board. Shall I signal traffic control?” Tammy was keyed up. Despite her trademark bravado this was her first time in in the number one spot on the bridge for departure.

“Wait for it,” Dane growled. He took one last look around and then nodded at Darius.

“All systems ready,” Darius sang.

“Cadet Hanson, are you still with us?” Dane knew the importance of including everyone in the team.

“Yes… I mean yes Sir.”

“Good to know. Tammy, contact traffic and request a departure slot.” Dane depressed something on his dash and the low hum of the ship changed in pitch as all systems were released for departure. It was so small a sound that until that moment, none of the crew had noticed it.

*

The Ark hung in space, slowly turning against the background of the vivid striped Lucifer. Its myriad navigation lights were dwarfed against the rough-hewn surface of the chiselled asteroid, which had so long ago been hauled from the belt by the early colonists and made their own. Then silently into the cold hard void of space it slowly gave birth to a double-headed space craft that edged its way out of the jet black circle marking the entrance to the great space port within.

The crew on the bridge of the Ad Astra fell silent in awe as the modest-lit mouth of the great artefact gave way to a sea of stars unfettered by any atmosphere.

Superimposed onto the screen, were nav-lights describing the given route and little flashing triangles of ships that had departed before them. The way-markers near-to were etched in red with amber-brown decals heaving into view some way out. Then as the Ad Astra orientated to its specific direction markers, green decals and way-markers appeared way off, describing the end of traffic control jurisdiction.

“Navigation report,” Dane rumbled turning slightly towards his first officer.

“Sixty-one hours to the jump point; cleared for inertia drive in four minutes,” Dale replied.

“Helm?” Dane switched his attention to Michelin.

“Zero by zero orientation achieved in four, three, two… switching to auto pilot now. Navigation you have the helm.” Michelin always felt sorry when she surrendered the helm to nav. There was nothing like running on manual all the way out to the jump points. But the needs of commerce dictated a more efficient course and even a synth couldn’t out steer a nav-computer.

“I have the helm, aye. Ready to engage inertia on your mark captain,” Dale called out.

“There seems to be a discrepancy in the air-cycling array,” Darius sang, annunciating every syllable. “According to my readings, it is running at 12% below normal operating parameters.”

“Prognosis,” Dane asked sharply.

“All systems are operating normally. Possible reasons for the discrepancy are a micro-leak in the hull, a 12% increase in crew activity or a possible approximate 40kg of rotting organic matter.” Darius was not alarmed. He had already calculated that 5% of the discrepancies could be explained by a nervous crew. As for the other seven; well he had once found a crate of rotting stolen pizza’s after one of Jen’s pranks. Dale had expressed her displeasure at Jen’s prank with a sustained application of a poly-carbon rod and a leather strap for a good part of a shift in the ‘woodshed.’

“Is the situation stable?” Dane asked.

“Stable, yes Sir,” Darius supplied.

“Look into it,” Dane ordered.

“Yes Sir.”

“Doctor?” Dane asked after waiting a moment too long.

“Oh… eh, we are clear of all traffic. The Ark is safely behind us Sir,” Gail supplied, somewhat flustered.

“Captain, traffic say we are cleared to leave their jurisdiction and bon voyage,” Tammy managed, exchanging a wincey look with Gail.

“Signal my thanks and close the com,” Dane said dismissively. “Alright everybody, run the numbers; I want a full diagnostic before we hit the inertia drive.”

“But that’s only…” Gail spluttered.

“Roger that captain,” Dale cut her off and began to frantically pull down schematics on her station layout.

It took less than three minutes to complete the last checks. And everyone on the bridge knew that only a rookie or military type with a stick up his arse would have bothered.

“All systems go captain,” Dale reported.

“Coms?” Dane snapped and then sat back for the roll-call.

“Check,” Tammy announced.

“Tracking?”

“Go,” Gail punched the air as she spoke.

“Helm?”

“Auto pilot steady and true captain,” Michelin replied confidently.

“Darius?”

“We still have an air cycling discrepancy, otherwise all systems are go.”

Jen swallowed, was all this parade ground bull shit how Dane was going to run the ship?

“Navigation you are cleared to take her out on my mark,” Dane raised his arm dramatically like a conductor of an orchestra.

The red decals and way-markers had given way to amber-brown ones and the green edge demarking traffic restrictions was fast approaching.

“Engage,” Dane whispered dropping his arm and again the background song of the Ad Astra changed pitch.

If they had been looking back they would have seen Lucifer drop away like a stone. But even at a sudden half-light speed transition to the inertia drives, it would be their only point of reference. Even at that speed, the sun did not appreciatively shrink all at once and the stars around them did not move at all.

“Alright people, nice job. We’ll do this by the book for this watch and again every day for the afternoon-watch all the way out to Rigel,” Dane reminded them.

It wasn’t how Dale would have done it. Not with a short crew, but it made sense at least. A daily run through on manual monitoring kept the crew sharp in case of problems. “Dale. Give me the roster,” Dane said as he turned to her.

“I’ll take the middle-watch, Michelin the morning-watch. Gail’s on at eight for the fore-noon watch and then she can make lunch for one in the pm.” Dale said without referencing her notes. “You’re down for the afternoon-watch, but I can spell you for lunch Sir.”

“Thank you Dale. Looks like we’re all set. Mitch we have something to attend to after this watch is over I think.” Dane said sitting back.

“Yes Sir,” Michelin replied, careful not to meet anyone’s eyes.

*

The first watch was over and Dale had taken over the middle watch releasing Jen and Tammy to their beds. Except for the afternoon watch when they were required on the bridge, the two of them would stand staggered double shifts, turn and turn about all the way to Rigel.

That left Michelin and Captain Dane with a little routine business to attend to.

Michelin had found her way into the bowels of the ship by leaving the general crew area and taking the central stairwell down a flight into storage. As second mate she knew the armoury was on this level, although Dane had not graced her with the access codes. Not that she had the talent for any kind of fighting; she had not been made that way.

The store room she was looking for was further along that corridor and according to Dane was known as the ‘woodshed.’ Michelin had been conditioned to know about all things to do with corporal punishment and knew from her obsessive reading that a woodshed was a euphemism for a place of punishment back on Old Earth, or more particularly a city or county there called North America. She also knew that the Hanson’s ancestors were from that area on Earth before the colonisation; although when searching the family profile it had identified them as a sub-clan of the Swedish-American contingent of the first settles on Little Sister. One of a family grouping known as the Great 80 who were a power block who vied with the Big Six for influence on Little Sister.

The woodshed door was un-coded and slid open at the first touch of the access panel. “Oh my gosh,” Michelin gasped when she saw inside. “All this space set aside for discipline?”

The room was a good eight meters long and four meters wide with its own head at the far end. Running the length of the right hand wall below what was a huge rack containing just about every implement of correction known to mankind.

The centre of the room was dominated by an adjustable gym cradle, which she could see would fit into the many holes that formed a grid on the floor. It had a padded top and several padded steps and levels, the purpose of which was all too obvious to Michelin.

The left-hand wall had four two-by-two meter lockable cells. It made sense, based on the original specs the ship was designed for a crew of 68 and even in old man Hanson’s day it had been home to nearly 30. Given the hard drinking, play-hard, live-hard culture of space farers, a brig was a necessity.

The whole set-up was strangely thrilling to Michelin; much more so than the play dungeon on her master’s old yacht. This one was real.

“I thought you’d be ready by now,” came a voice behind her.

Michelin jumped and turned to confront the captain who stood staring at her with a frown that made her spine tingle.

“I was just…” Michelin swallowed nervously and felt a whole squadron of butterflies take flight in her belly.

“When was the last time your special need was taken care of?” Dane asked casually as he stepped into the room working at the zip of his ship-suit.

“I…” the words caught in Michelin’s throat and she blushed. It was always like this. She needed it thus. She was scared and excited all at once and the prospect of what was to come made her tremble like a lost puppy. “I saw a professional woman eight days ago,” she said quietly.

Dane dragged the top of his uniform down to his waist and then tied the arms around it like a belt. His tight black singlet did nothing to hide his powerful torso and his muscle-knotted arms, which were thicker than Michelin’s legs.

“I haven’t actually done anything wrong,” she whimpered almost too terrified to meet his baleful red prosthetic eye.

“Eight days is it? You must be climbing the wall about now,” Dane rasped. He had long since learned that with Michelin a kindly tone did not cut it.

“Yes,” Michelin whispered. Her belly was so tight it hurt and she wondered if any of the wetness had soaked through her uniform.

“If I really go for it, I expect you to manage on once a week,” Dane warned her, “Understood?”

“Yes Sir,” she squeaked. It was enough. Technically anyway, but it was no less scary for that; too much too often and as always never really enough. You pain whore, she thought with a flash of shame, even this self-flagellation felt good. Sometimes she thought these private sessions were not humiliating enough.

*

Michelin was naked and stretched over the cradle. Her bare bottom was curved upwards at just the right angle for punishment with the crowns and underside vulnerable and exposed. For Dane this was duty, a necessary procedure to keep a conditioned synth focussed on her duties. It was a ritual that had been agreed between them many years before and it worked. But as he looked down on the former pleasure slave, her bottom genetically designed to be perfectly curved according to mathematically principles and the golden ratio, he could not help but be affected by her.

Even bent over, her bottom was deep-cleft with just a hint of a smooth lightly-haired sex peeking out of the shadow. Her bottom was almost a perfect circle from any angle and tapered into her impossibly small waist like a porno-graphic of what a woman should look like. Even her breasts, although not over-large were formed of two tight spheres that sat neatly side-by-side on the leather pad supporting them.

Michelin Hollister was robust and resilient far beyond most natural men, let alone women and her conditioning craved equally robust and vigorous chastisement. From past experience he knew that this would take a while and then some.

To make a start Dane grabbed a thick 90cm long hydra-leather paddle with a narrow 30cm striking head. It was sometimes known as a dean’s paddle on account of its use in colleges. It would certainly tenderise the girl until he started in with something with more bite.

Studying his chosen weapon, Dane realised it was old and not a little worn. The striking surface carried a sheen where it had been polished by countless naughty bare bottoms. I wonder if Dale’s dad ever blistered her behind with this. The stray thought amused him.

Then the paddle swept down with the merest whisper as it disturbed the air and struck with a loud satisfying splat.

Michelin responded with no more than sigh, although the burn was clean and sharp. The band of pain it left sizzled and grew for a long moment before Dane struck again.

The two swats had left a stand-out band of red against Michelin’s pale flesh as he watched he saw rose pink skin darken to a true red. No doubt the aesthetic was part of her genetic conditioning.

Dane lay on six more strokes from the right before shifting to a back hand stroke and delivering six more. Michelin’s little sighs grew steadily louder until they blossomed into gasps and she was left panting for breath. By then of course, her bottom was a polished red all over and had begun to swell a little.

“I have never asked you Mitch, you were… ‘born’ fully grown, is that right?”

“Yes Sir,” Michelin panted her perfect skin already sheened with sweat, her eyes filling up.

“Did you know what you were or did you… I mean did you have a childhood of any sort?”

“Please Sir I…” This was hard for her; she was lost in her ‘suffering.’ Then she felt the compulsion to submit, to please her chastiser. “I awoke one day knowing what I was and yet ‘remembering’ my childhood and upbringing on Little Sister; in Chisholm to be precise.” She laughed as she remembered being spanked age 17 for sneaking in late. It was her favourite ‘memory’ although in truth she had never even been to Chisholm.

Dane nodded and wondered why he had never asked before. Then remembering his business he set to another round of spanking. This time laying on a long volley from the right and then another from the left.

After a few minutes Michelin’s bottom looked truly sore and her breath rattled through her clenched teeth. Tears rolled down her nose and dripped off her chin onto the deck.

“There is a compressed carbon cane over there that I want to try. But why don’t you ask me nicely first,” Dane said with an edge to his voice.

“Please Sir, thrash my bare bottom as I deserve. As I need you to. Please Sir.” Her pleading sounded sincere, her desperation dripping like tears from her mouth.

“All in good time,” Dane growled. “I think you need some true blisters with this first.” Then he spanked her again, the paddle rising and falling over and over.

*

Based on his investigation into the air cycler discrepancy, Darius had determined that there was a 4.2% chance that there was a stowaway on board, still below the 5% threshold that his programming determined he should report it. However, after years of looking out for the Hanson family he had been unable to let the suspicion drop. Lidia had neglected to lock the main hatch when she had come aboard and thereafter Miss Dale had been distracted by bad news. It was just technically possible there had been an opportunity. In addition the aft head had been used twice since the ship had been sealed up and the second time was after any crew would usually be in that part of the ship.

A routine diagnostic of the aft storeroom seals revealed that one of the barely used stores had been opened three times in little over 24 hours. The odds were still against a stowaway, indeed his sub-routines had upgraded the chance to only 48%, but a small part of him, the part that was free of programming constraints screamed that he was right.

“Darius to the bridge; Miss Dale, I have to report a growing probability that we have a stowaway.”

At the other end of the ship, Dale looked up from her nav-station and darted a look at the security console; the bank of lights were all green. “Cut the mathematical crap Darius. Do we have a stowaway?”

A sub-routine overrode his response and 48% flashed at him like pain. He ignored it. “Yes Ma’am, we do,” he said in a neutral sing-song voice as if making a weather report.

To be continued



4 Responses to “Ad Astra Chapter 3: To the Stars”

  1. DJ,
    love the scene on the bridge, it really reads authentic. 🙂
    I suppose if you can build an pleasure android, building a masochistic one, is only a small step further.
    Your writing is improving rapidly, I wonder why? 😉
    Paul.

    • 2 DJ

      Thanks Paul.

      Which scene on the bridge – the talk between dale and the captain or when the are departing and running the numbers?

      DJ 😉

  2. DJ,
    Sorry, should have made that clearer, running the numbers, of course.
    As a long term sci/fi fan, I really appreciate that. 😉

  3. 4 fatherjim

    Yes, I have to agree, the details of this story are really creating an alternate universe as real as our own! Your attention to what seems at first not important, just builds a concrete reality , a firm foundation, which strongly supports the story-lines to come.

    The build-up to finding the little stow-away, and the tension between Dale and her new captain, let alone the change in dynamics between Dale and the remainder of the crew makes this one a potential plethera of sore behinds!

    Though I assume Dale will eventually save the day and her ship, I can’t help but wonder what life would be like when she WOULD be under her sister’s thumb! Perhaps , some imagining by Dale and her crew-mates or other backstories could fill that void??? Or maybe, just maybe, I might be wrong about our heroine and her eventual fate??? Time will tell!

    It is amazing, the interesting potential storylines you have already presented. This story could easily be a full-length book! AND, I’d love every page of it!

    Thanks!

    Jim


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