The Camulus Incursion: Part 2 Girls at Play
December 31, 2080. 1604 hours Zulu.
It hadn’t been Chrissie’s plan to visit the craft’s gymnasium that afternoon; not until she acquainted herself with the information Marcellus had provided on the new recruits and on the layout of the ship. Her own tour convinced her that this would need a team effort – like a localised Pegasus response. She’d been told by SPACECOMM that she couldn’t call on any marine backup so she had to be confident the crew had the capacity to provide her with what she needed.
Her thoughts were aided by a chance encounter with the airman who had carried her kit that morning. Walking the corridor with gym bags in hand, she was accompanied by a staff sergeant who was about 5’7” but a good four foot broad. Even unflexed, the muscles in the sergeant’s upper arms misshaped the four chevrons of her icy, yet she had that appearance of someone many years older than her age. A quick conversation and Chrissie learned the sergeant had been lifting for 31 of her 45 years and on the Camulus served as the women’s strength trainer. And with all that experience she was still very impressed with what she’d just seen of the new recruits. At that moment, she said, the three were in the gym with the airman McCloud all ‘lifting real heavy’.
The General thought it time for Momma Bear to meet the cubs.
In the cabin she packed her ‘gym’ bag for want of better term. Born with strength and muscle she had never visited a gym as a participant. Rather, the bag held her ‘skimpy’ gear. She had a good body. At least she once thought so.
Stripping before the full length mirror, Chrissie contemplated the obvious. At 39 she had the body she had at 18. Well almost. It had always been large and hard. But now there was this one thing: the wounded skin. A fact of life in her chosen profession to be sure: but would the next Tom Matterson feel that same way about her? She fitted her gym gear just to make sure it covered where she wanted it to cover. She knew that it would display the bulges she wanted to display. There were plenty of those.
Walking into the space hold that is the home of the Camulus gymnasium, she saw three women standing next to a squat rack. Two were talking, one adjusting knee strapping. One shouted ‘atten-tion’, the others snapped into pose.
“As you were, troops.”
Chrissie turned into a change room, noticing the ‘Male’ sign and then ignoring it. The place was empty. She changed to the gym gear; a sleeveless navy blue halter top with a print of the rampant white winged stallion on the front and baggy shorts. She approached the group of three. The one with strapping was moving away from the squat rack, hands on hips, breathing a little heavy, the other two talking and patting her massive shoulders.
Well everything was massive about these three women. But Chrissie wasn’t here for physique analysis.
“No men here today?”
“No ma’am, they got the afternoon off.”
Chrissie shook her head.
“I don’t know how these boys think they’re going to compete if they don’t train.”
The one with the leg straps laughed.
“We’re told they’re scared of us.”
Not a good signpost to on-board culture. Chrissie frowned and held out her hand to the first woman.
“Brigadier General Christina Matterson.”
“Senior Airman Alexius J. Henry.”
Chrissie smiled at the woman’s effort to squeeze her hand, she then turned to the second woman.
“Airman First Class Lauren McCloud, ma’am.”
“You’re regarded as the strongest on the craft, Airman?”
“Umm, not any longer, ma’am.”
Again a heavy shake, Chrissie wondered what the third woman would offer but it proved to be firm and professional.
“Senior Airman Cathy Dubois.”
Cathy then undid her weight belt and dropped it next to Lauren.
“And what’d you squat just then, Senior?”
“1500 for three reps, ma’am, I did 1600 for one.”
“Nice work. PB?”
“Squat, ma’am, 1675.”
“You must have an awesome deadlift.”
“Not really, max out at 1750.”
Chrissie’s eyes dropped to Cathy’s quads. They were cut and pumped. But even still, her own were larger. She faced Alexius and Lauren.
“What about you two, what’d you do today?”
Lauren thought it her place to give the run down.
“We started with some cardio and just some arm work, curls and stuff, then we did some legs, umm, a bit of back and finished off with strength work; just tuning up and stuff.”
“Or showing each other what you do. ...”
Lauren shrugged and tilted her head.
“... and what did you do, Airman?”
“Umm, squats, err three at 1400, one at 1500, umm, benched 950 for three reps and a 1750 deadlift for three.”
Alexius broke in.
“And a 1800 deadlift for a pb.”
“Well done Lauren, I want to see you break that ton.”
The Airman returned the smile with a nod.
“And you Senior.”
“Bench is my preference, ma’am, ..."
“Guessed that from the arms, what 20, 21 around?”
“... near on, ma’am, did three reps at 1050 and one at 1100. I’m happy with that.”
“Good. Now that you all have that out of your system, until further order you are to ensure that you do not exceed a weight 200 less than what you did in each lift today. ...”
The three gasped and murmured at each other.
“... I hope this is only short term. But you’ll be closely working with me on an important task in the next few days and I don’t want you tired and sore from trying to push each other. You can enjoy tonight but tomorrow you rest up.”
“Does that include me, ma’am? I’m working mornings on the transport dock.”
“Yes, Airman, your position has been discussed with Colonel Aries.”
Lauren nodded. She thought it was what Marcellus wanted to talk to her about. Still, her frown told all. She was used to being the strong one, the queen gym-rat, and she didn’t like to share.
“Not wishing to sound impertinent, ma’am, but, umm, you look dressed for some lifting of your own.”
At last, the cheese is taken from the trap.
“Sure thing, how much do these nice new bars take?”
“Err, they say 2400.”
“And those reddish discs, they’re 500 aren’t they?”
Cathy nodded; the other two motionless.
“Put three on each side would you.”
Lauren was aghast.
“Yeah, if you would.”
The women sprang into action. They handled the 500s as most men would handle the 50s. It was effortless and quick.
Chrissie moved to the rack. Lauren interrupted.
“Weight belt, ma’am?”
She didn’t bother with pretension. Placing her right hand at the middle of the bar she lifted it up and off the rack. The women gasped and guffawed. But Chrissie wasn’t happy. The bar rocked and wobbled with every move. Facing the women, she brought it close to do a one handed curl. Still, she shook her head.
“Don’t like this, the bar doesn’t feel right with this weight.”
“It’s a ton and a half.”
Alexius had stated the obvious.
Chrissie did another curl. No effort required; none shown.
“No, no, not happy at all, the bar’s too, well ...”
The weight went back on the rack.
“... I guess I’m done then.
Chrissie turned around with hands on hips, the only sound was of the trap slamming shut.
“Right then, the three of you are to report to the command wardroom at 1000 hours. You will be briefed at that time. Oh ... and have a nice night.”
The women snapped to attention and as Chrissie acknowledged with a casual salute, her memory clicked back to the fourth.
“Sorry, I almost ... there’s another of you isn’t there, a South African?”
“Umm, last seen doing some work on the punching bag, ma’am.”
Lauren thumbed over her shoulder, toward the barrier dividing the sexes. Chrissie smiled and walked away from the group.
There were a few other women scattered on different appliances, doing different routines. Their appearance comparable to the others; the reddish plates found on almost every bar. Chrissie wondered if there was a place on Earth where such quality of female strength and muscle was evident.
The Warrant Officer was shadow boxing, sparring with the air, ducking and weaving. Her hands wrapped, she wore shorts so tight and small they risked being called a thong. The top was little better, her breasts held taut by a halter top which was no more than a training bra, the iron hard abs on show. She was big. She was hard. And she was spectacular.
“Looking good there, Sergeant Major.”
Hannie stopped in mid jab, turning to face the enquirer.
“Brigadier General Christina Matterson.”
“Hannie du Plessis, but I think you know that General.”
The handshake firm and professional.
“I have heard you were with Cheetah Squad.”
“Yes, and that shirt of yours.”
“Pegasus. That’s right.”
Hannie smiled and nodded.
“Yes, the winged assassins of the sky.”
Chrissie raised her eyebrows; she hadn’t heard that for a while.
“Sergeant Major, I need to inform you that you have been assigned to my command, at least in the short term. A full briefing will be given at 1000 hours tomorrow in the commander’s wardroom. If you are unsure of the location ...”
“I will ask the others, yes, General and I am pleased, I did not see my role on this craft as counting tins of peaches.”
“You have talents, Sergeant Major, I don’t know if quartermaster duties fall within them.”
“Those and a few others.”
Hannie had her hands on slender hips; her face tight. Chrissie feared this cub may take some taming.
Maybe ‘tis best to start early.
“So you should be pleased with the training facilities?”
“They’re an improvement on the moon base.”
Chrissie moved toward the punching bag.
“You, umm, got an Olympic silver medal in Taekwondo, didn’t you?”
“The 2068 summer games in Doha, I was seventeen then.”
“You must’ve been a strong girl.”
“I am five times stronger now.”
Chrissie pointed to the bag.
“Show us some kicks.”
“You will need to hold the bag, General, I might knock it off its chain.”
Chrissie positioned herself as Hannie left out two left foot kicks with some force then dropped around and unleashed a hard right which thundered into the bag. She stopped. Chrissie spoke.
“Strong hits. How do you think you’d go on a human target?”
“I am trained to shatter bones, I do not spar for pleasure.”
Pulling the waist of her halter top to the breast line, the General pointed to the mark.
“Come on, try a few into this.”
“With all due respect ...”
“I can order you.”
Hannie landed a couple with her left foot without power; she then swung around and unleashed the right, but had ‘pulled’ the kick.
“These abs are as hard as cement, Hannie, come on, try and break them.”
The younger woman’s brow thickened, she landed a couple more with her left-left-right combination each time adding more power. Chrissie could feel the blows but they didn’t concern her.
“Don’t be a hero, General, I have killed men with these kicks.”
“Not the kicks you’ve given me. You wouldn’t knock a drunken teen ...”
Another left thudded into her.
“... off a toilet seat.”
The blonde woman’s face had anger on it. With the right leg she unleashed two savage kicks, the second in time to a grunt. There was no reaction from her target. One more, with the lot, airborne and shouting.
The blow landed and knocked Susie back so that she needed to shuffle her feet to balance. But the attacker was spent. For a moment her head was down, hands on her knees. Then the pride returned and she stood to her full height.
“You did well, Sergeant Major. I felt that last one.”
“I don’t know how you did it but I applaud you, General.”
Hannie gave a begrudging salute.
“Umm, begging your pardon, ma’am.”
It was a voice from behind, Chrissie pulled her top back to her waist and swung around. Lauren had changed into her crystals.
“Yes, err, yes Airman.”
“It’s the executive officer, ma’am, he has asked if you could attend to him on the flight deck as soon as convenient.”
“Will the Colonel be present?”
“Err, I don’t know, ma’am.”
“Fine, let him know I will be there in ten. Oh, and what’s his name?”
“Wing Commander Alastair Simmonds.”
Lauren performed a proper salute and left to resume her duty, Chrissie turned to bid farewell to Hannie but she too was gone. Nothing to do but get back into uniform.
Unsure of the path to the flight deck, Chrissie took her gear bag with her to save time. She shouldn’t have worried. At the egress hatch she was met by a shortish young man of Asian appearance who wore three silver bars on the epaulettes, a rank she did not recognise. He smiled at her and nodded.
“General Matterson? I am Kapten Darma Wiroyoputra, TNI, err, Indonesian air force.”
“Christina Matterson, Kapten, good to meet you.”
They shook hands.
“I am rostered duty officer, if you would accompany me, Wing Commander Simmonds is keen to meet you.”
“Is the Colonel here?”
Chrissie wasn’t keen on the idea of meeting the craft’s officers without its commander. It looked suspect.
On a ship it would be called the ‘bridge’ and with the word ‘cockpit’ not quite appropriate, the term ‘flight deck’ became generic. Without a window in sight it sat in the middle of the craft like a submarine’s conning tower, any vision of the outside displayed on the 49 monitors surrounding the technicians and officers supervising this slow and continuous orbit of Phobos.
“This way, General, the Wing Commander is stationed through that hatch.”
With that he was gone.
Chrissie eased her way through and saw a man sitting at a desk studying a monitor.
“Umm, Wing Commander Simmonds?”
His head sprang up then he smiled and stood.
“Oh, General Matterson, come in please.”
They shook hands. The light blue tinge to his uniform made it look as if someone had thrown their jeans into the wash with his ISEs.
“Alastair Simmonds, thanks for taking time to see me.”
The EXOFF looked in his 40s, a handsome face, dark hair, about 5’11”, small shoulders and smaller hips on a slender frame, he had the perfect build to slide into the seat of a spitfire.
“Wearing the Royal Air Force crystals I see, Commander.”
“We’re not part of Space Command, General, and technically I’m not stationed on this craft ...”
“... No, like you I’m here on assignment. In my case to fill in for Lieutenant Colonel Ashanti who was called back to the United States for reasons I don’t know. With Major Peyton on leave, it was agreed I come on board to act as the Colonel’s deputy.”
“Please have a seat.”
The General sat on one of two small seats moulded to the deck. Simmonds sat on the edge of the desk closest to her.
“General, I appreciate it is unusual for me to request to meet you without going through Colonel Aries.”
“Yes, so why’d you do it?”
“We’re experienced officers, so I’ll be blunt. Things are moving quickly here. As you know three airmen are dead, all men and all, may I say it, men of average strength.”
“Perhaps I can put it this way. During the Colonel’s command, there has been an increase in the number of women recruited onto the craft who are exceptionally gifted to perform in the gymnasium and the martial arts. And I mean that with no disrespect to yourself.”
“None taken, you can speak freely.”
“Thank you. As you may know, the strength ratio toward the women is disproportionately high.”
“Well, it also reflects society in general, women are making themselves physically stronger than men now.”
“Yes, and men do have to deal with that, but what I’m saying is that there has been a more disturbing outcome, at least so far as the Camulus and Phobos Base 1 are concerned. ...”
Simmonds paused, Chrissie was expressionless.
“... there have been a number of incidents where women have used their, umm, power to subjugate men in various ways. These include, err, incidents of domination such as walking up behind a man and picking him up one handed by the belt of his trousers through ...”
“What some sort of lift and carry thing?”
“No just to lift them off the ground, anything up to a full arm’s length and remember these women are usually quite tall.”
“But it also extends to minor violence such as squeezing or pressing down on them through to sexual domination and compulsion.”
“You mean rape?”
“Allegations of that sort should be referred immediately to the provost general’s office; other types of indiscipline can be dealt with aboard the craft.”
“And that is what happens, ma’am, however, now with these three airmen suffering horrific crushing injuries and with the abundance of extreme female muscle ...”
Simmonds had emphasised those last three words.
“... now paraded before them, it is natural for the men to be downright petrified.”
“So we have a situation where until the woman or women who has committed these abhorrent crimes is detained ...”
“Women? What evidence is there?”
“Oh, General, you don’t think we’re talking little green men do you?”
“That doesn’t help.”
Simmonds stood and moved back around the desk to his chair.
“With respect, I don’t want to prejudice your investigation, however, you and I know that there is but one gender on board this craft that has the strength to inflict such injuries ...”
Chrissie grimaced. It was difficult to deny the obvious.
“... and a further thing. There is a genuine fear that until the investigation is satisfactorily concluded the other women will see it as carte blanche to continue to dominate on board behaviour, perhaps even more so.”
“I must say, Commander, for an acting number two you certainly have your ear to the ground.”
“Don’t underestimate me, General, and don’t underestimate just how close this little seething pot of discontent is to its boiling point. The Colonel has much to concern himself without trying to tread the murky waters of crew morale. That is a role I am looking to assist with.”
Chrissie doubted the genuineness of the sentiment.
“Thank you, Commander ...”
She stood and offered her hand, he took it without standing.
“... I trust I’ll see you at tonight’s get together?”
“No, I’ve rostered myself as duty officer, I’ve seen many new year’s eves in my time.”
“Well, happy new year to you, I’ll keep in touch.”
“Please do, General.”
She could feel the contempt in his eyes as she collected her gear bag and manoeuvred her massive shoulders into the hatchway.
There were only male crew on the pilot deck as the General moved toward the egress hatch. Each ignored her.
December 31, 2080. 1757 hours Zulu.
Chrissie heard the buzz of the hatch.
She rose from a seat at the glass table in the middle of her cabin. A woman of perhaps 5’8” in height and maybe four and half feet in width eased herself into the room, her crystals a pale gray-green, as if a drop of lime cordial was placed on the ice cube before melting. Like Chrissie’s stars, a crown sat on the top of each thick and muscled shoulder, nestled between prominent traps and delts. Her thighs fought with material of her trousers but unlike Chrissie and the other elite women, she carried bulk around her middle and hips. She saluted then extended her hand.
“Major Gabrielle Hartley, ma’am, Royal Marines, Mars Base – Cydonia 6.”
“Brigadier General Christina Matterson, US Marine Corps.”
They smiled at each other, the handshake quick and effortless. Marcellus entered behind and closed the hatch.
“Major, thank you for your assistance with this matter, I have asked you here this evening to discuss some elements of your reports and as I believe you are trained as a commando ...”
“... to be my deputy during this investigation.”
“I’m pleased to assist, ma’am, but, err, how will being a commando help you?”
“I’ll come to that, first though, in the confines of my cabin you can call me Chrissie or Christina.”
“Thank you. I’m Gabi.”
“And the Colonel you will know as Marcellus or more commonly, Marc. ...”
Chrissie turned away from the two to find the manila folder.
“... umm, please be seated over here.”
Marcellus and Gabi pressed themselves onto a two seater lounge; it was not a comfortable fit. Chrissie brought up the chair from the table and faced them, opening the folder and pushing around a print out. She looked at Gabi and spoke.
“The injuries sustained to the second and third deceased, they are crushing injuries caused by the slow and constant application of force to the area between and including the sternum and the pelvis?”
Gabi looked a little confused.
“Is that a question? Well the answer’s ‘yes’. That’s what happened: the only difference being the way the force was applied.”
“East-West and North-South.”
“Now, Gabi, would you say that the object that applied the force was even, like say a girder or a flat sided object, or something more like a massive baseball bat or steel bar?”
“The injuries seemed to be more pronounced in the mid section, but there is no mid-point where the injuries are most catastrophic. Not like a round object but more of an oblong one.”
“Like a leg?”
“A leg? It would need to be a very large leg.”
“Marc could you come over here and squat down? ...
Marcellus did as requested, side by side to Chrissie, facing Gabi. Chrissie swung in her chair and opening her legs, put one forward and one behind him. He was worried.
“... now trust me, I just want to do a little demonstration.”
“And there I was hoping to get through the year unscathed.”
“Gabi, could you just look at this closely ...”
She left the lounge and squatted in front of Marcellus.
“... now I’ve got my thighs resting on Marc’s torso, but you’ll see they don’t reach the sternum or his lap.”
“If I tense the muscle, and this uniform will let have some give. ...”
“... sorry, Marc, professional hazard, Gabi, confirm the positioning.”
“Umm, yeah you’ve reached the lap but not the whole pelvis, but no you’re short of the sternum ...”
Chrissie relaxed, Marc exhaled loudly and offered her a forlorn look.
“... but then only just, Chrissie, I mean, for a short man you would’ve probably covered it.”
“Okay, thanks, as you both were.”
They returned to the lounge, Chrissie swung around to face them. Marcellus rubbed his ribs.
“Come on, Marc, you’ve had stronger legs locked around you than that.”
“Not from you I haven’t.”
Gabi frowned. Chrissie smiled and returned to the issue at hand.
“This is less than scientific but I’ve been going around the craft and checking out the, umm, women’s legs to put it as bluntly as possible. And no one, not even yourself Gabi, have larger thighs than mine.”
“Not scientific Chrissie, but I know what you mean.”
“And as you say, it would be different for a small man, but these three weren’t short men. From my research and reading your reports, Gabi, they weren’t much shorter than Marc in leg height and the torso was much the same.”
“Is it possible that the leg, or other object, could’ve been applied twice, you know, slipped up or down to make it look larger?”
Gabi shook her head.
“No, no, it was one consistent force. It gripped them like a vice.”
“My guesswork is this. There is not a woman alive whose arms are big enough to cover that area of the male anatomy in one motion. And from my observation there is no woman aboard this craft, or who has come on board in the last twenty four hours, who would be able to perform that crushing manoeuvre with her legs. So how did the airmen get crushed?”
“Assuming we can discount the men for the same reason, then some inanimate object was used, or ...”
She hesitated. Chrissie encouraged her with a hand gesture.
“... or this was not a human that caused the fatalities.”
“If you’re talking aliens ...”
“I’m talking non-human life forms.”
“That can avoid heat sensors and anti-cloaking devices? Come on.”
“They may not emit heat.”
Gabi looked to Chrissie for support. The General smiled.
“I have only one problem with the alien option.”
The Colonel was indignant.
“And that is?”
“Well, I agree with you. Although the three incidents occurred in CCTV blindspots, I just can’t believe an alien has managed to move around the craft and not been picked up by our sensors or an anti-cloaking device.”
Gabi was unconvinced.
“Well something has.”
Marcellus fired back.
“Okay, what about this then. If it’s not human, why can’t it be robotic such as a cyborg? That could crush the shit out of anyone, couldn’t it?”
Chrissie nodded. Gabi was the indignant one.
“The same applies to the cyborg. It emits heat, the sensors should identify it.”
“Assuming that the technology we have is the best available. I won’t make that assumption.”
The Major was not for turning.
“The first incident, the airman in the vent; we have the reports back this afternoon on the content of the foreign matter on his lips and in his mouth.”
Chrissie leaned forward.
“Yes, I want to ask on that.”
“Of course, because we did find two types of DNA, umm, one lot we have been able to discount straight away as not being in issue. The second lot is problematic.”
The General sighed.
“Let’s start with why we are ruling out the first sample.”
“The ... DNA has been identified as a perfect match with another, female, crew member. The source of the DNA was vaginal fluid deposited in the mouth between four and six hours ante mortem. ...”
The Colonel groaned and whispered to no one.
“... The second sample is far less than adequate for our purpose. The spectrograph at Cydonia 6 is too primitive to make any sense of what we have, other than to say it came from live matter. However, if we send the sample back to Earth ...”
Chrissie shook her head, her voice firm.
“No, out of the question. It may have nothing to do with anything and I don’t want the Pentagon and Congress sniffing around chasing wild geese.”
“Thank you and it could still be a cyborg.”
Chrissie glared at him.
“Gabi, can we be satisfied that the death occurred in the vent?”
“There’s no evidence that any of the particles of the fractured vent and ceiling are in the lungs of the deceased. He was dead well before the rupturing of the tiles and vent.”
“Umm, fingerprints? A source of the suffocation.”
“There is a real problem, Chrissie and I have to be blunt. The injuries sustained in the crushing of his body to force him through the ceiling are confused with what seems to be, well to put it kindly, some bruises of love incurred, as I said, four to six hours earlier.”
This time Chrissie swore.
“If you were in crime forensics, Gabi, would you surmise that those earlier, umm, bruises may’ve arisen from, say, a coercive demand for oral sex?”
“Oh, to be honest Chrissie, I just don’t know, I don’t have that sort of training.”
“No, that’s okay, after all this isn’t CSI Mars. ...”
Chrissie chuckled to no one. The other two stared back at her.
“... Right, this is the position. I’m ruling out a crushing injury being inflicted by a member of crew using their own physiques in relation to the second and third incidents. In relation to the first incident, I’m doing nothing until I interview the source of the identified DNA. Marc, could you arrange for that person to attend on me pronto.”
Gabi looked at Marcellus then at Chrissie.
“Umm, can I be involved, Chrissie, err, I have some idea of what may’ve happened.”
“Yes please. And Marc this is not a formal interview, so don’t go all fifth amendment on us, just ask the airman to attend for a briefing.”
Gabi spoke again.
“Err, it’s an officer, not an airman.”
“Gets better all the time. Colonel, I’ll let you attend to your duty.”
“Thank you, General; Major if I can have the details?”
Gabi pulled a notebook from her top pocket and showed the name to Marcellus. He nodded and turned to leave without further formality.
They waited until the hatch closed.
“What do you make of it, Chrissie?”
“I think we’re fucked.”