The Camulus Incursion: Part 3 The Party

CHAPTER V

December 31, 2080. 1931 hours Zulu.

“Hi ya Lauren, come in.”

“Hey, yourself. ...”

She smiled and pushed up to kiss him on the lips.

“... got some bubbly?”

“Sure, just popped it.”

“Pour away, lover.”

He poured the contents of the bottle into two champagne flutes, handing one to Lauren. She took a large gulp.

“Mm, yummy.”

“Well, don’t get too carried away it’s four and half hours to the new year.”

“You’re no fun.”

He took a swig of the wine and placed the glass on a table, sitting on a comfortable chair next to it.

Lauren laid on his bunk, on her side, hand propping up her head swigging again at the glass.

“So how’d you go in the gym with the new girls?”

“They’re a strong lot of bitches, I can tell you that.”

“And you still the queen-bitch?”

“Not a hope - although I did pull off the best deadlift. ...”

“Oh yeah.”

“... 1800 pounds raw; nine-tenths of a ton.”

“Not far to go now.”

“The last two hundred is the hardest they reckon, but it don’t matter. That General’s a fucking freak. She picked up a ton and a half in one hand and curled it like it was about twenty pounds. I couldn’t believe my eyes.”

“Only a ton and a half, eh?”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

“Let’s just say she is very strong.”

“How strong?”

“When you see her later ask about the time when she was four years old and she moved the family car.”

“What! Aw, bullshit.”

“Fine, believe what you like.”

“You’re hot for her aren’t you?”

“I have a lot of respect for her. She’s a damn good soldier and a great lady.”

“Anyway, she’s married.”

“She’s widowed.”

He gulped down his wine and stood to get another glass. Lauren persisted.

“And she told me about that surprise you had for me.”

Moving back, he refreshed her glass then sat down.

“What’d she say?”

“That I’m assigned to work with her and the other ones who just came in. A little posse of muscle bitches I guess.”

“What’re you doing?”

“Dunno. Briefing at 1000, need to be careful not to be too hungover.”

She took another swig of wine.

Standing without his wine he walked and talked.

“How do you get on with the Warrant Officer?”

“Hannie? Umm, okay I s’pose. She made a bit of a production about the fact she’s addressed as ‘Sergeant Major’ and not ‘Warrant Officer’. That raised some eyebrows.”

“Did you call her by her given name?”

“Not at first.”

He picked up a piece of paper from his desk and walked back to her.

“Read this.”

“Aloud?”

“Whatever.”

Lauren twisted herself round to lay face down, pushing up with her elbows, she grimaced as her back arched.

“Ooh, you wouldn’t mind rubbing my back would you, Marc-ie?”

“What hurts?”

“Lumbar near the spine, they did a bit of work today. ...”

Marcellus straddled the back of her knees and leaned forward.

“... nah, push the icy up first.”

She lifted herself so the top went up to the breast line with expected resistance from the lats, his hands going to work on the small of her hard, perfect back.

“This fine?”

“Yeah, yeah, good. ... Fuck. It says here that Hannie started lifting weights at 13. She got big real fast and then started acting out like bullying her older brothers and their friends ‘cause she was stronger than mature male teens. Wow.”

“Gets worse.”

“What the ...? At 14 she has an argument with a male teacher aged 31and puts him into a headlock with one arm while crushing his balls with the other hand and she keeps going until he passes out. The police turn up and she uses, umm, kicks ..."

“Taekwondo.”

“... to injure three of them before the fourth threatens to shoot her. Fuck.”

“Irreparable damage to the, err, genitals, so she gets charged and put in an institution.”

“And inside they think it’s good to let her lift weights and learn Tae ... kwo ...”

“Taekwondo.”

“... and in the background she’s bullying the shit out of the place.”

“Yep, and while in there she’s diagnosed as a borderline sociopath. So. What’s the best place for a super powered crazy teen when she comes out of the slammer?”

“The military, of course.”

“Of course, and what does she become?”

“A super powered killing machine.”

“On the way, she represents her country at the Olympics, gets a silver medal than is banned from the sport because of her attitude.”

“Because she’s insane.”

“She ruptures the kidneys of two men in subsequent bouts and tells the world she likes to see men bleed through the eye of their cock.”

“Charming. Still, there’s not much about her military life.”

“That’s because it’s classified. I found out she was assigned to Cheetah Squadron. It’s an elite killing force that recruits troops with exceptional strength and martial arts skills. She would’ve fitted in well, I reckon.”

“What does ‘incave’ mean?”

“What do you mean?”

“It says here ‘Notwithstanding her height and physical dimension, WO1 du Plessis has an outstanding ability to conceal and incave herself in the most difficult of parameters.’”

Marcellus stopped rubbing Lauren’s back and stood from the bunk. She was not impressed.

“Hey, I was enjoying that. ...”

He had a swig of his wine and sat down on his chair, staring at nothing.

“... So, Marc, what does it mean?”

He looked hard at her.

“It means that despite the fact she is taller and broader than most other people, she can still fit herself into tight, confined spaces.”

“Ha. Gotta be a handy thing on a spaceship.”

“Yeah, I’m sure it is.”

“And anyway, why do I need to know all this shit? Is this the special news you have for me? I’ll be fucking disappointed if it is.”

Lauren swung herself around to sit up. She ignored the top, still tucked under her breasts. Marcellus seemed a thousand light years away.

“Uh, no. I, umm, thought you just should know about that new colleague of yours. Umm, yeah, look ...”

He snapped out of it.

“... yeah, I do have some good news.”

Marcellus stood and walked across to his desk. He collected a print out and held it up.

“Came in last night. ...”

He read from it.

“... From Commander, Personnel, Space Command to Commander, USAS Camulus. Re: Promotion of Airman First Class Lauren J. McCloud to Senior Airman. In accordance with USAF protocol and having regard to your recommendation, approval is given to promote A1C McCloud to the rank of Senior Airman with effect on and from 12.31. 2080.”

“You fucking beauty!”

Lauren shook her fists in the air, biting on her lower lip. Marcellus stood in front of her his right hand feeling the dual chevrons on her tensed left bicep.

“You can ditch these dragon-flies and get your third stripe on before the party.”

He tried to peel the chevrons off the fabric, she knew he couldn’t but flexed it hard to stretch the area he was fudging with.

“Maybe I’ll just take it off for you.”

“You can do it back in your cabin.”

“I can still take it off for you. ...”

She stood, a wicked smile, Marcellus stepped back toward the bulkhead.

“... you know, lover, after pumping steel all afternoon and all this wine, it gets a muscle bitch pretty horny.”

“Okay, but, umm, we got a long night.”

Lauren took a step forward,

“Maybe, but who you planning to be with at midnight, Marc-ie, or maybe, we can just get in a bit early. ...”

Marcellus was pressed against the metal of the craft. She pushed up to him, her voice above a whisper.

“Come on, Marc-ie, get your hands on this muscle, I know you like it, I know you want it.”

“Ah, Lauren, look, maybe another time, umm ...”

“They’re not good words, Marc, you know, ...”

She pushed hard against him, her hands grabbing his arms at the elbows.

“... I can make you.”

He tried to move his arms, they were stuck tight. She spoke in a soft, girlie voice.

“Aw, don’t try and struggle Marc-ie, you’re not gonna win.”

“Remember who you’re talking to, Lauren.”

“I know who I’m talking to, Marc-ie. I’m talking to a guy who wishes he had even a quarter of my strength.”

“Stop it!”

His face contorted by the effort of trying to break her grip, she smiled up at him then pushed her loins onto his.

“Ooh, Marc-ie, you’re getting a bit hard down there. If you weren’t squirming so much I’d have my hands free to do something with it.”

“Urgh, no way.”

“I know you love me riding your cock, Marc-ie, draining out all that cum with my super tight pussy.”

“Behave, Lauren!”

Her patience expired, the anger in her face apparent, Lauren began to pull down on his arms, he screamed in pain then buckled his knees to avoid limbs being pulled from the shoulders. He was low enough so his vision met hers.

“Now listen, asshole. I’ve had all the fucking shit I’m gonna put up with tonight. You want me to behave, than fine. But don’t come crawling round at five minutes to midnight thinking I’m gonna get all misty and wanna suck your cock. It’s over buddy. Go and fuck that General ...”

As she spoke the last words she squeezed his arms. He yelped. She let go of him and he slumped further down
the wall.

“... and when you’ve got your cock in her, just think of me and remember who’s got the better skin.”

The Colonel looked up at her, a look of complete contempt.

“You cheap fucking bitch, McCloud; get the fuck out of here.”

She returned his glare and for a moment almost lost it, both hands forming into fists. But then sanity returned and it was all over. She swung around and left, pushing down her uniform and grabbing the printout on her promotion on the way to the hatch.

Marcellus didn’t watch her leave. He felt his arms – they were swelling already – and sat against the bulkhead. He breathed in heavy then rose to call on the General.

CHAPTER VI

December 31, 2080. 2142 hours Zulu.

“Atten-tion”

“As you were, people, this is new year’s eve after all.”

“Hey General, brought a friend?”

“Folks, this is Major Gabi Hartley. Major, meet Lieutenant Aleksandr Konrad, Kapten Darma whose family name I can’t remember, ...

“Darma Wiroyoputra”

“Thank you Kapten, my apology and I’m about to apologise again because...”

“First Lieutenant Li Jian, Republic of China Air Force.”

“Good to meet you Lieutenant. Next is Warrant Officer Hannie du Plessis, one of our attachment and Colonel Aries you know.”

They sat in comfortable chairs with a small utility table in the middle. Only the Colonel and Aleksandr had alcoholic drinks. Chrissie and Gabi brought up their own seats, filling the gap between the American officers and adding to the tally of the alcohol drinkers. For his part, Aleksandr was quite relaxed. He pushed the conversation.

“So General, the mess room is abuzz about a breakthrough in the investigation.”

“No breakthrough. There’s plenty more work to be done.”

“But you got a lead.”

“Aleksandr, tonight we drink and be merry, tomorrow we worry about leads.”

“So, there is a lead.”

The Colonel shook his head. Aleksandr sat back, the conversation hit a lull. Hannie spoke.

“I was telling the others of your performance in the gymnasium this afternoon, General. We are impressed.”

Aleksandr’s ego had magically repaired.

“Do you have, like, super strength?”

“I do what I need to do.”

Hannie spoke.

“I’m guessing you are probably bullet-proof as well, General.”

“Only to American ordnance but then I usually don’t get shot by my own side.”

The women laughed, the men forcing a smile. Aleksandr seemed unconvinced.

“But if your muscles are really hard and rigid like steel, how would you take your injections and stuff like that?”

“You know the story of Achilles, Aleksandr? That his weakness was in his heel? ...”

Aleksandr looked at her feet.

“... no, I don’t have an Achilles’ heel. It’s here ...”

She lifted her tongue and pointed into her mouth.

“... the underside of my tongue. Those are the only veins they use when sticking me with needles.”

“Wow, so that’s your only weak spot.”

She leaned toward him.

“Except in my heart for a handsome young man like yourself. ...”

The others laughed. Aleksandr went red and smiled; mockingly covering his face with his hand.

“... Really, it’s no secret, I have a medical condition called Artemis Syndrome, well they wanted to called it Chrissie’s Disease but my father complained how could being as strong as any adult male before I could walk be a disease. ...”

“Wow.”

Aleksandr was now convinced.

“... My parents were pretty athletic but I got this weird mutation of the right genes in the right way. Something like a one in a hundred and forty trillion chance of it happening.”

“So it might be thousands of years ‘til it happens again.”

“There’s a thing I saw about a girl in India in the sixth century being supposed to have this incredible strength, but, umm, she tragically drowned when she was ten.”
Darma was flippant.

“Yes, I suppose no matter how strong you can be, you still need to breathe.”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“Which makes me wonder why the need for all this strength and muscle growth here in outer space.”

It was a conversation killer. The Colonel cleared his throat and spoke.

“We have a half decent short-fire range in the lower aft hold, General.”

“Ah, might get a chance to fire off the new M30C.”

“I thought you’d like that.”

Aleksandr again - to no one in particular.

“That’s a sniper’s firearm isn’t it?”

Marcellus responded.

“The General has her marksman badge, Lieutenant.”

“Oh, I didn’t see it on the tunic.”

Chrissie smiled.

“No you won’t, SPACECOMM doesn’t authorise them to be worn on dress uniform although I could wear it on my crystals.”

Aleksandr was curious.

“Why’s that?”

“I dunno, an air force thing maybe, your commander is a handgun expert but he can only wear a proficiency ribbon.”

Hannie saw a small badge secured to the top of Gabi’s crystals, just under the collar, being pressed up by her massive pectorals.

“Major that badge you wear, that is not a military decoration?”

“No, it’s a golden thistle. It’s an award to me from the Scottish Government when I won gold at the last Olympics.”

“By last you mean 2076.”

“Yes, I was out here for the September games, you’re right.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong Major, but you won, umm, four gold medals I think for Great Britain in powerlifting. Super heavyweight division?”

“That’s right.”

“And set a new World and Olympic record in all three lifts plus the total.”

“I had a real good meet.”

“Your record still stands. Umm, what was it, bench press, 600 kilo?”

“Err, yeah, umm, bench 600, squat 820, err, deadlift, umm, 895 kilograms.”

“Only thirty pounds short of the American ton?”

“I believe, so, yeah.”

“And all done clean.”

“The British don’t do the ‘soup’, Sergeant Major. I use supplements, but everything is sanctioned by the authorities.”

“That presumes the American supplements are not.”

Aleksandr broke in.

“So you could train hard up here and maybe set new records.”

“No, well, you can’t trust bases and spacecraft not to manipulate the gravity pull, so space lifts are not recognised.”

“Oh.”

Hannie came back in.

“It is good they let you wear the badge.”

“All commanders can approve what goes on an icy. The base command at Cydonia 6 approved this one.”

Hannie smiled at Marcellus. He wondered what was cooking in her brain. Still there was little doubt where Kapten Wiroyoputra was destined.

“Major, I have heard your Government is very keen to sign a ceasefire.”

“I think everyone wants that, Kapten.”

“But unlike Indonesia or the Republic of China, your treaty obligations prohibit you from acting unilaterally, do they not?”

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

“The British cannot leave the war until the Americans say they can leave it. Is that not correct? The ceasefire must be a tri-lateral agreement, plus the minor players if they so desire.”

“I, umm, I don’t know really.”

There was the familiar buzz of a hand-pad coming from Gabi’s pocket. She nodded at Chrissie, stood and excused herself from the group. Chrissie smiled at the others and spoke.

“Err, I think I should be circulating a bit too, so ... happy new year if I don’t see you beforehand.”

She stood and left the group. Darma stood and walked toward a group of men, Jian excused herself and headed in the opposite direction. Marcellus decided it was time for a comfort break. Aleksandr tried to engage Hannie in some conversation but in little time it was clear she wasn’t interested.

Intending to speak to no one in particular, Chrissie spied Lauren talking to a junior officer she didn’t know, it was a good time to make his acquaintance. However, the officer saw the advancing General and walked off in mid sentence. Lauren, a little stunned, stared at the bigger woman.

“Looking real pumped in the arms tonight Lauren, what’s it from; the workout or the weight of that third stripe?”

The fresh Senior Airman knew Marcellus had two and a half hours to give his report on their little contretemps.

“Umm, workout General, you know, I stay pretty, umm, hot for a good few hours.”

“Hot, eh? Bet the boys like that.”

Lauren forced a laugh.

“Yeah, sure they do, yeah.”

“Yeah, all that hard lifting can get a girl pretty horny but I’m thinking I’m just stating the obvious.”

“No, no, General, I’m cool, really I’m cool.”

“Good, because I have another little job for you; I want you to get me the schedules and manifests for all shuttle flights between here and Phobos from 0800 on December 16 to 0930 on December 18.”

“There’s a daily service.”

“I know, that’s why I want everything between those two times. Download it, zip it up and send it to my pod.”

“Certainly, ma’am.... Err, ma’am can I ask? I heard a story, umm, that when you were four you, umm, moved the family car, as in, umm ...”

“As in lifting it? Well, my ball had gone under there, what did you expect me to do, sit on the kerb and cry?”

“Huh? No, no. But, you know, did you lift trucks and buses and stuff, you know, how much can you do?”

“That’s classified at the highest level, so I can’t tell you even if I could be bothered.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t ...”

“I don’t mean to be rude, Lauren, but I never wanted to be looked on as a circus act or a braggart. The only time I used my strength was when it was needed, like when I was twelve and my family were driving behind a loaded double trailer prime mover that jack-knifed on a level crossing. A train was coming, people could’ve got hurt.”

“So you just moved it.”

“I just moved it.”

“Was it ... heavy?”

“You were in the gym this afternoon ...”

Chrissie smiled and began to turn away.

“... and the schedules are to be in my pod by 0800, Senior.”

“Ma’am, I, err, didn’t see anything, you know, when you were with Hannie.”

The General half turned to face her.

“You ever been in combat, Senior?”

“Err, no ma’am.”

Chrissie turned again and walked to the refreshment bar. A couple of male NCOs didn’t run away as she approached them.

Marcellus had spotted Chrissie on his return from the latrine. He turned in her direction but he didn’t make it. A muscle-packed 236 pound missile intercepted him.

“Ah, Colonel, I just wanted to say how I’m real ...”

“It’s fine Senior, I know how that soup messes around with you this time of the month, treat it as forgotten.”

“... phew that’s a relief because ...”

“But you’re right; we don’t want to be worried about what might happen at five minutes to midnight. From here on, I’ll refer to you as Senior Airman and you refer to me as Colonel.”

“Oh, but, we can still ...”

“Happy new year to you, Senior.”

Marcellus walked toward the refreshment bar. Lauren swung away, clenching her fists, willing herself not to scream; not to cry. A voice from behind her.

“Hey, Senior, congrats on that third stripe.”

“Huh?”

She swung back around. It was Aleksandr.

“Hey, I got an extra mug of space punch, do you wanna try some?”

“Ah, no, umm, yeah, yeah, why not.”

“Here.”

He smiled broad; she forced a half smile back and on tasting the punch, drank the mug in one motion.

Chrissie’s eyes skirted the room for Marcellus, the effort to converse with the two NCOs a miserable failure. He came up behind her.

“How’s it going.”

“Oh, wondered where you got to.”

“Got sidetracked. So, you tried our space punch?”

“If you’re having one, I’ll join you.”

He poured from a jug; they set off toward two comfy chairs away from the increasing volume of the party. She sat and sipped on her drink.

“Hmm, more space than punch, Marc.”

“Maybe for you and me but these kids don’t hold their booze too well.”

“Remember that time we drank a bottle of twenty year old double malt scotch.”

“Yep, sitting on the flight deck, swigging direct from the bottle.”

“Yeah, just you, me, six dead Chinese marines.”

“And a nice big fat hole in your fuselage or bulkhead or whatever these things are.”

She tapped on the wall.

“That was when you wanted to go space walking without a net.”

“Wasn’t my plan to start throwing grenades around. Those fucking Chinese were on a suicide mission.”

“They were after you and they nearly got you.”

“Nearly isn’t good enough, Marc, I’m still here giving them shit.”

“Like on Demios?”

“Well, it worked. They haven’t tried a military action beyond the asteroid belt for two years now.”

“You got your Navy Cross there, didn’t you?”

“My second one, yeah. And they were nice enough to give me a bronze star when I led a Pegasus squad to knock out the main enemy communication centre.”

“You didn’t lose a man that day, did you?”

“Nor a woman neither.”

They swigged at their mugs.

“I see you met Fletcher and Stewart.”

“The Master Sergeants? They’re wasted up here; they should be back home at State Fairs, scaring small children who play up.”

“They’re hard bastards, but in Fletcher’s case it’s more than just this obsession with what’s been going on.”

“Tell me.”

“He was a hardcore bodybuilder, so was his wife, but they were naturals. Never really big but real cut, you know. ...”

Chrissie nodded.

“... but then comes the new edict and the press for strength and women all being 50-50, so he and the missus are sitting there watching these pretty young things start tossing two hundred, four hundred pounds around.”

“What do you call it again? The ‘soup’?”

“Yeah.”

“Same in Pegasus. The girls got real big, real strong, real fucking fast.”

“I’m not against it in principle, I mean it’s supposed to be all sanctioned, but fuck, it’s one size fits all. You got that young Airman you saw this morning, taking the same dose as Lauren who’s got fucking eighty pounds and ten years training on her. No wonder they start doing crazy stuff.”

“You looking for excuses are you?”

“I’m not a lawyer, Chrissie, but I tell you, we’re getting very fucking close to all this shit blowing up.”

“We’ll find out soon enough because right about now we have two NCOs from the Office of the Provost-General in a shuttle heading toward us.”

Marcellus sighed.

“Second Lieutenant Eva Simonwicz. I can’t believe it. She’s been here five minutes.”

“Me thinks the seeds may’ve been sown back on Phobos.”

“How so?”

“Well, when Gabi and I finished our little chat, we buzz down to the OPG and get onto a staff sergeant who was pretty disinterested ‘til I dropped the name then he nearly shits himself. Turns out that when Simonwicz is down there doing her final training, her and this other trainee decide it would be, you know, fun to get their clits licked.”

“Oh, yeah? Didn’t bother asking first, eh?”

“They picked the biggest so-called jocks among the enlisted men and just forced their way into their cabin and demanded they do the deed or else they’re gonna sit on their face and bring their ears together from the inside.”

“On Kovacs it looked like they might’ve tried.”

“So one of the jocks complains and points out our Eva. She denies it, one against one they say, so nothing happens.”

“What about with Kovacs?”

“As you’d expect she denies that too, but we got our little silent witness.”

“The fanny batter.”

“These girls just wanna have fun but they forget that the soup’s making their clit’s bigger, their orgasms more intense ...”

“And more fanny batter.”

“Oh well, at least she enjoyed it.”
Chrissie finished her drink. Marcellus shook his head.

“So why’d she kill him?”

“Don’t know if she did. Not for us to know, anyway Marc, leave that for the OPG.”

“So if they’re on their way that means Simmonds will handle the turn over. That’s not a bad thing.”

“That’s what I thought.”

Marcellus smiled.

“Yes, yes, by midnight, Chrissie, the men will’ve learnt that Simonwicz has gone. It might bring the pot back from the boil. ...”

He downed the punch and smiled.

“... whether she’s charged or not it’ll be a circuit breaker.”

“And give us more time, Marc, there’s a fucking lot we need to do.”

“You know, we changed the settings of the hatch locks today as well. If the hatch’s locked it needs almost ten thousand pounds of pressure to force them.”

“No woman can do that, ...”

“Except you.”

“... behave. So that makes the men safe in their beds, unless they want the women in with them, then it’s a case of let the buyer beware.

“And here comes a good example of just that.”

Aleksandr, now buoyant, made towards his commander and the General with a fresh jug of space punch. Draped across his left shoulder and behind was Lauren. While the young officer had the height, in every other aspect the senior airman filled the space around him.

“Hey, officer dudes, want a top up?”

“Thank you.”

“Yes, ta.”

He poured.

“You know 2300 comes up we’re dropping the lights, make the place a bit more ... sexy.”

The Colonel smiled.

“Who authorised that.”

“Well, sir, I’m the ranking officer on duty, sort of, well, you’re over here, and, I’m running the music and ...”

“Settle down, it’s okay, just joking.”

“Yeah, so, sit back ... and enjoy.”

The couple turned and eased away, Lauren pushing down on his shoulder and appearing to whisper to him as she put her massive arm around his waist.

“Okay, Marc, here’s the thing. I’m betting you a bottle of scotch, his cock’s in her before midnight.”

“The way that soup messes with her when she’s on heat, she becomes an irresistible force.”

“Does she know about you and Paulina?”

“Yeah, why not, that’s where it started. She asked me if I go for women with a bit of muscle.”

“A bit? God help us.”

Marcellus leaned further in his chair toward Chrissie, almost conspiratorial in tone.

“Tell me, what do you think Darma was up to with those questions to Gabi on a ceasefire?”

“I know the Brits want out, but then, I thought we did too.”

“Yeah, but why raise it all now, here?”

“Dunno. It can't good, but.”

“You want a drink?”

“Charge them up.”

Winding her way to the refreshment bar, the crew had begun to clump in groups in the middle and near the music and thin into pairs around the edges. Chrissie didn’t check on the time, she didn’t care. It was 2081 somewhere on Earth. In space, it was just a state of mind.

She returned with the fresh mugs.

“I don’t think people care too much about us, Marc, they got issues of their own out there.”

“People pairing off?”

“The party’s reached that stage where those not interested have moved on elsewhere. Just lots of hormones left in here.”

Marcellus laughed to himself.

“Shows my age; it’s been a long time since I stayed a new years eve this long.”

“Fuck that, I’m the one who’s forty this year.”

“You’ll always have a great body, Chrissie”

He motioned his arm toward her and felt the marble hard shoulder.

“Thanks, Marc, just a pity it’s packed inside bad skin.”

“Don’t say that.”

“It’s not getting any better, Marc, it’ll only get ...”

They sat in silence, she stared at her feet. Marcellus was just that little too drunk to know what to say; Chrissie that little too drunk to know what she wanted to hear.

After a couple of minutes, Marcellus stood up, squatted before her and grabbed her free hand.

“You know what you didn’t do, Christina.”

“And what is that Marcellus?”

“You didn’t tell me who Eva’s partner in crime was down on Phobos.”

“You already know.”

“I thought you’d say that.”

He stood; an unsteady gait.

“And before you ask the next question, Colonel, yeah, I’ve called for the schedules and manifests.”

“You think it’s a real chance it’s her.”

“For all three? ...”

Chrissie pursed her lips and shook her head.

“... Can’t say, but I’d really love to know what Kovacs did to piss them.”

“Okay, my General, I don’t feel like waiting around for something that doesn’t matter to me anymore. I’ll see you in the new year.”

Marcellus leant and kissed Chrissie on the lips, she put her hand up to bring him closer, but it only pushed him across her.

“Aw, geez, it’s that sort of night.”

“Happy new year, Christina Matterson. You’re a beautiful woman and don’t ever forget it.”

She smiled and rubbed her hand down the outside of his thigh.

“With you around I’m sure I won’t.”

He turned away, his steps were labored. Chrissie couldn’t believe that he was so good for so long and then just seemed to fall off the edge. She watched as others grabbed at him from the groups. The men shaking his hand, the women – the big, muscled women, fawning at him; wanting to kiss him, wanting him to touch them, feel them. She felt very tired. It had been a long day. Even the drink felt heavy. She put her head back. It was comfortable. She would get up and go to bed. Soon.

“General ... General ...”

It was the urgent voice of Jian.

“... General, we’re cleaning up.”

“Huh, oh shit, what time is it?”

“0124, ma’am, happy new year.”

“Happy new year, Christ, can you help me up?”

Jian, 5’6” and 128 pounds, had the ‘traditional’ Chinese build with small hips on a slight frame accentuated by well trained arms and legs with strong shoulders. She slipped under the General’s arm and hoisted her to her feet.

“Thank you, Lieutenant, I just needed a kick start. Where’s the duty officer, Lieutenant Konrad?”

“Umm, I don’t know ma’am.”

Chrissie shook her head having realised the stupidity of the question. She took a step forward, it was a little shaky.

“I can assist, General, please let me help.”

“Err, yeah, fine.”

There was no crew left that Chrissie could see; she was content to lean on Jian’s shoulders, the muscles not large but still well formed and flint hard.

“Can I ask you, Lieutenant, you’re as hard as they come but you haven’t gone for size?”

“I am an expert in kung fu, bushido, muay thai and others, I use weight training as a way of improving my skills not to seek the extremities of size and strength.”

“What about the soup?”

“If you are meaning the diet supplementation, ma’am, as a member of an allied force I am not compelled to take it like the Americans are.”

“Okay.”

They moved at a steady pace down the corridor, Chrissie’s own bulk meaning that every fourth step she lurched her shoulder into the bulkhead.

“General, may I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Why are Americans so obsessed with strength training for their women? We have women in the front line who are strong yet they emphasise military skills, not lifting weights.”
Chrissie stopped and turned to face her.

“About ten years ago, before the war started, they had all sorts of trouble getting recruits into the military let along space. Then there was this tall, stunning, beautiful woman, originally from Brazil, who had joined the air force and was heavy into weight training.”

“Is that?”

“Yeah, Paulina Cuento del Torres. She was a captain, I think, who did weights in her spare time and she started winning bodybuilding contests and getting a national profile. Next she goes into powerlifting just as the war breaks out. Anyway she’s got the perfect natural physique and gains tremendous strength just as the military does these experiments to show that having increased strength and muscle mass overcomes some of the physical problems of a lengthy tour in deep space.”

“Yes, I know that.”

They continued to move down the corridor.

“So Paulina is the new pin up girl; the perfect looks, body, strength, everything what they wanted, and they started pushing her to the front of the recruitment posters. And it worked, not only did the women come in wanting to look like Paulina, the men came in looking for the girls who looked like Paulina. It was a major success.”

“Why do they continue now, the war is almost over?”

“They don’t know how to stop, Jian, that’s why. The fact is that increased strength and muscle mass is a bonus but they’ve lost the plot.”

“It has gone too far, I agree, some of these women would not know why they’re here in the first place.”

“This is my stop.”

Chrissie leant against her locked hatch and exhaled.

“General, may I ask ... you seem to know the Colonel ... is he as infatuated as they say?”

“Funny you may ask that, Jian. You see, the Colonel and Paulina were married. He was a hero to the boy who wanted the girl with the big muscles. So, no, he’s not infatuated in a general sense, but on the other side he’s had to wear the mantle for which a lot of society consider as the ultimate freak show.”

“They are not married now?”

“Paulina left the air force, they split not long after.”

“Oh, sorry, I am prying.”

“No, Jian, you’d be prying if I told you that Paulina is one of the highest paid adult movie stars in Europe. But you didn’t want to know that.”

Chrissie smiled and slid open the hatch. Jian was still standing, staring, as the hatch closed and locked. She was invigorated by her talk about Paulina, even more so the chance to gossip.

She hates her. She always hated her. When Marcellus first met Chrissie he thought she and his bride would be a hit, two women of Latino heritage, successful soldiers, great physical and mental strength. But like magnets, the positives only repelled. Whereas Tom and Marcellus were natural allies, the women became almost natural antagonists. No one provided a broader shoulder for Marcellus when the lascivious Paulina departed for her new career. Good riddance to her.

The General stripped, throwing back the bed coverings. As she did she noticed the ring on her left hand.

It resisted being pulled over the knuckle, but once removed she turned and lobbed it into her open kit bag.

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Really good, can't stop reading!

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