Chapter 96 – Boarding the Shuttle Back to the Moon

Nu Book 1 – The Esss Advance

AMC stands for Asteroid Mining Company and Cam is Cam Dunston, the CEO of AMC.

Jessica turned back to Sted with such a mischievous grin on her face that Sted could not help but smile. They had just gotten off the transport cab at the shuttle docking facility with their transport bags for the trip back to Luna. Jessica had been gloating for the past two days since the orders had been received for the two of them to board the shuttle for this return trip. Apparently, her suggestion to Cam that Sted was anxious to get back to AMC to work on the new Epsilon fighters had struck a chord with not only Cam but also with the Admiralty.

“Will you stop gloating?” Sted asked, smiling. “Yes, it was probably your suggestion to Cam that got the Admiralty to lift the lockdown of the shuttle. I’m sure they were considering it anyway though, because there are several dozen people here that are needed urgently on Luna and Earth. The shuttle will also be able to bring back some additional specialists for altering the Voyager III design to turn it into a fighter-carrying ship instead of a peaceful interstellar explorer.”

Jessica grinned. “You look so good eating crow! I promise to stop serving it to you now that we’re boarding the shuttle. I think I’ll let the cooks on board prepare our meals for the long trip back, and I’m sure they don’t have any crow in the larder!”

“That’s it! You’re definitely going to have to be punished once we get onboard.”

“Well, you get almost three months to figure out the best way to administer your punishment,” she said. “If you need some suggestions, I’m sure I can think of a few!”

They moved across the large shuttle receiving area and took the lift down into the shuttle. With the shuttle docking facility on the opposite arm from the interstellar development platform, and with both rotating around the central core, the shuttle had been designed with its main entrance on the top of the craft, where it locked onto the docking facility.

With so few returning on the shuttle, and with Lockheed still trying to lure Sted into their service, they had been assigned a luxury suite for the trip back. The suite was almost as big as Sted’s apartment back at the shipyard. The only difference was the presence of a real office facility right in the suite and the lack of a kitchen/dining space. All dining on the shuttle took place in the main dining room, similar to a cruise ship on Earth’s ocean liners.

As Jessica unpacked their few belongings, Sted palmed the desktop communication screen to find out the details of his orders. He knew the Navy would not let him be idle during the long trip, so he was not surprised with the number of emails with attachments waiting for him. Only one of the emails was highlighted in red, so he touched the screen to open it. A video recording from Cam popped up on the desktop.

“Hello, Sted,” said Cam’s recorded voice. “There is a locked drawer in the desk that will only open to your right thumbprint. Inside is a chip containing the latest design specs for the Epsilon class fighters we are starting to put together here on Luna. As soon as you get settled, I want you to review the designs and draft any suggestions you might have beyond what you’ve already communicated to us through Rear Admiral Cunningham and directly to me when you disagreed with her assessments.

“By the way, your suggestion for interchangeable skins for the Epsilons created quite a stir among the engineers here. We have already redesigned the mounting of the outer shell layer, and one of our youngest and brightest engineers has come up with a way to change the surface of a single outer layer to switch to matte black from mirrored by running a current through the transparent surface layer. When current is applied, the layer changes from transparent to a dusty charcoal black. When the current is turned off, the layer switches back to being completely transparent, and underneath is the mirrored surface. We just got the frequencies of the alien laser used to destroy a camera-carrying missile out in Jupiter orbit, so we will be adapting the mirrored surface for those specific frequencies.

“What we are looking for from you is a set of fighting tactics to be used by the Epsilons against one of those smaller craft that came to visit us so recently. Based on those tactics, we need to know what changes need to be made to the fighters.

“We have arranged for your communications to have top priority from the shuttle, so if you have specific questions or need additional information to continue your research, just store your requests on this console in the High Priority Request folder, and they will be routed to us automatically on the next transmission. Likewise, we will have our responses and any requests that we might have in the High Priority Response folder on your desktop. When any response is posted in this folder, you will get both a visual and auditory signal from the desktop. Also, if you are not in your quarters at the time, your personal communicator will be notified.

“I look forward to hearing from you in the very near future. By the way, Vice Admiral Bunting sends his personal regards to both you and Jessica. Her suggestion to bring you back to Luna came at just the right time based upon the intelligence the Navy has been gathering about the aliens. We can’t get you here any faster than the shuttle can fly undetected back from the shipyard, but at least we can take advantage of your expertise while you’re in transit.”

As the message went dark, Jessica tapped Sted on the shoulder and then put her arms around him from behind. She knew how valuable Sted was to the Navy right now, but did they know just how valuable he was to her? She sincerely doubted that.

“Well, honey,” she said. “I know they’re going to keep you busy most of the way back. Just remember, you promised some punishment for me on this trip, and I expect you to deliver.”

With that she kissed him on the top of his head, swiveled his chair around, and then sat in his lap for a hug of reassurance that she needed desperately.

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