Another first chapter of a story that might never be finished. I am sure I was going somewhere when I wrote this. Probably just another generic space opera story where the main character is slowly turning into an alien, maybe becoming a villain...
Who really knows.
The vessel was massive: one-hundred-thousand metric tons. It was heavily armored with triple hulls to keep the crew as safe as possible. It was biggest ship in the fleet, some parts were so far from the core systems that you could hear a pin drop to the deck. Not something you would be use to if you transferred to another ship.
William Jeffery himself had thought the life support system had stopped functioning the first time he had come this way. He thanked his stars that nobody had seen him look panicky as he ran to a nearby vent to feel if the air was still circulating. He had been a newly assigned First Lieutenant back then, now he was a Second Commander.
The younger and lower-ranked crew saluted and got out of his way when he was walking through the corridors because he walked fast, just nodding in response to a salute. Jeffery did not like to waste time getting from point A to point B. One of the few things he disliked about serving on the Republic was that these walks took so long.
Forward Medical. He entered the outer ward to see the line of seats were empty, no patients. With a crew this size there were usually a couple of them sick on any given day. Chief Medical Officer Ames Winslow, a gray-haired old coot, came to greet him.
“Commander Jeffery. I take it you are here for the physical.” Winslow said, it wasn't a question. The doctor led him to the third exam room. Maybe there were a couple of headaches or stomaches here after all. “Don't try and claim you're too busy this time, William. I have cleared this with the Captain as well as the Admiral.” The doctor told him, pointing at the low table where he was supposed to sit and take off his outer and inner shirts.
William Jeffery did not like that he was getting older. He didn't like to see hair turning gray, or his skin loosening and turning ashen. Not enough sun and exercise, he expected. Too much time inside these tin cans, fighting other peoples wars. That was a lie, there were perfectly good places on this vast ship where he could get a tan, swim laps in a pool or work out. He might need a reservation since they weren't huge, but it was more than the smaller ships had.
The doctor did all the normal things, looking in his ears, eyes, listening to his heart and breathing before they came to the real reason why this was necessary. The doctor place the device on his chest and waited. It made a tiny noise and some number appeared on the display, which the doctor noted down on his wrist computer.
“It's gotten worse, probably.” William Jeffery said, trying to get the doctor to react. He didn't. Jeffery knew that the blood infection had no cure but he hated that the doctor followed orders not to even tell him how it was progressing. “Am I going to die this month, doctor?”
The doctor grinned slightly. “No, not this month or next. You know I can't tell you specifics, William, the fleet would have my head. You can leave any time you want now. Other than the obvious, you are in pretty good health but you need to get more sun and exercise.”
The doctor left as the Commander began putting his uniform back on. He felt good, he didn't feel like he would die any time soon. The alien virus in his blood hadn't caused any pain, whatever else it might be doing inside of him.
Nobody on the ship besides himself, the Chief Medical Officer, Captain and Admiral of the First Fleet knew about the infection. It was supposed to be impossible for humans to get it, they had tried to give it to comatose prisoners days or weeks before their execution. Nothing. It was totally incompatible with the human body.
Somehow, though, Commander William Jeffery of the carrier and flagship Republic, carried this blood-borne disease. He wondered if future history books would record that information and leave out the part of his service in the fleet. It would be funny, kind of.
The fleet was holding steady near Icarus-B, a few systems from the border with the Orinas, an alien species that didn't want much to do with humans. They were not especially hostile normally but they really took exception to humans. They didn't want to talk to or see a human or their ships.
The first fleet had been relieved of the more dangerous assignment of patrolling the border with the Issun by the Second Fleet. Meanwhile the Third Fleet was home ported for extended upkeep while the crews were allowed to go home for a while.
The rest of the fleet was not his problem. The Admiral had a small staff and their own control center on board but well away from the bridge. From this point the fleet would be divided and sent out to patrol different parts of the border area. This redeployment would happen over the next day or so.
The nearest ship to the Republic was the cruiser Orion, the second largest vessel in the First Fleet, heavily armed and with a smaller crew than one might think. It was more of a weapon platform than anything else, it wasn't going to be used for any non-combat mission.
The Ardmore and Landry were carrying drop ships and Marines that could be used to evacuate small colonies if necessary. The four drop ships were connected to the main body in a way that made them look like some four-legged animals. The vessel was much smaller without the drop ships, but while connected they acted as if they were part of the ship.
There were other ships, but Commander William Jeffery was more concerned with his own. It was in tip top shape and you would never have known it ever saw combat. You would never known it had been at Arbor's Moon. It's arrival was the real reason the Issun had retreated, a ship they weren't familiar with.
One Lieutenant William Jeffery had been manning a defense station when the alien vessel had crashed into the Republic near where he was standing. Almost as if the suicidal alien knew exactly where to hit the ship, a weakness most of the crew hadn't even known existed. The alien had still been alive, but even though atmosphere was venting Jeffery had pulled the adversary to safety.
The reward for his kindness was the bite that had infected him. The alien had fought back and pulled a hidden sidearm and had to be killed. He took two of the crew with him, though. Leaving them no prisoner to interrogate. After a bitter fight to reach Arbor's Moon, the enemy retreated, leaving the wreckage of dead and damaged vessels littering the space around them.
None of the doctors had a clue what the alien pathogen might do. He was kept in isolation for five months for tests and observation. During this time he passed paperwork for promotion, because having little else to do he studied.
All this time he had lived with the disease that seemed to have no effect. Maybe it was totally inert and they had finally released back to his duties. Then six months ago, he had a sudden fever and his eye sight became intermittent. It only lasted a few minutes but a test showed the alien disease was very active and reproducing rapidly. The growing count of the alien spores had alarmed the doctors but still, nobody knew what it was doing.
Since then he hadn't been sick a day or had any relapses. The doctor monitored the alien spore count but was under orders not even to tell the patient. Jeffery was starting to wonder if the count even mattered, maybe it was doing nothing at all.
By the end of the third shift Second Commander William Jeffery was ready to hit the sack. When the Captain walked in trailed by a Yeoman holding a notebook, he was out of the chair before the Watch officer even announced, “Captain on the bridge!”
“Nothing to report, sir!” He said as he saluted. The Captain nodded and waved his hand, holding a small slip of paper.
“The Admiral has given me our new orders. By the time your shift comes around again, we should be well on the way to our new posting.” The Captain said, looking at the paper. “Wyvern-4.” He read and then looked a bit lost. “Why did they have to rename these systems anyway?”
The Wyvern was right up close to the border with the Osirin. Wyvern-4 was a semi-habitable planet where there was a human research team studying it.
His shift over, he left the bridge and headed to his quarters. He had requested time in the pool and gym but his turn had not come up yet. There was always a line for those and even a senior officer could only cut in front of so many. The Captain or Admiral would get pretty much anything they wanted though.
William Jeffery was woken up by a banging on his door. There had been three in quick succession but not very loud. As if the person at his door didn't want anyone to know they had rapped the door instead of using the button. Only one person he knew would knuckle the metal door instead of touching the button that sounded a chime.
“Nora!” He said opening the door with a smile. She came inside quickly and he closed it behind her. Before he even turned all the way around he was enveloped by two arms and her body smashed into his with a hug.
“William, I really missed you this week!” She said with her head against his chest. “I can't believe the Captain put us on different shifts, did you make him mad? I thought he was okay with us.”
He pulled her toward the bed and sat down. She sat on his knees, her arms still around his neck.
“I handled that already.” He told her. “Our shifts should be aligned again by next week.”
She sighed in relief and then pushed him onto his back and loomed over him like a tiger surveying its prey from above. “I'm glad to hear that, sir.” She said in a serious voice but with a sultry smile, “Very glad indeed.”
You know what is finished though...
THE FOURTH is $2.99
NEW ARRIVALS is 99 cents
If you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber you can read them both for free.