Part I: Landings
“Okay, Mars-bot, what’s the read on the Earth Ships?”
Teddy hated when Johnnie, referring to Teddy’s home planet – New Mars, called her that. “Johnnie – “ she whined and focused intently at her station’s command interface. Johnnie Edelman, chomping down on her daily raspberry muffin, came into the command sector and stood behind her commander, “What?”
“I hate it when you call me that,” Teddy groaned and motioned for her subordinate to take her post, the station to her right. “Get on your tool.”
“Yes, Sir, Captain Wright.” Johnnie shoved the rest of the muffin into her mouth as she sat at her station and spun her chair toward her command interface.
Teddy Wright shook her head. “Jezer, you’re in a mood this morning.”
Johnnie spun her chair toward Teddy and then leaned toward her commanding officer. This, as usual, got the reaction she was going for, Teddy turned in her direction. Once she had Teddy’s full attention, Johnnie gave her a dramatic wink, made more dramatic by her naturally long and extremely dark eyelashes.
“No!” Teddy held up her hand to block Johnnie’s gaze and turned back to her interface. “I don’t want to hear about it.”
“Oh, yes, you do!”
“No, I really don’t.”
“Oh, but, Teddy you do,” Johnnie made a show of shivering and wriggling in her chair, “my new Companion-8 is amazing!”
“I don’t want to hear about it, and that’s an order, Lieutenant.”
Johnnie laughed, “Yeah, right, as if. But you do want to know this, you need to upgrade, man, I’m telling you –“
“Whether I like it or not,” Teddy moaned.
“This Companion-8 has the biggest, darkest –“
“Captain Wright, have we made first communications with the Earth ships?” Oblivious to the banter between her commanding officers, Cadet Reggie Barrett entered the command sector bringing her disruptive eager-to-please energy and perkiness.
For once, Teddy was grateful for the new recruit’s habitual interruptions to her and Johnnie’s conversations and Reggie’s obliviousness to the fact that she’d interrupted them.
Reggie took her station to Teddy’s left. “Would you like me to initialize, Captain?”
“Reggie, you can just call me Teddy. Save the Captain for when the crews on planet.”
Reggie looked over at Teddy with large brown, naïve eyes, “Of course, Captain. Ugh, I mean, Teddy.”
Johnnie let out a loud and quick laugh.
“But, would you like me to initialize communications?”
“Sure,” Teddy answered, “just initialize with Earth Ship 1, to begin with. See what the commander has in mind for a landing schedule. And, then just monitor the other ships for now.”
“Yes, Sir,” answered Reggie, then added as an apology, “It’s okay to call you Sir, right?”
Johnnie laughed again and Teddy reached over to her and whacked her shoulder. Then turning to Reggie, “Sure, that’ll be fine.”
“Ouch,” Johnnie cried out, but no one was listening.
“Earth Ship 1, Earth Ship 1, this is New Venus Command Deck, do you copy?” Reggie sat as if her spine where a metal ruler and yet her forehead was still barely even with her interface monitor.
Over the intercom the scratchy response came – “We copy New Venus Command Deck. Good to hear your voice.”
“Relay your position, status, manifest, and landing schedule, Earth Ship 1,” Reggie maintained her regulation verbiage, ignoring the ship’s captain’s friendly comment.
“Relaying specs, New VCD, ready when you are.”
The more friendly the captain’s tone, the stiffer Reggie’s back became. “Ready for relay, that’s a go.”
“That’s a go, New VCD.”
When all five ships had finished relaying their specs, Johnnie set to work shifting through the information and created a final landing schedule. Her duties included logging in each ship’s list of crew, hold, and mechanical specs. She would find space for any crew that would be using sleeping and living quarters while their ships was docked. Crew quarters were in a separate building from the New VCD; the building was stocked for their comfort. Only the captain of each ship would need access to the New VCD.
After she finished, Johnnie headed to the New VCD living quarters, a short hallway from the command deck. Once in the open lower house level – a combination of living room-kitchen-dining area – Teddy and Reggie prepared their meal and Johnnie with a dramatic moan and grunt fell into one of the overstuffed couches.
“Rough day Lieutenant?” Teddy stood over Johnnie’s prostrate body, holding a large plate out to her.
Before answering Johnnie made a show of groans and moans as she lifted herself up only far enough to grab the plate. “Disgusting, not rough.”
Getting her own plate and sitting on the couch opposite Johnnie she said, “Okay, I’ll bitter, disgusting how?”
In keeping with her routine, Reggie said, “What were you discussing?” and sat at the other end of the couch from Teddy.
Johnnie moved to sit up, “not discussing, disgusting.”
Teddy and Reggie looked at Johnnie, waiting for an explanation.
“I was logging the manifests, when what did I see?”
She held their interest but neither Teddy nor Reggie made a comment.
“Captain Franklin G. Washington proud commander of Earth Ship 3.”
Teddy understood right away and had to suppress a smile.
Reggie, new to the VCD, could not have understood, “What? Is that someone you know?”
Teddy started to laugh, “Only in the biblical sense!”
“Teddy,” Johnnie pouted, “it’s not funny! The guy was a complete prickly to me.”
With her face blushing, all Reggie said was, “Oh.”
Teddy laughed harder.
“Teddy, cut it out!” Johnnie whined.
When Teddy was able to control her laughing the three women sat in momentary silence.
Finally, Reggie offered, “I think you mean prick, Lieutenant.”
Teddy laughed so hard at this she slid from the couch to the floor.
Johnnie gave Reggie a puzzled look.
“I’m just saying that I don’t think you mean ‘prickly,’ I think the old Earth term is simply prick.” Reggie took a hungry bite out of her sandwich.
“Who the hell knows old Earth terms these days? Who the hell would study something like that?”
Reggie started to blush again.
Back at their command interfaces, Teddy turned to look at Johnnie.
“What?” Johnnie was still hot over being laughed at.
Teddy’s eyes reflected her concern, “Are you going to be okay dealing with this guy, because I can handle the Commanders on my own, if you –“
Johnnie shrugged and waved Teddy’s question off, “Listen, I can handle it. Really.”
Johnnie smiled, “Really.”
“Just so you know,” Teddy glanced at her again, “I confirm that he’s a real prickly.”
Johnnie laughed, Teddy had hoped she would.
Johnnie smiled, “I think I like the old Earth term better. Yeah, Mr. Washington is a gigantic prick!”
“New VCD, New VCD, Earth Ship 1 commencing landing sequence.”
“That’s a go, Earth Ship 1,” responded Teddy.
Part II: New Venus
New Venus was built after Old Venus was destroyed during the WWIX conflict. From space, it looked like Old Venus, but New Venus was without the uninhabitable heat and dense gravity of the original planet. The Earth Establishment Year 2107 built New Venus as a penal colony for the WWIX insurgent forces. When the Establishment realized that New Venus could be the sole agriculture food source for the entire Galaxy, the penal colony and its residents were wiped out of existence.
Now, 30 years later, New Venus was, in a sense, still a barren planet.
The New Venus military base remained the only human structure on the planet and measured approximately 11.3 by 8.05 kilometers. The landing strip ran along the perimeter of its entire length.
Earth Ship living corridors for commanders and crews ran the length of the strip on one side. The New VCD compound and personnel living quarters lay on the opposite side.
Each ship’s commander was furnished a luxurious, private apartment with bedroom, living-room, and automated kitchens. Apartment robots were available for cleaning and upkeep. Each apartment had a private command interface for the commander’s private communications.
The Earth Ship base provided an indoor, Olympic-sized pool, a separate Pub with pool tables and virtual-game tables. There was a movie theater where movies could be viewed either for the crews’ entertainment or for training classes.
The building also contained crew living sections behind the commander’s apartments. Ship crews stayed together in separate living pods. Each pod contained barracks, kitchen and living areas, and entertainment centers. The barracks were built for comfort; crew slept on wide, soft bunks. For the stay at on New Venus, the crews could remain in their own pod area or mingle with the other crews in one of the communal areas like the pool, pub, or movie theater.
The New VCD personnel lived and worked in a separate building on the opposite side of the landing strip. Their living corridor was a 2000-square-foot house with 4 bedrooms and 3 baths on the upper level and an open living room-kitchen-dining area on the first level. The command deck was a single-story extension off of the main floor with almost as much square footage as the house. The combined structures were built so that the personnel did not need to cross over the strip and engage with ship command and crew unless invited. Or, if mechanical maintenance and repair were needed.
Crops and fields and the watering system piping occupied the rest of the planet. There was no civilian population so there was no need for other structures.
To be continued…