A Promise Made
Click on image to enlarge.
by Janet Miller
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
Description: Shipped off to war as soon as she'd finished medical school, Dr. Karen Masters is more curious than frightened when their ship is captured by the enemy and she's sent to collect needed medical supplies from the enemy ship, the Promise. Her first close encounter with a Gaian, Dr. Jeffery, is nothing like she expected, however. Rating: Contains graphic sexual content, adult language, and violence.
eBook Publisher: New Concepts Publishing, 2006
eBookwise Release Date: January 2007
226 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [90 KB]
Reading time: 60-84 min.
After one year, six months, and thirteen days, I'd had just about enough of life in Earthforce. Mind you, I knew it was my obligation to go. I'd needed the financial support from the military to get through medical school. My folks weren't wealthy, and in the 2480's it took a lot of money to study medicine. For as long as I could remember, all I'd ever wanted to be was a doctor. So I made the bargain: medical school in exchange for Earthforce owning me for seven years after I was through. I figured I'd serve my time in some medical hospital on Earth, the seven years would pass, and I would still be a doctor when they did.
Well, now I was a doctor, but I wasn't on Earth. As soon as I'd finished school, Earthforce had snapped me up, and after a brief stint at space school where I was trained for life on a star cruiser, I was stationed on the Hope, a hospital ship assigned to the first really big anti-Gaian campaign. There had been a few small skirmishes in the war before this, but this was the big one, the one where we would teach the rebellious Gaians just who had the superior military force.
Gaia was Earth's oldest colony, settled over two hundred years ago. From what I'd heard, it was a pastoral paradise of a planet, rich in life-forms of its own and welcoming to ones imported from Earth. Some odd changes in the humans living there had been mentioned in the early medical reports coming from the planet, enough to raise my curiosity given my special interest in endocrinology. But the specifics had been vague, and then after several generations, the Gaians had shut their doors to new immigration. Information about the colony had become less than sketchy after that.
Not that Earth cared so long as it got its regular supplies of rare-on-Earth materials from its colony. But then Gaia had decided to declare itself a sovereign planet, without allegiance to Earth, owing its mother planet nothing, including the shipments of natural resources Earth had come to rely on. That would have been enough, but in addition some of Earth's more recent colonies had noticed and discussed similar actions, and the Earth government decided to crack down on Gaia, make an example of it.
I'd heard that Gaian cities had been attacked in the first skirmish of the war. The public networks on Earth even said that innocent lives were taken, but those rumors had been hushed quickly. The government pretty much controlled all information we received.
I was in the military now and knew little more than I had on Earth, except that there had been no repeat of the earlier attacks on Gaia itself. Since the first attack, the battle had stayed in space. In truth, we hadn't done very well recently. No one seemed to know what had happened to our ships when they'd engaged the Gaian military--it was as if they'd simply disappeared. The only battle Earthforce had clearly won had been the first, where our ships had attacked Gaia before it could get its defenses up. I'd been told the Gaians had managed to assemble something resembling a military since the first shot in the war, and we could no longer get past that to hit the planet.
Not that we were worried about that. The battles we'd lost had been small ones, and it wasn't too surprising they'd won as we'd sent small task forces at them. With this armada, there was no way they would win. Not that it made much of a difference to me. My job wasn't to fight this war but to take care of the casualties. Oh, and the medical supplies.
On the Hope, I was not only Dr. Karen Masters, but Lieutenant Masters. And since I was the most junior officer on the ship, I became by default the Chief Medical Supply Officer, which was a fancy way to say that I was in charge of making sure we had enough of what we needed when we needed it to help our patients.
Which was why I was now inventorying the medical supplies we'd brought on board for the fourth time since I'd arrived on the ship.
For some reason, Captain Javinson kept insisting that there was a problem in the bandage roll count. An easy to use basic field item consisting of self-adhering bandages, antiseptic, burn, and pain-relief ointment, plus a built-in self-monitoring pressure applicator, a bandage roll allowed even the most inexperienced space cadet to treat common wounds in the field. They were part of every pilot and soldier's kit, but somehow our supply wasn't what it was supposed to be. We were nearly fifty short of what should have been a hundred full cartons worth.
Javison, of course, blamed me. At one point he'd all but implied that being a woman, I had been unable to manage the inventory. Something about being non-math oriented. I'd swallowed my anger at his slur, and pointed out that my count had been the same every time. If it differed from what was supposed to be the original count, then the original must have been wrong.
It had occurred to me that perhaps part of Captain Javinson's problem was how he always had to look up to me. I'm not a particularly dainty woman, and while he isn't really all that short, I am several inches taller. Consequently, when he was around me he always seemed to be looking for a step to stand on.
It wasn't the first time my height had worked against me. There always seemed to be men that were threatened by a bigger woman, as if somehow being tall was my fault. The other young women on the ship didn't have any problems with the captain or the other officers, but somehow I always seemed to be in trouble. Also, while smaller, more petite women had no trouble finding men they appealed to, someone like me really didn't get out much. I just didn't meet the usual qualifications for being feminine.
For one thing, take my uniform. You would expect that in a military organization as large as Earthforce, they would be able to meet the sizing needs of even someone like me. But, it turns out that the "female" version of the overalls and uniform shirts we all wore only came in sizes that didn't cover my legs and arms. So I was issued the male versions and had to cope with the fact that generally men my size don't have breasts. Not that my breasts are unusually large, although the few men I've shared a bunk with haven't complained. My figure certainly qualifies me as a girl.
Eventually I obtained extra large shirts and simply took in the seams and added darts to fit them to my form. My mother, bless her soul, had done well by me in making me learn to sew at an early age, so I was able to tailor my clothes to fit.
As for the count, I suspected that someone at the depot that provisioned the ship had deliberately shorted the Hope on its supplies, keeping the excess for resale on the black market. It wouldn't have been the first time something like that had happened.
Unfortunately I was the one responsible for the shortfall, even if the shortage wasn't my fault. And so I was left counting the inventory again.
I was in mid-count when the ship alarms went off. Quickly I left off, locked up the storage cabinet, grabbed the medical bag I always had with me, and ran to my battle station in the mid-part of the ship.
As I ran down the corridor and into the organized chaos of a ship under attack, I did have one brief thought. Perhaps real combat would distract my vertically-challenged captain, and after the battle he'd stop obsessing about the mismatched count.
The other officers and crewmen scurried about me as I assumed my position. Lucky for me my station was next to the communications and navigation consoles, so I was able to keep track of what was going on. Standing around waiting for something to happen made my skin crawl.
The consoles hummed with life, their operators focused on the myriad flecks of light in the dark background. Thanks to one of my former lovers being a comm officer who loved to talk about his job, I had some small knowledge of what I was looking at. There were two sets of blips on the screen, a set of fifteen ships in the Earth armada, and a set of smaller blips with a somewhat larger one in the middle. To my eyes they looked rather harmless, but I knew that was a wrong impression.
Each of these smaller blips was a Gaian warship, and the one in the middle was the most feared vessel of all, the Promise. Not one of our ships who'd gone up against her had survived to tell us anything.
But as powerful as our enemy was, we knew our armada was stronger still. Each of our ships had twice the firepower, plus there was more than half again as many of them. The captain and others were confident that we would be able to defeat the Gaians readily. In fact it wasn't even likely to be close to a fair fight, they'd told me.
Still, I was nervous. After all it was the first time I'd been in combat, and even with the odds so firmly in Earth's favor ... well, something could always go wrong.
The Hope was a hospital ship, so we were to hold back and let the fighting ships lay waste to the Gaian fleet. When they were done, the injured would be sent to our ship, and I might finally find myself treating patients. Possibly I might even find myself with a Gaian patient or two, assuming they had the good sense to surrender rather than let their ships be destroyed.
Fortunately I had a lot of trauma training at the city hospital I'd interned at on Earth, so at least I would be doing something other than counting bandages when the injured arrived. Still I hoped there wouldn't be too many injured people from this battle.
The blips on the navigation screen moved inwards. I watched them, the chrono on the console clicking the seconds off. The front-runners of the Earth ships moved ahead to engage the enemy.
And then, all of a sudden, the blips stopped, dead in their tracks. The crewmembers at the communications stations spoke urgently to their cohorts on the other ships, but as each ship stopped, communications with that ship also shut down. Finally the comm officers on our vessel were left staring at each other. It appeared as if no one in the fleet had the ability to talk to anyone else.
The chrono continued to measure time. A handful of seconds passed, then a minute, then two. Over the hushed noises of those on the bridge, I became aware of a singular sound coming from the communications stations, a sort of whine that built up until everyone nearby was holding his or her ears, including me. Then the whine stopped, and when it did, I became aware that the chrono had stopped, too.
Lights flickered for a moment, then stayed on, but the screens blanked out and we all heard the sudden silence as the great engines that moved our ship failed. We were dead in space. There was power for life support, but virtually nothing else. Lights worked and ventilation, but not communications or propulsion, and certainly not weapons. We were helpless.
After a while, one of the comm consoles came alive, and I heard the voice of General Garren Doranth, the Gaian military leader, telling us to surrender.
Captain Javinson showed up at the communications station. "What have you done to my ship!" he demanded.
The General's face appeared on the screen. He had dark hair and pale skin that his eyes seemed to glow out of, dark and menacing. His smile sneered at us. "We have done little more than incapacitate you at the moment. Your ship and all of the systems on board, including your small boats, are ours to command. Our intention is to do no further damage at this time, but be aware that we can do worse if we wish. Remember, your current air supply is under our control. This link will only work back to me. You have five minutes to come to terms."
Fear gripped me. It was one thing to sit in a ship and worry about someone attacking, it was quite another to have an enemy controlling your life support. If they were correct, the Gaians could kill us without firing a shot. Perhaps that's what had happened to the other Earth ships, their crews slowly suffocating as their air grew foul. I imagined their last moments, and for a moment found it hard to breathe myself.
"Check it," Javinson told the ship engineers after closing the comm. The men on the bridge worked with the systems they had left and in a moment reported that the Gaians did seem to be controlling our systems. Furthermore, it was clear that the current level of oxygen could be adjusted in a non-favorable manner at their whim.
For a moment Javinson simply narrowed his eyes and snarled, but he opened the connection back to the Promise and promptly surrendered to the Gaians. "So what will you do with us?" he demanded after the formalities were out of the way.
Another man had taken the place of the General. He was slighter in build and seemed a bit older, but he was a lot less intimidating than the General had been. When you spoke to the General, you always felt menaced, but talking to Captain Symon, as he named himself, well, that was different. For some reason, I felt that we could trust Captain Symon, and I stopped being quite as frightened as I had been.
I continued to listen as Javinson negotiated with the Gaians as to what was to become of us. "Captain Javinson, our intention is to simply land your ship on a nearby planet of our choice." Captain Symon was consulting a listing on another screen. "Oh, this would be good" he finally said. "We have a number of Earthforce ships already here, and since you are a hospital ship, it would be good to put you there. Why, you can operate as the medical facility for the entire planet." He practically beamed at us.
The general cheerfulness of the Gaians was a bit hard to swallow. Clearly they intended to simply overcome Earth ships whenever they encountered them, then plant them wherever they would be the most useful.
Well, I considered, at least we weren't going to die, and being stranded on a planet was certainly preferable to that. But then I heard the captain say something that caught my attention. "But we need more supplies!" he said. "We are not at all equipped to operate as a planet-wide hospital with our current inventory," he told them, plaintively.
Actually I felt a bit of outrage at this. Yes, we were not as supplied as we were supposed to be, but we hadn't used anything up to now. How many bandage rolls did we really need?
Symon consulted someone off-screen, then turned back to them. "Very well, Captain Javinson, we won't leave you short stocked. You can put a small party of people into a shuttle, and we will bring them to the Promise. Send us a list of supplies that you need, and we'll have them waiting for you."
Captain Javinson looked over at me. He looked more angry than usual with me, not too surprising given how the 'battle' had gone. "Give me that list of supplies we're short, and I'll send it over to them. I'll assign a couple of security people to go with you to fetch them." He turned back to the screen. "I'm sending my supply officer and a couple of guards now. I'll let you know when they are ready."
Happy to be able to get out of range of his anger, I did as he asked, then met with the two security men at the shuttle dock. They introduced themselves as Corporals Brant and Anders, both tall, hefty men with broad shoulders in their dark-grey uniforms. Both of them saw my rank and saluted, but I could see Brant eye the medical insignia on my shoulder and smirk.
We boarded one of our small cargo shuttles, and as befitting my status as senior office, I ordered us released.
As we drifted out into space I realized that at long last I was going to meet the reclusive Gaians, and to my surprise I felt more eager than apprehensive at the prospect.