I grew up LOVING the original Star Trek series, watching Doctor Who, Buck Rogers, shows like that. I got the idea for this book, ironically, watching Alien one night. Not the killer critter part of it, but the immense freighter ship and its crew.
The first four books, comprising the initial story arc I’d envisioned, are available, and there will be more books set in this world, featuring not only crews from the other ships, but more from the Tamora Bight crew as well.
Trivia: My laptop’s screen light died while in the middle of writing this book, so I finished it using a little Asus eeePC netbook, hooked up to a USB mouse and keyboard, and nearly went blind trying to read the tiny screen. LOL
From the Earth Almanac, Copyright 2668:
“While similar in appearance to the primitive automobiles and trucks originally developed in the twentieth century, modern ground vehicles share a lineage with their early counterparts and little else. Today’s modern, lightweight polymers mean vehicle weight is a fraction of the old metal vehicles, with a thousand times the strength and durability. And the newest generation of Solectric hybrid fission engines are clean, which drastically reduced carbon emissions in the world upon their initial introduction in the year 2284. Within fifty years, greenhouse gas levels had dropped to levels not seen before the original historic Industrial Revolution period…”
With the graduation ceremony over, an underwhelming sense of completion washed over her.
Done. Eight long years of classes and training and practice and…
Oh, Hades. Done.
Emilia Hypatia’s best friend, Donna, slid her hand-held reader over the coffee shop table toward her, and pointed to a highlighted advertisement.
“What about that, Emi?”
Emi took the reader and studied the ad her friend had notated.
Adventure! Training! Excellent Pay!
We’re looking for a few good men―and especially women―to train for the DSM Corps. New missions leaving as soon as six weeks. Trained medical professionals earn substantial bonuses. Five year tenure required.
Emi sat back. “Five years is a long time.”
“Excellent pay and substantial bonuses would buy you your own place, Doctor Hypatia. Set you up for life. You know the Deep Space Mission Corps makes millionaires out of people.”
Emi snorted, pushing the reader back across to Donna. “Yeah, if you survive.”
“They haven’t lost a crew in over ten years. I saw it on the news the other night.” Donna paused. “It would get you far away from Dagbert.”
That would be nice. Ever since the night three weeks earlier when she caught him screwing one of her chem lab classmates, Emi had been dodging his attempts to get back together with her.
Later that night, Emi looked up the ad on her reader, noted the code, and requested an information packet. Couldn’t hurt to check into it, right? Not like she had any family. Her mother and father had died ten years earlier in 2659, when a meteor slammed into their research station on the moon, near Mare Serenitatis. A totally preventable freak accident for which the government compensated her and provided a complete paid college education.
Now she was a trained healer, with holistic, medical, and surgical rankings, not to mention the empath training and minor in psych. She could probably name her price and have her pick of the juiciest job appointments.
Yet she wanted more.
* * * *
The information packet was in Emi’s email the next morning. She browsed it, interested. Safety wasn’t guaranteed, of course, but unless it was a hell of a lot riskier than they let on, they were honest that it wasn’t a sure-fire return trip home. Those who did return home, however, would be set for over ten million bucks and a pick of future assignments within the DSMC, on or off-Earth, as desired. As an Alpha-ranked healer, she’d earn an additional five mil bonus.
They had a one o’clock interview slot available.
Why in Hades not? She took it.
* * * *
The DSMC complex sat on a wind-scoured desert plain minutes outside of New Phoenix, grouped with several other military services sharing the gigantic, sprawling dry dock facility. It was the DSMC’s main compound, where ships were brought for extensive retrofits before being sent to the orbiting docking hubs to leave Earth.
The receptionist looked up Emi’s appointment information and directed her to the correct building. After twenty minutes of playing twenty questions with a lab assistant, Emi was ushered into a small interview room and took a seat in front of a large desk. A few minutes later, an older man joined her.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Dr. Hypatia.” He shook her hand. “I’m Dr. Louis Graymard, the personnel acquisitions supervisor.”
“Emi is fine.”
“All right.” He sat and consulted his hand-held console. “You’re twenty-six. You just graduated?”
“Graduate Alpha Healer Ranking, very nice. We don’t get enough of those. Psych minor, empath training. That’s a bonus.” He looked at her. “Why are you interested in one of our positions? You could have your pick of jobs here.”
She shrugged. Why not the truth? “I have no family. I have no boyfriend. I’ve got a couple of degrees and a dwindling government settlement for the death of my parents. So why not?”
“You realize it’s a five year contractual commitment? There’s no getting out there in deep space and saying, ‘Sorry, I want to go home now.’”
“I have no home to go to. I have to be out of the school dorms by the end of next month anyway.”
He nodded and noted something in his console. “You went through the information packet we sent?”
She had, and that’s where her questions started. “Let’s cut the bullshit. What exactly is meant by crew will be expected to ‘mutually care for each other?’ Are we talking doing each other’s laundry, or doing each other?”
Graymard laughed. “Very perceptive. The second. No force will ever be allowed, of course. Our crews are fitted with compatibility chips.”
“Which tells me bubkis.”
“It means they can’t force you, you can’t force them. Likewise, you won’t find it comfortable to let them…suffer, as it were. Or them you. It also insures fidelity amongst the crew to prevent straying. They are removed upon returning from the mission.”
“I don’t want to spend five years stuck with some ugly-ass jerks.”
“Oh, it doesn’t work like that. If you don’t find a compatible crew, you aren’t assigned. It’s no fun for anyone if it’s…well, not fun.”
At least they couldn’t cheat on her.
“I won’t sleep with a girl.”
“You wouldn’t be asked to do that, then.”
Emi sat back in her chair. “I get to pick the crew I work with?”
“Absolutely. Of course, there are the usual precautions. Everyone is screened for health concerns, and the compatibility chips also take care of the birth control issue.”
She thought about it. She’d looked through all the paperwork and contracts last night, had nothing here on Earth, wanted to get as far away from Daniel as possible. Why not try something new? Sow some wild oats. She could settle down later.
“All right, I’m game. What’s the next step?”
“We’ll take you first for a complete physical, including a brain scan, that takes a couple of hours. Then we’ll introduce you to the crews.”
“I won’t commit to anything until I find a crew I like.”
“You won’t be signing anything unless or until you find a compatible crew. Contingent upon passing the scans and other evaluations, of course. If you didn’t find a compatible crew and still wanted to be kept in consideration, we could offer you an on-Earth position until you’re matched with a suitable crew.”
“So I don’t lose, is what you’re saying?”
He laughed. “No, you’re actually the one with the upper hand.”
* * * *
Graymard escorted her to another building, talking as they walked. “We’re assembling four-person crews right now, we call them ‘four-packs.’ It would be you and three men.”
She hoped her knees wouldn’t buckle. “Three men? No one else, no other women to, eh, help out?”
“No.” He stopped and turned to face her. “Having second thoughts?”
She swallowed hard. “No. Let’s do this.”
Holy crap. Three guys. It hadn’t quite slammed home until then. She’d figured one, maybe two. Three guys?
Well, at least it wasn’t more. And she had wanted something different.
The converse was three guys who depended on her, and who wouldn’t be cheating on her.
Couldn’t cheat on her.
Maybe not such a bad deal after all.
The scanning center was filled with rows of dozens of units that looked like old-fashioned tanning beds without the lights, some of which were already occupied. After Emi gave blood and urine specimens and went through a physical, a technician hooked her up and made sure she was comfortable.
“This takes about two hours, feel free to doze off. We can adjust the temperature, any of that, just tell us.” He handed her a small cup of clear liquid. “Take this, it helps with the results.”
She sniffed it, but it was odorless and colorless and tasted like water. “Doze off, huh?”
He smiled. “People usually do.”