Chapter 1: Another Long Day 2027
Admiral Joshua Striker left his fourth meeting this morning tired and hungry. As he walked the halls of Bastion Alpha, he returned the salutes of military personnel as they passed by and said hi to the civilian workers that made eye contact.
He stopped at the entrance to the Promenade to decide on where to eat when a young Lieutenant approached him. She saluted and said, “Lieutenant Virginia Matson reporting for duty Admiral.”
Striker was tall at 6’ 3” and looked down at the 5’ 7” lieutenant. He did not recognize the lieutenant or remember any scheduled arrival for today. He looked down and to the right to activate the facial recognition scanner in his glasses. Lieutenant Virginia Matson just arrived on the Bastion Alpha less than ten minutes ago. She was wearing the standard issue glasses, but they were not yet transmitting her identity and job classification. He then brought up the main menu and checked his calendar with a few blinks of his eye. He had no meeting scheduled today with a new lieutenant.
Striker said, “Welcome to Bastion Alpha Lieutenant Matson. I didn’t have anything scheduled. Are you arriving early?”
“Yes Admiral,” Matson said. “The nano-rails were scheduled for repairs but one finished early and I was able to catch an early transfer.”
Striker scanned his calendar and found a meeting scheduled with Lieutenant Matson in three days. He deleted the meeting with two blinks. “You’re three days early. Is this your first position in space?”
“Yes Admiral,” Matson said. “I’ve hardly slept at night. I’m so excited to be here.”
Striker thought about pawning her off on someone else, but he couldn’t do it now. He remembered how excited he was on his first assignment in space. “I have a very busy day scheduled, but I was just going to lunch. Would you care to join me?”
“Oh, I’d love too.”
“Excellent!” Striker said. “I was just deciding on where to go but you make the choice easy. Follow me.”
They walked across the crowded Promenade to a doorway with a neon sign over it that said, Café Anywhere. They walked past a line of people to the hostess podium. Striker said, “Table for two please.”
The hostess replied, “Right away Admiral.”
A waiter stepped up holding a tablet and said, “Hello. My name is Jason and I’ll be your waiter. Follow me please.”
They walked through dark, narrow corridors with doors every 10 to 15 feet. The waiter stepped into one of the rooms and motioned them to sit at the small table for two in a dimly lit room. Then the waiter asked, “What theme would you like today?”
“I’d like the Nile cruise ending at the Aswan Dam temple. Make it fifty minutes long please,” Striker said.
Matson had no clue what the Admiral was talking about and didn’t like what appeared to be a romantic setting in a cheap restaurant. She was about to say something when the walls of the room came alive. The wall panels made the illusion of a bright sunny day in the desert. Their room became a small, covered patio on the side of a river boat floating down a river through bright yellow desert sands. There was a slight warm wind in the room. She saw water buffalo on the river bank and could even hear people speaking Arabic in the distance.
“Oh my,” was all Matson could say at first. “This is so beautiful. I actually feel like we are floating down a river.”
“The Nile river to be exact,” Striker said with a smile. He always loved to see a newbie’s reaction to Café Anywhere.
The waiter said, “I’m glad you like it. Have you decided on something to eat or should I come back in a few minutes?”
“I’ll have the Mediterranean Lamb Lunch,” Striker said as he sat down.
When the waiter looked at Matson she said, “Oh, I have no menu.”
“Sure, you do,” Striker said. “Check the menu on your glasses. Bring up the main menu and blink twice on Café Anywhere.”
“Wow,” Matson said. “That is convenient. It was right there at the top.”
“The glasses are context sensitive,” Striker said. “They know where you are and what you’re doing. They bring up the most likely menu item to the top of the list.”
“I’ll have the sliders and a coke,” Matson said.
“I’m sorry but we only serve water or coffee to military personnel on duty. We don’t have soft drinks.”
“It’s expensive to transport liquids into orbit,” Striker said. “You can buy flavor packets or tea bags if you don’t like water.”
“Water will be fine. Thank you.”
“You’re really going to have beef sliders when you’re in the Egyptian desert?”
“The menu is so big.”
“Try the Greek salad. You’re from California. You should love it.”
“Alright, then I’ll have the Greek Salad and water.”
“If you need anything, let me know by tapping this button.” The waiter pointed to a button on the edge of the table nearest the door. “I’ll return with water and then your meal.”
When he left the room, Striker said, “I’ve been reviewing your record. Graduated in the top five percent of your class at UC Santa Barbara on a military scholarship. Boot camp in the California desert.” Striker looked at the desert drifting by them and said, “Sorry if this brings back bad memories.”
“Oh no, not at all.”
“Good scores in combat training, marksmanship, gunnery, starship systems maintenance, military intelligence, mathematics, and just about everything short of flight school. Tell me, why would a person with your skills sign up for a logistics officer role? That is why you’re here, correct?”
The waiter returned with their water.
After he left the room, Matson said, “I was working toward a billet on a fleet ship but there were hundreds of people in front of me. I really wanted to get into space quickly, so I started looking for the shortest path to a job in space. Logistics officers were in high demand with low applications.”
Striker frowned and said, “Logistics is the life blood of our mission in space. Without moving hundreds of tons every day we can’t hope to defend Earth.”
“I promise you, I will do an excellent job. I’m not here for the minimum shift and ready to bounce. I’ve been studying logistics and I’m excited to do this job.”
“Tell me what you’ve studied.”
“When I found out I was assigned to Bastion Alpha, I started studying everything I could about station logistics. For instance, you have 125 Mark 1 Starfire Fighters and 75 Mark 2s plus 100 Starfire Ship Killers all Mark 1.”
“Why does that matter,” Striker asked.
“The Mark 1s are a heavier design with more armor, heavier weapons, and physical ammo. The Mark 2s are lighter and faster. A Mark 1 consumes a ton of ammo for every 5 minutes of heavy fighting. The Mark 2s use energy weapons and plasma bolts so they use almost no ammo, but they use more fuel and need parts replaced after 10,000 shots fired. The logistics requirements are completely different for those two fighters and we need to plan replenishment based on battle plans.”
Striker lost his frown halfway through Matson’s description, and said, “Very impressive.”
“Thank you, sir. And thank you for the opportunity to be here. I really want to be here, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done. You can count on me for anything.”
“Be careful what you ask for Lieutenant. You may get it.”
“Ok, that’s a little scary but the offer still stands.”
“Noted. Remember, this conversation is being recorded.”
“It is? How?” Matson said as she looked around.
“Bastion sees and hears everything you see and hear. Every action you take on your glasses is recorded.”
“What if I’m taking a shower?”
“Take off the glasses first.”
“Ha, right. And point them the other way I guess.”
“Or leave them in another room. Just remember there are bio sensors in the ear pieces that not only uniquely identify you, they track your vital signs. If you take the glasses off for too long and don’t tell anyone, we’ll send a rescue party.”
“Oh, so if I sleep with them off I need to tell someone?”
“Their context sensitive. You’re an officer so you have a private room. If you take them off in your room, no one will care unless you don’t report to your next shift. If you’re in a space suit repairing something let’s say, and we lose your signal, someone will come much faster.”
“Wow, that’s amazing.”
“The fact we are here at all is amazing.”
“I don’t understand why I didn’t receive training on these glasses before I shipped out.”
“They are top secret along with half the tech on these battle stations. If you shipped out on schedule, someone would have met you at the airlock and taken you through training.”
Then the waiter came and delivered their meals.
When Matson tried the Greek Salad she said, “This salad is excellent!”
“All the food here is top shelf.”
“It looks like we’re coming to a dam with a huge lake behind it.”
“That’s the Aswan Dam. Watch what happens here are we approach the dam.”
The scenery around them faded slightly. When it returned they were in the lake sailing near the shore. A large temple was visible in the distance.
“That was weird.”
“That part always makes me laugh. I’ve been on the Nile and sailed to the Aswan Dam. They skip a lot of laborious work getting from one boat on the Nile to another in the Lake.”
“Why were you in Egypt?”
“We had some joint maneuvers with the Egyptians. Pre Zullies.
“It’s what we call the Zalthurians.”
“Zullies. Got it.”
“Anyway, I took some time off to see Cairo, the Valley of the Kings and Queens, the Nile. Archeology is a hobby of mine. Hobby might even be overstating it.”
“That temple is beautiful. Do you know what it is?”
“Yes, it’s Abu Simbel. It was much lower, near the river. When they built the dam, they moved the temple to this location stone by stone.”
After enjoying their food for a few minutes, Matson asked, “So why are you here Admiral?”
“The answer to that is a very long story. The short answer is I am a lot like you.”
Curious, Matson said, “How so?”
“I was in the Air Force when the coup happened is Washington. My superiors wanted me to commit treason and I said no. They threw me in jail. After the Zullies left, I met Jeff Smith and was inspired by his story. Like you, I always wanted to go into space. I also wanted to deliver some payback for what the Zullies did, so here I am.”
“My dad was in the Marines in Okinawa. He met Jeff and Amber there. I was ten when the coup happened in Washington DC. I never knew about it until after the Zalthurians left. We were all duped.”
“And here we are, 800 miles above the Earth, preparing for an alien attack.”
“I’m ready to fight Admiral, and I swear I will not let you down.”
“I believe you Lieutenant. I truly hope I never have to place you in harm’s way, but if it comes to that, I think I can count on you.”
“Thank you Admiral.”
“I need to get to my next meeting soon. You’ll need to report to the Warden of the Dock. They control all shipping and lead the logistics department. There are four Wardens that rotate shifts 24 by 7. They will define your role, assign you to a work shift, and assign quarters. They’ll also assign you a buddy to help you learn about life on this Bastion.”
“Thank you for taking the time to meet with me Admiral.”
“Thank you for your service to humanity.”
“Don’t we need to pay the waiter?” Striker touched his glasses with one finger and said, “We already did.”