Disclaimer: This is my own original work and may not be duplicated, copied, or reposted without my written consent. A printout is fine for personal enjoyment as long as the Author, title, disclaimer, warnings, and copyright remains on the printed copy.
Warnings: This story contains adult themes with sexual content, strong language, and occasional violence. If you are a minor or if it is illegal for you to view this story then please refrain from doing so.
Author's Notes: This is the fifth of the Mother Earth Series that focuses on the journey of the scientific research done aboard the Coast Guard Cutter, the 'Asimov'. Needless to say, no real people were used in the story and it's all my silly imagination, including the ship. Since I'm not military I have not the slightest clue what life aboard a CG ship is like so forgive me if I'm way off base. Ditto for scientific research. Just snicker politely at home and don't email me entire manuals to study.
Also: My beta reader's computer bit the big one so I have no one to proofread for me so forgive any typos. I'm working major overtime and too tired to see them anymore.
Captain Janice Harrison looked out at the ocean before her, pleased to be under way and the main sails lowered. She loved the movements of the ship as it sailed. She found the motion comforting and the sounds of the ocean relaxing. She signed, taking in a deep breath of fresh air. She had a job to do.
"Commander, I know our guests went through several training exercises before boarding but I want them to go through drills often." She shook her head. "I dread having civilians aboard who are land lubbers. I hope the medical crew handed out seasick pills already."
Her first officer's eye twinkled with mirth. "They have, ma'am. The only one of the scientists who refused them is a marine biologist so they expect that he'll be fine. Mason returned to her earlier order. "I'll schedule a drill shortly after 8 bells. We should still have some daylight left then." He knew the exercises were for everyone's benefit. With no one to call in case of trouble they had to rely on their own wits and abilities. Having the scientists on board made their job more of a challenge. The civilians were more likely to be the cause of carelessness than their own crew. Learning the drills and other safety regulations might prevent a disaster on board.
"That will be fine, Commander. I'll be on the Bridge until 16:00 hours."
"Yes, Ma'am." Mason watched his captain as she gracefully made her way towards the Bridge while his thoughts was wandering. He didn't know Captain Harrison well and wasn't yet used to her leadership methods. Some were friendly, some standoffish, but Captains usually made his or her expectations clear within a short time.
He strolled over to the Master Chief then stopped, placing his hands behind his back. He never looked at the stocky man next to him. "Chief, at 20:15 hours we'll have a little fire drill. The Captain wants those researchers to learn every drill they can ASAP."
The Chief rubbed his rough chin thoughtfully. "We can't push them too hard but I see her point. Why don't we have a drill aimed at them every other day? It certainly won't hurt our own crew either."
"Sounds good. Just try and keep it random. With the scientists on board we'll have to adjust our own drills a tad. Those namby-pamby professor types need to learn when to move and when to stay put. I feel sorry for Doctor Fletcher. They put her in charge of the entire study then gave her the best-of-their-fields egomaniacs. Nearly every one of them thinks their field is more important and pushy as hell. I had to supervise their initial training and wanted to throttle most of them by the end of the day."
The Chief grunted, not surprised. He had heard comments from the Yeomen in charge of setting up the scientific equipment. "Well, perhaps the good Doctor will whip them into shape before the Captain decides to keelhaul them," Eric teased.
"I seriously doubt it but we can only hope."
Master Chief Eric Nolan later wondered how the scientists ever survived as long as they had. The drill had been a fiasco and had it been a real emergency the ship would have been badly damaged. He walked slowly along the lines of people; his well trained crew to one side, standing at parade rest, and the bumbling scientists on the other side.
"Well, that could have gone much better," he said aloud, trying to be diplomatic. He didn't need to look at the officers under him to know a few of them were rolling their eyes. "I suggest everyone report to the aft deck after morning chow and we'll--"
One of the scientists turned to one of his fellow researchers, "Aft deck? Where's that?"
The Chief cleared his throat to get the rude man's attention. "We'll go over what should be done step by step with each of you. It's vital that everyone on board to know the safety basics and to know what they should do in an emergency."
He looked at the civilians and noted several looked bored. He'd fix that soon enough. "Until the senior officers are satisfied that the people aboard know their roles in each type of emergency we will have frequent drills," he warned. "Once satisfied the drills will only be performed occasionally to keep things fresh in each person's mind. I suggest each of you reread the manuals given to you and review the steps all of you need to know." Eric was about to dismiss the crew when one of the researchers spoke up.
"We're here to study the planet, not to become sailors. We aren't part of your crew and you know it. If anything, you are working for us," the microbiologist said testily.
The Master Chief Petty Officer walked over to where Kyle Waterford was leaning. The man's defiant glare shriveled under the furious gaze of the officer. The Chief held himself rigidly as he breathed deeply between clenched teeth. Eric leaned slightly forward, his eyes never leaving Kyle's.
"Be very glad you are here at the President's invitation. He seems to think your...knowledge is worth something. However, as long as you are on this ship you will do your damnedest to learn what is necessary to protect not only yourself, but also everyone else aboard the Asimov. Do you understand?"
The microbiologist nodded and looked away. He and his colleagues shuffled off meekly, grumbling only after they left the hearing of the irate Chief.
"Kyle, you prick. Are you trying to cause a feud? In case you forgot, they're the ones who'll be watching our backs. I don't want to piss them off so bad that they 'forget' to watch our asses," the Marine Biologist said.
"Alright already! I'm sorry. Next time I won't set him straight."
Marla Fletcher sighed and stopped Kenny from correcting Kyle. Let the man make his own mistakes and get his set of lumps. In the meantime the rest of them would learn the ropes and try and get along. They all had to live here on the ship for at least the next two years and she didn't want it being any harder than it had to be.
She headed away from the group and tried to remember how to get to the Captain's Mess. Captain Harrison had invited her for a late dinner to discuss the voyage in more detail. Marla found herself unsure of the directions and asked a crewman how to get there. He escorted her to the door and knocked politely on the wooden door for her.
Marla opened the door and stepped into the tiny, cherry wood-paneled cabin. The room was just large enough for a small dining table, which could set six people. Marla glanced at it and saw it set for two.
Janice Harrison was standing next to a small side table, which held a wrapped wine bottle in a bucket.
"Would you care for some wine, Doctor?"
"Yes, please." She took the offered glass and thanked the Captain.
They sat at the table and one of the crew placed the first course in front of each woman. They chatted politely as they helped themselves to the broccoli and cheese soup. Once the bowls were removed, the steward placed china plates in front of the ladies and left the room. The plates were artistically arranged with petite salmon steaks, asparagus spears, and marinated new potatoes.
The Captain took a small bite and chewed it slowly as her gaze fell on the scientist. Marla was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable when the officer broke the silence.
"I'm a bit worried about this voyage, Doctor."
"Because in spite of my recommendations, they planned this trip to last at least two years. That is a long time to ask a crew to be away from home and family. We have one medic trained in stress management but no psychiatrist on board. Plus we have a bit of a strain between my crew and your team." The Captain spotted the surprised look on the Doctor's face. "Nothing travels faster than the speed of sound except for gossip."
"Is there anything I can do, Captain?"
The woman smiled. "You can address me as Janice when we're not among the enlisted crew and Cadets. As to my other concern, I can only suggest that everyone try to get along. Although my 'official' authority is for my own crew, I won't hesitate to discipline any of your members if I need to."
"I'll make sure my people understand, Janice. There's enough dangers with this trip and we don't need to tempt fate more than we have to."
Erica moaned as Rachel continued to thrust against her with her strong thigh. The Cadet was convinced her breast would be bruised the next day but she didn't care. The sensation of Rachel squeezing her breast and pinching the nipple with each stroke had her nearly out of her mind with pleasure.
She knew she would reach her peak in a moment and pulled the tall brunette closer. Her lover chuckled and whispered something naughty into her ear, sending Erica over the edge. She did her best to muffle her loud reaction against Rachel's shoulder as her body shuddered.
Her lover had more practice being quiet when she came, gasping softly and letting out her breath in a heavy sigh as her own climax left her panting and weak. She crawled to one side of Erica and plopped down onto the cramped bunk.
Erica chuckled. "Baby, you weren't kidding when you said the smell of salt water made you horny. I hope I can survive this for the next two years."
"You made it this far and survived. At least we have a cabin to ourselves now. I hated having to sneak off for sex or waiting until your room mate left the dorm to have you."
Rachel rose to one elbow and looked down at her lover. "Do you have any idea how many times I sat there looking polite when all I wanted to do was rip off your uniform? It was hell."
Erica raised one eyebrow and pulled Rachel closer. "I did a bit of squirming as it was. I saw those looks on your face. If Bertie hadn't been so clueless we would have gotten it on a hell of a lot more often. Most people would have gotten a clue and made themselves scarce."
"I'm just glad that Richards had second thoughts and allowed you to take his place. I would have hated leaving you," Rachel whispered as she stroked her lover's cheek.
Once more their lips met and passion flared anew.
Seaman Ethan Jones glanced up to look at the person he was serving and nearly missed the tray. The spoonful of porridge oozed down one side and onto the Plexiglas cover over the food warmers. Ethan apologized and blushed, feeling like a dunce in front of the beautiful woman who had to be one of the scientists.
The dark-haired woman gave him a crooked smile and told him not to worry about it. He watched her as she gathered her silverware before joining others from her group at one corner of the long table. The chow hall wasn't very large and everyone was crammed into a small amount of space.
"Eyes forward, Seaman," one of the Petty Officers said with a bland tone. It wouldn't be a good idea to start anything with the scientists and best to nip such behaviors in the bud.
"Yes, Sir." Ethan asked the man what foods he wanted and scooped it out for him. The Officer moved down the line and Ethan released a nervous sigh and relaxed his shoulders.
One of the scientists stopped in front of him next. The Food Specialist took in the sight of the man with long, straggly hair, sunglasses, and a week's worth of neglected shaving. He wore a Hawaiian print shirt over a faded white tank top and baggy tan shorts. The Seaman didn't need to look down to know the scruffy man probably wore flip-flops on his feet.
"Fill it up, I'm starved," the man told him, holding up the tray. Ethan gave him a generous helping of everything and wondered why the man dressed like the weather was hot. It was late autumn and the temperatures averaged around fifty degrees. He shook his head as the man stepped away.
Marla was next in line and saw the expression on the young man's face. She grinned as she neared him then leaned forward to keep her voice low.
"He dresses and acts like a nutcase but he's a genius. He's also known for finding fossil sites without trying." Marla saw the blank look on the server's face. She told him to ignore her ramblings and joined her colleagues at the table. Jonathon Kramer was hard to explain even to other diggers. The man could walk into any empty field or rock formation and point. He had never begun a dig without hitting pay dirt.
She sat down and said good morning to everyone. They echoed the greeting and continued to eat. Jonathon shoveled a large helping of hash browns into his mouth, and waved his fork at her to get her attention. He chewed quickly and swallowed.
"Hey, I got an idea. I was looking at the maps and allowing for the lower sea level, I bet we could check out some of the coral reefs near Florida and Central America. See how they compare to the ones back home. What do you say?"
"Have you spoken to the Marine Biology team yet?"
"Well, no," the man shrugged but gathered his enthusiasm again. "But I bet we'd find quite a bit of evidence that the water temperatures are lower and find a greater number of species down there. Wanna bet?"
Marla chuckled. "I'm no expert on marine ecosystems, Jonathon. My specialty is migration patterns and herding dynamics."
"You need to branch out more. Unless we land and move inland I doubt you'll get to study migration—unless you study whales and such. We brought enough books and research materials to start a University. Do some reading while we're at sea."
"Okay, fine. I'll brush up on migratory patterns of sea mammals."
Jonathon rolled his eyes. "You," he said with a jab of his fork into the air in front of her, "are a hopeless case. Stretch your mind a little. Learn more about weather patterns too. I've noticed changes since we've arrived. I grew up in this area. The weather is quite a bit colder and dryer."
"Any theories?" the doctor asked.
"Yes, but not one that would be welcomed with open arms. I believe the Holocene period began later on Mother Earth. The colony here said they got heavy frost and light snow."
"In Napa Valley? They should have fifty-degree weather in December during the day. Yet they reported that for the last two years they had regular frost and temperatures near thirty-degrees. Either the Ice Age ended later here or they are beginning one. Unfortunately the officers of this ship overruled us and went south rather than north," he grumbled.
"Perhaps we'll get a chance to play with the icebergs in the Southern Hemisphere."
"Maybe. In the meantime, I'm hoping the ship's crew will take our opinions more seriously in the future."
To be continued in part 2
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