I looked over the plant design I was trying to rough out on the back of a placemat whilst dining with my harem.
A paper placemat? In a habitat pod? That was riding on the back of a big cargo ship floating next to an asteroid?
Yes, I’m an engineer. I always want something to write on, so I make sure that meals at the table includes paper placemats. Additionally, I have a replicator make me a new fountain pen along with the usual ink cartridges when I misplace one. I have no idea where the ones I lose keep going. I know my... companions... don’t know where they go.
Companions? Well, Slaves... or Drones... or Concubines.
Bullshit! In my heart of hearts I felt that I had five wives who I was insufferably happy with... and not an in-law in sight! I was comforted by their quick comfort with me given my foibles and idiosyncrasies. It wasn’t hard to adapt to each of their idiosyncracies. Never step on toes that are attached to a butt you may need to kiss, some day...
... or the same day, for that matter. All of them had delectable little butts, too.
All right, so I am an engineer, which means that aesthetics tend to be less important than for most people. For an engineer, well, form should follow function... but these women did ask for cosmetic changes I had no problem approving. While their looks may not matter a whole lot to me, their happiness with the bodies they inhabited was important to me. Happy unworried faces and smiles from my companions goes a long way to keeping me happy and productive. Me contributing to their happiness any way I can goes a long way in keeping them happy and productive. The flow of happiness this way qualifies as a feedback loop.
Yes, legally, my five "wives" were effectively slaves, but, with the way I felt about all of them, it could be argued that they each owned an appreciable fraction of my heart. The bonds may be invisible, but, remember, there are always two ends to every chain.
Misery, like happiness, has its own feedback loop. Misery is nowhere near as pleasant to live in. Been there, done that...
While the Confederacy AIs do not consider any of my "wives" to be "citizens", I could not be the man I was, in a job that used more of my creative juices than any of the earth-bound jobs I’d held in years, if it weren’t for their support, understanding... and love. They’d watch over my shoulder and ask questions about my work, and, often, taking up the "I’m making believe that I’m a Blonde" mode, the process of answering questions and, often, explaining the answers, would usually snap a problem into focus for me, suggesting a collection of answers.
There were times I wished that I had skills enough to help them more in their activities.
I had long before learned that questions are often far more valuable than an answer. Why? Because a good question implies multiple answers! Doing any kind of systems or process analysis is often a study in finding the "right" questions to handle various priority schemes. On earth, money always narrowed down the number of "acceptable" answers.
In the Confederacy Space Navy’s Construction Corps, the closest thing to the SeaBees, money is no longer the worry it used to be; now, economy was measured in energy consumption and time. For once we engineers had the opportunity to do things right instead of twice!
Like the problem I was fighting at the time this story began. The big replicators I was managing were each digesting metals-rich asteroids and using the materials to extrude new habitat pods. On one end they chewed up the asteroid while the other end gave birth to a pod... as well as streams of the unused materials present in the raw feedstock. We had to use various tractor and pressor beams to manage this extra "slag" along with stabilizing the extruded pods. I had, just that day, roughed out a job for another replicator to use that slag and assembled ingots of "useful" materials, though I didn’t have a "free" replicator to do so.
Don’t ask me why the Confederacy replicator-based manufacturing facilities use nanites throughout, from the intake to the pool that extrudes the finished product. It was one "monolithic" device that the AIs managed to make layers of material, over and over, to assemble, using thin slices, the final product.
Our biggest problem was that pod production via the large replicators was slow. It could take almost a day for a single replication unit to extrude a pod as the replicator took in the chunks of asteroid... and I had ten replicators working at the same time.
Yes, as I implied above, we used replicators for this job. With the shortage of labor -- and the additional amount of supervision robots would need -- we didn’t have a means of assembling pods from subassemblies that would likely be faster to fabricate using the big replicators. Either way, we were short on manpower.
These replicators, though, were "standard" off-the-shelf units from the Confederacy, though, admittedly, these would have required some pretty large shelves. Somehow I do not think these would comfortably fit on any of the shelves that can be found in a Costco or Sam’s Club.
Imagine, if you will, a tuna can twenty seven meters in diameter and six meters thick... with pieces of an asteroid going into one end to bring raw materials in and a new pod budding off from it on the other end. As pods get completed, they get placed onto the outside of the freighter my pod is attached to. This was the seventeenth pod transport I was stocking since I had arrived in-system over a year before, and, when it was fully loaded, my pod would be detached and be left floating until the next empty transport arrived to collect a set of empties. We had one more day and the transport would be leaving my pod floating here, though we would be docked to what I called the "Service Module" which gave us power, gravity, raw materials and more AI compute power. Without that extra support pod we’d have been a lot more anxious. By the time the transport arrived we would usually be thankful for the company and an opportunity to step out of our pod.
I was sketching out -- again -- a flow-chart of the pod production process, trying, vainly, to find a way to get more pods out of them in a shorter period of time. I had already -- with two of my concubines -- found a few minor efficiencies that helped productivity which we had passed along to other pod production specialists. You can bet that I wasn’t stupid enough to not take advantage of some of their insightful tricks that came our way.
Looking at the problem -- again -- all I could see was that there was no way we could keep up, over the long term, with the way the diaspora of Earth kept scaling up. We weren’t far from falling too far behind and I knew that we were getting close to becoming the critical path holding back the evacuation of the earth.
Engineers, if you don’t know already, don’t like to be in the critical path for anything.
"Hon," Joanie asked me, "Why are you so tense?"
I sighed. "We’re less than two months from falling behind in production of pods. I’ve seen the schedules for the expanded rate of extractions and the demand for pods needed on the new transports -- especially kilopod transports -- is going to go up at an incredible rate. We’ve got less than two months before we can’t provide enough pods. I’ve been trying to push the production rate up but there’s only so fast these replicators can work, even with the tweaks we’ve made through the AIs."
Joanie has been a jewel to me, she always asks good questions. She -- and Holly -- had been two student interns working with my company when I had been extracted while out for lunch near a construction site. I was sure both of them would get past the 6.5 CAP line on their re-test, when their next birthday came around. While I would miss them when they went off to head their own families, at the same time, I had some pride in both of them. One complicating factor in all of this was that they were both in their third trimester and expecting to deliver within another two months.
Pam and Tam -- originally Tammy -- had been chosen at the pick-up site. They were an easy choice since both of them were mothers with children. Paula, Pam’s thirteen year-old daughter, came with us as a "child", and, on turning fourteen with a 5.8 CAP, became my fifth wife. Paula was due to turn fifteen in another four months but would deliver her first child within the month.
I will admit that being a "daddy" is not something I had felt I would be comfortable with, but, like any project, felt that I was learning to enjoy the process of raising children along with a lot of the duties that came with it.
All right, so I cheated. Working with the AI we developed a much more efficient diaper that would not merely hold larger loads but would better isolate the child from irritation. I later found that my design spread through those in the diaspora like lightning.
With Pam and Tam handling the children like it was first nature (they proved they were far more competent as mothers than wives, but, to be frank, at least they did not mind the exercise required to get pregnant) we had, even being hip deep in children, a happy and pleasant home.
Perhaps it was because we were hip deep in children that we could have a happy and pleasant home, for the children were often a joy to deal with, taking me away from thinking about my job, or, at least, giving me good distractions. Mind you, my mind wandered back to work, on and off, and sometimes got stuck there. Dealing with my children -- and the ones I had inherited when I took on Pam and Tam -- helped to let my subconscious grind away at the technical problems I spent a lot of time dealing with.
Being a father is odd, too, since, being an engineer, the joke that engineers use their personalities as a contraceptive may have had a lot of truth in it. That I managed to find women who could stand me for more than five minutes at a time seemed, here, like a miracle, especially since we could not get far from each other.
So, back to the flow chart I was scribbling and worrying over. "Actually, why do you have the replicator as one block and the refining and extrusion processes inside that block? Wouldn’t it be better if you fed one of the replicators refined feedstock?"
I sat back a bit, looking at the drawing that had kept me from finishing the plate of spaghetti and sausage. "Hmmmm..." This was an interesting thought.
Pam startled me, then, by putting a fork with a piece of sausage in front of my mouth and directing me with "Open wide..." It was easy to humor her as she decided to feed me while I looked at the diagram. I thought about this as I chewed the third fork-full.
Holding up my hand to forestall Pam’s next forking of food to me, I said "We would have to get production way up to do that. How do we do that?"
"Hon" Holly jumped in, "The replicators you are managing are a lot wider than the pods being produced, right? Even though the extra... uh... slag... gets extruded with it. How long would it take to replicate a replicator of the correct size?"
Talk about not seeing the forest! The tree just bit me on the ass! Why didn’t I try to replicate extra replicators to boost production? Hell, why didn’t anyone else handling this job think of it?
I consulted "my" AI and got a reassuring answer of "Approximately six hours and seventeen minutes."
"So", Holly spoke again, "Why don’t you make just one of them to start and then tell one of the big cans to just mine and refine the asteroid and turn just the materials needed for pod production to be fed into the smaller replication unit? You’ve been banging your head on the replicator... and Joanie and I have been wondering if replicators could be set up to run like an assembly line instead of being the whole line."
Pam returned to feeding me while I closed my eyes and through my subvocalized thoughts flashing to and from the AI, getting visions back in my eyes from the "eyes-up" display the nanites had installed, I worked through the suggested techniques. It didn’t take long to work out the "pipelining" of refined materials between tandem replicators. I found removing the job of refining the elements from the raw feed that the smaller replicators could turn out almost three pods a day.
After seeing how that worked out, I wanted to kick myself for paying attention to a small stand of trees lamenting over a lack of a chainsaw rather than paying attention to the whole forest. Obviously Holly and Joanie had had an advantage by not working, like me, "on the line". By not having to monitor and manage the production of pods afforded them, as a team, to consider issues I was too busy -- and distracted -- to deal with, myself. There were changes I needed to make.
Dinner was done before I returned the rest of the way to reality. Tam spoke up "Hon, I’m over-due to start my next baby. Can I drag you to bed?"
I sure didn’t mind and Tam sure kept me busy enough that I didn’t think about making any changes to the replicators until we were undocked, again, the transport leaving with a full complement of empty pods. Given how much fun Tam and I had together I was almost hoping that the AIs were fucking with us and that Tam’s fertility was not assured. I sure enjoyed the exercise.
When I wasn’t busy bouncing on a bed with Tam or cuddling the gravid women in my pod, the AI and I discussed what was needed before we took one replicator off the line after finishing a pod, started to make a new replicator "in a drum". Once the new replicator was ready to go the larger unit was given new marching order to refine chunks of the asteroid we were eating in to the feedstock that the pod production replicator would use... and nothing extra.
The simulation I had run of production rates was off given that a lot depends upon what the raw feedstock was made of. Instead of the predicted rate of just over eight hours per pod, we were seeing six and three quarter hours per pod. By the end of the second day I had more than caught up with pod production for the replicator I had diverted. The third day I had the AI tell the other nine replicators to follow the programming I had made and create new "finished product" replicators... and go into the refining business.
On the fifth day I was up to my ass in new pods and was not far from having to start on a new asteroid, so I fabricated extra sets of the smaller replicators, put drive units on them, before setting them to refining the asteroid and forming ingots of metals and encapsulated volatiles.
Speaking of volatiles -- hydrogen, nitrogen and the like -- we had an automated station in the outer system collecting material from comets. We’d get a package from that station every day with everything needed to stock our production with atmosphere and organics. We had to divert some production capacity to expand the number of collection units so that we could keep up with the demands for volatiles imposed by a need to put water and atmosphere into the pods we were making.
In order to find time to do some of the planning for the future, I had Joanie managing the refinery while Holly handled the allocation of the refined materials so they could be fed to the next stage of pod production while we built up an array of replicators that would allow pod production to be ramped up.
Discussions with my two former interns turned concubines covering all of the productivity issues we still saw indicated that we needed some kind of infrastructure to hold everything in place... and Joanie commented that we had a shitload of diamond fibers and nanotube material refined from a chondritic rubble-pile asteroid that had, for the most part, been consumed. When Joanie showed me the ship she had sketched in with a ring of pods around the middle of the tall drum, I was pleasantly surprised. A ship one hundred twenty meters in diameter would not qualify as "small" but it was, for the most part, empty space. The drive units went around the outside of the main drum structure, the refinery units could be sent into whatever body was being mined for material with tractor beams to bring the materials to the main set of replicators.
It didn’t take me more than a week to see why Joanie and Holly had managed so much -- they had not been concentrating on day-to-day operation of our production plant. Given my chance to work out larger problems, I had the two of them operating the existing plant while I worked with the AI to iron out the bugs in Joanie’s first cut at a ship.
Well, I called it a ship, but it was more like a mobile manufacturing plant, albeit one composed mostly of replicators.
This new ship was fully designed by the time the next empty transport arrived from Borneo on its way back to Earth. We docked our pod only long enough for Paula to give birth in their medical bay before filling all of the other pod racks on the transport. Paula’s birthing of our first child, a daughter, went well, and I had to admit that holding the newborn was calming. The transport, instead of staying the usual week for us to finish making and docking pods, left within a day... and we were still two transport loads ahead in pod production with thirty two pod extruders running simultaneously. The transport left with our suggested modifications to the production system -- and the "ship" design-- for forwarding to other pod production sites as well as the Construction Corps of the Navy.
With thirty two replicators dedicated to producing pods and twenty four keeping them fed with refined materials, I used the original ten we had arrived with to assemble the parts of the ship and replicated, from pre-existing patterns, the "standard industrial assembly" robots needed to put the pieces together for us.
A change I made to Joanie’s brilliant first cut to the ship design was to add an extra pod ring around the circumference of the drum to provide for extra pods, including nine fusion pods, three AI pods for maximum capacity to handle replicator workloads, three command and control pods giving me redundant workplaces outside my habitat pod, three medical pods... and placed enough of the newly produced habitat pods to fill the rest of both rings.
Pam and Tam thought the design, when I showed them the holo, was ugly as sin. This didn’t bother me -- engineering and aesthetics have never mixed well -- but I did get some input from them as to how it would look.
All right, so it was still kind of ugly, from their point of view.
Once built, I have to admit that it was reassuring to have a "ship" to dock our home to so we weren’t drifting as a loose pod around in space. Pam pressed us to convert one of the new pods to function as a "rec" pod... which was easily dealt with. We quickly had a lot more living space so we weren’t constantly up each other’s ass.
Each of the three command and control pods included a hypercom so we were finally tied back into the interstellar communications network. Having transmat pads was intended to be helpful when colonial transports arrived.
I had made certain, when we passed the new production scheme up the food-chain to the Construction Corps’ command, that both Joanie and Holly got credit for their innovations, certain that they would, within six months, get their own ability to start their own families.
When a kilopod transport arrived to get a collection of empty pods the crew were surprised that they didn’t get any downtime waiting for pods to be completed. We had, on hand, over twice as many pods available than they needed. It still took four days to get them all docked and I realized we needed more tugs to move them around. I conferred with Joanie and Holly to work out the best "configuration" for a robotic "tug" before we set aside a replicator to turn them out.
We had another kilopod transport arrive a week after the last one left and we found that we were still well ahead of demand, even at this rate of consumption.
Three kilopod loads later, I was working in the primary command pod on the ship I had named the "Reproduction Services" when I got a call in via the hypercomm.
"I have a message coming in from Commodore Humphreys, Moreton colony in the Borneo Naval District" the AI chimed.
"Put him through" I said, waiting for the beep indicating that the connection had been established, and continued "Commodore Humphreys?"
"Commander O’Keefe, I have a report here that you have managed to upgrade your ability to manufacture pods to a much greater degree than we expected. I received this from the Construction Corps headquarters and have talked to people here about what you are doing. Is there any way we can use this technique for weapons assembly?"
I sat back in my chair and put my feet up on my desk. "I see no reason why we can’t, all we need are the patterns. Please realize we have little in the way of fissionables in this system so we can’t make nuclear or thermonuclear weapons without a lot of lead time, but we can certainly provide missile bodies with propulsion. We could allocate some of our resources to manufacture systems to make antimatter but I’m not sure how much lead time we’d need before we would have adequate quantities."
"Well, Commander, we primarily need kinetic kill missiles, launchers, plasma gun mines, railguns, railgun slugs..."
"Commodore, just get the patterns to us and we’ll see what we can do."
I heard the pause. "Us? We? I thought you were operating alone out there."
"Well, Commodore, two of my concubines were engineering school interns and have been exceptionally helpful in our work, here. I’m fairly certain that they’ll both ace their CAP re-tests on their next birthdays and be able to move on to bigger and better projects. Like I said, they have been a great help, here, sir."
The grunt came across the circuit clearly, he went quiet for a moment, then spoke again "I suspect we may have some conflicts. What is this about a ship you’ve built? I run the shipyard here in Moreton."
"Joanie did the initial design, I refined it, Holly enhanced it and the three of us worked out most of the trade-offs, with assistance from the local AI. It is hyper capable, lots of power to drive the replicators, tractors and pressors, and can carry a fair number of habitat pods for crew and family. This is in addition to the pod assembly plant we’ve put together out here."
This time the pause in our conversation was short, just a beat. "What would it take for you to bring your ship here?"
I thought for a moment. "We’ll need someone to replace me, here, to oversee pod production. If they already were citizens, I would suggest either Joanie or Holly, but they are less than a month and half from giving birth. I’d be loathe to lose them right now."
"Hmmm..." came the reply. "I’ll have the Construction folks send out someone via a courier to take over. Please make sure everything is in place for them to take over from you."
"Sir" I interrupted "This is an isolated location. Whoever you send will need to have their family with them. My family is the sum total of humans in this system."
That got a cough. "Is there anything else you need?"
"Someone comfortable with flying a ship, sir. I’m an engineer, not a pilot. I can build a ship, I can fix it... but I’d have to depend on the AI to fly it."
"Uhhhh... how much crew?"
"Admiral" I tried to explain "We only need a pilot, for now, who has some ship-handling skill. Perhaps enough people to spell the pilot, though I am not sure that will be needed right now. Joanie, Holly and I can handle any of the other technical work whilst en route."
"Ah, Okay, I will make the arrangements. Will you have space for the people on your ship? Will you have a pod available for your replacement?"
"Yes, I will make sure a there are quarters available for my replacement."
With that we said our good byes and I knew we’d need to set up a pod for our replacement, so I called Holly to the command pod I was using.
Once she waddled in we got to work... and we called Joanie in to join us.
When the Courier ship "Adder" dropped out of hyper and approached our position their first question was "Which ship is which?"
My replacement was inheriting the second manufacturing ship we had assembled, replete with pods in the same relationship our ship had.
In order to deliver the new "chief of construction" to her new ship, the Adder had to dock with it, since Couriers don’t include a transmat pad. We greeted Beverly Lick, a Professional Engineer, along with her retinue of four concubines and children, at the docking port. She seemed happy when we gave her the grand tour of her new workplace while the crew for my ship followed along for familiarization.
After a quick briefing on the activities we’d handled, just so that she’d be able to ask some questions, we all trouped through the transmat pad to the "Reproduction Services". Beverly snickered over the name, as did my pilot, Lieutenant Danielle Walker.
Lieutenant Walker -- Danielle, I was told, after she’d pushed me against a bulkhead and kissed my brains out -- was my ship’s pilot and commander-in-transit for the short haul to Moreton. She looked rather flighty to me, and, on later reading her record, I could see that she was assigned to me because no one else would tolerate her. I could understand how those with too much desire for spit-and-polish might expect a subordinate to act like they enjoy being a subordinate may object to her, but, reading between the lines, I was wondering if this woman’s inspiration was more like either John Grimes or Miles Vorkosigan, though I was leaning towards the former. Things seemed to "happen" around her. Since no one else wanted her, it meant I might be able to keep her. Her "crew" consisted of five people, her concubines, Natalie and Corey, along with a set of thirteen year-old triplets.
Once we had Beverly up to speed -- which, surprisingly, included a couple of sessions in her bed -- we got ready to leave the system. Holly and Joanie didn’t fuck like engineers but Beverly certainly did. Pillow talk discussing various trade-offs and bouncing ideas off of each other was, for me, fun.
Under the command of Danielle Walker -- a Captain, even though she was only a Lieutenant, given her role -- we climbed out of this rubble-pile of a star system and I watched as she expressed glee maneuvering the ship and "testing its limits", which turned out to spawn some questions, given the "pleasant rigidity" of the ship our pods were integrated to. On learning what the primary load-bearing structural material was, she smiled at me, grabbed my ears, kissed me, and told me "Obviously proof that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. I’m gonna want to jump your bones a lot more on the way to Moreton, hon. I like the work you did on this ship."
When I brought up the contributions of Holly and Joanie, she smirked. "Sorry, I’m still too het to like girls that much, but tell them I thank them."
Danielle might have qualified as a loose cannon and a whack.
No, Danielle DID qualify, even to me, as a loose cannon and a whack.
Seeing how she flew the ship and the attention she -- and her loyal family/crew -- gave to the job of navigating and managing a ship, she was the kind of loose cannon and whack I could get to like and prefer. She was overly competent but handled things in such a way to make it all look easy... for her.
When I had been picked up, I had gotten a whole new appreciation for Clarke’s Law, where any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. By the same token, of course, any sufficiently exposed magic is indistinguishable from technology, which Penn and Teller excelled at. Watching Lieutenant Walker at work had me formulate a corollary: any sufficiently competent technologist is indistinguishable from a magician.
I had absolutely no idea that she saw me the same way, though, to my mind, it might have been like cupboard love. I’d built a ship she was enjoying command of and wasn’t complaining about her style. She quickly became very comfortable with Holly and Joanie, as well, albeit not in bed.
Dropping out of hyper in Moretonat was almost anticlimactic. Almost. You see, Tam and I had reached a climax just before the announcement that we’d dropped into normal space.
Danielle confirmed, on approach, my judgment that she was a consummate artist once I reached the primary command pod and watched her maneuver us to the designated asteroid the Commodore’s staff had chosen for us. I was soon busy deploying the refiners and trap fields for the materials we were going to get. Being in the same system with Moreton and its shipyards meant that we had enough bandwidth to get new patterns for our replicators, which I -- along with my two partners in crime -- reviewed with the AI to ensure that it could be adequately transferred to the nanites that would be doing the real work.
Given what we were making I told the AIs to have the replicator extrude them along the shortest axis to maximize parallelism and use more of the extrusion surface.
There were more fissionables and radioisotopes in the asteroid than expected which tended to give the nanite-based refinery units fits. We had to ensure that we could not reach critical mass for any of the fissionables and had to find a safe way to encapsulate them... while, at the same time, refreshing the nanites, since even a stream of alpha particles were not healthy for the them. There had to be a better way to cope but none came to us.
After getting the first run of missiles out and tested, we could then scale up production, adding replicators, to the point where we reached a plateau of over a hundred a day.
By the time Joanie and Holly gave birth to girls we were producing three lines of missile, two versions of plasma mines and we were even working up to produce HSIT missiles.
Colliers would pick these weapons up and bring them forward to the fleet which was in the middle of a long-term engagement with three systems full of Sa’arm.
Danielle had been assigned to stay with the now-commissioned "MMF-0001" -- Mobile Manufacturing Facility -- "Reproduction Services" and our crew was expanded, consisting of another full family. I was still in "Command" while we were in manufacturing mode but Danielle had command when we were in motion.
I think you can guess what she did given how itchy her feet were getting, sitting in one place, even if she had them in mid-air when she had me on top of her.
Danielle suggested to the Navy that we move forward to one of the red dwarf stars near the focus of the battle to shorten the supply lines. For that move, we would need a larger crew. She didn’t tell me about this until our orders to take on crew and move out came through. I wasn’t exactly happy with this... but Danielle’s idea of make-up sex cooled me off long enough to listen to her. I have no idea why she had only scored a 6.7 on her CAP test.
We had assembled three more MMFs shortly after arriving in Moretonat, so, before we moved out, each had to be staffed to take over supervision of the manufacturing systems.
The plan to jump forward to a red dwarf star that had a good supply of asteroids had to await the arrival of Danielle’s hand-picked crew of misfits. It wasn’t like we had a shortage of living space, after all.
With six more families -- none of which were headed by a male -- left me feeling, well, a bit isolated. We left Moretonat with nine families on-board.
Over the next two weeks I discovered that Danielle had chosen the flakiest members of the Navy she could find. Every one of them had bizarre idiosyncrasies, even from my point of view. Adjusting to these people took a day or two but we all got along better than I originally expected, and, despite their personalities, their competence at their jobs more than made it worth-while.
So, yeah, I was surrounded by flakes, at least on paper, but, damn, they knew their jobs... and were artists at getting them done. I was appalled that only one of them scored over 6.9 given their competence and ability to get a job done. Unfortunately, only Danielle and Henrietta (the 7.1) had chosen to have men in their house-holds, so, for now, there were only three men on board, only one of whom, me, was a sponsor.
Danielle’s Corey and Henrietta’s Charles got passed around to provide attention to various concubines while I, in addition to caring for -- uhh, servicing -- my own family, got pressed into a rotation through all of the female sponsors on-board. I was surprised that I had the necessary stamina to keep up with demand, but it did tend to keep me more calm than not. Considering that I am an Engineer -- a techie -- nothing in my history prepared me for the job of gigolo. Mind you, with eight very different -- and often weird -- women, I acquired one hell of an education.
By the time we dropped out of hyper, our families were all very comfortable with each other but I was more than just a couple of quarts low in semen.
Holly and Joanie were fully recovered from their mild post-partum depression when they went into the med-bay for their CAP tests and the results weren’t much of a surprise. Holly scored a 6.8, Joanie a 6.9. I figured they’d do better a year hence, but, given policies, that didn’t matter a whole lot.
So we now had a total of eleven families on-board.
A month later, once we had the production lines running, the triplets in Danielle’s family turned fourteen... and each of the three scored a 6.4. Danielle talked me into taking in all three since Holly and Joanie had their own pods assigned but unused until they could get some concubines of their own.
Henrietta’s son Carl turned fourteen and only scored a 6.4 making him eligible as a concubine. Danielle broke him in and, once Holly officially took him as a concubine, he was added to the rotation.
We were in-system for six months and the colliers could keep the fleets well supplied. Other MMFs moved forward, each of them taking up residence in red dwarf systems which the Sa’arm had never given a second look.
So we were comfortable and happy as we worked to build weapons for the fleets keeping the Sa’arm locked into the three systems... and were pushing back any of the Sa’arm ships that were trying to transit the area. HSITs became very popular due to the need to maintain a blockade.
Complacency of our sort is one thing thing that might have turned fatal since we figured ourselves safe where we were doing our jobs.
That is, until a Sa’arm scout popped into our system and detected us.
Unfortunately for us humans, the collier that it had followed got hit with missiles from the Sa’arm ship, though we lucked out that the crew got out in the ejection pod.
Unfortunately for the Sa’arm, we had over 5,000 missiles on-hand. It only took a flight of 24, when they got deep enough in the system, to ruin their day.
We sent out a tug to collect the survival pod from the collier and others to collect the debris from both the collier and the Sa’arm ship as replicator food. It was a pity none of our replicators was wide enough to fabricate a replacement vessel in one go.
Hustling the couple from the collier’s survival pod to the medical bay to handle their injuries, the live-but-stupid Sa’arm survivors got placed into stasis for evaluation.
And, no, despite some teasing from Henrietta, we didn’t hang the Sa’arm on a wall like Han Solo had been.
We did our jobs, we would get updated patterns for spaceborne weapons, we had two more intrusions on the system by Sa’arm scouts, and, when the front moved, we moved with it, to keep supply lines short.
Meanwhile, I was in discussions with other engineers in the Construction Corps covering plans for the next generation of MMF in development somewhere far to the rear in the fight against the Sa’arm.
Life, for me, was good. I had my work, a happy family of my own, and a collection of happy families working -- and playing -- with us.
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