Freedom Feens Blog


Chapter 18. Different worlds, in can form.


Inside ISS

Later that day I escorted Sasha to the Auxiliary Fleets primary base. While the various national and corporate fleets had made themselves comfortable in various parts of the main launch facility the AF made their home in a commandeered stadium clear on the other side of Gainvau city. I had flown over the place a couple of times, I had never gone in. It was a place that was, like the rest of the AF. A place where soldiers and the clean cut 9-5 gainfully employed crowd did not seem all that welcome.

All around the building were a wide variety of ships. Nothing I hadn’t seen before. Things started to get different when I landed, the smells of the place was overwhelming. Sweat, lubricants, spices, alcohol, fuels and god knows what else mixed together. I thought I was pretty insensitive to funky smells, apparently not. The combined stench of dozens of poorly maintained cargo and warships discharging their contents was almost overwhelming.

That was nothing compared to the inside of the stadium. Imagine a huge building filled to the point of overflowing with sheer insanity. Thousands of people, from all over the galaxy and even a few lizard people making up a combined improvised apartment complex, market, bars and even brothels. The prevalence of Venereal Diseases among the peoples of this planet had led to a thriving business of supplying crude Eutopian style cyborg knockoffs with decidedly limited thinking power. All around me swirled a maelstrom of hundreds of languages, music, arguments, fights and haggling. Sasha took a deep breath, seeming to savor the sheer lunacy and announced to me.

“Welcome to the Plunderdome!”

Activity ground to a halt near the front door. Everyone was staring at me. I raised my hands and informed them. “Don’t worry, I am not here to wreck anyone’s day. I have no authority to arrest anyone. I am just dropping off your commanding officer. Go on about your probably illicit business.”

Gradually they got back to what they were doing. Their eyes were boring holes in my forehead as I walked by them. Even though I was not part of a regular military I was not to be trusted. Even though I had been informed many times that I was a pretty popular girl in the AF. Because of my lack of absurd demands on them and my reluctance to send them into battle against a serious opponent.

It took almost a half an hour to get to her office. AF staff didn’t salute each other, they did something akin to a half hug, half handshake. And there was no discernible division between officers, mechanics, etcetera. It took quite a long time to work our way through the seething mass of humanity. Although the occasional askance looks from the residents at my presence here certainly helped to clear a path.

It stank, a veritable riot of pleasant and unpleasant odors. Colognes, perfumes and good food battling it out with the stench of rot, body odor, sweat, mechanical lubricants and burnt items.

Everywhere there were people hawking wares. Naturally most of it was plundered from enemy cargo ships and planets. Food, booze, tools, gemstones. Gaudy treasures like solid gold cutlery sets. Platinum boxes, sheaths of documents proportions to be everything from treasure maps to the location of enemy forces, various odd technologies. All sorts of narcotics and medical supplies ranging from state of the art to sheer quackery. There was even a chap selling what he claimed was 5meo and other hallucinogenics.

And of course, weapons. So. Many. Weapons. I like weapons, I am around them almost every day. But I had never seen this much hardware crammed in one place in my life. You could get everything here from rapiers to the latest Eutopian rail guns. With the mix of weapons, different cultures and every form of mind altering substance known to humanity available. I could see this place going up in a mushroom cloud caused by incompetence or an ocean of rage fairly easily.

Sasha had set up a combination office/flophouse for her and her crew in what had once been a luxury box above the teeming crowd. Once we got there she immediately started going over a stack of paperwork. I slammed her door shut and exhaled dramatically. She answered my exasperation.

“You think that nonsense is nuts? Imagine trying to lead these freaks in battle. You get the cream of the crop, your company can afford to be picky. The government forces get everyone in the middle. AF gets the cream of the crap. This isn’t just decay you see around you. It takes work to be this terrible.”

I replied.

“I knew that, but I never imagined that it was this…”

“Insane, rude, violent?”

“Let’s just say, chaotic.”

“Okay, that’s accurate.”

“So how do you keep this place under control?”

“I don’t, I am only the AF commander while we are operational. The rest of the time these guys answer to no leader. Or they answer to the Stryker brothers, they are in charge around here.”

There was a knock at the door, Sasha invited them in and stated, “ah, speak of the devil and they shall appear.” Hello Steve, Eric, I assume you have heard of my guest?”

The two men eyed me with looks that seemed like a combination of curiosity and suspicion. They were heavyset, did not look like brothers and carried huge handguns. A revolver in a nylon holster and what looked like a modified mark 2 Tesla-Smith disintegrator. Hadn’t seen someone carrying one of those in ten years. The one with a revolver pointed to me and asked in an accusing tone, “what the hell is she doing here?”

I replied, “oh, I didn’t know that I was not welcome here? I may not have any contracts with the Auxiliary Fleet but I would have thought my saving your collective butts several times would grant me some respectability.”

The one with the disintegrator grabbed him and said. “Eric calm down, I don’t think we can afford to piss her off.” Eric took a deep breath and said, “sorry, I wasn’t expecting to see you here and I have had a lousy day today.”

I stood quietly in the corner while Sasha and the brothers discussed what was going on. There had been several drunken brawls the previous night and someone had cut loose with a disintegrator. There was also some kind of a dispute over water supplies. Sasha said her piece and they left. I made a mental note to keep an eye on those guys. Once they were a suitable distance away I asked.

“You called them the Stryker brothers? They don’t look anything alike.”

“You know that most of the people serving in the AF use fake names right?”

“Of course.”

“Those two knew each other before the deep space rebellion, I think they left Earth together. They had Eastern European names that were impossible to pronounce. Both of their names sounded a little like Stryker. So when they changed their names as part of joining the AF they decided to call themselves the Stryker brothers.”

I looked out at the swirling mass of humanity below me. I felt uncomfortable, I couldn’t help but feel that I had just walked into hell and poked the devil in the eye. So I said goodbye to Sasha and walked out of the Plunderdome. Hoping that I wouldn’t have to come back anytime soon.

After the battle of Orozco I put Big Blue away for some scheduled maintenance. Ristavron four had such an over abundance of resources that I was comfortable with allowing Montana to be seriously worked on outside of a primary IEC facility. Though she hadn’t been pounded on like some ships in the fleet she still needed some work done.

While this was being done I hitched a ride on a German cruiser that was on its way to join task force Alpha which was about to engage with a significant enemy force. I had wanted to go on a flight with the Russo-German fleet for some time to see how well they functioned together.

Admiral Rickover was attacking the Tartilim system. Tartilim was a tactical nightmare. Two planetary hard points and fifteen enemy heavy cruisers. But it had to be taken since it was the nearest staging point for a major assault on Ristavron. The cruiser I embarked on was a pretty decent ship with a typically German professional crew. However when I transferred onto the battleship Novgorod I was shocked by what I saw.

As I was led up to the bridge I was treated to a maintenance nightmare of epic proportions. Russian ships looked impressive, downright pretty from the outside. On the inside they were the crudest damn things that you could imagine. Their warships lacked a pretty common and important feature, internal artificial gravity. They were so cramped and insanely built on the inside that artificial gravity would have left their crews climbing around inside like they were in a three dimensional obstacle course. It would have taken forever to get anywhere. The interior of the Novgorod was blindingly brightly lit, cramped and alarmingly damp. There were more exposed wires and pipes than I would have tolerated in one of my ships. The Novgorod was also one of the latest and most well built ships in the Russian fleet. I shuddered to think what their older ones were like. Even the Auxiliary Fleets crappiest ships were more ergonomic than this.

Once I got to the bridge it was amazingly spacious compared to the rest of the ship. The crew drifted around like birds. The controls were incredibly dirty, primitive and I didn’t have the faintest idea how any of this shit worked. While I was trying to get my bearings admiral Rickover suddenly appeared in front of me. Inverted, he was floating less than a foot from my face. “Ms Hammond, what is it that brings you to my humble ship?”

“Well, I wanted to see how you Russians fought in person.”

“Alright, but this is not going to be some pleasure cruise.”

I held up my gloves, smudged with lubricants and who knows what else. “I think this would make for a pretty lousy cruise ship.”

Rickover laughed downright derisively. “Well, welcome aboard, head down to the mess area. Ask for a man named Gennadiy, he will show you around the ship. Talk to you later.”

For all his stress and strain he was clearly in his element. He drifted up into what I guessed were the officers quarters of his ship. I pulled myself down into the bowels of the ship were there was a very strange looking mess room. Tables and chairs jutted out from the ceiling. This looked like an arrangement that worked fairly well in zero gravity, certainly saved space. Still it looked weird as all get out.

An older fellow in a bosuns uniform drifted down from the “ceiling”. In incredibly good English he introduced himself as Gennadiy Nikinov. He was going to be my escort for the entire time I was aboard the Novgorod. He invited me to join him for lunch. Which consisted of a variety of pastes eaten out of toothpaste like tubes. Not very appealing, but an inevitable thing if you were serving aboard a ship with no internal gravity.

The Novgorod was so different from the Montana, or really any other ship I had been on. I felt like the walls were closing in on me. Which were thankfully padded with various substances because I bumped into everything. This was a ship made with human comfort as an afterthought. Compared to The Montana, or even an English or Japanese warship it felt. For lack of a better word, hard, unwelcoming. Not that the Russians were not welcoming. It was just that their ships were mostly built as short range interceptors. Never intended to to be lived on for months at a time. Or years as Eutopian ships were.

While we were on our way to battle I took the opportunity to examine their CLERGy weapons from the inside. Like everything else on the ship her primary weapon was relatively crude. A curious looking contraption that looked like a combination of a torpedo tube, a hopper and a Gatling gun. This was a replication of Singer technology in effect only. I knew from firsthand experience that their hybrid lasers were much more refined. The lenses that focused the laser energy were only effective for a dozen or so shots and had to be replaced when they failed. They were replaced by the Gatling gun mechanism. The hopper that contained the ceramic projectiles, and the projectiles themselves didn’t look like much. Painted on the side of the hopper were a bunch of white Cyrillic letters. I tried to translate them but gave up and asked Gennadiy what they meant. He chuckled and replied.

“Here sleeps Armageddon.”

I felt like I was trapped in Rickover’s brain. Rickover was a man who moved with purpose in all things. He set goals, and he attained them, damn the consequences. He was hell bound to raise his people to the pinnacle of what was technologically possible. And what was possible for him was truly bizarre with his countries current technological development level. I can’t even describe how utterly schizophrenic it all was. Technology from the late Iron Age lived in an uneasy harmony with devices copied from the whispers of aliens beyond human imagination aboard the Novgorod.

While I was aboard the Novgorod, as a visiting officer, I was given an officers cabin. It was slightly larger than a small closet. Still, I had a small degree of privacy, which was more than most of the crew could expect. I dined at the captains table. Which meant that I occasionally got some solid food. As opposed to the various pastes that the rest of the crew got. Combat deployed elements of the Russian Cosmos Fleet were provisioned by the Auxiliary Fleet, who had gone the extra mile to obtain fairly decent foods. So, as mediocre as the food was on this tub, it was much better than anywhere else in the Russian Navy.

I really wanted to have dinner with admiral Rickover. But he was incredibly busy. The captain of the Novgorod, captain Marinesko tried his best to entertain me. However his English was not so great and he was a pretty heavy drinker. While we were trying to talk about how these ships were resupplied Rickover suddenly materialized.

“Alexander, you drunken bastard. Are you giving away secrets, or just trying to talk your way into our guests pants?”

The captains face went red and he dramatically launched himself out of the room. Rickover grabbed an apple out of a bag and started noisily chewing. I shook my head and addressed him. “Admiral, why are you so hard on your crews? This seems to be an invitation to mutiny.”

“Mutiny!? You just don’t know Russians. Stereotypes exist for a reason my dear. I only allow the very best men that I can get my hands on to serve on my ships. And you know how good they are? They suck! They are a pack of drunken, slovenly idiots who can barely turn a spanner, or calculate what 3×7 is. Discipline has to be maintained, or else we all die.”

I realized that this was going nowhere. In spite of his dislike of wearing a uniform I had to remind myself that he was a military commander on a military vessel. So I changed the subject.

“How did you build these ships?”

He laughed, downright derisively. “Oh we don’t have time for that and you know it. I can tell you that it was a nightmare. It took five years straight to build the first prototype. That was with EHL and Breguet doing most of the metal cutting and wiring. But of all the insanities I had to deal with the weirdest was the czar. Every couple of days he would come by and suggest some mind boggling solution to a technical issue. When the prototype was almost finished I was going to send her off for trials. I was going to call her Aurora. But the czar came in and said that he already had a name picked out, the Leo Tolstoy. He named my ship after a damned pacifist! Someone who denounced the Russian Military, hell, all militaries. Working with that guy. I can’t deny his knowledge. But the way he thinks, its beyond my comprehension.”

“Been seeing quite a bit of that lately myself. Tell me, does your R&D have any projects involving 5meo?”

“No one in Russia will touch that stuff with a ten foot pole.”

“Hmm, interesting, benefits not perceived to be worth the risks?”

“I would rather not talk about it.”

“Okay, how about your new battleships then?”

He smiled and began boasting about the fourth generation of Russian warships. Once we got off into purely technical stuff the friction in the conversation began to dissipate and I began to get a feeling for who admiral Rickover really was. He was henpecked, stressed, overwhelmed by the demands of the massive expansion of his navy. He was crapped on by his suppliers, so he crapped on his minions. Yet he mostly spoke of the Czar as an extremely competent and kind boss. Yet that one act of naming the first Russian spaceship prototype the Tolstoy seemed to stick in his craw more than a dozen screw ups by his suppliers.

Even at its most pleasant, being aboard the Novgorod was a nightmare. Fortunately I wasn’t going to be onboard for very long. I was going to transfer to the Holstein after the battle was over if she didn’t suffer any serious damage.

Right before we arrived in the Tartilim system I was waiting in the Novgorod’s internal bridge for things to start. Russian warships didn’t have windows and a bridge like most other Earth ships did. All they had was a tiny cockpit that the pilot navigated from when the ship was in a planets atmosphere or maneuvering near a nearby object in space. They didn’t even have screens like most ships. The crews wore big, kinda goofy looking goggles that gave them direct sensor information outside the ship. As the battle commenced the artificial gravity came on. As I sank into the chair that I was buckled into I felt the gravity increase past the usual force on a ship of slightly below one G. It increased to at least two and a half G. Probably more, but it wasn’t like I had a G meter on me.

I realized what they were doing. By increasing the force of gravity around their ships the Russians were fudging the numbers of the laws of physics. Plasma bolts would function differently, perhaps not at all in the energy field around their ships. It would also allow a more equal balance of forces around the hull, preventing asymmetric stresses and allowing their ships to do much more maneuvering in combat than other electrogravity driven ships. Ingenious, if incredibly unpleasant. This must have had serious medical consequences for Russian crews. But the Russian command staff probably didn’t care.

Once the enemy was sighted the ships Eutopian targeting system took over. Not just the weapons system, it controlled navigation since the ships primary weapons were mounted in fixed bow emplacements. The C.L.E.R.Gy weapon fired as soon as it locked into a target. Then the ship began taking evasive actions. The crew were doing remarkably little in actual combat considering how much work it took to get the thing here.

While the bulk of the Russian fleet engaged the enemy cruisers the Novgorod moved towards the first planetary strong point. A classic enemy weaponized landmark. A giant arcing structure that stood amid a large number of jagged mountain peaks on a desolate planet with almost no air. Novgorod launched a pair of large missiles at the structure. They were shot from the sky by a storm of well aimed plasma blasts. Then I wondered, “the Holstein is supposed to be here. Why haven’t I seen it?” The goggles we all wore were partly voice controlled so I asked where the Holstein was. No function, I worked out the question in my stammering, gravely Russian and suddenly my image zoomed in on the Holstein.

She was diving through the upper atmosphere of the planet. No power, it looked like she was dead. A sheath of plasma was forming around the hull. What was that lunatic Stipetic up to? The Novgorod fired its main weapon against the hard point. The ceramic mass detonated on the shields above the hard point doing significant damage. I looked over, the Holstein was still falling. The plasma sheath around the Holstein started to fade. It was being funneled into the ship. I had never seen anything like this. The Cow charged up its plasma turrets as it made an absurdly low altitude run. Below the altitude of the strong point. Then it fired, full force into the strong points shields. The Holstein sliced through the shields relatively easily. Once it was inside it tore up everything. As the shields collapsed the Holstein pulled up and away from the wreckage of the strong point.

I looked around. Only four enemy warships remained. There wasn’t a communication stone aboard this ship so I had no idea how the Russians were supposed to know when the enemy was giving up. Suddenly the radio crackled to life as a desperate voice screamed in broken English. “Please, mercy, we surrender!”

So, more and more of the enemy had figured out radios. It was a good thing they did. The Russo-German fleet had a habit of not taking too many prisoners. Once they surrendered and everyone stood down from battle stations the artificial gravity started to fade. I unbuckled my restraints and floated back up into the air. I felt sick, like I just had the crap kicked out of me. I looked through my goggles at the Holstein, ascending rapidly back into space. I had to get on that ship. I couldn’t take another second in this shitcan.

After the usual post battle rituals of securing enemy prisoners and prize ships was done I flew a two seat Lavotchkin fighter over to the Holstein. Instead of just flying directly into the Holsteins hangar I drifted around the ship for a little while. Despite its fame, Holstein was an enigma. Captain Stipetic rarely landed his ship and only permitted his own hand selected maintenance staff to work on it.

The Holstein shouldn’t exist. She should have been shot down and completely destroyed at the battle of Tunguska. But she had been forced down in east Prussia on the way to the battle by a coolant leak. She should have been decommissioned after the treaty of St. Petersburg. But her captain held his ground, saying that Germany needed at least one operational battleship. He had threatened to sail her into deepest space if any ship breakers ever came within a mile of her. She should have been destroyed over a dozen times in this war. But captain Stipetic had been able to maneuver her through some absolutely insane situations. Most notably in the battle of the Denglib system where he had emerged triumphant against three enemy battleships and their support vessels.

She was a great grey shape. Her armor was some kind of funky stuff that could not only absorb energy attacks. But redirect that energy to its weapons. No one on Earth knew how to make it now that The Core was gone. As impressive as the new German ships were. They would never be able to to take as much of a pounding as the Holstein.

As I flew around her I took a moment to get a good look at her figurehead. The Kaiser had apparently insisted that his first few space battleships have figureheads. Holsteins figurehead was a slightly larger than life sized statue made of stainless steel. A statue of justice, with scales and the blindfold dramatically ripped from her eyes. She looked pissed, I also couldn’t help but notice that her face was The Cores idealized female face. That bio mechanical abomination had one twisted sense of humor.

I took a moment to stare at it. Suddenly my hatred of her ebbed a bit. It was still there, but I realized that she hadn’t been all bad. If she hadn’t stolen the body of a very good friend of mine and blown up a couple cities we might have been friends. Her technical genius had given us this incredible ship and so much else that would have taken decades of work poking around in the Venusian Archive.

My copilot gently reminded me that we were supposed to be landing on the Holstein. Not sitting in front of it. So I brought the fighter around and landed in the Holsteins forward hangar. Deutschland class battleships were the first human built spacecraft that could launch and recover fighters. As such she was built for the use of downright antique Albatross fighters. So the Lavotchkin fighter I had flown in on had to get off the ship as quickly as possible or else normal operations would be upset. Once I was out of the hangar the Russian fighter was immediately discharged back into space. It looked like the pilot barely had time to acknowledge that he was being flung back into the void.

Holsteins crew was old, many of them were veterans of the German/Anglo-American war. But their ship was in excellent shape. Despite months of constant battle she was clearly being kept in good shape. The design was clever, crew quarters made up a relatively small part of the hull. With all the Yonth tech crammed into her and superb multiple redundant systems made with typical German quality she only needed 60 skilled crew to be combat effective.

I was led to the bridge by a very quiet old executive officer. Holstein had an internal, armored bridge like the Russian ships. But in the bow, not in the center of the ship. The bridge itself was a bit more familiar to me than the Russian ships. The ship was driven by an odd combination of analog German controls connected to state of the art touch screens. In a somewhat familiar oval platform. Though with a somewhat incongruous large hatch right in the middle of everything instead of a captains chair.

The hatch was opened. I was beckoned to go down into it. I got a little nervous. I got more nervous when I was jarred loose from the ladder and I appeared to be drifting in the void of space. I gasped, suddenly I realized that I could breathe. What the heck was this? I could see the planet that had just been attacked below me in crystal clarity. A familiar voice called out. “Welcome aboard my ship ms Hammond.”

I turned around to see a man with grading hair in a slightly tattered German navy uniform standing in space. Just standing there with his hands behind his back. It was captain Stipetic, as I tried to work my way towards him I asked. “What the hell is this?”

“You should consider yourself lucky. Very few of mien own crew have come down here. This is a holographic interface, it allows me to control the ship. Navigation, weapons, life support, fighter control. It is all here.”

“You control the ship like this? How?”

“When I am fully integrated I become the ship. It’s motions are my motions. Look I can zoom in on anything around the hull. Target it, and all I have to do is say the right word and it is immediately destroyed.”

I could see now why Stipetic was still in command of the Holstein. He was bonded to the ship. There was no way I could drive this thing. It was utterly disorienting. But exhilarating. All the ships around us were Russian and German. But it must have been an experience to fly this thing in combat. I understood now how this ship could fly and fight the way it did. No delay between input, decision and action. It must have been like flying through space, smiting foes with thunderbolts of Zeus.

A voice rang out that we were about to transit into the web-way. Suddenly we were traveling faster than light. That was quite an experience, being able to see everything as opposed to a few flashes of light and interstellar phenomena. I could see great arcing traceries of energy crossing the vastness of the universe. This was incredible. I was so utterly overwhelmed by the experience that I completely forgot about the little man standing behind me.

Once we came back out into normal space he announced. “I am going to set the autopilot so we can get out of here and have a rational conversation. You are clearly overwhelmed.”

I didn’t want to leave. It was like a narcotic, a direct experience of the cosmos. A simulation of the utterly impossible. I fell in love with this ship, faster and harder than I had with any other. I went from being grudgingly appreciative that The Core had left this ship behind. To being genuinely thankful that captain Stipetic had managed to keep it alive.

Stipetic physically dragged me out of his helm. I felt gravity again, the hard surface of the deck. I stood up and shook myself out of my state of grace. The chuckles of the crew helped. It looked like my reaction was a common one to being in the Holsteins helm.

The captains cabin was tiny. To be expected though. A captains cabin had to be near the bridge so it was usually pretty small. Not like my stateroom on the Montana. Stipetic poured me a glass of what looked like very expensive brandy. I took one look at the bottle and stated. “If you are serving that then I imagine you have a hell of a favor to ask.”

“The Kaiser made sure that the navy received the very finest tools for the job. The previous captain of this ship had expensive tastes. He talked the Kaiser into buying him a case of this, I prefer beer myself. Yes, I do need a favor from you. My lady has started to act up on me. The power system is starting to behave in unpredictable fashion and there are new sounds in the hull that are of concern. I need herr Harding to go over this ship, bow to stern.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Are you sure? I know his conscience still bothers him from his time in service to my government.”

“I don’t see it being that much of a problem. He went to work for your government recently to build their new battleships.”

“No, it is not the same. There he was working with papers, computers and engineers. Here he will have to come face to face with what he created. Are you sure he can handle this?”

I thought for a moment about that figurehead. “I am not sure. I will have to ask him when we get back to Ristavron.” He seemed anxious, I asked, “were you driving this ship when London got wiped out?”

He started breathing heavily, “I was not the captain then. I was just the helmsman. The longer you are at the helm, the better you are at it. We swept aside the Royal Navy. We danced around their battleships, we could have destroyed them from a distance. But we were so confident that we closed the range. When we got to London the Kaiser ordered me to fly over to parliament to illustrate to them the futility of this war. Then everything seized up. I was locked out of my controls. The weapons began firing. Everything we had, all at once. I saw everything. The Thames was boiled away. I saw things so horrific that I never could have imagined in twenty lifetimes.”

“Patriotism meant nothing to me after that betrayal. I live only to see that no more cities on Earth, or anywhere else are submitted to that kind of horror. This war is not over yet, once it is I will gladly take off my uniform. But until it is, until I can be satisfied that it is. I will continue to fight, but I cannot continue if my ship cannot continue.”

“Well, I will see what I can do. I can’t promise that Jonathan will be able to fix everything. But he is probably the most qualified person in the universe to do so that we can trust.”

He nodded and things went silent for a moment. I couldn’t imagine a more incredible contrast to where I had just been. Holstein was a flying fantasy. Everything about its insides was geared for comfort and careful contemplation. I wanted to move into this ship. It inspired me to write poetry. A poet I am not. Then I realized what captain Stipetic was doing. He was letting me enjoy the moment. Allowing me to savor this creation and giving me a moment to come to respect his home.

Then the door to his cabin opened and the ships cook walked in with a magnificent meal. The rest of the Holsteins officer Corps joined us. My time aboard the Cow after being on the Novgorod was like falling out of hell into a feather bed. I learned the basics of how these Yonth-German hybrid ships operated. This was what spaceships were meant to be. Comfortable, ergonomic, fast, tough and powerful.

Of course this was exactly what he was intending. He knew that I was interested in technology, and the Holstein was one of the finest pieces of tech I had ever seen. The pinnacle of German craftsmanship in its time. Oh the irony that the Russians and Germans were part of a joint command when they were driving such different ships in such different ways.

Something like the Holstein bridge

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