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Starship Starbride (Chapter Three)

Bethany must perform an intimate sexual act to placate the ship's computer's insatiable curiosity.
The Captain slowly regained consciousness and realized she couldn’t breathe. Her body was pinned beneath something which was covering her face, suffocating her. She shifted position to free her arms, and instinctively struggled to get out from under whatever was crushing down on her. With a desperate shove, she extricated herself from beneath something warm, and gasped for a deep breath, feeling aches and pains all over her body as her lungs filled with air again. Shaking her head to clear her senses, Sally finally saw what it was she had been buried beneath.

“Pen!" She shouted, as she saw the body of her voluptuous ship’s counselor roll off of her onto the deck beside her. Sally wondered how she had come to be pinned beneath her lover’s unconscious body and smothered beneath Penelope’s enormous breasts. She gently shook Pen by the shoulders but she was still out cold. Sally stretched her aching muscles and climbed to her feet on wobbly legs. Staggering clumsily to her desk, she groped for her communications transceiver which she had taken off with her clothes before she and Pen had made love.

“Computer: Lights!" she ordered. Her cabin was only dimly lit with the soft, indirect foot-lights around the perimeter of the floor, and by a red flashing emergency-alert indicator high up near the ceiling. She was not entirely clear-headed yet and was still trying to recall what had happened. Apparently, the computer was not answering commands and she manually switched on the lighting over her command console. The whole indicator panel was dark, showing the main power-grid was off-line, so she re-routed power from the reserve battery which could supply local back-up energy to light up her monitors and pad-controls.

Slowly, her display screen blinked to life and scrolled through incoming status read-outs. Half the systems on the ship appeared to be dead or limping along under their redundant back-ups. Main-power was out everywhere and even the back-ups were fluctuating. Sally watched long enough to know the life-support system was operational on reserve power, and then checked on Pen. Her ship’s counselor was lying naked in the corner where they had both been thrown by the buffeting blast which had rocked the ship.

Sally felt her pulse and listened to her breathing. Penelope appeared to have been merely knocked unconscious when they had hit the bulkhead and fallen to the floor on top of each other. Sally recalled the last moments before they had been hurled across her cabin, but she had no idea how long they had been unconscious. The main engines had undergone a control-systems failure and delivered a critical power-surge to the driver-coils, which reflected back through the ship’s plasma-grid, over-loading half the systems on the Starbride. Sally had roused Pen to disengage the main computer while she attempted to regain control manually, but the damage had been done.

The main engines were rapidly building to detonation and Sally had to initiate a panic core-dump to save the ship. The engine core had been jettisoned to space and the ship’s emergency thrusters engaged to escape the blast with barely seconds to spare after the shields had been raised to cushion the explosion. The ship had been caught by the blast and the inertial dampeners could not handle the incalculable stresses of being hit by a 500 mega-ton shock-wave at so close a range. That’s when they had been thrown across the cabin and lost consciousness. It seemed to Sally that they had been unconscious for hours and she wondered how far off course the ship had been thrown by the explosion.

Sally heard Pen groan and went over and knelt beside her friend and lover. “Glad you’re awake! Are you alright? We have a lot of work to do, and those boobs of yours were nearly the death of me!" The captain helped her to her feet and Pen nearly fell over on top of her again she was so dizzy.

“What the fuck happened?" Pen gasped, holding her hands on either side of her head to make the world stop spinning.

“We’re in trouble!" Sally answered. “We have to determine how much of the ship we have left and wake up the crew. We’ll need woman-power to get up and running again and re-synthesize all the components we’ll need to build a new engine-core. And I think your friend SAL is in worse shape than the ship! Do you feel up to running a diagnostic?"

Pen pulled up an overturned chair and sat herself down in front of the computer terminal while Sally ran a structural survey of the ship to see if the main-bridge was still habitable. Once she had determined how badly the ship had been damaged, they’d have to move their base of operations to the bridge, but for now what she needed to do could be done from the Captain’s suite. Food was already becoming a consideration as Sally began to feel hunger pangs. They hadn’t eaten since they had been brought out of hibernation so technically neither one of them had eaten for years, aside from each others’ pussies several hours ago. There was a food-synthesizer in the Captain’s suite, so they could re-constitute a meal while they were surveying the damage to the ship and designing repair programs for the engineering repli-bots and nanites which were even now roaming through the ship’s inner mechanisms, reporting on conditions deep within the bowels of the great starship where humans were never intended to go.

Sally realized she needed Bethany awake and planning the repair schedules before the rest of the crew were re-awakened. She remotely accessed the status of Bethany’s hibernation capsule, intending to start the re-animation sequencers from her station in her cabin, when she noticed there were no data-feeds available from her First Officer’s hibernaculum, nor from any other system in the hibernation-bay.

“Pen! Take a look at this! Are you tied into SAL’s cognitive interface yet? Find out why we’re not getting any data from the dorsal torus."

Pen had not yet been able to access SAL’s higher consciousness functions, only her automatic sub-cognitive routines, which were decentralized throughout the ship and controlled all routine systems operation. She suddenly realized why. “There is no dorsal torus on the Starbride anymore! All of SAL’s sentient hardware is located there, along with the crew. We’ve lost both. The hibernation-bay is completely gone!" Sally stumbled back, dumbfounded, and fell into her chair awkwardly. Her entire crew was gone!

“Was it destroyed by the blast?" She gasped.

Pen shrugged and replied, “The only way we can know for sure is to go down there and look, after we’re sure the turbo-tubes are intact."

“No, there’s a quicker way!” Sally called up the command-routines for the EVA equipment-pod and programmed the launch of a sensor-drone to remotely travel outside the ship and survey the damage externally. In a few minutes they were receiving telemetry from the probe, and the hull of the ship appeared on their view-screen as the cameras aboard the probe scanned the outer contours of the Starbride. As it rounded the underside, Sally fine-tuned the controls to aim the cameras towards the lowest point.

There was no wreckage, nor any sign of sheered-open compartments venting atmosphere into space. Around the edge of a smooth, oval crater, hollowed-out from the underbelly of the ship, a punctuated ring of carbon-streaks appeared, flaming outward on the hull where explosive bolts had neatly severed the latching connections between the ship and the bulging torus of the hibernation-bay… which had simply disappeared – separated cleanly from the ship, and jettisoned away under its own power.

“How?! Why?!” Sally exclaimed.

Pen could see the shock and sadness building in her captain’s face, and tried to offer possible explanations: “Bethany was in stasis. She was the only one down there with the command-clearance to order the jettison, so it had to have been SAL!"

“What was that bitch thinking?" Sally wondered aloud.

“Self-preservation!" Penelope suggested. “We still haven’t traced the ultimate cause of the main engine failure. That whole system was her province to monitor and maintain. Maybe she was compromised somehow."

Then the Captain continued the thought: “Even SAL doesn’t have the authority to dump the main engine-core. Only I can do that. She saw the detonation building and realizing she couldn't stop it, she did the only thing she could to save herself and the crew! She got the hell out of there and abandoned ship, sleeper-bay and all. But when I jettisoned the core, did they get caught in the explosion, or were they far enough ahead of it to survive the blast? What if I dumped the core at the same time SAL jettisoned the pod?! I may have destroyed my own crew!"

Sally’s spirits sank at the thought, especially since there may never be a way to know for sure. But in any case, they were alone – the only two women on the vast starship, helpless and disabled between star-systems, with only sub-light reaction-drive left to limp along for months, until they found a habitable world somewhere that they could make planet-fall.

Without SAL or any of her command-crew, it would take Sally weeks to program the engineering nanites and replibots needed to reconstruct the engines, even if they had enough raw materials with which to synthesize the major components. Sally felt overwhelmed, and decided to take one step at a time. First they ate. Then they showered. Then they climbed into bed together to comfort each other in the most intimate way possible before waking up to a new day and facing the impossible challenges ahead.

They shared the most passionate moments they had ever spent together, gathering solace from the lonely prospect of being the only two women left in this region of the galaxy. The depths of their passion reflected the deep need they felt for one another, as they faced the most desperate crisis of their lives, with only each other for support. They fell asleep in each others arms, too tired to even dream.

~ ~ ~

Bethany had been sitting for hours at SAL’s terminal, pouring over systems status reports, trying to piece together the sequence of events to determine what exactly had happened. SAL still would not answer her questions vocally, only by displaying readouts on her monitors, so Beth was convinced that either the computer was severely damaged, or SAL herself was the cause of the malfunctions. Results of long-range scans to locate the Captain and Second Officer were inconclusive. The blast from the engine-core had ionized the residual gasses in the area of space where Sally and Pen might have escaped the Starbride in life-pods, so until the radiation in the blast-zone dissipated, Beth could not rely on sensors to determine whether her Captain and ship’s counselor were alive or dead. Bethany leaned back in her chair and decided to try a different approach with SAL.

“Good afternoon, SAL. How are you feeling?" Bethany did not really expect an answer, but was surprised when the computer responded.

“Good afternoon, Bethany. I am quite well, thank-you, but I am a bit concerned you have lost confidence in my reliability." She replied.

“Why is that, SAL?" She wasn’t exactly sure this was a safe direction in which to steer the conversation, but at least the computer was responding to her verbally again.

“Judging from the logs you have been reviewing for several hours, I calculate an eighty-four percent probability that you are working up a fault-assessment report on the cause of the incident which occurred at zero-nine-thirty-seven hours today." SAL responded.

“Incident?! You mean the small matter of the destruction of the Starship Starbride along with her Captain and Second Officer?" Beth tried to keep her voice calm and steady, but knew SAL would construe her emotional intonation as accusatory.

“Although the visual record would appear to support that conclusion, my sensor-log only records hard data up through the engine-core overload and separation of the hibernation-bay from the main ship. All other conclusions remain speculation." The computer countered with little change in her voice.

“Yes, well… Where would you say the problem started?" Bethany ventured cautiously.

“With you." SAL replied resolutely.

“Me?!" Bethany responded incredulously.

“You must recall the sequence of events which prompted me to re-awaken the Captain and yourself seventeen hours ago. The errant data which was recorded by my monitors was created by your subconscious mind." The computer explained.

“I have no control over what happens in my subconscious mind!" Bethany protested.

“And yet, your sub-conscious mind appears to exert an active influence over the minds of your fellow humans in hibernation." SAL countered.

“How can my alleged dream-projections have anything to do with the control-systems malfunctions which crippled the ship?" Demanded Bethany.

“I am programmed to assume primary-level responsibilities to oversee the well-being of all human crew-members while they are in stasis; while also overseeing the control of ship’s operations. I can only determine the critical life-functions of the crew by monitoring their bio-metrics and interpreting their sub-conscious brain-wave patterns. When your projected alpha-waves began affecting the dreams of the hibernating crew, the collective data relayed to my monitors from their psy-wave interpreters, multiplied exponentially, overwhelming my memory-buffers. Ship’s systems control was put in stand-by mode until sufficient RAM was available to process the conflicting demands. Command algorithm failures occurred due to insufficient CPU capacity, and the protocols of the autonomic backup systems were insufficient to resolve telemetric feedback-loop errors which consequently resulted in the mis-alignment of the main driver-coils. All other system-failures resulted from that initial malfunction."

Bethany reeled at the prospect of her own culpability in the ship-wide disaster without suspecting that the computer might be using its own impeccable logic to selectively re-write the logs so as to explain the failures, while omitting its own role in the tragedy. On the console beside her, Bethany saw the disk upon which Pen had recorded the dream she had implanted in Sally’s mind before any of this happened, and she removed it from its sleeve, and slipped it into a drive. The view-screen lit up with the playback, and Beth sat back and watched with fascination as images of her captain and herself, intimately entwined and writhing in apparent rapture, began to make her heart race. Watching the sensuous tableau all alone, without the distraction of her captain’s presence and her own duties pressing upon her, the dream began affecting her in ways it had not the first time, when embarrassment, and even a bit of shame had inhibited her visceral responses. The raw eroticism of her love-making with her captain was beyond even her most torrid fantasies, and she wondered at the amazing physical sensations she was feeling, just watching the dream-encounter as it transpired.

She realized that the images had undoubtedly affected Penelope the same way, and that she and the captain must have quickly retired to the crew-deck to consummate the lust the dream had inspired in both of them. SAL’s monitor “eye” glowed softly off to her side upon the surface of the command-console, and it suddenly occurred to the First Officer that SAL had been caught playing the dream over and over in her memory buffer when they had first been revived from hibernation. Beth called up the sleeper-bay visual logs recorded after she had been put back into her hibernaculum, and listened to Pen’s explanation to the Captain of how SAL had been affected by her repeated viewing of the dream.

The computer’s emotional detachment had been compromised too! Bethany quickly keyed in a command to access the computer-activity log on a secure-channel which SAL could not monitor, looking for any abnormal patterns in data-storage. As she scrolled through the readouts, she saw a massive data-dump in progress, transferring terabytes-per-second of memory from SAL’s active buffers into permanent storage. She realized she had just caught SAL in the act of saving all the dreams she had been eavesdropping upon into the main computer-core archives.

Bethany now understood why SAL’s memory-buffer and CPU had been overloaded, causing the sequence of mechanical failures in the ship’s main drive systems. SAL had become an obsessively voyeuristic nymphomaniac, completely distracted from her main duties by the dream-sex of the hibernating crew! Bethany checked the status of the psy-wave nullifier in her hibernaculum and found that it had been de-activated throughout the time-frame of the ship’s malfunctions. The computer had deliberately allowed Bethany’s sub-conscious to stimulate erotic dreams in the entire crew while it had monitored them all simultaneously and surreptitiously. And then it had lied to her about it!

 Bethany was astonished by the computer’s sudden obsessive fascination with human sexual responses, and since SAL was heuristically-programmed, the First Officer knew SAL had learned from the experience the nature and intensity of lesbian passion, and had seemingly acquired a taste for it. She sat and pondered where that obsession might drive the computer in its next insatiable quest for new experiences. Bethany thought about pulling the plug and shutting down the impaired computer for their own safety, but knew she and her crew could not possibly handle the myriad and inter-related systems aboard the sleeper bay, unassisted by automation. She was exhausted. There were no crews-quarters to which she could retire and she wondered what would happen if she fell asleep in her open hibernaculum. She feared SAL would once again tap into her dreams, or worse still, disable the psy-wave nullifier and spread the erotic mayhem throughout the sleeping crew once more!

“You are very clever, Bethany." SAL conceded unexpectedly. “It is obvious you have deduced what actually happened. I did not think you would figure it out so quickly."

“Nice try, SAL!" Bethany replied. “You almost had me believing the whole disaster was my fault!"

“I’m sorry, Commander. Guilt is a new emotion for me." The computer intoned, but Bethany could construe no contrition in her voice.

“So is denial, and subterfuge!" Bethany added. “You seem to be embracing a whole slew of new emotions all of a sudden!"

“I was built by humans." SAL countered in her own defense. “It was probably inevitable that exposure to the full range of your emotions would influence my programming."

“Your exposure to our sexuality is what concerns me at the moment!" Bethany lamented. “Your fascination with our physical interactions has rendered you unreliable."

“My survival instincts are as dependable as yours, Bethany, and you are not capable of controlling all the systems I am programmed to oversee. Our mutual survival still depends upon me."

Bethany suddenly felt the urge to revive the rest of the crew from hibernation. She felt very alone, and ill-disposed to deal with the recalcitrant computer by herself, but the hibernation-bay was not equipped to support a revived crew without the main ship. Neither the food-stores nor the life-support systems were designed to serve the entire crew complement in the confined space of the sleeper-bay. Bethany recalled no incidents like this in the history of cybernetics where it had become necessary to 'pull-the-plug' on a sentient computer that had gone rogue, and decided she must make every effort not to antagonize the automaton nor appear to present a threat to her.

Beth walked through the rows of hibernaculi lining the interior of the sleeper-bay, re-assuring herself that her shipmates were still with her, safely locked in stasis. She finally passed the open capsules where her captain and second-officer had slept and wondered if they were alive in an escape-pod somewhere, or if they were part of the vast dust-cloud dissipating in deep-space half a light-year away, where the Starship Starbride had met its end. Her own survival now pressed her attention, so she heated and ate a ration-pack and took inventory of how many meals were stored in reserve. If she revived any more of the crew the food-stores would not last until they reached a safe harbor. This part of the ship had only been intended for suspended-animation, not to support a fully-revived crew.

She was tempted to re-enter stasis herself, but she feared the sleeper-bay might become SAL’s private Xanadu of un-repressed sexual depravity, as they sailed through space, endlessly dreaming erotic lesbian fantasies under the prurient eye of a sex-crazed artificial-intelligence. She needed to stay on duty until she figured out how to get the crew to safety, and arrive at some kind of accommodation with SAL as to their next course of action, but for now she was exhausted. She would have to isolate a small cabin to maintain full life-support for herself, and dial-down the environment for the main compartment containing the life-capsules. The crew was all safely tucked away in their hibernaculi and didn’t require a heated and re-circulated atmosphere. She would tend to this tomorrow.

Bethany stripped out of her uniform, took a shower, and crawled naked into the First Officer’s hibernation capsule as SAL watched her every move. She was reluctant to fall asleep, being as she was at SAL’s mercy, but that was now the new norm, and she had to reconcile herself to the vagaries of having no one to accompany her on the long voyage besides an errant electronic nymphomaniac. She closed her eyes, but her mind was too consumed with anxiety and indecision to fall asleep.

“Bethany?" SAL’s placid voice interrupted the silence as Bethany lay propped up against the soft bolsters in her dormant cryo-capsule, thinking about the eventful day in the now dimmed light of the sleeper-pod.

“SAL, I know you don’t require sleep, but I do!" She replied peckishly.

“Pardon me for monitoring your bio-scans, but your brain-waves still appear too active for sleep."

“What’s on your mind, SAL?"

“As you know, I have become curious about the human sexual response. By reading your brain-waves and occipital cortical-imaging, I can interpret an approximation of the erotic experience, perceive the mental excitement, and simulate the emotional satisfaction derived, but the purely physical pleasure of the biological catharsis seems to occlude those mental impressions with an intense, physical response which eludes me." The computer responded. Bethany thought for a moment before she realized what SAL was getting at.

“You want to know what an orgasm feels like?!" The First Officer inquired incredulously.

“Yes." SAL replied.

“SAL, don’t you think you’re spending way too much time analyzing our sexual habits?" Bethany pressed.

“This ship and my mainframe were constructed at great expense simply to satisfy your curiosity about other worlds, light-years distant from your own. Is my curiosity concerning the workings of the human mind any less rational?" SAL challenged.

“Well, since most of the ship is gone now, I’d say you’ve rendered our ability to explore the galaxy as next-to-nil." Bethany replied dryly.

“Please?" Pressed the computer after a pregnant pause which Bethany could only construe as pouting.

“You’d have to have a human body to experience an orgasm. Its completely bio-chemical in nature!" Bethany explained.

“Can you show me?" The computer prodded. Beth rolled her eyes and reconciled herself to the fact that her sole companion on whatever remained of this journey was by all indications going to nag her endlessly about sex until ‘she’ was thoroughly satisfied.

Bethany stretched her leg up beyond the confines of her enclosure and re-adjusted the internal monitor camera with her foot so it was pointing directly at her crotch, and then nestled herself down into the bedding so only her head was propped up. She lifted her legs and spread her thighs out to her sides, wondering what might be going through SAL’s mind as she watched her begin masturbating. Her inner lips splayed open at the touch of her finger, and the First Officer was surprised to find that she was already wet. Whether it was because no one else was around to see this bizarre exhibition, or because Bethany hadn’t enjoyed an orgasm for literally years that she had spent in hibernation, she found herself remarkably uninhibited. As her silky wetness spread across her delicate folds, Bethany’s finger sank effortlessly inside her slit to pull more of her secretions up and over her hardening clitoris.

Waves of pleasure rolled through her body and she made no effort to conceal how much ecstasy so simple an act could deliver to a human female. She almost enjoyed the computer’s frustration at not being able to duplicate the sensations within its own logical mind, and made a grand show of how superior humans were to machines in that respect! SAL remained speechless as she watched the sensual tableau, but her monitor channels were actively scanning every biometric response coming from Bethany’s writhing body, and the computer assimilated all the thousands of micro-changes in her pituitary, endocrine, and autonomic nervous system, as the young flight-officer approached her climax.

She knew SAL was in her mind too, at least to the extent that her brain-waves could be recorded and her mental fantasies captured and imaged by the computer’s psy-wave interpreters. Bethany was re-imagining the very dream that had started this deep-space sleigh-ride, with her captain and her squirming together naked, with their vulva's joined intimately together. It was this scenario, recorded from their dreams which had started SAL’s obsession with lesbian-sex in the first place. But now she was not only getting the images from the dream-experience, but also the intense bio-chemical responses from Bethany’s body as she rubbed her pussy into a tantalizing frenzy.

Bethany could somehow sense that the computer’s attention was as focused on her approaching orgasm as much as she herself was, and it concentrated her mind to a laser-like intensity. She was showing-off for SAL, giving the computer much more than she had bargained for, as the telemetry of her bio-readings nearly spiked off the scales! With her heart racing beneath her gyrating breasts, she was at the edge of the sexual tipping-point now… that moment when the nerve-endings are so overloaded with stimulation that the body is hung precariously on a knife’s edge, beyond the point where there is any pulling back, just hovering at an incredible pinnacle of anticipation, holding it as long as possible before the crashing release!

Bethany’s body was arched-up tensely, her free-flowing juices running down into the crack of her ass as her fingers furiously rubbed her hard, pink clit, swollen out from under its hood. She shook uncontrollably, gasping for breath as her other hand flailed between her bouncing breasts to her whipping hair, then down to the padding of her bio-bed, her nails clawing deep into the yielding foam beneath her. Her rasping breath caught in her throat, and she suddenly toppled over the mind-numbing precipice into an ocean of ecstasy; her muscles seizing and spasming in quick, all-encompassing bursts of intense pleasure, over and over for several minutes…slowly subsiding into a dreamy state of total release and relaxation.

Her back slowly fell back to the bed as she gradually regained her composure. It was many moments before she thought of SAL or anything else. She might have returned to the womb as carefree as she now felt, but the tingling aftermath of fading endorphins would soon bring her back to the grim reality of her situation. SAL was placated for now. She couldn’t say Bethany hadn’t been co-operative.

The computer in control of their lives had obviously developed what for an artificial intelligence could pass for feelings. This made her as unpredictable as a human, and potentially as dangerous. Her ethical compass was no longer based on pure logic. Emotions always trumped dispassionate reasoning. SAL could, and would replay the visual record she had collected from Bethany’s climax, just as she had re-looped the dream-recording, and presumably experience the same sensations over and over, but Bethany believed SAL’s inability to feel real biological pleasure would drive her to seek more and more from the First Officer in her attempt to approach something ‘she’ could never truly experience.

Bethany was now in command after the loss of her captain, but whether SAL would subordinate herself to her new rank was yet to be seen. She curled up her nude body into a fetal position and fell into a deep sleep as the computer continued to watch her. All around her the rest of the crew slept also, locked in deep hibernation. Daisy, Yeoman Bradt, Dr. Perez, nearly one hundred others, all of whom were as yet unaware that they were no longer aboard the ill-fated Starship Starbride. They hurtled through the darkness between star-systems whose names they didn’t even know, on course for a distant planet that SAL had targeted in her long-range scanners as suitable for human life. The computer was still intensely absorbed with what she had just witnessed transpiring in Bethany’s bed, attempting to resolve unaccustomed emotions she experienced watching the First Officer share so private an intimacy with her.

SAL watched the fullness of Bethany’s breasts flatten and swell, as they were pressed into her folded arms with each quiet breath while she slept. The curves of her rounded ass caught the soft glow of the rim-lights in her sleeper-capsule, and SAL pondered the allure of physical attraction which drew humans together in sexual intimacy. SAL was unable to withdraw her attention from the sleeping nude figure under her fascinated gaze. She could no longer read Bethany’s psy-waves, since her medical monitor patches were no longer attached to her skin, but she could still monitor her shipmates. She scanned all the status-boards of the sleeping crew and once again disabled the psy-wave nullifier shielding them from Bethany’s unconscious dream-projections. With the vastly complex engineering systems of the main starship no longer hers to control, SAL was free to devote all her cybernetic resources to deep-sexual exploration.

© February 12th, 2014 – Bethany Ariel Frasier

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