Voyages of the Star Hawk

Praxton - Book Five

by N.S. Howard

Praxton is now a member of the Alliance worlds and wins the contract to build the new generation of military spaceship which includes the Star Hawk. The Alliance worlds insist a large portion of the crew be made up with Praxton women to give them increased freedom, but it turns out the Praxton women want to keep their unique fashions and culture. This leads to a very different crew and regulations the Alliance worlds were expecting. And complications for Captain Julius Elmwood.


Chapter One


Captain Julius Elmwood stood, surveying the bridge of the spaceship, Queen Sophia. He checked with the steermaster. “Are we ready to orbit?”

The steermaster moved his fingers through the holographic display floating in front of him. “Yup, a piece of cake.”

Elmwood stepped toward his next in command, Morgan Regan. “Everything appears normal.”

“It does. Except for the second jump, most of the trip has been quiet.” She looked up at Elmwood, taller than most men with a lean build of a hungry tiger. Sky-blue eyes dominated his strong facial features. He kept his dark hair short.

“Yeah, it’s hard to avoid the rebels at every turn. Still, it was nice when they backed down.”

“You did a nice little bluff there.” Morgan kept her shoulder-length red hair neat. She was average height with a well-curved figure. Over the past four years, she moved up the chain of command for Terra Passenger Space Lines and her next position could be the command of her own ship. That was when a spot came open. New ships were not launched regularly. It depended on travel demand to justify new routes.

“I suppose so. But hijackers don’t like to take risks. They want easy prey. I suggested they might lose part of their crew and they left us alone.”

A sound chimed, alerting them that they were now in orbit around Praxton. Below the Queen Sophia, Praxton with red features dominated the view. Moving shuttles, two space stations and the new ship building facility passed by the viewscreens.

“What are you going to do with your time off?” Morgan referred to the twenty-five-day turnaround between cruises.

“It’s Praxton and so there’s lots to do if one likes adult entertainment. I know a pair of freelancers. It gives me a place to stay and I don’t need to go and party every night. How about you?”

The freelancers Elmwood referred to were unattached women who wore collars but would obey a male guardian for a price. The freelancers were frowned upon by other women on the planet but served a purpose for Praxton society. Men arriving on Praxton, to reside for a short time and in need of female companionship, would contact freelancers. There were few independent women on Praxton. Because of social pressure and the difficulty in getting financial freedom, almost all women were under the guardianship of a male.

“There’s not much for single women to do on Praxton other than in the tourist zone. But that ends up being just too much drinking. So, that being said, I’ve hired a freelancer.” Morgan glanced at Elmwood, curious if his usual authoritarian expression would change. “I figured I would at least have a friend for a few weeks, paid for, but still a friend. Shopping, a few bars and just relaxing. And no, not for sex.”

“That sounds fair enough.”

“I know what you’re thinking. I prefer men, but sometimes a warm friend, not for sex, is all I need.”

“I get it. A woman on Praxton has few options. I think it’s a smart thing to do to get a freelancer. It provides you with something to do and saves you the risk of being a single woman on Praxton.”

“Thanks.” She touched his upper arm. “See you in a few weeks. Maybe we can get together for a drink on Praxton.”

“That would be great.”

* * *

Elmwood was the last to leave the Queen Sophia. When he arrived at the waiting shuttle, the spaceship was busy with maintenance crews moving purposely. The Queen Sophia was a large passenger ship, and its twenty-four hundred metre length featured thousands of corridors, rooms, a myriad of machines and devices. All of which had to be checked, cleaned, repaired and certified for spaceflight.

A smiling hostess greeted him. She wore the standard dress for female flight attendants on Praxton, a dark blue, tight-fitting jacket with a deep V neck, a short, matching skirt, high heels, a dark green metal collar with identical wrist cuffs and a few gold glittering chains connecting them.

“Welcome aboard, Captain Elmwood.”

He couldn’t help but return a smile to the cheerful blonde and sat in one of the vacant seats.

She closed the shuttle door. “You’re our only passenger.”

“So much for efficiency.” He chuckled. “I’m thrilled to have you to take care of me in that case.”

She laughed. “What would you like? A drink or perhaps something to eat?”

“I’m fine.” He shook his head. “Are you from Praxton?”

“Yes, born and raised.” She nodded. “I’m so happy to be working on the shuttle team. I get to meet so many interesting people.”

“Does your guardian approve of you being away days at a time?” He knew shuttle crews usually worked several days on and off. It was easier to keep the same crew for extended trips then just a few hours on a day shift.

“Yes, he’s very good to me. He encouraged me to take the courses required to be on a shuttle crew when I expressed an interest in going to space.” She laughed. “Maybe he’s just wanting to get rid of me.”

“If so, the man must be blind.”

“Our captains are female, so we have an all female flight crew on this shuttle.”

“I feel very privileged. Is it possible for me to meet them? I would like to say hello.” He knew normally passengers didn’t get to go into the control cabin, but he felt his rank of a captain of a passenger ship would carry sufficient weight.

“I will check.” She smiled and walked up to the front, leaving Elmwood time to relax.

A few minutes later he felt a bump as the shuttle disengaged from the Queen Sophia and the starfield he saw through the window, actually a viewscreen that provided a high enough resolution as to be indistinguishable from a glass window, shifted. He watched as his passenger ship rotated in the view, dwarfing most of the other ships around her. The Queen Sophia receded as the hostess returned.

“The captain and first officer would be delighted to meet you. Please follow me.”

Elmwood noted they used Alliance world terms for the shuttle crew officers. He recalled at one time Praxton called their officers below captain as commander, followed by lieutenant-commander. The ranking originated from ships that sailed oceans, and it seemed Praxton was now becoming more in alignment with Alliance worlds.

The door to the cabin opened and Elmwood stood at the doorway, waiting for recognition.

Each woman greeted him, then returned to their seat afterward.

“I suddenly feel old. Both of you look much younger than when I first became a pilot.”

“Drug therapy,” laughed the first officer named Marcie. “We’re older than we look. Renix has been a pilot for two years now. I just received my shuttle pilot licence four months ago.”

“Welcome to the pilot fraternity. Any plans in flying something besides a shuttle?”

“Eventually I’d like to fly a hopper,” Renix answered. “I don’t want to be away more than a few days at a time. Hoppers are usually gone for three to six days. I don’t believe Marcie knows what she wants yet. She’s still excited to fly a shuttle.”

Elmwood understood about hoppers. The small passenger ships were well appointed and used by executives for short stays at close-by star systems. Often it would be a travel period of two days with a day long meeting. Then a quick trip back. “I suppose there’s an increased demand for those now that Praxton is part of the Alliance worlds.”

“There are a lot more business travelers and government officials coming to Praxton now.”

“The spaceports here are busy. It looks like Praxton is doing well since they agreed to join the Alliance worlds.”

“Well, Praxton wasn’t given much of an option. Still, in the long run, Praxton is going to do just fine. Our government won the bid to build the new Explorer Space Fleet. I guess you know how much revenue that brings in.”

Elmwood was aware of the Explorer Space ships. The newest military spaceships were made specifically to not only ensure peace in Alliance space, but to venture beyond the borders to establish a presence in rebel territory. He had applied for the position of captain of the first explorer ship, which would be commissioned within the month. He had already had two interviews, via video, and hoped to be short listed for the final interviews.

“If you’re planning to be on hoppers, does that mean you’ve had military training?” Alliance Military Space Command required all pilots and other executives on spaceships to receive military training. In case of a military conflict, the pilots and crew could be pressed into service. In effect, all spaceship executive officers were on reserve, and could be called up in an emergency. Elmwood had served as a pilot for the military for several years, helping his career to be fast tracked when he joined a civilian space fleet.

“I served in the Praxton military for a short time, before obtaining a guardian. That means my training with Alliance Military will be reduced from eight weeks to four.”

“Good for you. Serving on spaceships can be a rewarding career.”

* * *

After the space shuttle landed at a ground port, Elmwood used a ground shuttle to reach his next destination, the apartment where his hired freelancers lived.

Grata greeted Elmwood at her apartment door. The large suite covered half of the thirty-third floor and afforded a great view of the city skyline. “It’s wonderful to see you again, Master Julius. It has been a long three months since your last visit.” She looked at Acacia.  “You remember Acacia, of course. We have also added a new member to our household.”

Elmwood looked at the woman waiting further back, her hands held behind her back. The tall brunette peered at him with a forced smile.

“Her name is Emmia. She has been with us only a few weeks.”

“Wonderful to see Acacia and you. I look forward to being acquainted with Emmia.”

Elmwood insisted on carrying his own luggage to the master bedroom and later settled in the living room on the couch. Acacia sat on his left as Grata passed around glasses of wine. With a hand on Emmia’s shoulder, she directed the newest female to kneel on the floor in front of Elmwood and sat on Elmwood’s right.

Grata initiated the conversation. “I know you just arrived on Praxton and you have a different view of local time. Let me know whenever you’re hungry or tired.”

“Thanks, I’m okay for a while.” He felt the women on either side of him curl up close to him, resting a hand on his lap and arm. “So, Emmia, where are you from?”

“Provost, it’s a small world and far from here.”

“I’m familiar with it. You came to Praxton for fame and fortune?” He gave her a smile, letting her know he knew the reason most women came to Praxton as a freelancer.

“I wanted to visit other worlds and Praxton sounded so exotic.” She nodded. “At least compared to Provost. So far it has been a good experience.”

Elmwood relaxed with the women, sharing a few stories of life on a starship. As a captain of a passenger starship, it meant intimate relations with the junior crew members had to be done carefully. It wasn’t forbidden, but Elmwood knew there would be consequences if problems occurred by his involvement with them. Executive crew members were possible, but he still needed to be cautious. Passengers were considered off limits, meaning his visit to Praxton presented an opportunity he had been looking forward to. Later, he would choose who he would share a bed with.


NS Howard "Voyages of the Star Hawk, Praxton: Book 5"


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