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Old June 21st, 2019, 07:59 PM
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The Pakkrat The Pakkrat is offline
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VIII. Regina (Spinward Marches 1910) A788899-C, Jumpspace to Okhtous (Gvurrdon 2425) E555374-3 of Zhevra’s testimony
Another nightmare inflicted its torture upon Zhevra which lasted up until Allain and Khzaeng stood once more outside her cell. They watched as she woke from a dream where she saw or imagined her husband suspended in the nothingness of quicksilver jumpspace or outside it. The indecision between outside nothingness and jumpspace mire caught her in fear and frustration of trying to piece together a puzzle too complex for her.

Opening her eyes to the reminder of last night’s attack, Zhevra numbly sat up and regarded the two males who had returned. They brought breakfast. Allain looked remorseful but retained a professional demeanor. Khzaeng the Psion was likely already probing her mind to check her state of being. She felt weary from shaking all night, the chains on her like tiny alarm clocks. Exhausted was a better word, Zhevra concluded at the telepath as if to clarify her state to him. Khzaeng merely shifted his robe on his shoulders in response.

“Ms. Cannagrrh, may we come in?” asked Allain Templeton. Another business suit surrounded him as he cradled breakfast, his recording device and the hardcopy file. In his lapel was the pen she wanted to stab him with.

“And what if I say no?” Zhevra mumbled.

“Then Khzaeng and I will be forced to sit outside the bars to bring you breakfast and continue the interview.”

“I hate you, but come in. I should apologize.”

“Me too. I was wrong. I should have kept that part nonverbal and merely noted it on paper. I could not have known without tapping our Psion to avoid a trigger.”

Zhevra nodded and this time did not fire off a glare at the Aekhu in the robe. “I am sorry. The doctors on Dzuerongvoe said I have PTSD after-…. well I’ll get to that part eventually. Sorry.”

Allain nodded to the guards who unlocked the cell door to permit him and Khzaeng. Meat again for breakfast and coffee this time as an apology, the cream and sugar added further woke Zhevra to sit and eat. Cradling the warm and tall beverage against the morning chill in the cell, she spoke more of her tale.

* * *

“I can work any two boards I like on the ship as long as I’m jacked into the ship through my rig,” explained Gevaudan. He and Zhevra were seated in the compact bridge. A yellow flashing light on the astrogation board across from her was warning of imminent jump precipitation back into normal space. “Stand by to divert power from the jumpdrives for cooldown and to the maneuver drives, Zhevra.”

“Aye, Captain,” acknowledged.

The Sixth Horizon fell out of jumpspace, a majority of its liquid hydrogen or L-hyd fuel spent in the four parsecs jump from Rorroksueknea to Okhtous. The milky gray quicksilver split at the bow and melted to black of space and stars. Slightly different in position but still in familiar constellations to Zhevra, she reported to Gevaudan, “Clear of jump. Drives on cooldown. M-drive readied.”

“Engage,” Gevaudan commanded. Then he spun his chair on its mount to face Vincent who was helping Zhevra by monitoring the ship’s sensors. “What have we got on passives, Vince?”

“No contacts and ready on comms.”

“Very good,” said the white Vargr. “Vectoring for the system’s only gas giant and bringing up skimming protocols for later. Have Bob warn our passengers of the rough ride we’ll be enjoying.”

“Acknowledged.” Vincent then stepped from the bridge in a Vargr-like lope, obviously programmed to mimic the living gait of biological Vargr.

“Is it not illegal to initiate communications still, Captain?” asked Zhevra who was inured to radio silence even this far past the Virus era.

“The system knows I pass through and refuel only. They know my signal, a patterned howl if you will. It’s not long enough to infect in either transmission or receival.”

“Oh. This is outside the Wilds.”

“Yes, Zhevra. You are free of that which Regency calls the Dreamtime.” Gevaudan smiled at her warmly.

The gas giant ahead was a blue ball of methane. It had planetoid moons and a tiny ring of ice barely thick enough to rate as a ring at all. The flightpath for fuel skimming lit up on the navigation board but the Pilot-Astrogator kept his hands off the controls and instead concentrated.

“You’re not going to do this on instrumentation or maneuver software?” asked Zhevra curiously.

Gevaudan took his eyes of the unseen virtual boards she could not see and he focused on her. “I never have. Manual only. It keeps me sharp when wilderness refueling time comes around. You might want to strap yourself in. It will get bumpy from upper atmosphere turbulence. You remember the simulations, right?”

Zhevra nodded and proceeded to work the web belts over her work overalls.
The Far Scout dipped into the upper atmosphere and bounced along at otherwise disintegrating speeds. “Opening scoops and queuing the fuel processors to chew on the gathered needs,” notified Gevaudan. Immediately the ship shuddered from turbulence. Everything outside the hull through the view ports was a pale blue below and stars above as he rolled to flush with the gas giant horizon.

The ride was harrowing for only four hours of turbulence against the hull of the Sixth Horizon. Zhevra watched as the fuel gauges rose slowly until full. Every so often the fuel processors would vent whatever was unneeded, causing the gauge needles to drop a step. The unrefined fuel was being replaced with condensed L-hyd.

Her hips were sore, her tail was stiff from being in the cockpit chair for so long. Yet even as her aches mounted, the shipboard operations were finally coming back to Zhevra. Her navy days as a junior engineer and bridge crew in the Service were revitalized even in this 200-ton Far Scout.

Gevaudan, a long-time Spacer, seemed to take it all in stride and for granted. He had said to his stock of slaves that this route was rote to him. This was merely a small part to a three-jump journey home to his Society of Equals. With the tank full of refined L-hyd, he at last pulled up on the virtual yaw and the ship answered by ascending from the upper atmosphere of the gas giant. Stars again ruled the forward view ports.

“Go aft and visually account for our fuel status while I begin calculations for our next jump and vector to 10o diameters, Zhevra,” Gevaudan commanded.

“Aye,” the Suedzuk said and left the bridge.
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Last edited by The Pakkrat; June 22nd, 2019 at 10:22 AM..
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