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The Cleon Memorial Library For discussion of Traveller fiction, both official and fan-written. Fan-written drafts are explicitly welcome.

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  #11  
Old June 21st, 2019, 06:48 PM
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“You don’t want that one,” called the Captain Aegzllo to the white male before her. “Red Pelts cannot be tamed. Their fire is unquenchable since the Sack of Gashikan, Senior Scout.” Zhevra felt her fire rise again at the Logaksu to malign her with the vulgar name for the Suedzuk. She wanted to raise her eyes up to the cur and correct him with a Suedzuk’s proud voice. Yet, her anger’s rise caused Gevaudan Cannagrrh to step back a pace. She risked a glance up to see his ocean blue eyes analyzing her with an intelligence she could not fathom staring at her as he was. It was unsettling, causing her some noontime heat, but she kept her grit.

Zhevra guessed that the name on the right breast of his HEV was his. His face was gentle, the eyes betraying a long history of experience. The eyes were elderly but his head, shoulders and body under his bulky spacer’s suit was young. Was this Vargr cyborg taking anagathics to stay young? Zhevra knew of the controversial drugs the affluent used to halt the aging process. Missing a dose so late in this one’s years and in this current era could be catastrophic. Just how old was this white Vargr? Old and cybernetic. The negative traits began to pile along with her anger.

“I can smell the embers still,” said this Gevaudan. He said it to her, facing Zhevra. But she could not tell if the words were for her or the scavengers some paces away. Having the full look of him, Zhevra continued to hold the line under her foot, proud of her red fur coloration though she secretly despised the foul history of the Sack of Gashikan. The Sack had subsequently caused the marginalization of her people to the distant, Trailing Vargr Enclaves, her kind pushed to the edge of Charted Space, to the edge of extinction.

The Scout, still a strange career for a Vargr to Zhevra’s reckoning, held out his claw back toward the seller. It was a gesture that soon produced a hard-copy set of papers, Zhevra’s slave history and a slave’s collar with an electronic clasp lock from his thigh pocket. Gevaudan looked down the list of her past buyers and sellers, her transports across Tuglikki Sector and into the Thoengling Empire. Turning a page, he looked at her list of concubine skills. Slightly surprised, he looked at her and leaned forward, his white muzzle over the same line her foot dared to cross.

“You aren’t a concubine, are you?” the white Vargr asked in a whisper to Zhevra.

It was true. Zhevra had been captured by Corsairs as she was traveling Spinward to escape both the fighting and the racist hatred for the Suedzuk these past years. She was an engineer. Zhevra had been passed over by buyers and sent further Spinward to more distant markets. At least it had been in the same general galactic direction she had intended. But how did the white Vargr before her know? This was the first time they had met.

The question from the Scout named Gevaudan remained. Zhevra shook her canine head in the negative.

“I see and smell now,” quietly declared the white male before Zhevra. “Put this on and be free of this life. You will still be a slave, but I offer so much more in potential.” He balled up the papers into a wad and held them behind his back with one white claw. But before him, Gevaudan held out in offer was the slave collar. Zhevra looked at the barbed device, one meant to keep slaves from becoming rowdy or physical by its painful pricking action on the inside. The wearer would be unharmed unless they took actions beyond normal walking. But once she put it on and closed it, it would lock and only this white Vargr to become her next master would know the combination.

Zhevra considered her options in a split second. Gevaudan was actually giving her a choice to be purchased or not. No more cages. His ship could not accommodate the stock barracks. From her experience, ships of that size, no more than two hundred displacement tons, would have to hold slaves like Zhevra in the staterooms or in cryogenic sleep chambers called low berths. It was now either Gevaudan’s ship or return to the cages of Captain Aegzllo’s loot hauler for yet another market elsewhere. Zhevra was on a cusp of decision to stay with what she knew, the familiar; when the other part of her brain, her mind that was eager for a change, caused her right hand to reach out and take the collar from Senior Scout Gevaudan Cannagrrh. Partially surprised at her defiance, her anger at the scavengers, the Suedzuk proudly fed the opened and hinged collar through her red mane neck ruff and swing it closed. It snapped locked at both an internal, mechanical click and a tiny beep of its simple electronics. Despite her action, she stood taller and looked Gevaudan Cannagrrh square in the eyes. “Don’t underestimate me,” she said to him in Gvegh.

The white Vargr sniffed once, looked up and distant to the horizon to remember something private and nodded, “Never.”

“I’ll take all of them for the average of them,” announced Gevaudan to Captain Aegzllo.

Zhevra could see the surprise on the scavenger captain’s canine face and in his aura. He was doing the math in his head and after a few seconds he came up with a number, “That’s fifteen slaves, Senior Scout. Are you able to take on that many?”

“Sixteen,” corrected Gevaudan. “I’ll take the taped male too. How much?”
The Logaksu captain had to recalculate, “Sixty-four thousand, per the average. Are you not going to haggle?”

The challenge registered on the white Vargr before Zhevra, but he answered with, “You get money, an empty hold and get to call it a successful day, Captain. Haggling in front of these ladies seems rude to me.”

That won Gevaudan Cannagrrh points, Zhevra registered as she brushed excess mane fur out from underneath the prickly slave collar now around her neck. The Scout was just as disgusted with Captain Aegzllo as she had come to hate the scavengers. She began the first changes in her attitude towards the cyborg with sinus issues.

Aegzllo seemed about to retort, his mouth open as if his jaw were on the tarmac. But wisely, at least to Zhevra’s perception, he nodded assent to the transaction. “Sold,” was all he could say.

“Sold,” Gevaudan agreed. “Have them all delivered to my ship over there. I will load them myself.” He turned to the line of purchased concubine slaves. “Ladies. Welcome to the Sixth Horizon.” Then he tapped his comm at his ear and spoke into the microphone near his mouth. “Vincent, Bob, it’s Gevaudan. We have sixteen Vargr coming. Prepare the ship for embarkation and lift. And notify the Tower we are leaving for out-system.”

* * *

“And as you have guessed,” Zhevra told the advocate and somewhat to the Psion in her cell, “this is when I met my husband, Gevaudan Cannagrrh. Good night, Gentlemen.”
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Last edited by The Pakkrat; July 14th, 2019 at 09:09 AM..
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Old June 21st, 2019, 06:57 PM
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V. Regina (Spinward Marches 1910) A788899-C, Rorroksueknea (Gvurrdon 2628) B574500-8 of Zhevra’s testimony
Allain Templeton and Khzaeng returned the next morning. Again, formally dressed in each’s profession, they came into Zhevra’s cell, bringing breakfast. The advocate had a new pen today now that he would be writing much more in his shorthand script.

Zhevra was already awake and up. She had just finished performing pull-ups from the bars in the front of her cell. Obviously one to keep up her muscle tone, she obediently moved to the rear corner of the new cell at the order of the guards to allow the Human and the Psion entrance.

The three ate breakfast, Zhevra’s protein bars and water. Templeton had yogurt and granola, like one who had taken up vegetarianism. Khzaeng supplemented his spiced meat with leaves of uncooked spinach.

Allain broke the post-meal silence with, “When, if ever did you learn that Gevaudan Cannagrrh, your husband was a Psion.”

Zhevra was in the middle of drinking water and was unable to interrupt. Coughing a little and wiping her mouth, she answered, “My husband is not a Psion, Allain Templeton. Get that down in your notes right now or get out.”

Allain produced his new pen and made a written note in his shorthand somewhere in the pile of notes and spoke as his pen hit the hardcopy, “Accused believes her husband is not a Psion.”

Zhevra narrowed her eyes at both the Human and the Vargr Psion. She glared at Khzaeng for a second.

Khzaeng straightened his robe, “I did not tell Advocate Templeton. I am a Vargr, I am a Regency citizen, I am a Psion.” He could have gone through with his Psion’s Oath, but Allain waved him to silence.

“Truth be told, Ms. Cannagrrh,” the advocate admitted, “Last night I did some digging. I don’t know if you know this, but Senior Scout Gevaudan Cannagrrh appears in legal records from before the Collapse of the Third Imperium and here in the Spinward Marches.”

Zhevra moved from the fold-down table set into the bars and sat on the bunk to adjust her torso straps holding her breasts. “Go on.”

Allain produced a small sheaf of papers displaying a transcript in which some of the names in the dialogues were named Gevaudan Cannagrrh. “He and another Society of Equals Vargr female were found to be psionic just at the close of the Fifth Frontier War.”

Zhevra interrupted with, “The other was a precog named Uthka Varzeekh.”

Allain tilted his head in the asking and yet submissive Vargr gesture in patience. Then he continued saying, “Amazingly he was in the very same room with then Duke Norris and several other dignitaries of the Marches. Your husband was found to be a teleporter and kept an entire base of Imperium Aslan guards busy chasing him. When he grew too tired to use his talent they stunned him and dragged him before Duke Luis of Lunion the next day. But because he had committed no true crime against the Domain of Deneb, Duke Norris, in order to take a step toward peace at the end of the War, banished Senior Scout Gevaudan from the Domain as the new Archduke of Domain of Deneb and as Archduke – much to the ire of the Duchess of Mora present also - ordered him to take his older sister and the precog, one Uthka Varzeekh, with him. The Senior Scout was never part of the Outworld Coalition and no one could prove he was an advance spy for the Society of Equals who also took minor part in the Coalition.”

“For the crime of being psionic?” asked Zhevra. “From what I know of the Regency, psionics is out and legal.”

“This was just after the Fifth Frontier War and twenty-three years before the Regency was declared by Archduke Norris, Ms. Cannagrrh. Until then, psionics-trained sophonts were not as honorable as they are held by their Oath today. Today, Regency Psions register their talents, swear the Oath, Humans shaving their heads and getting tattoos. Vargr Psions die their facial fur in similar indication.”

“I gathered that,” said Zhevra who looked to Khzaeng.

Allain produced the recording device and said, “The Senior Scout then was in his late thirties. If he was alive when he met you, he must have been on Anagath-A still. That also indicates that he was well paid in his travels of Gvurrdon Sector. Shall we continue your story?”

Zhevra was enriched with this new information about Gevaudan and said, “Let’s.”

* * *

The newly-purchased concubines were marched to the smaller landing berth of the angular starship captained by Senior Scout Gevaudan Cannagrrh. Some brought small bags of personal belongings they had begged the scavengers to allowed them to keep. Last in the line, Zhevra had no possessions other than the loose crimson dress that kept threatening to blow in the winds across the tarmac. She saw over her shoulder that storm clouds were on the horizon and closing. The wind was wetter and she could feel the electricity in the wind. There was to be lightning and thunder. The Suedzuk held down her exposing dress as Gevaudan Cannagrrh welcomed each to his ship, the Sixth Horizon as she could read Galanglic on the side of the dart-like vessel.

Zhevra smiled to herself as she recalled Captain Aegzllo’s farewell speech to the departing concubines and her parting gift.

“From what I hear of this Senior Scout, concubines,” announced Aegzllo, “is that he buys entire lots and then takes them to his homeland polity, the Dzen Aeng Kho, the Society of Equals for you who don’t speak Gvegh.”

Aegzllo allowed the line of departing slaves to pass him, escorted by Tooth Decay and some other scavengers. The male in a crimson kilt was at the lead of the line and had no words for the Logaksu as he was still being helped by the female behind him to painfully peel the tranquilizing tape from his fur. The yelps and hisses from him as strip by strip took more of his own fur from his hide looked quite painful to Zhevra. “I will drink to your better life outside the Wilds tonight, concubines. Farewell.” He continued to stand there with his hands on his hips seemingly ready to feast on his success in the sell-off of his remaining slave stock.

Zhevra adopted the cowling, submissive gait and stance as she passed Captain Aegzllo. He spotted her and said, “A good price for a Red Pelt bitch, eh Suedzuk?” Aegzllo said it loud enough for the few other scavenger Logaksu and the slaves in the line in front of Zhevra.

With her lowered stance, Zhevra slid subtly left and passed closer to the loud-mouthed Aegzllo. Just as her collar rubbed her neck with its barbs, she rose with a spring of her entire body and landed a solid, jarring uppercut with her left fist. The punch to his hammered jaw rose the slightly larger Logaksu captain off his feet to fall backward onto his back, supine on the tarmac.

“I am no Red Pelt!” exclaimed Zhevra without breaking a stride. She continued onward as if the scavenger was the last thing on her mind, though she did shake out her left hand smarting from the uppercut.

The loot hauler crew ran to help Captain Aegzllo who had hit his head on the asphalt and did not rise until the slaves had marched half way across the landing field towards the wedge that was Gevaudan Cannagrrh’s ship.

To her surprise, the Urzaeng Arksouel, the Logaksu Daeos and even the Logaksu Aerrkang still peeling tape off his fur began to applaud Zhevra by clapping their claws together and swishing their tails in gratitude. It was the last she saw of the loot hauler scavengers and their Captain Aegzllo. Zhevra said nothing in return but rubbed her neck where the barbs of her collar had irritated her neck.
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Old June 21st, 2019, 07:02 PM
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In single file and under watch of the paid scavengers from Aegzllo’s loot hauler, the slaves were to climb the steps up to the airlock on the starboard fore of the ship. The white male stood at the bottom of the boarding stairs.
To each of the purchased concubines, he gave a slave collar to put on themselves before him. Zhevra watched from the back of the line as each was given a speech, some rules she guessed, and the concubine agreed to by locking the barbed collar around their neck ruffs. Then the slave would climb, at Gevaudan’s invitation, the stairs to embark the ship.

Zhevra took the time to examine the vessel. It was indeed two-hundred displacement tons. It was easy to estimate. The class had been illustrated in a ship recognition file Zhevra had studied in her Naval Officer Training Curriculum add-on classes during her time in the Service Academy back home. The Sixth Horizon was a Far Scout a longer-range craft than the usual Scout ships of only one-hundred tons. As an engineer, though, the Suedzuk could see that this Far Scout was a variant. Both the in-system maneuver drive and the interstellar jump drive were much larger than a craft this class needed. As the line of concubines moved forward, she guessed that the ship could jump at least three parsecs and perhaps push at least four gees of acceleration when not jumping. She could not see them now that she stood at the side of the ship, but on the march across the tarmac, Zhevra had noted the two weapons turrets along the fore-aft axis on the dorsal side of the craft. The ship was armed with three weapons each turret though she could not tell from the distance then what the exact load-out was. The entire ship was white with red striping, airlock door and cargo hold door. It had a weathered look of age and repeated atmospheric reentries. Some touch up paint was in order, Zhevra decided. It looked fast for an Imperium design. Since the Collapse some fifty years before, long before her own birth, Third Imperium ships were rarities thanks to the infectious Virus that overtook them, turning them into vampire ships.

Zhevra approached the boarding stairs and saw two Vargr-shaped robots and almost started. Robots have no charisma and almost no place in Vargr society save for the most utilitarian task-sets. Fears of Virus infection scratched at the back of her mind as she watched. Not being able to back out of her decision, Zhevra was powerless to watch the two canid-shaped, Vargr-like robots worked to load what little valuables and keepsakes the line of concubines owned. One was labeled on its right breast metal chassis ‘Bob’ in Galanglic and the second was labeled ‘Vincent’ in the same. Both were bright gleaming in brushed nickel armor plating and working efficiently. To her, they seemed to be infection free as they complied with the Senior Scouts commands. She concluded that these two robots were the one’s Gevaudan had addressed over his comm headset at Aegzllo’s loot hauler. They were done loading possessions and began to ascend the steps when Gevaudan halted Zhevra, presumably to give her the same speech as the winds picked up again.

In Logaksu language, Gevaudan asked Zhevra, “Can I have your name? I don’t want to make the same mistakes as Captain Aegzllo, miss.” His demeanor to Zhevra was sincere in the asking. She could tell by his stance and the focus of his blue eyes.

“Zhevra,” the Suedzuk said in her own, accented dialect of her ethnicity. In Logaksu however, she added, “My name is Zhevra.”

“Zhevra,” said Gevaudan, “like the large female, the Urzaeng is it? I have never met one of your um-“ He let the last trail off as his eyes ranged over her pelt.

She finished for the white Vargr, a rarity to her in return, “Try ethnicity, Gevaudan Cannagrrh. It’s safer.” Her hand was still smarting from decking Captain Aegzllo.

“I’ve assigned you with the Urzaeng, Arksouel in the aft passenger cabin. Ten are going to sleep the journey in low berth. You and Arksouel will double-occupy the stateroom on my waking shift. Let me know if you need anything, ma’am.”

It was the ‘ma’am’ that won him more points in Zhevra’s world. She had not been respectfully called ma’am’ since her days in the Llotree Navy. She liked that this Gvegh had manners. Smiling privately, she ascended the stairs to the airlock. Below her, the Senior Scout was wrapping up the boarding of his ship.

Stepping up the stairs, Zhevra could already feel the electromagnetics of the Far Scout active. The maneuver drive was online since the ship’s power plant was still ‘hot’ from its landing earlier that day. Additionally, as Zhevra placed her first foot into the threshold of the airlock’s outer door, she could feel the vibration of the active ship. Remembering Gevaudan’s call to robots Bob and Vincent, the engineer in her marked that the two must have software programming for crew tasks.

Five of the concubines not selected for travel slumber gathered in the galley as Gevaudan Cannagrrh closed the airlock upon entry. Zhevra watched as he led the remaining ten slaves down the ship axis corridor in the center of the ship to a starboard side room adjacent to her assigned stateroom. Being familiar with naval ships, Zhevra guessed that this last room before the internal door to the cargo hold was the low berth chamber. The Sixth Horizon, must have had one cryo-sleep chamber per person. Though safe enough to use, Zhevra did recall stories of those low berth passengers whose bodies refused to awaken at journey’s end, dying in transit. Zhevra, secretly to herself, thanked the Senior Scout for selecting her to remain active on this journey. Cages were bad enough, but the claustrophobic encapsulation of a sleep berth was something she never hoped to experience. As Gevaudan to put the ten concubines to sleep, the male Aerrkang being one of them, Zhevra went to the third stateroom assigned her. Arksouel the Urzaeng had gone directly there and entered while Zhevra lingered in the galley.

When the door to the stateroom did not open at the touch of her hand on the access panel, she knocked hard on the door with, “Hey! Do I smell or something?” At first, Zhevra thought that the Urzaeng female was initiating her shift in the stateroom and was already in bed and asleep. But then the door unlocked and opened.

Arksouel looked down at Zhevra a third of her own height and said in Logaksu, their only shared language, “No more room here. This room mine.”
Zhevra countered with, “But Gevaudan said we share this stateroom. Why do you get this one alone?”

“Urzaeng too big and this room too small,” explained the gray female with the huge claws. “Tell him to give you another. Get.” With a shooing motion of claws that could easily enwrap Zhevra’s head, the Urzaeng then backed into the stateroom and made to close the door.

Zhevra stuck her foot inside the threshold by stepping forward and closing the gap between the two females. The large Arksouel growled and her gray tail stopped, a sign of aggression. Simultaneously, Gevaudan Cannagrrh stepped from the low berth chamber and closed the hatch and locked the sleepers inside. Zhevra bared her teeth at the Urzaeng. This was unacceptable to the smaller Vargr. The Suedzuk was only doing what she was assigned. The Urzaeng was having none of it and gently and firmly pushed the smaller Zhevra back out into the corridor and added, “No room, little one. Get.”

“What is wrong?” asked the captain of the Sixth Horizon. He was still in his orange HEV, his Spacer equipment belted on the suit.

Zhevra pointed at Arksouel, “She won’t let me in the stateroom you assigned me, Captain, and I can’t sleep in the galley or anywhere else on this small of a ship. She’s not a Spacer it seems and doesn’t know about double-occupying.”

Arksouel pointed back at the smaller, red Vargr, “May be concubine, but Urzaeng too big. No sharing stateroom.” It was clear now to both Zhevra and Gevaudan in the corridor that the Urzaeng’s command of Logaksu was poor at best.

“I don’t-,” Zhevra tried to interject. But she was cut off by Gevaudan who to her was calm and collected. His eyes flashed that ocean blue as he too looked slightly down at Zhevra.

“There must be a reason, Zhevra,” said Gevaudan who laid a calming, white hand with black claw nails on her red shoulder. Then he looked up to Arksouel and asked, “Can you tell me why Urzaeng do not share staterooms, ma’am?”

The ‘ma’am’ had a similar effect to Arksouel as it had on Zhevra because she could see the effect that respect had on the tall and stance-ready Urzaeng. The huge female seemed to calm and her tail moved again. Her aura changed now that the captain spoke to her. It was uncanny, but demeanors and body language were hard to falsify to the Suedzuk.

Arksouel took a moment to form her words. “Is because all ship rooms too small, too small for Urzaeng. Also, Urzaeng value what little space we have. Get me? Urzaeng not share with each other, so why share with other folk?”

With a gentle, herding action, Gevaudan guided Zhevra to fore up the corridor a short bit and took her place before the stateroom door. Below all, the maneuver drives came online and gravity in the starship changed from Rorroksueknea’s surface gravity of half to a full one gee of gravity. All of them felt it but Gevaudan reacted the least. He then spoke to Arksouel again, “So, this is a cultural behavior, an Urzaeng folk tradition, to not share staterooms, ma’am?”

“Yes, you get it now, I am thinking,” said the Urzaeng female who again backed into the stateroom. Zhevra began to believe that Gevaudan was losing the stateroom, his stateroom and face to a concubine he now owned.

“I can solve this, Arksouel, if it will mean peace,” offered Gevaudan Cannagrrh, “and it will mean obedience in the future. ‘Get me?’”
__________________
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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

Last edited by The Pakkrat; July 14th, 2019 at 09:25 AM..
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Old June 21st, 2019, 07:07 PM
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The Urzaeng digested the offer. Then she nodded in agreement as the white Vargr closed the stateroom door on the thankful female.

“But Captain, where will I-?” asked Zhevra who was perplexed that he had given in, risking charisma, his face, in the exchange with the Urzaeng female.

“I have a solution, Zhevra,” said Gevaudan as he continued herding the Suedzuk forward up the axis corridor. “I was not placating Arksouel and have lost no charisma. Look.” Having reached a portside door, just past the galley seating area, Gevaudan unlocked and opened the last of four staterooms on his ship. Zhevra who was before the final door adjacent the locked ship’s locker further forward of this one, saw into the opening door.

Immediately through her olfactory sense, Zhevra could smell Gevaudan’s personal scent in the stateroom. This was the captain’s cabin, his room. It featured two, fold-down bunks but the upper one was stacked with extra possessions. Pictures were held to the stateroom walls by tiny magnets, each of them printed photographs of places and people. Gevaudan stepped in after Zhevra and began to straighten the stateroom like an embarrassed male pup before his dam.

“You will double-occupy with me, Zhevra,” he said. “There are no weapons in here, so don’t get any ideas, ma’am. Just…make yourself at home and let’s make this three weeks’ journey work, okay?”

Zhevra was stunned into silence, not from surprise at the invitation, but rather from never having roomed with a male crewmember, not even back in her navy days. Though the Suedzuk were close-knit in the packs, even gender proprieties were respected. She looked about the room from her stance just inside the door.

Gevaudan Cannagrrh walked past her to exit the stateroom and added, “I have to get the ship underway. Be back later.” Then he turned left and forward towards the ship’s bridge, leaving Zhevra alone in the captain’s cabin.

Zhevra’s years in the navy had given her experience in shipboard operations, both as an engineer and as bridge crew. For her, a starship captain’s cabin was some on board heaven of increased luxury above and beyond the underlings. It was a concept blown out of proportion because charisma, Vargr self-esteem, elevated a pack alpha or head of a family unit. Zhevra stood in the captain’s cabin of the Sixth Horizon and processed the misconception for the first time. And she was in a male’s stateroom to boot. Sure, Gevaudan had the usual, male trappings of clothing, unkempt bed bunk, females of desire on the wall-

There was one picture of a female that looked suspiciously like Gevaudan Cannagrrh. It was magnetized to the wall over his desk in the stateroom but also among the others like a group of conquests or fantasies from the captain’s bunk. The white fur of this female who was similar to the captain posed on purpose for the camera. Zhevra stared intently at the picture. As she noted the deep ocean blue eyes on the female in the photo-capture, the exploring Suedzuk barely felt the lift-off of the Sixth Horizon via its maneuver drive. The ship lifted as Zhevra studied the white female Gvegh Vargr. She looked serious, businesslike behind her eyes even as her face, pose and stance masked her with an outwardly playful demeanor. But Zhevra, who was used to reading others by their body language, had to guess which was the real person in the picture since she had no Mag or Lek to draw upon in a face to face encounter. In this, Zhevra was just as blind as any other, non-Suedzuk Vargr. None of the other sub-species to spread out in diaspora seemed as attentive to surrounding bioelectromagnetic signatures subtly given off by quiet plants, louder animals and loudest sophonts.

There was nothing for it. The captain had made his solution. Zhevra began straightening up the stateroom, finishing what Gevaudan Cannagrrh has started in inviting her here. Perhaps during jump transit, she would truly clean this male’s miasma of claw sweat and pheromones. The single most inviting thing about Gevaudan’s stateroom was the fresher, a shower-toilet hybrid that was interchangeable and likely a feature in each of the staterooms of the Far Scout. If true, then she placed this variant starship of the class a Courier of VIPs, a fast runner of dignitaries between the stars. Again, if true, then why was a Gvegh captain running slaves? Was not slavery illegal in many polities before the Collapse? And what about the current era of interstellar civilization outside the Wilds, in the states of the Safes? Zhevra was not naïve to think such was impossible given how interstellar society had collapsed with xenophobia being the local rule of the day. Gevaudan Cannagrrh seemed mainly civilized and – well, above – stooping to slaving here, outside the lawless worlds yet to emerge from the darkness of the Virus era.

The shower Zhevra took was hot. The shower head was adjustable to a higher-pressure pulsation. The Imperium knew how to make them, Zhevra concluded. Her sore muscles seemed to thank her for the freedom, if only temporary, from the concubine slave life. She stood in the shower and let herself cry in sorrow and in thanks that she was still alive and despite all that had gone wrong on the Varda liner and still travelling in the same Spinward, galactic direction. She sobbed raggedly for the male pup. She cried for the pup’s dam. Zhevra cried for the vampire ship victims. Tears welled and were washed away by the hot shower. A hot shower was the one moment of true privacy and loud enough to not be overheard in letting one’s Suedzuk guard down and enjoy getting clean. So often and for so long, her people had to be on constant vigilance against anyone who could recall the Sack of Gashikan, some long-lost event for which Zhevra and her kind were still being persecuted. The release she felt at last!

She was showering for far too long for the water recyclers, so Zhevra ended it. With a naval experience, she toweled off in the fresher-shower, letting the drain reclaim the water off her body. She squeezed her mane of excess water too before finally stepping from the shower back into the stateroom. In the cabin, Zhevra stood in the center and looked about for something to wear besides a whore’s crimson dress. The dress needed washing, likely as much as the other concubines’ dresses. They at least might own some other apparel.

And idea struck her to search Gevaudan Cannagrrh’s stateroom for some stored lady’s clothes that were supposedly collected by males as trophies of one night stands or dating conquests, or better yet, relationship keepsakes. Instead she found his clothes, some exploration tools and other items she expected a ‘scout’ to own that was likely forgotten in favor of a life as a Courier and in Gevaudan’s case, a slaver. She found that the desk was equipped with a laptop computer terminal slaved to the ship’s computer and was likely used as a ship’s purser duty station. Zhevra doubted the robots Vincent and Bob did the day-to-day business of running a starship for Gevaudan. She continued looking about.

Zhevra was searching the cases and boxes shelved in the overhead bunk when Gevaudan walked in on her. She was still unclad in anything from taking the shower and becoming a snoop. How it must have looked to the Courier-slaver at seeing her reaching high above her height to rifle through his things! Internally surprised she looked at Gevaudan even as she turned her breasts away from the white male whose face was rapidly turning a shade of pink diluted by his white facial fur.

Gevaudan stood there for a spilt-second, seemingly having forgotten in his duties in that he’d assigned Zhevra to double-occupy his stateroom. Though she had turned her red posterior-dorsal fur to him and her white anterior-ventral away, she had the military dignity to cloak her pride and made no move to cover herself though her red and white tail acted differently in trying to hide her form while looking like a typical wag-curl about her.

Summoning her brand of bravado, Zhevra asked the frozen male at the closing door behind him, “What’s the matter, Captain? Never seen a female before?” Back home among each other, the Suedzuk had been close-knit enough that nudity was normal and often a necessity. But after so many years in the Service and travelling, Zhevra had developed privacy.

The pink-faced, white Vargr turned his head and went to his locker and opened it. “S-sorry,” he quickly apologized. “I forgot I had double-bunked with you here. My fault. It’s been…a very long time since I-.”

An apology. Zhevra could not remember the last time someone had actually and sincerely apologized to her, a Suedzuk, though her ethnicity did not figure into this encounter. Gevaudan was truly shy! She saw it in him as she looked at him over her shoulder and reached for her torso bra and then her undies from where she had discarded them on the bunk. As there was nowhere else to go and the shower still quite wet, Zhevra kept her back to Gevaudan, who’s Mag was heightened though muted because of her dampness. He was watching her covertly askance. Disarming the encounter as a return favor for the apology, she asked Gevaudan, “Is there anything that I can wear, Captain? Some work clothes perhaps?” With her breasts now covered and slipping on her undies, she finally turned back to the Gvegh still fidgeting in his locker and still quite embarrassed if his demeanor wasn’t false.

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Old June 21st, 2019, 07:11 PM
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“Uh…sure,” answered Gevaudan abashedly, “Over here.” He closed the locker in which he had deposited some of his gear. He was already out of his HEV and dressed in a shipboard flight suit. The only thing utilitarian that hung on his belt was a cylindrical device that had heat-dispersing fins at the handle’s end. Was it some sort of high-temperature flashlight? In the captain’s quarters, he carefully avoided touching Zhevra like she was electrified in passing beside her to a set of drawers. In the bottom drawer, the slaver produced a set of work overalls, a single piece uniform with a front zipper and belt loops. “Here,” he said as he handed the uniform to her, “It doesn’t fit me anymore since I was aug-“ the white Vargr cut himself off.

Zhevra received the uniform and looked at the insignia on the upper arm sleeves. It displayed the logo of a pair of upper canine teeth over a blood red circle field. “Augmented?” she completed Gevaudan’s sentence. She slipped a leg into the uniform. She again saw the black wafer stick poking out from behind his right-side base of his skull between layers of white ruff. “Must have been some time in the past. Was…was it with your consent?”

Zhevra recalled myths and tales that some Virus entities had viciously experimented and ‘upgraded’ sophont slaves they had captured, whether on vampire ships or on Virus-held planets, by implanting often vulgar and unsightly cybernetics even if such was not needed due to loss of limb or other body part. Such horror stories only heightened the xenophobia most worlds held in fear of the next incoming starship to descend from the clouds. Who could say what would step from the airlock of a vampire ship? Any Vargr that had visible ‘upgrades’ was immediately relegated to the bottom of racial charisma by those still pure of flesh.

Gevaudan slipped past the dressing female. “Yes,” he said. “Long ago. Back then, cybernetics was not so…. feared.” Zhevra thought he sniffed once to stifle tears at hearing him do so. “You don’t think me an enemy, tainted by Virus, do you?” he stated matter-of-factly opposed to a true question as he pulled his back his top to reveal his torso.

Zhevra saw that the white Vargr before him was no mechanized cyborg, no abomination of Vargr and machine. She could see that he no longer fit the uniform she was now donning. His white-furred torso bulged from implants of bio-cybernetic subdermal armor plating under his hide. The bulges almost looked overly muscular, as if the Gvegh was compensating with false shapes or forms. His only other betraying technology was the metallic beveled collar he seemed to never remove. Now, to her, it seemed more related to his cybernetics. Zhevra shook her head in the negative to answer Gevaudan when he turned to see her silent stare. This close in the stateroom, she zipped up the duty uniform and received a belt from him to cinch up the excess clothing about her waist. Zhevra could now sense his true Mag and Lek by the way her own fur raised – the parts that were closest to the undressing Vargr before her. He was nervous and his Lek was saying so.

“Good,” Gevaudan said and immediately followed up with explaining, “I tried very hard to only select augments that were concealable, but the Integrations rigs put these on my face, the last place I’d have wanted.” He pointed two index claws at the rivulets of gunmetal circuitry running like metal tears down his cheekbones from his eyes.

Zhevra remained voiceless as she stood nearer to the stateroom door. Just who was prying into whom now that she had sensed his shyness in interactions with females and his augmentations? And was he ill with a sinus problem or did he dislike her scent even after a shower?

Compensatory, she averted her eyes and fidgeted with her slave collar to get it to settle correctly after bathing while Gevaudan put on a different top. Gevaudan Cannagrrh was not bulky strong or a hulk of a male like the Ovaghoun or the Urzaeng. He was nimble though in avoiding contact with a fur-only female in close quarters. Zhevra guessed him a pilot for such coordination. She could not see the slaver trusting the robots to fly the Sixth Horizon. He was smart, very smart in her eyes. Polite too. Willing to provide his private quarters as a solution, he was providing the ‘potential’ he had mentioned at her purchase in subtle ways she was beginning to recognize. But after this encounter, could she let her hair down in the face of an augmented, slaving, Gvegh, deprived (if the pictures on the wall were any indication) male – this Gevaudan Cannagrrh?

Dressed, the Senior Scout said to her, “Come. I need to speak to you and the other ladies.” Zhevra noted how he did not say ‘slaves’. Not once since he’d purchased the concubines had he used the word. She followed him out into the corridor and into the galley just aft of his cabin on the portside.

In the galley sat or stood the other five females and two sentinel robots, Vincent and Bob. Gevaudan let Zhevra join the other female Vargr who had changed into various arrays of civilian clothes though each still had an electronic, barbed collar on. Zhevra decided that the others had wisely held onto what little they could in their capture and enslavement. None of the slaves Gevaudan had bought were from the vampire ship, she noted. Dhaeos the Logaksu was seated while tall Arksouel remained standing with her long claws visible in her folded arms. The Urzaeng glanced at Zhevra then lifted her muzzle and nose a bit, a gesture of charisma, to give the Scout and only living crew onboard her attention. Neither were dressed in the hated crimson dresses.

Gevaudan waited patiently until the females had become curious enough to what he was about to say. Zhevra knew that by now the Sixth Horizon had cleared atmosphere of Rorroksueknea and was outbound for one-hundred diameters, or 100D as it was shortened, the system jump point into jumpspace transit. They had plenty of time between now and jump, Zhevra knew from her navy years. Zhevra settled the uniform on her form before the white Vargr spoke.

“Ladies,” Gevaudan began, “no doubt you are interested in your futures while in my care. Please know that I have been travelling this route long enough for it to be a rote endeavor. You might ask where our destination is. The answer to that is my home polity, the Dzen Aeng Kho, the Society of Equals as it is said in Human Galanglic.” The Scout repeated the name a third time in Logaksu just to make sure all six of the concubines understood the words. He sniffed once and scratched his head in quick thought.

Some name for a state that allows slaves, thought Zhevra. Society of Unequals would have been a better name since she was sure now that Senior Scout Gevaudan Cannagrrh was no smuggler. His ship would not allow for such as small as it was. His gaze fell upon her which caught her mid-thought.

“I cannot help where I was born and raised,” he continued as if he had read Zhevra’s mind. Had he? Zhevra found herself folding her arms to close her mind’s thoughts. “But despite the legality of slavery in the Society of Equals, being a servant is upwardly mobile. You ladies can become emancipated by your own hard work or other legal sticking points that keep you and your future masters on the right side of the laws governing owning servants. If you are abused by a master, you can appeal to the courts and they can, if they find broken laws, emancipate you to freedom.” He let that sink in before his next announcements. Though there were still frowns and stares, he had not lost their attention.

Taking in a breath, Gevaudan added, “I have become aware that not all of you are concubines by choice. Aegzllo is a liar, I now know. I won’t be dealing with him in the future if I can help it. But what I can help is you ladies. It has been my project since the Collapse to rescue victims of the Wilds and transplant them to the Society of Equals. It’s not pretty, their laws of immigration. In fact, the only way I can bypass their tight restrictions is by buying and selling slav-“ He paused in catching himself on the word Zhevra thought Gevaudan actively refused to say. “…skilled servants. And I try to transport the best. Tomorrow each of you will receive an ear hoop, a piece of jewelry that marks you as a servant, and if you will honor me by heeding my next request, a nice piece of precious metal at that.”
__________________
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Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

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Old June 21st, 2019, 07:15 PM
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“And that request is, sir?” asked Dhaeos the seated Logaksu female.

Gevaudan’s tail wagged at the question and he answered, “I’d like you to select a curriculum available in the computer terminals in each stateroom and take on any peaceful occupation beyond your coming years as a servant, concubine or otherwise. You will need to take your training in shifts over the next three weeks and be diligent in how you internalize your chosen profession. But it is my hope that as you step from this ship with valuable hoops in your left ears, you will have the skills needed to rise above your new status within the Society. You might be servants, but in truth be capable of a little more as I can provide. Perhaps your choice will emancipate you sooner than later. This is my charity to return to life what it has provided me earlier in mine. I was once in bondage to those unfamiliar to me. I intend to make sure that your choices are by your will despite your reduced status as bought and sold s-servants. Others of my home polity might use harsher words, but know that you can rise to citizenry, as an Unequal, or by examinations, an Equal of the Society. I did not write these laws. I hate them as much as I do the jokes and jabs those outside the Society aim at our sideways concept of Equality. I was only raised in them. By some miracle, the Dzen Aeng Kho survived the Collapse by implementing Virus Quarantine by barest margin. Other empires failed to erect such protections or were breached and Collapsed. In trade for your personal freedom, I welcome you to the Safe, the Society of Equals. Some will scoff at my methods. Others might hate me for propagating the trade. But life is preserved, precious life I see in you. Please. Continue living and strive higher. You can do this by educating yourselves however peacefully you wish. Let us get through these three weeks we have together and enter the next world with our heads high with charisma in defiant spite of our lower status. Bob there will help you as he is the ship’s Steward and can help in training as his programs allow. Vincent can also help train in other skills on his free time. Even I can assist you with a new skill when I’m not dead tired.”

A few snickers or giggles slipped from the females. He finished with, “I selected the six most trustworthy of passengers – and you are passengers – that I felt needed a leg up when we reach our destination inside the border of the Society. When, and I do mean when, you are emancipated or purchase your civilian status from servitude, you will have the choice: Unequality, in which there are other societal restraints, taking the Equality Test and becoming Equal or the third of leaving the Society for good. You can read up about what that means on the terminals. That is all.” As the other females stood up to either retire to a stateroom or cook a shared meal in the galley, Gevaudan leaned to his side and whispered to Zhevra, “I always wanted to say ‘That is all’.”

Zhevra smiled knowing full well the monotone, naval ending of a public announcement from her home Service. This Gevaudan Cannagrrh had a sense of humor and she found she liked it in a Captain. “Never in the naval forces, Captain?” she asked as the two returned the captain’s cabin.

“No,” answered Gevaudan, “just a Courier though I saw some sideline action in the Fifth-…in a war I had no business being anywhere near.” The white male’s distant look told Zhevra to neither disturb the nostalgia or to pry further. Then he recovered from his memories and looked longingly at his bunk. “I’m going to sleep. Think you can stay out of trouble – what was it, Sud-zuk?”

He had pronounced the name with a Gvegh accent so Zhevra corrected him by repeating it back in her native tongue. “Try it like this: Sood-zuk, Captain.”

Gevaudan was half into his bunk when he looked up to Zhevra and said, “You don’t have to call me ‘Captain’, or ‘Master’ or any other title, Zhevra. I dislike entitlements that I haven’t earned from the speaker. Does that make sense to you? Call me Gevaudan if you like. I hope the other ladies do too.”

Zhevra considered the invitation to informality if not familiarity and answered, “I was in the navy. It was drilled into me. But Gevaudan or ‘Sir’ will suffice. Better?”

The Courier-slaver nodded then laid down with a heavy thump into the bunk. Within a minute, he was covered and asleep. Zhevra stood by the stateroom and watched him for an extra minute before leaving. He looked like a lonely puppy by himself, with no family or pack other than a name.

A second, perverse idea struck Zhevra. She could kill this Gevaudan in his sleep and take his ship. Snoring like that, the Captain of the Sixth Horizon would be hers after she found the command codes for the bridge.

With a snort, Gev lifted his head and looked hazily at Zhevra and said, “I can smell a bad idea when it’s in the same room with me. Go. Go do something so I can be fresh for the jump point.”

Zhevra was shocked at his reaction to her internal murderous notion. Had he read her mind or something? Was his reference to her by smell a pheromonal thing he could sense? The Suedzuk had never heard of such a thing capable to the Vargr race and she had sampled all the tales she could of the sub-species ethnicities. Logaksu were avid traders and plied the most efficient trade routes throughout the Vargr Extents, now Splinters. The Urzaeng were huge, strong, enduring, good for labor and not very bright. The Urzaeng were also quite capable of aggression even unto rage. To a lesser degree, the Ovaghoun were also capable of raging, but their minds thought of tactics first. The Aekhu, to her knowledge had integrated with the Collapsed Third Imperium and she did not know what became of them. Pity that the Irilitok had been enslaved by Humaniti in Mendan, Amdukan, Empty Quarter and Antares Sectors. They were the most likeable by the Humans of the Julian Protectorate and later were elevated to citizens through the beneficial Menderes Megacorporation which helped the Irilitok become bankers and financial bookkeeps. And she knew her own people, the Suedzuk, who had been marginalized on Lair to the strange and exotic wilderness of the original home of the Vargr. That exotic habitat was what forced the red-furred Suedzuk to become Aware, able to detect electro- and bioelectromagnetic fields she called Mag and Lek. But then, the Sack of Gashikan had done far worse to her people than they had suffered on Lair. The Gvegh, Zhevra was still measuring as she was new to Gvurrdon Sector. She thought to use the stateroom terminal to learn of Gevaudan Cannagrrh’s home polity, the Society of Equals by tapping the onboard Library database. But she decided to leave the white male to sleep his fair share. She didn’t want her tapping at the keyboard or speaking to the computer microphone to wake him.

Stepping out into the axis corridor, Zhevra padded aft to stop before the door to Jumpdrive Engineering. To her surprise, it was not locked. Looking forward up the corridor, she saw that none of the other concubines seemed to notice her, busy as they were setting out a meal of spiced meats. Zhevra’s mouth watered at the aromas flowing toward her, but ducked into the Engineering section that housed the ship’s jumpdrive. Did the Sixth Horizon truly have three or better parsec jump range? Looking around, the engineer in Zhevra emerged after so long, procedures and operations coming back like an estranged family member. Then she perused the system board and found that the axis corridor split the jumpdrive into two, port and starboard sections. Looking closer, she was shocked to learn that this variant of the Far Scout was capable of military grade, four parsecs jump range. It could cover slightly more than twelve lightyears in a single jump if the astrogation calculations were properly laid in at the bridge. She looked up from the board to feast her eyes on the portside section of the jumpdrive.
__________________
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Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5
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Old June 21st, 2019, 07:17 PM
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It was clean. She could sense it needed a tune-up. The field’s emitters could use a routine calibration. Easy enough and in time for jump, Zhevra thought. But out of the corner of her eyesight, she saw Gevaudan, naked and in a kneeling position, holding a white sphere like a world on his shoulders. The sphere was hinged and split along the equator. Double checking her eyesight, the Suedzuk realized why she had not sensed his Mag and the Lek of his cybernetics. It was a life-sized statue of Gevaudan she was staring at. The sphere, supposedly a planet was made so it could flip open, hollow inside.

Zhevra blushed under her white ventral fur and her ears burned. She was looking at an exact statue of a naked Gevaudan Cannagrrh. The statue did not feature the telltale signs of augmentations, but his…. best not stare at his crotch too long. He was not idealized at all. Is he the sculptor, she thought to herself? She did however step up to the statue and open the sphere. Inside the planet sphere was a small batch of bottled alcoholic atrake, a fruity alcoholic drink Zhevra was unfamiliar with.

“No time like the present and I’m parched,” the engineer in her said to no one as she grabbed a belt of tools, snatched up a bottle, closed the sphere and got to work calibrating the jump field emitters for the coming jump, wherever that was.
__________________
Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
The Pakkrat 0608 X58738-8 S va++ so+ zh+ vi+ da+ 534
On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

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Old June 21st, 2019, 07:22 PM
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VI. Regina (Spinward Marches 1910) A788899-C, Rorroksueknea (Gvurrdon 2628) B574500-8 of Zhevra’s testimony
“Now we know how you took down that many foes, Ms. Cannagrrh,” announced Allain Templeton the next morning. He woke her through the bars of Zhevra’s cell as the guards moved to unlock and open the door.

Zhevra yawned and stretched, her tail flaring outward as the advocate entered followed by Khzaeng who yawned too by infection. Surprised, he frowned at her. She shrugged back at the Aekhu Vargr Psion. Then she lowered her voice after the guards locked the door behind the two males and departed, “It is obviously not a known thing on this end of Charted Space that we Suedzuk have honed our sense for Awareness, Mag and Lek as I said yesterday. We don’t advertise either. It makes us look like one of him and we’re not.” Zhevra pointed to Khzaeng without looking at him. “He’s still waking up too.”

Allain pushed forward breakfast onto the fold-down table and produced his pen to write. Zhevra reached over and stopped him from such and requested, “Please don’t include that in your notes. It’s not that important. Call them lucky shots or inept victims of a Red Pelt or something. I don’t need some new stigma tacked on to us ‘Red Pelts’, okay?”

The advocate looked at the prisoner a few seconds then said, “Very well, Ms. Cannagrrh. Lucky shots, you say?”

Zhevra nodded as she took her claw away from his pen hand. It was a warm, human hand. By now over her shyness as a prisoner, Zhevra dressed in the prison blues she’d been issued and sat down to eat what Allain had brought her.

“New grub today,” he offered. “Hope you like it.”

Real meat. Zhevra chewed slowly and occasionally drank water. She savored the spices and the medium-rare, still warm preparation as Allain smiled at her hypnosis and set up his recording device and quieted in expectation of where Zhevra left off the day before. Breakfast was not wolfed down that morning.

* * *



Gevaudan had slept and rose at the appointed time, seven hours later. Time enough to walk in on Zhevra who was elbows deep in the starboard side jump emitters. At his entrance, Zhevra stood automatically like she was still in the naval Service, as a junior Engineer. Gevaudan Cannagrrh looked at her still dressed in the work coveralls he loaned her. Tools were already assembled back in the tool belt clasped at the small of her back. Before he could speak, Zhevra reported, “Sir, the jumpfield emitters needed tuning if this boat intends to make a four-parsecs jump, so I took the liberty of calibrating them myself.”

“You?” asked Gevaudan dumfounded.

“Yes, sir.”

“When?”

“While you were asleep,” Zhevra nodded in the direction of his cabin.

“Zhevra are you rated in Jumpdrive Engineering?” demanded Gevaudan Cannagrrh.

“Yes, sir. It was my Major in Academy and I have two tours on two naval vessels back home in the Enclave.”

“I see - no I don’t see. And stop with the ‘sir’ because I work for a living. You don’t just up and calibrate someone’s drives without asking first.”

Oops. Zhevra should have remembered that shipboard chain of command thing. She lowered her head as Gevaudan explained his exacting schematics of the ship he himself had designed from the Far Scout original class. “This is a Fast Far Scout, Zhevra, a variant. Next time, ask before you shirk learning a new skill and show me up with your before now hidden engineering expertise.”

“Yessir,” acknowledged, her nose tilted downward.

“Go eat. Go sit with the others,” commanded the Captain of the Sixth Horizon. “I have to begin calculations for jump. Let’s hope you were well trained in jump tech.”

Zhevra hung up the belt of tools and exited Engineering quickly and skipped forward to the galley. She could not wait until jump. To her memory, she had never experienced Jump-4 capability in either of her tours nor in simulations. Excited, she ate the leftover meat the other concubines had discarded in the miniature refrigerator in the galley and drank water. Arksouel and Dhaeos were present as the other concubines took their turns sleeping a shift or learning a chosen skill by taking classes on a shipboard computer terminal in respective staterooms. The white male passed her in the corridor and continued forward to the bridge.

“Bob,” called Gevaudan towards the pantry adjacent to the starboard side airlock. “Watch the Engineering section for me please. I am about to sit down and run the astrogation numbers for Okhtous (Gvurrdon 2425), okay?”

“Acknowledged,” answered the Vargr-shaped, Steward robot who moved aft to stand before the doors of the three Engineering sections.

Zhevra finished her meal and had small talk with Arksouel and Dhaeos. The two were comparing chosen curriculum and practicum with either Vincent or Bob. Arksouel had selected gourmet cooking. Dhaeos countered with Administrative Accounting. “I want to be able to work the finances in a madam’s house if there is need,” said the Logaksu concubine.

“I will make exotic pizza, Zhevra!” announced Arksouel proudly.

“Good, you two,” encouraged Zhevra. “Now please excuse me. I want to see how well this ship jumps.” With that she got up from the galley, cleaned after her meal and moved forward to the bridge door. The two ladies behind her whispered guesses to each other as to what classwork Zhevra was engaged.

Nervously, Zhevra, still in the loaned work overalls knocked on the bridge door. It could not be any larger than a two-person cockpit, the bridge. “Sir, it’s Zhevra. Permission to enter the bridge?”
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Old June 21st, 2019, 07:28 PM
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There was some small noise of Gevaudan doing something behind the door before it slid open. Gevaudan stood in his ship flight suit uniform and said, “Zhevra, cut the ‘sir’. You can come in but sit down and don’t touch anything you’re not rated in, okay?”

Instead of a yes sir, Zhevra nodded her head in acknowledgement then followed the Gvegh into the bridge. Immediately to her left past the door was the bridge ship’s computer terminal, no doubt adjacent to the actual mainframe in the ship’s locker just forward of Gevaudan’s cabin. The left cockpit chair was the helm and navigation boards. The right chair was the sensor suite, operations and engineering boards. Communications was shared between the two chairs in a swing arm mount. Not like anyone used communications or IFF transponders since danger of Virus was still out there in 1185 Imperial. Zhevra took a seat and kept her claws in her lap. She watched the engineering board, specifically the jumpdrive. The waveforms on the drive were in perfect unison with the jump field emitters. She smiled to herself privately.

Next to her in the helm-nav chair, Gevaudan sat down. Reaching for a coil of yellow and black cord, the white Vargr took hold of the end of the cord which featured a male wafer jack plug and stuck it into his skull behind and just below his right ear. Then he realized Zhevra was watching him do so.

“Heh-heh, I told you last night, I have augments,” he explained looking shy again.

“Don’t let me stop you,” Zhevra paused and ended the sentence with, “Gevaudan.” There, she’d done it. The Gvegh name rolled easily off her tongue without her Suedzuk accent hindering her.

But Gevaudan didn’t lay claws on any of the holographic controls of the helm or the navigation. He merely sat there with his folded claws in his lap and looking around, facially expressing decision on things Zhevra could not see. However, she could tell by his Mag and Lek in close proximity to her that his augments were active. Gevaudan was plugged directly into the ship’s systems, operating each board virtually. This too was new to Zhevra. She had never seen the like back home in the Enclave, on Llotree. It fascinated her as she tried to keep an eye on the jumpdrive board.

Reaching to his left, Gevaudan closed a briefcase that housed a laptop computer that was also connected by a universal connection line to the ship. The gunmetal case had a sticker of a long, green reptile. A Gvegh word was beneath the strange and long reptile smiling with its toothy maw open. Gevaudan saw her looking and said, “It’s my ‘gator, my astrogation assistance calculations checker. I use it to check my math. We’re ready on helm-nav. The vector is locked in. Astrogation lights are Green. Maneuver drive is powering down. Jumpdrive is charging. When it hits optimum, Zhevra, would you do the honors as I call prepare for jump?”

“Me, sir?” asked a surprised Zhevra. She knew how, but she also remembered his order not to touch anything.

“All hands and passengers, prepare for jump in 5, 4, 3,” the announcing Vargr waved to her to put her digit on the board to initiate the jumpdrive, “2, 1 jump transit.”

On cue, Zhevra automatically engaged the jumpdrive. Stars outside the ship became lines which then faded to a milky, quicksilver gray outside the two forward view ports. There was no lurch, no shudder, not even the need for that wishy-washy, Vilani “jump dimming”. The Sixth Horizon’s translation to jumpspace was smooth as moon silk to Zhevra. She sat there amazed at the stable field she was reading on the board before her. Imperium ships were very well made the Suedzuk concluded.

Gevaudan averted his eyes downward to the deck floor and levered a medium-sized switch. Reentry shielding plates slid down over the view ports and locked into place, concealing the roiling jump field just outside the ship. The Far Scout was now outside the known universe in its own pocket of artificial space to transit four parsecs. “Computer estimates 159 hours in the hole. We have some time to kill. What training course did you select, Zhevra?”

Still in awe of the ship and the calibration work she had tuned the jumpdrive with, Zhevra stuttered out, “I haven’t yet. I was in Engineering. That was incredible.”

“Meh. You did the tune-up. It’ll save me some money when we reach my office inside the Dzen Aeng Kho.” Zhevra did not miss the half-praise and smiled back at him.

During their time in jumpspace or as Spacers like Zhevra called “in the hole”, Gevaudan and the Suedzuk became more familiar. With Arksouel and Dhaeos, the three ladies shared the same waking hours with the Pilot-Astrogator. Zhevra smartly kept quiet about his particular style of ship operations through his cybernetic augmentation. The three females wanted to know about the Society of Equals. Between classes at the terminals and practicum with the robots or themselves, Gevaudan explained the seemingly hypocritical Society of Equals.

Using his portable ‘gator’ laptop again connected to the ship’s Library databanks, Gevaudan Cannagrrh led a presentation to the concubines who were interested enough to sit down in the galley of the ship. He stood in the axis corridor and spoke at length about his home polity. To Zhevra, it seemed that the white Vargr had done this presentation before. As he talked, she watched him, his movements, body language and of course secretly sensed his Mag and Lek. Smiling inwardly, Zhevra decided that Gevaudan was silly as an instructor. Though he had the look of experience in this presentation, his execution of it was haphazard, lacking structure.

A few ambitious historians in the Dzen Aeng Kho put the formation of Gevaudan’s home polity back as far as 400 Imperium Calendar. He produced a more accurate report that the Society of Equals solidified after the Trailing neighbor, the Thoengling Empire had been in existence for some time. Perhaps the Society was the Gvegh Vargr answer to the Empire’s stagnation as they moved a couple of subsectors Spinward and founded a new government, a communism with the promise of new and solid trade routes. With this came the offer of a concept called Equality, a strange form of earned status through meritocratic affirmation. It worked and many families and Packs settled in the growing entity at in the 840s.

However, the Society of Equals as they named themselves, found that though one can promise equality and an even keel of one caste, one people; the reality of inequality of the civilians and contributing citizen worlds evidenced. By this time the name Dzen Aeng Kho in the subsector named Dzen had stuck. The communist worlds paid their taxes to the Council and the polity grew in strength between the Thoengling Empire and the monarchy to Spinward named the Thirz Empire. Vargr just could not hold a homogenous society of equal, capable, educated and disciplined people. Change was evident in each generation. The Council of worlds decided to create a rigorous form of testing that would confirm an adolescent’s Equality, full citizenship capable of holding their own in the state.

The Equality Test was at first accepted widely and many took and passed it easily. Decades later, pride and nationalism reared its head and symbols of pride appeared. The canine fangs of the Vargr were adopted as both polity and racial pride in the Society of Equals. A Vargr’s fangs were indicative of capability and strength in all sectors and walks of life. Then came the refusals of the less-educated civilians to take the Equality Test. These conscientious objectors were immediately excommunicated, but far too many to force exodus from the Dzen Aeng Kho. Additionally, it made the government look bad to do so when their name meant the Society of Equality. The objectors were allowed to stay, but they had to be differentiated from full Equals somehow.

“It is to our shame,” said Gevaudan to the females listening to him, “that our leaders decided to punish the objectors. Doubly so to those who were brave enough to take the Equality Test and fail. Egotism and elitism seized an opportunity to permanently mar those who attempted the Test and failed. Dental surgery or oft-times brutal and painful canine extractions were the punishment for failing the Test. I am ashamed to say that the practice continues today. Without a Vargr’s canines, talking or eating immediately says to observers that the toothless is a failure and a burden on the Society, whether or not they are successful at a career. I hate it, the punishment. These were the Inequals, the failures. At least they tried and still were punished.”

The concubines were surprised as this news, but Gevaudan waited until they quieted again to continue. “I took the Equality Test and passed it. Every so often the Test is modified and altered to keep it fresh and to keep researchers from cheating. It features physical, emotional, mental and patriotic sections. One does not truly know what to expect when consenting to take the Equality Test and its consequences of failure.”

“What if one refuses to take your Test?” asked Arksouel looking at Gevaudan eye-to-eye while seated.
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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

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Old June 21st, 2019, 07:31 PM
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“I was coming to that,” the white Vargr answered.

Numbers of conscientious objectors to the Equality Test mounted at seeing their loved ones deprived of their long teeth. They passively and aggressively protested the Equality Test, staging sit-ins, occupations, and marches in the city streets past the halls of government. Due to their increasing numbers, the Council of worlds reacted by writing new laws in the books to allow for Unequals, the objectors to the Equality Test. In trade, those who refused to take the Test kept their teeth but were ordered by law to show their objection and protest by wearing special belts or sashes about their waists and about their heads, generally about their muzzles.

“You treat them like pets, muzzling them?” asked Dhaeos the Logaksu.

“No,” answered Gevaudan, “but the Council felt that if a protesting Unequal refused the Test, thus truly joining the Society of Equals, the muzzles sashes would hopefully and continually remind them to keep their opinions to themselves about how the state was run and prayed that someday an Unequal might change their mind and submit to the examinations. It is demeaning, yes, but to some level of pets, like Humaniti views Vargr as unintelligent canines – or so I heard on occasion in my travels Rimward. To this day, Unequals wander where they will, wearing their belts or sashes inside the borders of the Dzen Aeng Kho proudly or in bitterness, but they are generally barred from upper echelon careers as a black mark against the government, corporations and Packs. Who wants to hire those who refuse to become proper citizens, they ask themselves? I hate this practice too.”

Zhevra was about to ask a question, when Gevaudan continued with, “But the Unequals have their laugh too. This is where the jokes and jabs at the polity’s nomenclature comes in. Though the Unequals refuse the Test, whenever they want to protest, using silence and passive-aggressiveness, they purposely don their head belt or head scarf muzzles right in front of an Equal, more like it is a flag to wave at the hypocrisy of the Society of Equals, a state that once felt it could offer equal status and singular stratification to all. And they are right. This is another reason I took to the stars as a Courier and travelled Rimward, to see other forms of government, other peoples and their lifestyles. Though the Dzen Aeng Kho has no Scout Service like the Regency and the Spinward States, we do have Couriers that have ranks called ‘Scout’ as we are not military.”

“But back to the Society,” Gevaudan kept up his momentum of trying to redeem his home polity. The ladies were having mixed expressions as they listened further. “But the law does protect Equals, Inequals who failed the Test, Unequals and purchased servants. Slavery was enacted as a deeper punishment to criminals and to bring in more civilians who could not seem to get a foothold in the Society of Equals. It is a sad fact that not all Vargr are created ‘equal’. The Council legalized slavery to lessen the load on prisons and rehabilitation camps. S-servants can learn the skills they need to eventually purchase their freedom to choose Equality or Unequality or to leave the polity entirely. The laws protect abuse and require servants’ masters to provide home, clothes and tools for their unpaid work. If a servant is found abused, the courts can emancipate them summarily. This is both a boon and a burden on the Society, so it does not happen often enough in my opinion. So you see, your status as-,” Gevaudan paused to force the word through his gritted, canine teeth, “...slaves is upwardly mobile and it is my project to give you the means to rise up through the stratifications on your own through education and continued communication. I will write to you after you are sold to those families and Packs I deem worthy of your purchase. You in turn will earn a life away from the Virus-ridden Wilds, Safe from the planetary bombings and machine-style, sub-processor servitude to Virus entities and vampire fleets. This is my contribution to the interstellar community at large. I hope you don’t hate me for the polity I had the misfortune to be raised in. This is the best I could do to work within the system and beat it at its own game.”

That changed the ladies’ expressions to new lights of hope, but even Zhevra was holding out. He upped the ante with, “When we get to our destination in a few weeks, three jumps including this one, you will help me place you, as concubines or otherwise per your preference, with masters who you deem worthy. I make enough money on the return to the non-aligned worlds just outside the Wilds to not care about the profit your sale will bring me. Trust me on that. This is a Vargrtarian effort, herculean at that at times. But I value life, having seen too much of it lost in wars, Virus infection and the devastation brought to world by vampire fleets. Please help me to help you to a new life.” With that, the Gvegh male brought forth a wooden box with a hinged lid. Opening the lid revealed a black, velvet cushion lining cradling large, golden ear hoops. He then explained, “Servants by law must display their status but not by those barbed capture collars. Those are for my protection from you, sorry. They will come off at your sale and I hope when that happens you will wear these golden hoops with pride and think better of me when you depart my care. Your left ear will glint with something other than the steel ones other s-servants are forced to wear by laws I hope are someday repealed, when we no longer need slavery.”

There were some oohs and ahhs as the females looked at the earrings. Gevaudan set them down and reached to his hip pouch pocket for first aid medikit. “I brought this to make this procedure as painless as possible, but I’d like you six to be the first to put the hoops in your ears. The sleepers will get hoops too when they are awakened at journey’s end.”

Nobody moved at first. But bravely Zhevra took in a breath and raised a claw and said, “I can go first if you are rated in Medical, sir. I don’t need painkillers either. I can take the piercing if you doctor it properly.”

Gevaudan smiled at her and nodded assent. With antiseptics and a needle gun, Gevaudan gently as possible pierced Zhevra’s left, white-tipped ear at the base of its outer cusp. Cleaning the site, he offered her a small tube of cleanser. She had winced a little at the click of the gun, but then settled as the hoop was now hung, the deed finished.

Dhaeos volunteered next, saying she liked the design and the gold. Feeling it might enhance her looks as a concubine, a sex worker she called it, she sat forward to receive her ear hoop. Zhevra reached up to touch her ear hoop gently. It would take some getting used to. She had never worn piercing jewelry before. Always it had been some necklace, bracelet or anklet and only when the Suedzuk attended some formal event outside the naval Service.

“Eek!” whimpered Dhaeos the Logaksu. “Okay, I should have went with the topical painkiller. Sorry, sir.”

“It’s okay,” said the white Vargr slaver, for that was what he was still, to Zhevra. “Here is some cleaner and this will ease any soreness.”

Not to be outdone those smaller than her, Arksouel went next though she flattened her ears first and said, “I am smart. Numb me first.” Gevaudan complied. She asked him, “These are real gold, yes? Not fake?”

Gevaudan smiled as he set the needle gun after using a medical gel on the Urzaeng’s large left ear. “It’s real gold, electrum actually, naturally-alloyed with silver and copper to keep its yellow color. I chose to have these hoops alloyed in zero gravity for a purer alloy. Hard and beautiful in my opinion. They’re my gifts to you so you can remember me, hopefully fondly. When you earn your freedom, or are emancipated, I hope you will keep them or sell them. It would be your choice then.” With a click the gun put Arksouel’s ear hoop in place. The large, gray female didn’t wince, either out of bravado or that she truly could not feel the piercing from the deadening gel.

Since Arksouel’s piercing went better than Zhevra’s and Dhaeos’, the remaining three females consented to their hoops more readily and the process was soon finished. Each of the concubines were glinting from their left ears from ear hoops. Gevaudan stepped back to admire them, “Beautiful and regal. Stand prouder, ladies.”

Though they seemed to dislike being on show, Zhevra did feel a little more charismatic. Slaves were not dirty, downtrodden things, less than Vargr, if Gevaudan’s explanation was to be believed. They had laws in this Society of Equals that would make sure the concubines were treated fairly at their station. She straightened taller and proud. Who would be her master, Zhevra asked herself. She remembered that the slaver looking at her and the others had offered to help better place each concubine. Since she was no concubine or any experience other than the training she had been given from Madam Karrnae, Zhevra hoped to convince Gevaudan that she could be changed to a skilled worker status instead. For now, she kept quiet and planned her future for the first time since her capture on the scrapped Vadar. She would earn her freedom as an engineering tech and pass this stupid Equality Test that Gevaudan described. Touching her ear hoop again, she imagined whether she would remove the hoop. He had gone to much trouble, if her metallurgy elective class had educated her about zero-gravity alloys, to make and adorn her and the others.
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Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

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