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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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  #31  
Old June 21st, 2019, 08:22 PM
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Gevaudan utilized a belted harness device called a grav-belt to ‘grav’ into the small metropolitan city just outside the Downport. Called a Startown, he named it for Zhevra, “It’s Gnoengungag Bay, the largest island on the planet. I have my ear comm if you need to call me.”

Not wanting to risk another ‘Sir’, Zhevra nodded and waited for her Captain to float a good meter off the ground in the grav-belt vehicle and zoom off towards town. Then she returned up the airlock steps to the Far Scout.

Out of curiosity for cabinets and rooms she had not seen thus far in the Far Scout, Zhevra used the combination she memorized to enter the ship’s locker. It was large and held the standard fare of VaccSuits, survival gear, Scout gear and the like she had come to know in her days of the Service. Inside was the ship’s computer and another access terminal though it was covered and unused. But it was the array of wall-mounted personal weaponry that caught Zhevra’s green eyes. Gevaudan was a former adventurer who really toured around!

There was a huge, barbaric maul hammer centered on the wall. It had strange rune engravings on its high-tech, low-purpose alloy head. This was not some tool. It was a weapon. Just below the hammer hung a Corsair’s weapon, a two-handed Vargr serrated sword with wicked edges. Zhevra doubted she could wield either of the melee weapons. Mounted above the huge hammer was an ornate yet functional cutlass in a decorated scabbard. This was a weapon a naval Service Vargr would wear in formal dress uniform. She might fancy swinging such a blade if need arose.

Zhevra spoke to herself in a hushed reverence of this ship’s locker, “I thought you said you were never in the navy, Gevaudan Cannagrrh.”

The locker continued to mount other weapons: a shotgun with an under-mounted grenade launcher with a strap that held a line of some dangerous ammunition and a real honest-to-Ancients single-use rocket launcher.

In the corner, nearest to the ship’s mainframe stood an actual set of battle dress combat armor sized for Gevaudan or his like. It was polished and reflective even if it was a little dusty from lack of use. A blinking LED light on the battle dress noted that it was plugged in for charging and ready for use. Zhevra played her hand over the armor as if it were Gevaudan instead and said, “You are far more that you let on, Captain Cannagrrh. It is easier now to believe your adventure stories.”

Just to try out the act unseen, Zhevra put her arms around the shoulders of the battle dress armor in a hug with her breasts against ‘his’ chest. She whispered to the armor, “Why yes, I’d love to dance with you, Sir. Nice collection of dangerous toys you have.” Though she could not lift the armor, she laid her head on the breastplate of the armor’s torso. “Just be a gentleman, Gevaudan Cannagrrh.”

As an afterthought before leaving the ship’s locker and now armory, Zhevra lifted the cutlass and partially unsheathed it. The gleaming, maintained blade of the officer’s cutlass revealed itself with a laser engraving in Galanglic. Since she could read the Human language she whispered as she read, “Captain Jacob Crow, INS.” Imperial Naval Service! This cutlass was from the Third Imperium, Zhevra discovered. Did Gevaudan kill this man, this Jacob Crow and take his officer’s blade as a trophy? Was it a gift? Questions that only piled up the mystique of her owner fired like synapses in her mind. She re-sheathed the cutlass and returned it to the wall. Then the Suedzuk backed out of the ship’s locker. She had rummaged through private and locked away past that now fed more mystery to the white Vargr who now owned her.

* * *

Zhevra flicked with boredom at the chains that had been returned to her and said, “No doubt you will look up records on Captain Jacob Crow. I later learned that the officer’s cutlass was gifted to Gev in friendship. I also later learned of Gev’s office in Gnoengungag Bay, where I returned just this year.” She then wearily fell into her cell’s bunk and covered herself. “Good night.”

Allain Templeton and Khzaeng looked to each other and then packed their items and departed her without disturbing the prisoner.

Zhevra was performing abdominal crunches and leg bicycling in the air of the cell the next morning when the advocate Human and the Psion Vargr returned. Her chains jingled as she repeatedly sat up at their approach.

“It’s like she’s fine one moment and then bang! She can tear into you the next,” Allain was telling Psion, someone who ought to know already.

“She is still in love with him, Mr. Templeton,” offered the Psion in a gentle voice almost hushed, “Vargr are just as passionate about mate relationships as you Humans. Sometimes more so.”

The two came before the bars of Zhevra’s cell. She was picking herself off the floor. Coming to a relaxed, digitigrade stance, she complained to the two males, “Hey. It’s been quite a few days since my last shower. And I reek.” She said that last with a disgusted sniff of her wrinkled muzzle and nose.

Allain looked to Khzaeng who nodded back to him. “I’ll make sure that goes through, Ms. Cannagrrh.” He then changed the subject with, “Captain Jacob Crow was a decorated naval officer and a shareholder in the Artemis Group you mentioned before. His service record and taxation records are on file way back to the Third Imperium, before the Collapse. You know how old that makes your husband, Ms. Cannagrrh?”

Zhevra nodded but said nothing until the males were seated and breakfast was served.

With Zhevra sill tethered to the back wall by single chain to her manacles and collar, the three ate breakfast and returned to recording her story.
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  #32  
Old June 21st, 2019, 08:27 PM
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* * *

Gevaudan returned to Sixth Horizon just before midnight and he was accompanied by a tram train of what looked to Zhevra to be passengers and luggage. Zhevra was dressed again in her loaned overalls belted to help fit her in his clothes. The Vargr she learned were tourists and business scouts, agents to scout the Wilds and other folk destined for Aellukh Subsector. The Captain had secured only eight passengers, three to occupy the staterooms now refreshed by docking services that had come by hours ago, to do the tasks of resetting the Far Scout as a Courier once more as opposed to a slaver.

The tram had a baggage car and a cargo container car trailing in tow behind the passengers’ car. The wheeled vehicle pulled up below the midline ridge of the wedge-shaped ship. Gevaudan was present to welcome his passengers and point out Vincent and Bob who began loading the vessel through its cargo bay ramp. The Equals ascended the airlock stairs where Zhevra greeted each with a polite bow, “Welcome aboard. I am Zhevra, the Chief Engineer of the Sixth Horizon. If I can help in any way, please notify me.” A couple of the passengers stopped to regard her, no doubt for her rare coloration, but then proceeded to either their assigned stateroom or to the starboard side low berth chamber just aft of them.

Passengers were settled, luggage was secured in cargo and the three, large and sealed containers were fixed in place aside the baggage. Zhevra guessed that the containers held speculative commodities, the trade blood of the interstellar polity. Likely, Gevaudan was to sell them on another needful world for profit. This was the income the Gvegh slaver was making as a main source. This was why he was nonplussed about profits from the sale of his ‘rescues’.

As Gevaudan closed up the airlock hatch, Zhevra asked him, “Do I get to see the cargo manifest, Captain? Or am I still a slave first?” The question was quiet enough and far away from the three medium-class passengers who were either in their staterooms or in the galley giving nutrition needs to the robot Steward Bob.

“Here. Peruse this if you like, Engineer, though I did not know you also wanted the Purser job,” he offered to Zhevra. Then he reported down the axis corridor to settle the five low berth passengers to sleep through to their destinations.

Zhevra flipped open the hardcopy manifest and sighed. She really needed to learn to read Gvegh. This was how she learned that her cyborg Captain could be literal when he chose to be. He had indeed let her see the cargo manifest. He didn’t say she would be able to read it. She could either take a Library course in written Gvegh or cheat and run the manifest through a translator software if there was such an application loaded in the Far Scout. Thus, the Suedzuk was not yet privy to the sealed cargo in the hold.
The Engineer then went to begin starship operations by hot-starting the onboard power plant. She fell into a routine as the ship was prepared for lift to orbit. Gevaudan then called her into the captain’s cabin on the portside opposite the passengers’ staterooms.

“I picked up some things for you earlier in town,” the white male began. “I’m pretty sure they fit given how loose my overalls are on you and your frame I captured for the tailor in town. I hope they will suit you.” On the bunk was a stack of clothes, uniforms, undies, bras and a utility belt full with an Engineering toolkit.

Zhevra moved to examine the clothes. Some of the pieces were utilitarian and a few were casual, everyday wear. This was more items for her than she had owned since stepping foot on the Vadar liner. She took in a breath of surprise but also of appreciation. “Thank you, Gevaudan,” she said and hugged the white male. She could feel his subdermal bio-plates under his skin, rigid and slightly flexible at the edges. He returned the hug with a dash of shy gentility. She felt it through his Mag and Lek.

“Keep your crimson dress,” Gevaudan suggested. “You probably hate it, but you are quite beautiful in a dress.”

“Oh you!” Zhevra huffed as she moved to try on a black ship’s uniform with the insignia of the Dzen Aeng Kho on the collar and upper arm sleeves. The utility belt fit better with less excess strap than his belt. The tools, sized for her, rode her belt better than the ones in Engineering.

“How do I look?” she asked as she had not moved to the small mirror next to the fresher.

“You look like my Chief Engineer and a stunning Suedzuk that can keep this bird in the air. One more thing.”

“What?”

Gevaudan Cannagrrh stepped up to her, close enough that she could feel his fields overlap with hers. It was very close.

He looked down into her green eyes and reached up with his white claws. She swallowed as his hands reached her capture collar’s electronic lock. Keying the combination over the only touch buttons on the collar, she heard it beep and mechanically click unlocked. Carefully, gently and to Zhevra, Gevaudan opened the device and freed it off from under her mane and neck ruff. Then he looked at her neck where it had been.

“Healed fine and no loss of fur,” he noted aloud to the two of them. “I’ll store this and you need not-“

“Can I keep it, Gevaudan?” she cut him off. “I mean, I don’t want anyone else wearing something that has taken my blood, even if you sterilize it. It’s… it has been on me for weeks and I want to keep it, like a souvenir. Am I being silly?”

Gevaudan sniffed the air in close proximity to her. It was not a snuffle or a huge intake of breath. It was almost an intimate gesture, Zhevra thought. “Of course you may. For as long as you want. I can purchase another. Put it in your locker next to mine, my Engineer.”

Though the golden hoop in her left ear still marked Zhevra as his slave here in the Society of Equals, her status would not be so apparent outside its borders now that her barbred collar was off. Through some unknown sense of loss, the reduced weight about her neck made Zhevra feel slightly naked without the collar. Smiling at the ship role he had reiterated, the red-furred in uniform black performed a small salute she had picked up from her Service tours. Now she could truly work without rubbing her neck raw, her calling from back in the Academy. Zhevra also marked the unspoken inference that he trusted her to work her position on the Sixth Horizon. For the first time, she as able to prove her skills to a vessel without sexist males in the Service pulling on her tail, flicking her ears or otherwise hazing a female Engineer on a starship.

“This isn’t the military, Zhevra,” said Gevaudan Cannagrrh. “I work for a living. ‘Sir’ me if you have to, but none of that entitlement crap please. I’m going to sleep. Would you please start up the ship and lift after contacting the Tower of our intentions? I’m beat.”

A cyborg with limits, thought Zhevra. Cute and Vargr limits. Zhevra acknowledged with a nod and covered up the male after he had disrobed down to his black mesh undies and climbed into the bunk.

“You have the conn.”

“I have the conn,” acknowledged Zhevra. Then she left him so as to perform starship operations.

The lift after a window of launch was confirmed by the local traffic control Tower was easier than the landing, and Zhevra was already able to see the stars over the island. Vincent, the Servitor robot sat next to her in the cockpit.
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  #33  
Old June 21st, 2019, 08:32 PM
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Robots don’t care what one thinks or asks, Zhevra thought as the ship cleared atmosphere and the Far Scout passed all the artificial satellites on its route to the jump point. The Sixth Horizon had been refueled by the maintenance ground crew at Gnoengungag Bay Downport. So, she opened a conversation with Vincent by asking, “Am-…am I the first female Gevaudan has become close to, Vincent?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Oh.” After a pause to vector the ship on the shortest route to 100 diameters from every system body possible, Zhevra asked another question. “How many? He is quite handsome for an augmented Gvegh.”

“Three, ma’am,” Vincent answered deadpan and matter-of-fact.

“Three.” She said the number more to herself as she locked in the vector. Though she was trained in astrogation, she knew there was time enough to let Gevaudan sleep and then come to the bridge for the jump calculations.

“Does he-…..did he love them, his previous?” she asked anew.

“Insufficient parameters. Please restate the question.” Vincent was a robot and not some confidante of Gevaudan’s.

Not used to robots since Vargr could find no charisma to give them that spark of personality and life, Zhevra rephrased herself and asked again, “Did he properly stave off entropy for each of his previous mates, Vincent?” It was almost a declarative that she asked in voicing the request for information.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Elaborate and augment please.”

Vincent checked the ship’s sensors per a subroutine and did so manually without any direct connection to the ship as Gevaudan did via his Systems Integration rig. “No contacts on sensors. Gevaudan Cannagrrh made formal marriage to three mates to current date. Each lived and worked on Fast Far Scout Sixth Horizon for different spans of time in years before divorcing him, all on differing reasons and personal priorities. According to verbal notations logged, Gevaudan Cannagrrh tracked their progress as civilians and as Equals in the polity. Each left the Sixth Horizon with full bill of health and sums of currency as to continue their operations elsewhere.”

“I see,” whispered Zhevra knowing Vincent’s Vargr robot ears could hear her. “Thank you. That is all.”

The cutlass, the tales he told without tells of lies and now three wives. Just how old was Gevaudan Cannagrrh, Zhevra asked herself.

Hours later, Zhevra finished her dinner as Gevaudan emerged from his stateroom. “Your meal from Bob?” he asked her. “It woke me, but I’m fresh and showered for duty.” He asked about the lift from Gnoengungag. She reported to him all was Green. He took to his breakfast from Bob the Steward robot. Zhevra held her question and retired, “You have the conn, Sir.”

“I have the conn,” Gevaudan answered automatically.

Alone in the stateroom, Zhevra privately looked at the pictures of the other female Vargr aside from Gevaudan’s slightly elder sister on the wall next to the computer terminal. Not some lusty icons for fantasizing over, Zhevra came to assume that these three were the previous married mates to Gevaudan Cannagrrh. Did they come to him like she had, as a slave rescued from the Wilds? The questions mounted again. Turning to prepare a shower, the red and cream female caught herself in the mirror next to the fresher-shower. She looked at herself at length.

Could she love someone who had purchased her, locked a slave’s collar about her neck, and who was so mysterious that questions flooded her mind? Then there was that twinge of attraction she kept feeling, especially whenever their bioelectric fields touched or in passing. She traced a digit claw over the wrinkled band where the device had been with her right extremity. With her left claw and a turned head, her glance and touch lifted to the ear hoop in her left ear. Though gold and an expensive alloy, did such a symbol mark her with love above just ownership? He had said the alloyed hoops were for concubines who were selected as making a cut of some sort, perhaps the “leg up” he mentioned in that lecture weeks before. Was Gevaudan robbing the cubs’ den at his age? Did it matter with his apparent age and cybernetic augments?

In the mirror, Zhevra thought to her reflection, You are way in over your head.

Her reflection responded with, He’s been a gentleman so far.

Zhevra continued to feel the healed ring about her neck and countered with, He’s old and a cyborg – with augments.

The mirror almost agreed with Zhevra, but then answered, If you never try after all that career work and suffering, will you regret it later?

Yes.

Her reflection smiled a secret smile, take that into the shower with you, dirty female.
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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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  #34  
Old June 21st, 2019, 08:35 PM
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X. Regina (Spinward Marches 1910) A788899-C, Orsesokhin (Gvurrdon 2323) A000874-E of Zhevra’s testimony
Zhevra completed her certification in basic flight school for Starship Pilot and added the skill to her personal resume, to file it with the ship’s Library. Still frustrated in she could not read that manifest, the Engineer continued to use the terminal in the captain’s cabin to learn to read Gvegh. A week later, the Sixth Horizon precipitated from jumpspace into Orsesokhin (Gvurrdon 2323), the newest polity capital of the much-reduced Thoengling Empire. The Far Scout had steered just outside the Collapsed polity in returning to the Society of Equals, but Gevaudan had claimed business there.

“It’s also a high-tech mining system full of relics that were preserved from the final push of the vampire fleets,” explained Gevaudan to Zhevra who was looking at the astrogation board to her left and in front of the Pilot-Astrogator. “Slightly more stringent laws, but that’s been because of decades of Virus threat and it’s an asteroid world. We’ll be docking at a space station, a large one. No Downport.”

Zhevra recalled the only asteroid world system of the Enclave Famuurueroergoghz, her home polity. Its Highport was a low population space station mated to the local Naval Base which bolstered the need to keep staff on hand. Pay was good and so was the system’s resource output to cut those checks. Her ship had made port there more than once during her patrol tour. Thus, the Suedzuk was intrigued at asteroid worlds here on the far side of the Vargr Splinters.

“This is a new polity for me, Captain,” noted Zhevra aloud, “Will they have a problem with me being your slave in Customs-Immigration?”

“While they do know the Society practices slavery,” comforted the white Vargr beside Zhevra, “the Thoengling Empire is in no position to do anything to us about it. They are still recovering from Virus and fighting vampire ships since they are right on the border with the Wilds. They need our trade. If anyone does touch you, Zhevra, you Infight them or tell me and I’ll Infight them, okay?”

“Yes Sir,” Zhevra said and smiled inwardly. He cared. He actually was protective her. Protective or possessive, asked her reflection from the mirror earlier.

With all the quarantine precautions still upheld to the highest degree of threat levels, Gevaudan hailed system patrols using a manual laser signaler in his claws. Additionally, Zhevra saw him plug another black wafer stick into his skull port before beginning to flash to the Thoengling ships patrolling the abundant resources and gas giants of Orsesokhin. A similar flashing returned from the lead system defense craft and a dialogue between them and Gevaudan continued. Eventually permissions were gained and the Sixth Horizon was granted leave to refuel over the gas giant with a high-altitude wingman patrol craft watching the Imperium-made Far Scout for signs of treachery.

“In this day and with Thoengling’s past losses, they are still on high alert,” Gevaudan explained. “But we are going to the Highport. Some of the passengers are bound here, the ones in low berth. Business Vargr.”

Without weather and atmosphere, the final approach was easier on Zhevra who was ordered to pilot to space dock as Gevaudan monitored. Again, their ship was escorted all the way in as station rail gun emplacements tracked their slowed approach to a docking gantry swinging from the superstructure’s concourse.

As soon as the umbilical power cables connected, Gevaudan used his cybernetics connection to stand down the ship’s power plant as Zhevra did similar to the bridge. On station power, Gevaudan went to wake the low berth passengers as Zhevra stood by to open the airlock at the standard mallet-knock on the outer hull. The gantry was safely sealed and the station security was outside to receive crew at the door.

Again, all five of the low berth sleepers woke safely and recovered on hot drinks and hot meals as security swept the Far Scout and tested Vincent and Bob with devices that scanned for Virus infection. If the little flag-waving actuator attached to the canary sensor waved, it meant that Virus was infecting the device and testing the device’s capabilities. It and the connected system, robot, or ship would be destroyed, cargo seized, passengers grilled for information and crews would be arrested and incarcerated if not executed.

But the Sixth Horizon was also a known ship and the sweep was routine and produced a clean bill of tech-health from station security. The Highport Authority representative met with Gevaudan and fees were paid in exchange for hard, plastic visas machine stamped with dates, windows of welcome to Orsesokhin.

Zhevra saw that the sealed cargo containers and some of the baggage in the hold were leaving as Vargr manned cargo lifters carried them into port for inspections even if they had been sealed the entire time. This was routine and Zhevra knew from back home and growing up that no chances could be taken even with Virus events in final decline in current times. She did manage a final peek again at the manifest after terminal classes in written Gvegh. It took a little time to sound out the Gvegh words and register them in her lessons. Gevaudan had bought and sold nothing dangerous. Exotic and rare clothing in tightly packed plastic rode the containers alongside home furnishings. In space, a domicile could better serve as home if it was decorated and the station workers wore something other than station overalls uniforms. She could smile then that her Captain and owner knew the value of simple pleasures and homemaking. It was another mark of attraction to Gevaudan Cannagrrh of Pack Cannagrrh and the Suedzuk had to acknowledge it this time with her mirror-self watching and nodding approvingly.
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Old June 21st, 2019, 08:39 PM
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He took her shopping once the disembarking passengers were released, luggage was surrendered, and speculative cargos sold at this year’s tax rates, given the local Balkanization of the government and whim of its leaders. Gevaudan led his slave Zhevra through the visitor malls and entertainment districts of the high-tech Highport. They ate a dinner at a restaurant with full service and enjoyed a zero-gravity sports event. Zhevra cheered loudly and called for more action at the top of her lungs as Gevaudan watched her get caught in the moment.

Only once did anyone local speak up about Zhevra being a slave. It happened in a store, as she was trying on dresses. A Gvegh Vargr male initiated a conversation with Gevaudan just as Zhevra was emerging from the dressing room to display black and yellow tabard and revealing hip dress combination. Gevaudan noticed him but redirected his attentions on Zhevra when the pair heard, “Why are you buying such expensive clothes for a slave, Equal?”

Using the term Equal meant that either the male was from the Society of Equals or knew of their societal stratifications. He must have recognized Zhevra’s gold ear hoop as she nervously showed it combining a black bell hip dress framing the yellow vertical tabard over her shoulders. The cincher that gathered the dress and the tabard was a gold leather that matched with her ear hoop. Gevaudan kept his eyes on Zhevra, but said, “Can I not acknowledge beauty?” She blushed demurely.

“Is she your slave or are you the butler escort?” the interloper intruded further.

Zhevra’s ears burned on the inner cups until they stung. In a dress she had not paid for, the Suedzuk could not confront the Gvegh male so curious. Instead, she locked her green eyes on Gevaudan, “Yes, I am his slave. And what business is it of yours?”

There was a circular display rack of stacked and hanging clothes in the establishment that stood between the brown male and Gevaudan. But from Zhevra’s angle, she could see the white Vargr’s left claw on the strange, finned torch on his belt. Also from her adorned angle she saw the flexing of metal fist claws tied to the brown male’s hands. A Corsair’s weapon of close melee combat, especially in Infighting or wrestling, the claw blades were handy, freed the grip of the user and were intimidating on sight to most other Vargr. From her vantage, Zhevra saw an unseen escalation between the two males.

“Just askin’, is all?” said the brown male. “Seems to me a dress like that belongs on a lady or a whore over a slave.”

Neither the brown Gvegh or Gevaudan possessed ranged weaponry. This could get ugly very quickly, Zhevra decided.

When Gevaudan did not speak, the male continued the provocation, “Can you affor-”

Zhevra heard the male speak, but her eyes returned to Gevaudan. When her focus landed on his white form, he blurred into speed too fast to follow with the eyes. But touch is fundamental and Zhevra could feel the fields from her owner flash from where he was standing, around the rack of clothes. When she could look to the brown male, Gevaudan had appeared beside the male. The cylindrical torch was in her owner’s hand and a hissing sigh could be heard as it was pointed at the brown. But to the Suedzuk, she could feel the electromagnetic field, invisible to the un-augmented eye, a blade of some kind. Out the pommel of the torch radiated heat rippling the air around the fins. It was most certainly an exotic weapon. She only had time to gasp before Gevaudan spoke.



“She’s mine, it is her dress, we can afford it and you are about to lose an Infight before it starts.”

The Gvegh male froze in place with the white male in his face, the hissing and sighing weapon at his throat. Then the acrid smell of the male losing his bladder control wrinkled the noses of all concerned. Zhevra managed a step back, silenced by the speed Gevaudan must have evidenced. Somewhere in the back of her mind, the memory of Gevaudan’s augments registered as the reason for his speed.

“Go shop elsewhere. These dresses don’t fit you.”

“Y-yeah, sure thing,” stuttered the male.

“Finestkind,” Gevaudan growled low.

The brown male backed away but after three steps began running for his life. Once he was out of the store, Gevaudan silenced the torch thing in his hand. The entire scene was over in ten seconds flat.

Zhevra’s mouth hung open. She had never seen such speed.

“Come Zhevra,” ordered her owner, returning his voice to his normal baritone.

The pair made over to the cashier’s counter. Gevaudan fished out his money. Zhevra could hear him panting though the white Vargr was calm and businesslike. “Keep the change for taxes,” he said to the cashier, a female Gvegh of mottled gray.

“Have a nice day, you two.”
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Old June 21st, 2019, 08:44 PM
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The shopping trip ruined, the pair returned to the Downport. Zhevra kept silent in the new dress even as she held tight to Gevaudan’s arm all the way to the Sixth Horizon. Questions blossomed in her head, but she bit her tongue to keep from saying anything.

The white Vargr by now calm, sat down and said to Zhevra, “You’re confused and your con is fuzzy. You must have questions. Ask.”

Zhevra froze in her dress. The questions that had been sitting in the back of her mind came out now that they were bidden by her owner. “What- what just happened?”

“A fool almost got himself killed on a low-law capital of the Thoengling Empire.”

Zhevra pointed at the finned handle that now hung on Gevaudan’s belt, “What is that? A weapon?” It was still cooling as the waves of heat dispersed from the fins still.

“Yes,” admitted the Gevaudan and he described it with, “It’s a Zhodani Mindsaber and is basically a cutting weapon.”

The answer did not seem to register in any knowledge of Zhevra who fired off another question instead, “Just how old are you, Sir?” The ‘Sir’ just came out of her mouth as an automatic honorific to her Captain and owner in one word.

“I was born to my dam, Souegh Cannagrrh Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh in 1072 Imperial calendar, 113 years ago.”

The age and the numbers again did not register until later when Zhevra had time to digest them. Then she kept firing questions that had piled up.
“Who is your sister in that picture in the captain’s cabin?”

Gevaudan looked in the direction of his stateroom then answered, “She is my Sister-Dame Qithka Cannagrrh, Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh, my elder by a several minutes, a litter mate.”

“Why do you have the officer’s cutlass of one Captain Jacob Crow in the ship’s locker?” Again, the questions had no rhyme or reason to their order or topic.

Gevaudan looked the other direction to the ship’s locker and answered, “Captain Jacob Crow is my friend. He presented me his officer’s blade. I do not know if he still lives, but I doubt it.”

“How were you able to tell what I was thinking that night I thought to kill you in your sleep?”

Gevaudan sighed, “Just prior to being augmented in the Darrian Confederation, I was tested and trained in psionics. I however only rated mediocre in clairvoyance and teleportation. It is how I moved instantly to that brown jerk tonight. The moment he started talking, I was preparing to jaunt to his side. I already knew he was an enemy.”

“How?” asked Zhevra.

“After my psionic training through less than Institute means, I developed olfactory synesthesia; I can detect by smell if someone means to harm me if they are within scenting range. The psionic doctors say it’s an aberration from not receiving full Institute instruction or that I’m a Vargr or that I’m Gvegh or that the combination of a Zhodani instructor paired with an Unequal precog caused me to have a strange way of using my clairvoyance talent of tactical awareness. I never used these talents as a career and stayed a normal, everyday Scout-Courier. I’m no Psion. Remember that, Zhevra.”

“That is why you sound like you have sinus issues, yes?” Zhevra continued her questions fearful that if she stopped asking them, Gevaudan would allow no further inquisition.

Gevaudan chuckled, “Yeah, I suppose to you it might. But our Vargr noses are better than Humans and my talent reached for the one sense, the olfactory, that generally can’t lie to me.”

“And the three females’ pictures on the wall next to your sister are your previous wives?” It was almost an accusation.

“Only until they could naturalize to the Society of Equals as part of my plan to fast-track individuals into citizenship of the polity, yes.” Gevaudan continued with, “The divorces were lawful, amicable, all arbitrated fairly and they made new lives on other worlds in the Dzen Aeng Kho. My first wife actually bought s-servants from me later with her own money along the same lines to help those I rescued out of the Wilds into her fold and protection. The web only widens from there, Zhevra.”

The questions came again from Zhevra, “So you are both psionic and a cyborg?”

“Yes, and please don’t say ‘abomination’ like others say the words ‘Red Pelt’, okay?”

Zhevra cooled at that. The mirror was pointed at her now. Since Gevaudan was seated and seemed no more a threat than a puppy with his claw in the treats jar, Zhevra began pulling off her new dress in favor of her ship’s uniform. “No more questions, Sir. I need to work off what happened tonight. I’ll be in Engineering if you need me.”

Gevaudan nodded. No more words were spoken.
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Two weeks and two days later, the Captain, the Engineer and two robots returned to Rorroksueknea (Gvurrdon 2628), where Gevaudan had purchased Zhevra and the other slave concubines. It had been a professional relationship for those two jumps. Zhevra spent more time in the three aft sections of the ship. It allowed her to think.

Gevaudan meanwhile performed his duties and had help from the robots to conduct more trade through the buying and selling of speculative cargos, products he knew that those worlds on the cusp of the Wilds could trust in their use and without the fear of Virus. The technology of the products he transported was too simple for infection. Since his meager four-ton cargo hold could only transport a small amount of needs, his arrival was a special treat since the Collapse of interstellar trade, especially with the Wilds. Out in the Vargr Splinters, Gevaudan did not have Regency’s restrictive laws to obey to come and go back to the Society of Equals.

The Suedzuk and the Gvegh sold their speculative for local currency to the various ranch owners of the agricultural communities of Rorroksueknea. The ranchers travelled far across the landscape in fusion-generated, electric ground cars to do business with the white Vargr from Spinward. Zhevra saw that this was Gevaudan’s main source of income and that it far outstripped the sale of the rescued, but enslaved concubines.

At the local Downport, Gevaudan met with slave fetches, slavers who knew the Equal or knew him by reputation. Rorroksueknea still lived in fear of a vampire fleet attack and kept their technological footprint low enough that other worlds might be greater magnets, preferred targets by vampire ships and the Virus hive-minds that controlled their movements through the Vargr Splinters. Thus, there were a few fetches present when Gevaudan alerted the seedier side of the markets. Zhevra saw now that Gevaudan purposefully kept from the speculative cargo markets until he had selected his next sixteen slaves. She also took note of his selective process. He was purposefully taking concubines aboard, prostitutes, or just females who, like Zhevra were down on their luck and would engage in any activity if it meant migrating Spinward to a Safe such as Gevaudan’s home polity, the Dzen Aeng Kho.

Seeing the process of selection and purchase from Gevaudan’s perspective, Zhevra had to admit it was disheartening that he could accept so few when there was a small of horde of concubines, female and males, who were willing or forced by local laws to accept the loss of their freedom in the promise of safety in an interstellar civilization over the Wilds. Would that he upgraded to a larger vessel, Zhevra thought. Then he could take on more. But the Engineer in her told Zhevra that to do such would reduce the performance of his travel and that could be dangerous with vampire ships, Corsairs who still predated the civilized trade routes and warring polities that still harbored the old hatreds such as the Society of Equals’ grief with the Thirz Empire still further Spinward in Safe space.

Zhevra could see the frowning faces of the fetched slaves that did not make this run’s cut. Gevaudan was not allowed to speak to the collected concubines in that he would be returning. He had to let the fetch merchants tell them such, which was not often. Sixteen ‘lucky’ slaves were elevated out of stock barracks cages and in various states of dress and taken under the Courier-slaver’s wing, literally under his ship’s wedge edge and figuratively into his care. He gave the female Vargr, as this run had no male concubines, the same speech and when there were still eager nods of acceptance and consent, each was given a slave’s capture collar to put on themselves.

The Engineer saw that the collars served two purposes. She felt their Mag and Lek fields change as each locked their devices about their necks. First, the collar reminded them to behave or suffer a nasty rub to the flesh as Zhevra had endured. It told them that they were indeed fully enslaved to Gevaudan and only he knew the combination to the devices. Second, the touch and feel of a metal collar reminded each that there was a responsible party in charge of them from purchase, into safe travel out of the Wilds and properly cared for up until final sale to a new master in the Society of Equals. To lay down the rules, as he had done with Zhevra’s batch of slaves, Gevaudan gave the six females the same speech about his route, the Society of Equals and how their futures were not terminal as servants. Each could rise up out of enslavement through the system and work towards their freedom at each’s own pace and merits.

It was heartening to Zhevra to hear the lecture again. Through her Awareness, she felt Gevaudan’s sincerity and integrity strengthening his aura and charisma. The first time around in her uncertainty as slave stock, she was disbelieving of this Society of Equals. Her heart opened again to the white Vargr who spoke and sniffed the air, using his tactical awareness psionic talent nested in his strange olfactory synesthesia. He could smell if the females, Zhevra included as she was standing at a parade rest next to him; smell if there was still hostility meant for him as their new owner. Again, Gevaudan refused or was unable to use the term slave, substituting servant instead. In a pang of guilt, Zhevra knew now the personal honor, integrity and charisma the Equal was putting on the line, hinging it on his success to transport sixteen fearful slave immigrants home to the Dzen Aeng Kho. It again endeared him to her when he dismissed the six favored concubines to staterooms and then laid the other ten to sleep in the low berth chambers, through the journey until planetfall on Gnoengungag.

And through the process, Gevaudan was showing great patience with Zhevra who was at the tail end of working out the full measure of his project. At 113 years, looking handsome through the use of anagathic medicines she assumed, the Captain of the Sixth Horizon had been doing this private service of his own conception for what must have been decades. No doubt in her mind then that his previous ‘wives’ had been former slaves that he had ‘fast-tracked’ to civilian status so they might take the Equality Test and become full citizens. It renewed the gentility she felt for Gevaudan Cannagrrh. She resolved to help the current batch of uncertain and nervous slaves, to assure them of their improving life, advice into which curriculum to select from the staterooms terminals connected to the ship’s Library for the next three weeks.
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When her shift to stand watch the vessel during jumpspace transit came up, it was the eight-hour overlap between hers and Gevaudan’s. She was waking from sleep and he was on free time. Finally listening to her heart, Zhevra rose as he entered the captain’s cabin they shared. He stopped what he was thinking at seeing her approach in her purple undies and sliding on a sports halter bra. As his slave and Engineer, crewmember, he had not touched her in any way she did not consent. Now she wanted his touch.
With deliberately slow foot pads to the deck, she stepped up to Gevaudan. Her head was low, her nose pointed toward him and her emerald green eyes giving him her full attention.

“I am very sorry,” she began. “Your nose was right. I did judge you harshly after the mall up until today. I have worked it off. Who am I, a Suedzuk after the Sack of Gashikan to lay judgement on a male who is only trying to do the right thing even if on the outside, it looks like a perverse cyborg-psionic is using his talents to take advantage of an ages old profession.” She reached out with her hands up, her claws passive an offer of a hug, an embrace.

He looked both relieved and young again, a pup unsure if he was invited. To Zhevra, Gevaudan was alone in this ship, far away from his Pack with no one to congratulate or admonish him through charisma. But seeing his ocean blue eyes lock with hers, he came to her.

“You are a good Vargr, Gevaudan Cannagrrh,” she said as the two embraced. “I needed to see it, I guess. In my travels, I cannot afford to take anything for granted, see?” Seeing his nod affirmative, she said, “You did right not to hinder my investigative snooping and prying into your past. I am your slave and it helps a servant serve when the owner is a known part of the equation. You are a gentleman, a scholar, a merchant, a Scout-Courier and an experienced lover if the smiles on the females in those pictures is any accurate testament.”

Gevaudan was able to get in a question. “How did you know I was telling you the truth, holding my honor out ahead of me for you to shred the first sign of falsehood?”

In his stronger arms, Zhevra licked him once. A kiss in Human equivalent gesture. Then she locked eyes again, “If I tell you, it is in utter and complete confidence, okay?”

“On my honor and charisma. You aren’t trained in psionics are you?” Zhevra would later learn that that last question was rude, but given their intimate embrace and his curiosity, it could be allowed. She smiled.

“No, Gevaudan,” she began to explain, “When the Vargr race first rose upon Lair as the dominant species, whether it was Ancients or evolution – believe whatever you wish – the Suedzuk were already pushed to the less favorable landforms and habitats by the other sub-species, Gvegh included. Marginalized to the exotic, broken and stranger climates and hunting grounds, we somehow became Aware as a survival adaptation. We did not know it at the time but we could feel through the sense of touch and our red pelts the bio- and electromagnetic fields of plants, animals and other Vargr. It took centuries before we learned that other Vargr ethnicities had developed other senses and capabilities, the rage of the Urzaeng and the Ovaghoun for example. We hid our senses, for how can one shut off the sense of touch? But we also honed our sensitivity of magnetic or Mag and electric or Lek once we came to the conclusion that Lair had given us something, a “leg up” as you say, to survive. The so-called Church Of The Chosen Ones would have us believe that the Ancients repeatedly made modifications to the Vargr, their Chosen. I don’t buy it and most of the Suedzuk don’t buy into that rubbish. The Solomani Hypothesis can stand until proven guilty, that our species was uplifted. We are Vargr, not canines. When jumpdrive technology was discovered by Lair’s scientists we took our heightened senses with us to the stars in the First Diaspora.”

Gevaudan’s hug tightened in empathetic grip, “Then the Suedzuk made the mistake of the Sack of Gashikan.”

“A grievous mistake, yes,” said Zhevra, “one for which we have never lived down as ‘Red Pelts’, pirates, ransacks, looters, genocidal monsters. What am I to you?”

“Someone…someone I can love unconditionally if you can do the same,” Gevaudan admitted, his heartbeat pounding through his aura field.

“I believe I can now that I see and feel the measure of you, Gevaudan Cannagrrh. You are a hero, not just some very old adventurer, slaver and psionic cyborg. A hero. Will you be my hero?” Zhevra’s words came from that side of her that argued with her in the mirror.

His tail wagged like a puppy. He swelled with an intake of breath, his subdermal plates of flexible armor going rigid against her. “Was it the statue in Engineering?” he asked jokingly as a tension breaker.

“If you want to believe it, yes,” Zhevra said and licked him again. Now her tail swayed confidently.

Gevaudan smiled genuinely. Now in his off hours, he looked around for something to do as he held her smaller frame.

“Allow me, my Sir,” she cooed up at him. When he released her from his embrace, she began to undress Gevaudan from his black ballistic cloth uniform. He had forgotten to remove the insignia emblem of the Society of Equals since the mall incident.

“You don’t have-,” he said.

“I want,” Zhevra declared, again at odds with that Engineer career female inside her. What was she doing? She had no skill other than what was imparted externally from Madam Karrnae and the other concubines’ gossiping about the act of blending pelts, the joining of two Vargr in intercourse. “Please,” she added, her politeness demanding such. Then she dropped her underclothes to the deck before him, in full nervous display.

Gevaudan sniffed her subtly, “You-you’ve never...,” he guessed.

“So?” Zhevra countered. “Show me. You are worthy. I know that now. Am I of you?”

* * *

“We blended pelts, in love for the first time on Rorroksueknea, neutral grounds between my Wilds and his Equality,” Zhevra told the advocate Allain Templeton. She did not look at Khzaeng the Psion. No doubt he could see better than Allain especially as a fellow Vargr.

The Human lawyer wisely kept his mouth shut and wrote. He looked up to see her in memorable recall.

“If you ask me how it was, you will only betray that you still know very little of us Vargr, Mr. Templeton,” Zhevra warned, “despite all the ‘Vargr cases’ you are assigned. We have all the same passions and yet are not Human.”

The Human blushed red and again continued writing. Khzaeng shifted his robe again.

Seeing her words affect the Human, Zhevra relentlessly continued in a teasing tone, “What is there to say beyond biology that any other romance novel can give you? I am no better than those fantasies, especially then, for my first time. I knew my part anatomically and Arksouel the Urzaeng was right. The rest fell into place, in a manner of speaking.”

The day concluded, Allain Templeton collected his recording device first, then cleaned up from the finished breakfast hours ago. He pushed the file on the fold-down table to face Zhevra still in chains. “I uh- I did not record your Suedzuk sense of Awareness in my transcription.”

“I can’t read shorthand. But don’t worry. Though your Mag is up, like a polygraph test, your Lek tells me you aren’t lying to me.”

Allain straightened like his deeper secrets had just been plumbed.

Tired from her tale, Zhevra said, “Told you I wasn’t a Psion. Good night, Gentlemen.” Again, she used Gev’s honorific he reserved for anyone who was not an Equal.
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The next morning, Khzaeng returned alone. With him was the recording device. Allain Templeton was absent as was the file. Seeing the Psion, Zhevra rose from her morning exercises.

“What is this?”

The indelible telepath reported in calm monotone, “Mr. Templeton fell ill last night with an influenza strain missed this year by the annual inoculations. He is to remain at home and recover. I however am not excused to bring the recorder and observe your truth-telling. I put in a protest, but- ”

“It’s okay,” Zhevra assured the blue dye dot on the Vargr’s forehead as if it were the person and not the flesh and fur about it. The focus of her address caused Khzaeng to shift his robe as he had this many times.

The two ate breakfast. Zhevra tried to eat the nut encrusted and marinated dish same as Khzaeng and found she liked it. It was not the usual diet of a Suedzuk but the flavor was distracting from the texture of the nut addition. When finished, Khzaeng remained sitting and wordlessly gestured to the recording device.

Zhevra caught the cue and nodded her assent. The male Psion sat quietly as she continued her story.

“What’s more to say about that first few months, Mr. Templeton?” asked Zhevra to the recording device. “Gevaudan and I fell in love, continued the slaving route to save lives. Gev was already decorated for his Vargrtarian project by his fellow Equals on the Council of worlds.”

Zhevra purposely rattled her chains in proximity of the recorder so it could hear her. “But I suppose our mating vows, or wedding you might call it, can be touched upon.”
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XI. Regina (Spinward Marches 1910) A788899-C, Gnoengungag (Gvurrdon 1923) B759623-7 and Rorroksueknea (Gvurrdon 2628) B574500-8 of Zhevra's testimony
After much soul-searching, repeated trade route slaving and growing closer, Zhevra by now knew that Gevaudan was a male she wanted to marry. She did not know Gvegh conventions or traditions in regards to proposition or marriage. What were the vows? What was expected?

She was still his slave. His gold ear-hoop still rode her ear. She wondered if the now-healed piercing jewelry was to be removed. Like the capture collar, Zhevra had come to rely on the ear-hoop as a reassuring sign, by its touch, that Gevaudan still upheld his promise to take care of his slave and Engineer. It was akin to a contract running through her left ear and could be made readily apparent if she but turned her head to the right and pointed her left ear at the white-furred slaver. Could her consent be lawfully given if she was still his property?

Thus, Zhevra the Suedzuk did research into the laws of the Dzen Aeng Kho regarding marriage and mating. She found that though rarer than mate-marriages along the same societal stratifications, Equal, failed Inequal, Unequal and slaves, cross-quality weddings were upheld by the courts of the polity. The opinions she found in media of the Society of Equals found such marriages distasteful, bordering scandalous in some Packs, Gevaudan’s Pack Cannagrrh notwithstanding.

Small wonder that Gevaudan had not visited his homeworld and Pack in a long time. His previous three marriages of convenience to bypass immigration laws had made a lesser name for himself. No doubt that the public records would have shown up on his extended family’s radar. Gevaudan did not seem to care of their opinions or tastes. His actions were guided by his heart and his project, noble, lusty, with an enslaved mate or one soon to be emancipated. He did love and Zhevra found he loved unconditionally, without passions such as attachment, lust or anger complicating things. If one of his wives parted from him in divorce, as the white male had recounted to Zhevra, it was a return to a friendly acquaintance status and mutual respect to a civilian about to undertake her Equality Test.

Gevaudan “popped the question” over a dinner at a restaurant on Gnoengungag, the world where he had just sold a new batch of male and female concubines to new placement homes he was more than satisfied to see them graduate from his transportation and care. The success had left him in good spirits which Zhevra of course could detect. This brightened her to respond by wearing the black and yellow, tabard hip dress he had first bought her.

Over a three-course celebration meal with red wine, a thick and scented column candle he had found at a store in the Startown, he smiled at Zhevra.

A little self-conscious at his approving gaze, Zhevra asked, “What is it?”
In the candlelight, he looked regal in a formal uniform of the Couriers of the Dzen Aeng Kho. This was the first time he had laundered and worn it for this night at the restaurant. She had done the same for her ensemble. The candle’s foot-lumens caught the gold ear-hoop in the corner of her left eye with a glare. The reflected light put a strange visible aura over the white male’s right side as he sat across from her. But before he could say anything, a pair of thick steaks peppered with pureed greens and spices arrived from the kitchen.

The two ate and Zhevra though she could feel Gevaudan’s Mag heighten. He was holding something back, tormenting the both of them. She could sense it as a Suedzuk. Her tail wagged through the dress and the wooden chair’s back which was standard for most Vargr furniture. She was sure it was attractive to Gevaudan by now. That red and cream fur of her ventral regions reached down, between her pelvic and thigh areas, all the way under her bush tail. He knew her body by now and found her small frame attractive.

Pretending to savor the aroma of the steak in an intake of breath, Gevaudan waved his muzzle and nose over his plate, and leaned a little forward. Zhevra knew better. He was conning her, cheating as she was cheating with her Awareness senses. Only for him, the Courier-slaver was able to shut off his psionics by will alone. Her senses were always active. Touch is fundamental. His smile through half-lidded, ocean blue eyes nearly melted her again. She liked it when his biological body reacted, that far outstripped his parts being cybernetic, which was not much in proportion to begin with. She had learned that ratio sometime in their couplings, blending pelts.

“Zhevra,” began Gevaudan, “do you tire of being my slave? I mean, are you ready for that ear-hoop to come out?”

“Gev,” Zhevra stopped him by using the shortened nickname for her Sir, “I’d feel naked. This is hard to explain, so let me ask you and see if we can find a parallel, okay?”

The white Gvegh stopped his meal and laced his claws before his plate to listen. Zhevra did the same but added hand gestures and pointed to the ear-hoop as she detailed what was on her mind. “Your EMP shielding collar, the beveled one. You wear it always, right?”

Gevaudan nodded, but did not interrupt.

“This ear-hoop has become similar. It protects me in your Society of Equals as your property. You have every right to defend me if I become threatened. I like that part actually.” Zhevra grinned with a shy shrug of demure. “Just as your EMP collar protects your augments and cybernetics from electromagnetic pulses that can fry your rigs and implants, my ear-hoop protects my rights from abuse, even by you. It has become a part of me. To stop wearing it now would feel like I’d had a body part amputated in some unwanted, elective surgery.”

Her partner considered Zhevra’s words and said, “What if I could offer similar but better?”

Zhevra tilted her head in both a questioning gesture and submitting her jugular vein in her neck. It was a gesture of submission in charisma. Gev had her in that racial asset. The gesture meant she was listening to him and had his full attention. Her tail stopped waving. A waiter passed by it easily as he served a meal to the next table over.

Gevaudan produced from a hidden coat pocket in his formal dress uniform. It was a short, almost flat and square box featuring a designer’s logo in silver on its black top. Zhevra caught her breath as sight of it. He reached over and seized her cream claw in his larger white. The he focused his blue eyes on her green. “Zhevra the Suedzuk, my Engineer, my slave, my partner in this grand project, my love. Would you consent to marry me and be my mate?”

Her grip on his white claw was keeping Zhevra from vertigo. He had done it. He had asked her to marry him. She was mesmerized by his fields, his eyes, the grip he had on her. Though her mirror-self who wanted Gevaudan made her nod her head, she fought for dominance and answered, tears in her eyes, “Yes, Gevaudan Cannagrrh, my Captain, my Sir. I consent to marry you, though I don’t know how Gvegh go about it.”

With his free claw, which had left nail marks in the top of the box, Gevaudan pushed the surprise forward, across the linen covered table to Zhevra. “Open it,” he said as a suggestion rather than an order. His voice rattled with nervousness.

The thing, the box, was still losing Gevaudan’s magnetic signature still when she loosed her hands from his to reach and open the gift. Trembling subtly down her spine, Zhevra lifted the black top off the silver bottom of the gift box. Inside and cradled by a black velvet lining similar to the box that held the gold alloy ear-hoops, was a collar. It had a silver buckle closure, round silver studs around the outside, a front D-ring that supported an orange-gold metallic pendant in the shape of a small heart. The band was made of an unknown leather and was permanently died a medium lavender. Zhevra gasped with an intake of breath. Her claws came up to her cream muzzle topped with her signature red stripe up her nose. She stared at the collar. She wanted it on her.

“This is for you, Zhevra,” declared Gevaudan Cannagrrh. “It was yours whether you said yes or no in answer to my request. I do know how naked it feels to have my EMP collar off. I feel unshielded. Unprotected. As my wife, you can properly immigrate to the Dzen Aeng Kho, take out that ear-hoop and have free choice of becoming an Equal or other.”

“I thought you liked them.”

“My Suedzuk, I never liked them. I only tried to make them beautiful and worthy of the ears they rode, is all. Laws chose its form. Yes, it does look good on you, but it is my hope as my wife that you will consider this gift in its stead, in exchange. It is only a small bit of paperwork, red tape really to list you as such and not a s-…. a slave. Whew, I said it.”

Zhevra smiled big. Other dining Vargr risked occasional glances at the couple, as Gevaudan rose from his chair and rounded the small square table. Lifting the collar from the box with one claw and spacing her red mane from her neck, Gevaudan wrapped the lavender leather about Zhevra’s neck and buckled it under her red fur. “Too tight?”

“No, just snug so I can feel it, please.”

The white male then returned to his seat so he could look at the gift on his betrothed. Zhevra’s index claw fiddled with the pendant as to make it hang loosely and swing like a small weight on the front ring mount. She could feel it move, so new was this gift he’d given her.
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