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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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  #51  
Old June 21st, 2019, 09:59 PM
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Through the outer door was a huge foyer with polished granite floor in sections and partially lined with carpets down the middle. Electric lights that flickered like flames in amber glass bulbs dimly illuminated the foyer and hall beyond. The pair passed side doors of the same dark wood as the front entrance. Into the hall beyond the foyer Zhevra saw a broad set of more stone stairs up to a balcony overlooking both the hall and a grand ballroom beyond the masonry. By passing to either side of the stairs, one could pass into the ballroom which the newcomer could see stained glass windows between columns. At intervals were doors allowing access to a balcony overlooking the sides and rear of the keep and its grounds. Zhevra looked up and saw a second set of stairs, carpeted wood this time leading to a third story looming over the second and the ground floor up from the hall. She guessed that quarters and other rooms were embedded in the upper floors in addition to what lie beyond the side doors she floated past in her grav-chair.

From the sight from the final approach, Zhevra guessed Cannagrrh Villa was huge, made only more evident now that she followed the Dame through its halls. The Suedzuk caught glimpses of figures on the balconies of the floors above. Some stopped to look down at the Dame and Zhevra. Others merely commuted to other rooms. Families, Zhevra guessed. The Pack Cannagrrh consisted of more than one, Gevaudan had taught her during their travels aboard the Sixth Horizon.

Here and there were wall-hanging banners, some wide as tapestries of royal purple fields in which the Cannagrrh Mansche, a swirl resembling a simple symbol of the spiral galaxy and surrounding nebula, was centered. Zhevra guessed that the mansche was the Pack heraldry crest. Zhevra had never seen the like among Gevaudan’s possessions. Did he eschew his Pack? Was he excommunicated? Zhevra denied these questions answers and came up with her own: wanderlust. Gevaudan was after all a Courier-Scout who later took up legal slaving. In addition to the Pack banners, there were lesser banners for a count of three families that made up the larger Pack. Vargr patterns and color choices contrasted the simple, royal purple of the Cannagrrh.

“Vrrakh,” Dame Qithka named the housekeeper, a female in what Zhevra thought to be a male’s military uniform. Zhevra saw that the female was armed with a holstered pistol and a saber at either side of the digitigrade stance at attention.

“Milady,” answered the pale brown female Gvegh in the uniform. She bowed her head, but kept her brown eyes on the Alpha.

“This is Zhevra Cannagrrh, at last come to the Villa,” introduced Qithka. “Her therapy will continue here, on these grounds. Her room is to be on this floor and see to it that the visiting home healthcare knows the route to her. Also, once she is settled in her quarters, escort her to me. I will be in the library trying to catch up on Pack business that has been piling up.”

“Yes milady,” acknowledged the militant housekeeper. Vrrakh bowed to Zhevra in the grav-chair. “If you will follow me please?” Then she spun with formal flair and marched smartly to a door and held it open for Zhevra to pass beyond.

Zhevra was escorted like a delicate war trophy or spoils of a Corsair raid by the housekeeper. Her assigned room featured a four-poster bed with heavy drapes, carpet over the signature granite floor. Various chairs and a settee furnished the remainder of the room. A lavish bath facility was through a smaller door adjacent to the bedroom. The entire area must have been at least twelve displacement tons to the Engineer’s estimation.

“You will find your things are stored in the armoire, there, ma’am,” Vrrakh pointed out to Zhevra.

Nodding and forgetting herself, the Suedzuk said, “Orange.” Thank you. Hearing herself, Zhevra slapped her claw over her mouth. Her ears flattened.

Vrrakh hardly reacted. Offering up a key to the room, an old skeleton key that Zhevra saw had tiny electronics embedded in the faux-iron steel. The light brown female waited by the door as her charge explored the room. Zhevra found the dress that Gevaudan bought her as well as her lavender collar with the silver studs and golden heart pendant. With deliberate display before the housekeeper in a blood red uniform, the Suedzuk buckled it around her neck for the first time since Gevaudan’s Jump as it was now called. She was about to think it as Gevaudan’s attack, but threw that away as both rude and inaccurate. Yes, he did Infight her, but something about those crystal azure eyes was different as Zhevra pulled the collar snug in the buckle.

Nodding to Vrrakh, Zhevra returned in the grav-chair to the door. She was still wearing a black uniform flight suit she had from the Sixth Horizon. The female had not felt ready to join this crew so to speak. The two left Zhevra’s room and Vrrakh conducted her to the grand library on the ground floor. Down the corridors the pair moved. Zhevra could finally concentrate on the sounds of the villa, or castle. She still could not decide what to call the home where her husband had grown up.

Did all of the doors in this place consist of the same dark wood bound in iron and shod with the same? It was distinctly a male motif and Zhevra filed that thought for later as Vrrakh opened the doors to the library.
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  #52  
Old June 21st, 2019, 10:02 PM
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“Zhevra Cannagrrh to the Alpha, per milady’s instructions,” announced Vrrakh who then waved in Zhevra’s grav-chair. Zhevra entered the library which, like the hall reached upward to the third story. Hardcopy books were everywhere. In the rear of the library, Dame Qithka had made for herself an makeshift office. She sat at the wide desk, a feminine wood partition stacked with books, files, distracting mechanical devices and writing materials of stationary and elegant pens. The Dame looked up, removed her spectacles and beckoned Zhevra to her with a free hand, the other occupied with writing. Vrrakh backed out of the library after a bow and closed the door behind her.

“Come in and closer, Zhevra,” said the Dame. “Welcome at last to Cannagrrh Villa. As you can see I am a busy Alpha and that’s just the way the families like it. No doubt, I stir the pot when I’m not chained to this desk given my history, eh? I guess that Gevaudan told you something of me in your time together, yes?”

Zhevra did not speak that dreaded color and instead held up two pincered digits to indicate Gev had spoken a little about his elder Sister-Dame. She punctuated the gesture with a nod of her red and cream muzzle.

“As you can see, though I have been Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh for decades, I still have yet to put a lady’s touch sufficiently to this household so encrusted with centuries of males’ preferences. This dear, is my sanctum and my contribution. Closer, dear.”

Zhevra was seated directly across the desk now from Qithka. Curiosity swelled in her.

“Two major topics that I need to cover now, Zhevra while I have your attention and cannot be interrupted,” Qithka declared. “One. Not everybody in these three families wants me as Alpha still, after these many decades. I’m old. Some think it’s time for me to abdicate like my dam did. So, watch what you say - excuse me – when around the families of this Pack. Despite your handicaps which I am confident will be resolved, you are a threat to them, Red Pelt, Suedzuk, Gevaudan’s wife or no. Please step lightly – excuse me again – as you recover in the bosom of Pack Cannagrrh.”

“Two. Now that we are here, I want to communicate with you truly. You are my last link to my brother and I need you. I never wanted a mate or offspring, you see. Anyway, I’m too old now for that. If Gevaudan does not show up before I abdicate Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh, the lineage, if not challenged in Infighting with good reason, falls to you.”

Zhevra was visibly shaken. Her jaw fell open and her green eyes widened. Her ears meekly flattened and she felt the tip of her tail curl since her toes could not yet. The first tiny tremors threatened to evidence before the Alpha’s gaze.

“Now I let those buffoons at the hospital believe you were some dumb and broken invalid because I also wanted the rumor mill to think the same. You, Zhevra are not an invalid. I see a keen mind behind your eyes, an educated young female. In trying to take the target off your back, for now, I have purposely used you in your current state to let them assume that another is better for Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh. In this I am sorry. I needed to pin down the identities of those who would make a power play while my back was turned, my attention on the so-called widow of Gevaudan Cannagrrh. It worked. Everyone believes he is dead, by his own means. I believe there is more that you can tell me. You needn’t worry, dear. This will all be over soon and you will recover both your legs and your vocabulary. This I promise you as Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh.”

Zhevra managed a nod in affirmative, but she could not stop the shakes from inside her.

Qithka noticed the trembling in Zhevra and concluded with, “Focus your therapy on walking again, Zhevra.” She picked up a few sheets of Cannagrrh stationary and an ornate pen to hand them across the desk, through the piles of books and files to the quivering Suedzuk.

Zhevra looked about the library. Then before her tremors threatened her handwriting, she scribbled a hasty note in the silence and aromas of the library stacks.
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  #53  
Old June 21st, 2019, 10:10 PM
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How did you know I could still right? Zhevra noticed that she had misspelled that last word just as she handed back the first sheet to the Dame. The Dame put on her spectacles and read the Gvegh words. Zhevra was thankful that she had taken the time on the starship to learn to read and write the regional language.

“My dear, it is my job, as a former reporter, entertainer, Alpha to get my interviewees to open up. I am shrewd and manipulative and can be a real bitch when I don’t get what I want. Now try this instead.” Qithka lifted a laptop computer featuring a keyboard. Zhevra could not type on a Gvegh keyboard as the characters were in unfamiliar arrangement, but she used her quivering index claws to punch out a new message on the monitor.

Why did you keep Gev’s status as a suicide secret from me?

Qithka sighed, “Oh, dear. I am sorry, very sorry for that. Your nights of fear and loneliness must have been unbearable. I did not want to further aggravate you with what foolish others believe.”

Gev would not have committed suicide. I know him. Even if he was-

Qithka stopped Zhevra’s typing by reaching over the desk with her arms. She said, “I believe you, Zhevra. Gevaudan, my younger brother, was a Follower of Runetha Saetedz, a hero. Even if he had killed you on that bridge, he would not have taken his life in penance. But he did do something different, didn’t he? You’re shaking, Zhevra. Perhaps we should stop for now.”

My husband was far more intelligent than everybody thinks!

“Yes, my dear. But if you don’t pause from this, you might punch a hole in the keyboard. Calm yourself, Zhevra.”

The Suedzuk took her claws from the laptop computer. The shakes were full on now and she cradled her arms below her breasts and leaned over in the grav-chair in a near fetal position. The Dame watched her and kept quiet. “Orange,” said Zhevra in a sobbing cry that failed to fill the library stacks’ sound-proofing. I miss him. She had to say something vocal. Even if all she could say was the color, it still had emotion behind it.

“Let us stop for now,” ordered Dame Qithka. “You take the laptop with you and inter-office e-mail me. Don’t worry. The lines between us are secure, Vrrakh tells me.”

Despite her PTSD attack, Zhevra could feel the close fields of the Dame. Everything about her Mag and Lek was controlled confidence. She was not lying as far as she believed. Zhevra rode out the attack in full view of Qithka who remained respectfully quiet and dignified in her higher charisma.

When she could safely steer the grav-chair again, Zhevra placed the computer on her lap and left the Dame in the library. Over her shoulder, she could see the matronly female watching her depart. Such power, such terrible responsibility all those decades since Gevaudan tricked her into taking Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh while families circled each other for control. Politics. Zhevra recalled every holovid she had watched that featured Pack power struggles. This however was so much more immediate and threatening. Gev had hated it, becoming a Courier and travelling. And now that she had a dose of it, Zhevra wanted to recover and be away to find him as quickly as possible.

Exiting the library, Zhevra was distracted from her concerns and fears. The aroma of cooking dinner caught her nose and made her mouth salivate. Hospital food was sadly bland and she very much wanted a true meal. Scenting her way through the keep, Zhevra encountered the large dining room of heavy and lacquered table and chairs, all the same dark wood as the doors of Cannagrrh Villa. She made a point to ask where the wood was harvested and continued past the table settings. Before the attaining the lovely scents of the kitchen, she noticed a chair had been set to a corner, likely to accommodate her grav-chair this evening.

“Do come in dearie,” said a female voice of a black spotted brown female Vargr wearing a chef’s smock and apron. She had a wild- silly expression and grisly tooth placement eternally fixed on her face. “Oh, my, you are skin and bones, luv. Sorry-sorry. You don’t know me. My name is Raegksungkuen, but you can call me Rae. Op! So sorry, luv. Word was you don’t speak proper-like yet. I humbly apologize.”

With the chef’s rapid-fire talk and that rural accent of provincial Gvegh, Zhevra knew that even if she could talk, she would barely get a word in edgewise. So instead she bowed her head and waved a gentle, forgiving claw.

“Care for a snack, luv?” asked Raegksungkuen. Zhevra nodded immediately, the smells tantalizing her. “Good! Sit there at the island and Rae will do you up nicely.”

A thought came to Zhevra, so as she focused on Raegksungkuen’s Mag and Lek to make sure she was telegraphing inattentiveness to Zhevra, the Suedzuk snatched a huge carving knife from the woodblock. It was among many so she had chosen one that she hoped would not be missed anytime soon. She slid the knife into her flight suit top and re-zipped it higher, pretending to ready herself for the snack from Rae. As the pile of meat arrived, Zhevra recalled her navy days when her commanding officer lectured on survival. One sharp knife can feed you, clothe you; keep you warm, safe and dry.

“Go on, dig in, luv,” offered Raegksungkuen who then went back to preparing the evening meal.

So good. Zhevra chewed slowly and appreciatively and knew it showed on her face. But since Rae didn’t turn around to watch her from the grill, she thanked the chef with “Orange,” before thinking. Delicious!

“Got one right here, luv.” Raegksungkuen pulled a huge citrus from a basket with her bulky black claws. Turning she saw Zhevra snickering at herself and the situation. It took a moment for the humorous moment to dawn on the spotted female. “Op! Clever girl, though Rae would never mean a disrespect to a Cannagrrh that you are, luv. Forgive me.” So, Zhevra learned that the rumors had spread over the household and likely the entire Pack as the Dame had said.

Zhevra finished her treat and nodded a gesture of thanks. The she was shooed out of the kitchen by the busy cook with, “Now you be on time for supper, luv! Mark my words, it’ll be the best you’ve had in three years!”
The obviousness of that boast made Zhevra smile and she found she liked the spotted female Rae.
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  #54  
Old June 21st, 2019, 10:14 PM
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Taking a touring route through the Villa, Zhevra steered her grav-chair down a wide hall hung with many painted portraits in a wide variety of frames from simple, to ostentatious to high-tech. Immediately she spotted a young female Vargr underage who stared at paintings on Zhevra’s left side of the hall. Zhevra stopped early in the hall to get a read on the pre-adolescent. She was changing her fur coat early into a medium brown though none of the other marks of puberty was evident. The cub wore a white lace dress and her tail was swaying very slowly as she looked up at the portraits.

At last the female cub turned to see Zhevra sitting in the hall, on her grav-chair. “Welcome, milady. My dam says I have to say ‘milady’ because it’s polite.” Remaining where she stood the female examined Zhevra. “No dress. Are you a soldier?”

Zhevra sighed and smiled weakly. Finally nodding and trying a gesture for long ago, Zhevra shrugged and kept silent.

“Vrrakh was a Marine, my dam says,” the cub nodded. “I want to be a Researcher like my dam. Experiments don’t fight back.”

Zhevra bowed her muzzle in approval and remained wordless. Approaching in the grav-chair, Zhevra stopped just within her conversation range and felt the cub’s Mag and Lek fields. Healthy and bright and yet pensive and calm, she decided.

“Do you believe in reincarnation, milady?” asked the cub. It surprised Zhevra to hear such a vocabulary word. The Suedzuk shrugged. Zhevra was ex-navy. She did not have the time to consider such when she was a young cub as the one before her. She shrugged again when the little female looked to her for an answer.

The young cub then said, “My name is Dhurranae, but my brother calls me ‘Dhurr’ like I am a nerd or weirdo.”

Zhevra covered her smile with a claw. Names at this one’s age were important, identifying them and giving them a foundation to build their personal charisma. The little one before Zhevra was coming early into hers.

“Well, I’m not a nerd. I’m not a weirdo.” Dhurranae then pointed up to a portrait of a female that could have been her great grand-dam. “I might be her for all anyone knows.” Then she curtsied to Zhevra and declared, “You are not a weirdo or a fruit. I like your red pelt. I do.” Then she skipped from the hall of portraits. The Suedzuk felt her fields as she skipped past the grav-chair. The little female was sincere. It warmed Zhevra’s heart for the future generation.

Zhevra returned to her room by unlocking the door with her issued key. A real bath in a huge tub was the next invitation to decadence. She was ready for a bath after all the bed sponging, leave-in fur shampoo and scrubbings in the shower by nurse assistants.

As she passed the luxurious bed, Zhevra tucked the stolen knife into the folds of the drapes. The sheets might be changed, pillowcases too. But what house servant checks the drapes overhead when servants, or slaves, kept their noses pointed down in their lower station? The laptop was placed on the bedside table before Zhevra floated into the bath chamber.

A huge tub awaited Zhevra. She had not enjoyed a bath since before boot in the navy. And she intended to make every minute count. Parking the chair next to the tub, the Suedzuk started the hottest bath, threw in a nearby bottle of unused bubble bath for good measure. Then she began to wiggle her black flight suit off and eschew her bra and undies. Her collar fell atop the clothing. Waiting for the bath and adjusting the water temperature, Zhevra looked appreciatively at the facilities. It was decadent as she had judged earlier. Ship life had deprived her.

Zhevra caught her reflection in the mirror. Hello old friend, she thought to herself. Her wilder side returned the smile she offered.

Her reflection, the one who convinced her to date and marry Gevaudan Cannagrrh thought back, now do you want this or do you want Gevaudan?
It was a sobering thought. Gevaudan was no suicide. Something about his eyes, that azure gaze, was off. Gevaudan had ocean blue eyes. Was the white male’s chemistry or pigmentation messed with that night on the bridge? He had not eaten yet as the meal was still being prepared. She was going to the bridge to bring Gevaudan back to the galley for first meal in jumpspace.

The bath ready, Zhevra thought to her reflection in the mirror, we’ll think about this later.

Shake on it.
The thought was thick with double entendre and Zhevra immediately regretted throwing that at herself.
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Old June 21st, 2019, 10:19 PM
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With her arms the red and cream white female carefully lowered her furred body into the water after testing it. Into the bubbles she sank and submerged up to her highest breasts. The bubbles of course came up to her chin. There she thought about what it might mean for her to be Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh. From navy to traveler, then slave to wife and now next in line for a throne.

Gevaudan, with his synesthesia ‘sniffer’, would be able to easily determine who his enemies and allies were in the Pack Cannagrrh. One sniff and he could smell a plot against him if the culprit was upwind of him. Even if an attack on his life happened, Gev, if out-matched could just jaunt away from his enemies and alert proper authorities or pick a new arena on his terms. Perhaps it was unfair and that was a contributing reason he did not return to the Pack when he and his sister were summoned to Infight for Alpha. Zhevra had no such psionic talent and did not want such either. Having a heightened sense of fields was enough already. Perhaps that was why the Suedzuk had not taken up such disciplines through the centuries.
Zhevra hid her shoulders in the bubbles and washed her body with kneading claws, scratching the remnant leave-in shampoo from her pelt. The warmth of the hot bath loosened her muscles and eased her joints from the tyranny of the grav-chair.

Another quiet boon, Zhevra recalled as she relaxed in the bathtub, was the silence of her Awareness. Under the water and damp above, her sense of bio- and electromagnetic fields was numbed in a good, relaxing way. No noise from others. No telegraphed charges. She likened it to holding one’s nose or putting in earplugs and dampening the sense from outside stimuli. The touch of quieting, warm water was fundamental.

“Orange,” she muttered alone. Yes.

Sliding further into the deep and wide bathtub, Zhevra allowed the water up to her neck and through her mane. But then to her surprise, she kept sliding, her body coming flat in the pool, her soap-slick fur gliding her to supine. Alarmed, Zhevra slid until she was forced to take a last breath in panic before sinking under the water. Her legs and most of her tail failed to respond as she slid under the surface of the diminishing bubble bath. She struggled to reach for any purchase, but this tub had not been designed for the handicapped to utilize. Struggling to reach the edge, a thought occurred to her. The drain was right there between her inert feet. Old as it was, the pull plug was fitted with a ring. If she could just thread the ring with the end of her tail…

No good. While her tail tip curled, she could not aim it with the majority of its length. Zhevra was running out of options and air in her lungs. The bubbles obscured her sight above the water. The soapy bath water stung her eyes closed. Thrashing in hopes of sitting up, high enough to reach the surface, the bather managed, “Orange!” Help! Half an intake of air was barely a relief. And then she was back down under the water and slipping around desperately. Panicking, Zhevra acted out of desperation by flexing her claws downward and laid them under her hips. Combined with the weight of her body, the slick claws and nails gained friction and she pulled herself closer to the plug drain.

Thrashing upwards again, Zhevra screamed as her muzzle broke the surface, “ORANGE!” Help me! The Suedzuk gasped for air as she fell back underwater a third time. She continued the clawing drag motion across the tub until she could feel the drain plug under her rump. Rapidly flexing her claws for the stopper and its ring, Zhevra’s ring digit - the left on which rode her wedding ring - caught the ring of the rubber stopper. She yanked hard, pulling out the stubborn thing. Underwater, her flooded ears heard the drain drink the water in the tub downward. Extracting her claws again, she bucked upwards for a third time, her lungs burning for air.

Claws, unfamiliar Vargr claws of a male caught the back of her neck and held her as the water drained. “I got you! Hold still! Stop wriggling!” It was a male. Zhevra regained her wits to comply and the unknown male supported her. She coughed and sputtered bubbles from her mouth and nose. The taste of soap and bubble bath coated her tongue and mouth. Breathing gasps of air, the Suedzuk cried, “Orange!” Hold me!

In the haze of her soapy sight, her Awareness still blinded by the water saturating her fur, Zhevra thought she saw Gevaudan holding her from above, though the voice was wrong. Still lying in the tub, Zhevra’s claws caught and held the male’s jacket, some material that was strong. The two held each until Zhevra was able to calm her breathing and stop coughing. The bath water finished draining by the time the male moved again.

“Um, milady,” the male Vargr offered. “Can I get you a towel now?”
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Old June 21st, 2019, 10:21 PM
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Minutes of arriving second responders, being wrapped in a white, terry-cloth robe, and carried bodily to the settee in the bedroom, Zhevra half-sat, half-laid exhausted. Standing above her was the Dame with her spectacles raised up and on her head. She was admonishing the red and white female in front of Housekeeper Vrrakh, the lad who had rescued Zhevra and some females from the other families of Pack Cannagrrh. Contemplative, brown Dhurranae was one of the females who stood near the door next to identical triplet daughters with the same black pelts and yellow eyes dressed in zig-zag patterned dresses of red, white, yellow and navy blue. The male now looked trebly eager to be anywhere but in the room with the females.
Demands for location reports from the younger Vargr were demanded by the Alpha, to which respectful and quick answers were given. The lad was ordered to give account of how he had heard the screams, had shoulder rushed the door, breaking the door off its hinges, falling to the floor and then scrambling to the side of the lady in the tub. He reported that he helped the red and white female out of the tub by lifting her wet form out and carrying her to the settee.

Zhevra thought the lad had adrenalized his system to lift her, grab the robe and stumble to the bedroom. But she lay there, her ears flattened as the Dame whirled on her.

“That was phenomenally stupid, Zhevra,” Qithka’s voice burned in Zhevra’s ears. “We have enough family. We have enough staff. Ancients, we have enough slaves for you to have requested a bath.”

“Orange,” Zhevra tried to protest with gestures as an excuse and failing.

“Don’t you back-talk the Alpha of the Pack. I’ve had whelps go outside and cut a switch for backtalking before.”

Zhevra held her useless tongue and her one-word vocabulary in frustration, but kept her nose down and her eyes lowered. She was an adult. This was not fair. The hospital staff did not educate her on bath safety for paraplegics.

“Nurki, Laor and Anglla,” Qithka demanded the attention of the triplet females in their late teens who perked in a row to attention as if in the military but showed nervousness. “School is out for the summer, yes?”

“Yes, milady,” the three females intoned as if perfect synchronicity.

“This Suedzuk needs assistants if she is to recover her legs, her vocabulary and after today her better judgement. If you three, after the poor behavior that was reported over this past year’s class on your e-cards, can manage to take care of Zhevra and are successful, you may attend the Solstice Fete.”

The triplets wagged tails and dropped tongues out of their muzzles, forgetting their discipline and manners.

Qithka pretended not to notice or did not notice without her spectacles from across the bedroom. “But I warn you three. If another incident like this happens, you’ll be redder than the Suedzuk when I get through with you. Your duty starts now and ends when Zhevra stands, talks like she has a respectable I.Q. and walks herself to the Fete. You get me?”

All three of the dark-furred teenagers grew fearful and there were asynchronous answers of “Yes milady.”

“Each of you will escort Zhevra Cannagrrh in shifts starting with Anglla.” Qithka pointed at the triplet in the middle.

“I’m Laor, milady,” whimpered the cringing female in the middle who pointed an index at the sister to her right being Qithka’s left.

“Ancients!” exclaimed the Dame as she stormed out of the bedroom. “And fix this door, dammit!”
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Old June 21st, 2019, 10:24 PM
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The pale, sandy male in the room offered to the remaining females, “I’ll make the call for repairs,” then ducked for the door. Passing Zhevra, he spoke softly saying, “Sorry I saw your ventrals, milady.” Then he was gone from the room. The younger females giggled as they had heard him, with palm-pads coming to their muzzles to hide their grins.

Dried, brushed and dressed, Zhevra was aided by Anglla, the eldest by seconds of the triplets. As the Suedzuk Awareness came available and re-tuned, Zhevra gained the feel of Anglla’s Mag and Lek. She wanted to be sure she could feel another before the young lass guided her to dinner with the rest of the Pack.

Chef Raegksungkuen swiftly walked through the halls and corridors of Cannagrrh Villa with a deep-toned wind chime to signal the hour of dinner. If the instrument did not make enough noise for tastes, she used her free claw to encourage the clacker to ring all the hanging tubes on the chime. Zhevra was sitting in her grav-chair and dressed in a lavender and black dress that matched her collar that Gevaudan had put on her that night at the restaurant. She was playing with the heart pendant in memory of him when the Chef paced quickly by.

“This means it’s time for supper, luv,” said the fast-paced cook. “Get a move on or miss out on the best parts.”

Encouraged and escorted by an anxious Anglla, the pair made way to the dining hall. Once there, Zhevra made her way to the open spot at the table reserved for her floating chair. Everyone else remained standing until Dame Qithka, Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh took her place at the head of the table to make announcements.

“My Pack,” Qithka began, “tonight we welcome the Villa our kin, Zhevra Cannagrrh. I am confident that everyone will make her feel at home. Zhevra will remain here until she recovers fully from her coma. Respect her as she respects you. Doctors and therapists will be visiting her twice weekly. See to it that they are conducted to Zhevra upon arrival.”

“The date for the Solstice Fete has been set and I trust you have sent out your invitations. This year, if all goes well, we allow the triplets, Anglla, Laor and Nurki to attend their first Fete. However, they are not yet of legal drinking age.”

“Now. Though we have missing Pack members, for various reasons, please introduce yourselves to Zhevra Cannagrrh, starting with Zhevra. I will speak for her.”

“Zhevra Cannagrrh calls her people the Suedzuk. She travelled far across the Wilds of the Vargr Splinters in search of the Safes to call her new home. She met our Gevaudan Cannagrrh and the two wed in 1185. I checked the documents and all is legal and binding. Let none gainsay it. We have all seen Gevaudan’s wife these past years at the hospital. We have brought her well-wishing cards and gifts, though the citrus was a bit much. Zhevra has much to learn about the Cannagrrh and but is happy to be here.”

Zhevra nodded her approval of the introduction and kept her mouth from spilling that dreaded color.
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Old June 21st, 2019, 10:26 PM
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“I will go next,” announced, Qiktha, nodding a small bow to Zhevra to her right. “I, Dame Qithka Cannagrrh am Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh since 1111. I was a Journalist and an Entertainment star for Kfan Uzangou, the magazine. I continue to serve the Pack in the leadership position as charisma dictates. Next.” The Dame looked to her left about the table of standing Vargr.

“Call me Captain Voellzoen Cannagrrh, Zhevra,” said a powerfully built male whose pelt was a dark black, setting him off as the sire of the triplets. He wore a naval uniform of the Society of Equals, with a number of service decorations. With a bow at the hip, he continued, “I am the commanding officer to a fleet flagship in the Dzen Aeng Kho Navy. Corsairs flee before me. Merchants praise my ship’s colors. It is my understanding that your UWP and terms, Zhevra, features naval Service in the Vargr Enclaves. I should like to compare notes at your leisure.” Then he looked to his left and straightened tall.

To Zhevra Voellzoen’s fields were the widest, and quite detectable as he sat directly opposite of her. They felt charged, imperious even.

Two chairs next to Voellzoen were empty and the Captain looked to his daughters. Each of the triplets identified themselves in order of age rather than charisma. Except for their Mag and Lek, Zhevra could not make them out as they were identical in pelt, eyes, stance and dress. Anglla had helped Zhevra to dinner. Laor was next to take Zhevra back to her room or on a tour of the keep proper. Tomorrow Nurki was to take her shift before breakfast. All three expressed an exuberant gratitude to the Alpha for the opportunity to attend the Solstice Fete. They curtsied as one to the Suedzuk in the grav-chair.

At the far end of the dining table, opposite Dame Qithka was a surly and elderly male Vargr. He was also black but with graying and white patches of fur and a drooping tail. He wore a different military dress uniform, also decorated. He cleared his throat and spoke up, “Call me Admiral Orgorr Cannagrrh, former Commander of the Third Fleet Offensive in the Equality War in service to the Dzen Aeng Kho. Voellzoen is my son and his daughters are my granddaughters. Ahem. Dame Qithka, our Alpha, is my niece, Souegh Cannagrrh being her mother, my sister. I bid you welcome, Zhevra.” Then Orgorr looked to his left along the same side of the long table as Zhevra.

The old one’s fields were too far away to take the slightest of measure. Neither did he bow or nod at Zhevra, perhaps due to doddering age. Additionally, there were other fields in the way along the Suedzuk’s side of the table.

A older male Vargr, brown in color with amber eyes and a dark brown muzzle and wearing a formal suit that sported the medical emblem Zhevra had seen at the hospital. It was the silver phoenix that clutched in its talons a rod encircled by a serpent. The male was a doctor and he spoke up with a natural, well-aged public speaking voice to Zhevra as he bowed. “Call me Doctor Azvarrkoel Cannagrrh, Zhevra. I am soon to retire from trauma practitioner and saw support efforts to rehabilitate returning soldiers from the Equality War. Like cousin Orgorr, I too hold Dame Qithka, our Alpha, as a niece. Adhllu next to you is my daughter and next to her are my grandchildren who you will hear next. Welcome.” The physician then looked down to the youngest of three of the grandchildren he had mentioned. “Go on, child,” he urged to Dhurranae, the medium brown female from earlier that day.

“Welcome, Zhevra Cannagrrh,” said Dhurranae, the youngest of the three. “My name is Dhurranae. We met in the hall of portraits. I want to be a Researcher. I like your red pelt.” She curtsied and passed her turn to the middle child, another daughter Zhevra had not met.

“Hello, Zhevra Cannagrrh,” said the female daughter nervously. “My name is Faedoukhdaekuell, but you can call me Fade. Everyone else mispronounces it. I like to play hide and seek in the woods. I hope you can play with me as I’m good at stealth. I want to be an Agent of the Dzen Aeng Kho in Intelligence, but my dam says no.” There were humorous chuckles from the adult Vargr. Faedoukhdaekuell then looked to the lad who had rescued Zhevra in the bathroom. Zhevra noted this middle-child for later and decided to properly pronounce the shortened name for her.

The pale sandy Vargr lad who had saved Zhevra from drowning coughed nervously and looked to the Suedzuk. “My name is Gaenkarrg, milady Zhevra Cannagrrh,” the male announced himself, bowing properly and keeping from looking into Zhevra’s eyes. He wore a dress suit that he was clearly not comfortable in. Yet, Zhevra knew this male would be quite dashing in such an outfit later on in his years. She had mistaken him for Gevaudan in the bathroom. “Like my dam, I am curious to learn about your people, the Suedzuk. I am studying to be an Emissary like Souegh Cannagrrh, our previous Alpha. Uh, welcome.” The male then looked to his left across one empty chair to his dam.

“Greetings, Zhevra Cannagrrh,” said the adult female beside her. “Call me Doctor Adhllu Cannagrrh, a Scholar of Genetics specializing in Vargr phenotypes and subspecies. I am most curious to learn of an ethnicity none of us here in Gvurrdon Sector have seen or heard of since the Rebellion in the Imperium, the Red Pelts Corsairs. Sorry. I am a skilled general practitioner as well, so if you need anything, do not hesitate. Welcome.” Adhllu followed up with a ladylike curtsy. Her dress and doctor’s jacket also featured the phoenix and Asclepius staff.

To Zhevra, the female beside her was holding something back according to her thick field of Mag with a reduced Lek. Zhevra, who was used to omissions kept her face cheerful and hid her assessment.

And aside from the empty chairs reserved for an unidentified three, Dame Qithka Cannagrrh, Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh sat and beckoned all to follow suit. Dinner was enjoined.

* * *

“And amid the attempt on my life that day,” concluded Zhevra who had tired of pacing and was sore in foot and hip, she ached in all her healed bones and joints. Her scars itched too but the prisoner was not going to scratch herself in front of the males, “that is how I met the Pack Cannagrrh.”

Khzaeng let out a sigh but said nothing. Clearly his fields were tired and he was out of spoons for the day.

Both Allain and the Psion collected their items and left Zhevra in the cell to collect her thoughts. Allain’s Mag was heightened. He held the Human face of someone at a theatre suffering from a cliffhanger.

Zhevra laid down on her bunk and regretted her pacing up and down the cell with the added weight of the chains, the collar and manacles.
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Old June 21st, 2019, 10:31 PM
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XV. Regina (Spinward Marches 1910) A788899-C, Duerongvoe (Gvurrdon 1413) B664997-C of Zhevra’s testimony
The next morning, Zhevra secretly took notice of new faces among the guards who ordered her to the back of her cell, yet rudely awakening her from deep sleep. With nothing for it but a change of faces, personalities and fields, Zhevra groggily complied so Allain Templeton and Khzaeng could enter. Perhaps these guards were new hires, the prisoner thought.

“Ms. Cannagrrh,” Allain began, “I noticed in the recording that you said that there was an attempt on your life at Cannagrrh Villa.”

“Oh yes,” yawned Zhevra, showing all of her teeth lethargically. “Two in fact. Sit down, Gentlemen and let’s eat.” Breakfast was taken, but the Psion returned to his corner and stood. She fluttered her eyes at the gray robed male.

Allain switched on the recording device with a fresh charge just as Zhevra continued her story.

* * *

Zhevra slept fitfully in the night and it was not until she had the stolen carving knife under her pillow in this strange bed that she was able to doze off. In the morning, she replaced her new weapon in time to receive Nurki the youngest of the triplets by seconds.

Nurki eagerly helped the Suedzuk get ready for the new day. A physician and two therapists were on their way to Cannagrrh Villa to begin the home therapy for Zhevra this day and twice weekly as Dame Qithka had announced at dinner the night before. Of the triplets, Nurki to Zhevra seemed to have the most eager attitude about aiding her.

An in-house e-mail arrived on the laptop computer at the bedside. Zhevra picked up the computer and followed the youngest triplet to breakfast of some porcine animal, a tusk-boar or similar, in the dining hall. There, she ate with Nurki and read the message. The ham was delicious with the maple glaze. The laptop opened at the table to Nurki’s surprise, held a duplicate report of the investigation on Gevaudan’s Jump as it was now labeled after three years. To the others, thought Zhevra, the report must have been old news. To her, it was as if it happened a fortnight ago.

Robots Vincent and Bob, at an alarm of concern raised by the six active slaves aboard the Sixth Horizon that night, had to manually override the lock on the bridge door to gain entry. There they had discovered Zhevra in “critical malfunction” according to the two. Using all the medical supplies in the ship’s pantry, they somehow managed to stabilize Zhevra with the advice of one of the slaves who was training in Medical that first jump on the way to Gnoengungag. Having lost much of her blood to the deck, Zhevra was moved to an empty low berth capsule and put “on ice” as the report transcriptionist wrote. She was kept under all the way to Dzuerongvoe as only the vessel’s next of kin could wield power of attorney for Zhevra and Gevaudan’s possessions.

During the three jumps and landing at Gnoengungag Bay Downport, Vincent and Bob conducted an investigation using the Scout-Courier’s exploration gear, their sensors and gathered flight recorder information. Gevaudan, in accordance with Quarantine protocols against Virus infection had long gutted the Sixth Horizon of its IFF transponder, but kept the “black box” data recorder device on the bridge. A snap-drop reduction of bridge cabin air pressure was recorded. On the deck near the helm-nav chair was found water condensation, vapor that had settled to the deck. In the same area was a fine, trace evidence of lanthanum dust, a byproduct of teleportation while wearing a Teleportation Suit, the signature accessory of a jaunt such as Gevaudan. Zhevra recalled with chills up her spine that Gevaudan was wearing such a suit when he turned on her with those azure eyes. The pressure drop, water vapor and lanthanum dust allowed investigators, the robots and later forensic scientists to conclude that Gevaudan Cannagrrh had indeed attempted to ‘teleport’ from the vessel while on its first night into jumpspace transit. This was the main argument that the Courier-slaver had committed suicide after nearly killing his mate-wife, Zhevra.

Zhevra continued to read though it became difficult to control her left claw’s use of the silverware at the table. Nurki watched nervously, no doubt fearful that the Suedzuk might fall from her grav-chair. Because the ground crew had directed the Far Scout vessel to a berth nearest the Startown’s hospital, once the ship’s power plant was switched to local umbilical feeds, the robots Vincent and Bob could not lift the ship again. Only the Captain (and supposedly Zhevra) knew the command codes to operate the ship again. It had to be crane lifted and moved to a disused berth and was slated for decommissioned. That is, until the Dame Qithka Cannagrrh, Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh stepped in with a small army of advocates and offered the curator of a museum to become caretaker for an Imperium relic starship with Vincent and Bob, still clean of Virus, to maintain and welcome museum-goers to hear the story and tour the Sixth Horizon. The report went on to show that the exhibit was still located at the Gnoengungag Bay Downport at one end of the airstrip nearest the aerospace and interstellar museum.

The ship was still sound and meticulously maintained by Vincent and Bob. This was heartening news to Zhevra. Back at her room and alone, she had waited for Nurki to depart; the Suedzuk posted an acknowledging reply, with what now felt like a not-so-secret code word, “Orange,” though she knew Qithka would understand her singular vocabulary reply. Zhevra committed the main points of the report then deleted the in-house e-mail from the laptop computer. Gevaudan was never seen on his ship from then on. They must have searched inside and outside the hull upon that first jump precipitation, Zhevra guessed.

Anglla came to escort Zhevra to therapy as it was her turn. For six hours, the Suedzuk endured tests, measurements, and exercises to actuate her lower limbs and tail. It was slow going at first, but the first signs of rehabilitation began to evidence. Smiles all around her, the patient had to wipe tears from her eyes. She was sure she would walk again, perhaps before the Solstice Fete!

Later, in the Dame’s makeshift office inside the library, Qithka pulled off her spectacles and said, “Legs are fine, but what I want is your vocabulary back.” Then dismissing Anglla, the eldest of the dark-furred triplet teenagers, she leaned forward and whispered, “You will draft me your side of the story, Zhevra. I want it tonight, but you must continue to play as if you are still dumb to all but a color of a citrus fruit. Get me?”

Zhevra nodded. This orange business was now a cloak to secret missives that would pass between her and the Dame.

“I’ve summoned an old acquaintance,” Qithka Cannagrrh declared with some confidence in her voice. “A former attaché from my days in the magazine is coming here, to Cannagrrh Villa. She is an Unequal, so do not give her any trouble. I know you passed the Equality Test with coaching from Gevaudan. Uthka Varzeekh is her name. She comes off as eccentric and poses as a fortune teller, but don’t be fooled by her stage smoke and mirrors. She will come escorted by two other Pack Unequals. Older than even I and still sharp as a Corsair’s cutlass, Uthka has been on ice for some years now for reasons only she knows. I am paying her handsomely to come here and help you get your vocabulary back, since none of these quacks on the grounds can seem to pick your mental locks.”

Zhevra nodded obeisantly, “Orange,” Thank you. She kept her submissive demeanor but inwardly, Zhevra noted the mention of the two Pack Unequals. This was the first she had heard of Unequal Pack members. But her mental filing was interrupted by the Dame.

“One more thing, Zhevra,” the Dame held Zhevra longer. “Housekeeper Vrrakh tells me that there was no bottle of bubble bath in your bathroom when she had your bedroom prepared to receive you. Someone must have infiltrated your quarters and left an accident waiting to happen for you to utilize. I gave you the only key to that door. This is foul play and no one can prove anything. Did you detect anything strange yesterday?”

Zhevra shook her head in the negative in reply. Additionally, she had numbed her Awareness in the bathroom by slipping into the tub. Death by drowning from bubble bath and paraplegia would be just the accident to rid the Villa of the next Alpha. All sad and remorseful, the responsible party would have rid the Pack of a Red Pelt. Life goes on.
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Old June 21st, 2019, 10:34 PM
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“Do you have any questions for me, Zhevra?” asked the Dame finally willing to let Zhevra converse via the laptop computer.

Zhevra opened the computer in her lap and typed with her index claws, May I read books and files from the library?

“Any particular topics?”

History of the Dzen Aeng Kho, history of Pack Cannagrrh and the Equality War. Zhevra finished typing the response and waited for the Dame to respond.

Considering the request visibly and carefully to Zhevra’s Awareness, the Dame finally nodded. “The history section is over there. If there isn’t a book on it, then the laptop can access library database files.” Then Qithka laid her spectacles over her eyes once more and then went back to work at her desk.

Having written her fair share of term research papers, Zhevra floated her grav-chair to the History section of the library’s stacks. Within five minutes she either had found a hardcopy of a book or searched for the topic on her laptop via the in-house network. Then she made her exit from the library to the hall and toward her bedroom.

The sandy male, Gaenkarrg was waiting outside the door to Zhevra’s bedroom. As the grav-chair came to a halt there, Zhevra saw that little Dhuerra, the youngest of the cubs of Dr. Adhllu Cannagrrh was behind him and hiding. Gaenkarrg spoke up when Zhevra waved a wordless greeting at him, “Milady, I brought my sister Dhuerra because she wanted to say something. Go on, Dhuerra.” Then Gaenkarrg gently ushered the female out from behind him and toward Zhevra.

“S-s-sorry you had an accident, milady,” said the young female. “I saw that the bubble bath was mine, from my bathroom cabinet. I, uh, I don’t like taking baths and hate bubble baths. But I didn’t put it in your bathroom, honest to the Ancients.”

Zhevra patted the medium brown cub’s head and nodded. Stroking the female, Zhevra lifted Dhurera’s chin and said, “Orange.” It’s okay. Zhevra wanted to say more but for her vocabulary lock. Instead she leaned over as far as she dared in the grav-chair and gave the cub a quick lick and a friendly smile. Then the Suedzuk gently urged her back to her older brother, Gaenkarrg.

“See, Dhue?” said the sandy male. “That wasn’t so bad. Milady’s got red fur but not red eyes.” It was a Gvegh figure of speech for a Vargr filled with rage. Then Gaenkarrg nodded a polite bow to Zhevra and escorted the young female. “No next life for you, little sis,” the patient heard him say to his sibling. Did the male also subscribe to reincarnation like little Dhuerra had mention in the hall of portraits?

Zhevra spent the next few days absorbing the histories she had checked out of the library and its database. She read fast, taking in the details and skipping the flourishes and glory phrases of the authors. Clearly the historians were in the pay of the Council of worlds when the books were written. The history of the Pack was kept virtually and Zhevra read it on her laptop. She learned Pack’s family trees. There were the three mains and a side branch extending out from the Dame’s grandfather. Sungzurr Cannagrrh, the Alpha before Qithka’s mother, Souegh Cannagrrh, had a brother who was that extending branch. Rrokhvikdhung Cannagrrh also was blessed with three cubs. However, tragedy struck the eldest cub when he died during the Equality Test. It was labeled an accident brought on by the male and the Test took a life, an expected seldom occurrence Zhevra thought possible now that she too had passed the examinations. One other branch of the family was a female that married outside the Pack and had three cubs of the remote Pack. There she learned that Enforcer Vekalgvo’s eldest son committed suicide after failing the Equality Test but before his canines could be extracted. By hanging himself, the lad must have thought to remove his perceived shame from the family by removing himself from the family tree. Zhevra learned that a different shame fell upon that family from the suicide. Suicide was no means to redeem one’s honor or charisma posthumously.
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