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  #11  
Old July 27th, 2019, 10:29 AM
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227-1105
Aezorr (Provence 0430) A554979-C Hi VDzF

As I have said to others, Provence Sector is home to Logaksu-brand Commerce. Its worlds are some of the most densely Important in the Vargr Extents, a testament to Logaksu contribution to the Vargr Major Race. Though I did not know it upon breakout from jumping out of Kirg (leaving behind the chaos of the Summit), Uessae, Miss Ka and I were to spend more than a few weeks on mainworld Aezorr.

Aezorr was supposed to scratch off from our Bucket List: take a vacation. It did that and more. At an output of 6272 aryu, Aezorr was a rich and prosperous world in terms of commerce if lacking the Rich (Ri) Trade Classification. Though I did not confront her on it, (Uessae's charisma doubles mine), I blame her for this dirtside interlude. Aezorr was relaxing enough that I did not call BuddySystem on the ladies during our stay.

But two lady cops frisked me the same day I sold the four Armored Vehicles. I had obeyed local planetary law of no weapons outside of the home. But after their administrations, I secretly admit I was turned on by the Logaksu law enforcement officers and their "random security check" in the Startown minutes after I was done at the Commerce kiosk terminal.

Back at the ship landed at the Downport, Uessae stopped me from digging out the Red Wizard console. Slapping printed hard copy down on the table, Uessae came close to me. "Did you know that there is a Psionic Institute somewhere here on Aezorr?" By her proximity, I felt a surge of attraction for Uessae after this day's events.

"I thought you Imperials detested psionics," I managed to get out from under the gaze of those blue jewel eyes.

"This is the Vargr Extents you keep telling me," nodded Uessae. "Imperial law does not apply here. Aren't you just a little curious to know if you rate, Ri?"

"What will Miss Ka say?"

"Feh. She's Vilani and will turn me down flat. But you, Ri...."

"I dunno. It's not illegal, not public either. Sorta don't ask, don't tell."

"At our ages, this may be our last opportunity to try out. This is my first window, Ri. I don't want to go alone. Please come with me at least?"

We spent the evening going over her investigative results. Uessae filled me in on her adventurous day. She sat next to me at the table in the galley and went over her findings. I was flustered still by the lady cops and Uessae's proximity did not let me off that high.

Earlier today, Uessae had been wandering the Downport. This far deep coreward into the Extents, Aekhu were becoming less common sights. She had overheard five Logaksu Merchants looking as the same planetary map display. Her ears picked up that the Merchants had no clues yet to the location of the Psionic Institute here on Aezorr. Shocked and instantly overstimulated, Uessae changed her itinerary to head for an Information kiosk now that she had recovered from her Imperial shock and the fact that she was now free, in the clear in the Vargr Extents. Such was now a forgotten possibility to Uessae.

The kiosk attendant tech helped her search for the Institute in a subtle fashion after Uessae had let slip that she wanted to peruse psychology to "expand her mind". In between printed sheets of psych papers was printed a confirmation from the tech that there was indeed a Psionic Institute dirtside. He had said not a word.

"...and I found it, Ri. It's somewhere on Grid Triangle Two, on a volcanic island of the Western Hemisphere."

"In the equatorial wilderness?" I asked nervously. Travellers generally stuck to Starports and Startowns and did not venture into planetary wilderness unless they were Scouts.

With what I took to be a lusty stare from Uessae, she said, "With great risk comes great reward."

"Nine-thousand klicks from the Downport, Uessae."

"Chicklizarding out already, Traveller?"

"Well no. I guess I could pack a simple pole and hide my Bayonet in the trunk of the Air/raft-"

Uessae's turn for a Vargr tongue to loll out. "Great!" she cut me off. "We'll unpack the Air/raft tonight and head out to the island tomorrow." That evening, like a cub at a birthday party, Uessae slashed her claws at the plastic wrapping enveloping the Thuegueus II integral Air/raft. I packed it with MREs, water and anything I thought we owned and might need. She tested the gravitic drive for a few minutes about the ship and above the tarmac.

"Are you rated in Vehicles, Uessae?" I asked her.

"Ship's Boat."

"Not the same!"

I ordered Master and Commander to wear her Combat Armor-11 or I refused to go. The next morning, I was roused awake by Uessae in my cabin and shaking me. "Let's go!" I paid Life Support, Extended Berthing and Payday for Miss Ka and Uessae in hopes that I would not be able to afford Psi testing and training on the improbability that either of us rated. Uessae pushed down my Hand Computer-11 and huffed, "Quit trying to chicklizard out, Ri."
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  #12  
Old July 27th, 2019, 10:31 AM
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Into the pre-dawn, southwesterly winds I screamed as Uessae gunned the Air/raft in what I thought were M-Drive Gs of thrust. The island ahead of us was slowly being crushed as two tectonic plates crushed the pair of mountains together. One, a volcano was active, and I saw lava flowing down into a shrinking ravine or chasm between the formations. Vegetation was low but still reached overhead. With Uessae zooming in a circuit around the island, we did not spot any sophont structures. Pyroclastic bombs fell from the skies after their ejection from the volcano. A thick column of gasses and ash painted the skies over the island.

"We'll have to hike inland if we don't want the Air/raft struck," declared Uessae.

"Hike?" I'm a Merchant not some geology surveyor.

We parked the Air/raft as close as we dared and behind a shielding outcrop just to be sure. Then into the chasm we trekked on foot. I had a metal pole thin enough to mount my Bayonet-3 with me. Uessae did not have a melee weapon.

"Look, Ri! Caves." Uessae pointed them out to me.

"Those aren't caves, Uessae. Those are old lava tubes."

"Even on the mountain side of the ravine, opposite the volcano?"

So, I am not rated in surveying or scouting. But we soon learned what did come from the mountain caves if not lava flows. Mountain grazers with single curving horns, Groat hooves and long, slinky tails trotted out and up the steep sides of the mountain as if rated in mountain climbing champions. My homeworld being just four parsecs away, I knew what they were called if not their scientific names.
"Mountain unicorns,” I announced.

"I thought unicorns were supposed to be white," puzzled Uessae.

"Solomani legends, Uessae. These are not friendly to fair maidens."

Defensively, the herd from the caves took to the steep climbs at sight of us. They bleated and brayed at us as we passed their high perches.

"Look out!" called Uessae. A dark shape had darted out from a short and lower ridge at me. Fast as a bullet, the pouncer-carnivore tried to sink venomous fangs into me through my armor. Knocked over at its speed and collision, I dropped my makeshift Bayonet spear.

The Dancer was fast but smaller than a Vargr. I blocked its bite twice in trying to Infight back at it. But with my helmet on, I was unable to bite back. Atop me, I struggled in a wrestle. A venomous bite to take down a mountain unicorn was the Dancer's mode of hunting. Paralytic to one of the grazers, it would kill one my size when my heart stopped. Speed was its favored asset. Climbing after the mountain unicorns was its territory. Claw marks decorated my Combat Armor-11. The Dancer's teeth could not penetrate the forearm plates though. If just one tooth got between the plates and through the mesh-

Then Uessae impaled the Dancer on my Bayonet blade and levered the lithe, muscular demon off of me and up into the air by putting her foot on the butt of the spear and heaving upwards. The monster died on the Bayonet, likely due to puncture of a vital organ. We panted in our armors for a minute.

"Welcome to the food chain," I gasped between pants.

"We don't eat the Dancers," said a Logaksu voice from behind a compressor mask. Aezorr has a Thin atmosphere. The male was dressed in an artfully woven, maroon red poncho-robe ensemble. "Their blood is the source of their venom and is saturated throughout their bodies being immune to it. Take one bite and seal your fate." The Vargr held out his claws empty of weapons.

"Where did you come from?" I asked as I rose from the chasm floor.

"That cave over there, in the grotto behind the lavafalls. Come. Welcome, Travellers to the Circle of the Esoteric Mind Psionic Institute. We have a safe complex inside. I came as soon as I saw the unicorns begin climbing. They usually stop calling once up high. I believe they kept calling to warn you two of their predator."

"How thoughtful," noted Uessae.

"Yes, hmmm, well they do have minds too, locked behind animal instinct."

We followed the Psion, for what other Vargr talks metaphysics like that? Behind the very hot lavafall was the circular, vault door to an underground complex of smooth, circular tunnels. I saw up close that they had no tool scars from tunneling machinery. "That is because these halls were tunneled by power telekinetics now long-passed." Great. A telepath.

Master Dzansae read our motives and with grace and the confirmation of our credits for testing moved us to registering. We toured the multi-level complex of circular rooms. Stonework furniture, leftovers from the telekinetic excavation were circular tables circular stools, circular bed frames. These people had-
"...perfect circles on their minds, I know. I thought that too when I first arrived in my late teens." I had to get used to being read.

Upon registering, Uessae was given a maroon poncho-robe for female frames. I got the male's fashion. It was explained that outside distractions of wear and gear would hinder the testing. Soon, we were gonna drink the Kewl-Kids lemonade too.

"I made jokes in my head too."

Be careful what you say among others. Be careful of what you think when alone. I would soon learn to control my big, mental mouth here too.

There was a sub-level in the Esot- eso-...harumph, in the Institute for each discipline of known psionics. Uessae and I were able to rest and recover. We answered questions from non-telepaths and more directly for telepaths. Except for the Masters and instructors, just about everyone else was younger than Uessae and I. We took meals with anyone and as we hungered. No schedules. No rituals of normal, mundane life. Sleep off your psionic exertions as needed, sweep a floor, take a meal. We were adults and had paid for testing. Alone, each applicant takes the testing for that next digit on one's UPP card, the one never read but is there. Questions, verbal and written. Interviews about our upbringing and pasts. Aptitudes listed on our UPP card. Questions of our preferences of the known disciplines presented to us. The testing took all week. We were presented with hardcopy and with educational recordings, likely to unlearn what we had learned about psionics, dispelling misconceptions.
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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

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  #13  
Old July 27th, 2019, 10:40 AM
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At the end of the week Uessae saw each other. We had our reports in hand. "How'd you do, Ri?" asked my co-conspirator.

"Well enough to score a dregs-worthy 1. You?" Uessae seemed to have higher hopes for me. But we knew going into this that age was not our friend.

"I scored a 3, Ri."

Two forty-somethings still had juice left to rate. "Are you going further?" I asked her.

"Only if you do too. Please, Ri?"

Four months and an order higher in spent credits. I saw my credit account taking hits I had spent five jumps to build up. To say we graduated on 350 of 1105 would be overstating the training regimen. To detail a curriculum and practicum that is as individual as a thumbprint is inefficient. Ancients, I'm talking like a fortune cookie!

For me, I learned to shield my mind against Master Dzansae, sense minds one wall next door and push brass gram weights across a table with my mind. Lame, huh?

Uessae was a Special. And I do mean Special with capital S. Yeah, sure, Uessae learned mental Shield and Life Detection out a lil further than me, right? She did heighten to Telempathy though. Good on her. Yeah, I was envious. But she had aimed for the unknown and it had answered her.

In her claw at graduation was a gunmetal, ferro-nickel, engraved Pocketwatch-4, a gift from the Masters. "If I wear myself out for the day, Ri, I can see up to fifteen seconds into the future. This gift is to help me concentrate, a Focus they call it." She then hung it on its chain about her neck, under her neck ruff. The future. That was hefty stuff for us psi-lowbies. In my Shielded mind I made a parallel to Uessae's Red Wizard avatar. Her Godstriker had looted the Amulet of the Dakhaseri. How appropriate.

"I could have seen further if I had tested and trained at a younger life stage."

"No no, Uessae. That's epic drop stuff."

"You think so? I can't read you."

"Uessae, a lot can happen in just 15 seconds." We got to keep our poncho-robes, and we were sent forth to develop our psychic muscles even this late in psionic potential. The Air/raft was waiting outside the Institute. Uessae pulled out of the grotto while I pulled out my Comm-12 and called the ship.

Lidus Ka picked up on the second ring, mid-ring. "Where the hell have you two been these past four months?!" We missed Lidus' birthday. We promised we were okay and that we would make it up to her as we flew back to the Downport.

Scratch another from the Bucket List: get tested and potentially trained for psionics.

It was a rain downpour when we pulled up to the Thuegueus II landing pad. Poor Lidus Ka was waiting for us that dusk. She was drenched. And crying.

The ship took on two High Passengers, one ton of Freight, and I purchased 32 tons of industrial Steel for the hold. Our next stop was my homeworld of Tuerrg two parsecs coreward.

Glad to be home, I noted that I now called the Thuegueus II home.

I could not lie to Lidus Ka. I warned Uessae about it. So, she took Miss Ka aside in their shared cabin. I did not hear what was said as Uessae used a hair blow dryer on the wet Vilani.

Terran German Chocolate with the coconut sprinkles was the answer to Lidus Ka's birthday cake. I baked her one and presented it with the ritual candles for the 27-year old to make a wish and blow them out with her breath. We fell back into our roles after First Meal. A Vargr Packet on the outbound trip to 100 Diameters was disinterested in the Thuegueus II.

That first night in the hole, Uessae entered my cabin. I wore a Terry cloth towel as I was still damp even after the blow dryer in the fresher shower. Those sapphire eyes scanned me head to tail. She was wearing her ship suit, again zipped too low. The Pocketwatch-4 rode its chain at about the same place her avatar's Amulet hung. Uessae Noedhin had to have known I was just out of the shower. Gauges on the Bridge and in Engineering register and monitor water use. She was still back to the sliding door to my cabin when I heard her lock it. "What- what did you tell her?" I asked Uessae. It was already over 24 hours since the females talked in their cabin.

She advanced on me. I was held still by her gaze. "I told her your-....Pack name was longer than Ofo's. Now poni up, Ri."

"Uessae, I-"

"You owe me."

She tore off my towel as I unzipped her suit. She said then at the full sight of me, "Drop your Shield too. I'll do the same."

Taking down one's Shield is like taking down your hair. Imagine for a few seconds of reaching up and pulling the hair pins out from holding up your Human mane or gathering your Vargr neck ruff in the back. The tresses relax, the hair falls into a more natural position and everything becomes informal. At least for me, that's how lowering your mental Shield feels like.

With both our Shields down, we could sense each other through Life Detection. Well, that’s obvious, right? But Uessae could cheat. Through her Telempathy she might not get my actual, thinking thoughts or probe my memories. But she could feel my emotions for her. I was nervous. I was cowed by her aggressiveness just now. I yielded to her charisma doubling mine. But I was also gripped in a passion for her. If all she did next was to hug me, I could be content. But it was apparent that she had further intent. In that, I must add lust to the list. I wanted her. I had been attracted to Uessae Noedhin since the day she and Ofo interviewed as crew for my Vargr Trader. It was maybe wrong to be envious of Ofo, but I kept my paws off and played by the rules and hoped the best for the couple. But now....

And now she knew my heart for her. I was lustful, yes, but through all the things we had endured, I loved Uessae. There. I said it. I love Uessae Noedhin. And through her Telempathy, Imperial Naval Captain Uessae Noedhin, Retired, my Master and Commander, healer of my vengeance streak, my inspiration and fellow Psion could feel that I loved her. Did she feel the same? In that moment, in that cabin, Uessae sought to telegraph her answer to me.

I slid that ship slicker off of Uessae and went where no Logaksu had gone before. She showed me her hull. I showed her my Jump Drive. We blended pelts all over that stateroom, not just the bed. In hindsight, the captain’s cabin on an Empress Marava would have opened up the possibilities further. But Uessae was sharing it with Lidus Ka. Uessae whispered, “Stop jumbling your emotions and focus.”

Focus among Psions is a keyword, a vocabulary term. In my training, I did more than just push a brass gram weight across the table. I was able to shape my will to spread out what amounted to a gentle touch by distributing that gram of force, distance over time. It’s pitifully weak when you think about it. With my pitiful telekinetic Move, I was able to touch Uessae Noedhin with an extra, mentally generated appendage, be it a claw or shaped as a Human hand or any other light form of touch. She had requested that I cheat too.

Logging, I can set aside the details, lest someone get the wrong or too many ideas in their headspace about that night. What more is there to say that cannot be covered in some lady’s romance novel or in a pornographic article? Hence the euphemism of blending pelts. I deleted all my porn in Engineering the very next morning.
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Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
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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~
The Pakkrat 0608 X58738-8 S va++ so+ zh+ vi+ da+ 534
On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

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Old July 27th, 2019, 10:48 AM
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355-1105

Tuerrg (Provence 0428) A575A77-E Hi In K VDzF

Breakout to my homeworld gave mixed feelings. The family Trader was being buried in the sand dunes of Naasakiira. I was in love with an Aekhu from the Third Imperium. I had an Imperium vessel, even if it was painted in Corsairs’ Teeth. By now the recording of my presentation on Kirg would have reached my Pack and specifically my direct family. What would they say to me? I could not bring myself to hide up the gravity well by docking at the Highport. I had to land on the mainworld surface so the Pack could grav over and see me immediately if they wished.

Added to the reunion was delivering Jack’s casket to his family. Jack also originated on Tuerrg. He and I started out this rimward journey through the Dzarrgh Federate before picking up Grunt.

On the final approach, we caught snapshots of an up close Sorrgheg Vargr Corsair in all its 600-tons of piracy glory. It is a misconception that all Corsair hulls are always used in piracy. Many are hired as mercenaries, privateers, or on-the-spot patrols. Some I’ve heard perform Search and Rescue or help with salvage operations before a wrecker is summoned to a site.

The same basic procedure for Jack’s Funeral was given. I returned him in his casket to his family which lived in a suburb of one of the major cities that was mired in industry, specifically manufacturing. At an aryu rated at 9792, Tuerrg was one of the most Important, high-tech fortresses of Dzarrgh Federate production. With the recordings of Jack and the gift of his Red Wizard Artificer to the family and their cubs, we paid our respects. I also released his final balance of credits to his family. Jack had been frugal, and now I saw why. He had come from humble roots that he never shared with me.

The gravs from my family and extended Pack started arriving the next day and cycled out throughout the day. In my Pack, the eldest does not necessarily inherit automatically. Living wills filed lawfully sealed and delivered can circumvent lineage order. My elder siblings arrived first as they could, having taken time off from their careers to visit the Traveller of the Pack, the Black Groat, the runt.

Each got to meet a real Human up close and personal for the first time. Even more rare than Aekhu this deep into the Extents is Humaniti, and of them Vilani most often if encountered at all. So, as my siblings greeted and laid claws on Miss Lidus Ka, who reciprocated, here next came my dam. She jumped out of the old family Air/raft and came to "smother" her youngest issue. "Pudgie-woodgums!"

"DAaaaammm," I moaned as she grappled me in her arms while amused Uessae looked on from inside her Imperium formal dress uniform.

"Let me look at you."

"I'm no longer the fat cub you reared, Dam."

"But where's the ship?" Questions heaped on more questions. But I had prepared. I toured the Pack through the Thuegueus II and showed them a 3-D presentation, a sort of slideshow of my travels since leaving rimward from Tuerrg. I omitted the more painful parts of the Charter and instead introduced Imperium Naval Captain Uessae Noedhin, Retired to my immediate family.

"She's all black," said a sibling's young cub in Anglic. Anglic was being taught in ED5 now I guessed. The adults knew the Aekhu not so rare as the Vilani in Dzarrvaer Subsector.

Over dinner I had finishing in the galley, I treated the family that could stay. The rest clasped claws with me and returned to their homes and careers. Most congratulated me. Some barely said two words. The evening was spent heaping questions on Uessae who countered with questions about me. Bucket List item scratched off: bring her home to meet the family. We did not tell my family that Uessae and I were now Psions. That was part of the training, to hide psionics in plain view and avoid becoming elitists with our powers.

Since I made enough credits on the industrial Steel, I caved into the need for Low Berths aboard the Thuegueus II. I had installed eight of the cryosleep chambers forward in the cargo hold and near a door to the crew sections. The Low Berths could earn me credits while giving me yet another chore as the ship’s Medic and serve for emergency purposes in case there was a problem. Standard design for an Empress Marava Far Trader usually comes with ten Low Berths but remember that I had selected systems of the Thuegueus II out of anger and weaponized a tramp Trader to rescue Uessae and Miss Ka.

The modification reduced cargo hold space, but Low Passengers came running when they saw my destination was the capital of the Dzarrgh Federate. The decrease to 25 tons of available hold space also lowered my Freight availability. In that, I chose to purchase 25 tons at 50% (improving my attitude in sleaze-haggling), of Polymers. It was Corsair Leader Nougzoel’s sword that gave me the idea.

Now that the Thuegueus II was regarded by me as a home, it was time to make the weaponized Trader more commercial. I landed two High Passengers in the same day as the Low Passengers came running. Set back Cr200,000, it was time to make some more credits. We multi-messaged my Pack of our departure and said our goodbyes over the SysNet. I was the Traveller of the Pack and could not be expected to stay. I already had that vacation on Aezorr.

Outbound from Tuerrg, we caught sight of an older, almost antique hull of a Vargr Corsair. The inbound, post-breakout Corsair was a Rrazaghz-class raider of 500 tons. You don’t see those hardly anymore.

With the discharge of Hack from our Red Wizard Spacewolves, Uessae, Miss Ka and I had to progress a little slower in Red Wizard. But I caught Uessae using her psionics once, with Miss Ka sitting at the table. We wore our goggles and gloves, so the Vilani woman could only see into the game world, but from the back rank I saw her avatar reach up and grasp her Amulet of the Dakhaseri and knew that at the table the real Uessae had reached up to her Pocketwatch-4 and looked into the next moments to come.

“Take the left branch, Lidus,” suggested Uessae to Lidus’ Artificer. “I think I see a pattern to these dungeon complexes.” And sure enough, fifteen seconds later, we hit pay dirt with me on the front ranks, a diminutive Alchemist in the lead.

Later that night in the hole between Tuerrg and Dzarrvaer (which rhymes with starfire for those that cannot pronounce Vargr words well), I cornered Uessae on the stood down Bridge. “You cheated,” I whispered even though Miss Ka had gone to bed.

“Ri,” began Uessae. “You know that without psi-pharmacopeia I can only do that once a day. And you know that we have to practice our powers and discover the possible applications. Lidus was distracted and inside the game.”

“But I thought we were playing to pass the time not trying to Win,” I challenged.

“If I don’t practice this Predict power as they call it, I might has well space this Pocketwatch, Ri.” It was true. We had been sent forth from the Psionic Institute on Aezorr to hone and test our newfound powers. I just did not want to come out of the closet to Miss Ka who might become frightened of Vargr Psions this deep into the Extents. I did not want to come clean about our ‘vacation’ on Aezorr either.

“I don’t like Winning by unfair advantage, Uessae. It doesn’t feel good to rise in the standings knowing that it was because we were cheating.”

“Oh?” Uessae asked with her claws on her hips and her head tilted to one side. “And your skill with that sleaze-haggling isn’t cheating the markets so you can have extra payouts, Ri?” That took the wind out of me. Was psionics just another skill one can develop? I had to practice the art Humans call Bribery to use as a weapon in the marketplace of each world. Why did I put psionics in a separate box from skills? Was it because psionics was feared or despised? Hell, any skill whetted and honed to a fine-tuned perfection can be scary. Look at Uessae’s deadly accuracy with her Shotgun for example. Nodding at my mental gears turning, Uessae came close for a hug. Whispering, she said, “Ri, you’ve been cheating the system for so long, patting yourself on the back for what you pass off as ingenuity, that you blurred the lines between adept practice and cheating the system. Though under the veil of silence, psionics is no different. You feel less than victorious. I do too. Maybe I can find some other venue to practice Predict. But it will require that you listen to me and heed me when I do Predict, okay?” She had come forth with another option. I returned her hug then. I was going to suggest that but she got the initiative.

“Okay,” I whispered back at her. It earned me a lick there on the Bridge in the dead of ship-night.

Uessae did not cheat again in Red Wizard. Silently we agreed each time we logged on with the nod of our avatars’ heads not to Win at Red Wizard. But upon breakout we would learn that the demon hoard we had looted had elevated us in in-game gear and in the standings. This could raise some eyebrows from the Dzarrvaer local players for a while. A Godstriker, an Artificer and an Alchemist had taken the fast track to success without the help of other wizardly professions.
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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

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Old July 27th, 2019, 10:53 AM
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005-1106

Dzarrvaer (Provence 0285) A766A74-E Ga Hi Cx K VDzF

“Happy New Year!” Lidus exclaimed to us as we broke out. Even though Holiday was technically a few days past, it was Vilani tradition for those in jump to celebrate it only in normal space instead of jump transit.
Uessae stopped herself just before converging on me and looked to Lidus before saying, “Are you sure you’re old enough to-...y’know?”

“I’m not an adolescent at 27, Uessae,” protested the Vilani woman. “Go ahead.”

“Just making sure,” nodded Uessae Noedhin who grabbed me up from my station at Engineering as the Vilani hummed the Holiday tune. It does not sound like the Solomani Auld Lang Syne.

Uessae Noedhin, my Master and Commander of the Thuegueus II hugged me close and gave me a long lick. I returned it in full view of Lidus Ka. A part of me was glad to show this side of the Vargr to another species, that we aren’t all mercurial chaos, teeth and claws.

“Happy New Year,” said the pretty Aekhu with the glittering sapphire eyes.

Also celebrating after-Holiday was the genuinely friendly Vargr Packet that was also inbound. Because we had the higher acceleration, the remote captain graciously let us take final approach to Dzarrvaer Orbital first. The fuel skimming went well and still festive as the two ships turned toward mainworld Dzarrvaer. 28.6 hours later in-system, we docked at the Highport and cycled the business of Travelling again. I did not do as well as I’d have liked with the Polymers, selling them at 80%. But nabbing them at 50% back on Tuerrg made up for it. Often it is not at the sale but in the purchase that credits can be saved. But at Cr100,000 per ton, the Electronics Parts Imbalances sitting in the speculatives market was beyond my credit balance. I scored another two High Passengers and filled all eight Low Passengers. A Capital world, especially an Important, Industrial polity Capital will always have a waiting line for passages.

The Highport Warden approached Uessae and I as a pair. We were both in simple yet identical ship slickers, the kind that slide easily into Vacc Suits as the Logaksu Warden picked us out. An Aekhu and a Logaksu pair was just what he needed as our next Patron. Would we two please conduct a “secret shopper” inspection of the Highport and quietly list all who made legal use of Administration and those who used my sleaze-haggling or Bribery to generate a report on staff scruples and morale? The task would only take two days. Inwardly we debated using our psionics to further aid this probe. But the task went well as our ship underwent Life Support renewal. The ship scored Cr20,000 for the report we turned in as we toured the orbital facility.

With the speculatives selling far too high even at base prices and the Freight lots too large for the ship’s hold, I was forced to accept earnings from the High and Low Passengers for the destination of Knokseng (Provence 0422). Scratch one from the Bucket List: visit your empire’s capital world.

The Garden world of Dzarrvaer had yet to Taint the atmosphere and gain the Trade Classification of Industrial. The Factions on the Capital world still bickered environmentalism versus mercantile clout. We took a few Sensors snapshots for our archives and the Bucket List to see that seats of government in Vargr empires are not all degenerate bazaars of filth. I pointed this out to Miss Ka who said nothing of the sort. To this day, I believe that the Balkanized Capital world of Dzarrvaer is why the Dzarrgh Federate remained a loose and fair-trade Confederation despite the Summit I had seen last year.

And that’s why I like my home polity of the Federate. Freedom.

Lidus Ka our Astrogator had laid in the pathing course for one of three Gas Giants of Knokseng (Provence 0422). I was more confidently at the Engineering console on the Bridge rather than in my Vargr Cave aft. “Maneuver Drive offline and Jump Drive charged, zuchai crystals stable. Jump at your command,” I reported.

“Stand by,” said Uessae. I held my thumbclaw over the COMMIT button to initiate jump and looked over at her.

Uessae was in her ship’s suit and had turned her back on Lidus Ka at Astrogation. She was crying. I know because I saw her tears flowing down her cheeks and muzzle. In her left claw was her ticking Pocketwatch-4. “Stand by,” she said again. Seconds ticked by. I was confused right up until I recognized what was happening. But Uessae crying was what unnerved me. And still my thumbclaw hovered over that COMMIT button.

“Now,” Uessae commanded. She opened her eyes at me with an intense expression on her canine face.

“Jump now?”

“Now! Jump now!”

I mashed the jump initiation button. The distant whine of the Jump Drive was off to my Engineer’s ears. To this day, I will never forget the call of a misjump, a misjump that Uessae could not avoid despite her power of Predict. The quicksilver of jumpspace enveloped the ship. All seemed well after that whine from the Drives section let off.

“I’d better go check what that noise was about.” I got up and headed for the door.

“Lidus, please stand down the Bridge for me,” ordered Uessae. Uessae followed me to Engineering. Down the starboard side Corridor we walked, leaving Miss Ka to close all viewports to the jump field outside the ship. Uessae recovered herself from crying as we entered Engineering. Everything there looked in place. But a board detailing the status of the jump field told me that we had a poorly defined bubble. We had misjumped.

“I’m sorry, Ri,” whispered Uessae. “All the futures led to this. I could not redirect us from a misjump.”

“Uessae-“

“How bad is it?”

I secretly slaved the board to Sensors and queried them. “We’re off course,” I admitted. “But outside the normal universe, I can’t tell how far and for how long.”

“All the Low Berths are full, Ri.”

One hears horror stories of captains with low scruples sacrificing Low Passengers to use the Low Berths until a ship trapped in jumpspace precipitates. This was such a situation. “I am not doing that, Uessae. No way. I have to draw the line s-somewhere.” I was adamantly against such a gruesome practice. Nodding silently at me, with some approval in her tail motions, Uessae Noedhin turned and left Engineering for her cabin.
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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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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

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Old July 27th, 2019, 10:57 AM
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The causality questions come unbidden. Could I have done anything different to avoid this misjump? How about using refined fuel instead of skimming the unrefined? I grit my teeth at the thought. Had I tuned the Jump Drive properly? Yes. We’re we behind on the annual overhaul? No. One guilt stuck with me. The sizes of the drives added to a total beyond any one Engineer to babysit. I had skimped on providing a second Engineer for the huge Jump Drive with its four-parsec range since discharging Admiral Laegh who had been my stand-in until Kirg.

And this was not about skill. It was about monitoring schedules. Damn my hide! Cut corners enough and the corners will eventually cut you.

Standard operations for a misjump calls for rationing of food, water and air. I informed Lidus Ka and our two High Passengers of the misjump with solemn and grim determination to stretch out our sustenance as far as possible. But that meant using as few ship compartments and resources as possible. No showers, no cargo hold, no frivolous service for the High Passengers. We went on flashlights and chemical lights to conserve power. Our targeted jump of four parsecs would put the Thuegueus II on fumes for fuel when we fell out of jumpspace. I just had to make sure we were still around when that happened.

The ship became a darkened ghost town of five active sophonts. Meals became nibbles and sips. The Medical console was raided. We queried the Library data for survival tips. Halfway through the first week, we were separated from each other, to keep from pointing finger claws in blame and admonishment. Lights were off in all corridors and cabins. If a sophont needed to see beyond feeling around in the dark, a chemical light was used. Water had to be cycled, the shower water used in turn. We did not dare to recharge personal devices.

By the beginning of the second week, the grim reality had set in. We were trapped in jump transit beyond the normal, 168 hours plus or minus 5%. Halfway through the second week, the apologies and commiseration began.

* * *

My log ends here, at least until I can feel the jump rumblings to herald our freedom from jumpspace. I actually prayed and will continue to pray.

I can't sleep.

I've tried, but I have slept so much away from the others that there is nothing to do but lie awake in my cabin bunk. I'm stiff from staying still for days. The only reason why these words are recorded is by handwriting on the backside of some cargo manifest hard copy by chemical light.

Hour and day unknown. I've had to sit guard outside the locked door to the Low Berths with my Bayonet. The High Passenger who almost tried me backed off in the shadows.

* * *

Through my Life Detection, I felt him coming and whispered, "Don't try me."

To keep anyone from suicide by hanging, I killed the grav plates. I claimed it was to conserve power.

Miss Ka heard me praying in a whisper as I sipped my ration of water and nibbled today's share. She sat down in a lotus position and prayed with me, to her higher power of course.

I caught Uessae one day on the Bridge. She had manually opened a viewport and was staring at the quicksilver jump field outside the ship. When I looked from behind her demntia-ridden trance, it spoiled the view for both of us, turning the field to a dull, silvery gray. "S'not healthy, Uessae," I whispered in her right ear.

With her view of jumpspace tainted, Uessae mumbled, "Winter."

I cranked the viewport closed again. "Hmm?"

"It's winter on Atsah."

I cuddled around the trance-like Uessae Noedhin. "Spring is next, right?" I asked with a quieter voice. Jump dementia does not immediately end for someone. You have to coax them back to reality. I dunno how many minutes it took for Uessae to come back to me wrapped around her from behind. At least it wasn't a violent return which can happen.

I woke from dozing on Uessae's shoulder when she spoke with returned coherence. "Do you feel it?"

"Wh-what?" I lifted my head to look at Uessae.

"I feel jump rumblings." I thought Uessae was hallucinating for the span of ten seconds. Then I felt them at fifteen seconds. Her Predict must have pinged.

"Ancients!" I wearily let go of Uessae to push off through the microgravity to the Engineering to confirm. "Gravity in ten seconds!" I called after reasserting full power through the ship. Hope flooded me again. Lights came on. Air circulators returned to full. Consoles and boards lit up. "Confirming jump rumblings all!" I saw the elapsed time. Two weeks and a few hours has passed.

Coughing to bring her voice up to strength, Uessae commanded, "Suit-and-tie, everyone!"

"Hole time: two weeks and five hours, 39 minutes. Again, confirming jump rumblings!" I continued to shout it at the Bridge until Miss Ka skipped in looking haggard still. I grabbed up my discarded Combat Armor-11, where I had left it in ritual hopes for this moment. I barely registered the claw and teeth marks on the plates as I slid into my suit. That last hour was a hella eternity in waiting for breakout.

"Sensor confirm precipitation! Now open the ▮▮▮▮▮▮ned ports!" It was Uessae at those boards who spoke. Just in time to see the last of the field corrode away to black space punctuated by blessed stars, everyone cried out loud.

Miss Ka went to work in coordinating with Uessae to get a navigational fix on our position. Seconds ticked off. The ship floated in its original vector and conserved momentum in those few moments. "Charts call it as Ath Aghe, inside the Empire of Varroerth!" The Vilani woman continued with, "Fifteen parsecs directly coreward of Dzarrvaer."

"But what is the date?" It was a valid question Uessae asked. It took several agonizing minutes for Comms to ping the local, Tech-10 SysNet for an answer. Misjumps don't have to obey time ratios. We could be days, weeks, months, years or worse along the timeline.

"Welcome, AFT-BS44 Thuegueus II to Ath Aghe (Provence 0210) this 022 of 1106," came the computer voice in Logaksu. I immediately translated for those who did not understand. Everyone collapsed in relief. The ratio had stayed at one-to-one.
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Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
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Old July 27th, 2019, 11:04 AM
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022-1106

Ath Aghe (Provence 0210) B685633-A Ag Ni Ri VVar

I went to don the headset for the Comms board. "Vanagh! Vanagh! This is Imperium hull, Vargr-owned, AFT-BS44 Thuegueus II calling on emergency channels. We are two weeks misjumped from Dzarrvaer and in need of transponder acknowledgement and escort to mainworld. Please advise." As I coordinated with System Traffic Control of this Empire of Varroerth world, Miss Ka placed us near Orbit 3 of the F8 V stellar primary. The system star had pulled us from jumpspace. We could have fell out in an empty parsec.

As I talked, I looked at Uessae. She carefully pointed at the dangling Pocketwatch-4 at her breast. She in those last moments before jump had chosen the best vector of an already fated jump via her Predict. She had saved us from jumping into deep space where our Maneuver Drive would have taken years to limp to the nearest world.

I could not help crying on Comms to hear the Logaksu voice of a nearby Corsair ship answering our distress call. The Corsairs took pity on us after they had scanned our empty cargo hold. I promised them a gratuity of citizenship for flying wing side and escorting us to mainworld orbit. Berthing was cheap, but the rolling emergency trucks across the landing field to our touchdown costed.

Fifteen parsecs misjump set a new, subsector record recorded by the Empire of Varroerth. Offloading the Passengers swearing off travel forever, we stepped off the ship to breathe deep and slow the Air-8, a Dense but clean atmosphere. With only two million system population, we were instantly on the news.

Scratch one off the Bucket List: survive a misjump, one I never want to suffer again. During survivor therapy, I saw fees for Life Support, Payday, Berthing, emergency services, therapy, transponder exchange and ship registration pile up. I came close to a second Bucket List: go bankrupt. That one I had already crossed off and been saved from thanks to Grunt. Rest in peace.

Deeper in Logaksu space, both the Aekhu Uessae and the Vilani Lidus Ka held each of my claws as we moved about dirtside in a huddling group to defend ourselves from media reporters, curious Engineers, lawyer Advocates (ambulance chasers all of them), Starport Warden, planetary Councilors and so many others to try and glean from our experience.

In just a day, we realized we needed off this world Ath Aghe to be rid of this unwanted attention. We had to Travel once more. But to where? Instead of myself, it was Uessae Noedhin who added to the Bucket List: tour Lair, the homeworld of the Vargr. It was the best idea put forth. I saw the addition after finishing my purchase of exotic, super dense hardwood. 25 tons, one High Passenger (an Engineer most likely) and 8 Low Passengers were loaded and with haste.

As the Low Passengers embarked well before the High, I saw a Pack of red-robed zealots march through the concourse and being trailed by Downport Security. I would learn later that these were religious priests from Faarzgaen (Provence 0704) and were crying out the Rumor of this port of call: Faarzgaen calls for the faithful.

Though my faith in a higher power had been somewhat renewed, it certainly not bend in the direction of Faarzgaen a Vargr deity so primal as to abolish the use of money. Violence came when Faarzgaen said so, and at any time. Thus, the Security detail following the priests through the concourse. I swatted Uessae aboard quickly before these Logagksu jerks sighted her or Miss Ka.

The Starport had done an excellent cleanup job of the Thuegueus II. I noted so on an online feedback form as we were outbound.

I thought the all-red Vargr Courier was going to heed Faarzgaen's Call when they scanned us. Their vector and jump point deflected their attention to initiate jump coreward. Ours took minutes later. I was glad they were on a schedule. I paid very close attention to my Master and Commander come 100 Diameters for the order to initiate jump.

During First Meal, we celebrated my birthday. "Happy Birthday, Ri!" exclaimed my two ladies Uessae and Miss Ka. I turned 47. Ancients, I'm old. For my birthday, there was a stateroom shakeup. Miss Ka announced that she was to move into my cabin so I could share with Uessae. Surprise!

Even Uessae was caught off-guard but nodded in instant approval once the young Vilani woman laid out her reasons. Uessae helped me settle with her into the Captain's Cabin which had been cleaned and now lacked Lidus' Human scent. I was nervous until Uessae Noedhin pulled me onto the wide bed. I then unwrapped her birthday present for me.

We played Red Wizard all week in the hole so that none of us could relapse into the melancholy of the fortnight in misjump hell. Miss Ka finally came into her own as an Artificer. Her quasi-magical crafting of arcane devices put her on top as our front gunner. Uessae's power grew as a Godstriker. No longer was her avatar using the Amulet of the Dakhaseri as a crutch. Her holy magic was a beacon in any zone she stood in, whether or not she was actively casting magic.

My Alchemist had hit that pinnacle for what I wanted out of Red Wizard. The Philospher's Stone was both a creation and a benchmark of power as a wizard in this game. Every hoard we found was increased by my altering the yields of precious metals, coins raising to the next higher denominations.

"Hurry up, Moneybags! Let's go!" I also had the monopoly on storage capacity.
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Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

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Old July 27th, 2019, 11:07 AM
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At first sight of a boss Diabolical named Amon, I pulled off my goggles and gloves to stop our progression. "Okay, whose idea was it to merge a wolf-headed Human in one body for this boss?" I asked to the table. The ladies stopped gaming to pause the game fully when Miss Ka's Artificer set up a portable fortress for us to log off the game.

"It's just a game, Ri," said Uessae.

"Yeah. Humaniti has been deifying and demonizing half-human hybrid forms since they could think straight. How about the Vargr ancestors, hmmm?" Lidus had a way to disarm me while backing up Uessae.

"Solomani Hypothesis aside," continued Lidus, "it is a historical fact that we Vilani took to the stars first of the known, Major Races. The artifacts on Terra show one easy to see trend that we Vilani knew. Their cave paintings and tomb decorations depicted half-human gods and demons alike, each doing their duty to test Man." She paused. I did not interrupt.

"Well, it shows that Terran Man was lonely. Perhaps the Vilani were too to make First Contact with another sophont who all the important questions of Life, the Universe and Everything else could be asked. The Terrans had wolves. They could not have known the Vargr were already 15 to twenty-thousand years ahead of Terra. They were imitating something in their mythologies that they admired, Ri. You. You Vargr, I mean."


"Imitation is the highest form of admiration," quoted Lidus Ka.

"Man was lonely, Ri," repeated Miss Ka. "And when he had to assume the answers through his gods and had no definite answers, imagine how excited Man was to find other sophonts out there in space." I looked to Uesssae. As an integrated Aekhu, she probably knew this already.

"Ri, instead of being insulted or put on some unwanted pedestal, why don't you try answering those questions for Man and asking your own questions right back at him. She's right across the table." Uessae had me.

"Besides," finished Lidus for the night, "I for one think Vargr-headed Diabolics are sexy." She retired from the table before I could fully process what she was implying.

Uessae's tongue lolled out as she nodded. "Those abs and that ass!"
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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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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5
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Old July 27th, 2019, 11:11 AM
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036-1106

Zekhghe (Provence 0508) A779336-D Lo VVar [Author's Note: The Llaeghskath Interacterate does not form and secede from the Empire of Varroerth until 1114 followed by the Jihad of Faarzgaen in 1115.]

We had just finished skimming for fuel at one of the system Gas Giants when a Vargr Packet saw us as an Imperium Human incursion despite the Corsairs' Teeth hull paint scheme. At 60,000km, they started firing.

Like sex, to describe the entire battle is an exercise in let-downs. This was not some epic holovid battle. This was survival. I can say that I ran about the ship, doing damage control. We took our lumps. We shredded their Jump Drive and slagged their Maneuver Drive long enough to eventually escape to the mainworld. The chase to mainworld orbit ended with the Thuegueus II entering the atmosphere just minutes after the final exchange. Though I could afford the repairs to Turret#2 and the M-Drive, I had to accept that I might not see the Thuegueus II jump four parsecs again.

In the shipyard, I paid for the repairs to the Turret and held off on the M-Drive, until I was further along. We had to accept that the ship was now AFT-BS33 unless a miracle were to godsend upon us. The sale of the exotic Wood at 200% and the passages helped. I haggled against the Drydock Adjustment Agent until I was out of breath. But in the end, I had to cough up the credits to at least normalize the Drives for a Potential of 3. This meant that the Power Plant was less taxed and had extra output to spare.

But the battle scars on the ship were investigated by the Downport Warden's Police force. I was fined an extra Cr700 for battling within 50 Diameters of the mainworld. Before I could protest, I was told that I could have been shot out of orbit by the PADs emplacements.

I was in a sour and angered mood all week dirtside. I took on 20 tons of Freight and bought 5 tons of Tin, angrily barking loud enough to attain 40%, the best possible rate to buy.

On the way back to the ship, Uessae pulled me aside and told me the three Soldiers were stalking us. I saw her holding her Pocketwatch-4. I listened. With my puny, telekinetic Move, I mashed every elevator call button as we passed them. This in turn flooded the deck with Vargr to block and cut off the stalkers long enough for Uessae to hide us in the stairwell and escape.

Panting our breath upon locking the airlock door behind us, Uessae turned to me, "Is this how you were treated coming to the Third Imperium, Ri?"

Panting in return, I answered, "The Third Imperium is far more cosmopolitan, I'll admit."

"When in Rome...." quoted Miss Ka who was aboard well before us, spoiling the Vargr superstition. Now, I would have to rethink our Bucket List route to Lair.

"She's right, Ri," panted Uessae. "I'm thinking of dressing native Logaksu, done up all Corsair-Not-To-Be-Messed-With." If Uessae the Aekhu could integrate with Humaniti's Third Imperium, she might be successful as an Extents Vargr.

Outbound at the end of the week, it was we who had to stand down. The Vargr Courier we passed were pissing their white flag at the sight of our armaments. Maybe they heard about what we did to that Packet.
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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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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

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Old July 27th, 2019, 11:19 AM
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After First Meal, Uessae was late to Red Wizard. I sat at the table across from Miss Lidus Ka. Assured that Uessae would be a while, I looked at younger Miss Ka.

"So ask," I said to the Vilani. Lidus Ka regarded me for a full minute. Maybe she was determining if I was sincere.

Finally, she asked me, "How can I have charisma?"

She would have to ask one of the bigger questions, I thought in an immediate reaction. I looked again over my shoulder. I just might need backup on this one. Miss Ka didn't ask about the Vargr Birds and Bees, no. She didn't ask history questions. She didn't ask a Life or the Universe question. I might have fielded those. "You got your UPP card on you?" I asked her.

"Sure. Here." Receiving the black plastic with a red stripe, I read the raised gold lettering. It read:

Lidus Ka, Vilani female
983626
2 Merchants

Oof. What did she do in ED5 to piss off her elders and instructors? My task became more difficult if her Education digit was on target. "Okay. See this digit?"

"That's my Family's Social Standing,” Lidus explained. “Mine by lineage."

I wrote that number on the backside of more recent cargo manifests with a pen. Then I wrote a 3 midway down the paper. "Imagine now that you did not inherit that number, Miss Ka. Instead, imagine that you enforced it while growing as a cub er-, as a child. Through your life experiences, you knew it rose and fell with successes and failures, trial and error. Get me?" Miss Ka nodded her head. "Okay. Now, today your Vargr Charisma is hovering somewhere between 6 and 3. So, lemme ask you this: are you prepared to back up whatever number you tell me your Vargr Charisma is?"

"Will I have to fight someone to prove it?" I sat back and looked at Lidus Ka. Strong. Above average Dexterity. But definitely a glass cannon to put it in Red Wizard terms.

"Not likely, but it is possible," I answered. "My charisma hasn't moved in years."

"What happened?" she asked me. "How'd it change?"

"I earned my Vargr Trader from the Pack Alpha. He chose me. I saw myself a little bigger on that day. And it was not my birthday, Miss Ka." She nodded, seemingly understanding. "Now, throw away that your number is permanent just because you were born to it or think it can never change. Vargr are all about change and mutability, moving and adapting with the tides."

"Okay?" Could she put down that staunch, Vilani mindset of traditional worldview and culture?

"So what is your personal, current number, Miss Ka? Because, I'm not versed in reading a Human's Vargr Charisma." It was true. I could no more judge the girl by her Human expressions in terms of charisma. This was hard for me too.

"Five," Lidus Ka declared to me. "I think I made my father mad."

"It's not about your father. It's what you think of yourself." I rubbed my left ear in thought and trying to examine the Vilani across the table. "Okay," I decided aloud. "Stand up before me, over here." I got up from the table and stood in the commons. In short order, eager Miss Ka was toe-to-toe with me. As a Human, she's taller but I am just a little bulkier in muscles and have a wider stance. "Now, can you show me with your body, mind, heart and everything inside that your number is Five? My Charisma is Five as well." I held myself at my normal stance, attitude and self-image. I am the Chief Engineer, Captain-Owner of the Thuegueus II, Member of the Dzarrgh Federate Merchants Guild, (and closet Psion).

"Weird," Lidus Ka said but she gave it a go. In just a minute, I could feel it, see it and sensed her match me in self-important, Vargr Charisma.

"Now hold that attitude. Keep it. Make it yours every day in your stance, your vocabulary, your ego, your emotions." I watched as slowly it dawned on her. Then in walked Uessae Noedhin after her shower. She was zipped up in her ship slicker and her Pocketwatch-4 rode her chest on its chain. I saw Lidus Ka, my equal in Vargr Charisma turn hers on Uessae.

I saw Imperial Naval Captain Uessae Noedhin, Retired, Master and Commander of this ship, my lover, my inspiration, my helmsman and closet Psion buck up against what she saw. "What have you two been talking about?" she demanded.

Lidus Ka set her jaw and her brown eyes became harder. Humans can do that or Rudyard Kipling was a fool.

Uessae Noedhin smiled and her fangs showed. "Aha. I see. The cub arises and now the lady thinks she has claws." Her Charisma, doubling mine and Miss Ka's, flared with every fiber of her visible fur on end and her tail low and still. Claw digits widened, the nails flaring and flexing. Uessae's ears flared back a little like sharp horns. Yet she did not have to wrinkle her muzzle or furrow her brow before Lidus Ka lost her nerve and took a stance behind me.

"Vargr Charisma has rules, Miss Ka," I said over my shoulder at the Vilani. "You will live longer if you pay respect to someone of higher Charisma and authority. Uessae is quite used to commanding an entire battlecruiser if it suits her."

Uessae nodded without letting down her ire or her mental Shield, though I bet she was reading the Human with Telempathy. "Do so, Lidus, and you will find those of higher Vargr Charisma will in turn acknowledge you, listen to you and give your advice weight." Uessae put the second half of the rules down as if she had said them to Humans in the Navy.

"Yes, ma'am," Lidus answered.

"Lidus, this isn't about fear. Come. Let's sit and play. We've a Diabolic to put down." And like that, Uessae's demeanor softened to a friendly, tail-wagging comrade as she took a seat. And I saw, per Vargr Charisma Lidus let me sit next. Sitting third, Lidus let Uessae pick up the goggles and gloves of her choice. Miss Ka was learning fast for her Intelligence. For though she knew which gloves were adjusted to Uessae's extremities, she let Uessae take initiative per Vargr Charisma.

"There," I said as Uessae put on her chosen playing wear. "That is how you can have charisma, Miss Lidus Ka."

Oh, how we trounced that Amon that evening! Working like a Pack at last, starting with Uessae's Godstriker out front first, we cycled positions per Admiral Laegh's tactical advice when the timer dinged. Then I waded in as Uessae fell back to the back ranks to let her backlash potential lessen. I lobbed my concoctions and sprayed high pressure acids and other volatiles at Amon. And when the alarm dinged again, Miss Lidus Ka's Artificer poured on the damage from her full-auto Shardspitter. We worked like a Pack that night.

Just after we picked through the spoils of putting Mr. Abs'n'Butt down, with goggles off and high-fives given, it was Uessae who said in her tenor, "That is what charisma can do, Lidus when observed and respected."

"So I don't forget," I told Uessae before bed hours later.

"Yes, Ri?"

"Thanks for using your Predict to keep the ship from getting lost in deep space." Uessae stopped before leaving me to the Captain's Cabin.

When she tilted her head to a side, I clarified with, "No one but me can ever know the effort it took to time that misjump right, and so unless I say it, it would become a thankless, herculean deed lost. Thank you, Uessae."

Uessae Noedhin the Psion blinked her beautiful blue eyes glittering with tears. Then she said, "You're welcome, Ri."
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