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

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  #11  
Old November 21st, 2017, 07:54 AM
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No real story as such here, just some scene setting. I was going to write another Vargr story, but thought simply writing a nice scene might be in order. I wanted to see if I could paint a tapestry of what it would be like to be on a moon with a domed city. I hope I've succeeded. I may something more substantial in the coming days

Richard Aston stepped out of the large office building with mirrored windows that nearly reached up to the top of the dome more than a mile high holding in the very air the residents breathed while acting as a ballistic shield against hyper-velocity meteorites. Pixie’s central star had dipped below the gray regolith covered mountains of a massive crater ringing the domed city, leaving a brilliant fiery corona of white light glowing beyond the sharp peaks. Above and outside the dome was the Milky Way, a band of stars that were strewn like diamond dust amongst a velvety black void.

He counted the vouchers and looked at his bonus check in one hand, and then went over the itemization on his PDA in the other. For putting away a major Imperial pirate ring it didn’t seem to add up to much. But then he checked his retirement portfolio. The guy at the recruiting office had sold him several four-oh-one-kays, bonds and a few other investments. A stipend was stripped from his cheques and tucked away into his portfolio after an assignment.

Still, he would have preferred that cash in hand, even if it was in various companies, civil works projects, futures, bonds and whatever else. Part of his whole goal of going into the scouts was the possibility of exploring space on his own, which meant getting a ship at some point. At this rate he would have to work until he was at least a couple of centuries old, and finding, much less scrounging up the cash to purchase DNA wonder-drugs to make a man (or any sophont) live past his natural expiration date, was expensive to say the least.

Well, the best laid plans of mice and …

“Did you get paid?”

Aston looked up from his casual accounting as he descended the stairs, and saw a familiar fury face with two pointed ears, canine teeth, and a wagging tail.

“Hey Vash.” Aston smiled before quickly going back to his items and putting them away out of common etiquette. “Yeah, I got paid. It’s never as much as you think it’s going to be.”

“Whoever said service work would make you a millionaire?”

“Point taken.” Aston returned. Vash was comparatively civil given the Vargr hostilities and gangs in the local ghettos. He had been born in Vargr space, but his parents had become refugees during the coup that saw the rise of some place called Fortieth Squadron. Vash had explained the history, but to Aston one Vargr empire was like another; easy come easy go. And Vash was more human than a lot of humans he knew, and didn’t seem to have the whimsical violent spirit that was so prevalent of Vargr outside Imperial space. Of course even in Imperial space Vargr ghettos were a constant social irritant. Crime of all sorts (mostly assaults) had given them the stigma of second class citizens.

But Aston, like most other scouts, liked Vash. Calm, or relatively at least, that is he was less prone to snap back at an off comment no matter how racist, and less inclined to take personal offense to the level of attacking the offender. That, and he was one incredible gunner and mechanic, who sometimes doubled as engineer. He was a good companion who was always up for human company, and seemed to actually prefer human companionship to what he called “his quarrelsome kin” (meaning other Vargr). The two had worked together on and off ever since Aston’s transfer to the Marches a year ago, and somehow the two found themselves in Regina.

Aston looked at a hotdog vendor at the base of the pyramidal staircase leading up to the scout office. A chilidog sounded real good right now. He remembered having to explain to Vash that hot dogs had no real dog meat in them, a notion that Vash thought was next to cannibalism and became ill and cowed all at once when he first heard of the Earthen delicacy. Now he was their biggest fan.

“Chilidog?” Vash wagged his tail with bright eyes.

Aston grinned. “Sure, my treat.”

“Just what I was hoping you’d say.” Vash put on something that qualified for a smile among Vargr, turned and went head of Aston to the vendor to buy two stadium sized dogs with chili, cheese, the works, and a couple of sodas to wash it down. Aston put away his PDA, and stuffed his cheque and voucher into his coat pocket as he descended the rest of the steps, occasionally looking up to take in the stark vast vista of stars and gray crater mountains. A sight he would have never seen had he stayed at home back on Earth, a place over two years away at maximum jump.

There were no (or rather fewer) demonstrations out here, and certainly no SolSec operatives to try and recruit him to their cause. No clashes between various Free-Terra groups with local Imperial riot squads. No internecine fighting among different races borne from Terra, each claiming how much more civil it was over the other. No, or rather fewer, acts of political terrorism. In the marches it was mostly fiduciary motivated crime, with some anti-psionic hostilities given the proximity of the Zhodani and the history of past wars.

Aston liked Earth, but he didn’t miss it. The social strata there was different than the Marches. In the Marches status was achieved by merit, money and ties like anyplace else where beings exchanged cash for favors, but out here a man could make a name for himself, and there was no pretense on who was who. You either had a title and money to back up your boast, or you were just ignored for the loud mouth that you were for bragging about being something that you weren’t. What did his friend from Texas used to say? Big hat, no cattle.

Aston sat on one of the wide concrete steps, and moments later Vash returned with two chilidogs a couple of sodas and some napkins. He handed Aston one of each, which he took with a smile, along with a handful of napkins.

“You know,” Vash began, “I never thought I’d get used to human food, but I just can’t get enough of these things.” Vash took a large bite of his chilidog and savored it. “Mmmm….”

Aston smiled, similarly took a bite of his own and enjoyed the meal. Sitting on the steps with his friend, eating good food, staring up at naked stars with the strong glow of light exploding over the horizon to bath the city in white luminescence.

No young boys or damsels in distress to save, no hijackers or muggers to jail, and no monster-sized native animals to contend with, and even fewer perturbed aliens to meet on some alleged field of honor. He was just here with a good friend, eating good food, looking at a scene that few if any of his home world would ever get to see. And he was paid to travel among the stars.

Life didn’t get much better.
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  #12  
Old November 22nd, 2017, 07:37 AM
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A bit of an action scene here

Bullets plinked off the hull and hydraulic struts as Second Lieutenant Aston dove onto the Ice-Star’s ramp just as medical officer Peter Ray slapped the button to raise it and seal the ship. Several more full-automatic reports rang out and a hail of bullets stitched across both hull and ramp.

The Ice-Star was a Florian class scout, noted for high performance and luxury compared to other vessels in her range, she was also a capable miniature fortress and haven like most scout-vessels, keeping both bullets and radiation at bay when needed.

“Are you hit?!” Peter called out, the ship’s medic for this hop. In ancient times would be described as Amer-Asian with a thick shock of black hair and golden-brown skin was of mixed parentage, not very tall, but highly intelligent and caring, and right now he saw blood trickling from his friend’s shirt and coat.

Aston figured he might have been, but hadn’t felt anything. “Scan me if you want, but we’ve got to get out of here!” Aston scrambled to his feet and equally scrambled up the ladder leading from the Ice-Star’s cargo area to the main deck.

Peter tore after him up the ladder, reaching for his medical scanner tucked in his inner coat pocket.

Upstairs Aston caught site of Vash running aft from the bridge to the ship’s single double-barreled turret, brushing by Aston, “Engines are fired up! Karen’s at the controls.” Vash then quickly clamored into the ball and socket seat.

That’s when Aston started to feel a little light headed and noted that his shirt and sleeves were wet, but the sheer adrenaline pumping through his system kept him on his feet for the moment as he sprinted into the two seat bridge and strapped himself into the port-side pilot’s seat.

“It’s about time you showed up.” Karen glanced at him and noted his pale color.

Aston ignored her, and throttled up the engines regardless of the red warning lights telling him the ship wasn’t entirely sealed. He felt the twin massive thrusters thunder outside as the ship’s anti-grav plates gently hefted the Ice-Star off the ground, making the ship feel as if it were gently gliding on a calm sea.

That’s when the loud sharp rapid-fire snap of the ship’s twin lasers lanced out. Aston wasn’t sure what Vash was firing at, but if it kept anymore gunmen at bay, then so much the better. Even now amidst the ship’s engines thrumming at high volume and Vash unleashing the ship’s firepower, bullets striking the hull could be heard. At first it was small caliber stuff, but the plinking turned into a distinctive drumming. High velocity support weapons, probably fifty-cals were stitching a line of holes and indentations along the ship’s hull as she slowly moved mere meters above the crowd.

Aston felt himself getting tired, more light-headedness, almost as if he wanted to sleep. And about that time that’s when the adrenaline wore off and he felt the massive dull pain of bodily damage. “Why… why aren’t we … why aren’t going … any … faster…” His words trailed off, but he fought to stay conscious as he felt himself starting to black out.

“Richard?” Karen loudly asked. “Richard?!”

Aston felt a sharp pricking in his arm, and the sleepy drain as suddenly replaced with a new source of energy. Aston looked down at his forearm to see Peter furiously working on his arm and body, tearing at his clothing and stabbing his body with portable field surgery packs filled with all kinds of medical reagents.

His heart beat had been fading, his breathing slowing and growing shallow, permanently sleep beckoning, but now he felt as if he had been shot full of vitamins, which is essentially what had happened.

Aston instinctively shook his head, as if to fight off sleep, then smacked the ship’s intercom, “Vash! Why aren’t we taking off?! I can’t get anymore thrust!”

“Hang on.” Was the Vargr’s reply.

The Ice-Star rocked and violently careened to port, her deck angles a lean twenty degrees in the same direction, while outside her wingtip scraped up both parched soil and the occasional Vargr mob-member who was unfortunate to get in the wounded ship’s way, briefly scooped up and then thrown to the side as the Ice-Star continued on its violent motion.

Aft Vash climbed out of the turret and leapt into the Ice-Star’s relatively tiny engineering section, furiously working the controls and checking readouts.

Somone had hacked into the ship’s engineering section.

Vash growled in both anger and bewilderment of what to do.
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Old Yesterday, 06:43 AM
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Vash worked dial, knob, switch and toggle, then felt the ship jolt and shudder. Struck by what he didn’t know, but the engineering station lit up like a Christmas panel, flashing all kinds of colors that his wolf-heritage would allow him to see, as well as cacophony of warnings and alarms.

Vash swore under his breath, gritted his teeth and snarled as he cross circuited one control and then another hoping beyond hope that he could outsmart both the ship and whoever had hacked into her to regain control. Right now the ship’s gravity hadn’t kicked in, and he was fighting a sloping deck as he heard his tools spill out of the cabinet and careen across the deck to the far side of the section.

Back in the cockpit Aston worked with his spirit re-invigorated, trying several times to restart the engines and ram the throttles forward, but all the Ice-star could do was carve a violent-lazy dust clouded circle across the terrain as hundreds if not thousands of Vargr tried to lasoo her still extended gear to bring her down or keep her from taking off, all the while other kept taking shots at her with whatever they could muster.

In the holo-vids they always showed the young hero mouthing off overconfident dialogue, as if no matter how bad the situation got he was always on top of it one way or another, and always had help from his boom companion, a hot looking female or cuddly alien. Well, Vash wasn’t cuddly and Karen was just your ordinary average plane-Jane female, neither of whom would pass muster at a casting agencies office, but he was sure that both had infinitely more knowledge and wisdom of how to deal with a city population of corsairs suddenly turned on them.

Aston hauled back on the stick again after trying to tap power from the weapons. Something worked because the Ice-Star suddenly nosed up with the added energy , but it was a temporary victory as several of those small nearly barrel sized grav weapon platforms that Vargr in the Extents were so fond of suddenly glided into view.

One had a large caliber pintel mounted weapon of some kind with a grey furred and angry face manning the thing. Aston saw right down the black of the barrel, enough to make out the rifling detail just before it flashed to life with an angry stream of fifty-cal rounds that stitched across the Ice-Star’s front windscreen.

Aston smacked the intercom with his right hand, “Vash, what the heck is going on back there?!”

His tiny miniaturized voice came back over the speaker, “Someone hacked into the ship! I’m trying to hot-wire the controls right now!”

Aston looked up again to see several cables wrap over the Ice-Star’s nose, and just over the tip of her nose he could see large teams of Vargr hauling on the cables, as if they had caught a beast that refused to die.

“Karen, get on the turret.” Aston fought the controls to keep the nose up.

“Would you hold still!” Peter berated as he continued to work on Aston’s lower body and arm, all the while Karen got up and ran aft.

Another drumming of fire from all angles, and another loud impact. So far there were only overloads or warnings that wires and controls were too close to the hull, which probably meant that whatever the thugs were using outside as heavy artillery were putting some massive dents in the Ice-Stars fuselage. But so far no fuel loss, and no real damage that would keep her from flying if she could ever get off the ground.

The Florian Leagues engineers were geniuses at making a small one-hundred ton flyer a luxury accommodation, but Aston cursed them because they, like their Terran and Vilani counterparts, continued to put a large reinforcement dividing strut right smack down dab in the middle of the windscreen. Couldn’t anyone design a ship that had a full clear one-hundred-eighty degree of the front?

Whatever, it was probably keeping the ship space worthy, as for all the warning indicators the ship was still showing as air tight.

Back in engineering Vash cursed some more, then finally out of rage smacked the control panel with his hard curled fur covered fist.

The ship got new life as everything powered up properly. The gravity came back, the lights were at full power, and the engines roared with new found power.

All Vash could do was step back wide eyed, his mouth slightly agape at what had just happened.

In the cockpit the Ice-Star pulled her bulldozer like wing out of the hard arid earth and righted herself just as Karen started to return fire with the ship’s turret.

Aston didn’t care who was hanging onto the ship of the cables, it could have been a girl scout troop straight from terra, he didn’t care. He rammed the throttles up to the stops once more and the Ice-Star surged forward like a thing unleashed, leaving a wake of swirling dust, heat and bewildered natives.

The desert floor rushed by mere meters from the Ice-Star’s belly, and at mach-one the shockwave shook every living creature for miles around as Aston nose her up and clawed for space.

The Ice-Star speared upwards on twin blue flames at high mach, all the while corsair interceptors were just getting the word to go after her, along with any full fledged corsair ship’s that happened to be in the vicinity.

Minutes later the light sun drenched teal of the horizon and sky melted away to a starry black. The sensor suite was damaged, and screen flickered and was a jumble with a hundred false echoes and static. But the threat warning indicator was still active.

“They’re tracking us.” Aston announced to no one in particular, especially since Peter was the only other person in the cockpit. “I guess Vash managed to patch her up, but she’s far from tip top condition, I’ll say that right now.”

Peter chagrinned as he got up, putting the last of his medical tools into his kit, “I could say the same thing about you. You don’t know how lucky you are.” And he help up three bullets coated in a semi transparent red fluid.

“Bill me later, doctor. I got my own patient to worry about right now.” Aston winced at the line. It wasn’t exactly Hollywood dialogue, and he had just given Peter the big brush off after his friend had saved his life, but Peter knew that Aston had to finish pulling their bacon out of the fire, or he was right, there would be no medical bill to pay.

That was when the first crimson beam lashed out at the Ice Star. Peter finished closing his kit and saw the laser. He and Aston had both been in their share of combat missions, but he was still no expert.

“Is that close?”

Aston didn’t reply immediately. He gave a half shake of his head as he glanced at the tactical display. It was just like every other monitor; a massive jumble of static and characters. “I can’t tell, but one laser is one laser too many.”

Peter let Aston collect his wits before saying anything else. “Look, I’m no expert, but their interceptors and patrol ships … aren’t they faster than we are?”

“They can out accelerate us, and eventually catch us, if that’s what you mean.” Aston didn’t feel like trying to play the Hollywood hero just now. “We got enough of a lead on them, but it’s going to be close.”

And it was close, but not close enough for pirate forces to catch up Aston and his crew. After leaving the planet it was an uneventful escape, just nerve wracking as the ship continued to accelerate to her jump point all the while a flight of fighters and two full corsairs were in hot pursuit. But again, other than the chase, the transition to jump was routine.



Flight Captain George Weber sat under an umbrella in dome covered outdoor café overlooking the scout aquatic landing facilties and hard pads off in the distance. The Ice-Star had been his baby. Florian scout ships were rare and prized among IISS personnel. Sleek, fast, comfortable, and unlike the venerable type-S, they had windows in the cabin that you could actually see out of. He had loaned his to Richard Aston for a recon-op to collect more data on Vargr corsair bases, just after giving her a minor overhaul and splurging on a paint touchup and protective coat. Weber was up for some time off, didn’t need the ship, and wanted to put it to good use while he took in the exotic undersea tours on Dentus.

Dentus, were it not for trace elements in her atmosphere that made it hard to breathe, was like being on an island paradise year round. Even so the tainted atmosphere kept tourism at a minimum, but it was still a thriving trade for people like Weber who were willing to shell out the cash for trip into the exotic underwater biosphere of Dentus’ oceans.

Sun, a good book, a tall sweet ice-old drink set on a transparent glass table, his feet kicked up on a foot rest as he leaned back in the chair and donned his sunglasses. That’s when he heard the sound of twin engines off In the distance. He recognized the arrowhead shaped form as is spiraled down in the distance, gently touched down on the water, kicking up a white wake as the gentle ocean waters slowed her to a crawl.

Weber squinted. Was that his ship? He wondered and grinned. He watched with anticipation as the Florian scout arced her way across the surf and up onto a ramp leading her to a proper berth. Weber thought that it might be Aston returned. That’s when he noticed black and white smoke trickling up from various places, but she was too distant for him see why.

He grabbed his binoculars, grin still on his face, and put them up to his eyes.

His expression soured.
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