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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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Old August 17th, 2019, 09:36 AM
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Remember Amnesia
By the Pakkrat

008-1107
Firgvaar (Provence 0401) A667987-E Ga Hi Pr VLPr
Day-2

Well crap. I could have started this personal log when we broke out of jumpspace from Lair and had something to unload on instead of Uessae. I've just now switched on my Hand Computer-11 to begin recording.

Hi, uh, this is Ri Dzuerrgksungkorokoutue. I work for an indie mining operation named after the vessel I am crew as the Steward-Medic-Purser. But right now, I'm EVA from the Minor Carp in my Combat Armor-12 my only Vacc Suit. But it works out here in the Leading Trojans of LGG-Q of Firgvaar, am I right?

I dunno why I didn't start this personal diary at breakout or even on Day-1. Maybe I got Credit signs in my eyes now that this hunt for the big payoff is on.

"Slow your approach, Ri," called Uessae, my fiancée. "Do you want to splatter yourself over that C 'roid?" Like I'm even rated in microgravity movements. But it was my turn to have a closer look with the Ore Sampler.
That's Uessae Noedhin. She's ex-Navy all the way from Deneb Sector, Third Imperium. And she's a shiny, black beauty of an Aekhu. She came all the way out here with me and I'm from the Dzarrgh Federate. It's a long story as to how we made it so deep into the Vargr Extents.

There's four of us on the Minor Carp, a 200dT Vargr Seeker fresh out of Lair and into the Leading Trojans of LGG-Q. I can say LGG-Q like it’s a name because I don't know or care what its actual name is and it is the only Size Q Large Gas Giant in Firgvaar system.

The Captain-Owner of the Minor Carp, an Anglic translation from Logaksu, is a fellow Logaksu Vargr named - ready for a really long name? Captain Aekarrungve Gzaendzakaghekhsdzaertsaeng is a career Loner and Prospector that we all just nickname "Blacktongue" because the melanin in his oft-lolling tongue is darker than his usual pink mouth and gums and not because of substance abuse like smokeless tobacco.

Then there is our Human. Well, she's not ours per se. But Lidus Ka is the only Human aboard the Minor Carp. Now, if I can get her to quit styling her hair all spiky and wild like it's some kind of Vargr mane and neck ruff and take off all the leathers and that silly dog collar. We Vargr are not Terran dogs by the Ancients! Uessae and I met her when Uessae and I signed onto the Minor Carp for a Bucket List item: hit pay dirt belting asteroids. Uessae and I are mid-to-late forties while Lidus is still young and wild in her Vilani twenties. Who knew that Vilani could dress like that and act all-....punk?

"Move north once you touch down, Ri," called Uessae. I was almost claws and feet to the asteroid.

Behind me was the 200dT Vargr Seeker, its black, yellow and orange stripes jagged and reflecting in the light of the dimmer, G0 main sequence star. Out in Orbit 5 of Firgvaar, we chose to try the Leading Trojans cluster instead of the distant planetoid belt in Orbit 7 and crawling with wildcatters. Earlier, Uessae caught a whiff of something dense and metal which is unusual for carbonaceous asteroids in the C-zone.

Mainworld Firgvaar sat pretty as you please in Orbit 3, a Garden nestled in the Habitable Zone though I could not see it this far out in Orbit 5. Blacktongue already owned a license to prospect in this system and had elected upon jump precipitation to make for this cluster on the bow of LGG-Q. It was like throwing darts at a dartboard with a system map tacked to it. We skimmed for fuel and then turned about for the 60-degree arc before our fuel source. The Minor Carp flies like a pregnant guppy.

"Oof!" I grunted upon landing on the asteroid Uessae had targeted with Sensors and Densitomiter specifically. With Magnetic Grips embedded in my footwear and gauntlets, I crawled about until I could crouch and creep 'north' to the site Uessae was feeding to my Comms and my helmet heads-up visor.

Day-1 was spent pulling up and into the Leading Trojans of LGG-Q. I took a turn at the Sensors and soon learned what a watch was. Six hours of sitting on the Bridge of the Minor Carp at a velocity (not acceleration) just faster than the revolution of the cluster of rocks plowing the space before LGG-Q in their Orbit 5. I was quickly bored.

Sitting a watch means being awake, alert, listening for the Sensors to ping a potential reading. The remainder of Day-1 was a new level of boredom I discovered.

Everyone had taken a watch after me, three more as I slept. Next up was today, Day-2. I sat again on the Bridge and wanted to pluck out my eyeballs for six hours. I dunno how I got the idea that belting would be exciting. Maybe I was greedy and wanted out of the Bridge, because when Uessae's watch pinged a potential find, I was first in my EVA gear and locking on my Combat Armor-12 helmet and standing at the airlock.

I had strapped to my back one of those Backpack Propulsion Units and a long, spooled lifeline cable when Ms. Lidus Too-late arrived at the airlock. I waved at her through the inner door viewport and leapt like a mad Vargr out the second door pointed at the targeted asteroid.

She fired an obscene gesture at me as I spun about to face the 'roid before me.

And now I trudged over the bright face of the rock.

"You're looking for a deep depression, a basin, or maybe a crater, Ri," called Uessae. She must be on handler duty at Sensors on the Bridge. That meant Lidus and Blacktongue were crossing digits elsewhere, perhaps readying the Cargo Bay to begin mining if the Ore Sampler came up with a confirmed deposit.

"Score-...score another for the List," I huffed as I nearly tripped over loose dust and a solid rock. "Go hiking in microgravity."

"Focus, Ri," advised Uessae. "Keep your eyes on the surface before you and put one foot in front of the other."

While I did not reach any chasm, depression or basin, I did come across something useful. "Salvage strike!" I called. Before me was a field of crystaliron shards in varying states of burial in surface dust and rock of the asteroid. "Looks history old." The landscape on this 'roid hex was littered with starship plates in various states of aftermarket abuse.

Blacktongue called out over the Comms. "Mark it with your Beacon, Fixer. Lidus and I will land there with the cigar, pick up the Beacon and begin hauling what we can pry and cut loose. If it's old, it might be worth it to historians. How much you think?" He wanted to use the Minor Carp 30dT, integral Ship's Boat to collect the armor. Who knew how old it was? Vargr have been a Major Race for millennia and Firgvaar was next door to the Vargr homeworld.

"Looks to be about three tons max," I called and continued moving north in hopes of spotting Uessae's crater.

I continued north on the asteroid but soon enough my EVA duration was at limit. I was picked up by the Ship's Boat. Inside the bay of the cylinder smallcraft were stacked plates, entire sections, shards, splinters and swords of crystaliron ship armor. It would take some curator or historian to date the find. That was my day on this 'roid. It was Uessae's turn next for now that we had covered the bright face, it was time for her to reconnoiter the dark side.

Uessae moved the Vargr Seeker further north to the 'pole' of the asteroid in further search of her crater as Blacktongue, Lidus and I unpacked and stored the salvage find into the Cargo Hold. Just as we emptied the three tons, the Aekhu female was suited in her Corsair Queen motif Combat Armor-12, the kind that says Not To Be Messed With and out the airlock to the asteroid for the following watch. She swiped the Ore Sampler I had taken with me.

From the Bridge and my overwatch on Sensors and Comms, I became Uessae Noedhin's handler as she more readily covered ground on the asteroid. Ex-Navy girl was sure she saw something dense and metal and larger than three tons. "Come to dam, precious," I heard her say while EVA on the surface. I monitored her vitals rated as I am in Medical.

Eight hours, two watches went by as Uessae and then Lidus took their turns combing the dark side of the asteroid. And still no crater or basin. I saw through their heads-up displays Uessae and then Lidus beaming about with forearm torches in the dark.

Blacktongue put me to my cabin, ordering me to get rest. My Day-2 was done.
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Old August 17th, 2019, 09:40 AM
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F. Just an F, drawn in the sand of what I could see was a beach, a shoreline on some shirtsleeves world. And I stood on the sands of that beach and looked down to what I had drawn with a twig I had in a claw.

Though I could not see her, Uessae was playing in the shallows among the crashing waves on the wet shore. She was in that one piece that rides really high on her iliac crest. But I did not turn to confirm it. In my ears was twanging a Solomani steel guitar for some reason. It was a partly cloudy, blue sky above the beach when I looked up.

"Get up," said Uessae waking me from the dream. I did so, dressed, clipped on my gear including my Hand Computer-11 to continue logging. "Breakfast bars again today and for the next 150 days, hun. There's coffee if you hurry."

Tucked in my Aekhu and licked her goodnight. F. F-what? I mused aloud at the dream to my log as I poured out the last of the coffee and unwrapped a meaty bar that had been injected with all the body needs without the consent of the consumer.

It was the eighth watch on this asteroid and hopefully it would be my lucky day to find Uessae's ping on Sensors. With Lidus in her black, studded leathers and sitting on Sensors, I finished breakfast and suited up. She apparently had a huge stash of bubblegum she snuck aboard because the Vilani woman was blowing bubbles at me as I dressed in my Combat Armor-12. Vargr don't chew bubblegum. One bubble and it's caught in our facial fur and is a mess to get out.

009-1107
Firgvaar (Provence 0401) A667987-E Ga Hi Pr VLPr
Day-3

A thumbclaw up at Lidus and her nod back, I saw the Vilani try to emulate Vargr Charisma at me.

"Mmm. Something missing," I gave my critique.

"What?" Lidus asked.

"Paralanguage maybe?" Then I turned for the airlock.

So, I found the crater on that watch. Or rather, it found me. In the shadowed side of the asteroid, I stepped right over the precipice and into it. At near microgravity, I was able to throw out all my remaining limbs and used the first to come into contact with the dusty, gravel side and pull into a slide down its side. It that gravity, falling was not going to put a dent in my armor unless it was sharp or something. "Say ugh hello to your crater," I announced. "I'm at the bottom of it."

"Did you fall?" asked Lidus. "There was a lot of fast shadows movement and your heart rate is up."

"Yeah. Sorta." I panned my forearm torch about the bottom of the crater. Starlight was all else I had to see by and Vargr olfactory is useless in EVA.
Moving toward the center and bottom of the crater, I encountered a Vargr-made, Tech-9, industrial grav-jack or IGjV-9 which was dusted by gravel and asteroid dust. To my Engineer's eye, it looked broken and dead to the world. But it was old. The lettering was still in Logaksu but in a font I had not seen except in History class of ED5 back home in the Dzarrgh Federate.

"Salvage," I called. "Cargo jack, grav by the looks of it. Old Logaksu on the outside. Snapping pics now."

"I'll tell Blacktongue and see if you're to mark it," answered Lidus from the Minor Carp.

Someone in the distant past was trying to lift something in this crater. I panned my torch about in the darkness and soon found what broke the grav-jack.

Sitting in a second, shallow depression at the dead center of the crater was an ovoid shape. Maybe 'roid dust was messing with colors, but the perfect egg shape was sitting almost perfectly apex up to the stars. It was blue-gray and made of some kind of metal. I whipped out my Accelerator Rifle-9 from its magnetized mount on my Combat Armor-12 and activated it. "Shit!" The egg must have been about five tons in displacement but looked so dense that its mass must have been far more. Scorch marks along the midline and toward the floor of the crater were slashed across it. Had someone tried to make an omelet? "Ancients!"

"I see it, Fixer," called Lidus using my nickname. "Beacon it. It doesn't look like the Boat will be able to lift it off the rock. We're coming."

I kept my Accelerator Rifle aimed at the 5-ton egg and took up a position behind the relic grav-jack for some kind of cover. Then I planted and activated the Beacon.

"It's got short and thin protrusions from its surface, blue-gray something in color all over." I kept talking to both Lidus and to my logging Hand Computer-11 recording me.

Shifting my position confirmed that the blue-gray egg was not fully straight upright. Had someone tried to dig it loose? The shallow depression was shadowed from my angle.

"Hun?" came Uessae's voice over the Comm. "Are you alright? Lidus just woke me. We're coming in the Seeker. Sit tight and don't shoot it or poke it with a stick or anything. Okay?"

"Yeah," I answered. "Hurry."

I heard through Lidus' open microphone her tapping away at the console of the Ship's Model/1 computer. "Metal readings, zero surface damage despite the scorch marks, blue-gray in color, egg-shaped, spike protrusions. It's searching now." The Vilani was smacking her gum again in her microphone.

"Maneuver Drive online and a full G available, Helm," reported Blacktongue over the Comms.

"Confirmed," answered Uessae. "Thrusting over the north."

I could see the navigation lights of the Vargr Seeker Minor Carp as it flew overhead. The space guppy then held position directly above me but too far to be drawn toward the surface of the very small planetoid. Search lights put three beams down into the crater before one spotted me and a second spotted the egg-thing.

"Jack first," ordered Blacktongue. "Then we'll see if we can give this nest egg a dust-off."

"Monadium" reported Lidus over the Comms. "No cracking this egg or even making a scratch."

"Ancients."

"Yes, that just what our ancestors must have said."

With a Mechanic's tender cradling, I engineered a web-like net of cables around and under most of the egg-thing everyone else was now calling an artifact. The Ancients descriptor was still reaching but not deselected yet. Double-checking the anchor points and the web about the thing, I gave Uessae the Green light.

"Gentle at first, Uessae," I called. "Then if the lines don't snap and are taut, you can pour some more into the M-Drive."

Five tons should be nothing to a 200-ton starship, right? I could feel my toe claws curl and my tail wrench when the net of cabling embraced the artifact from the pull. But what a Tech-9 grav-jack could not lift off the asteroid, a Vargr Seeker plucked easily from the crater. I saw one or two cables threaten to unravel but up went the spiked egg.

"Maybe monadium doesn't respond to anti-grav but does respond to good ol' elbow grease," I said. Now that the artifact was free from the rock and floating in space, the crew could reel it in. Or back the ship over and around it through the Cargo Lock.

In order to get the artifact into the Vargr Seeker, the Ship's Boat had to undock from its cradle and back out so the 5-ton egg could be reeled in. In that time, Uessae picked me up in the smallcraft. We two loaded the relic grav-jack before returning to the Minor Carp.

Once all was loaded and secured, we debated into the rest of the night about what to do with an artifact of this magnitude. Could it be sold? Yes, but to whom? How much was it worth? Was it priceless and so far off the scale as to only be affordable to mythical Titans as a desk ornament? Supplies still plentiful and only sixteen tons of space taken up of the 65-ton Cargo Hold, Blacktongue decided to continue scanning the LGG-Q Leading Trojans.
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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~
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 August 17th, 2019, 09:49 AM
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011-1107
Firgvaar (Provence 0401) A667987-E Ga Hi Pr VLPr
Day-5

Was the egg responsible for the historical finds? Maybe. We pulled from a different but nearby asteroid a very old, 1G M-Drive that had a battered frame. When it was lifted the entire housing broke into beams and corners and fell off the main Drive. I was on the ground again with Uessae next to me as Lidus and Blacktongue reeled in the cable net, the same we had woven about the egg artifact.

But the frame bars came loose, and one flipped and spun at me and Uessae. The ex-Navy Captain Uessae Noedhin shoved me aside just before she took the bar to her hip and abdomen.

"Uessae!" I screamed into my helmet.

It was blunt trauma but as I bounded up to Uessae lying on the carbonaceous asteroid, I could see that her Combat Armor-12 was not breached. The housing had merely battered her to the ground.

"No no no no, Uessae. Talk to me." She was unconscious. "Uessae's hit. What's her vitals, huh?"

"Crap," said Lidus on the Comm. "I have to run back to the Bridge to look at them." Precious seconds ticked by as I began a visual check.

"Vitals are strong, but she's got some microfractures in the hip and maybe a rib?"

"I can move her then," I called. "I'm lifting her in the Boat. Prep the Med Console by folding down the exam table. I'll do the rest when I get her back aboard." The Medical-2 training of evac, delivery and triage treatment kicked in. With help from Lidus while Blacktongue watched the Sensors, I worked to run a full scan on Uessae.

The rest of Day-5 was spent in vigil over Uessae Noedhin my fiancée. Not another one. Not on my watch. Tech-14 medicine is pretty amazing. I should know. I have a bullet scar in my belly. Uessae's microfractures were filled and that rib was moved back into place so she could heal naturally but under acceleration.

Uessae recovered, though through Days Six through Nine, she was ordered light duty by me and confirmed by the Captain-Owner of the Minor Carp. We had three days of false pings that did not pan at all as we moved further along inside the Leading Trojans.

017-1107
Firgvaar (Provence 0401) A667987-E Ga Hi Pr VLPr
Day-11

A 400-ton Vargr Fat Trader pulled up after hailing us, all genuinely friendly. Speaking to Blacktongue on Comms the remote captain offered to purchase and haul off our ores. But the Logaksu Captain-Owner wasn't lying when he reported we had no ores to sell. We waved off the Trader and went back to scanning. The Trader bid us farewell and moved off to skim fuel and check any operations in the Trailing Trojans of LGG-Q.

Uessae was fully healed and recovered and I signed off on EVA if the Sensors pinged again. Lidus and I practiced her Vargr Charisma emulation. The three of us stayed away from Blacktongue's deck of cards and instead had a bake-off in the Galley.

Y. Just a letter Y in Anglic. It was carved into the crotch wood bark of a tree as I stood dreamtime in a forest filtering in beams of sunlight from a G-type star. Uessae was nearby. I could feel her and knew she was near though I did not turn to look for some reason. I love Uessae. We're betrothed. I heard the babbling of a nearby stream of water on this second shirtsleeves world before waking up to the smell of morning coffee that was my turn to prepare.

018-1107
Firgvaar (Provence 0401) A667987-E Ga Hi Pr VLPr
Day-12

By now, the rinse and repeat of scanning for pings, testing them for deposits and confirming with the Ore Sampler, the pattern was set and wearily dragging on without a viable vein to tap.

We Beaconed a pinged and confirmed deposit of one million tons of carbonaceous elements this day. Lidus and Blacktongue got into an argument over whether or not to mine the deposit. With an average credit payout of Cr4500 per 65 tons of ore from a carbonaceous asteroid, it just wasn't worth it. And no mining companies will purchase a claim that is carbonaceous or ice. A 'roid, even one that's carbonaceous has to turn up something more valuable aside from the usual fare.

"Don't you raise your claws at me, girl!" exclaimed Blacktongue. I thought Lidus was going to do that Rudyard Kipling maneuver again of hardening her fierce, Human gaze, Mowgli-style.

Thank the Ancients that this expedition sprung for Emergency Suit Patches. Uesse's Combat Armor-12 produced a mesh tear that almost killed her later on Day-12. She had the outer airlock door open and then her armor mesh tore as if begging for retirement.

Standard Operating Procedures requires that a second be ready inside the inner door in case of an airlock emergency. Cycling the airlock can take too long. I was on hand for Uessae and slapped the Big Red Button and followed the hissing air into the lock. Her armor was losing pressure fast and it clocked her unconscious almost immediately. I had to hold the Patch to her suit and let the cycling balance the airlock. So, back on her back went my future mate-wife for an even longer recovery period.

Uessae was supposed to check out a ping and confirm a deposit. I was the stand-in. They say these things come in threes. And today was no different.

I hate to admit it, but I got lost on the asteroid and wandered about the surface of the asteroid. In treating Uessae, I forgot to take her Beacon. I did not find my way back to the ship until my EVA duration was up.

"Are you trying to - as the Solomani say - 'buy the farm'?" asked Lidus waiting for me in the airlock. Lidus quotes a lot of stuff that us Extents Vargr don't always understand.

On Day-13, Captain-Owner Blacktongue declared the Leading Trojans a bust and ordered a commute to Orbit 2 and the LGG-S Leading Trojans deep inside the N-zone of asteroid composition. We skimmed for fuel though Size S required 0.8Gs to our single G of M-Drive performance. Uessae was well enough to take the helm so I could watch Engineering.

A mutual silent treatment settled between Lidus and Blacktongue. Until the two resolved their differences, they avoided each other. This required Uessae and I to shake up the watches, putting Uessae between the two.

U. You need to handle this, came the whispers of Uessae without voice. The dream collapsed when I tried to turn and look directly at her in questioning her statement. I woke up and almost forgot the entire thing.

020-1107
Firgvaar (Provence 0401) A667987-E Ga Hi Pr VLPr
Day-14

Coffee only goes so far before it does nothing for me. The Bean seems to benefit Humaniti on a longer burn than for us Vargr. We both get the charge out of the gate, but alas, we Vargr fall off faster. Perhaps it is due to our Personal Day versus Humaniti.

I sat at Sensors as we drifted slightly at a slightly faster velocity than the Leading Trojans of LGG-S. The different colors of the Giant's atmospheric bands were new scenery.

"Whatcha doin' when we hit pay dirt?" asked Blacktongue who brought me yet another - you guessed it - meaty bar from the Galley. I had not thought of it. I had credits, more than the average Traveller. The Bucket List goal seemed to be the focus, not what to do with the credits.

"Lemme get back to you on that," I said. "The answer may be private."

"You're just whipped." Maybe so. Uessae still has me almost doubled in Vargr Charisma.

Both the Densitometer and the Radiation Detector sounded simultaneously immediately after my answer. It was a ping. Of the four of us on the Minor Carp, I'm the best on Sensors.

"Radioactive?" guessed Blacktongue as I recalibrated for a second look.

"It may just be solar winds," I answered.

We both looked at the Densitometer and said together, "Metal."

Lidus may be a punk Vilani, but she knows a thing or two. Checking out the ping, we thought we lost her behind some signal-blocking outcrops of metal ore. We lost contact with Lidus for three hours. Blacktongue who is about Uessae's age had to go EVA, find the pinged deposit, test it and then go looking for Lidus. But just as he confirmed one ton of FeNi ore which Uessae evaluated at Cr520, the Human in leathers returned. She had taken an EVA walk in her Vacc Suit to keep her distance from Blacktongue. Never lost, the Vilani woman had used her walking rod to leave a trail groove in the dust and gravel of the asteroid. Without any atmosphere or water on the asteroid, she had marked her path behind her and backtracked.

We loaded the ton after mining it without further incident. But Uessae and I knew that those two had to get in gear. I was not going to fund another expedition with her or Blacktongue.
__________________
Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
The Pakkrat 0608 X58738-8 S va++ so+ zh+ vi+ da+ 534
On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5
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Old August 17th, 2019, 09:54 AM
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T. Want some tea? came the unspoken but understood question as I sat in a Lone Star in an unknown Highport over a world's nightside with glittering cities below our orbit. Tea in a bar is not unheard of, but me? The moment I questioned the offer, I woke up.

021-1107
Firgvaar (Provence 0401) A667987-E Ga Hi Pr VLPr
Day-15

"Solar winds must be picking up from local," I said as Lidus pointed at the Sensors readings. She had pinged a doubly false Radioactives result. "Sorry, Spikes," I said in reference to today's spiky leather collar Lidus had buckled about her neck.

Today, I found Uessae in the Cargo Hold eyeing the strange egg artifact. She was staring at it and fiddling with her heirloom Pocketwatch-4. The engraved, brushed nickel glinted in her claw. What was she doing down here? She shrugged at my spoken question and we left the artifact alone. Depressurizing the Hold had no effect on the monadium egg.

My Engineer's cabin is two decks below the others. A Vargr Seeker has four decks because it is designed not around its Cargo Hold but around its Ship's Boat which is adjacent to one of the cargo decks.

This allows the Ship's Boat to bring in hauls from spaces too tight for the 200dT piscine Seeker hull. Blacktongue's cabin is just aft of the Bridge. Across that deck's axis corridor is Uessae's. And aft of Blacktongue is Lidus who wanted to be closest to the Galley anyway.

Though Uessae and I are betrothed, we stay in separate cabins to both stay professional before Blacktongue and Lidus, but also so I could establish my Vargr Cave down there. Just a few meters and I'm at Engineering. Three deck hatch bulkheads and two cargo elevators connect each of the decks. Though I would not mind double-occupying with Uessae, we had secretly claimed cabins as that meant more space for us rather than cramming us as a couple in one stateroom. This was fortunate because of the spat Lidus and Blacktongue were having. It allowed Uessae and I to buffer between them on the schedule and keep the peace. And morale on a Vargr Seeker can plummet when tempers are high and fuses short.

Inside the Lair Protectorate, all eight of its worlds have Starport A, Gas Giants and Naval Bases. Corsairs only come here to seek Privateer contracts and earn that elusive Letter of Marque, for there is a quiet smuggling presence into and from the Empire of Varroerth. Hence, the Minor Carp is mounted with two, Single Pulse Laser Turrets used only in mining asteroids. The finer work is done by a portable Laser Drill.

Sixty-five tons on a Seeker is a good, round number, but gets better when we include the extra ten tons in the Ship's Boat for a total of 75 tons. If we play our mining cards wisely, we can make a lottery look like a soup kitchen handout.

I will now include a stock image of the space guppy we call the VJ Seeker in this log.

VJ Vargr Seeker

See what I mean about pregnant guppy in space? The pitiful Drives in one of these are purposefully kept small. The VJ2-BU11 Minor Carp is meant for space only. Just before Uessae and I signed on after meeting Blacktongue and Lidus Ka, we beheld several examples of this class in both contragravity, aerospace berths in the upper atmosphere of Lair's four Downports and again later in parking orbit across the seventeen orbital platforms over Lair. See the huge Cargo Hold door on the starboard side? The Vargr Seeker has another on the portside. They're how we got that huge, monadium egg into the ship.

The Vilani woman and Blacktongue had argued over the scientific community claim on such an artifact Ancient or not versus Blacktongue's estimation of its credit worth to the highest bidder. Given Lidus' practicing the emulation of Vargr Charisma, I was the Medic to step in before it became fisticuffs versus Infighting.

Belting is a world apart from the Trade and Commerce of the Merchant Guilds. Us Merchants do less labor and more bookkeeping, though my presence on the Minor Carp streamlined belter operations somewhat. Blacktongue being a software genius, used a copy of a ship application as a bribe to the Lair Mining Commission to hasten the red tape for his ship to purchase and be awarded a mining license. It was my funds that helped jumpstart this expedition to Firgvaar. There is so much in each watch that can go wrong as exampled earlier in this log. But that payoff can be so sweet it'll melt your cargo bay.

A watch of six hours is the standard shift for a crew on a Seeker. That's why there are four of us on the Minor Carp. There can be more if double-occupancy is risked, but then the individual payout is lower when divided among more than four. Blacktongue instructed me that Seekers that employ more than four crew are in belts with Corsair presence, claimjumpers, and other ne'er-do-wells.

The shopping list for this excursion put supplies, gear, equipment and environmental needs on Blacktongue's Seeker. The list takes up only one ton in cargo, but gradually dissipates and opens that ton of space for ores. I'm told that if the ores don't reach that ton of space by the time the supplies are used up, something was inefficient.

There are many nuances to belting, I am learning. It's not a life I'd want, because I like the Starport bazaars, the noise of haggling, the smell of credits changing claws and the variety of Vargr I get to meet at each world. Out here in the belts, Trojans and Rings, it's quiet. I'd be very lonely out here without Uessae Noedhin. I'm a city Vargr. Uessae was a Navy brat. I get the impression from Lidus Ka that she's some kind of Black Groat of the Vilani, especially to find her on a Vargr Seeker with Blacktongue.
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Old August 17th, 2019, 10:01 AM
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Captain-Owner Aekarrungue "Blacktongue" Gzaendzakaghekhsdzaertsaeng is not truly rated for Starship Operations other than as an IT Vargr. He knows about the dirtside skills and can find the right tell-tale signs of a rich vein in belting. However, he has to improvise the standard operating procedures that Navy Uessae and Merchants Guild me take for bare minimum. I know these things about our Captain-Owner because as the Ship's Medic, I get the privilege of seeing his chart and his UPP card. He really needs to stop that chewing tobacco habit. It reeks to us Vargr and is hell on his clothing. About the only true starship skill Blacktongue is really rated for is Vacc Suit and that told me that in his younger years he started out as a deckhand, schlepping rocks from a site to the hold and won this ship through his gambling habit, luck, computer software composition and some lucrative veins. At just five years my younger, he gambled his way to Captain the Minor Carp. He has six terms to captaincy. No one with that kind of resume usually sits in The Chair of any ship.

A Day gone by, I retired to my Vargr Cave of a stateroom.

I. I want you, came the declaration from Dream Uessae. They say these dreams let you down upon waking. But this night, with our schedules opposite each other, I woke with Uessae Noedhin, my betrothed sneaking into my cabin so we could blend pelts much to my loss of sleep.

022-1107
Firgvaar (Provence 2401) A667987-E Ga Hi Pr VLPr
Day-16

“I think we’ve got one!” Uessae called from the Bridge the next Day. I use capitalized Day in this log because out here in Orbit 2 of Firgvaar, there is no sunrise or dusk. The term Day then is short for Personal Day, a number of hours based on a sophont’s physiognomy. For Vargr and Humaniti, that number is 241 with some give. I hear Aslan can go much longer, but I’ve never met one to ask them. I was still racked out when Uessae called on the ship intercom.

No coffee. Someone, likely Uessae downed the last of it and that’s why she sounded so spry.

By the time I dragged my tail onto the Bridge, the others were hunched over the Sensors boards and deciding who should go EVA with the Ore Sampler.
The one million-ton asteroid in the Leading Trojans of Firgvaar LGG-S was visible out the forward viewports of the Minor Carp. Blacktongue was estimating the deposit at around a thousand tons, surely more than our expedition could afford to mine and haul. When the three of them saw me enter, I was immediately put on the Densitometer to confirm the deposit as D for Dense Metal. “Uessae’s right,” I said while locking my eyes on the readings. “Dense Metals at about a thousand tons. Good eyes, you two.”

“Not Radioactives?” asked Lidus. From her voice I could tell that the Vilani woman had been hoping for the best.

“No, but Dense is almost as lucrative and is safer to mine and haul,” I said.

“Let’s get down there and Beacon it as ours before anyone else shows up,” declared Blacktongue. “Radio silence until it’s claimed and ours.” Radio silence is belter operations to avoid a beltstrike rush. It also draws claimjumpers if present in the system.

Using the Ship’s Boat, Uessae took Blacktongue down to plant the Beacon himself. Then she took the Ore Sampler EVA in a Vacc Suit and confirmed, eyes on the prize, the deposit was Dense Metals and in the Platinum Group. From my handler’s position on the Bridge Sensors, I did the math quick in my head. KCr100 per ton at a thousand tons was- “Ancients! One-hundred million credits!”

“Beacon is planted,” reported Blacktongue through the Ship’s Boat Comms. “Call it in to your buddies in Knurrksuerrgikh, Fixer. See what they say.”

Even if a belter Seeker finds a deposit and confirms the composition elements, a mining company who can handle a thousand tons may not be interested. This is where I came in, why I was aboard the Minor Carp. Platinum Group metals have a wide variety of applications. I had to do what I do best. Sleaze-haggling is almost a religion for a Merchant like me. Now that I had a ‘cargo’ to sell, it was time to drag Knurrksuerrgikh Mining Interest, LVC down to my level. With minutes passing between each exchange of information, offers and counteroffers, evidence of the find, taxes, demand and how much I was supplying, the in-system negotiation was long and drawn out for me even with the local SysNet sitting at my favorite, Tech-14 relay. But even Dense Metals has a cost to mine and haul. In the negotiations with my contacts at Knurrksuerrgikh, I was on the ropes almost immediately. “Fifty percent or wait for a diminishing chance of a second mining interest, Blacktongue,” I declared. “Call it.”

“Sign it,” answered Blacktongue who was now returning with Uessae in the Ship’s Boat.

It was the right call. We still had over a hundred Days of supplies left and had topped off our fuel tanks with skimming. It was a tense few minutes after I had signed over the claim before I got a confirmation code from Knurrksuerrgikh Mining Interest.

“Congrats, everyone,” I called and announced to Lidus with me on the Bridge. She was watching the Sensors as I sat next to her and haggling on the Comms. “It will be about two weeks for Knurrksuerrgikh comes out and does their own survey. And if they like what they find, we’re each MCr12.5 richer. If they don’t, they cover the cost of our Beacon and we keep looking.” That evening, we celebrated even as Lidus took a turn once more as we backtracked on a return course, in the direction of a jump point 100 Diameters from LGG-S.

The promise of credits changes the mood on a Seeker. It becomes upbeat and celebratory. If we saw something else, all the better. If not, we were still going to be well paid for the find.

It is amazing how credits in the account can lubricate things. Though we had no more pings, Lidus and Blacktongue seemed to make up and soon were talking to each other again. With only 25 tons of our cargo space filled, we were still richer and toting an alien artifact we still had to deal with. But we unanimously agreed to return to Lair before declaring such a find. Blacktongue and I were to be the ambassadors for that excursion.

Success among co-workers builds friendships. Lidus Ka announced that she was done belting, having gotten a taste for the quiet days and hoping beyond hope. Blacktongue agreed. Not everyone is cut out for the belter life. Though we did continue scanning in hopes for another ping, our luck had dwindled, and it was time to get paid and return to Lair.

1In Classic Traveller, Vargr use Endurance as opposed to Vigor in Traveller5.10
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Old August 17th, 2019, 10:08 AM
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054-1107
Firgvaar (Provence 2401) A667987-E Ga Hi Pr VLPr
Day-Who Cares?

The beltstrike was leaked as we were just about to initiate jump to Lair. Seekers came running to the Leading Trojans of Firgvaar LGG-S. Don’t ask me how such news gets leaked, but I’m sure it did when we saw our credits account explode with MCr12.5 each.

“Pathing confirmed, jump on your command,” I heard Uessae say over the intercom.

“Jump. Jump now,” ordered Blacktongue.

“Initiating Jump,” I answered. With a jump after credits in the account, there were no takebacks for Knurrksuerrgikh Mining Interest. That money was ours. We partied during jump transit. Out of the chiller came the drink and I grilled some steak. Yes, real food. With the Cargo Hold pressurized during jump transit, there was both time and room on the Minor Carp to dance to very loud music, exercise, mill about and generate more than just a professional business ethic. But every time we encountered the alien, monadium egg, I saw Uessae stop and regard it with that same stare. Maybe she was simply acknowledging it. She fiddled with her Pocketwatch-4 on a chain about her neck ruff.

061-1107
Lair (Provence 2402) A8859B9-E (or F, depending) Ga Hi Pr Pz Cp (debatable) Cx K [Vargr] VLPr

With the same traffic density as Firgvaar, inbound reservation of an orbital platform Berth is painful as pulling teeth. There are seventeen orbital platforms over mainworld Lair and we still had to wait for a ship to pull from a magnetic docking clamp at Platform-9, at Berth 75. Inbound, I had called into the capital city Aforrarrang Histoical Society about the salvage finds. An appointment was scheduled which seemed to satisfy Lidus. I did not mention the monadium egg on Comms.

We were not off the Minor Carp until a Society adjuster and curator arrived via Shuttle late in the Day. Nodding with disinterest at the starship armor and the Tech-9 grav-jack, the curator was not moved until we sweetened the salvage with the Second Diaspora M-Drive relic.

"If that is all you brought us we can proceed-" said the adjuster before I cut him off.

"One more item for your consideration, sir. It is down in the steerage deck."

"What do you have then and why not up here on your Cargo Hold deck when I arrived?" asked the snobbish Scholar. Did he have a paper to turn in?

"You will understand when you see it," I assured him.

In the deepest deck and in the aft of the steerage was stored the artifact which none of us had dared the descriptor Ancients. Already present were Lidus Ka, Uessae Noedhin and Blacktongue, (leaving out his entire name). The three had their favorite weapons on straps, bandoleer, or holstered at our descent on the cargo elevator. Though disturbed by the show of arms, the curator quickly lost the threat at the sight of the monadium egg.

"And before you call up some obscure law or regulation, know that you aren't leaving this ship until we have an Advocate and the Platform Warden sign the witnessed releases if your Society wants it."

"Ancients!"

"Hmmph, that's what I said when we found it," I added to the reaction.

Lidus piped up with, "Densitometer says it is solid monadium and five tons of it."

Uessae added, "Immune to grav-jacks and grav plates too. Physical labor to load it onto the ship."

I held up a manifest tablet with a locked screen. The device awaited a thumbclaw print signature to unlock. "Yours with a signature is everything we know about it. Not before."

"I-I-I'm no Merchant! This-...this is priceless. You can't buy or sell an Artifact of this magnitude."

"Oh. So, you don't want it?"

"I didn't say that!"

"Then offer us something," I challenged the adjuster.

"I have to comm the Society's special purchases branch for this level of deal."

"Then you do so on our Comm, secure line, and you only get one."

Under strict security at the airlock, the Warden of Platform-9, and over a steak dinner that I personally prepared, the adjuster was allowed to comm his superiors. With a fair witness Advocate standing by in her black robes and me sleaze-haggling like never before, we reached a deal to get that egg safely off the Minor Carp.

I imagined during the negotiations of lines of funds redirecting along channels of Society supporters, a web woven with the artifact at its center. Spreading outward across Aforrarrang and possibly the entire globe of mainworld Lair as we approached a final sum of credits.

"You sir, are tapping out our budget for the fiscal year. We won't have the funds to pay for analyzing this find unless we beg for help from the government."

"That's is not my problem," I said. "Lair is aryu rich and your next Publication and Tenure will be assured. Or we can give this egg to another museum for better numbers."

"You won't make it to 50D, Merchant."

"Is that a threat, Professor?"

"Just a warning. This find may be Ancients."

"I bet even the Navy can't vaporize the thing before it lands on the Palace of Erzikh Dhadh and the throne room of Ulurs."

The Warden spoke then. "Watch it, sir."

And this was the heated nature of negotiations for that evening. But we signed a purchase deal. Time was on our side. The Society was able to scrape together MCr32 for the Artifact, providing all was hushed under a gag order and we stayed at Berth long enough for the Society to remove it. I handed over the tablet after all the print signatures, witnesses and other Admin red tape was settled. The Aforrarrang Historical Society took all of the next day in ship, to EVA, to Shuttle pushing the monadium egg under microgravity. With it went the old hull armor and the grav-Jack-9 as part of the deal. Score another for the Bucket List: sell an Ancients artifact. Five tons of Someone Else's Problem was removed from the Minor Carp. It is likely that the salvage M-Drive was sold secondarily to a restoration hobbyist group to recoup some of the Society's funds.
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Old August 17th, 2019, 10:15 AM
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After the egg was gone, Uessae and I retired to our cabins to begin packing. We were only crewing the Minor Carp for this excursion.

"You never answered my question," Blacktongue interrupted my discharge from his ship. "What are you going to do with all that money?"

With two duffle rucksacks, one to a shoulder, I stopped to show Blacktongue the Imperium-make Fast Far Trader Thuegueus II on my Hand Computer-11. “She needs work,” I said aloud.

The belter whistled. "Sleek. So, you became a belter just to repair a Human-made starship?"

"I have a list of things that I need that ship to do for me."

At the airlock of the Seeker that had been our home for almost 80 days, Uessae and I parted ways with Blacktongue. I told him to quit that nasty habit of chewing tobacco now that I was no longer his crew. About a minute later, I saw that we were being followed by Lidus Ka whom too had been discharged from the Minor Carp. In the middle of the Platform-9 terminal concourse, I spun to confront the wild hair, black leathers, and studded collar Vilani. "Why are you following us, Lidus?"

The conversation, too long to log here bled on as we made way to a Shuttle service dirtside where the Thuegueus II had been stowed in long-term berthing for the expedition to Firgvaar. Lidus Ka laid some smooth talk about how I was blessed lucky for a Logaksu Merchant and how she knew that Uesae was an Aekhu from Deneb Sector the moment the Vilani met us on the Minor Carp. She needed a new ship to sign on as an Astrogator and that Blacktongue had let her know about my Imperium Fast Far Tramp Trader. Did we have room on my ship?

I looked at Uessae who then said to me, "At least let her interview, Ri."
I was going to deny Lidus Ka. Her mode of dress was not appealing to me. That is, until Uessae had spoken up for the Human.

"Okay. C'mon, Lidus." The three of us boarded the Shuttle down to Aforrarrang Downport. I slept on the reentry flight down to the surface of mainworld Lair while Uessae and Lidus talked in Vilani language for privacy.

N. A wooden longboat was beached on the shore sands some distance where I stood with my feet getting wet from the incoming waves. In a few moments, we will be arriving… I woke up from the dream beach and saw wide and sprawling Aforrrarrang the capital city of Lair again through the window seat viewport.

063-1107
Lair (Provence 2402) A8859B9-E (or F debatable) Ga Hi Pr Pz Cp (again debatable) Cx K [Vargr] VLPr

Logaksu may be the official language of Lair, but it is not the only spoken language we heard in the Downport.

Though Lair has never held the same mystery and allure of other racial homeworlds, it still draws all Vargr ethnicities and even aliens such as Humaniti, the short Droyne (for reasons I cannot fathom), and dignitaries from other races rimward of the Vargr Extents.

In Aforrarrang, I beheld fellow Logaksu, the huge Urzaeng parting the crowds, Gvegh from spinward, a delegation of Ovaghoun, and even a Pack of Suedzuk (the Red Pelts) disgorging from a terminal gate as we passed.
Outside the Security checkpoint, we received our sealed weapon cases. Uessae owns a Shotgun which she could win accuracy awards at competitions. I have a Shotgun and a Bayonet to go with it. I like to keep meanie jerks that far from me. But seeing Lidus Ka's impact plastic case holding her family Hunting Rifle, I looked at Uessae. "A girl's gotta keep at least one, Ri. Better to have it and not need it-"

"-than to need it and not have it," finished young Lidus who lifted the rifle case as if it were no different than her other luggage.

Vargr architecture slid by the gravcab window as we commuted into the Startown adjacent to Aforrarrang Downport. Every building spoke of Vargr preferences in color and use. Where before back home in the Dzarrgh Federate, I could see the occasional Vilani influence in construction, Lair was exclusively Vargr in everything. I asked the cab driver about it.

There is a movement on Lair to take the Vargr of the Lair Protectorate back to the baseline, First Diaspora years before we discovered the Vilani, before the Ramshackle Empire and before the strange Zhodani were found to spinward of the Extents. Merchants like me know better. You might regress socially, but never economically. Not like this. The hotel we secured lodgings had a corner balcony with a view of both the peninsula Downport and the inland city.

The air on Lair is Dense, but one can acclimate by slowing down and letting each breath do its work. Panting to cool down will do one in almost as much as the labor to work one up to begin with. These many stories up on the hotel balcony, the air was just beginning to thin to Standard. It takes at least 1000 meters above sea level before it's truly Air-6 or Standard.

I checked in with the long-term berthing and authorized the repairs to the damaged Maneuver Drive and the Jump-4 Drive. It would cost me MCr9.6 to get that final, fourth G performance and the 4th order Jump Grid active again. A Starship combat had damaged both. S'okay. Should see what Uessae did to the other jerks who wouldn't listen to us on Comms.

Lidus Ka shared the double suite with Uessae and I, our rooms on the opposite ends of the shared commons. It was the poshest hotel I'd stayed at in years.

"Oh yeah, a hottub for two!" I exclaimed when we beheld the lavish bath fresher. The entire area was bigger than a luxury stateroom and its fresher. And that was just the bathroom. The bed and bedroom were larger.
Rather than throw chops for dibs on the tub, we agreed to a dip together. A bath, a real bath. A shower may be preferential to some, but actual submersion in hot bath water let me know just how wound up in knots I was. Seeing me melt into the bath, Uessae scooted over and worked those knotty muscles.

The entire mining operation had been a gamble and a costly one.
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Old August 17th, 2019, 10:19 AM
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"You called in the repairs, huh?" asked Uessae above me but still in the tub. "What was the bill?" I told her. "So," Uessae continued as she worked me, "what is next on the Bucket List?"

"I figure we might go shopping before returning to the ship, to give it time for repairs, life support. Then we can talk about what to mark off the List next. Mmmm." Uessae can massage. We stayed in the hottub and tried various settings of jets and chose fragrant fur shampoo for the other.

* * *

Uessae: "Shut that Hand Computer off and come to bed."

Ri: "Yes, ma'am."

* * *

Y. Why did you have to kill all those pirates? I knew it was an accusatory, unspoken question from Uessae as she walked behind me on the beach. I could not hear the waves or her voice but the question came from behind anyway. I wanted revenge more than information at the time, Uessae, was my answer as my gaze found the wooden longboat again. Explaining myself brought on guilt for the long-held grudge and vengeance streak Uessae had helped me shed. Never until now had she popped the question. Explaining also woke me for trying to use logic in a dream state.

064-1107
Lair (Provence 2402) A8859B9-E (I argue F) Ga Hi Cp (that too) Cx Pr Pz K [Vargr] VLPr

Aforrarrang has four super mall complexes, one a short tube walk from the hotel we were lodged. I begged off from the ladies, for we brought Ludus Ka with us, (and see if she could grow out of that current look), and sought refuge in establishments not devoted to clothing.

I am not rated in grav vehicles. But that did not stop me from watching the Grav Belt demos on display screens. I was fogging the glass with my breath.

* * *

Ri: “Hi, um. I’d like to buy an engagement ring.”

Jeweler: “Sure, just cycle through the selections, notate any custom work, consider high-tech add-ons to the band or inside the stone’s crystal lattice and - well, you seem to be well on your way, sir.”

* * *

Well, that costed a pretty shiny credit. But if she likes it, I got the matching wrap to fit to it like a puzzle piece. I tucked the KCr500 ring into its gift case and received all the paperwork and notes on the customization I had added. Into a thigh pocket that stuff went.

I met back up with the ladies at the food court. I was soundly late and had to eat quickly if I wanted to keep up with Uessae and Lidus. The two ladies seemed to be hitting it off. But then remembered the old adage: Males bond. Females shop.

I dunno why I resisted entering the lingerie store, standing outside like I had nothing to do with the place, while Uessae and Lidus went through the collection. Sneaking askance glances, I saw that the store catered to Humaniti as well as Vargr. Everything that Lidus Ka considered was black, silk, leather, rubber, barbed wire (or what looked like it), or some combination thereof. Then Uessae caught me gawking and trying to hide it. Smiling at me from behind a rack of hanging ensembles, she padded over to Lidus to see what the Vilani was considering that had caught my attention. Red faced, even under my brown and tan ventrals, I searched the other side of the mall thoroughfare for a shop to look at while I waited.

And yes, I ended up as a mule for all the things the ladies purchased and was warned sternly by both not to look in the boxes, bags and other wrappings. Please, Ancients don’t let her have picked up anything for me from the males’ corner, I prayed.

After a day of shopping, some of the items of my own purchase - Engineer here - we returned to the hotel where I could check for any messages from the drydock repairing the Thuegueus II. One message from the yard complained about the incompatibility of the Imperium Jump Grid versus the Protectorate version. Another noted the scent of Humaniti aboard the Fast Far Trader before the Life Support crew came in and scrubbed everything. For the credits I was shelling out, the ship had best smell like New Ship or Maiden Voyage.

Uessae and I sat in on a holovid production Lidus was watching in the commons of the suite. A psionic horror, group of victims trying to survive a horde of psi-zombies because of some Final War boobytrap set off by the Smart Guy archetype and catching our hero and heroine in the mix. Add some megacorporate interference and Red Zoning interdiction and a time limit....

Uessae and I were in each other’s arms while Lidus had her boots kicked off and was watching the story emphatically.
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Old August 17th, 2019, 10:28 AM
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U. You really think that the Extents can take Corridor Sector? Uessae sat above me in the wooden longboat while I struggled to make sense of the name on the watercraft prow. The letters were not familiar and yet had to be Vargr. They looked nothing like Anglic or Vilani or that other Terran language. And I didn’t know if it was Zhodani or not, but it looked to me like Vargr. I did not look up at Uessae for trying to do so would end the dream I had learned by now. I dunno, Uessae. But as it turns out, just considering the answer to a dream question with an attempt at rational thought can boot me from deep sleep.

We wined. We dined. We shopped some more, for Needs this outing. This took the rest of the week as the refurbishment of life support and the repairs completed on the Thuegueus II. Soon enough, into the Wonday, I got to move back into the Fast Far Trader.

Lidus Ka showed me her meager, 27-year-old UPP, resume and certifications. Ancients! Who did she piss off in ED5?! But Rich, Corporate Princess was a passable Astrogator and I needed Uessae at the helm. So, meh, I signed her on as a Navigator and Security what with that high caliber Hunting Rifle and all the add-ons I saw her purchase for Daddy's Gun.
I told the ladies to get unpacked in their Staterooms, Uessae again with me in the Captain's Cabin on the portside nose of the Imperium-made Empress Marava.

And I'll be damned that there was a present waiting for me in Engineering. "Initial Systems Tests, ladies," I called over the ship intercoms to keep them busy while opened the gift.

Uessae answered with, "Can't wait to try everything on."

So that's who bought and planted the gift. Uessae. The ex-Navy Captain Uessae Noedhin knew how to delegate. She must have had the gift wrapped and delivered to the ship rather than bring it with us back to the hotel.

Rather than take the bait immediately, I composed myself and began the process of testing the Drives, pre-flight checks, seals checks and other minutiae of an Engineer. Like a lure on a fishing hook or bait in a snare, the wrapped gift in a deep maroon red beckoned.

“Bridge online now that I’ve tossed my kit in my cabin,” called Lidus. “How about you, Captain-Owner?” Doubt wormed its way into my mind about which of the ladies sent this gift to be delivered to my Vargr Cave in Engineering. I could not leave Engineering without opening the gift. That’s why it was here. Its sender meant for me to open it alone, else it would have been in the Captain’s Cabin or in the Galley or Commons instead.
Like a brand, the tag atop the wrapped gift read: To Ri

While I had my suspicions about whether it was Uessae or Lidus as the gift sender, I tried deductive logic. Lidus does not call me Ri. Like Blacktongue, the Vilani woman called me Fixer or Engineer or “hey you”. But this was my name on the gift tag.

If I opened the gift, I’d have to try it or use it or otherwise be able to show that I acknowledged the gift delivery. And once I did that, the sender would have me. To open the gift or to beg out that I missed it.

No. That wouldn’t work. The gift was right there on the Engineering Console. An utter moron could not have missed it.

“Outside walkabout checks out,” called Uessae with her Comm-12. “Aeronautics checks out.” I was running out of time.

All the shops we had been to, Uessae and Lidus had come out with some bag or box for me to schlep. What was in that maroon gift on my Console? I would not be able to run all my checks without having to move or touch it.
Ancients! I’m such a coward. With a huff, I walked over to the gift calling, “Engineering almost checks out. Three Drives and all...”

I carefully unwrapped the maroon red bow ribbon cinching the top of the gift. The stays widened the opening.

Oh no. They didn’t. I lifted two garments and one accessory out of the gift. The accessory was tagged and labeled as a pair of Infrared Goggles with an adjustable strap for Human or Vargr craniums. Okay, that’s kinda cool.

The first garment was a folded into a compact size set of Jack bodysuit armor with...(I read the tag on the inside of the collar)...titanium studs. Black and made of some kind of treated organic leather, the Jack was to cover the abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms down to the wrists. It enclosed with both a zipper and buckles at the waist, collar and wrists. I set that item aside like it was gonna get me somehow.

The last item at the bottom of the gift was a black Jack and titanium studded male’s brief for Vargr. Those two females! They had seen me spying them from the lingerie shop. Conferring together, they must have ordered online and had these items delivered so I could not look in their bags.

I had the bravery to try on the Infrared Goggles first. Lowering the lights in Engineering, I was able to pick out the heat signatures of the individual Drives, my own body’s heat and the ambient heat in the compartment. Nifty. Thoughtful, the ladies must have enticed me a little with this bit of helpful technology, luring me further into the contents of the gift. With the goggles raised above my eyes, I was now cursed to try on the Jack items. But no way was I going to step from Engineering in just the two. Nuh-uh.

They were going to ask how the two Jack items fitted once I returned from Engineering. I know this. It’s how Uessae works. As an ex-Navy Captain, she is keen on manipulation. Well, I could try them on, just so I could honestly give them an answer while not wearing the Jacks before them. That much I could do in the least.

“Sensors check out,” called Lidus from the Bridge.

“Seals on airlock and cargo are Green,” answered Uessae.

I hung my Merchants coat on the Engineering Console chair. I still had on a shirt and could fit the torso Jack over it. The leather creaked as I slid my arms into the sleeves. But to get the other, lower Jack on, I’d have to strip completely.

* * *

Ri: No way am I going to record this segment of my life. This is just too embarrassing and devious of the ladies to do to me. But it fits. I don’t have a mirror.

* * *

Turns out, I did not have to record trying on the Jacks and the Infrared Goggles. Before I could take the two leathers off and return to my Merchants garb, Uessae AND Lidus opened the iris valve door and entered my Vargr Cave. Uessae leading but looking over her shoulder said to Lidus, “It doesn’t say Keep Out yet after the Life Support and repairs, so we can still enter his turf.” Then the ladies beheld me in all my leathered-up, titanium-studded glory standing there in Engineering like a cub with its claw in the treats jar.

“Hot damn,” said Uessae Noedhin.

“Wow,” added Lidus Ka.

I was never going to hear the end of this. “I-,” I tried to generate some excuse or proper explanation.

“Those abs,” commented the ex-Navy Captain.

“And that butt,” critiqued Lidus who leaned against the threshold of the iris valve, keeping it opened. I felt my pride, dignity and Vargr Charisma sink through the deck floor as the ladies unabashedly gawked at me.

“Turn around for us, Ri.”

“How’d you get his measurements right?” Lidus asked Uessae.

“I read his Merchants coat, but I did have to guess at the lower piece a little.” I almost took off the upper Jack, but Uessae stopped me. “Don’t, Ri,” the Aekhu said. “You look good.”

“Nice touch the titanium,” complimented Lidus to Uessae with congratulations.

Trapped as I was before the two, both Uessae and even Lidus Ka brandished their Vargr Charisma and emulated Vargr Charisma at me. I was like an infant cub’s teething toy in their eyes. Seeing them mentally salivate over my exposed hips, thighs and legs, I turned and at least slid on my red pants. “You two are diabolical.”

“No, Ri. You look diabolical.”

From somewhere in the back of my brain, I was treated to some form of elusive memory. The Solomani call it deja vu, I think. “Well, Engineering checks out, you two.”

“You check out, Ri,” smiled Uessae as the two turned to leave my Vargr Cave. I saw Uessae begin to pant and Lidus fan herself with a hand as they left me in Engineering. “You could say thank you, y’know,” called Uessae from down the corridor just before the iris valve closed.

This Jack coat, despite the zipper and the titanium buckles has no pockets. I bet I looked like something from Lidus’ punk world to her. I returned to finish the Engineering checks, leaving on both Jacks and scraping my Charisma back up off the floor.

A simulated weapons check in both Hardpoints, my walkthrough of the Cargo Hold and an inventory of the Galley, Pantry and Ship’s Locker, I met the dastardly ladies in the Commons. Now bestowed with their ‘gifts’, I had to continue wearing them for the rest of the Day.

Though my ship title is Captain-Owner, my ship position is Engineer-Purser which means I’m also the Steward aboard the Thuegueus II. I began to prepare our first meal on the refurbished AFT-BS44 Fast Far Trader. Lidus tried out the seating in the Commons as she looked about the compartment. “I like this.” Uessae took a seat at the table and watched me cook. She was still hungrily eyeing me work while wearing her gifts.

I was morally obligated to thank the two ladies for the gifts by preparing a savory dish, a lasagna with three kinds of meat, two spices and a red sauce.
“Did the Infrareds work well, Ri?” Uessae asked by trying to redirect her attention to somewhere other than my abs or my posterior despite the fact that I was now covered. Maybe it was a combination of knowing I was so attired and preparing a meal in the Galley for her.

“Precise,” I nodded. “I can make out the Drives, my own heat and even the ambient background.”
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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 August 17th, 2019, 10:38 AM
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I set the automatic shut-off timer for the lasagna in the oven then joined Uessae at the table. Perhaps for conversation, we were joined by Lidus who too was still sneaking peeks at my upper Jack.

Off to one side of the table and against the bulkhead wall was a gaming console, a shipboard, virtual reality entertainment that featured goggles and gloves for control manipulation of games inside the console.

Lidus Ka the 27-year old Vilani woman read the Vilani lettering on the gaming console case saying, “What’s Red Wizard?

It was like the bottom fell out of my world from underneath me. It was like someone had arrived with months of forgotten memories, refurbished fresh and renewed. I looked at the Red Wizard gaming console in shock and silence. In the span of heartbeats, I was inundated with memories, tightly packed recollections now unfolding and expanding from the back of my head in forgotten storage and flooding into my conscious thought.

“Ancients!” was all I could shout.

“Son of a bitch!” Uessae shouted.

Lidus Ka was last and said, “What’s wr-....oh my Ancestors!”

More and more memories, hidden from my conscious mind until now, continued to disgorge themselves into my mind as I recalled each in rapid succession. And these memories made everything from the belting expedition look like I had been living a composed, directed, brainwashing lie. Masks fell off the faces of Uessae and Lidus Ka before me. They in return stared in shock and disbelief at me. Uessae’s mouth hung open from her muzzle. Lidu’s hands did that Human facepalm gesture.

Though Uessae Noedhin was a known to me, actions and events that were not there in my mind before today were now unpacking in my skull in rapid succession. Miss Lidus Ka, though dressed in discordant punk, was remembered. She was the youngest daughter of the Vilani Family Ka of Vland Sector, an issue of Naasirka, LIC megacorporation. Identities and details and still more memories flooded my mind. And from the looks of the ladies, they were suffering the same affliction of recollection.

“You’re a Psion, Uessae/Ri!” We had both exclaimed simultaneously at each other. I looked down to her primary breast cleavage to see the brushed nickel Pocketwatch-4 in a new but remembered light. The testing and training on Aezorr! The maroon poncho-robes were in our luggage and assumed all these false times of the excursion to be some garment of no consequence. They were gifts from the Psionic Institute on Aezorr as graduation presents. Then we remembered that we had not told Lidus Ka that Uessae and I were Psions. We had just outed ourselves by mistake before her.

“YOU’RE WHAT?!” Lidus demanded with her Human jaw opened. She looked at Uessae and shouted, “You told me you two were on a romantic fling on Aezorr those months! You lied to me!”

“Lidus, I-“

“Psions!”

“Barely, Miss Ka,” I tried to explain.

“Did you two do this to me?” It was a poorly timed event exacerbated by our outing each other, Uessae and I.

“No, Lidus,” said Uessae.

“Calm down, Miss Ka. We’re coming out of an amnesia event too. We’ve forgotten a lot, just as you.”

Lidus Ka shot up from the table and backed away from Uessae and I. Then she saw that she was wearing leathers and studs uncharacteristic of Miss Lidus Ka that I was now remembering. It was staggering to see her now and I bet it was the same for her. More Human facepalming, Uessae rubbing her temples and me tugging on my ears as memories unfolded. “You two have psionics and unless you start talking right now, I’m leaving.” There were tears streaming down Lidus’ cheeks, rivulets of her dark black eyeliner painting down her cheeks.

“Fyutinyu,” Uessae and I recalled aloud together and at each other.

“They must have did this to us,” said Uessae.

“The portal!” I recalled with a jolt of memory so powerful that suddenly remembered that my mental and psionic Shield had been down for months. That was what the letters in my past several dreams had been trying to say to me, trying to unlock this amnesia blockage. My dream-self had been trying to breach this amnesia in a psionic attempt at recalling what happened here on Lair.

“But is the portal still there?” asked Ussae.

“Ancestors! The portal!” Miss Lidus Ka recalled at the second mention of the word.

Lidus must have had a thicker blockage since Uessae and I both had mental Shielding right up until....

All three of us were on our feet and pacing around the Galley and Commons. Lidus Ka kept her distance as Uessae stood looking at the Pocketwatch-4 in her claw palm. It had been a gift Focus for her precognition power called Predict. I remembered that she could see up to fifteen seconds into the future if she used the Pocketwatch as a Focus for all her will for the Day. I recalled my own powers of pitifully weak Telekinesis we called Move and that I was barely a telepath. Barely. I remembered that our late forties had caused us to test so very low in psionics at the Institute on Aezorr.

Uessae, fully recalled perhaps because her Psi rating was slightly higher than mine and her Shield likely stronger, turned to Miss Lidus Ka and let loose with the truth about our investigative interlude to a remote island on Aezorr, our testing and our training at the Psionic Institute. She explained her powers and how weak they were to Lidus. She detailed mine too now that we Vargr had outed ourselves.

“...and remember the misjump, Lidus?” Uessae asked as she explained her power of Predict by displaying her engraved Focus Pocketwatch-4, a windup work of low-tech clockwork. Uessae assured the frightened Vilani woman that neither of us could read her mind or influence her decisions or free will. Slowly, as more explanations amid the unfolding memories, Miss Lidus Ka calmed down and continued to merge the self she had forgotten with the Lidus she had been when we left Lair on the belting operation.

There was a lot of circling around in the Commons and the Galley as the timer in the oven beeped and shut down dinner. Two Vargr and a Human sat down, taking turns as another got up and tried to deal with the unfolding memories before, during and after the Portal.

“Fyutinyu,” I mumbled. I then explained aloud my recent dreams and the theory of my suppressed, inner self trying to come back from the amnesia inflicted upon us by Them.

“It has to be,” agreed Uessae to get up when I sat down.

* * *

Ri: “Let’s stay calm and tell each other what we remember. I’ll record us this time. Just go back to our arrival on Lair months ago. Agreed?”

Uessae: “The truth this time, Lidus. This amnesia was done to us too.”

Lidus: “We broke out of jumpspace and were on final approach to mainworld Lair. I remember being on Sensors....”

* * *

End of Remember Amnesia
(30)
__________________
Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
The Pakkrat 0608 X58738-8 S va++ so+ zh+ vi+ da+ 534
On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5
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