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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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  #91  
Old June 22nd, 2019, 01:32 AM
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It was a new voice, a female voice that many had not heard yet. New and present in the circle, the scream silenced all and froze the Infighters. Dhueth had his teeth around Voellzoen’s neck, but had yet to clamp his jaw and rip his brother’s throat out. Heads turned and down at Zhevra at Dr. Azvarrkoel’s side and beside Dame Qithka Cannagrrh in turn.

Zhevra wore Dueth’s Unequal belt tied properly, its excess hanging down the front of her tabard and hip dress. The gray muzzle was loose and hung lightly on her face. Her emerald green eyes flashed in the moon’s light. Here was an Equal, wearing the symbols of Unequality before all, a thing never done in anyone’s memory. Like statues everyone, including Voellzoen whose face was turned in that direction on the grass and Dhueth whose eyes lifted to focus on Zhvera wearing his things.

Dhueth lifted his mouth off his brother’s neck and panted, “What is an Equal doing wearing an Unequal’s belts?”

Knirr broke in and answered solemnly before Zhevra could answer, “She as the right to do so. She knows.”

Then Zhevra shocked everyone again by speaking loudly, “Communication! Speaking to each other. You are acting on instinct like animals Humaniti believes us to be. Think!”

Seeing that Zhevra Cannagrrh, widow of Gevaudan Cannagrrh, an Equal in Unquality belts made her to be of a new and never before experienced quality of Vargr. Mouths silent and opened, everyone listened to the sound of Zhevra’s voice, from a person who had to them lain in a coma for three years. Now with a Suedzuk voice, she spoke clearly and carefully in their Gvegh language.

“You have watched over me in a coma for nigh three years. I must have looked weak. You all must have sought questions to answers. What is this Red Pelt doing marrying your cousin? What is a Suedzuk? A female that you say is widowed now that Gevaudan’s Jump, my husband’s jump, is a thing of history to you. Well it is not history to me! It just happened before I woke up. Did you ask me about that? No.”

“This Pack may have asked about the Suedzuk, the villains of the Sack of Gashikan. Perhaps history is true of our greatest mistake over two-and-a-half millennia ago! And I learned of the Red Pelts Corsairs during the Rebellion of the Human Imperium that poured salt in the wounds of Suedzuk character. Through all this time, we Suedzuk have been hunted, exterminated by the Wolf Hunt pogroms, pushed to the ends of Charted Space in the Vargr Extents. To the brink of survival and even extinction. Did you ask me about that? No.”

“The Red Pelts should have sought asylum in the sectors of their time, but were tricked into joining up with a mad dictator and fighting against an already superior foe, Norris’ fleets of the Spinward Marches, a faction of the Rebellion that meant to survive behind the claw no matter the cost. But did you ask me if I was anything like that? Did you write to me even once in the two years of my marriage to my husband? No.”

“You have given yourselves over to fears, fear that I, a Suedzuk, a hated ‘red pelt’ will be no different than history. You fear that as Gevaudan’s lawfully wedded wife – you now call widow – that I am the heir to the Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh.”

Zhevra pointed at Voellzoen, still pinned on the grass and said, “I knew you, Voellzoen, were my enemy the day we met at the firing range. Your body language and demeanor gave you away. Suedzuk living so constantly on the edge of survival have learned through the centuries to be wary of any potential threats. Had anyone asked me, instead of assuming my acceptance of Alpha after Dame Qithka’s eventual abdication, they might have learned something new. But did you ask the limping invalid who could not talk? No.”

“You might have nodded your heads in confidence for a bit and said to each other, ‘Ah, at least the red pelt is an Equal’. Fie on that! I am disgusted at these laws of the Dzen Aeng Kho! They weren’t my laws when I was brought here in a slave’s collar and sold to Gevaudan Cannagrrh. When I married Gev, I took the Equality Test out of love for him and without fully knowing the sad issues between the stratified and partitioned peoples of a polity calling itself Equals! What hypocrisy! Look at what you are doing to yourselves!”

“Your stupid laws in the Dzen Aeng Kho have taken a sad truth that not all Vargr are created or develop equally to an overblown and partitioning set of labels that has pitted father against son, Orgorr and Dhueth, brother against brother, Dhueth and Voellzoen. It has kept Pack members from opening their hearts to those upholding beliefs, causes and personal preferences, Qithka and Knirr for example. It has pitted leaders against subordinates, Qithka and Voellzoen. This is the same Society of hypocrisy that dares its people to betray their convictions and beliefs to further the stratification, Equals and Unequals and pitifully demeans its people on the results of a single, solitary, one-time Test, damning those that fail it for the rest of their lives. You know them as Inequals.”

“Taking of slaves on the basis that those enslaved cannot yet take care of themselves must be put to work without pay and very little hope of upward mobility, robs them of even trying your so-called Society to begin with. At least Gevaudan Cannagrrh, my husband, gave me the choice and the free will to do what I do best as Chief Engineer on his ship.”
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  #92  
Old June 22nd, 2019, 01:36 AM
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Zhevra pointed at the gray muzzle on her face and said, “Unequals, loyal to the Society of Equals are downtrodden and have no true motivation to act on their loyalty so long as they are blamed for the loss of the Equality War while Equals were patted on the back for trying their best in the face of defeat. Unequals who accept their bonds in an inefficient, passive-aggressive behavior with the hope of effecting change within the system that is flawed and will not change at the rate the Unequals hope. It’s just sad. ”

“One of your own, a Cannagrrh, committed suicide after failing the Equality Test. The shame drove him to it! Before your mutilation could be exacted upon him, he took his own life. It’s in the Pack histories, Cannagrrh!”

“You have judged me on my gender, my ethnicity, my Equality that I hate now, by my marriage to Gev (which you assume is a power-play for Alpha) and the assumption that I faked my own near-death to murder him and name me a black widow is the lowest! I love Gevaudan Cannagrrh unconditionally and he loved me unconditionally, without all those labels and partitions. You haved judged me on my friendship with your cousin Knirr Cannagrrh. She is the first true friend, besides my husband, that I have earned since coming to Gvurrdon Sector!”

“I deny my status as an Equal. But know also I will not wear these either. I have crossed the bottomless chasm you have let be delved between Equals, Unequals, Inquals and slaves. I was one such slave, a concubine, a toy for which I was ill-suited to begin with. I will not acknowledge this stratification, this casting and separation ego trip. All Vargr are beings. The entitlement must stop if the polity is to heal its partition scars and rise up out of the Collapse and into a new era. If denying my Equal status means I am somehow ‘unfit’, insane, unqualified or other descriptor to ascend as Alpha, then so be it! I will leave this Pack and bring back one who is a Good Vargr, a hero and who is not dead despite the belief of everyone around the mute coma patient! I will prove to you that I am not a widow, black or red. My beloved Gevaudan had a plan that night on the bridge of the Sixth Horizon. Gev’s Hazardous Environment Suit is orange! That is what I had been trying to tell myself and everyone around me since waking in the hospital.”

“Just because a Vargr chooses Unequal status, accepting a lesser authority of how a state should be run, abstaining in passive-aggressive protest, does not mean they do not care about the polity. They are not disloyal to patriotic progress or traditions! Unequals are citizens, as are Inequals, labels in themselves, between citizen and civilian labels that deserve nothing but dissolution as lessons learned by a polity on how not to treat its people. Anyone can become a member of the Society of Equals, even slaves, so why have stratifications and damning partitions?”

Zhevra looked about her to the Vargr starting with Voellzoen and Dhueth. Then she said with a calmer heart, “I see much anger and fear, that I can feel it down to the marrow of my bones.” Their fields of Mag and Lek were too many to differentiate, but all were along the same lines displayed by their emotions and physical excitement. “But I offer forgiveness. I offer hope. If you will hear me out, I can now dispel your fear and forgive the attempts on my life. I can tell you and show you what I intend, that no more attempts on my life need be necessary.”

Voellzoen interjected with a muffled, “You can’t prove anything you say I’ve done.”

The smaller Suedzuk took a deep breath and answered the black male still pinned by Dhueth, “Look about you, Captain Voellzoen Cannagrrh. Do you see a prosecutor, a judge maybe? Do these people look like a jury? Is this a trial by law? I see families. I see a Pack, Pack Cannagrrh.” Fields started changing about Zhevra and she knew her words to hearten those gathered. She turned Dhueth and looked between him and the Dame as she spoke, “Punish him if you must, for justice’s sake and the discipline of the Pack. But know that I forgive him for his fear and anger. Voellzoen, do you love your daughters, the triplets?”

“More than anything,” answered Voellzoen who was allowed by his older brother to raise his head off the grass and look directly at her.

“They have nothing to fear from a Suedzuk, Alpha or no. I can promise you that. Vengeance solves nothing and puts holes in a people, its Packs and in families. I forgive you if will do the same for me and my people. We Suedzuk did wrong in the Sack of Gashikan so long ago and have paid a terrible price of punishment for it. For I am not my sires and dams, I still suffer for their crimes today.”

Zhevra looked to Dhueth who was still holding down his younger brother and said, “If you kill your brother, Dhueth, you will hate yourself and come to hate me eventually that I woke from that coma in the first place. Hatred born of vengeance and duty will consume you until you are nothing but hot embers and ash.” She then looked about her to all gathered, settling on Knirr Cannagrrh who was beaming at Zhevra with wonder.

“In turn, I must forgive Gevaudan’s actions, his violence marked by those azure blue eyes that were the ocean blue before that night on the bridge. I have to forgive him if I am to quest for his return and prove he is still alive against all others’ assurances that he is not. Unconditional love for my mate-husband, a Good Vargr, demands such.”
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  #93  
Old June 22nd, 2019, 01:39 AM
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“Will you go on partitioning yourselves? Look at the effect it had on the Equality War. Had the Society of Equals asked directly of the Humans of the Zhodani Consulate, people who detest lying or deception, they would have been forthwith about their aid to the Thirz Empire, another failure of communication that led to the loss of the Equality War. This is the same lack of communication you have shown me. Everyone who needed answers from me and failing to ask my intentions and desires, robbed me of my free will as a former slave, as Gevaudan’s mate-wife, as a patient and as a so-called heir.”

“Anyone who wants to know about that night on Gevaudan’s ship which you call Gevaudan’s Jump can ask me, read my report or see the heartbreak in me that my beloved turned on me in a fit of savage insanity. I am confident that he was not in his right mind to kill someone he loved unconditionally. You, Dame Qithka, can find my e-mailed report in your inbox. Those who saw my dance earlier know the final moments as I remember. But I forgive Gevaudan. I must. I love him unconditionally.”

“The deterioration of communication has sundered Pack Cannagrrh, halted love of brothers, sires, sons, daughters, cousins, leaders to followers. Respect of each other’s achievements has been devaluated, all in favor of a single snap-shot event, the Equality Test. We Suedzuk are raised that family, blood relatives and anyone we adopt into that family are valued and loved, a quality so in demand as we eked out a living on the edge of Charted Space. You are family. You are Pack. You are Vargr. Act like Vargr beings boldly and in the face of useless laws written in books collecting dust. The true laws are the ones you keep in your hearts. Families are supposed to bind together through love, unconditional love and not hate because of choices or single, damning failures. Families do not scar each other.” At that Zhevra pointed down at the two brothers’ wounds. “Families support each other,” she added.

Zhevra then pointed to the stars above her and said, “Do you know the horrors I have travelled through across the Vargr Splinters? Do you have any idea of the hideous creatures Vargr can become, their reckless jihads, the atrocities that are waiting to happen to your daughters and sons? In my journey Spinward, my heart nearly stopped at the nightmare that was the Jihad of Faarzgaen, though I passed safely Rimward it. Virus is still out there, turning living people, Vargr included into sub-processor units for whatever function it desires.”

“Social conditioning and partitioning along species, gender, ethnic, classist, sexual preferences and other issues will not give the Pack nor the Society of Equals what it needs to stand up to the likes of those terrible forces just outside its borders. Your walls between each other must come down if you don’t want the next generation to suffer.”

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  #94  
Old June 22nd, 2019, 01:43 AM
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Zhevra concluded as she began unbuckling the symbols of Unequality from her body, “I am leaving. I thank you, Pack Cannagrrh for your vigilance over the mate-wife of your missing cousin Gevaudan Cannagrrh. You have taught me much in the ways of politics unfortunately. I don’t want to inherit this negativity. I will bring back a Good Vargr who will truly show you unconditional love. You have nothing to fear from me.”

With the Infight stopped, Drs. Azvarrkoel and Adhllu, from the Progressive faction of the Pack stepped to lend first aid to the Traditionalists brothers who slowly rose. Zhevra came before Dhueth Cannagrrh as Adhllu was treating him with coagulant sprays.

The Suedzuk had Dhueth’s belts in her claws, “These belong to you, sir.”

Lieutenant Dhueth, seemingly ignoring the pain of his shoulder bite looked down to the shorter female and said, “As Knirr says: you know. Keep them. You are of a higher quality than I have ever seen. I have others in my luggage. Zhevra, keep them and show us by your example, this higher quality in you. I would have proudly seen you as the next Alpha. Alas. Bring him home, Gevaudan’s wife.”

Zhevra decided not to argue and curtsied to Dhueth instead, “What will become of Voellzoen whom I have forgiven?”

The Dame Qithka stepped up to Voellzoen and pronounced an Alpha’s sentence, “Captain Voellzoen of my cousin Orgorr, you will return to the navy, to your flagship and serve with distinction and redeemed honor. Do not return to Cannagrrh Villa until you fully understand what Zhevra Cannagrrh, whom you call a ‘red pelt’, has done tonight. She has indeed shown a quality you should spend your time contemplating aboard your vessel. Your brother Dhueth will escort you to your ship. Until that time, Voellzoen, do not return.”

Housekeeper Vrrakh, the female Marine, began clapping a simple applause to Zhevra. This was followed by added clapping from the house staff, Chef Raegksungkuen who had arrived just in time to hear Zhevra speak. Then the few slaves present added their applause. The Pack Cannagrrh began to add their applause, though Dhueth was escorting his younger brother off the site to the grav-van garage. Claws clapped, tails wagged in similar gestures of applause and eyes glistened in the moonlight.

Knirr Cannagrrh came up from behind Zhevra and hugged her tight saying, “You are amazing, Zhevra.”

“A better speech I could not have penned myself,” said Qithka who returned her attentions to the younger Zhevra. “You have my leave to bring him home. I have some legal documents and a list of Gevaudan’s assets for you to peruse. I believe Gevaudan had a sizeable account that will aid your quest. You must claim them and then search for him. I wish I could go, but for my age and that these puppies will need a stern claw before you bring back my brother, Zhevra.” Qithka then laced her claws under the sleeves of her dress.

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Old June 22nd, 2019, 01:45 AM
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Knirr Cannagrrh then said over Zhevra’s shoulder, “I can help you up until you leave Dzuerongvoe, Zhev. I have to return to my company but I still have leave time left.”

“I do have a list of needs on the laptop in the bedroom, Knirr,” said Zhevra who was losing her endurance for this night, having spent it on her run and the castigation. She leaned into the arms of Knirr, her friend. “Equipment mostly that you might purchase since few on this world can bring themselves to do business with a Suedzuk.”

“Anything for a fellow Vargr who knows,” said Knirr Cannagrrh who squeezed Zhevra in a hug.

Late as it was, the mob broke up and many returned to the keep on the estate. The Suedzuk and the Gvegh Sub-Lieutenant returned to their bedroom and locked the door. Soon in their night clothes and about to climb into their shared bed, Zhevra stopped herself with a notion. Knirr saw her freeze.

“Is everything alright, Zhev?” asked Knirr.

Zhevra Cannagrrh, the current heir and questor of her husband’s return rounded the huge four-post bed and came before Knirr Cannagrrh. She looked at Knirr’s long nightshirt, the light blue that hid the taller Vargr’s scars across her back. Lifting Knirr’s shirt, she removed the concealing fabric exposing the gray female to Zhevra.

“What are you-?” asked Knirr but she was hushed by an index claw from the shorter Suedzuk.

“Hush,” said Zhevra. “Let me talk now.”

Then Zhevra reached again and unbuckled Knirr’s Unequal belt, swatting away Knirr’s claws when she reacted. Next the red and cream colored female undid that matching yellow muzzle, removing it from the Sub-Lieutenant’s head. “From now on, please Knirr, when we are alone or in the presence of my mate-husband who also knows – in his own way – you need not wear these. You have taught me so much, Knirr Cannagrrh. Thank you so very much for the lesson you put me through. Your scars are beautiful in their way. You don’t need to hide them from me. I think of them as battle scars of a different sort and can say honestly that I revere you for your stout heart. Is it any wonder why Gevaudan left the Society of Equals and Pack Cannagrrh? I believe it was because he was protesting his own Equality, those stupid laws, in his personal way. You say I know now. Then you don’t need these on in my presence, luv.” Zhevra mimicked Chef Raegksungkuen’s peculiar accent on that last world. The Suedzuk then tossed the Unequal belts to the carpet on the far side of the bedroom to fall next to Knirr’s dresser.

Tears welled up in Knirr’s smile down at Zhevra. No longer socially restrained, Knirr raised her nose and muzzle to level with Zhevra’s. As she was without clothes, Knirr returned the favor to Zhevra then hugged her and sniffed back her tears. With her height and strength, she lifted Zhevra off the floor in that embrace.

“Friends,” the two said accidentally together. Tossing the red-furred female onto the bed, Knirr climbed in after her. The two fell fast asleep, drained as they were by the Fete, the Infight and Zhevra’s lecture.
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Old June 22nd, 2019, 01:50 AM
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XXII. Regina (Spinward Marches 1910) A788899-C, Duerongvoe (Gvurrdon 1413) B664997-C of Zhevra’s testimony
The next morning saw Zhevra sitting on the bedside and reading the hardcopy legal documents concerning her claim in probate court over the remaining assets owned or controlled by Gevaudan Cannagrrh. Though it would be some red tape, Zhevra was confident that the Dame would see to it that the Suedzuk was able to legally take possession of all that was left behind by the missing Pilot-Astrogator.

Zhevra read on that the last shipment on the Sixth Horizon has been emancipated by the courts in the argument that their safety was jeopardized by Gevaudan’s attack on his Chief Engineer and leaving the ship basically un-staffed. Robots Bob and Vincent had piloted the Far Scout to the usual destination with help of the onboard computer and Gevaudan’s Astrogation laptop that he kept on the bridge. The freedom of the slaves was well and good in Zhevra’s mind. She wished them fair winds on Gnoengungag or wherever they chose to wander or work as concubines or in some other career.

The next sheaf of papers told of the impound of the vessel as none of the Downport crews had the command codes for the Sixth Horizon. Dame Qithka of Pack Cannagrrh had signed for all the fees as well as the emergency crews who shipped Zhevra’s cryogenic, low berth capsule to her on Dzuerongvoe. During the three years Zhevra slept, the Far Scout was gently crane lifted and moved to the end of the landing strip and used berths. As it was technically Qithka’s property, being Gevaudan’s next of kin awake to the world, the Sixth Horizon was made into a museum exhibit because of its Imperium make and model, though it was heavily modified by the starship architect Gevaudan Cannagrrh. Tours of the ship were allowed for a small maintenance fee. The robots, Bob and Vincent, were granted permission as assistants to the museum curator to escort tourists onto the ship and tell of their adventures from the time Gevaudan bought them up until Gevaudan’s Jump. Reading that the two robots had not been off-lined made Zhevra’s heart ache and she longed to see them again. The two had followed simple robotics laws and delivered the ship to safety through two more jumps and a load of worried slaves. Two more heroes in Zhevra’s life, she decided.

Zhevra then realized that she alone of the living crew of the Sixth Horizon knew the command codes to restart it. Gevaudan had specifically instructed the robots not to give out the codes and answer only to those who knew it. She would need to, at the very least, tour the vessel at Gnoengungag Bay and Downport. Additionally, the legal documentation listed Gevaudan’s local business office in the Startown of Gnoengungag. Though it was not doing business these three years, the Scout-Courier had paid rent in full for the rest of the 1100s. This was news to Zhevra. For while she knew that her husband had gone into town to do business, he had never told her about an office. Additionally, a third robot, a drone this time, was stationed there as a secretary of sorts to garner incoming clients and passengers. Though the Pilot-Astrogator still had to conduct his advertising of passages outbound of the polity, the robot was to log all those interested in his well-known route. Zhevra would have to travel to Gnoengungag and meet this drone and take charge of the office. It was another stepping stone for her on her search for her husband.

Next on the lists was Gevaudan’s liquid assets accounts and the figures startled Zhevra. Dressing quickly in her Engineer’s flight suit, she padded down the hall to the kitchen and wolfed down breakfast. There, she stealthily returned the stolen steak knife she believed she had needed. Chef Raegksungkuen was there to serve her meat strip rolls seasoned with various spices and drenched in a sauce.

“Not so fast, luv!” cried the Chef. “You gotta savor these works of art, short as they appear on the platter.”

“Sorry,” said Zhevra with her mouth full. Then she was off like a sprinter toward the grand library where she knew Qikthka held court at her makeshift office.

“Op! Zhevra! This is a library and you don’t get to treat my carpet like a track with those claws,” scolded Dame Qithka Cannagrrh. This morning, the former Journalist was dressed in a white, lady’s business suit with her usual jewelry sparkling. “I suppose you have been reading my brother’s full assets.”

Zhevra panted and puffed after eating and running, “Alpha, did you- are you aware of how much money my husband hoarded?”

“Zhevra,” said Qithka who put down her ornate pen from a letter she was scribing, “Your husband, if he is alive as I can only hope, is over 115 years old thanks to his diligence in those pills from the Third Imperium. In that time, he married four times, you being the last. Do you disbelieve that he had an earned wealth from his time in the Artemis Group¸ those scallywag Imperium mercenaries, Gevaudan’s starship earnings, and ending with the Courier business aside from the slaving? My dear, though I still harbor some grudge against him for dumping me on Ouse Faeg and forcing me to take up Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh, I envied Gevaudan. He was free of the Society of Equals and yet never forgot his roots. The slaves he sold, the wives he emancipated, you included, he kept up with and wrote letters to all of them. His divorces were not bitter or angry. They were amicable and he let go his three previous wives with charitable start-up funds from his own accounts. They in turn bought slaves from him so long as his criteria for their treatment was upheld. You saw some of what he did, Zhevra, but not all. Yes, young one, Gevaudan Cannagrrh was a business Vargr as well as a slaver. He was a hero and a lover. Those last two you should be intimately familiar. So. What are you up to, now that you have committed to leaving me to gather cobwebs as Alpha still?” With that news to Zhevra, the Dame tilted her head inquisitively but also to give a little exposure to her neck in silence.

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Old June 22nd, 2019, 01:55 AM
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“When Knirr comes back with my shopping list items,” began Zhevra, “I will then travel to Gnoengungag and search for clues in Gevaudan’s office. It’s listed here in his assets, buried in all the other gear, starship, weapons, investments, and licenses. His slaving license is long past renewal, but he had paid for that office until 1200 comes. I want to go there and look in that office. Then the ship. I need to speak to Bob and Vincent at the museum. It says here that the Sixth Horizon is an exhibit.”

Qithka nodded her head, “Yes, since no one knows the command codes and doesn’t want to defile the hero’s ship, I committed it to the museum as a relic exhibit from before the interstellar Collapse. It is an Imperium ship after all.”

From around the stacks of bookshelves in the library stepped the elderly Uthka Varzeekh, cane in claw and perusing another book with her free one. The fortune teller was dressed in her signature purple hooded robe. Around her waist was tied a thick sash belt of the Unequals the color of orich, the golden-orange metallic. Similarly, the female had another sash tied loosely over her muzzle similar to the muzzles worn by Dhueth and Knirr Cannagrrh. The cane, a shaft of wood in the form of an Asclepius rod, thumped the carpet as she approached. Lastly the crone wore a scarf of purple that featured a red trident symbol.

The Dame nodded to the Unequal female. Zhevra by now had learned that Uthka had been Qithka’s attaché during Gevaudan’s adventures. These two were now elderly friends though space had separated them until the Dame’s summons to unlock Zhevra’s vocabulary.

Uthka greeted Zhevra with a polite but Unequal nod-bow of her head. Reading glasses rode the bridge of the Seer’s muzzle, just above her social restraint. “Vhat color is Gevaudan Cannagrrh’s HEV, lass?” It was a reminder of their time together on the veranda.

“It is orange, ma’am,” reported Zhevra. “Gevaudan’s Hazardous Environment VaccSuit is orange. Thank you again for helping me to speak. I had been telling myself that reminder and did not clue in until you came. And his eyes are blue, ocean blue, not the crystal azure that I saw in him that night. Something about him was wrong, leading me to believe that Gev was not right in his mind when he attacked me. Yet, despite what everybody says about jaunting from a ship already in jumpspace, I believe that he had a plan. Gevaudan Cannagrrh was a brilliant Pilot, an expert Astrogator if the final report reads true, a genius of starship architecture, and must have had a plan in the time it took him to put me down and then jaunt. No savage beast like that state I saw in his face and eyes could have concentrated long enough to purposefully jaunt like that.”

Uthka glanced at Qiktha for a brief second, the two sharing a private memory it seemed to Zhevra. “You have your vork cut out for you, cub.”

Qithka broke protocol and asked the female in purple, “Did you Look? Not to be presumptuous, mind you.”

The Unequal narrowed her eyes at the Dame and said, “I have but am not in the market anymore. I did this last task as I was paid. I have been burned bevore and you vell know it. Cassandra’s Conundrum is harsh. I have spent my time in quietus and I don’t relish Looking much anymore.”

Zhevra was confused, but as it was a private exchange with her happening to be present, she kept her mouth shut in the shadows of the two elders. To the Suedzuk, it seemed that there was an understanding between Uthka Varzeekh and the Dame Qiktha Cannagrrh, something that also crossed the line between Equals and Unequals that was unfathomable. Zhevra noted that she might ask Gevaudan when she found him. Hope swelled a little in her. There was so much story in this Pack and in her husband and she desperately wanted her beloved to reveal all his secrets.

When the awkward silence and the end of the topic was evident, Qithka looked to Zhevra and asked, “What is your timetable, young Cannagrrh? When will you be departing the Villa?”

Zhevra smarted to and answered, “When Knirr comes back with my items and I’ve booked a passage to Gnoengungag. I will make sure to check with you before leaving, Alpha.”

The title seemed to quell the inquisition so Qithka said, “See to it then. Shoo.” She then looked at the crone in purple and said, “Adventurers.” It earned a chuckle from the Unequal Seer.

Dismissed, Zhevra backed out of the library and left the two to chat. Zhevra assumed that Uthka had been present to see that she could still speak properly and then lay her bill for services on the Dame’s desk. The Suedzuk returned to her bedroom to begin packing her belongings.

“I wish I had your measurements,” complimented Knirr Cannagrrh later that night as the Gvegh female found Zhevra in the bedroom. “You make me envious, Zhev.”

Zhevra was trying desperately to pack everything she owned in the few baggage cases that had come to Cannagrrh Villa from the hospital. She looked up and smiled to the Sub-Lieutenant who was finally in civilian attire and returning from Dzuerongvoe Startown’s shopping district. “Sometimes, Knirr Cannagrrh, I wish I had your build and power and….” She was about to say that she wished she could consciously turn off her Awareness senses tangent to her sense of touch.

“And what?” asked Knirr flirtatiously.

“Your bravery.”
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Old June 22nd, 2019, 02:00 AM
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“Zhevra Cannagrrh!” protested Knirr. “You are very brave. Brave enough to stand up to the Dame, the Pack and any Equal who saw you in Dhueth’s gray belts that night. No one, in my memory has publicly crossed those barriers except you, Zhev. You are very brave.”

“You do so every day, Knirr Cannagrrh,” replied Zhevra. “You live it, the lifestyle of-…of that.” The Suedzuk pointed at Dheuth’s gray belts still yet to be packed. “It makes me wish I had known more about that stupid Test. I might have even refused Gevaudan had I known what you taught me.”

“Enough of that, luv,” said Knirr, changing the subject and again mimicking Chef Raegksungkuen’s accent. “You make me blush. Do you know how many incredulous looks I received because I was purchasing sizes I had no hope of fitting? When I tried to tell the merchants that it was for my cousin, I got condescending nods and disbelief served up thick and polite as an Unequal could get.” Knirr punctuated her account by pulling from shopping bags the clothes that Zhevra had listed and the accessories to be worn.

The black and yellow double torso bras and double thongs were revealing and resembled public bathing suits or clothing worn to a seaside beach. Knirr wrinkled her bound muzzle with tilt of her head. The gesture was cute and made Zhevra giggle. The Privateer then asked, “Just where to do you intend to swim, young flirt, and do I get to see you try them on?”

Zhevra put down the resistant luggage bags and their protesting zipper closures. Smiling to the larger Gvegh female, she nodded to Knirr. Trying on the new clothes, Zhevra pulled on the black and yellow over her red and cream colored pelt. As she did so, Knirr had to put both claws over her mouth to keep from squealing. But the revealing two-piece suit, though fitting properly – the given measurements true – Zhevra’s pelt flared outward wherever the straps grabbed her.

Knirr risked a question as she watched the Suedzuk turn about, “Why so revealing if you aren’t going swimming?”

“I could lie to you, still,” said Zhevra, “but you are my only friend. Do you think you could keep a friend’s secret?”

“Does this have to do with Gevaudan, Suedzuk?”

Zhevra snickered but answered, “No. He’d love to see me in this. Instead it has to do with me.”

Knirr helped Zhevra adjust the straps and closures on the outfit. Next came the black neoprene web belt with pouches, a pistol holster and clip pouches. Knirr helped snap on the buckles about her waist and right thigh to secure the holster. The leather of the pouches and weapon holder smelled new. “There. Where’s your weapon? See if it fits. And what pray tell is this friend secret? I’ve never shared a best-friend secret before.”

Zhevra was nervous. She was about to let Knirr know about her and the Suedzuk Awareness senses of Mag and Lek fields given off by anything with an electromagnetic field. The nervousness showed on her red and cream face.

Knirr saw how serious Zhevra was suddenly and sat down on the side of the bed as Zhevra went to look for the pistol the Dame had gifted her. “This is a big secret, isn’t it?”

“Bigger than that, friend,” said Zhevra. Coming up with the aluminum case, Zhevra opened it and brought forth the Dame’s pistol, now hers. The holster greeted the weapon as if it were already mated.

Knirr nodded approvingly, “Okay. On my honor and our friendship, your secret is bound in me, Zhevra Cannagrrh.” The cousin-in-law laid a claw over her heart as she said such.

“This secret goes deep, Knirr Cannagrrh,” whispered Zhevra who moved to sit next to the gray female. “You cannot tell anyone, even if my safety demands such. Do you understand?”

“I understand fully. This is a secret that goes beyond just you.” Knirr grew serious and hugged Zhevra next to her.

“Okay. Here goes. I have only told this to one other non-Suedzuk and that was my husband,” declared Zhevra.

“Spit it out, Zhev.”

Zhevra huffed and then breathed in to speak her secret, “Remember that urraenkaer that fell on me?”

“I remember. Quite a shot to kill it from your lower position. Are you some prodigy marksman?”

Zhevra smiled and continued, “I, we, the Suedzuk can feel bio- and electromagnetic fields as a supplementary sense to our sense of touch. Whew. I said it. Even covered in dirt and leaves, I could feel the core of the animal’s bioelectric fields and made the shot when I rolled under it, not away. It is an adaptation we Suedzuk took with us from Lair, the Vargr homeworld. We can feel, with our fur and our hides the fields about us. Sitting this close to you, Knirr, I can feel your magnetic and bioelectric fields which we call Mag and Lek.”

“Wicked,” said Knirr in wide-eyed wonder, “What are my ‘fields’ telling you now?”

Zhevra did not have to concentrate and answered immediately with, “Your Mag is heightened and your Lek is down low. Your fields want me sitting here, attracting me like a weak magnet.”

“Oh, now I am going to blush,” cringed Knirr. “It’s like you can read parts of me I’m not even aware of.”

Zhevra elaborated with, “And that is what we call it, Awareness. Voellzoen thought I was a poor shot at the firing range. But that is because I am not trained in firearms, starships being my weapon of choice. But when the Hunt started, I could ‘feel’ the fields of the charging urraenkaers. Their stampede exuded both a collective field of the herd but each individual was easy to pick out and take down. Targets on the firing range have no fields. Understand?”
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Old June 22nd, 2019, 02:06 AM
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“So, even though Voellzoen sent his firing arc’s beasts toward you, you could have taken them all down had you enough ammunition?” Knirr was about to blow the description of Awareness out of proportion.

“Well,” Zhevra backpedaled with, “I don’t know about that for sure, but I knew immediately what he had done when the animals’ fields started to clump together. We Suedzuk don’t rely too heavily on Awareness. We have sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch like all other Vargr. But over the millennia, we did hone our Awareness as a necessary means to survival, especially after the Wolf Hunts pushing us ever further from civilized space. Pushed to the edge, we worked at feeling fields and interpreting others’ Mag and Lek. I don’t know how I would have done against the urraenkaers. But I had only one bullet left in the hunting pistol and I was desperate.”

Zhevra changed examples with, “Remember the bubble bath incident? This will show the limits of Awareness in Suezuk.”

“You nearly drowned.”

“I could not feel the lad, Gaenkarrg, enter as being submerged or saturated tends to dampen, if you will, our sense of touch and that in turn affects our sense of Awareness. I went for the tub stopper and had just pulled it when he surprised me and held my head above the draining water. When totally drenched, we can’t feel fields at all.”

Knirr nodded, understanding dawning on her, “So in the shower that day, your nervousness in that wet space kept you from feeling my uh – fields?”

Zhevra nodded but added, “Yes, I was nervous but the Suedzuk have also learned to pay attention to body language, gait, stance and the like in others, Vargr being our best reads. Humaniti falls off from there and don’t ask me what those Aslan are telegraphing at any given time.”

Knirr was in full blush, her facial skin turning red under her ventral white fur coloration. “You knew then how I felt in the shower?”

Zhevra answered with, “I’m not a telepath, Knirr. You Gvegh are more apt to be Psions than the Suedzuk. I don’t know what’s going through that brain of yours. I’m not psionic. Not like Gevaudan. I can only guess what your fields are exuding. For example, I can tell when someone is lying, not because I can read thoughts or emotions or anything like that. But their fields change slightly when a person who knows they are lying is making a false statement. It’s like a polygraph test but it can be misread by a Suedzuk who isn’t paying attention or is dampened by water or other fluid. Touch is fundamental and you are touching me now with your fields. This close and talking with you, I can feel if you are being, y’know, genuine. If you can lie to me from this distance and fool me, then you either believe what you are saying is true or you’re a pathological, lying sociopath. Make sense?”

“Again, you are amazing, Zhev,” repeated Knirr. “I wish I could feel fields too. Can you, uh, turn off the sense?”

“Can you turn off your sense of touch, Knirr?” asked Zhevra. “It’s like that. It has to be dampened somehow or otherwise insulated. Touch is fundamental, like an infant cub to its dam.”

“So, electromagnetics, stunners and the like are extra dangerous to Suedzuk, I’d imagine,” guessed Knirr.

“Yes, if they land,” explained Zhevra. “Sometimes we can feel a person about to pull a trigger. Their Lek leaps, telegraphing the action before the weapon fires.”

Knirr looked down at Zhevra’s mostly exposed, red and cream pelt and said, “And that is why you chose such revealing numbers. You aren’t being provocative. You’re pointing all your sensitive Awareness with as little interference or insulation as possible.”

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Old June 22nd, 2019, 02:11 AM
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“It does look provocative, doesn’t it?” asked Zhevra. “I imagine males might think twice about shooting a female or regretting putting holes in this rare body, but I’m only for Gevaudan, Knirr.”

“You are fetching in that, dangerous too now that I know this about you,” Knirr admitted. “I know I’d think twice about shooting or harming you in any way, friend.” At that Knirr hugged Zhevra again. “I will take this to my grave. On my honor and Ancients strike me dead and everyone who learns it from me the moment it leaves my mouth.” Again, the gray female placed her right claw over her heart solemnly. “That you have told me says you trust me. You may be cousin Gevaudan’s, but I’m happy to have your confidence, Zhevra Cannagrrh.”

“Unconditional love,” responded Zhevra, “isn’t limited to mates. It is impersonal. And I do love you, my friend. It’s just not the same love one shares with mates, is all.”

“Then, I unconditionally love you, Zhevra,” whispered Knirr, “No strings, okay? Go find him and bring him home. But in that getup, I-...” Knirr gazed at Zhevra hungrily, then cleared her throat and became more formal. “I think you will hear something from the Dame to be sure.”

“Let the hag rage,” said Zhevra. “I’m still leaving and well beyond her range of control.”

* * *

Zhevra ended the day’s interview with Allain Templeton and the Psion Khzaeng. “And on your honor, Mr. Templeton and the honor of the Psions, Khzaeng; please hold what you know. Our Awareness is both a boon and a weakness if properly used against the Suedzuk.”

Allain nodded and pointed to the recording device, “I’ll take it to my grave.”

Khzaeng began reciting the Psion’s Oath with, “I am a Vargr, I am a Regency citizen, I am a psion. I am a person to be trusted…”

“Goodnight, Gentlemen.”

Zhevra was allowed to shower again on good behavior at the testament of Psion Khzaeng though Allain Templeton had put in the good word first. Late in the evening, the three bruiser Human females led Zhevra to the showers. However, this time, instead of the blonde, socialite, Darrian guard who brought in the shampoo and other sundries, there was a lithe and tall Human female. In their usual, once piece canvass guard uniforms, the Humans allowed the Suedzuk out of her prison blues and let her chain tether out long enough and around a corner to give Zhevra her Vargr privacy.

Except the new female.

Zhevra silently took the offered shampoo, a thankfully unscented brand from the woman in the uniform. Her hair was cut military style and the excess was dutifully bound in a thick bun and gave the red-furred Vargr some idea of how long the guard’s mane would be if let fully down to hang. Zhevra decided to test this guard’s resolve with, “Vilani mix, huh?” She looked down to the woman’s surname embroidered on the left chest just below her clavicle bone. It read: CROW.

The woman took the unused shampoo back from Zhevra and nodded but said nothing. Drenched by the shower, Zhevra’s Awareness was once again doused and unfeeling to the Vilani woman. Yet this female was stronger, stood taller and almost at attention, parade rest as it was called. Unlike true blood Vilani, this guard was somehow mixed with Solomani blood, perhaps a line long before the Collapse. Zhevra guessed as she looked askance at the tight-lipped woman that she might be just under thirty years of age. The Suedzuk’s glances were met with stone-faced analysis in return. The woman was studying Zhevra in return. The tell was in her eyes.

Completing her shower, Zhevra was allowed to towel off and put into a new set of prison blues and taken back to her cell by the four Humans. The prisoner decided she liked the silence of this new guard as she was again chained to the rear of her cell and given space to climb into her bunk and retire for the night.

Dreams of holding her husband gladdened and tortured Zhevra simultaneously. They stood in the darkness of some section of the Sixth Horizon, Gevaudan and Zhevra. Holding him tight, she promised him, “I’m coming. Hold on.” The Gevaudan said nothing and gazed down at her in his arms, his claws as gentle pins through her back. The dream ended in the pre-dawn morning when she woke to pins and needles in her hip. Instead of dangling one leg over Gevaudan’s, her hip had gone numb from dangling over the edge of the cruel bunk bed frame. The disappointment and loss of her dream husband brought on the shakes again, a triggered seizure of doubt and fear that ended in early morning chills.

Thus, it was that Zhevra Cannagrrh was still under her covers trying to warm herself when the advocate and the Psion returned the next morning. The new guards rattled their clubs and ordered the prisoner out of bed and against the back wall as per the protocol. Zhevra angrily took her blanket with her in obeying. Cold and shivering, she waited for Allain Templeton and Khzaeng to enter with breakfast.

She blamed Khzaeng for the two knowing just what to bring her to warm her innards. Served was a pot of spiced poultry stew of some flightless avian Zhevra could not name. But her nose drew her to breakfast. Of course, she decided, how could the Psion read her condition before they arrived at the detention facility? Even professional Psions had their limits, right?

“Good morning, Ms. Cannagrrh,” greeted Allain. “You sleep rough? I noticed you were limping. Here is your plastic spoon. Please don’t stab me with it.” It was a jest of course but Zhevra did not laugh.

“I slept wrong and my leg went numb, is all,” she said before spooning into her stew. She noticed that the Human and the Psion ate bowls of the same stew.

Allain must have read her curiosity when he said, “Chicken noodle soup for that spark within. Figured we all needed a little dose.” Finishing his bowl first, Allain set up his shorthand transcribing and recording device. Khzaeng who finished second as spoons were not the favored utensil of Vargr, took his place in the corner and began his usual routine of silent observation of Zhevra.

In her prison blues and still chained, the Suedzuk decided to keep the wrapped blanket about her as she told more of her tale.
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