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  #21  
Old July 13th, 2019, 11:28 AM
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Engineering was in shambles, I reported to the Hand Computer. I was going to record everything that I was unsure of the Captain's Log still in existence.
I snatched the fire extinguisher from my former Vargr Cave and descended into the hold to battle a path forward in the Thuegueus. What had happened to my Pack Trader?

"Hello?", I called followed by coughing. The through penetrations in the hull were brightly lit from outside the ship. Thin air was wafting into the hold and barely keeping the fire alive.

The ship must have landed on the mainworld Naasakiira. Then the short-term memories continued unpacking. The ambush!

I ran forward as memories of the 400dT Patrol Cruiser obviously repurposed to piracy had risen up behind the Thuegueus as we had finished skimming for fuel after breaking out in Naasakiira. It had closed fast and was firing as we had scrambled to battle stations.

Making the Galley, I recalled our lasers hammering at the pirate Type-T which was ripping my Trader to shreds. Aluminum went flying as larger holes appeared in Cargo. I recalled the red on the readouts as I passed the fire extinguisher.

"Cough Pull Pin, Aim at base of fire, Squeeze trigger, Sweep at base of fire, cough-cough."

The Type-T pummeled us for thirty minutes and I recalled commanding locking an orbital trajectory for the mainworld as Jack continued calling Signal-GK.

"They're jamming us, Uessae," I remembered Jack telling all on the ship's intercom.

That's when the Power Plant took a hit, radiation klaxons sounded and I was blown out of my chair, only to wake up in the corner with my ship on fire.
I had to manually crank open the iris valve from the Cargo Hold to enter the forward section of the lower deck.

I saw a dead Human in the Galley on the deck. There were more small arms damage in the walls port and starboard. A firefight must have happened after the fuel in the deck above me drained from the missile hits.

"Ofo! Uessae!" I called after the pair. She had taken the port Turret #1 and Ofo was gunning the laser to red-line overheating.

While I did not find Uessae, I did find Ofo. Opening the door to Turret #2, I found him. He had his VaccSuit-12 fully buttoned up, but Ancients must have died instantly. I have not the heart to record his actual state. It must have happened during the starship engagement.

The rest of the staterooms were crushed like beer cans, nose of the ship accordioned down to the commons area.

I prayed to the Ancients that the Bridge was still there as I turned and climbed up the hatch. It too was riddled with small arms fire, Grunt's AutoRifle it looked like.

My heart sank to find Grunt and Jack on the deck. The helm was crunched in, folded on SensOps-Comms and the Astrogation consoles.

I saw bullet holes and too much blood everywhere. There were more pirate Humans from the Type-T here too. I regurgitated back down the hatch. I still did not see Uessae or Miss Ka.

An explosion rocked the aft of the Thuegueus, which frightened me to crouch in the most forward part of the crumpled Bridge. The Power Plant was self-destructing in a failsafe shutdown.

I whimpered to see Grunt and Jack again as I recovered my wits. And that is when I saw that both my Vargr crew Jack and Grunt as well as the pirates had their throats cut by a blade or sharp implement of some kind.

They must have still been alive when whomever inflicted a coup de grace with a Blade or worse. They had been alive and they were likely unconscious! Those fiends! They were helpless and no longer combatants! I screamed a howl that reverberated through the hull, what was left of it.

I was getting weak, likely from the Thin Atmosphere I now recognized. I pulled Grunt and Jack's bodies to the Airlock and snatched up a helmet for myself. Sealed up, my VaccSuit-12 returned to life by compressing the outside Air-5. I emerged from the still-opened starboard airlock, its inner and outer doors burned by atmospheric reentry.
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  #22  
Old July 13th, 2019, 11:29 AM
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With Jack and Grunt laid outside the hull, I ran back inside and retrieved Jack's new Medical Kit, a Mechanical Tool Set, my Shotgun and Bayonet and-....Ancients before I knew it I was vacating myself from my Pack's vessel. When I realized this, I was crying like a lost cub in my vaccsuit.

In the light of the local K-type star, I took stock of my location, remaining gear and fell on my knees to mournfully howl for Grunt and Jack, the two other Logaksu that had followed me into the Third Imperium this year.

Smoke rose into the sky like a wriggling black worm. The fires were dying down due to insufficient air to keep them more than a tiny campfire. There was oxygen but the surface pressure of Naasakiira was too Thin.

I clambered back into the ship. Though the crew cabins were destroyed, I found Miss Ka's stateroom still sound though everything was thrown about in the crash. I did not find the Vilani woman. But as my vision threatened to blind me with tears, I did find what I was looking for. I pocketed it with a new ember, a growing heat of anger, of rage.

They say that the Ovaghoun and the huge Urzaeng of the Vargr can call upon reserves of great energy they call the Rage. As a Logaksu, I never had such a powerful core anything. We Logaksu are traders, crafters, merchants, trailblazers, keepers of the star charts.

I wanted so badly to call upon the Urzaeng Rage then as I stepped back outside the wreck of the Thuegueus on the sandy dunes of some equatorial desert on Naasakiira.

I used the Medical Kit to kill the soreness and pep pills to keep me awake and alert. I knew then I was alone and spent the dusk howling in mourning for Grunt and Jack.

I continued to scavenge the ship into the night. Ration bars, water, anything I could pull out of the now-derelict ship and load onto a makeshift skiff, a large plate of armor I unscrewed from an undamaged part of the hull. She would never fly again.

I had to wrap up Grunt and Jack. I just could not bury them there in the sand. The winds would still expose their bodies. They too went on the skiff I would drag behind me.

Mountains to the north and south and desert stretched east and west.
Into the night, the wreck smoked further and further behind me as I trudged between dunes and dragged the skiff using three EVA lifelines I had found in the Ship's Locker. Bless whomever included the concept of the Ship's Locker. Bless them, Ancients.

I shut off the Hand Computer that I had been babbling, mumbling and crying at since I turned it on. Instead I used my Comm, the one with a continental range to start calling for aid. "Signal-GK, equatorial belt on Naasakiira. Signal-GK. This is Captain-Owner Ri Duerrksungkorokoutue of the downed Vargr Trader Thuegueus calling on emergency frequencies..."
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  #23  
Old July 13th, 2019, 11:32 AM
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They found me. Naasakiira Groundport sent a VTOL rescue helicopter. I refused to be taken off the sands without Grunt, Jack and the gear. Ofo-...I was unable to bring myself to gather together. May he rest in the Ancients' arms in the sands of his Third Imperium.

I gave my report to the Groundport Warden, I provided the recording of the engagement as my Hand Computer-11 had been charging and plugged into the Engineering console.

I was thankful of the insulation from local, planetary press. The Thuegueus had been tracked as it fell out of the sky and somehow soft-landed in the equatorial belt.

I was cloistered in a medical facility, treated for the bruises and scrapes and dehydration.

I knew I was losing time and the trail to Miss Lidus Ka and Uessae was growing cold. I told the authorities this.

Did they listen to an obviously hysterical Logaksu from the Extents? Barely.
Daily my health and inner rage grew. It wasn't Rage, but I was angry enough to call it that.

Now, I used Cr10,000 of my own money for a High Passage to Kaasu once the local System Traffic Control learned that the infamous Black d'Art had jumped there. Its vector had been spotted and measured by a refueling skimming Cutter.

I confirmed that name with the recording of the Type-T that had chased us. Matched.

Kaasu (Corridor 1209) was even more Amber than Drayne. I arrived on a Subsidized Merchant.

Charismatic Oligarchy, Paramilitary law enforcement, on an Oceanic World, were the extremes that I was now prepared to deal with to gain access to Kaasu Shipyards at Tech-15. Right off the gates, I took a ring tram in the Highport.

I must have been walking too fast as a Vargr in comparison to the other pedestrians in the orbital facility to the shipyard. In their Combat Armor, the orbital paramilitary being a Security Firm for hire, stopped me and asked my business and my UPP card.

"My business?" I asked with impatience. "I'm gonna buy a starship." That won me laughs and a patronizing pat on the head. I endured it.
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  #24  
Old July 13th, 2019, 11:36 AM
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The Kaasu Shipyard did not laugh when I produced Miss Ka's black, megacorporate, business credit chip. In fact, I had never seen Humaniti turn so bloodless in their tail-less, flat-faced and naked faces.

"D-Four across the board, and I want storage on the Computer bursting with combat software," I said.

"I want Triple-▮▮▮▮ing turrets with Lasers and not last year's models. Get me?" I must have laid bare my fangs and wrinkled my muzzle and brow line.
"I want that machine to scream Tech-15 and I want to smell the New Ship aroma when I step within a gravball field within it."

"Y-yessir," whimpered the salesrep. "If you can just slot the ch-ch-chip for the earnest money and down payment if possible..."

"▮▮▮▮ all that!" I was livid at the ninnying. "I'm paying this off today and right now. If you don't want that kind of business from Naasirka, LIC, then I can take megacorporate interest to Khukish who by the way are not Amber-locked pansies!"

There was much more sputtering, but I slotted the chip and bought a vessel that was not yet complete on the showcase spaceyards.

* * *

The ship is a 200-ton Imperial-make, Standard Design, Architect rush job, Fast Far Trader clocking in at Jump-4, 4Gs and the Power Plant to keep her together. I gave the Kaasu Shipyards the bird when they asked what I was going to shoot with two Triple Beams Turrets. "Pigeons," I said angrily, more angrily every day it took to slap together what I would register as the Thuegueus II. And I almost threatened to have them paint the hull in what could only be termed as "Mardi Gras Hell", the kind of scheme that Corsairs use to scare Extents Couriers with.

I did not bat an eye when I had slotted the megacorporate chip. I was going to make the Ka Family answer for the Black d'Art and whomever they sent, likely a Bounty Hunter, to destroy my Pack Trader.

A 100% paid-for ship on an Architect rush makes everyone call their mates and tell them they are working overtime.

All I could think of was Uessae and Miss Ka during the wait time for them to gather together and run startup on the ship.

Normally, this kind of jump range and firepower is meant for the military or corporate convoys. I listed the AFT-BS44 Thuegueus II as a Courier, meant to get VIPs and sensitive cargos from Point A to Point B almost as fast as the Archduke of Vland. So there.

When you say the magic words Naasirka, LIC, shipyards nearly pee themselves.

* * *

I may be from an overpopulated, Industrial world in the Extents, but I missed the streets-level know-how. I was too busy crunching numbers in Accounting Certification instead. This prevented me from using the Darknet to track the Black d'Art. It would have been illegal anyway.

But I had a good idea where their first jump destination was. Somewhere with low....Law...Level and little Government, the kind of hole for slimebags and crime waves. Low-tech would help too.

And they had to be within a former Navy Type-T jump range.
It was Biinersa (Corridor 1111) or I was an uplifted dog.
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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5
  #25  
Old July 13th, 2019, 11:39 AM
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Before the Thuegueus II was fully tested and approved for sale to me, I was loading all I had scavenged from my Vargr Trader. With respect and care, I loaded Grunt and Jack's caskets side by side into the cargo hold, securing them to the first stays that were bolted into place. I moved into the Stateroom closest to the Bridge. When I find Uessae, she will be presented with the Captain's Cabin. I don't have that kind of ego. I believe she will need the space and distance from me and what has happened. The two Passenger Cabins are both High-Mid rated.

The ship is undermanned, and I knew it. Thus, I swiped that Naasirka, LIC black plastic until I thought it would burn up in my claws for a small library of Software.

I was going to make Naasirka fund my revenge.

"Yes," I told the Software Rep, "I want Predict-4, Gunner Interact, Target, Select-3, DoubleFire, Maneuver/Evade-4, Auto/Evade, ReturnFire, Anti-Missile, ECM, Jump-4, Navigation, Generate and Anti-Hijack." The man turned blue in the face.

"Um, sir," stammered the Rep, "You of course realize that there will be questions as to why a civ-, I mean a megacorporate craft features military-grade software."

"They can take it up with Sector Corporate," I lied through my fangs. "This is funded by Naasirka, LIC and I have a job to do."

"Y-yessir."

I spent that afternoon adjusting every chair on the Bridge and in Engineering of the Thuegueus II to my frame and configuring all the consoles to my preferences. I preset the Ship's Computer interaction to voice commands and before her initial launch I had it recording me, my Captain's Log, my mutterings, my apologies to Uessae and Miss Ka.

The Computer can do a lot when it has the right Software loaded into CPU, but even a Model/4 cannot handle all of what I purchased. I went so far as to name various tasks under filenames like Ofo, Jack and Uessae for Astrogation, Sensors/Comms and Autopiloting/Evasion respectively. "Jack," I said to the Bridge on the final day of removing the last of the packaging plastic from the Commons and the Galley. "Signal Kaasu Tower and request departure window. Say that I cannot come to the Comms right now. I'm too busy enjoying the New Ship smell in Engineering."

"Compliance," answered the Computer and I went aft through the Fast Far Trader to prep the Drives for departure.

I needed to filename the tasks of the Computer. It helped me to pin some form of Vargr Charisma on the ship's various stations except Engineering. I was to keep that station to myself.

"Uessae," I called from Engineering, "Umbilical station power is detached. Drives are active and ready. When Jack has a departure window, take the Thuegueus II out at 1G. Ofo, begin pathing for Biinersa (Corridor 1111) innermost Gas Giant."

"Compliance," said the Computer.

I can pilot, but I wanted to see what Imperial Software can do. When all was on and Green, I returned to the Bridge and sat at the Engineering console there. No Vargr Cave, no homemaking as I had done on the Vargr Trader. This was a ship of vengeance not a home.

"Jack," I again spoke to the Bridge, "Use the Sensors to take a snapshot of all traffic in range and save to the Mission Log filename: Vengeance."

"Compliance."

Sitting in the Engineering chair on the Bridge, I watched as 'Jack' announced a departure window, 'Uessae' begin maneuvering and I monitored Engineering.

"New filename. Grunt is to head ECM and Anti-Hijack Software. Confirm."

"Compliance."

The Thuegueus II glided easily through traffic, the Ship's Computer storing Software not needed and bringing usable to the CPU. From my central vantage, I could still see the boards and hear each program call out a step in each task. "Increase to 4G acceleration to jump point," I commanded.

"Compliance."

"I'm going to the Galley to make coffee," I said as if there were Vargr on the Bridge. "Jack, I want you to list to me all the ships captured on Sensors."

"Compliance."

"Yacht-class vessel in flightpath," called the Bridge interrupting the list 'Jack' was reading off. "Orders?"

"Buzz by them," I said as I filled my ship mug of the inaugural carafe of coffee. "I no longer care who they are."
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Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5
  #26  
Old July 13th, 2019, 11:41 AM
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'Uessae' blew the doors off the local Baron's Yacht while he was screaming at 'Jack' over the Comms. But because the Thuegueus II is an Imperial hull, no one suspected it of being a Vargr ship as they had so judged my Vargr Trader unworthy of respect.

'Ofo' the Navigation Software completed the in-system and jump pathing for me as I had finished listening to 'Jack' list the local traffic. I did not want to be surprised that I may have been followed out of Kaasu in a Tech-15 starship built for blood vengeance.

'Jack' informed me that the system Baron was still signaling the Thuegueus II. "Let him eat static," I answered. I was through with titles and Human Social Standing.

I little over 2.5 hours later, 'Ofo' reported attaining 100 Diameters. I did not look back at Amber Zone Kaasu. It had done its job. I now had mine ahead of me. "Initiating jump sequence in 6, 5,...." I turned and performed the jump myself as 'Ri'.

I learned firsthand the loneliness of the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service, Courier Branch that week in the hole. I took turns mourning each of the fallen of my crew. I tried to boot up our Red Wizard console in the Commons of the Fast Far Trader. Only I was there in the game's 'town'. Lonely. A lonely Alchemist with no group. Shutting down the game, I put it away.

As a ship of vengeance, the Thuegueus II was not home. Home was back on that derelict being buried in the sands of Naasakiira right now. There was no love for or from the Thuegueus II. It was a long week for me.

I put as many belongings as I could scavenge from the Vargr Trader that belonged to Uessae Noedhin in the Captain's Cabin. I kept myself busy trying to dress it up for her, some form of apology, some form of absolution penance.

I spent the last two days doing the same for Miss Ka's Stateroom. The Naasirka, LIC card was in plain view upon entering the space. If she was alive, she would find it there.

In that last hour, the Thuegueus II jump rumblings were but purring vibrations through the hull so new that I thought the ship was delighted to experience the rumblings before breakout. There was a sleek, predatory, pouncer animal inside the new vessel. Or I was going mad with a desire for revenge.

"Jump precipitation," reported 'Ofo'. After toggling to the Maneuver Drive, I consulted the Library Software I filenamed "Miss Ka".

"Miss Ka, tell me about Biinersa," I called to the Ship's Computer.

"Compliance. Biinersa (Corridor 1111) was named Mariir during the First Imperium. It has the current UWP of...."

The Knight who is unlucky enough to be assigned Biinersa has my sympathies. But only so much. He has an estate on a tropical island while the remainder of the 80,000 sophonts use gravcars and grav-haulers to pluck yields from the other tropical and temperate archipelagos and ferry them to the southern, arctic zone Downport on the glacial coast of the ice fields caps and the southern oceans. At 90% Hydrosphere, whose idea was it to plant the Downport on a dismal, cold, rocky outcrop instead of a future resort-worthy island?

I would soon learn the answer to that question.
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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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  #27  
Old July 13th, 2019, 11:50 AM
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At Tech-11, with no Government and almost no Law Level, Biinersa Downs was a water, ice and mining processing center fed by the locals lucky enough to land jobs as tropical islands harvesters. I took the opportunity to use the SysNet as I completed fuel skimming.

I bought, on Biinersa of all places two ensembles of Combat Armor-11 without having a license, one for me and the second for Uessae Noedhin by recalling her measurements from my Hand Computer-11. I had stats on all the crew because I had hoped to purchase them ship uniforms to make us look more a cohesive group, much like we had when playing Red Wizard.

Soon enough Biinersa mainworld was on scopes and 'Uessae' was on the glidepath to orbit. I geared myself up for an almost lawless world: VaccSuit-12, Shotgun-4, Bayonet-3, Hand Computer-11, Comm-12, Electronics Tools Set-7, Lockpicks Set-4, ammunition, UPP card, my personal credit chip, and some trumped-up bravado which was little more than my charisma at the time.

Biinersa Downs was bleak, windy with a perpetual blizzard, rimed with ice and generally a L-Hyd purification refinery on the iceberg shores.

I took the Thuegueus II in to land manually as I am rated in Pilot. Setting her down, I ordered, "Grunt, lock down the ship. No one but me, Uessae Noedhin or Miss Ka may enter."

"Compliance."

With my mustered bravado, I shut down the Thuegueus II and made way across the slippery landing pad to the stark Downport entrance glittering with icicles.

Remember that sleaze-haggling I mentioned weeks back? I may not be streetwise, but credits and dragging the sophont before me down to my level is just as good.

"I have business with the crew of the Black d'Art," I announced to the Downport Warden. Slipping him hard, plastic, credit coins in higher denominations, I dragged him down to my level too.

The Combat Armor-11 was waiting for me in the Commerce kiosk. Showing my UPP card and my credit chip for confirmation of the purchase was all that was asked as I took off my VaccSuit-12 and put on the Armor. I did it right there at the kiosk too. On Biinersa, no one took a second glance. The Downport was in its early hours, the K-6 star intending to rise no more than 20 degrees above the horizon today.

Biinersa Downs is planted on a peninsula of rock with the adjacent Startown just south and reaching into the ice fields as far as the population dares. Mining gravs deliver ores from the shelf under the harvested ice taken by refueling bins. Nobody likes to venture outside without a VaccSuit because of the frozen temperatures. Never mind that the Atmosphere 4 is both Thin and Tainted with elements that do not like animal life. The tropics are little better but are teeming with plants.

It was the perfect, lawless, spineless den of scum and villainy for the pirate Type-T Black d'Art. And I saw her sitting like a shard of night and rimed with cold-hearted ice on the far side of the Downport. You'll get yours, I thought to myself as I saw the vessel from inside the concourse.

A foul, fishy smell blew in from an opened gate 'lock as I moved on. It was a grav-hauler bringing in the latest nets of aquaculture that did not need to breathe Tainted air. Fish of many sizes and shapes were arriving for processing at the Startown cannery.

I had to put on my Combat Armor helmet to protect my Vargr olfactory from fishy overload.

There are no cops in the Downport or the Startown and everybody who is anybody is armed. There are civilians who are so low on the totem pole that they shrug and have accepted their lives as victims of the system.
I was not molested even once as I loped fully armed past other armed and armored sophonts. Maybe a glance at my race, but then soon forgotten by the need to conduct business in this frozen hellhole.

There is such a distaste for "Imperial entanglements" on Biinersa that everyone seems to be on a cash-and-carry basis. Credit chips are frowned at. To ease that discovery, I used my chip to dispense more hard credit coins from a neglected ATM that looked happy to see me.

I'm from the Dzarrgh Federate and I have waded through Vargr bazaars and been mobbed by beggars, the needy and the underaged. Not here though. Any poor that were brazen enough to beg for relief, food or coin or warm clothes, were mercilessly beaten all the way back to the work dens for their trouble.
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Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
The Pakkrat 0608 X58738-8 S va++ so+ zh+ vi+ da+ 534
On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

Last edited by The Pakkrat; July 13th, 2019 at 01:35 PM..
  #28  
Old July 13th, 2019, 11:54 AM
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In my search for Uessae and the crew of the Black d'Art, I called upon the Accountant in me. There's always a money trail. My rating in Computer does not hurt either as I searched for purchases made in Uessae's name. She of the couple kept the greater balance of credits and wore the pants in their speculative buys even though Ofo was the Merchant.

Without a Government and nary a Law Level, hacking the local Commerce net on a Tech-11 world was like taking meaty bars from cubs. Sick, I know.
I sleazed my way up through the Darknet and found various purchases from the dwindling credit chip card that was Uessae's. The list I saw was not indicative of her. Booze, restaurants for Human cuisine, clothes, gadgets, (forbidden pleasures luxuries??), and other purchases laid a trail for me to follow.

I saw the Berthing fee for the Black d'Art and the Life Support renewal with a wide variety of luxury cuisine for the Human crew of the Type-T. They were living high on Uessae's money.

As long as I changed nothing and merely looked at the data, the local nets cared little.

By correlating the purchases with the dates upon arrival at Biinersa Downs, I was able to paint a playback of events.

The Black d'Art had arrived in Biinersa and did not skim for fuel. They purchased it refined here at the Downport, again on Uessae's balance. The crew then hit the bar, drinks piling up next to meals of higher fare for this cesspit. Maybe they were drinking to loss of their eight, boarding crew that I had seen laid out post-gunfight with their throats slit by the last man standing. I had to swallow the hatred then.

Lodgings were arranged for the crew, but on Uessae's credits a High and Low Passage was purchased out-system at the Commerce terminal. The Bounty Hunter and his frozen mark were not wasting time like the errant pirates of the ex-Naval Patrol Cruiser.

Thus, I learned that Miss Ka had been separated from Uessae Noedhin as he (or she) took Lidus Ka on an executive’s cabin of a service crew liner from this piss pool of a world.

That meant that Uessae was still here somewhere on Biinersa.
The list of available lodgings was simple to find and the most expensive of them welcomed an "Uessae Noedhin credit chip".

I watched the spending habits of the pirates and mapped out their itinerary through each purchase in the past week. I knew where they stayed, when they ate, when they partied and when they slept.

I bribed the front desk. I bribed the bellhops. I bribed the ushers and the valets of the hotel the pirates slept in. I even dragged down the manager to my scuzzy level with the plink of hard credits. I am not to be disturbed and here is a down payment for any damages.

The nine pirates partied with the last of Uessae's credits. I watched her balance dwindle to nothing. That night I made my move.

It was about 3 a.m. in the darkest of night with only polar aurora borealis dancing in the frozen skies. I stepped from the stairwell of the hotel and onto the upper floor where the crew of the Black d'Art were staying in a double suite that was joined in the commons area centered upon a double-sided 'fireplace' simulating the burning aroma of real wood.

The smell of booze was wafting to my nose all the way to the front door of the suites. The technology matched between the electronic door lock and my Electronics Tool Set-11 and the Lockpicks. Between the security and the mechanics, I was able to jimmy my way to cracking open the door. The ingress was dark, so I went to low light with my Combat Armor helmet on and opaque so as to hide my canine face. My muzzle wrinkled and my fangs were bare.

Human debauchery was the scene. Passed out pirates a plenty polluted the plush floor.

I took my revenge. The details of which need not be repeated or logged. But I was wracked by a sliver of mercy in the need for information. I let her buy her life with it.

The naked, female, Solomani-Vilani mix, Imperial woman, perhaps the Astrogator for the Black d'Art was already trussed up with forbidden luxuries to the expensive bed posts. I let her watch me slit the throats of her passed-out compatriots. She screamed from behind a red ballgag when I took out her boyfriend from behind using my silent Bayonet before moving on to avenge my crew upon the others.

I shut her up by pointing the business end of my Shotgun at her.

"You took a female Vargr from a Vargr Trader," I said with my voice garbled by the Combat Armor-11. "Where is she?"

Sniffling and crying and mumbling from behind her gag, I had to undo it to get her to talk sense. "Th-the Bounty Hunter sold her to the cannery as an indentured worker who owed her credits."

Her. The Bounty Hunter was female then.

I popped the visor of my helmet and removed my gauntlet. Staring fiercely and as hard as I could at the bound woman, I clawed her with five bloody rivulets down her chest and belly. It was cruel of me, but I was not going to kill her. Instead, I said in a growl, "You live, but only by a thread. Give up piracy, bitch. Merchants have long memories. And I will remember your face for a very long time." It was in harsh Anglic, gurgling up from my solar plexus and as primal as I could put the fear of the Ancients in the woman. I left her there on the bed crying and in plain view of the carnage around her.
__________________
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
  #29  
Old July 13th, 2019, 12:00 PM
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Into the cannery I loped as fast as my Vargr legs would allow. Fully suited up once more, I bribed the cannery foreman to direct me to the females' barracks for indentured workers, (actual slavery being illegal in the Third Imperium).

I entered the barracks to the waking women’s bunks stacked up like crypt shelves of my ancestors. The foreman stopped at the door as I called out, "Uessae! Uessae Noedhin!"

I stalked through the throngs of females covering themselves with blankets. They saw an armored, male Vargr stalk through their housing until Uessae was discovered.

All of the workers were collared in electronic devices of some kind. I soon learned what they were when I roused a bruised and battered Uessae. She woke hazily and was surprised that I was Vargr in Combat Armor. I popped my helmet and she squealed a cry. Then the collar shocked the ever-lovin' crap out of her. The devices were to keep the workers at a whisper and became punitive when they detected vibrating vocal cords. I was so full of anger bordering rage that I went through each collar with my Bayonet, Lockpicks and Electronics Set, freeing them all. When the foreman saw what I was doing, I pointed my Shotgun at him and bade him sit in a corner and consider his life choices.

Freed, Uessae cried, "Ri! You-you're alive!"

"Not now, Uessae," I growled still angry. "We're leaving and right now. Miss Ka is still with the Bounty Hunter."

I helped Uessae to a limping stance from a flat pallet bed. The cannery had pushed non-Humans into a corner and let them sleep away from the Humans.

I aided Uessae out of the cannery, stopping only once to toss plastic credits on the foreman's lap, "We were never here, she was never indentured, and you are compensated well for the loss in workforce. Got me?" The smell of urine from the foreman repulsed me and Uessae out the door of the barracks.

I put Uessae into my VaccSuit-12 to protect her from the cold before escorting her to the Thuegueus II. I then knew how so many locals were kept so easily ensconced in the Startown. They were too poor to survive anywhere but indoors.

Call slavery what it is. The Third Imperium Sector Duke was going to get a full recording and report on Biinersa. In logging this, I had left my Hand Computer-11 recording this sortie.

I took Uessae Noedhin to her new Captain's Cabin and put her to bed. "I'll answer all tomorrow, Uessae. Just sleep and let me get us off this rock." Though afraid to be left alone, I put my Shotgun on the bed beside her. I knew she was the deadliest of us with the weapon.

Back on the Bridge, I took off my helmet and ordered the Thuegueus II to signal Tower for departure.

Outbound to 100 Diameters, I took extra, loving time to prepare a full Steward's meal, with all the fixing and trimmings and brought it to Uessae who had by now showered off the reek of the fish cannery. Coffee in claw, I rang the Captain's Cabin door and was let in by her.

We each told our sides of the pirate ambush. I had been thrown across Engineering and forgotten as the ship was boarded. Uessae knew Ofo was dead when the missile immediately after the Power Plant hit destroyed Turret #2, killing him.

She told me of the firefights with the boarders at both airlocks, through cabin doors and between decks. I recalled the bullet holes through the lighter bulkheads and hatches and nodded. The story played out and matched what I had found in the derelict after the crash. She ate hungrily and I saw through her only nightshirt that she was not fed well in working these few weeks in the cannery.

I explained that I had looted Miss Ka's megacorporate credit chip and made the Thuegueus II for vengeance, a weapon against the pirates and the Bounty Hunter murderer the Ka Family had sent. I told her how I found Grunt and Jack, slain by her hands, that my Medical skills had determined that they died unconscious of their necks opened. We two cried and howled into the night our mourning calls. I showed her Grunt and Jack's caskets in the Cargo Hold and that I could not gather what was left of Ofo her fiancée.
I related how I tracked down the pirates and Uessae. I shared all of the revenge she would consent to hear. I made sure she knew that we were not done, that if she desired, the Aekhu could continue to avenge her murdered mate-husband-to-be.

I presented Uessae with the second set of Combat Armor-11 sized for her. She grimly donned it and with firm, set eyes nodded at me. She would join me in rescuing Miss Ka and punishing a Bounty Hunter gone too far.

Before I let Uessae Noedhin onto the Bridge, I removed her filename from the Ship's Computer. It seemed a little odd now that I had recovered the living Uessae.

She took up the Imperial controls with a new satisfaction to feel out the performance of 4Gs, something she had not had the pleasure of since her days in the Deneb Navy.

Gradually but assuredly, Uessae recovered her personal charisma as we precipitated from jumpspace in Mowanda. This was a race back to Khouth (Corridor 0104) where I had picked up the Charter from Miss Ka in the beginning.
__________________
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

Last edited by The Pakkrat; July 13th, 2019 at 01:47 PM..
  #30  
Old July 13th, 2019, 12:03 PM
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The Subsidized Liner the Bounty Huntress was using had been listed having a three-parsec range. Thuegueus II has Jump-4 capability. Now that I had Uessae back, I no longer needed 'Uessae' and 'Ofo' filenames in the Ship's Computer and the two of us worked with the remaining filenames as if the Ship was a surrogate for Grunt and Jack instead. Uessae thought it weird at first, but then began to voice at the two task-sets as well.

While I remained at the Bridge Engineering console, I saw Uessae swing her chair back and forth from the Helm and Astrogation consoles while we both spoke to 'Jack' on Sensors and Comms. We did not directly speak to another ship, giving away that two Vargr were in dubious command of an Imperial hull. I gathered Uessae might have stepped up as an Imperial Aekhu, but she too knew that Vargr just did not garner the respect a Human Imperial would. Racism - or more specifically specism - was still present in a cosmopolitan Third Imperium.

"For the Huntress' Liner to return to Khouth, it has to pass through Drayne and three other worlds before breaking out in Khouth," explained Uessae. I had already queried this from the Ship's Computer but let the ex-Navalman take the floor. I felt she needed to do so. "For us in this weaponized Trader, we need only pass Mowanda, Caulins Belt and arrive at Khouth two weeks plus a few days ahead of them. But Ri, this means we have to be fast with Life Support renewals, and not fiddle with Trade and Commerce."

"This is no longer about money," I assured Uessae. "This is justice served Vargr-style."

She smiled at me with a toothy grin.

On Mowanda, Uessae and I worked with ground crews to hasten restocking the Galley pantry, changing out air tanks, redressing mine and her cabins and the filters as the crews washed and cleaned the rest. Strange how an Imperial hull gets just a little more elbow grease than my Vargr Trader did...
The turnaround time had the ground crews and Downport Security scratching their heads as to why no crew left the Thuegueus II to peruse the concourse and shops. Were we not a Trader vessel?

The local Downport Warden inquired of us during a break as we waited for the cleaning crews to clear out. He wanted to know why an Imperial design had a Logaksu Vargr name. I internally debated how to answer him, but Uessae took him aside and spoke privately and standing taller as she looked up at the tall Human. We Vargr are generally shorter on average than Humaniti, except for Urzaeng I'm told.

Another unspoken reason why we did not disembark was our habit of dress. Uessae and I had decided to acclimate wearing the Combat Armor-11 by getting used to its weight and distribution. We could not very well lope about a Starport with military-grade protection on our bodies and not get stopped and questioned by local Security and law enforcement authorities.
Slamming the airlock before any more invasive questions could be voiced, Uessae and I departed Mowanda, outbound for Caulins Belt (Corridor 0307).

Sometime during jump between Mowanda and Caulins Belt, Uessae had found the Red Wizard console. Somewhat worse for the wear, she brought it to me. I explained my scavenging of my Vargr Trader. "I just could not leave anything behind that bespoke of us - you, me and the crew," I said.

Two days later, Uessae asked me to join her in Red Wizard, an Alchemist and a Godstriker pair despite having lost our Profaner, Artificer and Elementalist. (Their avatars stood there in 'town', waiting for Ofo, Jack and Grunt to log on.) I acquiesced and we two donned goggles and gloves and looked at scanned versions of the deceased for a while in remembrance. Then we tried some easier zones as a pair.

"For Ofo and the Spacewolves!" battle cried Uessae in a combat against animated corpses. I watched her from behind and tried to smile for her.
__________________
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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