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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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  #21  
Old December 1st, 2017, 12:33 PM
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Aston convinced himself that it was no different than going beyond the rope barrier at a museum, which is essentially where he was. Only unlike other museums this one had molten and sharp rocks sticking out everywhere.

He reached the bottom of the ladder. It wasn’t’ a long descent, maybe the height of a man at most. Still, rotten-eggs, heat, steam, with only the dim red-orange glow and shafts of light from what little illumination trickled down from the crag mouth above.

“Hey!” Aston called out. He could barely see a humanoid figure off in the distance. The crag was a full fledged open fissure the further he went. The small slow gelatinous ooze of cooled lava seemed to vanish into another smaller crag.

Aston, his light out shining on a clearly marked path thought about going back, but his do-gooder instinct told him that it wouldn’t be long. He’d grad the kid by the arm, tell him what an idiot he was, and haul him back topside. Heck, for all he knew this was some kind of Geonee right of passage, like that Aslan boy some years back on the other side of the Imperium. At that time Aston had to defend he and the kid against a crystal based creature that was literally part of the cave.

There were clear markings on the cave. Self-illuminating signs with letters and numbers, none of which Aston recognized as it was all in the local Geonee dialect. This was clearly some kind of maintenance access way, and Aston rethought his inkling to help what he thought was a mischievous wayward child. But, he was committed, and somewhat curious to see where this all led. If nothing else, it was a lot more interesting than the staged façade up above.

Aston heard some voices ahead. They were raised voices, no less, but voices all the same. They echoed too. One young, one old, Aston continued to listen and slowly stepped forward through what looked like a normal rock arch onto a flat pathway with decorative pattern etched in the stone. A few steps in and a set of fluorescent lights imbedded in the rock glowed to life as a pneumatic door closed behind him.

Aston turned around and tried to open it, but there was no handle or other control. “Oh great.” Well, now he had not choice but to go forward. A few steps forward and the pathway bent to the left, and then straightened out to open into another vast chamber, only there was no overhead lighting here, no staged fake mushrooms, no track lighting, no mine carts that went no where, just what looked like several prison cells, a desk with a single lamp, and an adult stocky Geonee wearing a one piece mining garb with a belt.

Muscular arms, body hair, stubble and a moustache with a full shock of black hair. By Terran reckoning he might’ve been in his late thirties, maybe a year or two older. Either way he was reading the kid he’d been following the riot act, although Aston couldn’t understand a single word. Still, the adult finger in the face of a kid and the booming tone were universal enough.

The young boy protested, arms wide with open palms, then pointed up saying something else that again Aston didn’t understand. But at that point the adult backhanded him across the face, knocking the young boy to the ground. He then picked up the child to one of the cells, opened it and was met with a tirade from another voice—female by the tone, or so Aston judged.

It was her turn to protest, and she gave the adult male a mouthful before he threw the boy at her, angrily said something in return, shoved them back and then slammed the steel door shut before locking it.

Aston resisted the urge to jump out and try the man hand to hand. Whoever he was he was well built, and if anything Aston knew that short muscular foes were often the hardest to beat in hand to hand. That, and this guy probably hefted boulders and steel beams as his job.

The matter required a different approach. The Geonee male went back to his desk and tossed the keys on it before going to a control panel at the far end of the chamber.

Aston crouched, and crept through the various shadows until he reached the desk stop. He grabbed the keys with his full hand, using all his fingers to keep them from jingling as he grasped them. He then carefully stepped back into the shadows and decided to wait and catch his breath before moving to the cell door.

Aston again ducked into the near black shadow next to the cell door and looked around the chamber. There was an obvious exit with an arrow pointing up. Still, it was a good distance to sneak over there. Aston figured he would have to chance it.

The Geonee seemed to take a seat at the control panel and work on one of the keyboards. Perfect. Aston carefully inserted the key into the lock and slowly turned. There was enough of a distant rumble from whatever subterranean volcanic activity was hidden behind meters of rock to mute the clicking. He heard and felt the key unleash the latch, then carefully grasped the handle and ever so slowly pulled on the door.

He opened to door to reveal a pretty young woman and a young boy who held a cloth to his lip. They both stared at Aston as he put his finger to his lips in what he hoped was a universal sign for them to keep quiet. They stared at him with mouths slightly agape.

“Don’t’ worry.” Aston quietly said, “I’m here to get you out of here.”

Both screamed.

Aston twisted his face in bafflement. “Wha-- What’re you doing?” Aston tried to get them to quiet down, but it was too late. The adult male Geonee was at full sprint, and slid to a stop to grab Aston by the back of the neck and pull him away from the door.

Aston twisted his body bringing his right elbow over the man’s arm, and lock his elbow. “Go on! Get out!” Aston called, momentarily forgetting the fact that not everyone spoke Galanglic.

Aston’s attacker cried out in pain, but also defiantly. It hurt, but it was also a fight, and he wasn’t going to be the last blow. The Geonee tried to take a swing, but Aston leaned his head back and avoided the blow. Aston shoved the man to the deck and ran into the cell to drag out both young woman and boy.

They both screamed and yelled in protest, shouting in the native tongue while trying to beat off Aston’s attempt at succor. Talk about reluctant victims, Aston thought.

He had managed to drag them half way to the exit before the adult male Geonee tackled him, forcing Aston to let go of his two would be victims rescued under protest. The Geonee connected his right fist with Aston’s jaw and cheek as he momentarily sat on top of the Imperial Scout, and was about to deliver another blow when through a combination of Aston just putting up his hands in an attempt to block another blow, Aston brought his left up and wound his foot over his attacker’s neck, forcing him to arch back and off of Aston’s torso.

Aston managed to get up, and then kicked the Geonee to keep him down. Both young woman and boy stared at Aston with mouths wide open.

“Get over there!” Aston yelled at the two as he pointed at the exit. Both quickly stepped to the door, and the young woman furiously worked the digital lock. The door slid open, and just as the three were about to ascend the stairs the Geonee came barreling back at Aston. This time it was an even match as both squared off with one another. But much to Aston’s surprise the boy and young woman started throwing tools and garbage tucked inside the doorway at the adult Geonee, yelling what Aston assumed were profanities in the local tongue.

But the adult male Geonee wouldn’t go down so easily, and grabbed one of the tools to strike Aston. The boy and young woman gave Aston a shovel just in time for Aston to block hard over head blow. The two went at it for several seconds, blocking, parrying, counter striking, blocking again and parrying again. Each time Aston’s attacker cried out in vengeful fury, each blow seemingly harder than the last. Slowly he backed Aston and his two rescuees back up the stairs.

Aston caught the last blow with the shovel’s shaft, pinned the attacker’s weapon against the wall, and then thrust kicked him down the stairs. The adult Geonee rolled all the way out the door back into the main chamber. Aston briefly ran down, closed the door, and busted the lock with the shovel.

He back up the stairs to the two young ones and ushered them up and out of the depths the volcanic vents.

Topside Aston was the focus of attention as a throng of Geonee males and a few females, gathered around him and argued. Arguing what Aston couldn’t figure out. Both the young woman and the boy tried to plead something to an older middle aged Geonee who had some gray. He carefully listened with a smile, and the young woman seemed to turn to Aston with a smile as the young boy took up the story.

Both men and women started to grin. Aston figured the true story was finally getting out. That’s when the local constabulary, flaking the adult male Aston had fought earlier, came onto the scene. Aston’s attacker pointed at Aston without any anger, but plainly, and said something. The two officers nodded, then spoke with the young ones and a few others.

That’s when Vash arrived on the scene looking bemused. Unlike Aston Vash actually understood and spoke the Geonee language, though it wasn’t easy to master. Vash heard several sides, and then listened to several other parties commiserate.

“Vash, thank goodness you’re here.”

Vash grinned at him. “I see you’ve been busy.”
The conversations seem to settle, and Aston’s attacker approached Aston with open arms, a smile, and gave Aston massive bear hug. Afterwards the young woman threw her arms around Aston and jumped up to kiss him.

“Congratulations, skipper.” Vash said with cool gaze and impish grin. “You’re married.”
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  #22  
Old December 3rd, 2017, 04:12 AM
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Flight Captain Richard Aston scratched on the stencil on his pad with his gloved hand. Working in pressure suits had gotten easier over the generations the things were used, but there never seemed to be a solution for bulky fingers. Even suits rated for worlds like Em, with microtubes that circulated liquid through the membrane coating the wearer’s body, there was still a degree of bulk that made working in the field on non-standard worlds a real pain in the backside.

Em was classified as a desert world. All around was mostly rocky desert with lots of loose rocks scattered about from millions of years of meteor impacts and volcanic activity. Desert World was a classification Aston had always questioned since most of the planets in known space were airless clumps of dirt and rock. Didn’t that make Desert World “normal”, so to speak? Em happened to have a thin layer of air that was unbreathable (mostly carbon monoxide and Sulphur), though according to hypothesis it wasn’t always the case, and allegedly had lost its atmosphere through so-called ancient activity. Personally, Aston didn’t believe it, but here he was supervising a minor dig, one of many efforts throughout the Imperium to get at the truth.

Some meters away MAX, the dual tracked AI companion designed for hostile environments, hummed ‘Turkey in the Straw’ as it dug deeper into Em’s surface, kicking up tan and brown sandy soil, all the while Vash, Karen and Steve monitored the field computer processing huge amounts of underground echoes. Echoes that showed what might have been some kind of urban complex, but also just could have been just a real curious geologic formation.

Even through the helmet Aston could hear Max gaily hum his tune as he kicked up sand, rock and soil, seemingly enjoying his work. The thing had a programmed personality, even though it was essentially miniature tank with a half dome and various lenses in place of a weapon. At its front was a multi-use interchangeable appendage, which furiously scraped away layers of alien earth to get at whatever was underneath. MAX was size of a child’s wagon, and at first Aston wondered what use he would be, but authorized the administrator’s assignment of one onto this mission all the same. In fact, Aston thought getting one that had a positive attitude might be a good idea, and so the techs who prepped MAX gave him a nearly child-like saccharine optimism. But, “Turkey in the Straw”? Aston would have to look at the robot’s programming later on, if nothing else at least ask the thing why it chose that tune.

Max stopped, and backed out holding a green glowing orb. “Was this it?” MAX’s high pitched electronic voice was blithely mechanical, an odd mix of high-tech electronic tones and with an almost celebratory attitude.

Aston shook his head in response, then remembered that MAX wasn’t programmed to read body language through vacc-suits. “No.” Aston finally said, and MAX tossed it aside. The sphere impacted next to a large nearby rock formation, cracked open, and seemed to lose its luster after that. MAX continued his merry excavation, occasionally stopping to consider a rock before cutting it open with either his miniature laser or reinforced micro-circular saw to see what was inside, and left a trailing heap of slicked rock with the excavated soil.

Aston clipped his stencil onto the pad and pulled his scanner from his belt. Shaped like a gun but with a small parabolic antenna instead of a muzzle, he waved it across the stark dusty yellow terrain with an equally afternoon yellow sky behind it. The same formations above and below ground correlated with the field computers. Nothing, but the odd formations under the surface. And yet both the ship’s and satellite data said that there was some kind of energy out here.

Aston figured it was geo-thermal, given the small contingent of Geonee on this world and again their propensity for things volcanic. But few subterranean heat sources were localized. And so far, even though they were right on top of whatever it was, MAX and the field computers had turned up nothing.

There was that word again; “underground”. Aston had had his share of caves, stalactites, stalagmites, volcanic vents, crystal structures, and all things related to geophysics, as well as the Geonee and their sexist patriarchal social structure. They had their own military, their own government, their own scientists, but still were part of the Imperium, and as such were prone to call in for help every now and then—like now.

The Geonee claimed they were what Aston came to call the much be-fabled Ancients with a capital A. The same race of people who had allegedly taken various samples of homo-sapiens and transplanted them on various worlds in ages past. That part he could go for given all the various human races discovered on far flung worlds. It was the idea that they were responsible for everything in known space that he found hard to swallow. And what he found even harder to swallow, like a lot of regular ordinary people, was the idea that the Geonee claimed to be the actual Ancients. A kind of fall from grace, as it were.

The theory of an antiquated interstellar conflict with some alien race other than the Geonee was already hard for Aston to accept. The Geonee inserting themselves into what Aston considered to be more legend than scientific fact, just ratched up Aston’s level of disbelief. Further, it sometimes made it difficult to work on Geonee dominated worlds if the idea ever came up in polite conversation. Often turning said conversation into a diatribe on Geonee society and place in the galaxy, or at the very least a heated debate which could turn into an all-out brawl depending on the setting. This wasn’t one of those times nor places, but there was enough of a Geonee presence (along with regular Vilani-Terran population), that Aston found himself still having to be careful back at the starport to not insult any of the local’s deeply held beliefs. He was here to get a job done, not stir controversy.

Even though the air was thin (mostly carbon monoxide with a strong sulphurous element, again as Geonee preferred) Asto could still hear MAX work, which oddly mixed with the team chatter over the radio channel. He could hear Vash, Karen and Peter talk about data and interpretations

“Well, what have you got?” A different voice. Male, slightly higher pitched than Aston’s own normal tone, and belonging to a tall thin made with a faded shade of auburn hair to compliment his freckled face.

Again shrugged his shoulders, “Lots of rock and earth.” Aston re-holstered his scanner, “And lots of sliced mineral carnage.” He mused as he pointed to MAX’s handiwork.

“Well, where’s the heat?” Steve Tattersall was a friendly enough guy, but not the sharpest knife in the drawer. He wasn’t unintelligent, but more often than not Aston found himself confronted with a man who hadn’t thought thro0ugh entire concepts, and was prone to letting speculation and fantasy outweighing hard evidence. Still, he had managed to make it through college and basic, and had found an assignment in the field as opposed to a desk job processing data. And to be honest, that’s about all Steve was good for.

“I don’t know.” Aston admitted. “Max has been digging, I’ve been scanning, they’ve been processing all the scanner data, but it’s like there’s nothing here.” Aston shook his head again, “It’s a hot patch of desert with no heat.”

A few moments later Aston could hear a faint yet auditory ping of a shovel striking a rock. MAX was quiet for a while, then his motor started whirring again as he thrashed at the earth once more. Then another ping, and another, and another.

“Oh, captain?” MAX called out. “I think I found something.” Aston scanned in MAX’s direction, but didn’t see anything significant. Moving towards MAX’s position and down into the mini trench he had excavated for himself in the process of trying to find the elusive heat source.

At first Aston thought it was just another subsurface boulder enshrouded in shadow, but the surface was polished to a fault. Were it not black it would have an almost mirror like quality, minus the few scratches MAX had put into it. Aston mused that it reminded him of an ancient video play he had seen during his historic cultural class. But that object was burred much deeper, and was an obelisk huge flat slab of black concrete. This was different.

Against his better judgement Aston put his hand on it. It was warm. No sudden alien sensation, no strange encounter with an ancient alien technology that would overwhelm his mind with some strange ultra-tech data feed. It was just warm. Buried as it was it should have been cold like the rest of the planet’s subsurface—like all things buried and hidden from the sun—but it was warm. As if it had been sitting next to a fire, or, Aston realized, was generating its own heat.

“I think Max found our heat source.”
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  #23  
Old December 4th, 2017, 01:30 PM
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I Apologies for the very brief chapter here. I've been trying to get my health back by shedding the biological "drop tanks". Gruelling work, but it's got to be done. Veggies, meat, and water. And no, pizza snacks and chicken McNuggets do not count as meat ... too bad. I was going to post my version of an old Twilight Zone episode, but was afraid I might get dinged for plagiarism, so I begged off. Instead I've got the current story unfolding ... however, I may go back to the first Geonee story, and tack on a racing element. As of the last story I discovered how fun the Geonee can be to write about because of all of their character flaws as a society, of which there are many. Even so, I'll finish this one off before forging on.

To be honest, I never thought I'd see so many views of my prattle. Group hug


It was not only warm, it had an ever so subtle and gentle vibration that translated up through Aston’s arm. Aston pulled his hand away and it immediately stopped.

“Good job, Max.” Aston complimented, not sure if the robot would register it as such nor actually have any feeling whatsoever. Aston pulled out his scanner again and aimed it directly at the obsidian like surface. He pulled the trigger and checked his pad. Nothing.

Aston knitted his brow as he thumbed through the pad’s settings, trying to find the right amplitude for the strange vibration. But there was nothing. He felt it. It was there. It had to register somehow, someway. Aston ran a quick check on the scanner to make sure it was calibrated correctly. He briefly thought the vibration might be a low amperage electrical current, but that didn’t even register. No EMF field, no sound, and oddly enough motion of any kind. Just a shiny surface with a tingling in his hand and arm.

Aston put his hand to the surface one more time just to make sure, and pulled it away. Then a third and fourth time, the last time keeping the scanner on his vitals under the medical setting.

“Are you okay?” A different voice. Peter this time, who was still in the ship. “Richard?” Peter then added after a non-response.

“I’m fine.” Aston replied with a hint of bewilderment. The mystery in his voice told all.

“Well, why are you scanning yourself?” Peter pressed.

Again Aston didn’t immediately replied, but mustered a weak response, “I’m not sure.”

“What did you find there, skipper?” Vash chimed in trying to get the captain to focus.

Aston pulled himself out of his bewilderment, “Good job, Max.” he complimented the robot once more before stepping out of the trench, “I don’t know, Vash. Max just hit solid rock, although it’s not like any stone I’ve ever come across. It’s not even registering on my sscanner.”

Aston motioned MAX to back out of the crevasse, then waved Vash over. “Feel that.” Aston urged.

Vash plainly put his gloved hand next to the surface. “It’s warm. It also tingles.” He pulled his hand away and reapeated Aston’s retouching. “What does the scanner say?”

“Nothing. But Max scratched it a couple of times.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it.” Vash commented, again putting his hand to it surface. “Nor felt anything like it. It’s like its got some kind of power coursing through it.”

“I hope that’s not your religious side talking.” Aston off-handedly commented.

“No, this is pure engineer.” Vash came back. “Besides, primitive forest and grassland spirits aren’t my style.”

That’s when Aston heard and felt a familiar whir of a medical scanner sending a gentle touch of energy over his body. Both Aston and Vash turned around to see Peter al dressed up in his vaccsuit waving a scanner over both man and vargr.

Aston paid the man little attention, “I told you I was fine.”

“I checked that last scan you did. Your neural activity went through the roof.”

Aston looked at him wide eyed, then looked at Vash. “I guess it kind of makes sense.” Vash said.

Aston pulled his scanner once more and set his pad to scan for life forms. Sure enough, his scanner went through the roof. “What the …” Aston hesitated, trying to find the right words. “Is this thing alive?”

Steve picked up his own personal computer and moved over to Aston and Vash. “What’s up?”

Aston gave him a pointed look, “When you were scanning for heat what settings were you using?”

Steve shrugged, “I don’t know, default I guess. Why, is it important?”

Aston would file that in his report, “This thing’s generating electricity.”

Steve stood there dumbfounded. “How’s that possible?”

Aston didn’t reply, and Vash knew what was on the captain’s mind. “Max, get back over here, and start digging around this thing.”

“Thing?” MAX merrily replied.

“The black stuff. The object you cut into.”

“Ohhhhh….hokey dokey.” MAX replied and continued his electric fast whir against the soil, kicking up soil and rock.

Aston watched MAX for a few more moments, and decided that he’d wished he had had a couple more assigned.

“It’s important.” Aston said to Steve. “You were looking for heat.”

“Yeah.” Steve replied, “…and tectonic movement. The usual.”

“Why weren’t you looking for electrical discharge?”

“You don’t get a whole lot of subsurface electricity. Not on any world.” Steve replied, a hint of anger in his tone.

Aston had to admit that much. “Still, this thing is electric. Given the low voltage I’d say bio-electric.”

“Are you a biologist?” Steve asked, but Aston ignored the question.

“If it’s in the mili-volt range, then that means a medical scanner.” Karen finally jumped in. She was somewhat tall, though perhaps average height for a full blooded Vilani. Where she got the Terran name Aston didn’t know, it was enough that she was efficient in her job.

“Medical scanner?” It was Peter’s turn. “I thought you were joking about that thing being alive.”

“Alive or not, it’s generating electricity.” Aston replied.

“What, you think it’s silicon based or something?” Vash mused.

“I don’t know.” Aston replied.

“I’ll get my bio-kit.” Karen said before quickly stepping off to the airlock.

“Wait for me.” Peter followed her as he his tucked his pad under his shoulder.

“Silicon?” Steve questioned.

“I didn’t say anything about silicon.” Aston corrected. “It’s got electricity humming through it, and we need to catalog and find out as much as we can about this thing.” Aston tried to sound as official as he could,

Vash sheepishly grinned through his helmet and stepped back to the field computers. Aston was trying to sound official, but there wasn’t much to do unless the thing suddenly came life.
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  #24  
Old December 5th, 2017, 11:08 AM
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MAX continued his dauntless excavation, and began to carve an ovular trail around the subsurface formation. The initial black surface was revealed to be a kind of three-foot diameter plateau. Soon MAX’s digging revealed. That it was one of many such dulled spike like formations covered by unknown numbers of years of shifting sands, nearby meteor impacts and whatever else would move vast quantities of earth.

Aston had moved over to the field computers sitting atop thin sheet metal folding table, an old design that dated back millennia but was still effective. He stood over Vash’s and Steve’s shoulder watching the field cameras form and project a computer graphic of what MAX had exposed, but for whatever reason the computers couldn’t create a subsurface graphic no matter what kind of scanning trick Aston’s team tried.

Peter and Karen walked around the exposed plateau, mindful of MAX still cheerily scraping away earth. The two compared notes, then directed MAX to dig in a certain spot, and then redirect him to another, and then another. After two hours max had revealed not just one but two other such protrusions sunk deeper in the world’s landscape. As morning sun crept to high noon MAX had revealed that there was possibly a whole forest or hidden landscape of such plateaus, each connected to one another through a buried surface with the exact same properties as the protrusions.

And it was vast, possibly stretching the as far as the eye could see, all but one little patch excavated by MAX with the rest hidden by the world’s natural elements.

“Max, stop.” Aston said, resisting the urge to yellow in his helmet even though there was atmosphere and MAX himself was within shouting distance.

“What’s going on?” Steve was the first to break the brief silence.

Aston sighed, loud enough that it registered over the radio channel, “It’s too big a job for him. This thing stretches for miles.” A queasy sensation overcame his stomach that seemed to stem from his feet. That’s when he and the rest of his team noted the field tables shaking, and the very earth itself was undulating and moving back and forth.

“Earthquake.” Karen immediately stated.

“Get away from the ship!” Aston ordered. The team moved away from the diamond wedge, its nose precariously swaying back and forth. Aston figured the fragile part of the ship’s landing gear was strong enough to resist something like an earthquake, but he didn’t want to take any chances.

The ground stopped moving for the moment, then a incredibly strong palpable vibration kicked up dust, moved the field computes on the table like toys, and sent an almost massage like sensation through everyone’s feet and up through their legs.

“What the…” Steve looked around unsure of what to do or say.

“This isn’t an earthquake.” Karen ran back to the table to catch one of the computers before it fell off the table top.

“What is it?” Vash’s tone was edgy. Normally his wolf and canine instincts would have detected frequencies beyond normal human hearing, but this caught him off guard.

The very ground shifted one way, then jolted in the opposite direction collapsing the table and knocking everyone to the ground. The ground then felt as if it were an ice float on the open sea, then another jolt followed by more traditional earthquake like shaking.

“Grab the computers!” Aston yelled over the channel. “Get in the ship!”

As he spoke he could see all around him the soil kicking up a thinly veiled ankle high dust cloud, while pebbles, bits of soil, even individual grains of sand and dust vibrated as if a giant’s jackhammer were pounding the very terrain from deep below.

“Max! Get in the ship!” Aston yelled, all the while helping the team grab the field gear. “Leave the cases and table! Move! Go-go-go!”

Aston stayed in the rear helping whoever lost their footing as they quickly made their way to the open cargo bay. The shaking grew more violent. A constant thrumming, a constant pounding breaking the very top toil, creating small cracks, some turning into miniature fissures the width of a human forearm broke the formerly placid and nearly faceless rock-strewn desert floor.

Aston threw the bundle he was carrying into the cargo bay, not caring if it was damaged or not. By all reason he should have left it, but his thinking told him that the data still in the survey equipment was worth saving to explain whatever was happening to them.

Aston helped push Steve, Karen and Vash up over the lip and into the bay, soon being pulled up by his team into the relative safety of the cargo bay. He turned back, and everyone saw a massive fissure creeping toward the scout ship all the while the ground grew more violent.

“Vash! Engines!” Aston ran forward. Steve slammed the cargo door switch, and Peter and Karen pulled the gear further into the middle of the bay before following Aston forward.

In the bridge the vibrations were dampened by the mass of the ship itself, and the nature of the landing gear, but with the increase in energy the pounding could be felt through the decks. By the time Aston had strapped himself into the pilot’s chair the twin engines had roared to life, their thunder was a welcome friend as Aston’s hands and fingers furiously went through pre-flight, a thing that normally should’ve been done between two people and taken several minutes to make sure a safe takeoff.

There was no time for safety. Blasting off was safety in itself, and the minute he saw that the ship’s doors were all green telling the pilot that he could fly, he ratcheted up the thrust and pulled back on the yoke.

Peter, Karen and Steve slid back across the deck as the scout ship angled up steeply with Aston’s piloting. A few moments later they felt the familiar gentle pull of the ship’s own one-gee mechanism kick in, letting them stand no matter how the ship was oriented to the planet.

Aston leveled out the ship and put it into a lazy orbit around the survey point. The fissure that had crept towards the ship was now a full-fledged canyon, revealing a huge hemisphere obsidian black object with the same protrusions sticking out all over, like a massive geologic sea-urchin shimmying its way to the surface, dust, rock and sand dripping away like sea water. Tables and cases were long gone, as by now was most of the tan landscape for a hundred meters or so around a crested black dome with blunted points.

Karen and Peter both came forward to see. Aston tilted the scout even more to give a better view. The dome like structure shook, then rotated, kicking up dust and moving and grinding large rock formations as it did so. After several minutes it settled down, and more minutes after that Karen sat in the navigator’s seat and brought up the local starport office.

Aston was pretty sure no-one would believe it. How would you report such an event anyway? But Karen as all business, talking about earth movement, quakes, liquefaction, geophysics and a bunch of other terminology that Aston had to nod in agreement with. She didn’t way “Hey, we found this big giant living rock thing!”, which is what Aston figured they had found, but instead Karen described the events and the result of those events, leaving whoever was on the other end to interpret it for themselves.

Was it alive? Aston figured it was, but there was no way to prove it. In the following days he and his team along with whatever local Imperial science reps were around, braved re-approaching the thing. MAX got volunteered to attack electrodes and other sensors to the object, and data flowed from there.

As expected, the local Geonee rep went into a long diatribe of how this was a sample of ancient technology, but when Aston pressed him to explain it, what it did, what it was for, why it was built, the brash Geonee looked back as if shocked that anyone would question his authority. And, as if scripted, stormed off in a huff stating that he didn’t share ancient technological secrets with inferiors.

Within a few weeks’ time the service had dispatched more researchers, including a nearby lab ship that was a jump away, and arrived filled with an army of science-techs.

But inside Aston was puzzled, and felt somehow empty. Almost as if he expected a large holo-projection with a wizened alien or human with a long white beard to explain ancient forgotten history and their purpose in creating this thing, whatever it was. But nothing of the like. It just sat there, occasionally vibrating, occasionally turning and churning earth as it did so, but otherwise inanimate, and certainly non-conversive.

Exploring what it actually was would be another scout’s tale, not his own. And somehow before he and his team re-boarded the ship, he felt like somewhat denied the privalge of discovering what this thing was. But, that was the nature of the service. Not everything had a story book ending. Whatever this thing was, it was just another mystery to be explored. And sometimes the endings were just that. Such was the life of a scout.
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Old December 6th, 2017, 09:44 AM
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No stars, only rain, neon signs, and the faint reflective glow of city lights off the formless night overcast. First Lieutenant Richard Aston made his way down an old fashioned paved boulevard riddled with shallow puddles and a steady shower of rain. Closed store fronts on the opposite side, and next him on his right an antiquated steel truss holding aloft an equally antiquated rail system. The thousands of droplets hitting the brim of his new duty cap and water-resistant windbreaker made him feel like he was in an automated vehicle wash, or so he mused.

That, and he was cold. His light duty uniform and cotton t-shirt underneath barely offered any warmth, which forced his university-student mindset to wonder how much warmer he would be if he were a black body object. But other than rain silhouetted cones of illumination from the street lights, the occasional diner or all night laundromat, there wasn’t much radiation of any kind--maybe the odd flash of lightening.

He told his flight captain that he would find a way back to the starport. He said that it would be no problem, that he would make the flight, but that he first needed to see the regional playoffs at the local stadium. Aston had been to a lot of sporting events back on Terra, and still fresh out of flight school his inner sporting fan wanted to take in a game while he had liberty.

Of course, forgetting his wallet back in his cabin and relying on the small wad of cash that had been in his pocket, was a big mistake. The tickets were expensive, the food doubly so (like all franchise stadiums), and not feeling the fingers of the pick pocket that ran off with the remainder of his money was the final blow.

His feet splashed over millimeter deep puddles while one of the hyper-grav trains rumbled above. He braved a glance forward to make sure the path was still clear. mostly keeping his head bowed to prevent rain from getting on his face and in his eyes. The train rumbled off into the night, minutes later a police vehicle, its sirens wailing, sped by on a cushion of air, leaving a cone of cold wind and water misting Aston’s face. Its lights dimmed in the distance until they were swallowed up by the city night and rain.

Whatever the emergency Aston hoped that it was far away. Far, far, far away, he mused. He quick stepped across an intersection, peaked to his left down the cross street, and saw a horde of flashing lights, very distant but still bright in the night elements.

One of the police grave cruisers erupted in a ball of fire, the thunder of the explosion taking a half second to reach his ears, and rippling through his body with low vibrations.

Aston couldn’t help but slow his pace as he stared down at the conflagration, which was followed by several more pops and then high pitched sonic booms whizzing merely inches from his head. Aston was stunned for a moment, but like a sobering drunk came out of his dumb-founded surprise and ducked next to one of the girders as the familiar ping of bullet metal striking metal accompanied the gunfire.

Unarmed, no radio, nothing but a thin water resistant windbreaker and his own uniform, Aston steeled himself and moved out of the arc of fire. He then began to run across the boulevard when something ran into him.

She had long chestnut hair that reached passed her shoulders, with a heart shaped face; holo-movie-star looks dressed in some kind of stage show dress made of dripping wet red-sequins. Well groomed, good looking, she didn’t belong here—not by a long shot. She was at least ten years older than Aston, maybe fifteen, he couldn't tell, but she was gorgeous in spite of the rain.

Another eruption took place. Both were out of line of sight, and Aston figured it was probably another police vehicle. More bullets plinked off street signs, lamp posts and girders. Aston moved the woman back across the street to where she came from. Bullets didn’t care how far they traveled nor how many layers of sheet rock or brick were between it and its target.

“Please, you got to help me!” she begged, her tears melding with the precipitation.

“Ma’am…” but Aston was at a loss for words as he chanced a quick peak around the storefront corner, knowing that a stray bullet could take off his head. He was duty bound to help, but found the dichotomy infuriating. “I … I …” he briefly stammered as he tried to figure out a plan of what to do.

Fortunately they heard more sirens, which made Aston think he could move her out of danger and let the authorities know he was an Imperial scout with a woman in distress.

“Get your hands off her!” Commanded a venomous voice belonging to an equally tall and toned male with a fierce wide eyed stare.

Aston pulled her back and tried to gain some distance by backpedaling while holding onto her. “Get behind me.” Aston told her as they reached the middle of the empty four lane boulevard.

The man didn’t charge. Dressed mostly in black he stalked Aston and the woman, keeping his distance, matching every footstep, watching, waiting. “I advise you to let her go.” He had a venomous tone. “She's nothing to you. She’s everything to me.” Aston kept his eye on him. He was probably about her age or a bit older. Late thirties, or so he guessed, and a good build.

“If you let her go, maybe you’ll go home tonight on your own two feet.” He threatened.

Aston didn’t see a way out. Potential stray bullets blocking one path, concrete and steel in the lateral directions. The only way left was forward, currently blocked by this man.

“Let her go.” His tone was almost reptilian as was his gaze.

Aston continued to shield the woman, but knew what was coming. He removed his windbreaker and gave it to her, “Put this on.”, letting his duty uniform soak up the rain and cool his skin and body.

“I’m coming for you.” A cool tone with intent. "And I play rough."

Aston wasn’t sure how to respond, or if he should at all. All he could do was meet his eyes with his own. Their soft steps were joined by dozens others pounding the water slick pavement.

Aston felt his thigh and upper torso to make sure that he truly forgotten his sidearm out of some subconscious desire to wish it into being. The foot steps revealed more black leather thugs. Some human, some Vargr, each with scars, sleek wet unkempt hair, and each a near black silhouette against the wet streets reflecting the city lights.

Aston counted them, but stopped after twenty. And still more came. That’s when the cat calls came, urging blood, demanding Aston's sacrifice. The combination of dialects, both human and Vargr, created an indiscernible din. They were voices calling for blood, but Aston couldn’t make out a single word or sentence with his attention focused on the one man, whom appeared to be their leader.

The man pulled an air horn from his coat, pointed it up and away, and then blasted it into the air. The dull deafening single trumpet laid out a blunt call that could be heard for blocks. And on cue a swarm of single headlights rounded a corner two blocks distant. They were all wheeled, no grav cycles, telling Aston that they weren’t very wealthy. A local bike gang that, probably poor like most of the people who lived in this part of town, and unlike the other denizens prayed off their neighbors to hoard their wealth and dump it into their dress, food, drink and their two-wheeled contraptions--contraptions from another time and place.

The collective thrum of two dozen or more motorcycles drowned out the voices calling for Aston’s blood. Aston knew he was a dead man. He was young, inexperienced, but practical. There was no point in being scared anymore. Whatever they were going to do was going to happen. He was the center of attention and would soon pay for it with his very life. He had one hope.

The crowd formed a wide circle. Aston could feel the woman clinging to his back using him as a human shield. Then suddenly she was yanked away by several hands, and their leader dropped his air horn and charged Aston as he looked away trying to reach for the woman.

Aston snapped his head back in time to see the lean figure pull a blade and rush him. What did his instructor say? If you see a knife, you’re going to get cut. It was inevitable, so there was no point in worrying about it.

Aston showed that he was going for his knife, but stepped on the side of his attacker’s knee instead, sending his joint crashing into the hard pavement to give Aston those brief fractions of heartbeats he needed to sweep the arm and knife wielding hand, then force it loose and sweep his arm around his attacker’s neck in his half knelt position.

Aston clamped his arm tight under the attacker’s jaw, using his free arm to pull it tighter while keeping his firmly stomped on the knee. The gang leader flailed trying to reach backwards, but Aston had him locked so that he couldn’t even twist his body.

Aston was then pushed down. The gang leader got up, pushed back and beat whoever had helped him, and went to kick Aston as he tried to get up. Aston was poised like dog on all fours, on the precipice of regaining his stance when he saw the gang leader’s leg and foot prepare for a near fatal blow.

Aston managed to stop it with a clumsy pan block with his free hand, but the effort sent him stumbling forward into the damp pavement, the water keeping him from scraping his face too badly on its rough surface.

many apologies, I've been editing this thing on the fly ... very groan worthy and just plain sloppy work on my part

double groan ... oh man, so sorry for the poor prose here...again, all "hot off my mind". Again, this is all an effort for me to gain some grounding in the 3I after gaming in a fairly abstract environment. This is my attempt to put some texture on it ... but when I read the roughs, it's like "ouch! how could I write THAT?" Oh well. Dickens I ain't
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Old December 6th, 2017, 09:44 AM
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The rest of the gang backed off seeing what their comrades had suffered. Aston tried his sweep, but the gang leader was an experienced fighter and merely hopped over it, then reached down for Aston’s body.

Aston returned the favor clinging to him trying to gain purchase with his feet. The two were locked with one another like two ancient Greco wrestlers, voices clamoring for death, rain coming down, another train rumbling by overhead.

No matter how much training Aston had had since before he could drive, this man, this gang leader, was bigger, stronger, more experienced, and in his prime with lean bulk that dwarfed Aston’s light-weight twenty-something build.

Aston stepped into him, gaining a fulcrum on his hip and threw the man. But he refused to let go and took Aston with him. Both rolled on the ground for what seemed like forever to Aston, but the gang leader used sheer brute strength to sit atop Aston, and pounded him left and right.

After the first few blows the pain was obligatory, almost non-existant. Each blow was a combination of sharp jabs to a collection of neurons screaming pain in the impacted area, followed by a draining sensation as his body tried to compensate by pumping more blood, more fluid, burning more energy to try and compensate for the damage being suffered.

Somehow Aston manged to put up some kind of defense with his hands, avoid some of the blows, but the outcome was inevitable. Again, he didn’t think about what could happen. There was no more fear. The fear of could be was happening now. Cruel fate was being visited upon him. To die on some far flung world light years from home, while wearing his majesties’ uniform attempting to be gallant, but upon the precipice of eternal failure.

Light. Massive amounts of light. Blinding light. Light coupled with the sound of voice over a loudspeaker—the sound of vehicles. Big bulky armored vehicles rolling onto the scene.

The gang leader looked up wide eyed, his fist dripping with Aston’s blood, cocked and ready to strike, but like a deer caught in the headlights, he remained motionless.

Then another sound. Welcome, familiar, massively loud—louder than any of the motorcycles he had heard before.

“Drop your weapons!”

Aston’s vision as blury as he tilted his head off to his left and right. Bright blue and red flashing lights with more armed figures shrouded in bright silhouettes. And overhead a huge familiar titanic diamond shape with the red sunburst and the Vilani interpretation of the old Terran Pony-Express emblazoned on the underside of its hull.

Huge amounts of local law enforcement. Some resisted, some ran, most found themselves floored followed by the familiar zip of plastic ties being bound around their wrists. Then a medical scanner waved over his face and body by a familiar face, but for the life of him Aston couldn't concentrate enough to think of a name.

“How is he?” it was Captain Tsukeda, a veritable blur after the pounding Aston had suffered.

“He’ll live.” What was the medical officer’s name? Again Aston couldn’t remember. Female, no-nonsense, "But no thanks to you." she added.

“Get him on board, we’re getting out of here.” Tsukeda, Asian descent, standing slightly taller than a Genoee, was a tough as nails man. If his crewman was hurt then he needed to be repaired like any other piece of equipment on the ship, and that was best done in the ship’s meat-shop, which meant triage in the galley.

Aston saw the black of the night clouds and sporadic white-yellow of hundreds of office building lights get replaced with the familiar white of the type-S’s interior after several men lifted and carried him up the ship's cargo ramp. He was no longer outside, it was no longer raining, the sound of engines and sirens was muted and all but gone, replaced by the gentle high pitched hum and relative quiet of the ship’s overhead fluorescent lights.

They set him down on the thinly cushioned yet regulation sofa. Non crew cleared out. Tuskeda said something terse and tough, followed and ended by a “I don’t’ give a …” filled with every explicative Aston had ever heard when he was training on one of the navy cruisers. "This is scout business. We're out of here."

Outside the woman’s friends had caught up with her. The gang had been rounded up. Statements were taken. She asked about what had happened to Aston. She didn’t even know his name. All she could get was he was safe. She and her compatriots looked up at the type-S as it's twin engines thundered to life, at first slowly moving her sleek bulk up and away from both buildings and railroad, then just when everyone thought they couldn’t get louder, the engines roared in defiance, shattering windows as the type-S plumed into the night overcast.

That night, with a packed theatre house, she picked an appropriate song and dedicated it to the young Lieutenant. A man she would never see again, but would always remember.

Oof, how come no one posts in the salon and says something like "Ghost, you really need to proof read your stuff before posting. This is just painful. Learn to spell, dude." or something like that? Seriously, I'm good with it. Ah well. I cleaned it up some. I'm sure I missed all kinds of stuff.
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Old December 8th, 2017, 07:37 AM
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More roughage. It's good for your digestion...honest Seriously, just going back re-reading my stuff tells me that I need to not be so impatient. This "story" is just another scene. Not so much a random encounter as a full-fledged story that is brief with an understood background. The previous events in Aston's life do come across as random encounters as times ... its' a fault of mine. I may or may not write something a bit darker, maybe go ahead and steal from The Twilight Zone ... then we'll what happens from there. Of all the scifi media I've consumed, Traveller is still formless. The positive side is that you can do nearly anything with the game. The downshot is that you can do nearly anything with the game, if you see what I mean Regardless (irregardless?), I like putting a face on the setting. What other game can you roll up or write about an intelligent dog as your boom companion and travel in spaceships?

The only sound First Lieutenant Richard Aston could hear were the whir of the electric pump circulating coolant through his vaccsuit’s micro-fibers and that of his own heartbeat.

Before him the vast vista of a jovian body silhouetted by a G2 star, the star’s powerful illumination creating a brilliant thin arcing corona over the planet’s north-western hemisphere, it’s rings seemingly like a rocky desert, slowly and imperceptibly moving in a circular orbit millions of years old, perhaps older. The planet’s atmosphere was a lethal mixture of hydrogen, helium, methane, ammonia and water ice, all of which would kill a man and most living creatures in known space, but was a veritable feast for a fuel starved starship.

The steady one-atmosphere pressure exerted by the suit onto his body was formless but functional. Combined with the eternal sensation of being at the apex of a rollercoaster or the middle of a jump, created a heavenly feeling as he gazed out at a massive world that was still tens of thousands of miles distant.

That’s when Aston became aware of his own breathing. Here he was falling, but with no ground to land on. It was akin to being born again, if humans could remember their moment of birth.

“We got you on scanner.” It was a different voice than the one he had been talking to earlier, but just as officious as any first responder. “We’re coming up on you now. Matching speed.”

Speed? Aston had forgotten, the vessel he had abandoned had been travelling towards the gas giant for a parabolic refueling run. He never liked them. Screaming through an icy cold atmosphere at high mach, relying on the careful balance of thrust and vector to counter the massive ten-g pull of a world that had no surface, was not his idea of being economical.

Even though the visage before him was something few people ever saw, he preferred to be in a vessel, and preferably planetside if it was going to take on fuel. Still, the piratical element he had been ordered to infiltrate and ride with, didn’t care where they got their fuel, as long as it was cheap—preferably free.

But it wasn’t supposed to end like this. The limpet EMF mine was supposed to disable their engineering section long enough for the staged flotilla to intercept them. Aston was to set it, then get in a vaccsuit, egress via the ship’s airlock and wait outside incase the pirates either discovered him or managed to squeeze enough juice out of their power plant to put up a fight.

But the poorly maintained drives and powerplant, repaired with retrofitted parts of other vessels, and a combustible fuel mixture, was a countdown to disaster. Aston remembered seeing the plasma leak as he pushed off from the battle-scarred type-t’s hull. At first he didn’t quite understand how or why the ship’s attitudinal control jets should be firing when they were headed for a gas giant. And seconds later that’s when he realized that it was the ship itself that was in peril with a luminous tear in her side that was a violent plasma leak eating consuming her hull. Disaster followed minutes later as the type-T silently coasted away until it was in full view.

He remembered the eruption that tore the vessel asunder, and waiting in sheer dread for a sharp piece of hull shrapnel to puncture his suit or tear his body in half. As luck would have it, it never happened, but the image of the bright sun-hot explosion was now forever burned in his mind.

He was chosen because he had EVA survival training, as well as knowledge of ship’s operations. Out in this nearly unpopulated region of space the Imperial marshals needed all hands. And so a scout got chosen.

Aston half laughed to himself and smiled as his sense of humor returned, he always wanted to see new worlds, and the natural beauty of space itself filled his entire view. To his left, like a banshee, the spearpoint nose of another type-T, one with clean lines, no battle damage, and the sunburst of the Emperor’s own, pierced his field of vision. It grew until the bulbous forward section, an almost hawk-like fore section, came into full view.

More small eruptions of light flared like the pirate ship, only these actually did come the ship’s control jets to slow her down. Aston couldn’t turn to see, but minutes later he felt two sets of hands grab him and pull him inside the familiar white and gray of a government patrol ship.

For a few brief moments he was one with the stars.
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Old December 10th, 2017, 11:27 PM
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So, I was going to post my version of a Blade Runner-ish / Bubblegum Crisis kind of story; i.e. cyborg / replicants / warbots gone bad and running amok in some downtown section of a major city on Efate, Jewell or Regina, but got tuckered out.

One of the discussion points I've had with Pakkrat is that the "stories" felt like random encounters. And truth be told that's kind of true, but only in the sense that I've put down what I think are cool scenes to help ground the setting for the game.

That, and I already had one cool street scene, and didn't want to repeat it with another cool "wet the streets" scene (movies are prone to wet pavement at night ... however cool looking, it is somewhat cliche).

I had a brief notion to write a "Christmas" scene with a Droyne as the befabled Santa Claus, and how he had been delivering what medieval Terrans thought were presents, but I haven't really formulated that one yet. It's an idea I've been toying with. Imagine an Ancient using some kind of grav sled, dressed in a red vaccsuit, using portable teleportation technology to teleport from the grav sled into the house, and leaving sensors in the shape of house hold appliances, or even toys. That kind of thing ... of course, I'd still have to explain the reindeer.

Then again I'm thinking of going back and editing what I posted, then expanding and re-posting proper fiction. We'll see.

Thanks for the views.
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