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

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Old July 31st, 2019, 06:56 AM
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At least the deck was clean, though the scent of industrial strength cleaner would be with the ship for weeks. Dolton walked on the bridge with intent, and sat in the commander’s chair as Steve and Quin got the greens from Jake to fire up the drives.

Dolton exchanged professional but firm words with the ATC, got the launch window and within minutes the Dream was backing out of the depressurized berth and thundering for stars and black. A hundred thousand went a long way to clearing up some of the Dream’s obligations, but no where near to paying her off.

That, and the purchasing agent had sent him back to Lannor for more of the same. Apparently he had a distribution deal with the worlds’ private starports, and Dolton wasn’t one to pass up an opportunity. Even if it meant landing on the hellish landscape of a near totalitarian regime like Lannor.

For all of its visual dreariness Lannor was clean, and the spartan decentralized population, along with a massive industrial base, kept the place relatively crime free. Still, Dolton had to deal with more of the local lord’s hooded and monastic dutiful servant class with those polite smiles.

Dolton wasn’t one to be suspicious, Steve Haller and his Whispering Sky relics not-withstanding, but the whole thing had the ring of a scheme of some kind. He had to be honest with himself, and not mince words; had they tried to use him as a drug mule? Only instead of some hard mind destroying drug it was slaves, and female slaves to boot and all that entailed. But … Dolton took a moment to burn a thought or two … for a noble? Maybe on some destitute world that only had a steam tech license from the Imperium, but a high tech world with access to the best life had to offer? It didn’t make sense.

Still, he sent a formal complaint to the local capitol through the X-boat route, and waited for the daily boat to arrive before sending it off—just in case his communications were being monitored.

The trip home was just as noisy and uneventful with a newer version of the old combat-chess game. This time instead of some medieval warfare between pieces using swords, maces and whatever else, this one had been updated with wrestling moves, complete with the animated pieces fist pumping and edging on the computer generated crowd to cheer for him. Quin, as usual, got the better of Steve. But Steve held a grudge and wanted to prove that he could take the kid out and that all this time he was just luring him into a false sense of security.

Jake and Holly skimmed the spilt cleaner off the loss column on the manifest, and gave the engineering section a good scrub. When all was said and done the engineering spaces were cleaner than the galley, which wasn’t saying much at times given the cooking assignments didn’t always pan out. Quin, in spite of being a hot shot navigator and copilot, was, in many ways, still the immature teenager who couldn’t clean his room, and often slept on the floor of his cabin. And he was equally organized when it was his turn to cook. Ergo the cleaner. Dolton had come down on him more than once to keep his cabin clean, and wouldn’t let him sack out on the common area sofa in front of the holo entertainment center. He was an employee in spite of the informal and good natured relationship Dolton fostered among his crew.

Lennor was different the second time around. A type-T intercepted the Dream, and a crew of vaccsuited troopers casually scanned the type-R.

“My compliments, Captain, on keeping your ship so clean. It’s virtually spotless.”

Dolton resisted the urge to sheepishly grin and make a quip. In the end he kept his usual business reserve and good customer service front. “Well, it was more serendipitous than anything.”

The commander, perhaps in his mid thirties, looked at Dolton confused, “Serin-what?”

Dolton politely smiled, “It’s not important.”

The young officer went over his note pad, scrolled through the various scan results, and looked at Dolton with a professional navy smile, “You’re clear to go. Just a warning though, the sector duke is thinking of requiring a class-three license for hauling hazardous chemicals. That would include the solvent you were carrying.”

Dolton was emotionless, but his tone betrayed his bewilderment, “For cleaner?”

“There’ve been a few spills over the recent years,” the officer explained, “and native species on a variety of worlds are said to have suffered by way of damage to their environment and overall ecology. Anyway, I think that’s about it. We’ll detach, and then move away. Give us five minutes, and then you can go ahead and restart your main drives.”

Dolton gave a muted “okay”, but didn’t thank them. When he was a young cargo officer he often saw various captains he served under put on the pretense of being kind or just polite and nice to guard and navy units that had boarded their vessels. It didn’t make a difference how nice or polite anyone was to the professional soldier, they would arrest or kill you regardless of how fond they were of you. It all depended on circumstance. And so it was that Dolton waited for the airlock to seal before shaking his head and going back to the bridge.

Lennor hadn’t changed in two weeks. Not that Dolton had expected it to, but why he was boarded and inspected on this particular occasion only raised his suspicions that much more. If he didn’t need the money so bad, the parents of Vreeland’s young noble paying him a cool one-hundred kay not withstanding, he would have left the subsector weeks ago for greener pastures.

And, sure enough, once the Dream had landed and was sealed up in her translucent geodesic dome of a starship berth, he was scanned again—ship and crew both. Dolton let out a mild curse in front of everyone, letting it be known that his suspicions were more than just a little aroused, and that he wondered what was really going on between Lennor and Vreeland.

Both worlds were diametrically opposed in terms of society, but both were essentially the same size and run by nobles in spite of Vreeland being democratic by nature. The dim red dwarf of Lennor and sub-giant yellow star that was Vreeland’s sun, seem to artistically and allegorically fit the mood of both worlds, but whatever political differences there were, they still had a pair of nobles that, to Dolton, seemed to be clandestinely at odds with one another.

At least that’s how he read it. Whatever was really going on he couldn’t say, only guess at. And guessing political intrigue was not a hobby of his. Firstly because it wasn’t his field of expertise, and secondly, because of the first, he was bad at it.

And, as if that weren’t enough, right before the shipment was about to be loaded onto the dream, another platoon of security personnel arrived. This time comprised of Imperial security. Normally it would be battledressed marines, but these were shore patrol. New recruits fresh off the latest transport from the looks of it. At least they weren’t the weren’t the house huscarles. But again, more climbing, more scanning, more questions, and when all was said and done, a clean bill of health.

But it didn’t stop there. Once beyond orbit Dolton and the Dream were stopped yet again, only this time for a drive inspection, requiring the Dream to fire up her drives and run them at full burn for several minutes, which ate up a lot of fuel. Dolton was about to order Steve and Quin to take her down again to fuel up, but instead ordered a microjump the system’s smaller jovian body that had a near earth sized moon covered in nitrogen snow. This time it was snow shovels and a the ship’s mostly never used hand crank pump to suck up nitrogen slush, and pump it into the Dream’s fuel tanks. Jake and Holly didn’t mind the work out with snow shovels, but Quin and Steve weren’t particularly happy. Especially Steve since he was the actual pilot and senior to Quin. But, blue and white below freezing crystals would do wonders and give life giving fuel for the high energy converters that took chemistry and physics and turned off world liquid frozen crystal into superheated energy.

And when Steve started to protest too much, Dolton merely replied, “It build characters.”
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Travels with Blue Ghost; musings of a knight of the Imperium.
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