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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 29th, 2017, 02:15 PM
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Post Down A Peg

Down A Peg
Traveller5
By The Pakkrat

Captain Kakhskha knuckled her eyes as she stepped through the iris valve providing her ingress to the Bridge of the Gatherer. She had just woken from a good sleep and a favorable dream she knew not to share with polite company. Well, maybe with her friend from Nouon, Lt. Ardell.

“Captain on deck,” announced the same Lt. Ardell, a deep gray, female, Gvegh Vargr. The Marine was both formal and light-hearted about the announcement. “Good morning, boss.”

“Morning,” mumbled the groggy Kakhskha. “Report.”

“Captain, we are on final approach to Roethoeegaeaegz Orbital, or rather we were,” reported Third Officer Dedhekhzgourz or 'Dead-Hex' as everyone on board called the Astrogator-SensOp. The mottled, gray-and-black male Vargr from the Infinity League rose from the comfy helm chair, the prized seating on the Bridge of the Gatherer. Stepping to the left of the helm and pointing an index claw at the fifty-something years old Vargr, Distinguished Professor Zannun, the Astrogator continued with, “We are in distant orbit over the mainworld. The Professor seems to have rubbed the locals the wrong way on Comms, Captain.”

Kakhskha looked to the thick black-furred male who nervously held the cordless headset in both claws. Professor Zannun hailed from Serue (Knoellighz 1221), a non-aligned world just Coreward of the Ascendancy Pact, Kakhkha’s polity. Serue was full of high technology and was the undisputed capital of TL-15 innovations in the sector. Such a reputation did not help Zannun’s Charisma even if he was a brilliant and award-winning Scholar.

The eldest crew Vargr aboard the Gatherer explained. “They, I mean, the squadron’s system defense Admiral wants the female commander on the horn. She was insistent, ma’am.” Then Prof. Zannun offered up the headset. He looked positively mortified and glad to surrender the Comms.

Kakhskha looked out the forward viewport then confirmed what she saw by looking to her left at the Sensors boards at the Astrogation-SensOp Console. Four Vargr frigates at 800 tons each and a fifth whose hot-spot was still cooling were within attack range. “What did you say, Zannun?”

“I gave a standard hail, a request for a docking vector to the Orbital Traffic Control, our route and our credentials, Captain. They looked put out that I was on Comms. Then they started making demands. The first was to speak directly to the ‘lady in command’, which I gather is you, ma’am.”

Kakhskha received the headset and settled it over her head and in her beige ears. The boom mic and tiny camera scanned her head, facials and upper shoulders before she keyed the channel open. Then she turned to face forward. “Recovery to you, Admiral,” she greeted. “This is Captain Kakhskha of the independent SJL-3A32 Gatherer. Is there a problem?”

The signal was scratchy this morning, likely due to the flares from the system’s Type L Brown Dwarf 'Afterthought' which did little more than fuzz up Comms signals. Kakhskha didn't believe the frigates had CommPlus tech aboard their budgeted local defense. An image of a medium-brown, female Vargr in a crisp, local system defense uniform of Roethoeegaeaegz appeared on screen. Rather than some male Admiral of the Ascendancy Pact Navy, Kakhskha was addressing a local commander of the frigates.

“Recovery. Your Comms officer needs to learn better protocol, Captain,” said the Admiral matter-of-factly. “I am System Admiral Aksdeks. Your flightpath is being re-routed. Your orders are to proceed to Roethoeegaeaegz Downs directly and dock for inspection and accept conveyance awaiting you. I have the highest authority orders on this, passed to me from the priestesses of Starport Warden, System Defense, and Planetary Affairs who claim they are on orders from much higher up the food chain.”

With five frigates breathing down on the 300-ton Surveyor, Kakhskha was in no position to disobey the orders. However, she did try a logic and placating tactic, “Admiral, as you well know there is no Extra-territoriality at Downs and I have non-citizen males aboard. If we descend and land, their rights as spacers may become impinged. Are we under arrest and if so, what are charges?”

“Technically, yes, Captain,” stiffened the Admiral on the screen. “This is an arrest, but not for law-breaking. There are no charges, but the orders stand. My Comms officer will supply you with a cleared vector and descent to Roethoeegaeaegz Downs, acknowledge.” There would be no further argument. The Admiral had Superiority, a threat of action from the frigates, commonality of culture and law of the mainworld-system and yet remained formal and had a modicum of politeness. Was she bluffing with the frigates?

Kakhskha’s salute was a Merchant’s right claw, palm to her chest where it met her neck at the collar bones. The salute acknowledged speaking from the heart with wisdom. “Acknowledged. Recovery.”

“Recovery,” Admiral Aksdeks answered the salute with her own military version, a fist, before her image winked out, the channel going dead.

The awkward silence on the Bridge was palpable. Dead-Hex, the mottled and now muddled Astrogator broke it first with, “Captain, if we – us males, I mean - go down there, is what you said about Extra-territoriality true?”

“Who wants to get married and who wants to be a consort?” asked Capt. Kakhskha with a plan in mind. “Pick one, guys, before we touch down. Steward Zannun, please advise the High and Economy passengers, especially the males, of the situation and relay our apologies. There is a copy of Recovery on file. I suggest everyone read as much as they can before landing if you are unfamiliar with it. Thankfully, we scored no sleepers this time. We will be touching down mainworld Roethoeegaeaegz instead of Orbital. Zannun, call Orbital and advise our contact for the Unprocessed Bulk Minerals that we are sorry for being re-routed, but they will find their freight in our docking hangar at Downs. We may have to eat the loss if they call us on breach of contract. They can talk to the Admiral if they still have complaint.”

“This is going to get interesting,” mused Lt. Ardell, the timber wolf gray as she looked back and forth between Professor Zannun and Third Officer Dead-Hex. She looked predatory.
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Old July 29th, 2017, 03:53 PM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 2

“I feel so exposed dressed in this foppery,” complained Dead-Hex. Though the Marine valkyrie, Lt. Ardell had volunteered to consort the Astrogator-SensOp of the Gatherer, saying something about teaching Dead-Hex about his place come dirtside, he had opted for Captain Kakhskha to claim him either as a husband or a consort. He reached for his issued laz-pistol, intent on finding some place to belt it on over the airy kilt and fluffy-roomy shirt. Though the lower garment kilt was of a more rigid and pleated fabric, the Astrogator felt it too short for his modesty.

Kakhskha slapped Dead-Hex’ claw before he could take up the pistol, “No weapons for males on mainworld Roethoeegaeaegz. Tie your shirt, but loosely, with your neck ruff fully visible. Stop pulling down your kilt.” The colors were obviously unbearable to him, in hues of pink and red, wide vertical stripes above the solid black kilt. Kakhskha thought he looked fetching in the local ensemble. Now if he could only keep his mouth shut long enough for her to get to the bottom of the ‘arrest’. That meant that the males aboard the Gatherer had to look the part, subordinate to the female population of her homeworld. She had brought him the outfit that had belonged to her litter brother and caught him in his stateroom and reading Recovery, the Church and State text of Roethoeegaeaegz. Good, she had thought at his diligence for her orders. “You said ‘married’," she began, "so I brought my own torc that I had meant to present had I ever found Mr. Right. Let me put it on you so everyone can know to keep their paws off.”

The mottled gray male reluctantly leaned forward. He was slightly taller than Kakhskha. She slid the solid silver ring which had a clasp that closed about a sizeable, raw amethyst stone about Dead-Hex’ neck. “There. Congratulations, husband. Don’t go getting any ideas and try not to act like a teenager. We only need to appear married long enough to find out why we were rerouted dirtside.”

“I read that any unclaimed male can be Selected, Kakhskha,” said Dead-Hex with a new familiarity now that the two were ‘married’. “Also, that I get to ride on your Charisma rather than my own.”

“Don’t go overthinking Roethoeegaeaegz, Dead-Hex. Once we lift, I’ll take this off and we need never speak of this experience.” But inwardly, beige-furred Kakhskha was playing scenarios of having the Astrogator-SensOp in one of the expensive reverse-harems of her own. He was headstrong, confident, fiery even. The traits were what caused her wanderlust, the so-called Traveller gene, to activate in her to take to the stars. He might make a good harem alpha male if he could integrate his behaviors to the culture well enough.

“How do I look?” asked Dead-Hex who put his clawed fists to his sides. “Besides like a male prostitute, I mean.”

“There are no prostitutes on this world,” said Kakhskha, “so get that concept out of your head. There’s no need to pay for intimacy here. Just walk behind me with the same authority as me and you’ll make it off this rock. Get me?” The last question was more a command as Captain of the Gatherer than a new mate-wife.

“Yes, ma’am,” answered Dead-Hex.
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Old July 29th, 2017, 04:02 PM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 3

Dead-Hex for his part was glad Kakhskha had dressed him. Confirmation came when he stepped from his stateroom behind her. Across the corridor came his elder and fellow male, Professor Zannun. He was being physically ushered by the valkyrie, Marine Lt. Ardell. Though the male was the strongest of the crew, an effect of living a mainworld life and a high-tech one, Zannun was still too low in Charisma to resist the administrations of the female from Nouon. The fifty-something, black-pelted male was dressed in shimmery, prismatic and gossamer-translucent pantaloons, a blue sash-belt with a knotted excess that dangled down to tasseled ends that nearly touched the deck. His muscular torso was exposed though he wore a sky-blue vest that somehow clashed perfectly with the belt. Over the black ears of the Professor hung ear hoops that were joined by a sparkly chain of silver and beads that was draped forward and over the male’s muzzle bridge to the far ear hoop. He instantly looked miserable as he saw Dead-Hex’ kilted getup.

“Don’t you look positively porcelain, Professor?” noted the Astrogator aloud as they came together on their way to the ship’s Bridge.

“I hope you don’t suffer an updraft, Third Officer,” pouted Zannun. “At least I’m still partially on the market.”

“Hush you two,” said Capt. Kakhskha. “It may seem androgynous to you off-worlders, but this is the norm on Roethoeegaeaegz. Try not to look like confused tourists by condemning each other outside this ship.”

On the Bridge at last, Dead-Hex spotted Lt. Anghal at the helm. He recalled her head injury six years ago, the one that forced her to muster out of the Infinity League Navy. Though she had hand-to-eye coordination, he began to worry that the injury might make her forget a flight detail like the fuel mistake she made last week. He padded carefully in his black kilt over to the Sensors boards.

On the TL-15 Visor, an Improved Stage model, Dead-Hex could see that space fighters were escorting the Gatherer at the seven and four-o’clock positions to either side of the Surveyor. Below the spacecraft was a shadowed ravine, a steep and wide crevice that held civilization along its inner walls. “Contemplator”, the system’s F5, main sequence primary was setting in the local west. Smallcraft came and went from the ravine, appearing from the shadows or becoming obscured by the topography. Yet, the Visor kept Anghal on the transmitted flight corridor and she piloted as well as Capt. Kakhskha. The Astrogator was the best pilot to his own estimation, but for Charisma reasons yielded the helm to the Captain as a peace offering. She was the better SensOp but he noted she preferred to be at the helm controls, physically manipulating the ship. Anghal was acting similarly. Though her resume was hindered by her concentration disability, the chocolate brown female was doing fairly well given the bridges and tubes both vertical and horizontal that crossed the gap of the crevice.

Captain Kakhskha did not usurp the con, Dead-Hex noted. Rather she stood at the Engineering boards, monitoring the deceleration and fuel left in the L-Hyd tanks. The Gatherer had not skimmed fuel yet from either of the local Gas Giants and was likely running on fumes. Though the Collector Drive of Zannun’s still held a full charge, it did not power the ship or its in-system drives. For his part, the Astrogator wanted to say some nicer words, but continued to watch the Sensors for the number above the assigned ravine-side hangar. He wanted to remember where they parked.
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Old July 29th, 2017, 10:34 PM
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Post Down a Peg pt. 4

Captain Kakhskha was dressed in a Merchant’s black dress uniform and glad for it when she laid eyes on the shiny, stretched, black grav limo waiting at the far side of the connecting cargo locks. The outer doors had already rang out their closure before the port side hatch of the Gatherer was opened to allow the disembarkation of the bewildered High and Economy passengers. Rather than let the Steward, Professor Zannun draw strange, off-worlder looks at his new apparel, Kakhskha was on hand to their departure. “Again, as Captain of the Gatherer, we apologize for the inconvenience. We hope you can find a quick commute up to Orbital if the Downs is not your final destination. Thanks for choosing us.”

Kakhskha turned after the last passenger stepped to the hangar deck to see Dead-Hex, the ship’s Astrogator come next to the ship’s airlock.

A female pre-teen passenger asked her female parent, "Dam, why is that male wearing a skirt?"

Dead-Hex was dressed in Kakhskha’s brother’s kilt and pink-red striped shirt. He looked unsure to take the next steps toward the door.

“Come along, husband,” the beige female in black encouraged the Astrogator-SensOp. Beyond the mottled gray male was the valkyrie Marine Lt. Ardell. It was impolite to refer to such a service Vargr as ex-anything.

Ardell stepped forward and pressed behind Dead-Hex. Kakhskha heard her say to the kilted male, “C’mon, Third Officer. It’s a hangar. It’s not going to bite you. Keep moving.” The timber wolf gray was the only armored person in the group. As a former member of the armed services valkyries, Ardell was entitled to wear armor wherever she went as well as carry arms. But today and possibly due to the fact that the ship could not afford the kind of armor the Marine wore in her active service days, Ardell was suit-and-tie in one of the Hazardous Environment Vacc Suits or HEV. It was the heaviest, most armored suit that Professor Zannun could afford the crew back on Serue (Knoellighz 1221). Belted to her side was a laz-pistol that Kakhskha had denied Dead-Hex. Males were not permitted anything other than natural weapons on her homeworld.

“Come along, consort Zannun,” said Lt. Ardell over her armored shoulder at the muscular, thick black-pelted Professor who was adjusting his blue sash belt. “And don’t tug on that. You might get hairy-…oh wait.” She snickered as she rested her gloved right claw on the holstered pistol. Her armored tail wagged her satisfaction.

The off-worlder males were embarrassed to be seen as Roethoeegaeaegz male mate-husbands and consorts while the females were all business. Kakhskha decided to let experience guide Dead-Hex and Zannun. “Anghal will stay behind to watch the ship, search for Economy passengers, freight ops and speculatives on the market.”

“Yes, ma’am,” answered Lt. Anghal, formerly of the Infinity League Navy, another newcomer to Roethoeegaeaegz. She was still dressed in her flight-suit, duty uniform. “Good, luck, guys.” The chocolate brown’s eyes dropped to admire Dead-Hex in his ‘skirt’. A split-second blank look came across her lupine face, but was then she was drawn to affairs back inside the ship.

“Is my tail showing my ass or something?” asked Dead-Hex.

“No,” answered Ardell jokingly with a giggle, “Your mouth does that already.”

Kakhskha pointed to the black grav limo visible through the transparent polymer cargo lock doors, “Our ride. Let’s look professional, but keep alert. Guys fall in behind us and speak only when spoken to directly. We’re gonna find out why we were ‘arrested’ and diverted planetside. But to do that I need your cooperation and obedience at a moment’s notice. If all the cards play right, you’ll come away with a greater understanding of a real matriarchy that the Lieutenant and I have lived with all our lives.

“They have this kind of clothing on Nouon too?” asked Dead-Hex to Lt. Ardell.

“Oh yes,” smiled the valkyrie. “Sometimes even less than that underground as Nouon is a Desert planet even if cold on the temperate, surface latitudes. You’ll fit in nicely here, Dead-Hex, once you learn that it’s not as bad as rumors and misconceptions color this world.”

“Hop to, guys,” ordered Kakhskha as the group turned to the waiting conveyance.
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Incoming Code: tc 23- 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: Roethoeegaeaegz (Knoellighz 1726)

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Old July 29th, 2017, 11:58 PM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 5

The grav limo ride from Roethoeegaeaegz Downs was smooth as Kakhskha admired the interior of the flyer. Dead-Hex and Zannun, (she found herself dropping their titles mentally more often just then), were noses to the sealed polymer view panes to gaze at the vast caverns and the metropolitan sprawl of the Startown. They pointed and watched as the scenery changed to the next cavern housing the planet’s central mag-rail transit hub.

“I saw they have vast solar power fields just before we dipped below the ravine’s surface,” wondered Zannun aloud. “With a second star, even if it is just a Brown Dwarf, they must have a near continuous source of power, even if it is only supplemental to fusion power plants.”

“Oh, we use gravity generators too,” added Kakhskha. “The moons pull on sensitive generators and it makes for a tertiary but renewable power source. At four billion population and the industry that pervades Roethoeegaeaegz, we need all that power for environmental too. Remember that this is a Vacuum world. We have survival needs too. I just wish I had remembered to load water or a ton of liquid oxygen to bring home. It makes for a welcome homecoming.” The Merchant Captain chewed a thumbclaw. Why arrest us?

“Have you seen any males yet?” asked Dead-Hex who too was scanning the avenues below the speeding limo. “Where are your males, Captain?”
Kakhskha looked to Lt. Ardell who in turn leveled her eyes at the Merchant.

Ardell spoke then, “I’m from Nouon, remember? It’s not my tale to tell, ma’am.”

The two, well-dressed males sat back to regard Kakhskha. She began a brief history lesson of her homeworld.

“Long ago, just decades before Roethoeegaeaegz was annexed by the fast-growing Ascendancy Pact, our local economy collapsed and civil war broke out in all the warrens. Males were killing each other in droves. Only when the females stood in the streets and displayed the depleted male population ratios to the remaining males, did they stop to listen and halt the bloodshed. To save our world, the Church of the new Recovery stepped in to help bail out the government. But there was a catch – the complete surrender of State to the Church. The two melded under the capitalist oligarchy of priestesses. That too was a minor setback to an even higher zenith, guys. From the priestesses arose the First Matron of Roethoeegaeaegz. The Church implemented the Recovery. Cities were in ruins, more than one warren was breached to the outer vacuum of surface space. Females took up the majority of power here and from the ashes of the Golden Age came the Recovery you might have read about in the ship’s file of the same name.”

“I didn’t get that far,” admitted Zannun. “I was touching on laws and culture instead.”

Dead-Hex dipped his muzzle abashedly, “I was drawn to the parts about the reverse-harems they have here and Selection.”

“You would,” harrumphed Lt. Ardell. “And don’t call them ‘reverse’ here. To the Captain and some extent, myself, there’s nothing adverse about the practice of keeping males in splendorous harems to do their duty to the re-balancing of the gender ratio.”

“How bad did the male population here sink?” asked Zannun the Professor from Serue.

“Almost critical,” answered Kakhskha. “Around 75% female above the remainder of males. Measures had to be taken that we never return to such a loss. Weapons were forbidden males. Females became the paramilitary paladins and the Marine valkyries like Lt. Ardell. You can tell them apart by their insignia if not their Battle Dress load-outs. The males are allowed to squire to the armed forces or sign on as medics. However, all the males here are kept from battlefield assignments and dangerous theatres of action. We have some archaeologists combing the rubble as part of the Recovery. It was very bad times.”

The black, stretched limo began to descend toward the mag-rail hub. “So, are the males, y’know, cowed under?” asked Dead-Hex who Kakhskha was certain was taking the history of her homeworld in the wrong direction.

“Our males aren’t slaves of reproduction, Dead-Hex,” explained the Merchant Captain. “They have careers too. They work, live and willingly and lawfully help with the Recovery.” When she saw the Astrogator’s facial disbelief she added, “Our Matron has said to the Pact – and I quote – ‘We aren’t sexist because our males are not strong. We are sexist because they were too strong. And now they are too few.' This is Recovery, not slavery, guys. There are options to being Selected, marriage being one of them.” She accented the last sentence by pointing to the silver torc she had put on the mottled gray pelt of Dedhekhsgourz, so they could pretend he was her mate-husband. “Don’t take what you see on the surface as abject subjugation. It is an honor to be Selected between career terms, not some unwanted chore or enslavement.”

“But-,” interrupted Zannun. “We haven’t seen hardly any males yet. Where are they?”

Lt. Ardell put her armored gauntlet on the black-pelted male’s shoulder. “They’re either working, on household errands, doing online business or their duties in the rather posh harems of their consorts. Remember that for every four females you see out there, you’ll be lucky to catch a male out in the open who isn’t busy tending to his mate’s household. We work too, us females. I was in the armed forces before my leg took some shrapnel. The injury wasn’t covered enough by insurance, so I can’t afford my own harem. It is what it is, right?”

Kakhskha explained further, “But us ladies can band together to fund a harem if we agree on stipulations that the males can adhere to in earnest. Look. We’re almost to the station. Let’s talk on the mag-lev.”
__________________
Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- 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: Roethoeegaeaegz (Knoellighz 1726)

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Old July 30th, 2017, 09:39 AM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 6

109-1105 Roethoeegaeaegz (Knoellighz 1726) A5009ED-C Hi In Na Va An C:1927 Cp Pz Amber/Red (gender)

The sealed, mag-lev train ride was almost as smooth as the flight through the warrens. Kakhskha remembered the high-speed train system on her homeworld. It connected the various surface environment domes to the warren cities below the surface. The newer arcologies were also terminals to the network. She recalled that she grew up in a Pack that had pooled resources for a joined cluster of apartment homes in One-West, an arcology just beyond the reach of the train terminal. The Merchant hoped that in her 16 years of free trading perhaps mag-rail service had finally been extended to her home just beyond the broken lands downslope of Downs Plateau. In her youth, she had to commute via grav car to the train station for a ride to the university.

But instead of west, today’s train glided east on its track. The barely perceptible shimmy of the joined cars could only be felt by those who had not ridden a mag-lev train before. Everyone else had become so used to it that it was termed “train legs”. Dead-Hex and Zannun were asleep in the sleeping car, but Lt. Ardell refused to lie down and instead was zonked out in a reclined chair and still dressed in her HEV. Marines don’t turn off and they can fall out almost immediately. The valkyrie Ardell was no different.

Having gotten plenty of sleep just before their arrest, Kakhskha was still awake when the train car’s end door opened and an armored female paladin, a member of the law enforcement corps entered. She appeared as all other armored forces of Roethoeegaeaegz. Battle Dress, equipment attached by powerful magnets though her helmet was rolled back, “suit-and-tie” style. The only difference in this particular female’s load-out was her preferred longarm. The weapon was a Gunthekaz ModVhAScf-8, a very heavy combat shotgun. It was meant for heavy infantry in urban settings, such as the close ranges of patrolling inside a mag-lev train. The weapon was cheap to manufacture, easy to tote with its torso straps and had both flash suppression and a silencer attachment. It was a combat model for a standardized police force.

The paladin scanned the train car’s inhabitants until she locked eyes with Kakhskha. Then with a series of gestures in a combination constructed language and Merchant’s S-lang, or slang, the female signed, You come deal now. Her body paralanguage, even through the thick armor made the sentence in to an imperative command that Kakhskha translated as, You will come with me now to negotiate. But since there was no given sign for commerce, Kakhskha took the con-lang in Merchant slang as a command to follow the paladin alone and quietly.

Kakhskha nodded and rose quietly. She passed Lt. Ardell who was now snoring in her HEV. Arriving at the end of the train car, Kakhskha saw another sign. No weapon. The Merchant was to surrender her sidearm, the laz-pistol before she would be taken to the ‘deal’. Nodding again, Kakhskha carefully lifted her weapon, checked its Off setting and the safety before presenting it handle first to the para-soldier. This was a ground infantry female and had the load-out of an Army career though on her homeworld, it amounted to a police state and paramilitary law enforcement. Kakhskha then gestured back to the paladin. Ready.

The armored female looked Kakhskha up and down then waved her to follow. The two moved toward the back of the train and passed through three cars before stopping at the next. The soldier opened the door then stood aside to allow Kakhskha to pass. Beyond the door was a private car that spoke of more money than Kakhskha could imagine. She had heard of such train cars that the fantastic rich owned and paid for inclusion on trains. This unit was somehow familiar, perhaps from a broadcast production.

Beyond the door and inside the next train car stood four armored paladins, four priestesses in maroon robes, four male squires tending the car and the soldiers. But behind the desk in the middle of the car sat the Matron of Roethoeegaeaegz. She wore a formal suit and had two pins, one for the mainworld and a partner pin emblem of the Ascendancy Pact.

Caught off-guard, Kakhskha could only salute her Merchant’s palm claw to her collar bones and nod her muzzle deeper than normal in a bow. This was Sangthaghlla Thazdhoth, the third Matron of Roethoeegaeaegz. The four priestesses remained standing behind the seated Matron.

“Welcome, ma’am,” whispered the closest squire. “The Matron bids you sit down and be comfortable. We apologize for the abrupt inconvenience this has caused. Please?”

The beige Vargr Merchant could only nod as she kept her attention on the female Vargr she thought she would never get to meet.

Matron Sangthaghlla, according to her public profile, was a valkyrie in her own time and by rising through the priestess ranks as a Functionary career, managed to muscle her way for the Roethoeegaeaegz Representative to be elevated to one of three Ascendancy Pact Magistrates. This put Sangthaghlla in the position to designate the new Representative. She was older than Kakhskha remembered from the Matron’s public announcements and speeches, but had the same intensity of a former armed forces veteran. Yet, age gray in the female’s ear fur and on her otherwise deep gray muzzle under her nose was beginning to show. The Matron silently gestured to an empty chair across the desk from her. With a free hand, she gestured in the same Merchant’s slang.

The walls have ears. Translated to Kakhskha, it meant that the Matron would not be talking with her voice. On her desk was a small file of printed hardcopy inside of which were several sheets of Matron’s stationary. It was originally folded in three, possibly carried on the person of the Matron.

Captain Kakhskha sat down immediately, adding a nod to acknowledge the off-hand gesture. Kakhskha could feel this female’s exuding Charisma filling the train car and felt some commonality that Matron Sangthaghlla could gesture in Merchant slang. Thank you, was all she could think to respond. For though the Matron’s profile never spoke of the mental powers termed psionics it was an inherited reputation that every Matron somehow possessed Vargr-specific psychic powers. For her part as a simple Merchant Captain, Kakhskha could not tell either way and went with the assumption that this Charismatic female across the desk could read her mind just by looking at her. She was nervous and exhilarated at the same time.

“Tea or some other refreshment, ma’am?” offered one of the squires who accented the request by laying a tray of snacks at the corner of the Matron’s desk. “You are a guest. Please feel at home here.”

“W-water please,” was all Kakhskha could answer, her eyes still locked with the gray irises of Matron Sangthaghlla.
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  #7  
Old July 30th, 2017, 11:03 AM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 7

She had read the previously folded stationary that Matron Sangthaghlla had pushed across the desk. Leaving her index claw on the hardcopy was a subtle sign in Merchant S-lang, or slang, that they were to be returned to her after being read. Kakhskha had acknowledged with her light beige muzzle nodding at the remnant sign before the female released the papers.

The hardcopy read:

Welcome, Capt. Kakhskha. I dictate this document in confidentiality. I regret the inconvenience for both of us as I would have rather been able to speak to you directly. But time is a luxury I do not have and the details of this document are sensitive. Please be patient with me as I have need of you, your crew and your special starship.

Let me get straight to the business at hand though I regret deeply the arrest of you and your crew. In another time, I might have had time to invite you to my office or made time to shuttle up to Roethoeegaeaegz Orbital to meet with you. There are changes happening in Knoellighz Sector and this office, my office is in need of answers brought home earlier than all other polities, worlds, peoples. You are in a special position of acquiring those answers, Capt. Kakhskha. Let me explain.

Last year, the so-called Crystal Wall of Knoellighz, the Zhodani Consulate’s Trailing border in this sector looked like this.


The next sheaf of stationary displayed a printed image of the four Spinward subsectors of Knoellighz. A thick, vibrant blue line trailed from Rimward up through the subsectors and continuing off the map. Kakhskha remembered the map as she had been the crew Vargr to plan routes for her ship’s free trading and surveying operations.

However, I have reliable sources that are indicating that the Crystal Wall has been retracted, removed further Spinward and out of both Riadr and Etlieejibia subsectors. This retraction in effect removes the full naval protection of the Zhodani Consulate and their claimed borders from worlds inhabited by Zhodani who are now regarded as “Client State worlds”. These worlds must now rely on their individual system defenses, if this retraction of the borders is to be believed. Such a power vacuum at this early juncture is valuable information in terms of ‘aryu’. As a Merchant and a free trader, I know you are familiar with the unofficial term for Resource Units a single solar system world can produce.

The Zhodani Consulate has subtly withdrawn its protections from two full subsectors of worlds. According to records, more than several of these worlds are colonies that failed the Zhodani criteria for Absorption, causing populations to be removed and reassigned to nearby worlds or recalled completely to the Consulate proper. This next map shows the borders as our intelligence community believes it to be.

The third sheet of stationary displayed a revised map where the blue border of the Zhodani Consulate turned Spinward, exiting Knoellighz Sector just outside Etlieejibia subsector. There were an additional three worlds of Yeplzhaf subsector that had been retracted, left outside the new border.

As can be seen, this is an opportunity for a land-grab, Capt. Kakhskha, one that could lead the entire sector into a rush for worlds and plummet us into a multi-polity war, true war as opposed to the Quiet Wars we have been conducting. All that is needed is the proper amount of Charisma for the Vargr of this sector to notice this new change and expose the Zhodani retraction.

Additionally, we have for the past two years heard reports that fleets and populace for worlds are shifting Rimward in both Knoellighz and in Itvikiastaf, though we still do not know why. Trade in Spinward Knoellighz is fading and if the Crystal Wall is indeed collapsing in Riadr and Etlieejibia, Vargr interests will likely pounce if they can muster the forces needed.

Before a sector war breaks out, Capt. Kakhskha, I need you, your crew and your very special Surveyor to travel through Serue, its non-aligned ally Souo and cross the former Crystal Wall all the way to Zhiblchins (Knoellighz 0321) under the guise of new business opportunities. While there, I want you to observe everything your team can about the people, the movements of populations, which worlds are abandoned and the state of armed forces there. This may read like an impossibility, Capt. Kakhskha, but I can turn to no other class of starship.

You see, any military vessels will be stopped at the former Crystal Wall at worlds such as Izsiqrl and Zditviapl, once inside the Wall. Larger liners and bulk haulers will be suspect too as carrying hidden troops or military hardware. However, a smaller free trader Merchant crew can still penetrate deeply enough to gain ingress to the Capital of Yeplzhaf on an intelligence gathering mission while under the guise of simple commerce.
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Old July 30th, 2017, 11:11 AM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 7a

Kakhskha looked up and signed to Matron Sangthaghlla. You know about our collecting drive. Merchant slang had its limits and the Captain of the Gatherer hoped that it would translate to indicate Professor Zannun’s Collector Drive.

On the nose, signed Santhaghlla. She pointed to the next sheaf of paper.

Capt. Kakhskha, your ship was spotted three weeks ago in Khodhothgvouks by one of my system defense frigates on tour at the Coreward border of the Pact. Your final vector before jump was recorded not toward Kaeuelldhuegh nor Ozdhoe. Rather your crew jumped to empty parsec 1524. The frigate Thouvarzh jumped ahead of you, to Aesrroeth and arrived to report your ship’s capabilities, the perfect vessel I need to make this probe into the remnant Zhodani Consulate in Yeplzhaf subsector. With two available Jump-2 ranges, you can leave Izsiqrl with questions as you jump to parsec 0722 or 0723 then with your remaining fuel enter Apla for skimming. Apla, my intelligence tells me, is being evacuated for failure to establish proper Zhodani colony populace numbers. Additionally, its corporate government has been lax patrols, its Law Level plummeting to lawlessness. This is a general effect of the Consulate withdrawing its border even if done in secrecy. The Zhodani do not want us to know about the retraction of the Crystal Wall of Knoellighz. Polities like the Democracy of Greats, we of the Ascendancy Pact who dislike the psionic Humaniti and a handful of sub-polities and pocket states who would salivate over the abandoned worlds and any remnant tech, cities and infrastructure there for the taking.

But Psychohistory tells us that the Zhodani do nothing without a plan. Hence, I want you and your ship to penetrate all the way to Zhiblchins and learn why this retraction has happened. We see only effects and are kept from the causes of this new change in Knoellighz Sector.

You, as a Merchant, might ask what compensation is there for you in this mission I charge you with, Capt. Kakhskha. In return for this valuable intelligence you can provide me, I will influence the Representatives and our Magistrate to granting Serue a respite before the Ascendancy Pact commits to invading and annexing the highest Tech Level world in the sector. You and your crew should be aware that we in the Pact are the most able and ready to take Serue by force of economics, military might and political clout now that the Zhodani are pulling back further from Engakhs and Irrarrdhang Subsectors. They will not be able to respond and help Serue who still think they have a non-aggression treaty with everyone around them.

Serue believes that their high-tech defenses are sufficient to defend their think-tanks, labs and cities. While they do have Deep Meson Guns and a well defended Highport, what they lack are sheer numbers. The Pact can field more than four fleets to descend upon Serue directly from the Naval Base at Khodhothgvouks. Without the Zhodani to back the non-aligned Serue, it is ours for the taking before we consider which worlds Humaniti is abandoning to Spinward. The Democracy of Greats is too far away to lend aid in the non-aggression treaty as well.

I offer mercy upon Serue. An invasion would truly destroy what innovations the Serueans can offer at their four-year summits. I too don’t want to see them crushed. I can delay such a costly battle over a single system if you and your crew will perform a single mission for me and bring back your gathered data. We in the Ascendancy Pact do not trust the Zhodani and want dearly to know what they are truly up to in this clandestine retraction.

For mercy’s sake, please consider my offer, Capt. Kakhskha. Thank you for your time, citizen.
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Incoming Code: tc 23- 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: Roethoeegaeaegz (Knoellighz 1726)

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Old July 30th, 2017, 12:39 PM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 8

What about deal cheating? The Merchant slang flashed from Capt. Kakhskha’s claws. Deal cheaters had a few different connotations, but given the Zhodani, she felt Matron Sangthaghlla could pick out her meaning.

A done deal, signed the Matron. She snapped her claw digits wordlessly. One of four priestesses stepped to the desk and laid out five, folded items of clothing. Five desert shemagh or head scarf wraps were on the desk. The Matron casually lifted and unfolded the first one in reach. She opened it so that a silvery mesh lining was visible to Kakhskha. A small battery power cell was displayed, nestled in the hem of one corner. Sangthaghlla considered the garment as if she were shopping at a clothing store. Window shopping. The items did not truly interest her on the surface, but Kakhskha could see that under the façade, the Matron was communicating without words.

Compensation incentive, signed the Matron. Enjoy your product. The desert scarves were to be given to Kakhskha and her crew, since the Surveyor crew matched the five shemagh. So, the deal cheaters cannot cheat.

“From Serue?” asked the Merchant Captain aloud.

The priestess who had stepped up to offer the head scarves spoke in answer as the Matron busied herself with a schedule itinerary. “Yes, and they work just like Psi-Shield Helmets, an innovation gleaned from a design seen in Gvurrdon Sector to Rimward not too long ago.” The mag-lev train was slowing to the final dome terminus, Kakhskha could feel.

The beige female considered for a few minutes as the Matron looked at her wrist chronometer. Who wore those anymore? Kakhskha was running out of time. She stood up from the chair by putting a claw on the dark cherry red wood of the desk.

“For Serue, Matron,” she acknowledged and accented her answer, again with a Merchant’s salute and a muzzle nod-bow. The shemagh were put into her claws by the squires.

“Have a nice day, citizen,” concluded Matron Sangthaghlla who stood up from her chair and retrieved the hardcopy from the desk. Folding them neatly, the older female tucked them back inside her business jacket. Thank you, she signed before leaving the office car of the train out the opposite door. She was both preceded and followed by her entourage of armor and robes.

The paladin who had conducted Capt. Kakhskha to this strange and overwhelming matronage saw the Merchant back to her seat where the two had met. “Have a nice day, citizen,” was all she said. At that, the armored female continued her patrol of the train. Until the mag-lev train came to a full stop at the terminus, Kakhskha’s heart refused to stop pounding in her chest.
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Old July 30th, 2017, 08:00 PM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 9

Dead-Hex loped awkwardly from the train and into the terminal. His kilt was rubbing him the wrong way this post-sleep, given that it was made of a tough fabric, rigid and pleated. Yet, what bothered him more was that Kakhskha’s tail hadn’t wagged, not once since he woke up from the sleeping car. She was bothered by something and when a native of Roethoeegaeaegz was bothered on her homeworld, Dead-Hex was feeling irritated from both ends. Irritated that he’d been denied his sidearm.

Beside him walked the miserable Professor Zannun. He had no less than three propositions from the sleeping car, across the platform and into the terminal.

“How much for the tall, dark and handsome one?” asked one brazen female to the armored Lt. Ardell who strode before the Gvegh Vargr from Serue (Knoellighz 1221). Though he was taller and more muscular, Zannun lacked the Charisma to stand his ground at the females passing close enough to undress him with their eyes. It was bad enough that his translucent and gossamer pantaloons were shimmering in the light of Afterthought, the system’s Brown Dwarf, the reddish light causing his loose folds to glow bright and prismatic red. It drew the attention of the females. He was turning heads and causing tongues to loll out.

Secretly, Dead-Hex was getting envious of the muscular Scholar. Why hadn’t any of the ladies stared their googly eyes at him? Was marriage such a boundary here? For the Professor’s part, he was almost hiding behind the armored HEV worn by the valkyrie ahead of him.

“Oh my,” said one light brown female standing in the terminal. “How much, Marine?” she asked Lt. Ardell. “I have a place with a wonderful view in the mountains-”

“Can it, sister,” defended Ardell. “I’m from Nouon and he’s from much further.”

The Captain and the Medic were protecting the two off-worlder males. Dead-Hex smiled inwardly. He felt himself blush under his mottled gray and black facial fur. So this was what it was like to be cat-called and whistled at and to be marched in public, on display. He imagined such becoming a distraction and a nuisance each year after coming of age here on Roethoeegaeaegz. The thought began to germinate into a fate of becoming a possession instead of a respected mate.

“Look!” exclaimed Professor Zannun who pointed across Dead-Hex’ line of sight. “Another male.” And it was true. The bejeweled and bangle-ed male came within thirty meters as he loped with dignity and upright stance behind a female in a business suit and draped with a long trenchcoat of black. He wore a flowing robe that was loose and caught by the zephyrs of his pace. Wide sleeves displayed the various bracelets and charms on each.

“He’s certainly got some bling on him,” noted Dead-Hex.

Captain Kakhskha looked at the passing male and said, “He’s married, so keep to yourselves, guys. Look at his left forearm. A solid, wide band of gold with the oval onyx. Don’t gawk, keep moving.” Dead-Hex saw the mated male behind the crisp and formalwear female two steps before him. The Astrogator had to skip a little to catch up to the Captain as the foursome reached yet another grav limo not so posh this time.

“He doesn’t wear a torc?” asked Dead-Hex as he caught up to his ‘wife’.

“It’s the solid metal that matters,” explained the native female. “Torcs, bracers, armbands, even ankle bands, if they are significantly solid and often featuring no less than a semi-precious stone are all marks of the married. Those, like you Dead-Hex, are as they say, ‘off the market’. Rings and lighter jewelry are indicators of successful years of service to the Recovery, often gifts from the female they have blessed with litters. Courtship to coitus, a male’s reputation and next career term can hinge on his ability to perform. Fail and you might as well muster out upon release from a harem.”

Lt. Ardell nodded in agreement to Capt. Kakhskha as she opened the limo door and waved the two males into the interior. “Mind your head, consort. Those ear hoops were my brother’s.”

Despite the warning which distracted the Professor anyway, the black-pelted male still met head to the frame of the grav vehicle’s door. “Ouch. Sorry.”

The loaded grav limo lifted from the final mag-lev terminal and glided almost nap-of-planet east.
__________________
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Incoming Code: tc 23- 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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