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Old July 13th, 2019, 09:39 AM
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The Thuegueus Charter
By The Pakkrat

Begin Captain’s Log:
Hi, uh, my name is Ri Dzuerrgksungkorokoutue. It’s a mouthful, right? So just call me Ri, as pronounced like rye. I’m the Captain-Owner of the Thuegueus, pronounced THEW-Gyoo-us and is Logaksu for a species of hardy tree found throughout the Vargr Extents. She’s a 200dT Vargr Trader I inherited from my Pack. The Alpha selected me to receive it. The remainder of the Pack pushed me out the door for being the “chosen one”. I’m from the Dzarrgh Federate a very loose and free-trade polity on the coreward border of the Third Imperium in Corridor Sector. It’s several days past Holiday here on Khouth (Corridor 0104).



I just took on a Charter that will upgrade the Thuegueus with a single passenger stateroom to be used by the chartering High Passenger. I’m logging all of this as I go, so don’t expect anything special to come of this Charter. So, if you’re reading this, don’t expect big, climactic or even remotely exciting. I just want to get this long-distance Charter over with and get paid.

I am from Tuerrg (Provence 0428). So is our “Jack” named Zaksfaerrgtsen Gnirsukkungaerrdokh (another mouthful - so we just call him Jack as a nickname), a hard-luck case of a Loner-Merchant who never made it past Deckhand. But he’s capable of anything and willing to dare more than that to be a part of my crew. I’ve placed Jack on the ship as the Chief Medical and as a Gunner. He can be a layabout, but he has come through for me in less-than-legal modalities.

Me? Oh yeah. I’m the Chief Engineer, which is not so odd as I’m the Captain-Owner of the Thuegueus. Since my Pack name is also kinda long, the crew took the precedent of nicknames and call me “Fixer” or Ri when in front of me. I’m also the Purser on the ship. That’s the best cook on board and the Vargr who has to juggle the cargo hold. Strange role for a Captain-Owner, right?

That’s our Chief Helmsman over there. Pretty for an Aekhu, huh? She’s also engaged. Her name is Uessae Noedhin though once she gets married, I suppose her Pack name will change. She’s from Atsah (Deneb 2913) and is ex-Imperial Navy. Kinda straight-laced and rules-corseted, but she is also the deadliest shot with her 12-gauge. She’s intended to Ofo Uegzou, another Aekhu. The pair signed on together. Everyone nicknames her the “Navalman” though her name is only two syllables. Want to be inclusive of the ladies, am I right?



Next is Uessae’s future mate-husband. His name is Ofo Uegzou and yes, he’s also an Aekhu but from Atadl (Deneb 3015). Like me, he’s a Merchant but from Deneb, so he and I trade notes on business practices. He’s acclimating me to the Third Imperium’s stability in this year 1105. On board the Thuegueus, Ofo the “Merchantman” is our Astrogator, fitting since he gets to sit next to his future mate-wife Uessae. He’s pretty good at the 12-gauge and can wield a sword. What Merchant needs a sword??

Lastly on board is a backwater, country hick I picked up in coming to the Third Imperium. Gvuedhag “Grunt” Aeng is a farm-grown, country bumpkin with a golden heart. He’s the youngest, even younger than “Jack”. Ex-Army, Gvuedhag can lift and swing a full Broadsword and brought along his Auto Rifle he named Dheer. “Nothing fires back like a Dheer,” he tells me.

So, that makes four Captains and a Jack. Not a bad hand of cards.
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Last edited by The Pakkrat; July 13th, 2019 at 02:27 PM..
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Old July 13th, 2019, 09:40 AM
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Now about our High Passenger who is doing this to our ship. Her name is Lidus Ka of the Ka Family, one of many in the Vilani bureaux megacorporation Naasirka, LIC specializing in Robots. Miss Ka was supposed to take over the Marketing department, but swiped Daddy’s megacorporate credit chip and has hired this ship, (its class almost never gets a refit for passenger staterooms), to take her to Vland. Yeah, Vland. Is she on some kind of pilgrimage? But the credit chip, a shiny black one made of stout impact plastic and dripping with credits was good and I’m getting my ship out of drydock today.

Between you and me, I think Miss Ka is on the run because why else refit my ship with a stateroom when any liner will do? I think she wants to sneak her way across Corridor in the most unassuming vessel she can charter. I dunno how much trouble I’m getting me, my ship and my crew into but the credits were good, the refit done and all we have to do is quietly make 32 jumps from Khouth to Vland this year. With a little luck and my skills as a Purser, we can potentially make bank as we babysit some Naasirka Executive’s 26-year old daughter, right?

I just stepped from the Commerce terminal on Khouth Highport. In addition to some simple Freight, I bought some Copper speculative cargo as a gentle ease into commodities to sell at the next world of Serk (Corridor 0304). Serk has an Imperial Naval Base replete with patrol ships. So, I chose simple, safe and legal this first jump. Miss Ka was welcomed aboard by Uessae and the two females, Vilani and Aekhu Vargr got her settled into the new, fresh-smelling stateroom. Thankfully, it kept the Human from griping about my ship smelling like Vargr. I don’t smell anything amiss.

“Grunt”, Ofo (the lucky dog) and I loaded the industrial-grade Copper into the Thuegueus after all the Freight and five tons of Mail. With an Important, Industrial world like Khouth in the region, everyone wants to hear the latest on the frontier between the Third Imperium and the Vargr Extents and Khouth is right up next to the Dzarrgh Federate. It’s how I was let rimward, into the Imperium at all. Khouth is an interfacing world. Just as many Vargr merchants pass through here as Imperials slip coreward to hopefully score some holds in the Extents.

Trust is the vocabulary word on this charter mission. I get to cook all the important meals on this boat. First Meal is my favorite as it breaks the ice as the ship heads out from Khouth Highport to the 100 Diameters jump point. With Ofo running the pathing calculations and his “Navalman” wife watching him, the two have time together. I simply put all the drives online and once the gauges read nominal, I trust the bridge crew to get the Thuegueus under way. My next stop is then naturally the galley.

I get paid for both Engineer and Pursuer (the Chief Steward position) on the ship. But as Ofo pointed out, Imperial laws says that I get paid 75% of both positions for taking up two sources of deck pay.

I don’t complain about Imperial law because I’m also the Captain-Owner and call the shots on what we carry in the hold and the Charter of course.
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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaefueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

Last edited by The Pakkrat; July 13th, 2019 at 02:29 PM..
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Old July 13th, 2019, 09:41 AM
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Delivering the trays of too-hot First Meal to the commons, I ran into Miss Lidus Ka. The Vilani woman admitted as she sat down that she had never seen a Captain-Owner who was also the cook. I dissembled that I wanted to always know first what was on the day's menu. I am the "Fixer", of meals and the drives. I rang the intercom for First Meal. Ofo, the backup Steward has cleanup duty because I have to run aft to prep the drives for jump after dinner.

No, we Vargr don't do that silly Vilani jump dimming thing. We have other superstitions and customs. According to legend, I'm supposed to beat the first crew to reenter the ship before undocking. Since that tends to be Uessae the "Navalman" soon-to-be-wife, I shyly glance at Ofo and swat his fiancée on the rump as she embarks. I know the two would eat me for lunch if I were to ever truly uphold such superstitions.

And that's the only time I ever lay claws on another Vargr's intended and crew.

But I tell ya, once Uessae steps onto the Bridge, it's hers. I am generally aft in Engineering. Again, with the trust. She calls the ball on outbound and final approach. I step out of the ex-Navy Captain's way. I plot the destination and she has the con. In this, Uessae is my First Officer.

Of course, I can pilot the Thuegueus! It's just that I am better as the Chief Engineer and sleep sounder knowing that the drives are humming me off to dreamland. I'm rated in Computer, the Sensors, and repairs. That's why they nicknamed me Ri the "Fixer".

During that first jump transition, my first task was to change the air filters to keep the pelt fur levels to Human tolerance for Miss Ka our High Passenger.
One thing I did find in common with Miss Ka during first jump was that we both trained in the Bayonet. The Vilani woman saw us training in cargo hold and atop all the containers. She is allowed her Bayonet if not her Family hunting Rifle-5.

The uneven hold area loaded with cargo and freight makes for a variable practice ground. "Grunt" and Ofo spar, sword to the Army Captain's Logsksu broadsword. Who needs such a huge Groatsticker?

That first jump breakout taught me, thanks to Uessae, that we needed our own personal Vacc Suits. Suit-and-tie is standard operating procedure and she repeatedly tapped me with an index claw to let the SOP sink in. I told her that we would each spend credits on such at Serk.

"See that you do," she said firmly. See? Straight and tight-laced.

Since four of us hold the services ranks of Captain, there's little use for the entitlement. But when Uessae needs to be firm, and she has the charisma being an Atsah Subsector Fleet Admiral's daughter to back up her attitude, she catches me somewhere alone on the ship.

In fact, she outdoes all us Vargr on the Thuegueus in the charisma department. That's why I had her welcome Miss Lidus Ka aboard.
Why hasn't she taken command yet, you ask? This is a Trader ship not some Cruiser. Uessae recognizes that in order for the Trader mission to be profitable, I have to stay in command and on the bookkeeping. Then there would be the legal bureaucracy and red tape of her trying to buy my family vessel from me, the licensing, the fees, the registration....you get me. In this way, my First Officer and I have come to an equilibrium. I give her the con and she comes to me privately to pay me proper respect as the Captain-Owner.

While Uessae does claim the Bridge, she knows her place when she comes into my haven in Engineering. I'm the only Engineer aboard, just enough to meet minimal specs in her eyes. Each has their turf on this crate.
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Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
The Pakkrat 0608 X58738-8 S va++ so+ zh+ vi+ da+ 534
On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaefueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

Last edited by The Pakkrat; July 13th, 2019 at 02:32 PM..
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Old July 13th, 2019, 09:44 AM
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Who is the so-called Omega on the Thuegueus? As far as I can tell, that would be the "Jack". When he signed on, I read that he was discharged from both as a Loner and as a Merchant, without a single promotion. Good service yes, but he lacked that charismatic oomph to rise up to an Officer's rank. But I need him in case there comes something nobody else can or is willing to undertake. His next best gift is that he's the best-rated Medic aboard. He and "Grunt" hit the bars together.

I don't know when Ofo and Uessae will tie the knot, but they do wear each other's promise rings. As Aekhu, they are the cutest couple I've seen in Imperial Vargr.

The ship? Okay. 200 tons, Jump-2, 2Gs, P-Plant B, a Model/1 bis (minimal for J-2s), two Beam Laser turrets, and plenty of cargo minus the new High cabin. Generic fare from the Logaksu Extents turf really. Perhaps Uessae knows this. S'why she let that Beowulf-class go inbound first after we precipitated from jumpspace almost atop each other. Though she caught them arriving second, she told me their captain was a Noble Knight and acquiesced.

Imperial law states for us Tramp Traders that Freight and Mail taken aboard at a source Highport need only arrive at a destination Highport. And even Serk Highport rated B despite its Pre-Hi and Pre-Industrial codes means we docked in orbit.

Ofo and "Grunt" did not have the credits to purchase Vacc Suits-12 here on Serk. But Uessae's talk made me splurge for them, minus a lil pay, to satisfy her. I sold the Copper after the Freight and Mail were offloaded. 110%. I'll take it. Uessae and Miss Ka were then off together through the Highport and dragging Ofo with them.

I knew our Mail had been uploaded to the SysNet when the old commercials were replaced and the news from Khouth was played over the Highport monitors.

Border news, market numbers, some stuff from the Spinward Marches, and new commercials.

Ah. Our Retirement annual pay hit our accounts, those that stuck it out in our respective careers. Good to know.

I ordered online the VaccSuits-12 as I purchased 16 tons of Textiles in addition to more Mail and Major Lot Freight. Another full cargo bay means full bellies my sire used to say.

Once the local cops saw that I was shelling out credits at the time they scrutinized me at the Commerce terminal and again at the Travellers' Aid Society (TAS hereafter) hostel desk to deliver a personal message, (I'm not a member), I was left alone. We Logaksu must all look alike.

Miss Ka's charter funds do not come all at once. Cr320,000 is not all mine in advance. She has this auto-deduct of Cr10,000 happen each time I signal I have concluded business, berthing fees, (we skimmed fuel is why Uessae let the Free Trader go first).

I'm not all business as a typical Logaksu Vargr. In coming to the Third Imperium from the Extents, I have had to learn to relax. I cut a profit, Ancients' sake. "Ri! Come knock back a few with us." Jack and Grunt inviting the nerdy Fixer along. I nodded and followed.

Six sophonts. Six Travellers. Struck by the Traveller Gene, they call it. Not a bad first jump. Not great, but I'll take it. Any other venture might show me to be a shut-in Engineer.
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Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaefueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

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Old July 13th, 2019, 09:46 AM
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I picked up a Rumor at Serk Orbital High. Though I am the cheapest drunk of me, Jack and Grunt, I overheard: Vland will not welcome Logaksu Vargr. Two brews down and I almost challenged the hearsay. Were the Vilani specist? But Grunt and Jack were good wingVargr for me. Bar talk is just that, chaff among Spacers. It's the info in the shadowed corners and private rooms that one listens to.

Jack later told me as we headed back to the concourse that some locals were attempting to tweak our charisma and racial pride with that Rumor, that I should forget about such provocations. This is why I am glad to have signed on him and Grunt. They saw a potential barfight and steered me safely.

Maybe I swatted Uessae too hard this time. Maybe it was because it was before our Vilani passenger. I dunno. Maybe she misheard my fuel report as we undocked the next day. But a Piloting error on her part at the helm set us back only an hour, so there was no real dog in the fight. We didn't crash or anything. 9 hours to jump point was just as much a wrist slap to her as it was to us.

Nobody is rated as a gambler on my ship. So, we played virtual boardgames that week in jumpspace. Ofo and I came to a draw in Monopoly the last night, well after all others had gone to bed.

A word about ethnicities is due. Aek means 'black' in the Aekhu dialect and in Gvegh I hear. Uessae and her betrothed Ofo are both pelt in jet black. Uessae has deep blue eyes which look like precious gems. Very pretty. Ofo has red-brown eyes, more commonly seen.

Us Logaksu - me, Jack and Grunt vary in tones of light to dark brown. I sometimes envy the Aekhu. They're also more tolerant of Human diets. This is another reason for our BuddySystem - the Aekhu escorting Miss Ka around Starports.

...they're also better scattergun users....

I mean, heh, I own a Shotgun-4, but only so I can affix my Bayonet-3 onto it. I couldn't hit the broadside of a battlecruiser.

Are we violent, you ask? No sir, not really. Grunt being ex-Army I'm sure has been grilled well-done in Infighting. But Infighting is not founded on one's UPP Strength rating. There's far more to it. Dexterity and Charisma are also in the mix. He could tell you more being that he's formally trained. I cover our combat ratings because I as well as Uessae knew that Miss Lidus Ka was an investment for the Charter, the other payloads secondary over 32 jumps. We needed to protect our client though she did not concur.

But you won't see a Vargr Infighting with a Human. Without a valid, personal charisma, there's no value in such. No, at those times, claws and teeth are in self-defense or simply because Vargr have no other weapon handy. Don't Infight a Vargr, Humans. It's just inefficient.

Some hours after jump breakout, I got to speak with an IISS Scout Courier who had been a member of the Second Survey. The Scout passed in our flyby about cataloging the Known Space worlds and their UWP, updating them and the atlas of the Imperium. We parted amicably as the Scout was outbound.

Hesarus (Corridor 0306) is something new I could have gone without learning about Human proclivities.

Without an orbital facility, Uessae had to land at the B-rated Downport. Even at Tech-9, I was still able to conduct online business. I was being given Cop-Eye at the local Commerce terminal when the population's Feudal Technocracy spewed the latest in governmental House conflicts involving - and lemme slowly pronounce this Anglic term - sadomasochistic ritual dispute that news correspondent anchors shared on the news networks caught me off-guard.

The six local peasants greeted us outside the concourse but well within the Extrality line. We were stretching our legs and soaking up some of the Red Dwarf sunlight. Armed with Blades, the group turned Receptive when they saw our LEGAL Shotguns in our bandoleers. Pleasant Peasants after that. Have a nice day, visiting Vargr.

Cr30,0000 for refined fuel? No Gas Giant meant I had to take the hit on Hesarus.

The 60-ton, hungry tanks on the Thuegueus made me lose my appetite.
300,000 local population seems small. But when the Houses of Hesarus threaten whippings and perverted tortures to be shared with the commoners, it hits home quicker. I took that evening to warn my crew and Miss Ka.

"Cesspit," said Uessae after my update to the others.

I did not do so well with the Textiles as I had with the industrial Copper, but it paid the berthing, lifestyle of the crew and fuel for the ship.
Hesarus I learned was once named Panirli back during the Long Night. This Poor, Non-Industrial world has never quite improved since annexation into the Third Imperium and one look at the televised House conflicts, nigh a ritual or sport here, was enough for me to have everyone escort Miss Ka that day dirtside.

The Life Support renewal fee cut me for another Cr10,000. To think our stores were replenished on Hesarus! I feared what I would find in the ship pantry.
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Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
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Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
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On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaefueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

Last edited by The Pakkrat; July 13th, 2019 at 02:35 PM..
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Old July 13th, 2019, 09:48 AM
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For the record, we Vargr can blush in shattered innocence. It's just not as easily seen in coloration under fur as it is in Vargr paralanguage.

I can't confirm it, Uessae and Ofo being from Deneb Sector the next Domain spinward, but the betrothed couple seemed just as taken aback at the House conflicts as we three Extents Vargr were. Humans can be strange!
No one came within a grav-ball field from the Extrality Line during that Life Support and refueling layover.

Ancients! Why isn't this world Amber Zoned?!

Grunt who seemed to have the most innocence to lose was first back to the ship. "I'll take the hit for the First Officer, Ri," he said. "Just get me offa this rock before they start showing any local Vargr caught up in those House-thingies." I gave him a quick Gibbs-slap and ushered him through the airlock.
This of course caused Uessae to shoot me a curious, questioning look when I let her through the airlock without so much as a word in.

I imagine seeing Grunt already aboard would explain it to her.

Though still a young lady Vilani, Miss Ka entered the ship red faced. But she saw me omit the superstition, (the woman and the Aekhu having returned much later than Grunt). Miss Ka explained that while the Third Imperium owned the "space between member worlds", they did not generally interfere with a world's government. She boarded the ship after the two Aekhu. Jack and I loaded the payload in tandem, dismissing the dockworkers at the Downport.

Alone with me outside the ship and still loading the cargo, Mail and Freight, Jack said, “If you don’t like what you saw here, pick your jump path a little better, Captain-Owner.” He alone of the other crew and Miss Ka seemed righteous in calling me Captain-Owner. It was pointed enough for me to spend the next jump, perusing the star charts and the world UWP to come.

Thirty tons of Major Freight, 10 tons of Minor Freight and 3 tons-....no wait-...5 tons of Speculative Firearms?? Who has been dealing?! I turned to Jack who’s tail curled guiltily. “I’m not the only one, boss.”

“There’s two extra tons of Firearms I didn’t pay for in this hold,” I said to Jack.

“Yeah, about that...,” began Jack.

Since Hesarus isn’t a great exporter, I was unable to fill our Cargo Hold full of Freight. And I remembered buying three tons of packaged and contained Firearms, labeled as such. But Jack used some of his money and purchased a ton of the same. “So, who bought the last ton?” I asked as we buttoned up the portside doors from the inside. I turned around and there was Uessae and Ofo the intended couple.

“That would be us, Ri,” admitted the bride-to-be. “Ofo noticed the outgoing Freight available, told me and I persuaded him to finagle a ton of the Firearms Imbalance. We did not do so well as Jack who is an Ancients-blasted bandit and landed his ton at 40% the cur.”

Three crew had done deals on my Cargo Hold without asking me first. I know I looked like I was going to give an admonishing lecture about authority and chain of command. But then I stood there while tails curled, and ears flattened and the three looked already to get beaten ‘round the ears. But the more I thought about it, if the purchases were legal, the cargo space available, and they used their own credits and haggling to take the risks, who was I to deny them?

Principles versus opportunity. A Human starship captain might go by the books. But we are Logaksu and Aekhu, two of us being Retired Merchants. Since it was my fault for making Hesarus a stopping port of call, I let out a defeated huff. I mean. Look at those faces!

Next stop: Sigma 7 (Corridor 0407).
__________________
Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
The Pakkrat 0608 X58738-8 S va++ so+ zh+ vi+ da+ 534
On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaefueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

Last edited by The Pakkrat; July 13th, 2019 at 02:37 PM..
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Old July 13th, 2019, 09:52 AM
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Jumpspace to Sigma 7: So, it's time for a little clarity. After talking to Uessae, Ofo and our Jack, I have learned that Ofo is not as good at sleaze-haggling (Humans call it Bribery) as me. And Jack can try anything being-... well Jack.

It's an art, the sleaze-haggling. It's about bringing the opponent down to your level, appealing to baser desires and lower passions. It's about opening the mark up to possibilities rather than the probabilities that those who are rated in Admin are trained. I pointed this out to Uessae and Jack. Ofo has a modicum of expertise in haggling, but after listening to him recount his 110% failure, I had to set all three straight.

"Okay, you got me," I said. "In return for using my ship's cargo space, empty or filled this time, you may sell it. But there is a catch." Uessae who had foot the bill for their purchase, folded her arms and asked, "And that is?"

I smiled a lolling-tongue smile, "I get to haggle the sale for your tons."

Jack had seen me work sleaze when we were in the Dzarrgh Federate. "Done."

"You got us, Ri," said Ofo followed by Uessae nodding a few seconds later.

"I am so glad you agreed," I said.

Sigma 7 is an Asteroid world with a Beltport which means breakout from jumpspace was much closer in terms of 100 Diameters from the thickest mass of planetoids. At two Gs, it only takes 447 seconds to commute in-system to the station. The J-Drive was still on cool-down when Uessae announced final approach and called the ball.

From Engineering, I monitored the approach as Jack announced, "Sensors confirm. Welcome to Sigma 7, courtesy of Ofo." Navigation, the second-highest paid crew position and the Astrogator barely does a thing without the Green Light from the computer. No one pats the Engineer on the back for the fine-tuning. The charisma is all forward, on the Bridge it seems.

There’s nothing like a Signal-GK to ruin your day. We can see the Beltport planetoid on telescopes while on final approach to docking. But outbound and coming our way is this slower, bigger, commercial, Subsidized Liner on maximum thrust of a single G. Looks like a normal day in an Asteroid world, right?

“That liner’s been hijacked, Ri,” Uessae called me from her position at the Helm, “and there’s an Imperial Signal-GK from the port. Law says we have to respond. Given we have are running on fumes but have a chance, you Ri have less than three minutes to decide to intercept and maybe see their jump vector before they flash or intercept with intent to board. Orders?”

I hate being rushed.

“Intercept and get in their jump bubble before it lights off if you can,” I called back from my perch in Engineering. Then I put all available power on the Maneuver Drive for Uessae. The intercom went dead as Uessae likely put all her Naval experience into getting inside the Subsidized Liner’s jump shadow. The hijackers would have to either cancel their jump due to increased mass inside their jump bubble, (and risk a misjump or jump far short of their target parsec) or jump anyway and drag the Thuegueus with them.

“Battle alert!” Uessae called from the Bridge. “Suits and decompression operations! Move it!”

I ran to suit up in my new VaccSuit-12. “Jack, come get my Shotgun. You’re better at it than I am. I stay and watch our ship while you all prep for boarding if it comes to that.”

“Roger, boss,” answered Jack.

It’s not very charismatic of me to stay behind and not join the sortie team should we manage to close the gap on the Subsidized Liner. It only takes nine crew to run one. The files on the hijacking arrived seconds later after my answer was given. From Engineering as I suited up, I saw that the pirates had used the docked 20-ton launch as the point of entry from the Beltport. The liner had been undergoing Life Support replenishment and the crew was left behind. Thus, the pirates managed to steal the launch, overpower the skeleton crew and their captain, take the command codes (threat of torture maybe?), and finally make off with the liner.

“Suited up and ready in Engineering,” I called. “You are already red-lining the M-Drive, Uessae.”

Decompression measures states that all unnecessary atmosphere be contained in the ship, draining them from compartments that might suffer a penetration. I read in the Signal-GK file transmission that the liner was unarmed, a crew boat essentially, but when the con calls Battle Alert, this is SOP.

No free-roaming air in the ship means no explosive decompressions and crew don’t get blown out of a compartment that suffers a hit.

When the Thuegueus enters combat, Jack and Ofo get to man the two hardpoint turrets. Since they have their own, local power, a hit on my precious Drives will not shut them down. Not like this will be a shooting engagement. The hijackers are thieves not Corsairs.
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Old July 13th, 2019, 09:54 AM
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“Those nixes are vectoring for Ankirst (Corridor 0105). They think they will make it outside the Imperium to the United Followers of Augurgh.”

Uessae likely had seen this tactic before. Escape with your stolen vessel outside the Imperium but inside an enemy polity, to a world with little to no Law rating.

Did I mention that Ankirst is in the wrong direction we were heading?

“They may be vectoring for Ankirst,” I called. “But a Subsidized Liner is only Jump-3. They’ll hit either Koergfoes, Ofo-Nexus or empty space. We have to cause them to cancel jump.”

“If we’re inside their jump bubble zone and they initiate jump,” answered Uessae to which her mate-husband answered from Turret #2, “they won’t even get that far by towing our 200 tons.”

It is for this maneuver that we were attempting that ships ping their Sensors to make sure space is clear before J-Drives are initiated.

The newer jump grids don’t have this problem and they’re very expensive.
“Hard choice then,” I added. “We are looking at the Beltport. If they don’t jump, we will get back up in less than an hour. If they do jump, they risk shorter range, take us with them AND risk a misjump. Death or arrest?”

“If they jump, we spend a week in the hole fighting them!” It was Grunt who piped up then.

“You’d better have Dheer on you then,” I answered from Engineering. Dheer was the name of his Auto Rifle, a holdover from his Army days. I’m told that Army tend to name their favorite ranged weapon.

Being down in Engineering means you don’t get to see every aspect of an engagement. You might have a board dedicated to monitoring, but that still isn’t enough. I had to trust Uessae, trust her with my ship, trust her with my life.

But what I did get to see on my single board as I kept the second eye on the power gauges was that Uessae had maneuvered wisely aft and dorsal to the Subsidized Liner, out of sight of their ventral bridge underneath the circular, forward observation lounge. I watched this as Grunt and Jack briefed everyone on how to siege the ship by bringing up file, generic deck plans.

This would not be a starship shooting engagement. The crew liner was not armed and was originally meant to be escorted to and from Sigma 7, the file told us. It was to be a siege, us versus the hijackers. Merchants versus thieves.

Not good holovid material, but I told Uessae to start recording the operation for the courts anyway. Maybe I could sell the rights to some production company.

“Ri, come up to the Bridge,” called Uessae. “We’re going in because they’re too chicklizard to jump. Everyone else split up to the port and starboard airlocks.”

Me. Alone with but my Bayonet trudged up to the Bridge. I have a console there, but almost never use it. The Bridge was already empty by the time I made it to sit at the helm adjusted for Uessae’s frame and not mine.

Sitting down at Uessae’s helm, I guessed at what the hijackers could see and assume about us. My ship is from the Vargr Extents. I haven’t gotten around to re-painting the outer hull. So, it could be correctly assumed that we were a Vargr vessel with its configuration and coloration. Even our transponder, an older Extents model registered and recorded says we’re a VAFT-BS22 Vargr Trader. So, the hijackers, whoever they are can expect Vargr to storm the Subsidized Liner.

But what they don’t know is that the team is led by Uessae, an Imperial Navy Captain and Aekhu from Deneb Sector.

She may not be an Imperial Star Marine, but this is still her bread and butter.
I was watching out the forward helm view pane when Miss Lidus Ka, our High Passenger stepped onto the Bridge while wearing her sealed VaccSuit-12. She had bought one too on her daddy’s credit chip back on Serk.

I was not put out by her intrusion. Rather, I welcomed her presence. I was already lonely on the Bridge.
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Old July 13th, 2019, 09:56 AM
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The two ships faced the same vector so that had the Liner jumped, the Thuegueus would have fitted neatly into its jump bubble. Below me, I could see the long, luxury hull with its launch parked in the aft section above the drives. Seconds became minutes as the siege team made the leap from our Trader to the Liner to clamp on with magnetic boots.

“What can I do?” Miss Ka asked.

“Get on the horn to the Beltport and start commentating to Traffic Control. There will be chasers soon. Identify us and that we’ve responded to the Signal-GK.”

That I could let Miss Ka do, especially since she is a Vilani woman. Racism and sexism aside, it endears us as simple Tramp Traders trying desperately to respond to a bad situation.

All too soon, I heard Uessae and Grunt barking orders at their respective teams. The away team had split into two groups and had entered the Liner from two different airlocks. I heard gunfire and yelling.

I watched on the Comms board the Vacc Suit-12 telemetry of each of my crew, praying to the Ancients that their vitals stayed in the Green.

No Combat Armor, no Battle Dress. My team was wearing simple Vacc Suits-12. I so badly wanted the ex-military members of my crew to have their favorite protections during this siege.

Was I calmer to hear the sounds of melee fighting over their Comms? No. I was practically biting my claw nails off through the suit gauntlets.
I heard Uessae calling battle cries and Grunt snarling like a mad Urzaeng. Even Ofo had to draw his Sword. Jack was more prudent and kept unloading my Shotgun-4.

I watched as suit telemetry counted each shot, ammunition lowering and being reloaded between each new foe.

Grunt's Auto Rifle has the fastest depletion but also the biggest magazines.
Watching the siege from behind telemetry was so surreal, like and unlike watching an action holovid.

Beside me, Miss Lidus Ka was updating the local SysDef forces, making them understand that the responding forces were Vargr and the hijackers were Humans.

Faster than I would have thought, the gun fighting and brawling stopped. Questions of, "Are you hurt?"

"It's just a scratch."

"Groatshit, you're hit."

I quickly scanned over each suit and saw that Grunt had taken a hit and was so adrenalized that he wasn't registering it. "Jack!" I called, "Grunt is hit in the gut. Center of mass wound, and he doesn't feel it yet."

"On it, boss."

"SysDef, Thuegueus, we need MedEvac added to second responders." Miss Ka was ahead of me on Comms.

"You- pant should see the other guy pant," said Grunt with some form of soldier bravado.

Grunt is easily the biggest, strongest, meatiest Vargr aboard the Thuegueus. If anyone can take a hit like this, he could.

"Grunt, look at me!" commanded Jack. "I'm going to Slow you. Got me?"

"D-Do it," answered Grunt now in pain.

Fast Drug is misnamed, I believe. You the patient get a fast-forward into next week while everyone else swears that you slow to a metabolic crawl and become like a mannequin.

While Grunt didn't lose consciousness, he got such a fast-forward.
SysDef arrived. MedEvac got to us second. Local authorities took over the Subsidized Liner and my crew, minus Jack and Grunt returned. Jack and Grunt were whisked to the Beltport. I noted he was in the Infirmary ICU-812.
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Old July 13th, 2019, 09:58 AM
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The system corporation owning the crew boat Liner paid our Berthing, our refueling, and the medical fees for Grunt who missed all the media blitz we had to wade through to attain the surgery waiting room at the Beltport Infirmary.

Jack, who had handed off Grunt to a Med-4 trauma surgeon, was waiting for us.

Kudos to Uessae who knew just what to say and what not to say to the press. She and Miss Ka handled them like traumatized wives for a fallen mate-husband. Slick. But it got the rest of us out of interviews and to the Infirmary.

I felt like a tail-end heel, being left out of the action, de-selected from the risk.

"He'll make it," said Jack. "Thanks to your monitoring, Ri. You warned me that Grunt was really wounded." I smiled weakly and went to the polymer glass between us and the surgery suite.

The trauma surgeon pulled six submachinegun rounds out of Grunt who indeed lived to be coddled all week as Fast Drug wore off. I had the 9mm slugs fashioned into a souvenir bracelet for the Army Vargr from a ranch-fed backwater world.

"Your country Vargr charged that submachine gunner just as he was running out of magazine," explained Uessae who had paired up with Grunt. "You don't wanna know what he did with his Broadsword to that hijacker."

The rest of the week was replete with law sludge, media coverage hounding us everywhere, commerce on my part, visits with recovering Grunt and making sure the ship was prepared for departure upon Grunt's discharge. I expected a Doctor's note of light duty.

Sigma 7 at Tech-7 did not make me feel better about Grunt's hospitalization.
The media show put public pressure on the SysDef and the owning corp to reward us. With Miss Ka conveniently absent, I wheeled Grunt out of the Infirmary to a hero's send-off and Grunt Cr100,000 richer. We smiled for the cameras and I took him home to the Thuegueus.

Never mind that I was to pay my crew at the end of the week.

And yes, I received three offers for copies of the siege mission record once they had been unlocked by the courts.

The crew signed off on selling the holovid rights, on the condition that names of the characters were changed to their nicknames: Grunt, Jack, Navygirl, Moneybags, and me the Fixer. Who knows what ratings such a dramatization would garner?

Miss Ka however opted out of any mention of her presence or help during the siege, which raised a few eyebrows. But we Vargr chalked it up to Human non-charisma nature.

The novelty of such a dramatization, we would learn much later, was that we Imperial and Extents Vargr were NOT the Corsairs this time.
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