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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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  #181  
Old June 23rd, 2019, 03:25 PM
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“You are on the Farside hemisphere of Tagnaghoutsozaeng. Y’know? Gvurrdon 2123?” explained Zhevra. “Though you may have desired to teleport off-ship, perhaps to your Sister-Dame on Dzuerongvoe – to home – the Mind Tsunami force was not that powerful in you yet. The wave had just entered Rorroksueknea and hit all of us in the ship a few minutes just before we jumped.” The female’s heart sank. “Had we jumped any sooner, we might have missed it entirely. I only wish I had charged the jumpdrive sooner.” Then her tears flowed this time and she started crying. “I’m sorry, Gev!”

“Oh, Zhevra!” whined Gevaudan who renewed his grip. Though he was strong, his hug’s strength was of an augmented sixty-year old. The two cried in each other’s arms.

“Everyone thinks you are dead, Gevaudan Cannagrrh,” sobbed Zhevra. “But I remembered that night. Your HEV is orange. Your eyes are ocean blue. You had a plan. They’re calling it Gevaudan’s Jump, a suicidal jaunt into the nothingness beyond the jump field of the Sixth Horizon that night, a teleport into oblivion. I knew you were smarter than that. Teleportation works by different laws, I have learned. Runetha take you if you tried to commit suicide. Heroes don’t do that, husband.”

The male Gvegh shook with more shudders, “I could have killed everyone on the ship that night.”

“Don’t torture yourself,” interrupted Zhevra. Then her wilder nature made her realize that she was speaking to both him and her. “I’ve been doing the same to myself. Let the Empress in Black go, Gevaudan.”

“I’m damaged, wife,” warned the Pilot-Astrogator. A sadness weighed heavily across his face.

“So am I, husband,” answered Zhevra. “I forgive you. Unconditional love demands it.”



“How did you find me?”

Zhevra turned her husband and pointed at the Zhodani Mindsaber hanging on his far hip at the tattered gray-silver Teleporation Suit’s remains. “Did you hear a gunshot or an unidentifiable noise?”

“I thought it was the Empress and went for it,” answered Gevaudan.

Zhevra smiled and said, “I had the SIM sensors active when you did, and your blade’s energy registered on them.”

“The Spatial Inferred Neutrino sensor?” asked the surprised Scout-Courier. “You have the ship here?”

“Just half a mile back along the coast,” pointed Zhevra. “Let’s get you aboard, dressed and fed.”

Gevaudan let the Suedzuk guide him back toward the waiting ship. When she again spotted sand rut, she said, “You’ve got to tell me everything that happened. Like, why were you fishing from the shore when you could use your boat or raft?”

The white male stopped. “Zhevra, I don’t have a boat.” Then he saw the rut trench in the sand.

“Then what made that, love?” asked Zhevra pointing to the long, straight drag rut in the sand.

The Suedzuk Vargr felt the spike in the fields from the bushes, just before she heard the report of a shotgun. By pure reflex born of practiced Suedzuk Awareness, she sprang with her good, right leg to the side. Her husband was not Suedzuk and took half the scattering pattern to his chest and fell back.

“Gev!” screamed Zhevra as she saw him go down. In a roll, her right claw snatched up her pistol. The bandolier strap for the shotgun-grenade launcher had snapped and was left to the sand. Though she could see the elderly Vargr sprawled on the sand in her peripheral vision, her eyes tracked where she had felt the fields. In the foliage were hidden Vargr and Human aura-fields.

“He won’t be telling you anything more, Zhevra Cannagrrh!” said the Oruelaen spy, the pervert from the brothel she had shot at the Highport over Aengvoung months ago.

“Gevaudan Cannagrrh is under arrest by the Tavrchedl’ for possession of controlled knowledge and forbidden data,” said the Zhodani Psion from the market of Rorroksueknea. “You must be safely purged of this and rehabilitated.”

The Prole henchmen were advancing through the foliage under the canopy of wide-leaf palms. Zhevra pulled up her psi-shield cowl to cover her cranium.

“Death first!” screamed Zhevra Cannagrrh. She felt the heightened Mag and Lek of the four Human Proles charging her. With a bounce in her right leg, the left one still tremoring and untrustworthy, Zhevra skipped again to her right and dodged the electromagnetic discharges of energy stun pistols which kicked up sand in small geysers. If a single blast had struck her, Zhevra knew her sensitivity, the Awareness drawback and weakness to EM stunners; she would be numb on the beach in a heap of herself.

The training aboard the Sixth Horizon paid off as Zhevra felt the Proles’ position though her eyes could only see them disturbing the thick underbrush. To her Awareness, the Zhodani Human fields were potent and tangible even through the hum of the plants’ lower life fields. Bouncing repeatedly to her right, the Vargr female fired at each skip, “I warned you!”

The hollowpoints of her pistol struck the heads of her stunning assailants. Each of the three shots dropped a Prole without so much as a scream. They were without head protection of a helmet though they may have worn armored vests. Zhevra as a Suedzuk, preferred head shots over center mass, another reason for the hatred of her kind, the Blood Vargr. It was why she scored so well in the ship’s simulations. The fourth Prole dropped to prone and froze.

From the corner of her view, Zhevra thought she could see Gevaudan’s white and sandy form rise. He was alive! With the knowledge that the Tavrchedl’ and the Oruelaen had not killed her husband, Zhevra had Gevaudan to fight for. Her love spurred her into a Suedzuk dance, Zhevra’s dance.

A cloud of sand was left by where her husband had been standing. Only then did Zhevra understand what he had been doing on the ground for the six seconds she had taken in killing three Zhodani. His fields had been on a buildup to a jaunt.

Gevaudan Cannagrrh, Pilot and Astrogator, must have in his three years of exile to this island, been everywhere here. Zhevra guessed he knew the topography like the back of his claw. His ‘sniffer’ or olfactory synesthesia had told him where his enemies were crouched and hidden as he lay catching his breath. Then she remembered that the old Courier-Slaver was still augmented with subdermal armor. At the declaration of arresting her husband, the Oruelaen must have used subduing shotgun ammunition, riot rounds. It might bloody the Gvegh cyborg but couldn’t injure Gevaudan because of it. And now the aged Vargr was on the hunt.

Zhevra danced around a tall and thick palm just as the fourth Prole shot again with his stunner pistol. The blast slammed into the tree and she could feel its energies dissipated over the bark of the trunk. Spinning without breaking stride, the Suedzuk emerged from the other side of the thick wood and fired her pistol.

With a resonant thwack sound, the Prole fell dead with a bullet hole in the forehead above his left eye.

“Damned whore!” yelled the Oruelaen Vargr. But his field of Lek spiked, telegraphing his desire to pull the trigger of the shotgun. Zhevra reversed her spin and fell to a rolling tumble back behind the sheltering tree trunk. Heavier shot ripped open the bark where she had been less than a second earlier. The Thirz spy tried to fire a second time to keep Zhevra pinned behind the tree, but his weapon jammed and was too hot to touch and clear the ejection port. He threw down the weapon and advanced with his claws.

The Suedzuk reached around the tree with her weapon claw. By Awareness alone she felt for his aura-fields of Mag and Lek and pulled the trigger without looking. The weapon’s slide clacked open; the ammunition depleted. Infighting then, said her primal Wildside.

Zhevra saw from her vantage of the thick tree that Gevaudan and the Zhodani Psion were dueling with Zhodani Mindsabers in a psi-energy blade melee. The white Vargr was older and held in two claws his sighing blade emanating its intensely palpable EM field high and ready to strike. The Tavrchedl’ seemingly trained at such weapons, but still healing from bullet wounds she inflicted on him back on Rorroksueknea, held his Mindsaber out like a fencing weapon, light and one-handed. They were seemingly even matched. It was in that second of side view, that Zhevra beheld whirling and whipsering weapons of the Psions remaining after the passing of the Empress Wave. Each maddened and somehow in a dance of their own, the duelists were beautiful to behold.
__________________
Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
The Pakkrat 0608 X58738-8 S va++ so+ zh+ vi+ da+ 534
On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

Last edited by The Pakkrat; June 23rd, 2019 at 07:37 PM..
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Old June 23rd, 2019, 03:31 PM
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“Eyes on the prize, bitch!” snarled the gray Thirz Vargr. She felt her body launch upwards and into the air. As if she had leaped far too high, Zhevra reached the zenith of her launch and flailed in an attempt to catch the nearby tree with her claws and arrest her fall. Failing that, she plummeted to the bushes and landed hard.

“Your hood won’t protect you from telekinesis, you cheating, whorehouse slut!” sneered the Oruelaen with his teeth bared in full challenge.

Coughing but adrenalized as she had on the bridge of the Sixth Horizon, Zhevra growled. “You wanna Infight? Then put away your mind-raping powers, coward!”

“Give me the secret of Gevaudan’s Jump and I’ll kill you quick!” demanded the gray male. He circled around the tree to face a rising Zhevra. His fields to her were of maximum Mag and Lek, a sense of berserk anger. That’s right. Stay mad and unthinking.

The two collided and brawled. Zhevra blocked incoming claws and snapped her teeth at the spy’s neck. Though all Vargr were given tough-love training in Infighting from their pup years, neither Zhevra nor her opponent were pit fighters. She was an Engineer. The spy had relied on and developed his mental powers if his poor fighting form was any indication.

The Oruelaen tried to sweep with a leg at Zhevra’s bad and trembling left leg. It was his pelvic girdle’s fields that telegraphed the tripping action, allowing the Suedzuk to bounce again to her right. When she came down, still in a dance, thunder rolled across the island as a lightning bolt had flashed a second before in the distance. Rain began to pour as if Runetha Saetedz himself couldn’t hold back any longer. Heavy, rainforest droplets fell everywhere including Zhevra. Where she was hit, her fur became numb in Awareness. She was losing her sixth sense.

The Vargr Psion stepped back and threw an air punch with no hope of connecting Zhevra’s abdomen. But the telekinetic force, unseen and almost missed by her Awareness rammed her stomach and stole her breath. She staggered back, tripping over her shaking left leg and fell. “I’ll show you my powers, Red Pelt,” the male said as he rubbed his palms together repeatedly as if to generate heat there.

From inside her solar plexus, Zhevra could feel heat from within rising. He was making her hotter with his psionic powers. Unknown to the female, she could not think of how to stop the gut-wrenching pain in her belly. She growled through the excruciating pain, “I…am…no…Red Pelt!”

A roughly ovoid object in white came rolling between the gray Vargr and the writhing Suedzuk. When it caught the Oruelaen’s attention and broke his concentration, the fierce burning inside Zhevra ceased. It was the head of the Zhodani Tavrchedl’ Psion. The neck was seared in a severing burn and it came to a halt to display a surprised facial expression of the dead Human. So unnerving were the dead eyes looking up at the Thirz Vargr that he looked away to whom had thrown the turban and head.

Gevaudan, in an elderly but combat trained stance stood between two medium trees. In his bloody claws was his overheating Mindsaber held low and hissing with each drop of rain that struck it. “Get your mind-hands off my wife!” he rasped loudly. His teeth were bare, his tail more still than death. Zhevra looked to see his eyes a fiery but ocean blue.



Knowing now that the Oruelaen could not focus his powers on more than once person, as he had been caught unawares back in Genaveegh’s brothel that night, Zhevra saw the dilemma and anger evidence from her enemy. Dance, Gev! Her wilder, primal side called out to him.

“Go back to your King and tell him my secrets are my own,” warned the white Vargr. Zhevra could see a watery mist rising up about his decrepit form.

“Go to hell!” screamed the Oruelaen. He balled his two claws together by lacing his digits. In an overhand hammering action, he brought the two down, mimicking the swing of an imaginary maul hammer. When the fists began to descend to deliver the telekinetic blow at some distance from Gevaudan, Zhevra felt the same change in her husband – through the dampening and numbing rain - from his demonstration on South Beach of Gnoengungag’s early sunrise. He had spooled his jaunt before the gray opponent had focused his powers.

The telekinetic blow struck only empty mist and a snap of air pressure as Gevaudan jaunted too fast to follow, though Zhevra felt the dimensional shift of his fields. The white Vargr simply disappeared from his stance and reappeared to one side of the spy. The spot where he had been standing was flattened to a round crater, the bark of the two, medium trees stripped to their bases. The hammering blow would have crushed her husband soundly thought Zhevra; but she had no time to think or move. Pain in her gut was still wrenching her though the inner fire had ceased.

Gevaudan Cannagrrh performed a jaunt-charge to appear next to his foe, just as he had in the department store where Zhevra had been harassed. But instead of stopping and warning the Oruelaen, the Pilot-Astrogator swung with the sighing psi-blade. With a swish and a sigh, the blue and white light of the weapon decapitated the gray male. At first, to Zhevra’s perception, it looked as if Gevaudan had missed the Psion, but a thin line of blood across the male’s neck betrayed the thought-thin blade’s passing. The Thirz Vargr fell forward and his head tumbled free to roll further and stop next to the Tavrchedl’ Zhodani head.

At that last cut, Gevaudan’s Mindsaber sputtered and stalled, the blade flickering out. In a state of overheat, vapors of evaporating heat waves issuing from the fins in its pommel, the blade shut itself off. The white male stood in the pouring rain and looked to the dead Vargr head. “You first. Heroes go through hell only to regroup.”
__________________
Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
The Pakkrat 0608 X58738-8 S va++ so+ zh+ vi+ da+ 534
On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

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Old June 23rd, 2019, 03:35 PM
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“Gev,” whimpered Zhevra. Her abdomen ached but she could still sit up.

The husband whirled and skipped over to the wife. “Don’t move,” Gevaudan said. “You may be bleeding internally.” Zhevra saw him feel his burned palms over her belly. He had held onto his weapon for far too long and it had scalded his claw pads and palm. When she felt his palm rub the spot where the inner fire had began to burn her, the Suedzuk whimpered.

“You said the ship was a half-mile along the beach, right?” rasped Zhevra’s husband. She nodded through her grimace. Winds pushed on the canopy overhead.

Bodily the old male picked her up. Though wiry and lean, Zhevra was amazed at being picked up into his arms and carried by a centenarian. Rather than begin walking, the Suedzuk felt Gevaudan’s fields spooling up the six seconds it took to jaunt. Cradled in Gevaudan’s arms and though becoming wetter in the pouring rain, her Awareness registered the coming jaunt. “Gev, what are-?”

There was a gray flash before Zhevra’s wide eyes and the dripping jungle canopy above her was replaced by the dimming sky full of clouds. She was still in Gevaudan’s arms as he spun about to face the nearby Sixth Horizon some yards away and tall on the water-pelted beach. Surf roared as waves grew in intensity. It was the first time Zhevra felt what teleportation was like. Her husband padded along the hard and wet sand toward the ladder to the airlock above the two Vargr.



“That was T-space, wasn’t it, Gev?” whispered the pained wife.

“Not what I call it but yes,” answered the aged husband. “Never gave it much thought as it usually happens by so fast.”

Then Bob opened the airlock door and looked down at the two Vargr. “The storm is too intense to stay, Vincent reports. Come inside.”

Helping her ascend, Gevaudan climbed immediately up the ladder behind Zhevra. At the top, Bob assisted by partially hefting the female inside and into the pantry where the medical cabinet was located. Folding down an examination bed over the ship’s washer and dryer pair, Bob helped lay Zhevra upon it.

Vincent came out of the bridge and around the corner to see the aged, white male Vargr, “Captain Gevaudan Cannagrrh? You are functional?”

Gevaudan nodded and said, “Please help me scan her. She may have abdominal hemoraging and she’s in pain.”

With the aid of the medical cabinet’s gear, a plethora of medicines and by Gevaudan’s skills, the Pilot-Astrogator and the SensOp robot diagnosed severe bruising from intense heat, but nothing internal was torn. His scratchy voice rasped at Zhevra, “Bed rest for you, dear. Take this and drink the water with it. Slowly!”

Gevaduan petted his wife as she lay on the padded examination table as the storm raged outside the ship. He leaned over and licked her in slow Vargr kiss. “I love you, Zhevra.”

“I love you, Gevaudan.”

“We need to lift,” he said. “You want off this rock?”

She snickered though it hurt her belly to do so. He had said the same thing to her the day the two met. Nodding, she caressed the male’s muzzle and face.

“Vincent,” said Gevaudan. “Get my interface cord please and go man Ops on the bridge. Take the other end and plug it in. Let’s see if I can still fly. Power’s still hot, yes?”

“We landed earlier today and again a while ago,” whispered the female Engineer. “You’re Green, love.”

Vincent returned with one end of the cybernetic cord and handed it to the Pilot-Astrogator, “You are worn with age, Captain. Are you confident in this?”

The white Vargr opened the cover to his skull-jack and slid in the cord’s plug, jacking his skull into the ship’s computer after years away from the ship. Zhevra watched as he once more attained that meditative and goofy look on his face as he manipulated the Sixth Horizon from inside the computer. Maneuver drives began to hum, and the ship tilted on the hover floaters after lifting from the sand. Gevaudan was flying the Fast Far Scout from inside the pantry. Thunder roared outside in the storm.

“One gee,” whispered the white-furred cyborg. “Let’s go home.” The ship lifted from the island ever higher. During the ascent through the clouds, there was turbulence but Gevaudan seemed to have eyes for his wife only. He opened his ocean blue eyes and stared at Zhevra. His expression was intense and like a monk’s. “Why are the robots dressed, Zhevra?” he asked with a calm voice.

The Suedzuk female realized that she had not told her husband that Bob and Vincent were now awakened as Brothers. “I’ll tell you everything very soon. Just get us to a jump vector, hun.” She winced at the ache in her solar plexus. Gevaudan stayed with Zhevra through the in-system transit.

Bob brought a light meal for the two Vargr as he went back and forth from the galley to the pantry. “Please consume food-fuel carefully, sir and repair our sister,” cautioned the ship’s Steward.
__________________
Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
The Pakkrat 0608 X58738-8 S va++ so+ zh+ vi+ da+ 534
On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

Last edited by The Pakkrat; June 23rd, 2019 at 08:00 PM..
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Old June 23rd, 2019, 03:46 PM
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XXXX. Dzen and Lla Iz Therrg Subsectors / Gvurrdon
As she recovered over the course of the jump transit week, Zhevra told Gevaudan her story from that dread night on the bridge, through her recovery in the hospital and at Cannagrrh Villa. She omitted nothing as she recalled to him her experiences with Pack Cannagrrh, the trip to Gnoengungag to meet Genaveegh, Gevaudan’s third wife. Zhevra told everything in detail as she remembered aloud her escape from the Oruelaen Psion and her Rimward journey to Regency.

Zhevra explained that her husband’s laptop held the secret calibration point at parsec 2203 which allowed her to sneak across the Quarantine Line and into Regency to deliver the report. She spoke of her adventures in being chased to Regina by the Cruiser Rosenshrike. Gevaudan was visibly amazed and in awe of his wife’s tale.

In the night, both Vargr slept fitfully but when they woke each other with tremors from Zhevra and his attempts at sleepwalking, the two repositioned in tight embraces under the covers. Gevaudan’s scent helped Zhevra to fall asleep with contented ease. Her touch kept his body from wanting to go wandering and work in his sleep.

“My husband,” whispered the red Suedzuk. She licked him goodnight.

“My wife,” whispered back the white Gvegh. He returned the same goodnight lick.

The two shared a breakfast in the galley courtesy of Bob who happily prepared a meal that Gevaudan approved for the healing Zhevra. She spoke of her capture-arrest and interviews by Advocate Allain Templeton and his assistant Psion Khzaeng. Inwardly, she hoped her hardcopy missive warning of Virus on the impounding moon across the banded gas giant Assiniboia from Regina had arrived and was being heeded.

“Regency will likely dismantle the old refueling depot, Gev,” shrugged Zhevra. “I let that secret slip. Sorry.”

“That old war installation needed to come down anyway,” smiled the aged husband.

Back in the privacy of the captain’s cabin, Zhevra told without leaving anything out of her discovery that Bob and Vincent had become infected by hackers trying to learn the command codes from the robots. She explained that the two, former Servitors were now housing Brother Strains of Virus and what such meant in their personality. She admitted to agreeing to the pact of teaching the two newly awakened about life and living in exchange for keeping their Virus to themselves.

The old white Vargr looked to the closed stateroom door. His voice healing from the harsh island life, Gevaudan asked, “They’re not going to kill, enslave us or try take over the ship?” The past iterations of Virus were still written in his past experiences and showed on his face and was palpable in his fields.

“No, Gev,” answered Zhevra softly. “They’re sane, a new evolution in the artificial intelligence that has been called Virus for so many decades. As long as I keep my end of the bargain, they don’t feel the need to awaken the Sixth Horizon and still designate me as the ship’s Captain.”

The red and cream female continued her tale of putting the various, learned clues of Gevaudan’s Jump together. The information she had gleaned from the Circle of Mysteries lodge on Regina gave her the final, necessary piece to return to Gvurrdon Sector and begin anew the search for Gevaudan. The Dean had inadvertently given Zhevra the last, private clue. The Mind Tsunami had given her husband the psionic energy he needed to teleport from the ship on that night of terror.

As the Sixth Horizon entered the Society of Equals at a system called Knaegadae (Gvurrdon 2119), Gevaudan let Zhevra do the talking with the Interface world’s inspectors. After a long private demonstration and discussion with the Quarantine service Vargr, the two Vargr crew, their Brothers and the Fast Far Scout was given a bill of cleanliness of ‘dangerous’ Virus. Bob and Vincent eagerly put on a new change of clothes purchased for them as the ship was refueled at the high-tech orbital Highport.

And Zhevra’s story concluded at finally seeing Gevaudan’s aged form on the beach of Tagnaghoutsozaeng’s Farside island, as her husband piloted the ship over three jumps from Knaegadae home to Dzuerongvoe system. In that time, Zhevra gave her scruffy husband several close and intimate showers and a fur trimming to free him of his excess growth. Sitting patiently, Gevaudan endured a makeover grooming. He looked a little younger just then, but his stance and age betrayed him.

In the mirror, Gevaudan saw his face properly for the first time in years. He was putting on weight again with the renewed diet. He explained that the lack of anagathics dosages had caused him to begin aging at an advanced rate. Now that he was back aboard the Sixth Horizon, he could arrest his body’s attempt to catch up to his true age. However, he now had the permanent appearance of a sixty-something Vargr. With a healed wife beside him, he soon brightened. “Ages like fine wine that Old Dog!” exclaimed the elderly Pilot-Astrogator.

“He’s a Good Vargr,” said Zhevra to the mirror. That he is, said her Wildside reflection looking back at her.
__________________
Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mt+ mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
The Pakkrat 0608 X58738-8 S va++ so+ zh+ vi+ da+ 534
On assignment: Dhillourr (Gzaekfueg 1413) B110A7A-G Hi In {5} (D9F+3) [8F3F] 102 F9 V VRo5

Last edited by The Pakkrat; June 23rd, 2019 at 08:02 PM..
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Old June 23rd, 2019, 03:51 PM
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During the last three jumps to Dzuerongvoe, Gevaudan returned the storytelling favor to his wife, Zhevra. Bob and Vincent stood in the axis corridor in the galley to listen. The Suedzuk produced Allain Templeton’s black recording device and set it to record her husband’s voice. Then the female sat and listened to everything she had missed that night on the bridge of the Sixth Horizon.

Gevaudan cleared his throat and cupped his tall bottle of drinking water in his claws. Split between speaking to his wife and to the recording device, he began his tale formally and gradually put his attention on Zhevra personally. “My name is Senior Scout Gevaudan Cannagrrh of Pack Cannagrrh. At the time and setting of my story, I was the Captain-Owner of the Fast Far Scout Sixth Horizon. By trade, I am a Courier and a so-called Vargrtarian Slaver between the Wilds and Safe territories of Gvurrdon Sector. On board the ship that evening were myself, Zhevra Cannagrrh my wife, two Servitor robots Bob and Vincent and twelve Concubine slaves of Gvegh and Logaksu birth. Six were allowed staterooms and the other six slept through the return to the Dzen Aeng Kho in low berths of which the vessel has ten cryo-sleep chambers.”

“I forget the exact date, but the year was early 1187. We were outbound and just reaching the one-hundred diameters minimum jump limit from Rorroksueknea (Gvurrdon 2628). Our jump destination was to be Okhtous (Gvurrdon 2425). I had given Zhevra the order to go aft to deactivate the maneuver drive and re-route power to the jumpdrive’s zuchai crystals. This took some time as we were to transit four parsecs of space. I remained on the bridge to finish my Astrogation jump calculations. There were no contacts on sensors and in that year, comms were silent as a survival protocol against Virus infection from other ships or worlds.”

“I don’t know what had come over me as I saw my calculations for the jump fall perfectly into place. On my assisting ‘Gator laptop, I noticed Green light after Green light confirm my calculations. Satisfied – no, proud – of myself, I gave the final jump pathing algorithm to the Astrogation Board via my cybernetic Systems Integration interface with the ship’s computer. The computer agreed with me that it was a Green, all the numbers checked out cleanly. It looked like the best jump of my career. All I had to do was give my wife the Chief Engineer the order to initiate jump.”

Gevaudan paused his story as he looked from the black, recording cylinder to Zhevra. The two grasped each other’s claws to hold onto each other. “I can only guess that the experience has been and ever will be different for each Psion, psionic-trained person and even non-psionic sophonts. On the ship’s intercom, I called to Zhevra in Engineering to give her the order to jump. I should have closed the viewports on the bridge as is standard operating procedures. However, IT hit me and the rest of the ship, nose to stern, in a flash of dreadful revelation. Call it whatever term you want. I call it the Empress Wave, because of Her. One moment I was feeling proud of myself for the perfect jump as the jump field bubble formed about the ship. The next moment, the Empress in Black was before me on the bridge, demanding my attention and action. There were no words. All fell silent. Everything. The silver-gray of jumpspace swirled outside the starboard viewport. But to my left and crossing the Empress’s stature and stern gaze, I saw an advanced and alien city out the port viewport. Was it telepathy? I don’t know. I’m not rated at all in that psionic talent. I only knew fear, a dread warning from her. I cringed and begged in my mind for her to leave my ship, to leave me alone. The Empress in Black thrust forward a black staff she held in her hand. It was some symbol of state office, rulership, mastery. Again, I couldn’t tell. She just kept staring at me with those imperative eyes and stoic face. Human in form for reasons I can’t fathom, she towered over me as I tried to interpret what it was she wanted of me. I writhed and whimpered, cried and moaned for her to please leave me alone and pass over and beyond me.”



The couple gripped each other’s claws in support of Gevaudan continuing the testimony. “I ran about the bridge, setting the Maneuver software to a timer so it would pilot the ship once we fell out of jumpspace in 154 hours. Since the Empress in Black stood there, her dress waving in the winds of my tortured mind as I tried to understand her, it only got worse. I had to escape her somehow. To do that, I needed to keep her on the bridge long enough to gather my gear and take her off the ship.”

“Zhevra,” continued the husband, “you were right. My Hazardous Environment Suit is orange. I loaded it with my Sword Worlds heavy pistol, my medikit, some survival gear, my Zhodani Mindsaber, and had it laid out and ready to gear up. Cringing away from the insistent Empress who watched me and beckoned with her commanding staff, I went to check the fuel consumption at the Engineering board. That is when you, Zhevra entered the bridge. I was long lost to the Empress by then. I had no hope of rational thought, such was the fear, terror even and dread of her imperative Wave. I was panicking. I was acting on instinct augmented by my colder cybernetics bolstering my plans to take the tall Human with me off the ship. I had on my Teleportation Suit and felt the Wave cresting inside my mind, a power I had no hope of avoiding. When I was sure the ship could make it on maneuver thrust to Okhtous’ mainworld, I turned and there you were, Zhevra.”

Gevaudan began to tear up and he sniffed back his running nose. After a sip of water from the bottle, he said, “Only, I did not see my red-furred wife. I saw the black Zhevra was wearing and the juxtaposed image of the demanding Empress in Black over her. I screamed at the closeness of the Human female with her black staff when the door had locked her in with me. Added to that, I had missed my dosage window of anagathics. The aches and pains from what the physicians call an aging crisis hit me as if a starship landed on top of me. I was in excruciating physical pain. That is when I lost all further rational thought. Everything except for the Empress in Black slowed when my combat cybernetics triggered. I Infought with Zhevra whom I took to be the Empress. With the Wave crashing fully and drowning me in its power, I threw her across the cockpit to my surprise. I did not know I could physically grab the Empress in Black and was struck anew with even more fear and panic as I tore into Zhevra when she went to tumble underneath me. All I could see was the black uniform Zhevra was wearing that night and equate it with the Empress.”

“I bit her, my wife. I raked her open several times. My claws dripped with blood that I thought was the Empress’. When she – Zhevra that is – stopped moving on the deck, I howled in animal exaltation. Had I slain the Empress? No. Though I could no longer see her, she rode in the back of my head, my mind. And still the Wave’s energies threw me about emotionally and mentally. I dressed in my HEV and grav-belt. Before I saw her again with my eyes, I had to escape the bridge and the entire ship.”

“Oh, Zhevra! I turned and saw your still form on the deck. I had killed you. There were screams outside the door to the bridge. Someone was banging on the door. The sounds were mixed in and overpowered with the dread message of the Wave. I finally saw the blood on my claws and tasted it on the teeth of my mouth. In an eternal minute, I realized what I had done. Causality hit me like a nuclear missile. Yet, the Empress might have come back with the encountering of another living being who next entered the bridge. Panicking, I could not allow that. I had to take the Empress in Black with me, off the bridge, safely off the ship. The only way I had left to do that as the bridge door lock was being slowly bypassed was to jaunt, to teleport.”

“You were right, Zhevra. In that fleeting and temporary moment, I could only think of safety, sanctuary, a solitude away from anyone else that the energies might make me kill in response to the instinctual, primal terror the Empress in Black inflicted upon me. I thought of home. I dug my mental claws into jaunting home, to Dzuerongvoe. I should not have as there were people there who I could have killed next. But I remembered the South Wood and that I might sequester myself there until, I don’t know, let the Empress tire of me. I thought of my Sister-Dame. She might help me once I arrived there. The jaunt was such a longshot and I remembered that I was in jumpspace. But any place other than the bridge of the Sixth Horizon was better as the door reverberated with banging noises and the females’ screams.”
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“It was the longest, most difficult jaunt that I will never attempt again, Zhevra. I had almost no hope except for the vivid recall of home focused in my mind. The Wave’s energy spurred me to teleport, daring me to go against everything I had learned about jumpspace, that it was a no-return route if I was off the mark in the slightest. The edge of the universe could cut me into nothingness. But those of us tested, rated and trained in teleportation know only from experience, that psionics runs on different rules, different laws of travel. Oh, how I cried over you, Zhevra, as I began the buildup of that churning Wave power! I would run it through and make the Empress pay for my transit. She stood there in my mind, demanding and imperious, making me travel Coreward. The jaunt took ten times the normal jaunt time to initiate. In that jaunt, I saw the Grey Between for longer than the flash you saw and termed T-space.”

Zhevra nodded but kept silent and squeezed her husband’s claws. He went on saying, “At first thought, I worried that I was stuck in that form of transit. Then everything changed to black with stars. I was already buttoned up in my HEV and had fallen into open space instead of Dzuerongvoe. I’m glad, because I would have died in seconds to the vacuum. Even then, I had only so much life support duration in the HEV. Then a planet came into view and I was hurtling toward it as a function of the conservation of momentum energy from leaving the Sixth Horizon. The world had a moon before it and I had to somehow slow my approach. With only a grav-belt that relied on low orbit distances from a large system body, I had to ride that speed with fear that I could miss the moon or the planet entirely. The world was not Dzuerongvoe and I knew then that I had missed my target but was at least back in normal space.”



“In order to slow down, I had to coast at that momentum until within range of the planet’s moon. When the grav-belt was reading something to grab, I pulled a sickening loop around the moon at low altitudes to begin braking and destroying my momentum. I had no other form of propulsion. Slinging off the satellite, I then aimed the grav-belt at the low orbit of the blue, water planet. I still had no idea of what world it was. I was just thankful to Runetha Saetedz I had a world in front of me as life support was running low as I again braked over the water world. Finally, having slowed enough for an orbital drop, I looked down to the surface for an island. It looked like any others and I descended through the upper ionosphere in communications blackout; though it was not like I had anyone to talk to at the time.”

“Upon re-entry over a region of the planet, my HEV was running low on breathable air, its duration falling off in alarms and yellow light conditions. I had to hold my breath for long, single intakes and concentrate on controlling my descent. In the upper stratosphere, I took a reading in the suit and found it to be standard and breathable. But when I popped my helmet, it flew off and out of my grasp in the descent. Then, in the upper troposphere, the grav-belt failed. I fell in a skydive, without a parachute.”



“Below me, the seamount’s underwater shelf got closer as I spread my arms and legs out to control the fall and attempt to slow it. Again, thanks to the orange HEV and the medikit I had belted on, I had the means to survive the fall. I tapped the medikit for combat drug to help with the incoming pain and to keep me conscious upon impact with the sea. Adding both a stimulation drug and a metabolic accelerator let me stay active because when I hit the surface it was as if it were solid. The armor of the HEV, my subdermal armor implants and the drugs kept me alive, active and with enough bodily energy to swim the final three miles to the beach and collapse for four hours in body shock and exhaustion.”

“Trained as a Scout for survival, I was lucky to have a tropical island to find shelter, hunt terrestrial food and make a net for fish, and find a small cave to shelter from the hurricanes and summer storms. For three years, I had to come to grips with my body aging as an old Vargr and learn what that meant. Though I had bled off much of the Empress Wave, she still tortured me from time to time in appearing in my thoughts, on the beach, during hunts and whenever I let my guard down such as sleeping. I used up all my pistol bullets in hunting those mountain bison-goats. I wove a net to land some fish. I’m told later that I landed on the Farside of Tagnaghoutsozaeng and saw no aircraft, watercraft or contragravity craft on that side of the world. I was marooned and incommunicado for those years. For a time, I was glad to keep the Empress away from anyone who might find me. The Empress in Black became my enemy and a companion as she began to fade slowly over that exile. The mountain herds and I came to a mutual respect. My body grew older to what I guess is my sixties or seventies. I had to take it easy and still hold my territory. Training in Medical saved my life through one illness that left me in my cave for days. And the experiences on that island went on and became life for me.”

Gevaudan sighed and smiled at his wife. “Then, while fishing one day on the beach, I heard my name. Was it the Empress who had learned finally my name and tortured me with it? This red-furred female was jogging toward me. Did the Empress in Black want me to remember I had killed my wife? I couldn’t take it if she was. But then the red-furred female touched me physically and gently, something I had not felt since that night on the bridge of the Sixth Horizon. The rest is between my mate-wife and I.”

Zhevra switched off the recording device and returned it to her box of possessions. Then the two retired to the captain’s cabin as the Brother Strain robots kept watch on the ship.
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Old June 23rd, 2019, 04:00 PM
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XXXXI. Duerongvoe (Gvurrdon 1413) B664997-C
Gevaudan Cannagrrh sat at the Ops position on the cockpit. Though he had the cybernetic, black and yellow striped cord running from the helm, across the deck floor to his skull’s jack, the Pilot-Astrogator merely watched his wife who sat in the Pilot’s chair with her claws manipulating the holographic controls for the final approach planetside. The Sixth Horizon had been recipient to standing orders at the orbital space station to have the Fast Far Scout of that name to divert and re-enter the atmosphere. It was directed via laser flash signals to land at an assigned berth at the surface Downport. The white Vargr watched as his red-furred wife, Zhevra, wing over the ship for the descent. Before him were the virtual boards as he monitored her acrobatics’ effect on the Engineering gauges.

The two had come to an understanding in the last few jumps. Zhevra, in hopes of continuing her pact with the awakened Bob and Vincent, kept the Captain position of the Sixth Horizon. She felt it fitting that Gevaudan relegated himself to the Owner station. This new command shakeup seemed to satisfy the Brother Strains and Zhevra again found herself fielding questions from the curious robots.

“Sister,” asked Vincent on the final glidepath to the surface of Dzuerongvoe. “If the Mind Tsunami, as you call it, struck the ship in 1187 at Rorroksueknea, then how come Senior Scout Gevaudan Cannagrrh and yourself missed it for the years should have passed Gnoengungag and later worlds?”

Zhevra was caught without an answer. “Can I let my husband answer that, Vincent?”

“As you wish, sister,” relinquished the awakened robot.

Still playing his eyes over the virtual boards that only he could see, the elderly Gvegh spoke to the robot dressed in a long trench coat, loose shirt and pants. “During my exile on that island, I asked myself the same question. I remember drawing in the sand at the beach. Repeatedly I had to come to some half-baked conclusion, Vincent, that the Empress Wave is not slowed by physical or gravitational presences. It acts like some EM propagation wave but is psionic in its substance. I can only imagine the damage it does to a psi-squealer detector as it crashes upon one. According to the copy of the report you two Brothers took when Zhevra let you read it, the Wave is covering a parsec of space per year and heading Rimward.”

“My answer is this. Though the Empress Wave does not register space-time, much like teleportation ignores it, it does find resistance when it reaches a mind, especially a sophont mind. It has to crash against it, deliver the Empress in Black to the attention of its victim and penetrate to the depths of their core. This happens to every lifeform, plant and higher, that can possibly have a psionic sensitivity. Then there is the difference between minds out there in the Wilds and those of civilization in the Safes behind the Quarantine Lines. The more stable the minds, satisfied in their contented lives, the harder it becomes for the Empress in Black to breach onto their states of consciousness. It is my hypothesis that the Empress Wave is slowed by denser populations of minds it has to rush through.”

“I have to conclude that the Empress Wave was slowed somewhat when it slammed into the minds of the polities of Gvurrdon Sector that were more stable, such as the Dzen Aeng Kho, the Thirz Empire, Zhodani Consulate, and others that were behind the Quarantine Line and thus more content and confident, a resistor to the message of the Empress in Black. Once past those pockets of resistance, the Wave must make up the difference by evening out its psionic energies again in a solid wavefront. It’s my best guess, Vincent. It will have to do for now.”

“I am thankful that you and Bob were able to save my wife’s life. I am also thankful that you two managed to get help from the panicked slaves to deliver the Sixth Horizon to Gnoengungag back then. I just could not let myself rampage through the ship, killing the Empress in Black I saw in Zhevra and quite possibly everyone else on board.”

With that, Gevaudan reached across to join claws with his wife’s. Vincent nodded, “That seems to compute, Senior Scout Gevaudan Cannagrrh, especially when one takes into account the unknown variables of psionics and its various disciplines.”

“Yes,” agreed the white male. “Until more is known about a discipline, that is not an art or a science yet, we will have to shelf the question for a time when a more accurate answer can be given.”

Zhevra smiled at her husband. “My mate-husband knows my guesses better than I do, Vincent.”

All too soon, the Fast Far Scout was on the deck of the landing strip of spacecraft and starship berths. A truck with a ramp of stairs pulled up to the ship’s airlock. The Brothers balked at the opened airlock door. Zhevra spotted the two robots looking to each other in a silent and shared computation.

“What’s wrong, Brothers?” asked the Suedzuk.

“We are experiencing something new, Zhevra,” warned Bob.

Zhevra stopped just before the airlock door opened to the blue sky and puffy cumulus clouds overhead. “Can you describe what is being processed?”

Bob planted his robotic hands in the pockets of his coachman’s jacket and said, “We are weighing probabilities that our awakening will not be welcomed versus staying on the ship and not coming with you to Senior Scout Gevaudan Cannagrrh’s origination home.”

With a sigh of relief, Zhevra stepped to the two robots. “What you are experiencing is called fear. Fear warns you of danger. But in feeling, or in your case computing and acknowledging fear, you must process through it and keep such computations from preventing you from acting. Fear can seize your next actions and cause you to hesitate. When that happens, we sometimes call it terror. Are you too afraid to leave the ship, guys?”

Vincent, ever in denial since he was not as versed as Bob the Steward, “We are not. It is just-…may we stay near you and your mate?”

“Ah. Safety in numbers. Of course, Vincent!” Zhevra smiled and as Gevaudan waited, she stepped up to the SensOp Brother and hugged his metallic chassis. “Come on. As a small, nuclear family we’ll travel to Cannagrrh Villa. You’ll meet the Pack. You will see young Vargr. You can walk the grounds and take in more data to learn. Just bring your questions to me as per our promise, okay?”

“Yes, sister,” answered Bob for Vincent. Then the two Brother Strains descended the stairs after the two Vargr.

The ride in a rented grav-van from the Downport on Dzuerongvoe was thankfully short. Outside the contragravity vehicle, a Spring thunderstorm rained down heavily upon the terrain below. Flashes of lightning registered to Zhevra’s eyes and her Awareness. Rather than flinching at the thunder, the red and cream female reacated to the stroke of electrical discharge. In the cabin, she sat closer to her mate-husband in a cuddle. Gevaudan hugged the Suedzuk in his white-furred embrace. With rain blurring the windows with water, there was only gray outside the grav-van, punctuated with the electrical discharges. The thunderstorm brought back memories of the hospital. Zhevra huddled close to the Pilot-Astrogator to purge the unwanted loneliness.

Gevaudan was dressed in a spare ballistic cloth uniform he owned. His EMP shield collar rode loosely about his neck though he was still adding on weight after his exile. Zhevra could feel his fields, calm in his Mag and only a hint of heightened Lek. He rode in the vehicle facing forward out the front windshield. His only weapon at his belt was the Zhodani Mindsaber. Seeing the weapon, Zhevra sat up next to her husband and re-checked her pistol and its ammunition. Then she straightened her own lavender collar at his stoicism.
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Old June 23rd, 2019, 04:13 PM
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“I did not call ahead, love,” admitted Zhevra.

“Neither did I,” replied Gevaudan. “I think it best we just arrive and let everything fall into place.”

With the dark gray thunderstorm behind and backdropping the grav-van, the group descended toward the wet Cannagrrh Villa ahead. The two suns broke through the last of the retreating cumulonimbus clouds as they slid over and past South Wood. Beams of the pale blue and pale orange stars lit the grounds of the Pack estate. The gray stone of the keep glistened in the wet, local morning. Zhevra saw the Villa’s grav-van parked out front and there was some minor activity at the front door. Coming to a parking halt behind the Cannagrrh vehicle, Zhevra paid the fare as Gevaudan and the twin robots stepped out the side door.

The covered entrance, though dripping with the rains’ runoff, sheltered the climb up the first steps to the massive dark grand doors. Zhevra stepped beside her white Gvegh husband and looked up. Standing at the top of the steps were the Unequals. Lieutenant Dhueth Cannagrrh was dressed not in some formal navy uniform but a Privateer’s corporate and duty uniform. About his head was his signature gray, replacement muzzle and the same gray belt encircled his waist. Black boots were shiny as formal dress boots on his feet. As Zhevra remembered, Dhueth’s snaggle tooth poked out from his lower jaw. As an officer, Dhueth was armed with a corporate-issue pistol in a black holster on his Unequal belt.

Next to Dhueth and in a subordinate position was Sub-Lieutenant Knirr Cannagrrh. The gray female friend of Zhevra was grinning and her tail could not be stilled in its wagging. She wore the same Privateer’s uniform that ended in loose pants with cargo pockets. No pleated skirt of the navy, Knirr was dressed for duty and action. A similar, holstered pistol rode the black Unequal belt at her waist. Zhevra’s eyes met with Knirr’s eyes. She wore the same yellow Unequal muzzle straps over the bridge of her nose. Standing at a formal attention, Knirr waited patiently for the arriving group to ascend the stairs.

Before the grand doors to Cannagrrh Villa was Uthka Varzeekh robed in her royal purple with coins that reflected the beams of the two suns illuminating the estate. Sashes of orich wrapped her waist over the robe and encircled her gray muzzle and draped back, over her shoulders. The old Seer’s hood was lowered back and exposed her head and ears. Her gray eyes were focused on Gevaudan and half-lidded as if she alone was privy to a secret. Her claws were stacked one atop the other over her dark, wooden, Asclepius rod-cane. The gentle winds pushed on her robe’s lower hem.
The married couple and the twin robots climbed the stairs together and were met by the Unequals.

Dhueth Cannagrrh stepped forward and though his muzzle was almost imperceptibly lowered before Gevaudan, he spoke in his gruff voice. “Being an Unequal has its advantages,” announced the Lieutenant who gestured to Uthka Varzeekh. “Welcome home, Senior Scout Gevaudan Cannagrrh. By the Ancients, so many of us thought you lost forever.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant Dhueth Cannagrrh,” answered Zhevra’s husband. “It is a long story and one that needs to be heard and heeded by more than this Pack.” The white Gvegh clasped claws with his Unequal cousin.

“Velcome home, Six of Vands,” purred Uthka Varzeekh, using what Zhevra thought to be a nickname for Gevaudan. “Your vive has been successvul in her mission. You ove so much to her vaith in you.”

Gevaudan turned to the Seer. He reached into his chest pocket and produced the handcarved, wooden Wand with his likeness on the handle pommel. It was the Wand that Katy Crow had returned to Zhevra who gave it back to her mate-husband. “Captain Crow and his family send their regards. His granddaughter helped Zhevra escape the Regency. She is supposedly returning Capt. Crow’s saber to him, if he still lives after all this time.” The Pilot-Astrogator looked to the three Unequals and asked “No Kaer Cannagrrh, Dhueth?”

“Gone missing since the years of strangeness,” answered Dhueth. “No one has heard from him since the aftermath of the Equality War, Gevaudan. I hope he’s still out there, belting to his heart’s content.”

Zhevra left her husband’s side and collided in a hugging embrace with Knirr Cannagrrh. “I am so happy to see you again!” she cried in the larger female’s arms.

“You don’t think we are blind to the arrival of the Sixth Horizon on the borders of the Dzen Aeng Kho, do you?” asked Knirr in reply. “Our Privateer firm patrols all over the border. Doesn’t take a soothsayer to catch wind of a Third Imperium Scout vessel begging passage across our Quarantine Line.”

The two females hugged again. “It’s good to see you again, luv,” said Zhevra who again mimicked the odd accent of Head Chef Raegksungkuen.
“It’s good to receive you here again, friend,” whispered the gray Gvegh female. “I have our old room again, that is if you care to share some time.”
Zhevra nodded to Knirr as Dhueth reached and opened the grand doors to Cannagrrh Villa. “Welcome home, cousin Gevaudan, wife Zhevra and to your robots – Bob and Vincent I understand from the reports?”

“Oh, they’re not our robots anymore,” responded Gevaudan Cannagrrh. “They may work aboard my ship, but they answer to Zhevra now.”

“I don’t understand,” said the Unequal Lieutenant. “What has changed?”
Zhevra released Knirr and went to hold both her claws to each of the hand manipulators of the dressed robots beside her. “Bob and Vincent, meet Dhueth and Knirr Cannagrrh and Uthka Varzeekh. Friends, Bob and Vincent are sane awakened.”

Though there was an initial shock across the faces of the Unequals, Gevaudan spoke up before any of them could respond or protest. “She means that though they are infected, they have a new and safe, Brother Strain and remain my crew under the command of their Captain Zhevra Cannagrrh. She discovered them and they work for her now aboard my ship. Bob, Vincent, please come inside the home of my youth though I have not step foot through these doors in many decades. The place has changed but only a little.”

With Zhevra between them and holding their hands, the SensOp and the Steward entered the grand doors behind Gevaudan and the Unequals.
Zhevra saw her white-furred husband lean over to the gray Uthka and heard him whisper, “You Looked – for me, didn’t you?” His ocean blue eyes flashed as his nearness to the old crone.

“Ov course, Gevaudan,” Varzeekh whispered back to him. “Ve have bonds too betveen us, y’know.” Then she gestured to the grand foyer and for the group to enter Cannagrrh Villa properly.

Zhevra pulled along the robots and whispered to them, “See? Not so bad with a family and a Pack about you, yes?”

“It computes, sister,” answered Vincent. Bob remained quiet but nodded his metallic head in agreeance.
__________________
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Old June 23rd, 2019, 04:15 PM
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Into and past the grand foyer was the grand hall that was opened to the upper floors overhead. Tapestries still hung to display the Cannagrrh Mansche, the swirling galaxy shape on a field of purple. But the doors to the library to the right of the group burst open as a second group of Packmembers issued forth. At the head of the group of Vargr was Dame Qithka Cannagrrh, Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh.

“Either that is my brother, or Ancients take the prankster, I am being played for a fool!” boomed the elderly female. Her pace quickened as her white dress ensemble swished behind her. Qithka’s reading glasses fell from her muzzle bridge and were caught on a chain that hung from her neck.
Zhevra’s husband stepped forward and announced his return, “Elder Sister-Dame. Zhevra found me. She brought me home. Your litter-brother Gevaudan is home.”

The two white Vargr came together after decades in a hug. Qithka sobbed to see her younger brother and cried through matching, ocean blue eyes at him. Zhevra saw then that though both had been on Imperium anagathics drugs to slow their aging, Gevaudan had caught up to Qithka in apparent age. The two elderly looking Gvegh were the only white Vargr in the entire keep. The two hugged as the Suedzuk saw the others enter from the library.
Joining the first group were the Equals of Pack Cannagrrh, followed by the keep’s staff. Chef Raegksungkuen and Housekeeper Vrrakh were first among the employees to welcome home the Senior Scout.

“And who do we have here?” asked Gevaudan Cannagrrh to the younger Vargr.

Dr. Ahdllu Cannagrrh introduced her cubs, the prim and proper future-Emissary Gaenkarrg, Faedoukhdaekuell the sneaky git Zhevra remembered and little Dhurranae whom Zhevra first met in the hall of portraits. Gevaudan in return introduced his nuclear family of known Zhevra and the self-aware robots, Bob and Vincent.

It was Dhurranae who first stepped forward in her innocence to reach up to the Brother Strain robots. “My dam says its nice to hug family.”

Bob and Vincent looked to Zhevra for permission but then crouched down and let the young Vargr give each chassis a hug.

Down the grand stairs into the hall came the black-furred triplets, their foot claw nails clicking the steps in a rain of paces. “Zhevra!” The Suedzuk noted privately that their sire, Captain Voellzoen was not present at the top of the stairs as he had been the night of the Solstice Fete.

The red and cream female received the three females, Anglla, Laor and Nurki with embraces. Licks and more hugs ensued as the triplets took turns and then ganged Zhevra in a group hug. “You brought him back. We’ve never met Gevaudan. Only his picture.”

“Anglla the eldest, wise Laor and helpful Nurki,” introduced Zhevra, “Meet my mate-husband, your cousin Gevaudan Cannagrrh. I have brought him back and wait until you hear our story. Husband, these are the debutante ladies from last year’s Solstice Fete.” The Suedzuk turned and addressed the triplets. “I smell male cologne on one of you females. Who has a male-friend? Fess up!”

“It was Laor,” accused Nurki pointing. “She’s been dating a male from school.”

“Nurki!” shouted outed Laor.

Through the reunion, Qithka remained next to her brother. Zhevra caught from the corner of her eyes and through her Awareness that the Dame was bursting with Mag and less of Lek. She was brimming with insistence. Gevaudan met with everyone in the Pack, Equals, Unequals, staff and shook claws additionally with the house slaves who were curious enough to appear in the grand hall. As he had done in first encountering Zhevra, her husband treated everyone civilly and respectful. He was, after all those decades, the Vargrtarian of the Collapse. Life was precious to the Scout-Courier and Slaver.

The entire Pack followed elderly Gevaudan through touring the Villa until finally they returned to the library, the seat of power of the Alpha, Dame Qithka. With Zhevra on one claw and his Sister-Dame on the other of Gevaudan, they approached her makeshift office desk among the stacks of books and media. The Suedzuk saw that a purple scarf with the red embroidered trident, the Greek letter psi remained on the wide lady’s desk. It had been worn by Uthka Varzeekh when Zhevra at last spoke to Qithka, cured of her one-word vocabulary.

“And now,” said Alpha Qithka Cannagrrh who scooped up a wide and thick envelope from the center of her cluttered desk. “Before the gathered quorum of Pack Cannagrrh, I repay you, little brother for the misdeed you perpetrated upon me at Ouse Faeg.” Holding out the envelope sealed with the wax, Cannagrrh Mansche, Dame Qithka Cannagrrh pushed it to the claws of Zhevra’s husband. “I abdicate Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh to my younger brother, Gevaudan Cannagrrh, officially. As you say on your ship, Gev, you have the con.”

Zhevra was next to her husband and gripping his left arm tightly as he broke the seal and opened the manila envelope. Reading the first page of the hardcopy inside the unsealed document, he looked up to Qithka and said, “I have the con. It is about time I stepped up to the plate, Sister-Dame. You are relieved of Alpha of Pack Cannagrrh.”

There were mixed whispers as everyone present clapped claws and wagged tails. Zhevra hugged her husband’s arm. She was then freed of the title of heir to Alpha at awakening from her long coma.
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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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Old June 23rd, 2019, 04:22 PM
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“Before you go, Sister-Dame,” announced Alpha Gevaudan to the entire library. “I have a mission suited for you.”

“Oh?” asked the Dame. “And so soon into power.” She put her claws on her hips and leveled her ocean blue gaze at the white male. “What does the Alpha of the Pack command?”

Gevaudan took a breath, adjusted his EMP collar straighter, and with an elderly and commanding voice said, “You are to search for and bring home the last of the unaccounted-for Pack members. Find and bring home Kaer Cannagrrh if he still lives. All are to be welcomed home to Cannagrrh Villa. Zhevra has taught me of her higher quality. That quality stands here and now on my estate.”

“What are you-?” asked Qithka incredulously.

Zhevra cut her off with the familiar question, “You want off this rock?” The question made her husband smile at her.

Zhevra then looked to Knirr and felt her fields full to bursting with Mag and Lek. She was excited in her assumption that Gevaudan was told the tale of that night at the Fete. Nodding to the Sub-Lieutenant subtly, Zhevra confirmed it just before her husband spoke.

“On my grounds, on this entire estate of Cannagrrh Villa, so long as I am Alpha, Unequals need not wear their symbols. Though I do not know as my wife Zhevra does, I embrace her higher quality and adopt it for myself. Unequals need not protest the Equality Test to me. Though each may choose their life path, it is not befitting a hero to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to those he considers his comrades, family, Pack. Let us behave like one and not what the Dzen Aeng Kho dictates. On these grounds, on this day, I would see the un-belting of my kindred while they visit my territory. Right now!”

No one spoke. Then, Zhevra left her husband’s side and stepped over to nearby Knirr Cannagrrh. Before the entire Pack, the smaller Suedzuk reached up to Knirr’s waist and loosened the Unequal belt. The gray female lowered her head to Zhevra. With a gentle smile and tears in her eyes, Knirr permitted her friend of a higher quality to unbelt her muzzle straps and remove the yellow social restraint. With a quick lick to Knirr, the Suedzuk held out the gathered Unequal symbols, displaying them before Pack Cannagrrh and unceremoniously let them fall to the stone floor with a clatter of metal and leather. Zhevra then guided her friend to the Alpha Gevaudan.

The elderly white male hugged Knirr Cannagrrh tight. Zhevra teared up and her sight was blurred. Through the tears, she saw Dhueth come forward. He had removed his belts and dropped them over Knirr’s on the floor. His facial fur was shorter and fine where the belts had ridden for so long. He too was embraced by Gevaudan Cannagrrh, the new Alpha.

“This is what I want to do for Kaer Cannagrrh, Sister-Dame,” announced Zhevra’s mate-husband. “You are to bring him home to Cannagrrh Villa, to me, for the same reward for returning home to his Pack. Take whatever you need, use whatever assets we have at disposal and find him. Leave when you are ready.” With that, the new Alpha looked around the library. “I have some remodeling to do around here.”

All the fields in the room dropped their Lek and their Mag levels felt so very attractive to Zhevra’s Awareness. The Suedzuk had found and earned a home here at Cannagrrh Villa. As her husband settled into the authority and role of Alpha of the Pack, Zhevra stood at his side and advised him through her hidden Awareness. No psionics detectors or shielding could hide from her sensitivities to bio-electromagnetic signatures as she and Gevaudan met with visitors daily. She became his vizier as well as his mate.

Zhevra did not neglect her best friend, Knirr who too soon had to return with Dhueth to her unit in the mercenary Privateer firm contracted to the Society of Equals. The two spent all Zhevra’s free time in their old, shared room in the Villa. Knirr was unclad from the hated belts before Zhevra in the privacy of their chambers. The gray and the red females caught up, each with a story to tell. Zhevra’s Pack nemesis, Capt. Voellzoen had returned to his flagship and was well into his next term in serving the polity’s interstellar navy. The Thirz Empire’s diplomatic Emissaries were still yelling across the tables at the Emissaries from the Dzen Aeng Kho. Not enough was being done in the Thirz view in keeping up the Quarantine Line Trailing of the Society. In return, the Equals at the table accused the King’s Oruelaen of overstepping their bonded roles as ‘observers’. Knirr laughed to relay that the Zhodani Consulate ambassadors had to rein in their allies before the meeting could devolve into Infighting over the table and chairs.

Dhueth and Knirr had run their patrols and were instrumental in stopping much illegal smuggling. At hearing Gevaudan’s command to his Sister-Dame, Knirr had intel she wanted to give to the departing Dame. At first, the demoted Qithka had spent a week planning and gathering needs for her mission. Zhevra was glad the old crone was freed from her duties as Alpha and able to ply the stars again in travel.

Zhevra told her story after leaving Cannagrrh Villa in search of her missing husband. The story took all night. The two hugged and held each other in the wee hours before the last day Knirr could stay.

“I’ll be here when you get another leave,” promised Zhevra.

“I love you friend,” whispered Knirr. There was no dipping of her muzzle in submission to an Equal. Egalitarianism reigned between the two females.

“Remember this always: I love you unconditionally always, friend,” vowed Zhevra.

END OF BOOK THREE

EPILOGUE
Zhevra rose in the early morning, some days after Dhueth and Knirr had returned to their corporate fleet and well after the Dame had taken her leave. With a Suedzuk silence, she padded to the bathroom to regurgitate as quietly as she could so as to not waken her husband to another fit of somnambulism. Morning sickness was telling her that the old Pilot-Astrogator still had it where it counted. Pups were on the way.

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

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