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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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  #81  
Old August 17th, 2017, 10:35 AM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 50a

First Officer and Intendant Mlantia followed the two shorter, Vargr males through the 300 ton Surveyor. To her, the larger vessel looked more like a Trader than some science Surveyor. From the Sensors stills and readings, other than Comms the Gatherer was using only passive sensors, obviously of a very high technology. Thus, it did not surprise her when Third Officer Dedhekhsgourz had admitted the ship was from Serue (Tlabrieish 1221). Serue was source to many new schematics and breakthroughs released from their Technology Summit every four years. Mlantia had never been to Serue, but knew that the Zhodani subsector Council was interested in maintaining contact with the Vargr scientists there. Through Izsiqrl, the Vargr were still cautious to have dealings with the Zhodani.

The Captain of this vessel lay in her bunk in microgravity. Mlantia and her three crewmembers had used magnetized boots in their Vacc Suits to follow the hungry males through the ship to the Captain’s cabin. The female had plenty of water and Mlantia saw an emptied intravenous bag of medicinal fluids meant to keep the female’s fluids steady. It was obvious then that the Professor, Zannun was telling the truth in the call for aid about the local crew suffering from a lack of food over their jump. Yet, Dedhekhsgourz would not reveal the answer to Mlantia’s commander’s question. Unless the Gatherer had very little cargo space for self-declared Merchants, used for two jumps of fuel; or the Third Officer was privy some other nature of the Surveyor ship.

Mlantia had crossed with her Proles armed with laser longarms to the Surveyor. At three-hundred tons, even a small ship could pose as a Vargr Corsair and still pay for itself. The scans of the three barbettes in the hardpoints had revealed a shocking dual weaponry of Fusion Guns with Data Casters, Jump Dampers and, oddly enough, a mining laser. This load-out was diverse but still alarmed Capt. Vhzhti enough to order the weaponry carried. The Predliaia was smaller and would have been no match, forced to withdraw and signal an attack, had the Gatherer opened fire. But thankfully, these Vargr were truthful about their situation despite their secrets.

“Kakhskha?” asked the male first officer Dedheksgourz. “Captain, we’ve been aided by the Zhodani. Here’s food. No! Take it in slowly. Suck on the packets as I have turned down the gravity. Careful now. Good.” Mlantia was glad to see that the Vargr were alive. She had always been curious of the lupine Gvegh race, but the Major Race of Vargr were largely painted with the vibrant and sharp-colored brush of Corsair piracy. It was logical to then volunteer to be of some service in the name of Mlantia’s ship and the local Zhodani. To her, this was a re-contact opportunity. Yet, as an Intendant, she had tried once to contact the mind of the larger, weakened male. But instead of thoughts, all she encountered with her telepathy was a static white noise. These Vargr were shielding their minds. Secrets and shielding, yet the males wore no shielding helmets Mlantia had been more familiar with. It seemed that there was still distrust in the morally superior Zhodani, even today. With the Captain of this ship laying vulnerable to mental contact, Mlantia decided on a whim to respect their privacy and did not risk a failure to contact her mind. To try and fail might tip off the males that she was prying. Such was the risk a middling Intendant with mediocre psionic discipline was gifted. Perhaps answers to questions would come verbally from the authorized Captain as thanks for the aid. She needed only patience as the two ships coasted closer to Zhiblchins.
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  #82  
Old Yesterday, 05:57 AM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 51

Twenty-four hours into final approach to Zhiblchins, Dead-Hex was coaxed awake. He was asleep at the helm when a gentle claw to his shoulder roused him. Looking up he saw that Kakhskha was back on her feet and likely the rest of the crew. A little embarrassed, he checked the helm. He had fallen asleep just after turnaround. Now the tidally-locked mainworld was much larger on the Visor. Dead-Hex had eaten, thanked the Zhodani who now were just behind the Gatherer in their four o’clock position and then he had fallen out with an alarm set to wake him for reentry. But now Kakhskha was here.

“Did you sleep, Dead-Hex?” Kakhskha asked gently as the two were alone on the Bridge.

“I got a little, yeah,” the Pilot-Astrogator answered.

“That’s a Twilight Zone world, isn’t it?” the Captain said with curiosity.

“According to the subsector charts I bought,” explained Dead-Hex. “There is a habitable, green band on the surface between the burned lands and the frozen lands. The approach is similar to the one on Roethoeegaeaegz. The Zhodani have a Downport set inside a long chasm and in the foggy clouds. It’s in the chasm shadow, shielded from their Red Dwarf star. The atmosphere is very thin, so there is some reentry whereas your homeworld is a vacuum.

“But are you good to fly it or shall I?” Kakhskha asked more directly.

“We’ve already signaled and we have a wingman escort,” detailed Dead-Hex, “so yes, ma’am. I can put her where they tell us.”

Kakhskha leaned over and took the Sensors board back from the helmsman. “Good. I’ll be your eyes then.” At that, she licked him for the second time. “Thank you, Dead-Hex.” Then she straightened up and took up position behind the spacious and coveted helm seat to try more Sensor options.

One by one, the crew came back to life now that they had something to fill their bellies. Dead-Hex handed over the Comms headset when the larger male, Prof. Zannun entered. Lt. Anghal entered an hour later and sat down at Engineering. Five days without food had made them all ragged and threadbare. It was not until just before the Gatherer’s reentry that Lt. Ardell made an appearance, a Marine show of bravado as if nothing had happened. Dead-Hex knew better by Zannun’s report. The young valkyrie had suffered the worst in that she had the most active metabolism for a grunt in military.

Ahead in the descent trajectory was the long green band of life that separated a crispy, baked death from a frozen and icy death. Zhiblchins populace of 600,000 Zhodani on this Capital of Yeplzhaf lived on a narrow band and in the lowest altitudes below the main surface of the planet. There, Dead-Hex guessed that the thin atmosphere might thicken and be easier if not preclude the need for condenser respirators. He took up the helm controls again for the final approach.
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  #83  
Old Yesterday, 08:10 AM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 52

Zhiblchins (Tlabrieish 0321) A323553-D Ni Po Cp Tz ZhSh/ZhCs

The reentry and descent was textbook procedure to Dead-Hex. The interesting part was the perpetual fog that filled the long chasm below the mean surface of Zhiblchins. Though on the green belt of a Twilight Zone world, the shadowy depths were concealing the Downport located near the bottom of the chasm formation and burrowed into the sides. There Dead-Hex would deposit the Gatherer. Over the forward viewport was overlaid various image enhancements.

“I’m giving you telescopic mags from the Scope and Visor,” declared Kakhskha. “With that, you’ll see the visual cleaned up a bit. Over that I’ve gone active with Radar and EMS so we can see towers, smallcraft and ships as their transponders give away their location. When we are in range, the Densitometer will show us the canyon walls, structures and shapes of everything. You good with that, Dead-Hex?”

“Yes, ma’am,” answered Dead-Hex.

Beside the helm, at the unused seat before the Astrogation station sat Prof. Zannun who was talking to the local traffic control that Dead-Hex always simply named the Tower. Ahead as the Gatherer sank through some wispy cirrus clouds, likely the only clouds present in the green belt. Mountain peaks jutted up from the flattened and blasted surface to starboard and were answered by frozen and icy mountains to port. Beyond the mountain ranges, Dead-Hex could see vast deserts baked by the planet’s proximity to the ruddy-orange glow of the Red Dwarf the charts had named “Coherence” in Zdetl. To the portside horizon, the Pilot-Astrogator beheld icy fields all the way to the horizon. Such was the corridor he was to maneuver between to make the chasm.

The chasm itself was set in a valley that reached to the mean surface of the planet. However, the delving chasm reached even deeper like an old wound in the crust. Nimbus clouds rained to fore and aft of the descending Surveyor ship. The water cycle supposedly ran from the mountains and then through tributary cracks in the chasm and far below to a main river that eventually spilled into the icy seas to the west. To the east, long shadows perpetually reached across the land to the west and over the chasm.

As the Gatherer reached the mountains’ heights the clouds of a thin atmosphere tried to buffet the ship. It was no worse than a small Gas Giant skimming operation. Dead-Hex could not see past the nose of the forward viewport and had to rely on instrumentation and the transmitted flight path corridor from the Tower. But thanks to the Sensors overlays, the mottled gray and black male aligned the trajectory with the length of the chasm. Dim glows ahead spoke of metropolitan city at the bottom of the gap and adjacent to the thin river of freshwater runoff. Everything was shadowed now.

As the ship dipped down into the chasm, Dead-Hex heard the order from the Captain, “Slow to 1.1 Gs, helm. Let’s look competent to the Zhodani. Remember that the Prediaia is right behind us in order to land. Let’s not break a polite speed limit here, Dead-Hex.”

“Yes, Captain,” acknowledged the Pilot-Astrogator though he did not turn to look at Kakhskha. Though he had plenty of Nap-Of-Planet experience, Zhiblchins was still a new world to him.

“Radar and Densitometer is picking up a storm in progress over the Downport,” announced the Captain. “There may be lightning and thunder, so buckle up everyone.” Dead-Hex flattened his ears. He had forgotten to wear his ThunderVest though he glanced at the Chief Engineer Anghal who wore hers all the time now. He noticed that she recovered more often without help when her mind locked up. The League male would have to pilot the ship without his on.

It was a boon that aerospace and interstellar traffic was a one-way avenue in the chasm. All hulls of any size were to arrive via the southern reach of the valley and departures exited to the north. Thus, Dead-Hex had no opposing traffic traveling against his flight. A lightning flash lit up the nimbus clouds and the fog banks below. Then the thunder report caused him to grip the helm tighter in his claws. His ears flattened again as the reverberations were felt through the hull of the Gatherer. He was embarrassed to show his fear of intense weather. Dead-Hex was from a cluster of planetoids in Duelunogorrzuez and weather was still a new experience to him. He could feel Anghal’s eyes on him.

“We’re N-O-P soon,” declared Capt. Kakhskha, “so we can add in the Lifters as we get closer to the city.”

“Acknowledged, Captain,” said Lt. Anghal. The Lifters were last minute, weak gravitics that were very short range in their ability to float a ship off a landing field or pull it to a slow docking position in an orbital station. “Lifters active and Green,” she said.

The glow from the city at the bottom of the chasm differentiated into various lights as the Gatherer fell gently below the clouds above. A long floor of domes, ground tubes and vertical elevator shafts that reached up the side of the chasm presented despite the rain and overcast shadow. A perpetual night swallowed the Surveyor as the Downport came into view upon rounding a cliff face.

Zhiblchins Shadowport evidenced to port and starboard, on the east and west faces of the crevice spanning more than two thousand meters above the city. The mountains on the planetary surface further stabbed at the stars as they became visible in the weakening rainstorm. The port consisted of hangars carved directly into the rock and were accented by half torus concourses that were supported to hang overlooking the Capital city just below. Each had an impressive view in the half-light of the chasm. Ships glided into the hangars from the south and pulled out of them to turn northwards. Dead-Hex’s view on the instruments showed his corridor to a hangar that was highest of the carved entries. Slowing, he turned the ship to a landing threshold and eased down the hull and lowered the landing gears.

Inside the hangar were ships, ground vehicles and crews servicing occupied landing pads. Zannun beside Dead-Hex relayed instructions from the headset he was monitoring, “Approaching landing A-8. Pad cleared. Watch the ground signaler as we touch down.”

“Gotcha,” nodded Dead-Hex who could now see clearly now that the ship was in the hangar from the rain.

Outside the Gatherer, the signaler held bright lights with both normal light and lasers to guide the ship’s descent. With the gears down upon entry of the hangar, the hydraulics caught as the landing peds touched down. The guide crossed his hand-helds and waited for a similar claw signal from the helm through the viewport. Dead-Hex gave the sign as the ship settled to level on its legs.

“Down and secure, Captain,” declared the male Vargr Dead-Hex.

“Drives to standby,” commanded Capt. Kakhskha, “and begin arrival procedures. Engineering, begin power transfer toggle to umbilicals. Medic, go wake our High Passengers in Low Berths please. All the apologies. Be gentle with them, Ardell.”

“On it, boss.”
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Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
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Old Yesterday, 09:03 AM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 52a

The crew stood before the outer airlock door. Each was dressed in their Seruean bodysuits, desert robes, wore their Psi-Shield shemagh and were augmented by the respirator condensers that made breathing on Zhiblchins possible. Outside, thunder from the storm still rolled. Kakhskha smiled slightly to see that Dead-Hex had ran to his cabin to strap his ThunderVest on and underneath his armored suit. Laz-pistols were checked and concealed under the robes. Dead-Hex arrived last to the lock in his black while Zannun stood by in his deep, metallic blue. Ardell was going to try the eyes of the Zhodani with the tie-dye spirals of her desert robe. The Marine was always bucking any situation other than her fellow valkyries with a challenge of some kind. Both Kakhskha and Lt. Anghal wore simpler, geometric patterns on their desert robes.

“Play nice, stay observant, keep to your partners and let’s do business like Vargr Merchants,” ordered Kakhkha. “Dead-Hex, you’re with me. Prof. Zannun has the two Lieutenants. This gives us variety of polities and command of the language. Watch and remember. Got me?”

“Yes ma’am,” answered the crew.

The Gatherer opened its outer airlock door to a crowd of Zhodani ground crews, local officials, and a plethora of state media press covering the Surveyor’s arrival. Kakhskha knew she was in for a long stream of interviews and speaking with the local Downport Warren, Security and planetary Administrators as to the business of the very first Vargr starship to arrive this deep into Yeplzhaf subsector on its very Capital world. There was no media rush to crowd the disembarking Vargr with Kakhskha in the lead. Nervous, she held claws with Dead-Hex who could not keep from wagging his tail. The Starport Warden approached first followed up by what looked like a Security Chief.

There were concealed expressions of disappointment hidden behind cordial greetings in this new contact encounter. Kakshkha felt she could assume it was because many of the Zhodani were already trying to read their minds. She envisioned that telepathy was like a second sense to the Humaniti and to live without such was likened to being deaf or lack Vargr olfactory senses. They were meeting the shielding of the Vargr minds and hiding their body language that the Vargr used daily with each other. Dead-Hex squeezed her claw to confirm it, but he nodded to her with encouragement. Being an citizen of the Infinity League, he had far more contact with Nobles and Intendants than Kakhskha who originated from the Ascendancy Pact. But their story was to be one of a registered Seruean vessel come through the Crystal Wall of Knoellighz to do first-contact business. Freight was already being unloaded and the Passengers had already been released after revival.

“Don’t smile so big, Kakhskha,” whispered Dead-Hex in the beige female’s right ear. “It shows your teeth and that might make them think you bite.”

“I don’t bite, Dead-Hex…,” Kakhskha replied smiling at him, “…hard.”

Kakhskha fielded the greetings, questions and bureaucracy verbally as cameras from the media caught their every move and gesture. Zhodani journalists spoke commentaries into microphones while facing floating media robots recording the event. Kakhskha could hear statements to the public being transmitted live to various news boards placed intermittently through Zhiblchins Shadowport. Through the greetings and contact exchanges, the Captain of the Gatherer spoke in Gvegh to be translated through her first officer, Dedhekhsgourz. Questions of the ship’s class as a Surveyor in light of the mercantile declaration came next. Kakhskha had to explain the high-tech nature of the Gatherer’s Sensors and initial intention of system survey, prospecting that had over time morphed into a commercial Far Trader. Inwardly, she wished that she had a LinguaSoft Wafer and that she never suffered a demon instead. Then she would not have to rely on Dead-Hex.

Invitations to offices across the Downport and into the city came next as various high profile Zhodani expressed their welcome. But to the sides, she could also hear the frustrated journalists who failed to make past their mental shielding. They were confused by the lack of Psi-Shield Helmets and yet encountering such protections anyway. It tainted the welcome, but Kakhskha reciprocated with congeniality and kept her movements slow, deliberate and lacking aggression. As the novelty died down, the Warden guided the Vargr crew deeper into the concourse to tour and allow the Captain to detach Professor Zannun’s team to conduct business. Her goal was to speak to as many higher-ups as she could find. She still needed answers as to the retraction of the Zhodani border, the Crystal Wall from Riadr and Elieejibia subsectors and the future of Zhiblchins, the Capital soon to be known outside that wall.
__________________
Virus: When you care to infect the very best.
Empress Wave: Not something done in a local stadium.
Incoming Code: tc 23- mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
The Pakkrat 0608 X58738-8 S va++ so+ zh+ vi+ da+ 534
On assignment: Roethoeegaeaegz (Knoellighz 1726)
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