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

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Old October 13th, 2016, 09:39 PM
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Default Layover On Triad

Layover On Triad
By The Pakkrat
Being a tale of T^5 starship construction



I.
I was deep into some local market reports that I had downloaded from the Triad Local Net when they stepped from the lift and started casting about the lounge for me. I did not see them approach me as the lounge was busy with patrons, crew officers, and servers cycling back and forth from the bar and the grill adjacent to the lounge with orders. The prospects were looking up when my sniffer, my nose, warned me of them. I can smell when someone wants to kill me, hire me or just plain come within my olfactory range. It’s a strange sense to describe, a combination of scent, pheromones, endocrine raised to the surface, body language and psychic intent. My psionics tutors who tested and trained me said I had developed, as a result of opening my mind, an olfactory synesthesia variant of clairvoyance. I could smell the intent of those around me within range of my sense of smell.

Yes, I am an ethnic Vargr, that lupine Major Race Coreward of the Third Imperium. It says Senior Scout Gevaudan “Gev” Cannagrrh on my suit-and-tie Hazardous Environment Suit. I wear it now like a Human wears a business suit. It says to the curious that I am used to space travel and have repeatedly lived through some interesting times. The leader of this group of Travellers finally caught sight of my white, lupine pelt and nodded to his beta, a suspicious-looking woman who put her hands on her hips as the group sidled up to the bar as the lead pair approached me. They had just had a meal and it made my stomach grumble. I had not. The cologne was subtle to him and his lady friend, but it grated on my preferences. We Vargr don’t care for wearing scents but our own. But he immediately won points for initiating the encounter with my native Gvegh language, the Vargr racial tongue spoken throughout the Spinward sectors of the Vargr Extents. With the typical, anatomical accent and lack of guttural pronunciation, he began.

“Excuse me,” the man greeted. I looked up from my reports. I had already conned him as they approached. Not an enemy, said my nose. “Is that your Far Scout docked on the field?” It is a great tie-in to get me talking no doubt. I do love my vessel, my baby, the Sixth Horizon. Since the man seemed Gentlemanly, I put down my hand tablet, switching it off. His con became even friendlier now that he had my attention. His friend nudged his elbow with her own elbow when I nodded in the affirmative to his question.

“Introduce yourself and satisfy Charisma, Jason,” cautioned the lady friend. The man nodded with a small surprise and produced a business card in solid plastic the kind meant to be kept because it generally reeks of Imperium credits. I say this because the card has those computer interface slot connections so that a person can slot it into a memory stick port on my tablet. I did so since his name was still forthcoming. He beat the tablet to the load screen.

“Jason Carson Hathaway, Senior Scout,” he began. “I am pleased to see such a captain of a fine ship.”

“Not for sale,” I said, handing him his business card back as his public Universal Personal Profile displayed on my tablet displayed.

“Oh, I don’t-, I mean we aren’t interested in buying your ship, sir,” Business Suit Jason corrected. “Rather it looks like a variant when we were perusing the Downport harbormaster’s roster. Did you design it? The maneuver drives look huge for its frame. It must be fast.”

It was fast, the Sixth Horizon. Capable of six gees and a four-parsec jump, it was never meant as an exploration Scout, but instead I had varied the baseline schematics for-. So, yes, I had been the architect of the ship in question. Jason’s lady friend noticed my affirmative musing and spoke up.

“Celesta Hathaway, Jason’s sister, Senior Scout Cannagrrh,” the woman interrupted indicating the man trying to make headway with me. Humans look so alike to me that determining siblings is generally hard when you don’t know them or aren’t of their race. “Not to extend this, but we are looking for a starship architect here on Triad and you’re all we have found on the local net.”

“I am expecting the monthly maintenance on my ship to conclude soon,” I tried to lightly brush them off. Now that I had a full nose of them, they were friendly but I didn’t want to commit to anything that might delay my return to my home polity of the Dzen Aeng Kho, the Society of Equals two subsectors to Coreward. I still had some way to go in my exile from the Domain of Deneb and my mission to return my Sister-Dame home to the Pack Cannagrrh. But that was another tale. The Third Imperium was at my Rimward back and I was bound deeper into the Vargr Extents for home.

The man, Jason, nodded adding, “We can pay. We want to hire an architect to design an ‘Adventure Class Starship’ for us and our crew over there at the bar.” The crew was six Humans, Client State Imperium variety but they seemed okay to me. Travellers. The Adventure Class Starship sounded like a vocabulary term Jason pulled from a book to sound sophisticated.

It has not been so long ago that I would have rated myself as a Traveller. I did my adventuring days in the Spinward Marches in a mercenary and mercantile group of adventurers trying to stay disconnected from the Fifth Frontier War, its aftermath still cooling in a post-war simmer. Now, I could again say that I was once again a Courier, my original career before coming to the Domain of Deneb. This group was in the market for a vessel for adventurers with money to burn.

It certainly precluded my need to consult the local markets. My ship’s cargo capacity was too small to be playing with speculative commodities anyway. I could spend a couple of weeks to draft a sufficient blueprint for these Travellers seeking adventure. A ten percent commission on a 300-ton hull could be worth the task. My current passengers would also love to continue their shopping spree on this world as I sat over a drafting tablet. Starship stats began presenting themselves to me as I stood up.

“I think I can give you a fortnight, Gentleman Hathaway,” I agreed. Given the home polity culture I grew up with, it was our habit to call anyone who was not a full Equal a ‘Gentleman’ as they had not undergone the rigorous testing of the Society of Equals to rate as an Equal. It was a polite honorific instead, a slight step down while maintaining Charisma. “Let’s talk to your ‘crew’ about what you can use, tolerate and get along with. I am hungry.”

The brother and sister pair smiled. Likely this was their first true negotiation with a Vargr even though there were plenty of local Vargr here on Triad just Coreward of the Third Imperium.

After a hearty meal in which eight Humans got to watch me eat, not a thing I usually allow but I was on the clock as it is said by working class citizens, they sprung an issue on me. To this day there always seems to be a catch. I almost walked out away from the negotiation table at their declaration.
I normally draft with the current and well-worn GooseScribe™ starship construction when drafting for systems and deckplans. I had used the Goose to work up my Far Scout variant. However, Jason Hathaway explained with all the Imperium haughtiness that his factor would only fund drafts using the new, post-War program, the T^5 construction designer. I had heard that after the Fifth Frontier War that we could expect new changes in the way the Third Imperium did things, but did they have to reach all the way into an architect’s realm with this? With an unreadable agitation, I accepted the very thick, hard-copy manual the eight Humans wanted me to use. This would be a painful two weeks. I would have to learn the book at the same time as I drafted this crew’s new vessel. At least I would not have to lay around for the actual construction of the ship I was to design.
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Last edited by The Pakkrat; November 30th, 2016 at 03:52 PM..
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Old October 13th, 2016, 10:23 PM
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I predict someone is going to get bitten before this is done.

Nice story.
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Old October 14th, 2016, 08:05 PM
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II.
One of the first mistakes I make all the time in starship construction is the urge to pack as much potential from the drives of a starship. Let us face it. We Vargr have a need for velocity, a desire to be efficient travelers on any mission. I jumped ahead in the hardcopy of the T^5 designer and found the drives section. The systems were familiar to me. Their compatibility was not. The format of this book at first looked complex. Yet, I felt I could have whatever I wanted. After drooling on the glossy pages that first night as I stared at the drive potentials I reluctantly returned to the front of the thick book and started the process, the declaration of a starship’s mission parameters.

Now, I am the captain, pilot and astrogator of my Far Trader, a 200 displacement ton starship capable of a jump of 4 parsecs and 6Gs. It satisfies my need, or perception of speed, in a vessel. I say perception of speed because how can anyone possibly feel any motion or sense travel progress in jumpspace? It is just an estimated countdown on the astrogation board, panel or console until precipitation. One simply cannot feel like one is going fast after a week “in the hole”. No, it is in normal space that one can look out and see the planets, gas giants, a stellar primary and planetoid belts glide by in the in-system drives’ acceleration, turnaround and deceleration to have any appreciation of speed. So, I consoled myself that having a ship with at least a four parsec, single jump range would be the standard I would have to live with. Civilians travel at jump-1. Successful traders and mercenaries get their jobs done at jump-2. Military enjoy that elusive jump-3 even as they are laden with armor, crews, marines and weapons and a mission to accomplish. But it is the rarified Traveller that owns his own vessel that is capable of jump-4. So, I made that my rule of thumbclaw. Jump drives are the elephant in the room and they sit there eating their lion’s share of fuel and power when it suits them to word properly. Until then, they sleep until called upon by an engineer. Yes, four parsec range would meet the patrons’ needs.

So, it was with some lack of experience with the T^5 that I at first selected a potential 7 maneuver drive for the patrons’ starship. This of course required the same potential of a power plant to back up the energy requirement for operation. I had jotted down a L-rated drive and plant when Celesta, looking over my shoulder the following day said, “That does look fast but not very comfortable or ergonomic to us on the bridge.” I started slightly. I was not sniffing, being engrossed in the many options.
I didn’t listen to Celesta and kept working as she shrugged her Human shoulders and tossed her hips into the lounge chair to watch me work. Ordering a drink in the lounge, she continued to watch me without interrupting.

So, as said, I returned to the front of the book and made an arbitrary decision. An adventuring group of Travellers would want to both be able to engage in travel, adventure obviously and make enough credits in the interim to keep funding their thrill-seeking. I was once one and had a fine vessel, one of those 800dT Broadswords to pilot. I also knew that even though this group might have the borrowing power to commission my architect services, they did not look like the carte blanche caliber of spendthrifts. Jason might have some ship shares as his sister, Celesta, might have as well. Regera, their group’s future chief engineer, might have a couple shares as well. But certainly, even if given a few more from the rest of that pack of eight could have, I was sure that they possessed no more than ten, or ten percent of an adventure class starship’s cost. So anything over 400dT was eliminated from the probable. But neither was this group of Humans willing to live in a cramped one- or two-hundred ton can and have the wherewithal to Travel with a sense of adventure and the energy it takes to live life to the fullest.

Runetha Saetedz help me, I decided on a 300dT hull size after settling on the iconic, Empress Marava, a 200dT vessel type but ‘stretched’ out to an extra hundred tons. The mission of this vessel was simple enough to select from the T^5 book. I chose the Commerce, Merchant, Unscheduled, Cargo Trader mission. Shortened as Humans abbreviate everything, the AFT or Fast Far Trader was going to be the home for these adventurers. But Celesta’s warning continued reverberating in the back of my lupine cranium. How to put the speed any adrenaline-fueled adventurer would desire into a ship of that size and still be able to fit all the necessary components of survival and self-sufficiency into a frame of that size?

So, the reality came to me when I saw the summated tonnage of a L maneuver drive and the requisite L power plant. Just the two, the drive and the plant, would total 55 tons and require more fuel in terms of operations and the jump-4 I had settled upon. It was Celesta who was smirking at me as she had my drink refilled. She had seen me erase the dream of a speed demon 300 tonner from their future. A Vargr can dream, can’t he? I tried backing it down to J for a drive potential of 6 since K made no change in the potential and was larger than J in tonnage.

“Why do you stare at me like I am prey?” I asked in Gvegh to Celesta as I looked up at her perched like a pouncer coiled and ready to strike at me from some tall tree.

“It is just that I have never seen an architect at work,” Celesta answered in my language. I felt like there was more she could have said but she kept herself in check, likely to see me continue drafting.

Even if I demanded the Improved stage level drives, I could see that the tonnage was still excessive in comparison to the group’s need. What group will want to be strapped tightly in acceleration couches for the acceleration and deceleration phases of a plotted route in-system? Even with contragravity-plates in the decks, not all the inertia is compensated. Try sometime to eat a meal in the galley under such forces and see if you can do so without making a mess of the table, yourself and then hold it all down during deceleration. Scouts get used to it. Thankfully a Courier like myself was never put in anything with greater than 4Gs potential, but I digress. These Travellers did not truly need that kind of life while seeking their adventure fix, the next adrenaline rush of pushing life to the keen edge. Forty-five tons of maneuver and power was beyond normal drive tonnage of a Far Trader anyway.

As I erased the J-rated drive and power plant from the design, Celesta got up from the lounge chair, a cushy, sinking, white, gel-filled, Darrian furniture piece. She smiled at me and to my surprise, petted me. Her manual administration was not some degrading stroke of a sophont to a pet. Nor was it some affectionate, lover’s stroking. It was more akin to a congratulatory scratching behind my left ear, my right ear being occupied by my ear-cuff Comm unit. Still, with me surprised by the pleasurable scratching from a Human, Imperium at that, Celesta left me to again downsize the drives to F-rating across the three. Thus, the ship would have a 4 potential from the maneuver for 4Gs, a jump potential of four parsecs and the proper power supply for operations. Any higher on the power plant, say G and I would be looking at wasted tonnage and underuse of power potentials. I could see it. Celesta had been able to see the process of dreams melt to the cold reality to a starship architect. Defeated once again, I got back on track in deciding on the hull basics, giving up on a Vargr desire for speed and the needs of eight Humans in a home that could sustain their adventures.

The streamlined hull configuration of the Empress Marava ‘stretched’ would suffice for a basic tonnage and be able to comfortably house the drives. It was time to consider the worlds that Travellers tend, on average, to engage their adventures. The future ship’s designation expanded to the code AFT, a trader of greater in-system speeds and parsec range, C to designate a tonnage of 300, S for streamlined configuration and all that that entails, with 4 Gs and 4 jump. AFT-CS44 would be the designator the transponder would initially transmit. Beyond that was the purview of the captain, Jason Hathaway I guessed. Fast Far Trader, 300dT, streamlined, 4Gs and jump-4 starship. Because the Empress Marava design and deckplans I envisioned had that extra tonnage, the descriptor of ‘stretched’ was added. It is a classic design that sets a ship like this apart from Scout ships, Free Traders and has that middle-ground feel between the boring hulls and the sleek Patrol Cruisers which are generally government navy vessels. It keeps its civilian attitude, mercantile gusto and yet can be home to both male and female Humans or other races should their crew decide to diversify their roster.
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Old October 15th, 2016, 09:42 AM
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I never get my ears scratched by dishy female adventurers lounging in Darrian chairs while designing ships. I've gotta get better patrons!
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Old October 15th, 2016, 09:43 AM
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III.
Humans, in my experience, have this need for stability or a desire for the ability to control one’s environment no matter the outside, incoming stimuli. Vargr stay open-minded to change and are intimately familiar with chaos. Look at how well we change our chosen family, our pack, the ship or world we live in or on and watch as our polities change their border shapes. See how much the Third Imperium has changed, or the Zhodani Consulate for that matter in comparison to the Vargr Extents. It is this comparison that I decided that the Hathaway Group - I thought to name them - needed that control of their home away from home.

Early into the next phases of the design for their AFT-CS44, I decided that adventurers were not the run-of-the-mill merchants or naval vessels, used to landing or docking at civilized ports, High and Down. To that consideration, I took a naughty nine tons out of the total for flotation capability, folding fins, collapsible wings, landing legs and contact pads. Then I found that contragravity lifters were standard, auto-installed and pre-paid in the hull price. This was a small boon and I was willing to take any free aspects this thick, heavy book would offer.

An adventure class starship would land or dock in more exotic places than ships bound to civilization or patrolling about civil worlds. The Hathaways could get caught with the need to land in large bodies of water. They might make a fuel consumption or mis-routing mistake. If they needed to land on water, floating at or near the surface of a lake, small sea or even an ocean, the ship would need to refuel by splitting hydrogen from the water. With flotation sealing options came the logical capability to intake water rather than some barbaric bucket brigade to the on board fuel purifiers that I would add later as a matter of course. I packed the hull floatation into the overall, streamlined structure. It would take up a ton but one in three-hundred was a small price as was the single ton of intake pumps and hoses needed to conduct a water landing’s refueling operations. Two tons of necessity over desire. Again with the Human need for security.

The folding fins and collapsible wings called out to me rather leaving them fixed-wing, fixed-fin style. Often ports or large capital ships will not leave ample space to pull into a hangar, a dry dock, repair ship or a full shipyard. I had no idea of Jason Hathaway’s piloting skills or if he even was the group’s pilot. Whomever would sit on the bridge helm chair would appreciate the slow, docking procedure option of folding down the fins and collapsing the wings to make a more comfortable approach and touchdown. For three tons, it seemed a kindness to the Hathaway Group and it fit more on the needs end of the spectrum of assets of this vessel. These hull fittings made me return to the basic, streamlined hull and select the airframe add-on to a hull. This ship would need such to mate the old standby Empress Marava chassis to wings and the like. It added twelve million credits to the end total of the cost of this ship. But more the agility and stability to their ride.

I had a wire-frame model on my tablet in my lap when Jason came by to check upon my progress. I suppose he expected me to be further along when he asked, “Is that it?” He stared at the lines and outer shape from over my shoulder as I munched on a cheap protein bar and washed its drab consistency down with atrake, a fruity alcoholic drink.

“Not even close to a complete design,” I responded, “but at least I am starting with respectable needs over fantastical desires.”

Jason nodded and went to the bar to order a lunch. He came back as I continued to add components. I looked up from the tablet, balling the protein bar’s wrapper and tossed it at him. He caught it neatly. Good reflexes, I guessed. I asked him, “Who is the pilot of your group, Gentleman Hathaway?”

I guessed he considered the question and decided he needed a moment to answer. “Celesta and I have both rated in Pilot, Scout Cannagrrh,” he answered. He immediately followed up with, “Is it okay to call you by your first name?”

“Gevaudan is fine,” I said already considering the Hathaway siblings. She would be able to handle the gees of fine piloting and he, if I read his Charisma true, would likely be calling the shots on the bridge with her at the helm. At least that was my assumption. Perhaps they would take the helm in ship watches. I noted his answer in some sideline margin, virtual notepad that was already full of my tiny stylus script. “Planetary landings are to be expected, port and wilderness,” I declared, not really seeking confirmation from Jason.

“Yeah, and please call me Jason…Gevaudan,” he offered as he sat down to wait for his meal. The lounge was filling up again with folk of all walks of life that could afford the prices inside the extraterritoriality fence here on Triad. The Third Imperium Client State of Triad was a bottleneck of Humaniti, an interface world between it and the Vargr Extents now that all polities had returned to a still-smoking status quo after the Fifth Frontier War was officially over. Trade was picking up, spacers acting as if nothing had happened this past three-plus years. Businessmen and merchant Vargr were making careful contacts with each other once more. Triad was only one of two such conduits offered to Humaniti into Gvurrdon Sector.

Jason watched me select various brands of landing struts, jointed legs and settle upon landing legs with thick, ceramic-embedded, dense rubber pads meant for landing on variable or uneven, hard surfaces. The ship needed to land on tarmacs, salt flats, grassy glades, sandy deserts and rocky zones. I added the components to the list of single-ton fittings. The lifters were so thin and easily mated to the hull that they were included in the streamlined hull. They would allow the ship to slide gently about before the main maneuver drives kicked in and gave the ship true lift.

I considered if I was clairvoyant enough to read Jason for the answer to my next question as his meal distracted him with its arrival. I can’t really read the future. I’m no precog. Not like Uthka Varzeekh, with her exotic deck of monadium Droyne Coyns and however they’re supposed to mesh with her unique foresight. But it was worth the inhalation through my sniffer, my nose. The food smelled nice. Jason had good taste in meats and their level of searing. Medium-afraid meat. Just kidding. In my time with Humans in the Spinward Marches, I became accustomed to medium-rare preparation of a good steak. I remember an ex-Navy captain who treated me to steak on my birthdays for my helping him through a bad encounter with a Rorrean psychic inside the Darrian Confederation. But again I digress. Good steak is hard to ignore. Thus I was unable to read the man sitting across me and knifing into the meat. I salivated but returned to my question.

“Does your group intend to undertake modifications after this ship is built?” I asked Jason, interrupting that first, mouth-watering bite. Again he seemed to consider the question before answering. It seemed to me, during this question, that the man was translating the Gvegh words to Galanglic to make sure he came back at me with the proper words in Gvegh.

“It’s possible,” Jason answered. “Why?”

“It will help me decide on a jump field configuration,” I explained. “I would prefer an in-hull jump grid, but your answer says that you might own this ship for some time and may need room to expand with pods, drop tanks and the like just outside the hull. A jump bubble of sufficient outside space will accommodate such.” Jason was nodding into his first bite and chewing on the answer as vigorously as the steak. So, a jump bubble field was the configuration I selected for this ship. It reduced the jump flash and had a greater strength. And if for some Runetha-cursed reason the Hathaway Group needed, insanely mind you, to crawl around on the outer hull while in jumpspace, the jump bubble would allow it, somewhat. They would merely need to keep their heads down and their eyes on the hull. Jumpspace dementia is not to be underestimated. Looking at that mercurial, silvery murk just outside the ship can play with both your conscious and unconscious mind. Humans from my past say I have the tee-shirt to prove it. I still don’t remember that weekend.

Thankfully, the selection of jump field is outside tonnage or hull costs. It is just a preference of future customization leeway.
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Incoming Code: tc 23- mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
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On assignment: Roethoeegaeaegz (Knoellighz 1726)

Last edited by The Pakkrat; October 15th, 2016 at 07:07 PM..
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Old October 15th, 2016, 06:16 PM
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Enjoying it.
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Old October 16th, 2016, 08:48 PM
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IV.
The next day, my sister, the Dame Qithka Cannagrrh came to me while working. I was forced to introduce her to Jason and Celesta Hathaway. My Sister-Dame as I call her, is like me outwardly. She is white-pelted and we both have our dam’s ocean blue eyes. She far outstrips me in Charisma and we have clashed in the past like infighting sibling rivalries since pups. Qithka is a “Blooded Fang”, a Knight they call them in the Third Imperium. Her acting and field journalism coupled to her integrity in reporting earned her the title. Titles don’t mean much to us Vargr as they can be dropped or taken up with the rise and fall of one’s personal Charisma. However, they seem to open doors for Qithka. I had to pause my work to stand and present the Hathaway siblings to my Sister-Dame. Sitting down in my lounge haunt of soft, sinking couches, they chatted small-talk as I took up my tablet.

By now, the wire-frame outlines had been replaced with a hull. At first I had fallen back on the mainstay of frame-and-plate materials which offer a modicum of armor even though the structure is internal. In addition, I initially chose plate armor for the vessel’s integral and free layer embedded into the hull. Other layers of passive defense could be added at no cost in credits, but each layer beyond the first, at least according to the thick book opened on the arm of my end of the couch, took up more available tonnage and I did not want that yet.

I looked up at the Hathaways, Jason and Celeste, as Qithka was well into interviewing them. Qithka interviewed everyone she met. She wouldn’t just socialize. My Sister-Dame delved into the details of everyone she met who would share. It was probably why she was being recalled back to our home polity, the Society of Equals to be presented with journalism awards for her coverage and experiences of the Fifth Frontier War. The tales she had to tell and messages back home were edited and dramatized as both entertainment and propaganda of Qithka’s employers, the magazine Kfan Uzangou. Now they continued talking current affairs with the journalist expressing how impressed she was that the Third Imperium was not seeking to punish the various elements of the former Outworld Coalition after the War. Jason and Celesta offered speculation and opinions but could not help be attracted to the attentiveness that an investigative reporter gives to the interviewee.

Watching the Hathaways and their answers told me, or at least gave me the impression, that they were careful Humans, not willing to take excessive risks, were peaceful and willing to travel without stepping on toes in their adventures. Then Celesta caught sight of me deleting details of the hull and its armor. She smiled again at one of my setbacks then returned to the interview. Improved plate was a dead ringer of a choice for their group. But if they were careful, a lighter, buoyant and easily-repaired hull and armor might be the answer to my preference for speed and their need for safety. Instead, I paged back in the T^5 book for hull compositions and armor makeups. I suppose it is a funny thing to watch a Vargr nerd at work, or geek if one prefers to name us. Bookworm I have been called as well. Well, us geeks make credits. Ten percent of the end total to be exact.

I selected a type P, Improved polymer hull and a polymer first layer of armor. Black and opaque was the first choice on the list. There were other colors and transparencies. One freakish option was a completely transparent hull polymer. Celesta and the other females of the Hathaway Group would be appalled. Humans are skittish about nudity unlike us Vargr. Privacy of body and privacy of actions was called for. I chose the Black Ice™ polymer. It was shiny black but opaque. As an ‘improved’ polymer, the hull and armor Tech Level was increased. The vessel was already slated at Tech Level E or 14 due to the earlier choice of an F-rated jump drive. Polymers are lighter than metals and more buoyant in water. I referenced the stats of improved polymer and transcribed them from the page to my tablet entries for the hull structure and the initial layer of armor. I found something interesting to add to the decision. Polymer hulls suffering light damage can “self-heal” over time. In my mind, that cut down repair costs should the Hathaway Group get into some real trouble in space or dirtside. With a base Tech Level of A or ten, plus one for the ‘improved’ descriptor, I noted the rating of five armor and some change that amounted to better joints and connectors I assumed. The book was still a jumble of charts that I had to keep paging back and forth to make informed decisions. Yes, polymer, black and shiny would do.

A coating on the outer, armored hull was a free addition I found immediately after the section on starship armor. At first I thought of our color schemes on Vargr ships and how Humans are repulsed at our color palette. Staying a firm black was safe. Black was the new black in the depths of the black. But hull coatings add an additional level, if not layer, of protection. Of ablating, reflection and slick coatings, each with a different function, I chose ‘reflec’ for its resistance to heat-based damage. The single most common starship weapon that I in my experience have encountered was the laser. Lasers are meant to train on a starship section and burn their way through armor. The polymer armor was weaker and less reflective than plate. And though it might self-heal, I felt that a coating factor of ten to reflect incoming heat-based lasers and the like would be useful. As I was now a few days into the starship draft, I did not stop to examine how reflec coating works. I did not have time. I noted the choice and moved on.

“….and then they dragged Gev in atop an orange tablecloth and in restraints-,” Qithka told the Human siblings and I jumped up and stopped her story.

“My what a day!” I interjected. “Time to check on my ship’s maintenance. Come along Qithka. The Hathaways don’t need to hear of that day. Remember the Silence order? Holds here too on Triad, Sister-Dame.” I was stammering by the time I got all of that out of my mouth. That story was an embarrassing time in front of a lot of important people. I hauled my journalistic, elder sister from the storytelling. Yes, us Vargr can blush under our pelts. I’ve been told it turns me a pale pink under my white fur. The siblings whispered to each other as we Vargr made our exit for the day.
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Old October 17th, 2016, 08:29 AM
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V.
The Hathaways were thankfully absent the next day at the Downport lounge as I sat, sipped atrake and continued work on the commissioned draft. But the group’s future chief engineer, a Human man I was told to be Regera, came instead. He had a large, amber ale of some brand in hand. The glass mug was frosted with rime ice as he purposely poked his nose into the froth of the brew and drank. I smiled without teeth and set to calculate the fuel consumptions of the improved drives I had chosen. The ‘improved’ was again a staging of component Tech Level upgrade but kept the cost and tonnage the same. The aforementioned elephant, the jump drive was originally Tech Level D, but I knew at least two nearby worlds that could handle the upgrade to E or 14.

When Regera came up with a frothy white nose and swallowed a mouthful of the ale, I was near to giddiness. This had to be the joker of the Hathaway Group. It was when the Human tried to lick the froth from the end of his nose that I could not stop myself from snickering. Human tongues are not as long as Vargr tongues and unless there is some failure of connective tissue, tongue-wiping is not an anatomical possibility for Humaniti. My hand came up to my muzzle to try and keep from laughing.

“How do you pull that off?” asked Regera. I knew the question was rhetorical and it only added to the humor of tongue envy. Yes, we Vargr can reach most of our muzzles with our tongues. The man cleaned his nose with a cloth napkin and leaned a bit to look at my tablet. “Did you finish the calculations for fuel requirements for that massive jumper?” asked the engineer.

I recovered from the mental image of those crossed eyes looking down his own nose and answered, “Yes, and there is good news. With the improved drives and the power plant consuming 90% the fuel of a standard model, the tankage can be reduced.” I felt proud when Regera’s interest was piqued. Those Human eyebrows pop upwards when that happens. Humans have their ‘tells’ just as Vargr tails and ears betray their body language.

“Oh yeah?” asked the engineer. “By how much?”

“Well, I double-checked the each of the drives fuel consumption just to make sure the system manufacturer certifies the stats, but it looks as if we can come down from 120 tons of liquid hydrogen for a single Jump-4, to only 108 needed to initiate the improved jump drive F. Then, as you can guess, a maneuver drive’s consumption is included, as it is so low, in the monthly rate of the power plant in starship operations.”

“Yeah? And how much is the plant asking?”

“10.8, reduced from 12 per month,” I beamed at both reductions. It made me feel smart. Charismatic even, though I was before a Human and that did me no good.

Regera whistled. “A total reduction of 13.2 tons shaved off the standard tankage. What are you going to do with that extra, available space?”

“Unknown, but I will try to make it worth the improved drives and plant Tech Level requirements.”

Regera lost half his smile. If I pushed the Tech Level too high, then not every high-tech world would be able to build this design at their local shipyard. If the ship hit Tech Level F, or 15 outside of hexadecimal equivalent, then only a few subsector capitals would be able to contract this construction. There were always waiting lists, schedule overruns and to compensate those shipyard inefficiencies, it would require more credits and more time.

“The improved jump drive puts it at E,” I reassured him. We both sighed.

“It is unlikely any other system will top that. They might come close, but if we stay at E, I can point you and yours to a couple of worlds within a month’s travel that might take your money.

“We won’t go to those bastard mutts in the 40th Squadron,” Regera declared, his entire smile gone now. As a punctuation, he drew again on his ale to hide his racial slur against Vargr.

“I can see the War is not over for some,” I vocalized low. Then I offered with, “Then how about the Commonality of Kedzudh at Ughz, parsec 3034?” I put down the completed calculations. “Their contract-treaty with Kforuzeng Corsairs is broken and they ejected the defeated band from the polity by now. There might be a window of opportunity to tap Ughz’s Highport for a Vargr-designed, Imperium hull of this caliber as a source of inspiration and income if you copy the blueprints and gift them one.”

“Maybe,” the man said. “Gotta put this to Jason and the others.” Regera got up and left his empty ale mug on the table near my arrayed materials. “See ya,” he said deadpan. What was that man’s role in the Fifth Frontier War? He had scars from it, the invisible kind. His con had changed in the encounter. My sniffer doesn’t lie, but I can misinterpret my synesthesia. S’what got me into trouble back on Lunion. But that was the same tale I tried to shush my Sister-Dame from leaking to the Hathaways.

I nodded at his exit. Hoping I hadn’t offended him, I continued work. It’s not a good thing to piss off your chief engineer or any chief engineer. Sensors were next.
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Old October 18th, 2016, 07:28 PM
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VI.
We Vargr do tend to take our senses for granted. We are used to our olfactory and hearing ranges. Our sight may be awkward as our hull paint schemes suggest. I am told that our ships look like something called Mardi Gras was vomited upon Vargr vessels. Jagged diamonds checkered. Sharp, teeth-like zig-zags and bold, angry colors crisscross the armor of Vargr Corsairs and military navies. It just looks dangerous, and an imposing affront to our enemies. No, they tell me. Humans of my past have complained that we have no style or that our vision ranges require such clashing and garish colors that make harbormasters cringe when one of ours pulls into dock; they regret it immediately.

So, sensors. Naturally, there is the desire to be able to detect everything. Want to watch a SensOp officer on the bridge go slowly crazy? Put him in front of all those boards, (from GooseScribe™ days), or the newer T^5 consoles multi-tasked to all the listed sensor packages I found in the thick book. Then ask him to watch them all and signal the system traffic control of your ship’s intent upon jump precipitation. Paranoia ensues and then you have the same officer sleeping with his portable console and praying to his favorite deity after hours.

Here too, I had to cut back. Natural selections were obvious. A communicator was required. A wrong transponder signal and that capital ship will want to talk to your commanding officer on board. Scopes too. If your bridge is not equipped with a clear viewport, (and our Broadsword was not), then scopes are a bridge monitor’s eyes. An electromagnetic sensor package is next on the list. Some signals don’t come over the Comms. They are EM hails, blurts or squawks to a nearby Corsair or other jumpcusser pirate. An EMS package has other uses too. So it was a given.

Daakiam Khiimginiim, a Vilani woman with a braided, female ‘mullet’ sat next to me and occasionally made ultimatums at the list and what she felt was required in sensors. She was the Hathaway Group’s SensOp officer to be. Tall and probably the oldest of the future crew, she sat cross-legged and her arms folded. Such body language spoke of Vilani superiority and experience in starship technology. Her heavy scarf wrapped about her shoulders to protect her from the lowered lounge temperature hid one of those psi-shielding hoods attached to her flight jumper suit. This immediately told me that she had a secret past run-in with one of us psionics-trained sophonts. I didn’t dare call her on the apparel. The mesh-like lining of such a hood can be drawn up over the Vilani’s head, over much of her cranium where thought, memory and the unconscious mind is theorized to reside. Wearing the hood, the SensOp woman could shield her thoughts from telepathy psionics.

I am not rated in the least in that branch of psionics. I did not know if she knew my status as merely a trained psionic Vargr rather than a fully-educated Psion. I got the typical testing and training yes, but never made a career of it. But Daakiam’s shielding apparel would not have protected or shielded her from my conning sniffer. She caught me staring at her and put me back on task with, “I can handle more sensors than that, Scout Cannagrrh.” She was keeping me at arm’s length and formal. This was business to her, not some familiar cooperation project. Additionally, by addressing me by my career instead of my rank of Senior Scout, she was inferring that a Scout is no architect of Vilani inventions. I blinked once and cleared my throat.

“Radar is another given as is a radiation sensor,” I offered to Ms. Khiimiginiim. “After that, how about a grav sensor to help confirm one-hundred diameters?”

This was her specialty as a SensOp, so she unfurled a little and added, “We want to be able to analyze mineral finds such as lanthanum and rare earths in case operations become boring. One of the gunners was a miner and has a prospector’s keen eye.” She pointed to the densitometer and mass sensor packages. It became obvious to me that a mining laser would be a nice option to that gunner’s turret, one of three on a ship this tonnage.

“Acknowledged,” I became just as clipped as her. It’s a habit really. I tend to mimic the outward behavior or demeanor of those I come into contact with, especially if I am trying to get through to them. I noted the list of sensor packages, eight in all. Some were long range sensors and some were meant for targets under five kilometer ranges. Additionally, I designated all of the sensors as ‘improved’ as a peace gesture to Ms. Khiimiginiim. She nodded at the choice. As the choices came to a close, the Vilani woman left, business concluded, the interview over. I watched her march out like someone had hit her with the Cadet Review cudgel carried by a drill instructor.

There’s bad blood between us ethnic Vargr of the Extents and the Vilani. The Vargr Pillaging as they call it set much of the Vilani against the incursions of Corsairs advancing at times Rimward, into Corridor, Vland and Lishun Sectors. Though I am not from the Sectors Coreward of Vilani space, I have heard my tales of daring Corsair bands racing into the Imperium and causing heroic havoc. But today, there are some Vilani who look past those surges of Charismatic peer pressure and have learned to deal with the Vargr in ways the Third Imperium proper has yet to discover in other Sectors such as Antares and Empty Quarter. It is what it is. I felt no bad feelings toward Daakiam Khiimginiim. Maybe after she sat down at the final bridge consoles and was presented a portable console of her own for the ship’s sensors, she might think better of me without having to show such.

I did not select any special mountings for the sensor packages. It is easy enough to let each packages remain embedded in the surface of the hull and for a pilot to orient the starship in the general direction of the subject being detected then analyzed. Mounts cost money and tonnage and I had no patience for them. Let the Vilani rage all she wanted if she did want mountings for her sensors.
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Old October 19th, 2016, 09:38 PM
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VII.
Something new I found in this new T^5 is the new option of a quad turret, a standard turret that can mount and manipulate up to four weapons. There are other types of mounts in that thick book, but those are expensive and generally serve larger weapons for military craft and capital ships. I showed the list to the three gunner-somethings of the Hathaway Group. To my pleasure, they agreed with me that ammunition was a waste of time, efforts and storage space.

“Yeah, I don’t want Jason ordering us to reload the missile racks, or sandcasters, or rails,” said one of the three weapons specialists. “Those things are heavy and I’m not rated in lifter suits.”

“Me either,” said the second. I had forgotten their names already. When introduced to me by Celesta Hathaway, I heard the names but as we got down to business with the selection of weapons and mounts, the names slipped my short term memory. I should have written them down. They seemed good Human lads with itchy trigger-fingers.

Beside their weapons, each was rated in tasks elsewhere on the future vessel. So, I secretly named them each by their secondary operating skill. Number one was the ship’s Medic when not squeezing triggers. Thank Runetha he was a minimalist in his desires for an infirmary. He didn’t want one. I pointed the required design of at least a medical console to which he caved in and allowed. But that was much later when I was selecting crew accommodations.

The second gunner’s name I forgot but since the other two kept referring him as ‘Chappy’, I assumed this man would take up as the ship’s counsellor, or shrink. Life in space can mean some sophont interaction to keep from developing cabin fever. It’s not like one can step out the airlock and quit when one has had enough, especially “in the hole” for a week at a time.

The last gunner also had a nickname. ‘Cookie’ was the ship’s future cook to assist with the Steward. Jason and Celesta had agreed that the new vessel would have to pay for itself and that meant passengers and cargo. As a former Courier, I brightened to their wisdom that I too upheld. Cookie was definitely a man of the Marches. He told me he was from Trin and that a meal was a dish with a dash of love. He even showed me the empty tin box that fit in the palm of his hand. It was labeled with the Galanglic ‘Love’ on the front, sides and back. By the smell it used to be a cinnamon tin. The gunner said that by sprinkling of this tin into each meal, he felt it helped with longer trips. This was a spacer indeed. The folk, though I was stereotyping them, gained a few points with me that day. I liked this particular superstition.

The huddle agreed to two of the turrets mounting four improved beam lasers pushed to Tech Level B, again remaining under that ceiling of E from the jump drive. The first gunner, the one whose name I could not remember – Medic instead – wanted to be stationed in the dorsal turret adjacent to the upper deck. He too was familiar with the Empress Marava ‘stretchie’ basic hardpoint locations. One turret to each side and one turret dorsal was the usual placement. Most pirates think like predator avians. They want to look ‘down’ on their targets. Thus the 3oodT ‘stretched’ Far Trader had its third placed dorsally. It was also logical to do so as to defend a ship still on the tarmac of a port or in the wilderness of a planet. Medic, he betrayed himself as the mining prospector of the Hathaway Group and wanted a couple of beam lasers yes, but also a single mining laser and a new weapon I had not seen yet. The gunner pointed it out and its description in the T^5 book.

“It is a data caster. If you have to ask, then don’t,” Medic said to me as he saw questions on my face. Maybe it’s the way my head tilts or my ears flatten. I dunno.

Medic went on to select a mining laser. He told me that if ever a find was detected on sensors in a rocky outcropping an asteroid or something special in an ice ring he wanted to be able to excavate and harvest. “You never know what will turn up on the sensors, Vargr,” he said. I later learned he was from Macene in Rhylanor Subsector. A spacer’s world. I noted the preferences.

For all the weapons, I chose to upgrade them to improved status, like the other systems of the ship. But in return for the special requests, I lowered their main Tech Level by making the mining laser a short range beam. If a ship is going to pull up to a find, they are definitely going to get close enough to run a full densitometry and mass spectrometer before letting Medic have at with a mining laser. All this can be done at five kilometers. I also jotted down the number of control panels needed for the weapons. The number of panels across the ship’s systems grew significantly that day.
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