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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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  #11  
Old July 31st, 2017, 08:20 AM
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Post Down A Peg pt.10

110-1107 Roethoeegaeaegz (Knoellighz 1726) A5009ED-C Hi In Na Va An C:1927 Cp Pz Amber/Red (gender)

At such a low altitude, the grav limo looked very much like several of the ground cars that sped much slower on the asphalt highway below. Dead-Hex kept his head turned to look out the polymer view glass to watch the bleak, airless landscape glide past. Yet, he stole quick glances at Captain Kakhskha. Her tail was still not wagging and now she was chewing her thumbclaw again in thought.

It was full night now with the passing of Afterthought, the solar system’s Brown Dwarf. The red light had receded over the west horizon. The gray topography was lit now only by the two, very small moons of Roethoeegaeaegz, lending silvery light to the down-sloping land under the limo. Headlights from sealed ground cars and trucks illuminated the black highway. On a Vacuum world such as this one, all vehicles had to be sealed and insulated from the cold of the planet’s surface. Only in the domed and stepped craters was there life and breathing room. Terraforming on Roethoeegaeaegz was a slow and deliberate process that would last millennia just to take root.

Despite the tour, Dedhekhsgourz was beginning to tire of Kakhskha’s homeworld. Being prized for merely being male was an ego stroke, but it was losing its novelty fast and the Astrogator was becoming nervous at the Captain’s fidgeting and not sharing whatever was on her mind with his crew, if he was still crew given the foppish kilt and poofy shirt he’d been ordered to wear. Then there was this heavy, collar-like torc and amethyst stone that made all the novelty displace onto poor Professor Zannun from Serue. Kakhskha was not like this before the train ride. Before it, she was still curious as to why the Gatherer was diverted planetside. Now, it seemed to Dead-Hex that no longer mattered to her. She was no longer asking why, but thinking of something else. What changed while he crashed out in the sleeping car?

“Do you want to tell us where we are going, Captain?” asked Dead-Hex carefully, so that he both rode the line between his borrowed Charisma from her and still respecting her as the Captain of the ship on which he was employed. It was formally voiced, but given his getup and this world…

Capt. Kakhskha, another Third Officer Merchant like Dead-Hex except for her role aboard the Gatherer, took her thumbclaw from her mouth and answered, “I need to show you something before we leave Roethoeegaeaegz. Then there is that question you asked on the Bridge. Remember it?”

“Extra-territoriality,” reminded the Astrogator.

Marine valkyrie, Lt. Ardell interjected with, “Here it comes.” The timber wolf gray female from Nouon sounded like Kakhskha’s next words were going to be a holovid scene. She shifted her armored HEV to watch Dead-Hex.

“There isn’t any, Dead-Hex,” admitted the Merchant Captain. “And I’m sad that we aren’t more open as a mainworld. It is nigh impossible for a male to emigrate from Roethoeegaeaegz under the Church and State Recovery.”

“What?!” The Astrogator from the Infinity League sat forward and closer to Kakhskha. “Are you saying Zannun and I are stuck here?”

“I’m saying that while it’s technically legal for a male to apply for emigration off-world, it’s not generally given. Recovery demands that you stay here now that it is assumed, by your very presence, that you are naturalized as a citizen willing to help with the population gender ratio. That’s why they broadcast plenty of fair warning into the system and why the Ascendancy Pact Navy hates us. No liberty for their male crews. It’s why we have to have our own system defense ships, crewed by females and authorized male squires.”

Dead-Hex thought he was going to fly into a rage, something only the distant Urzaeng and Ovaghoun Vargr were known for.
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Incoming Code: tc 23- mgt++ tn++ t20- t4- t5++ tp? tg- th? to~ ru+ ge- 3i+ c+ jt- au+ ls+ pi+ ta he+ kk hi+ as++ va++ dr+ ith? vr? ne? so+ zh+ vi+ da+ sy~
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On assignment: Roethoeegaeaegz (Knoellighz 1726)

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Old July 31st, 2017, 08:55 AM
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Post Down A Peg pt.10a

Dead-Hex turned to Professor Zannun whose ears were already flattened with worry and because of the League Astrogator’s raised voice. He asked the older male next to him, “Are you getting this, Professor? I’m not getting this. Because I’m suddenly suffering sunspot activity or something. I thought I just heard we can’t leave.”

Zannun, the eldest of the four but the lowest in Charisma backed himself into his corner of the limo interior. He presented no desire to be part of this conversation, though the black-furred Seruean was listening intently.

“Calm yourself, Dead-Hex,” said Capt. Kakhskha who almost reached a claw out to try and settle a fellow Merchant.

“Calm myself, Kakhskha?” asked with an anger in his raised voice. “This is your fault, madam Captain, for bringing us here.”

“We were on a mission to tour the Zannun’s Collector Drive for Serue marketing someday in return for getting us off the tarmac and exploiting a Drive that no one has ever seen before. That means taking it to High-population, Industrial worlds. Roethoeegaeaegz was closest.”

“But now you’ve stranded Zannun and I on this backwards world and doomed us to a life of mating slavery!” exclaimed Dead-Hex.

“It’s not slavery, Dead-Hex!” countered the Captain. “And I said Recovery requires all males to stay and help. I didn’t say I agreed with it. So sit back, shut up and let me think.”

“We are so screwed,” whined the Astrogator complying and crossing his red and pink-striped arms. He turned to stare at nothing out the polymer glass of the limo. However he was secretly looking at Kakhskha’s reflection in the same glass. She was looking at him longer than usual.

There followed a long and awkward silence split between the males and females sitting across from each other in the limo. Watching her reflection, Dead-Hex saw that while Capt. Kakhskha had sat back and continued chewing on her thumbclaw, he also saw her tail twitching.

“That- that was fun to watch,” joked the valkyrie in a whisper that though meant for herself was audible to everyone in the cab. And she was serious despite her joking words, Dead-Hex did not miss it.
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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~
The Pakkrat 0608 X58738-8 S va++ so+ zh+ vi+ da+ 534
On assignment: Roethoeegaeaegz (Knoellighz 1726)

Last edited by The Pakkrat; July 31st, 2017 at 09:13 AM..
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Old July 31st, 2017, 11:14 AM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 11

An hour later, after passing all signs of civilization, Dead-Hex did not wait for a female to open the door to the limo once it had parked in a sealed garage from the outside vacuum. He pulled the emergency release and kicked open the door to escape the cab of the grav vehicle. With his rigid canvas kilt swaying on his upper hip like a bell, the Astrogator led the way into a surface complex he knew nothing about. He needed space and distance from Kakhskha. Over his left shoulder he saw her get out before Professor Zannun and stare at Dead-Hex. Then she pulled her hand-held comm unit from a thigh pocket of her dress uniform and begin dialing. Lt. Ardell helped the larger Professor from the vehicle next though he was nimbler than the Marine wearing a full HEV.

“Is there a problem, sir?” asked a female dressed in what looked like a lab coat, but meant for public wear. Dead-Hex guessed she was some sort of museum curator since that was the first impression the building interior gave him. On the far side of the planet from the Downport and further away from the ship, the Astrogator was still fuming.

“No, ma’am,” he said through his gritted teeth. “My wife and I-, we’re just having a spat and I needed to walk it off.”

“Understandable, sir,” nodded Lab Coat, “there is a Security kiosk on the far side of the planetarium if you need safety or assistance.”

Dead-Hex nodded and then left the intrusive female. The complex was not some museum upon study of his surroundings. While it did give the internal appearance of a planetarium display overhead with vending machines lining its floor circumference and technicians, female and one or two males, and a plethora of cubs who were seated on the thick padded carpet or eating at food court tables. Above him though was no star map planetarium. The central projector was currently off. This must have been a break between showings, he guessed.

Still on the comm, Capt. Kakhskha came up beside the Astrogator and spoke into it. From the corner of his eye, the mottled gray pelt could see the tiny image of Lt. Anghal back aboard the Gatherer.

“Hi, Anghal,” Kakhskha greeted the Chief Engineer. “How’s the ship? Good. Listen, I know you like chocolate. We’re on the far side of the planet and have some excellent choices. Would you like me to pick out some?”

The tiny voice of the comms was Anghal’s, the chocolate brown female, the only crew left on the Gatherer.

“Captain, I-“ Anghal’s face blanked again for a moment, her deep amber eyes losing focus. Dead-Hex could see that Anghal was both surprised for some reason and it was triggering her concentration disability.

“It’s okay. I know you watch your weight and all, but I know you’ll love this variety of chocolate.”

Dead-Hex felt something was up. Vargr do not eat chocolate, this he knew. He grabbed his own comm and dialed for the Professor who was behind Lt. Ardell a quarter the way around the planetarium. From clear across the throngs of young, technicians and parents, the Astrogator could make out the black pelt contrasted with his shimmery opalescent pantaloons. He saw the Zannun answer his comm.

“Yes, Astrogator?” answered the Seruean.

“Zannun,” began Dead-Hex as he took a few steps from the Captain, “I need you to listen to me very carefully.”
__________________
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)

Last edited by The Pakkrat; July 31st, 2017 at 09:42 PM..
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Old July 31st, 2017, 12:07 PM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 11a

Professor Zannun was happier to see the throngs of cubs in this planetarium. He recognized the building as such upon entering. Perhaps a show was to start soon. The tall and muscular male followed his new protector, the valkyrie Lt. Ardell and hoped that he would not draw any more offers in front of the cubs. This was a strange planet and the scene in the grav limo Zannun was happy to be away from. He did not like emotional engagements having been a Scholar for so long that relations was something he had rarely dealt with. Lt. Ardell had stopped at a vending machine to buy some protein bars for the four of them.

Then his comm vibrated. Since he hated ringtones and jingles, Zannun kept his set to a heavier haptic feedback to indicate an incoming call. Fishing out the handheld device, he saw that Dead-Hex the ship’s Astrogator was calling him. Keying the comm to answer, Zannun had only a second to wonder why he was being called from just across the way in the domed planetarium.

“Yes, Astrogator?” Zannun answered.

“Zannun,” called the image of the mottled gray and black Vargr from the Infinity League. “I need you to listen to me carefully.”

The Professor stopped dead in his tracks. The voice of Dead-Hex was dead serious. “What-what can I do for you?”

“You’re from Serue, right?" asked the Astrogator, "Pretty strong, I noticed. Look over near you, on the wall next to the Ladies’ Fresher door. Tell me what you see.”

Zannun reported what he saw on the wall just above waist height for his stature, “I see a red, emergency fire-pull and another like it but black in color.”

“Good, Professor. Smart. I want you to watch me from here on out.” Zannun turned and made out the pink and red stripes of Dead-Hex’ roomy shirt above his black pleated kilt. He had his back to Zannun as cubs and parents walked in the wide space between them in the planetarium.

“Okay. I can do that.”

“That’s not all,” added the League Vargr. “When next I look at you intently, I want you rush over to that black pull and yank it down hard. Understand?”

“Am I going to get into trouble, Dead-Hex?” asked Zannun worry entering his heart and stopping his tail.

“If you don’t do as I say, we will end up playthings for the rest of our lives, Zannun. Once you pull that black lever, I’ll need you to run to me as fast as your legs can. Understand?”

“Y-yes, Dead-Hex.”

“Stay calm, Professor,” assured the Astrogator on the comm, “and this will be exciting and we will be safe aboard the Gatherer once more.”

Then the lights went out and the Vargr from Serue could no longer see Dead-Hex.

A spotlight illuminated a female before the central projector, draped a white technician's jacket wearing a headset microphone linked to the public announcement speakers in the planetarium spoke. "Parents and cubs welcome to the Roethoeegaeaegz Ancients Psi-map Exhibit! This strange and still barely understood device can map out four sectors worth of users of psionics from afar. Don't believe me? Look above you!"
__________________
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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Old July 31st, 2017, 12:44 PM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 12

“Discovered at this site over a hundred years ago,” continued the female technician, “it took our scientists most of that time to study and understand this very old device. See the brighter glows from each world to Spinward, cubs? That is the Zhodani Consulate. In our Knoellighz Sector psionics is everywhere. Look. Vargr can learn the mental powers the Zhodani humans have taken for granted for millennia. But we are vastly dimmer than the worlds of the Consulate. We may never know just how many each glowing world contains, but we do know after mathematicians’ estimates, that we are vastly overmatched by the Zhodani. This is why we do not allow them to come to the Ascendancy Pact, citizens. There are…complications that make interactions difficult with them. Our scientists…..”

“Is this what you wanted to show me, Kakhskha?” asked Dead-Hex to his Captain. He had stepped back to her once the lights went out for the projection show.

“Yes and no,” answered the Captain. “Look on the map Coreward, into Ghoekhnael Sector. See how the glows are dimmer?”

“The frontier of Charted Space,” answered the Astrogator. He knew his maps though they were muddled by the indicating glows from each world system. “There’s less of everybody out there.”

Kakhskha laid a claw on the taller Vargr male and said, “I was here sixteen years ago with my sire, Dead-Hex. Then the glows from Ghoekhnael were much brighter. Either psions are moving in a wide line across what the Zhodani term the Schtochiadr Province, or there is less psionics use out there. And I don’t believe that a psion will just up and quit something he or she has been tested and trained for, do you?”

“Well,” said Dead-Hex who was suddenly curious at the strange map, “I’m no psioncologist, Kakhskha, but-“ The mottled gray and black male stopped himself when light issued from the door to the corridor leading to the garage. It almost spoiled the presentation when four paladins entered, their longarms magnetized to their hips. The heavy, armored footfalls were audible. However, the presenting technician recovered her program quickly.

“We have learned that this site was not always here, citizens. With carbon dating and other measurements, we have learned that this site somehow appeared here, like- like a time capsule that doesn’t have to wait to be discovered and re-opened. It is believed that this site came to us on Roethoeegaeaegz. Now this is not some proselytizing of the Church Of The Chosen Ones, but the device is here now to stay. Now that we can see the wonders of this magnificent discovery….”
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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 July 31st, 2017, 02:29 PM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 12a

Kakhskha looked to Dead-Hex at the same time her comm started buzzing a low hum she had chosen. He looked down at her comm and then over her shoulder at the paladins.

“Time to go,” they said simultaneously at each other. Then to clapping applause the presentation ended. Lights came on in sections as the applause and mass wags of tails, young and old continued.

Kakhskha saw Dead-Hex take three strides to the nearest emergency Vacc Suit locker, its door surrounded by a border of emergency yellow and black colors. Then he turned and cast his gaze across the hordes of cubs and adults and looked for Professor Zannun.

But the black-pelt in pearlescent pantaloons was not where he last looked. At the emergency Vacc-alert pull? Aha! Instead, the tall and muscular Seruean had pretended that the Male’s Fresher was full and was awaiting a turn to enter and use the facilities built around the domed perimeter of the projector. As the lights came entirely on, Zannun took the cue to scan back for Dead-Hex. Eternal seconds flew by and eroded the Astrogator’s patience with the bookworm. When they locked eyes between the throngs of viewers rising to make an exit from the exibit, Dead-Hex shot the Scholar his fiercest glare, even bared his teeth a little. Next to him, Capt. Kakhskha was answering her comm to the tiny bust image of Lt. Anghal.

“Southside Emergency exit, hun,” the Captain spoke quietly into the comm though she didn’t have to given the din of cubs voices and movement of the viewers toward the garage corridor.

Dead-Hex could have sworn that Zannun looked like a character in the childrens’ holovid programs when the Astrogator imagined a big, balloon of an interrogative mark indicate his facial questioning expression. Now?

“Yes, now, you fool,” said Dead-Hex though he knew the taller Vargr could not hear him.

Quicker than Dead-Hex expected, Prof. Zannun strode purposefully to the black, Vacc-alert pull and with surprising strength for a Seruean think-tanker, pulled down the almost-unused lever.

Klaxons erupted and yellow spinning lights emerged from sockets previously hidden in the planetarium walls and dome. An automated voice called out in Gvegh, “This is a Vacc-alert. Citizens remain calm and proceed either to the nearest exit or to a Vacc Suit locker. This is a Vacc-alert…”

The paladin foursome had already spotted Capt. Kakhshka and were pointing at her when the alarms rang out. Seeing a black and white, streaking Vargr sprint with a speed born of the Major Race, they turned toward Professor Zannun, only to miss him passing between them. The soldier paramilitary had to wheel about again to see what had rushed them and between their armor.

“This is a Vacc-alert. Citizens remain calm and proceed either to the nearest exit or to a Vacc Suit locker. This is a Vacc-alert…”

But it was Zannun’s dash toward Dead-Hex and past the soldiers, seen by the young and the adult that incited a panicked riot and stampede toward the corridor exit from which the armored females had come. Though their longarms were in hand instantly, their lines of sight were spoiled by screaming, snarling and rushing Vargr of Roethoeegaeaegz toward them.

Yanking open the locker door, Dead-Hex handed out Vacc Suits to Kakhskha first, then to Zannun who just arrived, “Get dressed fast!”

A paladin with a longarm, a wicked rifle with a 30mm grenade launcher attachment took aim now that she had a laser target beam on Capt. Kakhskha. But instead of firing a stream of bullets, the soldier reached forward for the grenade launcher trigger. Likely as the law enforcement armor was aiming at an unarmed target, the loaded round was probably a stun grenade and could easily render them all unconscious with one pull of a trigger.

The paladin was body checked, clipped at the upper thighs from behind. Lt. Ardell called out, “Boo-rah!” as she came jogging up from her shoulder charge. The longarm was dropped but fired as the stock struck the floor, upward the grenade as the safety had been left open. The Marine kept trucking in her HEV as the single stun round flew up near the top of the planetarium dome. At its apex against gravity and never meant for long range, the stun grenade dropped back straight down toward the paladins who were trying to change targets to the valkyrie. And still the Marine did not stop as throngs of Vargr cut swaths around her in a mass panic. Flooded as they were by the non-combatants, the paladins were forced to disengage and see to the safety of the people escaping in a mad rush through their position.

“Citizens! Slow down! Don’t-” The female voices were suddenly silenced as the grenade round struck the floor at their position. An electromagnetic storm in a dome erupted from the grenade and laid everyone out, including the armors that had left open their helmets to better emit their Charisma and thus control. Lt. Ardell barely made it to the closer side of the incapacitating blast and slid up to Dead-Hex who was still dressing.

“Dress faster!” barked Ardell. “Dustoff in thirty seconds. Move it!”
__________________
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)

Last edited by The Pakkrat; November 2nd, 2017 at 08:43 AM..
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Old July 31st, 2017, 05:07 PM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 14

The four had cycled the airlock to go bouncing, skipping, jogging, and sprinting to the descending Gatherer with Lt. Anghal. Dead-Hex remembered the scramble outside and was happy to see the Surveyor ship more than anything.

“Gears down, Anghal,” he had huffed in his helmet as he hurried the 50 meters to the already opened port side airlock. “Don’t forget on us, Engineer. But as if he had psionics and at the last moment, the three large landing gears with wilderness peds lowered and made contact. Hydraulics had caught the mass of the 300 ton starship and brought the hull to level.
Dead-Hex was never happier to hear his Captain call, “We’re in, Lieutenant. Go!”

Now, the crew trudged to the Bridge, still dressed in their Vacc Suits. Past the Bridge iris valve, the Astrogator was elated to take his place at the Astrogation-SensOps. Behind him stood Professor Zannun who popped off his helmet to replace it with the cordless headset linked to the Comms board. To his right and central to the Bridge, Capt. Kakhskha relieved the Chief Engineer.

Settling into the spacious helm, Dead-Hex heard the Captain say, “Good work, hun. Truly Challenge Coin tasks by yourself, Lt. Anghal.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” answered Anghal as she moved to sit at the Engineering boards.

“How fast can you run those numbers, Dead-Hex?” asked Capt. Kakhskha.

“Name it, ma’am,” answered Dead-Hex who was ready to push aside the Sensors boards.

“Push those over to me,” ordered the Captain. “Take any extra Computer Cells you need but I want parsec 1724, outside the Ascendancy Pact. Got me?”

“On it, Captain,” answered the Astrogator.

As the ship had no other vector than directly away from mainworld Roethoeegaeaegz, Dead-Hex yielded over the Sensor boards to Kakhskha.

“Fuel, Lt. Anghal?” asked the Captain.

“One-hundred percent full and processed, ma’am,” answered Anghal.

“We’ll be doing the same thing as before, Chief,” explained Capt. Kakhkha, “only this time, please double-check we have selected the C-Drive capacitors. You may have saved our lives, Anghal. Everyone, I'm activating the Stealth Mask.”

“Yes, ma’am.”
__________________
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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Old July 31st, 2017, 08:10 PM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 14a

It was an exhausting and frustrating escape route for Kakhskha. She caught Vargr naps reclining in the helm at hours four through six, ten through thirteen, one hour past sixteen and-

“Captain,” whispered Lt. Anghal in Kakhskha’s right ear. “Captain,” Anghal said again and added a gentle rub with her claw. Kakhskha came awake, looked at the Sensors board. Blinking to see better, she swore.

On the TL-15 Visor was what she was afraid of, the same five system defense frigates. The 800-ton vessels protecting Roethoeegaeaegz were spread out wide enough to have a chance at spotting the Gatherer as each ship’s range overlapped the coverage of the next adjacent. They were casting a wide net in hopes of detecting and intercepting the gravimetric footprint of the Maneuver Drive pushing Kakhska’s ship further from the mainworld. The only good thing about this was that she had slept all the way in to hour thirty.

“Why did you let me doze off that long, Lieutenant?” whispered Kakhskha groggily.

“Ma’am,” admitted Anghal, “You are the best SensOp on the Gatherer. The Stealth Mask on board has kept us nigh invisible all this time. I felt it prudent to have you get more than a fair share of naptime even if I could not order you to bed. Only the ship’s Medic can do that and Lt. Ardell has been snoozing up in the dorsal barbette this entire time. Though I pleaded with her, she sided with you. Ma’am.”

Kakhskha looked over at Dead-Hex who was not sleeping at all at Astrogation. The mottled gray and black male was crunching numbers to plot the safest, furthest jump he could squeeze out of the two-parsec range of the ship’s Jump drive. And he had had no breaks, taken his meal at the Console, and had only the ship’s Model/6 computer for a companion during the task.

The ship’s intercom pinged a tiny tone. Kakhskha reached over and answered it before it could ping again and distract Dead-Hex. “Bridge.”

Prof. Zannun had been stationed in the starboard side barbette, the one holding in addition to the fusion gun each barbette sported, an Improved Jump Damper-15. Kakhskha had ordered that whichever ship spotted the Gatherer was not going to follow her ship by matching vectors and overtaking her on the other end of jump. He too sounded groggy when his voice came over the intercom. “Captain, they are hailing us on Comms-8.”

“No response,” ordered Kakhskha. “No wait. Patch it in to my headset. I want to hear what they are saying even if we remain silent. She waited a few seconds as she imagined the Distinguished Professor with a four-year rating on Comms echoing his channel monitoring through his Portable Console. A few more seconds passed. Kakhskha was about to call Turret #2 again when her headset began sounding off the hail in her ears.

“…Captain Kakhskha of the SJL-3A32 Gatherer, you are ordered heave to and prepare to be boarded. Respond. No one aboard will be harmed and a fair trial under Roethoeegaeaegz law is guaranteed. Five frigates are arrayed at 100D and ensure your ship will not escape. The local Ascendancy Pact Naval Base has been notified of your renegade status. You are hopelessly outclassed and outgunned. Transmit your surrender at once. Respond.”

The transmission repeated itself. At Astrogation, Dead-Hex had had no sleep since the train ride and he looked haggard and harrowed. He normally performed the calculations upon rising from a sleep, to crunch coordinates first thing early. Now he was working twice as fast and on less than half the sleep. Since the Astrogator from the Infinity League was allergic to Pep drugs, Ardell had not offered any. Coffee only, light and sweet.
__________________
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)

Last edited by The Pakkrat; August 5th, 2017 at 12:41 PM..
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Old July 31st, 2017, 09:06 PM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 15

Dead-Hex slapped the face of the terminal. A Hasty calculation had been denied by the Model/6 Computer’s double-check routines. His right leg was shaking under the effects of caffeine though he generally felt no useful benefit from the entire pot of coffee he had been drinking. The Astrogator snatched up his Portable Console and announced unceremoniously to the other two Vargr on the Bridge, “I gotta hit the head. I’ll be right back.”

“We’re at 89D, Dead-Hex,” offered the Captain. “How far along are you?”

“Far enough to have an accident on the deck if I can’t use the head, Kakhskha. Permission?”

“Hurry up then. We’ve got five frigates staring down our throats and your calculations are all that’s standing between them and us.”

In the fresher the entire crew shared, Dead-Hex did his business of ridding himself of the useless coffee. Then the entire fresher shook along with the ship. “Ancients!”

The frigates were firing blind with high-yield missiles set to ferret out the Gatherer. The fact that they had gotten so close probably meant the use of positronic brains loaded into the ordinance. With that kind of instant decision-making, a torpedo or missile could decide when best to explode and expose the Surveyor’s hull being hidden under a Stealth Mask.

Dead-Hex finished his business and was back into his Vacc Suit in seconds. Inspiration hit him as soon has he toggled the flush key. He could cancel all the variables at the target parsec as there were no gravity wells. The ship could break out anywhere and it wouldn’t matter. “Damn it!” Why hadn’t he thought of that before beginning all the back-end calculations? Screw the double-check. The computer could chew on its chips for all Dead-Hex cared. A safe jump to 1724 was all that was truly needed. He ran an exhausted lope to the Bridge.

Passing the iris valve, Dead-Hex saw Capt. Kakhskha on the Comms. She was speaking to the opposing Admiral. It was that stuffy female, Admiral Akskeks on the other end.

“Really, Admiral. Is all that ordinance really necessary?” asked the Captain at the helm. “You’re wasting more ammunition than a real battle over a 300-ton ship."

“Keep talking, Captain,” called Adm. Akskeks, “while my Comms team is trying to triangulate your transmission so we can surround you. You are nowhere close to 100 Diameters and I don’t think you are stupid enough to perform a Dangerous Jump in that can of Serue.”

“Does your paycheck allow you the luxury to expend the defense of Roethoeegaeaegz on just one ship? They’re going to grill you back home on why you are spending tax credits on playing hunter-hunted with us. Wasteful, if you ask me.”

“I’m not, Captain. Surrender now and drop that illegal Stealth system offline. If all goes well, you’ll get three squares and a cot in Sub-warren 6.”

Dead-Hex padded behind the standing Capt. Kakhskha and over to Engineering. “Psst. Anghal. What’s our D?”

Lt. Anghal, the Chief Engineer looked at her fellow League Vargr from Duelunogorrzuez and blanked, an absent look playing across her face. She was triggering again. The wound the Engineer suffered six years ago at the Battle of Ungkhou had caused the female some damage to the brain. Stress like this encounter could cause her to freeze under pressure.

“It’s okay, Anghal,” whispered Dead-Hex. “How much longer until 90D?”

“….you’re gonna fry that Jump Drive, Dead-Hex…” mumbled the chocolate brown Vargr female, a flashback to their argument. The Astrogator immediately regretted his argument with Anghal last week.

“I know but focus. How far out are we? What’s our D, Lieutenant!” Dead-Hex snapped under his breath at Anghal and was all the sorrier for it.

Lt. Angal came out of her fugue and glanced at the Engineering boards which designated how far out of the gravity well of Roethoeegaeaegz the Gatherer had escaped. “90.1 D, sir,” she mumbled.
__________________
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)

Last edited by The Pakkrat; August 5th, 2017 at 12:45 PM..
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Old July 31st, 2017, 09:38 PM
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Post Down A Peg pt. 15a

Kakhskha could hear Dead-Hex whispering to the Chief Engineer even with the headset on and between spoken sentences across the banter with Admiral Akskeks. She keyed her headset, pausing her image and muting her microphone. She quickly glanced at Dead-Hex, her Astrogator and Jump Drive Engineer, “Tell me you’re done, Dead-Hex.”

“Surrender.”

“What?!”

“Buy me some time to knock off half the needed calculations by surrendering, Kakhskha. Then I’ll upload the final vector to the helm, you lock it while playing nice with the Admiral. They still can’t see us, right?”

“But-“

Dead-Hex passed close to Capt. Kakhskha on his way to the Astrogation boards. “Trust me. I don’t want to go back to silks and bangles on your homeworld.”

Kakhskha keyed her Comms headset again, “You win, Admiral. The Gatherer surrenders.”

“The first smart decision you’ve made since leaving home,” said the smirking Akskeks. “Drop that Stealth Mask, power down your M-Drive and your Power Plant and I won’t have to open up with the lasers.”

“Lt. Anghal,” ordered Kakhskha. “Set the P-Plant to Low Mode and dormant the M-Drive, while I un-Stealth us.”

“Yes, ma’am,” acknowledged the Chief Engineer.

“Another wise move, Captain,” called the toothy smile of the Admiral. “My valkyries are loading up now to arrest you and your crew. Show a weapon or bare a tooth and they have orders to shoot first. Get me?”

“Yes ma’am, I get you,” answered Kakhskha. She demurred by saluting her Merchant’s salute, a right claw’s palm to her collarbones where the neck joined the chest.

“Oh. Kakhskha, my SensOp is still showing a power reading from your hot-spot. Do I need to burn through it or are you going to shut down that odd signature on your ship?"

The Admiral’s crew were picking up the full capacitors of the Collector Drive. Not knowing what it was, they were assuming it was a redundant power system. Kakhskha stole a quick glance to her left at Dead-Hex who was bouncing like a mad Vargr with two thumbclaws up at her while off-camera.

“Shutting down now, ma’am. It will vent just outside our hull. Just don’t shoot.” At that Kakhskha pressed the COMMIT button at her helm to allow the Model/6 computer to aim the Gatherer per the jump vector Dead-Hex was raving quietly about out of sight.

“Lt. Anghal,” said Kakhskha with a direct voice. She couldn’t afford to say the next word on the microphone and then have the Chief Engineer freeze up.

“Ma’am?” snapped Lt. Anghal.

“Jump. Jump now.”

The Admiral on the screen spouted, “What are you-? Somebody! Target their hotspot and fire!”

Outside the Gatherer, beam lasers from the closest frigate crisscrossed over where the Surveyor used to be. In a brilliant Size 7 jump flash, bright enough to blind the unprotected eye, the 300-ton vessel was no longer part of the universe.
__________________
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)

Last edited by The Pakkrat; July 31st, 2017 at 10:08 PM..
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