I knew I should have stayed on the 'Spear.
I don't really blame the Consul for wanting me on his flagship, because it is exactly what I would have done, if the roles
were reversed. Having a Grand Master on deck is a big deal, and not just for morale. But the clever little bait didn't put
together that the same reason made us a priority target. And now I am trying to hold together a sorry escape pod as it is
trying to make what can only be classified as an 'extreme landing'.
Which is to say, something already basically shot it out of the sky, and I am trying to make it out of this thing with my
internal organs still internal. However many years later, and I still am not the best of pilots. I remember back in one of
the last Sith Rites of Supremacy where I...
And that'd be the ground now. The sound of a crashing spacecraft is not what you'd expect it to be, metallic and grinding.
It squeaks more than it grinds, the alloys crumpling against the rocks and whatever else in ways that set your teeth on edge,
if they weren't already there based on the not insignificant fact that you were hurtling at the ground at the speed of
seventeen cursewords a minute.
The stink of ozone, burning air, and crackling electronics are the first things you notice when the adrenaline slows down.
It's going to take me forever to get that smell out of my warcoat. And of course, the escape hatch is jammed, half buried
under debris and whatever other junk that the planet has lying about on it. Not terribly sure why this Collective set up shop
here, unless they have some sort of giant smelter that they can use to reclaim all of this junk. I suppose it's not out of
the question. Oligard was a resourceful man. Probably still is.
Twisting in my chair, I try to determine how bad the door is shoved in, wondering not so idly if the fool in the headhunter
had any idea who was riding in this pod, or if he was just stabbing at the low-hanging fruit. The way my luck has been,
probably the former, which means I can expect company, and soon. I go to release the safety harness and get up, but find
myself held back. The console to my left had collapsed down, pinning my arm to the seat, a pretty heavy gouge in the metal.
I'm not entirely sure of the provenance of the stream of profanity that rushes from my lips, not that it mattered anyway.
I go to move the fingers, my ear trying to tune into the sound of those tiny servo motors, the fine ears and electronics that
have quite literally been at my side ever since...That doesn't matter right now. What matters is that I can't hear them, and
the synaptic interface isn't giving me any feedback anymore. At the very best, the neural interface is fried. At the likely
worst, the whole arm is scrapped. I find the release at my bicep, detaching the failsafes and breaking free from the
wreckage. If I have the luck to come back and get it, I will. The last thing I need is to have one of these half-droids
bouncing around the galaxy with my arm strapped to them. I'd never hear the end of it.
I take a quick look around the pod, finding a few odds and ends that might make the next few minutes a bit more bearable
before trying to shove on the escape hatch. At least there was water on board. Someone was thinking. I try the door. It
doesn't even pretend to budge. I try a second time, then decide there's no time for any of this. The throb behind my eyes
tells me the door is gone before my eyes themselves do, the thick metal skittering across the ground a few paces away like a
Brown. This planet is brown, there's no other real way to describe it. A thousand year old rust, dirty sand and filth from
what must have been a hundred wars just caked the entire landscape. It was not winning any awards for vacation destinations,
that was for certain. If I had to guess, this was what they called 'the Badlands'. Inventive.
It occurs to me that standing this close to a crashed escape pod is a good way to be found by things that would rather you
hadn't escaped, so I bolt toward a dune a few hundred paces away. A dune of what exactly, I am not entirely sure, but it at
least gets a little distance between me and the bullseye. Not that the black warcoat didn't make me stand out already in this
The whine of engines reminds me that this was not a sightseeing trip. I close my eyes for a moment, reaching upward, barely
into orbit, finding the point I recognize. Confused and worried beneath a veneer of bravado and a lifetime of callouses.
I survived. Here.
I speak into his mind, then show him what I see as I open my eyes before stopping, the swell of pain behind my temples
growing. The landing must have rattled me more than I wanted to give it credit for. There would be time enough for that
later, because right now, there are a few things coming my way, and odds are pretty good they aren't trying to sell me a
The engines stop suddenly. I let their essences wash over me, reaching out, sensing my surroundings. Three of them. That
tells me that they don't know who was in the pod. Oligard is going to be angry when he figures it out.
The first one falls too easily, smashed into the pod, pulled back and pounded into it again, her neck going all floppy by the
third time her flesh met the metal. I let her go, then send the golden sabers from behind my coat take flight. They drop at
first, then scream toward them, igniting at the last moment, their golden light leaving the second girl in a neat and steaming
pile of what used to be angry. I step up, cresting the dune, calling them back to me with a thought. The third girl has some
spunk, lowering her center of gravity and raising a bow similar to what I had seen Ashia play with. Nightsister toys didn't
seem to make sense with what I had heard about the Collective.
She draws back the weapon and let loose, the frozen in the air in between us as I narrowed my eyes at her. Her boots dragged
at the sand and rust as she found herself pulled forward suddenly, the blast from her own weapon ripping through her as she
stumbled forward against her will. I watch her gasp for breath against the ruin of her lung and probably heart, trying to
place her race. The tattoos look Kiffar, which stands to reason with the skintone, but it was weird. The other two look like
clones. Did Oligard buy himself some crazy premium grade clones?
The dull roar of atmospheric entry focuses me for a moment, looking up to see a lambda-class. Good, Sanguinius did not decide
that he wanted to take advantage of the situation. I imaging that Locke would have. I reach into the bag of stuff from the
escape pod, finding the flare gun and using it, the wide arc of colored light and smoke letting everything know where I was.
It occurs to me how remarkably un-clever that was a moment after I pulled the trigger, throwing the flare launcher to the dirt
in disgust with myself. I watch the shuttle circle, then come in closer. It would only be a minute now, but with the roar of
the engines, I wouldn't be able to hear if any more of those clone whatevers were coming.
It took a moment for me to recognize the armor of the Black Guard, the black washing out against the gray of the shuttle,
surrounded by that fecal brown. He asks the normal questions, almost by rote. I barely answer him, as usual.
"Did you have any trouble, Lord?"
I gesture to the huntresses, then walk up the ramp past him. He laughs to himself. "Only three of them."
Yes. Only three of them. I could handle twice that number with my hand tied behind my... never mind.