Heathen slammed Huginn down on the landing pad, causing the landing gear to bounce. He watched other 9th Legion ship making their way in, and they looked like shit; Pythons with their hulls caving in, Cobras barely making it in as their thrusters sputtered and spurted – giving up. Unstrapping himself, he got up and strode up the steps and out the back.

“Get the engineers working kid; you know what they need to do.” Heathen paused before stepping through to the back, just behind Muninn, taking a moment to think about his next words.

“You did well today. We wouldn’t of made it out if it wasn’t for you.” Before Muninn could reply, he stepped through the door and out the ship.

Heathen was met with a view of a tug Hauler pulling an Anaconda through the mail slot; the beast having had its belly ripped out, wires sparking and spitting as it went overhead. Half the crew dead. Walking round the pad inspecting his own scrape with danger, he saw his shield boosters were blown out and a couple of thrusters were knackered. He’d got off lightly.

“All officers please report to the command room, all officers please report to command.” The voice boomed across the docks – no one missed that announcement.

Heathen turned to his protégé, and gave him a quick look over. “All the engineers know what to do?”

Muninn looked at him, tired and dirty. “Yes boss.”

Heathen nodded, and started walking off, knee whirring.

“I want you to be with me for this meeting, and then you can go to the barracks, clean off and sleep.”

As they stepped through the functional yet well-decorated hallways of the military sector of Leopold, Heathen knew their losses were heavy and panic of the aftermath was rife. Intelligence officers rushed around, tablets in hand, speaking in hushed tones. Turning the corner he saw the open door to the command room, more commanders sitting and standing in there, all looking struck and, some, looking dead in the eye, staring off into the depths.

Taking his place standing behind his squadron leader, Heathen gestured for Muninn to stand next to him. It was irregular for engineers to be in this room, but in this circumstance, no one cared. As the door was closed, Heathen let his eyes wander the room. Many seats were empty. This was partly due to leaders being away on recon missions, but a majority of the seats were combat positions – this wasn’t good.

The room didn’t need hushing as one of the operations officers stepped through the door at the back. Lieutenant-Commander Kane, also Duke of CD-63 201, a likable face in the Legion, and trusted to tell you how it was. He preferred to be called Ronnie – however it wasn’t recommended in this instance.

“Okay guys, I don’t need to state the obvious, someone fucked up intel-side.” Ronnie typed in a code and the screen behind him pulled up a map of Malaikudi and surrounding systems.

“The fighter squadron that was in that system to bait us, then they closed the trap with heavy Gunships and Corvettes. The attack was staged from a system two jumps away where recon reported a Farragut class ship…….” There was a pause, Ronnie didn’t look good. A murmur in the room – something was off.

Ronnie coughed, looking uncomfortable. “Our intelligence suggests that a defected rear-admiral, Damascus, was on board the ship, telling the Federal navy how to best trap us, knowing we would use a mass-lock trap on fighters. As soon as the attack was over, it jumped away….”

There was uproar, squadron leaders stood up and flight leaders strode over to the table, a couple of knives planted firmly in the solid wood meeting table. ‘Vile rat’ was muttered more than once. The air now felt like touching the metal walls would be a very bad idea. Ronnie yelled for order, not finished what he was saying.

“There will be a task-force to deal with this traitor, but we can’t deal with this treason if we can’t fix him…….”

Heathen felt the heat build-up inside of him – this was too far.

Striding round the room, Heathen started speaking slowly. “If we were to know of such a traitor, and knew about such a class of ship in our AO,” his voice started to strain. “Then we could have fixed and destroyed said ship, instead of flying into a mass-lock trap. CAUSING MY MEN TO DIE FOR THE WORTH OF A FEW DAMNED MOTHER-FUCKING EAGLES!!! I LOST HALF MY FUCKING FLIGHT BECAUSE NO ONE CAN KEEP TRACK OF A PRICK WHISPERING SWEET THINGS IN DIRTY FEDERAL EARS!!!”

By this point Heathen was in Ronnie’s face, spitting with rage. He stopped where he was, watching his seniors face as he panted.

Ronnie wiped his face, then breathed in and slowly replied. “I understand your anger Flight Leader, but I would like to remind you where you are – and who you’re talking to.” Heathen paused for a second, then stepped back and saluted.

“I apologise – Sir.” He said; and proceeded to retake his place by Munin, still breathing heavily.

Ronnie looked over, then back down at his tablet. “In fact Heathen, I’m transferring you across to 1st Lancers to be their Flight Leader. I’ll be briefing you after we’re done here, does this agree with you?”

Heathen nodded, waiting for Ronnie to address other commanders before he leant in to Muninn. “Take the stash of credits from Huginn, I know you know where it is. Go down to the bar and get a bottle of Cubeo Gold. I’ll meet you down there when I’m done.”

*  *  *  *  *

Muninn was still shaking. The man he always saw walk with such calm, and keep such a cool head in battle situations, had just shown the roaring call of his gods under his tattooed skin. Never had he ever seen someone lose it with a superior to that degree.

After purchasing Heathen’s favourite whiskey, Muninn pondered what he knew about him and what the other engineers had told him about the man. The tall, medium-built man held many beliefs under the mix of white scars, blue and black ink and the tanned hide. The crews believed that Heathen didn’t fear death, embracing the beliefs of the ancient Old Norse. After being shunned and having nowhere to go, Heathen’s clan supposedly became nomads, travelling space.

After Heathen became a marine he apparently fought with such verve, efficiency and ferocity that many Imperial born marines didn’t want to serve alongside him, fearing the ideals of a barbarian would get them killed. For a marine he had quite a low kill count, until you hear stories of the way those few Federal men died. Muninn shuddered, a chill gripping him.

When Heathen became a pilot he supposedly calmed down. Rather than willing a glorious death upon himself, he opted to wait patiently for it.

Muninn looked around the bar, shyly glancing at a short blonde girl talking to the barkeep, trying not to draw attention to himself.

Looking back at his drink, he pondered his boss again. Would he be able to reach the standards the sure man had set himself? He wondered if being Imperial born would restrict this, or whether it was an asset to him to be born in the home of such prestigious pilots of the Empire.

“Oi, kid – staring at pretty ladies is a good way to get ya teeth smashed in.”

Heathen’s rasping voice snapped him of deep thought, causing to blink at his mentor. He sat down, pouring himself a drink from the bottle of Gold that sat between them. “Ronnie’s put us in a recce squadron, more specifically to hunt down Daz.”

The casual nickname for the traitor confused Muninn for a second, then it dawned on him – the rear-admiral was Heathen’s mentor after releasing him from slavery.

Muninn thought it best to keep that out of conversation as looking at women wasn’t the only way to get free dental treatment. Heathen took a swig..

“Now, we’ll need to use Huginn to get everywhere but I want the engineers down dock to buff out the Imperial markings. We’re going under the radar for this one.”

Muninn nodded, then frowned.

“Boss…. How are we meant to find Damascus when he could literally be anywhere?”

He saw the wry grin on Heathen’s face.

Taking another swig and glancing left and right, the older man leant in, scratching his leg, and whispered:

“I think I know someone who may know something.”


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