Rain pattered at the hulls of the resting giants that sat silently in a circle on the plains of the blue and green planet. A small imperial task force had stopped to rest after what felt like too many weeks out in the black. Most of the smaller ships were shut down, their Commanders either resting, scouting or setting up a perimeter.
Larger ships had landed as close as they dared, encircling the smaller ones, with their ramps down and lights on. Soldiers moved about the makeshift camp from ship to ship. Sounds of cheering could be heard as news was declared that the Imperial Navy was on the move, taking advantage of the opportunity the Task Force had given them. Although the Navy wouldn’t publicly acknowledge the achievements of the Commanders who disrupted the Federal expansion over Merope, Patreus’ mobilisation order had finally given them the nod that they well deserved.
Muninn wasn’t taking part in the festivities, instead opting to sit near the rear hatch of Huginn and listen to the sound of rain as he worked on the Frame Shift Drive. Sparks flew as he surgically repaired the components. It had almost been burnt out by a Federal Corvette, hot on their tail. The sound of water hitting the ground enveloped him, the first experience of an Earth-like planet not wasted on his young ears. The feeling of the breeze felt cool next to the heat radiating from the red-hot circuitry.
He looked up at the sky – something was approaching.
Who the hell knows we’re here?
He stopped working to watch the green Eagle as it approached the ground formation. The sentries didn’t engage and he couldn’t hear any chatter over comms.
Must be friendly.
Muninn took a swig of the water he was collecting from the rain. He savoured the natural chill as the non-processed liquid slid down his throat.
A couple of guys from the patrol approach ed the Eagle. The pilot stepped out, and they exchanged a few words. One of the crew pointed over to Huginn.
Oh crap, what is it now?
As the pilot made his way towards their ship, Muninn noticed soldiers move out of his path as if he had some air of importance. Maybe importance wasn’t the right word… It was a type of fear, as though they were uneasy of the newcomer.
When the pilot came within a hundred meters Muninn started to clearly make out details about the uniform. The pilot was a man – slightly shorter than average, wearing a sword on his left hip and a pistol on his right thigh. He wore a custom-made dark, thinly armoured H.E. suit that showed signs of battle, but still in immaculate condition. Muninn didn’t need to see the man’s face to know who it was.
Jubei Himura, a Chapterhouse Inquisitor.
What the hell is he doing out here, of all places?
He set his gear on the tray and jumped down to the ground to meet the inquisitor.
“Inquisitor Jubei, it’s good to see you sir.” Muninn saluted.
“Hello Muninn.” Jubei met him with a warm smile. “Looks like ya had some trouble dealin’ with those feds. You’re not lookin’ for a new FSD now, are ya?”
“Nah. I mean, it’ll need replacing, but I can get another ten jumps at least from the thing,” Muninn said absentmindedly, glancing back at Huginn. Turning back, Muninn leaned in and asked as discreetly as possible:
“What’s he done this time?”
“Why do you think it’s always something bad?” Jubei laughed. “Scratch that, we all know why. Truth be told, I’m not here of my own accord. Leopold begged me to come fetch ‘im for some reason.”
Muninn smirked, trying to suppress his amusement. “Good luck on getting him anywhere ‘till the morning. He’s in there,” Muninn pointed his chin at one of the Cutters on the other side of the encampment. Crewmen could be seen pouring out, roaring drunk.
“He’ll be in a shite mood as well.”
“I’ll make note of that, kiddo.” Turning toward the merriment of the Cutter, Jubei laughed and walked away.
“Better have that ready by mornin’, bub,” he called back.
“Oh – and make sure the coffee maker still works… that might be more important actually!”
“See… The thing about the coffee maker,” Muninn began. “It wasn’t stowed away when Beta Hydri was announced and we lost our mark. It was the day I found out he kept an axe under his pillow… apparently used it for melee while in the marines.” Muninn pulled himself through the hatch of the Vulture. “However, I am collecting a nice bucket of fresh water for the mornin’,” he winked at the inquisitor.
“Hm, well… good thing they’re partying on a Cutter.” Jubei winked back with a smile. “They have all sorts of appliances…”
* * * * * *
“Fyrirgef þú I ‘ave an announcement!!!!”
Heathen splashd his drink on the floor.
Jubei could hear Heathen’s roar all the way at the bottom of the ship’s entrance. He chuckled to himself as he ascended the majestic steps toward the Cutter’s main doors. The sounds of drunken celebration grew louder as the doors slid open, showing the mass of jolly soldiers. He weaved through the crowd, grabbing a Barron’s Head beer from the hastily-converted bulkhead cooler and made his way towards Heathen’s drunken roar.
“Quite the celebration goin’ on here bub,” he said in greeting, casually leaning against the wall.
“Ahhhhhh, Hversu ferr my old friend?”
Heathen ambled over, reaching for a handshake. “Where did you come from?”
“I’m doin’ wel- space-Christ!” Jubei swore as he reached out his hand for a handshake, just to catch the drunk ex-marine as he fell.
“Alright big boy, easy now. How long have you been at this?”
Heathen smiled, the scars around his mouth pinching and pulling his lips into a awkward rictus.
“Eh, four hours maybe? Been teaching them my language. In fact, watch this.”
Heathen stood up and howled at the top of his lungs.
“Ert þú búinn?!”
The men and women packed in the Cutter all looked over and raised their drinks in unison, screaming in answer “Já!!!”
Heathen looked back at Jubei, pleased with himself.
“See? Lovely bunch.”
“The best,” Jubei agreed as he raised his bottle.
I’m not going to be able to get him outta here like this. Better not mention Leopold ‘till the morning, don’t want to set him off.
He looked around at the door that led into the ship proper, grinned, finished his beer, and snuck away.
“Now I’m going to teach you fuckers how to tell a fed that he fights like a girl……”
Heathen slurred, miscalculated where the stairs were behind him, and plummeted to the dirt.
“Óðins skegg!” He swore.
The partygoers reeled back, waiting for the typical onslaught of fury. However the fury never came. Heathen decided just to slump in the mud instead of wasting the effort of getting up.
“So,” everyone jumped as Jubei’s voice broke the tense silence. The inquisitor had a sly smile across his face.
“Who are the new guys around here?”
* * * * * *
Muninn had just finished patching the FSD drive when he heard the grunts and swearing coming from two junior soldiers dragging Heathen towards him. Thankfully his boss was happily singing to himself, so there wasn’t any worry about him damaging the ship.
Jubei followed behind, carrying a white sack and sporting a happy grin.
“OK boys, put him on the ramp. We’ll find a blanket for the poor sod.”
The junior soldiers placed Heathen down. They saluted Jubei and Muninn before they took off to rejoin the festivities.
Muninn frowned, watching the soldiers walk away.
Did they just salute me?
He looked at the mess that was Heathen, then to the mysterious object the Inquisitor had brought.
“What’s in the sack?”
Jubei reached inside and pulled out a brand-new, top of the line, Guatamya-brand coffee maker.
“Our salvation and protection for the morning.”
* * * * * *
“Where the fuck is my axe, kid?”
Muninn and Jubei look back at the hatch, pausing their talk about how best to configure heads-up displays.
“I moved it to a compartment until you’ve had something hot, black, with a little dash of whiskey in it,” Muninn called back.
Jubei looked down at him, raising an eyebrow. Muninn managed to mouth ‘hair of the dog’ before Heathen dropped down from the hatch, almost crumpling in a heap as his prosthetic struggled to keep up.
“Better not be refering about Marra’s, I told you that was a leverage thing…”
Heathen paused, just about grasping the mug that Muninn held out for him. Staring at Jubei, he looked more confused than someone witnessing the works of Loki.
“When did you get here?”
“Last night, when you were off teachin’ the crew over there how to insult feds in Norse.” Jubei chuckled as he sipped the fresh coffee.
“I’m surprised you can speak anything when you’re that lit.”
“Gór mik eigi, heimskt troll! I would speak my mother tongue more, if it wasn’t for the fact that none of you understand me.” Heathen chuckled as he downed his burning hot coffee in one.
“I guess I was forgetting my company again?”
He threw his mug at Muninn, smiling at the Inquisitor.
“What brings the Inquisition to this small encampment? Surely this is out of your remit?”
“Yeah, it’s a bit outta my way.”
Jubei looked around, making sure the other soldiers were out of earshot.
“Hell, I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t important. Ronnie got the Chancellor to personally ask me after I refused the first time, that kind of important.”
He cleared his throat.
“Leopold’s recalling you to HQ. something’s brewing.”