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Old August 20th, 2019, 05:12 AM
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Plumes of black smoke rose like banshees to be scattered in the desert wind. Born of enshrouded flame from various tents and low lying buildings designed to defeat the wind and sand, the visage of destruction was juxtaposed against a blue nitrogen sky with high altitude clouds feathering the stratosphere. All the while, in the background the sleek-serrated form of the yellow and black striped camouflage that was the Stalker’s Fang, sat on the desert floor, her struts half buried in the hardened parched earth.

Gahv, his HEL gun held high and pointing to the sky, was fixated on the hand held scanner presented to him by Kael. Imperial colonies were notoriously eclectic when it came to defenses. Some were virtual fortresses built out on airless worlds, where others, such as this one, were defenseless hamlets that invited anyone to raid.

Gahv didn’t pretend to understand the reasoning of humans, and how their inconsistencies perpetuated a continued naval superiority in terms of quality and size of armed combatants, he never understood. Gahv knew that his hunter’s mind kept him ahead of the scheming humans. Friends one moment, traitorous bringers of retribution the next. Many of his comrades commanding other vessels had fallen to Imperial naval sweeps. One after the other, the images emblazoned on the freeport he called home continued to swell in ranks as one starship captain after another was killed or went missing after an engagement with an Imperial cruiser.

And this foray, on some patch of desert on an equally arid world some distance from the Imperial fringe, for now, was safe for him and his crew to raid at their pleasure. Orbiting the larger of the colonial townships had brought out onlookers. And when no shots were fired or other defenses activated, that’s when Gahv ordered his laser batteries to put the larger buildings to the electric flame.

As the crimson beams seared ozone they sliced into the thin rooves meant to keep sun and other elements off of the good people of this fledgling colony. They were not designed to resist uncounted mega joules of a starship laser, and certainly not a double beam barbettes from two turrets. From the bridge of the Stalker’s Fang, Gahv had watched black human silhouettes scatter in all directions, some holding human cubs as the corsairs lasers slashed and punched into one building after another.

Planetary raids were sometimes a necessity. He preferred intercepting fat treasure filled merchants in deep star-studded black, but colonies, Vargr or human, often had food stuffs. And curse the humans again for being able to make tastier fare than his own galley cooks, whom he had spent extra credits and gold on acquiring and giving them the best provisions to work with he could find.

Once enough tents and buildings were ablaze and belching black smoke, Gahv gave the order to land. The four-hundred ton ship circled the village several times before extending its landing struts and plowing the desert floor until she slowed enough to come to a stop.

Gahv looked at Kael’s portable tactical unit, quietly surveyed the village sensing the various chemicals that constituted the black smoke, stray molecules of which shot away from the main streaming black plume and found their way into the Vargrs’ olfactory senses.

“No cattle, captain. No animals of any kind. Strictly agrarian.”

“On a desert world.” Gahv’s phrasing was a command meant as a question, but without the intonation of asking … it would make him seem weak.

The wind picked up some, the hot breeze pushing against raised pointed ears and fur and washing some of the chemical scent away, only to replace it with the smell of arid soil and rock.

“Some of those structures we torched were greenhouses, or top chambers leading to vats nested underground. It’s human produce, captain. Some of it we can digest, but it’s not meat. Strictly grasses of all sorts.”

Grass for Vargr meant anything that germinated out of the soil. Plainly speaking it wasn’t meat, and the only time Vargr didn’t eat meat was because of some medical condition, typically dealing with the digestive track. Few Vargr kept any produce of any kind on board, or if they did then again it was for medicinal purposes.

Gahv scanned the area with his steely gaze, while some of his squad let their mouths partially open to vent heat from their bodies, Gahv’s muzzle was a solid line with jaw clenched shut. He looked in one direction, glanced at Kael’s tactical readout, then glanced in another direction, seeing humans, some in burnt rags that passed for clothes, clutching to one another as they chanced a fearful look at Gahv and his troop, worrying and wondering what would happen next.

“Agrarian colonies always have animals.” Gahv asserted, as if it was some deep profound truth that only he could establish, and that everyone must acknowledge—all but his closest advisors.

“Some humans don’t eat meat, captain. Some prefer the desert and raising flowers to the open plains. They’re not unheard of. They call themselves communes, or some similar word. They organize themselves around a social idea or concept, and live as they desire.”

“They have no defenses.” Again Gahv was straight to the point, not quite ignoring Kael’s brief, but desiring that he add more to it without having to muster the energy to question his tactical officer.

“Such collections of humanity tend not to believe in warfare … of any kind, captain. They prefer the sedate. Like our kind who prefer daily jobs and spending time in parks. They differ from you and us.”

“Curse this world and these people.” Gahv finally uttered as he again surveyed the visage fire and smoke amidst a waterless landscape, with clusters of humans clutching onto one another in some vain hope that physical touch and the comfort it brought would alleviate the anguish they had suffered.

A fringe world populated by former Imperials hoping to escape the social clutches of Imperial law and taxes, and the protection and harness it brought, only to find themselves subject to Gahv’s whims. Gahv had no use for humans, dead or alive, only the goods they made, and the food that he and his kind could eat. If the Imperium took exception, then that was their prerogative, but it wouldn’t stop Gahv and his rampage through known space, nor make him reconsider an alternative way of existence.

Gahv lived for the hunt. He lived for pillaging. It was part of his every being, and both Vargr and Human on both sides of the great invisible national barrier that separated both species relative domain knew that. This had been the twelfth raid in as many weeks, often Gahv would order attacking two targets within as many hours, which only added to his reputation.

Unknown to him, someone had taken notice of his activities. Gahv had been content at one time to serve as a naval commander in a mainline fleet squadron for a government that no longer existed and that few remembered—as with most things that related to Vargr society. But attacking for the sake of some high potentate who reaped the rewards of wealth and mates grated on Gahv’s mind. The high born pack leaders of many pack worlds and beyond throughout the Extents were no better than their human counterparts they so often railed against to gain political favor and power.

So it was that Gahv raided to his own ends, and shared the wealth with his crew instead of delivering it to the former leader that had been deposed in one of hundreds of military coups across Vargr space. Gahv didn’t know how human society worked, and was continually surprised that the Imperium outlasted any semblance of government his own people could cobble together through ideals and rhetoric, only to have it collapse and be rebuilt on another ideal with another line of political nonsense meant only to make the natives feel better about their efforts, but always ending in disaster. How the humans continued to outpace the Vargr, Gahv would never know.

What was even more baffleing was that a large number Vargr preferred what was often called the stability of human culture. But Gahv saw the same iniquitous distribution of wealth, and literally did not understand how and why there were few human corsairs. What were they called? Pirates? Lawless trash by Gahv’s standards. They pillaged for the sake of it, and then spent their wealth on meaningless passtimes to please their physical senses. Even so, Gahv admired them to a certain degree. They were willing to embrace the basic Vargr instincts. Somewhere back in time the humans must have had similar insights into living as the Vargr. Somewhere. Some way. Some different time.

Again, black columns of smoke enshrouding red hot flames reached for the heavens. There was nothing here.

Gahv handed back Kael his tactical reader. “Let’s go.”

Some twenty minutes later the Stalker’s Fang’s engines thundered to life, then careened skyward as her maneuver drive kicked out massive amounts of thrust to heft four-hundred tons of alloy and crew into orbit and beyond.
Sir Ghost, Knight of Imperial occupied Terra, Sol.
Travels with Blue Ghost; musings of a knight of the Imperium.

Last edited by Blue Ghost; August 20th, 2019 at 02:27 PM.. Reason: minor editing
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