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Old August 11th, 2018, 07:20 PM
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Default Slaying Dragons

Sir Amaud Reynard stepped off the Far Nebula’s cargo ramp none the worse for wear. Boots caked with week old mud, clothes, armor and a body that also hadn’t been touched by water in over two weeks. The rank of the Nebula’s interior was partially flushed with a warm afternoon breeze wafting from off shore at the Downport facility.

The fuel technician tried to hide his scrunched nose as he handed Reynard a clipboard with a laundry list of items for the battered type-R; fuel, coolant, waste purge, recharge of life support and a general cleaning of all of the Nebula’s subsystems.

In the background men in battle fatigues carrying duffle bags and kit cases side stepped the mortician’s loader bots putting full body bags into caskets as they left the Nebula without so much as a word. Some had loved ones come to pick them up, others simply vanished into the starport’s interior corridors to get a room, a cab, or go about to their next destination. The “goodbyes” were said before they landed, and Reynard had a reputation for not liking sentimentality. They came at his beck and call when the emperor necessitated, and when the Imperial mailed fist was unavailable in the form of the army, navy or marines, it was the traditional knight that took up the role of hired gun without the title of mercenary.

This particular instance was a the usual smash-and-grab rescue, only the object of rescue was already dead, and the Sword World’s welcoming had done their best to down the Nebula as she orbited the LZ pummeling the enemy positions with her twin pulse laser on one of the northern islands just below the arctic circle. The Sword Worlds have been known to create places unusual and distant to house political prisoners, including kidnap victims or other political undesirables. For this OP the victim was a young man and his friends who had taken the family type-S out for a run after graduation. Straying into Sword space on a dare they set down on Iron, a water world. Officially Iron was a natural preserve, but it didn’t prevent the confederation from setting up hidden prisons. The local noble had sent out parties to search for his son and friends, tapped into the scouts logs, at which point the APB was posted at the local starport.

Reynard responded, called up his retainers, and enacted on his commission. It cost him a large chunk of change, and a few lives, both of which would be replenished courtesy the nobility, who would then be reimbursed by the royal house itself. It was a mechanism apart from the marshal’s service, apart from the IISS special security division, apart from Imperial Naval Intelligence, and even apart from Imperial Intelligence. It was old fashioned, traditional, but functional. Reynard, unlike the millions (perhaps billions) of honorary knights across the Imperium and elsewhere, had actual military obligations, and when called upon was obligated to muster his men-at-arms, squires, and even other knights and their retainers depending on the size of the job.

They were competition for the plethora of private mercenary units, a good number of which had honorary knights on their strength, but weren’t empowered to muster forces on behalf of the Emperor. Reynard, in this sense, was a real knight, like the select few again scattered across the Imperium and beyond.

He scratched his name again and again, and then initialed several sections again and again on the veritable novel of forms on the clipboard he was holding all the while the whir and clamor of androids, robots and real live workers did their thing by hooking up hoses, power lines, and clanking on the hull with tools as they removed plates to get at the Nebula’s inner mechanical guts.

“Where else.” Reynard flatly stated, commanding rather than asking.

“Here, I’ll have a look.” The young twenty-something technician took the clipboard and thumbed through each form with a professional eye. “Did you want extra coverage on the purge, in case anything happens while you’re in jump?”

“No.” Reynard flatly stated. Insurance scams came in all forms. Any chance to touch a starship’s captain bank account, although some ports were more notorious than others. Reynard strode over to the life support tanker, grabbed the potable water hose, and doused himself from head to toe not caring how cold the water was.

The tech knew he should have said something, but given the body bags, weapons, combat damage to the starship, and just the whole vibe of the situation, he kept his mouth shut as he checked the clipboard, saw the official Imperial seal of nobility and knighthood next to Reynard’s name, and stared at him for a second as he did a double take between the ship’s master dousing himself with a hose and the clipboard in his hands.

Reynard threw the hose down, wiped his hands over his face and back over his hair before shaking his head like a doused animal, whipping droplets this way and that before pulling out a comb and giving his long dark brown strand a temporary grooming before walking back to the tech.

It was good to be alive. He had lost several men, but such was life, or death. He didn’t like it, would have to send out letters of condolences and fill out numerous insurance forms, but unlike the honorary knight, he had to work for a living, and serving the Imperium was part of his role.

Reynard walked over to the tech gawking at him, “Are we done?” he flatly asked, his calm low all business tone could have been interpreted as a demand.

A starship thundered in the background as it reached for altitude, the tech tried to say something, and thought of blaming the ambient noise of twin nozzles pushing several hundred tons of steel into orbit and beyond, but mere uttered an “Uhh…”

Reynard wasn’t sure what to make of the man’s reaction. He never could fathom why some people starred at him slack jawed, while others had no problem talking to him as a normal human being. “Do I need to sign anything else?” Reynard clarified.

“Ah, no. Nope. No, you don’t. We’re good.” The tech finally mustered courage to respond, “Did you need anything else?” He fought the urge to stammer. “My company wants to remind you that we do pack ships with the best premade five star cuisine, if you’re interested that is.”

“No. I’m good.” Reynard then walked back towards the ramp. Talking with the tech was going no where, and he had things to do—the grim bitter task of contacting the families of his fallen retainers, tapping the local nobility for replacements, and all the odds and ends that went with knighthood, including contacting the families of the teenagers he was supposed to be rescuing.

Reynard was of mix parentage. His mother was from Core, born of high birth and something else that gave her status. She was mostly Vilani while his father was mostly French and something else that put Terran blood to mingle with his Vilani heritage. A lot of Earthers came out to the Marches to make their fortune, and his father was no different. Only unlike the droves that spent money on a hope and dream, Jacques Reynard had actually made a name for himself serving in one of the Marches frontier wars. Knighted and landed for his service, Amaud Reynard did not inherit the title, but was given the option of serving with the same noble’s hussars in a pet anti-piracy project that the navy sated it was too busy to go after. That, and said pirates were a full subsector away outside the Imperium—out of sight, out of mind.

Rare earths, elements, rare non-Imperial high tech from afar, otherwise known as the Florian League, were deemed valuable enough to defend the trade lanes against incursions. The truth of the matter came out later. A combination of graft, paying off some of the local admiralty, and Reynard himself and the ship he served on being used as bait to draw out the pirate flagship, and a battle in some unknown patch of space light years from any civilized world, all made for a thrilling spy novel in the courtroom when the prosecutors brought evidence and witnesses to bear.

Reynard and the entire crew were knighted. Most retired or moved onto other matters, taking the knighthood as an honorary title that allowed them a few freebees as they travelled the Imperium. But Amaud Reynard was not a hired mercenary but part of a noble’s personal (clandestine) house unit, and his knighthood had deeper meaning than being given a fancy title with a few perks.

“Sir Reynard?” a lone figure, well dressed—borderline foppish—some gray peppering his otherwise well groomed dark strands atop a thin build, called with audible authority as he approached the type-R’s open doors and lowered ramp. “Sir Reynard?”

Reynard paused and turned to see who it was. An unfamiliar figure, but he seemed to carry himself with self import. Mentally Reynard sighed to himself before turning back down the ramp to meet the man.

“Oh good, I caught you. I do apologize.” The man had a smile, as if oblivious to the caskets being glided out of the hold and onto waiting transports.

“Can I help you?” Reynard’s tone was flat and even keeled, again all business.

“Ah, yes, I’m Reginald Stewart. Sir Reginald Stewart, to be precise.” He extended a formal open hand.

Reynard shook it once, then turned back to the Nebula as the last of the caskets was being taken out, along with another loader android filled with personal belongings of the recently deceased.
Sir Ghost, Knight of Imperial occupied Terra, Sol.
Travels with Blue Ghost; musings of a knight of the Imperium.
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Old August 11th, 2018, 07:20 PM
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Stewart seemed somewhat surprised by Reynard’s indifference and quickened his step to chase after him. “I saw the notice that your ship had landed. We’re of the same, order I believe.” His tone was upper crust, as was his manner.

Reynard stopped, and turned half way up the ramp, “Mister Stewart—”

“Sir Stewart, if you please.” Stewart’s grin was more of a gentle reminder of etiquette than an actual expression of affection.

Reynard ignored the correction, “I’ve just come back from an op. An unsuccessful op where I lost a third of my retainers, so unless you have an emergency of some kind that requires me, I’d just as soon get back to my ship.”

“Oh me, you’re part of a mercenary unit, then?”

Reynard angrily chagrinned, but otherwise kept his composure. “No, I’m not a mercenary.” He gestured to the last of the coffins being loaded into a grav freighter hovering some meters away from the ramp, “Those men there served me on behalf of the Emperor. And now I’ve got to go write condolences and fill out a ton of paperwork.”

Stewart’s eyes widened, “I do apologize, you’re with the marshal’s service or Scout’s special security, then.”

Reynard audibly sighed, “No, sir. I’m a knight, now if you’ll excuse me…”

“Good god! You mean you’re an actual knight?!”

Reynard had had enough, “You know, something mister, you’re getting on my nerves.” And he turned and walked back towards the Far Nebula’s open maw.

“But I saw you get the silver cluster at last year’s ball at … for … oh.” Stewart paused, then stopped realizing the decoration Reynard had received wasn’t for some social service, but an actual military service medal. He watched Reynard vanish through an open portal inside the Nebula’s hold, and stood there dumbfounded for several heartbeats before reluctantly turning back down the ramp, offering the occasional glance backwards before heading back into the starport terminal.

Night had come. Reynard laid on his bed with his cabin door closed. The retainers that served as his crew were gone, so there was no point in keeping the door open nor closed. The Bay doors had been long since sealed up, and the airlocks locked. There was something about the solitude of his vessel that comforted him after a failed mission.

He briefly went over the situation report in his head, and wondered if he had missed anything—any detail that might have changed the outcome. No. Nothing. Iron had fortifications for its prison camps that cost Reynard the lives of his men and a few Vargr.

He was tempted to bitterly muse on how typical a Sword move it was to disguise a game preserve as a planet wide prison camp. But no, that wasn’t fair. More like prison camps or fortified detention centers were nested—secreted—among the flora and fauna of a world with lush green forests and deep blue oceans. A far from Mithril, what some called the ski resort from the underworld, but there were billions of worlds far colder, and it wouldn’t surprise Reynard, in fact he just assumed it as fact that there were more installations on all of the unsettled Sword Worlds. If he was in charge that’s what he would do.

He figured his mistake was assuming that the detention center would be a holding cell attached to the starport office. A local jail of sorts. Still, he took his men in full kit, and was confronted not just with Sword World’s finest armed with bargain versions of military grade lasers and so called “Gauss” guns, but larger bored electromagnetic guns that, like their chemical propellant cousins, actually spat fire and sparks as they hurled projectiles at near relativistic speeds, cutting into his retainers.

Reynard then found himself wondering why the defenses were even beefed up. Even though they repulsed Reynard and his warband, they wouldn’t be enough to stop a well organized Imperial MEU. Well, strategy wasn’t his big point, at least not on an operational scale. His expertise was metting out justice on lawless worlds, rescuing the occasional strayed and stranded traveller (who could be a fair damsel in distress), and essentially doing all the things knights used to do eons ago before mankind had reached for the stars. Still, it made him curious.

There were grumblings of tensions being ratchetted up between the consulate and Imperium, and the Swords siding with the Zhos would help explain the reinforced concrete pillboxes and ballistic grade sloped crenellations, all mostly hidden by the foliage on Iron. But Reynard shoved the notion aside, figuring he was getting way ahead of himself.

He reflected some more, wondering if keeping the Nebula orbiting the LZ instead of on the ground had been a smart move or something that had cost him lives. Again, Reynard figured a few extra minutes, in the long run, would not have mattered. A few lives might have been saved, but it otherwise might have cost him a different set of lives than the names that had fallen.

Even sealed up in his cabin he could hear and feel the muted thunder of starship’s taking off and landing. He hit the remote to open his cabin door, and the roar of engines became ever so slightly pronounced, and the multicolored rays of various lights from ships, buildings, signs and whatever else, dimly glowed on the otherwise white wall outside his cabin. I siren or a warning? That was the nature of the galaxy, or at least the explored region of it.
Sir Ghost, Knight of Imperial occupied Terra, Sol.
Travels with Blue Ghost; musings of a knight of the Imperium.
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