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The Cleon Memorial Library For discussion of Traveller fiction, both official and fan-written. Fan-written drafts are explicitly welcome.

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Old August 11th, 2018, 07:20 PM
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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, his tone 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, just happy to have a splash of familiar liquid to take some of the grime and body odor off his skin, if only for the moments.

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 strands a temporary grooming before stepping back to the technician.

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 merely uttered an uneasy and obligatory “Uhh…”

Reynard wasn’t sure what to make of the man’s reaction. He never could fathom why some people stared 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 of would be adventurers that spent money on a hope and a dream but wound up going broke, going home or winding up on the streets of some city in the Marches, 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 stated 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, said space 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.
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Last edited by Blue Ghost; March 9th, 2019 at 11:04 AM.. Reason: edited for clarity
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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. A kind of masculine employ of feminine social sniping. An aristocratic one-upmanship tactic employed at cocktail parties and formal balls. Reynard didn’t hold with it, and in fact it rubbed him raw.

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 my, 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 open. The retainers that served as his crew were gone, so there was no point in keeping the door 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 cry 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 M E U. 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 close his cabin door, and the roar of engines became ever so slightly muted, and the dim reflected glow of multicolored rays of various lights from ships, buildings, signs and whatever else on the otherwise white walls outside his cabin were sealed off by the cabin door. A siren or a warning? It was a simple act, but Reynard wondered if there was some other symbolism here that he was missing. Then he shoved the notion aside. It was simply the nature of the galaxy, or at least the explored region of it.
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Last edited by Blue Ghost; March 9th, 2019 at 11:42 AM.. Reason: edited for clarity
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Old August 30th, 2018, 07:35 PM
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Reynard stood in the audience foyer of his lordship’s palace. More than a grand meeting hall, but not quite a throne room. Vaulted arched ceilings with frescos of mythical imagery, marble floors polished to the essence of glass, it was an environment Reynard was familiar with, but not his preferred domain. The confines of a ship travelling the stars, being able to look out at a billion plus stars and decide where his fate lay, that was home, not the extreme opulence of class and privilege.

Greenery outside, marble statues, groomed hedges, and all the other trappings of wealth, including just the sheer size of the estate, was enough to put any prince into a state of envy. But Reynard was not a prince. Standing in his ever so rare dress uniform with epaulets, sash, gold braids, and everything else that the moot denoted as signifying rank and status, he felt out of place. Not uncomfortable as such, but a desire to be in jump or on some world other than this one searching for new recruits to his cause.

But fate seemed to choose this path for him. The Scouts had been his true desire, but one circumstance after another forced him into taking up the mantle of knighthood, and serving as one of the non-clandestine, high-profile saviors of the Imperium. Only Reynard can’t remember the last time anyone took note of anything he ever did. Occasionally there would be some writeup of what he and other true knights had done in terms of righting wrongs, but whether it was old fashioned, undesirable, socially awkward in an anachronistic sense, or some combination of those factors and others, Reynard could not say, but the end result was that few of the common everyday masses took notice. Honorary knights gifting money to some charity, dating some attractive super model or actress, or dubbing some young local prodigy seemed to make headlines, not smashing drug cartels, terrorist cells, or even meeting the rare duel to the death (still “a thing” however rare).

He heard the faint echo of a collection of foot steps, like a small army, pounding the marble off in the distance. Down one of the equally ornate and cavernous hallways came that small army. Men and Vargr dressed in their best refinery, gold braid and epaulets with red sashes around their waist led by a more academic looking individual replete with glasses, but similarly attired and adorned with imperial dress and filigree about the coat.

“Sir Reynard of Vincennes, of his majesties own, his lordship wishes to present to you new retainers for your accompaniment militaria.” The squire eyed Reynard with an inquisitive stare, as if expecting a reply. But Reynard was silent. The squire continued, “ You may examine them, Sir Reynard. Uhm, at your convenience, now or elsewhere, and else when.”

Reynard was preoccupied staring at the floor, kicking his feet in impatient exasperation, though not aimed at either squire nor the dozen or so retainers he had brought with him. Reynard manage to look up and give an almost pained grin. In his early thirties he had an odd mix of youth and world-weariness about him, as if forced into the most prestigious and glamorous of occupations against his will, but bearing the title and duty with all the strength of a man on the verge of retirement.

Reynard mustered his comport and stepped forward, eyeing the first man. “Your name?”

“Lieutenant Lance Tasso, come of his majesties Imperial navy upon your summons, my lord.”

“Lance? Tasso? Your parents come from where on Earth?”

“My father was from the Mediterranean protectorate, the Greek provinces, my lord. My mother from further north before leaving off world to come to the marches….uh, my lord.”

“You can leave the ‘lord’, I’m a knight, nothing more.” Reynard gave another encouraging grin before stepping to the next man.

“Your name?” Reynard kept up the appearance of being joyed by meeting new personnel for his crew and unit.

“Samuel Baker, Sir Reynard. Come to you of his majesties Imperial army upon your summons.”

“Your expertise?”

“Cross trained in both tactical and engineering, my lord, ah, sir knight.”

“Demolitions?”

“Yes, sir, and expertise in a variety of small arms, notably foreign direct energy.”

“Oh, so you prefer the infamous Zhodani laser assault weapon then?”

“No, sir Reynard, I prefer the upgraded rifles issued to mainline units. I just happened to know about foreign hardware.”

“A percussion man then?”

“Consulate tactical doctrine is for a weapon that works in all environments, where heat can be radiated into space and not stored in the weapon’s material. Lasers don’t heat their barrels like your normal rifle, but lasers tend to lose its potency on worlds with denser or rich atmospheres. A bullet doesn’t care too much what the air is made of.”

“Very good.” Reynard grinned again, cleared his throat, sighed, then stepped back and spoke out loud, although his tone was poigniantly aimed at the squire. “I see no Aslan among the rank.”

“None available, Sir Reynard.” The squire leaned forward in anticipation of answering more queries. “I can make a special request to his lordship. That is if you so request it.”

“No.” Reynard answered, somewhat exasperated. Then regaining his composure, “No. No need. These men will do.”

The Squire continued trying to fathom Reynard’s intent, “Was there something else, Sir Reynard? Something amiss?”

Reynard stepped to the nearest Vargr. A male, or so he presumed, with gray fur covering face, ears and snout. “What do we have here? Your name?”

The wolf descendent cleared his throat then spoke with military candor, “Captain Gahv Havash, sir.”

Reynard eyed him carefully, and tilted his head. “You strike me as being more suited for wearing a collar and being paraded on all fours.”

Gahv didn’t react, or at lest not like a human.

Reynard continued, “I assume you’re house broken. I don’t want my crew leaving messes on the deck.”

Gahv was silent, but the hair on the back of his neck and to the top of the backside of his head furled.

“I can handle a weapon just as well, if not better, than any human, sir. Your rank entitles me to protect you and all of the blood, but I am an Imperial officer, lately come of his majesties marines, at your summons, my lord.”

Reynard eyed the marine. “I’m not of the blood, captain. That’s for royalty. I merely serve his majesty, as you do, I do not cavort with his family.” Reynard let the morsel sink in. Gahv’s fur flattened, and his ears brushed back in wolf embarrassment. “And if there’s anything I like better than a human soldier who can keep his temper,” Reynard added, “it’s a Vargr marine who can keep his. Welcome aboard, captain.”

Gahv’s ears perked up, and his tail wagged slightly as he repressed a smile. There were four other Vargr among the dozen humans. Just enough to replenish his platoon.

“No Virushi.” Reynard mumbled.

“There were a number available. Most strike team nobles don’t want them. However I can double check the roster, but it would put you at over strength, sir knight. His lordship would require you to pay for extra personnel from your own budget.”

Reynard's cocked-eye and a side long glance at the squire was all the response the squire needed.

“His stipulation, Sir Reynard, and as per protocol.” The Squire dug further for more explanation, “As per tradition, you are to provide retainers and the expense, lest sponsored by a lord who will support you through his collected taxes.”

Reynard repressed a chagrin and looked at the rank and file as if lost in thought and contemplation, but in actuality was attempting to hide a rising anger with the morays or tradition. If he needed extra men it would have to come out of Reynard’s own pocket.

“Will there be anything else, Sir Reynard?”

“Light armor, vaccum ready, HEL guns, military grade power packs, not that mercenary rubbish. Is that understood?”

“Very good, Sir Reynard. Any other requirements?”

Reynard stifled an angry sigh, and again put on the faux polite heir of being satisfied, but the context of the exchange was all too clear to all present.

Reynard grinned once more, “No, have them report to my ship.”

Reynard all but stormed out, his European pride and ego partially wounded by the financial aspect as he stepped out into the overcast midday amidst the pleasant mixture of floral aromas and the scent of other flora. That, coupled with a light breeze that seemed to push bright sky blue whole in the blanket of white above, made for a fine day that seemed diametrically opposed to what was to come.
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Last edited by Blue Ghost; March 9th, 2019 at 12:19 PM.. Reason: edited for clarity
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Old January 2nd, 2019, 06:13 AM
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Kalebru was a barren world, mostly tundra with pockets of forest. In the midst of a perpetual ice age the local inhabitants hunted the fauna that roamed the plains in a kind of skinned fur that put the thickest mains in known space to shame. In the IISS’s last databurst the world was listed off hands, but for no apparent reasons. Given it’s proximity to the Altarean Confederation and other civilized interstellar states, there was a good chance it was kept as a reserve, but with minimal or no patrols to enforce the quarantine. Reynard slid the behemoth type-R into grav-powered atmospheric flight. The Nebula’s form pierced the local overcast blanketing one of the northern continents, and glided to a gentle stop on a snow covered patch of ice covered tundra next to an equally frozen lake that tapered to a snow covered shore. Clumps of white covered coniferous tree branches, amidst the equally snowy plain, while above patches of blue sky were fighting against the gray white sheen of clouds to let in rare shafts of golden sunlight.

Reynard checked the briefing again, and went over it with his men one last time. The real reason this was a hands off world was because like the Swords this reserve doubled as a political prison. The Far Nebula’s sensor suite hadn’t detected any scans, but that didn’t mean that no one had seen them slip onto the world. It was a calculated risk with every op, but Reynard was willing to risk it. Partially for honor, or so he told himself, but mostly because there was no way around it. With most extraction ops he tended to gamble on there being no nearby patrol, and by nearby no one within a twelve hour reach at full burn of the LZ.

Even if he had been detected, it still gave him precious hours to crash into the facility and grab whatever person, trinket, device or combination of prizes to haul back to the ship and make a loud getaway back into jump. And given the secluded nature of the system no X-boat equivalent would be jumping out system to warn anyone of his presence and actions. Meaning that a getaway, if he could just make it to jump, was assured.

If. He hated the word, but servicing the Imperium with skill, strength and wit meant that random chance had to play a part. From a rescue victim who had fallen in love with their captors to the odd mechanical failure of some key component, or even a gun jamming at a critical moment, it was all a risk, and hence hung on the word “if”.

The massive clam doors unfolded to the bitter cold air as the ramp extended forward and tilted down into the soft white with an equally soft muted crunch. Reynard let the world’s mostly normal gravity pull his body as he quickly stepped down the horizontally grooved metal ramp and into the snow, dressed head to toe in a light armor with notable black gaps between hard shells for ease of movement and flexibility.




The visage was mostly gray skies, wetlands and ice cold oceans with ice cold streams and lakes. A vision of a world caught in a perpetual ice age that melted some every few months to let both flora and fauna recuperate from the world’s normal chill. In the distance he could see a heard of fur covered animals that were a cross between a kind of elk and rhino, with a thick shock of fur and a large series of horns that extended from the bridge of the nose to the creatures’ snouts. Upon closer inspection only a few of the animals had these, ergo dual-sex, or so Reynard guessed.

The hum of the G-Carrier thrummed to life interrupting Reynard’s appreciation of a cold world’s natural state as it egressed the Far Nebula’s hold. The driver shut down its drives and the armored troop carrier likewise settled into the soft white as the rest of the crew finished up kitting up and stepped down the ramp.

“Sir?” Reynard turned to see young William Lloyd, the twenty-something from the IISS who had sworn fealty to his lordship and was now an oathbound retainer. “We got a fix on that installation that we spotted from orbit. It’s some fifty clicks north east of the pole.”

“Very good, lieutenant. Make sure the team is loaded up and ready to go.”

“About that, sir. Richards thinks, or is wondering why you’re opting for the g-carrier instead of a closer insertion and then g-belts.”

“Tell Richards to read the notes on the fauna. We can’t risk a fire fight with the local animals on our way there.”

“And that was his second question.” Lloyd’s voice quavered, “…uh, during jump he expressed reservations about not smashing …”

Reynard cut him off, “Bring him here. I’ll explain it to him.”

“Yes, sir.”

Reynard felt his muscles tense. The last thing any officer or leader needed was one of his seconds second-guessing his moves and motivations. Moments later the fifty five year old muscular figure with white hair appeared behind Lloyd.

Reynard wasted no time, “Mister Richards, if you have something you need to say, then you come to me directly, you don’t start gossip or other rumors by second guessing my actions. If you want to talk about the length of women’s skirts, the latest music, whatever over-steroid sports hero you worship, then gossip all you want. But when it comes to the OP you keep your mouth shut, or you voice your opinion to my face. Understood?”

“Perfectly, sir knight.” Richards looked straight ahead with military stoicism. The dressing down hadn’t fazed him externally.
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Travels with Blue Ghost; musings of a knight of the Imperium.

Last edited by Blue Ghost; March 9th, 2019 at 01:01 PM.. Reason: forgotten segment
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Old March 9th, 2019, 01:16 PM
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Reynard hugged the cliff face with his armored back leaned against snow and frost covered stone. The rest of his retainers likewise were lined up behind him or had taken up positions under the jamming provided by the G-carrier’s E W suite. In essence movement and temperature were all but negated, and the electronic-static that was akin to the planet’s snow hid movement and intent.

Nearly. Hence the reason Reynard used a stance as old as Terran prehistoric mankind with flint spears. The prison itself was across a frozen over river that joined with another forming the channel that snaked back to the lake where the Type-R had set down. The clouds were starting to break, but latent snow fell through golden shafts of light within the canyon, and onto the concrete and steel prison façade beyond.

“Any noise?” Reynard asked over the tactical channel.

“Negative, sir. Picking up what sounds like cooking and holovids in the quarter’s section. Not picking up much from the cells.”

“Interpolate?” Reynard waited.

“If I boost it too much they might pick up the power increase, even with the jammer on.”

Reynard quietly sighed, knitted his brow for a few heartbeats, then finally spoke, “Can you bring up a heard of dear or something … whatever’s native on this world to mask our movement?”

“Sorry, sir, I haven’t got a lot of data … how about a … wait, there’s some flying fauna out there. I can bring some down, or make it look like they’re buzzing the canyon.”

Reynard didn’t want to hear the technical details of the tactic, but put up with the explanation all the same, “Please do it, squire.”

“Yessir.”

Reynard looked up at the picturesque golden blue and broken layers of billowing translucent white above. Apparently the sky was clearing. It was a scene out of a fairy book. If he had his camera he would have set it up on a tripod and let it take footage for the next several hours. A few snow flakes hit his armor’s faceplate reminding him to look at the bunker like facing of the remote political prison.

“Okay…” came the squire’s voice, I’ve got a small number descending … right … now. Move.”

Reynard waved his men forward, and the entire troop pounded across the snow and crashed through the ice through ankle deep frigid water to splash across the divide. Baker, the engineer, lined the door with a pliable TDX twisted to redirect the antigravity blast. The last of the explosive was in place, and Reynard and his team edged away a few meters, readying flashbangs.

Reynard nodded, Baker squeezed the palm sized clamp trigger. The explosion pushed against the planet’s gravity, and blew out the door frame for several meters. Reynard and Tasso both tossed in flash bangs, and the interior lit up for a brief split second, dazzling everyone inside.

Reynard led the charge, his weapon leveled, shouting at the guards to lie down. A few resisted and were put down with quick flashes from HEL guns dishing out strobe like streams of lethal luminescence.

“Where’re the cells?” Reynard aimed his words at Mason, the computer expert for this op, borrowed from the IISS to both interpret and gather intel on the latest in Swordy security systems.

Mason pulled his computer from his belt and tied it into the system situated in a gated area just forward of the security cells. He pulled off the corpse slumped over the console, and immediately jacked into the system. Apparently there was a link to the type-E port a hemisphere away.

“They may be onto us. I can’t be sure.” Mason worriedly explained.
Reynard shook his head, “It doesn’t matter. Even if they had a flight of type-Ts on standby, at best it would take them a half hour to get here. Can you open it up, or do we have to spend more ordinance?”

“No-no, I got it. Just give me a few seconds.” Mason’s fingers flew over the miniature keyboard, forming a flesh tone blur of digits as he tried one series of commands after another. Strictly speaking Sami wasn’t testing the system himself, but bringing up a series of routines that ran another battery of routines to test and query the system’s locks.

Moments later the doors opened. Reynard rushed in with the objective’s profile on his helmet’s faceplate. He peered into each old fashioned barred face sized window until a young woman with perfectly chiseled features and thick long auburn hair stared back at him from her chain folding cot.

“Lady Anne, I presume?”

She blinked back at him in bewilderment.

“Stand back from the door please.”

She moved as far away as she could. The metal clasps holding the door secure sparked for several seconds until the door could no longer hold itself upright, and fell flat with a metal clang. Reynard grabbed her by the wrist and half dragged her out of her cell.

“Sami, open the rest of the cells. Throw ‘em the security grav belts.”

“Pretty noble, Sir Reynard, but they’ll still be marooned on this world.”

“I can’t help that. Let’s move!”
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Old March 10th, 2019, 09:08 AM
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Outside the G-carrier hovered a few steps over the joining river. The temperature was low enough for water snow and a thin layer of ice over the two canyon streams, but not lethal. Reynard had the young Lady Anne wrapped in a rescue blanket and again pulled her as she stepped in her prison issue cotton slippers to keep pace.

Cold hard concrete was followed by snow, followed by wet cold, then the icy waters of the stream washing around her feet and ankles before sensing the relative warmth of the G-carrier’s interior as Reynard passed her up to his med-technician, or med-tech, sometimes just called a medic.

The rest of the troop quickly yet cautiously backed out of the prison followed by the rest of the prisoners. Reynard hit a keyed sequence on his wrist computer, and those smart enough to don the paper thin yet thermally sealed rescue outfits and grav-belts, were whisked away to some unknown destination in the opposite direction from the G-Carrier’s origin. Those that just wandered out and were too dazed or didn’t trust the sudden rescue, well, they would have to fend for themselves.

“Sir, airborne contacts. Looks like they’re martialing above us in a holding pattern.”

Reynard simply acknowledged the intel. “Martialing” was aviator or fighter-jock speak for what other services called staging, meaning a flight of something was gathering overhead. Was there a nearby base he didn’t know about? If so, then why hadn’t they simply strafed him and his men?

Reynard waited for the last of his men to pile into the G-Carrier, bringing in splashes of cold water and a tuff of snow around their feet as the carrier’s doors closed. The driver threw the carrier into fast drive, and banked her at forty-five degrees as he carved a perfect U back to the type-R, Reynard’s troop holding onto straps as half melted snow dripped and rolled across the rubber matted floor.

Reynard stepped back to Lady Anne where Med-John was scanning her, wrapping her feet in self warming cloth and administering do-all medications designed to fight most agents foreign to human physiology. “Is she okay?”

“She’ll live.” John was all business.

Reynard glanced at Anne, a young beautiful woman perhaps in her mid-twenties. She stared at him, speechless, her teeth were chattering as she stared at him partially out of bewilderment. Reynard politely smiled back—the “you’re not my type and you’re too young” look.

“She’ll live?” Reynard pressed John, the late thirty-something from one of the accredited Imperial Medical Universities in the Marches.

“Well, I don’t’ see any signs of trauma or foreign substances. I think the Swordy’s were in earnest of trying to use her as a bargaining chip. Hence the reason she’s relatively clean.” John looked up at Reynard with an inquisitive look, expecting an explanation.

Reynard looked at him with his usual knight’s glare in response, “Whatever the reason, it’s above both our pay grades.” He replied. “Would you pay a ransom to someone who had beat up your son or daughter?”

John shrugged and went back to applying his potions and skill. “No, I wouldn’t.” John shrugged, “Regardless, she’s in good health. You’re not exactly paid like your average navy commander or jarhead, so I thought you might know something.”

“And if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.” Reynard pointedly replied. “Just keep her alive and in good health, doctor.”

A shower of what sounded like high velocity shrapnel rippled along the G-carrier’s skin.

Reynard moved forward, “How many?! Where?!”
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Old March 10th, 2019, 03:16 PM
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The late thirty-something pintel mount gunner poked his head up into the translucent blister just forward of the Z-gun mount, and panned his eyes this way and that, looking for anything out of the ordinary.

“I don’t see anything.” He finally said.

Reynard held onto the hand-hold mounted in the ceiling watching the gunner, waiting for him to say something else. Reynard braced himself for another report. Attack speeders? An incidental patrol of G-carriers or some other grav driven AFV? Please don’t let it be a tank, was Reynard’s only thought.

Another stitching of high velocity impacts from stem to stern, hitting the roof, and capping off at the side armored door.

“Stop looking ahead.” Reynard admonished, “Look-up! Look, up!”

The gunner looked skyward, gray overcast light and bright gold raced over his face as he squinted to get a better look. “What in the world? It’s got wings.”

A torrent of fist sized pointed shards jetted into the blister, shattering it and tearing into the young retainer, leaving him a lifeless corpse with blood quickly oozing onto the rubber matting.

Ghav jumped into the gunner’s chair, slapped on the headset, looked for targets on the flat screen, and let loose several streams of hyper-velocity plasma. Reynard quickly stepped over the late gunner’s form and chanced a peak up through the shattered ballistic grade plexiglass, but could only see movement, and not much else. As if whatever they or it were had camouflaged itself against the grayed portions of the sky.

All could hear the fierce high-energy whip-crack thrum of the Z-gun as Ghav swept the weapon this way and that, trying to knock down anything that flew. There was a bone chilling high pitched roar something fell from the sky streaming a trail of black smoke like a stricken aerial manmade fighter having taken a hit and plummeting to its death.

The Carrier’s driver accelerated, but kept in the canyon for it not only kept them out of detection from the local’s scanners, but he was also sure that whatever was taking shots at the vehicle would find it harder to hit them in the canyon than out in open air.

Reynard unslung his weapon, primed it, made sure the charge was full, then risked a few poorly aimed shots at whatever was out there.

“We’re coming up on the canyon insertion. Only a few miles left to the Nebula.” The driver’s tone was all business, but still tinged with an edge of adrenaline. Things were tense, but that was no reason to lose composure.

“Get on the link to the Neb, and tell them to fire up the turret!”

There was no “yessir” from the navigator setting astride the driver, just a simple relaying of the message.

Another attack, but Reynard moved out of the way when he saw the blurred translucent image of whatever it was he was firing at appear to nose down and dive once more at the G-Carrier. Another stream of crystalline shards pummeled the carrier’s top and right side, sounding like a large bore support weapon trying to drill through the carrier’s side armor.

The G-carrier whirred out of the canyon trench and onto the stretches of white covered plains with clumps of trees scattered here and there, and just off in the distance the familiar steel gray spec form of the Nebula.

The driver hit the accelerator driving the carrier to new speeds, and just enough to cut the time to a minimum without overshooting the Type-R.

“We’re losing them.”

“Yeah, we’re leaving them in the trail.” Gahv confirmed, “I can’t get a beed on anything.”

Through the windscreen Reynard could see the Nebula’s welcome form growing in size. He glanced back to see his platoon ready for action, weapons primed, all locking eyes with him, waiting for some guidance, some leadership, but there wasn’t much he could say or order while locked up in an APC. Besides, in a minute or so the point would be redundant as they would be piling into the safety of the type-R.

The G-Carrier heeled to the left at a forty five degree angle for several seconds, then finally spilled onto its side, carving a gouge in the snow mere meters from the Type-R’s still extended ramp and open bay door.

John meld onto Jane as the rest of the troop held onto the straps inside the G-carrier. When the vehicle stopped, the armored door slid open, and Reynard’s troop quickly piled out of the lopsided APC.

Gahv was first, then Reynard, and then Lance, John, Jane, driver, and the rest of the team. One of the other Vargr helped the last of the troop out the door, only to be snatched by the crystalline sword sharp talons of a thing that Reynard could only describe as having huge bat like wings, a long neck with a face surrouned by a circle of hair, two horns, and a build that was definitely dragon like. Only thing, whatever it was, had organs that were as translucent as its body. It’s body had the mass of a Terran elephant, but its size was perhaps a third smaller and more agile than the lumbering African beast of many light years distance.

Like a raptor it hefted the screaming Vargr to its mouth and chomped down. The deadly image knitted Reynard’s stomach as he held down the trigger on his HEL gun, slicing into the thing for all its worth. And where the beast felt the pain and agony of unknown amounts of joules of radiation being seared into its crystalline form, the HEL gun’s ray was partially deflected and refracted once it had penetrated the thing’s outer crystalline form.

It let go of the know lifeless trooper, letting it drop into an odd and would be painful twisted form were he still alive into the snow.

Reynard’s gun stopped spewing its beam. The rest of the platoon added their fury to Reynard’s, and soon the creature was lit up with a dozen beams sawing with lethal focused radiation. It roared in defiance as it twisted in anguish, writhing in pain if only for the moment, for for all the fire Reynard’s team was pouring into it, the thing still lived.

The balance of the platoon that had stayed on board the Type-R poured out into the cargo area, weapons ready, and fired into the thing with belts of heavy percussion support weapons, each bullet a hammer and chisel on this creatures nearly rock hard hide.

Someone shouted an explicative before asking what was on everyone’s mind; what was this thing, what was it made of?

The thing lumbered forward in defiance, roaring angrily as it approached the platoon. Then it reared on its haunches ,audibly inhaling massive amounts of air, then landed on its forward arms, head and neck extended with an open maw, and a lethal stream of crystal streamed, shattering against the starship’s interior, tearing into crates, wall mounted fire extinguishers that spat out foam, and smashing anything that wasn’t made of steel or hardened alloy.

Shouts among Reynard’s men could be heard as they scrambled to reload, take cover, or both. Reynard was no different and scrambled for another charge, tearing out the old now useless battery, and slapping in another hi-capacity energy-mag into the HEL gun’s side. Within a flash he had the weapon held to his eye, and angrily squeezed the trigger. Instantly the beam pierced the crystalline skin, but splayed out refracting once inside the beasts equally crystal guts, the beams shooting off in various directions as the beam exited the opposite side.

It was a dazzling display of laser weaponry as a half dozen other men and three Vargr dealt what would have been a focused energized death sentence to any other creature this size in known space, all the while the deafening percussion of machinegun fire chips away at its form.

John covered the young woman, and reached for his sidearm, and old fashioned revolver with newer chemistry to put their ancient counterparts to shame. He leveled the weapon and pulled the trigger. The shock of the report jarred his wrist and arm all the way to his shoulder.

One of the Vargr troopers sprinted into the hold, grabbed an Shuvash M-225, the preferred combat rifle of noble units like Reynard’s, chambered the one-oh-seven underneath the weapon’s main barrel, and pulled the trigger. The grenade slammed into the creature’s chest, shattering a portion of its crystal hide.

The creature squeezed its eyes closed and fell back as if in great pain, clutching its chest.

“Get inside!” Reynard shouted. John hauled Anne into the cargo hold while being covered by the platoon. Reynard grabbed an unused grenade hanging from his battle harness, and ran forward within a breath of the writhing dragon. Yes, it was a dragon he had subconsciously decided. Up close he could see the fine transparent outlines of translucent scales, and a breach in its chest the leaked a kind of clear liquid. If it was blood, it was none like Reynard had ever seen.
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Old March 10th, 2019, 03:16 PM
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Reynard held the creatures magnificence for a heartbeat before pulling the pin and throwing it near the creature’s gaping wound before running in the opposite direction, hoping behind hope that his armor would be enough to deter the grenades fragmentations.

The grenades detonation was only partially muted by the snow plain. There was no cry from the beast, just a continuation of its agonizing clutch as it rolled in the snow.

Reynard ran up the ramp, was grabbed by his men for the last couple of steps and pulled inside as the ramp pulled up. He turned one last time to see the creature struggle against all hope as the Type-R’s doors closed, and saw the thing finally collapse just before the doors formed a vacuum tight seal. From the G-carrier Reynard saw blood trails, and the twisted form of the fallen Vargr was also gone. Somehow within the tumult the platoon had managed to haul in their fallen, and off in the corner Reynard saw both individuals, laid out near the starboard bulkhead.

For some reason Reynard was out of breath. He didn’t know why. And his body was shaking. Again, he was at a loss for reason. They felt the ship accelerate and nose up, leaving behind the stricken G-carrier, but taking two fallen retainers, and one rescued noble’s daughter. Some of his men patted him before going back to their stations.

The ship’s gravity took hold as the type-R ascended into an ascent perpendicular to the planet’s surface. The Nebula pierced the gray blanket, gold sunlight exploding off her light metallic gray hull. Even so, Reynard, for whatever reason, stared at the vacuum sealed cargo doors, the image of the dragon, one not made of flesh and blood, but some form of biology that had given rise to a mineral based flying predator.

“Amber.” Reynard uttered. “Amber zone.” He nodded, then slowly turned and walked to the closest ladder leading up to the main deck.
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