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"Reckon ships are gettin' inspected in low orbit, why they ain't taking fares... Which only means one thing: Union's here," said Augustine. In point of fact, he knew this was the case. He'd not spent all the time Kyra was out looking for tickets off-world drinking. Just most of it. But she didn't need to know everything. "Imperial security, 'specially out here in the Territories, is never so thorough."

He sipped his drink. "And if the Union's over Benson, that means either a new war is cookin' up or they worked somethin' out with the Imperial Houses. And if that last is the case, if the Union and the Great Houses are makin' nice, well..."

He signaled to the bartender for a refill, "...we want outta here. No goods comin' from whatever is spookin' Blues'n Whites into workin' hand in glove."

He chuckled and lit a smoke, "Though, I s'pose that does reflect our own situation a bit, Ms. Ren."

They hadn't discussed their backgrounds on the ride from the mine to Port Carolus- in fact, Augustine'd slept off his hangover for most of the drive. And they were too busy outrunning ganger patrols on the stretch from Carolus to Toehold to do much talkin' neither. But Augustine knew a Union witch when he saw one- after all he'd killed his share in the War. Kyra struck him as undertrained -or maybe she just had a weaker wyrd than some of the Union hags he'd met, or maybe she was a pro and good at hiding it- but he still kept his surface level thoughts masked. The trick was simple rhymes on repeat, keep 'em goin' in the back of your mind and the jaysers had a hard time pinning down your real thoughts.

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.

"Anyways, I think I got an answer to our problems," said Augustine lowering his voice and nodding at a rowdy table of slavers in the corner of the bar, "flesh traders over there are due off world in two days, totally legal- they got Imperial warrants. My thought is, we keep close to 'em and the day before they leave we get the drop on 'em, lock 'em in their own hold, and sail outta here as legal slave dealers."

The bartender slid another whiskey into Augustine's waiting hand, "Plus, gives us some time to do some serious drinking."

"They got some positions open now, anyways," said Augustine with something between a smirk and grimace, "I was lookin' into some things for a client, minor smugglin' type stuff, no big deal, didn't take these guys too serious and ran my mouth after a few drinks. What I get for slackin on the job."

He pulled handcuffs from the belt of the prostrate miners and shackled the two unconscious men together, grunting slightly as he dragged their bodies into a ditch off the side of the rutted road. He didn't motion to Kyra for help, just moved with steady purpose.

"Well," he said, nodding towards the truck, "What's say we..."

The alarm started blaring in the mines then, loud enough to hear even at this distance. Kyra and Augustine both turned, expecting they'd been detected.

A gunfight had broken out at the landing bay- figures from the mine were firing on the ship and her crew as they began to unload, and the off-worlders were returning fire. The ship's shields had activated, and rippled under the barrage of small arms and grenades.

"How 'bout we take the truck, drive in the other fuckin' direction," said Augustine, "hire us a ship outta Port Carolus or Toehold?"

Celestine V, Subsector Vienne, Imperial Space

"On behalf of the Royal Navy, allow me to extend my sincere thanks to House Kesselbrood for this hospitality," said Morning with a stiff bow, "I know these circumstances are...unusual, but we appreciate your, ah, receptivity."

"Displeasure," hissed the Castellan, beady eyes gleaming in the candle-light of the audience hall, "Is expressed." He was a small man in the white-and-red uniform of an Imperial officer. Lips stained purple from tarric root hovered over the curious absence of a chin. The gaggle of courtiers assembled behind him murmured sourly.

Commodore Morning cleared his throat, his gaze moving from the Castellan to the immense, frowning bulk of the Archduchess, whose gilded throne hovered several feet above the proceedings. Her Magnificence affected aloofness, waggling her fingers at a small, bluish, scaled creature with bulging eyes that squirmed and squeaked in her lap.

"The Royal Union of Octavius..." began the Commodore.

"Has not had ships permitted in Imperial space, nor the sovereign space of Great House Kesselbrood," said the Castellan, "Since the victory of our forces at Almalexia and the conclusion of the War. The second such victorious conclusion to attempted Octavian expansion."

"I am aware of recent history," said Commodore Morning, "I come today to discuss a matter of mutual concern."

"And what concerns could we possibly share with you?" asked the Castellan.

Morning sighed, eyeing the crowd of courtiers before addressing the Archduchess directly, "The clandestine excavation of Dark Age relics on a planet within your demesne, your Magnificence."

Caked powder cracked on the Archducal face as her eyes narrowed, "What manner of relics?"

"Un'Goliant, your Magnificence," said Morning, quietly.

"Clear the audience hall," barked the Archduchess, "I would speak with this man alone."
sorry for the brief post and my absence recently- been unexpectedly busy. Things should be back to normal now.
"Seems like a good idea," said Augustine, "Locals haven't proved too friendly."

The road was quiet, the only noise the steady, distant hum of heavy machinery from the mine. Above, stars began to poke through the bluish haze of dusk.

He looked around, fishing a smoke out of his shirt pocket with his free hand. With his long dark coat and upturned collar, his face slightly crooked- a broke jaw that'd healed badly years ago- and speckled with the dead miner's blood, he looked mildly sinister in the gathering darkness. A revenant from the old stories, looking to settle business unfinished in life.

"Name's, uh, Augustine, Lex Augustine," he said, lowering the gun but not holstering it, "What's got you mixed up in this, Kyra Ren?"

He turned, not waiting for the answer and rummaged through the truck's storage bin, pulling out the hat and gun the locals had confiscated. He checked the magazine on his pistol and shrugged, looking satisfied.

"You sure had these miners, or whoever they are, plenty spooked," he said with a faint smile, "Enough so they didn't notice me pull a blade. Didn't have much time for me at all, in fact- despite me shootin' down the sheriff, the barman, and plenty others. Makes me wonder."
If your gonna get taken, better it be by rubes, Augustine thought. His head felt full of shattered glass and the burning hint of bile lingered in the back of his mouth, but he smiled nonetheless as he palmed the small, dull colored blade from where it lay sheathed in the buckle of his belt. Rule one when you're taking prisoners is, always make 'em strip, and always scan 'em for tech. Fuckin' amateurs.

As Augustine quietly sawed through the links in his chains with the monoknife, the guards were busy barkin' at the mouthy little sprite they had chained up front- they seemed genuinely spooked by her, moreso by far than they were of Augustine. Considerin' he'd blown away a half dozen or so of their colleagues earlier in the day, he reckoned that made whoever she was formidable.

He wondered what in the six hells she'd done to get herself mixed up in this mess. A Union spook, maybe, but then it'd be weird if a real pro'd wound up caught by these hicks.

The transport left the forest and began trailing the ridge of what first seemed to be a canyon. Only with a second look did Augustine register it for what it was, a vast open faced mine, with roads spiraling down its sides. Spotlights lit up huge metal trusses and scaffolds as the day gave way to frosty twilight.

He noticed the sea-turtle silhouette and flashing lights of a bulk conveyance flashing a little ways ahead, circling what he assumed was a landing pad. Legally, all space travel on and off planet had to go through Port Carolus. Customs on this backwater was a joke, and Benson had a thriving black market through the regular channels of trade, with Kesselbrood and Imperial officials mostly happy to look the other way and take their cut.

Whatever they were shipping off-world here they were real keen to keep hidden from official eyes.

One of the guards went up to towards the cab to speak to the driver.

"What're you all diggin' up here?" croaked Augustine to the remaining guard, "This sure as hell ain't a uranium outfit."

"Salvation," said the guard, striding down the aisle to where Augustine sat, "Don't worry, wastrel, you'll see soon enough, maybe even come to belie-"

He noticed the broken chains but it was too late. Augustine lurched forward as the truck bounced over a rut and sank his blade into the man's neck, knocking the rifle from his grip and sending it clattering to the back of the truck. The two men tumbled to the ground, Augustine keeping one hand firmly planted on the dying man's mouth and tossing the monoknife to the woman in chains. It landed between her shackled feet, hypersharp blade buried in the metal floor of the transport.

The other guard had returned from the cab, blinked as he registered what was going on, and hefted his rifle to fire on Augustine, who was pointing the dead guard's sidearm straight at him.

"Not so fast, friend," said Augustine.
Three of 'em poured outta the police station into the dusty main street as Augustine approached, his duster swirling behind him in the warm breeze. He didn't hesitate, just opened fire, killing one outright with a bullet through the neck and sending the other two diving behind the dumpster that sat open and stinking just outside the pitted metal exterior of the jail.

Without breaking stride the gunslinger clicked a switch on his weapon, which let out a brief high-pitched whine, and fired on the dumpster. The HE bullet blew the trash bin and the men behind it apart before they could duck around the sides to return fire.

"What a mess," slurred Augustine, "last time I run my fuckin' mouth to a barman..."

Taking an uneven step towards the jail, he sank to his knees a few feet from the entrance and vomited into the dust. He reflected blearily that the whole situation was pretty much only his fault. It was one thing to take your time and get to know a place before making your move. Another thing to get completely shit-faced two hours after you roll into town and immediately blow your own cover.

That was his last thought before the burly woman in mining gear hit him on the back of the head with a wrench and sent him spiraling into semi-consciousness.

"Take it you're the sheriff?" said Augustine. He didn't turn around, just continued to sip his drink.

'Cept for him, the sheriff and the sheriff's two goons, bar was empty. Barkeep had fled out the back at some point.

"Oz said there was two of ya," said the sheriff, a big man in ill fitted body armor. A meaty hand rested on the grip of a holstered Galican Repeater.

His pair of lackies, rebreather masks obscuring their faces, circled to either side of Augustine.

"Only me here. Oz was the barman? Little excitable, you ask me," said Augustine, turning around on the stool to face the sheriff, "Not sure what I done to warrant a visit from you fine gentlemen, though. Does the law take a dim view of day drinkin'?"

"Law takes a dim view of outsiders, pokin' their noses where they ain't invited."

"I see," said Augustine, finishing the rest of his drink. Four empty glasses lined the bar behind him, "Well good news then on that score- I have been invited to poke around where ever I like. Name's Augustine- retainer to House Kesselbrood, which I believe holds title to this here rock. They asked me to sniff out some rumors been goin' round about Dark Age artifacts bein' dug up, sold on the black market, that kinda thing."

What happened next happened real fast. The sheriff drew his gun along with his cronies. Augustine drew as well, faster despite all the booze, and shot down the man to the sheriff's right. Something chrome-colored flashed as it dropped from the bar's metal rafters.

Ulysses smacked the gun out of the sheriff's hand and knocked the fat man on his back while breaking the arm of his remaining thug, who fired a few shots into the floor until the sim prostrated him as well.

Augustine stood up, mostly steady- but only mostly- and sauntered over to the sheriff, who was busy cradling a broken nose.

"My mistake- didn't think you all'd be fool enough to let the idiot barman in on the racket."

The was a loud crack and a whiff of ozone. A las-bolt struck Ulysses in the chest and the sim stumbled backward. Augustine whipped around and fired.

Oz, the barkeep, dropped the rifle as the top part of his head painted the bottles lined neatly behind him. He sank to his knees as he died, disappearing behind the bar.

The sheriff and his remaining man each had scrambled for their guns in the momentary confusion. Neither was fast enough. Augustine shot them as they struggled to their feet.

"Shit," he hissed, striding over to where Ulysses now knelt, fluids dripping from the hole in its chest.

"How dull it is to pause, to make an end," said Ulysses, its optics sputtering.

"Sorry pal," said Augustine, kneeling next to the sim, "We had some times."

"Little remains," said Ulysses, "SYSTEM FAILURE CRITICAL."

"Till we meet again," said Augustine, reaching behind the sim's head. He pulled out the memory core and, with a blue electric flash, Ulysses crumpled.

The radio unit on the sheriff's corpse squawked, "Boss, we got a situation down here at the jail- "
Jericho’s Reach

The Hotel Almalexia, the Broken Gardens District

“I am surprised to see you here, Mr. Callows,” said the Voice, thin lips peeled back from teeth too white and too long. It was a tall, androgynous figure in a plain black suit. Vat grown, most likely, its face above the mouth hidden behind bulky augmentics and snaking metal tubes that allowed Mandragore to pilot it remotely, “after the unpleasantness of our last interaction.”

Callows shrugged. He didn’t seem too bothered by the pair of Red Eye Company mercs in blackened armor flanking the Voice. His gaze wandered the white marble pillars and gilded archways of the lobby. Sunlight streamed in from vaulted skylights in the copper ceiling, and flowering vines snaked their way around clusters of chairs and cushions dotted throughout the hall.

“You all did a good job patching up the bullet holes,” he said.

The Voice sniffed in irritation. Mandragore called himself the Mayor of Jericho’s Reach, and his goons had three times now tried to take Judas Station for their own. Three times Callows and his boys had sent them packing. Then Callows had shown up in the Hotel Almalexia and shot down Mandragore’s son and twelve of his entourage. Had led to some tense relations, to say the least.

“Well,” said Callows, “I came in person ‘cause I wanted to impress upon you the seriousness of what I’m about to tell you.”

“Coming here was a very serious mistake on your part,” said the Voice, and the guards moved to flank Callows. Throughout the lobby heads turned languidly: crawler captains, aristos, corporate lords and the other great and good of Jericho's Reach observed the impending violence with bored interest.

“You can hear what I have to say, or your friends here can take another step. But you'n me've tangled enough times for you to think I waltzed in here alone,” said Callows, nodding towards the silhouettes now visible through the skylights, “Anyway, we both got bigger problems now.”

“What problems?” said the Voice. It signaled to the guards to hold.

“You all expecting any Crawlers in lately haven’t shown up yet?” said Callows, “I’m talking big tankers, kind that could take on an army by their own selves.”

The Voice tilted its eyeless head, but did not speak.

“Thought so.”
@Flagg Not that I've anything against the idea, but would you have an alternative character to that you'd be alright with? Someone with less overall power maybe?

Sure- it's why I asked. Could do a Rogue Trader who's lost his ship, in fact. No vessel, true, but I get to keep the hat with the giant feather.
how about a small time rogue trader that commands the team's conveyance?
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