Something a little different.
The shuttle touched down lightly on the barren world, landing in the shadow of the larger ship. Air hissed as its shields expanded, bringing the hatch of the derelict beneath its energy fields, and the drop team stepped out.
â€œWill you look at that.â€ Corporal Kaltos Vedar looked around with a low whistle, his expression unreadable behind his mask. â€œCan't imagine what would bring anyone to this hunk of rock.â€ He gestured towards the derelict. â€œWe got an ID on that fellow yet, sir?â€
â€œWe do not.â€ Captain Hadana Makar looked around cautiously, then started forwards. â€œAs you would know, if you could stay awake through an entire briefing.â€ Without waiting for a reply, he started forwards, the heavy tread of his armoured suit leaving marks on the blackened stone as he strode across the empty space. Thunder roiled overhead, though the sky was clear and dark - the stars provided the only light on the desolate landscape.
Kaltos stared after him for a moment, then started to move, turning to the other soldiers. â€œWas that a joke? He was joking, right?â€
â€œWe never really know.â€ Private Gallen shrugged, moving to catch up with his commander. â€œHe won't say either way, either, so don't ask him.â€
â€œWouldn't dare. He's something else.â€ Kaltos shook his head, then looked over at the other three soldiers. â€œWell, you heard the Captain. Let's move.â€
â€œYes, sir.â€ Private Olander started laconically towards the ship, and the others followed him. Kaltos glared after him for a moment. The man was just short of insubordinate, and the others drew confidence from him - not for the first time, he wondered what he was doing onboard a recovery vessel, when his talents were so much greater. An old man dreaming of past glories, rebellious underlings... no, it was not condusive to glory. He would have rather been on the front lines, protecting the glories of the Imperium from the enemy...
â€œManemon's Glory.â€ The voice of Private Gallen shook Kaltos from his reveries about glorious victories and reputations won. â€œStrange name for a ship, isn't it? I mean, even a civilian ship.â€
â€œBy all the Dragons, don't they teach you pups anything? It's pronounced 'Mnemon', you bloody fool!â€ Captain Makar practically growled the statement. â€œWhen we get back to the ship, you're on bloody history detail until you can at least recite the names of the heroes of the Threefold War.â€ He rolled his eyes, looking at the sheepish private, muttering to himself. â€œManemon, indeed.â€ Raising his voice, he turned to the last of the soldiers, who was already moving towards the door. â€œIs she sealed up, Parn?â€
â€œYes, sir, but I can unseal her pretty quick.â€ Engineer Tepet Parn tapped at the doorway. â€œStrange construction, though. Better built than she looks.â€ The young man frowned thoughtfully. Though the blood of the Elemental Dragons, protectors and guides of the Scarlet Imperium, did not flow through his veins, he was nonetheless one of the only two noblemen present, and the others instinctively deferred to him despite his lack of official rank.
â€œWhat do you mean, Engineer?â€ Gallen's voice had real interest, interest that was always lacking when he spoke to Kaltos.
â€œWell, this armouring is solid. She looks like a merchant vessel on the outside, but I think she's built for speed. As good as our own ship, I'd wager.â€
â€œVery strange.â€ The captain nodded thoughtfully, one hand falling to his daiklave. â€œWell, open her up. Let's see why they've got a distress call going, and no one to answer our hails.â€
â€œWill do, sir.â€ For a few moments, the rock was silent. Kaltos kept one eye on their shuttle, glancing up to the sky above - he imagined that he could see the Grace of Ledaal from here, though he knew it was impossible. Their ship was stationed at the edge of the world's borders, where the Wyld threatened endlessly to boil in and dissolve it to nothing. It could not be seen from this far away.
â€œHey, Parn. While you're plucking away over there, can you tell us anything about the crew?â€ Olander gestured vaguely, his helmet shifting as he glanced around the dead black plains.
â€œSuch as?â€ The engineer's voice was faintly distracted.
â€œWell, are there any cute women awaiting rescue?â€
Kaltos smacked the man upside the head. â€œThis is a serious matter, Olander. They could be dead, for all we know.â€
â€œNot bloody likely.â€ Olander, unchastised, sounded positively cheeky as he gestured around the world. â€œThere's nothing alive here. Nothing of the Wyld, either. What do you think would have killed them? Loneliness?â€
As if to punctuate his answer, Parn pressed a button on the hatch of the derelict, and the door started to hiss open. Olander nodded to him. â€œSee? Now we just HOLY DRAGONS!â€
The private, who had been striding forwards, backpedalled so abruptly that he lost his balance and fell backwards, landing flat on the ground in a puff of dust. None of the others responded - their attention was drawn by the garish sight before them.
A corpse was clinging to the door as it swung open, its hands pinned to the hatch by two lengths of broken metal that had been shoved through them. Kaltos took one look at the man's shattered and torn back, and fought back the urge to vomit. Retching sounds to his right told him that Gallen had been less fortunate.
Captain Makar stepped forwards, his expression grim. Kneeling, he touched one hand lightly to the corpse's back. â€œHe was killed only a few hours ago - whatever killed him is still on the ship. And he was still alive when it...â€ He trailed off, even his legendary composure rattled. â€œWell. It seems we have our work cut out for us.â€
â€œSir, shouldn't we leave?â€ Kaltos damned himself for the tremor in his voice. â€œSomething drove two lengths of steel into a jade-reinforced bulkhead. There's no way anyone's alive in there...â€
â€œThat is what we're here to find out, isn't it?â€ Makar glanced over to Gallen, who had taken off his helmet and was trying vainly to clean it. â€œSuit up, and follow my lead. We stay together, we search for survivors, and we destroy whatever creature did this.â€ Calmly, determinedly, he strode into the darkness. Reluctantly, his four soldiers followed.