The Gellar field glowed a fierce red hue as we exited from the Immaterium into realspace. Flames of warp plasma flickered over the shield, dancing from the nose to the stern. The light from the command screens reflected off the chrome chassis of servitors manning the bridge. This made the bridge seem as if were bathed in blood. It lasted just a moment but filled me with no small amount of trepidation.
I push the feeling as much as I can to the side and begin flipping through the hololiths projected above my command throne. The auspex showed us seven hundred and forty three million kilometers from the target planet. We hung almost exactly ninety degrees above the solar plane.
I open a vox channel to the Navigator chamber, “Excellent work Mother.”
“Thank you Daughter. I am standing down. Arno and his team are ready to take us back into the Warp at your command, unless you wish me to remain at my post.”
My mother’s voice was both regal and weary in equal measure. I was not worried, she was still in her prime, but precision in Warp travel as she had just done was not an easy task.
“Please rest Mother, we will be several days in this solar system. Arno can get us out if a sudden need arises,” I say and cut the vox. Arno would no doubt have been listening and would see she got to rest.
“That was not a normal transition into realspace,” a deep basso voice booms from the giant statue clad in green ceramite at my side. He has not said a word to me or even moved perceptibly since arriving uninvited to my bridge, 4 hours previous.
I look over at the Space Marine. He is standing on the right side of my command throne. Even on the raised dais it sits on, so I can see the bridge in its fullness, he is still a full head taller than me. He still hasn’t turned towards me so his left pauldron is at eye height. The white dragon on a black background stares balefully at me. Draped over his shoulders and down his back is most likely a skinned cousin of the emblem on this shoulder. The iridescent scales shift green and blue as my eyes play over it. His jet black skin and shaved head made him seem even more like a statue. The Salamander’s eyes spoil that image. Bright red and the only part of him that move. They dart from the servitors to the command screens, then to the shadows high in the corners of the vaulted ceiling of the bridge.
“The Warp is much less turbulent along the solar plane where most Navigators try to bring in their vessels. The psychic distortion anywhere else creates a violent type of turbulence,” I continue, “Mother is an extraordinary Navigator and has brought us in perfectly above the target.”
“Why?” His tone is more like a teacher who already knows the answer and is waiting to see if the student understands the lesson.
“Space is huge,” I say jokingly. He turns his head slightly to look directly at me. I ignore the Space Marine’s stare and continue, “Since most Navigators can only bring a ship into a system on the solar plane, sentry pickets are almost always set to watch only those parts of space. Lagrange points and such. Even if they were looking for a ship in this very difficult position we are 41 light minutes from the planet. Their auspex would have to be looking directly at us as we exited the Warp to even detect us. I do not plan to be here that long.”
I punch a few buttons and the servitors begin plotting a course for the planet.
“You have 12 hours to have your shuttle ready Captain Mel’Fabron. We will swing into orbit above Galin 9, do one revolution of the planet dropping as much chaff as we can to confuse their auspex scans while you deploy into the atmosphere. Then we will retreat as far out of system as we can while still in the vox range of your shuttle and go silent. You then have seventy two hours to complete whatever mission you have dragged me to this cursed system for.”
“If I am longer than seventy two hours?” There is a hint of dry humor now in his voice.
I stand from my command chair so I am now a full head above the Salamander. I adjust my black and gold jacket and stare down at him. His attention makes me feel uncomfortable. It is no different than with any other Space Marine. It is the feeling that they are both judging you and that they are trying to remember how a human would react. A minor course correction gives me an excuse and I break the stare.
Tending to a hololith projection I say curtly, “If you have not made contact in seventy two hours and one second, we will pull anchor and chart a course straight to Nocturne to report your death and collect on the debt owed to me.”
I return to the stare and say pleasantly, “As our contact says.”
He unclips his helmet from his belt, nods and dons the iconic headgear. I get the feeling of approval for my straightforwardness with him.
He turns and begins to leave “As our contact says, Ship Mistress Meredith Van’Elsan.”