IMPERIAL VOXCAST (6 690 737.M41): “In other news, word has reached us that scores of Imperial citizens kidnapped and enslaved by Balar Slavers were rescued earlier this year by the Rogue Trader Adeon Drake, who led an attack against a Slaver compound on the world of Korbal. Because of extreme Warp disturbances, news of this rescue only now is reaching us …”
KORHAL, 6 183 737.M41—It was just before dawn, and Adeon Drake crouched behind a satellite array built on the outskirts of the slave camp.
Above, two moons glowed large in the azure night of Korbal. A backwater agri-world, its population was small and dispersed—and technologically backward—and thus highly vulnerable to Void raiders.
So it was no surprise to find a camp of the Balar Slavers in the uninhabited prairies of the northern continent. Landing their shuttles far from major population centers, the Slavers had set up a base and raided for hundreds of kilometers in every direction, gathering slaves, cattle, vehicles—anything that could be sold.
By the time the planetary authority learned of the raid—and if they could organize the military resources to respond—the Slavers would be gone. All the people huddled within the slave pens ahead would be doomed to a life of misery, hard labor, and eventual death.
Not this time, Drake thought.
His vox earpiece clicked, warning of an incoming transmission. “Marbray here. We’re in position.”
Now was the moment, Drake thought. He had a dozen men with him, hiding within charge range of the slave pens; Marbray, his trusted seneschal, led another dozen men on the outskirts of the Slavers’ barracks. Drake would rescue the prisoners and have them led to safety, while Marbray kept the main body of Slavers from interfering.
If all went well, Drake would then rush to support Marbray and wipe out this infestation of evil.
“Let’s go,” Drake acknowledged into his vox mike. Then he drew his bolt pistol and sword and stood. To the men around him, he yelled: “Charge!”
It was another boring night on guard duty for Draxis. Born on a Slaver ship, he knew only one reality: you were either the master or the slave. There was no pity in the man; no comprehension of mercy or empathy. He’d experienced neither in life.
Standing on the guard tower, he looked down on the two hundred slaves captured so far. They were a pathetic lot. Stupid farmers and their families, huddled together in a vain bid for comfort, they had no idea of what awaited them.
Fools, Draxis thought with contempt. Your lives are over, and you don’t even know it yet.
A faint rustle of noise rose behind him, and he turned. Shadows were running toward him!
He was about to shout a warning when a lasgun targeted his forehead. There was a bright light … then nothing.
When gunfire erupted at the edge of the Slaver camp, Marbray was crouched out of sight behind a plasteel cargo container that rested opposite the main housing unit of the Slavers. Hidden in the shadows around, another dozen crewman from Drake’s ship stood at the ready.
A light appeared as the front door of the housing unit opened, silhouetting a Slaver who stepped out to see what was happening.
A half dozen lasgun shots later, he slumped to the ground and the door of the housing unit was hurriedly slammed shut by those within.
Marbray tapped his vox mike, raising his voice to be heard above the gunfire around him. “Torado, watch the side entrance. Make sure you keep them inside. I don’t want anyone turning my flank.”
“Got it,” came the reply.
The rest of the Slavers guarding the prisoners were dispatched with ease, and Drake detached the primitive lock that held the palisade gate shut. Opening it, he saw the large crowd of prisoners still sitting on the ground or hunched down in fear, their eyes staring at him with both alarm and curiosity.
“We’re not here to harm you!” Drake shouted. “We are here to rescue you! If you want to return to your homes, get up and follow the instructions of these men.”
There was a rustle of movement in the crowd, but no one stood. As Drake looked at the homespun clothing of those staring at him, he realized they were a simple, uneducated people—in shock and unable to grasp what was happening.
“I don’t have time for this,” Drake said, turning to a tough-looking crewman at his side. The man’s name was Daxton, and despite his grim, rough-hewn face, he was, in fact, a kind man.
“Get them up. Get them out. There are men I need to kill.” With that, Drake disappeared into the night at a run.
A grim toll had been taken on the Slavers. The surprise of Drake’s attack—along with the careful placement of two heavy boaters to create a deadly crossfire—had cut down more than half the pirate band.
But they still outnumbered Drake’s crew, and now that they’d overrun Torado’s position, the tables were turning.
Marbray directed the fire of one of the heavy bolters. “Keep sweeping your fire,” he ordered. “Right now, I want suppression fire. Don’t stop to target anyone. I don’t want them moving.”
That wasn’t going to work forever, Marbray knew. Already, he could see vague shadows moving amidst the hastily built shanties to his left. The Slavers were turning his flank.
“Marbray, I have a plan.” The sound of Drake’s voice rumbled in the seneschal’s earpiece.
“I’m listening,” Marbray said—and as he listened, a slight smile crept across his face.
Drake fired another shot of his bolt pistol as a third Slaver charged his position. Despite the danger he faced, he couldn’t help thinking: Do these idiots even understand the concept of tactics?
For the last ten minutes, he’d been engaged in a fighting withdrawal, slowly giving ground to the Slavers’ attacks to buy time for Marbray to prepare the trap he’d hastily conceived.
“Drake?” Marbray’s voice echoed in his ear.
“I’m here,” Drake replied.
“Get ready to haul ass. We’re ready.”
Drake took another shot and yelled to the crewmen fighting alongside him. “Let’s go. Run! Run! Run!”
There were at least 30 of them. The Slavers—some half dressed, some wearing primitive armor—were following Drake at a half-run.
They could stop and shoot—and they’d probably take me down, he thought. Not that he was complaining, but a stupid opponent didn’t garner much respect in Drake’s mind.
The Rogue Trader was the last to reach the corner of the decrepit shanty. He’d lagged behind his men, just enough that the Slavers hadn’t lost sight of him in the darkness.
As he slipped behind the shanty, Drake’s eyes scanned the large black fuel tank that he’d passed only a moment before. It was half-filled with promethium. It also was armed with five demolition charges, all invisible in the darkness.
“Cover your ears, fellas, it’s going to be noisy,” Drake yelled.
At that moment, the crowd of Slavers—so wonderfully, delightfully crowded together, Drake thought—appeared out of the darkness and ran past the fuel tank.
Drake ducked back behind the shanty just as first demolition charge went off.
When Drake woke up, it was dawn. A sliver of sun hovered at the horizon, burning away the night.
“How’s the head?” Drake turned around to see Marbray sitting on a pile of rubble that had once been the shanty he’d hidden behind.
“It hurts,” Drake admitted, slowly sitting up. It was true, his head did hurt, and as he felt his temple with a hand, he felt the bandage wrapped around his head. “I take it I didn’t give myself the proper margin of error.”
“The explosion took out half the camp,” Marbray said. “Must have been high-grade fuel. I felt the shock wave from 200 meters away, so when I saw the flames balloon out and sweep over your position, I thought you were dead for sure.”
“Who? Me? I’m the captain,” Drake said, easing himself back to the ground with a moan. “I knew perfectly well what I was doing.”
The men who’d rescued them were gone. They’d boarded their shuttle and disappeared into the sky.
The Arbiters arrived not long after. The black-uniformed enforcers swept into the camp in armored vehicles and immediately began demanding answers for the vox message they’d received:
Slaver base at Position 49-2, A82, 93-092. Slavers now dead. Approximately 200 prisoners—your people—are abandoned at camp, awaiting food, water, and transport back to their homes. What are you waiting for?
A young boy looked skyward. Until now, he’d known the familiar and comforting world of a farmstead, notable only for its cluster of modest homes and barns, surrounded to the horizon by cropland.
He’d heard stories of men from the stars—and of orks, pirates, and other dangers. But he’d never expected to see such things for himself.
Now that he had, he hoped he never would again. But he did say a prayer to the Emperor … for the men who’d dropped from the sky to rescue him and his family, then returned to the stars. To his dying day, he would wonder who they were—and why they’d come.
TheGM: Although this falls under the fiction category (and Rogue Trader), it is roughly based on a small solo game I played one evening.
The release of Shadow Wars: Armageddon offers me the opportunity to engage in a lot of small fights in the future, and I intend to take advantage of it. I’d like to see Drake and Count Feracci go another round. I also want to see how the Inquisition agent Drusus and Brother-Sergeant Quintas fare as they explore Dryilian IV.
And I can’t wait to see what trouble Drake gets into next time. But I do wonder why he is so intent on going after the Slavers. Quite frankly, I haven’t figured that out yet. But I’m sure there’s a reason … I’ll just wait until the Corvus Cluster reveals its secrets to me.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.
Categories: Rogue Traders