Chapter 7: Reinforcements
The time finally came for the imperial transports to take Darrius, Raege and their respective teams to Iona-7.
Raege, Cuddles and Boone were reunited with Zune the day before they were due to leave Xenon. She had been making arrangements with Darrius about the next mission and was confident that the two of them would work well together. Although Raege was a little upset that she'd been excluded from this, it did give her back some of the confidence she may have lost in Darrius after the incident with Michael.
Familiar faces Raege knew well started showing up. The fact that most of the force was getting together was an obvious sign that it would soon be time to leave. Darrius was also meeting back up with his own men. Michael was itching for a fight, as was the rest of his squad. The two psykers were already waiting at the terminal, playing cards. Xerxes and Halo were inspecting the ship and readying the gear for everyone.
Shadow, the mysterious assassin that Raege had only met once, seemed to have disappeared off the radar however. Even Darrius was unsure where she was. She only showed up again on the day of the move.
Zune, Raege and Darrius were talking tactics over a rushed breakfast. Raege finally had the opportunity to have her say, when Shadow seemed to appear out of nowhere, and with no warning, in the corner of the room.
"Hope I'm not disturbing you, but I have some good news." She said in a surprisingly cheerful tone for an assassin. All three of them jumped a little in shock.
"Shadow?! Where have you been?! And...what have I told you about sneaking up on me? We aren't the enemies, remember?" said Darrius with a mixture of confusion and surprise.
"She one of yours?" asked Zune to Darrius, who nodded in response.
"You haven't missed much, this is literally the second time I've seen her myself."Raege chuckled. Zune rolled her eyes.
"Sorry about disappearing and reappearing like that, but I've been tracking down some old friends who want to re-join our team." said Shadow apologetically.
"Well then? Are you going to tell us?" said Darrius with a faint smile.
"You remember Diona, right? Well she remembered us and wanted to join us as a temporary attachment for old time's sake." said Shadow triumphantly. Darrius's smile grew even wider.
"You're kidding me. Seriously?" Darrius seemed utterly shocked, turning to Zune and Raege. "Diona is a Sororitas who was attached to us a few years back. She decided to fight with us as "penance" for something did, and has since found retribution."
"Oh wow, sounds like a good ally to have on the battle-field." replied Zune.
"Funny thing was, even though she fought without her other sisters, using considerably weaker gear than what she was used to using, and took orders from me, who technically ranks miles below her, I distinctly remember her finding the experience somewhat enlightening." He shrugged. "Must have been the case if she wants to come back."
"And there's more. I've been assigned to train another assassin, called Phebia, so she can help out too." Shadow continued. "She's got great talents apparently."
"Ah, the more the merrier." said Darrius. "Anyone else?"
"Haxtes, a veteran guardsman-now-merc, has also been offering his services. I asked him about it, and apparently he knows you Darrius. Is this true?" she asked Darrius directly.
"Ah, yes, old friend of mine." Darrius nodded. "Good man. Good soldier. A little on the paranoid side, but nothing I can't handle. I'd be happy to have him join us." He looked over to Zune. "So, we've got three new heads in the team. Who's going to deal with the paperwork this time?" he chuckled.
"Well, you've done nigh enough all the paperwork up to this point, so I think it's only fair I do the organisation for this, I mean, it's only three extras." sighed Zune with a smile on her face.
"Don't worry about Accommodation. Diona rarely sleeps and Haxtes never does." chuckled Darrius.
"Phebia can stay in my quarters." added Shadow.
"Ah, good thinking." commented Darrius. "So, it's settled?"
"Other than the three miles of forms I'm going to have to sign to organise this, yes, it's settled." laughed Zune.
As if the group wasn't becoming varied enough.
The three new figures stood in the entrance to the terminal, waiting to see Darrius.
On the far left was a rugged looking man. He had a long, iron-coloured beard and seemed to be dressed for arctic conditions with a huge trench coat and furry hat. He stared straight forward into blank space, clasping a long-las with such intent that it would almost seem as if he would die if he dropped it. Every so often he'd flinch a little and look at a dark corner or up at the ceiling, but would swiftly resume his original position.
In the middle was a tall, red-headed, almost Amazonian figure. She was beautiful in a battle-scarred, rugged sort of way. She was also an assassin, but her body-glove was shredded in various places and extra (likely scavenged,) armour plates were placed over the gaps to try and cover the gaps in it. Tattoos could be seen on the few sections of visible skin. Sets of knives were strapped to almost every limb, and a silenced stub-pistol was holstered on her left hip. Aside from her huge height, and imposing attire, she seemed intrigued by her surroundings, and stared around with curiosity, rather than fear.
The last of the three figures seemed the most unassuming, and the most serious. The woman was taller than the guardsman but shorter than the assassin. She was reading a holy book with great intent, and silently made brief prayers every few minutes. Wearing robes and without her armour, you could almost mistake her for a priest or cleric. However, the holy icon tattooed on her left cheek revealed her true self. She was a sister of battle, one of the Emperor's most holy warriors and servants.
The assassin soon looked at her with curiosity. She wanted to talk to someone, but was too shy to ask. Almost psychically, the sister noticed this.
"Do not fear to speak your mind." She said, turning to her as she awaited her response.
"Oh, I was just wondering...erm...what you reading?" she asked innocently.
"Various things; prayers and parables mostly. Highly interesting." replied the sister with a friendly smile.
"I've always wanted to read that sort of thing. Anything to improve myself in the emperor's name. Never really had the chance to sadly." replied the assassin with a melancholy tone.
"Why would that be?" asked the sister.
"Never have the time. Always training; always studying other things. Combat techniques, you know?" She replied.
"And in your training and studies, you shall learn the path of self improvement, for it all reaches for the same holy end: service to the Emperor." said the sister knowingly. The assassin smiled in response.
"Thank you, miss." She replied respectfully. She then looked over to the guardsman. "Are you here to see Darrius too?"
"That I am." said the guardsman. He seemed a little suspicious of her, but seemed to also be relieved that someone was talking to him. "You're rather friendly for someone who'll likely spend their whole lives killing people in inglorious ways."
"I'm sure that naivety will fade in time." replied the sister.
"But until then, I'm just happy to be doing what I'm doing." said the assassin in an almost smug tone.
"Well, good luck with that." replied the guardsman. "Only reason I'm here is that I owe Darrius. The bugger's done so much to help me over the years that it's only fair that I chip in whenever I can." He sighed. "That and trying to settle down ain't for me. I was built for war, and it's all I'm good for. And hey, the orks'll make for good killing." He chuckled to himself. "I fought em a hundred times. Can't aim to save their lives, and if you land a shot between the eyes, they'll never get close enough to hurt ya."
"You seem like someone who's seen their fair share of the front line." said the assassin.
"I have. Spent my whole life there in one way or another. Only the Emperor himself knows how I survived all that time, and I'm ever thankful for his protection during those years." He said, finally lowering his guard a little, and clutching his gun with less zeal.
"I think we're all the same in that sense." said the sister with a nod. "Let our thanks be eternally to Him for sustaining us all this time."
"Amen to that." chuckled the guardsman. "Amen to that."
"Why are you here?" asked the assassin to the sister.
"Similar reason as...erm...what was your name?" said the sister.
"Haxtes. Jacob Haxtes. And you?" he replied.
"Diona. I lost my second name a long time ago." She sighed.
"How come?" asked the assassin with confusion.
"I'd rather not talk about it." replied Diona.
"Well, I'm Phebia Ishanti, just for the record. I take it that we're all going to work with Darrius?" asked Phebia.
"Surely not miss Diona?" asked the guardsman. "You're a sister; what would you be doing with scum like us?"
"As I was saying earlier, I owe Darrius a lot as well." She replied. "When I was still young and foolish, it was not the other sisters who taught me the true meaning of duty. It was him."
"Oh please, that's not entirely true." said the man she spoke of, who had just turned the corner. "I don't deserve all the credit. You taught yourself if I remember correctly; I just chipped in the odd piece of advice every so often."
"As ever punctual and correct, sir." She replied. Darrius laughed.
"It's been three years since you left my service, and you still call me sir. You're far and away more important that I am in the long run of things. If anyone should be speaking respect, then it is I." He chuckled.
"Old habits die hard." sighed Diona with a faint smile.
"It's good to see you too." yelled Haxtes with the sort of sarcasm used between old friends.
"Ah yes, Haxtes, how have you been? Are you still unable to master the art of sleeping?" said Darrius as he went to greet him.
"Fraid so." replied Haxtes, shaking his hand. Darrius then looked to the immensely tall assassin.
"And I take it that you are Phebia?" he asked. She stood to attention and nodded. "At ease, we'll have more than our fair share of formalities later."
"Thank you sir." She replied. "May I ask where Miss Shadow is? I would appreciate it greatly if I could get straight to my training with her."
"That fact you haven't already seen me tells me that you have much to learn." whispered Shadow's voice. Phebia looked around with surprise, and so did Darrius and Diona, until they noticed a faint dark patch on the ceiling. Shadow dropped elegantly and silently from the roof next to Darrius. "If I had I been the enemy, you would be dead."
"Thank the Emperor that you are not." replied Diona with some relief. "N-T-S: Must focus more intensely on surrounding in the future." She said, and she noted what she said down with a pen on the back of her palm.
"Pah, I knew you were there." hissed Haxtes. "Was wondering when the others would notice."
"Regardless, you said that Phebia here has some kind of talent. Aside from being taller than both of us put together, mind telling me what this talent is?" asked Darrius to Shadow.
"Knife throwing." replied Shadow. "She's been recommended as having an almost artistic skill for it."
"Leant it from my home planet." commented Phebia. "My family were hunters for generations, and since there was no metal to make swords and we only had rocks to use, we would sharpen them into blades and throw them to catch our prey."
"Interesting...you must demonstrate this skill at some point, but not now. For now, you all must pack your things and prepare. We are leaving the planet in a matter of hours, and heading to our next target." said Darrius.
"Actually, I'm already packed." Said Haxtes, and he opened his great coat. Underneath it, stuffed into his pockets, was all manner of clothes, weapons and memorabilia. There were many more things stuffed into the pockets of his uniform underneath it as well.
"Me too." said Phebia. "I've got my knives, my gun and my duty. I need nothing else."
"I must admit that I also have my various possessions prepared for transport." added Diona. She referred to the scrolls she carried. "Some light reading for between the battles, you see. Other than that, I trust that my armour and weapons are also prepared for war?"
"Indeed they are." said Darrius with half a smile. "In that case, ladies and gentleman, I shall see you on board."