The bottle of amasec had been full a few minutes ago; it now lay empty in a pile of glass at the corner of the room. It had only been six months after the catastrophe on The Redeemer, and while the physical wounds of the event had already healed Octavious was still struggling to cope. Lord Gregarion was far too untouchable a man to have been close to, but he had been the one man he could truly claim to look up to. Likewise, the loss of the ship and the majority of the crew were an enormous blow, it had been the sort of event to shake even the most hardened man. “Still,” Octavious mused aloud, “It all lays on my shoulders.”
The drinking had become a crutch, there was no denying that fact, but Octavious maintained a professional attitude out and about. He was certain the only crew who really knew how he was self-medicating were his head officers, the majority of whom had survived that harrowing brush with chaos, and his aide. Tychon, Remi, and Malachai had all been there and witnessed what he had. Given their understanding and Lius’ inane ability to remain discrete it hadn’t been a major issue. His upbrining also helped with the nightly binges, few nobles do well without being able to pass off sobriety despite imbibing heavily. He could still do his job and that’s what really mattered. Octavious knew the crew would remain loyal regardless of what he did in his off time but he knew that any show of weakness could negatively impact the already tremulous morale.
Looking at the brass chronometer inlaid on the desk revealed the change in the watch to be rapidly approaching. A few hours more and they would be arriving at high anchor over Tanzumar, a small and seedy moon rotating slowly around the feral world of Hycanth. The place had become known as a haven for criminal elements trading in black market goods. Located just inside Imperial space near a cluster of systems deemed undesirable by the Imperial navy due to excessive alien habitation it was a prime launching point for moving such goods into more civilized space making it the perfect target for down on their luck trade dynasties.
A glance at his arm revealed the vicious scar left that night to still be in the same state it had been for weeks. He mused it must be the influence of the warp that had caused the wound to be so slow to heal. It still wept incessantly, reminding Octavious of a slow oil leak in an old auto. The ship’s doctor wasn’t able to explain it though he did assure him that it was improving, albeit too slow to see from day to day. The unnatural taint of chaos and a constant reminder of that day it served to bring up his blood every time he looked at it. Wrapping it up in bandages his reverie was broken by a knock at the door. “Sir, we are beginning approach. Your presence is demanded on the bridge”.
Rousing himself Octavious stood and donned his shirt and jacket, hefting the kit bag containing his armor. Opening the door to find Lius waiting just outside, his arm stretched forward proffering a pack of Ilho sticks. “Requisitioned from the ships cook sir, I know you ran out yesterday”. Muttering thanks he accepted the pack and began his walk to the bridge. Each step seemed to shed the grimness off of him, he began to walk more erect and his footsteps became more assured. By the time he reached the bridge he was himself again, at least outwardly. The pain remained within, stowed away until the next time he found himself alone.
“Attention, Lord Trader on deck!” Lius insisted on announcing Octavious’ presence each time he reached the command deck, an annoying habit he had picked up from a short stint in the Imperial Navy. As the nearest of the amassed crew turn, many with smirks given the common knowledge the practice bothered him, Octavious assumes command and overseas their arrival. The Last Testament drifts smoothly to its target destination, a docking platform in lunar-synchronous orbit a few miles over Port Winnower. It takes only 30 minutes for the shore party to assemble in the launch hangar after docking.
The assembled party consists of a small assortment of the more adaptable crew; members whose past has lead them to be more capable of operating in a criminal environment. Octavious, his carapace fully donned, surveys the assembled crew checking that they are appropriately equipped. Surprise shows in his eyes when he realizes that Lius has included himself among them.
“I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised given that I put you in charge of assembling our group. Anyway, gentlemen, keep your wits about you. Recall these ports can be dangerous, when we arrive I want you to spread out and find out if anything big is happening. We need a serious job to keep us afloat right now, and remember. We don’t have enough clout to consider ourselves above much. Now let’s load up and get down there, keep your coms open”
The trip to the moon’s surface is short and mundane; upon arrival each member takes a different local hotspot for trade and begins looking for any possible leads on work. Octavious heads out in search of lodging. Within a few hours a base of operations is set up and a few leads gathered off world are looked into. It takes a full week before any actual lead materializes.
Wormwood tavern quickly becomes Octavious’ haunt in the first few days. His drinking is solitary and the dim lighting and quite atmosphere suit him perfectly. Most nights he occupies a worn leather booth at the corner of the bar, his back to the door he silently drowns himself in alcohol for a few hours before wandering back to their operations center to sleep. On the seventh day after arrival Octavious finds himself once again in the same spot.
Downing the dregs remaining at the bottom of the glass Octavious shifts his weight forward to stand but his movement is arrested by a hand on his shoulder. Turning to look, he finds himself face to face with a man in a greasy suit. “Word is you been looking fer a job, s’right?” Somewhat taken aback by the man’s forward familiar action and unkempt appearance Octavious rapidly rises, looking the man directly in his beady eyes. “That is correct, what kind of work could a man like you have? “ The man, seemingly unfazed by the blatant slight, had simply stated “The lucrative kind”, turned and waved his hand forward on the way to the door.
Left with little choice Octavious followed him. Once clear of the tavern the man began to prattle on, his mouth never ceasing to spout inane comments. Subjects went form the price of bread in town to the validity of the most recent crusade with the conversation being entirely one sided. Following Ocavious became increasingly certain that this man was wasting his time. The only relative information he could gather seemed to be that the man’s name was Janick and he had the unique ability to instantaneously destroy one’s patience using the common tongue. That is, until Janick turned into a back alley.
The complicated knock Janick struck on the door was clearly functioned as a password. The door rapidly opened and both Janick and Octavious were ushered in. Once both crossed the threshold the man at the door slammed it back shut engaging several deadbolts in doing so. Curiosity overwhelmed Octavious before he could begin to get nervous over being locked in. The door had opened on rather large and open courtyard. The architecture and various suspended rugs spoke of serious wealth and the numerous security measure and presence of armed guards spoke of power. Clearly; this was the contact they had been searching for.
Master of Mercantile Magentus Puardi was clearly the sort of man to always land on his feet. Hailing from some distant unheard of rim world he had managed to form a strong business front on Tanzumar from the ground up. The majority of his dealings seemed to be within the realm of legality despite being on the more distasteful side. Sanctioned narcotics, dark hearted curios, and contracted humans made up the lion share of his business with some shady dealings rounding out his sales repertoire. The majority of his trading involved moving large quantities of his legal goods with a few choice high dollar illegal finds stashed within the bulk of whatever was to be transported. The only major flaw was that he lacked the financial might to move his goods out of system. He had even managed to set up a route for each of his goods, ensuring that any given trader would not have to waste time searching for a buyer.
“And that, my dear friend Lord Octavious, is where I require your services”. Both men were seated across from one another on rugs, a low table between them with a pipe of brass set inside. The fumes, which Puardi exhaled whenever he spoke, were incredibly heady. It was a tactic Octavious knew many businessmen to employ, a powerful substance used to keep potential contractors off balance during dealings. Octavious graciously declined accepting the pipe when it was proffered, the innocuous sent of obscura hinted that it would clearly affect his ability to bargain. “I think we can come to an arrangement Magentus, though I am surprised you have not found a more consistent trade partner”.
At this Puardi’s jovial demeanor took on a much darker presence. “I have, in the past, consistently relied on such business transactions. It seems, however, that some local criminal sorts have taken to marking my trade goods. Out of the last five shipments three have been attacked, only one trader has been claimed but it has cast a rather dark mark on my business. None of the local traders seem to have the stomach for such risk.” The Master of trade tried to put on a show of diffidence, but it was clear to Octavious that he had a point of leverage. “Give me 10% extra off the top, and my services are yours.”
The process of loading the goods and preparing to travel consumed the next several days. In the flurry of activity Octavious managed to find some semblance of his old self. The drinking cut back sharply as the pressing need to prepare the ship overwhelmed his spare time. The only thing that seemed to be nagging him was Lius. In an attempt to increase security he had left the more sensitive items in the payload off of the manifesto. During the loading Lius had remarked that the recorded weight was incongruous with the reported tonnage on the given documentation for several of the large shipping containers. He had brought up his findings several times forcing Octavious to come up with a gallery of foils, misleads, and distractions to keep him off the issue. Admittedly he feared that Lius tendency towards the straight and true would negatively impact his performance. It seemed better to hide the knowledge of the black market goods for the good of the voyage.
The voyage was predicted to take three months in its entirety with a total of 14 stops to unload. Two weeks into the journey led them to a small and isolated ice world. The transition from the void went smoothly, still a source of high tension among the majority, albeit a day off course. A skeleton crew was assigned to take over the first twelve hours of approach to give the main body of the crew a chance for some solid rest. As The Last Testament drifted slowly through space its crew began to sleep while a lone individual prowled the cargo hold.
Lius had been unable to shake the certainty that something was wrong about the cargo. The variability in the mass recorded and measured was a clear indication that something was afoot. Lius knew that Octavious had been hiding something; he was determined to figure out what that was. Each freight container was clearly marked and he proceeded to the nearest manifest anomaly. The manifest had been recorded as weighing only three quarters of what was measured upon loading. Hefting a torque wrench he moved to remove the locking nuts in order to access the interior of the container. Attaching the driver he attempted to reverse off one of the nuts. He was shocked to find the nut spun freely, it had no connection to the containers framing. Trying another he found it also was un-anchored, he moved to try a third but a sound from inside the container froze him in his tracks. Even as he thumbed his vox onto the direct line to Octavious the sound of the first screws hitting the bottom of the container rang out.
The com line buzzed to life as Octavious was reaching for the bottle of amasec stored in the large wooden cabinet behind his desk. “Intruders, in the cargo hold! It’s a trap, Lord Trader…” The line was then overwhelmed with the sound of gunfire as the assailants poured forth from the container. Octavious immediately leapt to the console embedded in his desk and engaged the critical threat level protocols. He was up and donning his carapace armor even as Lius corpse hit the metal decking of the cargo bay, riddled with holes.
By the time Octavious reached the lower deck a pitched battle had already ensued. The corridor was alight with tracers, las shots, flashing ricochets, and muzzle bursts. He found one of the senior security officers taking refuge on the corner of a diverging hallway, taking intermitted pock shots from cover. “We have them hemmed in and restricted to the cargo bay sir; they haven’t got anywhere to go.” Nodding Octavious responded succinctly, “Good, let us make them pay for their insolence”. Withdrawing a wicked autorifle from his back he emptied a clip down the hallway, unloaded it, and thrust in a fresh clip. The slide clicked as it returned into place. “Alright, you men follow me!”
Octavious and the gathered security crew charged down the length of the hall cutting a bloody swathe through the enemy. The gunfire faltered under their forceful assault and the crew used the break to increase their momentum. Bellowing like a demon in his red and black carapace Octavious emptied the second clip and withdrew his power sword. Laying out enemy after enemy it only took about fifteen minutes and the lives of twelve of the crew to clear the hold. Octavious, winded by the long charge, found himself standing over the corpse of his late aide. “Thank you crewman, your sacrifice will not be forgotten.” He stood over Lius’ body for a few moments contemplating; his reverie was broken by a member of the security force. “Sir, we have found a live one”.
It took only fifteen minutes to interrogate the man. He was already in tatters, ripped open by several shots to the abdomen. He revealed what Octavious already suspected about the attack. They had been double crossed by Puardi. It seemed that the assailants were mercenary’s hired by the merchant to steal ships from the inside. They hadn’t been prepared for an aware ship, intending instead to catch them while the majority of the crew was asleep. Lius’ inquiry had saved the crew from certain doom; Octavious would not allow himself to fail them again. He knew one thing to be certain, Magentus Puardi would pay.
A survey of the remainder of the containers showed them to actually contain the goods they were assigned as holding. Octavious still needed to gather funding; it was a simple decision to continue the voyage. They unloaded the last of the cargo on schedule and found themselves returning to Tanzumar right at the close of the third month. Standing at the helm Octavious allowed himself a wolfish grin. He could practically taste the anticipation at getting his revenge, it had been a long voyage and he had been consumed by his hatred throughout it. When he got his hands on Puardi he would savour it, take his time and exact his revenge perfectly.
The raid was done commando style. A crew of six men including Octavious fast roped down off the sides of a personal carrier into the estates courtyard. Silently they moved throughout the compound dispatching every guard and worker. When they had cleared the rest of the building they stacked up outside of Puardi’s personal quarters. Octavious entered alone while the rest remained outside; turning as he entered the room he closed the doors behind him. The gathered men stood guard and waited for the next three and a half hours. Even the most brutal of the bunch grimaced at the long drawn out screams that the merchant emitted for the first couple hours. The last hour nothing was heard but an intermittent whimper, then silence. Octavious emerged shortly after, coated in blood up to his elbows. He said nothing and walked straight out the front door.
For years after the event crew members still whispered with one another as to what happened that night. Wild rumors were spread up and down as the crew tried to imagine what had occurred. Only one man other that Octavious had any idea what had happened. He had seen past the Lord Trader as he had emerged, looking over his shoulder as he exited the room. On long nights, after drinking heavily, that crewman could be coerced into telling the tale of what he had seen an event that kept him up many nights. He had only obtained a glimpse, but the image was burned into his mind. The merchant had been suspended from the ceiling with his stomach slit open hung from the chandelier. His intestines had been withdrawn from his stomach cavity and had been spread around the room. The crewman, however, was not kept awake at night by this. What kept him awake was the merciless smile of satisfaction the Lord Trader had worn as he walked out of the room.