The Stinking, Painted Harlot (Silva Malorum Part 4)


As protocol dictated, the Iron Dutchess’ Rogue Trader fleet exited the Warp well before entering the Rubycon II System of the Drusus Marches Sub-Sector.  Just ahead of them hanging in the cold vacuum of space was the massive void station known as Port Wander.  There was a well-known quote about her being referred to as a “stinking, painted harlot” that had been coined by a Rogue Trader Captain in years past.  She was a light in the void, but the weary traveler would pay for that comfort, sometimes with more than he or she had bargained for.

Each of the ships under Lord Everbound’s overall command were directed to a particular docking station.  The Silver Leopard slipped into her designated area and the docking clamps found purchase onto her ancient hull.

Once inside Port Wander, Privateer Captain Marcus Baltimore directed his ship’s command staff to procure the final list of necessary provisions for their journey into the Koronus Expanse.  Captain Baltimore had no formal houseguard retinue to speak of, so he rounded up half a dozen voidsmen who were found to be acceptably proficient at combat arms and assigned them to armsmen duty.  They were all criminals who had been convicted of violent crimes involving weapons of some sort.  Most of the group had received at least some rudimentary military training.  They were all minimally proficient with their preferred weapons.  Baltimore led them deeper into the station.

The Enforcers of the Adeptus Arbites watched silently as Captain Baltimore and his ad-hoc retinue passed by their duty station down the corridor.  The Arbites did not condone civilians carrying weapons aboard the void station, but the Naval Provost allowed it, especially since according to the Imperial Navy, Rogue Traders and their ilk were not classified as civilians.  If they were to be counted on to help defend the station, they could brandish a weapon.  The Privateer Captain and his group passed by unchallenged.

Captain Baltimore knew enough about Port Wander to know to head to The Blind Eye, a tavern near the station’s sunward shuttle bays.  That was the place to do business if one wanted to recruit professionals for a journey into the Expanse.

Once inside, Baltimore picked out an empty table in the corner with a view of the entire tavern.  He sat and retrieved a data slate from his long blue coat with tan cuffs and collar.  He looked around the drinking establishment and visually inspected the occupants inside.

Most of the clientele were giving him and his companions the once over as well.  Everyone knew the common convict crewmen wore blaze orange coveralls, but only the more trusted convicts aboard a Rogue Trader or Privateer vessel, especially those who were tasked with guarding their Captain, were permitted to don the khaki shirts and trousers along with the black leather gun and knife belts of the “building tenders”, as they were called on dirtside correctional institutions.

Guzz Klobber, the acting leader of Baltimore’s makeshift security detail, stood to the Privateer Captain’s right.  Brilita Sparks was on his left side.  Klobber was a brute of a man and brandished a bolt pistol, a double-barreled shotgun, and a machete with a hook on the blade’s spine that was popular with sugarcane harvesters on some agriworlds.  Sparks was the polar opposite of her hulking counterpart.  She was slender and wiry and appeared to be speed and stealth incarnate.  She carried a stiletto blade in the scabbard on the left side of her knife belt and a handcrafted autopistol holstered on her right hip.  The other four khaki-clad building tenders were spaced out around the tavern, but not too far from Baltimore’s table.

From just within Baltimore’s peripheral vision he caught movement and someone in a booming voice spoke to him, ‘Do you feel safe with that motley assortment of common street thugs watching your back?’

To be continued . . .

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