Writer & Illustrator

The One You Walk Away From

· Read in about 3 min · (635 Words)
vingette warhammer40k

“‘With all due, it was one of my finest crashes.’ I regretted the words as soon as they left my mouth—despite their veracity.

Wing Commander Valensi’s already red face turn a new shade of incandescent. ‘Your…Finest…Crashes?’ she said, coughing each syllable like a felid ejecting a fur-ball. 

‘I mean, I hit the runway sir… if a little too hard.’ The truth was, I gouged a Thunderbolt Fighter sized hole in the runway. But I had walked away, and that was what mattered wasn’t it? 

My commanding officers didn’t see it that way. Nor did the provost adjudicating my court martial. If it weren’t for ‘past acts of valor in the Imperium’s name’ they might have hanged me. But they didn’t, and that’s how I ended up here.”

Finishing my many times retold story, I downed the rest of my drink. It was Emperors-honest amasec. I hadn’t drunk this good since… well before the court martial. 

“Care to get another round, you know for an out of work fighter ace?” I asked the strange little man sitting across from me. 

 He wore some sort of long trench coat. The man’s skin was as white as a ghost’s, and over his eyes were strange goggle-like sunglasses. And odd-grox to be certain, but his credits were good.

“I will do you one better Mr. Jager,” he said with a serpentine his.

“A double?”

“Better still. A job.”

If I’d had anything left in my glass, I’d have spit it out. I narrowed my eyes on the pale-skinned man. “After that story I told you? You want to hire me to be a pilot?”

“My employers require someone with your experience.”

“At crashing?”

“With unconventional landings.”

I sat back in my chair. The bugger was serious. After the Aeronautica Imperialis put me on my ear, I never thought I’d fly again. Never even considered it. My plan, up to that moment, was to drink until my money or my liver gave out—hopefully the latter. 

My strange suitor raised a finger to the waitress. In a moment she returned with another amasec. The least I could do was drink it, what with this fella getting my hopes up. 

“You’ve got the wrong man,” I said. “I don’t fly cargo ships or anything like that. I trained as a fighter pilot, went to war as a fighter pilot, and retired as a fighter pilot. I plan to stay a fighter pilot until I die and join the God Emperor at his side.”

The man produced a small hololith projector, activated it. The device projected a visage I knew better than my own face. 

“The aircraft is a Slash Seven Mark D Thunderbolt. Would that suffice?”

My jaw nearly fell off its hinges. I’d flown a slash five. The slash sevens were supposed to be even faster. More maneuverable. I took a glass-draining swig of my amasec to keep from drooling.

For the last six months, something was missing in my life. Amasec, pleasure girls, nothing filled the void. Or so I thought until a strange little man in a trench coat showed me a hologram of the most beautiful aircraft ever to leave a Forge World. 

“I’ll do it.” It could have been the amasec talking. I knew I should have asked for more specifics. Who was this man? Who were his masters? What was the job? But at that moment I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was fly that bird.

The waitress appeared again, trading out my empty glass. 

“Excellent.” The pale-skinned man raised his unsipped drink and clinked it against my fresh one. “To a profitable partnership.”

“Uh, yeah.” My eyes were still glued to the hologram of the slowly rotating Thunderbolt.

“Before we begin, I must ask you Mr. Jager… have you ever been to Necromunda?”