The Governor’s Retribution was not a new ship. It was not even a Navy ship, being a charter vessel. Other adjectives not attributable to her might include; spacious, comfortable, well maintained and/or sanitary. However, a working Geller Field and a lick of speed that some fleet escorts would struggle to match kept her in business. And would hopefully shorten the excruciating journeys of her passengers.
These were the thoughts of First Sergeant Maxwell as Private Wharee (apparently a qualified medic) fussed over the latest round of inoculations. The young, skinny and above all, pedantic soldier fussed and clucked like a mother hen; but without the useful egg producing capability, mused 1Sgt Maxwell. Since the void hardening around the liquid recycling apparatus failed on the second day, the medic had been stabbing them full of needles. Which he was quite sure was unnecessary following the regulation embarkation procedure. But it kept Wharee from bothering Captain Aelius, which was a blessing.
He took a Lho stick out of the cardboard packet, tapped it against the side and then put the filter end in his mouth, sighed and reversed the procedure, replacing the packet in his pocket. Seventeen days without a Lho stick, seventeen days pissing and crapping in a bucket. Whoever the apocryphal Governor was, his retribution was pretty good, as retributions went. The ship was pushing the concept of serviceability to its limit.
Capt Aelius had asked 1Sgt Maxwell to keep their tiny detachment busy whilst he worked his way through the pile of data slates provided by the Departmento. Every eight hours 1Sgt Maxwell would check on the Captain, red eyed, surrounded by half cups of cold recaf and discarded data slates. He was obviously sleeping in fits as he ploughed his way through the material. 1Sgt Maxwell did not let Guardsman Wharee visit Capt Aelius unattended, instead listening to the lectures about health and wellbeing himself until he could take no more and sent Wharee to monitor the rest of the detachment.
The crew had informed him that they would be dropping out of warp and back into the materium in five days. The auguries were favourable and they should be fairly close to Devos XII, which was the edge of system way station. They would then have another week of travel before making planetfall. 1Sgt Maxwell had put the men to work uncrating the Salamander and prepping it for use. It wasn’t too often that brand new equipment was issued from a Forge World to a Palladian unit; they were normally supplied from munitions store worlds where used, refurbished and new (but been in storage for perhaps a century or more) items were issued from.
Cornelius Maxwell favoured the command model Salamander over any other vehicle he had ever used in his forty seven year career. For a start, being part of a command squad was preferable to being in charge of a rifle squad. And now, after years of waiting, he had a rear echelon job, after three tours in the firing line as a Platoon Sergeant, he would be in a Salamander where he wanted to be; the open top meant that one could leap over the edge if the vehicle took a critical hit and the lack of weight made the chimera chassis truly fast. And the heavy flamer was a Praetorian’s weapon of choice for self defence.
Guardsman Hur was also a talented driver mechanic, whilst 1Sgt Maxwell had no say in who joined Capt Aelius’ liaison team, it was nonetheless reassuring to have a couple of men that he at least knew of, men who were good at their job. Guardsman Hur slouched into view, looking glum. 1Sgt Maxwell arched an eyebrow. Guardsman Hur snapped to attention. The conversation that followed was not the high point of anybodies military career. But it was no fault of anyone on board, it was a proper Departmento error.
For the third time, 1Sgt Maxwell looked at the docket. He looked at their embarkation orders from the Regiment. He looked at the entry in the ships manifest. He looked at the labels on the outside of the crate. Salamander, Salamander, Salamander and Salamander. He looked at the Centaur artillery tractor sat truculently in the remains of the crate. He left Guardsman Hur to make the best of it. It could not be the end of the world (any world), but if the Vostroyans were as concerned with proper form as the Palladians were, it would reflect badly on the Palladians when their first liaison team turned up in a cart, rather than a chariot. He breathed deeply of the recycled air and went in search of Capt Aelius. Which would not he hard, he would be in his cabin, not smoking a Lho stick because the damn ship’s systems couldn’t handle it.
So, he had a Commanding Officer who had been given too great a workload and was unable to smoke his way through it. He had a squad medic whose neuroses were beginning to become a liability, rather than a joke. Their dedicated transport vehicle, whilst functionally up to the job, was not what protocol required, especially important when their superiors were going to be Vostroyans. And their ship always felt as if it was in constant danger of not working the next day. You’re not in the firing line now, Cornelius Maxwell thought to himself, but things in the guard weren’t getting any better.
He took a Lho stick out of the cardboard packet, tapped it against the side and then put the filter end in his mouth, sighed and reversed the procedure, replacing the packet in his pocket. The sooner they made planetfall, the better. There being no point in prevaricating, he knocked on the door of Capt Aelius’ cabin and then thumbed the access rune on the door control panel.
 First Sergeant is the rank title of the Battalion Sergeant at Arms in a Palladian regiment. 1Sgt Maxwell is entirely likely to be offered a commission if his tour in this staff appointment is successful. But not in a Palladian regiment.
 The Departmento will supply juveants to career soldiers within reach of its facilities in order to preserve the collective professional memory of units and formations. This device is more routine in staff organisations, such as the General Staff of 72 Army Group that Capt Aelius’ detachment is due to join.
 The Platoon Sergeant in a Palladian format is usually known as an Over Sergeant. The more common form is used here for the benefit of the reader.