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Valhalla Recruitment Headquarters, Hel's Market[]

Asgard System, Neutral Space, 999 ATA[]



“Credentials verified. Please stand by.”

You breathe a sigh of relief.  Your faked identity is holding up. You don’t doubt the skills of your agency’s counterfeiters, but there’s always a certain tension about testing them for the first time.

There’s a dull clunk as the deadbolts in the door before you disengage, followed by the high-pitched whine of a force-field shutting down. Security is evidently a serious business at this establishment.

The door slides open. You step into an atrium that apes the professional blandness of a multisystem corporation’s headquarters; the glass, marble and grey schema of absolute anonymity. Something so commonplace your brain is conditioned to accept it as entirely mundane. Just another business, running its day-to-day concerns.

The human at the reception desk extends the illusion, clothing styled in the sober, conservative manner of Terran businesspeople across the galaxy. He nods to you respectfully.

“You’re expected, sir. Please take the elevator to the first floor. The conference room is directly opposite.”

You wonder what would happen if you weren’t expected, but you decide to take the charade at face value. “Thank you,” you reply curtly, sliding across the floor to the open elevator and following the directions.  The conference room is dimly lit and comfortably cool. There are several neomorph-style chairs for you to choose from, a small but thoughtful courtesy.

A second human is waiting for you, seated on the far side of the table, watching intently as you seat yourself. Dressed in business apparel of a rich teal green, with cosmetic horns affixed to his bald head, this man is a sharp contrast to the corporate illusion of the office. And even though you’ve never met them or even seen a vid image, you immediately understand that this is the man whose name was spoken with such awe by the colleague who recommended this meeting.

This is the head of Valhalla himself.

“Welcome to Valhalla recruitment. Call me Shan’Chael.” The man’s voice is soft, his accent neutral, impossible to place as either Terran or Marauder. “I trust your journey wasn’t too arduous. I’ve taken the liberty of providing some refreshments – the Market really does allow one to cater to nearly anybody’s tastes.”

“No, thank you,” you decline, ignoring the beguiling scent of your favourite saltwood tea.  “I prefer to get straight down to business.”

“A being after my own heart.” Shan’Chael smiles thinly, but the expression doesn’t touch his eyes. “Very well. How may I be of assistance?”

“I assume you’re aware of the roots of the conflict between my people and the Leviathans?”

“I am. Your people’s biome needs are specific and somewhat arduous to cultivate, requiring terraforming, atmospheric control and long-term genetic adaptation programs. An unfortunate reality brought about by your, ah, mysterious displacement from your home galaxy. And you feel the Leviathans are muscling in on what little territory you have managed thus far to adapt in your fifty years of residence.”

You bristle at the insinuation of undue secrecy, but control it. You don’t want the human to wrongly interpret any colour shifts. You get the sense being seen as a threat might prove fatal. “A mostly accurate summary.  Given the clear and present threat of our enemy’s unchecked aggression, I have been asked by my superiors in the Polity’s xeno-expansion bureau to undertake a scouting expedition beyond Assembly space to identify potential new colony worlds.”

You’ve been asked nothing of the sort, of course. Your destination is in Assembly space and your mission is of a far darker nature, but the human does not need to know that.

“That seems entirely prudent.” Shan’Chael sits back in his seat, regarding you over the top of his steepled fingers. “And so, you’re in the market for?”

“A pilot. A medic. An engineer. And a group of mission specialists.”

“And the Polity doesn’t have anyone they can spare to send with you?” The question drips with amusement, and your irritation flares again. This time, you make no effort to control it, letting your scales colour to a darker orange.

Shan’Chael chuckles. “Settle down, dear fellow. I’m simply attempting to inject a little variety into the tediousness of all this polite fiction. I can, of course, supply the personnel you require. I know just the pilot, and there’s a retired Marauder marine medic that I think will fit nicely. Engineers are easy to come by, but I’ll need a little more detail on your requirements for mission specialisation.”

“Infiltration. Sabotage. Close-quarters combat.” You tick the points off on your fingers, impatient now to be done with this preening, polished little popinjay who is far too clever for your liking. “Hostage extraction. Systems disruption.” You hesitate for a moment, then commit. “Assassination.”

Shan’Chael doesn’t even bat an eyelid. “That all seems fairly routine. Species preferences?”

“None. As long as they can get the job done and keep their mouths or beaks shut, I don’t care how many tails or tentacles they have.”

“Even leviathans?”

It’s your turn to smile. “If they’re not in neomorph space, I have no issue with them.”

Shan’Chael nods, a hint of approval in his gaze for the first time. “Excellent.  I’ll draw up a list of dossiers for you to evaluate, and you can select the crew you need. I’ll handle contact, contracts and setting up your rendezvous, unless you want to interview them in person?”

“That won’t be necessary. I’m not looking to make friends. As long as they understand who gives the orders, they’ll do just fine.”

Shan’Chael arches an eyebrow at that, but doesn’t press the point. “As you wish.  I’ll be in touch with the dossiers by the end of the day. Once you make your selection, payment will be due.”

“Excellent.  Are we done?” You slide off your seat, indicating that you are done whether the human likes it or not. He doesn’t have to like it, given how much he’s being paid for his services.

Shan’Chael smirks.  “I believe so.”

“Then I’ll be on my way. Good day to you.”

You turn and start heading for the elevator.

“Oh, one more thing,” Shan’Chael calls after you.

You turn back, fix him with a disdainful glare. “Yes?”

“Do give my regards to General Braxius when you see him next, and tell him I appreciate the recommendation.” Shan’Chael smiles as he sees your shock reflected in your scales. “And do take care of yourself out there, Colonel Umbrasius. It’s a dangerous galaxy, after all.”


Board games Burning Suns Wiki-wordmark
Books Conflagration (Book One)Conflagration (Book Two)Conflagration (Book Three)Insurrection (Book One)The Art of Burning Suns
Series Conflagration - Issue 1Conflagration - Issue 2Conflagration - Issue 3Conflagration - Issue 4Conflagration - Issue 5Conflagration - Issue 6Conflagration - Issue 7Conflagration - Issue 8Conflagration - Issue 9Conflagration - Issue 10
Snapshots A Hellfire DropJennifer BronwenKeera NaraymisKiith KohathPitch DarkShan'ChaelThe Sweet ScienceValhalla Recruitment


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