Through the cold, dead vacuum of space, the Tribulation weaved a steady course for its destination.
It was a fitting name-- or so Izzie Martinez felt-- for the vessel of the mercenary company known as the Second Horsemen. The Second Horseman, a figure in the old Christian myths, a representation of war-- the harbinger of the Great Tribulation prophesied in those old legends. An old Exegesis class frigate, fairly small in comparison to ships used by the Imperial Navy and the more powerful crime rings and rebel coalitions, the ship was nevertheless well suited to its role: bearing the Second Horsemen from assignment to assignment, with a relatively spacious hangar for their armour suits and substantial firepower in the ship's own armaments. Izzie had 'acquired' it-- how exactly, nobody really knew-- a couple years prior to her first encounter with Cicero Vetinari, and when the Second Horsemen had initially come together, she'd figured it'd make a suitable craft for the nascent mercenary group.
The destination at that moment, by the by? A little planet, out on the fringes of Imperial space, called Njiqahdda. The assignment? A drug running ring had made its home there, and somebody with a lot of money wanted them gone. Given Njiqahdda's proximity to known rebel strongholds, Izzie was pretty sure their employer was a separatist who didn't want the drug runners attracted unneeded attention to their little corner of space. All very straightforward-- the Horsemen did the requisite checks and verified the information provided by the employer, figured out what they were dealing with before they hit planetside, worked out the plan of action-- all in all, not nearly the most exciting assignment they'd ever undertaken. But not every mission had to be a struggle to the death against impossible odds, did it? Ya had to put food on the metaphorical table, after all. The merc crew life was far from opulent, and Izzie had been used to living just about hand to mouth even back in the day as one of the more prolific independent bounty hunters on the mercenary horizon.
What really got her was the long stretches of time between each assignment. She would probably have been doing this shit even if the pay was even more shit than it was-- 'cause she loved it. There was nothing as fulfilling as armour suit combat-- nothing that made her feel quite so alive, instead of simply feeling like she was a vessel slowly being emptied into the bleak isolation of space.
Rahi was a world far-removed from Njiqahdda.
It was a diminutive planet that inconspicuously followed a lazy orbit around an unassuming star that made its home equidistant from both the crime-infested Outer Rim and from worlds of affluence and opulence like Wuhai. On the surface, it hosted little more than a diaspora of wind farmers scattered across the windswept plains-- as dreary and wistful a planet as could be found, even in comparison to the many such worlds that populated the far-flung fringes of inhabited space. All an illusion-- a veneer over what was, in fact, the host of a central Imperial Special Forces base.
Therein, Commander Vivian de Marquis oversaw the collection of any and all information pertaining to the search for one Alessius de Marquis-- her younger brother. Any meagre morsel was sufficient: hearsay and mere maybes were enough to fuel the commander's search, and any expedition to directly investigate the data collected was never without the physical presence of Vivian herself. She could not risk either of her half-brothers getting their hands on Alessius before she did-- she knew Mikhail and Constantin both wanted Alessius out of the way, and if he ever surfaced again, they'd waste no time in putting him down for good.
She sighed, slumping back in the hard-back metal chair that stood before her desk in the makeshift office she'd set up in Rahi Base. Sometimes she wondered if Alessius was no less safe out in a galaxy infested with criminals, terrorists, and gangsters than he was at home.