The shuttle was buffeted and bounced by the turbulence in the polluted atmosphere over one of the played-out mining and manufacturing districts of Talio Secundus. Although the team was headed for the hive representing the capital of Sociona province, it was really more of a central sprawl of connected buildings surrounded by various shanties and fungal outgrowths of architecture. Even at their altitude, as they passed over it could be seen as an amorphous blob unlike the towering hive citadels of thriving urban centers. The shuttle began to veer off from its relatively straight descent; the landing field for which the shuttle was headed was barely close enough to Sociona Prima, as the makeshift city was called, to qualify as the outskirts, and Trask breathed a silent prayer that transportation would be forthcoming. If not, it would be an hour's walk or more through a strange urban sprawl.
As the shuttle's bank began to subside, a gale of a crosswind pushed the craft sideways and began to roll it. The view from the port side windows began to fill with the parched ground and ramshackle airfield all too quickly. The pilot-servitor emitted strange alarms and whirrs, and the shuttle groaned under the stress on the hull. The landing skids ground down, and the shuttle righted itself only to begin to plummet straight down. The team was pressed into the restraints on the grav-couches; Galatea and Pahr deep in meditation, Naja and Karibi grim-faced but stoic, Trask seemingly unaffected - used as he was to jumping out of aircraft - and Stig white-faced with fear and anger at whatever machine spirit allowed this to happen.
Finally the engines thundered back to life, and the shuttle levelled and shot forward. Craning his neck against g-forces, Trask turned to the nearest viewport to see that they were mere meters off the tarmac. Screaming into the vox panel in the wall, he ordered the pilot-servitor to cut the engines once more. With a final beep of warning, the servitor obeyed and the shuttled's momentum carried it on an angled descent to the ground. The impact was like a hammer meeting an anvil and nobody moved as the the shuttle squealed along the airstrip, throwing storms of sparks from the landing skids grating against the blacktop. For an instant, Trask had a vision of the entire craft engulfed in a fireball of burning promethium, then quickly chided himself for not trusting to the Emperor's protection. As the shuttle finally ground to a halt, listing on a broken skid, the exit ramp ground open amid a cloud of steam. The harnesses snapped open, and everybody exited - but nobody before Stig. The feral crouched, holding his palms against the ground, and Trask turned to see wisps of smoke and streams of oil coming from the burned-out pilot-servitor. Milo led the team in a short prayer of thanks to the Emperor for their deliverance, and looked around. "Now, where's that damned stormtrooper?" he asked, half to himself, as a slighlty dazed and sleepy-looking local customs officer approached the smoking craft from the low control hut of the airfield.
"Unscheduled landing," the man said, with all the wit of a grox. "Who are you, and what's your business?" The man's eyes widened as he came closer, making out the forms of the buckskin-wearing feral and the armored novice. "You ain't from around here, are you?"
"No, we're not," Trask said imperiously, hiding his Inquisitorial rosette under his cloak but exposing the golden aquila. "But we are expected. Milo Trask, missionary of the Imperial Church. The cardinal of this world no longer leaves it to fate to ensure the spiritual well-being of the outlying provinces."
"Cardinal Diem," said the man with some surprise, "has always shown concern with all of Talio Secundus, not just the main hives."
"Erm... indeed," answered Trask. "And that is why we are here. Now, has my escort arrived? A local trooper?"
"Not yet, sir," said the dull-witted official, duly impressed by the team's holy writ.
"Kids?! I can't find the remote and I refuse to stand up!"