In silence, Karmen Kons covered the Xenos face with a large bandage.
“So,” It said as in a flash of light my face was back to normal. “What are you to do now, Attelus?”
I looked sidelong to Karmen.
I am not sure it would be wise to tell It our plans Attelus, her voice suddenly echoed through my mind making me blink in surprise, I would not trust this Xenos as far as I could throw it.
I nodded, and smiled now she sounded like the Estella, I once knew...and loved.
The Thing blinked, looked at each of us in turn then shrugged, “okay, you two can keep your secrets then, see if I care,” It said.
I turned back to It, “get up,” I commanded gruffly.
It smiled and slowly did as told. “You really are placing a lot of trust into Karmen Kons,” It said. “Why is that I wonder?”
My reply, a contemptuous shake of the head.
“Of course I did not expect you to answer that,” said the Xenos. “Just wondering aloud, that is all.”
“Hmm, right,” I growled with a nod, then the thought hit me. “One more question Xenos, did Glaitis, ever tell you why she wanted to keep Es-Karmen Kons alive?”
“No, she did not,” It answered. “I’m also interested why you called Karmen Kons Estella before.”
My eyes widened, unsure how the hell to reply to that.
“Yes, yes,” said Karmen. “You can be as interested as you want, and I would be to, but you are not getting answers, sorry.”
Its smiled my evil smile and shrugged again, “just thinking out loud once again.”
Karmen grimaced and turned to me, “maybe it is about time for us to head topside.”
“Perhaps it is,” I agreed.
“But first let me see what is happening out there,” said Karmen. “I’ll be gone for awhile Attelus, keep an eye on the Xenos.”
Without waiting for a response, Karmen suddenly sat down against one of the cells, and her eyes turned blank.
Immediately the room temperature dropped dramatically; ice began to form on the white tiled floors and walls, moisture beading on the reinforced glass of the cells uncomfortably reminding me of the incident in the Twilight bar.
I shivered in the cold, my breath coming out as condensation but still held my sword against the Xenos’ throat, realising to my dismay there was ice on the blade and goosebumps on my shaking hands.
The Thing smiled at me mockingly.
I met it’s gaze hesitantly, “so I uhh don’t actually look like a girl, do I?”
It grinned, “well you wouldn’t as much if you got your hair cut.”
I could only shake my head.
The Xenos shrugged, “you can deny it all you want but the evidence is literally staring you in the face, and even the psyker agreed, sorry.”
My brow furrowed, teeth chattering uncontrollably in the cold. But the Thing seemed unaffected by it; he just stood smiling at me. Perhaps it was hiding Its unrest behind the illusion?
“I am interested, Attelus...”
It only paused slightly “why is it that you trust her so much?”
“I don’t,” I said bluntly. “I trust her, as much as I trust you, but I am a pragmatist, and as I see it, I need her.”
I put more emphasis on the “I am” than intended which it obviously noticed as It raised an amused eyebrow.
A highly unbelieving, “Uh huh,” was its only reply.
I opened my mouth to demand what the hell It meant by that but was interrupted when suddenly Karmen’s body gasped and spasmed as she came back into reality, the ice on the walls and floor was gone. Immediately she leapt to her feet.
“You!” she snarled at the Xenos. “You need to change into Taryst, now!”
Both the Xenos and I exchanged confused glances.
“W-” It tried.
“No questions! Transform into Taryst now or so help me, I will rip out your throat here and now!”
“What’s going on?” I asked.
She glared at me, “we have company, upstairs waiting behind the warp shield, Garrakson, Torris and ten of Taryst’s mercenaries, it seems that Feuilt has told.”
My eyes widened with fear, “told? Told, what?”
“He did not tell them everything, just what happened with you, he and Olinthre,” she sighed. “It seems that they intercepted him in the building carrying...”
She trailed off.
“Carrying...Elandria,” I finished hesitantly.
“Indeed, they have been up there for a while so we need to go up and allay their fears,” she back glared to the Xenos. “Now.”
It shrugged and sighed, “if you insist.” In a sudden flash of light, It instantly grew half a metre and shimmered back into the form of Taryst.”
It was strange looking up into the face of a dead man, especially one whose corpse was rotting inside a stark white cell barely a few metres away.
“So,” said the Taryst-thing in a pitch-perfect imitation of the rogue trader’s voice, smiling Taryst’s perfect pearly white smile down at us. “Let’s do this then, shall we?”
We ushered “Taryst” into the grim gunmetal grey elevator, my sword pressed against It’s back.
“Do they know where Feuilt is?” I asked.
She frowned and shook her head, “no, he must be long gone by now.”
I glanced up at the thing, wondering what it was making of all this, but found its faces utterly unreadable.
“Here is what we are going to do,” stated Karmen as she keyed the elevator activation. “First we are going to hide Olinthre’s body in the elevator, then I will deactivate the shield.”
“What then?” I asked, beginning to nervously tap the tip of my shoe on the steel floor, making a loud, clang! Clang! Echo through the small space.
“We will let the master of disguise take it from there, “It” will talk with them as Taryst.”
“Attelus!” She interrupted, “It wants to keep this masquerade up more than anyone, so It will have to negotiate and do it well, won’t you?”
Taryst’s jaw jutted slightly at that, “yeah, sure.”
I grimaced and shook my head, “how will we explain about Olinthre?”
Karmen shrugged, “the Xenos can cover that.”
My jaw clenched, and I shook my head, “no, no Karmen this plan won’t work.”
Karmen Kons and the Taryst-thing looked at me, confused.
“Why?” She growled.
“You may have been in his mind, but I actually have talked directly to Jeurat Garrakson,” I growled back, not liking her tone, “you said that he found Feuilt carrying Elandria, right? And that the good medicae told them what happened.”
I shook my head, “he never liked Elandria, but he will want to know why Taryst killed her, that’s a question we can’t answer well enough to allay his suspicions, Karmen. I suggest that the Thing pretend to be Olinthre instead,” I smiled as a plan began to form in my thoughts. “No, here’s what we will do.”
We left the elevator, immediately the Xenos walked over to Olinthre’s body and quickly slipped on the major’s carapace armour. Then we dragged the heavy corpse ruffly into the lift with the awaiting Karmen Kons.
“This had better frigging work,” said the psyker.
My jaw clenched with impatience, “just...Just switch off the shield once you reach the bottom of the elevator and make sure you tell us just before you do,” I growled.
“You do know what is at stake...”
“I do Karmen if they find out that Taryst and Olinthre are dead and this thing has taken Taryst’s place,” I sighed and shook my head. “It will cause a rift in this organisation we cannot afford and then if they find out that Glaitis is behind it all...”
I trailed off, “I know what’s at stake here, Karmen, I do.”
Her eyes watered with intensity, “you have to swear to me, just as you did long ago, that you will not let your quest for vengeance rule you.”
I nodded looking away, unable to hold her gaze any longer, “I-I swear, Edracian must be stopped.”
“Look at me when you say it, Attelus!” She snarled.
I hesitantly complied, “I swear, Estella, Edracian must be stopped, no matter the cost.”
She nodded, “you have better keep your promise, Attelus because if you don’t...”
Karmen Kons just smiled and abruptly punched the elevator activation, the doors slowly slid shut, leaving the mimic and me alone in Taryst’s crimson quarters.
“I am interested-”
“Shut it!” I snapped as I retrieved my autopistol. “Just shut it and change into Olinthre, we have a job to do.”
It smiled Taryst’s smile, “as you wish, apprentice,” and in a flash of light, It now had Olinthre’s grin.
“As you wish.”
I shook my head, hating myself for the deception I was about to commit and that the poor dead Olinthre was going to be part of it.
I stormed across the room and vented my anger, savagely kicked over the nearest table.
“Help me with this will you!” I snarled over my shoulder as I slashed deeply into the closest couch with my sword.
It nodded and tipped another table.
I laid into the couch, slashing and slashing until it was a ruin and moved onto the next, repeating the process with angry abandon, while the mimic raised the last one and turned it onto its side.
It felt good, cutting into that couch and I lost myself to it, doing it until my arms ached and I was breathless first I imagined it was the mimic disguised as Glaitis, then it was Edracian, then Glaitis herself.
“Attelus!” The Olinthre-thing shouted suddenly, which immediately made me stop in mid-slash and glare up at It. “I think that is enough.”
I clenched my teeth, and with a snarl I kicked into the mass of destroyed couch, sending bits of wood skating across the crimson carpet and fluff fluttering into the air.
“Attelus, control yourself!” It yelled
It held my gaze for a few seconds before appraising my destruction with a glance. “Well you have certainly followed the old axiom; “the best way to lie, is, to tell the truth,” to the letter, have you not?”
I was about to snarl back a retort when Karmen’s voice suddenly said through my head; I have reached Taryst’s quarters, Attelus, and have stored Olinthre’s body in one of the cells. I am ready to deactivate the shield when you and the Xenos are ready.
I spent a few seconds glaring witheringly at the Olinthre-thing before replying.
“We’re ready, Karmen, you’re free to shut the shield off.”
Acknowledged and be prepared Attelus, Garrakson and his men will be very hostile; they will likely shoot you unless you and the Xenos are very cooperative.
“Thanks, Karmen,” I said, fighting back the angry urge to point out that I had already figured that out myself. “You can shut off the shield.”
Alright, shield deactivation in, 3...2...1.
The loud droning noise enveloped the room, making the mimic and I turn to see the shield shimmering, shaking and writhing as it died.
Immediately, the soldiers burst through the red curtains, las guns raised and covering every corner.
“HANDS IN THE AIR, ON YOUR KNEES!” One roared. “ON YOUR KNEES!”
Both the mimic and I slowly complied. I knew they would be aggressive but not this extent.
The soldiers in full carapace formed a semi-circle around us.
“Check them!” yelled one and quickly another slung his las gun, approached us and patted us down for weapons, he took my sword, removed my pistol from its shoulder holster and even slipped the hidden knife compartments from up the sleeves of my jacket.
He moved onto the mimic and I couldn’t but help fear, what if the soldier felt something off?
But in a moment the soldier was finished, turned to the others and announced the all clear.
“No it’s not,” said Garrakson as he and Torris approached. “Remove Attelus’ right shoe.”
The soldier glanced at Garrakson.
“He’s gotta boot knife, idiot,” said the ex-guardsman, rolling his violet eyes.
My own eyes widened, and I looked briefly to Olinthre, finding that they both had violet irises.
Why had I never noticed that before?
The soldier walked around me and clumsily pulled off my shoe then chucked it to Garrakson, who caught it neatly.
“Well well well,” said Garrakson, tossing aside my shoe. “Guess who we ran into in the corridors?”
I had to clench my teeth shut to keep myself from blurting out, “Feuilt.”
Garrakson raised his eyebrows mockingly, “oh you don’t know? I was pretty sure that you would.”
“I-!” started the Olinthre thing.
“Shut up major!” snarled Garrakson. “You may outrank me, but under the circumstances, I don’t care!”
Torris who still stood beside the uncharacteristically angry Garrakson looked over the room his expression turned shocked as he saw the destroyed furniture and destruction.
“What the hell happened here?” The ex-arbitrator asked.
“I happened,” I growled, letting some of my anger come to the surface.
Torris’ attention snapped to me, and his eyes widened with sympathy.
“H-have you two been in here for all this time?” asked Torris.
Both the Olinthre-thing and I answered with glares.
“How!” demanded Garrakson as he began to pace back and forth like a caged lion.
“I would answer, sergeant,” said the Olinthre-thing, pointedly emphasising the “sergeant”. “But I think it’s about time you calm down before you burst a blood vessel.”
“Frig you!” roared Garrakson. “Just answer my frigging question.”
The Xenos sighed, glancing at me briefly before answering with the lie which I had made sure It knew and understood.
“After...After Taryst shot Elandria, I ran in here after him,” It said. “I found the place empty, Taryst was gone, logically through that door.” The Olinthre thing nodded over his shoulder to indicate it.
“So what did you do?” Asked Torris.
“I was angry,” sighed the Xeno. “really, really angry, I bet on the door and took much of my rage out on it, then Attelus walked in and if I thought I was angry, well he, he did all that.” It nodded over its shoulder to indicate the destroyed couches and kicked over tables.
“It was soon after I entered that Taryst for some reason, activated the shield,” I said.
“So you two have been stuck in here for the past four hours?” growled Garrakson.
“Well if that’s the case, why didn’t you contact us?” Asked Garrakson.
“We tried,” answered the Olinthre-thing. “But Taryst had our vox links blocked somehow.”
That wasn’t actually a lie; the mimic had used a comm link scrambler, It had informed me of this during our ascent.
“On that thought why didn’t Taryst try to contact us himself?” said Torris.
I barely held back a smile and shrugged, “Don’t know, we’ve just been here the whole time.”
Garrakson, let out a slight growl, “alright then, Attelus, how then did you get your face so beaten up? I doubt that Vex hit you that hard, did you beat your face against the couches?”
“Elandria did it to me during our fight,” I answered with forced neutrality.
Garrakson smiled and shook his head contemptuously, “right. I seriously doubt-.”
“She did this to me Jeurat,” I interrupted. “In case you forgot I’d spent the last month in a coma, I wasn’t at my peak performance, she outclassed me in every way.”
“Right, then,” said Garrakson. “So if you have been stuck here for all this time, why didn’t you answer us? We must’ve beat our fists on the shield a thousand times or more while we waited.”
“We never heard them,” stated the Xenos simply. “The shield must have buffeted the sound.”
Garrakson clenched his teeth and let out a frustrated snarl.
“You have better have told me the truth,” he growled. “Or...”
“Or else what?” snarled the Olinthre-thing suddenly. “Resorting to empty threats isn’t going to get you anywhere, sergeant, we. Were. Here. Now Jeurat, now we have answered your questions, will you let us go?”
Suddenly Karmen’s words filtered through my thoughts, okay Attelus I am coming up, I have the seal.
“Oh no, oh frig no,” said Garrakson. “We have a lot more questions we need answered.”
“Such as why Taryst turned on the shield just when Attelus entered,” stated Torris. “Or why he shot...” he trailed off and gave me a guilty look.
“We are just as in the dark as you are,” the Xenos said.
“Yeah, right,” said Garrakson, utterly unconvinced. “So...Where is it?”
I raised an eyebrow and exchanged a confused glance with the Olinthre-thing.
“W-where’s what?” I asked.
Garrakson grinned and shook his head, “trust you to forget about it Attelus, where is the retinal scan sheet that you had Vex print out? The very thing that started all this?”
I couldn’t hide the fear on my face, oh crap. I had completely forgotten about that, Estella had said Feuilt had told them everything and that would logically include that printout! I was well and truly an idiot, and I felt the urge to smash my head repeatedly against a wall.
Garrakson smirked in triumph at me, then looked to one of the mercenaries, “check their pockets,” he commanded.
“Yes sir,” said the soldier who then moved to me.
I was oblivious to it as my mind whirled, how was I going to get out of this? Once Garrakson finds the print out he will find out about Barhurst being on the record, he will figure out that the date didn’t coincide and will figure out that was what inspired Olinthre’s rebellion and from there...I didn’t quite know, but it couldn’t be good.
The mercenary finished with me and moved onto the mimic. I turned to watch my heart in my throat and low in behold he immediately pulled a folded sheet of paper.
My heart sank as I watched the mercenary walk back to Garrakson.
“Found this sir,” he said as he handed Garrakson the paper.
Without a word of thanks, Garrakson snatched the print out of the Soldier’s grasp and began to speed read over it.
Despite everything, I frowned, my apprehension almost overtaken by anger, I found myself not caring for this new side of Jeurat Garrakson.
But in all honesty I shouldn’t blame him, if he cared for Taryst as much as Estella said he did, I could understand it. I probably had acted similarly after Elandria’s death.
With that thought my gaze fell to the floor, poor Garrakson, how will he react when he finds out that Taryst is actually dead?
Then the elevator doors opened, and immediately the mercenaries had their rifles raised to cover Karmen Kons as she stepped into the open, she was wearing a very revealing low cut tunic, which made my already wide grin somehow even wider.
“Hello,” she said flirtatiously. “What do we have here?”
“Who are you?” growled Garrakson.
“Oh! How rude of me,” she said with a smile. “I am, your new, boss.”
There was a pause, a long pause before Garrakson finally growled, “what?”
Karmen raised her hand and said, “alright, I am not reaching for a weapon so hold your fire, okay?”
“Whatever,” growled Garrakson, I wasn’t looking at him but could imagine his grim, scarred face somehow even grimmer than usual.
Karmen Kons pouted and shrugged, “okay, I will take that as a yes, then,” she said then slowly raised her hands, holding up the Taryst’s family write of trade.
“How did you get that!” shouted Torris.
She shrugged again, “oh, I was given it.”
“You have better explain yourself, now,” said Garrakson.
“Sure, just give me a second,” with that her eyes briefly turned milky, and I remembered, I remembered entering into a room with bare shiny steel walls, in the middle was a big black seat. I sat down and clamped closed around my wrists and ankles.
Then Karmen Kons walked into the room, “Hello, Attelus long time no see,” she said. “Good to see you...”
She looked to me and smiled, “you don’t remember me, do you?”
Then I found I was back in Taryst’s condo, on my knees with my hands on my head.
“You’re-!” started Garrakson.
“Yes I am,” she interrupted her earlier lightheartedness now completely gone. “Now you know who I am; now you understand why I have this.”
“Where is he?” demanded Garrakson.
“Where do you think he is?” countered Karmen, “Taryst wishes to be left alone, he fears that people within his organisation want him dead,” she said that with an accusatory glare at the Mimic and me. “So he is staying in his quarters and has sent me to take charge in his stead.”
“I want to talk to him,” growled Garrakson.
“Sorry, no,” said Karmen shaking her head. “He ordered-”
“I don’t give a damn what he ordered!” roared Garrakson with so much feeling it made everyone flinch in fright and forced me to turn back to Garrakson.
I was taken aback, never had I ever seen the stoic soldier so choked up before.
“I need to talk to him! How do I know he is okay! Or even still alive! How can I believe you?”
I frowned and looked away.
Torris next to Garrakson shook his head and placed his hand on the ex-guardsman’s shoulder.
“Jeurat, calm down,” he said softly. “Calm down, or you will need to leave.”
“Screw you Marcel!” snarled Garrakson, tearing his shoulder from Torris’ grasp. “Frig you! Frig you all!”
With that, he threw the printout to the floor, turned and stormed through the curtains.
Torris turned to the Storm Troopers, “you two follow him, make sure he’s okay.”
“Yes, sir!” chorused the soldiers as they moved to follow after Garrakson.
Karmen said, “Thank y-”
“Shut up!” shouted Torris. “He’s right, we have no idea if you are telling the truth, how do we know you didn’t just kill Taryst and steal the writ?”
Karmen Kons shrugged, “you don’t, but you are a trained Arbitrator, so should know if I am lying or not. I didn’t kill Taryst.”
“Yeah, and you’re a frigging psyker, so how do I know you aren’t manipulating what I am seeing or even what I’m believing?” said Torris.
Karmen threw back her head and laughed loudly. “Yes, I imagine you don’t, or even if this...”
She raised the writ, “or even if this is real.”
“Give it to me,” said Torris.
Karmen shrugged then tossed it over my head and straight into the ex-arbitrator’s grasp.
“You have seen it before,” said Karmen. “So you can tell it’s the real thing.”
Torris briefly looked over it, “yep, looks all in order.” He said.
“Well?” Said Karmen. “Do you trust me now?”
Torris frowned and shook his head, “oh no, oh hell no, I wouldn’t trust you as far as I can throw you, but I imagine that you could just erase our memories of all this before we can even blink.”
Karmen Kons’ face turned hard, a very familiar expression, “what makes you think that?”
“Oh I don’t know,” said Torris as he stroked his thick chin with his finger and thumb. “You erased our memories of you implanting the psychic blocks, and after what you did to Vex,” he shrugged. “It seems to be a pretty good assumption. So...”
“So...?” growled Karmen.
“So, we’ll cooperate,” said Torris lightly.
Karmen’s hard expression disappeared in a heartbeat, “what? Really?” She said bemused, and the Xenos and I exchanged surprised glances.
“Yep, really, because if you could do all that, what’s stopping you from erasing all of my memories?” said Torris.
Again Karmen’s expression darkened, “well, I was hoping not to have to resort to such idle threats.”
“Idle? Idle?” echoed Torris mockingly. “I’d hardly call that an “idle” threat. I really can’t think of a much worse fate than losing all my memories, losing who I am and what I am, you could have just said that in the first place, but no, you just had to skirt around it. Typical woman.”
Around the soldiers shuffled nervously at Torris’ perceived impudence.
Karmen only smiled, “I can assure you Marcel Torris I am anything but “typical.”
“And also incredibly humble as well I see,” said Torris. “Alright! So you’re in charge, then so what do we do with these two?”
I would have smiled at Torris’ unintentional rhyming but was to busy looking over my shoulder at Karmen.
That was it; this was the perfect time for her to betray me if she wanted to. Estella Erith I knew wouldn’t even consider it, but this wasn’t Estella this was Karmen Kons, who was more than a little bit unhinged. Who I knew very little of I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly had happened to Estella over the past six years that changed her so much. How had she left the Velrosian Planetary Defense Force, how she had received her training?
I had placed a lot of trust in her and now was the time to see if she would pull through.
She met my gaze and smiled.
“They are to live,” she said and much to my relief.
Now it was Torris’ turn to be caught on the back foot, “what? Really?”
“Yes, really,” said Karmen. “They can still prove to be useful, and Olinthre has been in our organisation for many years, up until now he has been loyal and dependable, because of that Taryst believes he deserves a second chance.”
Torris scratched his head and met the Olinthre-thing’s gaze, “that sounds...fair enough, it’s good to hear that Taryst is taking that into account.”
“You seem upset, Torris,” said Karmen, tilting her head slightly in feigned interest. “Are you upset by that?”
“No!” cried Torris quickly. “No! I’m glad! If anyone deserves such consideration, it’s the major! Just surprised that’s all. What about Attelus? Why’s he off the hook?”
Karmen shrugged, “Taryst feels that killing Glaitis’ prized Apprentice without her permission would not be wise, we all know the trouble she went to too revive him after the Twilight Bar incident, we still need her as an ally.”
Torris grimaced and glared witheringly at me, “I guess that makes sense, although Attelus getting off without any sort of consequence just doesn’t sit well.”
“Well, we’ll just tell Glaitis of what he’s done after this is all said and done,” said Karmen. “She can deal out a fitting punishment for the boy.”
I couldn’t help clench my jaw at Karmen calling me “boy.”
Torris’ expression softened suddenly, “alright, I hope it isn’t too harsh for you Attelus, and as long as Taryst stays in his quarters he’ll be safe, but...”
“But I’d like to know and, Attelus here especially, do you know why Taryst chose to kill Elandria?”
“Honestly...I do not know,” said Karmen. “Maybe he wanted to avenge the deaths of his bodyguards, he never told me, nor was I here when he did it, I was still downstairs.”
Torris’ jaw jutted slightly, and his attention fell back to me and the mimic, “okay you two, up.”
Slowly we obeyed. Me, especially as my entire body, ached with the effort.
He turned to one of the Storm Troopers, “and they can have their weapons back.”
The soldier nodded and went to collect the weapons.
“And I’d like to have that print out as well, Torris,” said Karmen. “And the Write of Trade too, of course.”
“Yes, yes of course,” said the ex-arbitrator impatiently.
The Storm Trooper came to me and handed back my sword, pistol and boot, while Torris walked by to give the write and the printout to Estella.
“Alright Attelus, Olinthre, just because of this don’t believe you’re off the frigging hook,” said Torris as he turned back to us. “You’re to stay with us; I’m keeping my eye on you.”
I nodded as I slipped my sword back onto my belt and knelt to put on my shoe. My plan had gone awry; I had forgotten entirely about that damned printout, which was, with hindsight, a huge factor in all of this. We had only pulled through because of Karmen’s excellent acting and improvising. I needed to remember this and to learn from it. Never again will I mess up so spectacularly in my planning.
But at least now I know I can trust Karmen to an extent, she had an excellent opportunity to kill me and the mimic right there and then. She could think that I know too much, and in essence, I do, I know that she is Estella Erith, daughter of the long-dead lord Isaac Erith of the province Tasilin in Velrosia and I suspected she couldn’t erase this knowledge ever again, due to the psychic block placed in my mind.
“Alright leader,” said Torris sarcastically, knocking me from my train of thought. “What is it that you command?”
Karmen briefly looked over everyone in the room before finally saying; “we have someone who we need to see.”
“Who?” asked Torris.
Karmen smiled, “oh, no one of consequence.”