Me, Karmen, the Olinthre-thing, Garrakson and Torris quickly got out of the old Hersuitor 89, and I slammed the door shut as I stepped out, onto the beaten, badly maintained under hive street. Around the buildings had fallen so far into disrepair they disturbingly reminded me of the war-torn ruins of Velrosia, rusted and ramshackle. I couldn’t help wonder how many poor lost souls scrapped a living in this hell hole.
The other two escort limousines came to a halt aside us, and the twenty total stormtroopers got out and fanned out to secure the perimeter doing this despite the many, many Magistratum troops already about.
I sniffed and spat onto the rockcrete as the stench of the under hive assailed my senses, watching as on the other side of the limo Garrakson and Torris pulled the handcuffed No One of Consequence from the Hersuitor, doing it a little more roughly that I would’ve appreciated.
I turned away and eyed the surrounding Magistratum troopers, who looked back at us with a mixture of apprehension and curiosity. I did this while nonchalantly popping out a stick of Lho from its ceramic case, placing it into my mouth and lighting it, then I slipped my hands into the pockets of my Flak Jacket.
Karmen came up to me, “You know those things will kill you one day,” she pointed out.
I shrugged and exhaled smoke pointedly, “There are plenty of things that will kill me a hell of a lot quicker right now. So I’m not too worried right now, in all honesty.”
Torris and Garrakson came around the back of the Limo with the Throne Agent, whose face was a little less beaten and brutalised than earlier. His broken teeth replaced by a pair of high-quality false ones the medicaes had done an excellent job even in such a short time; I couldn’t help but be impressed.
No One of Consequence got enough time to briefly glare at us with undisguised hatred just before Torris and Garrakson handed him over to two Stormtroopers.
“Ah! So you finally decide to show up!” came a deep, mocking voice and we turned to its source. “I was beginning to believe you’d called us so that you could have my men and I dawdling uselessly in the underhive.”
Approaching us was a big man in his mid-thirties who was flanked by two Magistratum troopers. He wore the blue uniform of a high ranking Magistratum officer he very was pale like many hive worlders and was handsome, his short pitch black hair slicked back, and he grew the beginnings of a beard. He eyed Karmen from head to toe with a hungry look and smiled, a large, confident smile that was more disturbing than friendly.
I could tell at a glance he was a snake, someone even less trustworthy than Taryst was.
“Yes,” said Karmen stepping forward, “and you’re Arlathan Karkin, I assume?”
Still smiling he held out his hand, “correct, and you’re the liaison Taryst mentioned, I assume?”
“Yes again,” answered Karmen taking the proffered hand, shaking it, hesitantly. “Is everything all in order?”
Karkin grinned wolfishly, turned and began to walk on, beckoning us to follow.
“Of course,” he said as Karmen fell into step with him, while Torris, the Olinthre-thing, Garrakson and me shadowed behind. The many Magistratum troopers and officers filling about gave us a lot of room “We’ve got the building surrounded, and the auspex confirms there’s at least thirty to forty people inside, there’s no way in or out for the friggers.”
Karmen shook her head, “remember Arlathan; these aren’t just any normal gangers, these are highly trained throne agents, we cannot take any chances.”
Karkin sighed, “We haven’t, mamzel, why do you think I’m so confident about it?”
Karmen stopped in her tracks which caused him and the rest of us to follow suit, “because, I can tell at one glance that you are the type who is extremely overconfident, Arlathan Karkin, even at the worst of circumstances.”
He grinned even wider, shrugged again and said, “with respect, mamzel, overconfidence is only overconfidence if it isn’t justified.”
Karmen grimaced with extreme disdain. “Of course it is,” she said, deadpanned, then they moved on.
“Well,” said Karkin. “I have six hundred men ready and waiting to storm the building to capture Brutis Bones. At your word, of course.”
Karmen stopped again and looked at Karkin with wide-eyed surprise, her expression mimicking my own, “six hundred?”
Karkin nodded and grinned enthusiastically, “see, I told you my confidence was justified.”
“And where are the Arbites?” demanded Karmen, annoyed.
“They decided not to come,” said Karkin with an animated shrug. “They gave us the schematics of the building from their cogitator banks, but they didn’t want to have first-hand involvement, that’s what my boss said, anyway.”
Karmen let out a little growl of frustration then walked on.
While this went on I looked over my shoulder at Garrakson, who walked just behind me, he immediately turned away, then over my other shoulder and gave Torris a great big grin.
Torris only replied with a nod and the slightest of smiles.
I couldn’t help but wonder; why were they both so angry at me? What did they know, exactly?
I sighed out smoke; they were my friends, we’d been through hell and back over the past six months. I’d have thought us going through all that together, would’ve been enough for them to get over it and still be my friends.
“Well your men don’t need to worry about storming the building, Arlathan Karkin,” said Karmen, knocking me from my reverie.
Now it was Karkin’s turn to stop in his tracks, “and what does that mean?”
“Things have changed,” informed Karmen. “We no longer want to capture Brutis Bones; we wish to negotiate with him.”
Karkin’s eyes widened, “and what exactly happened, to cause this change of mind?”
Karmen smiled and sniggered, shaking her head, “you really don’t need to know that, Arlathan Karkin,” then she went to move on.
“No! I think we do!” said Karkin causing her to halt abruptly. “After everything we’ve done for you over the past half a year. I think you owe us as much.”
Karmen suddenly wheeled on Karkin her index finger right in his face, her expression a mask of anger. “No, I really don’t believe we do! In fact, I would say if anyone owes anyone anything it’s you who owes us! Arlathan, how much does a senior Magistratum detective such as yourself earn a year?”
“That is a rhetorical question, Arlathan!” She snapped. “I already know the answer; ever since you came under our payroll your pay has not doubled, not tripled! But quadrupled! And you know what we’re paying you for! So you can sit around on your arse and do nothing while we do all your work for you!”
“Well, what about that crap that happened at the Twilight bar!” Karkin snapped. “Do you know what we went through to cover that mess up!”
Karmen laughed contemptuously, “I’d hardly say that you earned even a tenth of what we pay you from that incident alone, face it! Detective! You have no ground to stand on! You can’t demand anything! Sorry!”
With that she turned and continued on with Garrakson, “Olinthre” and Torris wordlessly following after her, leaving Karkin alone watching them walk through the crowd of Magistratum troopers and detectives, still with that cold smile.
As I exhaled smoke, I moved to catch up, and Karkin fell in step with me.
“Hey, kid,” he said conversationally.
I didn’t respond, only the corner of my mouth twitched, I really didn’t want to have anything at all to do with this slimeball.
“Can I have a smoke?” He asked.
My jaw twitched and my muscles taut. But despite loathing it with my very being I still hesitantly reached into my jacket pocket, pulled out the ceramic case and offered him one.
Karkin took the Lho, put it in his mouth, lit it with his lighter and after taking a long drag asked me; “Who’s she?”
I frowned and answered; “She’s, Karmen Kons, she’s Taryst’s...secretary.”
Karkin, exhaled the smoke, seemingly hardly hearing what I’d said and grinned a perverted grin from ear to ear.
“I, like her,” he said.
Karkin led us to his command centre, which was a large, boxy, dark blue truck parked in an alleyway about a block from where we’d parked. Karkin slid open the back door and beckoned us in.
It was only Karmen, the Olinthre-thing, Torris, Garrakson and me who climbed in with Karkin while the twenty stormtroopers stayed outside.
“So!” said Arlathan as he slapped the sides of his thighs and turned back to us. “What’s the plan?”
The inside of the truck was surprisingly small. Stark and spartan only around three metres wide and five long, with metal seats lining the walls and there was a large cogitator unit on at the end.
Karmen shrugged, “I do assume, they know of your presence?”
“Of course they do!” Karkin exclaimed. “It’s sorta, kinda hard to miss six hundred magistratum enforcers moving through the underhive, the only reason why they didn’t already escape was that we came from every direction.”
I frowned, took another smoke of my Lho, then folded my arms and leaned against the wall.
“Well,” I said. “That’s assuming they’re still in there. In the Twilight bar, they had a secret, tunnel out; I’d think it’d be safe to assume that they’ve one in this too.”
Karmen looked at me, her brow furrowing heavily, “didn’t you investigate the place earlier? Did you find one?”
I turned to Torris and Garrakson who just looked back under hooded brows. The only reason why I’d remembered that we’d investigated the place was that we’d lost three of our number there. Fighting the hammers guarding it. It’d been so long I’d ashamedly forgotten the names of those dead men, but I’d somehow remembered the place’s coordinates. I’ve always been pretty bad with numbers and figures, so I found it strange indeed.
“Not from what I can recall,” I said after getting no response from either of them, they knew it was 20036 by 33299 and knew we’d been there before, as the Olinthre-thing had given them a quick briefing on the drive over here.
Karmen shrugged, ” if the place is just a backup, maybe it’s not as well prepped as the twilight bar was.”
“Perhaps,” I said.
Karkin’s smile lessened a little, “well the auspex said-”
“I’d suggest,” I interrupted. “Not to trust so much in your auspex. There are many, many ways to fool them.”
Karkin grinned widely, “well, it’s never failed us before.”
“I do not know if you have tracked throne agents before,” said Karmen. “But you must know, they have access to the best technology the Imperium can provide, that’s why I’ve taken certain, liberties...”
Karkin grimaced, “such as?”
“We’ve got agents of our own scouting the place,” said Karmen.
And those agents were Tresch, Castella and Darrance who’d left straight after we’d arrived at Taryst’s building. The Medicaes had taken four hours to help No One of Consequence, and we’d taken an hour to drive down here so I could only assume they’d been here for a while yet, although we had yet to hear back from them.
Karkin’s eyes widened, “my men never reported any breaches in the cordon.”
Karmen grinned, “shows just how secure it really is.”
The Magistratum detective’s face turned ugly.
“With all due respect,” said the Olinthre-thing, stepping up, ever the diplomat. “They are agents of the highest calibre; if they got through your cordon, it’s not the fault of your men.”
“And you are more invested in keeping people, in, detective, rather than out,” said Torris.
Arlathan grinned but his eyes glazed with barely contained rage.
“Of course we are,” he said slowly. “So, what’s the plan?”
“We’re still waiting for the scouts to report,” said Karmen. “But, after they do I plan on sending in three people, openly, along with our captive. One representative for each faction involved. One for Taryst, one for...” She paused to glance at me. “One for you, and one for the Magistratum.”
“And what does ‘openly’ mean, exactly?” asked Karkin.
“Oh you know, the usual; unarmed, hands raised, so on so forth.”
I clenched my teeth, and my eyes widened with apprehension, this was the first time I’d heard Karmen’s “plan” as well and couldn’t help but guess that I was going to be one of the three sent in; “unarmed, with hands raised, so on and so forth.”
Arlathan Karkin, facepalmed, sighed and sat slowly down on the chair at the cogitator, “great, just great and I am the ‘Magistratum representative,’ I assume?”
“You are the highest ranked here,” stated Karmen.
“Yeah, yeah I know,” he groaned. “I just have a little trouble with approaching a building full of twitchy, wired Hammers without any weapons, is all.”
“If it’s any consolation, I’ll be coming with you,” said Karmen.
Arlathan Karkin laughed, “well you’d bloody well better! If you didn’t, I’d be rather pissed off about it!”
Karmen smiled, about to reply when she stopped and reached to her ear.
“Excuse me, this is them now,” she said and turned to walk away.
Garrakson and Torris eyed her as she walked past them, Garrakson’s gaze overflowed with barely contained contempt.
“Well, she truly thinks she’s in charge now, don’t she?” said Garrakson with a grimace.
Torris shrugged, “although, I wouldn’t trust her as far as could throw her. I’ve gotta admit she isn’t doing too bad a job so far, at least she’s prepared to go and risk herself with the rest of us. Unlike someone we know.”
Garrakson sneered and turned to the Olinthre-thing, “so, boss. What do you make of this, woman?”
“I just pass on orders, Jeurat,” It said blandly, It’s attention was still on Karmen as it unashamedly tried to overhear her words. “Making the big decisions in secret wars like this isn’t something I’m good at, so I’m happy to let her take the reigns, sergeant.”
I couldn’t help smile at the Mimic’s response, such a lie, such an ironic lie, that was told so straight-faced, so boldly and so convincingly, I couldn’t help but admire the Thing’s skill all over again.
“And what about you, kid?” asked Garrakson suddenly which made me involuntarily jump in fright.
Before I could contend a response, Torris grinned and leaned near to Garrakson, “we all know there’s no point in asking him about her, Jeu. We all know with what he’s thinking with, and it isn’t his brain.”
I felt my face flush, and they bellowed out laughter, the sound almost deafening in the confined compartment and even the Mimic joined in heartily.
“Will you all shut just the hell up!” roared Karmen over her shoulder.“I’m trying to frigging talk here!”
Immediately, they did as told and another chuckle caused us all to turn to Karkin.
“Well, I’d say she truly is in charge now, ain’t she?” he echoed mockingly.
Garrakson grimaced about to reply when Karmen approached.
“Alright! It’s confirmed, there are hammers in the building,” she stated. “The hammers are on high alert and are well fortified, although they couldn’t get a good visual on how many there are, their auspex also confirms forty to fifty lifeforms.”
That made Karkin grin, place his palms behind his head and lean back on his chair, “see? What’d I tell ya?”
I briefly looked at him with complete contempt before turning back to Karmen. Choosing not to point out that if his auspex had been interfered with so could’ve Hayden’s.
Karmen treated Karkin with a withering glare at, before continuing; “they are in a good position on the north side of the building, ready to breach and back us up if anything goes wrong.”
“Speaking of which...” said Karkin as he sat back up, swivelled in his chair to face his cogitator and brought up on screen for us; the schematic of a large building that I guessed to be Brutis Bones’ complex. “Here you go, but if we’re only going in to ‘negotiate’ you really shouldn’t need them.”
I shrugged as I leaned forward to look closer, “even so, it doesn’t hurt to know. Just in case.”
“It’s as they say; Knowledge is power,” added Karmen.
For some reason, both Torris and Garrakson behind us let out derivative snorts, and I swear I heard Torris mutter; “see? they’re frigging perfect for each other.” Or something along those lines.
I furrowed my brow, turned back to the schematic and quickly began to memorise it.
We stood, studied and discussed over the schematic for another good fifteen minutes; the place was of simple design, a complete contrast to the twilight bar. Just a large, two-story manufactorum/warehouse with areas partitioned for the offices of the supervisors and eatery. It was exactly as I remembered, but what changes Brutis Bones and his hammers had wrought since their arrival, I couldn’t say.
All the while Arlathan sat at his chair, tapping his fingers against the cogitator case impatiently, which made me clench my jaw.
Once we’d done, Arlathan got up from his chair and asked; “so, what now?”
Karmen pouted and shrugged, “well, we go through with the plan. Now we know the schematics, it’s as they say; ‘knowing is half the battle.’”
“Am I the only one who has really a bad feeling about this?” said Torris, which caused my attention suddenly snap at him. It made me recall Glaitis’ earlier words; ‘It is pretty obvious, child, and explains why he let you live, this, quite simply, is a trap.’
A shiver went up my spine; I couldn’t help but believe her, this was way to easy. But what would this trap be exactly? And should I tell my allies that it was? Glaitis had said that she wanted us to fall for it, so maybe she wouldn’t want me to.
Arlathan shook his head contemptuously, “oh no. Oh frigging hell no, your not. How do you think I feel? I’ve gotta face down those hammers, unarmed. Of frigging course, I have a bad feeling about this.”
Torris sat on the steel seat and shook his head, “no, not just about that, but, everything, something’s wrong about this, all of this, I can feel it.”
Arlathan sniffed, and his seemingly eternal smile somehow disappeared into an expression of genuine worry, “yeah, maybe you’re right. Hey, you aren’t from law enforcement?”
Torris nodded, a slow, deliberate movement, “yeah, I was in the Adeptus Arbites, fifteen years, back on Malfi.”
Arlathan let out a long whistle, “thought so. Why’d you quit?”
“Alright, I think that’s enough prattle,” said Karmen. “We’ve wasted enough time already, let’s get on with this, shall we?”
Arlathan sighed heavily, “yeah, yeah.”
With a sour expression, he pushed through us and slid open the back door, “alright! Everyone out!” He exclaimed.
We did, as Arlathan held the door for us we filed out into the thin alleyway outside.
Karmen and I were the last ones out, but as we stepped onto the beaten, broken alley, Karmen suddenly grabbed me by the arm and pulled me aside. Her hooded blue eyes were intense with concern.
“Are you okay?” She asked, once checking we were out of earshot from everyone else as they stood waiting for us. “Because you have seemed to have taken No One of Consequences words extraordinarily well.”
A lump immediately appeared in my throat, tears welled in my eyes, and with my shaking hands I reached down into my pocket to get out more Lhos. It’d been years since my hands shook like this, not since the war. During that time I’d developed a habit of hiding the shaking by slipping my hands into their pockets. I’d been fighting against the shaking ever since the throne agent had given us his revelation, but now I felt I really didn’t need to hide it, I knew Estella would understand.
“No,” I told her bluntly as I clumsily lit my Lho. “No, I’m not alright. Estella. Why do you think I’m smoking so much? We both know Edracian’s agenda and if my actions are going to aid that agenda as much as that man said it would, well then...I don’t know. I’m really frigging close to breaking point here, Estella but...”
I sniffed and exhaled smoke, blinking back the tears.
“But, as much as I’d like to break down and really, who could frigging blame me? Now would be the worst time, as you said; I need to deal with the consequences of my actions and if I allow myself to break down, well, then I wouldn’t be able to deal with them, would I?”
Estella smiled, then suddenly leaned forward and kissed me.
“W-what was that for?” I asked with wide-eyed surprise and blushing like hell.
“It seems you are finally becoming a man, Attelus,” she said. “It has taken you a while, though.”
“No problem!” She said, obviously ignoring my sarcasm as she turned and began to walk away. “Enough dilly dally, let’s get this show on the road.”
The four of us slowly approached the old manufactorum, we walked right down the middle of the street, making sure to keep out in plain sight with our hands raised the entire time. I was a little annoyed; for this negotiation, I’d given over all my weapons; my Auto pistol, throwing knives, power sword, even my frigging boot knife, luckily they had another pair of shoes, so I didn’t have to walk around with one shoe on. But that wasn’t what annoyed me, what did was that I’d just got this new, sweet, high quality, power sword and just as I frigging get it, straight away it gets taken away from me. Someone should make a law about this kind of thing.
We effectively used No One of Consequence as a human shield, he walked a metre or so in front of us so the first person the Hammers saw would be him. Arlathan was right behind him, using the Throne agent as a literal “human shield,” the Magistratum detective had his hand clenched tightly on the Throne agent’s shoulder to prevent the Throne agent from trying to drop to the ground; allowing the hammers a clear shot at us, so it wasn’t all because of Karkin’s cowardice.
My nervousness was almost overwhelming, and I had to fight against the constant urge to put my hands in my pockets. The walk must’ve taken two or three minutes, but it felt like a frigging lifetime, every single second I expected them to open fire, to cut us all down in a withering hail of shots.
I glanced at Karmen as she walked alongside me; she was as calm as calm could be, her brow furrowed in set determination.
I frowned deeply, not at all comforted by her confidence, then a thought struck me, like a fist to the face.
“Karmen!” I hissed through clenched teeth. “Karmen!”
But she seemed to ignore me completely.
“What?” she snapped suddenly, her attention catching to me.
“C-can I ask a quick question?”
“Well, you did just then, but sure. Fire away.”
I swallowed, “W-when I met with Taryst that night. He asked me to spy on Glaitis for him, but if you could read my mind so easily, he really didn’t need to, so why? Why did he ask me to spy on Glaitis for him?”
She smiled and shrugged, “good question, Attelus, maybe he saw potential in you or something.”
I grinned widely, “or perhaps he did it because you asked him to, didn’t you?”
Karmen sighed, “alright, alright, no point in denying it, I guess.”
“Well, thanks,” I said. “I appreciate it, and I can’t help wonder if anything would’ve gone differently if I’d accepted the offer.”
She pouted and shrugged again, “another good question; they say it’s our choices that shape us. It could have.”
I grimaced, truly doubting it would’ve made any difference at all. Perhaps I wouldn’t have hurt Vex, but Glaitis’ plan would’ve gone through no matter what.
“But, Attelus,” she said. “I may have asked him to do it, but he only did it because he did see potential in you, believe it or not.”
Immediately, I believed her and couldn’t help but beam at the compliment, but also, I couldn’t help wonder; I had the potential for what exactly? Potential to become yet another sycophant toady in Taryst’s organisation maybe? I frigging hoped not.
I let out a slight sigh at my cynicism and suddenly really wanted a smoke of Lho.
But they’d even taken them off me too. Bastards.
We walked the rest of the way in silence, during that time I’d expected someone would exit to greet us or something, but even when we came close, the door stayed firmly shut.
“Uhh,” said Arlathan, as he scratched the back of his head. “So, what’s the plan now, princess?”
Karmen just rolled her eyes and turned to the throne agent, “they haven’t run they?”
He shrugged, “I don’t know, maybe.”
Karmen clenched her at No One of Consequence’s incompetence then turned and smashed the palm of her hand repeatedly against the door, much to all our bemusement.
“Let us the frig in!” She roared at the top of her lungs. “We need to talk!”
She did this for a good six seconds before finally giving up, clutching at her red, hurt hand.
“That’s the plan?” said Arlathan. “How...Inventive.”
“Shut up!” she snarled. “Why don’t you, you know, actually try to contribute instead of just standing around snarking and being generally useless.”
Arlathan was cut off mid-sentence as the door suddenly opened and just inside, stood two huge hammers who had auto guns held in our faces.
“Shut it!” yelled one. “Stop ya friggin’ yellin’ and poundin’ before we make you stop!”
“Please,” said Karmen. “We need to talk to your boss.”
The Hammers ignored her, turning their attention to No One of Consequence.
“You okay, Jeksen?” said the other Hammer.
“Seen better days,” answered ‘Jeksen.’
The Hammer smiled.
“I said-!” started Karmen.
“We heard you!” The Hammer interrupted. “We’re not deaf! And you’re friggin’ lucky the boss wants to talk to you too. Or we would’ve just shot you on sight, even with Jeksen with you. No offence, Jeksen.”
“Get in!” said the other Hammer, beckoning us inside with his auto gun. “And no frigging funny business!”
We walked into what would’ve once been the building’s reception area with our hands raised over our heads and found over two dozen more hammers with a large assortment of different guns aimed squarely at us.
They certainly weren’t taking any chances.
“Keep a good eye on the short one,” said one of the Hammers that’d let us inside, indicating me with a thumb. “That was the one that attacked the Twilight bar.”
“I see my reputation precedes me,” I whispered to Karmen.
“Yes, well, don’t let it go to your head, Attelus,” she hissed back.
“Check them!” yelled another Hammer and immediately a few Hammers moved forward and patted us down, even Jeksen included.
“Clear!” They all yelled one after the other.
“Well, well,” said one Hammer as he emerged through the others; he was taller and older than the rest and seemed to ooze leadership he was perhaps well into his fifties which could’ve meant two things in the underhive, he was smart and skilled as only the very best lived that long, or the luckiest. “Comin’ into the lion’s den unarmed, you must be desperate.”
He grinned and folded his thick tattooed arms across his barrel chest, “or just stupid.”
“We would have been more stupid if we had taken in weapons,” pointed out Karmen.
He shrugged and pursed his dry lips, “good point. So, what brings a pretty little boy, a fancy, senior magistratum detective and a babe like you to our oh so humble abode?”
Karmen clenched her teeth, “we wish to talk.”
“But to talk what, exactly?” said the gang leader. “What could’ve brought our enemy so low that they wish to talk instead of shoot?”
“I can’t tell you now,” said Karmen. “We need to speak with Brutis Bones.”
The huge Hammer rounded on us, suddenly angry, “Not until you tell me what I want to know!” he roared.
“Calm down, Tevith,” tried Jeksen.
“Oh frigging shut it Wesley!” roared Tevith. “We all know the reason they found us was because you squealed! As far as I’m concerned you’re a frigging traitor who’s words don’t mean crap here! You know how many good men have died because of these idiots! To frigging many! But still, here you are! Now frigging working with ’em!”
“And I’m sorry to say many more will die if we don’t listen to what they have to say!” yelled back Wesley Jeksen.
Tevith pulled out a huge hand cannon and aimed it right at Jeksen’s head, his expression now a deadly calm.
“I told you to shut it, Wesley and I frigging meant it,” said Tevith, deadpanned, “and I don’t care if you’re a throne agent. You’re still a frigging traitor. And you know what traitors get.”
The shot rang deafeningly through the room, causing everyone to flinch in pain and fright and a horrid scream of complete agony immediately followed.
But Jeksen, who stood right beside me, was unharmed. It was Tevith who screamed, as he clutched at his bloody, destroyed hand.
Another figure emerged from the mass of Hammers, holding a raised, smoking stub revolver and I immediately knew this was the Brutis Bones character we’d been looking for.
The blue power armour he wore made him dwarf most of the Hammers in the room and over his shoulders lay a fur cloak of beautiful make. Sheathed at his hip was an ornate sword and slung over his shoulder was a bolt gun with an under-slung grenade launcher attached. He didn’t wear a helmet so we could see his short red hair and his pail, freckled face which seemed permanently set into an expression as hard as hell.
Brutis Bones was a truly an Inquisitor through and through.
“Get him to medicae Aheth,” Brutis Bones ordered casually as he holstered his stub revolver and two Hammers immediately moved to carry the whimpering Tevith away.
Brutis shook his head and approached us, “please forgive Tevith, he’s rightfully pissed off about all the crap you’ve done.”
“Th-thank you for saving us,” stammered Karmen.
Brutis smiled slightly and shook his head, “no need to thank me. If he were going to shoot any of you other three, I wouldn’t have stopped him. You okay, Wesley?”
“Y-yeah, boss, but I’ve been better.”
“I’m sure you have, and I’m sure there’s a fething good reason why you’ve brought them here? Right?”
“Of course, boss, but,” he glanced around the room. “But, I think we’ll need to talk about all this in private.”
Brutis nodded, turned on his heels and waved us on, “Alright then, follow me.”
Immediately Hammers approached us and grabbed us roughly, shoving us after Brutis Bones as he led us further into the complex.
Brutis took us up to a small, separate office on the second floor. Along the way, I took the opportunity to look around. I found that the entire place had been fortified, the plastcrete walls were reinforced further with thick bits of flak board. Many of the windows were completely boarded up, and the ones which weren’t all had a Hammer standing watch.
But what got me was on shop floor all the workbenches had been moved, taken away to Emperor only knew where. Instead, there were sleeping cots, dozens of them and sleeping, sitting or moving around them were women and children, people who I could only guess to be relations to the many Hammers under Brutis Bones’ employee. Both Arlathan’s and Tresch’s auspex had said only forty lifeforms, well that was certainly proven wrong now.
As we walked through everyone had eyed us with big bug eyes and expressions of undisguised curiosity. I’d looked back, finding myself suddenly almost overwhelmed with horrified apprehension.
I had no idea they’d be here; I’d never given even the slightest thought of where the Hammers had kept their wives, their children. It was a trap, this I knew without doubt and them being here, them being here, it complicated the situation vastly and as we walked through I found it very hard to breathe.
Karmen looked over her shoulder at me asking; “you alright, Attelus?”
I had managed only a nod in response.
Brutis held the door for us as we filed in, it was a simple, spartan room with only a large cogitator bank in the back wall, a cot in the corner and large desk in the centre of the room with an office chair behind it. Although Brutis didn’t sit, he just kept standing at the doorway, his face unreadable and folded his arms over his chest.
“So, we’re alone, speak,” he said bluntly.
“This is a trap,” I said immediately.
Brutis looked at me, turning like he was targeting me, “what?”
“This is a frigging trap,” I said through clenched teeth. “Inquisitor Edracian is planetside; he’s engineered all of this so we’d all be together so that he can kill us all together.”
“But aren’t you his allies?” asked Brutis, with an almost mocking raised eyebrow.
“Not anymore,” said Karmen as she stepped beside me and gave me an uncertain look. “After we found out from Interrogator Heartsa the information you had, Taryst decided to cut all ties to him.”
Brutis’ eyes narrowed, “so why did you still want to capture me?”
“Because Taryst wanted to have all ties to Edracian silenced, and this included you and the information you hold,” answered Karmen. “But that’s all changed now, now that Taryst is dead.”
Arlathan who’d been leaning on the walleyes widened and rocked forward in disbelief as Brutis’ pursed his lips.
“Dead?” How?” asked Brutis.
“Murdered, though an internal conspiracy,” said Karmen.
Brutis shrugged his massive shoulders and moved to his desk, sliding open one of the draws he took out an expensive liqueur bottle and a few crystal glasses, doing so with the remarkable skill for one with armoured power fingers.
“Damn shame,” he said as he poured himself a glass. “I was hoping I’d get to throw that bastard out the window of his grotto myself. Sacra anyone?”
Everyone declined except Jeksen.
“Yeah, boss that’d be appreciated.”
Brutis smiled slightly, poured another glass and handed it to the other throne agent who swigged it back with great enthusiasm.
“Well,” said Brutis sipping at his own sacra. “Is Edracian on Omnartus, now, huh? Well that’s what we’ve been waiting for, for all this time, isn’t that right Wesley?”
Jeksen nodded confirmation and both Karmen, and I exchanged confused glances.
“What do you mean?” asked Karmen.
Brutis shrugged again “well that’s why we’ve been fighting this was with you, we figured if we fought it for long enough Edracian would get tired of Taryst’s failure so would come and finish the job himself, then we’d be able to take care of both of them.”
Brutis took another sip of his sacra and said with a grimace of distinct disgust; “fething Isstivanian bastards. So, how do you know Edracian’s planetside?”
“Because he attacked me,” I said. “He and a group of axe-wielding, suit wearing, idiot hammers ambushed me, captured me.”
Brutis took another sip of his sacra, “so, how did you know it was Edracian?”
I frowned and shrugged, “well, I don’t know, actually. He wore power armour, had an Inquisitorial rosette and said he was, so I kind of believed him and he talked psychically, telepathy, in my mind.”
I tapped my temple with my index finger as I said “telepathy” and also as I said it I couldn’t help but notice the extremely bemused looks from everyone but Arlathan.
“What?” I asked as I furrowed my brow.
“Attelus, you never mentioned that he spoke to you via telepathy before,” said Karmen.
I raised an eyebrow, “what? I didn’t?” I said. “Sorry, I must’ve forgotten, but what’s the big deal? Aren’t a lot of Inquisitors psychic? That’s what Glaitis told me anyway.”
His expression grim, Brutis shook his head, “yes, but It’s a well-known fact that Edracian is just as blunt as you and I.”
My jaw dropped and began to twitch as a sudden horrific shiver slid up my spine.
The fear almost overwhelmed me than the temperature in the room dropped dramatically, and ice began to form on the walls, growing up the flak board like vines, then I heard the gunfire and the screams.
“Look’s like you were right,” said Brutis to me as he readied his bolter. “This is a trap.”
Literally, a second after he said that, then came a substantial deafening crash! From outside which was followed by a hideous, blood-curdling scream a scream which was immediately followed by another and another and another each one ending abruptly.
Shivering in the sudden cold my heart thundered in my chest and my shallow breaths steamed into the air.
Karmen turned to me with a wide-eyed, fearful gaze and I looked back. Our attentions were locked for a few seconds, and each time there was another scream, we’d flinch in fear together.
We were only taken out of our trance when we heard Brutis demanding answers into his vox link.
“Verenth! Uslith! Answer me damn it!”
“W-what the hell’s going on out there?” stammered Karkin at Brutis.
Brutis didn’t answer, he just shook his head and paced the room.
“What’s going on,” demanded Karkin.
“That’s exactly what I’m trying to find out,” growled Brutis then he turned to Karmen. “Vox is dead.”
It reminded me quickly of my own vox link going dead just before Edracian’s mooks ambushed me.
“So, what now?” she asked.
“We go out there,” answered Brutis directly as he drew his Stubb revolver and tossed it to Wesley Jeksen, who caught it neatly.
“What?” yelled Karkin. “Going out there? Are you frigging crazy?”
Brutis treated Karkin with a withering glare, and I could tell from a mile away that the Inquisitor held nothing but contempt for the Magistratum detective.
“Yeah,” said Brutis. “Well me and Wesley, anyway. I’m not forcing you to come, but I remind you, both him and me are the only ones armed here. So when we go, you’ve got no protection and nowhere to run.”
Brutis shrugged, “on second thought; maybe it’d be better if you stay here, you will probably just get in the way.”
Arlathan Karkin grimaced and shook his head, “I don’t like this.”
As this went on, I stood in the corner in silence with wide eyes, wondering how everyone could ignore the screams that constantly pierced the walls, the screams that stung my ears, that made my shoulders shake, that caused my heart to leap painfully in my chest, the screams that made my lip quiver and hyperventilate in fear.
Brutis glared at me, his brow furrowing.
“Someone gets him to calm the feth down!” he bellowed.
It was then I felt a warm, soft hand wrap around mine and I turned to find it was Estella Erith, who smiled at me reassuringly.
But I was hardly reassured, as I saw the gigantic blood vessels that bulged from her face and forehead. Her blank blue gaze and her teeth were hideous, sharpened incisors.
The fear finally overtook me, and I screamed, tearing my hand free and retreated further into the corner.
As I ran, the room around seemed to devolve into a blur of black and white nothingness, but Karmen, Brutis, Arlathan and Wesley were still visible, as they approached me with wild blank eyes, sharpened smiles and fingers that curled into black elongated talons, reaching out to tear me to shreds.
My heart was hammering so hard, and painfully now it felt like it was about to burst and blood thundered through my ears. Then there were the screams, the screams! They were no longer intermittent but completely consistent, just a vast cacophony of hundreds of voices crying out in utter agony and terror and Arlathan, Karmen, Brutis and Wesley were still coming closer and closer and as their claws came right in front of my face
I closed my eyes.
Immediately the screams were gone, disappearing so suddenly that it shook me to my very core, but I kept them closed, hoping if I did they wouldn’t come back. It was the contemptuous sigh that caused me to open them again.
I found myself back in black nothingness, but standing over me now was the Eldar; her thin, lithe form towered over me and the red glowing eyes of her helm looked down on me with distinct disdain.
I yelped out in fright and threw myself back, scrambling to gain as much ground from the Xenos as possible.
“Oh do not be so pathetic!” It snarled so strongly I immediately stopped in my desperate retreat. “If I wanted you dead, I would have killed you a long time ago!”
“W-who are you?” I managed through my gasps. “What happened? Where the hell am I?”
She sighed even more profound than before. “You are the one I am going to work through, I thought, perhaps, you might be a bit less pathetic than the rest of your kind. But alas.”
I lay there, only able to gape up at her.
The Eldar sighed yet again and shook her head.
“Well, we may be working together for a while from now on. So, if you truly must know, my name is Faleaseen, I am a farseer of the craftworld; Dalorsia. What happened? You were almost turned into a mindless, slavering daemon in the service of the ruinous powers and, where are you? You are now in the dark recesses of your mind. Any more questions?”
“It seems that Inquisitor Nonin Edracian did not just inject you with a nerve agent, as he had first claimed, but with some primitive sort of warp sorcery. If I believed in your race’s first, abstract concept of ‘luck’ I would say you were ‘lucky’ I was here to save you.”
“You...saved me?” I asked dumbly.
Faleaseen attention turned slightly to the left, and it took a long time before she finally answered.
“Yes, I just told you that, and here I was hoping you would be somewhat smarter than some of your kind. But alas.”
Faleaseen groaned, loudly. “Because, human, I have placed much time and effort into you, letting you die now would have been a waste.”
I wasn’t sure how to reply to that, all this had happened so frigging abruptly that I shouldn’t be blamed for being taken aback and frightened, yet here was this Xenos holding such contempt for me for having a perfectly reasonable and human reaction and now here I was beholden to this farseer?
This new revelation I didn’t like, this I didn’t like at all
She shook her head again, contempt oozing from her every pore.
“The Inquisitor has set his trap,” said Faleaseen. “As we speak daemons are slaughtering your people, it is a blood-fest, outside that building. When you awake you need to be ready; you need to escape.”
“Nah!” I said sarcastically.
Faleaseen tilted her helmeted head suddenly, “I mean this, there are those you would deem as ‘innocents’ in that building, do not throw away your life protecting them, they are nothing. Not worth the effort, you have far larger problems you need to live to attend to, do not be a fool. Time to awake, Mon Keigh.”
Before I could say anything more, the darkness was engulfed in a sudden blaze of blinding bright white light, and I awoke.
The light cleared, revealing the grey, rockcrete ceiling above me and slowly, the images of, the concerned Karmen, the confused Karkin, Wesley and Brutis standing over me.
Brutis had the barrel of his bolter levelled right in my face.
“D-don’t! Don’t shoot!” I cried, quickly raising my arms to cover my head, for all the frigging good it’d do.
“What happened?” demanded Brutis bluntly, his bolter not moving an inch.
“I-I don’t know,” I lied. “I-I, I just was listening to you guys, th-then everything turned black! I must’ve fainted.”
“You forgot about the going mad, and screaming like a little girl and hiding in the corner part,” said Karkin.
“I-I don’t remember that.”
Before anyone else could say anything more, there was another sudden, horrid crash! That seemed to shake the entire building around us, then followed by the blood-chilling screams with the intermittent roar of the desperate gunfire.
“Frig! That came from the inside,” said Karkin, voicing what we all thought.
“Alright!” said Brutis. “We’re fething moving! Get him up; we’re going!”
“‘But’ what detective Karkin? As far as I see we’ll have to face down whatever it is out there eventually anyway, I’d rather not have to with a wall at our backs.”
Karmen was the only one to offer her hand, which I took with an appreciative smile and she pulled me to my feet.
“That’s not what I meant!” said Karkin. “I agree with you, but you’ve seemed to have forgotten, we’re unarmed.”
“No I haven’t,” stated Brutis, “and no you’re not getting one, either. I don’t trust any of you enough. So enough of this meandering, let’s get moving.”
He looked at me, “and you. You I trust the least. I’m keeping an eye on you, understood?”
I nodded, thinking; fair enough, I wouldn’t trust me either.
“Good,” then with bolter raised, he opened the door and stepped outside.