Secret War: Warhammer 40,000

Chapter 18

As we walked, we talked more, and she told me much about herself. She was from south Omnartus in the middle-level hive. Her mother was an administratum clerk, and her father ran an old clothing store on the upper level. She hadn’t seen them for six months as she’d moved north to study for a position in the Magistratum. I wanted to say: “well there’s a whole lot of openings for you now,” but refrained, barely. She was working part-time here to pay for her survival. She was only nineteen but was in her second to last year of study. She was so intelligent, yet humble. She said she was worried she’d fail her next test but from her track record, I doubted that.

She seemed normal, nice and almost...innocent. She had no idea about the real world, and I couldn’t help but envy her ignorance. The more she talked, despite myself, the more I found myself getting angrier and angrier. I struggled to fight it, my jaw clenched, my hands clasped behind my back and I gripped so hard I could swear it was cutting off the circulation. I wanted to tell her everything, of all the people I’d brutally murdered, of the warp and the secrets behind this organisation. To destroy her innocence, to make her a shell of herself, just like me. She wouldn’t believe me at first, no, but I’d make her believe.

All her problems were so pathetic and minor; she’d deserve it. Make her see what real problems were.

But I didn’t, despite really, really, really wanting to. Frig it was hard, so so hard.

Eventually, we arrived at the entrance to the cafeteria.

“Well here we are,” she said. “I’ve better head back; I’m already late as it is. It’s nice talking to you, Attelus.”

“Yes, it was, nice,” I managed.

“Are you okay?” she asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

“I’m, fine.”

“Okay! You’re weird, Attelus. You know that right? See you later,” she said with a shrug, and she turned to walk away.

“Wait,” I exclaimed, causing her to stop and turn back to me.


“I just wanted to say,” I clenched my jaw and fists even harder. “I just wanted to say...”

“What?” she was looking at me with an expression that could’ve been confusion, fear or both and that made me want to tell her all the more.

“Thank you,” I finally stammered.

“It’s okay, talk later,” she said then left.

I watched her go; she did have quite a nice arse.

I couldn’t help but wonder; after all, I’ve been through, would I ever be able to have anything in common and sympathise with anyone “normal” ever again?

I didn’t know, in all honesty, and didn’t know if I even cared. She seemed like a caring person. Of course, that could all be crap, the last person I thought was good and caring turned out to be a psychotic traitor working for the enemy.

If it wasn’t for what I did, the hell I just went through, she’d most likely be dead now along with everyone else. Unknowingly I’d protected her, this sweet girl who sure as hell didn’t deserve to be eviscerated by a daemon. If there were even one more person like her in this galaxy, perhaps it would all be worth it.

“I’ll keep doing this,” I sighed. “For you, Adelana. People like you deserve to live and make what I go through, worth it. I thank you, yet again.”

I slipped into the cafeteria ignoring the looks of two bewildered employees who were then exiting.

If they were so weirded out by someone talking to himself, they really needed to get out more.

After I gathered my food, corned beef with mashed potatoes and peas; I sat alone and tore it apart, eating almost as ravenously as Karmen had earlier. I tried to slow myself but couldn’t find the strength to do it.

I didn’t stop even after I caught two people approaching me in the corner of my eye.

“Here you go kid,” said Garrakson as he and Torris sat across from me and he placed a pack of Lhos on the table. “You more than deserve these.”

I couldn’t reply, I still had a mouthful of food.

“Hungry are we?” said Torris. “How’s the food?”

“As average as always,” I said after swallowing. “It’s, it’s nice to see you two managed to make it.”

They shared a glance.

“Thanks in no small part to you, Attelus,” said Torris. “We’re just surprised you’re already up and about.”

“Well, I’m just full of surprises,” I said. “You should know that by now.”

“Always so humble,” said Garrakson while rolling his eyes.

“Why thank you,” I said before chewing into another mouthful. “It’s good to hear you think so. Anyway, you guys know of Adelana? The redhead who works in the mail delivery centre?”

Torris’ large eyes widened, and he raised an eyebrow, “no I’ve never heard of Adelana, the redhead who works in the mail delivery centre. Have you, Garrakson?”

“Nope, I haven’t either, Torris, in fact, I’ve never heard of anyone who works here with the name ‘Adelana’ before. Never had I even seen her name on our records.”

“Really,” I said, with a furrowed brow. “Is this the best you two can come up with?”

“No, I mean it,” said Garrakson. “This isn’t a joke, I swear. There was never anyone under our employ named Adelana.”

“I’m not in the mood guys,” I growled.

Torris and Garrakson shared another glance.

“Alright, alright, we’ll stop, sorry,” said Garrakson. “Why are you asking about her?”

“I uh well we, uhh.”

“Anyway, the redhead, Adelana?” said Torris. “Her now? What about Karmen? Aren’t you and her in a thing already? Attelus you womaniser, you. Soon ol’ Olinthre will have competition in the girl getting department.”

I felt my face flush red.

Garrakson grinned, “Attelus, Karmen would be the very, very, very worst person to cheat on.”

“Y’know, her being a psyker and all,” added Torris.

“You two seriously think I’m that stupid?” I said. “Anyway me and Karmen are hardly in a ’thing.”

“Not in a thing? Really?” Said Torris. “We all saw you kiss before, which got us wondering.”

I furrowed my brow and clenched my jaw, not liking where this was going.

“Yeah, it has,” said Garrakson. “For all, we know it should have been only the second, brief time you met and yet there you were exchanging saliva with someone you barely know, we just can’t believe you’re that shallow. Now tell me, Attelus, why is that?”

My jaw clenched even harder, and I glanced at Torris and Garrakson in turn. They stared back at me, their expressions set in determination.

What was I to do? They had me cornered, damn it. If only and Estella I had been more, subtle. I just hadn’t seen her in so long; I’d missed her. Without even knowing it.

I grinned nervously, “what would you say if I told you that we’d just met then, and I was, actually, that shallow?”

“Why don’t you try and find out?” said Torris grimly.

My heart sank, I sighed again and shook my head; fighting back the anger at myself and Karmen. They wanted to know, and I understood that. They weren’t asking for much either, but it was a secret and secrets were always hard for me to share.

I exhaled through my nose, rubbed my temples and decided to tell them the truth, and as we know, that is the best way to lie.

“Okay,” I said. “Alright, I’ll tell you the truth. I think you two truly deserve to know.”

Garrakson and Torris both exchanged surprised glances.

“It better well is,” growled Garrakson.

“It is,” I said and gave him a withering glare.“It is just hard finding somewhere to start, exactly.”

“Just start from the beginning,” said Garrakson, impatiently.

“It’s not that simple,” I said, shaking my head.

“Have you ever considered that it’s never ‘simple’ because you make it complicated?” said Garrakson. “Just start from the frigging beginning, kid! I swear you’re like a damn woman!”

“It doesn’t help that he looks like one,” added Torris.

“Emperor damn it, guys!” I snarled, bashing my fists on the table. “This isn’t easy for me, okay? You have no frigging idea-!”

“Then give us an idea, Attelus!” interrupted Torris. “Take some time if you need to, but you aren’t leaving this room until you tell us.”

“Alright, alright I’ll start at the...start if you insist,” I sighed. “I come from a small agri world in the galactic west, that borders the Halo stars. Named Elbyra. Particularly the small nation; Velrosia.”

I paused and looked at Garrakson to see what he’d do, but he gave no reaction what so ever, he just sat there, looking back at me as he picked his nose.

“I uh,” I said with a raised eyebrow. “It was seven years ago when the forces of chaos invaded Elbyra. They apparently came from the Halo stars, took us by complete surprise. Destroyed our PDF fleet and proceeded to bombard us like all hell.”

I sighed and shook my head, “my country and my city, were amongst the hardest hit.” I paused and wondered if what I was going to say next was because I was lucky, or something else entirely. “I only survived the initial bombardment because I was near my father’s house, which had its own underground bomb shelter.”

“Wait! Wait!” said Torris. “Your father, had a bomb shelter?”

I laughed and took a sip of my water, “yeah! You may think I’m paranoid, but my father, my father he blows me out of the water. Excuse the pun.”

Garrakson and Torris grimaced, glancing at each other again.

“Blows you out of the water?” said Torris. “You said that in the present tense, is your father still alive?”

I shrugged and took another bite of corned beef, “dunno,” I slurred. “Perhaps. He wasn’t there at the time, he was off-world, somewhere else.”

“What happened to your mother?” said Garrakson. “Where was she? You must have been only sixteen, seventeen at the time.”

“She was at her house, maybe, at that time,” I said, more deadpanned than I intended. “We’d just had a huge fight, and I wanted time alone, so I walked to my dad’s place. Then the bombs began to fall. I’m pretty sure my mum’s dead. After they’d stopped, I went to her place and found it in ruins, much like everything else.”

“You were, very lucky it seems,” said Torris.

I paused in my chewing and my eyes narrowed, “hmm, perhaps. Or unlucky, from a certain point of view.”

“I’m sorry, Attelus,” said Garrakson.

I shrugged again, “it’s okay. Don’t get me wrong I loved my mum, and I miss her but, I don’t know, I just always feel real numb about it for some reason.”

“What were you and your mother arguing about, Attelus?” said Torris.

I gave him a glare, “that bit of information is rather irrelevant, isn’t it?”

Torris shrugged, “just wondering.”

“What happened after, Attelus?” said Garrakson, fixing Torris with a disapproving look.

“I survived,” I stated simply.

“Yeah, we can tell that,” said Torris.

I looked down to the table and closed my eyes, “I-I don’t want to go into the details. I don’t want to talk about what I went through.”

Garrakson shook his head, his eyes wide, “it must’ve been hell, Attelus. If you don’t want to talk about that, we understand.”

Torris shook his head, “no.”

Garrakson shot him a glance, “what?”

Torris glared at me from under a hooded brow, “no, you should tell us, Attelus. You don’t have to, but you should. We won’t judge you, I swear. But it might be better for you if you talk about it. I worked in the Arbites for many years. I was, I think, too human for the job, so they got me to console the victims of many of the crimes we investigated. The best thing for them as if they talked about what they went through, always. Attelus, you’re traumatised I can see, suffering from what could be post-traumatic stress disorder. You hide it well, but I could see that right from the start.”

I looked down at my plate and dropped my knife and fork with clangs, swallowing back the bile rising in my throat


“We’re your friends, kid,” said Torris. “Or at least I like to think we are; we’re here to help.”

I shook my head and closed my eyes.

“I’ve never told anyone about it before,” I said. “Not even Glaitis, she never seemed even interested about it at all.”

Because she probably knew all of it already, I thought, and I couldn’t remember it in any detail until recently.

“I,” I sighed. “Just promise me, swear to me that we’ll still be friends, after knowing what I did, please.”

“Of course,” stammered Torris. “Of course we will.”

“For the first few days I started off living off the food in my father’s bunker,” I said. “But much of it had caved in during the bombardment, so I ran out quickly. So I began scavenging amongst the rubble for food. But, but it was so hard to find, so so hard. But there were corpses, everywhere in the streets so I, I...had”

“Oh, God Emperor,” gasped Garrakson as it hit him. “You didn’t?”

“Yeah, I did,” I said, with a humourless laugh and tears in my eyes. “I was running then on pure instinct and anything and everything to win and, yeah. You could say it was lucky for me when the forces of chaos finally rolled in and for some reason secured the ruins of Varander. From then on I had an abundant resource for food.”

Garrakson and Torris said nothing, just gaped at me in abstract horror.

“I would, once in a while, stalk, ambush and kill their patrols. Then steal their supplies for myself.”

“Wait!” said Garrakson. “Wait! Are you telling me you managed to kill entire arch enemy patrols single-handedly?”

“I know it’s hard to believe, and I didn’t always succeed, but yes I did,” I said bluntly. “I would have to tail them for hours before finding the right moment to strike, and they were badly trained, ill-disciplined.”

Garrakson glared at me, “you shouldn’t have eaten that food, kid.”

“What?” I growled. “I had no choice! All the food then was gone, rotted away! I had no choice!”

“Calm down, Attelus,” said Torris.

I sighed and fought back the anger.

“It was like that for months,” I said. “Many times they’d try to hunt me down and kill me, but I’d always manage to slip away by the skin of my teeth. I was always on the move, changing my hideouts almost day by day.”

I sighed, “I wasn’t aware of it, but I was slowly losing my sanity and humanity. Becoming a mindless animal, living to survive, not surviving to live. That was until I heard someone run over the roof of my hideout. Being chased by an enemy patrol.”

Garrakson furrowed his brow, and Torris nodded.

“Who?” said Garrakson.

I smiled, “it was Karmen.”

“What? Really?” said Garrakson.

“Yeah, well, kind of, back then she was sergeant Estella Erith, of the Velrosian PDF. She was the last survivor of a squad sent north to investigate the destruction. You know that black and white armour she wore before? It was from those days. She was the first person I’d seen in so long who wasn’t trying to kill me.”

I smiled, “she saved me, saved me from losing my sanity, and it would be safe to say that I... That I...uhh umm.”

Torris grinned, “fell in love with her?”

I grinned, looking away, embarrassed, “yeah,” I stammered. “At that time though I’m pretty sure it was completely one-sided, she had no idea.”

“What was she like, back then?” asked Torris.

“Different,” I said. “Nicer and kinder, although she almost got herself killed because of her pride if I hadn’t convinced her to step down.”

“What about her psychic powers?” asked Torris.

“Much less. I think she must’ve been...latent?” I said. “It was weird though; she knew my middle name without me ever telling her.”

“And you trusted her?” said Garrakson.

“Yeah I did,” I said smiling. “It was hard for me at first but, yeah.”

Garrakson just smiled coyly and shook his head.

I was about to ask what that was about when Torris said, “what did you do then?”

“Together, we travelled south toward the front line. The Imperial Guard had come to fight for us. The Elbyran contingent. Commanded by General Tathe.”

As I said this, again I kept an eye on Garrakson to see what he’d do, but yet he gave no reaction.

I sighed, “it took us over two weeks, but we finally managed to slip through the enemy forces and get to the refugee and Elbyran Imperial Guard encampments.”

“What happened next?” said Torris.

“She left me,” I sighed. “Karmen uhh Estella left me at the refugee camp to report her findings to general Tathe, and she never came back.”

“What? You don’t know why, yet?” asked Torris.

“No, she hasn’t told me yet,” I replied.

Here I was, swallowing many truths, I didn’t want to tell them that she’d tried to erase my memories. That’d just make them hate her more, and with what was at stake we didn’t need that. Not at all.

“You have to understand, Torris, Garrakson,” I said. “After all that I went through, after all, that I’d done. I-I couldn’t go back to a normal life. I decided that I’d become an assassin.”

“How old were you? Seventeen? You could’ve waited a year then joined the guard,” said Garrakson.

“I’m not a soldier, Garrakson, you should know that.”

“Many who believed themselves to ‘not be soldiers’ have become the greatest soldiers of all.”

I glared at Garrakson.

“Garrakson, leave it,” said Torris. “We told him we wouldn’t judge him and what’s done is done, okay?”

I grinned, “anyway, would they accept a withered, little, ex-cannibal into their ranks?”

“Well, if that withered little ex-cannibal had your skill, I’m positive they would,” said Garrakson.

“That begs another question, Attelus,” said Torris. “How did you, at seventeen acquire the necessary skills not only to survive but also be able to ambush and kill entire arch enemy patrols single-handedly?”

I swallowed and frowned, “my father, he taught me everything I needed to know. How to carve and cook partly rotten meat. How to fight, how to kill. Right from when I was old enough to walk.”

“Just who is your father?” said Garrakson. “Sounds like he knows how the world turns. Ex-guard is he?”

“Nope,” I said. “He is an assassin. Though I don’t know where he got his training from.”

“Was it him? Was it him that inspired you to take up this...Line of work?” said Torris.

“What, to become a low life, low level, expendable and badly paid mercenary? No. My idea of it then didn’t fit with the reality of it at all.”

“It never does,” said Torris.

“I guess,” said Garrakson with a grimace as he sniffed loudly.

Both Torris and I expected him to say more, but he didn’t, just twisted his finger in his ear.

Torris turned back to me, “that is one hell of a coincidence, Attelus. Our psyker just so happens to be your old crush and war buddy.”

I shrugged and struggled to keep the smirk from my face.

“Well, coincidences can happen,” I said.

“Miracle more like,” said Garrakson.

It was Torris’ turn to sniff, “so, kid. When the woman who you hadn’t seen in seven years, the one you fell in love with, the one that saved you from going insane and you’d fought beside. When she had emerged from that elevator, I couldn’t imagine the thoughts and emotions you were going through when you saw her. You hid your reaction very, very well.”

“In fact, you were doing your usual smug smirk,” said Garrakson. “The smirk you do when you’re up to something devious, right, Torris?”

Torris frowned and glanced at Garrakson.

“Jeurat. Do you seriously think my attention was on Attelus then?” he said.

Garrakson grimaced, folded his arms and leaned back in his chair.


Torris smiled.

I grinned and shrugged, “in my line of work, one must know how to control their emotions.”

Garrakson snorted, “and you’ve proven yourself real good at that,” he said sarcastically.

“Well, I’ve learned a lot the hard way over the past few months,” I said.

Garrakson grimaced.

“So she never came back, what did you do then?” asked Torris.

“Waited out the war,” I said, “but it didn’t last long. Apparently, Space Marines of the Dark Angels chapter came and cleaned out the invaders. Never got to see any of this first hand, though.”

“Again, very lucky,” said Torris.

I just pursed my lips and shrugged again.

For a good minute, we sat in awkward silence.

I had completely lost my appetite, all I could do was stare down at my plate and poke it with my fork.

“Well, kid, that certainly explains a lot,” said Torris eventually.

“Yeah, it does,” said Garrakson.

“You look tired, kid,” said Torris.

“I am, I really, really am,” I sighed while rubbing my eyes.

“Let’s go, Attelus,” said Torris. “We’ll take you somewhere you can sleep.”

“Yeah, sounds good,” I said, and despite everything, I felt better, felt like I’d taken a little weight off my chest.

I woke screaming as I’d never screamed before. I writhed, sweaty in the sheets as the terror of the nightmare continued to hold me in its grip.

Finally, I managed to make myself stop and gasping through my raw, ragged throat; I sat on the side of the bed, looking down at my hands with watery eyes.

It was a dream, only a dream, but by the Emperor what a nightmare! What the hell was that? Some sick fantasy? One which would happen if I gave into the insanity? I clasped my face into my sweat-slicked hands.

“What the hell is wrong with me?” I gasped. “Why would I dream that? Why?”

I stood up and stumbled drunkenly through the mess of my room, toward the bathroom.

After that little bit of soul searching, Torris and Garrakson had brought me back to my hab unit and immediately I’d just thrown myself onto my bed, too exhausted to do anything else.

But now I regretted it, that dream by the Emperor, that dream. Somehow I found it even more horrifying than the daemons and anything I’d ever encountered before.

I found the sink, turned on the water, rinsed my face, then gazed at my reflection in the mirror.

The bruises I’d suffered were all gone, my face now almost pristine but when I brushed off the hair that covered the left side of my face, I saw the scar.

By frig, it was an ugly, jagged thing around six centimetres long, a good four centimetres wide and at least two centimetres thick. The many, many stitches that had held it together were now mostly broken and open. It’d always be there as a reminder, a reminder of Elandria and the thorough beating I took from the shapeshifter, Xenos, thing.

At the thought of Glaitis’ pet, I gripped the basin, hard making my knuckles whiten with strain and my reflection to glare back at me with barely contained rage. The bastard! I’ll make sure it will die! Just the same Feuilt, then Glaitis after him! Though, In all honesty, I didn’t care what order I killed them in, just as long as it was at my hand and they both died, painfully.

But I still had the promise I’d made to Karmen, one which I intended to keep, but once Glaitis and ‘It’ had outlived their usefulness, I wasn’t going to hesitate.

I sighed and pushed off the sink and walked to my bedside. Took my commlink, grabbed the nearest towel and made for my shower. By the Emperor did I need one, not just because I stunk but also wishing to wash away the memory of that horrific dream.

What is it about you? You seem to bring out the best and worst of me all at once; I thought as I turned the shower faucet and placed my microbead on the sink. Why do you do this to me, Adelana? WHY!?

I-I had feelings for Karmen, why was I dreaming of Adelana? Someone I barely knew? Why did she make me act that way? Why?

With a frustrated growl, I stepped under the hot stream.

The sick thing was, I enjoyed it. It may have sickened me now, but during the dream, I liked it. It’d felt good; it’d felt, right.

I knew I had a...darkness which I struggled to keep fettered. But I’d never imagined it to be that bad, that psychotic and cruel.

If I lost myself, if I became truly unfettered, as that utterly terrifying monster what I’d become?

I sighed, just like Feuilt was, or wasn’t? I had no idea what he really was the psychotic cultist I’d fought, or if it was some front for some reason I was too tired to think about. But again my thoughts came back to Feuilt’s last words, that Edracian wasn’t what he seemed. I was pretty sure he was telling the truth but the truth of what, exactly?. Then it hit me; it could’ve been anyone in that armour, anyone. They’d said that Edracian wasn’t a psyker. So perhaps, perhaps some psyker had killed Edracian and was now in the armour pretending to be him, as Brutis Bones had suggested.

My mind whirled, and I was filled with fear so if that was true, then, who? Who the hell could it be? Could it be, my father? Feuilt had claimed he knew my father, that it was Serghar Kaltos who’d taught him everything he knew.

I shook that away, I knew my father wasn’t a psyker. As I’d thought of earlier; what if my father was using the souls to make himself one? That also posed yet another question. Just how much did our erstwhile ally Brutis Bones know? He’d said when we’d first met something hinting that I shouldn’t have assumed it was Edracian. Perhaps Brutis knew this?

He was just another on the long list of people I couldn’t trust, a list which was getting longer by the second.

For a long time, I stood, hunched even worse than usual and stared at the white tiled wall in a daze as the constant stream of hot water hit me.

What I’d just seen, what I’d been through was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I’d only encountered what a tiny minority of this galaxy ever would, the entities of the warp, daemons.

I looked down at my clenching fist. Seeing that stuff must’ve damaged my mind. That’s what I was told by Glatis once. The warp and anything to do with it was the true anathema to us, to all logic and reason. That mere contact near it damage our mental health and well being. I’d always been near the edge, so after that...incident, how much closer was I? And on top of that, the Farseer, knowing she’s there in my head, perhaps even manipulating my every thought.

Despite the heat of the water I shivered, I just hoped that I’d never encounter anything like that again. Sure I’d taken numerous trips through the warp since I’d left Elbyra seven years ago, but I’d always avoided looking on the warp as it went by outside.

Just then I felt the water begin to lose its warmth and clumsily, I turned off the faucet. For another good ten minutes, I stood, stark naked in the shower.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, whether I wanted to laugh in triumph that I’d survived that hell, that I’d managed to stop the daemonic invasion before it even started. Or if I wanted to weep, so many had died, so many good people that didn’t deserve it, Olinthre, Taryst, all the Magistratum detectives, the many Hammers under Brutis’ command.

“Elandria,” I said, my emotion choked and croaked voice echoing in the bathroom.

Just then my vox link chimed, knocking me from my reverie.

Slowly, I got out of the shower, wrapped my towel around my waist and picked it up.

“Attelus here,” I said.

“Attelus,” said Olinthre’s voice, causing another cold shiver to crawl up my spine. “Hurry it up we need you up in Taryst’s grotto, ASAP.”


But before I could say more, the shapeshifter cut the link.

I sighed, that Thing just loved to take every opportunity it got to boss me around, didn’t it?

Well soon it won’t be able to, ever again, I thought with a smile and left the bathroom.
Trying to ignore my reflection in the mirror on the way out.

After slipping on a clean body glove and my flak jacket, I left my hab unit. Finding the building now crawling with mercs. I found the step up on security was hardly surprising after all that’s happened.

I caught the elevator to the bottom floor, clenching my teeth in annoyance as the sound of screeching gears hurt my ears. According to my wrist chron I’d only slept for about an hou, which was why I could still barely keep my eyes open.

With a long, drawn-out yawn I took out a Lho, lit it and placed it in my mouth. I glanced at the pack and sighed as I saw it was already half empty. Perhaps it was high time I quit.

Then I couldn’t help wonder, what was it that made the Mimic call me over there so urgently. Had Karmen finally awoken? Or was it something to do with that pict I took?

I sighed as the elevator finally made it to the bottom floor.

Guess I’m going to find out, I thought as I slid open the rusty old cage door which squealed horridly in protest.

I was so tired I almost missed seeing the six Mercenaries waiting for me in the main foyer they approached from a far corner all in old standard issue guard flak armour and holding las guns.

“Attelus Kaltos,” said one with a nod, they all wore full helmets so I couldn’t see any of their faces.

“Oh great,” I sighed, rolling my eyes. “Let me guess; the major sent you guys?”

“Yeah,” said another, sounding a little surprised. “Said we need to take you to the main tower, so you uhh ’don’t screw up yet a-frigging-gain.”

I grimaced and reached for the powersword sheathed at my hip. How can trust these idiots? Sure that sounded like something the Mimic would say, but these could easily be mooks sent by Edracian in disguise.

“You alright, sir?” asked the first who’d spoken before.

“Yeah, I’m alright,” I said through clenched teeth, what was I going to do? Slaughter them like dogs, just based on some small suspicion? “I really don’t need an escort,” I said. “I’ll be fine.”

“I’m sorry sir but the Major insisted,” said the first.

The corner of my mouth twitched, and I pulled out my vox link, tuning it to ‘Olinthre’s’ channel.

“What do you want?” came Olinthre’s voice only a few chimes.

“You forgot to mention that you’d sent people to guard me, I’m just calling in to make sure they’re yours.”

“Of course they’re mine,” he said. “I sent them to make sure you won’t screw up and get yourself kidnapped again.”

I sighed and rubbed my eyes, thinking that six ex-guardsmen escorting me wouldn’t really make much of a difference if Edracian wanted to attack me again, but okay. Also, they’d just make me stick out all the more.

“Alright,” I said and cut the link.

“You ready to go now?” said one, sounding impatient now.

“Yeah let’s go,” I said, putting my hands into the pockets of my flak jacket. “Sorry just had to make sure you were who you said you were.”

They glanced at each other, seeming more than a little bit bemused.

They really knew nothing, didn’t they?

“Wow, you really are paranoid aren’t you?” said one.

I clenched my teeth and bristled, trying to contend a coherent reply but was so taken aback my words only came out as angry, idiotic monosyllables.

“Uh oh,” said the first. “I think we may have just broken him.”

“If you went through even half of what I’ve just been through, you would be too!” I snapped.

“Yeah, yeah,” said one of them sarcastically. “It’s bad enough we’re running around after a brat like you; we don’t need to be shouted at as well. So kid let’s move on and get this over and done with, okay?”

“Yeah right, fair enough,” I said, with a shrug. “Sorry to be such a pain, let’s get on.”

The elevator reached the top of Taryst’s tower, and I was shocked to see in the corridor at least thirty or forty people standing guard some of them were Taryst’s regulars, some were the very few remaining Hammers under Brutis and Magistratum enforcers under Arlathan Karkin.

They glared at us with barely contained anger as we exited the elevator. All of them looked weary, scarcely able to keep their feet. Almost all the magistratum and Hammers had assorted wounds of varying intensity.

“Poor bastards,” said Halick quietly, most of the mercs with me had now taken off their helms allowing me to see their faces. Halick was a tall, dark-skinned man, whose long hair was in dreadlocks and pulled into a ponytail, he was an ex-bounty hunter but seemed like a good man. “You wouldn’t know what happened to them would you, kid?”

We began to walk through them, trying to ignore their looks.

“Yeah,” I said, hesitantly. “It’s a little hard to explain though, I’ll tell you later when I get the chance.”

It was an outright lie, as I knew I’d never get that opportunity.

“Never thought I’d see the day when ours, the local Hammers and the frigging Magistratum would all be in the same room and not be trying to kill each other,” said Roldar, a little louder than I would’ve liked, an ex-guardsman who was the group’s leader. He was a man of medium height, his short grey hair close-cropped, he reminded me a bit of Garrakson. His tough, no-nonsense attitude was very similar, he also had scars all over his face, from countless battles. He looked quite young though, only a few years older than me.

I just frowned and shrugged.

We came to the curtains at the end of the corridor and immediately out slipped the Mimic to meet us, the men around saluted.

“You’re here,” It said. “Took your bloody time.”

“Hello to you too, Olinthre,” I said.

“Get in here, Attelus,” It just said. “You six stay out here.”

“Yes sir,” said Jelket, the short pale man looking uncertain as he and the rest turned away.

The Olinthre-thing beckoned me through and hesitantly, I followed.

Inside I found standing near the entrance was Arlathan Karkin, he was pacing the room and still wearing his dark blue Magistratum flak armour. With his finger and thumb on his chin. He eyed me as I entered, his big eyes wide with fear or at least it could’ve been fear, could’ve been humiliation as well. After his performance in Brutis’s hideout a few hours ago I couldn’t blame him if it was. When I met his look, he immediately averted his gaze.

I smiled, humiliation definitely, his ego had taken a huge hit. Perhaps it’d brought him some humility.

Then there was Brutis Bones; he still wore his power armour which made him tower over everyone else in the room, his expression was unreadable as he watched me. Next to him was Wesley, he sat hunched forward on one of the couches he’d shaved off his considerable beard and as a result looked ten years younger. His long blonde hair washed and tidy now. He didn’t even look at me; his attention stayed firmly on the floor.

Standing in the far left corner was Glaitis who stood surprisingly alongside Hayden, Castella and Darrance. Darrance sneered at me, Hayden, just sat in the corner looking like he was meditating. Castella, oh Emperor I was glad she was there as she smiled at me, but I was more than a little disturbed to see it didn’t reach her eyes.

Glaitis, her cold blue eyes were uncompromisingly hard.

I involuntarily flinched as the shield suddenly activated behind me, sudden anger took me.

“Well! Well!” I exclaimed, smiling and raising my arms theatrically. “This is a sight to see!”

“Shut it, Attelus,” said Darrance.

I ignored him, “you’d think having all the guards in the corridor would be a bit redundant. When all you’re going to do is turn on the void shield.”

“Frigging shut it!” snarled Darrance.

“Or is there another reason?” I said. “It’s really there, just so they can’t hear us, right? So that we can keep our secrets and lies...Well, secrets and lies.”

“You know how it works,” said Glaitis, sternly.

“I do, I really really do,” I said. “But it goes too far; all those men out there are expected to fight and die for you. For your damned agendas, and they have no real clue as to why. While you sit back on your damn chairs scheming, safe and sound. It sucks it just sucks and sickens me. I’m sick and tired of this shit! All the games! This isn’t just a game of regicide, out there are real people with hopes and dreams. They deserve to know something, anything. I was just like them barely a few months ago. I know what it’s like.”

“And now you know everything, Attelus,” said Wesley. “How does that make you feel?”

“I-I don’t know,” I said. “But I can tell you this if I didn’t know what was at stake, what was needed to be done. I wouldn’t have done what I just did. Run through hell, pushing myself far and beyond what I’d ever imagined I could. I did that because I knew Edracian needed to be stopped. If they knew it too if we gave them purpose, a cause. They may work half as hard as I did, perhaps even harder!”

“That’s enough!” said Brutis. “I assure you, young man. I’m going to tell my men everything they need to know, do not lump me in with these others in your moaning and whining.”

I clenched my teeth, “yet here you are, behind the void shield conspiring with them anyway. By the way, am I ever going to get a thank you? Any sort of appreciation for all I did to save all your arses?”

“No,” stated Glaitis, bluntly. “Because you do not deserve it, Apprentice. While what you did was quite admirable. I will give you that much; it is going to mean nothing because of your earlier actions, guided by your selfishness and cowardice.”

I sighed, surely she didn’t need to say both ‘selfishness and cowardice.’ Surely that was a little redundant?

“The pict I took, right?”

“Indeed,” she said and looked to Wesley who sighed.

“I told you that that was my master’s Interrogator and daughter, right?” said Wesley.

“Yeah, you did,” I said, although I’d already forgotten her name.

Wesley, looked around at everyone guiltily, “over the past few years my master, Inquisitor Devan Torathe, has been...How can I explain this? Losing his mind he, ironically, used to be quite the radical. A member of the Ordo Malleus who knew not everything was black and white and fought for the people. I do not know why, but he has fallen into extreme Puritanism. He follows the Libricar philosophy, which was at complete odds with his old ideals.”

I raised an eyebrow, “Libricar philosophy?”

Wesley finally looked at me directly, “it’s uh, a well I’d say a radical sect of the Inquisition that’s grown in the Calixis sector for some time. The Libricars are just like the Amalathians but more extreme.”

“And what are the hell are the Amalathians?” I asked with a furrowed brow.

“They follow a philosophy which deems everything is according to the God-Emperor’s great plan; they fight for the Imperium to stay the same. For us to keep the status quo. Progress and change is their anathema. Libricars take this ideal even further. They believe that whatever deviation no matter how small is grounds for death, without exception,” said Wesley, patiently but not condescending.

“Okay,” I said, glancing at everyone around the room, they all avoided my look, even Brutis. So what? This Devan Torathe was an extremist, what did that, did that...

Then it hit me, making my mouth gape and my eyes widen. That was his dead daughter I took the pict of. What was this supposedly psychotic, uncompromising Inquisitor going to do after he saw it?

Wesley looked at me sadly, “it gets worse, kid. Much worse. This whole mission was a secret after Brutis found this evidence and came to us, we started it independently of master Torathe.”

“Why?” I asked, utterly confounded by this.

“Because,” Wesley sighed. “Because both Edracian and Torathe were once Interrogators together under the same Inquisitor. They are old, old friends. Amanda and I couldn’t trust his judgement on this, both with his insanity and he and Edracian’s history.”

I said nothing, just looked at Wesley.

“That pict you took, Attelus Kaltos,” said Wesley. “Edracian could send it to my master telling him any lie with it he wishes. My master will believe it no matter how far fetched, or maybe even with the truth, but either way, it doesn’t matter. He will take extreme measures to avenge Amanda. He is coming, and with him, I fear. No, I know, will be Omnartus’ destruction, he will order an exterminatus. Just like Edracian wanted. Just like Edracian had planned.”

For a long time, I said nothing; I could only stand in dumbstruck silence.

“Nice work apprentice,” said Darrance. “Now your foolish actions have doomed an entire planet.”

“I-I!” could only stammer, over and over, everyone looked at me with hard expressions all except Castella whose eyes were wide with sympathetic sadness. That made it even more horrible somehow.
“Why?” I managed finally. “I had no idea; I’d just taken a pict! I had no idea! Please tell me this is just some joke.”

“Snap out of it!” snarled Glaitis. “Do you truly think we would joke about something as serious as this? I thought I taught you better than that!”

My shoulders began to shake, and tears welled in my eyes, my mind whirled as I struggled to comprehend. Could I be indirectly responsible for the deaths of billions?

My thoughts first came to Adelana. I knew then that I wanted to save her more than anyone else. She deserved to live more than me if I died, so she’d live it’d all be worth it.

I’d also deserve it.

I wanted to fall on my knees and weep; I wanted to throw up.

“Attelus,” said Castella as she approached me, laying her hand on my shoulder, then pulled me in a tight embrace. “I understand that you’re upset. But the world isn’t dead. Not yet, we can still stop it. You can still stop this. It’s not too late.”

“But how? I whimpered. “How can we possibly?”

“You stopped the daemons, didn’t you?” she said. “Well, we can stop this as well. There is still hope.”

She let go of me and smiled at me sadly.

Castella was right; we still had time, we could stop it, but how?

“Now we had access to an Astropath,” said Wesley, “I’ve tried to send Torathe messages, trying to tell him to stop, but I’ve got no reply. Nothing.”

“I will make sure to get in touch with my boss,” said Arlathan, the first thing he’d uttered since I’d entered. “We will know when someone exits the warp. Into the system.

“Where was Devan Torathe when you’d last communicated with him?” asked Glaitis.

“That would’ve been, eight months ago now,” said Wesley. “He was on Malfi, investigating into the local elite. They were supposedly in the business of trading daemonic artefacts.

I frowned, I’d done a few jobs on Malfi and knew that such corrupt activity wasn’t beneath them. I wondered how large the pogrom was that Torathe had led against Malfi aristocracy. Not that’d make much of a difference; they’d be back on it not long afterwards, anyway.

“He could be anywhere now,” said Wesley.

Glaitis sighed and rubbed her eyes.

“What do we do now?” I asked.

Arlathan stepped forward, “I’ve told my boss what’s gone on,” he said. “Our remaining men and the PDF are blocking any and all traffic to and from planetside. Any ships that try to leave without the proper authorisation will be shot down. Especially those claiming Inquisitorial identification. Edracian’s as good as trapped.”

Brutis shook his head, “I doubt he’s truly trapped. I bet he’d find a way. I could.”

“Hmm,” I said, with my finger and thumb musing on my chin. “That begs another question, why hasn’t Edracian left already?”

“Who says he hasn’t yet?” said Brutis.

I just shrugged and pursed my lips.

“So why don’t we just evacuate?” suggested Olinthre. “Escape while we have the chance if Edracian’s no longer planetside why should we stay?”

I frowned, as much as that sounded like cowardice, it was just logical. If we died with Omnartus, there would be no one left with the knowledge to stop any of his further missions, but the problem was he was still planetside. I knew, or at least was damn sure of it. I still couldn’t understand it, especially now. Why hadn’t he left? Why?

“Because he might not have,” said Wesley. “And as long as there is one small chance we have him trapped, one small chance we can stop him for good, we’ve got to take it.”

“Surely we should send someone away, just in case,” I said and looked to Brutis. “Surely it should be someone with the highest authority, who can do the most if the rest of us fail.”

Brutis grimaced, “I am not running. I am also partly responsible for this mess and would rather see this mission to its end.”

I clenched my teeth; I could tell Brutis Bones would’ve had a stubborn streak. In all honesty, I couldn’t blame him I’d feel the same way if I was him.

Then I realised something, and my attention switched to Glaitis. Only six months ago I might’ve thought; differently, I wouldn’t have been nearly as sympathetic, perhaps even contemptuous it was his sense of duty to see this through.

But in this case I was pretty sure he was wrong, in this, he should leave. Let us handle this.

Yet I knew Edracian was still here, so perhaps he really shouldn’t.

I sighed to myself and placed the palm my hand over my face.

Suddenly, I remembered something, something which shocked me.

“Even if we kill Edracian here, doesn’t mean that this is all over,” I said suddenly.

“Explain, Apprentice,” said Glaitis, impatiently.

“When I reached the conduit I was forced to fight medicae Feuilt,” I explained. “Edracian had sent him to guard it alone.”

“Yes,” said Olinthre. “We found his corpse in the church not far from where you lay unconscious. Did he tell you something?”

I nodded, “he told me that...that.”

I trailed off, frowned and dropped my attention to the floor.

“He told you what?” said Brutis.

“He told me that, he told me that Elandria’s,” I paused and cleared my throat, noticing that Castella, Darrance and even Hayden all averted their attention. “That Elandria was taken off world, into the warp. I know not where.”

“Did he tell you whether or not that Edracian went with, this...Elandria?” said Wesley.

“No, he neglected to say that,” I said. “But what I mean is that perhaps, perhaps even if Edracian isn’t off world. Perhaps even if we do manage to stop him, he has someone. Something somewhere else is out there, that’s going to take his place. If he’s gone, he still needs to be chased. If he isn’t someone still needs to track down this other something.”

“Wait! Wait! Wait!” said the Olinthre thing. “Why would Edracian want a rotting frigging corpse...?”

It was interrupted by my fist smashing into its face. I’d moved well over six metres in a split second, and It was sent sprawling hard against the wall, then smashing face first hard to the floor.

“He didn’t tell me,” I said as I turned away and placed my hands behind my back. “He didn’t know.”

I smiled and glanced at Glaitis, seeing her sneer at me, which made me grin.

“Emperor!” said Wesley, it took him a good few seconds to realise what’d just happened. “What the hell?”

I looked then to Brutis who was just smiling.

Both Darrance and Castella walked over and helped it to its feet, but it could barely stand.

“Please, Brutis Bones,” I said. “You must leave as soon as you can.”

“You really do love your showboating, apprentice,” growled Glaitis.

“I aim to please,” I said.

“No, you aim to misbehave,” she replied.

“Same difference,” I said with a shrug.

“How can you be so damn coy,” said Wesley, “after finding out that?”

I looked at him because it felt frigging good to finally punch that idiot in the face I thought but just gave him another shrug.

“What else did this Feuilt tell you?” asked Brutis.

I hmm’d and tapped my chin, pretending to remember but really trying to figure what to say and what not.

“Feuilt also claimed that our enemy had allied with the ruinous powers,” I said, which made Brutis furrow his brow. “But I’m already assuming you guessed that.”

“No,” said Brutis, shaking his head. “Even after what occurred I am assuming nothing. No, it’s good to get even some confirmation of Edracian’s corruption.”

I nodded, perhaps it was high time I try to stop assuming things myself.

“Anything else?” said Glaitis.

I turned to her, eyes narrowed, wondering how much she’d told the others. Did they know that he was once her agent? Did they even know he was a triple agent? Working for her, Taryst and Edracian all at once?

Did she know his backstory, even? Of how he was apparently taught by my father?

“Apprentice!” She snapped. “I asked you a question, do not leave us in waiting!”

I sighed, “he also said something else. He told me that Edracian wasn’t what he seemed to be, or something like that.”

That was all I was going to tell them; I didn’t want to say of his supposed connections to my father. Not yet, anyway.

Glaitis and Brutis shared a glance.

“Any idea what that meant?” asked Brutis.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” I said with a shrug, “and all the more reason why someone needs to leave Omnartus.”

“I am not leaving Omnartus,” said Brutis in a tone that’d brook no argument and he looked at me under a hooded brow. I knew then that I couldn’t push it anymore. He was an Inquisitor I was just some lowly mercenary; I had no right to try and order him around.

I swallowed, straightened my jacket and quickly shut up.

“Anything else?” said Wesley.

I shook my head, “that’s all. He might’ve said more, but I was too busy getting the crap beaten out of me to hear it.”

“Seems to be a distinct theme around here,” said Glaitis.

“Which brings forward another question,” said Brutis. “I heard of your injuries. How exactly did you recover so fast?”

My eyes widened, and I looked at Glaitis, her expression was unreadable.

“Yes,” said Wesley. “I was wondering the exact same thing.”

I grinned nervously, the apprehension was horrible, my heart felt like it’d frozen in my chest. How the hell was I going to explain that one away? And what would happen if they found out the truth?

“Surely there are more important things to consider now of all times?” I said.

“Not right now,” said Wesley, as he got off his seat. “We have no leads to follow on Edracian, nothing now. As agents of the throne, in His holy service. It’s our duty to look into things like this. We need to know, how did you recover so fast?”

“I don’t know,” I said, finding myself utterly incapable of thinking of a good response and glancing again at Glaitis, who still looked at me with that unreadable expression.

I clenched my teeth, help me here, please! I begged silently; then I saw that Castella, Hayden and even Darrance were reaching discretely for their weapons, which made me more scared.

“Now that was a lie,” said Wesley. “A blatant one at that you agree, boss?”

“I’d say that went without saying,” said Brutis.

“I don’t know,” I repeated, taking a step back as instinct made me reach for my sword. “That I swear.”

“If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear,” said Brutis, “I see there’s a lot of fear in you.”

He smiled and moved his bolter, but stopped as we heard the sound of a plasma pistol powering up. Castella stood pointing it straight at his skull as Hayden had his rifle pointed at Wesley and Darrance drew his scimitar, activating it.

“Don’t you even dare,” said Castella.

Brutis looked at her utterly unfazed. “I hope you are aware you’re pointing that at a member of the Inquisition? Are you?”

“Yep,” she said without hesitation. “Now put that bolter down, before I put you down.”

I looked at her, utterly taken aback, imploring her to stop silently. Then I saw Glaitis and gaped. She looked on with such horror and shock I could not even begin to describe it.

Brutis sighed, “I wasn’t going to shoot just him. I am not that puritan. You must be aware that what we just lived through was a daemonic incursion. This Attelus here might be possessed, he came very close to a daemonic artefact, and that may be why he healed so quickly. I am just doing my duty as an Inquisitor; I am protecting all of us. Now please lower the plasma pistol.”

I looked at Brutis, in all honesty, that was fair enough, and theoretically, he was right. I was possessed, but not in the way he thought.

“No,” said Castella. “He’s like a little brother to me; I swear if you even lay a finger on him...”

“Enough!” snarled Glaitis suddenly. “Hayden, Darrance, Castella stand down, now!”

“Screw you,” said Castella sternly and Darrance and Hayden weren’t moving either.

Glaitis abruptly shut up, gaping like she was slapped.

I couldn’t believe it. They were doing this for me, standing up to an Inquisitor and putting their lives on the line all for me, but why? I couldn’t comprehend it.

I met Castella’s eyes, and she gave me a smile with a wink.

My expression back to her was the most scared and uncertain I could give, hoping that’d make her back down.

It didn’t.

“You are now making yourselves accomplices in this,” said Brutis. “If he is possessed and is unleashed upon the planet. You will be just as responsible as he is.”

“Don’t care,” said Castella. “You should just be more worried about having a bolt of plasma through your skull, than anything else.”

Suddenly Brutis turned and aimed his Bolter at her.

“Not if I shoot you first,” he said.

Then Darrance was suddenly there, holding his power sword against Brutis’ back.

“Not if I sever your spine first,” he said.

“Stop this!” snapped Glaitis, she was screaming now. “Stop this now! I order you!”

They didn’t take any notice of her, but I did. Only I was able to see Glaitis horrid, rage-ridden expression and I was the only one who saw her draw her power sword.

I was already moving, drawing my sword, winding and weaving through everyone. Making it just in time to block Glaitis’ blade as she stabbed it straight at Hayden’s back.

Instinctively, In the blink of an eye I reposted and slashed out my sword in a decapitating cut, which she had no way to dodge or parry, but I stopped, less than a hair’s breadth from her neck. Just then recalling the promise I’d given to Estella.

I wouldn’t have killed her out of spite or vengeance, just reflex, I had the seemingly indestructible Glaitis at my mercy. How empowering.

A millisecond later Glaitis realised this and flinched back, looking at me with wide surprised eyes. I met her gaze and kept my sword near her neck.

“What the hell are you doing?” She hissed.

My response was a disgusted sneer.

Enough! said a voice in my mind that drummed through my ears so hard it hurt. Making me cry out and flinch with everyone else.

+That is enough! We must stop this nonsensical farce now!+

Immediately, I recognised the voice.

“Karmen!” I cried. “It’s good to hear you!”

She laughed, +likewise, Attelus! Likewise! I am sorry I was not able to help you stop the daemonic incursion.+

I just said nothing and frowned.

“What? What the hell?” stammered Arlathan who I’d forgotten was still in the room.

+If someone has neglected to inform you, Arlathan, I am a psyker. I was under Taryst’s employ.+

“Unsanctioned I suppose,” said Brutis with a grimace.

+No, I was sanctioned, when I was discovered seven years ago. I am on your side, Inquisitor. I can control my powers; I have been taught in great detail how.+

Brutis Bones just frowned and folded his arms across his chest.

+I was the one responsible for Attelus Kaltos fast recovery, she said. I used my psychic strength to heal him while he was unconscious. As I am sure you are aware psychic powers can be used to fix as much as they can be used to destroy.+

Brutis glared at me, and I struggled to keep myself neutral, yet again Karmen was saving my arse.

“It does make sense,” Brutis said, hesitantly. “Why?”

+I-I care for him,+ she said, which made me smile.

“Do you know about this?” asked Brutis.

I just shook my head, wide-eyed.

Brutis grimaced and sighed through clenched teeth, “alright, alright I’ll believe you. You, Attelus Kaltos are extraordinarily lucky, not just that so many seem so happy to put their lives on the line for your pathetic arse but also that I am not more puritan. Many Inquisitors would have you executed just for being so close to a daemonic artefact. Hell, many would’ve ordered Exterminatus on this world, seeing it already irreversibly tainted, which it may well be.”

+Also, another thing,+ said, Karmen. +I have located Inquisitor Edracian’s location.+

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