Chapter 27/one half
We stood silent for a few minutes, trying to process this new revelation, it was Arlathan who broke the silence.
“My boss has notified the Planetary governor and the PDF,” he said. “The thirteen warships in orbit are prepped and ready for the invasion, as well as the two orbital stations. They calculate they’ll be in orbit in another hour.”
My face lit up slightly, Omnartus was the capital world of the system. A massive hub for bureaucracy and a significant exporter of minerals for the Calixis sector, it was no surprise it’d be so well defended, it made it seemed we stood a bit of a chance after Arlathan had listed it.
“Not enough,” growled Brutis, quickly crushing my hope. “It’s not even fething close to enough.”
“Should I inform the Planetary governor that we might be up against the Astartes?” said Arlathan.
Brutis sighed and rubbed his eyes, “does Taryst have any ships in orbit?” he asked Helma.
“Yes, just one,” she said, still somehow sounding as calm as calm can be. “A trade frigate up in orbit about to leave to take minerals to the Lathes.”
“Do you have many surface to void ships?” asked Brutis.
“Three,” said Helma and she furrowed her brow. “Are you proposing we evacuate? I have over two thousand men, a thousand of which are here. That frigate will only carry one thousand at most.”
“My ship is still in the system,” said Brutis. “After you and your forces ambushed me, it’s been hiding in the blind spot near the local star ever since. That will carry another thousand.”
“We have a ship, too,” said Hayden. “It’s small, though, we could only take a bit over five hundred.”
“Even so,” said Helma. “Those three surface to void ships can only take two dozen men at a time; there’s no way we can evacuate even a third before the enemy are knocking at our door.”
“Damn it! I wish we could’ve heard the message that Etuarq had sent!” said Brutis and he gave Hayden and Selg a look. “Really? All of them?”
“Yes, all of them,” said Hayden. “It took me a while to bypass the lock into the rest of the tenth floor, and there we found all of Edracian’s command staff, dead. Including his astropaths, a venenum temple assassin and their cogitator banks were destroyed. I figure all of it happened only about half an hour before Attelus, Castella, and Darrance confronted him.”
I frowned, and my attention fell to my feet at his mention of Castella.
“Anyone who knew too much,” I sighed. “Which was almost us as well.”
“It could still be us,” corrected Darrance and he looked at Brutis. “So, are you sure it’s Space Marines?”
Brutis gave him a severe look, “of course I’m not sure, but only Space Marines could take out the PDF defences in orbit with so smaller fleet. I wish that Wesley still lived, maybe he could’ve negotiated Torathe to stand down. Torathe is also fething Ordo Malleus so they could be frigging Grey Knights.”
“Grey...Knights?” said Helma, her brow furrowed in bemusement.
“I’m sorry,” said Brutis, “but if I told you any more, I’d have to kill you.”
Helma sniggered, but her laughter drained away when she saw Brutis’ grim face quickly indicated it wasn’t a joke.
My eyes narrowed, “even still you should tell us what these Grey Knights are, Inquisitor if we’re to potentially fight them. Know your enemy and all that.”
His attention snapped at me, his face an abrupt mask of rage. I didn’t flinch, I met his look and let him know what I thought with a furrowed brow and clenched jaw.
His anger was gone as quickly as it’d come and he looked away, “I’ll tell you only if it’s confirmed it’s them,” he said.
“Could they seriously be even worse than Space Marines?” said Roldar.
“Yes,” said Brutis. “Yes they can, and yes they are.”
My heart sank as did everyone else’s, indicated by their looks of dismay, hell even Helma looked scared for a second or so.
“Captain Helma,” said Brutis, taking the initiative as usual. “I think it’s best if you rescind that order to blow up the mansion and evacuate your men back to Taryst’s tower, immediately.”
“Yeah! Got you!” she said, activated her vox link and began barking orders into it.
“Attelus and the rest of you get back there as well,” said Brutis. “I suggest you get your Magistratum Marshalls there as well, detective Karkin.”
“Why?” Arlathan asked.
Brutis sighed, “I know I shouldn’t jump to conclusions, but I have a feeling that the Space Marines will send a strike force as soon as they hit orbit, one to take out what they think is the root of the issue.”
“Taryst!” I gasped, and instantly my thoughts sickeningly weaved to Karmen, still supine in the medicae then to Adelana, and I wondered if her working day had started yet.
“Exactly,” said Brutis. “You’re as sharp as a power blade, aren’t you? If we could hold off the Space Marines there for long enough, it might delay the Exterminatus allowing more to escape.”
I hissed through clenched teeth, “let’s just hope that they don’t have much intelligence on the tower, but...but I’m frigging sure they do.”
“Why?” asked Jelket.
“There was a spy,” I answered with some hesitation. “A double agent working for Edracian, he could’ve supplied the Inquisitor with a schemata, anything. Which in turn could’ve been sent by Edracian to Torathe.”
“Who was it?” growled Roldar, his expression uncompromising.
I sighed and scratched the back of my head; I saw no reason to lie.
“It was medicae Feuilt.”
Roldar’s eyes widened, “Feuilt? A spy? You shittin’ me? That guy seemed out of touch with everything.”
I didn’t say anything as the corner of my mouth twitched, that was all part of the ploy, I thought, and I could see by their expressions, everyone else was thinking the same thing.
“I’ll vox ahead,” said Helma, breaking the brief silence. “Inform base of what’s ahead, I uhh, should I…?”
Helma trailed off in her sentence and gave Brutis an uncertain look.
“Should you what?” asked Brutis.
“Should I inform them of how we’re against Space Marines?”
“No,” said Brutis without hesitation. “Not until it’s utterly confirmed. Also, cancel my instruction to destroy that building and extricate your men ASAP. Verenth, Selg gather the rest of your men they will need to go to Taryst’s tower as well.”
Brutis turned to Helma, “we were enemies not long ago, but you must trust them. You must give them as much clearance in that place as you can. If you’re going to stand even a tiny chance, you’ll need to co-operate. Co-operate like the world’s going to end, which it is. You got that?”
Helma gave him a wide-eyed nod, I didn’t know her well, but it seemed that not much could phase her. Inquisitor Brutis “Bones” Tybalt was one thing that could.
“Excuse me, boss,” said Verenth as Selg turned and began relaying orders into his vox link. “You said, ‘your men’ not ‘my men.’”
“Yes, I did, I’m going to have to take my leave, Verenth, as much as it pains me to do it,” Brutis looked to me, “they’re no longer mine because they’re yours now. Someone needs to get off this rock who knows about this and I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
Much to my shock tears suddenly welled in his eyes, “I wanted to bring you with me, all of you, once this was over. I have served in the Guard for many years and in the Inquisition for many years after that. But never have I met and worked with men so dedicated to the Throne and me. It still amazes me, when I first came to you, you were misfits, rogues, and criminals of the highest order. But I’ve always believed that almost anyone can be redeemed, anyone can turn their life around and become a better person that the God-Emperor would forgive them and protect them. It happened once to me, y’know? You have proven this to me, without a shadow of a doubt, Verenth, Selg all of you. You would’ve been great throne agents, and I ask so much of you, I’m sorry. I do not want to leave, but there is a bigger picture and…”
Brutis trailed off in his sentence as Verenth placed a hand on his shoulder.
“No, don’t apologise, boss. I already swore I’d serve and only in death does duty end, right?” said Verenth. “I’ve not been a good person, boss, I’ve done a lot of bad things, sure much in the name of survival, but still, bad. My life isn’t worth much, but if I die so that one innocent, one good person can live even a second longer, it’s worth it. Thank you, boss, thank you for coming to us offering redemption and giving us purpose, purpose truly worth fighting and dying for.”
As I stood, listening in utter awe, at Verenth’s mention of ‘one innocent, one good person’ I instantly thought of Adelana, the utterly beautiful inside and out girl that really, truly didn’t deserve to die. Then I thought of the similarity between Verenth and me and the other Hammers, that we were of the lowest of the low but now were given the opportunity to do more, to be more. A purpose. Brutis’ words also reminded me of Faleaseen’s earlier speech; it struck me with its similarity.
I then realised that this was true camaraderie, that Brutis Bones was a great man, a great leader. One worthy of legend. This was the way to lead. A way which I swore I’d adhere to, I didn’t believe I could be even slightly on par with Brutis,′ not even in a thousand years, but by frig, I’d try.
Brutis Bones nodded and clamped Verenth on the shoulder, the tears now freely flowing.
He made the sign of the Aquila and said, “You honour me Verenth, thank you. Thank you, all of you. Verenth, you’re in charge, I know you’re more than capable of handling it. Tell them, tell them what I’d just told you, I’m afraid if I see any of them I won’t be able to leave. The Emperor protects, now I must gather my belongings and take my leave. Vox me when you get more info on the invaders, Arlathan. If they’re Grey Knights, I’ll tell you what I know.”
And with that Brutis turned and walked away, and I was confident I’d never see him again.
“Wow,” said Jelket in awe. “If only Taryst had been like that.”
“Alright!” snapped Helma, knocking me and everyone else back into reality. “Enough time wasting! Hurry it up! We’ve got a planet to save!”