Secret War: Warhammer 40,000

Chapter 31

A microsecond after my feet hit the debris; I was running diagonally across the width of the corridor. My eyes fixed on the Space Marines as their bolters opened up in a deafening crescendo and strafed my wake.

It was only four metres between them and me, but it may as well have been miles. As it was earlier, time seemed to slow. I could see and feel it all innately, when they were pulling the triggers and where exactly they were aiming a microsecond before it happened.

I weaved, ducked and darted countless bolter rounds. I’d lost sight of Darrance in the utter chaos of light and sound, being too involved in me living from one split second to the next.

My progress slowed to a snail’s pace; I’d barely been at it for a second or two, only made it half a metre before feeling fatigue ebb at my limbs.

Hellgun lasers started to stream overhead and sliced into one of the Space Marines’ torso. The bastard barely flinched and just fired at the shot’s source.

I cursed, smashing away a bolt round flying for my head. I needed to get into close combat to stop them firing at the others, but I couldn’t. I knew I couldn’t. Even if I did, even with my enhanced abilities there was no way I could take on four of the Emperor’s finest for very long.

“Faleaseen!” I screamed through clenched teeth. “I could really use your help right now!”

There was no answer, nothing, as a bolt round managed to skim my shoulder, but luckily didn’t detonate making me reel back. Utter agony and blood abruptly ran down the length of my arm.

I cried out but managed to keep my focus.

“Frig it!” I roared, giving up on trying to advance and purely devoted myself in deflecting the bolt rounds, sending countless of them hurtling away to detonate on the walls or floor.

Another shot skimmed me, glancing off my ribs, throwing me off my feet and to the floor.

Winded, gasping in agony, I kicked out my feet and was up again darting and winding through the fuselage to draw their fire. I wanted dearly to look back to how my comrades were faring, but frigging didn’t dare.

For a split second the Space Marines seemed surprised at this, then concentrated their fire even more on me.

“You aren’t going to kill any more of my friends!” I snarled. “You ugly, misshapen bastards!”

+Attelus!+ Karmen cried. +Everyone is off the flier now! Get back and down, now!+

“Why?” I snapped. “What the hell do you plan on doing?”

+Just do it!+

I threw myself to the floor, screaming at the pain it caused, just a nanosecond before the flier smashed suddenly through the left side wall and into the Space Marines. The impact rocked the whole tower to its very foundation. The integrity of the entire corridor had already weakened, cracked by the Lascannon fire or else this would’ve been impossible. The flier’s momentum caused it to slide and screech briefly across the floor then crash out the opposite side of the corridor. It transformed into a hurtling fireball that plunged through the sky like a meteor, and I could see the now laughably small figures of the Marines falling along with it.

It all happened so quickly that it seemed they were there, then they just weren’t.

Then the void shield flickered and disappeared.

+Move! Move!+ urged Karmen. +More of them will be here soon!+

Slowly, I picked myself up, still awed by it all as the others hurried passed me. I saw much to my surprise that both Verenth and the stormtrooper (Who I was ashamed to admit, I’d already forgotten the name of) had made it. Verenth was helping the medicae assistant, while the stormtrooper did the same for Helma.

Arlathan was now up, helping the somehow still alive and breathing Jelket. Darrance walked by too, looking unharmed besides his broken arm and was supporting Hayden, who seemed pale and pained. How the hell the sniper was still conscious after suffering his injury was beyond me.

Next was Adelana, she wheeled Karmen’s bed, and I tried to meet her gaze, but her attention stayed firmly forward. Her mask of fearlessness was gone, and she looked terrified, completely, utterly terrified. I had a horrible feeling she was scared of me.

Lastly, it was Vex, and the old woman, both of them had Torris’ arms laid across their shoulders. Her attention was to the floor, but Vex was looking at me.

“Remind me to never to punch you again,” he said, raising his black bruised knuckles to me. “Still hurts like a frigger and after seeing you do that...”

I nodded nervously, after seeing what I’d just done. Dodging and deflecting all that, they must’ve thought I was some freak, that I was as unnatural as one of those Space Marines and I was, to an extent.

With a sigh, I deactivated my sword’s power field and sheathed it, slipped my hands into the pockets of my pants and followed them.

I was entering through the crimson curtains when I heard the elevator open and turned to see another two Space Marines emerge.

One was wearing very modified power armour and carried a bolter, a large crane jutted from the top of his back, and I could see he had the cog on his left shoulder plate, announcing his allegiance to the Tech-Priests of Mars.

He must’ve been the one who had hacked the security of Taryst’s personal elevator, that was how they’d been here before we’d arrived.

The other was in very ornate armour his left hand was a power claw, sheathed in dancing light. His right held a plasma pistol.

I smiled at them, and as they raised their weapons and opened fire, I’d already stepped through the curtains, and the void shield was activated.

+Yes, Attelus,+ said Karmen. +Taunt the Space Marines, such a good idea.+

I took out a lho stick, placed it in my mouth with index finger and thumb then lit it.

“Come on Karmen,” I breathed, even though the very act of speaking hurt. “Allow me some fun in life, please.”

Her reply was an exasperated sigh.

In silence, we rode the elevator down to Taryst’s quarters. I sat alone in one of the corners trying to cope with the constant agony.

All of us were exhausted or injured in one way or another. I was both. There was a massive tear right through the skin and tissue, down to the bone in my left arm. But already, the blood had clotted despite the hideousness of the wound, frig it was agony. It seemed my bone had deflected the bolt before it could properly detonate or else I would’ve ended up just like poor Jelket.

Disarmed, literally, and I couldn’t help but smile at the terrible joke.

The bolt round that had hit my side had torn a huge gash in my bodyglove; there, a horrific blue-black bruise was in plain sight. Again my wraithbone bone structure had deflected the shot before it blew a hole in my torso and before the kinetic force could pulp my internal organs into mush.

Adelana was kneeling next to the old woman who was curled up in pain against the opposite wall. I don’t know what I’d broken when I’d thrown her, but she’d seemed to be able to cope with the pain it caused until now. She was quite a tough old bird; I had to admit. It didn’t lessen the guilt I felt over hurting her, though I’d saved her life. I could’ve been a bit more gentle in the process. Guess I didn’t know my own strength.

Adelana suddenly noticed I was looking at them and looked back at me with wide eyes.

I smiled at her and despite the pain it caused gave her a small wave, but much to my hurt she flinched and her eyes abruptly fell to the floor.

Arlathan approached, limping the way while clutching at his side then sat beside me but said nothing.

I sighed, “what, you think I’m some kind of freak as well?”

“No,” he said, and my attention snapped to him, seeing it for the lie it was instantly.

Arlathan sighed too and with a pained grunt adjusted his seating, “yeah alright, maybe a bit. We all saw you do all that stuff, dodging all those frigging bullets. I’ve never seen anyone move nearly as fast as you. Then we saw you get hit not once but twice, but still get up and still keep going, that’s just...that’s just…”

“Impossible?” I said.

Arlathan only shrugged, “it’s more, unnatural. How? How did you get that way?”

I hissed through clenched teeth and closed my eyes as a new wave of pain passed through me. I almost lost myself to sleep in that second; it was an act of tempered will just to open my eyes again.

“It’s...It’s a long story,” I hissed. “I’ll tell you later.”

Arlathan looked pointedly at my arm, “and that wound. I was given basic medicae training in the scholarium, and that wound shouldn’t have stopped bleeding, hell you should be unconscious from blood loss!”

“You say that with Jelket in the room,” I growled. “Now can you leave me alone, it’s pretty frigging obvious I don’t want to talk about this right now, okay?”

“You were the one who brought it up,” said Arlathan with a shrug he instantly regretted. “At least give me smoke, could really use one right now.”

With a heavy sigh, I opened my case of Lhos and handed him one. I was getting low, only five were left.

Arlathan smiled, took it and I hesitantly lit it for him with my igniter.

“Think about this,” Arlathan said as he exhaled smoke. “If I thought you were some; therefore, would I be sitting next to you, smoking your Lhos?”

“Yes,” I said, without missing a beat.

Then we laughed, laughed like there was no tomorrow, laughed with the idiot joy that only those who knew they had survived something they shouldn’t have survived, could. I laughed even though each time it hurt.

Our laughter drew all attention to us and took us a good half a minute for us to stop.

I looked at Adelana once finally done, her expression was one of bemused, gaping horror as she gazed at me. The old woman had regained some of herself as she smiled at us in understanding.

“I can’t believe, we are still alive,” gasped someone, and we looked to see it was the stormtrooper, he kneeled on the floor, his Hellgun pointed to the ceiling. “We should all be dead, Space Marines I can’t believe it, I just can’t…”

He trailed off in his sentence, then he turned to me, his expression unreadable beneath his helm, “all because of you.”

I furrowed my brow, unsure what to make of his panicked tone and started to get to my feet, sensing something wrong, I reached for my sword.

The stormtrooper tore off his helmet revealing plain, ruddy features and short messy blonde hair stood up and abruptly approached, his heavy boots clanging across the metal floor.

Then he suddenly fell into a kneel.

“Surely you are blessed,” he said. “Surely you are an avatar of the Emperor’s will! To be able to move so fast and survive those bolt rounds, you truly must be. The God-Emperor must have sent you to protect us!”

I took a step back, utterly bewildered and Torris burst out in a bitter barking laugh, followed immediately by a horrid groan of pain.

“I’m not, I’m not,” I stammered.

“Yes you must be!” he said on. “In the scholam, they taught us of the saints, ones said to be an embodiment of the God-Emperor himself, they taught us they fought with inhuman strength, speed; Iand endurance. Just the same as you.”

I laughed nervously and realised everyone’s attention was on me. Arlathan looked on with an amused smile. Adelana’s expression was that of deep confusion, but I could see a bit of understanding glinting in her bright blue eyes, she too must’ve been wondering how I was able to do what I did and she must’ve thought his explanation made sense, the old woman had a very similar look. My heart sunk at such a thought.

Verenth’s brow furrowed, and his arms folded over his chest as if the mere thought I could be the chosen of the Emperor made him want to break something, probably me.

Vex was sitting, arms wrapped around his knees, looking up at me through his glasses, his expression unreadable and yet again I was reminded how frigging young he was.

Torris seemed amused like Arlathan, but sarcastically, as though he knew that I was so far from being chosen by the Emperor the Stormtrooper couldn’t have been any more mistaken.

And I wholeheartedly agreed with him.

“I’m not!” I snapped managing to regain my wits. “Get the frig up, now!”


“Get the frig up!” I yelled, anger abruptly overtaking me. “I don’t even think the Emperor is even a god! I Haven’t even been to an ecclesiarchy service for years! I’m the least pious person you could ever meet! You’re so frigging mistaken it isn’t funny! Now get the hell up!”

Again, the stormtrooper hesitated.

“Now!” I roared.

He slowly got to his feet, glaring at me balefully and almost nose to nose, “so, what are you then, huh?” he snarled through his teeth.

I said nothing, just glared back, a glare that said, ‘someone who can kill you before you can blink, so shut up and back down.’

The stormtrooper did, spitting on the floor before retreating into a corner, his face foul.

I held back a sigh and turned away, trying to look discretely sidelong at Adelana, to see how she’d reacted to that. She watched me walk by, gaping up at me in what could’ve been awe or fear in equal measure.

The elevator then abruptly found the floor, shaking to a halt, before the doors slid swiftly open.

I was the first to step into that familiar white, brightly lit corridor, the cells lining the sides of the walls and couldn’t help but blanch as I realised the others were going to see the corpses still in them.

Vex who was helping Halsin was the next out; then it was the stormtrooper with Helma and Verenth aiding Jelket. Last were the bewildered Adelana and old woman, pushing Karmen’s bed I meant to ask what the woman’s name was, but felt would’ve seemed rude.

I allowed the others to pass and fell in step with Adelana.

“I’m sorry, Adelana” I whispered to her. “I have no idea what you can make of all this.”

She looked at me there tears were welling in her eyes, “I don’t understand what’s going on, Attelus,” she hissed through clenched teeth. “Space Marines? Why are we here, why are they killing us? I heard you talking to yourself, or her,” she nodded at Karmen as she laid lifeless on the bed. “You were saying something about this world dying soon and that you feel guilty about it, that at least when she dies she could escape her guilt, but you won’t be able to, what did you mean by that? How were you able to hit the Marines gunshots with your sword and dodge them? If you aren’t chosen by the Emperor, then how were you able to do all of that? The way you said it, it seemed you knew for a complete fact that you weren’t and she’s a psyker, how did she become part of this organisation? I...I...I.”

She looked like she was going to have a panic attack and I reached out to comfort her, but abruptly drew it back as I thought better. I barely knew her, she barely knew me, I didn’t know if it’d be appreciated.

“I’m sorry Adelana,” I sighed and shook my head. “I will tell you everything soon, I swear I will, but I will say this. This is reality; this is the era we live in, there is only war, Adelana. There may not have been war on Omnartus, nor most worlds in the Calixis sector but it is always somewhere. It has found you; I’m sorry to say, as it had found me, as it has found countless upon of others. Trillions before us and more to come. I’m sorry, so, so sorry.”

She looked at me, a sad almost sympathetic smile on her face, that seemed to say, ‘what happened to you that made you like this? Whatever it was, I am sorry.’

I looked away, unable to stand her pity.

“What’s the password?” growled the stormtrooper, he stood at the keypad, his eyes hooded sullenly and looking at me. Everyone else looked into the cells with wide-eyed horror.”

I cleared my throat, “it’s j-garrakson.”

The stormtrooper raised an eyebrow, but that was that as he turned away and typed it in. The door swished open, and he flinched in slight fright.

“Vex!” I said, he was staring into the cell that contained Interrogator Heartsa’s corpse. He instantly snapped from his stupor and looked at me.

“What?” he asked dumbly.

“Get onto Taryst’s cogitator,” I said, even though I knew he knew what we expected of him. “Hack it and get all the data you can.”

Vex nodded, and we filed into the small room. Jelket was placed on the bed along with the Halsin and Helma, while the rest of us milled around the room. I fought the urge to join them and my eyelids from closing.

Vex pulled out a miniature cogitator from a bag slung under his shoulder, pulled out a cord and connected it into the giant black table and began to type into it loudly.

I leaned my back against the wall and began to take out my ceramic case of Lhos. Then I caught Adelana looking at me again from the other side of the room, still with that damnable smile and she didn’t look away when I looked back.

I wanted to tell her to keep her pity to herself but felt it was more than I deserved from someone like her. But the more I saw, the more it didn’t seem like pity; it was something else, something I couldn’t place my finger on.

Before I could think more on it, Darrance walked up to me, “we have better take a look at that ship. You know where it is, there might be medicae facilities on it.”

I nodded, pushed myself off the wall and walked for that small door. It slid open, and we began down the corridor lined with shelves holding many plasteek supply boxes.

“Attelus Xanthis Kaltos,” said Darrance and it made me stop in my tracks and turn back.

“What did you just call me?” I said.

Darrance, shrugged, “your name, or has it been so long since you have heard it, that you have forgotten it?”

“Is that your idea of a joke?” I asked with genuine bemusement.

He shook his head, “you really don’t know anything about me, do you?”

“No I don’t,” I said with an uncaring shrug and folding my arms across my chest.

“Just like I don’t know how you became what you are now,” he said. “But I do know that it all happened after that psyker had visited your medicae room. It seemed strange to me why Glaitis had made them keep you on life support for so long after the Twilight Bar incident, and now I know why. You were going to be her new little super assassin, that you were made, no. Engineered to be the one to finally kill your father. What did that psyker do to you, exactly? I saw frigging bolter rounds bounce off you. It has scared the others, but you know that already, right?”

“Yeah I know,” I sighed and turned to start. “It’s even more complicated than that, believe me.”

“You just have to be careful,” he said. “If an Inquisitor besides Brutis Bones sees that, they might have you captured and on an operating table before even you can blink, okay?”

“Good to know you care, Darrance!” I said with a slight wave of my hand still walking and keeping my back to him. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“You bloody well better!” he snapped at my back.

The small door slid open, and I stepped into the hanger. The massive ship loomed over me and dominated the place. Weapons bristled all over it; there was a Lascannon on each wing, three high yield heavy bolter turrets, one on top, one on the bottom and one on the back. Lastly was a Plasma cannon set underneath the nose.

It was streamlined and smooth, made for speed as well as comfort, thirty metres long and a good sixteen wide, excluding the wings which were both about half the length of the body. I couldn’t identify what design it was or make; I didn’t have much knowledge in such subjects. But I could tell it would easily transport us all no problem.

I just hoped it was warp travel capable, Glaitis’ ship in orbit had warp drives, a Geller field all of it, assuming it was even still there, with the vox down there was no way to know.

The door swished open behind me, and I heard Darrance let out a long whistle.

“Nice,” he said, and I looked over my shoulder at him.

“What’s nice?” I asked.

“Why the ship of course,” he said. “A Salvani class VIII Guncutter, I can see Taryst spared no expense and had a good taste while at it.”

“A Guncutter?” I said. “So, not warp capable?”

Darrance snorted and shook his head with an amused smile then approached the ship, rubbing his hand on it’s sheened metal surface.

“A ship this size isn’t even slightly large enough to house a warp drive let alone a Geller field, too,” he said. “You show your ignorance spectacularly.”

I pursed my lips and shrugged, feeling he was merely stating a fact rather than trying to insult me.

“We all can’t know everything about everything,” I said.

It was Darrance’s turn to shrug, but he said nothing, so enraptured by the Guncutter.

“It’ll have an internal medicae capability, right?” I said. “If this ship is so frigging super special awesome and all.”

“Yeah,” he said while beginning to walk around the ship, gaping in awe.

I had no idea that Darrance was so into ships, he would’ve been the last person I could’ve imagined being interested in such a subject.

“I would even say the medicae facility would even be automated,” he said, after a long pause. “I would suggest you get the psyker and the other injured here.”

“She has a name, you know,” I said.

“I’m sure she does,” he said almost wistfully, still keeping his back to me, still sliding his hand across the Guncutter.

“Fine,” I said. “Be that way, then.”

I turned to walk away when the door suddenly slid open, and Adelana stepped into the hanger.

“Oh, hi!” I said and felt a smile unintentionally crossing my face.

She smiled back, but it didn’t reach her eyes, “Vex sent me, he’s managed to get into the cogitator’s vox system. We’ve received a communique, and she wants to talk to you.”

I nodded, she looked very visibly scared all of a sudden.

“Yes,” she said, shivering despite the warmth in here. “She said...She said that she was an Inquisitor.”

Adelana, Darrance and I emerged back into the quarters.

Everyone who could still stand was crowded around the cogitator desk gazing down at the large display. It was now showing the image of the head and shoulders of; I woman wearing black, ornate power armour. Her skin was a dark, chocolate brown and her blue eyes incredibly piercing that suggested they were extremely advanced augmetics. Her long, thin white hair tied into a top knot.

I stepped into view of the display the others stepping aside to allow me in.

The woman’s eyes narrowed as she saw me.

“You are Attelus Kaltos,” she said, her voice boomed from the speaker, it was the confident voice of someone who was a leader, a true leader and who knew it but didn’t revel in this knowledge. It was a statement, not a question.

I managed a nod, and she smiled, it was a sensual smile, but it wasn’t pleasant at all. It was almost predatory.

“Yes,” she said. “Wesley had told me much about you in his reports. I apologise, allow me to introduce myself. I am Inquisitor Jelcine Enandra of the Ordo Hereticus.”

She held up a Rosette, briefly, casually as though such a thing didn’t give her power and influence beyond measure.

“I have just arrived in the system,” she said. “I have brought with me ten ships of the Calixis battlefleet and they are about to engage the Space Marines.”

I involuntarily flinched as some of the others suddenly let out a cheer.

Their elation didn’t last long as Enandra’s expression darkened and said, “I doubt they will last long, though, they are merely a distraction.”

“A distraction?” said Arlathan. “A distraction for what?”

She sighed, “a distraction for your escape. My personal ship, the Audacious Edge is built for battle and stealth, and we have entered the system undetected. We are orbiting the blind spot of the local star. It is at great risk that I am talking to you now.”

“How?” said Darrance. “How did you get this frequency?”

Her eyes narrowed again, but in bemusement, “Wesley gave it to me in one of his astropathic messages, he never told you that?”

“No,” I said and wondered how the hell he got it in the first place, he seemed to have neglected to tell us a lot before his death.

+I gave it to him,+ said Karmen. +I gave him this frequency, I knew Taryst had a high powered vox situated down here, one capable of interplanetary communication. I felt that the reinforcements he sent for would need to know it, although I didn’t believe it would amount to anything. Obviously, I was wrong.+

’Wesley also told us he never got any reply,” I said. “Did you send anything back, mamzel?”

Enandra’s eyes widened and straightened as if I’d asked the most stupid question in the verse.

“Yes, of course, I did,” she said. “Where is he?”

“He’s...He’s dead,” I answered hesitantly. “I’m sorry.”

“Really?” she said but didn’t seem at all upset by this, more surprised. “Always thought that old bastard was indestructible. Tell me later how and why he died, we don’t have the time now. It’s sad to hear; I was hoping he might be able to talk my former master down from this, rather disproportionate, retribution for Omnartus and it’s people.”

Adelana and the old woman looked at me then, looking very anxious all of a sudden.

“You two should get to the ship,” Arlathan said to them. “Take Karmen with you, please.”

They both nodded and hurriedly, they took Karmen’s bed then left the room.

“Did I say something wrong?” said Inquisitor Enandra.

I hissed air through clenched teeth, “not everyone knows everything.”

“Frig yeah we don’t,” said the Stormtrooper sullenly.

“What’s happened to the System Defence Force ships?” said Arlathan.

“Already dead,” stated Enandra. “Or to be more precise, destroyed. The Space Marines had lost none of theirs in the process, but a few were damaged. The Marine ships are all now in orbit, blockading the planet’s air traffic and destroying the orbital platforms and soon, very soon they’ll initiate the Exterminatus once the orbital battle is won.”

“What about the surface to orbit defense turrets?” said Arlathan.

Enandra sighed again, “from what I understand, according to the PDF vox; he I have been monitoring, they seemed to have been...sabotaged.”

“What?” said Arlathan his eyes wide with disbelief.

Then it hit me, “it might’ve been the Adeptus arbites!”

Enandra turned her head and said sceptically, “Adeptus arbites?”

I nodded and quickly relayed the events of their earlier ambush. It was rushed and abridged, and I withheld some details.

Enandra looked at me sidelong once I finished, her jaw clenched slightly. She could tell that I’d skipped some things but after a few seconds of pondering she eventually nodded.

“I see,” she said. “After you had informed me of that, your theory does have some merit, that they are either under the influence of my former master, or Inquisitor Edracian but at this point, it matters little. Do you have a void capable ship?”

“Yeah,” I said. “We also have a ship in orbit…”

“I don’t care if you do!” Enandra interrupted me suddenly. “You are to go to my ship and none other! Any other ship is suicide at this point and besides.”

She smiled but again it was that predatory and strangely sensual smile, “I would like to talk to all of you face to face, and I mean literally, so I can make sure you are…”

She paused and raised her eyes to whatever ceiling was over her, in mock, exaggerated imitation of someone struggling to find the right word to use.

“Proper,” she said eventually.

“In all honesty, mamzel,” I said, leaning close to the screen. “The way you said that, doesn’t give us much incentive.”

She laughed, and it was a genuine laugh, it was almost musical and couldn’t help but like it, “yes I guess it wouldn’t. I like you, boy. From what Wesley told me I knew I would like you, Attelus Xanthis Kaltos. Son of the infamous Serghar Kaltos, it seems you didn’t inherit his anti-social qualities.”

“You know my father?” I asked as I felt my face flush.

“No,” she said, for the first time smiling genuinely. “I know of your father; there are very few within the Inquisition who do not.”

“Of course there isn’t,” I sighed.

“Anyway, your ship has more than likely been destroyed anyway,” she said, becoming sober and professional again.

“So, what happens now, mamzel Inquisitor?” said Verenth, his voice shaky.

“The Calixis battlefleet ships will be first engaging the Marine spacecraft in about half an hour,” said Enandra. “They will be fully engaged another fifteen minutes after that, so I need for you to wait for that timeout then leave Omnartus. Fly for the local star and once you are ten thousand kilometres away send me a brief communique on this frequency. There I will give you the coordinates of the Audacious Edge. Then I will allow you to board and from then on wait it out until the Space Marines and my erstwhile master have left the system. Does that make any sense?”

“Wait, with respect mamzel Inquisitor,” said Verenth and I couldn’t help wince and hiss through clenched teeth. “Did you just say, ‘wait it out until the Space Marines leave?’”

Enandra glared at him, her jaw twitching slightly, dangerously, “that isn’t quite verbatim, but it’s close. So, yes.”

“Aren’t we gonna do something?” he cried. “We can’t just stand by and watch! They’re gonna destroy my world!”

Enandra sighed, her eyes falling to the floor and for a second there was true despair on her attractive face.

“Yeah,” she said as her gaze suddenly snapped back on us, a look of fiery determination on her face. “Yeah I do and if you don’t want to there is another option. You have a weapon, you can use it on yourself, or I could do it for you. I’m sorry, I am. I wish it could’ve ended in another way, but it’s too late. Just too late.”

Verenth listened with wide, teary-eyed horror, his mouth gaping and I felt sorry for the Hammer.

“I must end this communique,” said Inquisitor Enandra. “I have almost gone over the safe time gap already. I am sorry, I wish all of you luck and hope to see you soon.”

Then the screen abruptly went blank.

For a long time, we were silent. The only sound, the pained moans, and groans of the injured.

The first one to find his head was Arlathan, “alright!” he snapped. “We’ve got three-quarters of an hour to get things ready! Attelus, Darrance, Verenth, Vark! You four get the heavily injured into the ship.”

“What are you doing?” said a voice and we turned to see Helma was groggily getting off the bed, she was smiling at us. “Brutis Bones put me in charge, didn’t he?”

“You shouldn’t be up, captain!” cried Vark but she waved him off.

“I have been unconscious and useless for much of what has happened,” she said. “I’m sorry, now it’s about time I will be of use.”

Helma turned away and hauled up Jelket by his good arm, then placed it across her shoulders,

“I heard what the Inquisitor had said,” said the captain. “She’s right; we can’t stop this. But if we escape with all we know we can make sure that Etuarq will never be able to do it again.”

She started to the door, and I held out my hand to offer help, but she shook her head in decline.

As she passed, I once again saw the enormous black bruise on the side of her skull and fought the urge to flinch at the sight of it. I had no idea how she was awake let alone moving.

I reached down and hauled up Hayden; he was the heaviest of the injured so thought it fitting I was the one to carry him.

“Well!” I said. “You heard the mamzel! We’ve got work to do.”

It took us a good ten minutes to take the injured into the ship. The interior was almost beautiful, comfortable and well made. Soft, red carpet with slight gold lining was on the floor the walls were cream, curling waves produced from thin lines of gold. The corridors were as thin as any other ship its size but seemed slightly wider because of the decoration. Darrance was with, he seemed to know the ship’s layout and showed us to the medicae area. We laid Hayden, Jelket on two of the four gurneys while Torris who was still conscious laid himself down. The two servitors which staffed it immediately began to treat their wounds. Darrance left for the cockpit claiming he needed to ‘get to know the controls.’ Or something.

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure if I was at all comfortable with Darrance piloting, but kept this thought to myself.

I wandered off to explore; I found the lines of small personal quarters, near the medicae area, eight of them on the lowest level of the ship, all of them a good size and luxurious. Then the engine room at the other end.

I ascended the stairs into the large common room, kitchen and found both Adelana and the old woman were there. The old woman’s torso was covered in bandages, and they sat in silence in the corner, on one of the large comfortable couches. Adelana seemed to be staring out into space, looking hunched and defeated, my black flak jacket laid crumpled on the floor at her feet. The old woman was asleep, her head hung forward, and her snoring reverberated through the room.

For a few seconds, I stood, looking at Adelana and admired yet again just how attractive the young redhead was. Quickly, I decided not to disturb them and turned to walk up the stairs I assumed led to the cockpit.

“What’s going to happen, Attelus?” Adelana asked abruptly, making me stop in my tracks.

I turned back to her, but I had no idea what to say, what to do.

Then again she started to cry, “how?” she cried. “How could this happen?”

My attention fell to the floor.

“My world!” she yelled. “Is my world really going to die?”

All I could manage was a slight nod; I saw no reason to lie anymore.

“But why?” she whimpered. “Why?”

I didn’t answer, couldn’t answer.

“What’s going to happen to my friends? My family? My mother, my father, my little brother and sister? Can’t we save them?”

I only shuffled my feet.

She shuddered with tears and looked away.

“Why? Why did you save me?” she cried her face abruptly turning into a mask of anger. “Why have you brought me here?”

“I thought…”

“No! I bet you didn’t think!” she snarled. “You never stopped to consider what I wanted. Was it because I was nice to you? Talked to you? Are you really that pathetic? You said that this was reality, this was the 41st millennium, that there is only war. What if I didn’t want to know that? What if I wanted to live in ignorance? What if I wanted to die in ignorance?”

“It’s not just that,” I murmured, fighting back the tears starting to well in my own eyes.

“What?” Adelana snapped.

“It’s not just that!” I cried, my hands curling into fists at my sides and just then Helma, Verenth and Vark walked into the room. “...It’s not just that.”

“What is it then?” she yelled.

“I’m...I’m not a good person, Adelana,” I said. “I’ve killed a lot of people, and I’m going to continue killing a lot of people.”

I pursed my lips and gave Helma, Verenth and Vark a glance.

“When I met you Adelana, when we talked, it lent me a new perspective,” I paused. “No, sorry it renewed an old perspective. I’d just been through hell, but you, talking to you made what I’d went through, worth it because it assured me that there were good people out there worth fighting for and worth dying for. Even though this galaxy is a horrid, dark place and I’ve seen the worst of it, I believe that you deserve to live and…”

“So, you wanted to save me, just because it inspires you?” she interrupted, sounding horrified.

“N-no, that’s not what I meant,” I stammered. “I couldn’t save Omnartus, hell I couldn’t even save your friends! I...I.”

I stopped and sighed, “no, no you’re right, Adelana. I brought you here for selfish reasons, I never even considered how you would feel about. I was warned, but I didn’t listen. I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry.”

“Go away!” she screamed, and the abruptness made me flinch in fright. “Get away from me!”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t even talk to me!” she roared. “Leave me alone you selfish bastard! I hate you.”

I recoiled at her fury, nodded then turned and started toward the exit. The others moved aside to let me past.

I paused at the peak of the stairs and looked over my shoulder at her, “I still intend on telling you the truth, Adelana,” I said. “When the time is right, of course. I’ll tell you everything I know, and once you know it, you will have a new purpose, a reason to live. You can hate me all you like, and I understand if you do, but please don’t hate me. I was selfish and idiotic, without a shadow of a doubt, but that’s because I’m only human. I’m a flawed, idiotic human. But hate, hate, Adelana is the worst emotion us humans possess. It has been the source of so many of our problems; it can be manipulated by those who know how. It can twist and contort and drive good people like you into becoming monsters. Monsters like me, like my master, like the man who has ordered the death of this world, like my father. So I ask you not to hate me, not because I don’t want you to hate me, but for yourself, for your humanity and your sanity. I hope you can one day forgive me, Adelana. I truly hope you can, but I’d understand if you can’t.”

She continued to glare at me, her expression still set in anger, but I could see in her sea blue eyes, that she’d understood what I’d just said.

I turned and started down the stairs, ignoring the others as they watched me leave.

“I’m sorry,” I said under my breath, finally letting the tears to flow down my face freely.

In sullen silence, I went to the medicae servitors and had one bandaged my arm then applied soothing salve to my ribs while I smoked my last Lhos as I winced and hissed with the pain.

+Attelus?+ Karmen said as I was in the midst of slipping my body glove back on.

“What do you want, Karmen?” I growled.

+I heard what you said to that Adelana girl.+

“Of course you did,” I sighed.

+Now are you aware of what Glaitis tried to make you into?+


+Do you remember what I said to you in this bunker a day ago?+

“You said quite a few things back then,” I said. “Elaborate.”

+I said I was here to save from losing your sanity,+ she said. +Like I had back in the ruins of Varander seven years ago, do you remember that?+

“Yes I do,” I said. “And I’ll always appreciate what Estella Erith did for me back all those years ago, no matter how much she has changed. I needed you back then when I was a stupid teenager…”

+But you don’t need that now,+ she finished. +I don’t know how you managed to keep your sanity after all you’ve been through in the last few months.+

I laughed suddenly, bitterly, “how do you know I’m still even sane, Karmen? What does that even mean? Is there some indelible line between sanity and insanity? Torris had said that I suffered from something called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That doesn’t sound sane to me!”

She didn’t reply.

“No, I think you need me more than I need you,” I said. “The woman that was once so caring and kind is now a woman who can callously control and have thousands of people slaughtered...”

I paused and sighed, “the woman I’d once loved, now I know she is capable of such acts.”

+I...I won’t try to justify what I’ve done, Attelus+ she said, her voice breaking with utter sadness. +I’ll just say I did what I believed I had to, that none of us would be here right now if I didn’t do it. But you are right it is morally wrong.+

Yet again I sighed and remembered the saying, ‘anything and everything to win,’ Karmen had adhered to it too it’s most logical extreme. She was the embodiment of pragmatism; she was far stronger than I could ever claim to be. Karmen showed the dark side of that philosophy, the philosophy I’ve always tried to live to, I hoped that I wouldn’t wind up that way.

But was sacrificing all those men worth it? Just to save the few of us? Just because of the meagre knowledge we know. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure.

Inquisitor Enandra also adhered to that, sacrificing all those ships, all those Navy personnel, so that we could escape the fate of Omnartus. A fate we had a hand in causing. I should’ve felt privileged I suppose, but it made me feel sick more than anything else.

+Do you hate me?+ she said, interrupting my train of thought. +Do you hate me, Attelus Kaltos?+

“No,” I said without a second’s hesitation. “Do you think I’d hate you after what I’d told Adelana? That’d make me the biggest hypocrite in the millennia-long history of hypocrites. So no I don’t, I won’t.”

She sighed with palpable relief.

+But you don’t love me anymore?+

“No,” I said, it was a lie, but it was one of those few lies that needed to be told. “I can’t, I’m sorry.”

Her reply was silence.

I left the Guncutter and walked back to Taryst’s quarters. Only Arlathan and Vex were still there, and both glanced up at me as I entered. Vex was knelt in front of his portable cogitator his fingers a blur as they worked over the keyboard while Arlathan stood over him, leaning forward to watch Vex work. I was surprised the temperamental little teenager would put up with that.

“How goes it?” I asked, trying to attempt to hide my severe depression under a mask of fake cheer.

“As good as it can go with such a short time limit,” said Vex sullenly. “I have managed to hack in, and I am uploading as much data as I can into my cogitator, but it’s all frigging encrypted. It’s an encryption code I’ve never seen before. I’m hoping that I can find something, anything I can use to decrypt it.”

I sighed and scratched the back of my head, “I know that the sniper, Hayden Tresch is also pretty good with cogitators. He’d hacked into the Adeptus Arbites data stream a few months ago; he’d have been able to help you if he wasn’t fighting for his life right now.”

Vex shrugged, “I wouldn’t want his help anyway, I am Vex Carpompter. Vex Carpompter doesn’t need any help.”

“Don’t be stupid,” I said, folding my arms across my chest. “Everyone needs help from time to time. You needed help from sergeant Garrakson so you could effectively punch me in the face. I’ve needed help on numerous occasions to survive many of my battles.”

Vex shot me a withering glare, “that is all to do with physical violence. When Vex Carpompter works with data, Vex Carpompter does not need help!”

I shared a bemused look with Arlathan who smiled and said, “Vex Carpompter better stop referring to himself in the third person. It makes Vex Carpompter sound like a complete arsehole.”

Vex let out an animalistic growl. “Okie frigging dokie!” he snarled through gritted teeth. “Just shut up and let me concentrate, okay?”

I smiled and shook my head; if I was even half as skilled in something at the same age as Vex. I’d have been almost as arrogant as him.

On second thought, perhaps not, I could’ve been classed as a master swordsman at seventeen. I guessed the difference between him and me would’ve been that I didn’t know I was as good as I was. Vex knew he was, his skills were in huge demand, in fact, he’d probably earned more thrones in his short life than I would in decades. Also, I’d never intended to use my martial arts and fighting abilities besides being a mere hobby.

I was just another killer, an effective one but still only one among billions upon billions of others. Now Vex, he was one of the very few who held such skill outside the Adeptus Mechanicus, and I couldn’t help but wonder, how he’d gained such knowledge, especially at such a young age.

We acquiesced his request, Arlathan and I wandered the room in silence as we waited for Vex to finish his work.

I kept glancing at my wrist chron, seeing the remaining fifteen minutes quickly whittle away. Every once in a while Vex would announce some set back with another animal roar of frustrated rage, and he hit the floor with his fists.

It wasn’t until one minute remained when we heard something other than an utterance of anger from the young Hacker. It was a whoop of triumph.

“Got you, you son of a bitch!” he cried. “I’ve got you!”

“What did you get?” I asked as I approached.

“This!” exclaimed Vex, pointing at a line of code that looked like all the others to me. “This will allow me to decrypt the data! It’s all binary, but binary made in numbers from another language! I see it’s Cartharsian! A language from…”

“Yes, that’s all well and good and all,” interrupted Arlathan. “But how much data did you get, exactly?”

“As much as my miniature cogitator’s memory core is able to hold,” he said, the sullen tone returning. “Only about two hundred years worth, if I didn’t have to leave my main cogitator behind…”

“Oh shut up!” snapped Arlathan. “We couldn’t bring those with us even if we weren’t running from Space Marines! Two hundred years will have to do, now come on! We’ve got to go!”

“But I still have to decrypt it!” Vex whined.

“Can you do that later?” I growled.


“Well then do it later!”

Pouting his lips in anger, Vex abruptly tore out the cord and climbed to his feet.

Arlathan grabbed Vex by the arm as the hacker closed the cover of his portable cogitator and we moved quickly out the door. Most of the plasteek supply crates had been taken off the shelves, carried into the ship I assumed.

“So,” said Vex as he tore his arm from Arlathan’s grip. “What happens now?”

“Now,” I said. “Now we’re onto the hard part.”

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