*Author’s Note the part when Attelus tells of the man saying he was beautiful was based on something that happened to me, being an unrepentant author avatar, thought I would throw in more stuff that has happened to me.
I walked with Arlathan and Vex on my flanks, up to the cockpit. I fought the urge to look at Adelana as I passed by her but I could sense that her eyes were on me.
I entered the cockpit, finding Darrance was still at the controls, it was quite large, with five seats. Verenth was at the sensor screen, Helma sat at the console of the Lascannon and Vark, the Plasma cannon.
“Everyone’s on board,” I said as I took the co-pilot’s seat. “You ready to take off?”
“Yes,” he stated, and I’d never heard him sound so serene. “I have gotten used to the controls. I’ll be able to handle this.”
“I had no idea you could pilot voidcraft,” I said. “It’s mighty bloody convenient if you ask me.”
Darrance snorted and with quick hands began to push buttons and flick seemingly random knobs around and said, “you have no idea about anything, Attelus.”
I frowned and furrowed my brow and heard the others chuckling at my expense.
The Guncutter shook and abruptly lifted off the ground, making my stomach sink in sympathy.
Darrance took the wheel with his one good hand, his broken one was not in a caste and a sling, “if you really must know I am the son of a long line of voidship builders, a dynasty if you will. My father taught me from a very young age how to control them, I was his eldest son and was in line to take over from him when he died...”
He grimaced and left it at that.
“Look up,” said Darrance and I did.
Above us the ceiling clanked and crunched loudly with the sound of moving gears, then it began to open. Then other gates to open after that, countless of them. Lights abruptly switched on, one at each corner, in quick succession, all the way up the gigantic shaft. Revealing just how dizzyingly high it went. How the hell Taryst had managed to build this in secret was anyone’s guess.
Slowly we began to take off, the only sound which accompanied it was a slight hum, followed by a whir as the landing gear retracted into the ship’s belly.
“Here we go,” said Darrance as the main thrusters fired up and slowly, carefully we began to ascend. The shaft was far wider than the Guncutter, but I could see Darrance’s brow furrowed in concentration
He noticed I was looking and snapped, “it’s been a while, okay? And one of my arms is broken! I am not at my best!”
I shrugged, “well, you’re doing better than I would.”
Darrance looked at me as though I’d just said the basest of insults, then turned away, “you are annoying me, apprentice,” he said. “Could you go somewhere else? I would suggest you take control of one of the heavy bolter turrets. Take the time to get to know the controls before we engage.”
“You think that we’re gonna engage the enemy?” I asked.
Darrance shrugged, “this ship has stealth capability,” he said. “This Taryst was a smart bastard it must’ve cost him a fortune, but an escape craft like this would most certainly need one. I hope it’ll work, but knowing our luck…”
He let it hang.
“Can I stay here?” I said, attempting not to sound too pleading.
“What? Are you scared of that Adelana girl?” he said. “I would be if I were you, but you’re just going to have to get over it, now go away.”
I frowned but even still, got off my chair and left with a sigh.
I sat at the Heavy Bolter turret, leaning forward in the chair. I hadn’t bothered to even look at the controls or watch the wall of the shaft speed by me.
When I sat down, the depression hit me, overcome my mindset like a grain of sand engulfed by a tsunami. The ache of my wounds had returned too, along with the exhaustion and my stomach roiled with horrific sickness.
A world was going to die, and it was my fault, I was manipulated but that somehow just made it worse. It was my selfishness, cowardice and sense of self-preservation that made me take that pict if I’d been stronger if I’d just seen through ‘Edracian’s’ lies.
That was the thing, though how was I supposed to know it’d lead to such severe consequences? Edracian was an Inquisitor, he was supposed to have the good of the Imperium, and it’s people at heart. Not the destruction of an entire world, a hub world, a world of billions. When Omnartus dies it’ll take much of the sub-sector with it; many more will die as those worlds will be engulfed in chaos.
Perhaps ‘chaos’ there had a double meaning.
I punched the wall with a backfist and ignored the pain arcing through my hand as a consequence. Why! Why didn’t this Torathe see it? What could drive a man to do this? Order the destruction of an entire bloody world just because his daughter was killed. It was insane! He must be insane!
“Attelus?” said a deep voice and I instantly recognised who it belonged too.
My teary-eyed attention snapped to Torris, as anger suddenly hit me.
“What do you want?” I snarled. “Are you here to accuse me of manipulating Jeurat again? I don’t need this! Haven’t I had enough for today? Haven’t I?”
Torris said nothing and his beaten, bandaged face showed no anger, but this didn’t negate my own.
“Just go away,” I growled. “I’ve enough to take responsibility for things I’ve done, and I won’t take responsibility for something that I haven’t.”
Torris sighed, “I have no idea what you must be feeling right now, and I have no idea what to say. I can’t say that you’re not somewhat responsible for this, because I’m sorry to say, you are. But kid, don’t give up, you said it yourself, this is just the start of a long road, a road as long as the galaxy’s length, Roldar had told me you’d said that. If you can’t save Omnartus, you can save other worlds; you can stop this Etuarq from destroying any more. I’ve seen what you’re capable of and I know if anyone can do it, it’s you.”
Then anger lit his large, bulging eyes, “now maybe you did manipulate Garrakson, maybe you didn’t. But frig what that arse Arlathan Karkin said, my instinct tells me you at least tried to, and I’ve learned to trust my instinct. But either way, it doesn’t matter, does it? We’re onto something far bigger than that, far bigger than all of us. So, kid, I’ll be behind you, I’ll have your back.”
“So, what does that mean, exactly?” I said.
Torris didn’t answer at first as if weighing up his words before he finally said.
“You saved my arse back in the tower, I owe you that’s what it means,” he said coldly. “But get your head together, If we’re going to escape you sitting around mopping isn’t going to help us. Get on that emplacement and be ready, I’m on the other one. Good luck.”
The large ex-arbitrator turned his back on me and walked off.
I rubbed my eyes and tried to blink away the tiredness. He was right, damn it, too many had died today because of my mistakes. I might be immortal, but the others on this ship weren’t, as far as I knew, anyway.
The internal vox crackled, and there was a chime, announcing a call.
“Everyone stand ready,” said Darrance. “We’re about to exit the shaft, into open skyline in approximately thirty seconds. I am turning on the ship’s stealth field. If anyone is at all religious, I suggest you begin praying. If you aren’t, do something of actual worth, please. Thank you.”
I jerked upright, quickly beginning to look at the controls and I couldn’t help wonder, why the hell hadn’t Taryst slaved servitors to them?
We emerged out the shaft and into the open sky. The view which greeted me was familiar, again the mountain range piercing through the thick brown-black clouds of pollution. I realised I loved that view and was going to miss it dearly. It showed that even on a world as dirty and horrible as Omnartus there could still be some beauty. Just as Adelana showed me that even in a horrible, idiotic race like humanity there could still be truly beautiful, kind people among us.
Was it selfishness that I wanted to save her because of that? I guessed it was, and what was going to happen to her after she sees her world die? If she didn’t take her own life, would she become like me? Or like, Emperor forbid, Karmen Kons?
Would saving her, just kill her in another way? I hoped not, but I doubted it wouldn’t. The destruction of my city and the subsequent lengths I had to go to survive in those ruins was enough to set me on this dark path.
I sighed and took the controls of the heavy bolter turret as I watched the sky fly by. Relaxed despite my dark thoughts and the depression threatening to overwhelm me completely, but this didn’t last long as the vox beeped and crackled again.
“Whoever’s been praying, please know it’s a load of crap because we’ve got two enemy gunships, closing in from the west,” said Darrance. “Be prepped for evasive manoeuvres, please.”
I activated my vox link, “you think they’ve detected us?”
“No,” said Darrance. “But be ready…”
The explosion suddenly rocked the ship, missing my turret pod by only a few metres and making me flinch in fright.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” Darrance snapped as I felt the Guncutter veer left abruptly
“What?” I yelled. “How did they detect us?”
“I think they were waiting for us,” said Darrance. “The stealth capabilities protect us from their scanners, but not from visual, now shut up and let me concentrate!”
“Of course they were,” I sighed, cut the link and looked at my turret’s scanner. The enemy ships weren’t within range, but I still swung around to face the bastards as we banked through Lascannon fire in seemingly chaotic turns and twists.
I could see them, slightly, a pair of big, boxy unwieldy looking craft that seemed more like troop carriers than fighters. I clenched my teeth and fought the urge to open fire, knowing ammo would be limited and zoomed in with the turret’s view display a harder action than usual as the craft constantly swayed and weaved. The Lascannon fire was almost a constant stream now, but the Guncutter was an extraordinarily sleek, agile, and it was apparent Darrance was a fantastic pilot. Even with one hand almost literally tied behind his back.
But yet the bastards were gaining; I could tell this even without the distance metre on the display.
We were slowed by dodging their fire but also they would’ve had larger engines, they were like a charging Grox, fast but less manoeuvrable. Our ship was more like a Gazzeller an animal native to my world, a light, nimble herbivore. Unlike them, we both had the teeth of carnivores.
We dived abruptly as the enemy ships closed in more, dived a good thirty degrees pushing me hard into my seat with a grunt.
With surprising agility the gunships followed us, their lascannons blaring and blaring. Darrance made the ship turn and twist through it.
My stomach dropped and kept on dropping as the ship kept diving and diving for what felt like forever. I clenched my teeth, trying to fight against the g-forces pushing me into my seat.
Then I heard a chime from my rangefinder and looked to see the enemy ships were finally within range. Their greater weight allowed them to catch up in decent; I still couldn’t understand, why Darrance was doing this?
I saw bolter fire erupt from the turret underneath mine and it brought me into reality then I opened up with mine. The muffled Chug! Chug! chug! Sound and the slight kick which shuddered up my arms was more than a little satisfying.
The enemy gunships barely moved from my sights, besides the normal slight, constant shuddering and juddering. I couldn’t tell whether any of my rounds hit and doubted they did. My display showed me the direction of the wind and its speed, but it was hard to look at that while getting crushed by the g-forces and shooting.
But of course now they were within range of our bolters, so was the same for theirs. Bolter rounds suddenly showered from their noses. Not even Darrance could dodge such a concentration of fire as it smashed and ricocheted off the Guncutter’s hull.
I cursed and flinched as a few collided into the window of my turret, which made my brow furrow and with a roar fired with even more determination. Then the Guncutter suddenly slowed, slowed so much that the looming gunships came so close it was almost impossible for me to miss, I could see my bolter shots shower across their snouts ineffectually, I would’ve even seen the pilots through their windows if they weren’t tinted black. Their fire rained on our hull with such consistency the clanging almost became one sound, but the lascannons set on the wings were too close to finishing us properly. Then they passed by us.
“Everyone brace!” Darrance yelled a mere half a second warning before the Guncutter abruptly turned, almost a ninety-degree angle that would’ve thrown me off my seat if I wasn’t harnessed in. Then I heard the familiar sound of a Lascannon firing The sight of the brown-black clouds was gone, replaced by a terrifyingly close view of Omnartus’ skyline, I could see in great detail the towers and tell if they were made of plastcrete or rockcrete and the airships continually streaming through the sky. I only managed to see this for a nanosecond, before blacking out.
The sound of triumphant whooping over the internal vox speakers caused me to come too.
“One is down!” Darrance yelled, sounding uncharacteristically ecstatic.
I couldn’t feel anything besides horrific sickness and see nothing but a blur, then vomited hard onto the floor.
“Good, good now what?” I asked no one in particular while wiping away the sick still on my chin with a forearm.
My vision finally managed to clear, and again greeted by the fathomless view of the brown-black pollution clouds. There was no sign of any pursuing ships.
I activated my vox, “what the hell just happened?” I asked as another wave of nausea hit me, making me retch.
“I killed one and lost the other,” Darrance informed as though it’d been the simplest task in the galaxy.
“How?” I managed.
“I’ll explain later,” he said. “You with your rather simple mind won’t be able to comprehend it right now, let’s just say that the manoeuvre I just pulled was one even the Adeptus Astartes would find hard. The internal dampers are state of the art in this thing; not many ships could pull that off without crushing its occupants into pulp. We’ll be flying in the pollution for a good ten minutes or so; we need to gain as much space as possible before we ascend and leave orbit.”
I nodded, even though he couldn’t understand such an acknowledgement.
“Get someone else to man this turret,” I said, sounding angrier than intended, but I didn’t care and switched off my vox link.
I would’ve asked him never to do that again, but that’d probably just encourage the bastard.
With shaking hands I took off my restraint and slipped off my seat then stumbled toward the living area, I needed to see if Adelana was okay.
Adelana was as it’d turned out, she and the old woman were strapped into pullout seats, both looked a little dazed and vomit was on the carpet in front of them. I didn’t dare approach or say anything to them for fear of facing Adelana’s wrath again.
The servitor from the kitchen was cleaning their mess, and I hoped it’d do the same to the rest of the ship. I turned back and walked down the stairs, that was when the exhaustion hit me, like a punch between the eyes. I stumbled the rest of the way down and turned toward the living quarters. I turned into the first I found and threw myself roughly onto the bed. I needed to rest, I needed…
Instantly, I fell into a fitful sleep.
I found myself in a desert, no not quite a desert it was once a city, a great city with towers almost as tall as those on Omnartus. Now sand dominated it all, covering almost everything but it wasn’t ordinary sand, it was coloured the ruby red crimson of blood. The intense sun beat down from a cloudless sky; it would’ve been blinding if it weren’t for the tinted visor of my helm. The stark contrast was unsettling; the beautiful, almost normal sky seemed strange against the cruel nature of the blood-stained sand.
I wore a cameleoline cloak over my synskin body glove and black flak jacket; both wavered with the strong, hot wind. I could feel my bodyglove’s internal fans working hard to keep me cool from the sweltering heat, and I held a silenced bolter of ornate but understated design, my powersword sheathed at my hip. It all felt so real, so very real even though I knew it was a dream.
A figure fluttered and appeared at my side, I turned to see it was a woman, but she wore a very similar armour set up to me so couldn’t tell who she was. Then I glimpsed a few strands of red-gold hair hanging from underneath her helmet.
“Adelana!” I said with wide eyes.
Her helmeted head tilted slightly in bemusement, “yes it’s me, you’d ordered us to split up and meet back here at this time, why are you surprised?”
I shook my head to try to find myself, “I uh, hello, how are you?”
“I’m alright,” she said, uncertainly. “Or as alright as I can be in the circumstances, are you...alright?”
All I could manage was a nod, and she walked past me, and I couldn’t help but have my gaze wander down to her wonderfully shapely arse, easily seen beneath her tight, grey bodyglove. We stood in a very tall, shattered building, a huge hole had been torn through the wall, it was almost perfect, unsettlingly rectangular, it surrounded the view like the frame of a painting by some sick, depraved artist.
Adelana stopped to stand near the ledge, her back still to me, her lasgun held loosely, confidently in her grasp.
“I hope you do know, she will forgive you, even after you tell her the truth, the whole truth,” she said suddenly. “It’ll take some time, but she will.”
“Adelana,” I said, taking a step toward her, but she was suddenly gone, replaced by the overly tall and esoterically armoured Farseer Faleaseen, who turned back to me.
“Do you mean that?” I said.
“Of course,” she said, gazing over the scenery, her thin arms clasped behind her back. “I promised you that I would tell the truth and I meant it.”
“What is this?” I asked, trying to hide the joy bubbling within me.
“The future,” she said. “Or a potential future, I again will be honest with you, Attelus Xanthis Kaltos. I can see some of the future, but to me and all my kind, it is all in pieces. Like what you humans would call a jigsaw puzzle, we must be piece it together part by part. We find tiny snippets, but we cannot gather it into any consistency. This is one of many, but one of the most recurring I find for you when I search your thread.”
“When are we?” I said. “Where are we?”
Faleaseen shrugged a strangely human motion. “I do not know, that is one of the many problems my fellow seers face, and I face. This could be five years in the future, or it could be two hundred for all I know. Sometimes I see this vision, and the Adelana human is not with you. Sometimes it is instead Arlathan Karkin, sometimes it is Marcel Torris, more rarely it is Karmen Kons, but it is most commonly, Adelana. Where is it? Perhaps you can guess that better than I. This is a Mon’keigh city; it could be any Mon’keigh city of the countless cities which infest this galaxy. They all look the same to me. What sets this one apart is I sense the warp here, it is truly infused into every grain of sand, every inch of rockcrete and steel. In the earth hidden beneath the sand. I do not know why you are here nor how.”
“And to me too,” I breathed, and the city abruptly shimmered and shattered into a bright white nothingness which in turn changed into what I recognised as the bridge of a gothic, Imperial ship. There were corpses everywhere laid over the consoles, the floor, the walls, the seats. They were all human, but some were ship crew, some were warriors, some ship menials and servitors. There were too many of the dead to count. I stood in almost knee deep blood.
“This is another recurring vision,” said Faleaseen, who I’d almost forgotten was near, being so horrified by the scene. “Again, I do not know where this is, nor when but I have a feeling this one is close, very close to coming into fruition.”
I nodded and regained a measure of my thoughts, “I don’t understand,” I said.
“Don’t understand, what?” said Faleaseen as she started to circle the room, stepping over and around the corpses with her long limbs inhuman grace, not touching one even slightly.
“Why are you communicating with me now?” I said. “Why weren’t you able to help me against the Space Marines? Like you had when we’d fought Edracian before.”
Faleaseen sighed, “you ask a fair question, Attelus Kaltos. The reality is this, I must be cautious in my communications with you, in lending you my power as a conduit. Among the number of Space Marines attacking Omnartus are their Librarians. There are six of them in total. They are psykers, and due to the longer Space Marine lifespan and their enhanced cognitive structure, they make for quite powerful users of warpcraft. If I had helped you in any way they would have detected my presence, and in doing so potentially revealing your true nature and our connection. I could not risk it. I am sorry I could not help you more, help you save more of your friends and comrades. But you must understand I cannot be there to help you all the time.”
She smiled, “but you have proven yourself far more capable than even I could imagine, without my aid.”
I furrowed my brow and pursed my lips, I was no longer in the attire of the last vision, back in my usual black flak jacket.
“If that’s true, why are you here,” I said, “how are you talking to me now?”
“When you sleep, when you dream, your mind is more attuned to the sea of souls,” Faleaseen explained, still circling the large bridge. “Most dreams that humans dream who are untouched by the warp mean little, besides your own subconsciousness speaking to you. But even blunt humans can be communicated with by psychic practitioners powerful enough to do so in dreams. Your Emperor does it regularly. You are correct about him, Attelus. He is very far from being a god, but he is still hard to overestimate. Thus here I am, having to use less strength than if you are awake. The Space Marine Librarians will not be able to sense me here, not unless I linger for a very long time.”
I nodded, it was a good enough explanation as any, it was utterly fascinating in fact “what happens here?”
Again, Faleaseen shrugged, “you will see in a few seconds.”
I started as I heard the sudden sound of heavy footsteps clanging toward my back and I turned to see at least thirty Stormtroopers advancing professionally down the wide corridor, Hellguns raised. They wore the black and dark red uniforms of the Inquisitorial guard.
A tall, slender figure in an advanced form-fitting, power armour followed them. She held a plasma pistol in her left hand, and her right was a power fist. Inquisitor Jelcine Enandra swaggered into the bridge, utterly unfazed by the slaughter before her. Her piercing blue eyes scanned the room. For a split second, she seemed to look right at me, but not see me at all. She too was followed by a shadowy, smoky figure I could not make out, but whose very presence made me sick, made me recoil with horror. It was a familiar feeling, the same feeling I had back in the Twilight bar. It was a psychic blank, how it’d even slightly shown in Faleaseen’s vision was beyond me.
Enandra’s eyes narrowed, “search for survivors!” she snapped suddenly.
Jelcine looked like she was going to say more but stopped as one of the corpses shuddered slightly. I’d already drawn my sword before someone, or something abruptly burst out from underneath the bodies with a strangled scream. But before I could see more, the vision fazed into white, so suddenly it took me a second to realise it.
“That is when the vision always ends,” said Faleaseen, as she seemingly materialised into view. “I do not know who or what is under those corpses.”
“Do you have any more visions to show me?” I asked.
“I do not,” she said with a shake of her head, again a very human movement. “While I have seen other visions of the future I…”
She seemed to trail off, there was extraordinary shame on her face and in her tone, “I cannot remember them, not to any useful degree, anyway. I have spent cycles upon cycles trying to get those two visions lodged in my memory. The other farseers of Dalorsia are trying too, but none have succeeded to even a slight degree.”
“It’s Etuarq,” I said. “He must be doing this, somehow.”
Faleaseen nodded, “I have come to the very same conclusion, Attelus Kaltos. How Inquisitor Etuarq has managed to gain the power and knowledge necessary to befuddle us, I do not know. It may have something to do with the power gained from the souls he has gathered or if he has aligned with the four great powers of the warp or a combination of the two. Either way, he holds power equivalent to that of the great Eldrad Ulthran or even more.”
I sighed and shuddered as tears suddenly threatened to overwhelm me. I had to ask her, even though I already knew her answer, and dreaded it beyond belief,
“So, Faleaseen. Is there any way we can save Omnartus?”
She looked at me sadly, but there wasn’t pity in her gaze. It was sympathy, genuine sympathy and I don’t know why that filled me with fear and dread beyond measure.
“I am sorry, Attelus, but no,” she sighed. “Etuarq has won this day, but you already knew that, did you not? But as others have said, you must not give in to your guilt and your despair. You are able to prevent him from doing it again. This is also not a burden for you to bear alone. I too am responsible; I did not share information with you and my other agents that may have allowed you to prevent this, such as your immortality, if you had known of that you might not have taken that pict. I failed to foresee this and let us not forget it was Etuarq who had manipulated these events and it is Inquisitor Torathe who is the one who ordered Omnartus’ destruction directly.”
“Will I have to live for all eternity?” I asked. “Dealing with that guilt?”
Much to my relief, Faleaseen shook her head, “no, you are perpetual, but you are only a perpetual for as long as I live. As I explained before when you die, and your soul is plunged into the warp, I can track you down and pull you back into real space, then rebuild you; we are connected, well and truly. But! I am giving another the power and knowledge to be able to meld with you, to take my place if I die before our work is done, just in case. If I die and it is at the right time, you can choose whether to break the connection and renounce your immortality or for another farseer to take over from me.”
“I would rather like that,” I said. “I mean, to be able to die one day.
She smiled, it was warm and genuine, “I doubt that. I have seen who and what you truly are, Attelus Kaltos. There will always be something new for you, something you want to live for, another new purpose. You will also never fully believe you have atoned for the events on Omnartus.”
I sighed and was about to ask another one of the billions of questions I wanted to ask, but suddenly Faleaseen’s cried out and clutched at her head, her expression a mask of pain.
“I am afraid this is where our meeting is going to end!” she said, hurriedly. “You are about to be in the presence of a blank, not even I…”
Then she was gone, and the normal, eternal pitch black view of sleep took over and...
Abruptly, I awoke, a hand had grasped my shoulder and was shaking me urgently. I sighed, and rolled over, expecting to see Arlathan or Torris or even much to my hope, Adelana. But instead, I found the barrel of a hellpistol right in my face. Instinct instantly took over, and in a split second, I had my arm around the Inquisitorial stormtrooper’s neck and his pistol placed on the side of his skull.
The other two near the entrance of the quarters reacted with impressive speed, their Hellguns ready.
“Don’t move!” I snarled, trying to ignore the horrific feeling from the psychic blank nearby.
“That was impressive,” said a voice and Inquisitor Jelcine Enandra stepped into the room. She was the same as in Faleaseen’s vision, the same form-fitting black power armour, she wielded the same plasma pistol and powerfist and moved with the same confident, sensual gait. She smiled at me with that now very familiar predatory smile.
“Now let me ask you, young man, what will you do now?” she said. “You have sergeant Kollath at your mercy, but what if I am not merciful? What if I…”
Her Plasma pistol came to life with a loud, piercing hum, pointedly
“What if I am prepared to shoot through him to kill you? What if I am prepared to sacrifice one good man like Kollath so you cannot kill me or any more of my men? Let him go, please and I won’t have to. Also, it’ll be such a waste of effort for me to go through so much trouble to save you, just to have to kill you, now, so please...”
I smiled, “you were prepared to sacrifice thousands of navy personnel and ten ships of Battlefleet Calixis to rescue us, so I know you could do it...But wait. Wait, but they’re different weren’t they? You didn’t know them personally, did you? They were mostly nameless and faceless to you. But this sergeant he’s different, you actually know him, you are friends…”
Enandra’s full lips twitched slightly as I said ‘friends.’
“No,” I corrected. “Lovers. Well, I’ve gotta say, he’s one lucky bastard.”
I glanced about briefly, pointedly, “or not. Happy coincidence, isn’t it? Or not, it does make sense that the one who has true feelings for you would be the one most willing to place himself in harm’s way. Hence he was the one who woke me.”
Jelcine raised her plasma pistol fully, “just let him go; you are wearing my patience thin,” she said wearily.
I did as told, pushing the Stormtrooper away and tossed the hell pistol to the floor. Raising my hands in supplication.
The other two approached me, guns raised and with a healthy helping of caution. One grabbed me by the arms, pulling them behind my back and the other clasped my hands together with heavy wrist binders.
Enandra approached me, coming so close we were almost nose to nose. Her face was grim.
“You are fortunate that I like you, boy,” she said. “But do not try anything like that ever again or you will have to suffer the fate of those who do not get a second chance, understand me?”
I nodded in acknowledgement, and I meant it.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I acted on instinct.”
Her eyes narrowed, she glared at me for what must’ve been about half a minute.
“Alright,” she said. “Just as long as you understand.”
Enandra turned away, her blood red cape sweeping theatrically behind her with the movement.
“Take him!” she said. “Take him to the others.”
When I walked into the corridor, I finally got a good look at the blank. He was a slight, short, pail and an unassuming looking man wearing a pitch black armoured bodyglove. He had a small moustache on his lip, and his short brown hair was utterly unkempt. His attention plastered to the floor, his arms folded across his chest and his left hand stroked his non-existent chin. At his hip was a large holstered bolt pistol and instantly, I knew this blank was not to be underestimated.
In silence, they herded me out of the Guncutter, down the boarding ramp and into a vast hangar bay. It was the typical gothic design and dark grey grimness of an Imperial warship. There were seven other ships in there. One, another Guncutter, one was a stately transport ship, the five others were sleek void to air fighters. Menials and servitors moved around us in obvious preparation for battle.
“Hmm,” I murmured. “Expecting a fight, huh?”
Enandra, who walked in front of me didn’t deign to respond, and I expected one of the Stormtroopers to shove me pointedly, but none did.
I saw the others through the wall of rushing bodies. A line of Stormtroopers stood guard around them, and they all had their wrists bound and were on their knees. Even Karmen, her face still covered in bandages, but she was now conscious, a psychic nullifier collar around her neck.
Next to her were the poor petrified Adelana and the old woman. They both looked close to tears, and I couldn’t blame them. This must’ve been a terrifying experience for any Imperial citizen.
I was forced to stand beside Verenth and Vark before being pushed onto my knees. Neither of them bothered me even a glance, they both looked sullen, although I couldn’t quite figure out why. There were just too many reasons for them both to be pissed off at this moment.
“Well!” said Enandra as she stood before us “Most of us have met already, but for those, I didn’t see on the vox viewer. I am Inquisitor Jelcine Enandra of the Ordo Hereticus.”
In an almost perfect echo of earlier, again she raised her Rosette with casual abandon.
Someone let out a horrified wail, someone I guessed to be Halsin.
“I am sorry about this,” she said with a sigh. “Believe me I didn’t want to have you here, in restraints before me. You have all been through enough already; this is merely a precaution, I assure you.”
I frowned, unsure what to make of that and I wasn’t at all surprised to see she was a brilliant speaker, she wore power armour but didn’t need to use vox enhancement. She didn’t shout but projected her voice, comfortably above the noise of the hustle and bustle of the hanger.
“All of you will be held in separate quarters,” she said on and started to pace again. “I will be honest with you. All of you will be guarded, and I will be questioning all of you, one at a time. Your meals will be provided to you there.”
She paused, “I will be kind to you, if you are not being questioned, if you wish to, you can move through the ship. Under escort, of course, and you will be limited in your exploration. If you move onto a part of my ship forbidden to you, your Stormtroopers escorting will let you know. If you…If you.”
Enandra paused again and made eye contact with each of us, in turn, her brow contorted in genuine sympathy and sadness. If her eyes weren’t augmetics, I suspected they’d be welling with tears.
She licked her red lips, and said, her voice cracking, “if you wish to see Omnartus...Die. You are welcome to watch on the many live pict feed viewers we have available. I suspect not many of you will be willing to, and I would not blame you, but if you feel you must…”
She let it hang, and she paused for a very long time, “do any of you have any questions?”
“Yeah, I do,” said Verenth. “Why can’t we stop it?”
Enandra sighed, “we do not have the capabilities to even stand a tiny chance. You must have seen the might and capabilities of the Astartes, haven’t you? My scribe calculates there is almost half a chapters worth of them in the system, now. It is a fool’s errand, it is suicide, I am sorry, so very sorry, but there is nothing we can do. My former master is a very long-serving member of the Ordo Malleus, his influence is far beyond my own, even with his steadily decreasing sanity.”
“What about that?” I cried, my emotions getting the better of me. “Why is someone so off his head allowed to still be an Inquisitor? Why the hell is that?”
Enandra looked at me; her soft jaw set slightly, “one of the strengths of the Inquisition is. Thus, every Inquisitor is the head of an organisation unto him or herself. We are, all of us, independent. That is also our weakness; my master has been out of communication with the rest of the ordo for three years. Acting on his own, that was not unusual for him, or for many of my kind, but I suspect that during much of that time some corruption had beset him. This incident proves this, he was always very faithful in the Emperor, but he used to understand not everything is black and white most things in this galaxy aren’t. After this, he will be declared excommunicate traitorous and killed or captured for trial. Omnartus is a hub world and even if its corruption were proven without a shadow of a doubt, would be cleansed with an invasion, then resettled. The locals who are found innocent and free of taint rejoining the fold of Imperial society. Those that do not…”
She let that hang.
“Any other questions?” she asked breaking eye contact with me and glancing over my fellow survivors. Survivors, how easy was it to start using that word for us.
“Yes,” stammered and squeaked a meek little voice.“I have...a question.”
I didn’t need to look to know it was Halsin.
“Yes,” said Enandra with a patient nod. “Go ahead.”
“What is to happen to the wounded?” asked Halsin, gaining some measure of strength in his voice.
Enandra smiled again it was actually quite sweet, “oh, of course, my apologies. I forgot yes, they will be taken to the medicae station on the sixth level.”
“I...I wish to go too,” said Halsin. “I had promised to look after them; I swore that I would. I wish to help your medicaes.”
Enandra nodded, there was great respect in that nod, “of course, that area is open for you. But you must be escorted; I am afraid.”
Halsin nodded back and grinned broadly.
She looked over us again, “any other questions?”
There was none.
“Alright,” she said then looked straight at me, and my heart sank as I realised what that meant. “I wish to talk to Attelus Kaltos first, the rest of you will be taken to your assigned quarters, thank you.”
The Stormtroopers pulled us to our feet and began to file everyone but me toward the left side exit. I watched Adelana as she was forced away and she looked back at me, her brow furrowed her full lips pursed. Her sea blue eyes were red from tears, and I expected anger in them but much to my shock, it was absent. It was actually, concern. I couldn’t have been any more surprised to see this.
I watched her leave and was so involved in this I almost didn’t notice Enandra approach.
Enandra smiled at me knowingly and internally; I cursed at my idiotic obviousness.
“Let’s go, shall we?” she said. “We have much to discuss, Attelus Xanthis Kaltos.”
“Oh, I’m sure we do,” I sighed as we started onward.
We walked into the wide corridors, Inquisitor Enandra and I surrounded by ten Stormtroopers and accompanied by the damned blank. My wrists still bound, about ten minutes of moving through the continual hustle and bustle of the ship. Enandra, the blank and two Stormtroopers, including that sergeant from earlier began to turn off a separate corridor, she stopped and turned back to me.
“I will meet you in the interview room in a few minutes; I have a few errands to run,” she said. “Take him to interrogation room one!”
“Yes, mamzel!” chorused the remaining Stormtroopers as they ushered me on and Enandra and her escort disappeared.
I sighed, I was to be ‘interviewed’ in an ‘interrogation room,’ now that was frigging reassuring.
For a good ten minutes we moved through the confusing maze of corridors, but I was utterly sure I could find my way back. Just in case. The Stormtroopers didn’t deign to speak to me, and I found myself craving a smoke of Lho, but I’d run out a long time ago.
We eventually found the door labelled in bright white letters, ‘INTERROGATION ROOM 1’ and they led me inside.
The place was bigger than I thought perhaps five metres by four, a large metal table was set right in it’s middle and there was a one-sided reflective mirror fixed on the wall facing me.
One of the Stormtroopers made me sit on the seat looking at the mirror then another took off my wrist manacles and chained them to the table before clamping them back on again. The six others covered me with their Hellguns the entire time.
Once done the six of them filed out of the room as the other two took positions on each side of the door behind me.
Frig, was I tired, I had no idea how long I’d slept for, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
“Frig!” I groaned and rubbed my eyes with my thumbs, “either of you got any smokes you can spare?”
I watched them on the reflection of the one-way glass, neither of them moved even the slightest inch.
I sighed, it was worth a try, I supposed.
So I waited, twiddling my thumbs and fighting the urge to look at my wrist chron every few seconds.
I pursed my lips and kept glancing at the one-way glass, knowing that Enandra and Emperor only knew who else was watching me on the other side. The feeling of the Blank’s presence was gone, but I could sense something else. Something that I’d started to become more attuned to since Faleaseen had fixed me, someone was using psychic powers, and they were close, too. Karmen seemed immune to this, but this person wasn’t as well trained. I closed my eyes, exhaled out my nose and then I knew, this psyker was trying to delve into my mind.
I wanted to smile at the glass but fought the urge.
Abruptly, the door slid open and now wore a black bodyglove; Inquisitor Enandra stormed in carrying a data slate. I couldn’t help it, as my eyes wandered over every inch her very brilliant body.
“Enjoying what you see, I hope, Attelus Kaltos,” she said, without taking her attention from her dataslate.
I flinched, and my attention shot to the floor.
She turned her gaze on me, her brow furrowed intently, “you are a very handsome young man, do you know that, Attelus?”
I didn’t answer as I felt my face flushed even more.
“Yes,” she said, “beautiful some might say. Has anyone ever told you-you were beautiful?”
My first instinct was to say, ‘no’ but then a memory hit me.
“Yes, it was a man, he didn’t tell it to me, though,” I said. “About three years ago, I was on a job on Scintilla and was walking one of the main boulevards. When he and a bunch of his friends walked the other way they were all staring at me, gaping at me like idiots and I heard one say after the past, ‘he’s beautiful.’ Whispered it, thought I couldn’t hear him over the blaring music from the clubs around, but I could.”
Enandra pulled out the chair across from me and sat smiling, placing her jaw into the palm of her hand, her elbow on the table. It reminded me unnervingly of Glaitis.
“Do you know why I told you that, Attelus Kaltos?” she said sensually.
“I don’t,” I said, my eyes never leaving hers.
“Because it is the truth,” she said. “You aren’t my type, I’m afraid. Too pretty, too feminine featured. But I told you the truth because I am an inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus and that is what I trade in, that is what I live for, to find the truth. To know the truth.”
The door suddenly slid open making me flinch in fright, and another woman walked in. She was plain-faced, scalp shaved of any hair, tubes stuck from the back of her head like dreadlocks, and she wore a dark blue uniform tunic. I didn’t need much intelligence to know she was a Sanctioned psyker, most likely the one who had been trying to delve into my mind.
The psyker stepped to stand beside Enandra; she arms folded her arms and glared down at me balefully.
“This is Selva, and as you have likely guessed, she is a psyker, sanctioned by the Imperium of man to use her gift for the good of mankind,” said Enandra as she gazed lazily at her data slate. “She has been trying to delve into your mind, but she finds herself unable, she says that you have perhaps the most powerful mind block she has ever seen. She cannot even read your surface thoughts.”
The psyker’s hands moved, flickering and fluttering angrily, her eyes never leaving me.
“Oh, and she is also mute,” said Enandra. “It’s the first time this has happened to her, and as you can tell, she isn’t happy about it.”
My eyes narrowed, I really didn’t like where this was going, despite being happy in other ways.
“Tell me, Attelus,” she said and licked her lips, “how did you get such a powerful mind lock placed upon your mind?”
“I uh,” I managed.
“And I implore you, Attelus, please do not lie to me,” she said, staring at me intently. “Because I will talk to the others and I will find the truth from them, so please do not lie.”
I swallowed, my heart thundered in my chest. Should’ve known this would happen, should’ve seen this coming.
“Was it the woman, Karmen Kons?” said Enandra, she pursed her lips and glanced at her data slate. “Or is she now Estella Erith, again? I cannot be sure.”
My jaw dropped, “how?”
“The truth, Attelus, always comes out,” said Enandra. “Always.”
I furrowed my brow, “how much did Wesley tell you, exactly?”
“Enough,” Enandra stated.
“I thought you dealt in the truth,” I said.
“It is the truth,” said Enandra. “He told me enough, and we both know, don’t we Attelus? The best way to lie is, to tell the truth.”
I sighed and curled my hands into fists, clenching my teeth. Trying to think of an appropriate response but stopped as the lights suddenly flickered on and off, a few dozen times in the span of a second or so. Then I saw in the reflection of the one-way mirror, Farseer Faleaseen. She stood facing me despite between Enandra and Selva, who both seemed frozen in place.
I gasped, “what are you, you might…”
Faleaseen pursed her lips and placed her very long index finger on them, silencing me. Then with slow, deliberate movements, she put her hands upon Enandra’s and Selva’s heads. For a few seconds held them there, I could sense her strong psychic might, it was the power which was capable of crushing a tank in an instant. But it was also subtle, very subtle, tuned to a perfection beyond what even Karmen could comprehend, as it coursed through her arms and into their minds.
She took her hands away and looked at me.
“What did you do?” I said.
The Farseer didn’t answer. Instead, she walked around the table toward me and with almost forced slowness reached out then touched me briefly on the forehead.
“What did you do?” I asked again.
“They will not know of your mind block, now,” she said. “I have changed it, from henceforth other psychic beings if they look into your thoughts will read something of your mind, a fake thought sequence of sorts one that you can control, contort and create with your will and imagination. I should have done this earlier. This time I have done it for you as there is little time for you to learn this and do it now. My apologies, they will also have conveniently forgotten of this. Now I must take my leave, we are very far from the Space Marine Librarians now, but this is still a great risk for us. See you soon.”
Then she was gone, the lights then flickered as they had before then Enandra and Selva were moving again, just in time to hear me say.
Enandra’s brow furrowed, and she looked at me sidelong in bemusement.
“Are you talking to me?” she asked.
I frowned allowing my sadness to take over me and my gaze fell to the floor, “no, I am saying goodbye to all the good people who have died over the last day and months before.”
I glanced at Selva and saw her face was no longer a mask of anger but of forced neutrality like I imagined the expression stormtroopers had behind their helmets.
“Selva has looked into your mind,” Enandra said, and for a split second, I saw her face grimace slightly in mid-sentence, as though some part of her subconscious rebelled against the fake memory. “What she saw was very interesting.”
I nodded, trying not to seem interested, as I wondered what exactly Faleaseen had forced the psyker to see.
Enandra grimaced again, “she showed me everything, I am sorry, so, so sorry you have this on your conscience, it would’ve driven a lesser man insane or end his life. Now I know what you have gone through, I apologise, if before I seemed unsympathetic, but I am an Inquisitor, it is a mode I must be in from time to time. I have been doing it for such a long time, that it is almost instinctive, now.”
She picked up her data slate, “and you were Mechanicum enhanced?” she said.
I fought back a smile and nodded again.
Enandra nodded too and met my gaze, ” but you are still very human, perhaps too, human. Wesley told me you had taken that pict. But I was a little sceptical; your memories confirm this beyond a shadow of a doubt. I...I think this interview is unnecessary, now. In fact, I feel that it can wait, it can wait for all of you. I’m sorry, if I seemed, unsympathetic, before.”
I frowned and furrowed my brow in sadness and bemusement, “you don’t think I’m cowardly?” I managed. “You don’t think I’m stupid for doing that?”
“No, I do not,” she said without a hint of hesitation. “While I will concede that your powerful sense of self-preservation was a factor. Edracian, as far as you knew, was an Inquisitor. And I know just how much power the Rosette can possess. Like most Imperial citizens you are bound to his will. You had no clue it would lead to this and how could you? How could you? I know more than anyone else that this galaxy is made almost entirely of varying shades of grey, that as that ancient saying teaches, ‘the road to hell is paved with the best intentions,’ while your intentions were not the best, it still fits, I think.”
Enandra shook her head, “and now I know, it was all the more important to save you now. Now I am certain that Edracian was just a puppet. Wesley had suggested it in his messages. Etuarq is still out there and must be stopped. That young Vex may hold the information necessary to this, and you might too. I swear, I will help you all I can.”
I narrowed my eyes and looked at her sidelong, “so you are aware…”
“She did see that you were there due to Etuarq’s machinations, that your very conceivement was because of his order,” she pursed her lips. “And I honestly believe him, to have pulled such a stunt, to have pulled such a masterful plan. He must’ve had foresight, and he must still have a plan for you.”
“But you’re not going to kill me?” I said. “Even though it may screw over his plan?”
“No!” she said sitting back, her palms held out and her eyes wide as if such a thought horrified her. “I don’t believe in fate; I believe that you can overcome whatever Etuarq’s future plans are. You can make your own destiny. You will make your own destiny, and I believe it’ll be stopping that traitor. Also, I believe in the punishment coming after the transgression.”
She shrugged, “besides, now I have seen what you are truly capable of, I would rather have you a friend rather than an enemy. I would rather you were...close to me than someone else.”
Again, I furrowed my brow, and the mute psyker’s hands were a sudden flurry of fevered movement, her face alight with anger.
“What do you mean, exactly?” I said, straightening although I already guessed the answer and it filled me equal measures of dread and joy.
“Calm down, Selva,” snapped Enandra with a raised hand and the psyker stopped. “I am sure you have already guessed, Attelus. That I wish to employ you, I feel with your skill set you will be a valuable addition to my organisation. That while I believe it is your destiny to stop the former Inquisitor Etuarq in whatever dark goal he has, you will need all the help in this galaxy you can get. I can provide you with this help. What say you?”
I sighed for what must’ve been the millionth time now, “do I have any real choice in the matter?′
“No,” she said with a shake of her head and smiled that nice smile. “I will be honest with you; I will be offering all of your fellow survivors a position too. To be able to go through what all of them went through proves that they have, at the very least, a strength of will beyond the norm.”
“Even that old woman?” I asked, my eyebrows raised in bemusement.
“Yes, even Seleen Gorret,” she said with a smile. “And now you’re under my employee you’ve better start working on that damn memory of yours. At least an average to a good memory is usually a requirement for even the lowest acolyte.”
Her smile disappeared, and she leaned forward on the table, “believe me, Attelus. I am a far better employer than both Glaitis and Taryst combined, but even then, it’s not really saying much.”
I nodded, I believed her. She seemed legitimate, hard but fair. She seemed to be one of most real people involved in the disaster. I only wished she’d got involved sooner.
She looked at me hard for a few seconds, seemingly searching for a sign of something, before eventually nodding and reclining back.
“Good!” she said. “Now we have that understood; you may go to your quarters. We will discuss more on this later! You are dismissed, now.”
I frowned and looked pointedly at my manacles.
Again, Enandra grinned, “who’s the one with the bad memory, eh?” she said with a chuckle.
She waved the two Stormtroopers forward, who obediently walked up and unclasped me from the table.
“And take off his manacles, please, Donphin and Setril,” she said.
Both their attentions shot to her, and she shrugged, “I know enough to trust him, now. Take them off, please.”
Hesitantly, they did as told and rubbing my wrists; I slid to my feet.
“Thank you,” I said. “Thank you for understanding.”
Enandra shrugged again, “I think you and I have much in common, Attelus. We both see the cosmos in grey, and we both can see the bigger picture.”
I stood, still rubbing my wrists, waiting for her to say more but she just reclined in her seat and looked down at her data slate, her long legs crossed.
Getting the hint, I nodded and turned to leave.
“Oh! And Attelus!” she called, causing me to stop in my tracks and turned back to her. “Wesley explained to me that he informed you I was part of the Seculous Attenlous philosophy, a rather controversial philosophy in this day and age, wouldn’t you say?”
“So I would ask you to refrain from telling any of your friends who don’t already know, that would be most appreciated. Thank you.”
“Of course,” I said, then left.