Secret War: Warhammer 40,000

Chapter 33

I was taken to my quarters by the two stormtroopers, and I stepped inside with a sigh and my hands in their pockets.

“Can you,” I said, turning back to them, “please get me some lhos, I could use a smoke right now.”

One shook his head as if to say, ‘bloody addicts’ but the other nodded and said, “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you; it’d be more than appreciated,” I said.

He nodded again and walked out of sight.

I walked further in, and the door slid shut behind me, the place was unsurprisingly spartan, gunmetal grey with bronze edgings and linings. It was surprisingly large, though about six by seven metres wide, a double sized bed was in the right side corner and a large cogitator bank in the left. There was another door against the far wall which I guessed to lead into a private bathroom, but I just couldn’t be bothered looking.

Now I was alone the depression I’d been holding back was beginning to overwhelm me again.

I needed something to take my mind off everything; I needed to do something. Enandra may have been right about my mistakes, but I was still responsible. I closed my eyes and inhaled through my nose, deeply down to my stomach, then exhaled out my mouth. An old breathing exercise my father had taught me for what felt like a lifetime ago now.

I stretched my weary, stiff muscles for a good thirty minutes after that were pushups and crunches. Then despite my exhaustion, I began to train. They’d taken my sword, so I worked on my hand to hand drills. First I practised singular techniques, always ten times slowly, then fifty times fast. Left then right jabs, left then right crosses. The Back fist, the uppercut, the hook. Followed by kicks, first the front kick, both snapping and thrust, roundhouse kick, side kick and the hook kick. I worked through every technique I knew, some I hadn’t practised in years. Even indulging in the fanciful stuff I usually wouldn’t bother with, the spinning side, hook and round kick. The jumping kicks (At first I’d almost jumped into the ceiling due to my enhanced strength), the axe kick. My father had taught me those techniques despite advising me against using them due to their impractical nature, only so I’d understand them if they were used on me, just in case.

Then it was shadow boxing, and by frig did I get involved in that. I never felt so focused, and I seemed to move so fast, it almost seemed like I was actually dodging and parrying my techniques. Every step, every pivot and strike felt verged upon perfection despite my speed.

Being so lost in my training I hadn’t noticed the stormtrooper enter until he shouted my name.

Utterly drenched in sweat, I turned.

“Sorry,” I gasped, leaning forward with my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath.

The stormtrooper shrugged and tossed me a small pack of lhos, which I almost failed to catch in my haste.

“There ya go,” he said. “You’re lucky I could find them, kid. The mamzel doesn’t approve of lho, medicae studies say...”

“Yeah, yeah,” I sighed. “I’ve heard it all before. Thanks for this, though. Appreciate it, I do.”

The stormtrooper took another step inside, “I don’t intend to tell you what to do, but…”

“Please!” I snapped. “I’m not in the mood! I need this now! Now please, just leave me alone!”

He stood there for a few seconds staring at me, whatever his expression was, hidden behind his helmet, before eventually nodding and backing out the door.

I stood up straight and with shaking hands placed the lho in my mouth and with my igniter, lit it.

After wiping the sweat off my forehead with an arm, I looked at the cogitator. It was an old battered thing, large and boxy.

I remembered that Enandra had mentioned we could watch Omnartus and I began to approach it. When suddenly the door behind me swished open, and I turned, anger abruptly hitting me, thinking it to the stormtrooper again.

“Look! I’m…”

I stopped and gaped as I saw it wasn’t him.

Karmen Kons stood in the door, her face still bandaged, the psy limiter around her neck. Her bright blue eyes focused on me.

“What do you want?” I said, turning away. “Here to try and justify what you’ve done again?”

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I just wanted to check up on you.”

I had nothing to say, anger blazed through me always, but it wasn’t at her, I didn’t know what it was about. The universe, I guessed, for making me be in this shitty position.

“You’ve been training?” Karmen said as she walked further inside. “Good idea, take your mind off it.”

I took a sharp inhale of Lho.

“Yeah, I guess,” I said and grimaced as tears welled. “We’ve failed Karmen. Omnartus is dead, and there’s nothing we can do, everyone says that we’re going to live on so we can stop this from happening again. But! How can we? If Etuarq can see the future if he can do all this, how can we stand a chance? How?”

“Maybe the God-Emperor…” she started.

“Don’t give me that grox shit!” I snarled, making her start. “How do you know that this wasn’t the God-Emperor’s will? That he wanted this? It is his Astartes, his angels of death doing the deed, isn’t it? If it wasn’t his will and if he is truly the god people claim, why hasn’t he intervened? Why, Karmen? Why?”

“I...I don’t know,” she said.

“What’s the point, Estella?” I sighed. “If humanity is so frigged that we can do this to ourselves, what’s the point in trying to save us? I saved Adelana because she was a good person, but now what’s she going to become? Like me? Like you? I’m screwed up; you’re screwed up because of humans invading and destroying our country and don’t frigging try to claim it was just because of Chaos. Sure, whatever! But that those flaws exist in the first place for Chaos to exploit, says something, doesn’t it?”

Estella sighed, “I have no answers for you, humanity is frigged. We’ve always had arseholes among us, and we’re always going to kill each other. Just look at you, you’ve made a career out of killing, haven’t you? And you are going to continue killing people. You are one those arseholes, Attelus; you know that right? Many would claim that you are truly evil for what you do.”

I glared at her, “I have been told that in no uncertain terms before, on numerous occasions. Why do you think us mercenaries are thought to be the scum of the verse? And I’ll admit, it’s true we just kill for money, for no true ideal or anything we could be seen as truly evil, easily.”

“So, what are you going to do?” she said. “Put a las pistol in your mouth and pull the trigger?”

I didn’t say anything, knowing that such a thing would be pointless as Faleaseen would just bring me back and feeling, perhaps, it wouldn’t be too bad an idea, if it was permanent.

“Do you expect every arsehole would do that?” said Karmen. “See, that the human race would be better off if they just pulled the trigger? Do you think Etuarq is going do that? No. Well, then it’s up to someone else to do it, then, isn’t it? Or at the very least stop him as you’d once shown, as I’d once shown, as Adelana had once shown. There are good people in the world. It also shows that complete and utterly irredeemable arseholes like Etuarq are going to continue making good people into people like us. It just makes it all the more important we stop him? Isn’t it?”

I looked at her, wide-eyed, stupefied.

“You were wrong, Attelus,” she said, shaking her head. “You do need me more than I need you and for all your going on about not hating people you are bordering on turning into a hypocrite. For all your humanity is shit crap, aren’t you?”

I still couldn’t say anything.

She then grabbed me roughly by the wrist and began pulling me out the door.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“We’re going to man the frig up and see what a true arsehole is capable of!” She snapped. “We’re going to watch Omnartus die!”

“I’ve been hired,” I said as we moved. The now four man stormtrooper escort walking both in front and following behind.

Karmen smiled, although I couldn’t see it, I could tell, “I’d guessed that would happen.”

“The Inquisitor said she was going to hire all of us,” I said. “That we had no choice in the matter.”

“No,” she said. “No, we don’t.”

I narrowed my eyes and looked at her sidelong.

“You’re worried, that you are merely replacing one slave master with another,” said Karmen.

I shrugged, “yes and no. After all, I’ve learned from this disaster is to read people better. I think she’s legit, Karmen, but I might be wrong.”

“What does your instincts say?” said Karmen.

“My instincts say,” I smiled. “My instincts say, that I’m right, that Wesley was right to trust her and she’ll be a great ally and employer. We were truly lucky that she came to us, but my instincts also say…”

“Says, what?”

“It just seems all too convenient,” I said.

She laughed, “really? A world destroyed? And we just manage to luck out enough to be rescued by a good person, who’s willing and ready to help us in our endeavour? You call that convenient?”

“Yeah, I do,” I said without hesitation.

“If it’s any consolation,” Karmen said. “I agree with you.”

One of the Stormtroopers had voxed forward, so we were unmolested as we walked into the Sensorium then taken to an unusually large pict viewer, already showing the familiar brown cloud-covered world of Omnartus. There were eight chairs set in front, six of which occupied. Darrance was in one, his legs crossed, elbows on his thighs and his hands intertwined index tapping, watching so intently he never noticed our approach. Torris was on another until he saw us, then his eyes widened with abstract surprise, and he pushed himself to his feet.

Vex was there too, he sat hunched forward on his seat, his fingers flying across his portable cogitator’s keys but every few seconds the kid would glance up at the pict screen.

Vark, sat, still in his carapace armour and he barely spared us a glance, his expression a contorted mask of disgust and rage. Next to him was Helma, she seemed to watch on impassively, but I could see her eyes were welling with tears, her hands gripping the armrests so hard, her knuckles were stark white.

The last two I couldn’t have been more surprised were there. Arlathan was watching from beneath a hooded brow, leaning forward, his expression intense. He only noticed us after Torris got to his feet and he looked almost as shocked as Torris to see me. Last was Verenth and to see the ex-hammer there made me respect him all the more. He looked at the screen with fierce, laser-like intensity.

“You’re here!” exclaimed Torris. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

I shrugged and managed a smile, “I...I guess I should…”

I trailed off as I looked closer at the feed, seeing the vast explosions ripping across Omnartus’ surface in seemingly sporadic bursts.

Torris’ eyes narrowed, and he looked at Karmen, “he’s here because you made him come, didn’t you?”

She nodded, “I felt he should witness this.”

He bristled with barely contained anger, “do you have any idea the psychological damage this could do...?”

“I’m fine,” I interrupted softly, stepping closer to the screen. “I need to see this.”

“No,” said Arlathan so firmly, it forced me to look at him, while he was abruptly getting to his feet. “I agree with Marcel. You shouldn’t be here, Attelus.”

“If you think it’s going to be psychologically damaging for Attelus,” growled Karmen. “How can you be here then, Arlathan Karkin? This is your home world, yours and Verenth’s there. Won’t it be even more psychologically damaging for you and him?”

Arlathan’s jaw set, “I watch because I think it’ll temper my will,” he said. “Force me to work all the harder in the future to stop it again. Force me to keep on working inward to turn myself into a better person. I’ve been trying to do that, lately and because of that, I agree with Marcel. He shouldn’t be here, but I agree for a different reason.”

“And what’s that?”

It wasn’t Karmen who’d said it, and all of us turned to the speaker. My eyes widened, and I gasped in shock and surprise. Now she was the very, very last person I expected to see here.

“Adelana!” I gasped.

With a sad smile, she walked toward us through the hustle and bustle of the Sensorium, her two man stormtrooper escort at her flanks.

Everyone, even Vex got to up from their chairs.

Arlathan was so shocked he seemed unable to answer her question.

She continued to look at Arlathan, “And what reason is that?”

He managed to find himself, “I believed he should be with you. Helping you through this instead, but…”

“But, here I am,” she said. “I can see all of you are shocked to see me here.”

“Can you blame us?” said Torris.

Her attention fell to the floor, “no I can’t. I don’t even know how I can be here.”

“So, then,” I said. “Why are you here?”

She looked straight at me, her large eyes sparkled with tears, but there was no anger there, just a sadness of such strength it took my breath away. “I’ve never seen my world from orbit before. I wanted to see it for the first and last time before...Before I’ll never see it ever again.”

I wanted to point out that technically we’re weren’t watching Omnartus from orbit at all but kept my idiot mouth shut.

“Will you be able to handle that?” said Helma. “I mean won’t it…”

She wandered off in her sentence.

Adelana shrugged, “I don’t know, but if I can’t, and I decide to...If I decide to, take my own life, please do not try to stop me. My life is my own and if I choose to end it…”

“Your life isn’t your own,” said Enandra as she walked toward us, the Psyker and one Stormtrooper, who I guessed to be her lover at her sides. “It is the Emperor’s and only in death does duty end.”

Adelana flinched at the Inquisitor’s intensity, visibly terrified of her.

Enandra’s hard expression disappeared suddenly, replaced by a warm smile, “you are still young, Adelana. You still have duty left unfulfilled.”

“But, I…” Adelana squeaked, and she began to retch with tears, “but I…”

I threw caution to the wind, despite the intense anxiety it made me feel I took Adelana in my arms just as she started to collapse to the floor. Pulling her close and she wept into my chest, it reminded me disturbingly of Elandria only a day or so ago. I’d failed in saving her just as I’d failed to save Omnartus, to save Castella, Garrakson, Wesley so many. I just hoped I wouldn’t fail Adelana as well, or that I already had.

“You may end your duty, Adelana,” said Enandra sadly and somehow her words made Adelana stop her weeping and turn to look her. “I will not stop you, that is your right, and I honestly wouldn’t blame you. But I sincerely hope that you do not. That you managed to leave your quarters to be here, speaks of a strength of will that astounds me. You have potential, great potential, Adelana.”

Enandra attention turned up, and her eyes wandered over all of us, “all of you have great potential!”

She looked back down at Adelana again, “I can see that others can see that too,” she said as she glanced to me pointedly. “Please see that, and please believe that even at the very, very worst of times, there can still be the best of times later.”

“I don’t care!” Adelana suddenly screamed, making me flinch. “I don’t care about your potential crap! My mother! My father! Everyone I know and love are going to die! Why should I care? Why?”

“That is the truth in life,” said Enandra. “It is such a truth that it is now, as an ancient Terran dialect would call it, cliche. All of us will face death, everyone, everything. Whether it is sentient or not. You must care, Adelana because if you don’t, you will end your life, which won’t make anything better. It will just completely and utterly eliminate any potential of it ever getting better. Do you think your mother and father would want that? For you to snuff out the life, your life which is a life of such boundless potential that they had the honour and luck to bring into this galaxy, just because they have died? Just because they were claimed by the one absolute that will claim us all.”

She shook her head, “no, I don’t believe they would.”

“You can’t...You can’t,” Adelana whispered weakly.

“I can’t know that?” said Enandra with a shrug. “Is that what you mean? No, maybe I cannot, but I am an Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus. I am a product of decades of experience and learning. And if I may sound extraordinarily arrogant, I can read people frigging well. From what I can read of you, I can see you are an intelligent, well adjusted and good person. Most of the time, but there are always exceptions. Usually, that means their parents loved them dearly, treated them well, but not too well. I’m sure they made mistakes, no one is perfect, but...”

Enandra trailed off, “I am meandering, my apologies. Adelana just think on that, please,” she sighed.

Then much to my shock, Adelana made a slight nod. I’d never been held in such awe ever before, this woman, this Inquisitor was genuinely great. She was worthy of her position and more. On the same level as Brutis Bones, perhaps even more so. I could tell Enandra’s words were also aimed at me. Even if I knew it’d all be for nought, I wouldn’t have done it. After Estella’s earlier words.

With this thought, I glanced over my shoulder to Karmen. I caught her looking at us, and she suddenly flinched her attention toward the floor.

“Thank you,” said Enandra and she walked by us, then stopped to stand and watch the pict feed with us.

Still holding Adelana close I watched Enandra, my brow furrowed, my expression grim. My earlier suspicion rekindled. She was good, just too good to be true.

I pushed away such thoughts, clenching my teeth and inhaling sharply.

“Please,” said Adelana, “please let me go, I need to see.”

Even though it stung me to do so, I instantly did as told.

She smiled at me sadly, “thank you,” she said although I wasn’t sure what exactly she was thanking me for.

Then Adelana walked past, and we watched the pict feed.

We watched Omnartus burn.

Then die.

It happened only over about an hour; it was hard to believe such an act could be possible. Billions of lives snuffed out, just like that, an hour seemed like a bit of time in a human’s lifetime, but in this galaxy, it wasn’t even an eye blink. It almost made me laugh out loud as I thought that metaphor was indeed the understatement of the galaxy, perhaps the universe. For the first time in what must’ve been thousands of years, the black-brown pollution clouds dispersed by the falling bombs, they fell to such an extent and number the blue skies of Omnartus would’ve been seen clearly by those living on the upper hive.

The view would’ve only lasted a few minutes before being engulfed in fire. Each explosion was massive, in quick succession followed by another, then another until it seemed to conjoin into one tremendously huge dome of flame and even that just seemed to grow and grow and grow.

I couldn’t look away as tears flowed down my face freely and my body seemed locked in place. I couldn’t even glance to check on Adelana who stood right beside me.

Verenth got up and left about halfway through, storming out, snarling, cursing and crying almost insanely.

The poor bastard, I hoped he’d be okay.

Once it finally finished, we were silent for a long time. I stood still, struggling to breathe, the agony in me felt like a freezing, constant jolt of raging thunder that tore my insides asunder, hollowing me out.

I was brought out of my stupor by Adelana’s weeping, and I looked to her, though I had no idea what I could say. She turned and stormed off, her hands covering her face. I raised my hand, but I didn’t know why, as she disappeared from the Sensorium.

I stood there gaping stupidly; hand still held out.

“What are you doing?” said Karmen and my attention snapped to her, anger raging through me suddenly.

“What?” I growled.

Karmen stopped as she approached me, tears shining in her eyes, the bandages that covered her scared features crinkling with her grimacing, “go to her, you idiot,” she squeaked. “She’s only here because of you. Help her.”

“How?” I gasped out.

“Tell her why, Attelus,” she said. “Tell her the truth. Like you’d promised.”

“But she’ll hate me!” I cried.

Then she slapped me in the face, striking me it stung horribly and sent me to my knees. I heard a crunch! Indicating she’d broken her hand, but she didn’t let out a cry of pain or anything.

“It doesn’t matter if she hates you!” Karmen roared down at me. “That’s your damn fault! Don’t be so frigging selfish! I can’t believe you can be so selfish! Now get up and tell her everything! And deal with whatever consequence it brings because it is your own!”

I wiped the blood from my split lip with a forearm, fighting back more tears and climbed to my feet with shaking limbs.

“What about Verenth?” I said. “Surely he deserves to know too.”

“I’ll take care of him,” said Karmen. “Don’t you worry. Now go frig you!”

I nodded and turned then left.

The two stormtroopers led me to Adelana’s quarters. They understood my haste, so it only took us a few minutes to find it.

I said my thanks to them and pressed the door alarm, then waited.

I waited for a good half a minute, trying to keep calm, tapping the tip of my shoe on the floor, while smoking another Lho.

After that time I hesitantly called again, thinking the worst but this time the door almost immediately slid open. I found myself almost face to face with the old woman.

“What do you want?” she said, looking at me darkly.

“I’m glad you’re here,” I said. “I’m here to fulfil my promise to Adelana; I believe you too deserve to know the truth.”

“Of course I bloody do,” she stated. “Omnartus may not have been my native world, but I have lived there for the past six years.”

I nodded, “may I come in?”

The woman’s eyes narrowed, glancing me up and down, before eventually nodding and stepping aside to allow me in.

“Thank you,” I said and slipped inside.

The quarters was identical to mine, but the illumination globes were off, endowing the place in darkness. The light from the corridor outside allowed me to see Adelana, who was curled up in a foetal ball on the bed.

The quarters was in almost complete darkness as the door slid shut and the woman walked past me, sitting on the bed next to Adelana.

My eyes quickly adjusted and in gaping silence, I slowly approached, unsure how to begin, or even where.

“It’s alright,” said the old woman and I could see she was smiling at me. “Take your time.”

I sighed and nodded, and I could hear poor Adelana crying softly into her hands.

“I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean...I didn’t mean for this to happen. Please don’t hate me, please.”

“I’m sure you didn’t,” said the old woman. “How could you? But it seems like you think you are somewhat responsible for this travesty.”

I shrugged, unable to say anything more, my courage was fast failing me.

“I’ve made...I’ve made mistakes, stupid, stupid mistakes.”

“And who hasn’t?” said the old woman. “Look what you did to Vex?”

I flinched as the mention of that, “I shouldn’t have done that, but I’ve done worse...I don’t know where to start.”

The woman shook her head as she stroked Adelana’s hair, “where else can you start? But at the beginning?”

I sighed, her words reminded me of Garrakson, and then I knew exactly where to start.

“I was born in a country called Velrosia, in its capital, Varander on the agri world of Elbyra…”

I told them almost everything, leaving out most of my very rocky relationship with my mother, especially of what she’d done to me when I was really young. I spoke of my father’s teachings, and who and what he was. I told of the invasion of Elbrya, how I’d survived in the ruins of Varander, but left out my desperate cannibalism. Then my subsequent meeting with Estella Erith and our battles and subsequent escape south.

It didn’t take long for Adelana to sit up and watched at me with a wide, watery-eyed almost awed gaze.

I told of how Estella had attempted to change my memories. I spoke of my decision to become an assassin and my escape from Elbyra on a refugee ship. My first paid killing and of how Glaitis saved me from execution then took me under her wing.

Most of my six-year employment under Glaitis, I skipped. That time wasn’t important to the overall story. It felt like years wasted, I was mostly a low-level enforcer, almost all of what I’d learned during that time was from Glaitis telling me, rather than showing.

I told of my arrival on Omnartus, of Karmen placing the mind lock on my mind. I gave a summary of the six months, fighting the local Hammers with Garrakson, Torris and Elandria and the search for Brutis Bones.

Then of the Twilight bar incident, I left out how utterly injured I was by the Arco Flagellant and Faleaseen fixing and enhancing me just that I was in a coma for a month.

All of it, pretty much all of it, from my fight with Elandria, all the way to just before we met them at Vex’s office. Never once did they interrupt me, just sat utterly taken in with every one of my words.

Once I’d finally finished, the old woman and Adelana sat in stunned silence for a good ten minutes.

“I...I,” squeaked Adelana, breaking the silence.

My attention snapped to her, my breath baited, hoping to all hell she’d believed me that she wouldn’t hate me.

“You’ve led one interesting life, Attelus,” said the old woman. “I don’t know what to say.”

“You believe me?” I said.

“I do,” she answered. “It’s a lot to digest, but I believe you.”

I nodded, finding I liked this woman, I just wished I could remember her damn name.

“So,” said Adelana. “The whole reason you were born was so you could take that pict, so this...Etuarq can use it to destroy Omnartus?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I told you it’s complicated.”

“That’s horrible,” she said. “I don’t understand...”

She wandered off in her sentence, and her attention fell to the floor.

“Don’t understand what, honey?” asked the old woman.

“How, how can you be okay after learning that?” she said. “After everything you have been through how can you be so…”

She grimaced and sighed looking like she was struggling to find the right word.

“So sane,” she said before I could make a suggestion.

I sniggered slightly and shook my head, “I am far from sane, Adelana.”

She opened her mouth and inhaled, looking like she was going to say something but seemed unable to.

“I’m sorry, but, I have to say, Omnartus died because of a pict? A single pict?” said the woman.

“Yes, a pict I took,” I said.

“The guilt you must feel,” she said.

“Is overwhelming,” I said.

“But it’s not your fault,” said Adelana. “No really, how were you supposed to know it would lead to that.”

“I should’ve…” I said, tears welling in my eyes and my hands balled into fists “I should’ve known, I should’ve done something. But I was so caught up in selfishly saving my own arse.”

“Wanting to live isn’t selfish, Attelus!” Adelana cried. “I think many others would’ve done the same. Although maybe wouldn’t have succeeded, you mustn’t let your guilt overtake you! You still have to stop that Etuarq monster!”

I looked down at her shocked.

She sighed, “thank you for telling us, Attelus. It must’ve been taken a lot of courage to have done it.”

“Yeah,” breathed the woman. “Hell yeah.”

“I thought you’d hate me,” I said.

Adelana shrugged, “after what you said in the ship before, I did some soul searching. You were right; hate is one of the things wrong with the galaxy. So I won’t hate you, I can’t. You were just a pawn in this, I see it now.”

She frowned, “but I’m not sure I’m grateful that you saved me. You did it for selfish reasons and…”


“Just give me some time, please,” she said. “Just let me have some time, too...I’ve gotta think more over.”

I nodded, “yeah more than fair enough, will hopefully see you sooner rather than later,” I said, getting the hint and slipping my hands into their pockets, then turned and left.

Still escorted, I walked back to my quarters, it was only a few doors down from Adelana’s.

When the door slid shut behind me, I stepped inside and let out the most protracted sigh yet. The exhaustion hit me again, along with the many aches and pains of my injuries.

I stumbled in and threw myself onto my bed, I laid there, staring up at the gunmetal grey ceiling.

An entire world dead, it was hard to believe. Hard to comprehend, that humanity had such insane power at its hands.

How many billions of years did it take for Omnartus to evolve and change into what it was? Only to be reduced to fire and ash in a mere hour.

Again, I tried to sleep, but my mind was awash with thoughts. I still couldn’t believe Adelana didn’t hate me even after finding out the rather central role I’d played in the destruction of her homeworld.

She seemed almost to feel sorry for me. I didn’t need her frigging pity.

But on second thought the way she looked at me, it wasn’t pitying, not really. It seemed almost to be admiration. Now she knew what I’d been through, the horrors I’ve had to endure.

The visitation alarm shrilled suddenly, making me flinch in fright and I let out a pained groan.

“Whaaat?” I growled as the door swished open and Darrance stepped in.

“Apprentice,” he said with a formal nod.

I didn’t reply, just glared at him balefully.

“I hope I’m not interrupting your brooding,” he said.

“What do you want?”

Darrance sighed, “alright, alright, I can’t really blame you for being upset right now.”

“Oh good to hear!” I said sarcastically. “Good to know you understand.”

“I’ve been working on things, with Glaitis dead and Hayden in a coma I am now the senior most assassin in our organisation,” said Darrance. “I thought you should be updated.”

I sat up on my bed, “life goes on, I guess,” I sighed.

“I visited Hayden just before,” he said. “The medicaes say he will live but will need an augmetic to replace his shoulder.”

I frowned and looked to the floor guiltily; I’d forgotten about poor Hayden entirely in everything.

“And what about Jelket?” I asked.

“He will live, too,” said Darrance. “Don’t know how he made it, it’s almost miraculous.”

I nodded, “good, that’s good.”

“I have also written up an astropathic communique I will send to Glaitis’ cult,” he said. “It’s too dangerous to send it now; the Space Marine fleets are searching the solar system for us as we speak.”

My expression darkened, “and what does it say, exactly?”

“Pretty much everything,” said Darrance with a shrug. “Excluding your psychic enhancement, of course, and your apparent manipulation of Jeurat Garrakson.”

“You’re sure that’s wise?” I said.

“Yes,” he said, without hesitation. “If we are to one day stop Etuarq we’ll need all the allies we can get.”

I grimaced, “what if they’re secretly allied with him?”

“What if they’re not,” he countered. “Besides, if they are, he had probably informed them of everything anyway, now they think we trust them.”

“That sounds awfully like backwards logic to me,” I said.

“Does it?” he said with a smug smile. “You seemed awfully quick to trust this Inquisitor, how do you know she isn’t secretly allied with Etuarq? It’s one of your many weaknesses rearing it’s ugly head yet again, can’t say no to a pretty face, can we, Attelus?”

I sighed, “under the circumstances, we don’t have much of a choice to trust her, Darrance. But yes, perhaps you’re right.”

“Trust nothing, suspect everything,” intoned Darrance.

My frown deepened, my brow furrowed and I briefly considered telling him of my suspicions, but for some reason quickly decided against it.

“What are you going to do now?” said Darrance. “Lay there and keep on mopping? Or something constructive? I’m going to the bridge, you coming?”

I raised an eyebrow, “we’re even allowed on the bridge?” I said.

Darrance shrugged, “not sure, thought I might try.”

Then a thought hit me, “why are we still here?” I said while straightening, my eyes widening.


“Why are we still in the system?” I elaborated. “Why haven’t we escaped into the warp already? It’s too dangerous to stay here, just too dangerous.”

Darrance shrugged, “to watch Omnartus burn? Confirming its destruction, maybe the Inquisitor is completely sure in the stealth abilities of the ship.”

I shook my head, “I doubt it’s just that if she’s so sure, why were her forces readying for a fight?”

Darrance shook his head, “well, you know why it could be just in case.”

“Hmm, perhaps,” I conceded with a shrug. “But I still feel…”

“You coming or not?” said Darrance, impatiently.

“Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, I think I will.”

Much to my surprise, we were actually allowed onto the bridge and even more to my surprise both Helma and Arlathan were already there. Chatting with Enandra who was back in her power armour and sat cross-legged on a solid, copper coloured plasteel throne in the bridge’s epicentre, like a regal queen of old. Flanking the thrones’ was the mute psyker, on the right the Stormtrooper sergeant, who was now helmetless. His handsome square-jawed face was insanely masculine, almost on par with an Astartes, his red hair typically close-cropped and short of a soldier.′

I’d half expected it to be the same bridge in Faleaseen’s vision but found it couldn’t have been any more different. I wasn’t sure what to make of that.

“Why are we still here, mamzel Inquisitor?” I heard Arlathan ask as we came close, stepping through the constantly moving crew. “Shouldn’t we have left already?”

I smiled, glad I wasn’t the only one who’d come to such thoughts and once again impressed by the detective’s intellectual acumen.

They glimpsed Darrance and my approach, and all of them turned to us.

“Ah!” said Enandra, smiling and waving at Darrance and I. “Colohris had voxed ahead that you would be coming, it’s good to see you both!”

“Mamzel,” I said with a polite, slight bow, my hands held behind my back.

“I agree with Arlathan,” said Helma abruptly. “Why are we still here?”

Enandra sighed, “I guess after everything you’ve been through, you would be suspicious of me. I understand. I said that all of you held potential, this emphasised even more now. I see you are already asking the right questions, that is good, very good.”

My eyes narrowed, “I am surprised you approve of that,” I said.

She smiled and looked at me sidelong, “knowledge is power, young Attelus and sometimes knowledge can only be won by asking the right questions.”

Enandra tilted her head and smiled wider, placing her fist against her cheekbone, “or by shedding and bleeding enough blood, but you would know this more than anyone wouldn’t you, Attelus?”

I couldn’t help but smile and nod back, yes I did. Or at least I thought I did.

I hoped I did.

I was wrong; I didn’t know of course.

She sighed again and reclined back in her throne, stretching her legs and placing her palms behind her head.

“I want you to know, that you can trust me,” she said. “I want all of you to know I am not like Glaitis or Taryst. That I am willing to share my plans and truths…”

“But only if we ask the right questions?” asked Helma, her eyes narrowed approvingly as her arms folded across her chest.

“At first, yes,” said Enandra. “But once you have shed enough blood and bled enough blood that you won’t have to anymore.”

“Are you going to tell us or not?” Darrance said through clenched teeth.

“Of course I will,” said Enandra sounding amused at Darrance’s impatient tone rather than annoyed. “You asked the right question; I will give you the answer you deserve. But my psyker Selva will have to take certain liberties with your thoughts to make sure it won’t leak out, understand?”

We glanced at one another in hesitation; no one liked the idea of a psyker rifling around in our minds. Especially me.

Enandra raised a hand, “she will not erase your memory of it, just make sure it will be hard to rile up this information by another of her kind. Just a security precaution, I assure you.”

Eventually, all of us nodded our approval.

“Good,” she crooned. “As I had said before, knowledge is power, this also includes, know your enemy…”

Four hours later I was back in my quarters. Enandra had given me back my sword, and I was stripped to the waist, my pale white skin glistened with sweat. Training slashing and slicing, stabbing and stepping. Every attack of the unactivated blade whistled and sung with absurd brevity, in fact, I could’ve sworn it followed a split second after I’d finished.

Inquisitor Enandra had told us her plan, it was audacious and detailed but leaned on assumptions a bit too much for my taste. But she didn’t have the luxury of farsight that Glaitis did. Or perhaps she did, perhaps that was why she was able to plan on such assumptions, I couldn’t know. Her psyker hadn’t done anything intrusive just blocked our surface thought so we couldn’t speak of it verbally. I didn’t know the details. It’d worked on me, or it’d seemed to for Selva.

With a snarl, I side kicked the air, then cut diagonally upward. I’d been training for a good hour now, how I was managing to do it after everything I’d gone through today. I didn’t know, but some energy drove me onward. Despite my aching limbs and horrid weariness. It was anger I supposed, and pain, the pain of a different kind than that which echoed in my body.

I’d practised for another ten minutes when the visitation buzzer chimed again.

I let out an animalistic growl and kept on attacking the air, some of my considerable skill lost in my anger at the interruption.

A good ten seconds later there was another chime, and I snarled, “go away!” Even though I knew whoever was at the door couldn’t hear me. I didn’t care who it was; I wasn’t going to answer.

The third shrilled so long after the second I’d thought whoever it was had given up and gone.

I flinched in fright and finally stopped my training, wiped sweat from my forehead with an arm then absently, skillfully sheathed my sword and stormed toward the door.

“What the frig are…!” I roared but wandered off in my sentence as the door swung open to reveal it was Adelana. Her attractive face set and hard, but I could still see her eyes very briefly glance me up and down in appreciation. She was holding my beaten torn and bloodstained flak jacket before her.

It took me a few seconds to regain my self, stammering stupidly in monosyllables.

She blinked away tears and shook her head in bemusement.

“Can I come in?” she said.

“I...I’m sorry! Of course! Come in!” I stammered and stepped aside.

She stormed through the door, handing me my jacket on the way and rounded on me, making me flinch, “I was thinking about what you said, and you were right!”

“Uhm, I’ve said a lot, can you please elaborate?”

“You said on the flier, that once I knew the truth, it would give me purpose! A reason to live!” she snapped. “And you were right.”

I smiled and laughed, and this caused her to hiss as though hurt and look away, “that’d be the first time in a bloody long time I was right, then,” I said.

“I want to help!” she said. “I want to help stop this Etuarq, help make sure he can’t do this again!”

“Okay!” I said, as I laid my sheathed sword onto my bed and turned back her, slapping the sides of my thighs. “Talk to the Inquisitor she’ll have someone willing to help you, then.”

“I want you to help me!” he said. “I want you to teach me!”

I furrowed my brow and looked at her sidelong, unable to hide my surprise; it was more surprising I didn’t see this coming.

“I…,” said with a shaking voice. “I’m not qualified to teach you anything; I’m only an apprentice. I wouldn’t be…”

“I saw you dodge bullets! I saw you deflect them with your sword!” she exclaimed. “Who else is more qualified than you?”

“I’ve never taught anyone about anything in my life,” I said. “I can do that stuff, sure, but that doesn’t mean I’m a good teacher.”

“Then you’ll learn!” she said. “Just like I will learn! I’m only here because of you! So it must be you who trains me! Please! You are partially responsible for the destruction of my world; you owe me this. You owe me!”

I flinched, hurt by her words and the truth behind them. I would’ve liked to teach her; I really would’ve...

“Why me?” I breathed.

“I already told you,” she said hesitantly.

I looked into her eyes, “is there, is there…another...another...”

Adelana met my gaze for a good few seconds, but her eyes widened, and she abruptly tore her attention away.

“I just need someone to teach me, and you owe me,” she squeaked.

“Yes, yes of course,” I sighed and closed my eyes, once again feeling guilt hit me. I barely knew her and Elandria wasn’t long dead, what the hell was I doing?

“I should leave,” she said and pushed past me, walking quickly toward the door.

“Adelana!” I said, causing her to stop and look back at me.

“I’ll teach you,” I said. “Starting tomorrow.”

She smiled sadly and nodded, then went to leave again.

“Adelana!” I exclaimed again, and she halted. “I have to ask, how old are you?”

She furrowed her brow, bemused, “nineteen standard. How old are you?”

“Twenty four standard,” I answered, and her eyes widened with surprise.

“Really? You look seventeen or eighteen,” she said.

I sighed, “yeah I get that quite a bit, anyway. I ask because you must know I’ve been training from when I was pretty much old enough to walk. It’ll take you a while to get up to my level.”

“I understand,” she said. “I have been studying to be in the Magistratum, so do have teaching in close quarters combat.”

“And long ranged combat?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said with a slight nod. “I was third in my class at the shooting range.”

I sighed and scratched the back of my head, damn it, everyone seemed to be a better shot than me, “I really, strongly suggest you get Hayden Tresch to teach you how to shoot better, that’s just not me. I’m an average shot at the best of times.”

She frowned and shrugged, “I was third at the range,” she said again. “But I had an average of ninety-eight point five percent. The two others higher than me were only point one and two percent over me, respectively. Maybe I could teach you how to shoot, then?”

I smiled, “yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Will meet you at the training facility at 0800 hours tomorrow morning.”

She smiled, nodded again, and left.

With a snarl, I sliced off the soldier’s head, then impaled his ally through the chest. A third attempted a point-blank full auto flurry with his lasgun, but by the time he’d raised his rifle. I’d already darted in, cut it in two, then opened his throat with a diagonal slash.

Behind me, Adelana, Verenth, Vark and Helma slipped out of the cover of the two nearby outlets. Their hellguns fired flurries of laser down the wide, dirty brown corridor. The enemy soldiers took cover thirty metres away cowering behind the outlets there.

“Cover me!” I shouted, then started sprinting forward, pulling out a frag grenade, pulled the pin and threw it into the left side.

The resulting explosion, followed by screams and the five others on the right leaned out, opening up with their lasguns.

I dodged and deflected the las-fire, before darting behind the nearest outlet. Throwing a knife a Microsecond before moving which stuck fast into the eye socket of a soldier.

It’d allowed my friends to advance behind me and withering hell gunfire strafed through the air followed by more screams.

I clenched my teeth and pushed my back against the wall. Three months! It’d taken the Space Marines three frigging months to finally give up searching for us in the solar system and leave into the warp. I knew they’d be tenacious but didn’t expect it to take that frigging long. It was a harrowing, stressful game of cat and mouse we played; we’d almost been caught five times, once a Space Marine craft had passed within two hundred kilometres of us. It was so close for void ships we may as well have been breathing down each other necks.

During that time I’d tried to teach Adelana how to fight. I didn’t do very well at first, showing how to do techniques far too fast and expecting her to be able to perform advanced fighting forms, that came to me as naturally as breathing, but for someone starting, seemed almost impossible.

I’d tried to get teaching advice from Darrance, but he proved to be pretty damn useless in this regard. If he was upset, me a mere apprentice was teaching someone, he didn’t show it, and I hoped he’d keep it out of his report. I would’ve gone to Enandra, but she was busy with the whole business of keeping us alive.

Adelana had proven to be a pretty lousy close quarters combatant, despite being surprisingly fit and robust. She was a Magistratum trainee so used to a submission, grappling style. I used more of a striking style, so she’d had to start almost all over again. Adelana had also admitted privately she was thirtieth in her class, out of forty total.

Out of a moment’s inspiration, a month in, I’d decided to used my father’s teaching as a template. Despite his anti-social tendencies, he was a good teacher, and she’d improved more since then but was still far from being even below average.

But in contrast, thanks to her help my marksmanship had improved, somewhat.

Much to my surprise, Enandra’s plan had gone exactly right. Once the Space Marines had left, we’d emerged from hiding and as she’d expected Torathe had been hiding as well, waiting for us. After a brief void battle, we’d been boarded.

We’d been ready, Enandra had briefed us fully before we’d dropped the stealth field and we’d set up pre-built defences of shoulder-high flak board walls throughout the ship. The only danger was of Space Marines being on Torathe’s craft, but Enandra had predicted there wouldn’t. She’d believed that it was now personal between her and her former master, that his pride wouldn’t allow their help in this fight. Also, he’d had the Astartes for so long they wouldn’t agree to spare any more for any longer.

So far that theory too had proven true, there were no Space Marines among the number of Imperial Guardsmen and navy personnel taking part in the fighting.

Vex had firstly hacked into their vox network and had shut it down with some sort of virus or something. So, even outnumbered and took numerous casualties we’d pushed them back into their own ship, leaving countless corpses in our wake. Enandra had surprisingly put me in charge of a kill squad consisting of Adelana, Helma, Torris, Verenth and Vark. I’d expected everyone but Adelana to resent me for this but they’d quickly fallen in, following my orders without complaint and hesitation. It seemed finally being able to take the fight to those responsible for Omnartus’ fate had allowed them to put aside their dislike of me, for now.

I’d at first been hesitant for Adelana to take part in the battle, her training was far from even beginning in my eyes, but she’d insisted on fighting with a passion and fire, I couldn’t even begin to deny. Besides for what she lacked in close combat ability she more than made up for in skill in a firefight. This was a boarding action, and even though I’d never taken part in one before, I knew it’d be mostly close range and brutal.

“Clear!” I heard Helma call, knocking me from my train of thought and I slipped out of cover.

Wordlessly we continued to cautiously, silently, professionally advance, from outlet to outlet, shadow to shadow. I led the way, sword held at the ready, but the power field deactivated. It wasn’t long before we heard more running footfalls from around the next corner, and quickly I calculated it to be at least twenty pairs of boots. Karmen and the other in incorporeal psyker had gone forth first, using their abilities to shatter and destroy the glow globes throughout the enemy ship.

With quick movements of my hands, I sent Torris, Helma and Vark back behind an outlet a few metres back. While me, Adelana and Verenth slipped behind the nearest, all of us dissipating into the shadows behind our cameleoline cloaks. Over the past few months almost everyone had been hard at work training to fight, and everything in between. Adelana hadn’t excelled at much, but she’d done well at stealth. The others here had been trained by one of Enandra’s men, and he’d taught them frigging well. Although I was sure, both Vark and Helma had the first-hand experience in commando tactics anyway.

We waited for the enemy to storm down the corridor, they’d heard our firefight, they were on the losing side, and there was a strong camaraderie among them. They wanted to go to their comrade’s aid as quickly as they could, this made them almost reckless, predictable.

They barely check their flanks as they passed us by and went to check the bodies of their dead comrades. I was right; there was twenty total a full squads worth. I raised the replacement autopistol, given to me by Enandra’s armoury and blew a hole through the back nearest guardsman’s head with a manstopper round. Seeing it for the signal, it was the rest of my Kill-team opened up, catching them in a crossfire. They wore thick, grey flak armour but it provided them with no protection from the highly penetrative hellgun fire. It was a slaughter within a few seconds they were dead or grievously injured.

I finished the last screaming survivor, by stabbing him through the heart and Torris approached me.

“Can’t believe that worked,” he said.

I shrugged and pursed my lips, “one thing you can always rely on is the idiocy of humanity.”

He smiled grimly, “yes of course,” he said knowingly.

I smiled back, knowing he meant me, but didn’t care, then waved us onward.

In silence, we found the next corner, and I peered around carefully, the coast was clear, and I signalled this. As part of the briefing Enandra had provided us with the schemata of Torathe’s ship, The Imperial Crusher, from this alone it seemed that she’d been planning a confrontation with her former master for a very long time. I’d studied it well and had the printout in my pocket. But I didn’t need it now. I knew we were advancing along the port side, through the fifth level. There was going to be a staircase in another two turns about eighty-five metres away. The stairway zigzagged up to the tenth level. The bridge was a level above that; we had separated and scouted ahead of Enandra’s main push, taking a long way around, the path least tried. They’d know we were here after that first ambush, there would be more of them coming our way, but the vast majority were distracted. Another kill team, led by Arlathan Karkin was advancing along the starboard side, we were to converge together on the tenth level at 1800 hours.

I glanced at my wrist chron; it was only fifteen thirty-two. Until then we were to sow chaos and confusion in their rear echelons

This was my type of fighting; she’d chosen me well. I felt Arlathan was vastly under qualified, but he’d seemed to have found great favour with Enandra. It was quite rare to see the pair not together over the past few months. Though both Darrance and Hayden were with him so if he followed their advice they should do pretty well.

We moved down the corridor unmolested, but we never lost our disciplined, zigzagging advance, checking every inch and every corner with our green hazed, low light gazes.

As we reached the next turn, I heard more footfalls; they were light but quick and disciplined. Quickly I calculated they were walking down the stairs, about eighteen metres down, although I couldn’t tell how many exactly.

With deliberate hands I ordered us to fan out, Adelana, Helma and I to the left. Torris, Verenth and Vark, right. I signalled to let them past then we wrapped our cameleoline cloaks around us again and waited.

It only took a few minutes for them to come around the corner but it felt like forever, there were ten of them, peering through a slight gap in my cloak. They had no lamps on their assortment of weapons, indicating they too had low light vision contacts. One of them carried an auspex, and I couldn’t help but smile. We’d all gone light, wearing synskin bodygloves.

They were good, very good I figured they might’ve been some of Torathe’s entourage, sent to stop whatever infiltrators had moved so far into their midst.

With bated breath, I watched as they walked right by us expecting in any second for one of them to notice something, anything that’d give us away. One of them, a towering brute in carapace armour even seemed to look right at me, but he saw nothing and moved on with the rest of his mates.

I changed my mind; these bastards were too good they could wreak havoc on the main force. I indicated this with a tap my vox link, and in an instant, we were up and firing into their backs at a practically point-blank range. Four of them were cut down, but the remaining six reacted with impressive speed, starting to spread out into cover a few even managing to turn and fire back, one shot winged Verenth causing him to cry out and spin away. One clipped Vark’s thigh, and he was forced back into cover, clutching at his wound with a pained growl.

I activated my sword in a blaze of blue and dashed in, decapitating one and kicked another in the ribs sending him smashing hard into his comrade and against the wall.

Another tried to swing out at me with the butt his autogun, but I weaved away the kicked it from his hands so abruptly it took him a second to realise it’d gone allowing Adelana to bash in his face with the swing of her Hellgun. The next tried to bring his gun upon us, but a point-blank shotgun shot from Torris exploded the side of his skull, then Helma converged on the last, taking out his legs with a sweeping kick, stamped on his face which connected with a sickening, crunch! Then finished him by stabbing the tip of her knife into his neck.

I killed the last who was starting to get to his feet, cutting him horizontally across his chest.

I turned to the others and nodded my approval, especially at Adelana, genuinely impressed.

“They will be missed,” hissed Helma, whipping the blood from her knife on her thigh.

I shrugged, “we’ll worry about that later, check on Verenth and Vark, please,” I said.

Torris and Helma nodded then turned to help the injured.

“I am alright,” said Vark, limping into view, gripping his thigh.

“You’d better head back,” I said. “You’re in no condition for…”

A flicker of movement caught my eye. The slightest thing but it was enough to slide aside, so the slashing sword from the darkness at my back instead cut across my lower bicep.

With a cry of pain, I struggled to keep my balance. The dark corridor was suddenly alight with hellgun fire. The figure, only a little more a than a shadow, laughed and with breathtaking speed and agility dodged and weaved through it

Then his sword’s power field came into life, a thin curved blade, I could see him now. He wore carapace armour and a storm coat. His sharp-featured face half covered in a fringe and was smirking almost psychotically, how the hell he’d almost got the drop on me was beyond me. Then he dashed straight at Adelana, thrusting at her.

Clenching my teeth against the pain, I snarled and smashed aside his thrust, throwing a side kick that sent him spinning back.

I charged forward, cutting out at his thighs diagonally. He parried and reposted with a high horizontal slash at my skull I ducked. He was forced to backpedal from the counter cut.

“Ahh!” breathed the attacker, his voice hoarse and whispering, like a desert wind. “Attelus Kaltos! I have heard so much about you!”

I grimaced, seriously, does everyone know me?

“Who are you?” I demanded.

“I am Interrogator Leonard Rodyille,” he said with a deep bow. “Inquisitor Etuarq sends his regards.”

I waved everyone back, “you’re Etuarq’s Interrogator?”

“No,” said Rodyille. “I am Torathe’s Interrogator, but I am really working for Etuarq.”

Suddenly I could hear screams, hideous, blood-curdling screams that seemed to erupt from Rodyille.

“What the hell are you?” I hissed, recoiling back in horror.

“He said you would be here,” said Rodyille, ignoring my question. “At this exact time, he sent me to kill you and your little friends. He knew you’d be here; he must also know that I’d kill you.”

I laughed, despite myself, “you think that, do you? Feuilt thought the same thing too; then he died at my hand. I think he’s sent you here because you’ve run your course, you’re no longer useful to him. You’re expendable.”

Rodyille grimaced, “your father taught me how to fight! How to kill! I am his best agent! His most loyal! I have been enhanced beyond normal human ken! I am too valuable to be expendable!”

“Enhanced?” I said, my eyes widening. “Best agent? So you’re not the only one? You’re the same as that assassin who attacked me on that thoroughfare, aren’t you? I wonder how many of you Etuarq has out there in the sector; you’re not special. Your master, Etuarq just manipulated the death of an entire world, then he has sent you to be sacrificed at my blade. How can you be loyal to him? I just don’t understand.”

Rodyille’s jaw clenched but said nothing.

“You seem to know much,” I said. “Join us, Leonard Rodyille. Tell us what you know, and we can stop the bastard!”

Rodyille smiled and sniggered.

“Do you know why I’ve told you this?” he said.

“Because you’re so sure you can kill me it doesn’t matter?” I said, and he frowned, indicating I was right, I couldn’t help finding it amusing knowing even he managed to it wouldn’t make any difference at all.

I smiled sadly, “no matter what I say you won’t see sense, will you?” I sighed.

With an enraged roar, faster than thought Rodyille dashed at me, slashing out at my neck.

I blocked and reposted with an upward vertical slash, forcing him to sidestep. He spun into a hook kick which would’ve smashed knocked my legs out from underneath me if I hadn’t backstepped.

He cut overhead, and I slid aside then stabbed at his head. He leaned back by a hair’s breadth, and I followed with a darting horizontal strike at his stomach.

Rodyille barely managed to parry it and threw a front kick at my chest. I slid aside and countered with a kick with my bladed shoe at his shin. Rodyille threw himself back.

“Oh for frig’s sake!” I heard Torris’ exclaim. “Are we just going to stand around and watch you fight? Frig! It’s even happening so fast I can’t even make out what’s happening!”

I smiled and knocked away Rodyille’s charging thrust. Throwing a roundhouse kick that crashed into his side, sending him stumbling, it would’ve shattered his ribs into oblivion if it wasn’t for his armour I was sure. Pain flared up my leg, but I ignored it, finding my feet in a blink, before sliding into a vertical, downward slash aimed at Rodyille’s sword arm.

Rodyille managed to recover and pull his arm out the way by the barest of margins. I turned my blade and pivoted into a horizontal slash. Rodyille dropped into a kneel and sliced up at my groin.

I parried and kneed at his face, Rodyille leapt to his feet, ejecting himself out the way, arms out wide.

He went to stab at me, but I sidestepped, darted in then wrapped my free arm around his wrists. Too close to use my sword, I smashed an elbow hard into his jaw with a crack! Sending him reeling and crying out, then backfisted him in the side of the face. His back bashed against the wall, causing him to straighten. With a strangled cry, he managed to tear his arms free and desperately chopped out, forcing me to dance blindingly fastback. But the tip still cut a painful gash across my chest.

I clenched my teeth and growled in pain, but barely blanched.

“You bastard!” Rodyille slurred, indicating a broken jaw. “You frigging bastard!”

Then again I heard the screams and for a split second Rodyille’s face changed. It was a horrifyingly hollow-eyed, hollow mouthed, tortured monstrosity, that seemed to writhe and struggle under his skin. Then his face was back to normal, healed, instantaneously.

“What the hell are you?” I gasped.

With a feral snarl, Rodyille turned away and started to sprint back the way he came.

Now with clean shots, my comrades opened fire at his back, but he innately weaved side to side through it and disappeared around the next corner.

“You alright?” asked Adelana as she stepped to stand beside me.

“Yeah,” I managed with a nod, not sounding at all convincing. He said he was enhanced as well, was Etuarq using his power also to change his spies?

I blinked as suddenly memories flashed through my thoughts, but with new additions. I could now see the writhing, screaming faces in the skin of the daemons I’d fought with Castella.

I remembered the same screaming faces jutting from the sides of the conduit and in the streaming and swirling light which rose from its tip. I could see the faces now flowed through the air around the pews Edracian had lifted with his telekinesis like ghosts.

+This is hardly a surprise,+ said Faleaseen. +I should have known, no true daemons are alike, those things that had attacked you at Brutis Bones’ hideout. Were not daemons of the four it seems. I do not know how it had gone undetected so far, but that is not your problem now, now you must…+

“I know!” I growled through gritted teeth, causing everyone around to flinch in fright and started down the corridor without even a backward glance.

“Shit! Shit! Shit! After him!” I roared. “But we need him alive! Hurry! Hurry!”

Me, Helma, Torris and Adelana moved silently through the darkness with the utmost care; now I knew how skilled out quarry was at stealth. I wasn’t taking any chances. Vark and Verenth having gone back for medical treatment.

My teeth were on edge, adrenaline still pumping through me.

I really wanted to chase after the bastard, but that’d open us up for an ambush. I knew if he’d just run he could be anywhere on the ship by now and we’d never find him.

I hissed a curse under my breath, wishing like all hell I could’ve sent back the others also, but another possibility was he’d gone back to get reinforcements, and they’d most likely be too much for me alone to handle.

Actually, there’d be most likely too much for all of us to handle, but I digressed.

Another reason was there was just no way I could cover even a fifth of the area by myself.

When we eventually arrived at the start of the stairs, utterly unmolested I wasn’t sure how to feel about it, in all honesty.

I held up a hand for the others to halt and cautiously peered up the stairs, expecting in any second for a withering fire to shower down at me, but there was none.

Clenching my teeth, I signalled the all clear and despite the stairs being made of metal my feet didn’t make a sound as I started to ascend and couldn’t help feeling a bit of pride when even I could barely hear the footfalls of my comrades following me.

There were four flights until the next floor, and I knew it led into a mess hall. It was a large span, about thirty by forty metres, tables and chairs, everywhere a bloody great place for an ambush.

I glanced around the door, seeing the place was empty, or as empty as I could see from here. It was in tidy condition, stark and clean to an almost ludicrous degree.

I darted to stand behind the right side of the door as Adelana joined me, pushing her back against the wall, Helma and Torris just behind.

“Torris,” I whispered. “Hunker down and watch the door and our backs. Adelana, Helma, with me.”

With weapons raised, we swiftly slipped inside. Me in the lead and with two quick points of my fingers I ordered my comrades to split up.

Six main thoroughfares were splitting up the maybe seven metre long tables. The doorway was set in the centre of the room, and we advanced through the right. I checked the left, Adelana down the middle and Helma on the right. My plan was if and when we reached the other side, we’d check the cooking area, before falling back to search the left.

I guessed or hoped that Rodyille hadn’t gone back for reinforcements, surely they’d be here already?

My heart in my throat, pistol raised and continuously swept across the scenery. Back and forth, back and forth and we moved hunched and low, so we could easily see beneath the tables.

When we’d found the end of the room, I’d glanced back to check on Torris. I couldn’t see him and be glad at this fact.

I ordered Helma and Adelana to wait and watch the room then vaulted over the serving bench, landing into a silent crouch. I knew there was a cold air chiller behind the cooking area and in there would most likely be where Rodyille was lurking.

I approached the small, large door and with my sword hand slowly pulled it open, seeing only a little of the large cold room beyond.

Sword readied I slowly searched through the hanging skinned carcasses, I tried to hold my breath, so my steaming breathing wouldn’t be visible. I was afraid, terrified. Hoping to all hell, Rodyille wouldn’t be able to overwhelm and kill me. I didn’t know how long it’d take for Faleaseen to bring me back. An hour? Two hours? A day? It didn’t matter it wouldn’t be quick enough; I was the only one able to stop him and with me out of the picture, it’d allow him to kill the others.

He must’ve known this, now was the time to strike when I was alone.

I spent a good ten minutes searching every inch of the place, but there was no sign of him, nothing. I really wanted to look again, just to make sure but fought the urge. We were already low on time to meet our objective.

With a slight sigh, I left, closing the door behind me. On second thought, perhaps it was a bit too obvious.

Helma and Adelana glanced at me confused; they’d obviously thought the same as me.

I shrugged and with quick gestures, indicated we were searching the now right side of the cafeteria.

They nodded, and we began to head back in the same formation and searching the same way.

It was when we were all the way through that Rodyille decided to strike. On the far right, out of nowhere one of the tables was abruptly flung into the air, smashing hard into poor Helma off her feet and across the room. Adelana barely managed to dart out the way with impressive speed, and I simply sidestepped.

Rodyille seemed to materialise into view, his curved sword coming into life and he sprinted at Adelana. Adelana and Torris, opened fire forcing him to slow and weave through it, but I was already moving and activating my sword. Even still he reached Adelana before me. Lightning quick he pulled Adelana’s Hell gun from her hands, turned and fired a flurry at Torris.

I heard Torris cry out and his shooting stopped. Then Rodyille dropped it and grabbed Adelana by the hair then placed the edge of his blade at her throat, making me stop in my tracks. Hissing through clenched teeth my pistol aimed.

He smiled insanely over her shoulder, “ahh! I could tell you liked this girl. Who wouldn’t? She’s just so damned pretty. So very, very pretty. Don’t move! Or I will spill all her pretty blood onto the floor.”

I clenched my jaw, “I don’t understand how this is going to help you,” I said. “Let her go!”

“I don’t know how this will help me too!” he exclaimed. “I’m just having a bit of fun! I know this is Torathe’s final hour!”

“You also know now, that to Etuarq, you are expendable,” I said. “He had sacrificed Edracian and his entire organisation. He had sacrificed Feuilt once they’d lost their use! Join us! Help us! Now please let her go!”

“I have helped influence Torathe,” said Rodyille conversationally. “I am partly responsible for the death of Omnartus, would you take me in knowing that?”

I flinched and hesitated, “if you regret it and wish to…”

“Well, I don’t!” said Rodyille simply, suddenly throwing aside Adelana and shooting a Hell pistol he’d hidden behind her.

It happened so quick; not even I could react as the highly penetrative, superheated shot shattered my wraithbone rib, burst my left lung then out my back.

I wheeled, twisting, crying out in agony and fell onto my back, writhing, gasping. My pistol and sword flung somewhere from my hands.

Rodyille laughed, “you speak grox shit!” he snarled. “My master would never! Ever! Abandon me! And for that...!”

He threw aside his Hell pistol and grabbed Adelana by the ponytail as she was in the midst of getting to her feet. Then stabbed her straight through the shoulder.

Adelana screamed an agonised scream; then he threw her to the floor so hard I could hear bones break.

“You’ll have to watch me torture poor pretty, pretty to death here before I kill you!” he snarled.

“I’ll...I’ll,” I gasped.

“You’’ll what?” Rodyille said, in mock imitation of my gasping. “Kill me? What? In the condition, you are in now? I doubt it! I will not be killed by you on this day of days!”

He clutched at Adelana’s cameleoline cloak and pulled her back to him, sliding her across the floor making the poor girl cry out.

“Oh! Perhaps! I could do something else!” he said, “something worse than plain old torture, yes!”

“N-no, no!” I cried as sharply as I could, fighting to keep awake.

He grabbed her by the hair again and pulled her up, so they were face to face, then licked the nape of her neck. He smacked her across the face twice with short, sharp movements.

“You bastard!” Adelana snarled through clenched teeth, blood oozed from her split lip, and she spat right into his face.

Rodyille laughed then backhanded her to the deck.

“S-stop!” I pleaded. “Stop this!”

Rodyille ignored me, just continued to laugh and he began to rip off Adelana’s cameleoline cloak roughly.

“Can’t you see,” I gasped. “It’s the souls, that Etuaq used to enhance you. They’re driving you insane! Please, we can help you.”

Still, Rodyille laughed and finished pulling off Adelana’s cloak, she was struggling, raining punch after punch into Rodyille’s face with her gauntleted fists, but the bastard barely flinched. Despite the bloody broken nose she’d given him. He wrapped his fingers around her wrists and pinned Adelana’s arms over her head.

“Stop, you son of a bitch!” and despite the agony climbed with agonising slowness to my feet. “Stop this now, or you’ll never come back from this if you continue…!”

“Or you’ll what?” he snapped.

“I’ll kill you,” I snarled. “I’ll kill you in the most painful way imaginable.”

Rodyille was suddenly running at me and I only just managed to slap away his punch as it headed toward my face. The act sent waves of agony through me, I cried out, my vision blurred and I couldn’t stop his kick from colliding against my chest, sending me careening hard to the floor.

He was on me, grabbing me by the hair then smashed my skull against the deck. My vision blackened and I writhed with the pain. Then Rodyille hooked me across the jaw.

“Don’t be stupid!” he roared. “Don’t say stupid things! People who say stupid things like that are stupid! And deserve bad consequences for their stupidity!”

I would’ve laughed at his idiotic, redundant words but he kicked me hard in the guts, and I reeled forward, gasping like an aquatic creature deprived of water.

Rodyille got to his feet and began back toward Adelana, turning his back to me.

I was on my knees, grasping his storm jacket with a shaking hand. I was weeping openly now, but not out of pain, Adelana had been through so much already, but despite it all, she was still a good person. If he raped her it’d break her; I couldn’t let that happen. I couldn’t lie back and do nothing!

“Please!” I hissed. “Please!”

Rodyille smiled and kicked me to the floor with the tip of his boot.

“Karmen!” I cried, curling up in a foetal ball. “Faleaseen! Help please!”

I got nothing.

Nothing! I knew Karmen, and the other psyker would be busy battling whatever psychic thralls Torathe kept, but I couldn’t understand why Faleaseen wasn’t able to help.

Adelana was crawling across the floor, reaching for her Hell gun, but Rodyille stamped on her hand. I winced as I heard her fingers break.

Then he grabbed her by the neck, with one hand lifting her as effortlessly as Brutis Bones had hauled Arlathan when in power armour months ago now.

Adelana struggled; choking in his grasp, with one, smooth, deliberate movement and he unzipped her bodyglove.

I winced and closed my eyes, unable to watch. Then it hit me; this could be me one day, this could’ve been me years ago. Psychotic. It reminded me horrifyingly of my dream, the dream I’d truly wished to forget, the dream that’d terrified me beyond anything before or anything ever since. The dream I would never, ever tell any living soul.

Then I heard it, two hell gunshots echoed from behind me, they shot over me, so bright they left orange after images on my retinas despite my eyes being closed.

I looked, and Rodyille stood with a shocked, gaping expression on his face. Two large, red hot holes burnt through his torso.

He let go of poor Adelana and fell to his knees, then collapsed limply onto his back, dead.

Despite the pain it caused, I turned back. Seeing Helma holding with one hand her smoking Hell gun, how she’d kept hold of it was beyond me. She was broken, both her legs and other arm hanging in unnatural angles and Emperor only knew what other bones.

Helma smiled at me, “I am sorry,” she gasped, indicating a punctured lung. “I know you wanted him alive.”

Then she lost consciousness.

Adelana got slowly to her feet and viciously kicked Rodyille’s corpse.

“Frigging bastard!” she snarled.

“Adelana,” I gasped, and she approached my side. Looking down at me with distinct, almost ironic concern and held out her good hand to offer aide.

“Forget about me, I’ll live,” I said. “Check on Torris, please.”

With great hesitation, Adelana slowly nodded and went to do as asked. Reaching for her vox bead and began calling for aid.

Rodyille was right, I thought with a smile, I wasn’t the one to kill him on this day of days.

I never got to hear all of Adelana’s words, before darkness utterly overtook me.

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