According to my wrist chron the wait in the line lasted only fifteen minutes, but for me, it felt like a whole frigging hour, did I say I hated waiting in lines? I did? Good so now it’s doubly emphasised.
When we stood in between slight steps, I tapped the tip of my shoe on the rockcrete and the whole way I smoked Lho as my attention darted around like quicksilver. About halfway through the line, Elandria hissed at me: “really could you stand still for more than three seconds?”
I blew out smoke and replied simplistically, “no.”
She kept quiet after that, perhaps Elandria was smarter than I gave her credit for perhaps she was aware it was an intended ironic echo of her own catchphrase and then I made a mental note that I should make use of her “whatever” more often.
Once we had finally made it to the end of the line, I whispered in Elandria’s ear, “let me do the talking.”
“Whatever,” she hissed back “just be careful not to knock out the Moody Hammer with one of your nervous twitches.”
I pursed my lips, that actually wasn’t a bad idea I had yet to come up with a decent plan for starting this brawl. Just looking over the line alone I decided that this task would be easier said than done, sure I could pick a fight with one patron easily enough but initialising the needed chaos would be a challenge. The majority of the patrons were upper-class dandies who I doubted had ever taken part in a full-on bar brawl in their pampered lives. If it was a lower hive bar, well enough said really.
We approached the colossal hammer standing at the door, that despite his low browed, vat-grown, square-jawed appearance that a lot of his kind has his hooded, beady eyes gleaned a slight modicum of intelligence. He wore a suit not dissimilar to my own, and he held a data slate in his huge, meaty paw. I quickly noted the large, black tattoo on his neck which showed he belonged to the “Greasers” a local gang who was one of the first our intelligence had reported being reeled into Brutis Bone’s little alliance. The holstered las pistol barely was hidden under his blazer, the Microbead in his ear and not just that but two more huge hammers standing inside the shadowy entrance to the club.
The Hammer smiled a surprisingly welcoming, toothy smile and gave us both friendly nods, “Sir, Mamzel may I ask that you state your names please.”
“Indeed,” I said, I may have put on a hammy performance earlier for Elandria’s sake but as Glaitis taught me the true art in undercover acting is subtlety. To not get carried away and not let stereotypes rule your mindset, but that is of course unless the role calls for it “I am Autius Davian-Meggs, and this lovely young woman is Riculia Harviad.”
As I said this, the Hammer scrolled down his data slate, “…Sir Autius Davian-Meggs and mamzel Riculia Harviad you are indeed on the list. Welcome to the Twilight bar and may you enjoy your time here.”
“Thank you and we will,” I smirked slightly as Elandria, and I turned into the club. I was not surprised at the doorman’s professionalism and politeness it would be a given for a club this high up and well known but the colleagues in the entrance way did not share the doorman’s friendliness I could feel them glare at us, suspicious and unyielding with bulky arms folded in an “intimidating” fashion.
I pretended to ignore them, and I assumed that they wouldn’t treat their regular customers in such fashion (or else that their “bar” would have closed down a long time ago) evidence so far was pointing to this being more and more to be a Brutis Bones operation.
This could also prove that our rival organisation knows our faces at least.
I glanced over my shoulder at the doorman and saw him talking intently, his index finger placed against the microbead in his ear.
We followed through the three-metre-wide corridor; the hologram planning had proven right; the hallway curled subtly to the north-west. The steel walls dulled down into a dark crimson, metallic sheen and the walls trembled in time with the bass line. The way the building little advanced is that the main entrance’s corridor splits the club in half starting from the south-east and ending in the northern corner, according to the information gathered the west side of the building was the private area for the VIP’s and the east general club and bar.
“So? Do you have any kind of plan yet?” Elandria hissed right in my ear her soft voice causing me to start slightly from my thoughts.
“Some semblance…” I said twisting my pinkie finger in my ear.
“Which means nothing?”
“No it means what it means “some semblance,” I’ll think of something, I’m…Adaptable.”
“Adaptable? Is that what you are calling it now?”
Before I could make a reply, my pocket vibrated, and swiftly I reached in and slid the small listening device in my ear.
“We’re in,” I said, though I knew that they would already know.
“Good work,” Castella’s voice came from the tiny speaker, “Where are you now?”
“Still in the corridor, not yet through the second security station the one with the metal detectors,” I said “I find this place very interesting this is, very…Pretentious I can almost smell the pretentiousness in the air.”
I heard Castella giggle on the other side, “what do you expect when it’s called the Twilight Bar?”
“Well I expected that the main corridor would be darker and be more of a reference to its namesake, perhaps the building itself hates what it’s called so much, so somehow, through sheer force of will, rejected it.”
Again Castella laughed, “Alright, alright you know the drill you have four of these devices make sure you drop one in this corridor and another at the second station on your way in the other two keep with you and Elandria so we can communicate with you inside ”
“Yes we know, we know didn’t you just say that I knew the drill yourself?”
“I did, but as you know one can never be too careful, you know, just in case good luck and may the god-Emperor’s virtue be with you.”
Then she cut the link.
Immediately I halted my walk, slipped off of Elandria, pulled one of the listening devices out from my pocket. Took off the back adhesive and stuck it against the wall. Immediately the advanced, little piece of tech camouflaged its self in the wall’s colour, texture all but invisible to the naked eye.
“One down and just one to go,” said standing back to full height and offering my arm back to Elandria, “may we move my dear?”
Elandria begrudgingly took it and growled “if you call me “my dear” one more time-”
I sighed, “Yes I know, I know I will be sorely lacking my head, I know.”
We walked through the detectors without consequence the listening devices were made from a rare and expensive Plasteek that was all but invisible to most scanners.
The two huge hammers posted at the checkpoint were just as affable as their colleague at the door and with the combination of my quick hands and the aide of Elandria I was able to place the listening device at the checkpoint successfully. When we entered into the club itself, dozens, upon dozens of dancers jumped and leapt to the music a massive orgy of activity which seemed to move like white caps on the sea, rising and falling, rising and falling. It was almost entirely dark the only light source lasers beaming down onto the countless cavorters, projecting patterns, numerous different patterns changing from flowers to even the Imperial Aquila, it was quite an amazing sight to behold.
Quickly I changed my tact, glancing over the crowd my brow hooded in concentration and noticed three more gangers straddled through the crowd each eyeing both Elandria and I with distinct suspicion, and I barely held back a sigh. I knew they are low hive gangers; I knew that they were muscle, but they wouldn’t know subtlety if hit over the head with “A Guide to Infiltration and Espionage.” Though it is an utterly terrible and pretentious book which the author (whose name I cannot recall) he blatantly did not do the research, it would help these idiots’ skills in that field by leaps and bounds. That wasn’t saying much of course.
Then it hit me, it frigging hit me and the realisation caused me to sigh and place my face into the palm of my hand if these gangers were this pathetic and it has taken this long for Taryst’s “elite” to find this place.
I didn’t want to begin to think about it; it was depressing just damned depressing.
But, actually, perhaps that was it. This “bar’s” security was so stupid and sloppy that it wouldn’t stick out from the rest of its ilk, or was I just over analysing it?
I didn’t know, and I didn’t care anymore.
“What the hell is wrong with you now?” demanded Elandria her raised voice heard barely over the music, but I could listen to her well, her words enhanced by the bud in her ear.
“I hate my job,” I groaned, my voice muffled into my hand.
I dropped my arm back to my side and said instead, “These guys are complete idiots.”
Elandria smirked, “Please, do tell me something I don’t know,” she said, “I see three Hammers in the crowd, two armed with laspistols, one with a high calibre auto pistol all in torso holsters right?”
“Hmmm, interesting,” I said.
I gestured with a lazy hand; a small indistinct movement aimed toward the Hammer with the Auto pistol.
“See? His Pupils are dilated, and even in this terrible light it is obvious his skin is a shade lighter than his norm, that Hammer is scared, very scared.”
“Scared of what?” asked Elandria then a big, evil grin spread across her symmetrical face, “scared of us?”
I shrugged, “hmm perhaps, that seems logical. He may be a survivor, a survivor of one of our many skirmishes against Brutis Bones’ organisation over the past months he may even be the one which they had learnt our identities from.”
Elandria grimaced in utter disgust, “a survivor! We were thorough! We let none escape!”
“See! It is that exact attitude that would have allowed for his escape in the first place but this we can turn toward our favour, though it also looks like we will have to reevaluate our plans.”
“Because we will both die if we don’t. If we make one wrong step, even try slightly to start a fight he will shoot us, he’s as twitchy as a frigging Obscura addict on withdrawal.”
“Even shoot through a crowd of civilians?” she smirked.
I sniffed and glared at her sidelong, I knew she was ruthless, but I was hoping that there would be some line for Elandria.
“Perhaps, but that is one risk I am unable to take, at first this was to be innocent fisticuffs against other club goers but if we are to do anything we will have to take care of that Hammer first.”
I grimaced, “if it comes to that but-”
Suddenly the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, and a cold shiver slid down my spine. The air temperature dropped dramatically, and the once enthusiastic crowd halted its partying as everyone shook in instinctive terror.
I had felt this before, and I knew what it was.
Elandria turned to me, her eyes white with animalistic fear, “psyker!”
My earpiece suddenly came to life, and Castella’s uncharacteristically urgent voice erupted over the mic.
“Attelus! Attelus! Cough if you copy damn it!”
I quickly complied.
“Good! We have two new additions to the line outside and-and the people they are just-just parting, letting them through, I!-I can’t make out their faces but-but-!”
The line began to fizzle and crackle, warping Castella’s words into indecipherable syllables then entirely descended to nothing but static.
I felt my heart beat a thousand miles a minute and the fear! Oh, the fear! The adrenaline pumping! But still, I shivered in the unnatural cold and then I noticed Elandria who looked at me utter terror, whose lower lip shook and her body wavered.
“Why-why are you smiling?” she stammered.
“I’m smiling?” I asked, genuinely bemused, “well I guess I would now that everything is going according to plan, to my plan anyway.”
I don’t know if you had thought I had forgotten about Taryst’s little psyker cadre or you had forgotten, but this, this I had actually seen coming, yes.
I knew I had to act; perhaps that time was short so I moved. Dodging and weaved through the frozen club goers within milliseconds I reached the Hammer with the auto pistol; the ganger was never able to react to my advance as his glazed eyes stared dumbly to the ceiling, his mouth gaping open in severe shock.
I smashed my elbow straight into his solar plexus which impacted in a sickening “crunch!” and the Hammer let out a feeble gasp for air, his torso bending in under the force. I gritted my teeth and followed on, punching him in the kidney then the ribs and finally finishing him by sliding to his flank and delivering a brutal, low side kick snapping his knee inward and causing the Hammer to let out a strangled howl of utter agony. I now had his Auto pistol in hand (which unsurprisingly already had the safety off), and I fired one round into the ceiling yelling out at the top of my lungs, “down everybody down!”
Luckily the crowd were not so frozen in fear that they were unable to acquiesce to my request and with frightened yelps they did as told, all accept the two remaining bouncer Hammers who were only just now numbly reaching for their weapons.
I shot them both, one through the head and the other in his chest the shots accompanied by even more screams of terror.
“Damn it what the hell are you doing?” demanded Elandria as she retrieved one of the corpses’ Las pistols and raising it to cover the entrance way.
“Improvising,” I replied.
“Didn’t-didn’t you just say that “everything is going according to plan?”
“All according to one plan, yes.”
“Then it isn’t improvising then is it?”
“Whatever,” I sighed, and I found the unconscious Hammer’s three backup ammo clips and I slipped them into my pockets.
“So what is it that you improvise now oh you magnificent bastard you?”
I looked over my shoulder at her shocked, was that an actual joke? A backhanded compliment perhaps? Or something else entirely?
“Cover the door for me, would you. I have unfinished business to attend to.”
“Then what the hell will I do when that Psyker gets here then?”
“Prey to that Emperor of yours!” that was my reply as I turned into the corridor leading to the VIP area, my confiscated Auto pistol raised and ready as I advanced.
I had not forgotten about Taryst’s psykers, I had an idea in the back of my head that this little independent operation of Glaitis’ would have been tracked, but that also begs yet another question, why would Glaitis have played this move?
She must have known of Taryst’s psychic allies and was aware without taking the proper precautions that we would have been found out, and I could hazard a myriad amount of guesses as to why but now was not the time to-
As the corridor began to curve southward, I heard it, sudden and deafening, gunfire which reverberated within the passage. I gritted my teeth, risking a look and what I saw made my eyes widen in fear.
One Hammer had lost his mind, he fired his stub automatic limply and indiscriminately into the crowd of terrified, screaming VIPs, two of which already lay dead.
The man was grinning mindlessly, foaming from the mouth and his body moved loosely like a marionette. This was defiantly a psyker’s work, and this would have been nightmare fuel unleaded if I had not seen it many times before. Without breaking stride I shot him, I shot him straight through the face, the back of what was once a Human’s skull exploded out into a cone of gore, the thick, red matter coating anyone near and the body dropped like a sack of spuds.
I left the corridor and out into a cacophony of cries as the VIPs all saw the small skinny bastard who held a smoking auto pistol walking right through their midst.
Are you really scared of me? Didn’t I save all your hides? I thought Glaitis had once said that being a hero was overrated and once again she proves to be right, and I kicked the corpse as I walked through, “shame about the face,” I muttered.
I came to the door which led into the “restricted” area and studied the lock, it was one of your atypical passwords encoded things and to the consequential cry of many an onlooker I raised my pistol, turned away covered my face with a forearm and blew out the lock with one deafening pull of the trigger.
I kicked the door open then was forced to throw myself back into cover mere milliseconds before the torrent of Las fire cut through the air. I had managed a glimpse of the lone Hammer, the lone Hammer with crazed eyes, who stood six metres down the corridor and who still kept spraying on full auto despite my absence and who’s insane screams of fear I could hear well over the rounds, he had no cover, nothing.
I only had to wait for several seconds for the fire to stop and to hear the familiar hiss of overheated Las weaponry then I stepped out.
“You idiot!” I roared as I put two rounds through his torso. Of course, his idiocy and the other’s fear could be explained by the psychic presence. Now I could see my breath steaming and the ice on the walls, I grinned, thank you Taryst you are making this way to easy.
I kicked open the door at the end of the corridor and entered into what I remembered from the schematics a larger room and found it was a recreation room one that was already held and makeshift fortified buy three more of Brutis’ Bones mooks. I was almost caught completely unawares, not prepared for an organised defence and was immediately forced back into hiding as they opened fire. I had accounted for the psyker’s presence to be more lasting and at times like this, I would kill for a grenade or manstopper rounds they would easily blow fist size holes through the table which they had turned over. It looked like it wasn’t going to be so easy after all.
I briefly leaned out and fired off my last three rounds which forced the Hammers to duck behind their table. Ejecting the empty clip, slamming a fresh one home and without hesitation, I leaned back out. Even now I am not sure if it was skill or luck which was the cause of me managing to scalp one of the Hammers as he rose from hiding but either way, it shocked his comrades into submission long enough to allow me to sprint the distance and shoot them both through their faces at point blank range.
I vaulted over the table and retrieved a las pistol from one of the corpses, after checking the charge gauge was full, I moved on now with a big grin on my face.
The shots reverberated in the confined corridors as I fired two point-blank rounds into the Hammer’s chest and my front kick followed on colliding into the limp corpse and propelling the dead Hammer into the next of his colleagues in line. Both bodies fell to the floor in a mass of writhing limbs and screams. While lunging over the screaming Hammer and the corpse pinning him to the floor I shot the next ganger as he was bringing his stubbrevolver to bear but the forth ganger in line was thinner and more nimble than the others as he slid past his collapsing ally and lunged into a hook punch intended on smashing in my head. I blocked the fist with a forearm, an inner-outer block which pushed the attack off course, augmented his momentum and caused his punch to connect straight into the rockcrete wall instead. His hand broke with a sickening crack, and the Hammer bellowed out in of utter agony a bellow which was abruptly cut short as I pistol whipped him in the base of the skull causing his forehead to follow after his fist in cracking against the hard surface.
He also wasn’t much taller than I was so hence an effective human shield and just in time I hooked my arm around the man’s neck, turned the limp form to face the next aggressor as he opened fire. The human shield took three rounds from the Hammer’s auto pistol (I could only thank the Emperor that none of them wielded shotguns) Jarring the corpse with each and almost caused me to let go before I managed to shoot the hapless team killer over the shoulder of his murdered work mate.
The next Hammer, an older and horrifically scarred monster attempted to follow my example as he roughly shoved his traitorous allies corpse toward me to mask his advance, but I slid out the way, pushing my back against the wall and the two dead men collided into each other falling to the floor in a heap. The large ganger was on me and threw a deceptively fast hook that I barely managed to back peddle out the way from, he was actually pretty good much to my surprise and my attempt at bringing my pistols to bear was interrupted by his follow-on, a right jab that I swayed under and then an uppercut I narrowly sidestepped. The next attack was a lunging back fist that sent me back peddling even further and almost made me trip over the corpses that I had left in my wake.
The Hammer stopped his assault and glared at me balefully, one of his eyes milky white the other a piercingly clear blue
“Put those pistols away,” he grunted as he cracked his knuckles “I see you are a worthy opponent so let us truly see who is the better fighter.”
I sighed and complied dropping both my pistols to the floor with a clatter.
“Hmm right,” I said, “but first, just one question, are you by chance Brutis Bones?”
“No, I am-”
Before he could continue any further I knelt, picked the pistols back up and shot him five times, the first exploded out his guts; the second blew a ragged hole in his chest. The third burst open his right bicep, the fourth hit him in the thigh, causing him to spin around so his back was facing me and the last ripped out the base of his spine, and he fell straight to the floor, flat on his face. I knew it was overkill but these “Honour Before Reason” idiots were usually tough bastards and that was the only way I could make sure he wasn’t ever getting back up. Taryst wanted Brutis Bones alive, so I would have made an effort if it was him.
Sighing again and wondering how the hell such an idiot could have lived as a Ganger. I casually lowered my Las pistol and put a neat black hole through the forehead of the Hammer who was still struggling to escape from under his dead ally.
I felt dirty; sure I was sure I could have beaten the idiot eventually if I had done the honourable thing and fought fair but that would have wasted time and time was one thing not on my side.
As I moved through that maze of cramped, brightly lit corridors the closer I came to the area I guessed was Brutis Bones’ quarters. More and more a feeling of unease grew at the pit of my gut, that almost the very air disturbed my very being and with that feeling, it became more and more evident the lack of any psychic activity around me. Only one thing off the top of my head could explain this phenomenon, the presence of a blank. A person whos very existence nullifies the activities of the warp around them dissipating all psychic abilities at a certain radius. It would explain a lot, Taryst’s apparent need of an army to track down this enemy even with the cadre of psykers at his beck and call. But there had to more to it than that even with the blank here making this place all but invisible why hadn’t Taryst just captured a lowly Hammer and had one of the psyker’s delve into their mind? Was Taryst so paranoid at having the activities of his psykers found by the local authorities so frigging overwhelming?
That also begs the question how the hell could Taryst know my thoughts so well that he could tell of my doubts about my job, perhaps the answer lies in the “blocks” placed in mine and all my fellow mercenaries minds, perhaps they allow the psykers to read our thoughts without giving off any hint? Was that even possible? I didn’t know. But if it was true, then it only confirms that Taryst didn’t want anyone outside of his organisation knowing of this hunt and the complicated precautions he was prepared to take to keep it that way.
Then “paranoia” was a frigging understatement.
But this “answer” was just fuel for many more questions; why was Glaitis willing for her apprentice and many of her employees implanted with these things? Why would Glaitis have both Elandria and I along to this operation if Taryst could have his psykers read our minds? And I will not say that it was “because she didn’t know” idiocy, she knows, she knows everything I can say that with an amount of conviction that I hadn’t felt in ages. Perhaps she wanted to have Taryst reveal his organisation by forcing his hand? But then why would she want Taryst to show himself in the first place? Could Garrakson know more than he lets on as well, he was our leader and longtime senior in Taryst’s company?
But most importantly what was the cause behind all this paranoia and why the hell was so much effort going into tracking down this low life gang leader?
The answer to that I could hazard a myriad amount of guesses upon.
I reached the end of yet another corridor, stopping at the edge I pushed my back against the wall and glanced around the corner.
Two Hammers stood guard at the doorway situated halfway down the next hall both were bulky men both held Auto Guns, and both glanced about with nervous expressions.
Without hesitation, I stepped out and vacated the nearest ganger’s brains out the side of his skull with one auto pistol round. The other turned to me in almost admiral discipline, attempting to bring up his auto gun to fire.
He managed it half way before my Las shots killed him, one blew through his ribs, and the other blew out his neck.
I ran on, unloading and reloading my smoking pistols on the move then pushed my back against the wall next to the already open entrance. It was then I could not help but think to myself that perhaps this was a little too easy and you also may be wondering, why I am doing this? Why it is simple, and it is not what you may think if it is that I bring in Brutis Bones finally Glaitis will see me worthy and promote me to full assassin-hood? Well, that would be a bonus, but no. I am and have never been a particularly ambitious person I have no dreams of ascending Glaitis and taking her blood-soaked throne (the metaphorical one of course but at times I have wondered) No I just wanted to have this frigging job done, finished so we can move on to something else. I hated this crap and was frankly sick of it, that is why I am throwing myself blind into the Wolves Den, killing anything and everything in my ways like a Hitman on heat. The poor Hammers who stood in my way were just the instruments for me to take my anger and aggression out on, almost like Vex was.
I physically winced at the thought and felt the guilt I had suppressed over the earlier hours boil back to the surface. I swallowed hard and forced it back down. I still had plenty more frustration to go around,
Now, with that finally explained I took in a huge breath and slipped through the doorway. My pistols raised and covering the interior. The room I emerged into was large at least eight metres in length and fifteen in width, a brightly lit rockcrete cave. Barren to an extreme and there were twelve thick, square pillars, six along the diameters of the room. It was empty except for the one figure who stood in sight, right at the epi-centre, he had his back facing me but I could see the heavy carapace armour he wore.
“Brutis Bones I presume?” I said, covering him with my guns.
No answer, the man just stood deathly still and stayed silent.
“Hmm right. I’m not going to bother to say for you to surrender. This place looks like it’s been built specifically for a firefight isn’t a coincidence is it?”
Again he replied with silence.
Something inside me snapped, and I cocked my pistol, “don’t you give me the frigging silent treatment you bastard! Do, you, have, any idea the crap, I have been through to find you!”
“I can’t believe that so many of my guards killed single-handedly by a kid,” the man said abruptly, “a foolish kid playing at games far too large and complicated for him to even begin to comprehend.”
I wasn’t sure how to reply to that, what he had said had hit quite close to home.
“And nope, sorry kid I am not your Brutis Bones, he is, in another castle, you could say.”
I gritted my teeth, widened my eyes and tightened my hands on the grips of my pistols.
“How the hell do I know that you actually are him and not just lying?” I asked, struggling to keep my voice neutral, if this wasn’t Brutis Bones then Glaitis’ intel must have been misled, no I sincerely doubted that. If this were Brutis Bones, she would know, and if this man who talked to me now isn’t him, then it would just reinforce that this as one of her feints used to force Taryst to show his hand.
The man shrugged, “you can choose to believe or not to believe, kid, either way, its the truth, now I may not be him, but that doesn’t make me want to live any less so...”
Then he spun, as quick as lightning and he held a stub revolver raised and firing.
All I could do was a lunge, diving behind the nearest pillar just in time. But I was not fast enough to dodge the one round which skimmed my left shoulder, the sharp pain erupted up my arm, and I yelped out as I hit the floor.
Getting into a crouch, I pushed my back against my pillar cursing savagely. I had his back wholly covered, and yet the bastard still got the drop on me!
A few more shots rang through the vast room; then there was silence, the only sound the ringing clatter of empty shell casings falling to the floor.
“You really are him aren’t you?” I said.
“Maybe, maybe not,” the man replied.
My reply was me suddenly leaning out slightly and wailing off four shots in his general direction.
“Well, either way, you’re fighting me now and either way you are going to pay the consequences!” I said as I lunged out into the open, my guns blazing.
I ran, sprinting sideways and fired my pistols at my opponent who ran with me. The bellowing, rudimentary consistent and combined sounds of our weapons discharging over and over echoed throughout the interior with a horrible, deafening cacophony and tore into the decor, which wrought in a new and far more interesting scenery of bullet holes in the rockcrete walls and pillars.
Making it to the next pillar and leaving the clatter of spent shell cases in my wake I pushed myself up against my cover. I lent outlet off a few shots with my Las pistol then I spun to the other side rockcrete cover and neatly caught my enemy off guard as he attempted the same manoeuvre. The man barely made it behind his colonnade as I opened fire. Then without hesitation, I moved, running toward the other side in an attempt to bridge the gap while I wailed away with my pistols to keep the bastard pinned to prevent his reconciliation.
Without hindrance, I found the other side of the same colonnade that my opponent cowered behind, pushed myself against the pillar then slid out, pistols raised and found the man had gone.
I snarled out a curse, turning just in time to catch him as he came around the other side of the pillar and desperately knock his raised Stub Revolver’s aim off course. The round once meant to cave in my skull shot off, its fate only to create yet another smoking crater in the wall and I followed on, kicking out viscously at the man’s groin. The man sidestepped the attack with almost contemptuous ease and attempted to bring his gun to bear on me again. My inner-outer block smashed the shot aside after which I opened up with my auto pistol.
Despite the shot being point blank the man still managed almost to dive out the way, instead of to explode his ribcage the round impacted against his shoulder guard, it’s kinetic force caused him to turn in mid-lunge, and he hit the floor clumsily, I could clearly hear him gasp out his lungs ejected air with the impact.
I didn’t hesitate, shooting once! Twice! Hitting him as he rolled across the floor but that was all I could muster before he made it behind the next pillar and my pistols clicked empty.
Sliding around the first colonnade, I knelt and began reloading; I had six clips left, four for my auto pistol and two for my las. Along the way of my massacre, I had pilfered them off the corpses of my many victims, and I could also hear my opponent following suit along with his pained gasps and grunts as he performed the task.
“You know,” I said as I slammed home a fresh clip into my auto, “you would be dead if you weren’t wearing that carapace.”
“I know,” he replied, and I could not help but be surprised by the sadness in his words, “your good kid I’ll give you that.”
“I know,” I echoed back.
“Perhaps even good enough to kill me,” he went on, “and that I actually wouldn’t mind, I have lived a long life kid, killed a lot of people I really wouldn’t mind. Going out with one final blaze of glory.”
I grinned, “well if your so keen to die why don’t you just step out and make this easy for me?”
The man sighed, “you and I know I can’t do that, your boss, Taryst wants me alive, doesn’t he? There is more at stake here than one old man and his lowly life; my mission demands that I live amongst the populace of Omnartus to complete it so I can’t give up, I can’t let you kill me or anyone else.”
It was my turn to sigh, “and what the hell is it that is exactly at stake?”
“More than you could imagine.”
Something in those words made sudden indescribable fear crawl up my spine, fear even more potent than the presence of the blank, fear even more potent than the psychic activity of earlier.
“W-what do you mean? Who the hell are you?” I managed.
“I’m nobody, no one. But I know who you are, you are what I said you were earlier, nothing but a kid, a kid caught up in games far too complex and adult for him. Just some poor, innocent kid who’s been thrown into this mess and for what I am about to do I am truly sorry.”
I gritted my teeth, somehow the fear was even more potent than before, my heart shuddered in my chest, and my hands began to shake uncontrollably.
“Sorry? W-what the hell are you sorry for?” I demanded.
I heard a beep, the brief pure sound of a press of a button, small non-descript but somehow it held more weight than any of his words.
I flinched in fright as I heard a nearby, small section of the wall slid open revealing the darkened room beyond and what stepped out from its depths made my heart turn to ice.
“I am truly, truly sorry.”
It stood at three metres tall, its enormous bulky body utterly corded with a musculature not at all possible for a normal human being. It was naked except for a torn old loincloth, it’s pink, the swollen skin was covered all over with countless hideous scars, both its hands had been severed at the wrists surgically replaced with two huge, razor-sharp axes and its teeth where filled into ugly incisors.
The Arco Flagellant didn’t make a sound, no roar from it’s smiling maw as one would expect from such a monster and that somehow made it even more terrifying, silently and with grace belying its bulk it turned it’s attention to me then lunged for the kill.
Despite my utter terror I still managed to dive out the way of the Arco Flagellant’s charge. I landed and neatly rolled into a crouch and turned in time to see it practically eviscerate a frigging three metre thick solid rockcrete pillar with just one swipe of its huge Axe. It then shoulder barged straight through carrying on as though it was nothing. The wanton destruction showered the surroundings with chunks of rockcrete and an explosively ejected cloud of dust.
This was one enemy I couldn’t defeat, this, this thing was so far out of my league that even if I was full equipment with armour everything I would be nothing but a spec to it, even less of a nothing than that damned pilaster it had just destroyed with nought but its forward momentum and its shoulder.
I crawled to my feet, a clumsy and hard action as my sweat-slicked hands almost slid out from under me twice. The task of getting up must have taken me no more than a few seconds but felt like a lifetime, any second I expected the thing to bear down on me to deliver the killing blow, but it never came and once up I turned, and I ran. I ran like the coward I am.
My heart beat so fast my chest hurt, my whole body shook so hard I was in utter agony I sprinted as quickly as my aching legs could go, but still, I never felt it was nearly enough.
I made it out the door and turned right, the way I had come and barely a millisecond after the Arco Flagellant crashed the entrance way.
I never looked back; I didn’t dare. I just ran and ran as my arms flailed about like curtains in the wind, my breaths came out as agonising rasps. Every step I made felt like a million more, and I never looked back, but I could feel its presence behind me, tailing me, descending on me like a predator about to pounce upon its prey and with every step I took I expected to feel it’s Axe cut through me.
Those corridors seemed to go on forever these were the corridors which mere minutes ago I had slaughtered my way through, and I now ran for my life through them. Terrifyingly I almost tripped over many of the dead Gangers I had killed. Even in my fear fueled state I was able to see the irony that falling over one of them meant falling to my demise.
When I finally made it out of that maze, my body almost physically ejected itself out the door, out into the club beyond and the relief that washed over me in reaching it here was completely and utterly unjustified.
But despite myself, I slid to a stop and turned to look back and found the monster wasn’t there, that somehow, someway I had lost that inhuman thing in the maze, as the corridor behind me was completely and utterly devoid of life.
Perhaps it wasn’t as manoeuvrable as I was through those sharp turns so it had lost its way? And I was to busy mindless in my flight to ever notice?
I glanced around and to my complete horror found that the partygoers hadn’t moved an inch since my earlier exit, they all stood gaping and staring at me with terror milked eyes.
Something deep down inside me said that the Arco Flagellant would never be lost, that it would hound me until I was dead or it was, I knew soon, very soon that it would come down that corridor and massacre anyone and anything in its path, these people included. I could leave them, run and run, leave them to be slaughtered delaying it further so I could have a slighter semblance of a chance to escape.
And why not? They were nothing! The sons and daughters of haughty, arrogant, corrupt aristocrats and bureaucrats! Whatever the galaxy would never mourn them, they were nothing just dozens of lives among trillions more.
But yet they were innocent, these people, these men and women they had come here to dance to enjoy themselves. To forget their worries and find some slight joy in this Emperor-forsaken universe, every day millions of people die whether killed by the numberless Xenos that ravage humanity on every front or those of our petty species, the insignificant members of humanity like myself. Perhaps I could conquer my cowardice and work for once to prevent even just a few of those millions of souls instead of being a contributor. That if I died and even one of them survived, that they would remember the small skinny bastard who gave his life to protect them, that my sacrifice would mean something for someone.
I was wrong, I was the nothing I had died inside almost a decade ago when war had ravaged my world, my country, my home. When war separated me from my mother and forced me into a world of ruthless scavenging, a life toiling away for survival amongst the ruins among the rest of the beasts I-.
It was then that I noticed that despite everything I had kept hold of my pistols.
I smiled bowing my head and felt the tears abruptly swell in my eyes and roll down my cheeks, this was the first time I had cried in a very long time, and boy did it feel good. I thanked the Emperor that I had my answer and seemingly almost on cue; I heard the repeating, quick-fire plodding sound of the Arco Flagellant’s running at the end of the corridor.
I raised my pistols and cocked back the hammer of my auto, perhaps this was the retribution for what I had done to Vex, perhaps this was my vindication for my selfish cowardice.
The smile never left my face even as the creature bared down upon me and my shots fired ineffectually off of its thick hide.
A voice, a womanly, low soft beautiful voice spoke in the impenetrable black, a familiar voice. One I felt I knew well but could not recall to who it belonged to. It came off somewhere distant, far, far out in the blackness.
Was this death? Was what the church of the Ecclesiarchy taught about death complete crap, was death just this black void of nothingness?
I had never believed. My mother was highly religious but I never was, we were opposites. We were so similar in our personalities but different in our beliefs, we would clash countless times, verbal fights of stunning ferocity on both sides and now I think back at it, it was a miracle that the Ministorum never found out about my Heretical words. That my mother loved me enough never to tell them.
I believed that the Emperor was never the god that people proclaim him to be, but a great man whose wisdom and power were indeed God-like. But how could he ever have wanted this for us? All the suffering all the death? The rampant poverty, the chaos, the mindless religious fanaticism in his name, the millions of planets dedicated to the hives of organised chaos and the meek, brainwashed bureaucrats who knew nothing but their small boxes and the Cogitators at their fingertips our whole encompassing bureaucracy?
If this was indeed death I wouldn’t mind, I felt safe here, I felt truly free just floating in this black, in this nothingness and that voice, that beautiful, beautiful soft voice oh I could listen to that voice forever.
Slowly though the voice came closer, as if whoever, the voice belonged to silently walked toward me through the black.
I wasn’t scared, never was I scared and I could start to make out the words which became more explicit as the voice came closer what was it that it said? It sounded like a prayer of some kind, the prayer like the voice felt familiar, but I couldn’t quite recall what it was.
Then it stopped, the voice; gone and my heart emptied at its absence, was I supposed to spend the rest of eternity without its comforting words, without its company?
Wait, my heart? What?
“Attelus,” whispered the voice in my ear, “open your eyes.”
Without hesitation I did as told, and found myself alive, lying in one of the many beds in Taryst’s medicae facility and that the voice had belonged Castella who sat at the end of my bed her hands clasped together in prayer and pushed against her forehead with her elbows leaning on my duvet.
She was so beautiful and to see her there filled me with such indescribable joy at being alive.
I tried to open my mouth to speak out to her through my dry, crack lips but all that I could manage was a pathetic rattle as though my body had forgotten how to talk.
She stopped her praying and looked to me, her eyes were red with tears, and it hurt me to see such beauty marred. But her smile oh her smile it was a smile of indescribable happiness, one of great relief, a smile which showed the weight which had left her shoulders.
I tried to move my hand to beckon her closer, but my whole world is racked with pain at the effort, utter agony which made me close my eyes and grunt out in response.
It took me until then to realise I was covered from head to toe in bandages and to see the drip cord which fed into my arm.
But she got the hint and leaned closer, nearing her ear toward my mouth for me to speak and I said, “Stop praying, I’m trying to sleep.”
Castella threw back her head and laughed out loud; it was a sweet sound a beautiful sound from a nice person who seemed to utter nothing but sweet sounds.
She laughed so hard she had to wipe a tear from her eye, and she sat back down on her chair.
“It’s good to see that you are still yourself Attelus,” she said.
I tried to smile but even that hurt.
“You have been out for a long, long time my friend,” she carried on.
“How...Long?” I fought to say.
Her eyes widened into a pained expression that told me I really didn’t want to know.
Her perfect face suddenly curled up, and tears ran down her cheeks. The change in emotion was so fast that I didn’t know how to react.
“Th-thank you,” she squeaked.
I couldn’t manage to ask what she was thankful for but she still answered.
“Thank you for proving to me that you still are a good person. Ever since I had first met you, I knew you weren’t like the rest us, that you weren’t evil, that you still cared for more than just yourself. Thank you for proving to me you still are human,” she sniffed heavily and wiped away her tears with her forearm, “after-after what you did to Vex I began to doubt you, I had begun to believe that you had devolved into the monster, but I see now that doubt was unfounded. You stood alone Attelus, against an impossible enemy, you willingly put yourself on the line for the good of others, you-you.”
She couldn’t continue her sentence as she teared back up again.
“And-and thank you that now I know no matter what happens, no matter how hard it is you will still be that good, kind, compassionate person inside. I just regret that we couldn’t have got there in time to save you earlier and for that, I am sorry Attelus, I am truly, truly sorry.”
Even if I had been able to speak then, I couldn’t have, I was taken aback at her emotional outburst, never in all my career that I would have ever suspected that Castella cared for me so much, never.
She was always a friend, the only person who I could talk to with humour and trust, who saw me as a person and not some know nothing apprentice.
But then I realised something; I couldn’t recall at all what had happened in that club after the Arco Flagellant had charged me, how the hell had I survived? Had any of the club goers escaped? What exactly had happened?
Castella sniffed again, and as if reading my mind she said, “you did it Attelus. You held off that monster for long enough that those people could escape, you went one on one with an Arco Flagellant long enough that Elandria, Hayden, Darrance and I could stop it before it could cause any more damage. If you had died Attelus your sacrifice would not have been in vain and I swear I’m telling you the truth, I know you aren’t the most trusting person in this world but believe me on this, be proud Attelus.”
She sniffed again but this time it had humour in it, “when we took you to Taryst’s medicae facility, they said there was no way you would survive, that you would die within hours but I knew you were stubborn and you held on, you lived and-and most importantly, thank you, thank you for living, thank you.”
Oh how I dearly wished I could reach out and comfort her or even thank her but everything was so hard, so, so hard, couldn’t keep my eyes open, anymore, anymore, I blinked, once then twice, then I embraced the sweetness of sleep.