A little bit of background here: this story started a few background pieces on the character I was playing in a forum game back in 2005. It grew from there.
This next section is a summary on what went down in the 147 pages worth of game thread which ties into future In Memoria entries. You can see it here if you want to read it: http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?t=57445
Here's handy summary if you don't want to wade through all that.
To: Lord Calistin Rall, Ordo Malleus, Nova Sector, Ultima Segmentum
From: Inquisitor Jolan Gix
Subject: Adraxian Incident
Greetings, my lord. As one of the first inquisitors on hand for the start and through the duration of what is now being called "The Cyrian Incident", It falls upon me to make a full report. The name itself is misleading. The incident did not start at Cyrus Gamma, but on Adraxia.
We (see attachment A2 for full list of all personnel involved) were initially summoned to Adraxia by Lord Vonrilyental of the Ordo Hereticus to deal with a renegade sect of Adeptus Mechanicus who had attacked members of the blessed Adeptus Astartes. Our attack and cleanse operation revealed that they had been acting in paranoid defence of an archeotech stash, latter fully catelogued by members of the Inquisition and orthodox members of the Adeptus Mechanicus (see attachment C1).
That was a lie, of course. Most of the archaeotech had been secreted away. There he had fallen in with Lord Vonrilyental and joined a cabal dedicated to bringing the true science of technology back to the Imperium. But the initial struggle had not been without cost. Anjun Chou's skull had been smashed by the intelligent war machines known as the Men of Iron who acted as custodians of the archeotech. Heretical machines with minds, but not souls, machines who claimed they were pledged to serve mankind and willing to share a treasure trove of lost technology.
Almost immediately, we were beset by uprisings of the followers of Tzeentch and then by raiders from the traitorous Black Legion. During these incidents, evidence emerged to suggest that Commodore Lena Novdalorin enjoyed the favor of the Emperor and might be a living saint. By the time both those crisis had been quelled, we faced a subsector wide emergency. Interrogator Pater Novum was promoted to inquisitor following the death of his master (See attachment A5).
So few words for so much bloodshed. The arrogant cultist who called himself the Psy King and the nearly invincible Black Legion raiders still haunted Gix's dreams. And then there was Lena and poor doomed Nathan, an inquisitor lost in the warp for ten millenia. A man who had met the Emperor himself.
A naval expedition put an end to the threat of renegade cruisers (see attachment B4), which cleared the way to take out the center of the insurgency on the hive world of Cyrus Gamma. The expedition fought a successful space battle against Black Legion forces, including the destruction of a heretic battle barge (See attachment B5). While a team was dispatched to attract the renegades attention and reinforce the holdouts, a detachment under my command assassinated the daemon prince Tendao, commander of the Chaos forces on Cyrus Gamma (see attachments D1 &D2).
Such dry words for nightmarish campaigns. Massive battles in ruined hive cities and an assault on a deadly fortress only to find its commander was a daemon prince in a warped human host body. Every erg of his strength had not been enough. But Hethor had tipped the balance.
Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that the remaining heretics attempted a major summoning. Lord Vonrilyental lead and expeditionary force to stop them. Despite heavy losses, the summoning was interrupted. The daemon manifest anyway, albeit in a weakened form. Inquisitors Talstrem and Vonrilyental perished in the resulting combat and the daemon was eventually dispatched with lance fire from orbit (See attachment E1).
This left out the continuation of the conspiracy by Novum and himself. It left out the recruitment of Colonel-Commissar Prius Ristani as their agent and their plans to approach Inquisitor Varian. It left out the Men of Iron and the archeotech weapons entirely. It did mark one thing: Jolan's Gix's progress from pawn to knight in the Inquisition Wars.
Jolan raised his hand, hesitated, and then knocked on the cabin door. A moment latter it slid open. Severa smiled at him. She was wearing her full naval officer's get up, but with Inquisition patches. She was a broad shouldered woman of not insignificant height and it added to her air of authority. She smiled. "Jolan, come in." She stepped aside.
The quarters assigned to her were fairly spacious. The frantic fighting on this star fort had been won by the Inquisition and its agents and she was the one the navy brass dealt with on a day to day level. They hadn't stinted her on quarters as a result. She had been firm but professional with them, making sure that Gix's will was executed while not damaging their pride.
He quarters consisted of sitting room and a bed room, both furnished with silks, furs, and woven cloths from worlds throughout the subsector. Most interstellar commerce went through navy hulls and it kept a share for itself. "Business or pleasure?" she smiled.
Somewhere along the line they had slipped from being friends into something more. How much the fear and chaos of battle had played into it was hard to tell. Time together was one thing they had had little of. And now if he cared about her he was going to have to give her up.
"I talked with the commodore," he said.
"About being your returning to naval service. Here, away from your enemies. With Lena as your patron. She said yes." Severa's eyes lit up like suns.
"Oh Jolan!" She swept him off his feet and swung him around laughing. And then it hit her. She lowered him down. "And that means . . ."
"Yes. If you take it, we aren't going to be together. Don't get me wrong, I want you in my life. I want you with me. But this is your choice. And I know how much this means to you."
She squeezed him hard. He hugged her back. "Damn! It's not fair!"
He gently disentangled himself. "We both know life isn't fair. And I saw that look in your eyes. You'll take it."
She nodded. She was silent for a moment. And then she looked up a fierce blaze in her eyes. "Jolan, I will never forget you. Friends, always."
"Yes," he replied, "friends, always." The words seemed so inadequate to what truly lay between them.
"You'll be here for a while right? Cleaning up? And they'll be awhile coming up with an assignment for me and when they do the first one will probably be here. We have some time at least."
"Yes, we do," he agreed as he gently pulled her face towards him.
"My lord inquisitor," said the young Arbites officer. He gulped nervously. "We weren't expecting to arrive so quickly." He couldn't be older than early twenties, at the most.
"I was passing through on another matter when I got the message," Jolan replied. Under his customary stormcoat the inquisitor was wearing a carapace breastplate over a long tunic and breeches of black armor cloth woven through with gold. The heavily armed bulk of Hethor D'eckor followed behind.
The young Arbites officer nodded. "Please follow me, my lord." He headed into the courthouse. The heavily armed troopers waved them past the checkpoints and through the scan net. The men manning the gun emplacements looked down on them curiously, but the barrels of their autocannons stayed covering the entrance.
"Fill me in."
"Yes, my lord. We received an emergency transmission from one of the DeCora's estates. They are local nobility, one of the Two Hundred Families. We sent to reaction units and a pair of escort gunships to their lodge and found a massacre. The monitoring system had been completely wiped. Everyone was dead. Except for this guy."
The judge took them down a side corridor decorated with gorgeous holopicts of saints and primarchs. "We thought he was another deader at first, he was in real bad shape. But he was alive. No indication of who he was. We stuffed him into trauma case and carried him here. We didn't think he would make it, but he pulled through. When he regained consciousness he said, 'the Inquisition' and then passed out. So the senior judges sent word. He regained consciousness yesterday, but we haven't asked anything else."
Gix stopped. "No other questions?"
The young judge nodded. "We know better than to step into Inquisition business uninvited."
"Yes, sir. Well, we had employed forensic tech adepts and medicae in our investigation. We completed our testing and stored our data to present to the Inquisition when it arrived. Ah, here we are."
"Lead me to him."
"Yes, my lord." The young judge lead them through the hospital wing. It was small, but equipped with some of the best technology of the Imperium. The judge lead them through to a private room guarded by two Arbites in full combat gear.
They passed through into a room where a single patient lay shrouded in bandages and attached to a half dozen arcane machines. Gix stopped and examined the monitors. The young judge failed to conceal his awe of a man who could interpret the arcane glyphs on display. Gix turned to the patient.
"I am Inquisitor Jolan Gix. I know you are conscious. Respond."
The voice that answered was little more than a hiss. "Yess."
"Who are you?"
"Danell Keys, Master Assassin of House DeCora."
"The catalogue of enhancements and weaponry present on your person tends to confirm this. What happened."
"Lord Veldinar had a meeting. He had it in the lodge . . . . for ssecressy. Five men, sshrouded. Two carried a case. My lord and his ssage met with them. They opened the case. The ssage verified what it wass. Some device of technosorcery. Then the leader said he had more . . . . much more. My lord wass happy. And then the leader removed his face shield."
The wounded man stopped to sip water from a tube. "My lord recognized him. His face was ordinary. He cried out. Too late. We had scanned the with a psi detector and gotten . . . nothing, but somehow they had . . .fooled the machines. They other four . . . were psykers. The were . . . already striking. I hit the wall. Then . . . nothing."
"Why did you ask for the Inquisition? You must know that your house will be investigated, perhaps even destroyed."
"My lord is dead. Others. . . . may live . . . may not. But this one will destroy them. And more. Saw . . . .his eyes. His power . . . . great. He killed my lord this way face to face. . . .because he wanted him to know. He will crush the rest . . . to be complete. And he will not stop there."
"Get us moving," Gix shouted to the pilot.
"Where to, lord?" He was a professional and had piloted the sleek black flier in missions both covert and overt.
"The main DeCora estate, whatever it is called."
"Vancin House, my lord. Should I signal our escort?' The Vulture gunships were heavily armed, but lacked the stealth modifications.
"Yes," replied Gix as the strapped himself in behind the pilot. Hethor hung onto a ceiling strap on the opposite side of the inquisitor.
"You think someone knows something," Hethor stated.
"Odds are the conspirators either left people in the know behind or weren't as successful at keeping secrets as they thought they were. Someone in that house should know something."
"Crime scene latter?"
"Psychometrists and forensics already went over it. I doubt we will get anything new. Better to correlate their data with the answers we get from the DeCoras and see if we find some interesting matches."
Hethor grunted in affirmation. The stealthed gunship flew on.
"We're coming up on them now lord. We're giving them Arbites pass codes and they are confirming. Air defences are not tracking us."
The fields and forests rolled away to reveal a maze of lush garden hedges that radiated forth from a sprawling complex of manor houses. They were long, rectangular buildings of white marble with fabulous Revival Era columns. Ariel walkways connected the manors to each other and beautiful courtyards had been crafted to fill the spaces between them.
There was a blinding flash. The polarized cockpit window saved their vision and a moment latter a shock wave buffeted the craft. Warning glyphs flashed and alarms howled as the pilot fought to keep the flyer airborne. In front of them, a mushroom cloud climbed high into the sky.
"You were fortunate Inquisitor Gix. A little closer and a craft with inferior shielding and you would have gotten a serious dose of rads."
"Thank you chief medicae. But I'm alright?" Gix sat up on the table.
"You should be. A marginal increase in the chance of developing cancer. Avoid anything like a rad source for a while, if possible. I can't overestimate-"
"How lucky I was. Yes, I know." Gix stripped off the gown and began putting on his clothes. "However, a bunch of potential witnesses got vaporized or blasted to ash. I'm not feeling particularly lucky."
The elderly medicae shrugged. "I'm sorry for your loss inquisitor. I wish you good hunting."
"Thank you," said Gix on his way out. Hethor waited outside, leaning against the wall.
"He's a bad one boss."
"How did you get finished first?"
"Inquisitor's get more thorough look overs than grunt troopers. Privileges of rank and all that." Jolan nodded. Hethor continued. "We'll need someone local to help us nav this mess."
"Yes. Got any ideas?"
"Cop. Not an enforcer or Arbites. Someone who digs up bodies, not cracks heretics kneecaps."
"The Arbites have people like that."
"They're still politicos. And they're already workin'."
"Point. Interesting choice to nuke the main house with a baby bomb and not the lodge."
"Clean swept the lodge, 'cept fot the 'ssassin. But there must have been someone or somethin' really worth wasting in the big house."
"Yes. I've had the Arbites round up any survivors, those out of the house and so forth. Maybe we'll get lucky."
"Yeah, I don't think so either. You go see if you can find a local that fits our needs."
"Sure. And you boss?"
"I'm going to talk with our assassin friend."
"It makes . . . . no sense," hissed Keys. "Everyone who knew . . . was there."
"Are you sure?" pressed Gix.
"Can't be . . . . one hundred percent . . . . sure," responded Keys. "Nature . . . of . . . . the . . . . . beast."
Jolan began to pace. The killers had taken the payment, slaughtered everyone, and then smuggled in a baby nuke to the estate. An expensive operation just to seize a case full of sapphires.
The killers had left no data trail to the lodge. Private transport or public could have gotten them out there, but so far they had avoided doing anything that made them stand out. Everyone known to be in the region at the time was being checked, but Gix had little faith in the effort.
To do this much damage for so little gain had to make it not about profit. Only revenge made sense. Lure of the Lord of the DeCoras, kill him, and then annihilate the family. Gix stopped. He turned back towards Keys.
"Tell me all about your lords obsessions, those who were his personal enemies, and about the enemies of the DeCoras."
Keys limped into the room. Gix sat at the his desk in a sparsely furnished room. Hethor was reassembling a broken down rifle that lay on table of to the side. His eyes flickered up and then back to his weapon.
Three different data streams were floating in the air as Gix reclined in his chair and contemplated the numbers. The virtual slabs of cyan glyphs rotated slowly in the air. "Hello Danell."
"Lord," the assassin said. He was like Gix, a wiry, dark haired man of average height. But while the inquisitor was a medium brown colour, the assassin was pale with green eyes. But with skin dye and coloured contacts, they could pass as brothers.
"Anything new?" Jolan asked. The assassin had been quite helpful over the course of the investigation. He had provided an exhaustive list of enemies, rivals, and petty jealousies. In the process of investigation they had burned out a Slaaneshi cult, two embezzling rings, and an illegal blood pit. They had also solved two murders and seven rapes unconnected to the other crimes.
But they had gotten nowhere on the original crime. Somewhere out there a mastermind with access to rogue psykers, exotic tech, and baby nukes had evaded Jolan Gix and the might of the Inquisition.
"No lord," the assassin replied. "Nothing."
"Told you," said Hethor. "We've gotten' nothin'."
Gix nodded. "They've either buried themselves or left the planet. It's been more two months since the bombing and we have nothing." He clenched his jaw.
"Easy boss," Hethor rumbled. "This guy is good. We got to think how to beat 'em."
"And we have nothing to go on to track him. Vanished, leaving no traces at all." The inquisitor stood. "The trail has gone cold," he said decisively. "Whatever clues there are, the have eluded me. Time to move on. The planetary office will take over the case. We'll move to Drexia."
"Okay," said Hethor. The big man shifted his bulk as he slung the now reassembled las.
"Lord," said Keys, "may I make a request?"
"Yes," replied Jolan.
"You believe that the killer has gone off world."
"I think the possibility is rather high that he has left, yes."
"Despite the screening of outgoing passengers."
"Take me with you. Allow me to avenge my master and House DeCora."
Jolan looked at Danell for a moment. "The mandate of the Inquisition supersedes vengeance."
"I understand. But I can be useful to you lord."
"Yes," said Gix, "you can. Consider your request accepted."
The rumpled figure hefted his travel bag. "Well, I should get going."
Gix nodded back. He was dressed like a laborer. "Be safe. You've got the access and contact codes?"
The former detective nodded. "Yeah. I'll got everything. Always wanted to travel."
"Be careful," said Gix. "They won't show you any mercy at all if you slip up."
"I wonder how long it will take them to figure it out? They must be tearing their hair out in frustration?"
"I really can't say."
"Don't be so modest. Let them run around for a while and then we'll put in the next stage into motion."
"This one, Gix, he is a less than optimum choice. I've read his file."
A raised eyebrow. "Really? How enterprising of you? And what does his secret Inquisition file reveal?"
"What you know already. He's smart and mentally flexible. His record is quite impressive. He won't forget this and he'll look in directions that might lead him to us."
A shrug. "Unlikely. And if he does, we are ready for him."
The rain sizzled and popped above Danell's head. The shield awning flickered on and off, producing a flickering emerald glow. Keys sat unmoving in the shadow on the crumbling balcony. Generations ago the inhabitants of this tower had possessed money and status. Now they clung to what was left and they did so ferociously. Pathetic tech toys and booby traps were the hallmarks of the remainder, who guarded themselves against criminal gangs, rogue skavs, and cannibal covens.
It was a thirty meter to the alley below. It was eight meters to the next tower. Keys had been here for three hours without moving. His camofibre made him blend in. The malfunctioning awning helped shield him from auspexes. He waited. Patience was essential for an assassin.
"Do you have what I asked for or not?" said Jolan Gix, letting a dangerous edge slip into his voice. He wore a broad brimmed hat over a slick rain cape and discreetly armoured body glove. A long knife hung on his left hip, his bolt pistol on the right. He packed no other weapons or defences. They were even rarer and harder to obtain than what he was supposedly buying. That would generate questions.
The small man on the other side of the room smiled. He was pale immaculately groomed. In this case that meant he wore the natural fibres, silk and wool, of the moneyed elite. A dark overcoat over a shirt coat over shirt of shining white silk. Comfortable trousers, a platinum buckled belt, and a refractor field of local origin completed the ensemble.
He had a shooter in every corner of the room. Two big men, one averaged sized man, one woman. They didn't bother with rain capes in doors, but had the rubberized bodygloves of professional muscle. They had big bore stubber carbines, just like the one Hethor was packing.
"Why so brusque, Mister Zred?" said the small man "There is no need for such suspicion."
"You're not the one in someone else's turf surrounded by his shooters," Gix replied.
"My business is based on delivering results and I have done so for nearly a hundred years," said Riccos Malza. "You, on the other hand, are a player from off world who I know far too little about."
"Is that a problem?"
"The items you want come with considerable heat attached. Not just local, but Arbites."
Gix shrugged. "Point taken. Do we have a problem?"
"No," said Malza, "but I do need some verification." He touched his platinum chronometer. A young woman, twenty tops, in a tight rubberized body glove that made her seem almost naked walked in. She was blond and delicate looking. Gix could feel the turbulent emotions she projected. Resentment, resignation, and mounting excitement. A rogue psyker.
"A witch," said Gix and spat on the carpet. He looked up. Three people had been broken to learn that this was the room that Malza liked to hold his clandestine meeting in. It was swept and shielded against com traffic. None of them mentioned psykers, but none of them had posed as shadowy off worlders of unknown extraction.
One side of the room was a window of polarized armour glass. Ten meters down and ten meters across lurked Danell Keys. Gix triggered his electoo, lying dormant an invisible in his palm. There was a faint and very specific transmission. Too weak to be registered as anything but electronic noise by most equipment, but specifically attuned to the tiny relay unit attached just outside the window.
"Now now," soothed Malza. "Your clients desire the- ehm, product, and I desire verification. This way we both win."
"If the Arbites suspected you, they would just swoop in and grab you." Gix had considered this too, but there were too many problems. The locals were clumsy, shot through with corruption, and Malza's network was too strong. It was too likely than even a small strike force would be noticed or that Malza would be tipped off and go to ground. Using his authority to grab men and resources was likely to also cause him to go to ground. Malza's men used look outs and auspex sweeps constantly. So Jolan had decided to go undercover.
The blond came closer. Gix sneered at her. "Okay, let's get this business over with."
Keys received the signal. He raised the grapple gun and fired it. The disc coated hyper adhesive struck next to the window. Keys tightened his grip and triggered the reel. The reel spun and pulled Keys across the gap.
The witch furled her brow. He was hard to read, it was almost as if he was a psyker. Maybe he-
Gix spoke three words in Cryptia. "Miles sentry silence."
Hethor raised his stubber in one smooth motion and fired. His bullets were tungsten tipped and gel slicked. They tore through the shooter's light armour, blew off his left arm halfway through his upper arm, and punched huge holes in his torso.
It would take most telepaths a few seconds to seriously damage his mental defences. As he drew his bolt pistol he lashed out with his own powers. Gix ignored the psyker and extended the palm of his left hand towards the window. With a pop if leaped from its frame and fell into space. Hethor touched Gix's shoulder. Bullets flew towards them as Malza dived behind his couch.
Slugs bounced telekinetic shell surrounding Gix and D'eckor. He smiled fiercely. The blond smiled back. Hethor groaned and fell to his knees, despite his conditioning and being covered by Gix's defences.
Keys pulled himself into the room with a single swift motion and tossed a bruiser twice his size after the window pane. The muscle screamed as he fell. The psyker turned towards him. A small blade was already spinning through the air towards her as he somersaulted forward into the room.
The blade stopped centimeters from the psyker's nose. She turned back towards Gix. Too late. Light blazed through the room as the witch was transformed to a blackened stick figure in the heart of a column of green witchfire.
Keys shot the closet shooter with his laspistol as he came out of the roll. A blue-white beam from the compact weapon struck him in the face and hell fell. Keys's moves had placed Gix's shimmering cocoon between him and the other two thugs. Loud thumps sounded as Gix's pistol sounded out and blew open the chest of the woman shooter.
Another burst of bolter fire finished the other. Hethor was getting back to his feet, blood trickling from his ears and nose. "Rape it!" Gix cursed.
Keys came around the couch. A trap door was clearly visible. Gix spun as the door to the room exploded inward.
Gods, I hate this forum software. It's eating my scene divider lines (although they show up just fine when I cut and paste them) and when I noticed them it was too late to edit them. *Plots cruel and terrible revenge*
A telekinetic shield abated the explosion, stopping the door fragments a meter from the Gix's people. Smoke gushed into the room. Hethor fired the rest of his clip blind into the doorway. Key's sprung to the side. Three grenades bounced in.
Hethor laughed as he switched magazines. It echoed throughout the room as the grenades flew back into the new room and detonated with dull cracks. Keys charged after them.
Two men were down on their knees, bleeding out from multiple shrapnel wounds. Two others were bringing their guns to bear. Keys shot one twice in the chest with his las and jammed a blade into the other's forehead and twisted. Hethor slipped into the room behind him.
"Boss," shouted Hethor as he covered the doorway with his stubber, "we need a plan. He's got a few floors full of his shooters and he'll be bolting."
"He leaves, the auspexes will pick him up. They're in active mode now." Gix strode into the room. He telekinetically stripped the autocannon from the dying thug. "Nice door killer. The floor around the trap door is probably a death trap but a couple of rooms over-" The gun followed Gix into the next room.
A hail of slugs bounced off his shields. This was getting tiring fast. Two shooters were firing autopistols at him from the doorway of the barren room. Gix blew off the right arm at the shoulder of one of them in a spray of blood. The other dodged back behind the wall. Gix raised his free hand. A cloud of crimson flames swirled in the general area of his target. An anguished scream came from the flames and trailed off. The flames faded away as Gix stopped feeding the warp fire.
"Get ready," Gix called.
"Ready," said Keys. He pointed the autocannon at the floor ahead of and pressed the trigger. The explosive shells remaining the gun blew a hole in the floor. Blind grenades preceded the assassin down the hole.
The room below was a shabbily finished living room furnished with a pair of chairs of recycled plastic and metal. There was no one else here. A stroke of luck. Keys moved forward. They had studied the blue prints of this ancient structure. Malza would be moving towards exits. The lift or the stairs were where he would head. The sound had attracted attention.
A compact woman with short read hair stuck her head in. Same rubberized body glove as usual, but a long barrelled autopistol in her hand. Keys shot her in the face. He could hear Hethor fall behind him, landing in the blind cloud.
They needed to be fast if they were going to catch Malza. "You take right, I'll take left." Hethor nodded as Gix landed. Keys triggered his locally made refractor field and dived into the central hallway, facing left.
The force field hummed softly around him, outlining him in a green glow. Two goons covering the opposite end. His laspistol hummed and the bolts cracked in the air. He caught the dark one in the head and the gigantic pale one in the chest with a double tap. Slugs began to slam around him. He grunted as one impacted on his shoulder, but fortunately the refractor field robbed it of most of its energy. It didn't penetrate his sneak suit, but it still hurt.
Hethor leaned out the door just in time to see the lift doors close on Malza and two gunmen and and fired. He was an old hand at gunning down armed men. He drove one gunman back into a room and tore through the chests of the two standing sentinel at the lift and firing on Keys. They fell with through and through wounds. "He's in the lift," he said changing clips.
Keys was up like a shot and sprinted full tilt forward. He rolled past the door with the surviving shooter and dived for the lift door. The doors popped open, courtesy of the inquisitor, and Keys was into the shaft and falling.
Hethor was a few steps behind Danell. He came through the gunman's door as he was was angling in the other direction for a shot at Keys. A pull of the trigger and the thug's chest blew open.
The lift was only just picking up speed and so the fall was a mere five meters. Keys landed easily, flicked on his power knife, and punched it in through the roof. A stun grenade followed. He waited two seconds for detonation, sliced out a chunk of roof with four quick cuts, and shot all three men with anesthetic slivers from his needler pistol. He tripped his vox. "Jewels encased."
"My lord, Malza has been taken."
An eyebrow twitched. "Really? By whom?"
He moved a piece across the regicide board. "Results?"
"Network collapsed and purged. Hundreds of arrests. Decline of theft and increase in efficiency in a number of industries. For a while, a more active and attentive police force. A number of heretical cults found and expunged. The cannibal clans have been decimated. And Gix now knows it could have been Malza who supplied the nukes, scan blockers, and rogue psykers."
"Ahh, but he doesn't know to whom or why."
"My lord, he has another piece."
"To no one. To no plan. To no location. And he has succeeded at the task set for him. We'll be leaving this sector soon."
"We've accomplished our mission. Whatever Jolan Gix finds, it will be useless. We'll soon vanish out of his reach and all knowledge, to begin again."
"Because we have won. There is no point is staying, unless you want Jolan Gix to have a chance of catching us."
"Your mightiness, we got something!" came Elzan's whoop. Herican smiled and loped over to where the scholar was crouched over some extremely expensive and powerful scanning equipment.
The small man looked up as Herican approached. The scholar was short and wide, barely able to fit into the enviro bodyglove. He had an uneven beard and glare goggle perched on the top of his bald head. "Look at this Herican!"
Herican stooped down to examine the screen. The heretic was tall and bird like, with a big head, lean body, and long neck. He was also incredibly fast. His eyes remained blank as he examined the screen. "Is that them?"
"They have to be," Elzan explained. "Take a look at the readings! We've done it! We've found them!"
A smile touched Herican's face. "Good." He looked up at the auspex. When it had finally been assembled it had formed a pyramid four meters tall and almost as wide. Antennas and horns projected at various angles. It had been extraordinarily hard to obtain and he had ended up paying Malza a small fortune for it.
And now it was worth it. Every bent decithrone. The Neghan had once had a civilization that spread to a dozen worlds, but that was no longer the case. Sometime in the Age of Strife someone had tried to exterminate them and came close to succeeding. The Neghan had fallen to chaos at some point in their history and that taint remained with them. They survived on only two worlds as vicious bands of mutant raiders that were being pushed back towards the edge of extinction by human colonists.
Incatrix II was the third world. It was outside the area catalogued as formerly being part of Neghan space. The savages had a superstitious dread of the artifacts of their former civilization, which meant the large number of guards that Herican had brought mostly served to keep the diggers in line.
The few artifacts that the Neghan had left behind indicated that they possessed a warp tapping technology which utilized specific crystals. With those in his possession Herican's power and influence would increase by an order of magnitude. He would surely attract the attention of the Eye of God and ascend.
Herican looked around. Test and excavation pits scattered the plain, along with the tents for his guards and laborers. His guards lounged on duty and his involuntary contract laborers that he had purchased on Nictar trudged away. They didn't know that this trip had been a one way ticket. He would sacrifice them all to Tzeentch before he left in his ship Wings of Glory, which was at the far side of the camp.
He yawned and looked around. The cellar was right ahead. It had been a promising find, a pit that lead to intact chambers. There had been scan interference and so they had methodically excavated the whole thing to find only crystal fragments in dense alloy vaults. But Elzan's new readings were far more promising. Soon-
Elzan's head exploded. Herican immediately dropped and rolled down at the base of the scan tower. Blue-white bolts were raining down on his guards from the hills. Several of them were already down. The others were returning fire or taking cover in the excavation pits.
Five combat servitors came down one of the hills in an arrowhead formation. The lead unit was two and a half meters tall with a thick body. Fire poured from its heavy bolter arm. The flanking units had rapid fire heavy stubbers and hellgun/grenade launcher combinations.
The servitors were hit several times but kept coming. Out of the corner of his eye he could see a howling flier dispersing a squad of men by the Wings. The troopers wore black carapace armour and quickly stormed on board.
Time to change the odds. Herican gathered the warp around him, weaving a shell of eldritch energies. He stood up to get a better view. Two demi-squads of stormtroopers were charging down from the hill tops, firing from the hip as they came. Frag grenades were bursting all over the camp. Herican assumed a stance and spoke an incantation.
A gate of blue mist appeared in the sky above one of the demi-squads. Fleshy tentacles of warp matter armed with terrible barbs that were as hard as steel and as sharp as broken glass rolled out from the hole and grabbed the stormtroopers.
Arms and legs were ripped asunder. Heads were pulled off. Armour was breached and bellies were opened. Blood and viscera rained down. Herican laughed. The victorious had become the victims, the living changed to the dead.
A lance of blue-white fire struck his warp tentacles and they withered and vanished. Herican snarled. The other squad and the servitors had reached the camp and were killing everything that moved. Most of his gunmen were already down. Their was an intense blue-white flash and his ogryn bodyguard Kreel fell, minus his head.
Herican howled and sent whips of fire at the stormtroopers. Dust exploded into the air where they touched ground. One trooper was caught full on and a strand of pink fire burst through the front of his helmet while a tendril of blue flame burrowed into his chest. The plasma gunner was only nicked and the tendril was repelled by the blue glow of an active refractor field.
A lance of blue-white fire smashed into Herican's shields. He turned to confront his attacker. A dark skinned man wearing a storm coat over carapace armour. He had used the servitors as cover for his own advance. A gold and ebony rod glinted in his hand. Herican snarled. He would show this insolent puppy what true power was.
He thrust out his hands. A wave of force knocked the servitors to the ground. The psyker dodged and blasted him again with the force rod. Herican diffused most of the energy. This one was strong. Not strong enough.
He sent a splinter of pure malice at the other's mind. It was imprinted warp energy and would burrow through the psychic defences and then shred his mind. As an after though he mind blasted the stormtroopers near him. A bolt round exploded off his defensive shell.
The psyker didn't try to defend against his splinter. Instead, he had simply unwoven it, reducing it to fragments of stray energies. Nice. A very hard trick requiring considerable mastery of daemonology to accomplish. Herican began to syphon away the psyker's energies. In a few moments, he would be nothing.
The psyker didn't counter. Instead, he telekinetically leapt across the intervening distance. The Imperial would be powerless in a few more moments. The hand with the force rod swung as the psyker landed. Herican's shell collapsed momentarily and his skull exploded. Jolan Gix was splattered with the blood and brains of his enemy.
The stormtroopers saluted the inquisitor. "The ship is secured as you ordered."
"Thank you," replied Jolan Gix. Hethor and Danell followed him, the latter with his custom sniping rifle slung over his back. "Anything notable?"
"Heretical apparatus and idols. Books in the captain's cabin."
Gix nodded in acknowledgment. "Heth, let the Invidious know that they can come out of hiding behind the second moon. The area is secure."
"Will do boss."
"Danell, do a sweep. Make sure that no one escaped."
"Your will, inquisitor."
As his companions receded, Gix strode into the ship. It was a good one, solidly designed. If it could be purified he intended to keep it and have it refitted at the archeotech yards in Adraxis. He hesitated for a moment in front of the captain's cabin and then touched the control. The door slid open.
It was a surprisingly simple room. A luxurious bed, a desk and cogitator, trophy case, and secured bookshelf. He examined the books carefully. All non-proscribed works. He opened a few at random and looked inside. They were what they were supposed to be. He examined the bookshelf again.
The back was surprisingly thick. He looked closer and found a hidden catch. Three thin folios were revealed. Gix removed them and examined them.
They were thin, but tall and wide. They were bound in red-dyed human skin. The paper was metallic and covered in tiny print. Gix put them down on the desk and began to read.
Trelin watched as the flier touched down at the top of the hill. It happened several times a year now as the Imperial presence got stronger and stronger. More and more equipment was mustered for more recent purge missions against the orks of the far islands. The orks kept coming back, but they were fewer and weaker every time. Of course, the Imperials weren't always passing through to fight orks. Sometimes they delivered medicine and sometimes their purposes were far more sinister.
Trelin headed up the hill past the log cabins of his people. They were sturdy buildings, much better than their predecessors. A glass maker had emigrated to Longshore Isle five years back and glass windows had become an affordable improvement instead of a foreign luxury. Running water had been a nice improvement as well.
Three men exited the flier. One was a big man, dark enough to be an islander, but built like a bull ork. He was wearing a temp controlled body glove and had the aquila tattooed on his forehead. Another man, slimmer and short, also wore a bodyglove as well as a long coat. A pale man with dark hair wore sand coloured long sleeved baggy tunic and pants. His flesh gleamed with sunshade oil.
The big man had some kind of rifle slung over his shoulder. Both of the darker skinned men had weapons on their belts. Not soldiers, at least not any more, and mercifully were too few to be witch hunters. He had lost a brother and a sister to them and at nights feared they would come for his own children. He did not know how his parents were able to bear such their loss with such dignity.
The one in the coat stepped towards him and extended his arm, with his hand and forearm extended up, islander fashion. Trelin grasped it. The foreigner was about his size, with fine bones and a firm grip. His eyes were a smokey grey and his black hair was cut short. A faint scar marked his left cheek. "Welcome to our village," Trelin said.
"Thank you," said the stranger. "I'm looking for Venor and Selina Gix."
Trelin's eyes widened fractionally. "Why?"
"They are well?" the stranger pressed.
"Yes. Who are they to you?"
Trelin looked at the man, really looked. His age was right and the face was that of his father's as well. Jolan Gix gasped as his brother embraced him.
His mother had wept when she saw him. His father had not, but had embraced him with the fierceness that belied his age. The news spread like wildfire, of course, and the village wasn't particularly big. Soon everyone was stopping buy to provide a piece of food for a welcome feast.
They talked around the table as his mother prepared the food in the adjacent kitchen. A rotating gaggle of girls and women came in to help and eavesdrop.
"So my son, you have become a great lord in the Imperium?"
Jolan smiled. "Yes. An inquisitor. I search for problems and I solve them."
"Like a sheriff."
"Yes, except I don't deal with murders or stolen catches but revolutions and treason."
His father beamed. "That sounds important."
"Of course it is," his mother said back.
"Yes, it is," Gix replied. "My duties took me past this world, so I decided to stop in and make sure everything was alright. And to visit you."
"You do not know what a burden you take from the hearts of your mother and I," said Venor.
"I am glad I was able to," Jolan said.
"Are you married?" his father asked.
"Of course he is," his mother replied. "He's a lord and past thirty. How could he not be married."
Jolan smiled. "Actually I'm not. Things are a little different up there and my duties keep me busy. There is a woman who is very special to me." Actually, more than one, but he wasn't likely to end up married to either Kyra or Severa. But the full truth of an inquisitor's life was not something they needed to here. Sometimes lies were best.
"And your sister?" his father asked. "Do you know of her?"
Jolan's face clouded for a moment. "She died honourably, using her gifts in the service of the Imperium." There was moment of awkward silence. That was true as far as it went. Jolan had looked up the younger sister he had never known in the logic engines of Schola Psychia. Her gifts had been strong, but her control of them had been weak. She had burned herself out in a month maintaining the Astronomican.
"Let us speak of other things, my son. It is good to know that you prosper. How long can you stay?"
"Only a few days."
"Then we shall make them memorable," his mother replied.
Gard's mechadendrites shifted. He looked up. A matte black flier was descending from the night sky. A little early. A smile split his dark skin, revealing pearly white teeth. He touched a control. The automated weapons continued tracking the ship but did not fire. The lighter touched down with a thud.
Steam blasted out from vents and the cargo door descended. A slim man wearing a dandified officer's uniform and a bruiser wearing a rating's coveralls came forward. Gard gestured to several of his muscle. The wearily advanced with their master, their autoguns ready in their hands.
Violence was an unfortunate adjunct of this business. It was necessary to achieve some proficiency with weapons and employ those who made their living by violence. There was no helping it. Under his robes, Gard wore mesh armour that covered his sleek form. A dark eldar splinter pistol was also holstered, ready to use.
The slim man was as pale as Gard was dark. "You Doctor Vikal?"
"Yes, I am," Gard replied. "Do you have the goods?"
"Straight from Tau space. They have some nice toys. You have the payment?"
"Yes, I have the agreed upon payment. Sapphires and rubies."
The officer smiled. "I was hoping you would say that." He turned and gestured to his cargo servitors. They picked up two crates and began to carry them down the ramp.
One of his servo skull's beeped. The readout was displayed on the stacked crystal lens of his contacts. Psi reading surge. Gard opened his mouth to shout and the chaos erupted.
One of the crates exploded and both gun platforms were upended by telekinetic blasts. As Jolan Gix emerged, Danell stabbed Gard Vikal in the face with a small needle. He slapped the splinter pistol away and used him as a living shield. In a few seconds the paralytic would take hold.
The muscle hesitated, which cost them time they didn't have. Hethor's refractor field had been activated by the trigger they had rigged in his mouth. His empty hands dipped into the bulky pockets of his overalls and came out full. There was an incandescent flare as one shooter was blown in half by a plasma burst. Another was torn open from navel to breast bone by the bolt pistol in Hethor's other hand.
Keys speared another man with a las pistol shot to the forehead. He flicked on his refractor field, which screamed target, but he was out in the open with a valuable commodity in his hands. He dropped Vikal's body and ran forward. Several autogun slugs slammed into him but the field and the woven armour ate up most the bullets' impacts.
Men exploded into pyres of green fire and charred flesh as Gix struck. Servitors blackened and toppled. Hethor gunned down another and Keys claimed two as Gix strode across the clearing. There was nothing left to oppose him. He swept the area with a hand held auspex and then turned to his men. "Well done."
Vikal recovered consciousness soon enough. He looked around. He naked on surgical bed, covered by a sheet. Three men were there. The officer, now wearing simple black; the rating, now wearing a weapon harness; and a brown skinned man wearing dark tunic, breaches, and a ribbed leather coat. "I don't appear to be restrained," Vikal remarked. His throat was dry. A squeeze bottle of water was nearby. How thoughtful. He took a sip. That was better.
"No, you aren't," replied Jolan Gix. "Your history is quite interesting, Doctor Vikal. A practitioner medicae who clashed twice with the Adeptus Mechanicus over trying to obtain augmentation secrets. You then gave up your practice and disappeared. Well, not quite."
"Over the next one hundred years you've been over half the galaxy. You've repeatedly engaged in illegal clandestine trade and have probably been involved in three raids against the Adeptus Mechanicus. I think the number is higher. How many times have you plundered xenos for their tech?"
"Fifty-seven times inquisitor." He could only be an inquisitor. Nothing else made sense. "I prefer to trade, when possible."
"Impressive. I don't have a problem with you Vikal. In fact, I have a use for a man of your talents."
"I'm a scientist inquisitor. I don't know what use I can be to you."
"I have a use for scientists, even those who stray into forbidden xenos lore and the domains of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Especially those areas. And there is something else I want from you."
"Your clients. Most of all, I want your clients."
Lord Carrel rose. "Jolan Gix, please come in."
"Thank you," Gix replied. The Lord Inquisitor's office was homey as opposed to palatial. A cogitator was perched on the desk and the two side walls were lined with three meter tall bookshelves. The carpet was a thick, rich red, but one that any artisan family could have afforded. A big window, armoured by necessity, allowed a view into the city behind the inquisitor.
"My congratulations on your recent successes," said Carrel. He was an unprepossessing man who wore a simple black robe and his rosette. He was taller and heavy than Gix, with a short but thick beard. He looked like someone's friendly uncle.
"As opposed to my recent failures."
Carrel waved his hand away. "Your performance in the Adraxian affair will become legend in the sector, among inquisitors at least. As for the DeCora Incident, the planetary office also came up blank on the perpetrators. Although you found just about everything else there was to find on three planets in the process. There is no shame in that many successes. Every inquisitor has failures on their record."
"It galls," said Gix.
"Of course it does," Carrel replied. He motioned for Jolan to sit and he did so. "Getting thrown down that elevator shaft enraged your mentor Kyra Neven and she never forgot. The great Eisenhorn suffered defeats and setbacks. They overcame them and triumphed. In fact, you were there when Neven's nemesis fell. Patience inquisitor. We cannot save the Imperium single handily."
"Thank you for the words, Lord Inquisitor. They are wise and I will remember them."
"Good, good. Now, I am sure you did not come here to listen to an old warhorse speak. How can I help you inquisitor?"
"I wish to transfer from the Ordo Malleus to the Ordo Hereticus."
"Ahh. The DeCora incident?"
"In part," said Jolan. "To be blunt, I've been doing more of this kind of work for various reasons in the last few years. I have a better feel for it than for Malleus work." That was partly true. The other part of the truth was that as a member of the Ordo Hereticus who could better spread the occult art of science.
"Ahh. You have found your true calling. That is a different matter. Well, to be blunt, you do good work and changing Ordos will not affect that. I am proud to sponsor your application to our Ordo."
"Thank you, Lord Carrel."
"Good hunting, Jolan Gix."
"He's quite good."
"For an outsider?" Jolan Gix asked.
"No, by our standards," the Shrine Master responded. He was wiry brown man of medium height. "Considering that he wasn't trained until he was what . . . . ten?"
"Twelve," Gix replied. He looked down through the window at the the assassin's sparing below.
"Yes, pity that. He has a lot of native talent and high quality augmentics. His trainers were quite good. Trade combine?"
"Ahh. In any event, he's quite good. He lacks the specialized skills, training, and equipment of a member of our Officio, but he is a capable agent nonetheless. A lot of native talent, honed to a razor edge by experience. He can't compete with a shrine in their area of specialty, but he is otherwise quite capable by our standards."
"You can help him?"
"Indeed. A few new techniques, some additional equipment and training, a few augments."
"Thank you Shrine Master."
"It is pity he did not come to us as a child. He could have been spectacular. But it is always a pleasure to assist Inquisition."
"Thank you. I have a gift for you."
The Shrine Master turned. Gix handed him a thin stack of flimsies. "Both the Inquisition and the Officio know that the Adeptus Mechanicus guard their secrets with a greater ferocity than is good for the Imperium. And both are institutions need the best technology. You should find these helpful."
The Shrine Master looked through them. "These are in High Gothic!"
"Yes, I had an agent of mine transcribe them into a format you would find more useful. These plans won't allow you to produce C'tan Phase Swords, but they should allow you to increase you stocks of Dark Age era equipment."
The Shrine Master looked up. "If the Officio can be of any assistance to you in the future inquisitor, know that you have friends here."
Gard Vikal smiled brightly as Jolan Gix walked into his workroom. "Inquisitor, I'm glad to see you."
Gix smiled and looked over the work benches and arcane machinery. A wizards lab, sure enough. "Since you asked for my presence doctor, the least I could do was show up."
Gard through open his arms. "Behold, the fruits of our labors. Inquisitor, if I had known this would be the result of being apprehended, I would have turned myself in years ago."
Gix smiled at the joke. "I take it you have made some break through that you wish to share?"
"Indeed. Come over here and allow me to present this archeotech miracle, reproduced through the application of science to the craft of technomancy."
He pointed at a table. "I regret to say that my favorite project, that of coming up with a viable method of mass producing copies of Xenarch capacitors has still not met with satisfactory results. But I have met with other successes."
He lead Gix to a table with a bundle covered in cloth. "And now the unveiling," he said as swept the cloth off.
"Is that what I think it is?"
"Yes, an Inferno Pistol. Performance should be somwhat superior to that of those you would be able to obtain from the Ordo. Range, energy delivered, and even ammunition capacity are all superior to the performance statistics in your arms manuals. I know you like heavy power in a compact package inquisitor and I would hate to lose you to a plasma pistol overload."
"Thank you doctor. Your efforts are appreciated."
"You're welcome inquisitor. Now I have a list of several items which may improve my facilities . . . "
In the deep dark at the edge of a dead star system, a ship that did not exist hosted a meeting of some of the most powerful individuals in human space. Most of them were inquisitors, but the membership of the conspiracy had spread beyond the Inquisition. Not all of the membership was present, but all the players that were not present had a proxy at this meeting. Most of them knew some of the other participants. Recognition codes and private verification meetings allowed the members to be sure that they were free from infiltration and maintain their anonymity.
With their identities verified the conspirators met in a great hall around a great circular table. This whole section of the ship was abandoned, except for robots and maintenance servitors, to preserve the participants anonymity.
One of the robed and masked figures spoke. His or her voice was electronically modulated to be gender neutral. "This meeting was called at my instigation. A dangerous course of action is being promoted by certain members of our order. It must be addressed."
Kyra Neven spoke. Her voice was identical to that of the first speaker. "You speak of the tech dispersion effort."
"Yes," he replied. "It undermines the Imperium. Control over the distribution of high technology, especially starship and weaponry, is one of the tools the High Lords use to maintain their authority. By distributing high technology you increase the power of rebels and the temptation to rebel."
"My colleague's words are correct," replied the altered voice of Jolan Gix. "However those will not be the only effects with regard to central authority. Technologically advanced worlds are wealthier and part of that wealth will end up in the hands of the Ecclesiarchy, the Inquisition, and the Officio Assassinorum. Increasing tech base will make such items as power armour and bolters cheaper by increasing supply allowing the outfitting of greater numbers of Orders Militants of Adeptus Sororitas. Troops under direct Inquisition control."
"Furthermore, it will increase population levels and tax base as well as increasing the the number and improving the equipment of various recruitment organs. More Inquisitional Storm Troopers, armsmen, assassins, psykers, and inquisitors. And I haven't mentioned the two new techniques for dealing with damaged gene seed. They aren't miracles, but they mean more Astartes. Arming them will be easier as well. And needless to say, I haven't even touched on how these benefits will increase the power of the the Adeptus Arbites, whose business it is to put down rebellions before they start."
"But these considerations, as important as they are, are ultimately distractions. The Imperium has been in decline for ten thousand years. The status quo is a disaster waiting to happen and everyone at this table is here because they understand this. While triggering a civil war with the Adeptus Mechanicus is a disaster, so is continuing a slide into technobarbarism. Our problems are getting worse. New daemon worlds, outside the Eye of Terror. The Hive Fleets. The resurrection of the Necrons. We cannot meet these threats with answers that were already failing."
The first speaker spoke again. "You would risk civil war on your ideas? You reek of hubris Jolan Gix!"
The meeting went quiet. A new voice spoke. Soft, whispery, male. "Names are forbidden here."
Gix spoke again. "You have no answers but to continue failed policies. It is no longer enough to attempt to repair the cracks in Imperial society. We must take bold steps to bolster Imperial Power. Emperor class battleships must again be build in the shipyards of Segmentum Capitals. The grand cruiser must reemerge to take its rightful place among the ships of the line. The Imperial Guard must be armed with weapons to place it on a more equal footing with technologically advanced xenos. The Adeptus Astartes and Sororitas must grow. We must claim more of our psykers before they become dangers and make them into assets. The Imperium of Man must rise again!"
The first speaker shouted back. "Listen to him! He would take the mantle of our Emperor. Heresy!"
A brutal, mechanical, and male voice spoke. Maladar. "You dare call Imperial rebirth heresy?"
"Your plan is bold my brother," said the whisperer. "In all my time of service I have never contemplated anything so grand."
Gix replied. "The opportunity fell into my hands. I could not turn my back on it. And I hear no objections but fear. I will tell you my fears. An empire that is crumbling under the weight of its own corruption and decay, besieged by terrible forces from without. I go out and confront my fear every day as do countless billions. We have an opportunity to do something other than slow down our deaths and pray for miracles. What commander will not take a risky gambit over inevitable defeat? And who better to make this decision?"
The whisperer spoke again. "Does anyone have anything else to say?" No one spoke. Too many knew the whisperer and understood that his words were an instruction to dispense with debate unless they had something new and important to contribute. "All in favor?"
Three quarters of the table raised their hands. "Then it is agreed. Those that are in favor of this proposal will carry it forth without opposition from the others. This motion will be reviewed at our next meeting."
The primaries and proxies dispersed as their meeting broke up. Old comrades took this opportunity to speak with old friends or to pursue avenues of mutual interest. In a small chamber a particularly important piece of business was being conducted.
"Isran overstepped his bounds," said the whisperer. "He spoke Gix's name to expose him to violence. Two violations of our laws."
Maladar's reply was blunt. "You want me to kill him."
"You should have said so."
"I thought I did."
Maladar shrugged. He was going to kill the weasel bastard anyway, for pretty much the same reason. Gix might be risking a lot, but at least he was going full bore and had a chance of succeeding. Besides, Isran was moving against Maladar's allies and Maladar wasn't naive enough to believe rules would stop him. Maladar knew of only one satisfactory solution for people like that. He smiled, a truly terrible thing to behold. The whisperer flinched. Maladar laughed as visions of violent death filled his brain.