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Hi all, just posting up the fluff for my inquisitor, it is already posted up in another subforum but I was looking for feedback and constriuctive criticism, and given that this subforum is equally suitable for posting it and has a higher number of active users, I reasoned that it might not be a bad thing to post it up again.
© Copyright 2011 James Wonnacott
The Inquisition had come to Vorollis IV.
Governor Kaleb Hakan absently tapped the cold iron beak of the Imperial aquila which served as his badge of office, the eagle symbol emblazoned around the collar of the thick green velvet of his heavy overcoat, the robes hanging loose off his gaunt figure. He did not know why the Inquisition were here, and nor did he know what they wanted. He knew only that they were coming, and that knowledge drove a spike of ice into the depths of his heart.
Hakan was not an attractive specimen. His aged scalp, the skin kept taut by extensive juvenat treatments, was covered by electro-tattoos which concealed his bald pate. His skin was sallow and loose, and he had the unhealthy pallor of an alcoholic. His hands, small and frail, twitched nervously. His features were sunken and indistinct, his eyes glazed and milky. He smiled reassuringly at a mirror, revealing rows of sharpened yellowed teeth. He glanced sidelong at the stony figures of his bodyguards, their thickset torsos covered by bulky flak armour, their hands gripping their ornate lasrifles.
Everybody feared the Inquisition. They were meant to, even those who were truly innocent, and Hakan's dealings with the shadowy cults on Vorollis meant that he was far from innocent. They were the agents of the Emperor, and as such they carried His authority with them. They fought in the shadowy world of cults, lies and deception, and many seemed to carry this aura of distrust to other, more mundane areas, chasing shadows across entire sectors.
And they had come to Vorollis.
Hakan felt his stomach turn as a black gunship bearing a stylised letter ‘I’ slowed and lowered itself onto the landing pad. The vessel was squat and powerful, reminding Hakan of the Astartes vehicles he'd seen in vid-feeds as a child.
There was a roar of gas turbines as the gunship angled its engine nacelles towards the landing pad, casting a blue-tinted heat haze effect rippling across the platform. The aircraft rotated majestically to reveal the embarkation ramp, and the pilot lowered the landing gear. There was a hiss of pistons as the ramp lowered slowly, and nozzles on the pad cast a billowing cloud of steam across the ramp. A figure strode purposefully down from the lander, its form becoming distinct as it emerged from the smoke.
The newcomer cut an imposing figure.
He was tall and slender, and bore himself with a grace and élan that betrayed supreme self-confidence. His hair was jet-black and close-cropped, and his handsome face was utterly unreadable. He wore knee-length black military boots and combat fatigues. His chest was covered by a dark grey carapace breastplate detailed with a golden, stylised letter 'I'. He wore a navy cloak with a maroon lining, and the collar was topped by scarlet braid. Several arcane-looking devices and wires linked his skull to a mind-impulse unit powering a shoulder mounted psycannon that clicked and whirred menacingly as it target-locked the governor and his retinue. An elegant power sabre hung, sheathed, at his side, and his left hand gripped the gold-chased handle of a .50 calibre stubber.
Steeling himself, Hakan bowed to the visitor before speaking. His eyes were as hard and unforgiving as flint, but slight creasing around his mouth alluded to a man as like to smile as to frown.
Right now, however, he was certainly not smiling.
"Greetings, my lord inquisitor. To what do I owe the unexpected pleasure of your company?" Hakan asked smoothly.
"You may dispense with the pleasantries, governor. I fear you may be less pleased by my purpose in this place," he said, fixing Hakan with a steely gaze. The man's voice dripped with casual menace, and his face maintained the same look of mocking disdain as he spoke. Hakan began to perspire.
"I am sure that we can come to some arrangement later regarding your business here. Meanwhile, would you care to join me for dinner?" he said, as calmly as he could under the circumstances. The man was onto him, Throne-damn him!
The Inquisitor shook his head.
"I fear that you misunderstand me, governor." He paused and motioned for a pair of men dressed in carapace plate to move forward. One wore fatigues that marked him out as an Imperial storm trooper, while the other bore the helmet and shotgun of an Arbites Judge.
"Payne? Colquhoun? Seize him," the Inquisitor addressed them calmly.
Hakan took a step backwards and looked around him, bewildered. The psycannon on the inquisitor’s shoulder cycled as it tracked his movement.
"I demand an explanation for this-" he shouted, but the Inquisitor cut him off.
"You are a heretic, Mr Hakan, a piece of filth on the face of this world. I am Inquisitor Titus Voltar of the Ordo Xenos, and you are under arrest."
Hakan cursed and screamed for his bodyguards to help him. They hesitated before stepping towards Voltar, weapons lowered. It was the last mistake they would ever make as the storm trooper lowered his autogun and killed one with man-stopper rounds. He collapsed on the floor as the rounds took him below his breastplate, and his comrade had only the time to take aim before he too was slain by a close range shotgun blast from the Judge. Voltar lowered his stubber before advancing on Hakan.
"You are going to regret doing that, Mr Hakan," he said sadly. It was the first time Hakan had seen him show any emotion at all over the course of the confrontation.
"If that was supposed to be some kind of threat," he replied, measuring his words carefully, "then it was a lousy one."
"It seems you are not well versed in the ways of the Inquisition, Mr Hakan, so I will forgive you the oversight. But the statement was not a threat. I am an inquisitor, and I deal only in facts."
Voltar smiled at Hakan, drew a suppressor syringe from his belt, and the interrogation began.
Hakan was aware of a chamber filled overwhelming brightness of light as he fell deeper into the dream-state, his head cleared of the random, comforting images which had filled it moments before, and the images were replaced by a dull pain at the base of his skull. He tried to summon back the images, but they failed to materialise and the pain grew worse, as if somebody was deliberately hiding them in order to deprive him of their comfort, and he gave up, surrendering to the light which scoured his mind. As his eyes adjusted to the light, it became apparent that he was not alone in the chamber. A figure stood with its back to him, its form human yet its features formless and non-existent; a figure both alien and yet somehow familiar at the same time.
“Who are you?” he asked weakly, but the figure did not deign to answer the question.
“Who are you?” he tried again, this time louder, and this time the figure turned to face him, and the face was that of his father.
“Father?” he asked, disbelievingly. “I thought that you were dead.”
“I am,” responded his father, “but I would speak with you.”
“What do you want, father?” he asked.
“A time of testing is coming Kaleb. There can only be two sides in this. You must not be on the wrong side of the line when the time comes, Kaleb.”
Hakan looked at his father, bewildered. “What in the Emperor’s name is that supposed to mean?” he asked, regaining some of his former defiance. His father did not respond, he only shook his head and turned away.
“Damn you,” Hakan shouted after him.
His father half-turned, and in that instant Hakan saw that the face did not truly belong to his father.
“You aren’t my father!” he yelled at the figure, and as the figure turned around its face melded into that of his friend Delane Masmar, the High Magister. The figure nodded wordlessly to him.
“Masmar?” he said, “Is it truly you, Delane?”
Delane Masmar’s face shifted and contorted, changing into that of his former scholam teacher.
“Father Berke?” he asked sceptically, but even as he said the words the face was changing again.
“Who the frak are you?” he screamed in impotent rage at the figure. “What do you want with me.”
As the face changed for the final time, the figure revealed itself to him, and somehow he remembered that this was not the first time he had seen the figure after all.
For the face was that of Inquisitor Titus Voltar.
Interrogator Loras Thurmann raised his eyebrows expectantly at his colleagues as the limp body of Titus Voltar stirred itself in his arms for the third time today. This interrogation was proving hard, even for a psyker as powerful as Voltar, and Hakan was proving surprisingly resistant to the inquisitor’s mind.
Thurmann released his grip on the inquisitor and Voltar stood up, shaking life into his limbs once more as his mind returned itself fully into his body.
“Any luck?” asked Thurmann hopefully.
“Maybe. It’s probably a zilch, but I found something of interest in there,” replied Voltar after a moment.
“In his dream state, he called out at one point for one Delane Masmar.”
“Masmar?” Thurmann frowned. “The High Magister?”
“Aye. I want to see his file. Any links to Hakan and I want to know about it. Clear?”
“Good,” said Voltar, before turning to face the other figures in the room.
“Vespett?” he said, facing a petite but attractive young woman with long blond hair and transfixing brown eyes.
“Titus?” she replied evenly, flashing an intoxicatingly fleeting smile. An intelligence expert, Nivia Vespett was the longest serving member of Voltar’s
warband and his most trusted asset.
“I want you to look into Masmar’s movements. Tell our agents in the field that I want to know who Masmar’s been contacting, where he’s been going, what he’s been doing, what he knows about what’s going on. Got that?”
“Definitely,” she said confidently, smiling. Voltar returned the smile before moving on.
“Magos Beskis,” he said, and there was a slight mechanical hiss as a tech-magos stepped towards the inquisitor, his red robes hanging inelegantly off his mechanised limbs.
“I need you to hack into the planetary databases. Anything suspicious, you let me know.”
The tech priest nodded curtly, and Voltar walked back towards the centre of the chamber.
“Alright people. We need information. Get to work.”
High Magister Delane Masmar paced the halls on the upper floor of his private residence in the wealthy up-hive district of Hive Vispektus, the primary hive on Vorollis. He paused in order to glance furtively at the entrance lobby three storeys below, where his porter, a portly young man named Marne who had received the post after his predecessor had suffered an unfortunate and terminal heart failure, desperately battled to get rid of a pair of marshalls in black bodygloves bearing the rank insignia which identified them as junior officers in an obscure brsnch of the Magistratum. Unfortunately, the men were stubbornly persistent and refused to be turned away so easily.
“We have a few issues we should like to bring to your master’s attention. It won’t take long,” Delane heard one of the men reassure Marne.
“I- I am unsure, sirs. My master is a very busy man, you understand,” blustered Marne.
“You need not fear for scheduling, Marne. We will not detain him for long… if he cooperates with us on this matter.” The man’s voice was calm, but the confidence with which he bore himself and the implicit threat in his words worried Delane. No ordinary marshall would dare to pursue the head of the Magistratum on world, appointed by Hakan himself, so directly… unless Hakan had somehow been compromised. The possibility that another house might have taken control of the world sent a shiver down his spine. But who would have the strength to depose Hakan? It could not be House Marvet, for they had been allies with Hakan almost as long as Masmar had been. The upstart House Thengt? No, it couldn’t be; they had never been friends of They had never been friends of Hakan’s regime, but they were too recently risen into the upper echelons of society to risk such a gambit. House Vardan were too weak, too sycophantic, and House Mirrin too busy focussing on their precious manufactories.
If not one of them, then who? A populist uprising? The PDF? Possible, he supposed, but unlikely.
And then there was the last, most terrifying possibility.
The possibility that, despite all the cautionary measures the nobility had put into place; the inquisition might somehow have discovered the true purpose of the Ministry of Commerce.
Nominally responsible for ensuring peace amongst the ruling houses of Vorollis regarding issues of trade, in truth the Ministry was an organisation set up by the shadowy organisations Governor Hakan had frequent dealings with in order to ensure that their interests were served by the ruling classes on Vorollis. Under this rather broad remit, the Ministry had quickly outgrown its original purpose until it had become more powerful than Hakan himself, expanding to the point at which nobody knew what the organisation was actually for any more.
As a member of the planetary nobility, Delane’s own understanding of the Ministry was rather limited, but his work in the Magistratum meant that he knew the names of several key figures within the Ministry; information Hakan had willingly allowed him to keep as a means of balancing power. If the inquisition were to find out that he held such information, then his life was going to be very short and very unpleasant indeed.
His thoughts were interrupted by a sharp coughing sound downstairs, followed by the pounding of heavy boots on the stairwell.
He stiffened, uncomprehending of what was happening. Then, one of the marshalls ascended the stairs and came slowly into sight.
“Don’t try to delay us again, sir,” said the marshall, “because if you do then things might get rather unpleasant for you.”
“Are you threatening me?” he asked incredulously. He had expected the man to be blunt, but an outright threat to a superior officer, even one suspected of wrongdoing, was not a standard practice.
“I prefer the term advising, but ultimately it makes little difference.” The man shrugged to show that it was of no consequence to him.
“Now, sir, I do believe that I have some business to convene with you,” he continued.
“Business? I thought that my porter told you that I was busy-” blurted Delane indignantly, but the marshall interrupted him.
“Your porter and I had a slight… disagreement, you might say,” the marshall said coolly, tapping his holstered autopistol meaningfully. Delane frowned, not so much at the statement but at the weapon itself.
For the pistol was not of a type issued to Magistratum officials.
Delane whitened in horror as he realised the implications this discovery would have on his life.
The man watched the reality of the situation dawn upon Delane, smiling cruelly
“Who are you?” managed Delane, backing away.
“We are here from the Ministry. We no longer have need of your services, Mr Masmar. This will be much easier if you do not resist.”
Delane broke into run for the door to his chambers. He had moved three paces before the Ministry agent shot him through the head.
“I warned you not to resist,” he said sadly, before holstering the weapon once more.
Few men are born with the natural ability to hide in plain sight, but Raoul Wayce was one of them.
He was a man of unremarkable build and was possessed of a face which required fierce concentration effort in order to be remembered. He had been a Throne asset for half his life now, and had been a major criminal for the other half. His pardon, which had been conditional on the basis that he work for the ordos when it was required of him, had been in effect for years now, and, aside from some slight balding around the temples, he himself had not changed much since Nivia Vespett had seen him last.
He walked through the crowd, stooped slightly as he shuffled his way through the slowly moving masses outside the Administratum offices. He wore a threadbare brown jacket with the bottom buttons missing, while his guard-surplus trousers were heavily worn at the knees. His movements were natural and were measured so as that they were utterly seamless replications of the posture of a lower-hive gamper. He did not look up to much, but Niv knew that he was a far more useful asset than his appearance would imply.
She watched as he turned into a narrow alleyway towards the safehouse she was concealed in.
Although, ‘safehouse’ might have been a bit of an overstatement, considering the state of the place. It was not so much a house as a squalid, decaying room in a vast hab-block. In places, the green-tinged wallpaper was peeling to reveal mould on the bare rockcrete beneath. In one corner was a metal framed bed, the white paint of the frame flaking to reveal bare steel and orange rust, while the mattress was not so much damp as it was sodden. Water seeped into the flat through the roof, dripping and forming dirty puddles on the floor.
The place was not well-loved, that much was clear. But then it didn’t have to be.
Voltar had acquired the flat off of the desperate, poverty-stricken family of the previous occupant, a factory worker who had died after failing to reach shelter quickly enough when the rain-siren had gone off. The lethal combinations of sulphuric acid and other unsavoury chemicals did the rest as the atmosphere fought back after centuries of abuse at the hands of the heavy industry and chem-plants the planet was famed for.
Niv turned as Raoul Wayce entered the room.
“Nice place you’ve got here,” he commented dryly. “I particularly like the décor.”
“Shut up, Raoul. You’re sure nobody saw you entering the building?”
Wayce gave her a pained look. “Nice to see you too, dear. Please, Niv, don’t insult me. In my profession, I wouldn’t have lived this long if I went around being conspicuous.”
“You nearly didn’t,” replied Niv pointedly.
Wayce sniffed, offended. “That wasn’t my fault exactly. If that damn inquisitor hadn’t have intervened, I would never have needed his patronage in the first place, would I Niv?”
Niv frowned. “Don’t call me that. Besides which, watch your tongue when you talk about Titus, or else I’ll have it removed.” Her hand moved menacingly towards the grip of the Halyen 55 autopistol she kept in her pocket.
“All right, all right,” said Wayce, backing away. “I get it. What did you want to see me about, anyway.”
Niv paused and took her hand away from the gun. She exhaled before speaking.
“I need your help,” she admitted.
“I’d more or less worked that one out for myself, thanks. I didn’t think you’d called me here for a social chat, nice though that would be.”
“We’re investigating big stuff this time, Raoul. I want you and your gang to look into Delane Masmar.”
Wayce arched an eyebrow. “Gang?” he questioned, before taking a lho-stick from a battered case in his pocket and lighting it. He puffed on it gently for a moment before guffawing with laughter. Niv glared at him.
“Sorry,” he said, “there’s no way I can do that. Masmar’s the High Magister, for Throne’s sake. I appreciate your sense of irony in sending a criminal against the head of the Magistratum, but if I agree to this then I’ll be crow food within a month.” He turned towards the door.
“I’m willing to double your pay for this one,” offered Niv, and Wayce turned back to face her.
“Triple,” he said shortly. It was not a question, and Niv didn’t have time to haggle with him.
“Fine,” she said, reluctantly. “Triple it is then. I want some pretty good results for triple pay, mind.”
“Absolutely, dear,” said Wayce, elated. “What do you want to know?”
“Everything,” she replied. “Who has he seen, why’s he seen them, when did he see them, what has h been up to – anything you can find.”
“Gotcha,” he replied casually. “Anything else you want me to know before I go?”
“Yeah. You’re disgusting.”
Wayce laughed mirthlessly at that last comment as he left the building through a side door and entered the darkened alley outside. His lho-stick glowed faintly in the dim street, illuminating the dank filth that pervaded every back street in Vispektus. He whistled softly to himself, toying absently with the tracking device Niv had put in his pocket. Throne, when was that girl going to learn to be less obvious? He fastened it to his jacket lapel gently. It couldn’t do any harm to keep it on, if it mean the girl trusted him he was all for it. He shook his head. No, Niv would never trust him. He doubted Niv was capable of trusting anyone, apart from that inquisitor of hers.
“Any change, mister?” asked a voice from the shadows.
Wayce turned to see a small urchin standing in a small gap between buildings. The boy’s clothes were tattered rags, his pale skin coated with a thick layer of grime. His eyes were cold and blue, but there was something within them that alluded to a spark of brilliant intelligence.
“Come here, Yarv,” Wayce said dismissively, “you can’t fool me that easily.”
Yarv Schrooner was an orphan Wayce had 'liberated' from a foundling home in the lower hive three years earlier. Wayce had come to appreciate the boy's skills as a pickpocket and his sharp, incisive thinking. He trudged gloomily across to Wayce.
“How d’you know it was me that time?” he asked. “I did everything right.”
Wayce puffed on his lho stick before shaking his head.
“Not everything,” he said, “the mannerisms were good, but since when did people beg here? People only beg when they have lost all hope. People living here never had any.”
Yarv shrugged. “Fair enough. I’ll remember that next time. Don’t suppose you’d give me some change anyway, would you? Feed a starving child and all that?”
He ducked as Wayce cuffed him round the head.
“I might have a job for you, though,” said Wayce.
“Oh? A well-paid one, I hope?”
“Well enough,” replied Wayce. “I need you to keep an eye on someone for me.”
“Easy. Who is he then?”
Wayce let the lho stick fall to the ground before answering.
“It's a she. And her name is Nivia Vespett.”
The internal workings of the advanced cogitator system built in to Magos Beskis’ grav-chair hummed gently as the aged tech-priest navigated the complex systems governing the planetary database. His cybernetic hands danced dextrously across the hololithic keypad of the device, and the complex cabling linking his mind to the chair swayed as the power link to the ancient anti-grav motor keeping the chair aloft ebbed and flowed. The Magos’ sophisticated servo-harness jinked softly at the movement, and every now and then the little remaining flesh on Beskis’ brow would furrow as his systems uncovered ever more files.
In the corner of the room, Thurmann ignored him. He had been in Beskis’ company for long enough now to know that the tech-priest was never the most loquacious of men, and that this was doubly true when the Magos was working with his beloved cogitator banks.
Thurmann frowned as he flicked through the contents of the dataslate he held. The file itself was of limited use, detailing only the man’s highly successful career and his links to Hakan’s regime, but the vid-feed contained within it would hopefully prove more informative. He opened the vid.
The feed was linked to the security systems mounted on the walls of Masmar’s private residence and the footage dated from two years previously. The first clip showed a slightly distorted image of Masmar talking to a trio of men, two of them stocky and the third noticeably shorter than average. They were dressed in matt-black bodygloves of the type worn by Hakan’s secret police. This was not in itself surprising, but something was wrong. Thurmann fumbled with the speakers on the slate and zoomed the image in on the group. There was something about the men’s bearing that made him uneasy, something that suggested that these men were far more powerful than the rank insignia on their sleeves suggested, and that they were attempting to conceal something.
Thurmann rewound the recording to the start. The figures entered the gate and it closed behind them. They walked up to Masmar, their steps cautious and measured. Masmar asked them who they were. The governor had sent them, the small one replied, his voice harsh and authoritative. Masmar remained wary, but the words appeared to have reassured him considerably. One of the larger men – hired muscle, presumably – handed Masmar a dataslate, but the camera angle couldn’t reveal what the slate said. Masmar smiled as he read it, and embraced the man who had handed it to him.
There. Got it. Thurmann paused the feed, and zoomed in as far as the camera allowed. The footage showed the big man pinning something to Masmar’s top pocket. He let the feed continue; Masmar did not appear to have noticed, so Thurmann rewound the footage again.
The device attached to Masmar’s collar was small and round, fitting just inside the button hole. It appeared to be of crude design, but its purpose was evident.
It was a bug.
Why, though? Why would Hakan send his secret police to bug the High Magister? Masmar was one his closest allies, so why suddenly display such obvious signs of distrust? Did the High Magister know something big, perhaps? So big that Hakan was worried that it might undermine is authority? Or was Hakan simply paranoid?
The other vid-feeds were less useful, revealing little other than that Masmar regularly left his home in order to meet a fresh-faced young PDF captain and former marshal named Jarcel Lorm. Thurmann made a note to remember the information; it could prove useful later on. He gathered his data and turned to leave the room.
He stopped as he heard a metallic judder, and turned back to see that Beskis had unplugged himself from the cogitator and was now expertly manipulating the semi-broken joystick of his chair. Thurmann put down the dataslate and stood up. Behind Beskis, Sergeant-Major Payne had entered the room. The stocky Cadian wore his usual combat fatigues and glare-goggles, despite the darkness outside.
“Find anything?” he asked Beskis.
“The files are encrypted of course, but Omnissiah willing, data yield should prove adequate,” replied the Magos, his voice grating and metallic. “The files decrypted thus far have made frequent mentions of the Ministry of Commerce. I would need more time to be sure, but I would recommend further investigation.”
“You think there’s something up?” Payne asked.
Beskis fixed him with an icy stare. “I do not ‘think’ anything; I merely suggest the most logical course of action.”
“And that is to investigate this Ministry, huh?” Payne shrugged. “Sounds good. I’ll tell the chief.” The ex-soldier then turned to Thurmann.
“How ‘bout you?” he asked. Thurmann smiled triumphantly.
“I think I’m onto something,” he said, snatched up the slate once more, and strode out of the room.
Phelbas Chrome was a man who embodied all that was good, and all that was bad, about the aristocracy. He was a tall, slender man with striking features, green eyes and immaculate brown hair. He might have been handsome, but for the look of casual disdain upon his face. He wore a black velvet waistcoat detailed with gold filigree, in accordance with the latest fashion at court, and this was accompanied by a pair of matching trousers. His cuffs were white and detailed with the finest Kimictran lace work to be found in the subsector. His shoes were of excellent manufacture and were made from polished black leather, and he wore a striped red-and-grey tie emblazoned with the crest of House Chrome. He bore himself with a subtle poise and finesse that bordered on arrogance, and he wore dark moleskin gloves to protect his hands; although from what exactly was anyone’s guess. From his appearance, it was easy to dismiss him as a dandy.
But to do so would be a mistake.
Inside his waistcoat, he bore a slim customised laspistol, its power cells built into the polished wooden pistol grip. His gold signet ring concealed a powerful one-shot las and, more visibly, at his side was a beautifully crafted rapier, the power vanes running along the blade detailed
Even more visible were the retainers that walked assuredly behind him, a pair of heavy-set men wearing matt-black bodygloves with bulges under the arms which betrayed the presence of heavy Filippian 9mm autopistols. These were former bounty hunters, strong, skilled and resourceful. Both wore expressions of mild distaste as they followed their master through the filth of the sink-stacks towards Chrome’s parked transporter. Their master was expected to survey his manufactories in the area frequently; and so the expression was one Chrome was used to seeing.
Production was good; there could be no doubting that. The introduction of the new servitor units in the Caivuria Plant had massively increased efficiency, while the loyalty of those workers not ‘decruited’ was purchased with a pay increase of almost five per cent.
But Chrome was not interested in the manufactories right now. He flicked irritably at the scratched and faded screen of the wrist cogitator he wore.
It was a rare piece, its complex circuitry hidden neatly by grey plastek casing. Beneath the misted glass was displayed information on weather, time, and date, along with a micro-picter, myriad data decryption tools and the activation for the emergency comms-link secreted within the device.
A comms-link that had been used less than five minutes beforehand.
Whoever it was pursuing him had been tipped off about his visit to Caivura. As he left the facility, he, his manservant Hernim and his bodyguards had been set upon by armed men. Hernim and two of his retainers had fallen as they struggled to break free, aided by manufactory workers armed with staves and metal tubing.
He cast a nervous glance over his shoulder as he approached the transporter. Nobody was following them. Good.
“Stay here while I deal with something,” he instructed the bodyguards, who grunted their assent and turned around. Chrome unlocked the doors to the vehicle. There was a powerful thrum as the delicate anti-grav thrusters on the underside burst into life, illuminating the dirty rockcrete paving underneath with cold, blue light. Chrome got into the driver’s seat and sat down with a sigh of relief.
The emotion was short-lived as he turned to find himself looking down the barrel of a laspistol at a female figure dressed in a black
bodyglove made of glossy plastek. Her head was hidden by a face-mask of the same material.
“What the –” he started, but was cut off as the woman removed her mask and threw it unceremoniously on the seat beside her. A flicker of surprise and recognition crossed his noble features and he shook his head disbelievingly before he regained his composure. The woman had made frequent visits to the court before the rise of Hakan, and had been one of the Governor’s most vocal opponents prior to his election. Then she’d disappeared, and Chrome had assumed her to be dead.
“Yes, Phelbas, it’s me. Try not to look so surprised about it. I am with the Inquisition now, after all.” She drew a rosette from her pocket as evidence.
“You’re with the Inquisition?” he parroted.
“Yes, and I need your help, Phelbas.”
“Mine? I’ll do my best, absolutely, but I don’t see how I can help you.”
“My master needs information, and fast. Your man Hernim was one of ours. Unfortunately, it seems that somebody blew his cover, and now he’s dead. Something big is happening, something important.”
“Does - does the governor know about this?” queried Chrome, eying the gun uneasily. Seeing his discomfort, Niv lowered the gun, but did not holster it.
"Governor Hakan is currently being held by my master on charges of heresy. I don’t think he’ll be of much use. And that’s why I need you. I want you to look into what’s going on in the court, particularly House Masmar. I want to know who the first to start pressing for power is, who’s backing them, what Delane Masmar is doing. Your son’s in the Magistratum, he might be able to help you get close to Masmar.”
“I’ll whatever I can,” he said hesitantly, “but there might be a slight problem.”
“What?” asked Niv.
“High Magister Masmar was found in his home half an hour ago,” Chrome said softly. “He’s dead.”
Voltar was sat in the primary living chamber of the flat with his back to the door. He gazed out at the city below, rapping his fingers gently against the layered wood of the chair. The room was luxuriously equipped with glittering chandeliers, although these were largely for show, while the actual light for the room was provided by a simple but effective pair of glow-orbs that bathed the room in white light. The walls were of lacquered wood after the fashion of the renowned local architect Paegar Linssk. The furniture was solid and also Linsskian in design, while in one corner there was a large fireplace, above which was a marble mantelpiece decorated with ornamental klaylware. There was a mahogany desk on one side of the room, and beside it was a large bookshelf which had until recently been unloved and used only to store the cheap paperbacks favoured by the previous owner. Now, however, it was well-stocked, filled with the contents of Voltar’s own, extensive library.
Colquhoun stood in the corner, holding a copy of DeRonall’s The Hand of Judgement. The work was an authoritative, direct piece, as one might expect of the work of an Imperial Commissar-General, but it had its merits and it suited the taciturn Judge well.
Outside, the sky was a dark sludgy brown, with dirty orange smudges in the background as poisonous gases bled into the atmosphere from the vast industrial chimneys that spewed them out. The flames of refinery plants burned in the distance, like flickering candles on the horizon. Meanwhile, vast, blocky hab units and hive structures made of rockcrete and plasteel thrust upwards into the sky like so many daggers into the heart of the night. Casting his mind out beyond the confines of the room, Voltar was immediately assaulted by the alchemical stench and horrific din of the hive, sounds of life that the flat’s soundproofed walls had kept at bay. Despite the time of night, the streets were still packed, with workers leaving their offices and factories on their way home. He searched for any eavesdropping thought pirates; he found nothing unusual. Reassured, Voltar reined his mind in. The door opened, and Thurmann entered alongside Payne. The interrogator had an air of urgency about him, while Payne was as assured and relaxed as always. Payne swigged gently on a flask of caffeine. Slowly, Voltar revolved the chair.
“You’ve found something.” It wasn’t a question.
“It’s Masmar. We’ve got a lead, but we need to act now before it’s too late.”
“What is it?” asked Voltar. It was Thurmann who answered.
“He knows something. I don’t know what it is, but Hakan’s secret police thought it was worth paying him a visit a month ago and they bugged him. We need to know why, and, more importantly, we need to know what’s so important that the Governor’s closest ally can’t be trusted with it.”
Voltar thought for a moment before answering.
“I see. How long do we have before the court finds out that we’ve got Hakan?”
“Not long. I’ve spread it through the data systems of the leading houses that he’s taken ill and can’t see anyone, but that won’t last long. And when the secret police find out, then Masmar will be in danger.”
“He’s right, you know,” intervened Payne, putting the caffeine down on the desk. “Send me and Col. We’ll bring him in.” The abbreviation of the Judge’s name earned him a glare from Colquhoun.
“There’d be too much collateral,” disagreed Thurmann, “we can’t afford to telegraph our presence here.”
“I agree,” said Voltar, measuring his words carefully after briefly considering the suggestion. “We can’t go down the centre this time. It’s too risky and could jeopardise Niv’s operation. Besides, we don’t even know who we’re dealing with yet. We can’t do it.”
His words were followed by a moment’s silence.
“We have to do something to keep him safe,” said Colquhoun pragmatically.
“It’s too late for that,” said a soft, female voice, and they all turned to see the slight figure of Niv Vespett standing in the entrance of the room, framed in the open doorway.
“What do you mean?” asked Thurmann.
“I mean that Masmar is dead.”
Voltar swore angrily.
“Emperor's teeth,” he cursed, his voice a low whisper, “looks like we’ve lost our best lead.”
“There’s more,” said Vespett, “one of my assets is gone. He was a manservant to a minor nobleman, and one of my most reliable sources. His cover got blown before I could reach him. I’ve recruited his master instead – his master was there when he died and the two had been as close as was possible, given their social status. With any luck, he’ll be as useful and his cover will hold, but I’m not holding out too much hope. He’s been fairly useful already, though, so it won’t have been a completely wasted effort. HE told me that Masmar was shot in the head with a silenced Type 10 Mrillian autopistol. Looks like the kind of kit you’d give to a special ops unit, like a counter-insurgence unit or secret police.”
“That matches what we know,” said Voltar.
“Beskis thinks he’s onto something,” suggested Payne. “Said something about the Ministry of Commerce, or something.” He shrugged. “Just a suggestion,” he added.
“That would make sense,” offered Niv, “the Ministry was set up by Hakan when he first came to power. It seems to have kept itself to itself, but it’s difficult to say what it’s actually for, so it could be some kind of secret police force. It was formed from the remnants of the old Department of Trade, but I don’t know how big it is now.”
“If it’s being used as some kind of secret police unit, then it must be fairly large,” said Colquhoun.
“Yes, but do we really know that that’s what it has been doing? I’ve heard rumours on the street that it’s engaged in some kind of religious role, or that it was secretly ruling the planet, preposterous though it sounds. It could even be that it really is just some administrative unit that got embroiled in politics by accident, and if that's the case - and though I hate to admit it, I think that's more likely that the possibility that they are directly involved - then it won't help us very much. The truth is, we just don’t know,” replied Niv.
“I see,” said Voltar, “anything else anyone wants to add?”
“Yes,” said Thurmann. “I might have another lead. Over the past three years, Masmar was visited at least three times by a PDF officer and former senior marshal named Jarcel Lorm. The meetings have been more frequent lately. I suggest we look into him, and maybe ask him a few questions.”
“That sounds promising. If he was senior, then maybe he knows what Masmar knew,” suggested Niv.
“Agreed.” Voltar turned in his chair.
“So what are we going to do?” asked Payne.
Voltar smiled out at the spires of Hive Vispektus.
“We’re going to find Lorm. Bring him in.”
I like it, political intrigue, bugs and spy games.
You seem to have gone more "His Majestys secret service." Than "Spanish Inquisition."
It seems to be a line not many people follow, most just embrace the GrimDark and bust out the torture rack by the second paragraph.
I'd like to offer a few critiques or pointers but I don't realy have anything to add. It's a solid piece of character establishment and situation set-up.
I look forward to reading more.
In the 41st millenium there is no such thing as paranoia, the universe realy is out to get you!
Thanks, that was precisely the idea. I find that although the Spanish Inquisition was cool, there are only so many routes you can take the concept, and if the Inquisition really went around declaring exterminatus as regularly as it would seem there would be no imperium left to save. Not to mention that I am rather fond of the HMSS route, since it offers the potential for backstabbing, double-and-triple crossing and reflects the lives of the countless billions of ordinary imperial citizens locked in the drudgery of daily life. As you can probably tell, I am a big fan of Abnett's, particularly Ravenor.
I should have some more to post up soon, but social life has been a bit busy of late. Hopefully I'll have some more up by later today.
Wow, nothing to add? Careful, my head won't fit through the door by the time I leave the room...
Well... Can't be letting you ego swell to much.
One thing I guess I could suggest. It has a fairly slow pace, which is fine for an establishment scene and it builds the tension nicely. But the tension needs to deliver or it'll start getting boring.
Men in black bumping off officials, secretive shadow organizations and conspiracy make a lot of promises. If the story doesn't deliver on these promises with some explosions soon I'll feel let down.
In the 41st millenium there is no such thing as paranoia, the universe realy is out to get you!
More words. This ought to be the last scene before action, thought I'd twist the knife a moment longer
The opulent chambers Raoul Wayce used as his headquarters were somewhat out of touch with the misery of the sink stacks nearby. In one corner stood a cupboard, beautifully crafted from imported nalwood and with handles carved to resemble dragons’ heads. The piece possessed a polished sheen that Wayce had been particularly pleased by when he had first seen it. The floor was carpeted in crimson fabric detailed with golden aquilas, a luxurious product smuggled from the neighbouring system of Desfan. The desk that sat at the back of the room was of similarly excellent quality, and had been imported – though from where Wayce wasn’t entirely sure. Lighting was provided by a pair of antique chem-lamps on a plain wooden cabinet, and the guttering flames lent the room an air of danger. Wayce was not a man who could afford to become complacent, and the lighting provided some small reminder of this fact.
Wayce strode purposefully past the armed thugs who guarded the entrance to the room, giving them only a cursory nod to acknowledge their presence.
Inside the room stood five of his finest, his lieutenants, men and women of differing backgrounds and class but who all shared the same glint of steely determination and shrewd intellect valued by their master. All were now well established criminals themselves, but chose to follow Wayce and would continue to do so for so long as it profited them to do so. Wayce had seen the potential in each of them and elevated them to the positions they currently held.
He surveyed the people before him. On the left stood a tall, arrogant man in his sixties with his silver hair swept back from his face. He wore a blue suit of simple but refined design that alluded to its immense price tag, and a white shirt. His trousers matched the jacket perfectly, and were detailed with gold buttons in the military style. This was Hern Varij, an aristocrat from one of the larger ascendant houses. He might be useful here, but then again his loyalties might be too questionable for the risk to be worthwhile.
Next to Varij was the figure of Jartuin Pern, his torn bodyglove contrasting sharply with the smartly dressed man beside him. Pern had been a gladiator at the Caivurian arena before Wayce had found him in the middle of a retaliatory strike at a rival and taken him under his wing, and bore the scars of those days as badges of honour. Beside him stood Lirian Grine, a master pickpocket with a prominent nose and a squint that combined to give him the appearance of a weasel. He was short and walked with an obvious stoop. He too might be of use.
Quira Leitt was a young woman with long, dark hair and a voluptuous figure, and from her appearance one might have been inclined to say that she was only present because of her looks had it not have been for the coldness of her grey eyes and the blades concealed within her corset.
Finally, Nira Partewn was a hard eyed whore in her thirties from the lower hive. She was the least useful for this operation on paper, but Wayce had learnt never to underestimate the amount of information a low-ranking Administratum official might happen to overhear and then let slip to the right woman.
“Well, this is nice,” he commented brightly, “and so nice to see so many old friends too.”
“Drop it, Wayce,” said Varij coldly. “This had best no be a waste of my time. I have better things to do than attend to your problems.”
“On the contrary, Hern, I brought you here to discuss a most interesting business proposal I was offered today by an old acquaintance of mine. The job isn’t easy –,” he smiled deprecatingly at Wayce, “I would hardly waste your time if it was; but my client finds their wallet a little heavy and have offered triple the usual commission for the job.”
“What is the job exactly?” asked Quira, her eyes narrowing suspiciously, “it sounds dangerous.”
“My dear Quira, it would hardly be requiring of your skills if it were, would it? I will tell you in good time, but first I need to be sure I can rely on you. I want your
agreements on this beforehand.”
“I don’t like it,” pressed Varij, “this isn’t standard practice.”
The others murmured their agreement.
“I am aware of that fact, Hern, but this isn’t a standard job. So will you do it or not?”
“I’m in,” came a deep voice from the back of the room, a sound like primal thunder concealed beneath layers of civilisation. The five men and women turned, and Wayce drew his pistol in surprise. The figure to whom the voice belonged was a handsome man, tall and well built. He wore grey flak armour and dark combat fatigues that marked him out as an imperial guardsman, and he wore the uniform well. His hair was black and crew cut.
Wayce lowered his pistol, stunned, as he recognised the man. He recovered his composure within seconds.
“Trooper Anias Gavron. I had not thought to see you again.”
“Believe me when I say that the feeling is entirely mutual.” He strode forwards and clapped Wayce on the back.
“Relax, Raoul. I’ve long since forgotten any grudge I may have borne against you. Now, what was this job?”
Wayce smiled slighlty, placated only a little by the gesture.
“I need their word on it first,” he said, indicating the others.
“I’ll do it then,” grumbled Varij reluctantly, and the others slowly murmured their assent.
“Good. Well, that rather settles it, doesn’t it Raoul?” said Gavron.
Wayce paused for a moment, as if considering his options.
“Alright then. My client wants information.”
“That’s what you swore us to secrecy for? Throne, Raoul, but you’re growing soft,” said Gavron, clearly unimpressed. “There’s more, so just tell us.”
“Gavron is, of course, correct. There is a catch to all this. The subject we are to study is the High Magister.”
The statement was met by a stunned silence.
“Masmar? Are you serious? We’ll never get anywhere near him, ‘cept for our tame aristo over there,” sneered Quira, indicating Varij scornfully. The nobleman shot her a
poisonous glance in return.
“I’m sure that it will pose no problem for operatives of your -.” Wayce paused for a moment. “Quality,” he finished, carefully.
“Aye, and don’t you forget it, ninker,” shot back Quira, but it was already apparent that she had lost the argument.
“Thank you for your contribution, Miss Leitt, but I would be interested to see what is in it for us,” said Gavron.
“As I said, I’m getting triple commission on this. You will be rewarded. I guarantee it.”
Gavron nodded. Nobody was willing to question Wayce further on the issue.
“That would seem to be all. Ladies and gentlemen, I will not lie to you. This will not be easy, and if anything happens then you are on your own. You may leave.”
All save Gavron turned towards the exit.
“Do have a care with the furniture,” he said with a pained expression as Pern collided with the cabinet on his way out. The warrior shrugged apologetically.
After they had left the room, Wayce turned to Gavron.
“How long have you been following me?” he demanded.
“Long enough,” shrugged the soldier. “Long enough to know that you haven’t told them the important details, and to know what those details were. Long enough to know that this is another job to keep the inquisition off your arse, and long enough to know that you’ve taken measures to protect yourself if anything goes wrong with this. ”
It was now Wayce’s turn to shrug.
“Of course. I was never going to leave myself unprotected on this. Besides, Yarv’s a good lad. I can trust him.”
“So what have you been doing with yourself since you hung me out to dry all those years ago?” asked Gavron, changing the subject unexpectedly.
“This and that. I had no choice, you know that Anias. I wouldn’t have left you there if I’d had my way.”
“Relax, Raoul. I understand the decision. If we’re going to work together we will have to put the events of the Rising to ourselves. What I want to know is, does Nivia
Vespett about the Ministry?”
Raoul Wayce paused momentarily before replying. His answer was a single word.
More words at last!
The Pavilion was the name locals attached to the PDF headquarters in Vispektus, a large compound containing a series of grey rockrete fortifications. It also served as the district administrative centre and was currently playing host to a military triumphal parade celebrating victories on the main crusade fronts far to the galactic north, and it was these facts that Voltar hoped would be of help to their operation. The entrance to the Pavilion was a strong gateway guarded by a number of PDF troops armed with heavy weapons and dressed in scarlet ceremonial uniforms. A large crowd thronged the area, forcing their way forwards through the gate security and creating clicking sounds as their boots moved across the black ouslite slabs that paved the floor. From his black Hogan 39 transporter, Voltar watched the crowd impassively before reaching for the comms link in his sleeve. Although he could communicate directly with his operatives, the risk of another psyker in the region overhearing his commands was too great to venture until they were inside the compound. He flicked the voxponder to send before speaking into it.
“Everything alright?” he asked the team. Individually, they all responded, and Voltar smiled as he saw Payne and Colquhoun, dressed as guardsmen, moved through the security barrier, and he knew that somewhere in the mass of humanity Niv and Thurmann would be posing as civilians come to watch the procession. He waited for several moments before hearing Niv over the vox.
The triumphal procession was an impressive event indeed, but Niv had little time to admire its grandeur. She forced her way through the crowds, followed by Thurmann. The interrogator looked uncomfortable and slightly out of place in the grimy robes he wore, and his eyes scanned the crowd for any sign of something unusual. Niv fought back the urge to drag him close and tell him not to be a fool. His nerves were justifiable, after all, given that this was not one of the qualities the inquisitor had chosen him for by any stretch of the imagination. Thurmann was foremost a master of electronic surveillance and of gunfights, neither of which involved skills transferrable to roles such as this one.
But still…the amateurish nervousness and heightened awareness of the interrogator was dangerous. She would have to keep an eye on him. She swore under her breath. That was the last thing she needed, a rookie to nursemaid.
She grabbed him by the arm to pull him closer as he collided with a pair of well-dressed locals, mumbling an apology as she forced him forwards.
“Move faster,” she hissed at him. “And stop worrying. You’re making me nervous.”
“Sorry,” he apologised, “I’ll try not to.”
Niv stopped as they neared the barriers that marked the boundaries over which civilians were not permitted. She scanned the troops in sight for Lorm, but she saw nobody to match the picts Thurmann had shown her before the operation. She turned to Thurmann, and he shook his head too. Nothing.
+Anything?+ Voltar’s voice floated into Niv’s head.
“No,” she said, “nothing at all.”
+Keep looking then. He’s in here somewhere.+
“Got that. I’ll keep my eyes-” Niv cut herself off as she saw the unmistakeable glint of magnoculars at the top of one of the fortress towers.
+Niv?+ asked Voltar.
“I thought you’d seen to it that the towers would be empty,” she accused Thurmann, ignoring Voltar for a moment.
“I did,” he said, confused.
“Well what in the Throne’s name is that?” Niv asked, pointing at the glint. Thurmann merely shrugged.
“That’s not officially meant to be there.”
Niv grimaced. That could only mean one thing.
“Sir, we have a situation. Suspected rival operatives sighted in the area.”
+Damn, I really don’t need this Niv. Use all necessary force to deal with this. I’ll inform the others.+
Niv turned to Thurmann.
“Loras? I want you to stay here and watch what’s going on. We need to find Lorm before they do.”
“Fine. I’ve only one question.”
“Who are ‘they?’”
Total Word Count = OVER 9000!
Not sure whether I like this last section or not, but its a short one and there's some action in a second, so I can't be bothered to change it for now. Perhaps later.
Ooh, and 300th post. that has to be something.
Yarv forced his way through the crowd with the practiced ease of one used to travelling the busier streets of Vispektus, and had already liberated several wallets from their previous owners when he caught sight of his quarry. He tracked her as she made her way through the mass of humanity, and was about to make after her when he paused and frowned or a moment.
Something was wrong, that much was evident. Niv Vespett moved with a conspicuous urgency, suggesting that the matter she was dealing with was of some importance. Worse, the fact that she was here meant that she could interfere with Wayce’s own operations in the area, which could cause huge collateral damage and result in the failure of both operations. He began to follow her more slowly, considering his options. He had to contact Wayce somehow. But how? He had no direct line of communication with Wayce, and finding him would mean abandoning his mission. He took a moment to make his decision. Niv would surely be heading towards Wayce’s operatives, and perhaps if he could cut ahead of her he could contact one of them. Pern would know what to do if he could find him. He smiled as he thought of the time he had spent with the gladiator in the practice ring as a boy. Yes, Pern would help him. He snatched out his identification papers as he passed through a security cubicle before resuming his pursuit.
Another quick update. I think I could grow to like this man....
The assassin cradled his rifle carefully, checking the sights and wiping the barrel clean with a dedication and care born of years of accumulated skill and respect for the weapon. He gently caressed the cold, hard iron of the long barrel before smoothing his gloved hands across the polished wooden stock.
The weapon was a simple one, an old-fashioned projectile-based weapon with an unwieldy barrel and impractically large recoil, but the assassin liked it nonetheless. It had been with him since the beginning, there with him for every kill.
Oh, yes, he loved the weapon. He loved the awkward angling of the scope, the satisfying thump of the weapon as it slammed into his shoulder following a kill shot. This was the weapon that had made his name.
He was good. Nobody denied that, and he was not the type of man given over to the type of false modesty that would allow him to deny it himself. His hands worked methodically and with practiced ease as he affixed the silencer to the end of the weapon. The attachment fitted easily, the well-oiled grooves which allowed it to fit on the weapon sliding around the end of the barrel with little sound. There was no need to draw attention to himself.
He drew himself up and gave his attendant a cursory nod before he brought the barrel up to rest on the parapet. His face hardened into a mask of concentration behind the respirator unit of his carapace armour as he swept the weapon across the crowd, squinting down the sight through the crosshairs. To his immediate north, at the centre of the compound, Lord General Olenus, commander of the forces in the sector, droned on at unnecessary length. Beyond that, the guard units drilled in perfect formation, and further across, to the north of that, on the edge of the compound, he could see the matt grey transporter his masters at the Ministry favoured for missions such as this. Good.
He swept the weapon still further afield, scanning the dense crowds for signs of his target. He couldn’t see him, but the PDF forces weren’t fully deployed yet. The fact he had not arrive did not unduly worry him. The crowds seemed to be calm. Again, this was good. Everything was as it should be.
Except… he swung his rifle back round in a double take as he saw the five figures in PDF uniforms moving towards the towers. There was nothing unusual about this, but there was something about the way they wore the uniforms that made him uneasy. Despite the lengths they had gone to to look like the security forces, these were not PDF. He slowly turned around to face his attendant once more.
“Charettus?” he said, calmly. His voice was a reedy, dry whisper.
“My lord?” The attendant sounded distinctly uncomfortable. His master was not a man given to frequent speech.
“Inform Lord Serenor that he and his men below might have some…company shortly.”
“Yes, lord. Of course, lord.” The man turned away too quickly to hide the concerned expression on his face. A familiar chill ran down his spine at the prospect of a firefight.
“I only ask you to enact my orders, not to like them. Dismissed.”
Last edited by Captain Corrigan; January 23rd, 2012 at 21:22.
Nice tension building.
A good read, though sometimes it seems to be dragging on a bit, just a twist too many with the knife sort of speaking .
Now what I do wonder is:
In an age were people fire plasma, lasers and rocked propelled self exploding bolts, and armour appropriate to counter such weapons (at least the laser). Would an assassin really use an old gun powder rifle? (at least, I get the idea he's using one). Even the most basic armour that the Imperial Guard and Planetary Defence Forces use are able to stop such a bullet with ease. Now I might have read it wrong though. but in my imagination I now see someone on top of a tower stalking the ground below with an Dragunov SVD and I sincerely doubt it will do much damage in the Grimness and Darkness of the 41st century.
Can't wait for the rest of this though