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Thread: The Demon

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    Junior Member Nikolaevich's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
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    The Demon

    The Demon by Bluewpc

    The Sewer

    Catherine stood on a cold concrete floor, her body bare to the elements. She stood in the center of a large expanse enclosed on all sides by concrete walls that rose up for as far as they eye could see. On opposite sides of the room were two manhole covers of identical proportions. They stood a few feet off the ground and a clean white steam could be seen emanating from below. A cold wind blew from nowhere the chill it caused forced her to wrap her arms around her body. Everything around her was gray save for the large red rusted pipes that leaked a thick black fluid onto the ground below. What lay beyond the pipes was a mystery; a thick mist blocked everything that might have been behind wispy clouds.

    A sudden movement off to her left snatched her attention from the filthy pipes above. Beside her where there had been nothing but a second before a boy whom she’d never seen before was now standing next to her. He was stark naked and covered in layers of grime that nearly hid his pale complexion. The boy stood almost four feet tall putting him just slightly taller than her. His face was a mask of rage directed at something across the room. Catherine followed his gaze to across the room until her eyes rested on another man who had mysteriously appeared, leaning against a large ivory chair. His appearance was frightening to say the least; like herself the man was naked but his skin was covered in thousands of lacerations ran the length of his body, intersecting with other cuts. The man’s face was hidden behind long strands of pure black hair that hung elegantly from his head.

    The man noticing that he’d attracted her attention stood up straight and beckoned with his hand. As soon as the gesture was finished both Catherine and the strange boy were ripped from their feet by an unseen force. Breathing hard Catherine looked over to the boy just in time to see him dragged off screaming into the manhole behind her. Suddenly as if on cue whatever force had taken away the screaming boy bore down on her and ripped her across the concrete floor, the skin on her back tearing free as she was dragged into the second hole.
    The Bathroom Mirror

    Catherine stared in disbelief at the disheveled visage in the mirror. Her hair was cut a quarter of an inch from her scalp and lice held free reign over its domain. The torn and tattered wife beater she wore had been stained a filthy yellow and brown. Her blue black sweat shorts hung loosely from her malnourished body. Her body was covered in dirt that did nothing to cover the many bruises on her face, neck and shoulders. Her feet were bleeding from the many cuts she’d incurred on the broken tile floor she stood on and the piping underneath the sink leaked water that ran across her feet, stinging her already butchered feet. On the edge of the dilapidated sink lay a long blade of glass. Catherine picked the shimmering blade and in a single deft movement plunged it into her neck and cut through her throat causing bright red blood to splash in the laughing face of her maniacal twin.
    The Librarian

    Catherine burst though the yellow double doors, breathing hard. The thick wire was still wrapped tightly around her left arm and the strain caused her veins to bulge. She quickly shut the doors behind her just as the rope went taut and started to pull her back. She slammed into the doors with a skull rattling crunch the impact shattering her forearm. Suddenly the wire went limp again and she slumped to the ground quietly collecting herself. After a few seconds she got up and looked around surprised to find that an old man was sleeping soundly not five feet from her, sitting in a plastic chair and his wizened head resting on a large desk that reminded her of those her scholam teacher had once sat at. The man wore a light brown pair of wool slacks and a brown vest over a white coffee stained undershirt. A feeling bordering on relief washed over Catherine and she broke out into a sprint.

    “Wake up!” She cried as she ran. Inches away from the old man the line went taut again and she was pulled off her feet. The pain in her arm was excruciating but she ignored it, instead grabbing the wire with her right arm and using her feet to brace herself against the tiled floor. Despite her exertions she found herself being dragged to the doors at an alarming rate.

    “Get up! Help me!” She called out but the old man showed no signs of stirring from his deep slumber. She screamed as she slid across the floor the skin on her feet being shorn away by the friction. When she reached the door she braced her feet against them and called out again.

    “Help me! Get up! Get up! For God’s sake help me!” She called out again and again but her screams devolved into sobbing pleas when the blood inside her arm, under extreme pressure from the wire, and with nowhere else to go popped out of the ends of her fingertips, spraying little jets of blood against the cold metal doors. Catherine let out a horrible scream as she watched the splotches of blood on the door grow larger with every heartbeat. The terrible agony however seemed to have worked in her favor. The nightmarish howl jolted the old man from his slumber and his eyes searched frantically round the room for its origin. When he saw Catherine he jumped up and rushed to her side.

    “Let go of it!” He screamed at her as he took hold of the wire with his right hand. With the other he pulled out a small knife and went to work on cutting the wire. The blade was sharp but wire is not cut easily and for an agonizing minute the old man worked frantically, slicing and stabbing at the wire until finally, with an ear shattering crack it came free.

    The Bathtub and the Elevator

    Sam felt his body squeeze through the tubs drain, the sheer impossibility of the feat doing nothing to prevent its happening. Pain wracked his body as it was compressed and then depressed as his body passed through the narrow and unlikely entrance. It took five agonizing minutes until the tips of his toes finally made it through. When he recovered enough from the pain Sam took in his surroundings. He found himself in another enclosed room; each wall was formed from concrete save for the wall in front of him which was made of metal and from inside the sadistic grinding of gears could be heard. The butchered man was there too, leaning against what appeared to be a doorway to whatever hell awaited him. Standing next to him in a simple loincloth and shaking with fear was a small boy who couldn’t have been older than six. The man beckoned at me with his finger and I stepped out of the tub and onto the dirt floor.

    As I walked towards the man I heard a blaring noise from inside the metal frame and I stopped dead in my tracks. The noise continued to ring until finally an elevator locked into place on the floor with a great hiss. With the elevator locked in the door rose up and disappeared into the ceiling above revealing a space just large enough to fit a child. Inside however were a number of octagonal slabs of metal that rotated around the space where one would stand. I quickly noticed that if one were to stay still while inside than the poor soul would soon be crushed beyond all recognition. As soon as the door finished opening the man stuck his head inside and looked around. Satisfied that all was well with his motorized contraption he motioned to me and again despite my fear and hatred I came closer.

    “One of you two going to get in?” The man said a hint of a smile just barely visible behind his black hair. It seemed that the man’s flesh wasn’t the only thing that was butchered; his voice had a sickly wet sound that was entrancing. The two boys exchanged glances of dread before Sam grabbed the smaller boy by the shoulders and forced him into the death trap before stepping back a few feet. As soon as the young boy was inside the rotating slabs locked in place trapping the boy’s arm outside the elevator.

    “I think you’ll be glad to know that the first one down there will find themselves very…deserted.” The man said adding a wet laugh at the end. The man pressed a glowing orange button and the elevator began to descend. From outside the elevator Sam could hear the boy whimpering as the elevator began its descent. As it got closer to the ground he could see the boy’s arm flail around in a desperate attempt to bring it back inside. His struggles were in vain for in the next second the boys’ arm was torn off with a wicked scream and Sam felt hot blood splash against his legs. When the elevator was out of sight Sam turned to regard the mutilated man.
    “Cesar wanted revenge on Brutus my boy and you know what? I got it for him. I give power boy always remember that, what you want I have and am willing to give for a price. Speak boy, what do you want?” He said with a devilish grin.

    “I want revenge.” Sam said the age old rage building up inside of him again.

    “Everyone wants revenge boy, a cheatin’ spouse, a lyin’ friend, a knife in the back.”

    And then I woke up. This was actually a dream (or nightmare really) I had last night and I decided what the hell might as well write it up. Kind of funny, the blaring noise turned out to be my neighbor’s car; someone broke into it around three in the morning and the alarm went off. Kind of strange how real life mixes in with dreams. By the way I know the whole thing’s fragmentary, I really tried to dredge up all the details I could, but such are the way of dreams. I’m kind of thinking I’d flesh out the characters (The names of course are made up) a little depending on how people felt about it. So leave comments and opinions, we’ll see about continuing this little nightmare later in the future. Freudians are welcome to their analysis cause’ I have absolutely no idea where the hell this came from.

    The Talks

    “What’s wrong boy? You don’t like my cookin’?”

    The butchered man gave Sam a wolfish grin as he tore a single rib from the rack and sticking a long, fleshy, barbed tongue out ripped the flesh from the bone drawing it back into his waiting maw. The man chewed the tender meat noisily with sweet relish before breaking the bone in two and sucking out the marrow. When he’d finished with the bone he chucked it aside on the ground and lustily licked the remaining juices from his blood stained lips.

    The man questioned in his slow playful way. Sam toyed with the rack of ribs that rested on the fine silver platter before him. It wasn’t an elevator he thought to himself, it was an oven. Displayed before him on a small chestnut table were the remains of the young boy who for several long hours had been cooked alive. Upon removing the boy from the glowing hot elevator the butchered man dragged the smoking corpse and proceeded to skin the body with a small reaping knife. Despite the extreme heat that had been applied the boy’s skin showed no signs of charring and once the man had finished he draped it over the table like a cloth, taking time to smooth out the wrinkles and make sure it was evenly distributed. Even still the boy’s face flapped freely at the end of table.

    With his ghastly decoration complete he set about harvesting each of the boy’s organs the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, all were removed and placed inside a large elaborately styled bowl. He did however throw the intestines and stomach off into a corner where they sat even now. He pulled the boys ribs free with a sickening crack and proceeded to gather up muscles and tendons placing each inside the bowl. The butchered man gazed up at Sam, “I’m a chef boy I got skills you’ve never seen before. Be a good lad and set the table for me while I do my magic.” He said as he got up and vanished into a solid wall.

    Once the man had disappeared Sam looked around the room. In a single corner was a cabinet. Sam walked over it his mind barely registering the pain in his feet as he tread across the rocky floor. He opened the cabinet and took out a pair of expensive looking plates as well as a pair of blue dyed whine chalices. He set the tableware on the cooked boy’s skin before returning for silverware. No sooner had he finished setting down the last fork did the butchered man return the same way he’d gone carrying several plates of delicately prepared platters of food wearing an apron that read KISS THE COOK.

    “No napkins boy?” The man said menacingly. For a moment Sam feared retaliation for the lapse in judgment but the man’s hateful very literally melted into a warm smile. He set a rack of steaming ribs on Sam’s plate that made him salivate despite knowing its origins. “Just kidding boy, take a seat while I get ourselves something to drink.” Sam obeyed and took a seat at the far end of the table. The butchered man walked over to the boy’s body and kicked it over. Then he grabbed the spine and ripped it out before walking back to the table.

    “Nothing like cerebrospinal fluid, sweet taste, quenches the hardest thirst.” The man said with a chuckle before he drained the spine into each of the chalices in the same manner one would ring water out of a wet towel. When he’d eked out the last of the clear he took each eye and impaled them on a small plastic stick, placing them in the chalice. When he’d finished the final touches of the feast he cast aside the apron and took a seat at the opposite end of the table.

    “Bow your head boy and give thanks! A feast has been laid before you eat heartily boy, heh, actually I got dibs on the heart so hands off!” The man said before letting out a phlegm coated laugh.

    “You want revenge boy we know that much, but ‘why’ is my question and in more than one way boy. Why do you want revenge boy and why should I help you. What’s in it for me? You gonna pledge your service and give me your soul? What use is that to me? I got souls, thousands of them, all kinds of them. Human, Tau, Eldar, Ork, hell I even ripped the essence of a Necron Lord that thought he was pretty bad ass and he was, till he met me. Who do you want boy? Tell me now.” The man said before tearing into the rib.

    “Elliot, my stepfather,” Sam said as he stared blankly at the two empty holes where the boy’s eyes should have been, “he killed my mom and my older brother, and then he crashed the colony’s ship here. If it wasn’t for him…” Sam drifted off. The butchered man took a moment to consider the irony of the boy’s words. If it hadn’t been for dear Elliot he’d never would’ve had the opportunity to meet this most promising of children. The man’s lips began to form a smile but he stopped suddenly. ‘Damn girl got away,’ he thought disappointedly as he realized the wire was no longer wrapped around her pretty little arm.

    “He’s a horrible man Sam,” he said putting a lyrical twist to his words, “and I’ll get you your revenge, for a price. All things happen for a reason, whether we realize it or not and I think you were sent to me for a reason beyond your understanding. I isn’t very sure by who but I have a hunch. You’re special there boy, got a cold heart that beats fast and hard. I’ll do right by ya boy but you gotta do right by me.”

    “What do you mean?” Sam asked looking up from the steamed face and into the man’s burning eyes.

    “I got a little something, a little something of mine that’s disappeared and I want it back or dead, preferably the former.” The man said.

    “What is it?” Sam asked with wonder. Flames were jetting out of the man’s eyes now and Sam couldn’t help but gaze at their beauty with awe and not a little trepidation.

    “Not to worry about it now boy, it’s just a little thing.” The man said as he took a sip from his regal looking chalice, “Actually no. Here’s my deal with you boy. Go and fetch a little something for me and I’ll bless your body with a strength you’ve never known. Crush the life out of your pappy with your bare and bloody hands.”

    The butchered man set the chalice down and picking up the boy’s heart took a giant blood spewing bite out of it.

    “Where is it? What is it?” Sam asked eager now that he had a means to kill his stepfather.

    “Far off now and getting farther still boy. That girl I found you with, she’s mine and she’s gone and I want her back. She’s with someone an old man, bring me his head and we got a done deal, paid in full, with no string attached.”

    The butchered man reclined in his seat as he finished devouring the boy’s heart. Sam felt pure unadulterated glee rush through his body at the thought of avenging his family. Elliot had always been a brute to his mother and brother, beating his mother and then beating the two of them when we’d protested. Now I’ll square things up, Sam thought.

    The butchered man broke Sam’s musings, “You gonna let that get cold boy? I didn’t cook it for nothing.”

    Sam looked at the rack of ribs on his plate. For a moment he hesitated, he could almost feel the boy’s non-existent eyes pleading him not to. Under the grinning gaze of the man Sam pulled a rib away and bit in. The meat was delicious. Soon he’d forgotten all about the fate of the poor boy as he began to devour everything on the table.

    “Tastes good don’t it boy?” The man asked. Sam nodded as he scarfed down a piece of liver and downed it with a thick dreg from the chalice.

    “So we got ourselves deal now don’t we boy?” The man asked.

    “Yeah a deal. We got a deal.” Sam replied.

    Metamorfose Ambulante is copyrighted by Raul Seixas. If an administrator has a problem with it I’ll take it down no argument.

    The Drive
    The old man raced down the school’s empty hallways, Catherine’s half-conscious body in his arms. He ran past empty classrooms with desks and chairs aligned in neat rows. He ran past windows that gave a bleak and broken view of the monstrous world outside, a radioactive hell with a hundred dead cities, a nightmarish landscape where nature had run rampant and gone insane. The old man charged through the schools entrance, crashing into the chained doors and breaking them off their hinges. The old man fell to the ground but picked Catherine and himself up with a dexterity that the old do not usually possess. He moved into the parking lot and slowed his pace as he looked around for any signs of mutants. He listened for the tell tale scraping, the heavy panting. There was nothing but the black grass that sprouted through cracks in the pavement, swaying in the bitter wind.

    Though he was uncomfortable with moving with such haste in the Western Territories he ignored his survival instinct and moved through the long dead rows of cars until he found his own. When he reached his jeep he set the girl down on the hood as he fumbled for his keys. Just as he’d brought them out he heard a long bone chilling howl that originated from the far end of the parking lot. The old man stopped what he was doing and peered from out the side of his car. There thirty feet away standing on the top of a car whose paint had long worn away and whose frame was a rusted red was a Threnody, so called for the tales of woe they wrought. It was a massive beast that stood on four limbs each of which had a protruding sickle like claw. Its body was lean and muscular though the old man knew they were not always like this. Its skin was a light brown and marked with a lifetime worth of scars. Its deadly maw was filled with foot long teeth that could puncture an inch of steel given time. The creature sniffed at the air as it shifted its weight on the car.

    Terror paralyzed Catherine as she gazed at the monstrosity. From where she sat on the car she could just barely see the beast. With an act of will she tore her gaze away from the creature and looked at the old man. He had produced a shiny looking pistol that had a green laser pointer underneath the barrel. The man was sweating despite the cold. She probably would have too if there was anything left in her to sweat. The man trained his pistol on the animal and looked slowly to his right. Catherine followed his gaze and her eyes soon rested on a large camouflaged rifle that rested against the rear window inside the jeep. The man cursed himself silently for having left the rifle; he could have killed the Threnody with a single shot from the rifle and be done with it. Ever so slowly he took his keys and inserted them into his cars lock. He turned the keys and there was a soft click as the doors unlocked. The beast reacted immediately to the sound hunching its massive shoulders and letting out a terrifying growl as it began to stalk slowly towards the two, its claws clicking and clacking against the pavement. The old man looked at Catherine and motioned for her to enter the jeep.

    Painfully she eased herself off the hood of the car stifling a gasp as her tattered arm brushed against the top of the hood. When she’d recovered the old man gave her the keys and with hand gestures instructed her to start the car as soon as she got inside. Though her pain was great she nodded her head realizing that if she didn’t suck it up they’d both die here. She put her hand on the handle and pulled. The sound of the opening door was the final spur for the creature as it broke out in an insane sprint, scrambling over ruined cars in mere seconds. Catherine raced inside the car as the old man open fired on the creature creating dark holes that didn’t bleed. Once inside she frantically inserted the keys and turned them. The car started with a blessed roar.

    “Prefiro ser essa metamorphose ambulante. Prefiro ser essa metamorphose ambulante, Do que ter aquela velha opiniao formada sobre tudo” the radio sang softly.

    Outside the man stopped firing to duck out of the way as the beast leapt towards him. He shot the beast three times in mid air causing it to crash head first into the back frame of the jeep. The old man took advantage of its momentary disorientation and raced to the driver side and got in. As soon as he did the creature stuck its head through the rear window and bit down on the front passenger seat, Catherine barely avoiding being decapitated as curled up into a ball.

    “Eu quero dizer agora o oposto do que eu disse antes Prefiro ser essa metamorfose ambulante”

    The old man slammed on the gas with the Threnody’s head still inside. The Threnody let out an ear shattering roar as it realized what was happening. The creature tried to dislodge its head and the old man helped by reloading his pistol and plugging round after round it’s the creatures gaping maw as he drove.

    “Sobre o que é o amor, Sobre o que eu nem sei quem sou, Hoje eu sou estrela amanhã já se apagou, Se hoje eu te odeio amanhã lhe tenho amor, Lhe tenho amor, Lhe tenho horror, Lhe faço amor, Eu sou um ator”

    Halfway through the magazine the beast finally broke free and disappeared out the window. The old man drove his car back onto the main causeway taking care not to hit any of the cars that had been abandoned on the road. Beside him Catherine sat motionless her body bordering on shock from the horror and blood loss. A sudden crash off on the passenger side knocked the man’s glasses from his face and let him know the creature hadn’t given up its pursuit despite taking half a magazine point blank to the face.

    “Ah shit! Ah ****!” He yelled as he fumbled to get his glasses back on. No sooner had he set them upon his face did he have to swerve to avoid a faded blue car that had been left in the middle of the room. He barely managed to clear it though he lost the passenger mirror as he passed. The Threnody simply leapt up and over the vehicle and resumed its pursuit. He was going seventy five miles per hour and had a quarter tank of gas. He didn’t have enough fuel to outrun the monster.

    “É chato chegar a um objetivo num instante, Eu quero viver essa metamorfose ambulante, Do que ter aquela velha opinião formada sobre tudo, Do que ter aquela velha opinião formada sobre tudo”

    “Hey kid wake up! Wake up I need you to take this!” The old man said as he reached back and grabbed the large rifle. The rifle was a relatively new Haousen that fired a 12.7x99 caliber that was very likely going to break her remaining arm and a few ribs. He couldn’t aim the thing and drive; he didn’t know the roads well and any lapse on his part could kill them. He handed Catherine the rifle and she took it with a small whine of pain. ‘She’s a tough girl,’ the old man thought as she propped the rifle up against the window with her right hand.

    “It’s loaded all you have to do is point it at its head and pull the trigger. I’m going to slow down when it gets even with us shoot it in the head!” The man shouted. Catherine nodded her head and began to lower the window.

    “Sobre o que é o amor, Sobre o que eu nem sei quem sou, Hoje eu sou estrela amanhã já se apagou, Se hoje eu te odeio amanhã lhe tenho amor, Lhe tenho amor, Lhe tenho horror,Lhe faço amor, Eu sou um ator”

    The Old man slowed the jeep down and tried to keep the jeep steady for the girl. The jeep made a sudden lurch as the Threnody bit down on the rear bumper, tore it off and spat it out. The creature began to gain as the car slowed down. The old man pulled off to the left side of the road trying to give Catherine a shot. Catherine rested the barrel of the rifle on window ledge of the door and looked down the rifle’s scope. “Don’t bother using the scope kid, he’s too close! Make sure you’ve got a clear shot you’re only getting one!” The old man yelled out. Catherine looked out. The beast was five feet away its maw very nearly touching the barrel of the rifle. Suddenly the beast snapped at the barrel and Catherine pulled the trigger sending a 46 gram round traveling 890 meters per second down its throat. The blast killed the creature instantly though instead of flying away in a dramatic death scene it simply fell to the ground and rolled to a stop. The recoil shattered Catherine’s wrist and sent her flying into the dashboard where the stock impacted her chest crushing a rib. Catherine let out a short scream of pain as she cast aside the rifle and attempted to clutch her shattered wrist. Her other arm, while still functional hurt far too much to move.

    “You got it kid! You did it! I’m gonna get you some help? OK? I’m gonna get you some help, you just hang on!” The man yelled to her. He slowed the car down and helped her sit up straight. Her breathing was hard and tears were flowing freely down her face. “You’re gonna be fine I promise.” The old man said as he placed his hand on her shoulder. Catherine didn’t respond, letting her broken arms lie still in her lap as she eased herself into the chair and closed her eyes.

    “Eu vou lhes dizer aquilo tido que eu lhes disse antes, Prefiro ser essa metamorfose ambulante,Do que ter aquela velha opinião formada sobre tudo, Do que ter aquela velha opinião formada sobre tudo, Do que ter aqu-

    “Let’s turn this off and get some help.” The old man said as he drove down the road. Off in the distance, perhaps twenty miles away was the crashed ship that he’d come to loot. Rumors were it was a Mechanicus ship that held some very interesting weapons. If that were true then the window for getting anything out of it was growing smaller by the second. They were bound to send a retrieval team. He let out a sigh and continued driving.

    “Can’t always get what you want.” He said quietly to himself.
    I Can See For Miles Copyright The Who/ Final Solution Copyrighted By Pere Ubu If a mod has a problem with anything I’ll take it down no argument.

    This one contains some sexually related dialogue isn’t too explicit nothing like in Recordae but still inappropriate for pretty much teenagers and below.

    The Hit

    Naves took a deep breath as he sighted in through his rifles scope. ¾ of a mile away he could clearly see the ten armored figures who were patrolling down in the valley below. Space Marines he thought. Nave took another breath and held it as he sighted in on the lead marine. He was a giant brute, nine feet and two tons of pure unadulterated kill. Nave didn’t recognize the dark gray colors painted upon their armor nor the crossed bolter/chainsword on their shoulder pads. “Not that it- Nave stopped himself from talking. Even at this distance he wasn’t sure if the marines would hear him. Nave, his eyes glued to the scope, did a quick scan of the squad. No change he thought with relief. He put his sights back on the lead marine. In his peripheral vision he could make out the chronometer he’d set on the tree branch next to him. Nave was lying prone on the fat branch of a Corsent tree; an atrocious monstrosity whose ancestors had been mutated by radiation exposure causing the leaves to turn black and manufacture toxic fumes. Off in the distance he could just make out the fallen space ship the Marines had come from.

    Earlier in the day when Nave had scaled the tree in his all black combat fatigues he’d worn a full face rebreather. Now it lay next to the steadily ticking chronometer. Naves wouldn’t take the chance of missing his shot, toxic fumes be damned. The effects weren’t hallucinogenic and he wasn’t going to live long anyways if his shot didn’t hit its target. Nave glanced at the chronometer, seventeen seconds, he thought. For the last seven days the marines had patrolled a forty mile circle around their crashed strike cruiser. Most of the rumors flying around still had it pegged as a Mechanicus ship but Naves knew the truth of the matter. Early hopes for a looters’ wet dream had been dashed when the first men arrived to find that not only were there survivors but that the survivors also happened to be gods of wholly unmerciful war.

    Eleven seconds. The marines were advancing through the Neciea valley, named after the large locust like insect that predominantly bred there. Fortunately they were out of season. Even without the man eating swarms the valley was still treacherous. Threnodies reigned supreme in the valley when the Neciea weren’t out. The terrain was rugged, sinkholes, sudden depressions, all masked by the chest high black grass that grew everywhere on Kiev. Though it only came up to their wastes Nave thought grimly, even ¾ of a mile away Nave knew what a Space Marine could do…if he missed.

    Five seconds. Nave locks his sights on the lead marines head. He reckons he can see the marine’s eyes behind the green lit visor.

    Three seconds. Nave takes a final breath, the Corsent’s fumes stinging his lungs. He ignores the pain for the fumes do not affect his eyes. The lead Marine holds up his hand halting their doomed patrol.

    One second. The lead marine looked in Nave’s direction as his middle finger presses lightly against the trigger.

    The chronometer beeps softly. Nave pulled the trigger and a soft click marked the firing of a high velocity armor piercing round that ripped the leaves from their branches as it passed throwing them up into the air in a sick mockery of the ash that had once fallen decades ago.

    ¾ Of a mile away the lead marine fell to the ground, a large gaping hole in his visor. Behind him eight other Marines simultaneously did the same. A single marine was left standing, blood gushing out of a wound in his jaw. He ran for cover but another deluge of shots impacted his armored body and he disappeared underneath the black grass. More shots struck his fallen corpse in an effort to be thorough. Had it been anything else Naves would have thought the ammunition was being wasted but you didn’t **** around with the Astartes. You made sure.

    Naves jumped down from his hiding place into the foliage below. He took a moment to locate his gasmask and chronometer in the grass as they’d been dislodged by the shockwave. He packed his mask into the pack he’d stored at the base of the tree and strapped his chronometer on his right wrist. He then mounted his pack and made off rifle in hand towards the dead marines. Off in the distance he saw a black clad figure move through the grass. He waved and it waved back. They’d been monitoring the Marine’s patrol routes for four days now. Every patrol varied its route so their ambush points were educated guesswork. For the last four days the ten man squad had laid ambush after ambush only to find that the Marines patrol simply didn’t bring them to them. Luck had brought the squad to them after only a few days camping. There had been one time several years ago they’d tracked a group of Eldar rangers. It’d taken two months to track them down though when they finally caught up with them Naves was disappointed to find out that the Eldar didn’t last ten seconds, taken down in crossfire between alternating sniper and machinegun fire.

    Naves wasn’t the first to reach the bodies. An old timer by the names of Sergei was already crouching over one of the fallen Marines as Naves emerged from the grass. Sergei was an ugly man from off world who’d lost an eye and gained an unpleasant disposition as a result. Sergei went for his sidearm when he spotted Naves. Naves let his rifle go slack on its sling and held up his hands. Sergei didn’t lower his weapon. There was murder in his eyes. Fortunately for Naves they were not alone long. Lijew and Erets emerged from the grass in their silent fashion and Sergei quickly put away his pistol. Lijew a Nordic looking man with a giant beard and a matching frame looked at Naves for an explanation. Naves gave his potential murderer a confused glance but Sergei just shrugged his shoulders and began to rummage through the Marines pack.

    In a few more minutes the rest of the crew had arrived and they stood in a semi circle each man hefting a large caliber rifle. They stood silent for a few minutes to appreciate the gravity of what they had just accomplished. They were all dressed in the same all black uniform that blended in with the bleak landscape though each was heavily modified to reflect its owners personality. Lijew a native of Kiev kept several

    “We are bad ass.” said Brandis looking down on the fallen Marines and the crowd burst out laughing. Like Lijew, Brandis was another Nord but with a lack of facial hair that irritated his larger counterpart. On one occasion Lijew confronted Brandis on the subject saying that any self-respecting Nord should grow a beard. Brandis countered that women preferred a smooth face in between their legs as opposed to a Throne damned mane and besides if her hair was the same color as his beard how would he know what to lick? More than that how would he actually fit the damn thing in between her legs as thick as the damn thing was? Would the girl hold it up for him while he ate her out? And what if she’s a squirter; do you really want that in your beard? It was at that point Lijew grabbed Brandis and threw him through a window. That of course didn’t stop Brandis from talking.

    When the laughter finally died down Cyrillic their stoic taskmaster spoke, “Call in the trucks, strip this shit off we’ve got half an hour before we leave.” All laughter ceased as the men busied themselves with working the armor off the dead marines. They couldn’t use it of course but that wouldn’t stop them from selling it. Weapons and armor, personal affects all were taken. Even the Progenitor glands were harvested, not for future sale however. Ibsen the VOX master called in the trucks that would transport the armor and weapons back to their base in the Wastes.

    As they worked Vaughan remarked, “We really shouldn’t have accepted this job.”

    “Pray tell why not?” Kirin asked sardonically.

    “These are the Emperor’s chosen, his finest, cut from his very flesh; they’re very blood is holy and were desecrating them!” Vaughan said dramatically.

    Erets a relative newcomer who’d yet to figure out the boys quirks looked over at Brandis before saying exasperatedly, “You have a ****ing eight pointed star tattooed on your face Vaughn what the hell are you talking about?”

    “Stop right there don’t get him started.” Nidas said as he pried a damaged helmet off a head.

    “Boy rants these insane shits all the damn time just ignore him.” Lijew said as he hefted up a bolter that was the size of his chest.

    “Well I haven’t heard it yet so you know what Vaughan please I’d like to hear whatever you…think.” Erets said.

    “Well, see someone’s interested. So listen OK this all came to me when I made a pilgrimage to Terra so I know what I’m talking about. The Emperor is…he paused for dramatic effect… the fifth Chaos God!” Vaughan yelled.

    Erets face turned into a mask of pure confusion. “Are you OK in the head?”

    “No!” The men all cried in unison.

    “Well now hear me out OK. It all makes sense once you put it in perspective. The Emperor feeds off of souls right? Eventually what’s going to happen is the Emperor will eventually consume enough souls to you know birth himself into you know reality.”

    “Well you just completely turned me off to the idea of Chaos with an image of the emperor shitting himself out of his own ass, Serega help me out here I’m trying to imagine how the Emperor, a man mind you, could birth himself. Thank you Vaughan for that mental image I am now scarred for life.” Erets said.

    “No, no, no! See the four chaos Gods are-

    “You’re a ****ing blank we all our, what part of anathema to the warp do you not get?” Ibsen said. Vaughan was about to retort when the trucks arrived their heavy tracks flattening the tall black grass.

    “Load!” Cyrillic yelled and the men rushed to obey. They distributed the spoils evenly between each of the six trucks. Four of the trucks were used to carry the armor, two suits in each. The extra suit, weapons and miscellaneous objects were stored in the other two. The men moved fast each without saying a word to each other intent on getting the hard labor done as quickly as possible. When they’d finished Cyrillic exchanged words with each of the drivers and grabbed several canisters of promethium before they sped off. No ride back home for us Naves thought gloomily. It was late morning but the sky was still dark and the shadows of the fallen heroes cast wicked shadows that were barely visible against the black grass.

    When the trucks were out of sight Cyrillic turned back to the assembled team. “Burn the bodies, as ****ed up as it sounds Vaughan’s half-way right we can’t leave these corpses to rot.” The men pulled each of the bodies into a long line and doused them with promethium before throwing a match onto each body. They caught quickly and soon they were engulfed in flame. For a moment they all stood there silently save for Brandis and Lijew who said a small prayer for the departing souls. It took almost an hour for the bodies to be consumed and even then the bones remained. Cyrillic, satisfied that due respect had been paid ordered the men to move out. The powers that be decided a pair of trucks to come back and pick them up a mile up the valley. They plodded along wary of any wondering wild life but none showed.

    As they walked Erets asked Vaughan, “So you gonna finish your little rant or what?”

    “Well since you’re interested I’ll continue, where was I?” He wondered aloud.

    “Something about the Chaos Gods.” Erets said. Lijew gave the newcomer an acid look but ignored it. He wasn’t paid to care about such things and who he worshipped was his business. Besides as a psychic blank the boy could never actually worship the foul gods so there wasn’t any harm in talking about it.

    “That’s right I remember now”, Vaughan said excitedly, “see there are four Chaos Gods. Khorne is the God of War, Nurgle the God of disease, Slaanesh the Goddess of Pleasure, and-

    “Goddess of pleasure? You haven’t been laid since I first met you and that was a decade ago! I mean if the bitch hasn’t intervened on your behalf yet I wouldn’t hold my breath!” Brandis cried out much to the amusement of the rest of the men.

    “That’s blasphemy, you shouldn’t talk like that.” Vaughan said suddenly turning serious.

    “What’s the bitch gonna do suck me off? Hell I could get Naves sister to do that!” Brandis said laughing.
    “**** you Brandis.” Naves replied venomously.

    Suddenly Brandis ran ahead of the men screaming manically waving his hands above his head his rifle slapping his back in time with his strides. About twenty feet ahead he stopped and started twirling in a circle continuing his maniacal laughter.

    “Oooooyyyyy! Slaanesh I’ll make a deal with you if you can get this insane prick a girlfriend and a ****ing steady one I will bow down and lick your divine pussy! And she’s gotta look good too! No ugly ****ers! You got till the end of tonight!” He shouted to the sky. He ran back laughing hysterically.

    Fifteen minutes of suppressed violence later they reached the pickup site. Two trucks were waiting for them their engines still running. The trucks weren’t there to take them back to base instead they’d ferry each of them to their respective homes or drinking spots. It had been a very good day and Mathias, the head of their mercenary band, was undoubtedly pleased. The trucks weren’t part of the organization; they were taxis that ferried people to and fro in the territories. They split into two groups of five and heaved themselves into the waiting trucks. Naves boarded the second truck, a rusty old model whose tracks were filled with mud, along with Lijew, Brandis, Vaughan and Kirin. The five of them waved to their comrades as they departed the truck carrying them down an old overgrown road. The other truck stayed on the main road driving off at a leisurely pace. Despite their mission being over each man was wary, in the Western territories it didn’t pay to be careless, not that you could tell by Brandis’ behavior, Naves thought with a grin. He watched the world fly by him. Scattered trees, the long grass blowing softly in the wind, buildings dilapidated alongside the road. He spotted a Threnody sniffing around in the parking lot of an abandoned school, the creature raising its head as the truck passed.

    After a short but heated debate the five of them decided that instead of going home they’d head off to the Magical World, a bar that would tolerate a crowd of psychic blanks mostly because they didn’t have any customers to discomfort. That and they allowed weapons inside. Lijew and Kirin had wanted to go drinking while Vaughan and Naves wanted to go home. Brandis didn’t care either way but he was adamant about sticking with Vaughan wherever he went, intent on seeing if he actually managed to get laid that night. After about twenty minutes of driving along the road they came to Essex, a small town that was completely deserted save for the bar in question and a seedy brothel that was more famous for the new diseases that seemed to pop up than the girls. Naves often wondered why the owners just didn’t combine the two; it’d save a lot of trouble. After a few more minutes of driving through the town they came to the bar.

    The five of them got out, tipped the driver, and went into the Magical World.

    “Well, here's a poke at you You're gonna choke on it too You're gonna lose that smile
    Beacuse all the while I can see for miles and miles I can see…” the intercom system sang.

    Inside the bar was empty save for Mikas the bartender and the beautiful waitress he was chatting to and that Naves didn’t recognize. They waved to Mikas who lifted a drink in a mock salute.

    “Must be new.” Naves said to Lijew who nodded his hairy head. They took a booth down in a dark corner of the bar and he waitress sauntered over. She took their orders consisting solely of amasec, stoplights, and iho-sticks. While they waited for their drinks the five of them talked about their personal lives. Kirin told them of his newborn son and when the drinks arrived they toasted to him. Vaughan spouted some of his nonsensical ramblings but fortunately no one but the other four heard him. Lijew began to tell them of his latest sexual conquest but Brandis interrupted him claiming that now he knew where his missing pet Ukulele was. Despite himself Lijew laughed before throwing a pack of iho-sticks into Brandis’ laughing face. After a few minutes of bullshitting and low laughter Kirin challenged Vaughn to a game of pool and the two left for the tables taking their drinks but leaving their overpowered rifle behind. Naves slightly drunk looked at Lijew and asked, “So what’re you gonna do?” Naves asked seriously as he drained his glass. He looked over at the stoplight next to him.

    “Get out maybe. I’m 79 years old Lane I can’t do this anymore. When have you ever known me to miss?” Lijew said quietly.

    “You didn’t miss you took out half his jaw, freak accident, you know that happens. The hell am I supposed to do stick with Sergei? The guy was about to shoot me today...only reason he didn’t was cause you showed up.” Naves hand reached for the first of the three shots but Brandis seeing his wondering hand quickly reached over and drained all three shots before Naves could react. He grinned the grin of a man satisfied.

    “I don’t need a cure need a final solution…”

    “**** Sergei,” Brandis said clenching his jaw, “that old asshole doesn’t know shit, he’s worthless, only reason he’s even in here is because he’s a blank like us. That’s it no other reason.”

    Naves looked at Lijew.

    “I don’t know what to tell you about Sergei, deal with him when the time comes in the meantime just relax that’s what I’m doing. I mean you’re not the only guy he’s gunning for.” Lijew said.

    “Yeah.” Naves said.

    “Buy me a ticket to a sonic reduction- guitars gonna sound like a nuclear destruction. It seems I’m the victim of natural selection, or maybe just another slide in another direction. I don’t need a cure…”

    Suddenly Brandis sat straight up his jaw gaping at what must have been some horrifying monstrosity. Naves and Lijew followed his gaze over to the pool tables where they witnessed with their own eyes Vaughan making out with the waitress on the pool table, Kirin staring back at them speechless. Naves looked at Brandis who exchanged an understandably perturbed look.

    “What, Brandis where are you going?” Naves asked as Brandis got out of his seat and began walking towards the duo.

    “So on a scale of one to ten how was it?” The waitress asked Vaughan when she finally let him breathe. A grand smile began to play across his lips and he nodded his head. “Thought so, oh who ar-


    The pointblank shot to the head splattered the waitresses’ brains all over Vaughan and sent her sprawling on the ground. The bar erupted into chaos. Brandis turned and shot Mikal through the heart.

    “Brandis what the **** is wrong with you!” Vaughan screamed.

    “**** You!” Brandis screamed at the ceiling.

    On the other side of the bar Naves drained his drink.

    “Lijew I’m heading home, you comin?”


    The Sword

    “Here and now boy hear my words.” The butchered man spoke softly into Sam’s ear. “You aren’t old enough to track my quarry; you’re just old enough to kill it. I am not the kind of a man who would send anyone into the wilderness unprepared! I’ve got death on my tongue and life on my fingertips, I am God.”

    The butchered man looked upwards his grin stretching to epic proportions. Sam followed his gaze and gasped when he realized that the fat rusted pipes that had once obscured the gray sky had been replaced by giant opaque worms squirming and screeching in lustful ecstasy. Sam could see their milky white insides troll around the insides of their circular bodies. Each was hundreds of feet long and there were dozens of them thrashing about in a nightmarish tangled midair dance. It was hard to tell where one ended and another began but Sam knew there had to be more than a dozen considering the ends that he could see opened up to reveal long dagger like teeth.

    The butchered man stared at the vicious worms with a smile. “Aren’t they magnificent? Unimpeded by wind and weather, they won’t break down, won’t get stuck, won’t overheat, won’t freeze up. Cause after all snow or shine people still need to die.”

    Sam gazed up in disgust and not a little awe. He began to walk towards them sparing a glance at the manhole covers and the long lines of blood that led to them. The butchered man stood silent as he watched him go. From above one of the worms detached itself from the raging orgy slithering down the walls and up to Sam. The beast made its way towards him until they were mere inches apart. Sam could feel the worm’s hot heady breath blow against his face in a pulsating rhythm in time with the creatures above. The creature’s mouth opened revealing its sword like teeth and a thick barbed tongue snaked its way out. Frozen by fear and wonder Sam remained still as the purplish appendage wrapped itself around his body.

    “Not yet boy!” The butchered man cackled. “I’ve something to give you first before your first depart.” The worm’s tongue receded back into its malicious maw and stood over him. Sam, his trance broken turned around and walked over to the butchered man. He was dimly aware that his feet throbbed with pain every time his foot hit the jagged rock floor beneath. Such concerns seemed to be beyond him now that he had a means to his end. Still, he thought despairingly, even with the help of the crazed man he wasn’t sure he’d still be able to kill Elliot.

    Though Sam was still a dozen feet away the butchered man kneeled on a single knee, bowed his head in mock submission and stretched out his bleeding arms, the sound of tearing skin and stretching muscles only slightly disturbing Sam as he looked into the outstretched hands. The man held out a wicked sword whose fleshy form constantly shed its outer ‘skin’, for that was the only word that came to Sam’s mind as he gazed upon the blade, revealing sinews of muscle and tendons underneath.

    “Take the sword boy!” The butchered man bellowed. Sam obeyed grasping the blade by its bone like hilt. As he did he felt the bone underneath melt at his touch, reforming to fit his tiny hand. “Here I am boy in your mind, in your heart, in your soul.” The blade spoke to his mind. Startled Sam released his grip on the blade but it did not fall from his hand. Instead he could feel the blade bonding with his body in the most painful way imaginable. To his horror Sam witnessed the flesh on his hand slip from his bones as the blade forced itself into his profusely bleeding arm.

    “A part of me in you, I’ll not leave you to the wolves’ boy!” The butchered man cried maniacally.
    Sam fell to his knees and howled in pain as the blade eviscerated the inside of his arm to make room for its body. Once the blade felt it had disemboweled Sam’s arm enough for one day the blade settled. From its resting place new flesh was born, melding with the ruin that was Sam’s arm. Pulpy bruised flesh mingled with his own pale skin overlaying the bloody muscles that the blade was excreting.

    After about a minute of sanity destroying pain the blade finally ceased its menstruations. “What did you do to me?” Sam gasped from the floor as he cradled his arm. “You’re going out looking to kill a shitload of people boy and you’re gonna need a weapon that can kill a shitload of people.” The butchered man said as his arms retracted back to their normal length.

    The butchered man began to walk towards Sam. “Stand up boy, you got feet for a reason.” Sam struggled to obey but his legs felt like lead weights. “Pain ain’t nothing you’re new to boy! Life is pain, Life is suffering, Life is what you make of it!” The butchered man shouted. Galvanized by the man’s words Sam forced himself to ignore the pain and rose to his feet.

    “That’s my boy!” The man shouted to the heavens as he spread his arms out and twirled around. “Blood spillers, soul skinners, Sam you will be one mad killer!” The butchered man sang aloud. Suddenly from above Sam heard a series of loud screams that seemed to send the worms into a violent frenzy. Sheets of scarlet rain poured down in a torrent that stained the gray rocks. After a few seconds and crunching noises later the screams ceased and a single foot encased in a sneaker fell to the ground, a bloody stump protruding out of the gore stained shoe. Mere seconds after more body parts fell, an arm, a head, a hand. Sam backed away in sudden fear of the worm at his side.

    “Don’t mind the foot boy, these guys wonder in from time to time.” The butchered man said as he grabbed the foot and head and began juggling them in the air sending spurts of blood everywhere.

    Sam looked at the grotesque figure before him and almost laughed despite the sheer horror of what he saw. “That’s what I like about you boy, always got a smile.” The butchered man said as he cast aside the dismembered parts.

    The butchered man suddenly got serious. “The sword I gave you is Barrathos, he’s a cruel bastard born of me and me alone. He’s taken more lives than you’ve seen in your life boy. He’s a hundred million and a half years old, forged from my own flesh to fight a foe the lesser of my kin cringe in fear at the very mentioning of a name that has been long since forgotten in the annals of time and the races of the mortal realms who in unison cower at its coming awakening and the heralding of a new era of war the likes of which have not been seen since Horus lifted a crowbar over the old bastards head and brought it down in a galaxy shattering crack!” Sam stood stunned, partially by the raging monologue and partially because he’d expected the man to pass out.

    The butchered man continued, albeit in a much calmer manner, “Over the years I’ve lent him to various…people, none have ever been able to master Barrathos, but you boy, oh you might just have it in ya to do the dirty deed. I gave him life and now I gave him to you, he is yours and he will obey your will in all things. He comes with a heavy price though you’ll see in the end all parties are equally compensated for their troubles. Take this sword and give that little whore an early period, do that for me and Elliot’s yours…for the killin.”

    Sam nodded his head unsure of what to say to the butchered man’s words. “OK.” Was all he managed to say in the end.

    “It’s alright boy, you’re still young, but stick with me and I promise you, you’ll understand everything.” The butchered man cast his eyes up at the worm that stood apart from his pack. “Time to go Sam I am, time to find what were lookin for.” The butchered man said.

    And with that the worm let out an ear bleeding screech and swallowed Sam whole.

    Last edited by Nikolaevich; February 17th, 2008 at 22:22.
    Ne Cede Malis

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    Hey Joe is copyrighted by Jimi Hendrix.

    The Plot

    Two months later…

    Sven was dying. Slowly, painfully, every second the cancer in his body spread a little further, rooted itself a little deeper. Normally cancer wasn’t terminal, on a planet where constant exposure to severe radiation was the norm; medical advances in carcinogenic treatments had meant getting cancer was no more serious than getting a bad case of syphilis. That was true in most cases; Sven however had developed an unhealthy looking form of skin cancer that covered his entire abdomen. When he first noticed the symptoms he’d gone directly to the government run hospitals, in Linthicum, the only stable city on the entire continent, for a diagnosis. Sven had no illusions as to what the discolored bumps on his stomach were but he hadn’t expected them to be terminal and they weren’t. They’d found a tumor in his head, a large one that couldn’t be removed. The doctor said he’d have perhaps three months to live, that had been two months ago. He went for a second opinion but was told the same thing, go home, enjoy what time you have left. A week after that Sven was coughing up blood, fainting, dying.
    With his doom assured Sven went to Mathias but he could not help him. Instead he offered to help his family.

    Earlier that week the Dread Angels Space Marine Chapter had landed on Kiev Oblast in force. Four full strength companies led by the legendary Chapter Master Siloden and his Chief Librarian Lakis had come to secure the downed Trojan. They’d set up a large compound that surrounded the entirety of the fallen ship and went out on vigilante patrols much to the displeasure of the Planetary Governor, a man Siloden had choice words about.

    Now Sven walked towards the Space Marine encampment with a suicidal bravery born from an assured terminality. Instead of his usual all black fatigues he was dressed in the robes of an adept in the employ of the Governor. Underneath his mundane robes however, hanging from his neck in the form of a pendant to be precise, was a device Mathias had spent a good deal of time to acquire. Strung over his shoulder was a small bag carrying a number of important documents. He approached the camp on foot; he was alone though he knew that two miles behind him was a massing force of over a thousand soldiers, all dressed in the uniforms and armed with the weapons of the local PDF. As he approached the gates he held his hands up above his head as two marine sentries trained their weapons on him. He stopped and turned around as a Marine came over to search him.

    “State your business adept.” The Marine said as he examined Sven, his armored fingers brushing against his body so roughly it left bruises.

    “I was sent by Governor Ikozy to meet with Master Lakis, to give him the reports he requested.” Sven said as the Marine searched the bag. Sven could tell that despite the Marines constitution he was unsettled by being close to him. Oh the benefits of being a blank.

    “Lord Lakis requests nothing adept, remember that and you may just survive this visit.” The Marine said brusquely. No, I don’t think so, Sven thought solemnly to himself.

    “Follow me.” The Marine said as he led Sven through the massive titanium gate. Inside the compound Sven was greeted with a scene of pure martial ferocity. Land Raiders, Predator Tanks, and Rhino transports all parked in neat rows. The Chapter’s serfs busied themselves with tasks too mundane for the Marines to perform themselves. Marines cleaned weapons, armor, or prayed before awe inspiring statues of the Emperor. Some prepared to depart the massive compound. For all the grandeur legends surrounding the Space Marines they sure do lead Spartan lives, Sven thought. With the exception of a few finely detailed shrines to the Emperor there were few if any decorations though Sven noticed a few Marines wore trophies at the waist.

    “Hey Joe, where you going’ with that gun of yours?” Sven sang quietly to himself.

    “What?” The Marine asked, curiosity getting the better of him as he heard the little man sing to himself.

    “Just nervous, I sing when I’m nervous.” Sven replied.

    “You will be fine adept, for this too shall pass.” The Space Marine said. Sven was surprised at the Marine’s reassuring words. He felt a sudden curiosity for the Marine’s name.

    “My names’ Sven, might I ask your name Marine?” Sven said as he offered his hand to the Marine.

    “Brother-Marine Jias.” He replied swallowing Sven’s proffered hand in his armored glaive.

    “It’s nice to meet you Brother-Marine Jias.” Sven said.

    The Marine nodded his head as he led Sven unerringly through the compound. The unlikely duo navigated their way through the compound for another twenty minutes before Jias came to a halt outside of an open flapped olive drab tent that reminded Sven of a Munitorium styled prefab. Jias escorted Sven inside where he came face to face with Chief Librarian Lakis for the first and last time. Once the Librarian acknowledged Sven, Jias excused himself and returned to his post. The look on the Librarian’s face when Sven handed him the bag was one of complete revulsion. Psychics didn’t like being around blanks he knew, but more than that they hated being robbed of their talents. Sven waited a few minutes until he was sure Brother-Marine Jias would be out of the blast radius. Then he took hold of his pendant and triggered the initiation sequence with his thumb.

    “In Ikozy’s name!” Sven screamed holding the pendant above his head. Chief Librarian Lakis barely had any time to react as the dangerous energies within the pendant reached critical and finally exploded incinerating him and half the compound.

    Two miles away Vaughan saw the explosion and he ordered the Government clad chaos cultists’ forwards towards the burgeoning mushroom cloud on the horizon.

    Planetary Governor Ikozy walked out onto his balcony overlooking the dilapidated world he’d inherited from his forefathers. The last two and a half months had seen his administration go head to head with a Throne damned Space Marine Chapter over his handling of a crashed ship. Of course he’d tried to secure the ship but all his men kept dying en route and he’d told Siloden as much but he’d wrote everything off as the excuses of a weak man. He could only hope the emissary he’d sent earlier had arrived with the good news. Two hundred miles away Planetary Governor Ikozy’s musings were interrupted as a dull roar erupted far off in the Western Territories. “Now what?” He said with resignation.

    Chapter Master Siloden stood battered and bloodied in the remains of the burning compound with what few Marines he had left to his name. Of four hundred Space Marines he’d lost 263, more than half his forces, dozens of vehicles had been damaged or destroyed; he’d lost his entire command force, including his Chief Librarian. Most had been lost in the black fire explosion that erupted from the center of the compound though a precious few more had been lost in the following assault by the local PDF forces. In the space of three months Chapter Master Siloden had seen almost half his Chapter annihilated. He looked over the remains of his force, a fiery fury in his eyes.

    “Marines make ready, for we go to war!” He screamed in blind rage.

    From a mile away Vaughan, Brandis, Cyrillic, and Erets had watched the wholesale slaughter of the chaos force. They’d been ordered to mask the Cult’s presence as they sneaked up and then attack once Sven had detonated the anti-matter bomb inside. What the Cult didn’t know was that once the order commenced was that each man had been ordered to hang back during the attack before finally abandoning the host to its fate.

    Through Vaughan, Mathias had convinced an entire demon worshipping cult to drop everything in a moment’s notice and assault the Space Marine compound under the guise of the local PDF. Vaughan had approached the cult in its lair in the Western Territories, nearly dying in the process he added when he returned, and convinced the cult leader a burly man by the name of Segos to commit a force to the assault of the Space Marine’s compound. He hadn’t committed his entire force of course, the point wasn’t to eradicate the marines just provoke them into overthrowing the Planetary Governor. Once the Space Marines finished slaughtering the Governor and his PDF forces they’d have to impose an interim government, probably for however long they needed to recover their ship. After that the Space Marines would have to find a man to assume the role of Governor and Segos would be that man. In return for this opportunity Segos would grant Mathias and his mercenary organization free rein over the Eastern Wastes so long as they did not interfere in the cult’s activities.

    “Mathias is an evil bastard.” Cyrillic said quietly. He turned around and began to walk back to the extraction point. “Come on let’s get out of here.” The four men left, a terrible war brewing in their wake.

    The Recruit

    Two months earlier…

    The old man’s car came to a screeching halt outside the seedy bar in Essex. In the seat next to him Catherine rested against the car’s passenger door lapsing in and out of consciousness. The bleeding in her arm had finally slowed only a few streams of thick dark fluid running out and though her breaths still came in ragged drags there was none of the frantic blood frothed gasping that occurred immediately after the firing of his rifle. The old man jumped out of his car and raced to retrieve the little girl from the passenger seat. He opened the door and her unconscious body slumped towards the hard pavement below but reflexes born from years of evading predatory animals saw him catch her as soon as her descent began. The old man steadied Catherine in his arms as he ran towards the bar’s entrance kicking them in with a furious crack. The crack was responded with an equally furious bang and the old man fell to the ground, a smoking hole in his head.

    Lijew and Naves both stared down at the corpse of the man who’d just kicked in the bar doors. Naves had been just about to grab the door when they shot open, startling everyone in the bar and causing Brandis to open fire. Lijew could feel a slight tingling sensation where the bullet had passed by his head. The two looked down at the old man, to the little girl he’d been carrying, then at each other and finally back at Brandis.

    Off in the corner unnoticed by everyone Kirin had drawn his pistol and trained it on Brandis in case Brandis really had gone off the deep end. “Stop shooting people you ****ing maniac!” Vaughan screamed at Brandis. A sudden wholly unexpected look of guilt flashed across Brandis’ face as he holstered his sidearm.

    “Oh shit, I didn’t mean to shoot him.” Brandis said looking up at Lijew.

    “What and you didn’t ****ing mean to shoot everyone else in the bar?” Vaughan screamed back.

    “Vaughan she was a throne damned succubus, I did you a favor!” Brandis retorted.

    “What the hell are you talking about, have you lost your ****ing-

    “Shut up all of you!” Naves interrupted. He kneeled down and uncovered the bloody figure beneath the old man’s arms. What greeted him was a terrible sight. A young girl no more than ten years old, her short hazel colored hair was thick with vermin and congealed blood. Her left arm had wide lacerations that wept a deep dark fluid and snaked their way around her arm. The tattered wife beater she wore was stained from top to bottom in blood and torn in places that revealed a little too much. Fortunately the black polyester shorts she wore seemed to have survived without too much wear. The girl’s breaths came in quick ragged rasps that spoke of broken ribs and maybe a punctured lung.

    Naves stood up, stretching his arms. “Alright let’s get out of here, nothing we can do for her.” Naves said as he stepped over the wounded child and out into the street. Kirin joined Naves as he went out and scouted the still running jeep. Naves stuck his head in the drivers’ side and found that the jeep was running just above empty.

    “Don’t worry about fuel we got a canister of it in the back, shut it off and Ill fill her up.” Kirin called out to Naves.

    Inside the Magical World Brandis heard the engine cut off but he paid the vehicle no mind. He hopped over the counter to where Mikal lie and placed his pistol in the late bartender’s hand. He then walked back over to where he’d been shooting, picked up a single casing and tossed it back towards the bartender.

    He walked over to the old man he shot earlier. “Come on kiddo you hafta move.” Brandis said to the little girl as he nudged her off the old man with his foot. Brandis grabbed the man’s sidearm before walking over to each body, shooting each in turn before placing the pistol in the old man’s cold dead hand and joining the others outside.

    “We have ignition.” Kirin said jokingly as he started the vehicle. Vaughan, Brandis, and Naves all boarded their ill-gotten ride. They were about to drive off when Naves realized one of their party was missing.

    “Where’s Lijew? He asked. In unison each man began to look around, Vaughan rolled down his window and called out their lost man’s name. It was Brandis who spotted him. Back inside the bar the seemingly gentle giant stood by a pool table with the little girl sitting atop.

    “Not our problem Lane!” Naves called out from the jeep. Lijew merely grunted and nodded his head as he pulled out his IFAK and began rummaging through the small tan pouch. He pulled out a bandage roll and some disinfectant. He began dressing the girl’s arm, wrapping the sterile cloth gently but firmly. She would live he already knew that, her injuries were atrocious and painful but not life threatening, the cuts in her arm having missed every important artery and vein. When he finished with the girls arm he inspected the girl’s ribs discreetly lest he be accused of molesting the child.

    “Lane! Come on!” Vaughan yelled as he exited the car and made his way through the open doorway.

    “Lane you can be a ****ing hero later let’s get the hell out of here.” Lijew ignored him and continued with his examination. He found that the girl’s wrist had been shattered. Lijew removed a splint from his IFAK and began to set the girl’s broken arm.

    Infuriated Vaughan pulled out his sidearm. He was about to shoot the girl when Lijew, with a speed he’d not seen often, swung his rifle by the barrel striking him squarely in the head knocking him out cold. Outside his three companions decided the best course of action would be to wait for Lijew to finish.

    Lijew turned back to the girl. Despite her several close encounters with death she did not cry. What was more she’d not cringed or withdrawn from his touch.

    Lijew leaned in close to the girls’ face. “The devil recognizes his own.” He said quietly. He removed his giant flak vest and placed it over her body before removing the woolen pistol strap on his leg and tying it around her waist. He gave her a long and wicked butcher’s knife as well as his sidearm. He fished a map, a pen, and a GPS device from his pocket. He marked down some coordinates on the map and handed it to the girl.

    “Go here,” Lijew said indicating a small point on the map, “and tell the sentries that Lane Lijew sent you. They’ll know who you’re talking about.”

    At that Lijew left the girl’s side pausing only to throw Vaughan’s unconscious body over his shoulder. When he reached the car Brandis opened the passenger door and Lijew tossed Vaughan in. Before Brandis closed the door Lijew grabbed him by his hair and punched him twice before throwing him back to the other side of the car.

    “Next time you pull a ****ing stunt like that I’ll kill you!” Lijew shouted as he mounted the vehicle. “Kirin, get us the hell out of here.” He said before sparing one last glance at the girl inside. She was walking towards the door, gun in hand. For a moment he thought she might shoot them, instead she closed the massive doors cutting herself off from the death outside.

    “The hell was that all about?” Kirin asked as he drove through the desolated town.

    “Girl’s a blank or close to it.” Lijew replied. Brandis began to speak but stopped when Lijew cast him a threatening glare.

    “If you knew why didn’t you say anything about it earlier?” Naves asked.

    “I don’t know.” He replied.

    “What’d you tell her?” Naves asked.

    “Told her to head towards where Mathias is; Throne knows he never passes up an opportunity for new recruits.”

    The Pendant

    23 Years Earlier…

    The man had been waiting. For six days his long black hair had been blown across his scarred face by the radioactive winds, for six days his skin had burned in the torrents of acid rain, and for six days he’d fought tooth and nail for survival against the vicious wildlife. He’d come Spartan, no shirt, no boots or socks, no armor to speak of, only dark green digital fatigues that he wore over his waist and a silver bracelet on his right hand that had two switches, each on opposing sides. This is not to say that he went unprepared. On his hip was a silenced pistol and in his hand was a War-Scythe taken first from a Necron Lord and then from a demon long before. The hands that gripped his deadly staff were hard and calloused. His flesh bore dozens of scars and his face had but one working eye, the other a dead gray globe floating freely in its socket. Though his feet were as rough as sandpaper he’d not walked to his present location. Behind him rested a two-door flatbed pickup truck. The model was old, the engine was on its last legs and the iron tracks had rusted a bright orange. Despite this he’d never give up on his faithful steed.

    For six days the man had sat upon a rock his scythe resting against his shoulder as he waited. All around him the Eastern Wastes leered its monstrous face. The sky was only ever shades of black, precious little light ever passed through the Wastes’ ominous clouds. Nothing grew in the dark radioactive soil and what few trees that had survived the nuclear blasts decades ago had long since rotted to branchless mockeries of their former glory. Even the all encompassing black grass that threatened to overrun Linthicum and every other small town refused to grow here, the curse and the radiation too much for even a plant’s tiny soul. That must be why I’m here, the man thought with a grin, I don’t have a soul.

    Suddenly a blinding white light appeared before him in midair. The man did not flinch at its sudden appearance. Instead he flicked the uppermost switch on his bracelet off and waited silently upon his rock. The white light grew to become a portal but nothing came through. As the seconds ticked by the man entertained himself by picking up a small black pebble and tossing it up and down. After perhaps thirty seconds had passed the man threw the pebble at the portal and switched his bracelet back on. The instant he did six insanely scared Eldar and an assortment of rune enshrined cases burst from the gateway. The Eldar had drawn their elegant weapons and breathed hard. They bled freely from every orifice on their face and had the man been able to feel anything he would have felt their raw fear radiate from them in waves so great they would have shattered his sanity.

    “Sinead I thought we agreed on using ships for this transaction?” The man asked humorously, his hands outstretched.

    “You could have killed us you degenerate animal!” Farseer Sinead’Lical’Eysintel screamed in rage.

    “And you could have taken a transport.” The man retorted, never moving from his resting place. The Eldar Farseer narrowed his eyes in fury at the disrespect shown but bit his tongue, now wasn’t the time for retribution. Sinead looked around himself taking in the bleak landscape before him.

    Sinead wore the traditional armor of a Farseer though for the meeting he’d left his helm behind. The six servants who accompanied him were not of the warrior path and wore matching green and blue robes.

    “I can see why one of your kind would want to make a transaction here.” Sinead said before asking, “You are the one they call Mathias?”

    The man looked up with a smile and made a waving gesture with his hand. “No not Mathias, just a friend.” He said with a chuckle. This did not bode well with Farseer Sinead, for years he’d yearned to come face to face with the human that had orchestrated the slaughter of over a thousand of his warriors and now after his ignominious defeat, after being forced to bargain for the souls of his warriors even the small measure of consolation stemming from finally meeting his enemy and perhaps challenging him to a duel had been barred to him.

    “Did he not deem this meeting important enough to require his presence?” Sinead asked venomously wiping away a stream of blood that ran from his nose.

    The man’s countenance suddenly turned serious, “No he didn’t.”

    “Where is he then if not here?” Sinead replied quickly.

    The man stood up cradling his wicked scythe in his arms. “Were not here to discuss a man’s whereabouts were here to trade. Don’t stray from your way Xeno, death lies down the path you’re treading.” The man said slowly, letting the thinly veiled threat sink in. Inside the Farseer raged at the animals belligerence but again he restrained himself and with a snap of his slender fingers the equally slender figures gathered up the rune inscribed cases on the ground and began to organize them all in a line. When they’d finished their task they opened each case which in turn revealed a dozens of elegant weapons of both ranged and melee fighting in mind, though the largest of the cases remained empty save for small slots that the man concluded must be for the Soul Stones. For the first time since the Eldar’s arrival the man took to his feet.

    “I may not have walked the path of the barterer but I do know that in any transaction both parties must present their wares, if a deal is to in fact occur.” Sinead said.

    The man nodded his head in understanding. “They’re on the flatbed, send one of your own guys to fetch them, I want to see what you’ve got.” The man said motioning behind him. One unspoken word later and one of Sinead’s servants rushed off to examine the hundreds of soul stones he’d packed in the truck.

    “You packaged the souls of my people in that?” Sinead whispered gesturing at the beaten down pickup.

    “Pretty much.” The man said. The farther into the arrangement Sinead went the more it infuriated him. The children of Isha had once been the undisputed masters’ of the galaxy and these animals showed so little respect as to manhandle their very souls. At that moment Sinead swore he’d see the world burn for all eternity. Every living thing on the planet would die and this Mathias, he’d send him as a gift to the Dark Archons of Commorragh.

    “While your man’s looking why don’t you show me what you’re bringing to the table?” The man said. Sinead muttered a woefully obscene curse and motioned for the man to follow him. Sinead showed him a vast array of stock and modified Shuriken Catapults, Long Rifles, Fusion Guns, Wraith Cannons, Plasma and Melta grenades. In one case there were beautiful swords of such elegance and exquisite design that it would have been a crime to plunge its blade into an enemy’s flesh.

    “This is all very nice Sinead but there’s nothing here we don’t already have plenty of.” The man said before stopping. A small marble sized globe of blue light caught his eye. “What’s that?” The man asked with genuine interest. The globe was held aloft in stasis by a small golden mantle.

    “The terminology would be beyond you but in simpler words it is an anti-matter bomb. I’ll spare you the details of its operation; suffice to say it makes an extremely large explosion.” Sinead said with disinterest as he plucked the tiny sphere from its resting place.

    “I’ll take it.” The man said he took the globe from Sinead’s hand. “Just this.” He added with emphasis.

    “That is all?” Sinead said confused. “This is all for your master. Are you sure he would agree with your decision?”

    “We are not greedy men Sinead, take your stones and go, we’re done here.” The man said dismissively. Farseer Sinead did not wait to be told a second time. With a wind born from his mind he reached out to his fallen brethren and gathered their stones up into the air before placing each inside the empty case with gentleness completely at odds with the atmosphere. Sinead turned his back to the man and muttered a few words in his strange tongue that reopened the portal to wherever the Eldar was from. The Farseer’s servants quickly gathered each of the cases and bore them through the portal. With his mind Farseer Sinead bore up the souls of his kin and began to walk towards the portal. A fraction of an inch from entering however he came to a halt and turned to face the feral man he’d dealt with.

    “How did you know, how did Mathias know I wouldn’t just kill you?” Sinead asked.

    “ What can I say? Mathias thinks you’re an honorable man.” The man said before making his way to his truck. Sinead watched the man board before traversing the portal.

    Once inside the truck the man quickly manipulated the switch on the lower end of his bracelet and watched as the Farseer disappear into the portal, the giant case of souls trailing behind him.

    Deep within the elegant case, hidden within a single hollowed out soul stone, a red light flashed in the claustrophobic darkness in acknowledgement of the received signal.

    When the portal closed for the final time the man started his faithful vehicles’ engine and drove off in the direction of the Western Territories.

    The Hunter

    With a jaw rattling explosion the worm burst from the damned earth and vomited Sam’s drenched form onto the hard pavement. Sam was covered from head to toe in a white viscid fluid that smelled so rancid it would have made him gag were it not for the half a foot long leeches that covered his body. He pried them off with his bare hands and though each of the parasites relented in their hold they took a wide swath of skin every time they did. The pain was great and Sam bit down on his tongue until like the leeches themselves it popped off and filled his mouth with blood. When the last of the vile parasites had been cast off Sam spit his severed tongue out onto the ground and stared at it in dismay.

    “No time for self-pity, she’s here, others are here and they have to die.” Barrathos whispered. The sword’s words lent Sam a strange power, a feeling of invincibility, and an overriding urge to kill everything in his path. Sam shook his head and his vision cleared. He looked up and took in the cityscape that surrounded him. He found himself in an alley between a rundown bakery and the beginnings of an apartment complex. Above him the gray skies grew darker, signaling the setting of the sun. Sam walked out into the pockmarked street. As he did he noticed a light source originating from the intersection to his left. ‘Is she there?” Sam thought in his mind. A sinister ‘yes’ was his reply and with that Sam moved off towards the Magical World.

    Behind him the worm disappeared back inside its hole.

    “Did you hear that?” Townsend asked his voice trembling with fear. He held his pistol out towards the open doorway from whence the sound came. Around him his friends did the same.

    “Threnody?” Cid said giving voice to his thoughts.

    “Doesn’t sound like one to me, way too deep.” Uvula said referring to the creature’s voice.

    “Maybe it’s just really big?” Ladis suggested. The four men looked at each other. In unison they ran towards the doors and slammed their massive frames shut. Uvula, a master tracker, along with Cid a former Valkyrie pilot, grabbed a pool table and propped it against the doors, barricade style. If the animal tried to break in it’d have to come through the doors, the brick walls would take far too long to break through and the windows weren’t wide enough. The immediate problem of the Threnody dealt with, the four men turned to observe the bar again.

    Earlier when the four had first arrived they’d found the doors wide open, Mikal and the new waitress murdered, and the corpse of the old man who’d shot them. To Uvula it seemed as though a robbery had gone bad from the start, the old man hadn’t even gotten through the doorway. Though who in their right mind robbed a bar was beyond him. Of course the Western Territories are full of people not in their right mind so it made a quirky sort of sense, he thought. They’d tossed the old man’s body in a gutter drain down the street and wrapped Mikal and the waitress both in table cloth and placed each on a pool table. Now Uvula questioned the wisdom behind their actions. The bodies themselves might be attracting the beast and if there was one why wouldn’t there be others, he thought. This revelation didn’t seem to have dawned on his companions yet. They were still edgy but their fingers were not on their triggers anymore.

    That all changed when a great rumbling came from the ground. Each mans’ eyes and weapons were glued to the floor, from whence emanated a dull roar that for all the world sounded as though there was something tunneling underneath the bar.

    As fast as it started the grinding stopped. For an agonizing minute all was silence. “Maybe it’s an earthqua-AHHHH

    A giant worm interrupted Cid’s thoughts as it erupted from the floor and opening its giant maw impaled Cid with several tentacles lifting the pilot high into the air. The men open fired on the giant worm as the tentacles reeled Cid’s screaming form in and bit the man in half. Blood jetted out of the torso and onto the three men below. The creature turned towards Uvula but sensing that his gun wasn’t nearly enough he ran towards a window and jumped out barely avoiding the grasping tentacles and disappeared into the night.

    Townsend and Ladis continued firing at the worm their rounds creating dark holes in the monsters flesh that were quickly filled by a thick white fluid. The worm having lost its former prey turned towards the two. It let out a horrifying screech that saw both Townsend and Ladis follow Uvula’s suit. The two split up and the worm went for Ladis who ran for the backrooms. Townsend followed Uvula’s suit and exited the bar through the far right window. He crashed through the glass and into the alley. He paid no heed to the glass that embedded itself in his hands as a terrible scream erupted from inside the bar let him know that Ladis had met his horrible demise. Townsend ran out into the street and then fell flat on his face. He tried to get up but his legs refused to respond. When he looked down he found the reason he couldn’t feel them. They were five feet away lying on the ground. Townsend began to crawl away all the while praying to the Emperor when two small feet blocked his view. Townsend looked up at a small child. He let out a small whimper when he saw the boy’s blood soaked sword arm. With his left free hand Sam grabbed Townsend by the hair and thrust Barrathos into the man’s eye.

    Sam pulled his arm, Barrathos, free and let the body drop. Thick steamy blood spread across the pavement and washed against his feet like a wave against a cliff. Off in the distance he could see a lone man running away in the night.

    Uvula ran as fast as he could, his steel tipped boots creating a loud thudding noise against the pavement drowned out only by the beating of his heart. From across town he heard the unmistakable scream of a Threnody that was followed by an entire chorus. Uvula didn’t stop running until he reached Lonely, the only other populated building in Essex.

    The doors of Lonely swung open and a man panting hard called out. “Did none of you ****ing hear that?” Of the two dozen people inside the brothel only the bouncer noticed him, Uvula’s words drowned out by the blaring music that played over the clubs speakers.

    In a distant corner of the club, across the smooth wooden dance floor, past the stage and its lone pole dancer, beyond the tables where disgruntled men and women wasted they’re money, and next to the DJ’s stand sat Catherine. After the soldiers had left her she’d shut the door and fallen asleep, her body too tired to think, to weep, or any other action than to lie down and rest. She’d awoken several hours later in the evening by an approaching car. Afraid that the men had returned for her she snuck out of the bar through a door in the back before the deep thumps had attracted her to the club.

    She’d stumbled through the doorways and immediately captured everyone’s attention. After all it wasn’t everyday an armed ten year old wearing a flak vest several sizes too big waltzes into a whore house. The owner, a beautiful lady with long flowing red hair who went by the name of Sandra took her into the dressing rooms and gave her some clothes which thankfully bore no resemblance to the suggestive and revealing clothing her dancers wore. She’d been cleaned up a little her dressings changed and she’d exchanged her tattered wife beater for a synthetic long sleeve shirt dark green in nature and a pair of sweats that matched. Her feet, which had lost most of its skin earlier in the day, were wrapped in bandages with fresh socks thrown over. Catherine however, still wore the flak vest and had refused to give up the soldiers’ sidearm, but Sandra didn’t protest too much in regards to either.

    For the last half-hour she’d sat on a small wooden chair overlooking the night club telling her story to Sandra. It was an incredible tale and though Catherine herself had reservations about, some of the events just didn’t seem real or possible, but the myriad of fresh scars silently implored her to tell her story.

    “We should probably tell someone about this.” Sandra said after Catherine had finished her story.

    “You think?” Catherine said sarcastically. Despite the nightmare her life had turned into Catherine failed to lose any of her sardonic personality, the likes of which had seen her become the favored serf of Brother-Captain Eurydice.

    Sandra’s gaze wandered the clubs space, the erratic lighting casting everything in multicolored hues. When her eyes drifted over to the clubs entrance she saw Rag, her burly bouncer, arguing with a much shorter man who looked as though he was covered in blood.

    “Wait here sweetie.” Sandra said as she got up and walked over. Catherine watched Sandra walk off. Earlier she’d been wearing a black leather body suit that left nothing to the imagination but she’d swapped that for an ugly wool sweater and a pair of light blue jeans.

    “I need new socks!” Catherine called out to her host causing her to turn around mid-stride and frown before continuing on. It had only been a few minutes since she’d put on a new pair and already the fabric was staining red.

    Catherine watched as Sandra crossed the empty dance floor before losing interest. She reclined in her chair musing on how she might get back to the Chapter. She didn’t suppose she could walk back the condition her feet were in, though knowing Lord Eurydice he’d insist that she did. Catherine closed her eyes for a moment imagining for a moment herself as a Space Marine. It was her secret wish to one day serve Lord Eurydice not as a serf but as a fellow Marine. One day she thought. Her dream calmed her and feeling a little rejuvenated she stripped the soldiers pistol from off her waist and aimed it discreetly at one of the Sandra’s customers. For a moment her finger hovered over the trigger.

    A sudden rumble underneath the ground and a number of screeches that somehow managed to drown out the awful music that blared over the speakers caused her to whip her pistol around towards the entrance and Sandra. She’d heard the sound before when she escaped the insane man and his sadistic sexual tortures. At the sound the man she’d been arguing with took off without another word and disappeared from sight. The bouncer, Rag, Sandra had called him up pulled a shotgun out of his leather trench coat and announced that to the club that they were closing and to leave post haste.

    The dozen or so men and women in the bar didn’t move an inch other than to draw weapons and point them in the general direction of the screeches. Catherine noticed with increasing alarm that the stage girl had long since deserted her post. Ahead Sandra rushed back to Catherine a look of surprise on her face as she saw the drawn weapon as Rag backed away from the door his weapon trained on the open entrance. Several feet from the entrance Rag open fired as the first of the Threnodies crashed through the door. Screaming and chaos ensued. The first Threnody to appear had its head blown off in by Rag’s first shot but it was not the only one. Five of the fell creatures burst through the entrance at once. Even then the animals would have been mowed down without a problem but just as the Threnodies made their catastrophic entrance a giant white worm burst from the middle of the dance floor.

    The giant monster opened its gigantic maw and a boy Catherine immediately recognized leaped out. As the boy landed he lopped off the arm of a dark skinned man. The man’s scream was cut short as the boy ran him through with a sword that seemed to retract back into his arm. Ignored in the confusion lent by the Threnodies and the worm the boy ripped through the defenders, removing limbs in giant sprays of blood. Catherine trained her aim on the boy but as soon as she had a clean shot Sandra scooped her up and began running with her.

    “Come on we have to leave!” Sandra cried as she carried the young girl to the back exit where her car awaited. As they ran she saw Rag put down another of the vicious animals before another bit off his head in a gruesome chomp! The Threnody moved off to its next victim before Rag’s headless body fell to the ground. The worm which had until this point had been left unengaged pulled a fleeing girl off her feet and devoured her whole. Catherine could hear her scream from inside the beasts’ translucent body. In front of the stage a man hefting an assault rifle shredded one of the beasts before he was overcome and ripped limb from limb.

    Sandra ran for the back doorway as the tentacle turned its attentions to them. Tentacles with horrifyingly human faces shot out of its maw and raced towards them. They stopped inches from her face as the three remaining Threnodies having ran out of things to kill attacked the worm in unison. The beast reeled at the attack thrashing wildly in an attempt to throw off its attackers.

    Then the boy appeared. He leaped in front of them his vicious form barring their escape. From his right arm protruded a wicked fleshy sword. The boy let out a bestial howl as he landed. Catherine did not miss a beat the second the boy appeared she whipped her pistol around and emptied the magazine into the boy’s chest. He fell without a sound and Sandra raced past his corpse and the slowly spreading pool beneath him to their escape.

    Behind them the worm collapsed onto the floor, its milky lifeblood flooding the dance floor.

    Intermission D

    Originally in the Librarian part of my dream Catherine does not have a rope around her arm in the beginning. Instead she wrapped a fire hose around her arm which is then pulled through the wall, didn’t make any sense to me either, why I changed it.

    Kiev Oblast is fittingly the territory CNPP is located. The world itself is also Cove’s (of Leptis and CC) home planet.

    On that thought no I haven’t abandoned the EOTM story arch, which is still running on the Ailarian courtesy of Noah Dove; I’m just taking a break.

    The Demon’s look I think was inspired by (besides my subconscious) Doctor Weir from Event Horizon. His personality however stems from a very disturbed friend I knew in my younger years, I believe he is currently residing in Texas.

    The war that devastated Oblast all those decades ago was due in part to a power struggle between Darius Lazio, one of Ikozy’s predecessors and a now non-existent faction.

    The organization that Mathias heads was once known as Zmey чорний. Mathias cast aside the name when at the end of the nuclear war his organization was disbanded by Lazio. Lazio mysteriously died several weeks later of a previously unknown heart condition allowing Daniel Goren to seize power. In Linthicum, Oblast’s only major city, rumors that Lazio was assassinated were brutally put down by the local Arbites.

    In The Bathtub and The Elevator I switched from third to first person mainly because during the dream it felt as if I was Sam. Hopefully this won’t continue.

    The present time is M42.007.12.08


    M41.952.06.18- Darius Lazio seizes power from Jacob Mendes in a military coup who flees to what is now known as the Western Territories.

    M41.952.09.03-M41.954.02.26- Civil war erupts as the population in support of Mendes, revolts en masse.

    M41.955.02.13- Opposition leader Mendes begins to employ Psykers. Lazio and his advisors are at a loss to where Mendes is acquiring the Psykers since all children are scanned for genetic deviancies at birth.

    M41.955.06.06- Lazio orders the formation of Zmey чорний, a Special Forces wing composed solely of psychic blanks. He orders the conscription of any blank into the organization whether they are common folk, criminals, bounty hunters or mercenaries. Sergei still looks back on this time and comments that the pay really sucked.

    M41.955.08.21- Lazio personally puts Mathias in charge of Zmey чорний.

    M41.956.01.14 28:19- Nara, the Capital of Oblast is destroyed in a nuclear explosion.

    M41.957.01.15 004- Kiev Oblast is engulfed in an all out nuclear war. Of the 19 major cities dotting the world only one remains.

    M41.957.01.15 02:47- Lazio emerges triumphant. Mendes body is never found but is presumed dead.

    M41.957.01.18-M41.967.28- For ten years Lazio orders brutal crackdowns against the population to prevent further uprisings.

    M41. 967.10. 31- Lazio disbands Zmey чорний.

    M41.967.11.23- Lazio dies of a heart attack.

    M41.967.11.24- Daniel Goren takes power. His first action is to purge the former administration and military ranks replacing them with his own people, cementing his power base for the next twenty-four years. He creates a council of six advisors that included Iggy Thake, Nathaniel Simmons, Peter Laugher, Garo Yellin, Michele Temple, and Wallace Ikozy.

    M41.982.07.12-M41.983.01.19- Eldar forces, under the command of Farseer Sinead’Lical’Eysintel attack organization of psychic blanks widely believed to be the remnants of Lazio’s Zmey чорний crack corps. The attack results in a massive failure. No Eldar activity has been reported since.

    M41.991.06.27- Michele Temple backed by Iggy Thake and Wallace Ikozy, with help from the military stages a coup that overthrows Goren in a single night. He is executed along with the three remaining council members.

    M41.993.08.10- Michele Temple found murdered in her home. Iggy Thake was charged and found guilty. Upon his execution Wallace Ikozy became the new planetary governor.

    M42.007.12.08- Present

    The Trench

    Two months, one week later…

    “I am the God of war!” Chapter Master Siloden bellowed as he charged the enemy trench. The olive drab camouflaged soldiers standing inside the trench before him froze at the sound of the armored giant’s war cry, a mistake that would cost them their lives. Siloden’s bolter fired round after round into the platoon perforating six of the soldiers and blowing them into unidentifiable chunks of meat that splattered their comrades with hot blood. Suddenly snapping out of their transfixion the platoon began to open fire but by then it was too late. In one deft movement Siloden leaped over the concertina wire laid in front of the trench, clearing it easily, before landing inside the trench, crushing one man underneath his armored boots popping his head off and sending it spiraling down the trench. A man next him attempted to bayonet him but he nailed the man to the dirt wall of the trench with the spear end of his chain axe before his knife could scratch his armor. The soldiers inside the trench ran in fear but they found no refuge from Siloden’s fury. With contempt Siloden emptied his bolter’s magazine into the backs of the fleeing men felling a score before his magazine ran dry.

    Siloden ripped his chain axe from the trench wall, failing to remove the body impaled on it and gave chase. He lifted his whirring weapon high above his head before bringing it down on a screaming PDF soldier, cleaving him in two and spilling his organs on the trench floor. Ahead of him a dozen men banged their fists and the butts of their rifles on a steel bunker door, the men inside having closed off their escape and salvation. Siloden approached the men slowly relishing their fear. Siloden holstered his bolter. A man braver than the rest turned and charged him but in a blindingly fast movement Siloden took him by the head in his armored glaive and crushed it, the man’s brains oozing from between his fingers. At the sight of this many of the men jumped out of the trench but Siloden was on them in a flash. In a deft movement he swapped his right for his left and ran down the trench lashing out with the chain axe, taking the legs out of the men who’d made it out of the trench and taking the heads of those on their way out. Siloden completed the arc before bringing turning the whirring blade on the screaming men still inside the trench.

    When the last man was dead by his axe Siloden stopped to take stock of the battle. He jumped on top of the ferrocrete bunker for a better view, fearing neither death nor maiming. From the top of the bunker Siloden could see the remains of his Chapter as they assaulted all along the seven mile trench. Where they tread men died but opposition was fierce and his Marines were few, so few that Siloden had been forced to take this particular stretch on his own. Though he welcomed the challenge, not that it was, the lack of numbers bothered him, as this was only the opening battle of what could be a very long war. With his chapter at less than fifty percent and no new recruits defeat through attrition seemed to him a very real and dangerous possibility.

    Ineffective tracers stitched across the battlefield searching for their elusive and deadly targets. Overhead clouds filled with the fury of thunder gathered. The defenders were decent foot soldiers. They’d constructed the trench in only two days, erecting bunkers along its snaky perimeter and clearing out the land in front for half a mile, leaving only the dark black sand that seemed to cover this forsaken world. Earlier, before his assault, Ikozy had sent another of his traitorous emissaries though this time his Marines had simply cut the dog down before he had the chance to do any harm. Siloden still could not believe that so many of his Marines had died such ignominious deaths, especially Chief Librarian Lakis. Siloden bristled with anger as he thought back to the degenerate responsible for the atrocity, a dog by the name of Jias. He’d ordered the dog stripped of his rank, that his armor be painted black and cast out of the chapter, doomed to wander the galaxy until death claimed him.

    Voices from inside the bunker broke Siloden’s thoughts. He jumped back down into the bunker pulling the still stuck body from his chain axe almost as an afterthought. He walked to the metal door.

    “Knock, Knock.” He said before kicking the door so hard it flew off its hinges crushing a man against the bunker wall that left a giant crimson stain. A man open fired on him and Siloden lunged at him with his chain axe. The axe bit deep into the man’s chest, the whirring teeth shooting ribs out of his body at fantastic speeds, the bones shattering as they hit the ferrocrete walls. Shots rang out against his armor as two men open fired point blank from behind with las weapons. Siloden’s form blurred as he turned and ripped an arm off one of his attackers before beating the other soldier to death with it. When the killing was done Siloden returned outside, the first of his officer’s reports flowing in through his helmet’s VOX receiver. As expected his men reported victory without exception, though Siloden found that they’d suffered more casualties than he would have like. Seven dead, twenty three wounded of that twelve critically. Siloden gave an order for his men to regroup and consolidate their positions.

    Normally Siloden would have simply ordered his Marines to pursue the enemy until they’d run them into the ground but now he could not afford to be so brash. From here on he would have to plan his every battle with unerring tactics, unable to simply charge into his enemies’ ranks as he had today. The Chapter’s favored tactics of rushing the enemy, casualties be damned, would not win them victory here. Siloden would not underestimate this cursed planet; already it had claimed almost six hundred Marines in the space of three months.

    Far above him in low orbit the Chaste, Siloden’s personal strike cruiser, the only remaining ship in his once mighty fleet lay idle. Contact had been lost two days ago and even the tech marines could not raise her. Siloden knew it was not coincidence; he just wanted to know how.

    The Betrayal

    Siloden, along with the rest of third company, trained his weapon on the approaching truck from the cover of their hard won trench. The truck was a beat up looking thing; its tracks rusted a bright orange, a shattered windshield that blocked his view of the driver, and a paintjob that had long ago faded into dim memory. The truck flashed its lights once and stopped forty feet from the trench. Siloden ordered third company to hold its fire.

    Two empty hands emerged from the driver window and opened the door from the outside. The driver stepped out and Siloden found himself slightly confused, a feeling he did not often feel, though lately he’d been bombarded with feelings he wasn’t used to. What stepped out of the blasphemous vehicle was a man completely naked, holding his hands high above his head.

    “Who are you man? Who sent you?” Siloden bellowed.

    The man’s face did not react to the furious words nor did his voice tremble with fear when he responded. “A friend of the Astartes, a worshipper of the Emperor, a hater of Chaos and an enemy of Ikozy!” Siloden spared a glance at Brother-Sergeant Eurydice, one of his few remaining officers. The Sergeant shrugged his shoulder and sighted in on the curious man.

    “I have something for you Siloden, the gene seed of eight of your fallen Marines!” Every Space Marine winced at the mentioning of the sacred gland. Siloden raised himself out of the trench signaling for his Marines to cover him. He walked out towards the man, his armored boots sinking into the black sand with every step. “How do you know of such things, how do you know my name?” Siloden called out as he walked.

    “It’s my business to know what others do not.” Was the man’s terse reply. Siloden came within an inch of the man and to his credit he did not flinch from his frame or his gaze.

    “Show me.” Siloden said. The man nodded and led him back to the truck.

    “I’ll apologize in advance, I know they’re sacred to you but we didn’t have anything else that could store them in.” Siloden grunted at this as he followed the naked man to the back of his truck. The man removed the tarp from the flatbed revealing what appeared to be eight automated coolers. The man climbed up into the truck and opened one of the cooler’s revealing a single progenoid gland. Siloden’s face twisted in disgust at the thought of his Chapter’s heraldry being stored in such devices but he held his tongue, the man recognized the offence but did what was necessary to preserve the Chapter’s future.

    “You have my thanks…

    “I’m sorry Siloden, I don’t have a name. Like all the blanks on the planet I was conscripted at birth, I have a number but it’s a little long for the purpose you’re thinking of. As for my organization we go by the name of Zmey чорний, were demon hunters. Though there aren’t too many demons to hunt these days.” The man said.

    “I see, you have my apologies. Tell me how did you come across the Marines?” Siloden asked.

    “A patrol of ours found them, stripped of their weapons and armor. We harvested their gene seed on the spot and transported them back to the Eastern Wastes. We were on our way to your outpost when the bomb went off. Considering the kill crazy rampage you guys were going on we decided to try returning the gene seed later.” The man said closing the cooler and jumping back down from the truck.

    “Siloden its cold outside and if I spend any more time out here ass naked I think my balls are going to retract back into my body. Before I go I’ll tell you now, I have a pistol and a power scythe inside, so try not to shoot me.”

    Siloden nodded his acquiesced to the man’s request. He’d been fishing for a name but he sensed that the man did not want to give it for a reason that was beyond him, instead of pursuing the query he presented another.

    “Was it Ikozy? Did he order their deaths?” Siloden asked as the man pulled on a pair of dark green fatigues.

    “No and honestly I don’t give a shit about Ikozy, he’s not why I came to you and he’s not the one who killed these Marines, though he is connected to their deaths.” The man said as he strapped his pistol to his thigh and reached for his scythe. Siloden noticed a hundred twitches in the trench as the man withdrew his weapon from the vehicle.

    “Then who was it?” Siloden asked pleased to finally get some answers, even if it was from an unknown.

    “A demon worshipping cult,” At the mentioning of the foul forces of Chaos Siloden felt his back stiffen and his anger burn, “led by a man named Segos. We infiltrated their ranks a few months ago. At first we were just working out the location of their hideouts but in light of recent events we’ve started digging for information regarding the crash. What we found wasn’t all that surprising, the crash wasn’t caused by the cultists and we didn’t immediately find anything in regards to the marines but two weeks later one our agents got wind of a sale between Ikozy’s agents and Segos’. We confirmed from a dozen sources that it was your Marine’s armor. What the cult got in return we’re not sure but it probably amounted to some form of amnesty or refuge and a shitload of money.”

    Siloden face remained stoic throughout the man’s speech. In his mind however he weighed the revelation in his mind; his forces were already facing stiff resistance against the PDF, if cultists attacked them they’d be forced to wage war on multiple fronts.

    “Where are these heretics?” Siloden asked. The man’s face sprouted a wide grin as he replied, “I thought you might want to know that. They’re base is located in the Western Territories but if I may be so bold I already have a plan on how to deal with the cultists and Ikozy.”

    “How?” Siloden asked the gleam in his eye telling the man he was genuinely interested.

    “Segos has his own plans for this war, he means to ally himself with you in a fashion similar to my own. He thinks that once he’s helped you overthrow Ikozy you’ll instate him as planetary governor.”

    “I’d never-

    “I know you wouldn’t want to but times are dire. Ikozy just sent the entire PDF from Linthicum, 500 thousand mechanized infantry. You can’t win against that, I know it and you know it. Let these cultists take the blow, when the battle’s over move in and finish them off. Call in an orbital bombardment or something.” The man said. Siloden felt his fury rise when the man cut him off but he managed to keep his temper in check.

    “The atmosphere of the planet doesn’t allow for that solution, if it did you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation.” Siloden said.

    “That’s too bad.” The man replied.

    “Tell me where your own men will be during all this.”

    “Out, cutting off the snake’s heads.” The man replied.
    Last edited by Nikolaevich; February 17th, 2008 at 22:25.
    Ne Cede Malis

  4. #3
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    God was written by the late John Lennon on his first post-Beatles album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.


    The butchered man entered Lonely through its cracked wooden doors. His black eyes traversed the carnage as an evil smile played across his lips. The club had been demolished. Half eaten corpses lay scattered across the club. Sprays of blood painted the walls a nightmarish mosaic, each spray a rumor of its former owner’s painful end. In the center of the club lay a giant whole from which sprouted the rotted form of the worm, butchered and partially eaten.

    “Things are dumber than I thought.” The butchered man said as he looked at the three dead animals lying next to the worm. The potent toxins in the worm’s blood having killed them, apparently though not fast enough to save the worm’s life. There were another three of the creatures scattered throughout the club though they’d been put down by bullet rather than by poison. The butchered man continued his analysis of the club laughing out loud when he located Sam on the far side of the club lying face down in a pool his own blood.

    “You could have warned me...” Barrathos spoke into the butchered man’s stolen soul referring to the psychic blank that had nearly cost him his life. The butchered man laughed even harder at this as he stepped in the dark red blood that poured from Rag’s decapitated body his feet leaving bloody footprints as he walked across the club.

    “Guess I coulda, suppose I shoulda, maybe I woulda,” The butchered man said pointing towards the demonic sword, “But I didn’t so get over it.” The butchered man said harshly. He walked over to wear Sam lay lifting the boy’s head and looking in his dead eyes.

    “He was a promising candidate, too bad he’s dead now. I suppose well have to find another.” Barrathos said, bloody lips forming on the blade to speak in the demon’s own language.

    “He still is.” The butchered man said forcefully. He turned around and reached out with his hand to grab a bottle of amasec from the shelf before uncapping it and draining the entire bottle. He spit a little out onto the blade and a dark green tongue burst from between the sword’s lips and lapped at the hazel colored liquid.

    “Have you lost your thrice damned mind? Lucifuge, they are still watching! They will come here and they will kill us or worse drag us back into the fold!” Barrathos wailed at his master.

    “I am my own Barrathos! I fear nothing, no capricious deity, no false God! I am my own!” Lucifuge screamed back at the sword. His words were spoken with such fury that the roof of the club was ripped from its base revealing through the smoke the pitch black clouds above. At that Lucifuge raised his hands high above his mutilated head and compelled by his unshakeable will the heart of every man and woman in the club sprung from their chests and burst into flame.

    “Let’s get some music in on this one.” Lucifuge said, a tinge of sadness lining his usually good humor. He cast aside the bottle and on its own the speaker’s began,

    “God is a concept by which we measure our pain.”
    Lucifuge turned his attentions to the worm, lifting the beast out with a wordless scream and throwing it over the clubs torn walls and out into the streets of Essex.

    “I’ll say it again. God is a concept by which we measure our pain.”

    In a sickening grinding and rending of bones each body began to come apart at the seams in great displays of blood and gore.

    “I don’t believe in magic.”

    Lucifuge brought his hands together and as one every drop of blood, every strand of muscle, every splinter of bone, every strand of hair, and quilt of skin fused together in one mesh of human meat that hovered above the worm’s burrowed hole.

    “I don’t believe in I-ching.”

    Skin parted from the bloodied chunk of mortal suffering and was stitched together with dark strands of hair, torn from the scalps of the dead.

    “I don’t believe in bible.”

    When every flayed skin had been stitched together Lucifuge laid the human quilt over the broken dance floor.

    “I don’t believe in Tarot.”

    At Lucifuge’s command a dozen red stained ribs shot out of the seething mass of flesh. Held aloft by unholy powers the ribs splintered creating a jagged end that began to drag themselves through the filleted skin.

    “I don’t believe in Hitler.”

    The rib punctured a quarter-inch deep into the fleshy quilt carving an elaborate sigil of four circles a half-foot between, each encompassing the other. The innermost most of the circles contained a pentagram with four eyes, one on each of the outside vertexes.

    “I don’t believe in Jesus.”

    Lucifuge made fists of his hands, digging his nails so deeply into the palms of his hands that blood flowed like a faucet and mirroring his own actions the mass compressed, squeezed as if a sponge and thick red blood oozed out filling the shallow trenches dug by the now floating ribs.

    “I don’t believe in Kennedy.”

    As the blood raced through the cuts faces began to form on the skins surface. At first they were simple faces of expression, anger, sadness, hate but as the liquid began to fill the entirety of the sigil the faces became violent, their facial forms stretching the skin as they struggled to break free all the while proclaiming their hate to the world in languages long forgotten by all but the most astute historians. Lucifuge responded to his faces in an ancient demonic dialect known only to the demon princes and kings. At each syllable the raging faces screamed in soulless agony, their forms not recognizing anything but the pain of Lucifuge’s words.

    “I don’t believe in Buddha.”

    As Lucifuge worked Barrathos busied himself with separating his own putrid form from Sam. Barrathos removed himself in the same manner he entered though in this case he did not reweave any of the flesh he took to sustain himself. Consequently Sam’s arm was left a meatless stump, only his black stained bones remaining.

    “I don’t believe in Mantra.”

    Outside the town of Essex was being ripped apart. Hurricane winds tore down the already dilapidated buildings. Lightning struck dozens more setting their frames ablaze and melting steel beams that collapsed more of the town. Off in the distance tornadoes began to form, their radioactive winds sucking every living thing into the cyclonic mouths.

    “I don’t believe in Gita.”

    “Pretty big for a simply soul summoning eh?” Barrathos shouted at its insane master, his worry barely concealed. Lucifuge made no response as he continued to chant in his demonic tongue. The blood was beginning to burn bright red flames and Lucifuge knew it was time.

    “I don’t believe in Yoga.”

    With a flick of the wrist Lucifuge raised Sam’s fallen corpse off the ground and placed him hovering in the center of the sigil between the floor and the grotesque mass of flesh.

    “I don’t believe in Kings.”

    Lucifuge, his tirade never ending, spoke the single word ‘Theda’Il’minatos’ and Sam’s body exploded into wet chunks. Just as soon as it came apart Sam’s body began to come together again, reuniting itself above the sigil. Below him the burning flames grew in light, size, and intensity until their flickering forms licked where the ceiling had once been.

    “I don’t believe in Elvis.”

    Sam’s body began to knit itself back together taking whatever it needed from the combined flesh above, slow at first and then increasingly faster until his body was once again complete.

    “I don’t believe in Zimmerman.”

    “Mivalos nagothos pasica vilenesi kila’tagos’ sev qoz niguy lita ethos ogat brahd mivah!” Lucifuge screamed at the heavens. At his words a portal to the realms of chaos opened and though millions of demons tried to come through they were held in check by Lucifuge’s murderous words.

    “I don’t believe in Beatles.”

    Deep inside the warp hiding within a deep fold a single gleaming light felt the smallest pull, the slightest tug. Intrigued the light traveled through the currents and eddies of the formless sea that was the warp and though the predators of the sea swam close none attacked. As the tiny glow drew closer it saw a light that was neither a predator nor the dim glow of another soul. It was the light of life and surrounding it were millions of the devils and nightmares that had hunted him since his arrival.

    “I just believe in me.”

    Suddenly a terrible darkness erupted from the portal that consumed the essences of hundreds of thousands of the demons creating an opening for the soul to pass through. Feeling the siren’s call become stronger the soul raced for the opening just as thousands of the demons began to swim after him. Suddenly from behind and above and everywhere around him the tiny soul felt an overwhelming presence begin to weigh down upon him. Though it was difficult to feel anything the soul felt fear and it fled faster than ever.

    “Yoko and me.”

    “Lucifuge Rofocle! Traitor! Cursed among all kind, I come for you!” Slaanesh, the goddess of pleasure screamed. The force of her words hit Essex like a multi-kiloton bomb. Buildings shattered into millions of razor sharp fragments. The ground belched hot blue fire that incinerated everything in a hundred mile radius. The clouds above instantly dissipated and reformed into a leering monstrous face. And then the little soul burst from the warp and into its rebuilt body.

    “And that’s reality.”

    With a mighty roar Lucifuge closed the portal before the Chaos God could bring herself into being. When the portal finally closed Lucifuge fell to his knees and with him everything he’d nearly died protecting. Essex had been flattened; no brick lay upon another, no tree was left standing, no defiant blade of grass. Above, the sky still crackled with the dangerous energies Slaanesh had unleashed in her attempt to break free. It had taken his every shred of willpower to hold her at bay and to protect not only himself but his two charges as well.

    “The dream is over.”

    Beside him Barrathos gave birth to tiny little legs that bore him to Sam’s side while Lucifuge fell to his knees and contemplated his actions. For the first time in almost two hundred million years a Chaos God had almost made it to reality. The gravity of the close call made Lucifuge laugh as he fell hard onto his back. He knew of course there would be a reckoning like no other but he relished his victory, if only for a few seconds he had defied a God. Next to Barrathos Sam opened his eyes, the pain of life returning to him.

    “The dream is over, what can I say?” Lucifuge spoke to the winds.

    On The Road Again

    Catherine sat acerbically on the splintery top of an uprooted stump as she watched Sandra yell hysterically at a small object that she assumed was a VOX transponder, though she’d never seen one so small before. Catherine looked away from Sandra’s slender figure and towards her now dead car. Earlier during their furious escape the car, a green four door car atop an aerodynamic frame, had been in such perfect condition that even the Tech-Marines would be impressed. Now it was just another burning wreck along the road. Half-an-hour into their escape lighting began to strike the ground with unrelenting ferocity and from the passenger seat Catherine could see tornadoes connect the ground and the sky. A few seconds after that a devastating shockwave that split the road in half and shattered the windows struck. The impact lifted the back of the car almost to a 90 degree angle and as soon as the tail end returned to the road the ground burst into flames catching the tires on fire and sending up plumes of thick black smoke. At that point Catherine thought she was finally going to bite it but Sandra kept her foot on the pedal and after a single minute they burst through the flames and into the mercifully cool night. Sandra kept driving even after clearing the fire, only stopping when the tires finally parted from the car in a shower of sparks and screeching metal.

    When they stopped Sandra had gotten out and hefted Catherine out of the car placing her on the tree stump where she now sat. Suddenly Sandra let out a primordial scream of frustration as she hurled her mysterious communications device into the tall black grass that grew either side of the road. She took a deep breath and put on her best smile before turning to Catherine, “Hey sweetie how do you feel about going on a walk with me?”

    “I don’t have any skin on my feet so I’m feeling it’s going to be an agonizing affair unless you decide to carry me.” Catherine replied. For most of the week Catherine had been in shock in one form or another, mostly thanks to the nightmarish hell she’d been put through, though the two ton rifle to the chest hadn’t helped. It wasn’t until now that she was regaining a measure of herself.

    “Well if that’s the case let’s lose the vest. That thing looks pretty heavy.” Sandra said referring to the flak vest Catherine still wore. Catherine gave Sandra a severe look and shook her head. Sandra was in good shape, her profession required it but the nearest town was almost twenty miles away and the idea of carrying more than she had to irked her like none other.

    “Hm. I understand you’ve had a pretty rough day sweetie but-

    “Rough? I got raped by a daemon, had a blade of glass stuck in my neck, nearly had my arm torn off, had my other arm broken, had the bottom of my feet filleted, got chased by a man eating animal that could run as fast as a car could drive, broke a rib firing a rifle taller than me, ,the man who saved my life was shot while he was carrying me and then to top it off I almost got devoured whole by a giant worm all in one week. A lot of it today, me tend to think I need all the protection I can get.” Catherine interrupted. As she spoke the gravity of what had happened to her over the past few days finally donned on her and she choked up, shedding tears despite the teachings of the Chapter.

    “Oh sweetie, it’s OK now, every things going to be ok.” Sandra said as she wrapped her arms around the crying girl. If she could be truthful Sandra wasn’t sure why this hadn’t happened earlier in the club. It was true Catherine hadn’t told her all of what happened, especially the rape, while they were there but even what she did tell her would have made her break down in tears for weeks on end. That she was only now releasing her feelings spoke of either an incomprehensibly strong will or insanity. Maybe it was her upbringing, maybe the Space Marines had just inured her to pain and suffering, maybe they’d suppressed a piece of what made her human, a part of her that was only now coming to the surface. “Come on we got to go.” Sandra said and at that she lifted Catherine’s sobbing form up and began walking down the road.

    As Sandra carried the girl she got a strange feeling, a slight discomfort the origins of which she couldn’t quite place. It was a deep ache not unlike a severe case of radiation exposure and for a second Sandra worried that she’d driven through a blowout though if that had been the case they’d both be dead by now. In the end she wrote the ache off as just another side effect of carrying a 100 pound girl wearing a thirty pound flak vest.

    While they walked Catherine reflected on what had happened during the hellish week. Though she was the victim she couldn’t suppress feelings of failure for having allowed herself to be put in the position in the first place for Lord Eurydice had always warned her of wandering off in a potential battlefield on her own. The entire week she’d been unable to function as herself or really as anything more than animal. During her respite in the bar she’d slept instead of giving thanks to the Emperor for having delivered her from the demon’s clutches, a grave offense indeed. As Sandra carried her down the road Catherine recited the Catechisms’ of Pain that Lord Eurydice had taught her in her mind, their words channeling her feelings of guilt and failure into anger, at the demon, at herself. When she returned to the chapter she would have to confess her sins, if Lord Eurydice allowed it, to the Chaplain. She hoped her punishment wouldn’t be too harsh.

    An hour and three miles later Sandra’s weary form looked back down the road and to the devastation just beyond the horizon. On either side of the road animals fled past her. What had begun as a trickle had bloomed into a full blown exodus of the life that had once populated the region. Everything from the smallest of mice to the mighty Threnodies fled and though Sandra was reluctant about going anywhere in the same direction as the vicious carnivores but when she considered the girl’s fanciful tale and the murderous boy she decided to swallow her fear and mush on.

    “Hey with any luck there are people on their way here to check out the explosion, people always come to investigate these kinds of things.” Sandra said in an effort to keep her mind from imagining the horrors that lay hidden within the grass and to cheer up her young companion. Catherine gave a tiny grunt of acknowledgment. It had only taken the girl about ten minutes to get a hold on herself, her sobs devolving into tiny whimpers and then to nothing as they progressed down the dark road.

    “Hey I have an idea, a little something to pass the time while we go why don’t we play Q&A?” Sandra suggested with a joyous tone.

    “What’s that?” Catherine asked. She wasn’t in a mood to play games and besides in a situation like this if Lord Eurydice ever caught her playing games he’d be liable to give her quarter rations for a week or PT her until she threw up or any other number of punishments the Marine Sergeant could think of.

    “Well what you do is I ask a question and you answer it and then you ask a question and I answer it.” Sandra said her mind already thinking of questions to ask, most of which dealt with the Space Marines.

    “I go first.” Catherine grumbled into her ear.

    “Alrighty then ask away.” Sandra said.

    “What was with that girl on the stage, the hell was she doing and why was she dressed like that, and along that line of thought what was with that leather outfit you were wearing earlier?” Catherine asked. It wasn’t the worst of questions she could have asked, there were far more…awkward questions though Sandra couldn’t think of any.

    “Well…you see…sometimes when a guy or a girl…is alone for a long time, they naturally want company and…

    “Sex.” Catherine said finishing Sandra’s convoluted sentence.

    “Well yes …but aren’t you a little too young to be knowing anything about that?” Sandra asked a little off-put by the girl’s question.

    “I’m twelve years old and besides one of the newer initiates told me about it.” Catherine replied.

    “Initiates wha-

    “You already asked your question my turn!” Catherine interrupted with a sinister smile. Sandra let out a slight curse, “tricked by a twelve year old…”

    “Why do you work there? I mean it doesn’t seem like the kind of place a woman like you would work at.” Catherine said.

    Sandra shifted the girl’s weight before replying for there was a piece of something digging into her back, “Well it’s the only place I could work. When I first came here to Kiev, I’m from off world if you hadn’t noticed; I lived in Linthicum but that was when Goren was in power and police crackdowns were a daily occurrence. So I left and came out to the territories. Problem was that there wasn’t much work here. I couldn’t hunt for food like some of the people out here and none of the passing groups would take me ‘cause I’d never fired a rifle before in my life. This was a little ironic because as a kid I’d always wanted to be a range master. But anyways I came to Essex and started working for this guy named Lonely as a dancer, a real nasty guy mean-spirited and all. About three years after I started working for him he died by stepping into a blowout and since I was his most senior dancer I took over. Been running the club ever since.”

    “Why didn’t you become a range master like you wanted?” Catherine asked a little confused. She’d always been taught to let nothing stand in the way of her goals be it a single pebble or a horde of demons. Sandra let out a sigh and turned to look over her shoulder at Catherine.

    “Well my parent’s mostly. When I told them what I wanted to be my dad was like, ‘you can’t do that Sandy, you’re a girl’ and my mother never said anything to the contrary and that was that. I mean it wasn’t all their fault where I’m from girls are supposed to be these obedient little things that. Well…you know how the saying goes woman is the nigger of the world.”

    “No actually I don’t”, Catherine said upset that her savior was a pushover, “If anyone ever told me what to do I’d break their knee caps.”

    Sandra mused on the girl’s words for a moment as she walked their little game all but forgotten. When she was her age she’d been what her father had called ‘unruly’. At the time she’d considered it a badge of honor but now she realized just how timid she’d been when compared to the psychotic little girl hanging off her shoulders. Well psychotic might be a little harsh but- A sudden jab in the small of her back made Sandra stop.

    “Hey sweetie I’m gonna set you down for a second.” Sandra said. Her entire body ached and she didn’t need some odd object to exacerbate her pain. She set Catherine down on the hard pavement, careful not to drop her on her feet and began to search for the source of her distress. She browsed through the dozens of pockets on Catherine’s flak vest until she came across a GPS device and a map. Sandra pulled both out and flicked the GPS on the tiny screen illuminating her face in a light blue glow.

    “Catherine, where’d you get this?” Sandra asked as she looked scanned the device. On the screen there was a square highlighted red which corresponded with the map.

    “A big guy gave it to me, he told me to go to the grid coordinate but he’s was one of the guy’s who killed…I don’t know who he was really.” Catherine said.

    “Well this isn’t too far away.” Sandra said as she looked over the map. She wasn’t an expert at reading maps but then it didn’t take a genius to figure out that the smoldering crater several miles behind them was Essex. Sandra looked at the map and zoomed in on the grid. The grid was centered on a hill or depression, Sandra couldn’t remember which lines meant which. She scrolled over to their current location.

    “It’s only two miles east of here,” Sandra said to herself then looking up at Catherine “Let’s head there, they’ll probably have a good idea of what’s going on and even if they don’t they’ll definitely have something to fix you up.”

    “If it’s anything less than an IV line to my heart filled with morphine then I’m not interested.” Catherine said as Sandra picked her back up.

    “Don’t worry sweetie we’ll solve your drug problem later now, let’s go check this place out.”

    The Million Dollar Question


    +You are the one they call Mathias+ pause +No not Mathias, just a frie+

    “You’re the one I know, I already know.”

    Eythilus’Sel’Sinead, a tall slender Eldar with steely muscles and long black hair bundled up in similarly black braids, stopped the recording. He knew nothing of the man, no name, no face, no history, just a voice. But it was him.

    For years he’d listened to those words never once able to discern a deeper meaning. He leaned back in his chair taking a sip from the bottle of Hethecel, a sweet intoxicating beverage that did nothing to intoxicate him or relieve his weariness. Eythilus knew he was becoming more and more attached to the drink but he ignored his mind’s counsel and dug through a pile of folders before producing a single vanilla covered file with the words ‘Zmey чорний’ written in black ink across it. There were other files there as well ‘Goran’, ‘Lazio’, ‘Ikozy’, ‘Sego’, ‘Trader/Mathias?’, and still more all strewn across his crystal white wraithbone desk all filled with files, photos, audio snippets, video files though these were limited to the politicians, and anything else Eythilus could get his hands on.

    Eythilus opened the file and papers spilled out onto his lap. Cursing he gathered each of them up his eyes scanning every page as he did. Like the recording he’d read every document that had ever concerned the organization but still he was compelled to keep reading them to dig through their lines for something, anything about his quarry. Created in 955 by the late Darius Lazio their base of operations as well as recruiting center was based in Nara, the now burnt out husk of a city.

    He thought back to almost a decade and a half ago Eythilus when he’d overheard a PDF soldier talking about a rumor of a secret bunker in the former capital. Immediately he’d set off and for months searched the ruins until he’d found the facility cleverly hidden beneath an administrative building set aside for filing taxes. It didn’t take him too long to gain entry as the security systems had long since eroded away. For the following week he’d mapped out the entire facility and though it had housed everything from an armory to a science lab there was nothing that could be used to find his man.

    The lab however had been something of an interest to Eythilus and in the following years he’d returned there several times. The lab had a dozen tanks each filled with a glossy green liquid and containing a single human form. Long dead computers used for analyzing the subjects were placed before each of the tanks. The flesh from the corpses had been preserved fairly well and he could see thick black cables snaking their way into the dead human’s skulls. He wasn’t entirely sure what the tanks purpose were but he guessed they were for some form of genetic or psychic manipulation. Besides the tanks there was one other thing of interest. While examining the tanks one day Eythilus spotted a small scorch mark on a wall. When he went to investigate he found a pile of ash that still had some badly burned papers. Most of the files were unimportant but there was one paper, the only file in the only folder marked in red; that dealt with Mathias. To his terrifying fury most of the paper was too charred to read but it gave a name and it gave a date and for that he was grateful:

    from: parse,
    subj: mathias, blank

    All the rest was rendered illegible by the flames. For years Eythilus had laid awake as questions raised by the document haunted his mind. Zmey чорний hadn’t been formed until 955 and the only reason it had been formed was to fight psychics so why was the paper dated five years prior during Mendes’s reign? Was Zmey чорний already in development or was its original purpose different from the one used by Lazio? Who or what was parse? As a result of these questions Eythilus had spent almost a year trying to decipher the rest, taking it to linguistic geniuses, seers and even oracles in an attempt to divine some meaning. Sadly his work was for nothing and he never did find the answers he sought and the document remained untouched and alone inside Mathias’ file.

    There were other leads besides the paper to follow of course and Eythilus neglected none. Shortly after finding the lab he’d taken a crash course in the world’s history by masquerading as a human while attending a Scholam given over to higher learning. There he’d learned about the current administration under Temple and the previous administrations of Goren, Lazio, and Mendes. Most of what he’d been taught was propagandist bullshit but he was more than capable of separating fact from fiction. Sadly though despite completing the two year course with honors nothing new was revealed to him save that the organization had either been completely uninvolved in politics or more likely that they had been removed from the history books. Eythilus knew from a number of elderly humans that Zmey чорний had been used as a secret police force during Lazio and that they were disbanded after his death. After that no one ever heard from them. There were rumors that they’d left the planet for fear of reprisal.

    Ironically not two years after he’d completed the course was Temple murdered in her home and Thake, one of her advisors was charged and found guilty before being executed allowing Ikozy to take control as Planetary Governor. Eythilus had looked into the incident but it was just a simple case of internal politics which had nothing to do with Zmey чорний or any of its members.

    Though his time in the Scholam had not given him the results he’d hoped for Eythilus remained undeterred. For a long while afterwards he continued plundering the city of Nara, searching government buildings, collecting hundreds of documents and reviewing them for any mention of the shadow organization. One day while searching the old capital building he came across a still working terminal. Overjoyed at his find Eythilus spent two weeks going through logs and reading documents until he stumbled across a transmission sent to the Western Territories and dated back in 967, shortly before Lazio died. The communiqué didn’t directly mention Zmey чорний or Mathias but Eythilus was fairly sure that the letter had something to do with them.

    Eythilus closed the folder he held returning it to its designated spot. He took another long drink from his bottle before reaching for Sego’s file and pulled out the transcript.

    “They’re gone, everyone’s gone and I think he’s taken the bait. I hope your demonic little friend can pull this off.” Eythilus said reading from the paper.

    The transmission was short but it spoke volumes as to the true cause of his death. Even after two decades Eythilus still hadn’t figured out if Mathias had been connected to Goren. Considering he’d run the world for 24 years he didn’t see how he couldn’t have but then there was zero connection to Ikozy though there might be more sinister reasons for that. After that Eythilus took a trip to the Western Territories intent on digging up anything on the recipient. A day after his arrival Eythilus stumbled upon a cult and quickly realized that Lazio had very literally meant demonic. A group of twenty armed men bearing the marks of Chaos had been waiting in ambush for him just outside of Essex. Fortunately his mind’s eye alerted him to their presence and that of the monstrous demon laying in wait. Thinking back to the close call Eythilus took another long draught from his bottle.

    For the next few weeks Eythilus stayed in Essex paying mercenaries to go find information on the cult and report it back to him. Some of the men he hired died but most came back bearing trinkets of information. Through them he learned of the cult’s leader Segos, who’d risen sometime around the 60’s. Despite my promise of grand payment however none ever agreed to actually infiltrate the cult. Why Lazio associated with the cult was a little beyond him for the man was no Chaos worshiper and stood to gain nothing from the arrangement. At least none that he’d uncovered. Having learned all that he could, Eythilus returned to Linthicum, though he kept an ear out for any happenings out past Essex, lest he need to leave the world in haste. He’d briefly considered leaving when one night two months ago a terrible roar shook the world and he felt the claws of She-Who-Thirsts more clearly than ever before in his life. But as soon as the claws sank in him they were released, leaving him spent on the floor. He’d wanted to leave but he’d come too far and he was more than ready to risk his soul, no matter what the demon in the West did.

    Eythilus glanced at the clock in his room, dimly realizing it was early morning as opposed to late at night. For the last seven hours he’d poured over his precious documents searching for anything to lead him to Mathias. Long ago his fellow Eldar had called him obsessed, warning of a fall into madness but how could he not be? Long before he’d come to the planet he’d petitioned for another military expedition but the Seer council had refused, even the Biel-Tan, famous for their aggressiveness refused. None would go after the man, not after what had happened. At 63 years old, he was just another example of the impetus of youth. Unable to gather the support he needed he’d resolved to find the man and bring him to justice himself and for the last twenty-two years that’s what he’d done. Of course bringing Mathias to justice was easier said than done. Somehow after openly fighting for over a year the entire organization had simply disappeared. Its true Eythilus didn’t travel to the world until two years after but still it didn’t make sense that an organization that powerful and large could simply go underground.

    It was a slow process to be sure, on Kiev Oblast everything was shrouded in mystery, no one trusted anyone else, accurate and current record keeping was practically non-existent. Everything he’d found he’d gotten from the scholam, dug up from an abandoned city, or heard in rumor. But due to recent events he’d been able to uncover more in a week then what he had in a decade. Earlier that week he’d been contacted by one of the mercenaries hired years earlier to look in on the cult. A giant Nordic man by the name of Crace tipped him off to a deal between an unknown party and a single psychic blank for the execution of ten Astartes. Eythilus paid the man generously for the information and when word of ten dead Astartes filtered back to him he’d remained calm but when Crace returned telling of a taxi driver named Polu who’d picked up five psychic blanks near the killings he rushed out the door without bothering to say another word.

    Eythilus set off in his dingy car to the companies HQ in Linthicum intent on speaking with the driver. He arrived at the companies building, really just a large hollowed out parking station made of brick, in a green flight suit with a woolen cover over his head to conceal his ears. Upon entering the building however a manager who was former guard recognized him for what he was and he’d been forced to bribe the man to keep his secret. After he paid the man off he told him he desired to speak with Polu and for another slightly smaller deposit into the man’s pockets he called the taxi driver back to the station. The man told him to wait upstairs on a bench that overlooked the parking garage. The place was gloomy and loud, below dozens of maintenance personnel worked on bright orange trucks and cars each bearing the words ‘Dido’s Ferry’.

    Fortunately his wait wasn’t long. Within ten minutes a man dressed in a pair of long and a brown leather jacket came up to the manager who pointed up to Eythilus. The man leaped nimbly up the stairs and Eythilus stood to greet him.
    “You are Polu?” Eythilus said in flawless gothic. For the last 19 years he’d lived on Kiev Oblast and a fluid command of the language had been more than necessary.

    “You’re an alien?” He replied.

    “Well yes. But that’s not really your concern.” Eythilus said irritably, as he’d been hoping for the manager to leave that part out.

    “What is?” He asked.

    “About a week ago you drove five men, five psychic blanks somewhere, where did you take them?”

    “Uh I don’t really remember; it’s been a while.”

    Eythilus reached into his back pocket and pulled out a wad of Imperials, putting a few in the driver’s hand. “Remember now?”

    “As a matter of fact I do. I took two of them to Tava, small town about forty miles from here; other three were in Castel about sixty miles from here.” He said.

    “Did you get their names?” Eythilus implored.


    Eythilus threw the rest of the wad in his hand. “Yeah one of the guy’s names was Sergei he’s in Tava, don’t know if he’s there now…”

    “Yes thank you!” Eythilus called out as he ran past the man and down the stairs. He raced out of the station running as fast as his legs could carry him down the street and back to his car. Eythilus threw himself in the car and drove off out of the city and towards Tava.

    Tava was a small town of perhaps a few hundred individuals. Composed solely of a single apartment complex and a rundown mall, Eythilus knew it wouldn’t be long before he’d found the man. Upon arriving he parked along the complex pulling a small pict-vox from the passenger side compartment before quickly entering the dilapidated building. He wondered the buildings going up and down hallways, as close to the walls as possible. It was on the fourth floor that he found him. He was walking down the hallway when he felt a sudden emptiness. Knowing the feeling for what it was he slammed himself against the filthy plaster walls. He tried the door and finding it unlocked silently entered the apartment.

    The room was unlike the rest of the project meticulously clean. Though the entire building was falling down Eythilus couldn’t find a speck of dirt anywhere. There was a coffee table with a single chair in the middle of the room that bordered a kitchen with a fridge and stove. There was no living room to speak of, the room simply ending in an L-shape. He spotted a door off to his left and he warily approached it careful to not make any noises. He silently cursed himself for bringing a weapon but he brushed the thought aside. As he crept towards the door he could feel his senses leaving him, replaced by a dull pain. Upon reaching the door Eythilus pulled it open revealing the sleeping form of Sergei. Quickly Eythilus made sure the flash was off before taking several photos of the man’s face and body. He turned to leave when something caught his eye. Off in the corner resting on a simple night stand was a damaged Astartes helmet. Sparing a glance to the sleeping killer Eythilus gathered up the helmet before leaving the room. He walked to the kitchen going through the drawers until he found a long serrated knife, setting the helmet down on the coffee table as he returned to the room.

    Eythilus returned to the room blade in hand. He stared at the sleeping man. Moving swiftly he grabbed the man’s hair and pulled him up ignoring the pain of physical contact. He flipped the man over straddling his chest placing the blade to the man’s throat.

    “Mathias. Start talking now.”

    Eythilus finished the bottle throwing it aside as he picked up another one and began another. In the end after four hours of work, after carving intricate runes into the man’s flesh, after putting his eyes out, and removing his scalp he finally talked.

    “He’s the head of the organization.” The man said through a lip less mouth.

    “What organization? Zmey чорний?”

    The man nodded his head weakly.

    “Where is he?” I bellowed.

    The man shook his head. “I don’t know, I swear I don’t, no one ever does. He lives alone out in the wastes he only comes out when he needs something done.”

    “Fine one last question. 23 years ago we made a deal, the man who brokered it, who was he?”

    The man cried bloody tears as he nodded his head. Satisfied Eythilus grabbed the man by the hair and slit his throat.

    Eythilus set the bottle aside, and pressed play.

    +Did he not deem this meeting important enough to require his presence+

    “Yes he did.” Eythilus said as he took another drink.

    The poem "Death" belongs to Cindy Cheney if a moderator has a problem I will of course take it down.

    The Escape

    Many Years Ago…

    “Huh…huh…ahhhh!” Halleck screamed as he burst once again into conciseness his single eye opening to reveal thousands of thin black tubes ending in long silver needles inserting themselves into his head. He tried to move but thick metal clamps secured his naked body by the wrists and ankles. Suddenly an icy chill rushed through his body replacing the agonizing pain and Mathias realized the needles were pumping some form of liquid into him. Momentarily in control of his senses Halleck eye darted round trying to discern his surroundings found that all was dark save a faint green glow emitting from the ceiling high above. Denied his sight Mathias felt frantically around with his body his back registering an icy-cold metal beneath him and his fingers telling him that his restraints were of smooth, flawless design.

    From behind him a horrible scream pierced the darkness as hot liquid splashed against his face, the warmth on his face and chest making him notice for the first time a dull ache in his chest. Then to his front an electric humming accompanied by a blinding green light and punctuated by another blood-curdling scream assaulted his senses. Despite whatever chilled liquid now flowed through his veins Mathias could felt the soles of his burn from the warmth emanating from the unholy light.

    “Hel-ahhhh!” Halleck tried to call out to the other man but as soon as he did the entire structure shook shaking the needles inside his head and causing him to grit his teeth in pain. After a few seconds the light dimmed and as if on cue the needles in his head extracted and Halleck bit down on his lip until he tasted blood. Once the last of the needles had been removed the metal floor beneath began to move carting him towards the origin of the green glow. Behind him Halleck could hear the pitiful whimpers of the man behind him calling out to a God in a language he couldn’t understand. Halleck guessed he was on a conveyor-belt of some type or more likely considering what was being done an assembly line. The belt moved slowly and half-way to the next station the structure shook again much more violently than before.

    “What’s going on?” He said his voice shaking with terror.

    “They’re killing us!” The man behind him screamed in Gothic.

    Halleck was about to respond when another quake stopped the conveyor and the clamps slid open almost instantaneously. Halleck tried to escape but he wasn’t quick enough and the clamps slammed closed as the conveyor resumed. It halted again after a scant meter and Mathias found himself looking up at four bright green eyes above a wide array of mechanical instruments that stared down at him with a horrible malice. Halleck heard the man behind him scream again as the strange machine lowered itself down and placing itself directly over his face. The man continued screaming as a long segmented barrel with skinny spires jutting out the length lowered itself two feet from his forehead. Mathias tried to prepare himself for what was to come but he failed miserably.

    A bright green lightning shot out into his head and Halleck felt as though his very soul was being stripped away. Images of pure horror flashed across his vision worlds completely engulfed in flame, men and aliens butchered torn in half and hung from trees their steaming entrails reaching the ground far below, fields of crucified dead and living screaming out an eternal lament, buildings collapsing under the treads of tireless legions and a thousand other horrors. Halleck could feel his mind being torn away by the pulsing beam, memories of himself, his family; his entire past was cast off and replaced with…something else, an unholy presence a dark power. Then something happened, the light flickered as another quake shook the foundations of the structure again and again until sparks began to fly from the machine. The beam changed from a malevolent green to an unholy black before cutting off altogether. Halleck however had no time to thank whatever God he’d used to pray to for his reprieve for he could see a terrible surge of power build up in the machine even as it tried to retract the spindly barrel into its mechanical maw. Perhaps the buildup of power was too great for the metal spider to withhold or perhaps the next quake was the boulder that broke the camel’s back, whatever it was the machine exploded in a great display of lightless sparks and the power which it had tried futilely to contain shot out and burrowed deep into Halleck’s psyche completely obliterating everything that made him what he was and gifting him with its unholy power.

    The man awoke but a few minutes later to find his restraints unlocked and the machine lying broken before him, the occasional spark lighting its lifeless face. The man took in his surroundings though there was little to see. In front of him lay nothing that he could see, pitch black as it was though behind him he could just make out a smoldering corpse, bright red cinders glowing as a gentle breeze brushed over them. To his left was a solid metal wall that was of no use and to his right laid an open space bare of decoration save a strange symbol in the center that looked like a sun radiating light and pieces of metal debris that melted before his eye. At the far end of the room the wall had been demolished revealing a wide passageway constructed of the same black metal as everything else he’d seen. The man eased himself off the belt his every muscle screaming in pain and yet somehow distant.

    The man watched the liquid metal run up the walls and he followed their movements up to a gaping hole in the ceiling that revealed the starry night above. Dull booming sounds erupted from outside the whole but the man couldn’t guess as to their nature. Thinking he might need to explore his surroundings the man walked across the wide arena his feet making no noise as they moved across the icy floor. When the man came to the melting metal he stooped down and attempted to pick up some of the solid pieces but as he did they dissolved into a cool mirror shined liquid before follow in the wake of its kin.

    Another tremor raced through the building and the man forgot the unusual metals and ran. As he entered the passage he had to move around a slowly fading hole in the ground and as he stepped to the sides he dimly felt his feet begin to cook before moving off. The man wandered for perhaps an hour seeing sights few living creatures had ever seen before. He walked down near lightless halls across wide bare grounds similar to the ones he’d seen before. At one point he came to a crossroads with a magnificent statue of a hooded being wielding a scythe at the tip of the intersection. Unlike the rest of the building which was made out of the cool metal the statue seemed to have been carved from an infinitely fine stone. At the base of the edifice were symbols that he somehow understood:
    As a dark Shadow
    Beckons his prey
    Into the unknown
    By a soft whisper
    In the soul

    Unsure of what to make of the words the man left continuing his aimless wanderings in the labyrinth. Once along his way he was stopped by a skeletal warrior hefting a giant weapon of sorts. The metal being had walked stiffly up to him grasping his face in its slender fingers before analyzing him and letting him go. The man watched the warrior move, rigidly but purposefully down the hallway before deciding to follow it. Though he tailed the warrior closely it paid him no heed and as they proceeded down the endless passages the being was joined by more of its ilk. They kept up their forced march until they reached the entrance to a small chamber.

    As the warriors approached the door slid open revealing a near blinding light that forced the man to cover his eye with his hand before following them in. After a few seconds his eye adjusted and he saw that the warriors had all stepped foot on a glowing white pedestal. They pulled their heavy weapons vertically against their bodies and in a blinding flash they disappeared. Stunned at this outcome the man approached the glowing platform. He placed a foot on it, then a second. He stood in the center of the platform but nothing happened. He jumped up and down and was rewarded with a terrible screeching as metal tore and an indescribably loud bang assaulted his ears. The man stood completely still listening for more of the sound and when another metallic scream rang out he exited the chamber and entered the passage.

    Outside so far as he could tell nothing had changed. The walls still stood, there were no holes in the floor or ceiling. Another sudden scream and the man darted off down the hall running past passages and edifices of the hooded man. As he turned one corner the man skidded to a halt. Another of the skeletal warriors stood silent sentinel in the middle of the passage, its steely gaze taking in a gigantic hole that had punctured what the man could now see was a moving vehicle. The man breathed hard and the noise attracted the warrior’s attention but this one was not like the others. It wore a cloak that seemed to phase in and out of reality and carried a scythe as opposed to one of the heavy weapons he’d seen earlier. Even its movements were different, fluid instead of stiff, willed instead of forced. The skeleton eyed the man with cold green eyes. The warrior raised its hand towards the man and a sudden flash of recognition hit him as he ran back down the hallway just as a streak of black lightening raced from the skeleton’s hand and marred the wall behind him.

    The man ran for his life as the metal man behind gave chase. He ran as fast as he could terrible cracks of lightening impacting near his head. The man returned to the passage with the chamber and seeing no other alternative ducked in hoping to hide. Unfortunately the warrior followed him straight in, its path never in doubt. The man his back to the wall rushed the skeletal monster bashing his fist against its face. The warrior jerked back but recovered quickly and bringing its scythe to bear swung a deadly arc that the man managed to duck by falling to his knees. The warrior brought its scythe around but before it could swing the man grabbed it by the waist and hoisted it up aiming to slam the creature against the wall. As he did the man stepped onto the platform and once he’d rammed the skeleton into the wall just a monumental blast tore into the chamber. Time slowed as he released his grip on the warrior’s abdomen and it fell down to the platform. No sooner did its metal feet touch did a great white light engulf them both nanoseconds before the bright orange flames would have.

    Suddenly the man felt a cool wind blow through his bloody black hair and as he opened his eye he saw an ominous gray sky before he impacted the ground below flattening tall black grass that came up to his waist. The man’s breath was knocked from him but adrenaline as less natural concoctions still rushed through his veins and he jumped right up. He looked around and spotted the skeletal warrior raising itself up its back turned to him. The man looked around him and was rewarded in his search with a large gray rock. He hefted the bulky thing and raced towards the skeletal warrior bashing it to the ground before ditching the rock and running away. It didn’t take long for the warrior to recover though by time it did the man had already managed a good lead. The man blazed a trail through the grass setting his sights on a lonely building that loomed in the distance.

    As he neared the building the man began to make out details, it was a one-story building, dilapidated, with a lot full of abandoned…things. Off to his right was a paved road that had more of the odd metal contraptions strewn about. After another few seconds of running the man burst out of the grass and into the lot. Off to his left lie the entrance to the building and he went for it. Unfortunately the doors were chained shut and the man turned back running along the dirty red walls of the building until he came across a window completely covered with dirt. The man shattered the glass and heaved himself in just after catching a glimpse of the skeletal warrior racing towards him a hundred yards distant. Inside the room was filled with tiny wooden desks all facing a blackboard at the front that was covered in words he couldn’t understand. Not waiting to discern the letters meaning the man raced out of the room through a wooden door with a shattered window. As he ran he cut his foot on some of the glass and he was forced to limp for a few feet before pulling the shard out his foot and continuing on down a hallway.

    The man ran through the hallway taking a sharp left before coming to a halt once again. Silently he cursed himself and made a mental note to stop popping into random hallways indiscriminately. The hallway was filled with cobwebs that bore oversized creatures with eight legs and regarded him with an abnormal amount of hungry eyes. The green and yellow creatures lounged lazily around the hall, all the while viscous liquid dripped from their twin foot long fangs. Here and there the man noticed mass profusions of the webbing that seemed to be wrapped around other formerly living things. The man backed away slowly as one of the creatures departed from its resting place on the ceiling gently lowering itself down to the ground. The creature moved slowly towards the man who was transfixed by the monster’s eyes but a sudden crash on the other side of the building that heralded his metallic pursuer startled the creature and it leapt at him. With a speed he didn’t know he possessed the man jumped out of the way and the creature rammed itself into the wall.

    The man ran back down the hallway with the creature scampering along the wall after him. He turned a corner again and nearly collided with the skeletal warrior. The warrior lunged at him with the scythe but it was too close and the man dodged it easily. Just then the creature rounded the corner coming face to face with the warrior. Seeing that the skeleton’s attention was momentarily distracted he spotted a blue door on the far side of the hall and ran for it.

    The Necron Lord gazed at the odd life form before it, dimly aware that the flesh thing was studying it. With an act of contempt the Lord raised its cold hand and let loose a bolt of dark lightening. The creature squealed in unnatural pain as its skin was removed, then its muscles, organs, and finally its entirety until nothing was left but a pool of black blood that had escaped the gauss weapon’s deadly energies. The Lord satisfied that it was one step closer to its master’s holocaustic goal turned to continue its pursuit of the Matthias.

    The man burst through the door finding himself in a stairwell that led only downwards. Knowing what lay beyond the door the man rushed down the stairs but halted as he came across a sickly sigil painted in crimson against the tiled wall. The sigil consisted of four circles with a pentagram in the middle that held four eyes on each of its vertices. The man was unsettled by the sigil but a scream of pain emanating from upstairs urged him on. As he strode past the sigil the man felt the slightest shift something he couldn’t put his finger on, a change in air pressure, a wind against his naked form? The man brushed the small worry aside and continued down the stairs until he came to another blue door. The man took hold of the doorknob and pushed it open.

    What lay before him was something that had the man full control of his senses would have made him run for his erased life. Three hallways one to his left, his front, and his right laid before him. From each a hellish orange glow seethed menacingly like heartbeats accompanied by the lusty sounds of slow steady breaths. On his right dozens of bodies were hung from a fenced ceiling with barbed wire that tore deep into their necks revealing the muscles and arteries inside their bloody necks. Several decapitated bodies lay strewn about the floor their heads having finally separated from the body. Tiny three legged creatures with skinny heads ending in suction cup mouths hopped from corpse to corpse biting off little pieces of meat. A number of the hung were very nearly completely devoured only a few scant organs resting inside skinless skeletons. To his front the hall ended after five feet in a chain link fence that had a man whose arms and legs had been weaved into the mesh. The creature wore no shirt but it did have a pair of pants that bore a strange pattern of greens, browns, and blacks. Fumes of acidic light green smoke rose from its diseased and smoldering flesh. Curious the man began walking towards the dead thing.

    “Hello and WELCOME TO HELL!” The smoking thing said as it abruptly sprung to life. “To your right you will find PAIN like you have never before dreamed and to your left you will find that the bar serves martinis half-price from five to six and has a great selection of Amasec formerly known in 1969 as Whiskey. If sodomy’s your thing step right up, turn around, and drop your pants I am all game but wait you don’t have pants!”

    The man jumped back startled at the smoking things sudden monologue. He couldn’t understand what was being said to him but then he was sure it wasn’t good. When the smoking thing had finished its speech the man stared blankly at it until a high pitched scream rang out from his left. The man turned to the hallway searching for the source of the sound. Skin covered the hallway floor like a rug and the man could clearly make out faces in their fleshy pattern. Another of the dead fleshy things rested against the wall an object clutched in his hands and pointed towards its head reminded him of the skeletal warrior’s weapon. The clumpy mess of matter sprayed against the floor behind the man’s head confirmed his suspicion. Above the hall was a wired cage that an armless man sat in shaking his head at inhuman speeds. The man deciding he needed to get away from the lunatic and investigate the noise moved down the hall.

    “Are you leaving me? And I thought we were bonding so well.” The smoking thing said as he watched the other leave.

    The man advanced cautiously down the hall, his feet making wet squishy sounds as he tread over the rug of flesh. Walking down the hall the man noticed a slight pain in his thigh and he looked down to see one of the multi-limbed creatures had attached itself to him. He grabbed the thing and ripped it off though it took a good chunk of his thigh with him. The creature sensing its impending doom squealed its fury before it was crushed in the man’s fist. The man tossed the creature aside as another scream rang out. Quickening his pace the man eased up to the corner and peered round. A little thing, its hair cut to the scalp and dressed in a blood soaked white shirt wearing a pair of blue and black sweats staggered to and fro a bright red liquid squirting from a terrible gash in its neck. The man moved into the hall and tried to form a word and the thing stopped its movements and turned to him. The thing stood there oblivious to the hot liquid squirting out of its body and onto the adjacent wall. The man despite his apprehension walked up to the deathly still flesh thing. He tried to place his hand to the wound but as soon as he made contact with the thing did the phantom vanish into a dark gray smoke.

    “Not real. Not yet.”

    The man looked up at the sound of the voice and gazed upon another fleshy creature. Unlike the others though it was clean its flesh meticulous, no dirt, and no red liquids the thing was dressed majestically with a pair of gold and blue robes that hung loosely from its frame. Again the man tried to form a word but the thing spoke a few words that something told him was hostile and a strange light spawned in midair. The light was akin to the chamber back in the black building and like the platform it transported the thing to another place. Alone again the man stood rooted to his spot thinking of how he might escape. Suddenly the smoking thing’s voice rang out again.

    “You! You are the anathema of my fleshy hedonistic self how may I help you today? Might I interest you in ahhhhhhhhh!”

    The man knowing what was happening rushed back to the fleshy things body and pried the weapon from its dead hands. He leveled it at his skeletal hunter as it killed the smoking thing and pulled the trigger.


    Nothing happened. The man tried again and was rewarded with yet another click. The man fumbled frantically with the weapon as he rushed into cover. The man desperately tried to operate the weapon and as he pulled back on the hand guards the shotgun made a satisfying click-clack as it loaded a round. Just then the skeletal warrior came round the corner and the man leveled the shotgun in its face before pulling the trigger.


    The warrior was flung back, metal shards flying from out the back of its skull. The man cocked the weapon again noticing a small shell ejecting itself from the weapon. The man walked up to his hunter. Before his eyes the things skull was reforming, the shards turning to liquid and racing to rejoin the whole much like the building he’d been created in. The man pumped another shell into the warriors face and grabbed the things scythe. The Shotgun had a sling and he threw it over his body taking the scythe in both hands before rushing back down the hallway leaving the warrior behind as it rebuilt itself.

    The man ran for the stairwell door having no intention in staying in the hellish basement any longer. When he arrived however he found that the door was locked. The man tried to bash the door, shoot it and slash it but the door refused to dent, break or open. Frustrated the man let out a deep howl.

    Then as if from the walls a disgustingly wet voice rang out. “How you doing there kid? Having a little trouble?” The man tired of random appearances by unstable creatures would have ignored it except for the fact that it spoke in his language. Curious the man looked to his left.

    “No.” Then to his right. “Better.”

    The man left the door sparing a single glance at the skeletal warrior that was even now coming closer to life yet again. The man slipped past the hung bodies striking out with hand against the tiny creatures. As he did he became disconcertingly aware that his own body was flesh. Awed by this revelation the man poked and prodded his flesh as he walked relishing the feeling of being, alive?
    When he’d cleared the bodies the man found a single blue door waiting for him. Scythe at the ready the man opened the door and stepped inside.

    What awaited the man was not what he’d expected. He found himself in a room, a clean blue rug underneath his feet, a large table before him with another flesh thing covered from head to toe in deep lacerations.

    In a motion quicker than the eye could follow Lucifuge leaped from his seat and grabbed the man by his throat. The man dropped his scythe as he struggled against his assailant. Hot blood red steam rose from Lucifuge’s hand but he ignored the pain. The man gasped for breath as Lucifuge slowly crushed the life out of him. He beat against the demon’s arm but he could not break his grip. His feet dashed against the floor brushing up against the fallen scythe. In act of desperation the human squeezed his two feet against the scythe’s staff and tossed it up. He caught it with his right hand and plunged it deep into the demon’s side.

    Lucifuge roared in agony as the scythe began to leach his precious stolen soul from his body. He staggered back ripping the scythe from his side called upon his near infinite power when something happened, something impossible or at least Lucifuge had thought it so. The man’s body sensing its imminent death awoke the misplaced power given to it back on the Monolith. Suddenly a shadow that ate all light tore across the room and struck Lucifuge in his chest stripping away his flesh. The man not knowing what he was capable of took advantage of Lucifuge’s stunning and ran from the room. Sensing for the first time that he may have finally overstepped some cosmic boundary Lucifuge unlocked the door to the stairwell.


    The skeletal warrior burst through the door its hand raised to rain death amongst the living.

    “Well, sit down then. I don’t suppose that the bitch on Holy Hill sent you after me. All things considered.” Lucifuge said.

    The Necron Lord stared blankly at the demon its thought processes racing for a way to deal with the already logged threat.

    Lucifuge smiled. “No?”

    Calmly without rising from his seat the butchered man spoke, “Activate protocol 88Ξ70Ϋ9й1д2∞466Ѣ6.2ℓ1.” And just like that the warrior deactivated.

    “Pretty cool trick huh? Believe it or not that’s the reason I’m here, misguided loyalties or something I don’t know. I’ve been serving so many different deities and Gods and on the long list of things I can serve she just isn’t one of them. I bartered for a soul and got it and now here I am, talking to you whose anathema to me and about to die.”

    M42.007.12.08 Now

    Mathias gazed down from his lightless throne on the woman and child as they approached him flanked on either side by Grace and Hyth.

    “Stop.” Mathias said and the two soldiers motioned for the girls to stop. Mathias pointed at the little girl with the scar on her neck. “What’s your name girl?”

    “Catherine.” She said without hesitation.

    “Catherine, have you ever seen a demon?”

    Intermission Just realized I hit 14, need an intermission

    Originally there were four possible pasts I’d played out for Mathias. The first is what you saw, read, envisioned, whatever.

    The Eldar from ‘The Puzzle’ was inspired mainly by Danny Glover from the original SAW.

    A first : The Demon is set in M42.

    In Hebrew Matthias means ‘Gift of God’, Mathias is the modern derivative of that name.

    The fourth version of Mathias’s past is not particularly different than the first. The only variation is the end where Lucifuge mistakes him for an assassin sent by the Jackal who gave him his soul and his freedom in exchange for a part of Slaanesh’s true name.

    The demon Mathias meets in the hallway is Verdelet.
    Lucifuge Rofocale is the Prime Minister of Hell whose command included King Baal and Marbas.

    I’ve decided to put EOTM on hold again. Mainly because I only planned out the later parts as opposed to the beginning which if we can all be honest with ourselves sucked more cock than a Thai hooker.

    The demon Mathias sees grown into the fence is Agares.

    In the second Mathias was not originally a blank. After having been captured by Segos and his cult he was used as a host for Lucifuge. In the ensuing attempt at possession Mathias through strength of will fends the demon off and escapes. He is later found by a group of mercenaries working for a man by the name of Chasca, a scientist under Ikozy. The mercenaries return him to their boss where he is ‘volunteered’ to become a prototype artificial blank.

    The protocol consists of numbers and characters from Greek and Cyrillic.

    Unlike most demons Lucifuge has a soul.

    The third version sees Mathias meeting and speaking with Baal as opposed to Lucifuge, as he tries to convince his wayward master to return his allegiance to the Chaos powers.

    Barrathos is of my own design while the three other demons are taken from Catholic demonology.

    On the road again is half commentary on the state of women half disparage on forced marches and how to cope with them.

    Half-way through ‘The Puzzle’ the .exit was to signal a switch from third to first person which I later abandoned as first person doesn’t give me as much room to maneuver, so to speak.

    Eythilus is the son of our mysterious Farseer.
    Ne Cede Malis

  5. #4
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    The Chaste

    Far above the nightmarish realm that was Kiev Oblast the stoic form of a Marine Strike Cruiser drifted almost lazily in high orbit. The ashen orb below loomed large in the bridge’s view screen and starboard viewports granting its occupants a baleful glance at human indifference. Standing as stoic as the ship itself upon its Spartan bridge Space Marine Captain Eurydice read a single data slate handed to him by Brother-Sergeant Ikice.

    “This is…everything?” He asked allowing the slightest hint of disparity into his voice. Three hundred years, with what to show for it? Everything was lost, everyone was lost. She was lost. They however were not, at least not yet. He could give the order to withdraw from the system, to the safety of their home-world. To rebuild, rebuild and return. No matter that it would take centuries.

    “Yes my Lord.” Came the Sergeant’s curt reply.

    “Very well Sergeant go, see to the defenses I shall join you shortly.” But was there a point? True his battle-brothers on the world below fought with strength and righteousness but what hope had they? They numbered four hundred without support against a massive mechanized force. Eurydice had watched the monster’s mobilization with burning hate, rage…sorrow at the horrible augur that was his Master’s fate. No help could be given from the Chaste itself, no orbital bombardment to act as fiery barrier between friend and foe, for the atmosphere did not allow it. They were left to fend for themselves.

    The ship vibrated gently as it discharged its Volcano cannons into the merciless void. The Captain looked down at the data slate he held and reviewed his forces again. Two squads of Marines and a thousand serfs was the skeleton crew that manned the Chaste. Everyone and everything else had been deployed to the world below for garrison. Eurydice watched his faithful Sergeant depart the bridge the fire in his eyes telling him he’d not give into the enemies of man until his last breath and beat and even then his dead body might not drop through faith alone.

    Eurydice was old, the late middle ages in Marine physiology true but he felt old. He had been strong once and still was by mortal standards but his long face drooped, the scars that ran from ear to ear across his face spoke of hard-won battles never rejoiced. His armor had been adorned with thousands of purity seals but none spoke of his deeds or of fallen Brothers. On his home-world of Elis it was said that one does not truly die until they are forgotten. The Dread Angels did not record deeds; they did not sing songs of any save the Emperor himself. There was no history of their battles, no testimony to their bravery, no brash life behind their lavished banners, no names remembered. He’d sheltered, cultured, and nurtured a young girl for that one purpose. Now she was gone and with her his immortality.

    The shame he carried was frightful and even as Eurydice contemplated his disgraceful flight his sub-conscious fought it with all of its indoctrinated might. The inevitability of death was no new sensation; he’d been born knowing this one fact of life that he would one day breathe his last but how? Would he die bravely, fighting against impossible odds or would he run and live only to die, his name cursed as a Judas no better than the infernal legions themselves?

    Another tremble and Eurydice looked up and out of the bridges view screen. A single expanding wave of fire washed across empty space beautiful in its fluidity. Still, despite the sinuously expanding flames that marked a horrific death, almost a dozen troop barges continued their approach barreling through the harrowing fire the gunners were throwing at them. Summoning the last of his courage Eurydice pulled himself up to his full height, nine feet, cast away the data slate and strode out of the bridge to join his brothers. They would not flee; they would wait for Siloden’s call. Even though he knew it would never come.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------.Spurious Interrupt

    Lucifuge Rofocale looked out amongst the stars his ruptured face lit by the burning hulk as the troop barge streamed past. The Space Marine Strike Cruiser loomed large in every porthole, its form one that resembled the ribs of a malnourished creature. Spindly spires jutted from the top of the gunmetal ship whose only adornment was a single silver Aquila just above its prow. The fallen demon turned to gaze upon his chosen few, his faithful warriors, his sacrificial lambs.

    Hundreds of them crowded the barge mutants, cultists, mercenaries. The mercs were there for the money, the mutants for an escape, and the cultists for a misguided loyalty to a False God. Lucifuge knew this scene was a replica shared among all of the barges that breezed through the void. Segos however was not among the restless crowds. His fanatical protégé had been stolen, by an old friend no less and left to fight a futile apoplectic battle in the name of a power he’d never truly served and with him he’d taken his army. Lucifuge knew this was no act of betrayal, only a misguided attempt to please a distant master but he swore that if he survived and Segos survived he’d return and introduce the man to levels of pain that would make the bitch herself blush.

    Not that his deviancy had mattered in the end really. In a close and distant cycle paced Jörmungandr and Barrathos, their two forms reunited. As his soulless sword had pointed out and his pride had blinded him to, the boy really hadn’t been worth the trouble. Now Slaanesh knew where he was and had no doubt sent someone to retrieve him and there were only a few beings still alive, to his knowledge at least, that could pull it off and of them only one had sworn fealty to her. Old Gods, Old Demons replaced by the new who were so sure in their rule, the old guard in its meekness deciding it better to roll over and die or pledge servitude to beings who knew were but infants. Lucifuge had tried the latter and would have no more of it. He would flee; he would gather those few who like him refused to bow in shameful servitude. The children of Loki, Hel and Fenrir would be where his revolution started but if he could just escape!

    Another of the troop barges erupted into liquid fire as the Chaste’s deadly weaponry struck it. The beam of deadly energy punched straight through the ship but as the beam sailed through the world’s atmosphere radioactive energies robbed it of its power and within a few seconds the beam had dissipated into nothing. Negligent losses, nothing unexpected, were their deaths. As the remaining troop barges closed Lucifuge regarded his new apprentice. He’d renamed the boy after Angrboða’s long vanished son though he was not sure how the Serpent’s siblings would take it. The boy was different as was to be expected, no one simply died and returned, and to think otherwise was folly of the worst kind. The boy had forgotten much of his life including his revenge and Lucifuge was more than willing to let their deal fade into the distant recesses of his mind. He owned him now, wholly.

    A final plume of flame from the port windows signaled to Lucifuge it was time. Lucifuge walked through the crowds of the soon dead, their now living forms making way for their unknowable master. Jörmungandr and Barrathos made to follow but he waved them off. After a few seconds of navigating the sea of men and beasts Lucifuge came to the airlock. He opened the heavy door much to the puzzlement of his followers before closing the door behind him. Lucifuge walked over to a small glowing terminal and on its touch sensitive screen were displayed the two options of inner and outer doors. Lucifuge pressed his skinless finger to the Outer Door and with a discordant siren decompression began.

    Lucifuge closed his dark blue eyes as his body began to expand and retract violently, as blood squirted from his every orifice and ruptures formed alongside his already torn skin. There was no pain however and in a few seconds the doors hissed open allowing his exit from the barge. His skin and blood froze with the chilled nothing that awaited him but it could not stop him. In zero gravity Lucifuge hoisted himself up to the top of the troop barge walking along its metal plated hull as it barreled towards the Cruiser. He watched as yet another beam of light struck the barge closest to them exploding it into beautiful flames. Lucifuge watched as small forms drifted out of the burning hulk their screams lost to the infinite. Knowing it was time Lucifuge turned once again to the Cruiser. Gathering up his still fearsome vestiges of strength he willed the forlorn ship’s void shields open in an electric display of white fury that struck out along the shields.

    The shields flickered as the energy hit blue than white before fading out just as the five remaining troop barges traversed past the deadly barrier. Inside the ships began their maneuverings flying with a dexterity the barges couldn’t handle as they sped towards the ships docking bays. Despite both crews best efforts two of the barges made it through the Admantanium doors, melted as they were by Lucifuge’s deadly energy. The ships barreled through just as void shields sprung to life saving the ship from decompression and damning it to capture.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------.Spurious Interrupt

    The fight had played out as expected; groups of serfs led by a Space Marine executed lightening strikes against the invaders. In most cases the invaders were cut down to the man before the strike force retreated back into the ship and preparing to strike again but in those instances where either he or Lucifuge had been present the defenders had been in for a nasty surprise. Lucifuge had almost nonchalantly incinerated the defenders, serf or otherwise, while Jörmungandr cut through their ranks supported by the fodder he’d been supplied.

    Jörmungandr sprinted down the blood spattered passage Barrathos screaming in his demonic tongue obscene words that stung his ears. On the ground below lay several mutilated bodies with limbs severed and organs pouring out. Just beyond the passage he traversed lay an expanse that led to the bridges entrance, barricaded with chairs, tables, boards, and anything else at hand. Manning the defenses were dozens of serfs all armed to the teeth and six of the fabled Space Marines. Of the three thousand they’d originally stormed the space port with there were perhaps three hundred left. Too many as far as Barrathos was concerned and with a not too subtle nudge of the mind he bid Jörmungandr duck into a small crook while others threw their lives away at the guns of the Chapter.

    The two passages leading to the expanse were packed with the dual forms of the mutants and cultists though Barrathos noticed with slight amusement that the mercenaries were all hanging towards the back. Jörmungandr peaked out of his corner in the passage and though his view was blocked by the press of bodies he could just make out the first of the attackers as he reached the barricade and subsequently cut in half by a whirring chainsword wielded by giant whose gray armor was covered in little scrolls of blood stained paper. They both made a mental note to kill the man.

    Screams filled the misty red air as the defenders poured shot after shot into the ranks of their attackers. Cultists’ screamed oaths to a God they’d unknowingly betrayed before being cut down by buzzing swords and axes but it was not as though they were not taking their toll on the defenders. Serfs were killed outright by point blank shots and a Space Marine had been dragged from the barricade and torn to pieces. Body by body they were winning. Jörmungandr spared a glance to his left and seeing that the press had lessened, that there were now more dead than living. Jörmungandr jumped from his cover and sprinted on all fours towards the barricade. Bolts whizzed past his head as he scrambled over the bloody corpses of his comrades. Up the barricade he ran Barrathos screaming an unintelligible rant before he leaped into the air and removed the head from a Marine who’d been too busy plunging his sword into a multi-armed and eyed mutant to notice the small boy with a bone-like arm.

    Jörmungandr twisted in the air and took the head from another Marine whose back had been turned before landing deftly on his two feet. All around him men and mutants screamed in pain and more than once hot blood splashed against his bare face. To his right there still remained two Marines, including the script adorned leader. Barrathos urged the boy to act and he sprinted towards them from behind the barricade. Like the other two the Marine did not see him coming and as he passed he cut his legs out from under him. Before the Marine had fallen Jörmungandr had already passed but before he could strike out at the leader a massive sword of whirring teeth raced towards him, halting him dead in his tracks and forcing him to throw Barrathos to block.

    The blade bit into the bony demon causing him to scream in agony though Jörmungandr himself felt no pain. The blades leapt apart and Eurydice stabbed a cultist in midair before striking out at the small demon below. Jörmungandr brought Barrathos up again but the force of the blow sent him flying across the body filled room. Eurydice leapt from the barricade hacking and slashing without grace or skill as he made for the recovering demon. Jörmungandr watched as the leader came for him, las shots ringing off his armor and blood streaming down his face. A mutant leaped into the air a wicked blade held in its three hands bearing down on the last remaining Marine but before he could strike Eurydice grabbed him by the leg and used him to club another mutant to the ground. Suddenly without warning the rampaging Marine was lifted up into the air. Unseen energies raged across his body and his skin began to melt from his face in a ghastly visage that allowed Jörmungandr a look deep inside the Marine’s skull. Despite it all the Marine never screamed. Odd, Jörmungandr thought.

    Lucifuge, black steam still rising from his hands cast the molten body aside. He hovered a meter above the ground and the bodies of the fallen. He gestured towards Jörmungandr.

    “Didn’t look like you could take him.” He said grinning.

    The boy nodded his thanks before walking over to inspect the now-dead Marine.

    +Not so much a boy anymore+ Barrathos spoke.

    Lucifuge ignored his blade and looked around. No defenders, only a handful of attackers. Just as planned. He hadn’t wanted a large crew not even a skeleton crew really. Satisfied that all was as it should be Lucifuge strode past the barricade and onto the bridge. He was genuinely surprised the marines hadn’t rigged the ship to self-destruct though he held his breath on that account hoping that by thinking it he wouldn’t jinx himself. Even a demon could be superstitious.

    The bridge was like the rest of the ship a Spartan affair, something that suited Lucifuge just fine. He walked around taking in the massive room. The bridge was shaped as a perfect square with a single wall covering terminal in each corner and an elevated pedestal that hovered two meters off the ground in the center. A sudden chime originating from the terminal in the far right corner garnered Lucifuge’s interest and he went to investigate. The terminal was dotted with strange dials and green glowing buttons but it was the circular dish in the center that caught Lucifuge’s eye. It was an augur device that showed both real-space and the warp. On the very outer edges of its backlit screen was a large blip racing straight for the ship.

    “That was quicker than I thought.”
    Folsom Prison Blues copyright Johnny Cash. If a mod has a problem I will of course take it down.

    The Audition

    Catherine stood across the street from the massive ivory doors of Irminsul or the Planetary Governors’ house as it was known to the disgruntled masses. The quarter-circled doors rose forty feet into the air. Carved onto their flawless surfaces in black was the form of Þórr, clad in a loincloth preparing to strike Mjolnir against a being with the body of a man and the head of a snake. The mutant’s name eluded them all. Two Arbite Sergeants stood guard by the entrance which was blocked by ferrocrete barriers. A third Arbite stood sentinel in a guardhouse off to the side.

    Irminsul standing at seventy stories towered over every other building in the city and was alone in its beauty. For decades the people of Linthicum had gazed upon its stark white alabaster form in wretched disgrace, those old enough to remember lamenting the passage of that once regal time and those too young rebelling against the edifice as the symbol of their misery. Both were put down by the Arbites. Irminsul was a cylinder tower along which pillars ran the vertical length at ten foot intervals around. No defenses tarnished the towers majesty though terrible gargoyles and other creatures of myth stood an ever vigilant guard. There were few windows and of those they were at the very top where the one might look down on the entirety of one’s forsaken lands.

    Catherine was garbed in the traditional dress of Zmey чорний though she lacked some of the more distinguishing features of the organization namely the rifle. She still wore the black formfitting fatigues and flak jacket under her loose fitting jeans and leather jacket. The ICBs she’d been given as an apologetic gift from the man who’d shot her one-time savior had proved to be a God-send. Catherine put her hand in her pocket and ran her fingers along the cold, smooth edges of her brass knuckled knife.

    “The Emperor gives and the Emperor takes.” Lijew had said dryly weeks ago when he’d come to reclaim his high-tech pistol and flak jacket. She’d been loath to part with either item but he’d presented her with her own flak and a pair of brass knuckles that shined like silver and had a razor sharp knife protruding from between the middle knuckles.

    “Careful with that.” He’d said when a stream of blood ran down her hand from an infinitely fine laceration along her finger. She’d nodded her acknowledgement to him and toyed with the blade when he’d left pressing the razor ever so slightly against her fingers until each was covered in tiny trenches and the tiny rack she’d been allotted was covered in blood. The brass mold fit her slender hand perfectly and she wondered if Lijew had them custom forged for her.

    Catherine, reassured by the lethal piece of metal glanced off to her left down the street. A hundred yards away through the throng of crowds that panicked up and down the streets a man looking through monoculars gave the slightest of nods before starting his rusted van and driving off. Catherine felt the urge to look up at the apartment behind her but resisted. She began her across the street just as an air-raid siren sounded off in the distance. Half-way across the street the massive doors began to open. The two guards turned to investigate as Catherine watched the third slump over dead, his lifeblood splattered across the window. Suddenly a puff of smoke erupted from the second Arbites back and he fell to the ground. The first turned in shock raising his hand to the comm bead at his ear before a bullet tore through his hand and then through his head as he too fell to the ground. Catherine paid their deaths no mind as she continued across the street though she cast a few wary glances around only to see that none of the pedestrians had noticed or if they had, had thought better of panicking and making a target of themselves. She did notice though with some amusement that by the time she’d crossed the road the entire street had emptied.

    Catherine hurried across the street and bounded up and over the barricades as the doors began to close again. She quickened her pace stepping gingerly over the fallen Arbites, careful not to step in the slowly spreading pools of blood. As she passed their strangely serene bodies reminded her of Sandra’s own quiet demise. She’d died the same night they’d met. How she’d died was what eluded her. She remembered though, when she fell.

    She remembered the smell of incense, hickory. She remembered the sweat that rolled down her face and the face of her companion despite the dankness of their surroundings. She remembered the chill that ran up her spine when her bloody feet first took step upon the cold steel floor. She remembered the only sound, a steady drip of water that somehow managed to permeate a world composed of dark silence.

    She remembered the chamber. The walls were constructed from the husks of felled trees and the ceiling was born from the earth. At the fore of the room before her was a throne made of a liquid metal. A metal that seemed ready at any instant to dissolve and flow across the floor like mercury or collapse under the weight of the man who sat forward upon it his black eyes stealing away what little light there was. Six green glow globes, three on each side of the room and parallel to each other, hung from the dirt ceiling their light barely sufficient to guide a way.

    She remembered him gesturing towards Sandra with his hand and how she’d simply dropped, almost as if asleep. Her long red hair obscured her face and for whatever reason Catherine wished she could gaze upon it one last time.

    “The **** did you do to her!” She’d screamed as she charged the man. Hyth took her by the scruff of her neck just as Catherine pulled out Lijew’s pistol and put a round through his kneecap. The man fell to the ground and Grace tackled her but not before she’d put another round in the man’s dome splattering his brains all over the floor.

    She remembered the warmth of the man’s blood as the ever widening pool broke like a wave against her face.

    She remembered hearing the man’s voice from her place on the ground. It wasn’t slick like oil as was the demon’s. It was cold and hard and vicious, unforgiving though there was a somberness. She remembered their shared story. She remembered him.

    “We are one and the same. You were born into servitude and left for hell. I was born into nothing and stumbled across hell.” He said as he rose from his throne and walked towards her. “However our arrival we both escaped.”

    Grace took her weapon and let her up. “Who the hell are you?” She’d asked aggressively.

    “The ghost of Tom Joad.” He’d replied with a scarred smile. He then put a single finger to her dirtied, bloodied forehead and she’d remembered memories that we’re not her own, memories of death, of war, of hate, and of nightmares. Or would have been the stuff of nightmares had she not been entombed with a demon. The pain caused her to squeeze her eyes shut but she did not scream the way he once had, a feat that impressed him deeply. When he’d finished Grace had led her by the hand through a doorway to a similarly dank room where she’d stayed for the rest of night. No one seemed to have missed Hyth.

    Catherine’s musing was broken when as she stepped over the dead Arbites she was joined at both sides by Naves and Cyrillic. Both of them wore their black fatigues and hefted assault rifles with silencers attached to their barrels. The three of them entered Irminsul just as the doors sealed shut behind them.

    It was like day and night. Irminsul was beautiful, as if divorced from the wasteland that surrounded it. The floor was of exquisite hand-crafted marble and expensive paintings adorned the walls. Along the far right wall were a row of desks and far off beyond those was a wide stairwell that led to the other floors. Off to her left was a series of elevators, perhaps a dozen, with the same image of Þórr etched onto their doors.

    Throughout the tower people milled about some talking, some performing tedious tasks, others running about on errands. They were dressed finely, silks, cottons, coats and scarves that kept away the chill. They were the rich, the well-off; the ones who’d worked day and night to better their lives and were scorned by their fellow citizens for succeeding. There were only two guards that Catherine could see and they stood in front of her ten feet away. Movement to her right snatched her attention and she looked up at Cyrillic who’d just pulled the pin from a grenade from his teeth.

    He spit the pin away and dropped the grenade at their feet. Catherine’s eye grew large in alarm but in a simple movement he kicked the grenade over to the Arbites who rushed for cover as the grenade came sliding over to them. The grenade went off in a shower of broken marble and dust filled the room.

    In a practiced motion Naves and Cyrillic leveled their rifles and began to systematically gun down everyone in the room. Their guns chattered on full auto as hysterical workers ran to and fro in a vain attempt to find cover or escape. What little resistance there was amounted to desperate administrate personnel charging them with whatever makeshift weapons were at hand. Catherine watched her two protectors as they worked. They were methodical, efficient, completely unfeeling. She watched as Naves put a round through a woman’s head at point blank as she held up her hands and Cyrillic as he tossed a grenade into an office room and holding the door closed. Screams of panic were cut off suddenly as a loud bang signaled their gruesome deaths.

    Catherine however did not stay idle. As the slaughter began she raced to one of the fallen Arbites and pried his shotgun from his cold dead hands. She didn’t open fire immediately as the people she targeted habitually fell before she could pull the trigger. Then she spotted a man who’d somehow sneaked past the two gunmen. He grabbed a snow globe from a desk and made to bludgeon Cyrillic. She sighted in on the man and pulled the trigger. The slug hit the man low in the hip and he had his feet taken from under him. Cyrillic hearing the slump behind him turned and put a round in the man’s chest. When he saw Catherine with the shotgun he sprinted over and snatched the weapon from her hands.

    “Clear!” Naves shouted.

    “Every room?” Cyrillic called back.

    “On this floor!”

    Cyrillic nodded before turning to Catherine. “No guns.”

    “Somehow I’d imagined a thank you, not a reprimand.” Catherine replied tersely.

    “Don’t push your luck kid, Mathias says you’re here, you’re here but you abide by my ****ing rules while you are.” Cyrillic said putting a finger in the girls face.

    “I’ll remember that the next time someone wants to bash your head in with a rock.”

    Cyrillic looked as if he was about to say something further but Naves walked over to the console that the Arbites had been guarding.

    He ran his hand over the console before saying, “Looks like we don’t have to blow it.”

    Cyrillic bit his tongue and turned to Naves, “Open them. I want to get this Throne-awful day over with.”

    “Wish is my command.” Naves said as he pressed a glowing red rune which turned green to the touch.

    At the unseen electric signal the giant Ivory doors opened revealing a host of men wearing the fatigues of Zmey чорний. The men rushed into the hall their boots making a loud clunking noise as they ran across the marble floor. As they progressed further the loud clunks disappeared as the slippery red liquid that covered most of the floor made whispers of their tromps. There were dozens dead almost all non-combatants. Catherine felt as though she should care but everything felt…distant. She wondered what Lord Eurydice would have said to her lack of emotion. All things considered he probably would have praised her. She was shaken from her reverie as Lijew and Naves waltzed up. Beyond those two men she spotted Grace the dragon tattoos that ran around his face amidst a group consisting of men she recognized and men she did not as they bounded up the stairs, where seconds later screams and gunfire erupted.

    “Eyes up her little girl.” Lijew said as tenderly as the situation permitted. Naves gave him a sideward glance that spoke of amused bafflement.

    Over the last two months Lijew along with a man named Kirin who she’d not seen in a week had both attempted to be father figures for her. Lijew did it because he was old and had no children, Kirin because he was young and did have children. She’d actually spent time with at Kirin’s home with his wife Natalya and his son Andrei. Their home was nice and for the few days she’d stayed they’d done everything to make her feel like family. She’d also stayed with Lijew though if he wasn’t talking to her, which was often, he sat outside his rickety home smoking from a pipe and drinking from a bottle. She suspected he’d no idea what to say to a child.

    “You ready for this kid?” Naves asked seriously. Catherine nodded her head briskly. “Good cause even if you weren’t…”

    Lijew gave her a reassuring nod and a squeeze on the shoulder. Suddenly a chime rang through the hall signaling the arrival of one of the elevators. Two men Catherine had never seen before rushed over as the doors opened. Inside were understandably terrified workers who screamed when they saw the two men with rifles leveled waiting for them. Much to her surprise and the other men who were busy securing the tower they didn’t open fire. Instead they grabbed each of the workers and pulled them out harsh words and loaded rifles their primary motivators. There were six men and women in all and the two men herded them down the hall.

    “Ever the quixotic hero, aren’t we Vaughan?” Naves said as the group passed them. The man Vaughan, who bore the mark of Chaos upon his face simply shrugged his shoulders and kept going. Him and his companion tossed the group of scared administrate workers out of the tower and dispersing them with threats of violence before returning to the hall.

    “Take the elevators?” Naves asked the returning his attention to his companions.

    Lijew nodded his scruffy head and the three raced to catch the elevator before it closed. Inside was riddled with bullet holes and splotches of blood that could only have been Naves doing. For his part he seemed to ignore the signs of his rifle induced carnage. Upon entrance Lijew spoke 53rd to the cogitators and the doors closed as they began their ascent. After about twenty seconds the red numbers displaying their floor turned to two.

    As they waited their arrival Naves sang solemnly, “I hear the train a comin' It's rollin' 'round the bend, And I ain't seen the sunshine, Since, I don't know when, I'm stuck in Folsom Prison, And time keeps draggin' on, But that train keeps a-rollin', On down to San Antone!”

    “When I was just a baby, My Mama told me, "Son, Always be a good boy, Don't ever play with guns," But I shot a man in Reno, Just to watch him die, When I hear that whistle blowin', I hang my head and cry!” Despite himself Lijew couldn’t help but laugh though the smile quickly disappeared when his eyes drifted over to Catherine.

    “Well, if they freed me from this prison, If that railroad train was mine, I bet I'd move out over little, Farther down the line, Far from Folsom Prison, That's where I want to stay, And I'd let that lonesome whistle, Blow my Blues away!” Catherine fought to stifle a laugh, half-heartedly if she could be honest, but he didn’t seem to notice and by the time he’d finished the song the elevator was almost at its destination. With the slightest of grins Naves pulled a pistol from his holster and handed it to Catherine who took it with a look of annoyance.

    “Moment of truth kid, though judging by your handling of that shotgun I’m going to guess this won’t be a problem.” Naves said.

    Catherine threw her hands up in apathy. “I just want to get this damn thing over with.”

    “My thoughts exactly.” Lijew said solemnly just as the doors opened.

    The three of them burst out of the elevator in a quick motion weapons leveled in a combat glide. The elevator opened up into an unexpectedly small room. There were four arrayed in two rows desks over a burgundy rug. A water cooler stood between two of the desks. On the far end of the room were two doorways one to the left and one to the right and a giant glass window that overlooked the Southern side of Linthicum. The three of them spread out along the room. A sudden whimper originating from underneath one of the desks snatched all of their attentions. Lijew covered Naves and Catherine covered the rest of the room as Naves investigated. He found a terrified woman dressed in a miniskirt. There were others too, all cowering, all defenseless. For a moment Catherine thought of shooting them, as seemed to be the SOP for the organization but without saying a word the two operatives moved on. Naves motioned Catherine to move up and investigate the right entrance as he took the left. Lijew kept his rifle trained on the workers.

    Catherine walked up cautiously to the door; slowly she took hold of the knob and swung the door opened. Just as she did she saw a large object racing towards her and she discharged her pistol. A body fell against her, its weight knocking her down and she struggled to retrain her weapon on the room. Fortunately there were no other people inside. With a grunt of effort Catherine heaved the body off of her and shouting a curse and an acknowledgment of well-being she resumed her search of the room. It was only more office space, its only furniture a single table spanning the length of the room with chairs spread around.

    “Just a stairwell.” Naves said turning back.

    “Just a dead guy.” Catherine replied.

    Lijew motioned with his rifle at a young secretary. “Where’s Ikozy?” Naves glanced back at the dead man and Catherine kicked him over. Naves shook his head and Lijew repeated the question.

    “Upstairs.” She said indicating with her hand. “Sixty-eighth floor.”

    “Back to the elevator!” Naves declared. They three of them made their way only to find that someone else had called it.

    “I don’t want to walk. That’s almost twenty ****ing flights.” Naves complained.

    “When you’d become a ****ing pussy.” Lijew said as he walked back to the stairwell. As he walked he asked the secretary, “Can we get to sixty-eight through their?”

    She nodded her head. “Yes but it won’t take you all the way down to ground level. Certain stairwells only lead to certain floors. Some elevators only take you to certain sections of the tower.”

    “Great were in a ****ing labyrinth.” Catherine said as she rushed to Lijew’s side.

    “Thanks.” Naves said as he followed the two into the stairwell. The journey up was fast and quiet, earlier joking put aside. In truth they’d expected this to be frustrating. When they came to the door marked sixty-eight they found it was locked. Lijew solved this problem by taking a sawn-off from his belt and blasting away at the door. Shotgun to the fore Lijew kicked in the door.

    Wallace Ikozy awaited them on the other side. He wore a fine suit and leaned casually against his desk as he smoked an Iho-stick.
    “Took you long enough.” He said wryly.

    “We were just a little preoccupied Wallace.” Lijew said quietly. Catherine gawked almost in disbelief. Why did they know the man they were planning to kill? She wondered. Naves began to tear around the room checking for any hidden guards.

    Ikozy took another long drag from his Iho before loosening his collar. “I don’t suppose Mathias would have the courtesy of doing this himself.”

    “No, not really.” Naves replied.

    “How’s Katlya doing?” Ikozy said.

    “You’re not worming your way out of this Wallace. You killed Goren, you killed Temple, you killed Thake and Parse and Simmons and Laugher and then you came after us. This is a long-time coming.”

    “Goren? The man who mass-murdered hundreds of thousands of people? Simmons and Michele were ****ing pedophiles! Thake…Thake was Thake you knew him. What was I supposed to do? I can’t…run a ****ing government filled with sociopathic monsters!”


    Smoke rose from the Lijew’s barrel. Ikozy squirmed in pain, a slowly growing patch of red spreading across his abdomen.

    “Yeah…arggh…figures that’s what everyone does. Heh…ha, when the chips are down! I’m glad to be rid of her. Tell that monster…grrr…tell him I hope he rots in hell.”

    “Catherine, this is where you come in.” Naves said from across the room. She looked over to him a sense of dread coming over her features but if he saw it he ignored it. Ikozy however did not.

    He spoke as if he’d just noticed her. “You’re…you’re sending in kids? She’s a ****ing girl. What the hell are you...ah…did you just lose your humanity the last time we met?”

    Lijew winced at the man’s words and Catherine not wishing to see the man hurt raised her pistol but before she could fire Lijew stayed her.

    “You want to talk about humanity? Asshole!” Lijew said as walked towards Ikozy. “How about twenty something years of being hunted…like dogs! Exiled into the ****ing wastes and territories for years before being allowed back! All the ****ing people you killed makes what we’ve done today look like Sandy ****ing Sue scraped her ****ing shins on a ****ing sidewalk! Kill this little bastard!”

    Without hesitation Catherine raised the pistol and then just as quickly lowered it. Naves was about to mutter something but then she pulled out the pair of brass knuckles Lijew had gifted her. She walked over to Ikozy and grabbing him by his jaw with her left hand punched him repeatedly in the throat, the blade stabbing into him over and over again as arterial blood splashed out of his throat and against her grinning face.

    The Din-Ave

    Farseer Sinead’Lical’Eysintel emerged from the ethereal portal and stepped lightly onto the blue grassy floor that was the Kami Neda deep in the heart of Craft World Din-Ave. In an instant he felt his sullied body renewed, cleansed from head to toe of the filth that had begin to cling to his body from the undead world. Behind him the elongated crates containing the soul-stones of his brother and sister warriors followed, held aloft in the air, one after another, like the funeral procession it was. Fortunately what awaited these long-held souls was nothing as final as complete oblivion. Beyond that too was the less delicately held crates of Eldar weaponry, so casually declined as to warrant scorn or contempt.

    The Kami Neda was a cavity hollowed out by Eldar who’d long passed onto the Infinity Circuit themselves but who were remembered always for this one single contribution to Din-Ave. The glassy Capa trees dotted the landscape for miles in every direction, casting a purple-orange tinge to the land wherever their illustrious forms sprouted. Covering the gentle slopes of hills and plains was the cool blue hue of the Kiji, a slender blade of grass kempt in appearance and dispersion. Here and there patches of exotic flora punctuated the Kiji’s realm of blue, scatterings of red and white, yellow and green, mixtures of all the colors of the universe, sublimely blended together in total natural harmony. Off in the distance Sinead could see Jinkæ, a lake so crystalline that despite its hundred meter depth one could see clear to the bottom, that the sparkles off its surface could be mistaken for the benevolent souls of his ancestors. He’d taken Illinda here once and with her sired the first of their children.

    Such a disparity from the world he’d just visited. Such a far cry from its irradiated sand, its inexorable black grass; the begrimed battered trees clinging to half-life in wastes not suitable for even Mon’Keigh. The world had left Sinead…unsettled. The Mon’Keigh he’d encountered there were…unsound. Monstrous parodies of life they were, murderous and cunning amongst a kind known only for the former. How could there be so many? He thought worriedly. Was it a consequence of their holocaust, a side-effect of the massive radiation that doused the populace their every living moment? Were their numbers derived from some genetic unlocking perhaps something akin to their Marines or some ghastly scientific endeavor? Could it be that the Mon’Keigh was simply at an evolutionary crossroads, signifying that for their species and perhaps even their own that the time of the psyker was fast decaying? Looking at the convoy of souls he held aloft Sinead could well believe it so.

    Though doubt assailed Sinead like a typhoon against an island he could ill-afford to show it. Awaiting his arrival stood the Eldritch Fiylas’Scilo’Deveen, an influential member of the seer council. He wore a black robe inlaid with precious jewels that formed the rune of the Craft-World, a sickle piercing a tearful eye. On his flanks were Ly’Las’Dwin’Arnith the fabled Banshee Exarch whose feminine warriors filled his rune etched cases and Ny’nae’Baquei’Anea. How he’d wished he’d donned his helm.

    Ly’Las was clad in the ornate armor of the Banshee her helm removed and held in hand. Her face was stoic beauty though a faded scar sallied forth across from her forehead; placed there by a Tyranid whose sickle claws had come within a millimeter of snuffing out her life. Fortunately she’d been conscious enough to return the favor with interest.

    Ny’Nae was like Fiylas a seer of the council and like him he was clothed in a robe that mirrored his brother of the path. Sinead did not particularly like this Eldar for he reeked of wantonness, an aura it seemed only he could perceive. Sinead had his suspicions and would deal with them in time. If it was found that Ny’Nae was dabbling in powers forbidden he’d be immolated. Until then Sinead resigned to resolutely scrutinize the Seer’s every action. With a pang of regret Sinead felt another less suspect should have accompanied the duo. Alas Ari’Sum’Aer’ was no longer among the living or even among the conscious. The tale of his death was a short ballad, completely unworthy of an Eldar of such impassioned fire.

    On a distant necrotic plain far in the west of that nightmare world waged a decisive battle. For as far as the eye could see there was nothing but the black sand save for a few sparsely spread and dying trees, their sickly husks a mimic of the Host’s enemies. For five days atop a revered Fire Prism did he ride firing upon black-suited Mon’Keigh who burrowed through the sand like worms until when an unsuspecting Guardian or Banshee, Avenger or even Spider danced by. They were masters of disguise, no movement, no way to sense them, no way to see them until you were right on top of them and by then it was far too late. Gun or blade his warriors were dispatched their bodies hacked apart and sent back by the dozen. Once a Banshee had been captured; For two days she’d been raped, tortured. They sent her back naked and broken at morning, the words Zmey чорний branded across her chest and accompanied by a Mon’Keigh, the Mon’Keigh who’d killed an Autarch.

    They say the man had been scarred, they said he’d come wearing nothing but rags. They said he’d carried a weapon though everything was hazed from this point on; some said he carried a sword, others an axe, still others a scythe and a hammer. Some say he’d pushed the gibbering Banshee towards the Eldar host and others said he’d slit her throat where she stood by his side, some even whispered that the Autarch had struck her down as an act of mercy. The former was most certainly true for the Banshee had been returned; Sinead had laid eyes on her before the campaign reached its bloody conclusion or else there had been another in which the question that must logically follow was were there others, held without knowledge and in the hands of those pariahs?

    Whatever the Banshee’s fate, whether freed or slain, was by and large irrelevant considering what occurred next. The Mon’Keigh now revealed to be that enigmatic figure: Mathias drew his weapon, be it axe, sword, scythe, or hammer and bellowed his challenge for all to hear. Never cowed, never flinching from danger Ari’Sum’Aer accepted this pitiful creatures challenge if only to slay it himself for the sullied Banshee’s sake. He jumped from the pulpit of his Fire Prism and strode towards this most cursed of an already soiled species.

    Ari’Sum’Aer; his face was long and smooth, handsome enough to have been a famous courtesan! He eschewed a helm, not out of vanity, but so that he may look upon his enemy with his own eyes. Though this is not to say he had distaste for armor! His fiery orange wraithbone carapace mirrored the lithe muscular body beneath. His breast bore the rune of Din-Ave; his gauntlets were smooth as silk but hard as a diamond, his nimble fingers arched at the knuckles. Across his waist were the runes which spoke: Death in all its myriad form do I bless you with; pick your poison.

    On his hip hung his blade, a rare breed of blade that wed Chain and Power into one. The hilt was made of a fusion of ruby and diamond, so elegant, so lethal a marriage that reflected the sword’s own unique design.

    What passed between the noble Autarch and debased Mon’Keigh before blows too was speculation.

    Some claimed…

    “Hello boy.” Mathias said.
    And charged.

    Others less…sane or perhaps more touched by the tragic loss…

    “I’d know your name Mon’Keigh.” In forced Gothic.

    “Ygnir, reborn and revisited.”

    “You know nothing of that name, misbegotten animal use it not lightly! For an almost millennial night we waged war against their unholy pantheon till but four remained! Until the plague. You couldn’t hope to fathom…”

    “I won’t boast, just come here so I can kill you.”

    Some said they spoke not all.

    Whatever the case might be, whether an epic monologue transpired or nothing at all what came next was known to all.

    Infuriated by the human’s supposed blasphemies or by his belligerent silence Ari’Sum’Aer drew his blade and charged. Fast like quicksilver was the Autarch, sprinting effortlessly across the black sand. Though they were almost fifty yards apart the Autarch crossed the distance in but a few heartbeats. Nearing Ari’Sum’Aer drew back his blade to strike and just as he did a darkness that took the shape of a wicked hand as quick as a Harlequin engulfed him for not even half an instant. Ari’Sum’Aer fell to the ground dead. His soul-stone did not alight.

    What followed was a slaughter that would always be remembered by those who survived. But that was an altogether different dirge of death and blood.

    The death of Ari’Sum’Aer, Sinead’s friend, had weighed heavily on him. What should have been a simple act of retribution had turned into a costly massacre. Sinead had ordered the host’s withdraw much to the chagrin of his host’s many Exarchs. Especially Ly’Las who’d wanted revenge for her violated sisters.

    “You have returned Great Farseer.” Ny’Nae spoke breaking Sinead from his reverie. “With the Soul-Stones I hope?”

    Sinead gave the young seer a baleful look and set the chests with their soulful treasure down on the blue grass to his left. To his right he set down less reverently the crates of weaponry.

    “Was the deal called off, why didn’t they take the weapons?” Fiylas said worriedly as he opened the crates to find the weapons still within their holds.

    “The Mon’Keigh had no need and little interest in our weapons.” Sinead said.

    “What of the soul-stones Eysintel, what of our fallen brethren?” Fiylas’ said impatiently.

    “They have been returned, though I’m sure there are more than a few that we will never retrieve.” Sinead said solemnly and then to Ly’Las. “My sincerest apologies Exarch.”

    Ly’Las shook her head. “No, Farseer this shame is shared, we have all failed in our duties. We let our passions cloud our judgment.”

    Ny’Nae let out a scornful cough. “Coming from one who wears the armor of a Banshee…

    “Curb your damned tongue Ny’Nae; you’ve no right to speak in our presence!” Fiylas chastised. Perhaps I’m not alone in my suspicion, Sinead thought to himself.

    Ny’Nae angered by this reproach motioned for the six liftmen who’d accompanied Sinead to take hold of the crates and carry them off to a predetermined location. He left with a mock bow that had Sinead allowed it was reason enough for Ly’Las to strike the Eldar’s head from his shoulders. In the wide web of things to come who knows if he should have allowed her?

    Ny’Nae gone Sinead again picked the wraithbone chests from the ground and the trio began the long journey back to the Kami Neda’s entrance. As they walked Sinead relished the cool breeze that blew gently across his face and through his hair. The gentle light, artificial that nevertheless warmed his pale skin.

    “What now Farseer, where do we go from here?” Ly’Las asked.

    “I do not know, for so long my vision has been clouded by these…blanks, I fear I may have to relearn the art of reading the threads of possibility.” Sinead conceded, albeit humorously. The nightmare was over, their souls were back. A little humor could be afforded Sinead thought to himself.

    “Yes, I too wish to return to the fringes of reality let us put this catastrophe behind us and move on. Fate will not wait for those who wallow in pity.” Fiylas spoke.

    For another half-hour the trio walked through the magnificent forests of the Kami Neda the funeral procession following them held a perfect meter off the ground and in a single column. When the trio reached the entrance a small team of Eldar workers awaited them with an elaborate hover-cart for which to deposit the chests. With a heartfelt kneel the Eldar received their warrior brothers and sisters before leaving for the Iodus, chamber of the infinity circuit.

    The three of them exited Kami Neda and entered into one of the thousands of veins that tunneled through the Craft World. Outside the circular, smooth sliding door upon which was engraved Isha’s beauty was the second pleasant surprise of Sinead’s day.

    “Father!” cried Eythilus and Eresis at the same time as they rushed to embrace Sinead.

    Sinead received his son and daughter with joy that made him weep. Sensing that the Farseer might want to be alone with his two children Ly’Las and Fiylas left though not before the two striplings had rendered proper respect.

    “I shall leave you now Farseer and oversee their interment.” Fiylas said before departing.

    “I will join you shortly.” Sinead replied.

    Ly’Las left with a hasty obeisance and Sinead picked up on her deeply hidden jealousy once again. He knew she’d wanted children and he knew she’d never have them. Sinead uttered a soft prayer of thanks that he was able to divorce himself from the path of the seer for he’d grown weary of the burden of responsibility. He wanted to raise his children.

    Already Eresis, his fine young daughter of forty-three years, was embarking on her search for a path. Presently she wore the runes of the poet upon her silky azure dress. A fitting profession, Sinead thought, for one so inquisitive. Her face was more reminiscent of Sinead’s than her mothers and thus she had the slightly pointed nose, pale appearance, and slightly more pronounced ears than was normal among her kind. She was noble in every regard from her dress to her stature. Her hair was a striking blond that was slightly unusual among her people.

    Eythilus only three years junior to his sister wore the garments of one who was not yet old enough to choose a path. So to say the youth wore whatever he wanted. Still his dress was conservative, there was certainly nothing outlandish about a light gray skintight bodysuit. He looked more like his mother, with his long midnight hair and his impetuous eyes. Eythilus had expressed an interest early on in the Dire Avengers Aspect and Sinead was sure that his son would pursue the path until he was done with the path or the path was done with him. Sinead uttered yet another prayer of thanks that he’d not been old enough to participate in this latest of blood-baths.

    The small family walked down the bone-white vein that was filled with the last of the Eldar people. Hundreds of Eldar all from different paths traversed the passageway that was home to many wondrous works of art that hung proudly from its ribbed walls. Sculptures, paintings, mosaics, most of their long deceased patrons adorned the length of the passage and mostly for sale. Eldar of lesser stature either took a knee or bowed in respect to the trio as they passed though Sinead noticed more than a few performed out of social requirements than any actual modicum of esteem.

    As the three progressed further down the passage the number of Eldar thinned out from a bustling crowd, to a moderate group, to a trickle until only the three of them remained. There had been a time once when ever passage of every Craft-World would be bustling with activity alas such times had long past. After a few more minutes of walking they came to a crossroads that led to the Iodus. Sinead embraced his children one last time and departed them heading down the corridor that would take him to the infinity circuit where Fiylas was waiting.

    They departed each other. Eresis leading Eythilus back to their home on the port wing of the Craft-World as Sinead strode down the narrow corridor with ribbed walls. Suddenly a feeling of intense dread came over Sinead. Impulses whose origin he could not divine assailed him and the image of the audio recorder that was carefully hidden on his armor flashed before his eyes. Quickly he plied the device off of his forearm.

    “My child!” He called to Eresis.

    “Yes father?” She replied as she returned to his side.

    “I’ve something I must give you.” He cried urgently handing the device to his daughter. “Take this and run! Run for Oiade, tell all you see to do the same!” Sinead cried as he sprinted off down the corridor. He did not look back to see if she followed his orders. He would need every half-second to prevent whatever fury was about to be released.

    As he raced through the twisting labyrinth that was Din-Ave Sinead reached out with his mind trying to warn his people of whatever threat was about to be unleashed upon them. He tried to reach out to Fiylas but he could not and that could only mean he’d already entered Iodus.

    “Damn you! Damn you!” He screamed in his sing-song voice of fear and sadness. A rune of masking, some aura left over from the blanks themselves? The thoughts came to him as he raced past the two Avengers who stood watch over the Kelta portal that would take him to the entrance of the Infinity Circuit. As he passed he ordered the bewildered Aspect Warriors to abandon their posts and flee to safety.

    He emerged on the other side of the portal to see the eighty meter tall doors that led to the Iodus wide open. The crystalline glow that emanated from the trees of souls long entombed shone through the diamond doors and bathed Sinead in holy light. At the base of the Iodus’ mighty entrance stood a squad of Guardians, their armored bodies lending them the look of statues rather than the living breathing beings they were.

    “Flee!” Sinead screamed with his mind and his voice as he rushed past them and into the crystal forest. The Guardians did no such thing and Farseer or not they followed him in with the intent of subdual. Sinead paid his pursuers no heed as he bounded through the place of his ancestors intent on tracking down Fiylas. He finally found him after precious seconds of mind-scouring in a far off alcove. His feet made loud slapping sounds as they raced across the wraithbone floor.

    “My Lord!” Fiylas said upon seeing the frantically sprinting form of his leader. “What troubles you?”

    “The soul-stones Fiylas, we must be rid of them now!” Sinead cried as he crashed into the Eldar, knocking him aside.

    “Have you lost your mind?” Fiylas replied in disbelief at his leader’s newfound lunacy.

    Sinead picked each of the rune chests up with his mind and fled. Just as he did though the Guardian squads who’d been in hot pursuit caught up with the raging Farseer. The Warlock that led them tackled the Farseer to the ground and with him the chests of stones collapsed with a mighty crash to the ground spilling their wondrous contents all around the polished floor.

    “No!” Sinead screamed in rage as more and more of the Guardians flung themselves upon him in an effort to restrain him. Suddenly Sinead spotted a single soul-stone that unlike its neighbors did not glow. Sinead strained his eyes. The runes upon it marked it as the soul-stone of Ari’Sum’Aer.

    “Fiylas the stone! The stone look!” Sinead screamed pointing. Fiylas followed the deranged Eldar’s hands to the stone. With caution the seer picked up the stone. He noticed with some alarm that the stone had no glow to it.

    “Give it to me Fiylas!” Sinead cried. The seer motioned for the Guardians to release the Farseer and Sinead jerked up snatching the stone from Fiylas’ grasp. In but the shortest millisecond he’d analyzed it. The surface was smooth though there was a tiny hairline fracture along the top of the oval shaped stone. The stone was not hollow but for the life of him Sinead could not penetrate its warp-energized surface to see what was inside. With an almost Orkish grunt of effort Sinead bashed the stone against the floor until it cracked and pried the top off.

    Inside was a device, black in nature sculpted so as to fit inside the confines of a soul-stone. At its fore was a tiny screen which read 004 and then 003.

    In a moment of sudden resignation Sinead clutched the device to his bosom and let his head sag. For the next three seconds Sinead stared at the floor trying to discern how a little scratch had found its way on the impregnable wraithbone floor.

    From afar in space Din-Ave appeared as just another star in a universe of thousands of trillions. Upon moving closer say 200,000 miles one might be able to make out the three wings that make up the Craft-World or otherwise gaze at a luminescent celestial beauty the color of amber. If one were to come even closer he or she would be able to see what appeared to be three massive knives, hundreds of miles in width and length, beautifully ornamented and all connected by orange glowing rods miles in their thickness. He or she would see that upon each blade were cites in which rose thousands of spires which were home to hundreds of thousands of Eldar; all covered by massive glass domes so transparent it was if they were not even there. He or she would see the stark black veins that pulsed gently along the softly glowing surface of these blades as they traced elegant runes across the artificial world’s hull. If they watched this enigma for a day or so they would begin to notice that the ship itself rotated though not for gravitational effects.

    Each blade or wing as some called them had been given a name upon its first departure of the Eldar home worlds so many tens of millennia ago. The first was the Sutra, the second the Nigaita and the third the Sivisa.

    Now if one were to venture even closer than that they would begin to see the patrol fleets that danced around the artificial world, tiny elegant minnows amidst the largest of whales no less regal in its splendor. This close one could see inside the great domes and past the spires. They could see rivers which snaked their way through great plains imported from worlds long deceased. From this great vantage point one would be able to make out the myriad cavities that dotted the world of wraithbone. These would be the mighty ports and dockyards that could house a dozen Imperial Capital ships and still have room for an entire trade fleet. From here one could spot the massive Tower of Elden upon the second blade which from its tip did scour the galaxy for interlopers. If one could travel into its smooth enclosure and travel down the shaft of its mile long structure one would find him or herself in a forest of crystal trees.

    Ruptures began to appear on the Tower Of Elden nanoseconds before it broke off half-way and was sent hurtling through space towards the first wing. Just as the tower was broken off hot blue flames broke through hundreds of rifts that snaked their way across the surface hull, shattering the translucent glass and voiding the atmosphere. Thousands of tiny fragments, glass and bodies, floated into the cold of space as the nuclear flames, fuelled by the burning blade reached up and licked the world it was under. The gently glowing rods that held the Craft-World together buckled underneath the immense pressure and the once gently spinning blades ripped themselves free. The flickering knife that held the remains of the Tower of Elden was flung into its Nigaita, piercing the wing as if its knife like properties had been finally put to use.

    Just outside the dockyards of Oiade Eythilus peered out of the port window of a Scorpion heavy tank. Here he and Eresis and those precious few who’d heeded their frightful warnings took shelter against the storm.

    They’d arrived in Oiade’s vast enclosure out of breath and terrified. All around them dockworkers stumbled around disoriented by the foreboding message that had been transmitted to them. Unsure of what to do next Eresis grabbed her brother by the arm and dragged him to the armored hulk of a Scorpion. Eresis left Eythilus sitting on the ground to question one of the crewmembers just as a deafening explosion rocked the Craft-World. Not knowing what had transpired but knowing that lives were at stake the commander of the Scorpion, an Eldar by the name of Hes’Tul’Thee ordered all that could be fit into his vehicle, which unfortunately wasn’t many. Eythilus and Eresis had piled in with the commander in his cockpit squeezing themselves in as much as they could while the driver, a smaller Eldar managed to fit in three. All around them other tank commanders did the same until when a mighty roar and a gust of wind signaled decompression they closed their cockpits and prepared to weather the storm.

    The rush of air sucked the tanks through a massive rent in the ceiling above as if they were dolls and vented them out into space. As they rose Thee brought the war machine to life lest they all freeze to death in the cold of space. From out the canopy Eythilus could see dozens of Eldar who’d not found shelter rise with him screaming ineldarish screams that somehow pierced the cockpits thick glass windows. Then with a grating screech the vision of Oiade gave way to the darkness of space and the death of their home.

    “Do you think Father made it out alright?” Eythilus asked quietly just as Nigaita stabbed Sivisa in a terrible display of fire so bright that had the insanity of what was happening not put both siblings in a state of shock they would have looked away in a vain attempt to shield their eyes.

    Eresis shook her head dejectedly as tears ran freely across her face. “I don’t think so…”

    Fortunate Son is copyrighted by CCR. If a moderator has a problem I will of course take it down.

    The Outcast

    Eythilus sped down the pockmarked road at breakneck speeds, swerving left and right as he dodged abandoned cars and vicious wildlife. The windshield wipers mirrored Eythilus’ frantic swerving as they too swished around in vain attempts to provide a clear view for their driver. Despite the car’s spacious compartment Eythilus in his bloody green jumpsuit sat forward as if in cramped quarters; his adrenaline shot mind entirely focused on the slippery wet road in front of him and nothing else. Staring menacingly at him from the passenger seat was the green visor slots in the Astartes helmet kept company by a half-empty bottle of aged amasec.

    Eythilus took one of his white-knuckled hands off the steering wheel and attempted to rub the sleep out of his eyes. He’d not laid his head to rest for almost a full day due to the coup thrown the morning before. The fact that he’d been drinking hadn’t helped either and despite the seriousness of his situation and his lack of sleep it was a force of will to not reach over and uncap the clear bottle and take a deep draught.

    ‘Perhaps just a little sip to wake me up…’ Eythilus thought as he reached over with his slender hand, which was stained with dried blood, stopping suddenly with red teary eyes and a pleading sigh as he drew his hand back and switched on the VOX.

    +…I am…donde esta…пингвин, Вы собираетесь заканчивать 13-ое…We much younger+

    Eythilus manipulated the knob, skimming back and forth through the different stations until he found what he was looking for. The news.

    +…confirmation, the Governor is dead; Wallace Ikozy is dead. Witnesses claiming earlier that his body had been hung from his balcony were right. His…+

    Eythilus slammed his fist into the dashboard in a bout of frustration as he lost the signal to what he thought was static. After a few seconds he realized it wasn’t static but gunfire. Quickly he tapped the volume to its highest setting and strained his bleeding ears.

    +…fighting is raging now between as far as I can discern three different groups. I can see from my window the paramilitaries who assaulted the Irminsul yesterday morning exchanging fire with an unidentified group; not government, maybe militia…+

    Eythilus’ eyes were bloodshot and he strained them as he searched. His eyes began to feel acidic so he blinked, once, twice.


    Eythilus slammed on the brakes stopping mere inches from the scaly four-legged lumbering form of a Dicon who’d thrown itself for whatever suicidal reason onto the cracked road. The long snout-nosed behemoth simply sniffed the moist air in front of the car apparently oblivious to its near two-ton brush with death before plodding slowly along to the other side of the road. As the docile creature went on its way the massive tail that trailed behind whacked the bumper rocking the car and causing Eythilus to grab the steering wheel to steady himself. Eythilus kicked himself for falling asleep and almost getting killed. He stared down with weary eyes at the bloodstain that covered the abdominal area and leggings on his normally green suit. The blood wasn’t his of course otherwise he would’ve had a far more desperate struggle in keeping his eyes open. No, the blood was not his own.

    +…we’re getting reports now that the fighting to the East near Bazka have ceased, PDF forces have broken off their assault and are making their way back to Linthicum, assumedly to attempt to restore order…+

    Yesterday morning shortly after what must have been the beginnings of a military coup a tank-shell had impacted his apartment building, the apartment adjacent to his own more specifically, collapsing the walls that separated the apartments and filling the air with more dust than Eythilus would have thought possible. When the explosion went off he’d been in his kitchen fixing himself a drink. He’d just finished making a Black Devil and was in the process of draining it when the blast had thrown him into the refrigerator door, leaving a nasty discoloration on his arm.

    Other than an arm that ached like a bitch Eythilus found himself without injury. He gathered himself up dimly aware that he could hear screaming above the ringing in his ears. Eythilus stumbled out of the kitchen giving his fallen drink a woeful glance as he made his way into his bedroom. With the mixed emotions of relief and anguish he found that while it didn’t seem as though his work had been destroyed he did find that it had all been buried underneath a floor’s worth of rubble. As he waded his way through the strewn debris his hearing returned and as it did the shrieks of what could only have been Nisa finally reached his stunned mind.

    Leaving the trashed room Eythilus staggered out of his bedroom and into the hallway leading to his living room, his outstretched hands feeling his way along the dust filled hallway. Twice he nearly fell over pieces of fallen ferrocrete from the floor above or perhaps from the walls dividing his apartment from Nisa’s. By the time Eythilus reached his completely unused recreational space the dust had cleared enough that he could make out his surroundings. The wall separating the two apartments had been completely demolished. The living room itself had flooded with water spouting from a broken water vane in the bathroom from the bathroom but two feet away. The floor was covered in dust and here and there tiny fires flickered. The ceiling fan dangled in the center of the room from multi-colored cords at waist level and when Nisa let out another agonized shriek Eythilus had to circle around the violently spinning blades.

    Nisa’s apartment was if anything far more totaled than his own. Though he wasn’t an expert in the field of demolitions or projectiles it seemed to Eythilus that the shell had penetrated the far bedroom and detonated inside the kitchen. At least that’s what he surmised as evidenced by the non-existent kitchen and the hole in the bedroom wall.

    “Help me!” Came the shrill cry emanating from the bedroom.

    Eythilus ducked down and crossed his way to the blown out wall and peered through the hole. He could just make out her legs behind the bed.

    “Nisa? Hold on I’m going…to be there…just give me a second.” Eythilus said as he went for the door. He grabbed the knob and pushed on the door but it wouldn’t budge. He slammed his weight against the door again and felt wood crack beneath his weight. He gave one final push and inches from his arm a piece of ferrocrete smashed through the door. Eythilus’ eyes went wide and he stepped back from the door.

    “Hey are you still there?” Nisa called out her voice trembling with fear.

    “I’m here.” Eythilus reassured.

    He glanced around the room his eyes settling on the hole that had been blown in the wall. Though the walls were made of drywall Eythilus hoisted himself up carefully and forced himself through. Drywall gave way to his slender but apparently too broad shoulders and fell face first into the floor below. Normally an Eldar would have had the reflexes to prevent such a fall but the smell of rum and amasec was heavy on his breath.

    “Nisa, I’m here, I’m here.” He said as he walked around the debris that littered the room. The ceiling above had collapsed inches from the door giving it seemingly breakable qualities but blocking entry nevertheless. Pictures, of Nisa’s family and friends, littered the ground inside broken glass frames. As he crossed the room Nisa’s sprawled form came into view. She was dressed in her underwear, her breasts bare. Her fair skin had been covered in dirt as well as her short hazel hair. She lay on her side with her right forearm squeezed between a large slab from the collapsed ceiling and the carpeted floor.

    “I can’t lift this…****ing thing!” She screamed though whether in frustration or agony Eythilus wasn’t sure.

    Averting his gaze for modesty Eythilus examined the slab. “I think I can lift this.” He said not too confidently but moving to try anyways. He fit his hands in between the space where Nisa’s arm lay and heaved with all his might. The slab lifted an inch. The blood which had been blocked off by the slab shot up a foot.

    “Ahh! What the ****!” Nisa screamed.

    Eythilus strained to keep the slab up. “Move your arm now!” He yelled at her.

    With a shriek of agony she complied and she evacuated the limb with quick efficiency. The arm clear Eythilus let the slab fall and rushed to aid Nisa. He grabbed her arm and tried to examine it. Though he’d lived around humans for a third of his life Eythilus knew little of human anatomy and if he could be honest with himself Eldar physiology as well.

    Fortunately before he could allow her to bleed to death she screamed, “Put pressure on it!” Before seeming to ignore her own statement she brushed past him and digging through a shattered wooden dresser produced a pink leather belt which she wrapped around her arm in very short order. Eythilus looked down at his jumpsuit to find it covered in Nisa’s blood. He stared at her terribly incensed body.

    “E. Hey E? She tried to get his attention.

    “Yes?” Eythilus replied looking up.

    “You’re staring at my tits.” She said dryly.


    Eythilus opened his eyes and lifted his head from the steering wheel. The blaring horn silenced.

    +…several sources, mainly my correspondent Judy over in Trebex have claimed they’re seeing what appears to be a running space battle. From where I am I can’t…deny that as smoke and overcast are obscuring my view…+

    Blinking away sleep Eythilus shut off the car’s engine. He shook his head once, twice, before in a deft movement that was lightening fast for the reason of avoiding thought than a need for speed, Eythilus grabbed the bottle, uncapped and drank. He relished the burn as it ran down his throat but after only a few glugs the bottle was drained and he disposed of it outside the car. Light brown liquid dripped from his lips. He glanced to his right to see the Astartes helm had fallen from to the floor. Reaching down he retrieved it and held it up.

    He stared deeply into its green slits. “Who are you to judge?” Eythilus slurred, the alcohol already taking its toll. He placed the Astartes helm down in a manner that would have been reverent if it weren’t so forced. Eythilus sat in his car for five minutes staring out the window and letting the sound of the rain patting down on the car soothe his rattled nerves. He was heading towards the Territories, nearing Flak which was a hundred miles from Pummel which was forty miles from what was left of Essex. From there it was maybe fifteen to twenty miles to the downed Marine’s ship. Being that he was in the Territories the ever-present black grass surrounded both sides of the road and indeed encroached upon the road itself. Here and there Eythilus could make out the rusted forms of abandoned cars that had been overtaken or otherwise very nearly hidden from view. After his short sabbatical Eythilus started his car and drove off towards Flak.

    +…uh…heavy fighting has resumed, mostly between the PDF and the unknown militia who appear to be hostile to both sides. The paramilitaries appear to be taking this lull on their side of the fighting to regroup and I can see…I can see a squad garrisoning a makeshift barricade in the street below. Shit they see us…waving…the hell are the…to us for…+

    Eythilus shifted through the rubble in his bedroom searching desperately for his car keys. He shuffled items of work that he’d spent years obtaining searching for those small metallic door openers that had apparently disappeared. Outside Nisa approached. She’d dressed herself in a pair of loose fitting jeans and a skin tight synthetic under a white button-up. The make-shift tourniquet had been replaced by a more specialized apparatus that while still staunching the blood flow allowed a trickle through so the arm would not wither and die.

    “Can’t you just use your head and find them?” She asked.

    In his earlier haste Eythilus had neglected to don his cap and his secret had been revealed. But that particular incident was years ago but a few months after he’d first met Nisa. He’d been rushing off to Nara for another look at the labs when he’d collided with her in the hallway just outside his door, spilling her groceries all over the floor. He’d helped her as quickly as he could to minimize her view of him but without his trusty cap to conceal his ears it didn’t take long for her to find out he was not of her species. She’d never shown any interest in this revelation in fact Eythilus was sure she couldn’t have cared less if she tried.

    Eythilus was all too happy for this fact.

    What he wasn’t all too happy about was that she’d just made him look like an idiot, twice. Gathering a small bit of himself Eythilus scanned the room with his mind. He located the wayward keys underneath his turned over lamppost. He retrieved them just as a burst of machine gun fire ran up the wall punching tiny holes in its surface from which sprang dingy gray light. Eythilus and Nisa both threw themselves to the ground kicking up dust as they fell.

    “What the hell is going on?” Eythilus cried.

    “How the hell should I know? One moment I’m sleeping the next my apartment gets blown up and I’ve got a two ton rock on me.” She replied.

    “It could have been worse…could have had Gable rescue you.” Eythilus said referring to their obese landlord in a half-hearted attempt at humor. She didn’t laugh. “I have my keys now we should probably get going. I know a place in Nara where we can lie low but I have to…I have to do something first.”

    Nisa shook her head. “I can’t go with you E I’ve got to get to the other side of town, I have to check on my mom.”

    Eythilus nodded his head; he understood the importance of family. “Well then we’d better get going.”

    The two lifted themselves up, Nisa rolling half-way on her left side and pushing up from there. They left Eythilus’ apartment and entered the dilapidated hallway with its green walls and dusty wooden floor. As the two of them walked down the poorly lit hallway they could hear the sound of sporadic gunfire from outside the building. Several times during their journey to the ground floor bursts from unseen weapons peppered the area around them.

    “Maybe they’re inside?” Nisa suggested as they walked down the stairwell.

    A sudden burst of weapons fire from what sounded like the floor they’d just passed answered the question. The two hurried on down the ferrocrete steps without looking back. When they reached the ground floor another massive explosion shook the building presumably killing whichever gunner was firing from their complex.

    The two exited the stairwell and entered the lobby to find it crowded with people who seemed at a loss as to what to do. Few among them were injured though Eythilus spotted a man who’d lost his leg and was even now rolling in agony. The people around him had uncomfortable faces and they tried to put as much space between them and the suffering man as possible. Nisa paid the wounded man little mind and in fact she paid her own arm little mind as she waded through the crowd of on edge people. Eythilus followed in her wake. As he walked he spied a bottle of amasec lying unopened upon the ground in front of him. Thinking it’d be a waste to simply leave the bottle to be crushed underfoot he scooped the bottle up and slipped it into his jumpsuit’s pocket before hurrying off to follow Nisa.

    She was waiting for him outside crouched behind the bronze statue of a man atop a horse preparing to leap some unseen obstacle. Eythilus looked around the street. A few bodies lay on the street but not nearly enough to be a massacre, besides they were all armed. Eythilus skipped down the steps and joined her side.

    “Guess this is where we split?” She said so lowly as to be a whisper.

    “Guess so.” He replied.

    She peered out of cover down the street. A hundred yards away men in black fatigue, men from Zmey чорний Eythilus realized with excitement, appeared from in between two buildings across the street. For a second both thought they were going to be shot but the group which spotted them motioned for them to leave the area before moving on farther down the street.

    Nisa breathed a sigh of relief before turning to Eythilus. “Thanks for saving me.” She said before darting off across the street. Eythilus looked down the street watching the black fatigued soldiers before turning back to Nisa but she’d already disappeared.

    +…this is Jared Fig back on the air again after some technical difficulties. We’re down now in the streets of Linthicum just….blocks from Irminsul. It is bedlam…p…carnage. The marks of war are everywhere, bodies are strewn across the streets some…some civilian. Uh…I can’t see too much here earlier we heard reports that the 86th armored division had entered the city. We haven’t seen them though judging by the destruction it’s easy to believe they’ve been through here…Oh Dear God-Emperor…Oh shit…I think…I think Judy was…+

    Eythilus couldn’t believe his eyes. He didn’t take his foot off the gas but he still couldn’t believe what was happening. Falling from the sky in flames was the Marine ship that had been in orbit for the last month. And he was driving right towards its impact zone. When it hit… Eythilus shook the thought away. The unrelenting Space Marines were down the road he traveled. Eythilus knew Zmey чорний were the ones who’d bombed the camp or if not them than maybe the cult but not the government forces; even a blind man could see that. There was no gain for the administration to pull a stunt like that. He had to get to them; give them his evidence so that they’d finally euthanize the organization known as Zmey чорний and by association Mathias. Mathias, the man who killed his father, his mother, his home, the man no one could or rather would touch. Eythilus would change all that, he’d see him dead.

    Eythilus looked up at the falling ship. Eythilus swallowed and switched the radio station. Either it would explode on impact and kill him or it wouldn’t. Emboldened by duty, music, and alcohol he sped onwards.

    + Some folks are born made to wave the flag, Ooh, they're red, white and blue. And when the band plays "Hail to the chief", Ooh, they point the cannon at you+

    Eythilus watched the ship fall with a horrid feeling. His stomach clenched up and he felt his gorge rise as he grew closer.

    +Lord It ain't me it ain't me I ain't no senator's son son It ain't me it ain't me I ain't no fortunate one no+

    The entirety of the ship was ablaze and Eythilus watched with sickening fascination as the ship split in two, the front maintaining its trajectory as the second half ripped away spinning.

    +Some folks are born silver spoon in hand, Lord don't they help themselves. But when the tax man comes to the door, Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale+

    The bottom half spun his way. Two hundred meters overhead the serrated engine bearing half roared over him jetting flames and plasma. The downwash was so powerful the glass shattered, showering Eythilus with hundreds of little shards of glass.

    +It ain't me it ain't me I ain't no millionaire's son It ain't me it ain't me I ain't no fortunate one+

    Eythilus put his hand up to protect his face from the glass for the half-second the blades blew. Behind him in the rearview mirror he could see the aft of the Cruiser disintegrate into hundreds of thousands of pieces before impacting a mile behind him into the ground in a massive explosion of dirt and rock but not plasma.

    +Some folks inherit star spangled eyes Ooh, they send you down to war And when you ask them How much should we give They only answer More More More+

    A second after the aft crashed the fore slammed into the Earth in a similar gouging of the planet. The dual shockwaves rocked the car causing Eythilus to lose control of his vehicle. He struggled to maintain control but a terrible tremor made him jerk to the left causing the car to flip. The car continued to skid for sixty feet before flipping up right again.

    +It ain't me it ain't me I ain't no military son It ain't me it ain't me I ain't no fortunate one It ain't me it ain't me I ain't no Fortunate Son+

    Four hours later Eythilus awoke amidst voices. There were people outside, what they were saying Eythilus couldn’t make out. His head was once again resting against the steering wheel though no horn bleated. Outside the rain had let up, though dark clouds still hung overhead. Eythilus raised himself up slowly so as not to make any noise. The motion was difficult as his entire body ached. As he removed his head from the steering wheel the horn blared for whatever diabolical purpose. Suddenly the voices outside turned angry and inquisitive.

    Sensing that stealth was no longer an option Eythilus ignited the engine but before he could drive off the door opened and a large fist struck him in the face. The punch shattered his nose but it wasn’t the pain he felt, it was the emptiness that surrounded him. His assailant, a big bald man dressed in black fatigues held him by his neck.

    “Kirin!” Yelled one of the many men Eythilus just now noticed sitting atop a ravaged truck. “Don’t worry about him!”

    The man named Kirin took one last look at Eythilus. He let him go and then punched him hard in the sternum and then kicked him repeatedly in the face and chest.

    “Watch yourself Eldar; you’re not too welcome on our turf.” The man said threateningly before spitting in his face. Eythilus watched the man board his car and drive away. The other truck bearing more of the black fatigued soldiers followed. He laid there for a few more minutes allowing his body to rest before standing up. In one stupid, simple, fleeting day he’d lost everything. His car, his home, and the evidence he was going to use to convince the Space Marines to attack Zmey чорний. He hadn’t even put up a fight.

    Eythilus let out a primal scream that was long and loud.

    An hour later Eythilus was still there rooted to his spot on the cracked pavement. He sat cross-legged meditating for clarity of mind he’d never before possessed. He thought of his home, he thought of his sister Eresis who’d forbidden him to leave over two decades ago. He thought of his father.

    Suddenly Eythilus stood up and looked down the road towards the giant half-ship jutting out of the irradiated earth. The Marines were headed towards Linthicum and the way Linthicum was the road he stood on. If he but walked forward he’d meet them.

    Eythilus took a deep breath and took a step.

    ‘God’, he thought, ‘I could use a drink.’

    The Dishonored

    Chapter Master Siloden accompanied by a squad of Marines waded through the flooded streets of Pummel. The murky black water that sloshed against their armored waists mirrored the menacing clouds above which blocked the sun above replacing its holy light with quick flashes and shattering cracks. Rain came down in monsoon like torrents adding to the already water filled streets. In the middle of the street the squad was enclosed on either side, to the left a giant parking garage, to their right an office building. They both bore the marks of war but not from that day. Their marks had been bestowed upon them in the nuclear fire that had ravaged the world so many decades before.

    There was no gunfire. No hiss of water evaporating as plasma and las fire flash-boiled the water, no bullets slapping the surface or impacting against deserted cars or buildings. There were no sounds save for the rain as it poured down on everything; on metal, on yet more water, on floating bodies, on the tops of buildings and the armored forms of Astartes who moved stealthily through the city, also without sound. Silent as if they were too ashamed to show their faces. The Chapter would have to move quickly out of the city and onto higher ground lest they be completely bogged down by the rising water.

    The water itself was filled to the breaking point with filth. Dirt and grime floated freely within its borders and oily slime from promethium and diesel coated the surface. To the Marines of the chapter however it wasn’t the free bits of wood that floated scattered throughout the city, it wasn’t the cars which lay half submerged, it was the thousands of floating dead that were in every street and alley. They too were silent and for every hushed corpse at the surface there were another three lying silently at the bottom. No cries of pain or anguish, those had finished a long time ago. The bodies bore none of the typical marks of war, at least none that the Marines were familiar with. No explosive concussive wounds, no entrance and exit wounds, no smooth cuts that were the trademarks of power swords. No ripped patterns that were the signs of chain axes.

    Siloden stopped in his watery tracks and nudged a floating corpse with his bolter. The corpse wore the flacktern fatigues of the PDF turned over revealing the deceased soldiers face. Siloden gazed upon the man’s face and found that this man too had died a horrible death, slow and obscene. The dead man’s face was blistered, bloated and ruptured a result of the vesicant agents that he’d ordered released into the city. Agents supplied to him by the scythe wielding negotiator for use against their common foe. The blister agents had worked well enough, almost too well. The agent clung to exposed skin causing massive blisters to form, some as large as Siloden’s head on arms, legs and abdomens. Some bodies wouldn’t have been recognizable as human beings save for their clothing. Inhaled by those without rebreathers the agent scalded the lungs causing massive hemorrhaging and inhuman screams that Siloden with his enhanced hearing could hear all too clearly.

    For those inside vehicles they’d deployed a mechanically enhanced virus known as Yrro, a cell that actively sought out life forms and attacked their nervous systems. The virus was airborne and through some means could pass through filters; eat through plastic, travel through exhaust pipes. The Marines were unaffected thanks to their enhanced immune system but the soldiers of the 39th Mechanized had no such immunities. To the man they all died and they all died horrible deaths, deaths they didn’t deserve. There had been no battle though none of his Marines had perished and a great many of his enemies were dead.

    Now Siloden waded through their amassed ranks. Truthfully he’d been loath to put to use such weapons but what choice did he have? He could afford no longstanding battle he could suffer no straight-up fight. His Marines were few and his enemy’s legion. To see the night through he had to use every advantage, every ally. No matter how insane they were.

    A sudden flash of lightening illuminated just how many had perished in the gaseous clouds and Siloden gave pause. He’d been trying to avoid thinking of how many he’d killed? Were these men not loyal to the Throne? He’d heard many of the men call out the Emperor’s name during that holocaust hour, wasn’t it just Ikozy they were after, not these men who had families and lives and deserved death by age or by bolt but not by blister agents and viruses?

    One of the Marines turned to regard their master. “My Lord may I speak?”

    “Speak Surya, but on the channels.” Siloden responded as he pushed a floating corpse from his path. Siloden regarded the young Marine. Surya was a new initiate, recruited from a feral jungle world where the most lethal weapon that could be produced was a sharpened stick. Surya had slain one of his Marines with those sharpened sticks. Through the visor and into the brain he’d plunged his spear. It was an impossible feat, an amazing feat. Chief Librarian Lakis had immediately inducted the boy. If the Chapter survived this dark night Siloden would return to that world and rebuild.

    “Perhaps we should not have accepted this man’s help my Lord. We know nothing of him or of the people he represents and yet we put so much…faith… in his word…in this, in all this.” Brother Surya spread his arms wide so as to encompass the entirety of the broken city.

    Faith, Siloden thought. One had faith in the Emperor who was all and that was good. One could have faith in the Imperium, the Emperor’s creation, but run by men and thus fallible. One could have faith in mankind when mankind was so corruptible that organizations such as the Inquisition were necessary. Having faith in an unknowable man who orchestrated wars and nightmares? Put faith in the Emperor; pray that he guides you from his golden throne.

    “You’re asking me how I know he’s telling us the truth.” Siloden spoke. No other Marine would put forth such a query; to ask was to question the wisdom of his actions. Siloden knew there was no implied insult; every Marine wondered this, even he. Good that one amongst their ranks would ask.

    “I don’t. I cannot possibly know, nor can anyone here know for sure. I could have detained him, tortured him until he told me everything but what would that have accomplished? For sure if there was not an enemy before there would be then.”

    Surya looked down at the water at his waist but his view was blocked by another form, another man slain without honor. Siloden paused in his speech and consulted the tactical map displayed on his armored forearm. With his enshrined fingers he wiped the glowing screen clean of water. The map which glowed like a beacon akin to the Astronomican in such a lightless setting displayed the locations of his chapter throughout the city. Here on the outskirts of Pummel following a highway was seventh company, a little marker for every squad. Markers were scattered across the city each inching their way East. Siloden switched off the display and the light that had illuminated his form vanished. With a gesture of the hand the squad resumed their march.

    “Trust Surya, trust is everything. Trust is akin to love, akin to brotherhood. I trust you with my life, the same as every Brother in this chapter whether they be from the ranks of the revered dreadnoughts or the newest of initiates.”

    Siloden’s armored foot brushed against a soft object beneath the surface. He paused in his talk but not his march. Below was another body rotting already in the cold water; the rain had intensified and slowly but surely the water inched its way up their armored bodies. Siloden paid the depth no heed; their suits had an internal oxygen supply.

    “Do I trust this unnamed man, no I do not. His ends are selfish I can see that as well as any and when this war is over I know what he’ll want however…he speaks of himself as a daemon hunter and because he is a psychic blank I can almost believe that. Certainly he has no affiliation with the ruinous powers for he is anathema to them. The planetary governor on the other hand…”

    Siloden let the sentence hang, the Marines connected the dots. Not the ones Siloden had been hoping for though. He’d meant to say something so profound as to make perfect sense of their predicament but words failed him or rather his mind failed him. If his mind failed to find words had his mind also failed to find alternatives? Doubt gnawed. Siloden prayed.

    For the next two hours they waded silently through the bloody liquid filled with their sins. Finally they and the rest of the chapter waded from out of the rancid cemetery that was of their own creation. They emerged from the ruins of Pummel like shadows despite the waning of the rain and the lightening of the clouds into an open field off to the left of the highway which seventh company had traversed. On that highway were two cars, their lights on. Even hundreds of yards away Siloden could make out the black fatigue clad soldiers of Zmey чорний speaking with the Captain of the company.

    +Brother-Nuvile status report+ Siloden voxed.

    Siloden heard a hiss of static before the reply +Members of Zmey чорний my lord. They request an audience with you+

    +I’ll be there momentarily+ He replied. Quickly he motioned for his squad to follow and they rushed off. As they did Siloden sent displacement orders to the companies who were emerging from Pummel. He refused to be caught unaware.

    The operatives waited for Siloden on the road watching stoically as he hopped the guard-rail and marched towards them. One of the men handed off his rifle and went to meet the Chapter Master.

    “Lord Siloden.” The man said proffering his hand. “I’m Kirin.”

    Siloden took the hand gently. “So you give names now?” He asked tersely.

    Kirin smiled. “Years of being hunted kind of made us paranoid, my apologies. Mathias the man you spoke to earlier this week also sends his apologies.”

    Siloden grunted but inwardly was relieved to know the man’s name. “I don’t suppose you came here to tell me your names?” He asked.

    Kirin shook his head. “No of course not, status update; Ikozy is dead, the PDF is disintegrating and that cult which Mathias told you about is making a bid for power. Linthicum is being torn up, we’ve been talking with some of the PDF commanders we have one guy a colonel Jinsk who’s pledged to help us if we fight off the cult. With Ikozy out of the way that’s what we plan to do. We tried to get a hold of you and your gu- chapter, tell you not to attack the PDF forces but from what your Captain told me we were a little too late. I’m sorry.”

    Siloden shook his head at this revelation. All that suffering, he thought, all that death for nothing, no matter that they’d been his enemy. If he’d chosen the honorable route there’d still be hundreds, maybe thousands left alive.

    “That’s not all.” Kirin uttered. “Your ship, your strike cruiser it’s been shot down. We passed it on our way here. Mathias is heading there, he should be there now.”

    The Third Chapter

    A mile down the road from the wrecked strike cruiser a brown sedan sped across the highway, its spiked treads sending ripped gravel flying behind. The vehicle was battered. The bumper had long ago been lost, the headlights were broken. The rear passenger door bore the marks of a prior collision. Driving the ruined vehicle was the skittish form of Erets fresh from the fighting in Linthicum and clad in his black fatigues. Across his lap rested a Synex pattern assault rifle an LMGAS that fired an 8.45x45 round. Sitting passively in the passenger seat next to him was Mathias, their reserved and in some corners insane leader. Unlike Erets the supposed maniac was garbed in skintight pants and tan boots. He wore no shirt. Across his waist was a utility belt from which satchels hung. Strapped to his thigh was a heavy duty pistol with a silencer and laser pointer attached. Strapped to his back was his iconic scythe though only the blade was attached, the staff was nowhere to be seen. Mathias had made no attempt at conversation content to simply stare blankly out the passenger window at the endless fields beyond the highway.

    The first thing Erets noticed as he closed with the crashed ship was the smoldering grass ignited by extreme heat despite the earlier showers. Black grass gave birth to black smoke that filled the already darkened skies. Fortunately the rain had prevented the fires from spreading too far but for a half-mile from the epicenter of the crash and in every direction the grass was non-existent. Here and there Erets could still make out the lapping tongues of yellow flames as they clung to life. Scattered amongst those burning blades were pieces of the ship that had disintegrated during its descent. Erets could still see a massive block of ragged metal which must have housed the warp core but other than that it seemed that the aft of the ship was unrecoverable. Not that Mathias had any intention of salvaging the ship.

    Beyond the tattered remains of the aft lay the fore. Laying on her belly like a downed beast the armored surface was devoid of its original gray paint job. Instead the surface had been heated so much by reentry that the ship once known as the Chaste now bore a silvery smooth surface in places where the unbearable heat had melted the titan grade Admantanium armor. The ship bore fresh scars in the form of deep gouges along the armor acquired in its final apocalyptic battle. The great spires that had once jutted from the belly of the ship had been crushed during the landing just as surely as those on top had been shorn away on reentry. Behind the fore of the Chaste was a wound in the earth hundreds of yards in length that marked the ships skidding trail. Had the ground around the ship been composed of sand the land would have been turned to glass; because it was made of soil the ground smoldered coal red instead.

    As the brown sedan approached the aft Erets began to slow down and pulled on to the shoulder, intent on travelling towards the gigantic block. Mathias not looking away from the window gestured for him to keep driving.

    “Stop at the front?” Erets asked timidly.

    “Right.” Mathias replied.

    Erets returned to the highway and continued driving. Beside him Mathias unbuckled his rotted seatbelt and drew the pistol from its leather holster. In smooth concise movements he checked the magazine, flicked the safety and laser on and then off again. Erets eyes flickered between the road and the man’s rapid movements; warily though as he didn’t want to attract the man’s attention. If he could be honest with himself he’d say he was petrified of sharing the same space as the man. Despite his caution Mathias noticed.

    “Worried?” He asked in his jagged tone.

    “No.” Erets returned his eyes to the road and then added, “Were here.”
    Erets brought the car to a halt on the outer shoulder and shut off the car. Together the two exited the vehicle and walked up to the curved guard rail that ran parallel to the road. The two stood at that particular spot in the road each mutely contemplating what could have brought down the ship. Though there was a generation gap of nearly sixty years between the two they both came to the same conclusion: Eldar.

    Mathias turned to Erets. “Wait here.”

    Worry flashed across Eret’s face. “You’re going in there?”

    “I’m just going to have a little look-see.” Mathias replied. “No need to get scared.”

    Erets nodded his head and left to retrieve his rifle from the car. Rookie, Mathias thought as he bounded over the guard rail and began a steady jog towards the downed ship. As he did he found that the earth was dry and cracked as if the land had been subjected to a decade long drought and a trio of suns; the very top flaked like peeling skin. All around him the light brown earth smoldered. Mathias ignored this phenomenon though when he drew closer to the ship he slowed his jog to a walk and gaped at the immensity of the ship. Even bisected the Chaste was almost a kilometer long and two maybe three dozen stories tall. Several feet from the ship he could hear the metal strain from heat that apparently hadn’t dissipated despite the weather and time past.

    For a few minutes he stood there appreciating the ships raw strength even as it lay dead before him. He walked the length of the ship running the tips of his fingers against the blistering hull. Dimly his mind registered the pain. He relished it. It wasn’t until ten minutes later that he reached the torn edge of the ship. He’d been walking, enjoying the tingling in his fingers when suddenly the sensation simply disappeared. He turned to his right to see the ravaged end of the ship. Dozens of decks were exposed to the cool air and hundreds of thick cables hung loosely from their edges. Twisted frames which had managed to cling to the front were like skeletons swinging in the wind.

    Mathias spared a quick glance at his guardian angel before hoisting himself up the remains of a lopsided platform. Black stripes against a yellow base ran around the perimeter of the platform and Mathias guessed he was on some kind of lift. From there he grabbed hold of the shorn edge of one of the skeletal frames. He climbed up the angled beams until he got close enough to one of the entrances. When he did he cautiously stood up and leaped into one of the exposed corridors. Swiftly he used his momentum to turn himself around as he grabbed a dangling cable and leaned outside. He was on the third deck, in the bowels so to speak. Looking from this new angle the ravaged ship looked as though a body had spilled its intestines for all to see. With a shrug and a grin Mathias pulled himself back into the corridor and went off to explore the ship.

    Mathias wondered the endless corridors his only light source of light a compact flashlight and a package of orange glow sticks. He made his way cautiously down the halls careful not to do anything that might provoke a collapse in the structure. The corridors were devoid of debris and save for a few rents in the floor grating caused by the crash everything was intact. Periodically at intersections and ladder wells he’d crack one of the sticks and leave it as a marker. On the occasions that he found a hatch that couldn’t be opened he’d simply circumvent it, usually by hunting down a ladder well and ascending to a higher deck. It was during one such ascent that Mathias came face to face with the final dark chapter of the ship.

    It was as he was roaming the halls of deck twenty-three that he heard a great screech of sharpened metal against metal from the deck above. Instinctively Mathias crouched down and drew his pistol. Gun and flashlight ran parallel against the ceiling. For agonizingly long seconds Mathias strained his ears for sound. After a few moments of tense silence he brought himself up. He retraced his steps back through the twisting corridors until he reached a stark wall whose only ornament was a directory of the ship. He ran the light and his finger across its large text.

    D.22 Flight Deck
    D.23 Serfs Quarters
    D.24 Mess Hall/Barracks
    D.25 Chapel/Officer’s Quarters
    D.26 Bridge

    “Going up.” Mathias whispered. As he turned to leave the sound of heavy, rasping breathing and rapid footsteps assaulted his ears. Hair on end Mathias leveled his pistol firing into the darkness from whence the sound came. A strangled inhuman cry and a moment later a heavy thud echoed through the corridor. Slightly alarmed Mathias kept his pistol trained at chest height as he shone the flashlight up and down the hall searching for his assailant. He found him or rather it ten feet down the hall. The creature was clothed in tattered rags and while it had the form of a human the reek of decaying flesh and the odd number of eyes that ran across its forehead spoke otherwise. More shrieks from behind sent Mathias running. It was times like these, he thought, that he wished he’d been a psyker. If he had been he’d not have walked into this hellhole.

    Down the twisting corridors he ran. Left at a T junction whose walls a desiccated man leaned against and into a hall filled with estranged limbs. Right into a narrow corridor where flamers had scoured spatters of blood from the charred walls. More shrieks, more footsteps. Right again into another hall where a Space Marine lay fallen, his armor ripped open and his organs scattered throughout the corridor. Two of the screamers appear briefly in the light their sickly forms blocking a hatch that was wide open. Mathias open fired. One body fell the other kept running until it crashed into him. Screams of rage or maybe hunger echoed through the bisected ship. The creature on top of him gnashed its teeth and bit down on Mathias’ wrist before suddenly going limp. If the creature had had any eyes with which to see it would have seen a darkness, even darker than the pitch black that surrounded them rip out its soul and snuff it like a palm does a candle.

    Quickly and with a grunt of effort Mathias heaved the body off of him and made off for the door. Behind him the pattering of feet continued close behind and he thought he could just feel the brushes of fingertips against his neck. Then through the hatch. With a deft movement he grabbed hold of the heavy door swinging it closed and swinging himself around all at the same time. The flashlight that was his only source of light fell from his hands. Just as the hatch was about to shut a body with no arms and no face save for a gaping hole dived in and the door slammed into its belly. The creature yelped in pain before its soul too was snuffed out. Steely fingers connected to gray opaque hands shot through the door and against it. Slowly but surely the door was forced open.

    Suddenly Mathias let the door go and jumped back. Monsters fell over each other and on to the floor. In a precise movement he put the pistol to his hand and fired. Dark red blood splattered the wall the likes of which seemed to incise the creatures further. Turning to run again he returned his pistol to its holster and drew his scythe. Blood dripped from his fingers as he took hold of the razor sharp blade. He turned to face his recovering attackers and hurled the blade from his hands. As the blade flew through the air Mathias swung his hand around from which spouted a silvery liquid which ran to meet the soaring blade. The two connected just as the scythe passed overhead one of the now standing creatures. The screamer stretched its maw until the lower part of its jaw reached its chest and let out a howling shriek. Mathias took hold of the newly formed staff and pulled the blade back. He felt only the slightest resistance as the blade passed through the creature’s neck.

    Another creature let loose a terrible howl and charged. Mathias through his unholy connection reversed the blade and thrust forward cutting the creature in half. Steaming entrails spilled out but with slight concern Mathias saw that the creature was crawling towards him. He reversed the blade again and took the legs out from another two of the runners who fell to the metal deck screaming but showing no signs in relenting in their pursuit. A shriek pierced the darkness much closer than the others and Mathias sent a shockwave of death a few feet in front of him. A second later a body crashed into him before falling limply to the floor. Mathias deciding that there were perhaps too many to fight turned to run. After three steps he ran into a solid wall. His back against the wall he turned swiftly and drew his pistol.

    Bang! The room lit up for an instant and the meaty thump of a bullet impacting a body was lost amidst howls of anger.

    Bang! Another flash revealed the room to be Spartan. On either side were undisturbed bunk beds. Their green blankets and white sheets still in place despite the apocalyptic crash.

    Bang! An instance of light accompanied by the pinging sound of a ricochet. The floor was made of smooth metal upon which sat two

    Bang! Bang! With two more shots came two more brief moments of light. A dozen creatures fought to get through the doorway their progress impeded by the corpses in front. Their bodies were opaque and Mathias could see their organs pulsating wildly. There were males and females.

    Bang! Bang! Another double tap and a creature whose multiple genitalia were standing upright fell to the floor where it inadvertently tripped several of its brethren. With the light Mathias glimpsed something…snakelike squirming through his attacker’s body.

    Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Shots rang out and grimy dirt encrusted blood flew. A body fell at Mathias feet on top of the crawling monstrosity which had taken hold of his. He lashed out with his scythe ineffectively as brusque hands with pointed nails grabbed at his clothing and dragged him to the floor.

    Bang! Bang! Bang! Click. The gunshots lit up the insides of his attacker like an X-ray but did not illuminate his surroundings. Mathias felt sharp teeth bite down into his chest and legs. He struggled against this fate of being devoured and with fist and foot he punched, kicked, clawed and bit, each strike spiked with the darkness. One creature tore away a piece of flesh from his chest before he struck it in the throat with his fist causing the creature to repel in horror at the swift necrosis that began to overtake its body. Another tried to bite into his squirming knee before the same knee slammed into its over-extended jaw sending it spiraling into a hand formed of nothing that stole away its soul. With that same out of phase hand created from Mathias’ concentrated will he lashed out killing silently the rest of his attackers.

    Mathias dug himself up from the pile of limp bodies and pulled out one of his orange glow sticks. He snapped its spindly back forcing the chemicals within its plastic embrace to collide and react. He waved the stick close to his attacker’s bodies. One body, a female with nine breasts; three on its chest, two on its left arm and the other four on its back all pierced lay on its side. A bullet sized hole in the things head dripped wet liquid filled with grime. Next to the female was another, a hermaphrodite who sported both male and female organs on multiple places around its body. This one was unscathed. All of the creatures were similar in the regards that they bore exaggerated sexual features though the similarities ended there. Some had wide maws that reached down to the chests but had no eyes. Others had eyes but too many of them and in the wrong places.

    Mathias looked down holding the glow stick to his body. Flesh that had once covered his chest was missing and much to his displeasure he found that his bottom most rib was exposed. Smaller bites that had still drawn blood covered his arms and legs. Outside the hatchway Mathias’ lost flashlight shone its beam on the wall outside the doorway. With a sigh he dropped the stick to the floor and bent down to retrieve his scythe. He took hold of the staff in the crook of his right arm as he reloaded his pistol and returned it to its holster on his thigh. As he did a form cast its shadow fleetingly against the wall outside. Decades of honed reflexes, nerves, and unholy concoctions caused him to drop the scythe and grasp with his hand the air in front of him. His deathly fingers closed around a skinny throat his skin burned at contact. Daemonic, Mathias thought.

    The creature lashed out with its right arm but Mathias grabbed the arm with his hand before it could strike him. Suddenly a terrible pain shot through him. The pain was agonizing but not enough to cause him to relax his grip. Still holding the squirming monster in his hand Mathias walked over the bodies and into the corridor beyond. He slammed the creature against the wall where his light shone so that he could view his attacker.

    Which was a boy. Across his forehead was a large gash and his nose was shattered. Deep wounds created by chain swords ran free across his chest exposing red flesh underneath the skin. His mouth gibbered and frothed as the boy tried to form words or bite him. His ears bled profusely and his eyes had the glazed look of one in total agony. Whether that was from his hand or the wounds Mathias was not sure. Another lance of pain caused Mathias to look down towards the boys arm which was really a blade. From where he held it a set of hairy teeth were currently biting down on his flesh and tiny spindly legs were trying to reach him. A single baleful eye gazed at him knowingly.

    A malevolent grin spread itself across Mathias’ face. In a quick movement he changed his grip from the boy’s neck to his jaw. With muscular fingers he forced the child’s mouth open.

    “I am the first…” Mathias whispered viciously. As he spoke a black fog creeped from between his cracked lips. The boy seeing the tendrils of smoke wisp their way towards him struggled to close his mouth to no avail.

    “…in a long line…” The boy writhed in his captor’s grip, the daemon at his arm sent excruciating lances of pain that went unnoticed. Slowly the smoky tendrils eased their way into the boy’s nostrils where they were whisked away.

    “…of the new dead.” The boy’s face turned deathly pale and his veins dyed black. The irises of the boy eyes were becoming diluted. Flesh was decaying and where ruptures broke the surface thick dark blood that was already in the process of coagulating oozed out. The shadow against the wall shrunk to a third its original size.

    Mathias let the withered husk drop though he still kept hold of the shrieking arm. The boy was still alive but barely.

    “One step closer.” He said swiftly.

    Unseen by the daemon were two unholy hands hovering above both him and the boy.

    Suddenly Barrathos felt a cold envelop him bony form as his temple was banished.

    Jörmungandr felt his arm go limp. His entire body was wracked with pain and try as he might he could not see. He could not hear. Slowly the essence that was known as Jörmungandr, and had once been the boy named Sam left reality. It did not return to the warp.

    Mathias looked down on the shriveled corpse with satisfaction for a few minutes before turning to retrieve his scythe and flashlight. When he had them both he set off to find his way out of the ships.

    Light and pistol in hands Mathias retraced his steps; back into the hallway with the murdered Marine, past the flame scorched corridor and on to the directory where his flight had begun. From there he headed towards the ladder well a hundred yards distant that would take him down to the seventeenth deck. He gait was measured and he stopped repeatedly listening for sounds. The green laser light pierced the darkness not illuminated by his light. Half-way to his destination Mathias heard the screeching sound of metal against metal echo from above. Mathias raised his pistol towards the ceiling and then back down the hallway where the sound seemed to have teleported.

    Sweat mixed with blood rolled down Mathias’ body. A noise that sounded like a whimper off to his right caused him to swirl around but there was nothing but a wall. Quickly he flashed his light down the hall catching a glimpse of a hand just as it disappeared into an adjacent corridor. Slowly, with his pistol trained down the hall Mathias backed up.

    Suddenly from behind him came the softest of whispers. “We meet again.” Mathias swung around and discharged the pistol into…nothing. The beam of light he held revealed nothing but an empty passage. Dread and apprehension rose up in equal measure and Mathias took off running down the hall his pistol trained expertly before him, his invisible hands poised to strike.

    Suddenly a blindingly light appeared in front of Mathias halting him in his tracks. Reflexively he fired off a trio of shots none of which hit anything. Not even the walls. The light was bluish in color and it bathed everything around it in its almost blissful hue. Mathias recognized the light for what it was; a warp portal. He moved closer to the doorway which led to hellish other worlds in the hopes that he could close it and as he drew nearer the portal lost some of its luster. Then despite his presence the light intensified and from the doorway stepped a man whom Mathias had seen once before.

    Dressed in a large green overcoat under which rested a velvet suit the leggings of which had little red ribbons hanging from was the man he’d seen just before meeting the daemon known as Lucifuge. Sapphire and ruby rings adorned his fingers and his ears were studded with dozens of diamonds. A rune that was the mark of Slaanesh glowed hotly on his left cheek. His eyes were piercing and the color of lust. Tiny precious jewels were stitched across his face lending a puzzle piece look.

    “You look surprised to see me.” The man said to Mathias. “In truth I’m surprised to see you.”

    “Who are you again?” Mathias asked with a grin as he holstered his pistol and unslung his scythe.

    The daemon known as Verdelet let out a dejected sigh. “If you insist…”

    Verdelet lashed out with an elegantly slender sword whose origin was owed to the scimitar, albeit a rune inscribed thin bladed version. Mathias ducked beneath the cut and swung his own blade at the daemon’s legs. Despite the length of the weapon and the close quarters Mathias had no problem manipulating the weapon for the phase scythe could cut through Admantanium walls just as smoothly as a piece of paper. Verdelet dodged the slash by flipping up onto the ceiling. From there he ran across the ceiling almost right above Mathias before jabbing down. Mathias dodged the stab and sent a thrust upwards which was blocked by a lightning fast blow. Suddenly Verdelet jumped down from the ceiling making a downward cut as he did. Mathias raised his scythe to block and was forced to his knees by the force of the blow. The daemon raised the scimitar descended sword to strike again and Mathias lashed out with his soul stealing hands. Unable to block such an attack Verdelet leaped backwards but the hands still scored a hit across the daemon’s belly. Flesh burned incandescently exposing ribs.

    Verdelet let out a high pitched shriek of pain that forced Mathias to try and cover his ears. When he did the daemon rushed him. Mathias, recovering quickly performed a horizontal cut which the daemon narrowly dodged by leaping up onto the adjacent wall and continuing his charge. Mathias pulled the scythe back trying to take out a leg as the creature ran but the daemon simply switched walls. As the daemon passed it let out another howling shriek and a diagonal cut meant to bisect. Mathias dropped down to his knees to avoid the blow and lashed out with the darkness again. This time however he missed and the daemon jumped to the other wall and struck out with a slash that cut deep into Mathias shoulder. Ignoring the pain Mathias leaped and rolled down the hall just as Verdelet leapt into the air to catch him as he halted. Seeing this Mathias pulled his pistol and in mid-roll planted a bullet into the daemon’s head. Verdelet was by no means actually harmed by the bullet but the kinetic energy pushed him off-balance and he stumbled as he landed. In the half-second it took for him to correct himself Verdelect found that the scythe had already bisected him.

    With an anguished cry he toppled over face first. Mathias, guided by the unearthly light of the portal moved to pick him up.

    “No! No!” Verdelet protested as Mathias picked up his upper half. In his agony he’d released his hold on the sword. In the dim half-light he could see steam rising from where the blank gripped hip. Mathias readied his unholy hands.

    “Wait you fool! I’m not here for you!” Verdelet cried.

    Mathias halted, confused. “Then who are you here for, the Marines? This ship?”

    Suddenly Verdelet’s eyes widened. “I’m here for him.”

    Mathias seeing what was reflecting in the daemon’s eyes released his grip and turned. Suddenly in mid-turn a pair of bloodied hands grabbed him by the scruff of his neck. Mathias realizing what was about to happen didn’t struggle.

    “How the hell do you shake that shit off your sleeve?” He said calmly the second before Lucifuge hurled him through the portal which flared before disappearing altogether.

    “Janis! My friend it’s been so long.” Lucifuge said.

    “You can’t escape; killing me will make no difference.” Verdelet spoke from the floor.

    “Escape? Kill? I’ve no intention of doing either my good friend. Hell I like it here. Besides you and me we’ve got a lot to catch up on and I intend to take my sweet damned time finding out.”

    Mathias felt the rush of hot air against his face. With a sudden jarring crunch and a grunt of pain he hit the ground. He turned over and tasted copperish dirt. Opening his single eye Mathias stared down at the red soil beneath him.

    Mathias picked himself up grabbing his scythe and pistol. Far above him a vicious roar echoed. He looked up to see bloody red clouds clad in bronze armor waging war against one another. Each time a blow struck home blood fell to the world below as if rain.

    “Shit.” He said placidly as if completely unaffected that the clouds were killing each other.

    He stood on a desolate and rocky plateau which overlooked an organic city that was impossibly in the process of ****ing itself. Hundreds of phallic buildings roamed freely interacting with other buildings which bore massive vaginas, lips, and anuses. Thick white liquid dripped from many of these orifices. Off to his left were the ruined pillars of a half demolished temple whose main structure had collapsed but whose adjoining abbey was left mostly intact. Here and there giant slabs of carved stone sat idly. In the ruins of the main temple small eight-legged furry critters scuttled through embrasures while sodomizing each other. To the right was what appeared to be a giant landfill; vehicles, appliances, bodies and thousands of other miscellaneous items were spread out for miles in every direction.

    Mathias glanced down at the ground beneath him and noticed he had two shadows. Looking up again he saw two suns one blue and distant the other red and close. Wind blew and Mathias felt the familiar burn of radiation against his unnatural skin. Despite himself Mathias chuckled at the insanity of his surroundings. He might as well have been home.


    Mathias turned around to confront the origin of the god-awful noise. Behind him upon a large rounded boulder sat the solitary figure of a blue-clad creature whose back was turned to him. With a purposeful smirk Mathias began to walk towards the creature. As he neared features became discernable. The creature was humanoid in nature with two arms and legs. Its hair was reminiscent of his own with the twin differences where his was short and scraggy the creature’s was long and smooth, almost silk like. In its hands the creature held some device, most likely a string instrument that was presumably the source of the horrid ‘music’. When he was perhaps twenty feet from the creature he realized the creature was blue-skinned not garbed in blue clothing. Wanting to attract the blue-skinned humanoid’s attention he let his feet drag a little against the dirt. Upon hearing the graveling noise the creature stopped its ear raping playing and turned.

    The creature was female evidenced by the uncovered breasts that sat firmly upon the creature’s chest. The creature’s face was exotically beautiful and its nose and ears were pierced with dozens of studs and rings. Around each of her limbs were golden bracelets. Behind her a pointed tail uncoiled and waved restlessly in the air.

    As Mathias drew closer the blue-skin stood up and hopped down from its stony platform. The blue-skin’s gait was seductive and pleasing to the eye. With a murderous smile Mathias drew his scythe.

    “Back to square one.” He said wryly to himself.

    The Sullen Soldier

    Two intersecting red lines one horizontal and one vertical with tiny dots every half inch within a spherical perimeter, that is what Catherine saw. Underneath those thin red lines was a man; dressed in the gaudy colors of purple and yellow that were so at odds with the steel black las rifle held in his shaking hands. Yes, even from ¾ of a mile away she could see his slender trembling digits. Why, she thought, why is he shaking, why didn’t he charge blindly ahead like the rest of his brethren?

    A voice, heavy, brusque, and questioning trespassed into her spherical realm. “Are you going to take the shot?”

    Annoyed she removed her eye from the scope and regarded the husky man in black fatigues sitting beside her, “You can’t rush genius.”She said as she replanted her face against the butt of her rifle and her eye to the optic and returned to her study.

    The man hadn’t moved during her distraction and he remained crouched behind that shattered wall with rusted railing. But was he really a man, she mused. Since birth she’d been told to blasphemy was to forfeit all ties with human kind and wasn’t belief, no, wasn’t faith in the ruinous powers the ultimate blasphemy? No, this trembling clown, this parody of a man was no man; he was a cultist and a heretic, no matter his outward appearance. Upon the back of his right hand was the eight pointed sigil of Chaos in all its miasmic glory that proclaimed his allegiance and his deviancy from his species. Even as Catherine stared through her high powered scope she could see the unholy icon shift, mutating to accommodate crying faces upon its surface.

    Religious deviancy and political upheaval were both equal grounds for earning such a title. Did that make her a heretic for going against the grain? Had casting her lot, however unintentionally enough to warrant that title? Had she become what her master hunted? Briefly her thoughts drifted from the man in the street below before settling on her armor clad mentor. What would he say she wondered? What would he have her do? Pray was the answer, prayer perhaps accompanied with pain; perchance through flagellation, she’d never done that before. Maybe prayers to the Emperor with slit fingertips. More likely it would be prayer through labor, cleaning her master’s arms and armor all the while in silent contemplation of Him. Either of which were, unfortunately, currently unavailable and ever would be again. She mused on this predicament until she remembered a saying he’d once told an initiate, “A battle is our temple and bolters our choir.”

    Prayer through killing the Emperor’s foes was an entreaty she’d many times dreamed of and this man who cowered behind a shattered stone wall was surely an enemy of the Emperor. The man looked frantically behind himself. What is he looking for, she wondered, reinforcements or a route of escape. She followed his anxious glance down the sidewalk, past a stream of blood that led to a black clad corpse, across a street with an abandoned truck and to the corner of a brick building. There another heretic leaned out from behind the corroded walls mouthing words to the stranded gunman. Across his forehead did she draw the intersecting red lines. She breathed in and then out. Her finger depressed the trigger. A great cheer composed of several voices, loud and male rang out from the room adjacent.


    The translucent drapes fluttered as the heavy round passed by their domain. The man leaning out the side of the building collapsed to the ground his hands grasping at his throat. He writhed uncontrollably on his back. His legs spasmed erratically; up and down left and right and not necessarily in that order. His rifle lay by his side released by grimy hands that grasped at his torn throat trying desperately to stem the bright red rhythmic jets.

    Lijew shifted in his seat as he watched through his own scope, the cultist’s slow demise. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the wide grin that grew across his young companion’s face.

    “Nice shot.” He remarked.

    “Heh…yeah.” She replied stilly.

    Catherine watched his vain struggle with gleeful fascination. How could she be a heretic, she thought, when she took such pleasure in the righteous ending of blasphemous life? Desperate fingers squeezed their grubby frames into the wound trying to close shut the spurting artery to no avail. She watched as his legs stopped their erratic twitching, as the fountain grew shorter and the hands stopped their misguided ministrations. Slowly as if an afterthought she traced the scope back up the street and onto the perfidious clown below.

    The heretic cowered in his sanctuary still the only obvious movement the fallen las rifle by his side. His own hands were held before trembling lips and teary cheeks. Had the dying heretic been a close friend? Had he bared witness to his bloody, drawn out fate? Did he know it was his own? Her last shot had been low. Catherine placed the crosshairs slightly above the man’s head and squeezed the trigger. Her lord would have been pleased.

    Again the drapes wafted in the light breeze. Far below the heretic looked up in her direction just as the wall by his head splintered showering him with pieces of broken gravel. Catherine cursed as she tried to sight in on the now running heretic as he zigzagged down the street. She tracked his movements as he swerved Left and right. She got a bead on the heretics back and let off a round that narrowly missed as her pray jigged to the right. Faster and faster the heretic sped running for his misbegotten life. The rifle jerked upwards and another loosed round slammed into the pavement sending up a dusty spray. She prepared for another shot but her quarry was no longer in her scope. She searched frantically swinging the scope up and down the street in vain hunt.

    Suddenly a shot rang out that was not her own. With cheeks flushed from embarrassment and frustration Catherine kept her eye glued to the scope and continued her search. After a few seconds she located her fancy colored heretic face down only a few feet from an alley that would have been his salvation. Through her scope she could just make a tiny hole in the purple cloth.

    “Aim for center mass, not the head.” Lijew chastised. “You can’t predict windage so well inside a building.”

    Catherine pretended not to hear the Nord instead keeping her eye on the scope, scouring for other heretics. Annoyed the burly man flicked the girl’s ear. Immediately he regretted the action. Did that tiny action constitute abuse, he wondered. Then he regretted the thought. Was he being too soft on the girl for even thinking that? Wasn’t there a time when he’d given her a gun and a map and told her to find her way? Why should he care even, it wasn’t like she was his daughter.

    “Eyes.” He demanded.

    Angrily Catherine tore her eye from the scope and looked over to her patron. He sat upon a tall wooden stool that through some miracle managed his girth. His black blouse was unbuttoned revealing the green skintight short-sleeve he wore underneath did nothing to contain his wide and hairy belly. She forced herself to look the man in the face.

    “What have we learned today?” He asked.

    Catherine resisted the temptation to roll her eyes. “Headshots are….” She drifted.

    “Are?” Lijew implored.

    “Satisfying?” She finally suggested.

    Lijew frowned. “How about an unnecessary risk? Unless of course you became some hotshot sniper overnight…”

    Catherine studied Lijew’s features as he spoke. There wasn’t much to see however since the bottom half of his face was completely buried underneath a dark brown beard which reached all the way down to his chest. His eyes were wide, his broad forehead partially covered by brown hair that hung over it. His eyebrows were bushy and his nose was pudgy as was the rest of him. Despite herself a smile creeped across her face.

    “...and this isn’t some game where you get second chances this is…what are you smiling about?”

    Catherine shook her head vigorously. “Nothing. I’m listening.” She lied.

    Lijew let out a heavy sigh as he planted his elbow in his thigh and his head in his palm. He closed his eyes shutting away the visage of the tiny girl with her piercing eyes and her mischievous grin. Still the afterimage and memory remained. She sat there her dress an exact emulation of his usual attire at home. Her blouse was wrapped around her waist and she wore a slightly transparent wife beater that revealed a little too much. Fortunately the thick trousers she wore left much to the imagination. Despite her time in the organizations care she was still slightly malnourished and he could just make out her ribs through the undershirt. Her left arm still held its sickly yellow bruising and snaking gouges that had only now begun to refill. Though he couldn’t see them Lijew knew ghastly scars covered her back and legs. Her neck bore a long and wicked scar that should have killed her several times over, it was a disturbing wonder that she was still alive. He chuckled to himself as the thought of her savage semblance to Mathias.

    “So that was why.” He said as he opened his eyes and looked upon the girl again.

    Filthy brown hair, near black, which had grown since he’d first seen her, hung loosely over her head. Lijew faintly remembered that during her short stay with him she’d spoken of letting it grow out. Considering her hair was only four inches long she either hadn’t meant it or her hair grew extremely slow. Despite her shrunken cheeks that would fill with time and nourishment her face was noble. Not noble in the sense that she was of rich stock, which she obviously was not but of distinguished features. Her slightly pointed chin and nose, the shapely form that made up her face all spoke of respect.

    Suddenly a voice from beyond the room called out. “What was why?”

    Lijew swiveled himself around to see Nave’s form standing just beyond the door whose upper half had been destroyed. He waved the outsider in and Nave took hold of the doorknob and pushed himself through.

    “Couldn’t help but hear.” He said as he grabbed Lijew by the shoulders and shook him lightly. He then regarded Catherine and said, “Got ourselves a stone cold killer here eh?”

    Lijew and Catherine both smirked at the comment. “I prefer proficient myself.” She said wryly.

    Naves looked down at Lijew who looked up at him. “What do you say?” He asked.

    “She needs practice.” He replied gruffly as he got up.

    Naves slapped Lijew’s shoulder as he rose. “Well she’ll get plenty of that. In the meantime it’s almost that time.” He said. His tone bordered on excited and since Naves was not an easily excited man Catherine wondered what might be happening.

    Lijew grunted as picked up his rifle, his stool and left the room. Catherine made to follow him but Naves walked up to her and barred her way.

    Kneeling down he untied the blouse that hung at her waist and threw it over her bony shoulders.

    “You’re not a whore, don’t dress like one.” He said before turning to leave.

    Unsure of what to say Catherine slipped her arms through the blouse’s sleeves, retrieved her rifle and hurried after Naves through the half-door. She emerged shortly after Naves into a small room that had been shot up by auto cannon fire at some point during the previous days fighting. Fearsome holes dotted the plaster walls exposing the hidden frames and studs of the building. On the wall adjacent to the door a landscape picture hung. The setting was in a green forest below a gently setting sun. Catherine knew such places existed in the Imperium but in all her life, albeit her short life, she’d never seen such a place. That’s not to say she’d spent her entire life on The Chaste, quite the contrary she’d accompanied Lord Eurydice to the surface of many worlds but only after hostilities had ceased. Thus she only ever saw the aftermath of a world, its waste land visage after the Astartes had unleashed their fearsome rage. Cities reduced to rubble, deserts vitrified, forests turned to smoldering timbers, mountains leveled. Every world was unbridled destruction in a different locale. For one blissful moment she toyed with the idea of living within that painted landscape and then quickly banished it.

    Peace was for the weak. Peace was dull. Pain kept the senses sharp and war threatened the mind.

    In the center of the room was a rounded table which huddled four figures. The first was Cyrillic, still clad in full combat gear his rifle slung across his black. Next to him was Lijew who sat upon his wooden stool. The third was Nidas a man she’d met earlier in the morning. He was a tall man with a casual gait so at odds with their military status. Of course that isn’t to say he didn’t fit in with the motley organization which was home to kindhearted family men and despotic psychopaths and everything in between. Like Cyrillic he was still in his combat gear. Several pilfered talismans alien in origin marked him out as a man who’d fought Eldar in close combat and survived. Catherine was withholding judgment. Standing next to him was Naves, a wide smile spread across his handsome features.

    Catherine joined the jolly hearted men, squeezing herself between Naves and Cyrillic the latter of which gave her an irritated glance.

    “Almost time. Almost time.” Naves chanted as he glanced at his chronometer and then to the VOX receiver at the center of the table.

    “Calm down before you get a ****ing hard-on.” Nidas said.

    “I get that I’ll go down bust off in Sweet Jane’s face. Ooh damn that ass!” Naves shouted.

    “Aye leave my wife out of your sick fantasies.” He said deadly serious before adding, “Cause that pussy’s all mine, every night mother ****er!”

    The two men burst out laughing and the false tension even managed to make Cyrillic flash a smile.

    Between the two men’s rambunctious laughs Cyrillic piped in. “Hey any of you guys remember uh… who was he…it was…Uli yeah Uli any of you remember him?”

    Sudden looks of recognition flashed across every face except Catherine and Naves.

    “Uli! Oh shit Uli!” Lijew cried.

    “Uli? Who was that again?” Naves asked bewildered at the uproar that accompanied the name.

    It was Cyrillic who replied. “Uli the guy banged a midget hooker with one leg? He was seven and a half feet tall! You’ve met him I know you have, I was there when you did!”

    “Holy shit I don’t know how I don’t remember this.” Naves said with incredulity.

    Suddenly Cyrillic in a way completely unlike what Catherine had grown accustomed to; began telling a story. “Oh it was insane. I remember this guy brought that chick out with us to the wastes once I think it was and we were out there um…it was me, Uli, Vaughan, Sergei, Ibsen and I think Kirin. I’m not sure.”

    “Wait was I there?” Nidas interjected.

    “No it was just us.” Cyrillic said. “We were out there for some damn reason I can’t remember why and Uli brought this chick with us. Well it wasn’t a dangerous job so I didn’t really care. Well we were out there for about two weeks and one day maybe three days before we headed back Uli comes up to us and says ‘hey let me show you somethin’. So us being us we’re bored as shit so we follow and here’s this three foot midget with a ****ing peg leg standing on an overturned tree. Well were all standing there waiting for something to happen and suddenly Uli drops his pants walks over and starts face ****ing this girl!”

    “Oh that’s disgusting!” Naves cried.

    “That ain’t the half of it. I mean he didn’t actually stop that was the thing. He kept going and this chick was eating that shit up. Guy had the kraken dwelling in his pants and she was just taking that thing whole.”

    “That’s insane.”

    “Shut up let me talk. So I mean were all standing there and it’s like animal porn. You don’t want to look at it but you can’t help it. Like part of your head won’t let you look away until you fully grasp just what the hell’s going on in front of you, ****ing insane. Anyways. So after like fifteen minutes Uli starts making grunting sounds and we all know what’s coming. Suddenly this guy let’s out some kind of primal scream and he punches the midget!”

    “He punched the midget?” Nidas asked.

    “In the mouth. Girl pulls back nut and blood all mixed up. It’s terrible. So I go up to him and I ask what the hell you hit her for and he’s like ‘the ****ing bitch bit me’ can you believe that shit.”

    “That’s a damn shame.”

    Suddenly Catherine cleared her throat and all faces turned to her. One after the other each face transmogrified into visages that spoke ‘oh shit we didn’t just say that in front of a little girl’. She hadn’t meant to interrupt the story which in truth she’d found amusing but each man’s face told her they would stop for her sake. Feeling infinitely awkward Catherine excused herself and returned to the sniping room. With accusatory looks each man regarded the others. Suddenly Lijew got up from his stool but Cyrillic waved him down. With a resigned sigh he followed after the wayward lass.

    Inside the room Catherine sat down on a small chair and sighted in on the street below. Her eye planted once again on the scope she scoured the street for anything living. What had happened earlier was nothing new, ever since being conscripted she’d felt like an outsider. Back when she served Lord Eurydice she’d felt special if not at least a functioning part of the Chapter. The Captain had made a habit of regaling to her the great tales of heroism by him and his Marines. He allowed her to pray alongside him and had taught her many of the Chapter’s sacred Rites and Catechisms. Not once had she been shunned for being a girl. She hadn’t even been aware of her gender until she’d been horribly enlightened by a daemon of the opposite sex. Looking through the scope at the heretic clown she felt the urge to return to her Chapter.

    From the other side of the room the door creaked open.


    The heretic’s brains splattered against the asphalt.

    “Are you alright?” Cyrillic asked seriously.

    Catherine ignored the question and fired off another round into the heretic’s body.

    Cyrillic growled his irritation. “Did we offend your sensibilities or something? What is it?”

    Another shot and the body below jerked upon impact. Center mass. Suddenly Catherine realized what she wanted more than anything else.

    Without looking up from the scope she whispered, “I want to go back.”

    “What’d you say?” Cyrillic asked.

    Looking up from the scope at the black clad figure she spoke, “I need to talk to the Astartes. I need you to take me to them.”

    “Are you serious? How the hell-

    “I know a Captain in the Chapter I also know the Chapter Master Siloden, personally.” Catherine said.

    “Are you serious?” Cyrillic said with incredulity.

    Catherine nodded her head.

    “When?” He asked.

    “Now.” She replied.

    Back inside the adjoining room Naves stared at the VOX receiver almost willing it to speak. He checked his chronometer for the hundredth time. Suddenly the half-door burst open and Cyrillic and Catherine hurried out. For a moment he thought the two were going to rejoin them instead they headed for the apartment door.

    “Where are you two going?” He asked as Catherine opened the door and disappeared from sight.

    “Returning damaged goods.” Cyrillic replied as he closed the door behind him.

    The Hope

    Catherine with rifle in hand raced down the dimly lit stairwell her excited gait taking three steps at a time. Behind her Cyrillic was in hot pursuit and he bounded down the stairs eagerly, if less enthusiastically than his smaller compatriot He noticed that with every footfall the thin wooden steps creaked with age and shook loose dust which had not been disturbed for many months.

    As he negotiated the constricted stairwell Cyrillic mulled over the girl’s claims of acquaintance with the hierarchy of the Astartes. He didn’t believe her farce of a claim in the slightest but he was prepared to dump the psychopathic prodigy on anybody that might take her and if that meant missing a simple VOX cast to deliver her to the Space Marines then so be it. Of course one didn’t make a declaration like that lightly. Indeed the only non-Astartes that could make that claim were the serfs or slaves that served the chapter and perhaps maybe a madman. Cyrillic watched as the prepubescent girl bounded down the stairs almost unhindered by the combat gear she wore. Madness lends strength, he reasoned.

    After a few more flights of stairs Catherine burst out of the stairwell and into a tiny parking lot stuffed with cars some tracked, some wheeled and the latter being the fancier of the two. For his part Cyrillic waited in the doorway listening and watching the girl move out into the parking lot. Major fighting had ceased several hours ago after the PDF had moved in and kicked the shit out of the assaulting cultists. Still a few stragglers like the ones Lijew and the girl had been using as target practice remained and it wasn’t like him to just die unceremoniously after a major battle. He waited a few seconds watching Catherine’s jetting form for any sign of untimely death. When a sufficient period of time had passed that hadn’t see Catherine thrown face down against the pavement in a pool of her own blood, Cyrillic stepped out of the apartment and into the fenced in lot. Outside the air was cool but damp, a symptom of the fierce thunderstorms that had assaulted the city earlier. Far above in the troposphere light gray clouds lingered apparently refusing to let the sun shine through. With his rifle gripped in steely fingers Cyrillic scanned the area.

    The lot was a small confinement with a chain link fence running the perimeter. Barbed wire laced the top of this fence but holes cut into the fence itself rendered such a defense superfluous. Here and there muddy puddles dotted the lot in small depressions in the asphalt. Along the east side of the fence was an electronic fence with motion detectors on either side that would pull the gate open as a car approached. The lot connected the apartment to the adjacent building; a giant red behemoth made of brick and steel along whose westward facing wall was home to dozens of windows which rode up the wall like an elevator. Cyrillic’s eyes climbed up the side of that building scanning each window for snipers. Seeing none Cyrillic looked to his left and then to his right.

    “Just like crossing the street.” He said as he remembered his father’s instructions on the subject.

    With no immediate or apparent danger presenting itself Cyrillic strode towards his impatient charge that stood by a beaten down van whose better days had past almost a decade ago. He squeezed himself in between several of the cars walking up to and past the aggravated girl who turned to follow him on his mysterious trek. He browsed by the cars scanning each as he passed before coming to a sudden halt in front of a bright red Mikazi 480. A blast from the past the 480 was a manual eight cylinder turbo-charged street racer that averaged out at 490 and maxed out somewhere along 600 HP. The carburetor was a monster chunk of elongated metal that protruded from the sleek curving hood. Along the sides were thick white lines that led up to the serpentine styled tail-fin. Cyrillic leaned close as he pulled a long scalpel thin knife from the sheathe tied to the back of his belt to peer through the tinted windows at the insides. The car had two seats marking it out as a mod from the usual four. A Sans VOX system set below a tiny GPS screen, were embedded in the glossy black dashboard. In the back a massive subwoofer system replaced the missing seats.

    Catherine, her interest sparked by Cyrillic’s moved to get a better look as Cyrillic redirected his attentions to the driver side door. Carefully he inserted the knife in between the small crack between the window and the lip of the door. With experienced hands he manipulated the blade into position and pulled up, with the blade the lock popped up as well. With laughable reverence Cyrillic opened the door and set about hotwiring the vehicle. Catherine stood idle watching the man work. With practiced ease he pried off the plate underneath the steering wheel and pulled out a tangled mess of multi-colored wires.

    Becoming increasingly aware that Catherine was hovering over his should he turned and instructed her to get started on opening the gate. Feeling put-off but not caring Catherine proceeded to fulfill the man’s wish. When she reached the gate she set her rifle down and began pushing against the heavy gate. The push was difficult but the machine-spirit’s waking roar galvanized her and she managed a berth wide enough for the car to travel through. Her task completed she ran back to the waiting car and hopped in. Once inside she immediately noticed Cyrillic cursing softly at the VOX.

    Seeing her board he switched his attentions to the task of driving. “Switch through the channels.” He ordered as he put the car into gear and drove out of the parking lot.

    Catherine traced the dashboard with her mutilated fingertips running over dark blue glowing runes until they came over a rectangular button that was marked: 1. Chanting the rites of activation her tiny index pressed lightly against the lustrous rune. Instantly the VOX blared into life.

    +…More updates on that as we get them…For those of you just joining us this is Jared Fig journalist for the Linthicum Settler. I’m here now with a General Beatrice Asimov of the 22nd Army just outside the ivory gates of Irminsul. General why don’t you tell us…+

    Catherine glanced over to Cyrillic as he drove. His pallid complexion was darkened in the tinted afternoon light as most surely her own was. His brow narrowed and his brown eyes squinted as he listened to the broadcast. His chafed hands gripped the steering wheel tightly and whenever they made a turn the car lurched as if trying to dodge a bullet. Unconsciously he chewed on the inside of his cheek. At the word ‘General’ Cyrillic turned towards her and the car lurched again as it followed his fickle gaze.

    The car turned in to a wide two lane street. Bright yellow lines separated non-existent traffic and motion sensor cameras took their picture as they sped through a stoplight. Bodies were scattered sporadically throughout the street in varying poses. Some lay face down in pools of blood on the asphalt with their hands clutched to bleeding abdomens. Others were frozen with hands outstretched reaching for some salvation long gone with trails of blood leading to the place of their initial collapse. Most were not garbed in any type of military dress. Catherine sneered at these wasted packages of meat with nothing less than apathy bordering on contempt. Why she should care for these rotting corpses, she couldn’t fathom. They hadn’t died defending their homes. They’d died running for their lives while others fought for them or perhaps the better term was ‘over’ them. In truth she thought of them as little more than cattle to be bred and slaughtered at will.

    +…forces have already secured…+

    The car lurched again and the radio faded out only to be replaced by a thunderous voice that seemed to emanate from everywhere at once. Cyrillic stabbed his thick fingers against the glowing runes in an attempt to reacquire his channel when as if on cue a Chimera transport burst into the street from an intersection farther down the road. The transport was massive and took up most of the two lanes of the street. Slowly the tracked vehicle rotated towards them revealing the numbers nineteen painted messily in bright orange numbers upon its frame. Further up a man sat atop a pulpit manning an auto-cannon flanked on either side by massive speakers that repeated a recorded message for the common citizenry. ‘For your own safety stay inside’ the speakers screamed and ‘We are not here to harm you’. With a pointed and unheard cry Catherine saw the man swivel his heavy weaponry at the stylish red car.

    Cyrillic seemed undeterred by this turn of events and pressed onwards. Opposite the street the Chimera commander seemed equally determined to rein in this breaker of curfew. As the car drew nearer the Chimera swung itself violently in front of the car, forcing Cyrillic to come to a halt or else be crushed underneath its spiked treads. The armored transport came to a full-stop two meters from their front. The discordant speakers cut off and likewise Cyrillic switched off the VOX. Out the front hatch popped a bulky Lieutenant dressed in flacktern fatigues and wearing a burgundy beret, the apparent commander of the vehicle Catherine surmised. He didn’t deign to draw the las pistol holstered at his side as he walked up to the vehicle confident as he was that the gunner would handle any violent negotiations. He waltzed up to their car and as if a mock arbiter he knocked on the driver window motioning for Cyrillic to roll it down.

    “Haven’t you heard…” The Lieutenant began softly before his voice faded as he realized the car’s occupants. In almost no time at all though, he composed himself and began talking again his tone far more demanding than it had before. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” He said.

    Cyrillic smacked his lips and took his time answering. When he did he was brief and vague. “Out West.”

    “And why are you heading out west?” The Lieutenant inquired.

    Catherine leaned over across the cup holder divide that separated passenger from driver. “We don’t answer to assholes.” She taunted.

    “If that’s the case then I guess I’m going to have to detain the both of you. After all how can I know you’re not part of some Chaos worshipping cult?” The Lieutenant rationalized.

    “Well the fact that I’m not screaming in bestial rage and trying to kill you might be a hint. ‘Course us killing you punks earlier might have led to some confusion.” Cyrillic replied with a smile.

    “Bastard!” The Lieutenant cried as his face turned scarlet and he reached for his pistol.

    In a frighteningly fast movement Cyrillic reached out of the car and grabbed the Lieutenants’ arm forcing it down and keeping him from drawing his weapon. Outside the car Catherine heard the gunner rack his weapon. Being that the windows were tinted and the Lieutenant’s attention was focused on the man grasping his hand no one noticed as Catherine eased her rifle out from between her knees and leveled it at ever so slightly at the gunner.

    In slow measured words Cyrillic spoke, “Lieutenant, I want you to think about what you’re doing.” The Lieutenant continued to struggle. “I want you to look at your man on the cannon.” Cyrillic’s slow deliberate words had an effect on the Lieutenant and he risked a glance at Ike his gunner. The Lieutenant’s eyes went wide as he spotted a little green dot resting lazily against the gunner’s head. Cautiously Cyrillic released his grip on the man’s arm and tapped at his own chest. The Lieutenant turned around to find another green dot moving across his chest.

    “Can we go now?” Cyrillic asked sardonically.

    The Lieutenant turned around. Anger was written across his face but reluctantly he waved the duo onwards. Instantly the heavy weapon aimed so menacingly at the two moments before swirled up and about as the gunner searched for a new target to unleash his frustration.

    Cyrillic nodded his ‘appreciation’ before turning over onto the sidewalk and speeding off. At the next intersection he took a right not wanting to take the chance that the furious commander might seek retribution in the form of pot shots after he returned to the safety of his vehicle. Once Cyrillic was sure he was clear of danger he slowed his ride to a leisurely pace.

    “Killing people, isn’t always the answer.” He spoke suddenly as if it were a nervous twitch.

    “Then why do we do it so often?” Catherine scathed.

    Cyrillic mulled over this for a few seconds before responding, “Cause its’ the best kind of answer.”

    “Why are you driving so slow?” She asked as Cyrillic eased the car through an open space in a barricade made of sandbags and household furniture.

    “‘If I speed I’m suspicious, if I’m suspicious I’m a target. Better to take it slow and let them watch me come up. No sudden moves.” he explained to the askance girl beside him.

    “Whatever.” She spoke tersely.

    Cyrillic ignored the girl’s belligerence taking console in the fact that he’d soon never have to see her again. He focused on the street in front of him and the unseen enemies that might be lurking around every corner. He focused on the smooth ride the 480 provide, how the warmth from his heated leather seat soothed the ache in his lower back where to this day a piece of sharpened metal resided. He thought of the one memory he had of his father noble and righteous before his life and memories had been robbed. He thought of anything that would keep him from strangling the child next to him. No killing wasn’t always the answer, yet another memory he had of his father.

    Cyrillic switched the VOX back on as he took a right onto Nidani, a ten mile road and one of the smaller arteries of the city that would see allow him a straight shot out into the lands beyond.

    +…we’ve received word just now from one our correspondents in Flak that a large contingent of the Space Marines have passed through…no timeframe for this was given but I believe it was recent…no word yet on if this is the entire chapter or merely a splinter force…in perhaps related news all contact has been lost with the city of Pummel…though relatively deserted it was nevertheless home to several thous…С виду борз, значит тот ещё у парня мозг…+

    Catherine didn’t notice Cyrillic toying with the VOX, switching from station to station in a desperate search for the close at hand ‘thing’ that had Naves almost excited and the five of them crowded around a portable version of the communications system. Her attentions were directed elsewhere, far away upon a harsh yet dearly loved master known as Brother-Captain Eurydice of whom she was a favored serf. She imagined their reunion as one of restrained glee; one where despite himself her Lord would feel the need to impart upon her softly spoken words of endearment. She imagined the look of pride upon his honorably scarred face when she announced to him her want, no her need, to enlist in the ranks of the Astartes and serve the Emperor alongside him as a fellow battle-brother and perchance after many years a friend.

    Suddenly the 480 came to a violent halt that shook Catherine from her reverie. She glanced outside her window to find they’d stopped in the middle of an abandoned street. Quickly she turned to Cyrillic but he was already departing the vehicle and rushing off into the distance. Alarmed at this turn of events Catherine grabbed her rifle and dismounted. Unsure of what was going on she braced herself against the side of the car and rested her arms upon its hood so as to steady her aim. She pressed her cheek into the black butt-stock of her rifle and peered through the scope at Cyrillic’s dashing form. For a moment she observed the general direction he was heading in and passed searching for his destination.

    She found his query in a dank alley separating a small hotel from a disheveled café. There partially hidden by stuffed trash bags was a man in a crouch. To Catherine’s eye it looked as though he was struggling with something but the scope which was slightly out of focus revealed little. With a quick adjustment the man popped into crystalline clarity. The man was indeed struggling; slender hands clawed frantically at his chest before being forced down by his own. Faintly Catherine could hear high pitched wails ring out into the air. The mournful laments chilled her to the bone and for a moment she was back in an underground hell with Him. Suddenly a dark figure raced across her scope. Shaking away the shards of fear still embedded within she resighted on the alley. There Cyrillic had tackled the rapist and was in the process of kicking the shit out of him. Immediately her opinion changed for the better. With grim satisfaction she watched as he delivered brutal kicks with steel toed boots to the man’s crotch. After a few moments of breathtaking brutality Catherine decided she should run over and join in.

    Shouldering her rifle Catherine sprinted across the open road, her form almost crouched as she tried to present the smallest possible target. She arrived to find Cyrillic standing over the rapist with one foot planted firmly on his chest and his rifle held firmly against his face. Behind Cyrillic’s pitiless figure the man’s victim, a naked redhead whose terrified visage reminded her painfully of Sandra cowered behind a metal trash bin filled with discarded food. In her trembling hands she clutched onto a small tartan shirt. Beside her was a pair of torn jeans and beside those were a pair of trousers and a blouse both black and both covered in military nomenclature. He’s one of us, Catherine thought with disgust.

    “I’m with Grace; I swear I’m with Grace.” The rapist pleaded.

    Crack! Went Catherine’s rifle against the man’s already bloodied face. Held in place by Cyrillic’s heavy foot only the rapist’s face moved and as he recovered he tried desperately to spit out his loosed teeth.

    Crack! Again Catherine struck the man this time slamming the butt of her rifle against his pointed noise which shattered into bloody pieces of rent cartilage.

    Berrrup! Screamed Cyrillic’s rifle as he let loose a burst into the man’s cranium which came apart to reveal the gray matter hidden within.

    The two stared down at their former comrade-in-arms. Catherine breathed hard as she stared down at her collaborated handiwork with cruel liking. Cyrillic stood motionless his features unreadable, the smoking barrel of his rifle still aimed at the man as if he expected him to reanimate and attack.

    A sordid whimper escaped from the woman behind as she gathered up her clothes and made to escape from her two psychopathic saviors.

    “Wait I’m only trying to help!” Catherine cried as the woman who resembled Sandra so much slipped away down the alley. She made to follow, to track down the fleeing woman and offer some small token of comfort, a kind word or maybe just a knowing nod. Cyrillic prevented this wrapping an arm around her and telling her to let the violated woman go, that there was nothing she could do and besides didn’t she have some dire message to deliver to the Astartes.

    “Not a message.” She replied.

    “Well a chit-chat or whatever, come on.” Cyrillic released her flak strap, slapped her shoulder and began back across the street to his still purring beauty. Catherine stared down the alley. It had been early afternoon when they’d left, now it was late afternoon and the skies and the alley by consequence were growing darker by the minute. That’s what she’d done, Catherine realized, she’d run off into the dark, buried herself in it. The only way to save herself was to climb up and out towards the light. Kicking an empty beer bottle against the wall she turned to rejoin Cyrillic, who waited in his fancy red car and had switched on the headlights.

    They drove down the near deserted street whose only occupants were a squad of downtrodden PDF troopers who ignored them as they past. Their rifles dangled from slings thrown around their shoulders. As they passed

    Out the tinted window Catherine stared as gas stations, hotels, cafés, and townhouses passed. She noticed that none of the buildings had power and thus no light. She scanned windows as she flew past looking for the tell-tale sign of a silhouette. Seeing none she mused that the citizenry had fled even though she’d not heard of any such exodus. Perhaps they were all cowering in closets and bathtubs. Tiring of the empty sights she looked away. Headlights blazing the 480 traversed the road without ceremony.

    By the time they’d exited the city night had fallen. During the eventless drive Catherine’s thoughts had drifted to various unwelcome memories. She thought of the collision and the crash that had seen her stranded on a lawless planet. She thought of Sandra who’d met her untimely demise at that man she supposed served. More than anything else however, she thought of a cracked wooden table that had shot slivery splinters into her face as she lay face down upon it.

    Cyrillic was oblivious to the twisted anguish that attacked his charge so he was surprised when from out of the blue she asked, “What are you listening for?” Referring to the VOX channels he’d been switching between ever since they’d left the city limits.

    His face distorted at the question but with a heavy sigh he answered. “A speech.”

    “What’s it about?”

    “Mathias, he was supposed to be making a proclamation naming himself the Planetary Governor.” Cyrillic replied dourly. “I don’t know what he was going to say, I know he was going to name Ikozy as the real killer of Temple back in ninety-three, try to make him out as some madman so his own transition would go easier.”

    “I see.”

    Suddenly Cyrillic shut the VOX off. “This.” He said waving at the air with his hand. “All this; all this murdering and hiding and shit were just trying to bury the past, get rid of the people who started this mess. I mean you weren’t here back in the seventies, hell you weren’t even here during the nineties. Under Goren we had to do a lot of bad shit and when he died people were out for blood and by the gallon.”

    “What’d you do?” She inquired.

    As if in a confessional Cyrillic began spewing out his history, “Goren had a lot of enemies, people who still supported Lazio, insurgent groups who wanted to overthrow the government. We…put them down, sometimes other people got in the way. I was a squad leader, a Sergeant so to speak. I led a kill team back in the early eighties hunting down people in the outer cities. Later after the war with the Eldar I led raids where we began abducting people, wiping their memories and conscripting them. A lot of people went missing a lot of family members wanted to know where.”

    Catherine listened intently on the man’s words. Part of her wondered why he was telling her anything at all when he held such a low opinion of her. She rationalized that girl or not she was a fully fledged member of Zmey чорний and Cyrillic would not deny her the history of her own organization no matter that she might be leaving. After he’d finished the two remained silent for a great while.

    Suddenly an unusually soft voice whispered. “Get some sleep we’re not going to get for a while.”

    Catherine gazed out at the bleak landscape beyond her glass portal but there was nothing there. Taking her antagonists advice she placed her head gently against the window and began to dream.


    Catherine awoke a while later to find the car a stationary object once again. Groggily she peeled her head from off the passenger door and glanced over to the driver’s seat; which she noted with alarm was empty. Instinctively she clutched her rifle close and after a moment’s time taken to compose herself exited from out the passenger’s side as stealthily as possible.

    Outside she found herself on the side of the road, a winding guardrail only a few feet from her. The night was dark and thus her vision limited but off in the distance she could make out voices, loud and deliberate. Warily with rifle snuggled firmly against her shoulder she glided off towards the sounds. She relaxed as she neared, vocal recognition identifying the conversationalists as none other than Cyrillic and Kirin. She let her rifle hang loose and assumed a normal gait. A dozen paces away a beam of light pierced the encompassing darkness, bathing her with intense white light.

    Then as quickly as it was born the light died and Kirin spoke. “Hey there sweetheart, glad to see you’re finally awake.” He greeted with forced joviality.

    As her eyes readjusted Catherine began to make out the two figures of Cyrillic and Kirin standing side by side over what appeared to be a body.

    “So you’re Kite’s new underling eh?” He remarked.

    “No she’s here to speak with the Astartes.” Cyrillic corrected.

    “Really?” Kirin wondered.

    Catherine confirmed with a quick thumbs up.

    “Well it’s your lucky day, they’re right over there.” Kirin said as he pointed out past the limits of the road.

    She followed his scrawny arm out to a large grassless plain where she was able to make out giant forms moving silently in the darkness. She nodded her thanks and ran off leaving the two to their observational study.

    Cyrillic watched as Catherine climbed over the guardrails and disappeared below the hill.

    “It was a rock that did him in.” Kirin muttered continuing their conversation from before.

    Cyrillic ignored the remark and crouched down. He flicked his flashlight on and ran it over the cold dead body of Yegg Erets. The boy had a ragged tear across his throat which the powerful beam revealed to be lined with bits of loose gravel, confirming Kirin’s explanation. Cyrillic muttered a small curse under his breath just before slapping down hard on the dead boy’s back. Upon impact a plume of dry dust rose into the air.

    “He’s been here a while.” Cyrillic stated confidently.


    “Any sign of you-know-who?”

    “Not much. Astartes have already cleared out both sections of the ship no sign of him. There’s skid marks leading back to Linthicum but other than that, nothing.”

    “Well that’s something at least.” He conceded.


    Catherine waited impatiently amidst the bustling figures of Space Marines. Though it was near pitch black she felt as if she could still make out the mirror shine of gunmetal gray shimmer in the night and she reckoned she could hear purity scrolls fluttering gently in the cool wind. Only a few minutes before she’d run into the armored crowd and addressed the first Brother-Marine she’d crossed paths with. Kneeling respectfully she’d introduced herself as one of the serfs who’d survived the first crash. She recited the Rite of Xenoic Banishment as proof of her association with the chapter and had then humbly requested an audience with her Lord, Brother-Captain Eurydice. She’d modestly suggested to the Marine that he speak of her by her first name to the Captain as he was sure to recognize it.

    Then off the dutiful Brother-Marine went with oaths to return regardless if the Captain deigned to see her or not. Her prior woes all but forgotten Catherine paced anxiously as she awaited the Marine’s promised return. The wait was agonizingly long and by the time the Marine returned she had to restrain herself from running up to him. Though difficult to tell in the darkness Catherine thought she could see another armored being, taller than his escort walking in a slow measured manner that still amounted to a trot for a normal human being. As the two ominous forms drew near Catherine fell to her knees in joyful reverence.

    The two stopped a perfect yard away. “My Lord I present to you Catherine Gillepsie.” The marine introduced.

    With barely constrained delight she awaited her master’s deep and throaty acknowledgment of her being and perhaps along with it permission to gaze up his beautifully scarred visage.

    Then a voice spoke familiar but far from the near guttural sound of her beloved Captain. “ are Eurydice’s favored are you not?”

    With great confusion she replied. “Yes my lord.” Why hadn’t the Marine retrieved her Captain as she’d asked, had there been a mistake had he simply misheard her? How could a Space Marine genetically blessed by the Emperor himself mishear?

    “I see. I regret to tell you that the good captain is with the Emperor now having died honorably in battle against His foes.” Siloden stated with a tone that bore no room for challenge.

    Catherine felt tears well up at the apocalyptic revelation but she held them back as best she could. For a moment she remained silent unwilling to speak lest she choke up in front of the Chapter Master and forever ruin her dreams.

    “I humbly request permission to speak great lord.” She said in as stern a voice as she could manage.

    “Granted.” Siloden assented.

    “I wish to subject myself to the Rites of Initiation so that I too may serve the Emperor in the way of the Astartes. I wish to become a Space Marine; I wish to serve in the way my Lord once served.”

    Siloden exchanged an awkward glance with the Brother-Marine at his side. “I know who you are Catherine Gillepsie. I know that Captain Eurydice has taught you the ways of our Chapter and tutored you in the arts of war. The scars that run rampant across your still living body tell me that you are no stranger to hardship or pain. Your silent acceptance of your master’s death speaks of self-restraint and your hidden tears speak of true loyalty. However I must decline this honor to you. For you are a female and there is no room for you in the ranks of a brotherhood.”

    Siloden then turned to his fellow brother. “Take her to the body of her Lord. Of his possessions let her take one so that she may remember him. I believe that was the way of his people.”

    Then Siloden turned and left leaving Catherine’s kneeling form in the darkness upon whose sunken cheeks ran great rivers.

    Intermission VXIIX

    First off let me apologize for this last debacle of a posting. Apparently 40k went into mainteance about two seconds after I’d posted the first part, mother ****ers, but that’s all water under the bridge so no biggy really.

    More importantly with this chapter I have just passed 100 pages and I’m still not done! Considering this historical revelation I feel an (slightly) extended Intermission is in order.

    First off let’s start with the characters.

    Mathias: Insurgent/Renegade bad ass. He was inspired by the Chechen mujahedeen (Russians will know [that’s also not to say he follows their doctrines {I should point out I don’t agree with their doctrines Beslan anybody}]). His gray free floating orb pays homage to Kane from that one Eidos game we all know (and I love). Besides that I wanted to draw a connection between Mathias’ or rather Halleck as he was once known and Odin the Norse God. In both cases they gave up something precious in exchange for knowledge, Odin his eye to Mimir, Mathias (while unwillingly) his past life. In exchange both were blessed/cursed with knowledge of what had transpired and what was to transpire. In Odin’s case this was ragnarok, in Mathias the awakening of the Necrons.

    When I first started writing the story I thought to myself why should there be a good side and bad side. Why should it even be bad but good at heart vs. evil? Why couldn’t it be evil vs. evil? Why not evil vs. evil vs. evil? When I thought of Mathias I wanted someone cruel, cunning, utterly merciless, and without heart but still likeable (not sure how well I did this). To that effect I started him off as a hidden entity, the source of bombings and wars and shady backstabbing deals. Forgive me for this overused word but I wanted to make Mathias out as a terrorist. Of course decades before he’d ever even contemplated overthrowing the government he was the head of a brutal secret police force that killed thousands, as was the rest of his crew.

    His weapons are scythe and pistol. I suppose the scythe kind of jumps out at you right away because well it’s the embodiment of death or rather the weapon of choice of that hellish phantom. While the scythe does represent death and its wielder there was another purpose which was to overshadow his thigh strapped pistol. The first time we meet Mathias he is in turn meeting with Sinead and upon his thigh is a silenced pistol. The second he carries none at all or clothing for that matter. (Which I’ll come back to later) Later during a meet with Siloden (Important people with S as the starting letter) and then again on the Chaste he has his pistol but it is not silenced. I was hoping the reader might infer the change not only in his tactics (quick and quiet to loud and nasty if I may quote Marv) but in his mindset as well.

    Clothing. Mathias has (so far) been garbed in three different styles: Naked, half-dressed, and clad in his jet-black military fatigues. Him being naked in the beginning of his story (the escape not the pendant) represents his vulnerability and his relative babe in the woods mentality. Jump forward a few decades and you see him appear before his enemies, breast bared to the winds proud of his every hard-won scar. Ah, the belligerence of relative youth. Decades later he utilizes the vulnerability of nudity to deceive and gain trust with a chapter of space marines. Soon afterwards he dons for the first time (in story) his fatigues which are digitalized in different shades of black (truthfully I think I only mentioned that once early on if I did at all but all of their fatigues are digital unless otherwise stated). Fatigues conceal and Mathias had a lot to hide. Out with his brashness and in with cold manipulability. (of course backstabbing was already a part of his repertoire)

    There is more of course on our (I say ‘our’ assuming that Vrykolakas isn’t the only one who reads this story regularity) devilish man but I’ll leave that till next time.

    The Unknown Daemon: Whom Mathias meets upon walking through that blue door. His first words ‘Hello and Welcome to Hell’ is a modification of the line ‘Marines, Welcome To Hell’ from the game Shellshock Nam 67 (I liked it damnit). The daemon emits acidic green smoke from the pores in his body and is weaved into a chain link fence. What could this possibly mean you exclaim! (If you don’t that’s ok). Well for starters the fence represents entrapment (or perhaps binding!). Originally I thought to hold the daemon with barbed or concertina wire inspired (odd word ain’t it?) as I was by the cover of Eli Wiesel’s ‘Night’ however I didn’t want to suffocate the daemon’s unusual persona with undue holocaustic imagery (instead I carried that over to the hanging bodies in the right hallway). So I decided I’d use a chain link fence the likes of which you can see surrounding every prison. Thus I still had him snared but not so fully that he was melancholic. He’s weaved into the fence for several reasons (besides grotesqueness). First and foremost is to establish that the daemon’s been around for so long that’s he’s actually becoming a part of the place, as though his psyche was imprinted upon his surroundings. I’d hoped his schizophrenic mood-swings of doom-and martini loving joy might help reinforce this. After all stay in one place too long you might go insane.

    The acidic green clouds, hmm. The corrosion, erosion, decay and perhaps corruption of all that is good within all who tread these grounds, Catherine didn’t learn her sado-masochistic tendencies through her loving Lord that’s for sure. How does a daemon overcome years of indoctrination? With time.

    Enough characters. For now a few tributes, homage’s, and inspirations
    The blue doors in the basement of the school? Silent Hill 3.

    The sigil? Owed to one and the same but is a direct representation of the sigil of Lucifuge Rofocale, a demon in Catholicism.
    Lucifuge’s short-lived rebellion was inspired by none other than The War in Heaven (not 40k) which for him is still ongoing. The opening assault upon Irminsul was inspired by the opening assault by Spike on the Red Dragons.

    The time and character (psyche) leaping nature of the story is owed to Quentin Tarantino and Bruce Joel Rubin.
    Music is injected into the storyline because damnit books need soundtracks too. Later I’m going figure out how I can fit ambient music in, I’ve been considering figuring out a way so that readers can listen to the music while they read, maybe through a streaming link or something. I’m still working on this concept but with any luck I’ll figure out how to do it sometime soon. When the story ends it will have closing credits and a theme song!
    Add-on #1 Flora Fauna

    The Black Grass and The Corsent Trees: The first a deceptively spindly weed that encroaches upon and threatens to overcome all life (sound familiar?). Given free reign due to the nuclear war back in the 50’s (M41.956). Without giving everything away the rampant black grass is a parallel to the darker mentalities that have supplanted the kinder, gentler mindset prevalent pre-nuclear holocaust.

    A mutated monstrosity that secretes toxic fumes, similar to our whiskey loving demon, no? If I may steal from our friend Gravemind, the trees are a monument to all their sins.
    Last edited by Nikolaevich; February 17th, 2008 at 22:31.
    Ne Cede Malis

  6. #5
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    The Session Part 1 Of 2

    The room was a small affair, worn and unassuming. Glaring light was cast by a bulb that dangled a foot from the ceiling by a thin wire. The bulb illuminated the room fully allowing no miserable detail to go unseen. Below the floor was constructed from tiles which sported a dark green background and upon which was painted diamond designs. Here and there splotches of dried blood covered those once majestic designs with sickly circular patterns. In some places the ground beneath had caved in collapsing the tiles and forming potholes which subsequently filled with foul-smelling water. Hidden by the intense light was the origin of that fetid water which dripped continuously through cracks in between the wooden ceiling from rusted pipes which snaked beyond the room’s realm to places unknown. The wallpaper which had been set many years before had faded into a putrid perversion of its former vibrancy and its peeling surface revealed the decaying plaster underneath. Ochre colored mold covered much of the exposed plaster and their sick physicality excreted pus like liquid which added to the conglomeration of gross substances below.

    Allowing access into the room was a cast iron door that hung loosely from its rusted hinges. Six inches from the door at head height was a small shattered window that allowed observation into the narrow metal tunnel beyond. Spanning the width of the adjacent wall was a blackboard. The totality of its surface was covered in a single repeating phrase, one line under another which read: I WILL NOT RAPE PREPUBESCENT GIRLS. Up against the opposite wall was a table new but rough and unfinished. Its light tan surface was dry and covered with slivers of wood waiting to be removed.

    There Catherine lay face down held immobile by strong hands that gripped her shoulders bare shoulders. She wore nothing save for several hard-earned layers of grime, dirt, and blood. Her arms were outstretched, her hands crushed between the table and the wall. Her eyes were squeezed shut and her teeth were grit, had she been able her hands would have been clenched in fists. Blood ran down the length of her legs and dripped off the tips of her toes to the floor below. Her back rose and fell rapidly in time with her ragged gasps for breath.

    Suddenly the pressure which had held her down for so long eased, just before tracing down the length of her back and beyond. Catherine cringed at the touch.

    “Was that as good for you as it was for me?” Lucifuge whispered humorously into her ear.

    Catherine opened her eyes to look upon the demon’s terrible visage. He wore a satisfied smile below pure black eyes partially hidden by smooth black hair. His skin was as she’d remembered; torn and tattered revealing the facial muscles beneath. Though she’d lost her voice several hours ago she managed to gather up some saliva and spit in the grinning face. Catherine watched the muscles beneath the skin twitch upon impact and then reform into a snarl. She let loose a short yell as Lucifuge grabbed her by the back of her head and slammed her face into the table shattering it.



    Catherine awoke with a start from the nightmarish memory. Her eyes darted frantically to and fro before she realized she was in familiar surroundings and it had all been a dream. She was leaning against her pack which was propped up against the ferrocrete wall of a tunnel that had been dug through a hill. Its confines were short and from where she sat she could see the entrance as well as the exit. Above her a arced ceiling made from plasteel kept the place from collapsing. Halfway through the tunnel was a door whose only evidence of presence was a silvery doorknob that jutted out from the walls. The icy concrete floor did not connect to anything on either side, no roads to or from led to the place. Using her peripheral vision she gazed outside the close end of the tunnel. Outside snow was falling fast and already it was piled a foot high. Though she was wearing a tight knit sweater over her fatigues and wrapped in a blanket Catherine shivered.

    “Shit.” She muttered as she readjusted herself against her pack. A soft mist accompanied the curse and Catherine realized how cold she was. She pulled the blanket closer with a degree of difficulty that alerted her to the numbness in her fingers. Temporarily casting off her blanket she turned to grab her pack.

    As she rummaged a voice deep and scarred spoke. “How long are you going to stay here?”

    Catherine stopped in her search and stared blankly inside her pack. Called a Sally pack it was large yet not unwieldy. Stuffed within its confines were all manners of survival gear. A Poncho, a flashlight, batteries, a woolen cap to name a few, and somewhere buried a pair of leather gloves with which to warm her hands.

    “I’m not sure.” She replied and returned to her hunt.

    “Do you remember the legend of Horus and the Emperor?” The voice inquired.

    “Of course I do. Everyone knows that. Why would you even ask?” She gibed.

    “It seems to me that you’ve forgotten much over your time here. Since however you remember this one facet of your learning enlighten me, what was it that the Emperor did when battling his son?” The voice asked.

    Catherine ignored the accusation in the voice and then spat, “He hesitated.”

    “Correct. He hesitated, he held himself back, he simply didn’t do the best he could and look what happened to him. He was like a God, girl, imagine what might happen to you.”

    Catherine sat on her knees listening as the voice spoke. When its cautionary statement finished she remained silent regarding the tiny leather gloves she held in her hand. Suddenly a great wind blew through the tunnel carrying with it flurries of snow. Catherine shook as the wind past and quickly slipped on her gloves.

    “It’s a shame you want you to stay here.” The voice chided. “You always were my favorite.”

    Catherine’s ears perked at this and she turned to regard the voice but there was no one else in the tunnel. Her eyes traced back and forth across the tunnels searching for the speaker but none was there. As she looked a second gust of wind far fiercer than the last knocked her over her pack and scooped up the blanket she’d been using and depositing it farther down the tunnel. With a disgruntled sigh she took hold of her pack and dragged it along as she went to retrieve the blanket. She found it lying on the ground a few feet from the tunnel doorway. She didn’t deign to even acknowledge the presence as she rewrapped the blanket around herself and lay against her pack.

    For the first hour she stayed in that spot she tried her best to insulate herself from the cold winds by throwing on more and more layers of clothing. Eventually after she’d donned the last of her clothes she emptied her pack and climbed in. There she waited for the voice to return. One hour turned to two, two to three, and three to four. By the fourth hour she had become numb from head to toe despite her heavy attire. It must be below zero, she thought to herself before drifting off into sleep.


    With a mechanical whir followed by a grating screech the caged elevator began to descend through the fiery lit shaft. Catherine was forced to grip the cage’s walls with her hands for support as several times the elevator dropped or lurched unexpectedly. With every drop her blouse and trousers would flare up and her bare feet would press hard against the wire floor.

    The elevator did not conform to the dimensions of the shaft and such there was much space in between the descending cage and the walls of the shaft. The walls of the shaft glowed as if great fires burned from within. On one side she could make out a narrow ladder that ran the length of the shaft. Climbing it was a monster. Jutting from the creature’s discolored hands were nine lengthy fingers which held far too many phalanges. Its inverted legs made its climb difficult but did not seem to deter it. The creatures face was featureless save an open wound like a slit from which blood seeped out. Despite its lack of eyes the creature regarded her ravenously.

    As the elevator passed the creature it held out one of its hands to her wantonly. Cautiously Catherine backed away from the wiry walls. Much to her relief once the cage had descended past the creature withdrew its hand and continued its ascent. Farther down the shaft Catherine began to hear great wails of sorrow. Moving to the cage’s walls again she looked down and spotted two openings one beneath the other. From up high Catherine couldn’t see much of the interiors of these openings but she could tell that their berths were wide able to accompany a Rhino. As she descended further, more details were revealed to her attended with yet more howls of pain. The floor of the first was seemingly constructed out of flesh colored tiles. As the elevator passed parallel to the cavity Catherine spotted a woman naked and bound to a broad steel door. She screamed in an inhuman voice terrible words which held no meaning to the young girl.

    “Who are you?” Catherine shouted.

    The woman stopped her endless tirade long enough to regard Catherine with her sutured eyes. The woman opened her mouth to speak again but just as she did her body distended forwards and then shot back through the steel doors tearing a gaping hole in the thick steel door. Catherine watched in shell shocked horror as massive amounts of blood flooded through the hole. Then the sight disappeared as the cage traversed past the cavities limits. Though the opening was out of sight sickly blood fell from the openings ledge in front of the cage and Catherine gagged at its smell.

    The second cavity held no consolation either. Just as wide as the first its confines were filled with a multitude of people of varying races all of whom had too her eyes been…violated in the extreme. One woman was from two wires that had pierced her nipples. A man in a corner had his mouth and anus sewn shut. Beside him crawling across the blood streaked floor was another man whose eye sockets belched ashen smoke. There in the center of the room was a long haired woman straddling a giant blood stained razor. With her bare hands she took hold the sides of the razor and pulled, inching her way forward. She moaned in exquisite ecstasy as blood spilled from between her legs as the razor carved its way deeper into her body. All around the base of the giant razor men and women licked at the blood that dripped down the sides.

    Not too soon the cage passed the second opening. Catherine breathed a sigh of relief which turned to a violent wail as the elevator lurched and began to freefall. Faster and faster the cage descended. Wind rushed up and over Catherine’s prone form as she held on for dear life. Suddenly the deafening sound of metal against metal filled the room as two beams shot out from underneath the elevator and struck the walls. The beams robbed the elevator of its speed and with a sudden lurch the elevator came to a halt. Catherine looked up to see one of the caged walls fall to the ground in front of a well polished door.

    Not wanting to stay in the elevator any longer she exited hurriedly and walked up to the door. She pushed against its frame and it gave way easily. Looking back at the cage one last time Catherine entered.


    She awoke hours later still inside the pack and barely able to move. She strained her ears to listen for the voice but no sound reached her save the howling of the wind. She tried to uncurl herself from within the pack to find her limbs had nearly been frozen in place. With a grunt of effort she forced her arms upwards and out of the pack. With frozen fingers she tried to claw her way out but her yellowish fingers wouldn’t respond. Instead she was forced to use the sides of her hands and drag her way forward. Had her body not been numb she would have cried out in pain or at least gnashed her teeth but since feeling was not a luxury she had no cry came. After several seconds she managed to dislodge herself from the pack and she lay exhausted upon the icy floor. Again she listened for the deep voice and again all she heard was the whistling of the wind.

    Outside the snow continued to pile upon itself. Already the entrance was nearly blocked by the icy substance. The light which had shone through both the entrance and exit was evaporating blocked as it were by the mountain of snow that threatened to engulf the hill entirely.

    “Emperor, save me.” She pleaded. Then with a caustic laugh she remembered the retort to the saying. “He helps those who help themselves.”

    How she missed him. She missed his commanding voice, his rare gentle laugh. What would he say if he saw her there waiting for death? She wondered. Would he understand her plight or would he be harsh and brutal. Whichever attitude he’d a chose the command to pray would come with as sure as the Emperor was upon his throne. So that’s what she did. She prayed to the Emperor, to her Primarch the Lion, to the spirit of her deceased lord. She prayed for guidance, she prayed for strength. She chanted the Litanies of Hate and the Catechisms of Jrrao. Finally for good measure she invoked the name of Brother-Marine Horace who according to her Lord owed him one. She hoped the Marine might carry his favor over to her.

    Slowly Catherine began to stir again, bracing her hands against the ground she willed her frozen legs to stand. The effort warmed her slightly and she felt a bit of life flow back into her. Standing now she stumbled over to the door. Clasping the knob between her two frozen palms she twisted until the door popped open sending her toppling to the floor again. She recovered and looked into the doorway. Stairs led upwards farther than she could see. Gathering up her strength she rose for a second time and walked through the door.

    The door led to a protracted hallway whose walls glowed much like the shaft and whose broken tile floors resembled the second opening. Fortunately however, for all the similarities there were no obscene horrors with which to assault her senses. The hallway was filled with wide doors upon whose heavy frames were padded with a thick cloth-like material. Beside each door was a softly glowing keypad built into the wall. At the end of the hall was another door parallel to the one she’d just emerged from. Above Thousands of strands of corded wire crisscrossed each other throughout the length of the hall creating a ceiling of glossy sleekness. Upon this ceiling made of black wire Catherine could see large eyes stare down at her through tiny openings.

    She ignored these gaping eyes and proceeded to the first door. Closer now she discovered a view slit which she slid open to peer inside. The room was a perfect square, padded on all sides just like the doors themselves. In the center of the room a man sat cross-legged. She called out to him but he made no response. Shrugging her shoulders she closed the slit and moved on. The next room was empty but words, written on the wall in blood read: ‘Come in and **** Me!’ Catherine did no such thing and continued on. Throughout her exploration she found most of the rooms to be empty and bare and by the time she checked the seventh she was close to the end of the hall. Inside was a woman restrained by a straight jacket. She stared menacingly through thick strands of hazel hair at Catherine all the while moving her lips in quick efficiency. The words the woman spoke Catherine couldn’t hear and she quickly shut the view slit and continued on.

    Catherine decided to skip the last three rooms and made her way to the end of the hallway. She came to a halt in front of the final door which was a heavy blue. An engraving of a raging bull was carved into its surface in extreme detail. Catherine placed her palm against the horns of the beast and pushed.

    Slowly the door opened to reveal a sauna. Immediately upon entering Catherine began to sweat. On either side of the room small baths filled with bubbling water gave off heavy steam. The floor was constructed of fine marble tiles that were moist to the touch. On the far wall was a man crucified. Sturdy nails that pierced his hands and feet bound him to the smooth walls. He was naked save for a loincloth and a length of barbed wire wrapped around his head. His face held a rugged quality and was handsome to her eyes. His body was well muscled and though his limbs had been pierced no blood stained either his body or the walls. Though his chest rose and descended with normality his neck hung limply in the humid air.

    Catherine approached the man and cautiously put her hand up against his taut abdomen. Looking up she discovered a familiar face.

    “Naves?” She gasped as she withdrew her hand. “What are you doing here?”

    He did not reply. She repeated the question and shook him violently when he did not respond. Of a sudden his body came free and collapsed. She dodged the falling body allowing Naves to strike the wet floor with a loud slap! Anxiously Catherine bent down and rolled his limp form over. She waved her hand in front of his eyes. She rubbed her knuckles against his sternum and still got no response. She gave up on awaking him and turned to the wall where he’d hung. With Naves out of the way she could see a clothes hanger that had been taped to the wall behind him. A small patch of smeared blood was its background. Attached was a yellow sticky note which simply read ‘venial’.

    Catherine took hold of the hanger and turned it over in her hands. It was a normal clothes hanger, nothing was special about it. With a sigh of resignation she sat down upon the wooden bench and slipped off her shorts. She straightened out the hanger, closed her eyes, and gritted her teeth.


    Catherine collapsed upon the base of yet another flight of stairs. Breathing hard she tried to make out her original staring point far below only to find that it was out of sight. She propped herself up against the bare walls careful not to bump her head against the elegant but aged railing held aloft by a baluster similar in façade that jutted out of the wall. She rested for a few minutes letting the fire that burned in her muscles die out. The body numbing cold had left her body several flights down and now she was soaked in sweat. Strewn about randomly along the staircase were discarded layers of clothes that had either impeded her climb or were just uncomfortable. Now she simply kept the black fatigues that had been given to her by Lijew in what seemed a lifetime ago.

    She glanced upwards and let out a soft curse. Despite having traveled for hours she could not see the exit.

    “I’ve stumbled upon the staircase of infinity.” She mumbled to herself.

    Grudgingly she hauled herself back onto her aching feet and continued her climb. It wouldn’t be so bad, she mused, if the place wasn’t so dull. The walls held no ornaments, no pictures, no writing, nothing aesthetically pleasing to the eye. For miles and miles it was the same dull gray lit by tiny glow globes built into the walls at regular intervals.

    “You should probably head back.” She commented.

    She chuckled to herself. “What and miss what’s up there? Hell I’ve been climbing forever might as well finish.” She replied.

    Catherine looked over at herself as she bounded farther up the stairs. “Just go back I mean what makes you think there’s even anything up there?” Catherine asked.

    “Well for starters this is a staircase. Generally speaking nature doesn’t just randomly place these things around for shits and giggles.”

    Catherine’s face distorted into a snarl. “You think you’re so damn smart, little bitch.”

    “Smarter than you.” She taunted.

    “We’ll see about that.” She spat.

    Suddenly Catherine pulled a snub-nosed revolver from inside her leather jacket and leveled it at her military fatigued self.

    “I’m telling you go back!” She threatened.

    Catherine stared at herself in disbelief. “You’re not going to shoot-


    Catherine was thrown back against the wall as the bullet planted itself in her right shoulder.

    “****ing bitch!” She raged.

    Catherine fired again but this time she ducked down and charged up the stairs. She tackled her casually dressed self to the ground and the two wrestled each other for control of the revolver. Taking advantage of her other self’s shock at being thrown down she bit down on her lip and tore it off. In a great shriek Catherine released the revolver and clutched her jaw. The revolver bounced down the staircase and Catherine chased after it. Seeing her attacker leave Catherine clutched her bleeding jaw and raced up the stairs. She came to a bright red door upon which was inscribed the visage of a skeletal monster. This demon however was not the one who’d once tormented her soul. This was different. Catherine did not spend time examining the engraving however and she pulled the door open just as a bullet struck her in the back of the head.

    Catherine walked steadily up the stairs towards her fallen self. Blood ran freely down her arm but she paid it no heed. She came up to herself who lay on her back on the treads of the stairs. She pumped two more rounds into her chest and continued on to the door.


    Catherine emerged into a dimly lit room. “What the hell…” She whispered.

    Bodies and parts of bodies were everywhere. Here a man clubbed in another man’s head with a sledgehammer cracking it open and sending gray matter everywhere. Over there a burly man gouged another’s eyes out before a machete cut off his left arm and then his head. In one corner an obese man wrestled in vain against a tall woman who was in the process of cutting open his stomach with a small pocket knife. When she’d managed a hole wide enough for her hands to fit through she reached in and pulled out the still live man’s intestines. In the center of the melee a man with long winding hair struck a woman in the breast with a meat cleaver. Closer to the edge one man grabbed his opponents jaw and ripped it out before replanting it into the man’s forehead.

    Across the room Catherine spotted a glass door though what was beyond she couldn’t see as it had been completely covered in blood. Gripping her revolver tightly she began to walk through the murderous riot. The soft pattering and splashing of her feet against the floor and puddles of blood was lost amidst the howls of fury screamed by the rampaging madmen and women. She entered the melee without incident, sticking close to those who were actively killing and steering clear of those looking for a kill. Half-way through a man shattered another man’s skull with a crowbar only a few feet away that sent a spray of blood against her face and body. Catherine wiped the blood from her eyes and the motion attracted the attentions of the crowbar wielding man. He turned to charge her and she shot him in the chest. As he fell a pipe struck him squarely in the throat causing him to spit up blood before collapsing. A short woman wearing a plaid shirt and blue jeans stood over him and when he showed signs of moving again beat him mercilessly.

    With a sense of urgency Catherine began to walk through the fighting crowds. Twice more she gunned down assaulters with no one left to kill. The first was an axe-wielding maniac whose face had a brutal slash across it. His clothes were heavy with blood and his blonde hair was cut short. She dodged his first swing by dropping to her knees and shot him in the kneecap. He collapsed with a howl before she silenced it with a shot to his chest. The second was another man who wore only a pair of sweats and a tiny shirt that did nothing to conceal his girth. She shot him twice in the chest as he charged her, a pair of bloody pliers held in his hands. He showed no signs of slowing as the rounds impacted his fatty body. A third round in his head dropped him for good. She trained her pistol on the obese man again and pulled the trigger but the only report was a small click. Casting the weapon away she picked up a rusted knife that lay on the floor and continued on her way.

    Suddenly a pair of wet hands grasped her neck and forced her to her knees. She gagged and coughed as the unseen hands squeezed against her throat. Quickly she stabbed backwards with her knife and was rewarded with a terrible cry. Catherine fell to the floor and gasped her breath. Behind her a woman in a lavender dress clutched at her wounded eye. Catherine spit on the floor and crawled over to her assaulter and stabbed her in her heart. Suddenly she screamed in pain as a hammer struck her shot shoulder. She turned around and plunged her knife into her attacker’s knee. He howled in pain and swung at her again. She blocked the blow with her arm pulled the knife out and stabbed the man again in his belly. He didn’t fall until she twisted and cut upwards.

    Catherine breathed hard. The man beneath her was still alive cradling organs that had come free when she tore her knife out of his gut. With a satisfied grin she took hold of his hammer and pummeled his head until he stopped moving. Full of blood lust Catherine looked for another victim. She spotted two women wrestling each other upon the blood soaked floor. She ran towards them striking the woman on top in the back of her head as she passed before turning around and stabbing the other woman in the throat. The woman below gurgled a scream and the woman up top looked up to regard her attacker just before Catherine brought the hammer down onto her forehead caving it in and causing her to drop. Suddenly hot blood splashed against her face and she turned to see a well muscled man covered in tattoos rip another man’s head off with his bare hands. She left the two women and snuck up behind the man and plunged her knife into the small of his back. The man roared in pain and turned around ripping the knife from Catherine’s hand. The tattooed man looked down on her with contempt before picking her up and throwing her across the room.

    She struck the wall, feeling ribs crack, before falling to the floor. She looked up just in time to see a massive fist swing towards her. She ducked and the fist struck the wall shattering tile. Striking out with the claw of her hammer she managed to hook it onto the tattooed man’s calf. She pulled with all of her might and buried the claw deep in his leg. The man bellowed in rage and punched her square in her face, shattering her nose and sending her sliding across the floor. The man walked up to her and prepared to smash her head with a stomp of his boot when a barbed club struck him in the back of his head. The man fell to his knees and turned just as the club shot out towards him again. He raised up his forearm to intercept the blow and it struck with a meaty crunch. Grabbing the club wielding arm he forced the weapon out of his attackers and turned the barbed weapon upon its owner. The original owner a lanky fellow with curly hair screamed in agony as his club was brought down against his face time and again until all that remained was a pulpy mesh.

    Taking advantage of the tattooed man’s distraction Catherine tore the stuck knife from his back. The man roared and as he turned she jumped upon his chest and carved messily through the man’s throat with the rusted knife. The tattooed man, defiant till the end, threw her off and grabbed her by her shoulders and slammed her against the wall. Blood continued to spill from the man’s mouth and throat and Catherine struggled against his grip but the man managed to walk a few steps and throw her against the wall before he finally collapsed.

    Catherine crashed through the glass door and onto a cold black floor. She pulled herself up quickly expecting another fight to begin only to find that she had no pursuers and that she had made it to her original destination. Breathing deeply she walked away from the slaughter room with hesitation and a small pang of regret. She found herself in a narrow corridor whose walls were pitch black and whose light was dim. At the far end of the passageway was a small door upon whose metallic surface was a symbol that looked like a child’s drawing of a sun radiating light. The symbol glowed an ominous green as she approached and with a barely audible hiss the doors opened to reveal a large ziggurat shaped chamber.

    Catherine proceeded warily into the chamber her clothes leaving a wet trail of blood behind her. As she made her way in she noticed an awe-inspiring image carved into the floor.

    “The Nightbringer.” She spoke with reverence. “Wait what?”

    Suddenly she found herself beset with puzzlement at her apparent knowledge of things she’d never seen before. With great trepidation she crossed the remaining distance to the image, bent down and touched it softly with her slit fingers. No sooner had her scarred index finger brush gently against the image did it dissolve into a silvery liquid that fled from her touch. Likewise Catherine backed away, seeing now that it wasn’t just the portion she’d touched but the entirety of the engraving that was melting.

    She watched with wonderment as the metallic liquid flowed into itself adding to its mass until nothing remained of the fearful image. Suddenly the liquid began to transform into a perfect sphere it changed before riding up upon itself revealing legs first, then a torso, arms and finally a head. As the skeletal figure formed the silvery liquid changed its color from silver, to flesh, then finally to black. When the creature finally finished its transfiguration it looked up at her revealing a familiar face.

    “You!” She cried furiously.

    “Were you expecting someone else?” Mathias replied calmly.

    “Why…why are you here?” Catherine demanded.

    “The same reason you are.” He continued. “I saw in your mind what you wanted when we met. I knew what would happen I knew you’d come crawling back here for comfort. I supplanted that tiny sanctuary with a piece of myself.” Mathias paused to lick his lips. “Because you need to hear what I have to say and that tiny little bonsai you kept wasn’t going to do the job.”

    “And what did I have to hear so ****ing badly that you killed my ****ing tree?” Catherine hissed.

    “That you have not been abandoned. You are not alone. You are not a rock, nor an island. Neither through your own fault nor by fault of your chapter were you denied your initiation. Sometimes the universe is unfair. Sometimes you have to look elsewhere for inclusion.” He consoled.

    “What with you? I’ll pass.” Catherine spat.

    “I gave you a gift Catherine and it wasn’t just a pair of trousers and a rifle. I gave you a part of what makes me, me.” Mathias explained, beating his chest for emphasis on ‘me’. “I gifted you with the power of a furious God the likes of which hasn’t walked this galaxy for millions of years. That power is tucked away within you even now and I can show you how to use it if you only pledge yourself to me and my cause.”

    “Which is?”

    “I have the power to steal souls, girl. I have the power to unlock the Pariah gene just like I did with you. When the star gods return they’ll try to harvest all life save us. They won’t kill us at least not right away. Locked away in our bodies is their key to taking the fight to the Chaos Gods themselves. Who of course will fight back with tooth, nail, and claw.”

    “What do you want to do?” Catherine demanded.

    “Spread the faith.” Mathias spoke gloomily. “Do you really think in a galaxy full of psykers there’s room for people like us. Do you think it’s a coincidence that in a galaxy where one in a hundred million is blank there’s almost three thousand here? I made them; I purged their psychic presence, in some cases their lives, with some help of course. I made them because when that final battle is over and either the star gods or the chaos gods remain well be hunted, though whether by the ranks of death or the legions of chaos I can’t be sure.”

    “What about the Imperium!” Catherine scolded in reflex. “So long as the light of the Emperor shines the Imperium will weather any storm!”

    “That may very well be true, girl but I can’t know for sure.”

    “So what’re you going to do hideaway like some whipped dog? You gonna dig yourself a little hole and bury your head in it?”

    Mathias chuckled to himself. “No I’m going to build an empire, for people like you and me. A part of the Imperium of course, as long as it survives the night. I can control the sentient metal, the necrodermis. You can too though to a far lesser extent. On our neighboring world there is a complex filled with ziggurat like monoliths. Each I believe to be capable of extragalactic flight. Depending on the outcome of the war we can wield them against our foes or otherwise flee within their wombs and be born again into another galaxy.”

    A sly smile inched its way across Catherine’s face. “You do realize you’re dead?”


    “That’s right, immolated on a downed spaceship. We found your remains all burned and shriveled. So all your damn scheming was for nothing.”

    “I see.” Mathias spoke softly. “Then I suppose there’s no reason for me to be here. I’ll let you keep my gift girl. You’re going to need it.”

    And with that Mathias began to melt.


    Catherine scrambled out of the collapsing chamber, past the doors, through the hallway and into the bloodletting arena. There she leaped to the side just a blazing white frame erupted from the entrance shooting out to engulf several of the murdering maniacs. They ran around like live kindles before toppling over dead into puddles of blood that hissed as the water evaporated.

    She gazed round to see only a few people, four in fact, were left and of them all battered and exhausted. They swung their weapons and fists clumsily and their movements were slow and measured. Catherine retrieved the hammer from the tattooed man’s calf and sped carelessly towards them. She marked out her target. A man with a bare chest and wore short jeans and brown boots, scarred all over his body who currently straddled another man and was gouging his eyes out. Catherine loomed over him like a demon of death. She flipped the hammer to its claw side and cocked it back before bashing it as hard as she could into the man’s face. The claws embedded themselves in the man’s cheek bone and she pulled him off his victim and onto the floor. Then with a grunt of effort she pulled her hammer free taking along with it the man’s cheek and continued to bash the man’s head in.

    “This Is For Every ****ing Time!” She screamed in unison with her blows and with each impact a splash of blood and bone shot up.

    Of a sudden a pair of hands grabbed her shoulder and spun her around. A hand bloody and broken reached to touch her face. She whipped her head to the left and hand passed, touching nothing but air. Her attacker, a woman lithe and beautiful was thrown off balance by the miss and she tumbled over. She gripped Catherine’s soaked fatigues as she fell dragging her down with her. Catherine allowed herself to be dragged down and when she landed she sprang upwards and bit into the woman’s neck grasping the jugular within her teeth and ripped and tore. The woman’s terrible howling filled Catherine with sweet pleasure and eased her spiteful rage. She smiled as she looked down at the women’s pleading face. Her hair was long and a natural red though blood still soaked it. Her face was calm and her green eyes familiar. Suddenly a realization dawned upon her.

    “Sandra!” She cried.

    The woman looked at her knowingly and Catherine felt tears well up within her. She tried to speak, to say she was sorry but she choked up and by the time she’d managed ‘I’ her friend was gone. When Sandra breather her last for the second time Catherine looked up at the blood soaked ceiling and let out a howl of shame, remorse, and regret. Slowly the world around her began to crumble. The ceiling ripped off in a mighty gust of wind to be replaced by a narrow semicircle shaped slab of metal. The walls collapsed and where they once stood walls of ferrocrete laid and mortared itself. The floor beneath her corroded to icy cold ferrocrete and the air chilled. Last of all the body of Sandra rotted away till bones became ash and ash became nothing.

    Catherine sobbed a terrible lament. Her wails disturbed the snow resting peacefully on the lip of the tunnel outside.

    Then a voice guttural yet soothing. “It is alright child, everything shall be alright. You are only dreaming.”

    “Why didn’t you tell me?” She managed between sobs. “I’m all alone; I don’t want to go back to the Chapter anymore. I want to die.”

    “No you don’t.” The voice chided.

    Suddenly Catherine felt warm hands brush against her shoulders. She turned but nothing was there.

    “Hello? Who’s there?” She called out.

    Suddenly a terrible pain shot through her shoulder and Catherine was shook violently back into reality.

    Her first sight was that of the too bright skies above Flak. She squeezed her eyes tight to block out the light and then reopened them a half-second later as she was dragged across the dusty ground by an unknown attacker. Venting her rage she let out a bestial howl and suddenly the pressure against her shoulder relaxed. She turned sharply to regard a small animal that was backing slowly away from her. The creature was four-legged and hairless. Its skin was reptilian and a dusty green. It bore the semblance of a dog, the head was definitely canine though it lacked any visible ears, its jaws were wide, its teeth numerous and dagger like but far too small to be of much use in a fight. The body was slim and malnourished. Its spindly legs ended in sickle like claws one of which had been broken off earlier in some mishap. No tail wagged behind the creature and as Catherine approached it lowered its head and let out a warning growl.

    Catherine halted at the creatures warning. She stared directly into the creature’s half-moon eyes trying to force it into obeisance. The creature relented under her vicious gaze sensing that its impromptu meal may very soon become a predator if provoked further. The creature continued its throaty growl as it backed cautiously away. Catherine watched with bewilderment as the strange creature fled off the road and down the hill into the domains of the black grass which stretched out into the far horizon. Far off in the distance on the outskirts of the city black smoke rose into the sky as the inhabitants of the city put the grass to the torch.

    She paid the sight no mind and turned to examine her shoulder. The wound was superficial, only a few small trickles of blood ran free. In fact her blouse had taken a far worse beating than her shoulder. Growling her irritation she made her way back to her rucksack upon which was a piece of applied tape that read ‘Cyrillic’. He’s probably pissed as hell, she thought with a morbid smile. She kicked the thing open and pulled out a ration pack, sat down and began eating. The food was dry and tasteless, all save the chocolate candy bar which tasted like cardboard. As she ate she reflected on her decision to run away. It had been a hasty decision to be sure. No sooner had she retrieved her tiny possession from her Lord’s ruined corpse, his service studs to be precise, did she leave the site stopping only to ransack a truck whose flatbed was filled with packs. She’d grabbed the first one she saw and set off into the night. What were the odds, she wondered, that the pack would be Cyrillic’s who’d been with her throughout the battle. She could only imagine Cyrillic’s rage at having his pack stolen and his embarrassment at the tiny books tucked away whose spines read The Stones Cry Out and Beginners Guide to Haikus.


    Catherine looked up to see the strange reptile like creature standing on the edge of the road eyeing her hungrily. She didn’t bother to move hoping that ignoring it would make it go away. Even if it did not however Catherine still had her silvery brass knuckles whose blade was still sharp as ever. The creature began to come closer, inching away at first and then becoming a wary trot. Deftly Catherine reached into her blouse pocket and produced the knuckles. The creature halted several steps from her and stared. She regarded the creature with slight irritation. She knew what it wanted but she didn’t feel like helping. With a resigned sigh she reached into her rucksack and took out another ration pack. She opened the plastic bag and emptied its contents out on to her lap. She picked through until she found the main meal and unwrapping it held it out for the reptilian animal. Holding the piece of meat in her bare hand probably wasn’t the brightest idea however as the creature seeing the offer for what is was threw caution to the wind and bit down on both the meat and her hand.

    “Hey!” She bellowed as she pulled away, dragging the animal along a short distance.

    The creature opened its jaws and Catherine withdrew her hand letting the slab of meat fall to the ground. The creature famished as it was attacked the defenseless piece of meat and devouring it in rapid order. Catherine watched the creature feast impassively. When it finished the creature looked up at her with wanting eyes and she unwrapped more of the packages, this time tossing them at its feet as opposed to holding them out.

    Catherine reached out with her bitten hand and patted the creature’s head. “I think I’ll call you…жалость. Pity.”

    Catherine had been traveling for almost a week, living off of the supplies inside her pilfered pack. Not that that had been her original plan. In truth she’d only taken the rucksack in the hopes that someone would notice the theft and come looking. Several days after her departure she began to hope that someone would notice her absence and come looking. How could they have not noticed that she’d been missing for a week? Didn’t they care? Despair had threatened to overcome her half-way through her journey but she’d pressed on holding onto the hope that she’d soon be found. Looking at the poor animal before her provided only slight comfort; wouldn’t he leave too, once her food was gone?

    “How ‘bout it жалость, you’ll stay with me right?”

    The animal did not reply, occupied as it was with feasting.

    She squeezed the creature’s head gently. “That’s alright.”


    Catherine plodded lazily down the side of the road, the odd reptilian look creature following close behind. The city of Flak had long disappeared into the hazy horizon. All around her were endless fields of black grass whose realms were punctured occasionally by monstrous trees that were terrible to behold. Faintly she could see the translucent gasses emitted by the trees rise up into the cloudy sky. She’d been traveling for almost four full days now, back towards the downed strike cruiser where she hoped to be picked up by a liaison to the Chapter. The trip back felt good despite her being caught in a mild radiation storm the day before. The storm hadn’t been that bad though had she not already been in cover underneath an overpass, things may have been different. In either case she was able to enjoy from complete safety a vivid display of colors that raged through the lower atmosphere like the wind that bore it. Adding to it all жалость decided not to abandon her after all and though the beast had devoured most of the food she refused to pass judgment upon her faithful companion.

    Several times during her travel she encountered other loners like her, walking with head down, shoulders hunched, and hands in their pockets. Going she’d never deigned to speak to them and those who held their heads high didn’t deign to speak with her. Now, returning she looked to make conversation with some her fellow travelers. Most of the people she’d spoken to were leaving Linthicum though one man, a tall brown-eyed ruffian who wore a full faced gas mask and all leather clothing had emerged from the realms of the grass itself claiming to be a permanent resident. She’d bought food for herself and her pet from the man using money taken from the rucksack. ‘**** you Cyrillic’ she thought as she made her purchase.

    Later she’d stopped to speak to two travelers who told her they heading towards Pummel which according to rumor had been wiped off the map. They were hoping to make off with some loot before the PDF secured the area. They’d asked if she wanted to tag along and help carry some of the loot when they got there but she declined sensing that the two men would want her to do more than just carry things. On her second night out she’d come across a man dressed in familiar black fatigues sitting next to a small fire. The man seeing that this new arrival was garbed similarly to himself, motioned for her to sit down.

    “Headed back towards the ship?” He asked while she made herself comfortable.

    Catherine nodded her head. “Yeah I’m looking for somebody. Kirin, actually do you know if he’s there?”

    The man nodded his head vigorously. “He’s there, he’s there. But not for long, a meeting’s been called and everyone who can make its going to Tava.”

    “A meeting! When?” She inquired. “About what?”

    “Two days from now; we are going to pick a new leader. Mathias is off the grid no one knows where he is, he hasn’t contacted us we’ve got pieces of what we think is him.” He explained. “Actually not surprised you hadn’t heard about the meet. Getting word around in the last week has been hectic. I mean everyone knows there’s gonna be a meet just not the specifics. Only reason I know is cause I spoke to Harry back at the crash site.”

    “Who’s Harry?”

    The man held out his hands. “Harry! Harry! You’re in his unit how do you not know his name? Uh..Cyrillic. Harry is his first name. You’re Cathy right? Aren’t you in his unit?”

    “Catherine.” She corrected. “I am but what’s he doing there? Did he tell you about me?”

    “Yeah he did, told me if I saw you to tell you get your ass back there pronto. Seemed pretty pissed if you ask me but he’s always pissed about something. Guy’s an asshole.”

    “You’re telling me.” She said wryly. “By the way what’s your name?”

    “Devin Miregal at your service.” The man said as took Catherine’s hand and shook it vigorously.

    “So why are you heading down this road?” She asked.

    Miregal gestured for her to wait a moment and went to retrieve an item from his pack. What he brought out was a foot tall stainless steel urn. “Funeral detail.”

    “For who?” She asked amusedly.

    “One Sergei, Trin. Deceased as of M42.007.12.28. Two days before the new year. Found in his room with a slit throat. He was a good friend of mine, taught me a lot. He said he wanted to be cremated, have his ashes dumped in the Litus river out past Korinth.”


    “About fifty miles South of Essex.” He explained.

    “Do you know who killed him?” She asked.

    “Nope but I tell you this. I’ll find out and when I do I’m going to **** that piece of shit up.” He spat viciously.

    “Oh.” She replied feeling suddenly awkward.

    “Sorry about that. Just he was a friend.” Miregal apologized. “Should probably get some sleep.”

    Catherine took Miregal’s advice though; she didn’t drift off quite as quickly as she would’ve wanted. Жалость nuzzled up besides her, burying its toothy snout in her armpit, growled and generally made a nuisance of itself. While she waited for sleep to overtake her she gazed up at the night sky. As always clouds blocked the stars above and Catherine felt a terrible need to gaze upon their sparkling forms once more. Just one more thing, she thought sadly. Just then жалость nipped at her arm and she chuckled softly to herself. Not everything is lost at least and hopefully there is more to reclaim in the near future. After all Cyrillic wouldn’t hang around Astartes just for his pack. Maybe he misses me? She mused. Or more likely Kirin with help from Naves and Lijew forced him to stay. She liked the sound of either possibility; it meant someone cared for her.


    The next morning the two travelers gave their goodbyes, wished each other luck and parted ways.

    Down the road Miregal strode for his lifelong friend was now but an ode.

    With Жалость lurking along Catherine continued her long trek.

    It took almost six hours more before the downed ship of the Chaste came into view far off in the distance. The place looked nothing like the ship she’d once left. Huge fortifications had been constructed around the ship each connected by long lengths of trenches too deep for a normal man to fire out of. Heavy weapon emplacements covered the roads and upon the road itself a VCP had been established. Parts of the ship glowed telling her that Tech-Marines had been able to restore power to at least a few of the systems. All around the base of the ship Marines scurried hauling crates, picking through debris, digging further entrenchments, performing tasks that was far below a Marine’s status. Thing was there was no one else left to do those tasks for them. Their serfs were all dead and they didn’t have the numbers to enslave the local populace. Lord Siloden is in a precarious position indeed, she mused.

    Briefly she thought of returning to the chapter before beating the idea with a stick, putting a gun in its mouth, pulling the trigger and burying it in a far away field never to be seen again. She smiled regretfully at the thought. But of course the Chapter wouldn’t be going anywhere for a good long while. Perhaps after a few years the flames of betrayal would cool and she’d return to see how things were going, certainly she’d be keeping tabs on them and considering her affiliation with them maybe Zmey чорний might even decide to make her a liaison. Estranged from the Chapter yet still working with them and perhaps even alongside them!

    Her sudden fantasy was interrupted when her eyes took notice of a man clad as she was jogging towards her down the road. If it was Kirin she expected a hug. If it was Cyrillic she expected a fist. Mentally she prepared for both possible outcomes and quickened her pace. As the two drew closer Catherine realized with dread that man closing upon her was none other than Cyrillic. Seeing this she slowed to a walk and swallowed the lump in her throat. If she could be honest with herself her anxiety stemmed from fear, odd considering she’d gone up against bigger men and lived. Taking a deep breath she summoned her courage. If he wants a fight I’ll give him a fight, she told herself. She walked up defiantly to him. The expected blows however never came; instead a furious reprimand.

    “What the ****’ve you been doing?” He bellowed as he crossed the last few feet that separated them. He grabbed her shoulders and spun her around working to strip his pack from her.

    “I had to…think.” She muttered as she slipped her arms from out the straps.

    “I already know that dumbass.” He chastised as he finally wrenched the pack free. “You’re supposed to do your ****ing thinking where I can ****in’ see you! Not wondering off on a week and a half pissing trip to Flak.”

    “Wait, you knew where I was?” Catherine gasped.

    “It’s a one way road shit for brains of course we knew. Now come on were leaving.”

    Suddenly Catherine grabbed on to his sleeve. “Why didn’t you come get me? I thought you were going to leave me.” She choked. “I thought you wanted to get rid of me…I thought you didn’t want me around…if I’d known I would have stayed.”

    Cyrillic slapped his head as he realized what was about to happen. “Oh shit. Don’t you dare start crying on me kid; I’ve had a bad ****ing week and I don’t want your ****ing sob story added on to it. Put a ****ing cork in it and let’s go.”

    Cyrillic continued walking leaving Catherine alone on the road. Behind her жалость trotted up. She hadn’t noticed until now but her pet had been strangely absent from her conversation. She knelt down and scratched its neck. “I should call you coward instead.” She spoke gently.
    A voice rang out, urging her onwards. She rose motioning for her pet to follow and began walking down the road.
    The Broken Cathedral
    Apostlin; called the damned, called the forsaken. Once home to the brightest Kiev had to offer who in their enlightenment had raised a city that blissfully wedded architecture and aesthetics. In the outskirts was suburbia; neighborhoods of tiny prefabricated houses uncluttered by the smog and smoke of industry. Spaced periodically throughout the area were massive parks filled with blooming trees that had provided a place of leisure for the populace as they emerged from the great apertures that marked the entranceways to the rail-stations below. These stations would ferry the residents of the area miles away to their places of work in the outer city.
    From the bowels of the railways the populace would emerge into the winding city streets of the inner city, home to both the market and industrial districts. The first was a bazaar home to a wide variety of stores which sold everything from synthetic sandals to diamond rings. Entire blocks were filled to the breaking point with such stores and in truth there was no order to their layout; a restaurant that sold fish might very well be located next to a jeweler. To the people browsing for items this was of no concern however store owners had a very different opinion and because of such the market had divided itself over the years, restaurants on one side, wares on the other.
    Beyond both was the industrial district where factories, mills, silos and all other kinds of industrial related buildings rested. Here everything from weapons to cell phones were manufactured and then shipped to the rest of the world. Office buildings also dotted the landscape; large rectangular structures with thousands of windows. It was even rumored that the district was home to several R&D labs dedicated to weapons development. How credible those claims were was anyone’s guess as none had ever produced evidence proving the labs existence.
    The center of the city however, was the cultural heart of Apostlin. Here were the museums dedicated to the history of the Imperium, the men and the machines behind its everlasting triumph. Along beautifully paved streets stood marble and bronze statues depicting the Emperor and all of his Primarchs, save the fallen ones. Pleasant aromas wafted out the doors of fancier and far more specific and aesthetically minded restaurants. Art galleries had been erected in a dozen places to accommodate the artistically inclined populace and universities born so that the young might one day understand and appreciate the works they gazed upon for granted.
    All that finery, all the learning and progress was, many decades ago, in one single instant erased. The suburbs that housed thousands of families were flattened as if they were constructed of cards and a strong wind had blown over them. The rail-stations had caved in burying the trams which held hundreds of people within their cavernous depths. The thousands of windows had been shattered and the stores had been damned to radioactive ruin. The wide streets had been filled to the breaking point with debris and then choked with corpses who’d collapsed from the raging fires and the radiation. The galleries had been set ablaze and century’s worth of art was condemned to burn until they were but ashes. The fires that licked the galleries found its way to the universities and the museums and those too had burned along with their caretakers and their accumulated knowledge. Despite it all the devastation was not total.
    Many of the buildings however, thanks to the superb engineering geared minds that raised them, were able to withstand the nuclear firestorm. That’s not to say they weren’t gutted nearly wholly by flame, only that the structures themselves still stood and in some more fortunate cases the insides were left more or less intact. In the aftermath of that momentary holocaust the survivors who were able fled, never to return. Those who couldn’t leave were forced to stay and most sought refuge in the buildings who’d suffered the least structural damage. Over the course of several years these refugees managed to create several colonies, mostly in and around the former cultural heart of the city.
    Attempts two decades later in ‘67 at restoring the city were met with failure after an insurgent group opposing Goren’s rule began operating out of the city. After a rather short guerilla war that saw the insurgents battered the group was tracked back to the city and PDF forces and a certain shadowy agency were sent in to root them out. This was unfortunate for the original residents of Apostlin for the insurgents had managed to infiltrate themselves quite successfully in their new society and neither of the two forces sent to deal with them made the effort to differentiate between normal ragged citizen and secessionist rebel. Thus the city was cordoned off and it’s every inhabitant down to the last man, woman, and mutated child systematically hunted down and purged.
    A month later when the deed was done and everyone had died Goren touted the small genocide a victory for the forces of order in the world and then ordered that the bodies be burned in the heart of the city. That particular task, which was carried out by the secret police force who was clad mainly in black, took nearly three weeks and for long after that ash fell like snow over the ruins of the once fine city. The PDF were thankfully excused from the detail

    Cyrillic glanced out the Mikazi’s tinted window towards the open square as he drove slowly by. The square was large, perhaps a ¼ mile long and wide and hemmed in by a perimeter of paved roads its surface was covered with tall black grass that he could probably lose himself in. Solemnity was spread across his cold features as he remembered standing in that square gagging and puking violently at the stench and the sight of decomposing bodies piled high before being set ablaze with matches and oceans of gasoline. This was the square where he’d met Naves and Lijew and was more likely than not the seed that birthed the insurrection that would see Goren dead by the hands of Temple and Thake decades later. It was a part of his past that he and everyone else wished they could erase not just from the history books, a feat they’d accomplished long ago, but from their minds. He personally knew a few people who’d opted to have the memories mind-scrubbed, Lijew among them. Truthfully the idea of being able to forget the events that had taken place in Apostlin appealed to him but part of him knew it would be a crime to ever forget.
    Considering the fact that the city of Apostlin was a notorious black spot in the first generation’s mind Cyrillic couldn’t imagine why in the Emperor’s holy ****ing name they’d decided to host the first meet in twenty six years in a throne forsaken place like this. He growled his irritation drawing Catherine’s attention from the seat behind. She sat in the back of the car atop the large stereo system silently petting the odd animal she’d discovered at some point during her soul-searching. She watched him through the rearview mirror with icy ices. He glared threateningly at her and she returned to her scaly animal. Next to him Naves let out a weary sigh as he too remembered the horrific events that had transpired in the city.
    “Bad juju.” Naves spoke quietly.
    Cyrillic nodded his head in agreement before returning his eyes to the road in front of them. He gunned the engine and the Mikazi roared down the street, its two headlights the only source of illumination. Dangerous though it was to be speeding along in the middle of the night none of the passengers complained save for a small disconcerting howl from the animal on Catherine’s lap.

    Buildings unlit and unoccupied flashed by but she ignored them, instead focusing her attention on scratching жалость’s canine shaped head in an attempt to placate the animal before it did anything stupid. Things like trying to jump out of a window or in a far more suicidal case bite one of her companions. She looked down at the scaly animal nuzzling her stomach timidly and realized the latter wasn’t too much of a concern.
    With a dejected sigh Catherine stared out the front window towards the street ahead. They’d been driving for almost nine hours non-stop and though she wasn’t going to admit it her ass was sore as hell from sitting on a constantly thumping speaker system. During the unbearably long trek her thoughts had been inexorably drawn off and on to the opposite thoughts of the Astartes and the demon, though the first took far more precedence considering recent events. Two days after returning to the crash site and she was able to admit to herself that she didn’t hate them for turning her away. She still didn’t fully understand why she’d been denied but she’d spent enough time with her Lord to know that there were occasions when a decision would be made that wouldn’t make sense to her. Certainly Eurydice had given a few in his and hadn’t they always proven wise? She’d been told to have faith in the chapter and wasn’t the Chapter Master the epitome of that brotherhood? Grudgingly she forgave herself for whatever shortcoming being female was and though she had no intent of rectifying that particular issue she swore to do honor to her Lords memory whether in the ranks of the Astartes or the shadowy ones of the militants. Her acceptance of this turn of events had allowed her some internal peace and though the pain of rejection was still strong it was nowhere near the crushing agony that had haunted her during her exodus.
    As for the demon she’d done her best to force his scarred visage to the back of her mind but like the demon itself it just kept popping back into her head at the most inopportune and unexpected times. Locales, people, and even random objects would inadvertently spark small fragments of horror from the ordeal. Most of the time she internalized the visions of death and torture but every once in a while a particularly horrific image, complete with audio, video and feeling, would come to her and she’d be forced to relive the ghastly tortures visited upon her body. In those situations she generally forced herself into a secluded room where she’d remain until the vision passed. Afterwards she’d collect herself and return to whatever task was at hand. No one knew about her time with the demon save Mathias and Grace, the former of which had gone missing and was presumed dead.
    Catherine didn’t exactly prefer it this way but she knew any knowledge of that time of her life might jeopardize her already tenuous relationships with the men of her unit. Still though, she’d played with the idea of telling someone. As a way to think of something other than those two subjects she thought of who might be the ideal person for such confidence.
    She wouldn’t tell Lijew who was more of an awkward father figure than an actual friend. Cyrillic, the noble bastion of understanding and sympathy was ruled out immediately. Kirin was the most logical choice but his wife, Natalya, didn’t like him being around her. She remembered clearly an enlightening four hour sit-down where the woman had cornered her and spoken at length about sex, infidelity, babies and hell. For a long time afterwards she’d wondered why the two had gotten married. That left Brandis, Vaughan, Naves and Sergei. The first she’d never met and the second only momentarily. They were a part of Cyrillic’s crew but they’d been sent out on some task after Irminsul and she’d not seen or heard of them since. Though she’d never met Sergei she knew he was dead and while it appealed to her senses to confess to the dead she didn’t feel like tracking Miregal down and relieving him of his urn.
    That left Naves. Handsome, cool, dual friend of Cyrillic and thorn in his side; he was one of the few, fast dwindling bright spots in her life. Earlier on in the day she’d petitioned, in the most unwhiny voice manageable, to switch seats or maybe even drive the highly stylized sports vehicle for a while. The latter request was met with genuine laughter by Cyrillic who gleefully responded in the negative whilst wiping tears from his face. ‘You? Drive?’ he’d spoken with incredulity before breaking down in caustic laughter again. She ignored the bastard and quietly fidgeted with the brass knuckles hidden away in her blouse’s side pocket. Fortunately for the continued structural integrity of Cyrillic’s jugular Naves unbuckled his seat belt and proceeded to climb to the back. She’d nodded her thanks and bid жалость to follow before climbing into the electrically warmed leather seats.
    They’d switched back several hours later but the relief of not having bass transmitted directly into one’s ass was cause for several fervent prayers of thanks to the Emperor. In those few hours of bliss she’d distracted herself as best she could from the world around her by talking frivolously with her benefactor who was now instructing Cyrillic to turn the stereo off. They talked of nothing important; Lijew’s laughable attempts at child rearing, the weather, at length on poetry that made Cyrillic clear his throat at least twelve times. For the first time in a long while Catherine had genuinely laughed and forgotten the shitty circumstances she was in. Once during their conversation she’d remembered one particular vision that he’d featured in, garbed only in a loincloth and she instantly blushed. Naves, who was busy comparing at length a once owned dog to жалость, became suddenly aware of her flushed cheeks and having seen the look before a million times laughed awkwardly before returning to the subject at hand.

    жалость let out a sharp whelp and Catherine was awoken from her reverie as the Mikazi came to an abrupt stop.

    “We’re here.” Cyrillic announced unceremoniously as he and Naves exited the car.

    Catherine followed closely behind and emerged into the cold night and onto a cracked sidewalk. In front of her was a wide stone staircase that led up to the weather worn face of a great cathedral, which unlike every other building in the city was lit. Flanking both sides of the staircase with its spiked gothic balustrade were two faded statues one of Guilliman and the other of Dorn bedecked in full power armor and each with their head bowed in deference. Reflexively she fell to her knees uttering holy catechisms, an action that won her bemused glances from both men. Several minutes later when she’d finished she looked up to regard the cathedral itself.

    Though ancient and battered the once holy home of a bishop still held a dominating presence. The western front was a massive slab of granite carved to resemble the armored forms of the Primarchs Ferrus Manus and Rogal Dorn, heads bowed in supplication hands clutching an axe and a sword respectively. Between their mighty legs were heavy wooden doors one of which had been repaired recently. Standing just as tall as the Primarchs themselves were the two great western towers, the southern of which had unfortunately collapsed only to be boarded up with plywood. Two transepts, each incredibly long though the easternmost was longer by about fifty yards, stretched out from the main body and disappeared into the night. Domed cavities cut high up in the cathedral’s walls which had once been the resting places of exquisitely detailed stained windows were now boarded up. Beside the great doors two sentries stood with assault rifles at the ready overlooking the street.

    In the distance Catherine could hear the sound of a purring engine and she turned to see a battered truck emerge from an intersection down the road. Looking down the street she realized that there were rows of cars covering the entirety of the street; not abandoned but parked.

    “A lot of people here for this?” She asked Naves.

    Naves who was already making his way up to the stairs turned, “Yeah.” He responded before continuing up the stairs. She made to follow and hear the pattering of claws against stone and realized жалость was following her. She knelt down and patted the lizard’s head and instructed it to wait in the car. That taken care of she followed her squad mates up the stairs and through the massive doors. The two sentries she passed nodded at her as she went.

    She passed into the Nave, a wide expanse filled with pews where dozens of black clad men sat talking quietly to one another. She stood directly in the main aisle and from there was afforded a view of a massive effigy of the Emperor overlooking the main altar almost two hundred yards away. Leaning against a small podium was a man whose features she could not make out. She didn’t bother to venture further into the Cathedral to view him and began taking in the Cathedral. The floor was carved from marble and upon whose surface rested a mosaic of the Imperium proper. The domed ceiling was also covered in mosaics; one of the Emperor casting Horus into hell others of his Primarchs performing various deeds in His name. The view was amazing despite its tattered state and she could feel her breath leave her for a moment. From deeper in the Cathedral she could hear the thrumming of generators and at a distance she could see thick cords run out along the walls from the first southern transept. Glow candles, along with real ones provided soft light throughout the Cathedral, lending it a gentle and drowsy atmosphere.

    Realizing she was alone Catherine scanned the myriad faces of the assembled searching for one familiar. Down by the Southern aisle near the first transept she spotted Naves warmly embracing a friend he’d not seen in a while. She couldn’t make out the other man’s features but he was at least a head shorter than his jovial friend. A whistle grabbed her attention and she turned to see Cyrillic gesturing towards her as he disappeared into a staircase that led up to the second floor.

    She moved to follow but from nowhere a hand reached out and gently took her shoulder. She turned to see Grace looking down on her contemptuously.

    “Let’s go somewhere private.” He said quietly as he led her away by the arm.

    Grace took her down the main aisle. Along the way Naves spotted her and Grace immediately let go of her arm. He mouthed ‘OK’ and she nodded her head; she wasn’t sure why the man wanted to speak with her but she seriously doubted he was going to try anything. Just in case though, she stuck her hand in her pocket and slipped on her brass knuckles. They took a quick right into the Northern transept where they then proceeded through a small wooden door and into a dormitory.

    Catherine looked around as she entered finding the room to be miniscule, the majority taken up by a dusty writing table and an even dustier bed. She noticed there was no chair. The rough stone floor was a stark contrast with the magnificence outside. Whoever lived here must have been quite pious, Catherine decided, unlike its present occupants. Grace shut the door behind her as she came in and took a seat upon the desk. He motioned for her to take a seat on the bed and she fidgeted with her knuckles before moving off. They stared at each other for a few seconds, Catherine with her hands set firmly in her pockets, Grace his heavy arms crossed.

    Grace let out a heavy sigh. “Do you know why I asked you here?” He spoke as she took her seat.

    Catherine shook her head. “How the hell should I know, you dragged me here.”

    “OK…we’re all here,” Grace spread his arms round to encompass the Cathedral, “because Mathias has gone missing, presumed to be dead. Understand?”

    “I already know that.” She muttered.

    “I know you did it’s for…whatever. Listen tonight we’re going to be discussing a lot of shit that deals with our future, our standing in the world, issues within the organization and what not. Most importantly we’re going to be selecting a new head. I need-”

    Catherine leaned forward on the edge of the bed. “You want me to be the new head?” She interrupted.

    “No. I want you to keep your mouth shut while I talk.” He chastised. “I need to know what Mathias did...that mind thing he did when you first showed up.”

    Catherine stared at the man confused. She knew what he was talking about but she wanted to know specifically what he needed to know. “What do you mean?”

    “I know he put shit in your head was it information…plans, hell maybe even a successor in the event of his death?”

    She thought back to the nightmare she’d had while at Flak. Mathias had spoken of building an empire of blanks and of fleeing to another galaxy. An idea, which no one else seemed to be aware of. Quickly she wondered if she should tell the man what she’d been told and then realized it wouldn’t matter because Mathias wasn’t there to see his plans carried out.

    Her concentration was broken by Grace. “Well?” He implored.

    Catherine bit her lip. “He gave me something…just not what you want.”

    “Enlighten me.” He spoke.

    “You know the soul-stripping?” She asked.

    Grace stared at her blankly before pulling a flask from his front trouser pocket and took a great swig. Obviously the idea of someone being able to snuff out another human being’s soul was disconcerting to him. He let out another sigh and began pacing the room back and forth in contemplation.

    “Shit.” He finally said.

    Catherine raised her hands in apology and got up to leave.

    Suddenly Grace spun round. “Wait kid.” He commanded. “Don’t tell anyone about this thing you’ve got…” he took another long drink before continuing. “…you’ll attract unwanted attention.”

    Catherine nodded her thanks and left the room, closing the door behind her.


    Once Catherine had stepped out she leaned up against the fine marble wall. That was unusual, she thought, of course unusual is a relative thing nowadays. Sighing she kicked herself off the wall and headed down the northern aisle. Glancing to the other side of the Cathedral she could see that Naves was still chatting with his friend. She waved to get his attention and when he looked over she gave him reassuring thumbs up before continuing on. What was she going to do? She wondered. Supposedly she had the gift of controlling the necro something or another along with the ability to strip away people’s souls but she’d no idea how to actually perform the trick. Now hearing that she’d be attracting unwanted attention if she did, she had to wonder if developing those powers was even a worthwhile venture.

    She stopped in her walk and looked out at the faces of the men assembled. There were hundreds upon hundreds of them some sitting quietly in their pews, others talking to their neighbor in hushed tones. She knew this wasn’t out of respect for the Emperor but she was glad for the quiet anyways. Most of the faces she saw looked to be middle-aged though there were a few leaning on the extremes of ancient and childish. She knew from Lijew a good many were older than their appearances would lead her to believe, a result of rejuvenaut operations. Hence those who looked to be in their thirties may very well be nearing or over a century old. She glanced over to Naves her, if she could be honest, crush. Lijew had informed her that he was nearly seventy years old despite looking as if he’d just gotten out of his twenties. She let out a despairing sigh and then realized she was attracting attention. Men sat in their pews staring at the girl who was in turn studying their faces. One particular face stuck out and on an impulse she walked over to its pew and took a seat.

    The old man she’d sat by regarded her with a tattooed face of stone. Catherine not unnerved met his gaze. He was slightly tanned and his head was bald though he nurtured a long, graying goatee. His tattered short sleeve version of the black fatigues hung open revealing the flesh underneath. The rifle that rested on its butt stock between his legs was like its owner an old and outdated model she’d never seen before. Around his neck he wore a necklace made of a thick thread from which hung a grenade pin. Almost his entire body, from what she could see, was covered in tattoos. A dragon like snake coiled around his neck and looked as if it was ready to swallow his head whole and his cracked lips had tiny script written across it in a language she couldn’t understand. Along his right shoulder stood a guardsman his weapon hanging loosely from bloody hands. Farther down on his forearm was a dagger wrapped in jagged wire. The tattoo on his hand was unrecognizable, as at some point in the old man’s life he’d been caught in a fire. On the other arm there was a visage of the reaper, one much like the Nightbringer though she doubted the man would know the history of the icon other than it was the symbol of death. A great syringe inside which was a naked dancer covered the rest of his arm. The palm of his hand was inked with a krak grenade and on his fingers were single characters which read K-I-L-L. On the left side of his chest the man had his ribs outlined and colored and on the right he had the organs done. The detail of every tattoo was as such that she truly believed that if she were to touch the kidneys it’d twitch.

    “I didn’t know we were letting little girls in.” He commented as he returned his attention to the front of the Cathedral. His voice was raspy, almost as if he was gasping for breath.

    “It was a spur of the moment thing.” She replied.

    The man nodded his head as if he understood completely. “They usually are.”

    “How long have you been in?” She ventured.

    The man let out a chuckle. “Let’s see got in back in 55 and it’s what 08 now? So fifty-nine years.”

    The number didn’t sound exactly right and she quickly did the math in her head. “Actually that’s fifty-three.” She corrected.

    “Whatever, kid either way it’s been a while. And you? How long have you been around?”

    “Almost three months now.” She replied. “By the way I’m Catherine not kid.”

    The man gave her an ‘I don’t give a shit look’. “Name’s Epistle.” He spoke holding out his hand. She took it warily and was surprised by the gentleness of his touch. Maybe he was like Kirin she mused.

    The two of them chatted for a while, exchanging a few stories of their lives so far. He told her a little about the beginnings of Zmey чорний, how they’d started out as special operations, were switched to a police force and then evolved later into a paramilitary that openly opposed the government. He told her about his first crew, a five man unit that was completely wiped out during the Eldar war of 83 and how they’d gotten back at the pointy eared bastards by detonating a nuke inside their mother ship. Epistle talked at length about the likelihood of each successor candidate and pointed out that the most likely successor to Mathias would be one of the first generation men like himself or another. Catherine listened intently to the man talk but every once in a while her eyes would drift over to Naves and the man took notice. He asked her what was up and she’d responded by telling him there was a certain person she was interested in.

    “Catherine!” A man called out, interrupting her and Epistle’s conversation and aggravated she turned to see Cyrillic leaning outside the staircase.

    He motioned for her to come over and she excused herself. As she did she noticed Cyrillic give her newfound friend the slightest of nods. Grudgingly she walked over to the waiting man who instructed her to head upstairs. She didn’t particularly feel like arguing so she ascended without complaint and Cyrillic in tow.

    The second floor was much like the first, made from marble and filled with pews. The floor however hung over the main aisle and afforded a far better view than from down below. Catherine stopped at the top of the stairs to locate any familiar faces and as she did Cyrillic brushed past and tugged at her sleeve. He walked a short distance before taking a seat next to two exhausted soldiers one of which cradled a long object wrapped securely in cloth.

    “This is Brandis and this is Vaughan.” He’d introduced once she’d taken her seat next to him.

    Neither man deigned to acknowledge her existence, tired as they were, until Cyrillic kicked them both in the shins. Obviously pissed off at being awoken the two sat up in their seats and Cyrillic reintroduced them.

    “Nice to meet you.” The man called Vaughan had greeted through a yawn. He had a nasty scar around his eye that looked as if the skin had been removed but if it bothered him he didn’t show it. The next man, Brandis was slightly more upbeat but still looked as if he’d been awake for days on end.

    “What happened to you two?” She’d asked when pleasentries were out of the way.

    Brandis gave Vaughan an odd glance and they began to tell their tale.

    The Mission

    It was night in the dusty plains of Sicher’s Plateau, far to the north of Linthicum. Cold winds blew fiercely across the desolate land, creating storms of dust that were as effective as any downpour or heavy fog. For as far as the eye could see, which wasn’t far, there was nothing but barren land. The sand was a dark red interlaced with splotches of black, a cousin of the Wastes down south. Unlike the Wastes however, Sicher’s had living plant life, though the only flora was the occasional colony of hardy shrubs whose brittle branches swayed madly in the wind constant wind. Animal life was limited to the small reptiles that nested in between the shrubs spindly trunks and the mutated vultures and Threnodies that fed on them. Neciea were also present, though in the winter months they were far less likely to show their locust like visages save to devour the random creature or man that strayed into their underground lairs.

    One such Threnody, an infant, stood alone in the darkness above a rotted carcass. Harsh winds battered against its scaly hide but the creature didn’t mind, content as it was gnawing placidly on the bones of another of its kind, overcome by old age. The creature was rooting around with its snout in the carcass for a large bone with which to chew upon when a distant roar snapped its head up. The Threnody stared out with serpent’s eyes in the direction of the rumble which seemed to be closing with every passing second. Letting out a short growl the Threnody turned to face the sound and prepared to defend its meal. The roar grew and grew until two white dots of light became visible. Its jaw clenched as the creature was bathed in light and its sickle claws were twitched anxiously. Over the roar the Threnody could make out an odd rhythmetic sound, not unlike its own mating call.

    “…Well get crunk, mother****er, get crunk, east side nigga Uh get crunk, mother****er, get crunk, west side nigga Uh get crunk, mother****er, get crunk, north side nigga…”

    Knowing that the trespasser in its territory was most likely a large female but hoping against hope that it would deem itself worthy for mating, the Threnody bounded off into the darkness just as a truck emerged from the swirling sand.

    “What the hell…?” Vaughan whispered as a terrible roar reached his ears over the engine and the blaring music. He turned to look at Brandis who was staring wide-eyed and open mouthed out the front window.

    “Brake!” He cried when he saw something emerge from the swirling dust.

    Vaughan ignored his passenger’s advice and gunned the engine. Half a second later he glimpsed a reptilian animal charging blindly into their headlights before it disappeared underneath the truck with a meaty thud that shook the cabin violently. Still, despite the collision with a hundred and fifty pound creature made entirely of steely muscle and toughened bone, the truck continued uncaringly on into the dusty night.

    “Truck beats bug.” He said obviously satisfied with the crushing of the plateaus’ wildlife.

    Brandis glanced over to his chaos worshipping driver. “You’re an idiot.” He spoke whilst shaking his head.
    Though relatively unscathed by the impact the truck did not continue for soon after crushing the animal a long and terrible wail of pain reached their ears from beneath their leather seats. The two men exchanged knowing glances and with a sigh Vaughan brought the truck to a halt. He shut off the engine and pocketed the keys. Brandis fished a flashlight from the passenger compartment exited. Clutching a high powered assault rifle close to his chest Vaughan stepped out of the warm cabin and into the chilly night.

    Outside Vaughan took a few steps and found himself alone in the endless expanse. The truck that was barely two feet from him was nearly obscured by the grains of sand carried by bitterly cold winds. He took a hand from the barrel of his rifle and covered his eyes as a beam of light burst into life and illuminated his feet.

    “Is it down there?” Vaughan asked knowing full well the answer. The creature was mewling and growling like crazy and showed no sign of letting up. Setting his rifle against the truck Vaughan knelt down and peered underneath the truck. Brandis stared back at him whilst trying to doge a wickedly shaped claw that kicked out at him every few seconds.

    “Looks like one of its claws is stuck up in there.” He grunted as he tapped the creature’s scaly hide. “I’ll put a round in its dome and we can pull it out.” He finished as he pulled out his piece and leveled it at the creature’s crying maw.

    “Wait, stop.” Vaughan started. “You can’t kill it.”

    Brandis rolled his eyes. “Why not, Vaughan?”

    “Cause you can’t.” He replied impertinently as he tried to determine how to best dislodge the Threnody without endangering himself.

    The creature’s front right limb was caught in the top of the engine. Deftly he lowered himself on his belly and crawled underneath the car. Brandis scoffed at the suicidal behavior, ‘when it bites off your damn face’ he muttered. Vaughan ignored him and stopped just outside the creatures reach. The Threnody had ceased its cries of pain and reverted to threatening growls when it realized something large was bearing down upon it. I’ll have to be careful, he thought as he reached out for the limb. Just because he didn’t feel like killing the creature didn’t mean he wanted to afford the creature a chance to kill him. Cautiously he extended his hand, pulling it back as the Threnody lashed out with its sickle claw and then reaching forth to apprehend the attacking limb. The night was cold but sweat still ran down Vaughan’s neck.

    “Alright I got one of its legs.” He announced.

    The leg, steely and long thrashed violently in his grip and the canine head made deep rumblings, threats of harm to come. Keeping his grip on the other leg firm he reached out to take hold the other as Brandis moved to secure the main body. Gently, Vaughan tugged on the stuck leg and much too both men’s surprise the limb came free. The threnody realizing that it had use of its limb again lashed out at Vaughan causing him to release his hold while he pushed himself back with his arms. The creature let out a vicious roar and dragged Brandis underneath the car until he was forced to let go. The Threnody howled again and began clawing its way out from underneath the car, straight towards Vaughan.

    “Now you can shoot it!” He cried as he felt dagger like claws dig into his back.


    “…and that’s why we don’t **** around with animals.” Brandis spoke wryly.
    Vaughan was too busy steadying himself in the bouncing vehicle and bandaging his back with white gauze pads to pay the Nord any mind. Deep gouges had been dug out of his back when the creature ran over him and though he wasn’t about to tell his asshole squad mate part of his ass had been…damaged. Earlier back under the truck he’d thought his life was about to end in one of the more messily ways possible. He imagined the creature’s teeth bearing down on his skull, crushing it whilst straining to remove it from the rest of his body. Fortunately the creature seemed uninterested in fighting two wildly shouting human beings and had instead crawled rapidly over him before disappearing into the night. Silently he muttered a prayer of thanks to Tzneetch for having allowed him to witness another morning.

    “I mean there’s just something generally wrong about trying to rescue the dominant predator on the planet…” Brandis continued.

    That was perhaps speaking too soon, he realized. Morning was still several hours off and the Lord of Change was nothing if not capricious. Silently he added an oath to not put himself in harm’s way any more than was necessary. Thinking of his chaotic patrons he inadvertently reached up to caress the tender flesh where his eight-pointed star had once been. He resented being forced to remove the tattoo but understood the reasoning behind it. After all it wouldn’t do anyone any good if the Space Marines, holy though they may be, were to find out there were chaos worshippers in the ranks of Zmey чорний. Actually he was the only chaos worshipper, so far as he knew, as his sincere attempts at introducing others to his beliefs generally ended up with his sanity being questioned. Such was the life of a true believer.

    It was Cyrillic who’d ordered his mark removed; the day after Sven had bombed the Marine’s camp. He’d managed to put the deed off for a good while and it wasn’t until just after Irminsul that Naves had taken a scalpel to his face and removed the tattoo. Personally he’d been hoping to dig up a cosmetic surgeon to do the job but two months later Cyrillic felt he’d been disobeyed and decided punishment was in order. For three hours Naves had stood over him, his face inches from his, gently slicing away. Truthfully Vaughan hadn’t minded the proximity of the guy so much, despite that he was gay, as he did the removal of his sacred icon. That had been a gift from Brother-Larago of the chaos legions in recognition for saving his life, so many years ago, long before his conscription into Zmey чорний, back when he was proudly serving the legions of chaos. Fortunately he’d not been forced to be rid of the flesh itself and he kept it in a tiny leather-bound satchel at his waist.

    “Vaughan, shit for brains, you listening to me?”

    “What?” He said awakening from his reverie.

    “Where the **** are we headed?”

    Vaughan paused in his bandaging to pick up a glowing GPS device that was lying on the cabin floor. His back ached as he reached down and streams of blood trickled from the animal’s gouges. He pressed a few buttons and the screen zoomed in on a grid that showed a single building out in the midst of nowhere. He scrolled down a few grids and located a fast moving vehicle speeding upwards. Between the truck and the building there weren’t that many grids left.

    “Seer. Old man Bonnaro.” He said setting the GPS on the dashboard.

    “Who the **** is that?”

    “Seer, he predicts the future and shit.”

    “What do we need him for?”

    Vaughan shifted in his seat to better regard his driver. “Cyrillic didn’t tell you?”

    Brandis shook his head. “Nah he told me to pick you up and that you’d know all the details. Told me to listen to you and we’d be good.”

    “Really, he said that?” Vaughan asked, slightly confused his bitch of an overseer had praised him.



    A tiny ping emanated from the GPS device and Vaughan picked it back up. He consulted the glowing screen to see that the two objects were in the same grid and was fast closing. Only a few hundred feet left separating the two. Brandis glanced over and Vaughan motioned for him to keep driving. He nodded and Vaughan felt the engine lurch a little as it sped up. Forgetting his wounds, past and present, Vaughan pulled his black blouse over his bare body and took hold his rifle. Deftly he checked that the weapon was loaded and ready and seeing that it was, attached a sling and threw it over his shoulder. Just as he finished Brandis brought the truck to a sudden halt, jolting both men a few inches off their seats. The truck skidded over the uppermost layer of dirt before coming to a halt in front of an abandoned house.

    “This it?” Brandis asked.

    Vaughan nodded his head and switched the safety off.

    “Anything I should know about?”

    “Just follow my lead.”

    Vaughan stepped out of the car for the second time that night and gazed up at the dark figure that loomed above him. The figure was an office building, originally constructed by Connex as a workplace for upper management types who were to oversee, officially, the construction of roads that were supposedly soon to follow. The two men had driven along those roads which had come up about thirty miles short of their destination. Unofficially however, the place had been a front for an R&D lab that had the Mechanicus discovered it, if of course they ever came back to Kiev, would have thrown a serious fit over. Hundreds of meters beneath the surface Connex had been dabbling in AI research and it was rumored, discovered several interesting facts about the so called ‘machine spirit’. Fortunately for the Mechanicus research had abruptly stopped back in 55 and the building was abandoned. Now seventy years and dusty abuse later the three story Connex research lab was in disrepair. Every window had been shattered, the entrance doors knocked down, and the halls unlit. Below the surface however the labs were probably in the same state as they had been when first abandoned but no one knew how to access the vaults that led down to them. Few actually knew this of course, Zmey чорний and by extension Vaughan and Brandis, who were not around during a time when companies weren’t state run, least of all. Fortunately the two men’s duties didn’t require them to travel into the AI’s realm. Their quarry was upstairs.

    Vaughan heard footsteps and turned to see Brandis had joined him at his side. Like him he was garbed in black fatigues and his rifle hung from a similarly black strap. The baby-faced Nord looked at him, winked and began walking towards the building. Vaughan listened to the sound of boots scuffling against dirt for a few seconds and then hurried to join him.

    The two men stepped cautiously through the frames of the broken glass doors, rifles at the ready and into the lobby. The place was almost pitch black but Vaughan could just make out a reception desk and to the right of that a flight of stairs that would take them upwards. With quick hand gestures he instructed Brandis to head up them. He complied swiveling his rifle round and making for the stairs as silently as possible. Stealth was of the essence for if any meandering animals of the predatory kind were around they’d not want to alert it to their presence. Hindering them was the floor covered in debris but both were trained in night movement and they managed to cross the floor with a minimum of noise.

    Vaughan found the dark unsettling. As he climbed the stairs he fancied he could hear the sharp clicking of a Threnody claw against concrete. Sweat poured down his neck and he uttered a prayer to Khorne that his reflexes be quick and his aim true. Had one of those reptilian animals broken in and devoured Bonnaro? He couldn’t be sure so he continued on. They continued their ascent until they reached a broken door hanging off its hinges that allowed access to the third floor. By then the clicking sound, while still barely audible, seemed to beat like wild drums in both men’s ears. Slowly Vaughan motioned for Brandis to get behind him and the Nord happily complied. Mustering every bit of composure he could Vaughan stepped through the doorway and into an office proper. He strained his eyes barely making out the vertical forms of columns and a few tables scattered around.

    Vaughan heard air exhale and he glared back at Brandis. The Nord gestured his apologies and letting out a silent breath he delved deeper into the room. Shadows formed and the clicking grew louder as he went in. Then Vaughan’s boot made the slightest of crunches and the clicking stopped. Both men froze, unwilling to move lest they give away their position completely. For several agonizingly long seconds the two listened for the tell-tale click. Once those few seconds of agony had passed Vaughan risked moving his head. Off to his left was the outline of a door and to the right was open space. In front of them led to the shattered windows that should a Threnody give chase they could jump out of.

    Vaughan heard a whisper, near non-existent. “Here?” Brandis asked.

    He nodded his head when a voice deep and relatively ear shattering spoke, “The Null Kin-



    The deserted office lit up as both men unloaded their rifles into the room from whence the noise came. A terrible scream erupted as ferrocrete walls exploded in great showers of gravel as they continued to fire until their rifles were empty.

    Click. Click. Click.

    Vaughan realized his rifle was empty and lowered it.

    “Flashlight.” He spat as quickly as his heart beat.

    Brandis fished the object out of his pocket and turned it on bathing their latest act of violence in intense white light. The walls were completely destroyed and a man who’d apparently been sitting cross-legged on the floor was perforated.

    “He’s a seer?” Brandis asked as he walked up to Vaughan.

    “Yeah.” He confirmed.

    Brandis looked over at him, his breathing still in the hyperventilating stage. “Think he saw that coming?”
    “Doesn’t look like-

    Suddenly the corpse spat up blood. Bonnaro was still alive! But for how long Vaughan thought as he rushed to the seer’s side. Brandis remained where he was.

    “Bonnaro!” Vaughan cried. “Shit we’re sorry we thought you were a ****ing Threnody.” He put his hand on the seer’s bloody chest.

    “Don’t ****ing touch me!” Bonnaro cried.

    Vaughan immediately pulled his hand back. “Sorry.”

    “You…****ing shot…me!” The seer managed.

    “**** Bonnaro you came out of nowhere!” He retorted.

    “I was sitting on the ****ing ground!” He cried. “Oh shit I’m dying.”

    ‘No wonder you’re a seer.’ Brandis thought but didn’t say.

    Vaughan looked down at the Seer’s bullet ridden body and knew the man’s words would be close to his last. He just had to make sure his last words told him the location of the sword.

    “Bonnaro I know and I’m sorry but listen, man I have to know, where’s the sword?”

    “**** you!” The seer replied.

    “Bonnaro I need to know! This shit is extremely, very, super ****ing important and I need to know where the goddamn sword is!” Vaughan exclaimed.

    Even in his near death state Bonnaro could see the rage in the blank’s dark eyes. Mustering the last of his will he lifted his hand and pointed towards a leather satchel hanging on a broken desk before it collapsed and he shut his blind eyes forever. Vaughan gave his thanks to the dead seer and uttered a prayer to Khorne that he might claim his blood and his skull. As he did he remembered his prayer of heightened reflexes and thinking better of it committed the man’s soul to Slaanesh in the hopes she’d take him into her loving embrace. The dead taken care of Vaughan went to the table and retrieved the satchel. He opened it to find it filled with maps and other documents. He snatched the flashlight from Brandis and leafed through them until he found what he was looking for; a grid map titled Roland that revealed the location of the sword. As it were it was to the west of them in the small town of Jeer, almost a hundred miles away.

    Having determined the location of the sword Vaughan packed the map and documents away and swung the satchel over his shoulder. He stood up and turned to leave Brandis in tow. They stepped out of the room and into the office proper when they heard a tell-tale click of claw against concrete. Both men looked at each other and Vaughan flashed the light against Bonnaro; his hands were empty. Slowly the light crept towards the third floor entrance. Standing in the door way was a massive Threnody, its massive jaw slightly open revealing massive teeth as long as Brandis’ hand. In unison they brought their rifles up and pulled the trigger.
    Click. Click.

    “Forgot…to…reload.” Brandis muttered.

    Click. The Threnodies claw nicked the concrete.

    Vaughan stared at the creature, his every muscle tensed. “THREE!” He screamed as he dashed for the window exit. The Threnody let out a tooth rattling roar as it set off. Brandis seeing his comrade leaving sprinted after him. Behind him the Threnody was giving chase and already it had halved the distance between them. The reptile let out another roar and Brandis ran faster, he could feel hot breath against his back. Only a few more feet he told himself.

    The Threnody knew it was in range of it prey and opened its dagger laced maw. It lunged forward snapping its jaw shut just as the food thing disappeared from in front of it. The beast it was hunting let out a terrible wail and it became aware that cool air was racing across its skin. With a loud crunch the Threnody hit the ground below.
    Brandis saw the creature land on the ground close beside him but didn’t wait for it to regain its bearings. His body hurt from the fall but he paid the pain no mind and as fast as his legs could take him he dashed around the side of the building and after Vaughan who was already close to the truck.

    “What the **** happened to one and ****ing two!” He called after the chaos worshipper as he watched him board and start the truck.

    “Just hurry the **** up!” Vaughan screamed back.

    Brandis risked looking back and saw that the Threnody had recovered itself. For one second their eyes locked and both knew the hunt wasn’t going to end until one of them was dead. Then with a beloved jarring he crashed into the side of the truck. He collapsed but only momentarily as he realized the Threnody was again closing the distance between them.

    “Get the **** in!” Vaughan urged.

    Not needing any more encouragement Brandis shot up, ran round to the passenger side, and threw himself in the truck. Vaughan watched his comrade board and once he’d made it half-way in he put the vehicle in reverse and slammed on the gas. The truck lurched backwards just as the Threnody jumped on top of the hood. The front of the truck sank low at the beast’s weight.

    “Oh shit!” Vaughan screamed as he threw himself into the back of the truck just as the Threnody’s massive head crashed through the windshield. Barely a foot away from the toothy snout Brandis screamed and pissed himself. Fortunately the Threnody was too intent on Vaughan to pay the screaming man any notice and with a violent grunt of effort it tried to force its way through the cracked windshield. Vaughan who was frantically reloading his rifle watched in horror as the roof began to peel back towards him. The Threnody let out a roar and Vaughan leveled his rifle at the beast and open fired. 5x56 rounds impacted the creature’s skin and it flinched back momentarily giving Vaughan time to dismount the vehicle. Brandis who saw what Vaughan was doing threw himself out of the car and reloaded. Together the two of them pumped round after round into the creature’s scaly body. The Threnody tried for both of them but it was firmly stuck in the frame of the car and after the third magazine was emptied directly into its head it finally expired.

    Breathing hard Brandis turned to Vaughan. “See? That’s what happens when you save wildlife, they try to ****ing eat you. So the next time you see a ****ing bunny hopping around, run the ****er over.”


    “two, one two three four Ev'rybody's talking about Bagism, Madism, Dragism, Shagism, Ragism, Tagism
    This-ism, that-ism ism ism ism All we are saying is give peace a chance All we are saying is give peace a chance…”
    Vaughan beat his hand against the side of the truck in time with the music playing on the stereo. Behind them the sun was rising and he gave thanks to Tzneetch for allowing him to see the rising star even if it was obscured by dark gray clouds. Cool wind blew through his short hair and he glanced over to Brandis who was silently contemplating whatever a Nord like Brandis would contemplate while he drove. Between the two of them rested the massive corpse of the Threnody. Ironically the creature, dead, had been too much trouble than the live one had. Of course the infant hadn’t weighed two tons. Following in the great wisdom of the scholam of ‘**** its’ the two had left the corpse where it had died; and bled profusely over the seats, cabin floor, and anything else that might become stained. Dark blood sloshed around his boots as the truck bounded over the rough terrain.

    “…its goin' great Everybody's talkin' bout'ministers, sinisters, banisters and canisters, bishops and fishops and rabbis and pop eyes, and byebye, byebyes…”

    Vaughan glanced down at the satchel that rested in his pack and pulled out the map titled Roland. According to Roland the location of the sword was hidden in the sanctuary of a tiny chapel built over Xenos ruins. According to Cyrillic the sword was Xenos in nature as well, Eldar specifically. How he knew this was beyond him but he’d been told he’d know it when he saw it. The city that supposedly housed the chapel, Jeer, was still far off and he let out a long sigh as he rested his head against the twisted frame and fell asleep.

    Whizz…Thunk! Ping!

    Vaughan awoke to screaming. Visibly upset that his sleep was disturbed he glanced over to Brandis who had his head ducked beneath the steering wheel and was shouting obscenities at somebody. In his lap was Roland. The car swerved to the left and Vaughan was thrown against the door. The dead Threnody went with him and momentarily pinned him until the vehicle corrected itself.

    “The hell’s going on?” He asked just as a las shot struck the vehicles frame and showered him in sparks.

    “Now you’re ****ing awake! We’ve been under fire for five ****ing minutes!” Brandis screamed back.

    “What?” Vaughan said still disoriented.

    “We’re in the city and we’re under ****ing fire!” Brandis cried as more las shots impacted the vehicle and the meaty form of the Threnody.

    Vaughan looked outside his nonexistent window to find that they were indeed in the town of Jeer. Unconsciously he was disappointed at the size of the place. The town consisted of one single block, the center of which was a small park shaped like a square. To the South a road ran long a strip mall and to the east were a series of abandoned townhouses. Off to the west there were a few state oriented buildings, a post office, power generators and the like. Off to the North, in front of them, was a chapel, worn and faded. Parked in front of the entrance were several vehicles behind which perhaps a dozen armed men were firing at them. He also noticed with some alarm that they were driving, at a dangerous speed, directly towards them.

    “Brandis!” He shouted as their attacker’s cars grew large in the broken windshield. He could see darting forms behind the cars.

    “Hold on!” Brandis cried.

    A moment later the truck crashed through the blockade and burst through the chapel doors.

    Dust filled the air and Vaughan coughed on it as he stumbled from the truck. Blood ran freely from a large gnash on his head. His mind was reeling from the impact and his ears were ringing but he could still hear angry voices from outside the chapel. One of them rang closer than the rest and Vaughan looked up to see a man staggering towards him between pews. The man wore the bright colors of a Slaanesh cult and the brand upon his cheek confirmed it. In his arms the he cradled a tightly wrapped bundle from the tip of which protruded a glinting edge. The sword! He realized with a start. The man looked up to regard him and his mouth dropped just before Vaughan put a bullet in it.
    Gunfire began to ripple through the chapel.

    “Brandis we’ve got the sword!” Vaughan called out.

    “What already?” He called back from the other side of the truck.

    Vaughan ran over to the man and knelt beside him. Quickly he unwrapped the cloth and found an insanely exquisite sword the likes of which he’d never seen. It was also one of the bigger swords he’d ever seen. A pair of las shots screamed through the chapel and hit the broken altar at the front and Vaughan looked to see the Slaanesh worshippers trying to storm the chapel. Forgetting the elegant sword he leveled his rifle at the entrance and switched it to full auto.


    The chapel was filled with the sound of gunfire. Vaughan’s first burst felled two men who collapsed limply to the floor. A shotgun round tore apart the pew in front of him, sending splinters deep into his chest and Vaughan fell to the ground. He crawled a few feet to the right and popped back up letting loose another burst at the entrance. As he did a body flung itself back into the cover of the entrance. Vaughan waited a moment for the target to reappear and when it did he put a bullet in the man’s chest that exploded his head.

    “Oh ****!” Vaughan heard Brandis scream as a round object floated through the doorway. He heard the metallic object hit the ground with a high pitched ping! A half-second before he watched the same object fly back out the door.

    The grenade exploded half-way through the entrance in a hail of broken rock and splintered wood. For the second time in five minutes the chapel was choked with dust.

    “Get in the truck! Get in the ****ing truck!” Vaughan heard Brandis screamed.

    Vaughan turned and grabbed the sword, cloth and all and bounded for the battered truck. He jumped in just as the truck roared back into life. Beside him Brandis put the truck in reverse and slammed on the gas. The truck lurched backwards through the chapel doors and out into the daylight again. On both sides of the truck men were recuperating from the blast though an unlucky few who had been caught directly in it were scattered around the chapel’s porch. One man who lay on the ground managed to pull out his rifle and let loose a round that punctured the car door and ripped across Vaughan’s thigh. He responded by letting loose a burst into the man’s colorful chest.
    Vaughan felt the truck shudder one more time as Brandis crashed it into the back of another vehicle before pulling onto the street and driving off. Stray rounds harassed them as they left the town and Brandis was hit in the shoulder as he drove but once they left it seemed that the Slaanesh worshippers weren’t going to pursue. Vaughan muttered a prayer of thanks for that too. Breathing a sigh of relief he glanced over at Brandis who despite his smoking shoulder was grinning wildly.

    “Badass I tell ya! Badass!” He declared as he slammed his foot on the gas and the truck sped forwards.

    Vaughan couldn’t bring himself to disagree and he leaned back in his bullet ridden seat. Letting out a long sigh he unwrapped the bundle in his lap and ran his fingers across the smooth blade.

    Brandis who was looking over asked, “So why the hell does Cyrillic need that?”

    “It’s a gift.” Vaughan replied. “For future allies.” At that he rewrapped the bundle and rested his hands upon it.


    Catherine glanced over to Cyrillic hoping to get some confirmation as to the authenticity of the two men’s story. Alas all she got was a weary shake of the head and an oath of truth from Brandis. True they did have the sword in their possession and they were pretty beat up but that could have happened in any manner of ways.

    Suddenly she wished she’d brought Жалость along to keep her company and she excused herself quietly before getting up off the pew and heading towards the stairwell. She quickly hopped down the stairs and as she made for the doors spared a glance down the main aisle. The place was filling up, hundreds of faces had turned to thousands and even more were showing up every few minutes. Apparently they’d arrived very early. With a grin she turned from the aisle and bounded towards the doorway, brushing past several black clad men as they were entering. Once outside she walked over to the parked Mikazi and opened the door. Жалость, her reptilian pet scrambled out and began nipping at her thigh.

    “Cut it out.” She spoke as she flicked its head and knelt down. “Come on you’re going to keep me company.”


    Жалость followed the blood screamer up the stony stairs and through the wide entrance. He snorted his displeasure as he realized he was attracting some of the taller creature’s attentions but the blood screamer urged him onwards. He followed hesitantly at first and then when he realized nothing was going to maul him he relaxed. He gazed round taking in the unusual gathering of the two-legged animals and sniffed the air. There was a myriad of smells to be had mostly of sweat but there was one that stood out from all the others. Жалость sniffed the air once more and let out a slight growl before running off down an aisle and up a flight of narrow stairs. Claws dug up wood as it tore through the confines and emerged onto another floor. He spotted his prey that was busy conversing with another of its kind and he charged letting out a bestial roar before clamping its jaws around his attacker’s leg.

    “Ah What the ****!” Vaughan cried as the infant Threnody took its revenge.

    The Discussions

    Siloden stood atop the jagged edge of the Chaste, helm in his hands, his hands cupped before him. Looking out he could see the world burning as the black grass around the ship was put to the torch. At the bottom of his vision a Volcano cannon dangled from thousands of cables out of its port. Two hundred meters below, the Marines of the Dread Angels Chapter bustled about, performing menial tasks not fit for an Astartes. Something would have to be done about that. No matter that the work was degrading his Marines still conducted themselves as was to be expected from the Emperor’s finest; no griping, no complaints. Already the broken form of the Chaste had been fortified with heavy emplacements connected by miles of trench work. Within that perimeter several makeshift chapels dually serving as barracks had been constructed as well as a motor pool that housed their three remaining Rhino transports and a duo of land speeders. One of the Rhino’s had sustained damage during the initial assault almost three months prior and Tech-Marines had been working round the clock to ease the transport’s machine spirit whilst replacing damaged treads and armor plating.

    A cold wind caressed his skin and he looked up to see flakes of snow wafting lazily down from the bright gray skies above. He stood there watching the flakes spiral paths, forgetting for one moment that the world around him was a seething hell and enjoying the serenity of the scene. A part of him knew that flurries were only the beginning, that soon the entire world would be covered in a pure white blanket of snow. Siloden smiled inwardly as he imagined himself for one second back on Terri. Then the first of the icy flakes landed upon his bare head and a burning sensation erupted cruelly informing him that the flakes were radioactive. Was there anything not corrupted on this throne-forsaken planet?

    “My Lord,” Brother-Gie began, “it is time.”

    The Chapter Master turned ever so slightly to regard his fellow Brother and inwardly growled his irritation. Not an hour before an emissary of the PDF had presented to him a summons by a Brigadier General of the name of Nigel Hephris. The scroll was blunt to say the least; travel to Linthicum, the Irminsul building for a briefing on the current political status, now. He’d read the scroll silently and when he’d finished crumpled it in his hand and shattered the woman’s jaw before pledging to attend. How quickly the Generals had forgotten that the Dread Angels had been butchering their ranks, he thought. Impertinent though the demand might be he was not about to forget that the remains of his chapter were very much at the mercy of the political whims of the world. His Chapter while able to boast being one of the greatest military powers on the world were still vulnerable should any two other powers decide to unite against them. Those powers being the PDF and the shadowy daemon hunters he’d thrown his lot in with.

    He let out a groan as he thought of them. True they’d most likely saved his chapter from defeat by attacking Irminsul and supplying them with their distasteful weapons but not a week ago they’d retreated to some obscure hiding place to convene over their leader’s unexpected death, dashing in the process any hope of a quick securing of Linthicum. As close as they were to achieving their goal their withdrawal had been surprising, to Siloden at least though, they did have the foresight to leave a two hundred man detachment to oversee their interests. Still it would not be enough to enforce anything save a small modicum of order and even that had been threatened by the power vacuum that spawned during their initial withdrawal. For the last week the hasty alliance forged during the battle of Linthicum had been strained as rioters, insurrectionists, and even the odd pocket of cultists surfaced to bring anarchy across the city. Siloden mused on his summons again, wondering if he’d been called in the hopes that the presence of Space Marines might quell such activities. The thought amused him but he didn’t smile, how could he, he thought, when his chapter had been brought so low?

    Siloden made a fist as he thought of the dishonor he’d brought to his Chapter. How could he have been so brash as to simply disregard caution, to plow headlong into unknown danger? But then how could he have known? Who would have guessed that their ships would have crashed on this world? Who could have predicted Ikozy’s betrayal and the subsequent war, Lakis hadn’t and if he could not, than no one save the divine Emperor could.

    ‘Lakis’, he wondered aloud, ‘why didn’t you see this?’

    “My Lord?” Brother-Gie asked.

    Siloden turned, “Nothing Brother. Let us go.” He said before leaving the ledge.


    One week ago…

    Catherine watched as a wiry thin man jogged up to the well-lit stage. He approached the podium cleared his throat and addressed the assembled. “Recruitment.” He started. “We lost a lot of men; we need more, so we’re going back to the labs.”

    The Cathedral shook as hundreds of men gave voice their discontent.

    “No one even knows where they are!” Shouted a man in the front pew.

    “Parse ran those and he’s dead! How the **** are we…” Another added.

    “How the hell do we get the money to operate those things?”

    Жалость whimpered and tried to bury its head deeper into Catherine’s lap as the noise in the Cathedral grew to a deafening roar. Without looking down she ran her hand over the creature’s head soothingly as she listened. The fat Nord beside her spared the creature a warm glance before returning his attentions to the arguing below. Lijew had shown up just as the meeting began huffing apologies, smiling deeply, covered in dirt and smelling of cheap perfume. Catherine wondered how that combination had come about but quickly dismissed the idea not particularly wanting to know.

    The meeting had been going on like this for several hours now; a random person would take to the podium and address an issue. Generally the person already had a remedy to the problem and all that was left was to delegate it and hope that a unit would volunteer to carry the task out. In between the presenting and the volunteering there would always be shouting and the slamming of fists as other men shot the solution down or countered with one of their own. A few times people had come to blows but fights had been broken up in quick order so that the proceedings could continue.

    Earlier a man by the name of Hash had spoken of securing the two towns to the North, Jeer and Rostok. He reasoned that by clearing both towns not only would they gain public support for removing the taint of Chaos they’d also gain two new bases of operation and who knows how many weapon caches and vehicles. The attack might even win favor with the newly appointed Cardinal, the predecessor of which had been killed at Irminsul. The cost in manpower and supplies should be low if the fighting capabilities displayed by the cultists in Linthicum were anything to go by. The proposal was received warmly by the ranks though a few, mostly the younger ones Catherine noted, asked rather loudly and belligerently why Apostlin couldn’t be used for those same purposes. Those few who’d spoken up were very quickly shut up and when it looked as if she was about to say something Cyrillic and Naves had both simultaneously glared at her.

    Once Epistle, the heavily tattooed man she’d spoken to downstairs, took the stage. He spoke calmly of the tenuous situation with the PDF and how at any time they were liable to turn on them. Calmly he’d explained that Nigel Hephris, head of the military should be assassinated. He had more than a few ideas on how to pull the hit off; attacking the general’s motorcade, bombing his home, poisoning his food or drink. Whichever method was used he stressed the importance of having the blame fall on one of the newly arisen factions and not leaving the murder a mystery that needed solving. He reasoned they could abduct a few people from hostile factions and force them to the task. When the assassination was in progress they or more believably the PDF could swoop in and kill the assassins just in time to discover that the general had been mortally wounded with a bullet to the chest.

    The assassination would open up new doors to the organization as well. Few people had the balls Hephris had and any replacement was bound to be far more timid when it came to militant policy. Who knew, with the backing of the Astartes they could force one their own in, perhaps not as a successor but definitely as an advisor. The position wouldn’t be much but it would be a foot in the door. From there they could take on more peaceful and far less risky approaches to their goal, which no one should mistake, had not changed. They were a part of the world again and they were going to have to at least appear to play by their rules if they didn’t want to get completely annihilated. As he talked silence gripped the Cathedral and Catherine could tell that the man held the respect of the entire organization. When he finished there was no time for volunteering, he simply uttered who he wanted to carry the task out to meet him afterwards and walked off stage. As it were an unlucky man by the name of Jorgenson won the honor. Catherine wondered pitied the man for being caught up in the mess. Even she knew that in an operation like that if they ****ed up they were all irrevocably dead.

    The speakers jerry-rigged up on the high walls boomed and Catherine gazed back towards the center stage.

    “If by some miracle we find the labs how the hell are we supposed to gain access? How do we power them? Who’s going to run the tanks?” A man shouted.

    “One thing at a time Patrick. It’s not like time isn’t on our side. Everyone’s busy pissing themselves about this and that and who’s going to notice us diggin around some old city?” A tall man

    The man, Patrick, replied with restrained anger, “I don’t know, maybe the PDF, maybe the Astartes, maybe one of those insurrectionist groups down South or up North or East or ****ing West. I don’t know but we can’t be seen having a second agenda. It has to be us taking care of the world’s problems and the world seeing that. Right now the only reason we aren’t being branded as rebels and what not are the Astartes and we don’t know how much longer they’ll be on our side...”

    Suddenly Cyrillic shot up from his seat and yelled to gain the Cathedral’s attention. Since there were a few dozen others already shouting it took him a few minutes.

    “I have a way to rectify that.” He said when he finally got a chance to speak.

    “Talk to me Harry? What’ve you got?” The wiry man asked.

    “A sword, its Eldar.” He announced. “Mathias wanted a gift for the Astartes, as a gesture of friendship. I say all things considered it’s not a bad idea.”

    A voice from the crowds cried incredulity. “You want us to bribe the Astartes?” It asked.

    “We’re not bribing them it’s a gift, allies regularly exchange gifts. Let’s the other know we’re still with them.” Another voice chided.

    “Correct.” Cyrillic agreed. “Just waltz up to them with a bit of ceremony and present their boss with the sword. Quick, easy, painless.”


    Colonel Jinsk leaned back nervously in his chair as he let the question hang in the air. Gathered in the conference room around him sitting at a circular table were the most powerful men and women on the planet. To his left was Lord Nigel Hephris, commander of the PDF armies. Dressed for the occasion in his finest military dress, an all-white uniform adorned with dozens of ribbons and medals. A gold sash was thrown over his shoulder. The man rested his bony hands on the table and stared bleakly across its marble expanse at the Space Marine commander who stood as if made of stone.
    On the table were dozens of vanilla colored folders filled to the breaking point with reports, statistics, photos, and other informational nomenclature.
    Sitting nervously next to him was the newly appointed Cardinal Robin Frost, an off-worlder who’d been selected for the position after the preceding one, along with his entire retinue and staff, were gunned down in the assault on Irminsul. A flood of guilt ran through Jinsk as he remembered his pledge of servitude to the scythe wielding man. No matter that the foul worshippers of Chaos were attacking the city; the massacre at Irminsul was unforgiveable. Hundreds of innocent men and women murdered in cold-blood and for what? To cull the best and brightest so that the transition to power would be that much easier, that’s why.
    Jinsk took a cleansing breath as he realized the Cardinal was staring at him. He managed a warm smile and the woman returned it. He reckoned the Cardinal an attractive woman though not nearly beautiful. Still she made him conscious of his own extensive girth and despite the gravity of their situation he wished he’d spent more time at the gym. The modest crimson robes of her station left much to the imagination and if it wasn’t for her flowing red hair he might have mistaken her for a man. The twitch in her leg told him he she was as nervous as he was. He felt relief knowing he wasn’t the only one about to piss his pants. Their gaze was broken when one of the servants, standing inconspicuously in the back stepped up and presented a cup of tea which she sipped at gratefully.
    As glad as he was to have the woman there he recognized that there wasn’t a need for her presence. Not only her but a few others as well. The twin figures of Colonel Prisc and Colonel Rienne who flanked the general on either side were far from necessary. Inwardly he realized this made his own presence excessive but he was grateful for the seat anyways. Military precedence, Jinsk reasoned, no other reason there’d be so much brass in one place. Other than the Cardinal there were only two other civilians. The first was Jules Callap, the final surviving member of Ikozy’s albeit small, cabinet. That position made him suspect at best, contemptible and very likely to be hung at worst. Still voices of power had insisted he be there if only to confirm the factuality of certain claims and provide testimony. Suitably the young man sulked in his seat only speaking when he was asked a question.
    The second civilian, Kyrre Ulinsk cleared his throat and began, “There are times ahead of us that if we are not careful will see ourselves and everything around us dead. To the North insurrectionists, aligned with the Chaos cult, are plotting are downfall as we speak. These psychopaths…loners really, aren’t in a position to do anything but harry our forces. To the West is the cult itself which I don’t think I have to tell anyone is probably massing for another assault. Numbers are sketchy and we can only assume that their lair is, as is so often with these…people, underground. Considering the surprise attack I’m sure we can also safely assume they have tunnels which lead here.”
    Colonel Jinsk began to stand intent on speaking but he was cut-off as the man continued. “Knowing the nature of Chaos nothing is certain but chances are is that the surprise attack was more than likely that they’re reeling. As for your ship, we have confirmation, our own spaceport was overrun and the ships stolen. There’s no one left there save chopped up bodies. How they got past your ships? Well this place is known for having nuclear stockpiles just lying about, thank you Callap, I imagine they brought them on board the ship and then detonated when they came in contact with the shields. Bright side of this is that none of the cultists survived the crash either. If they had the manpower to take us out, well, there’d be a guy standing on this table his dick flapping in the wind screaming ‘blood for the blood God’.”
    The assembled men and women shifted uncomfortably in their seats at the mention of the unholy God. Jinsk noticed with alarm the Space Marine’s jaw as it clenched menacingly and his fists tighten. So far the Space Marine had remained silent, content to keep his own consul as others spoke. His grand entrance earlier had awed everyone into dumb silence, all save Ulinsk who’d apparently seen too much in his eighty-six years to be frightened by a nine foot god of death wielding a buzzing chain-axe. Be that as it may the rest, including himself, were suitably cowed. The Marine grimaced and he gave Ulinsk an approving nod. He’s probably glad to have at least one part of the puzzle.
    Ulinsk took a moment for the assembled to regain their composure before he continued. “Here at home there is unrest but the rioting has thankfully stopped. So long as we maintain a heavy military presence we can expect that unrest to dissipate or at least keep it from coming to a boil. We’ve been given a break ladies and gentlemen; I suggest we make the most of it.”
    Yoris Gray, the sole surviving member of the former administration and defense guru spoke next. “Well Mr. Ulinsk, considering you’re so well-versed in the affairs of our planet why don’t you…advise us as to how we should proceed.”
    Jinsk bit his lip at the comment. Ulinsk may have been an off-worlder but he was no stranger to backroom politics, combat, or the nightmare world of Kiev. After all he’d been a resident of Linthicum for the past sixty years. Jinsk thought the higher-ups would have gotten past that small detail or at least not take so much pride in being born on this dingy shit-hole. Sixty years…sixty years was more than enough time to hate the world like any true-born. Much to his relief if Ulinsk had taken note of the impertinent man’s insult, and someone like Ulinsk wouldn’t miss it, he made no show of it instead he loosened his collar and began anew.
    “Let me tell you about Black Dragon…”

    Four hours into the meeting the man standing upon the podium announced a twenty minute break and urged everyone to either stretch their legs, smoke or take a quick piss. As one almost 2500 men stood up, each groaning about some aspect of the meeting. Catherine nudged Жалость’s sleeping form off her lap as she stood and stretched her weary muscles. Lijew was too busy fumbling with a package of chips to stand and he remained rooted to his spot whilst munching contently on the food stuff.
    “You two,” Cyrillic said pointing at Vaughan and Brandis as they rose from their pews, “come with me.”
    “What’s up?” Brandis asked as they followed their leader down the narrow stairs.
    On the main floor hundreds of black-clad soldiers were filing out the Cathedral doors intent on answering nature’s vicious call. Cyrillic stopped short of the massive exodus and turned to herd his two charges into a corner.
    “We didn’t screw up did we?” Vaughan blurted nervously when he found himself cornered along with Brandis, Cyrillic looming over them.
    Cyrillic rolled his eyes, “Not yet,” He whispered, “You two remember the job about four months ago, the one you had a problem with?”
    Both men nodded. “The one with the Mar-
    “That’s the one.” Cyrillic interrupted. “There’s been a development with that. You know what it is?”
    Vaughan shook his head. “What?”
    “It never happened. We weren’t there, we don’t know what happened, that job never happened. Don’t talk about it to each other, don’t talk about it to your friends, don’t talk about it with the other units. We compartmentalize these things for a reason. However more than anything else and I can’t stress this part enough don’t talk about it with our little masochist. Understood?”
    “Yeah, we got it.” Vaughan said.
    “Good now get out of here.” Cyrillic ordered.
    The two went with puzzled thoughts and quickened gaits leaving Cyrillic alone amongst the masses. He caressed his brow with weary fingers. Across the room he caught Grace eying him dangerously through the crowds. Compartmentalized was right. Open as Mathias had been about delegating orders there had always been shadowy back-door meetings that none were privy to save him and whoever else was involved. Briefly he wondered if in some dark closet the order to take down the Marine’s strike cruiser had been issued but quickly shook the idea way. The Marine’s crashed ship had proven the death-blow for the coup. Instead of taking the fight to Linthicum as was expected they’d hunkered down at the crash site forcing them to form a hasty alliance with the PDF. Without the Marines keeping them busy the military had been able to move a sizeable force into the city, dashing any hopes of outside control.
    While the coup itself had failed a number of opportunities for advancement in Kiev society had presented themselves as a result. Officially, Ikozy and most of his cabinet had been put to death for consorting with cultists and attacking the Astartes. At least that’s what the majority of the populace believed. The evidence presented against him, with the benefit of being completely true, had been irrefutable to both factions and popularity had swung inevitably to the Marines and their allies. Cyrillic hadn’t found out until later but several heretical tomes, cleverly hidden within the governor’s office, had been discovered and subsequently handed over to a News agency who broadcasted a report to the world screaming the man’s taint. In truth the tomes weren’t Chaos but Xenos related. Fortunately the media wasn’t about to let that small detail get in the way of giving support to the Emperor’s finest in the hopes they’d not kill everyone in the city.
    Patrick was right. The only reason they weren’t being slaughtered to the man was for the favor they held with the Space Marines. An attack on an ally was just as much an attack on them. Of course that didn’t mean the military wasn’t planning their downfall. Even if they hadn’t been fighting each other at Linthicum they still had a long and bitter history. All it would take was for one piece of evidence linking them to any number of shadowy transactions, deals, or acquaintances and the Marines would sever their ties and everyone knew what would happen then. That was the reason Brandis and Vaughan couldn’t speak. If the girl were to ever find out what they’d done to her beloved chapter she’d flip and most likely turn homicidal. As he’d sat listening to the organization’s woes he realized almost everything they had was bent around keeping the support of the Astartes and sitting right next to him was one of the Chapter’s most fanatical followers, whether she’d admit at this point or not. If she were to ever find out their hand in the attack on the Astartes she’d most likely turn homicidal, right before she traveled to and informed her beloved chapter of their misdeeds.
    Problem was there was no guarantee she’d never find out. No sure way to insure that the information stayed secret and away from her. Save to kill everyone who knew about it. Or just kill her. Cyrillic ran his tongue over his lips. The girl was a decent killer, enthusiastic if not inexperienced. She got along well with the rest of the unit and followed orders better than most people he’d served with. None of that would matter if she were to discover the truth and knowing Brandis liked to boast of his feats when he was drunk, he might have a slip of the tongue while around her. Would he notice her coming up behind him and slitting his throat as he drank and sang? Who would stop her from stealing into the night to inform her former masters? That would be the end of Zmey чорний for sure. Surviving Mathias’ death wasn’t a maybe; decades of hiding out in the Wastes had taught them to be autonomous. Unit leaders would take it upon themselves to make stealthy forays into the realms of civilization, gathering supplies and abducting manpower.
    They would persevere; they’d see this dark chapter through. All this death was simply a return to how things had once been. Still, it wasn’t the same. They couldn’t go back into hiding and hope the world forgot about them as they’d done after Lazio’s death. Zmey чорний was out in the open again and this time their associates would be far more thorough in hunting them down. Secret asylum, a blessing they’d bargained with Goren, was out of the question. In this age there was no need for shadowy assassins or secret police. Of course even if there were no head of state would be insane enough to hire them. Though they were severely under strength the Astartes were far from the underdogs. True the PDF could break them in an all-out war but the cost in men and equipment would leave them open to attack from any number of secessionist factions that had sprung up in the outer towns. Not to mention the cult whose strength and whereabouts was unknown…
    A voice called out, “Cyrillic!” and he looked over to see Naves standing in the stairwell. “They’re starting.” The man finished.
    Cyrillic waved him off and realized his legs were stiff from standing. He cursed himself for having wasted his break standing up as he willed his numb limbs back into life. When he was sure he could walk without stumbling he climbed the narrow stairs and took his place next to Vaughan.
    “You were thinking pretty hard back there.” Lijew commented. “Care to tell me about what?”
    Cyrillic shook his head. The Nord simply grunted and turned his attentions to the speaker at the front of the Cathedral who was busy talking about ‘acquiring’ some of the militant factions that had sprung up in the south. The man proposed that since they were already insurrectionists they probably wouldn’t mind joining forces and in the chance that they proved reluctant to enlist, well brainwashing was a wonderful thing…
    Two pews in front of him Cyrillic frowned as he heard the growling of the girl’s pet predator. She was trouble he surmised as he watched her scratch the creature’s head lovingly. She sat awkwardly close to Naves with her arm slipped nonchalantly around his. There’s another reason, he mused, keeping the little harlot off of his men.
    Despite himself he couldn’t help but manage a smile born of irony. Of the thousands of men in Zmey чорний she’d picked the one who took it in the ass. Or gave it, admittedly he wasn’t entirely sure which. Judging by the way the girl looked at him chances were no one had bothered to tell her. Most people, those who’d been around since the beginning and knew his hard-earned reputation as a steady hand and a cool head, never mentioned the man’s sexuality. Personally he’d never cared, the man had fought alongside him since before Apostlin and he trusted the man with his life. Others, younger generations generally didn’t know and those that did would never confront him about it unless they were begging for the ass-whupping of their lives.
    A hand heavy and calloused tapped Cyrillic on his shoulder. “What is it?” Lijew persisted.
    He shifted uncomfortably in his seat and realized he was sweating. It’d do no one any good, especially the Nord, if he shared his forming plans. Still he couldn’t just keep it from Lijew that he was plotting to kill his friend.
    “Mind your own damn business.” He ordered.
    Lijew gave a final menacing glance before getting up and excusing himself. Cyrillic watched the man go and then turned his attentions back to the girl who was now resting her head against Nave’s shoulder. He grimaced, it was a pity but the girl would have to die. She was a liability and liabilities tended to bite people in the ass when they least expected it. In these times the last thing they needed was surprises.

    “Cultists?” The Space Marine spoke vehemently, his voice deep and foreboding. He could kill us all in an instant, Jinsk mused as he looked at the speaker, without even having to think about it. The Marine was a giant, standing almost nine feet tall. Across his back was a giant chain-axe and at his side was a bolter fully the size of his chest. He stood rather than sat and his hands clenched involuntarily. The furrowed brow and parsed lips informed him the Marine was thoroughly pissed.
    Kyrre Ulinsk shook his head. “No, not cultists, though they’re something akin to them.”
    “They claim to be demon-hunters.” The Marine replied.
    Hephris scoffed at the notion. “I’ve got a profile on your friend that’s almost three-hundred pages long. He’s the only demon on this planet.”
    The Marine’s face twitched as the Cabinet head spoke. “Why should I believe you? Since our arrival our only enemy has ever been you. The looting of our ship, the bombing-”
    Hephris’ face turned scarlet and he stood up. “You were bombed by cultists Astartes, just because some radical screams out the Governor’s name before he blows himself to shit doesn’t mean he was ordered by us to do it! Even a child could figure that out!” The general roared.
    The Marine glared viciously at the man for the apparent break in protocol. Just outside the porcelain doors he could hear the Marine’s bodyguard rack their weapons as they prepared to come to their Lord’s defense should he be assaulted. It was an unnecessary precaution; the Marine could probably kill everyone in the room without batting an eye. Others heard the noise as well and exchanged nervous glances with each other. The two colonels stood and looked as if they were ready to bolt at the first sign of danger. Out the corner of his eye Jinsk caught the General coolly inching his hand towards an ornamented plasma pistol holstered at his side. The cardinal coughed and Jinsk locked eyes with her. Like him she was mustering every bit of courage to keep from trembling. At least they were doing better than Yoris, he thought. The man’s eyes were wide with terror and it looked as if his face were going to turn blue from holding his breath. Even the servants were composing themselves better.
    Fortunately one among them had the sense to speak up before the tension snapped and the room turned into a slaughterhouse.
    “I think what the General is trying to say, albeit tactlessly, is that not everything is as it seems.” Ulinsk placated. “You say this man, Mathias, told you that he knew for a fact that Ikozy was dealing with cultists. In light of some of the documents found, we can’t really argue too much with that but try to realize that the military and the Governor are two very distinct organizations. This was a case of the left hand not knowing what the right was doing.”
    Jinsk glanced round the room and finally exhaled as he realized they weren’t all going to die. Both the general and the Marine Lord were still furious but they no longer seemed incline to exchange blows. Jinsk gestured towards one of the waiting servants and ordered him to bring a pot of tea, preferably Echinacea. The servant nodded and disappeared out the room. As he left Jinsk spotted a grey armored form standing vigil. He shuddered as he bore witness to the massive weapon the giant held before returning to the ongoing conversation.
    “Who were his contacts? In the cult I mean.” The Cardinal asked as she sipped her steaming cup of tea.
    The Marine looked over at the woman who’d finally broken her silence. “He didn’t say and I don’t suppose we’ll ever know, he’d dead and no scryer can take his mind.” The Marine replied.
    The room fell suddenly silent. The only sound that could be heard was the clanking of glass against marble as the servant, just returned, set a steaming cup of tea in front of him. The sweet aroma filled his pudgy nostrils and he felt his mouth salivate inadvertently.
    “Can you repeat that, I’m sorry can you repeat that?” Hephris requested. This time there was no acid in his voice.
    “Mathias is dead.” The Marine repeated. “We found what we’re fairly sure are his remains on the Chaste. Burns prevent 100% accuracy but the militants themselves are convinced he’s dead. For sure the man he was traveling with was dead. He died removing the filth of mutants from my ship’s halls. For that he has my thanks.”
    Jinsk smiled inwardly. If the man was dead than perhaps his as of yet unknown pledge had died along with him. He took a long sip from his cup. Across the table Ulinsk and Hephris were giving each other surprised looks.
    “That doesn’t change anything.” The general remarked. “Zmey чорний is still at large and we have to bring them down.”
    “Nigel’s right.” Ulinsk agreed. “I’m not ruling out that they might fight with Chaos strictly based on principal, considering their nature but they’re anything but actual demon hunters.”
    “Elaborate.” The Marine said as it leaned forward on the table.
    Ulinsk shifted through the mess of folders until he found the desired one and slid it across the table over to the Marine. Siloden stopped the folders momentum with an armored fingertip. The folder was old and its title, Zmey чорний was written elegantly in black permanent marker. Inside were files that documented the organizations history, from its very beginning to the near present. Confusion welled up in Siloden as he speedily read the files within. The so-called demon-hunters had once been a secret police force in the employ of three of the last five people who’d claimed the title of planetary governor. There were detailed accounts of various atrocities committed by unknown men wearing black fatigues. More than anything else however, at the very end there was a scribbled paper, obviously written by a drunkard that read in bright red: 12.07.007-They killed the Astartes!
    The paper didn’t go into detail beyond that revelation and Siloden cast the folder back onto the table. “I want proof.” He spat. “Scribbles prove nothing.”
    “I can get you proof.” Ulinsk spoke confidently.
    “Then do it.” The Marine sneered. “If you can’t I’ll kill you. All of you.” With that he turned to leave.
    Jinsk felt relief wash over him as the Marine departed the conference room. Around him the other attendants were similarly relaxing though with a few notable exceptions. The Cardinal gulped at the last of her tea and quickly excused herself. As she passed she squeezed his shoulder reassuringly. He smiled at the gesture and felt all the more like a tub of lard for it. The two colonels had gotten up and were following the red-haired woman out. Callap still sulked in his chair. Besides the doomed politician all that remained were himself, the General, and Ulinsk. Nodding to the General he got up from his seat and made his way out. As he passed through the doorway he was able to make out the two men conversing quietly.
    “Can you really prove this thing?” The general asked.
    “Yeah I’ve got a contact.” Ulinsk replied. “I’m to meet him tomorrow.”
    Last edited by Nikolaevich; March 6th, 2008 at 06:04.
    Ne Cede Malis

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    The Bad Deaths
    Erets paced lazily up and down the cracked and overgrown road, hugging himself tightly in a futile effort to keep the cold at bay. His high-powered Synex dangled from its strap. Beyond the railing that ran parallel to the highway, strewn about the darkened vista were chunks of metal varying in size, ranging from bolts and slabs of metal all the way up to a kilometer and a half Admantanium carcass was the Chaste, looming a hundred meters above him, even though its earthen base was fifty feet below. A chill wind rushed around Erets, causing him to stop in his tracks and shudder violently. He glanced at the metal carcass before him and then at his chronometer. Almost an hour had passed since Mathias had disappeared into the ruined guts of the ship and he’d yet to see another sign of him.
    “Could have told me how long you’d be gone,” He chatted to himself, “but no I’m boot. Don’t need to tell me nothing, I can just wait and wait and wait. Out in the cold, freezing my nuts off yes sir, freezing my nuts off.”
    Erets wished he was back in his bed, a book in his lap and a steaming mug in his hands. Another cold wind wrapped him in its embrace and he wished harder.
    The sky was sinisterly dark, even more so than usual and he knew that winter had, late though it may be, arrived. The pleasantly temperate conditions of the fall would soon be a thing of the past, to be remembered with fondness whilst one’s digits froze off. Soon, probably within the week or the following, heavy snows would begin to fall, stealing the gloomy colors from the world and replacing them with a serene white. Every citizen loathed it. Men and women alike hated the corrosion the snows brought. Children who gazed on in wonder quickly acquired their parent’s distaste for the chilled powder once the attractive flurries landed upon their person and burned them mercilessly. City life would remain mostly unaffected, the people having lived on the world long enough to cope with the radioactive flurries without much of a fuss. Businesses would continue to provide whatever service they offered and the intercity roads would stay clear thanks to the efforts of the PDF and several volunteer organizations who would drive lumbering Chimeras fixed with snow plows up and down streets in a never ending patrol. Many of the cities, especially in the west, would see an influx of people who’d left behind their seasonal homes out in the wild. A grass hut might protect from the downpours of spring and the sweltering heat of summer but there was little protection to be had against sub-zero temperatures and a lack of food to be hunted.
    Out in the wild the Threnodies would be going into hibernation and the massive Dicons would be migrating south. Some animals would follow the lumbering beasts to their winter retreats while others would follow in the Threnodies example and sleep through the winter. More still would simply wait out the cold, adept as they were at surviving in harsh conditions without food or unpoisoned water.
    Ironically for all the pain, death, and inconvenience caused by the radioactive snow it was by far the best time of the year to be a doctor. Medical costs would skyrocket as more and more people discovered cancerous tumors and lesions upon their radiation bathed bodies. Everyone who contracted the disease eventually found themselves at the doors of one of any cities many clinics where doctors in white coats and expensive shoes would take the majority of their savings with devilish smiles in exchange for their treatment. Erets had been forced to see one of the snub bastards for something at least once every year since he could remember and probably had been taken by his parents before that. He cursed the parasite doctors silently as he paced and around the world millions joined him in his damning thoughts.
    Erets let out a sigh and kicked a small off the road and watched it tumble down the fire cracked hill before finally settling on the still smoldering ground. The water left over from the frigid rains had mostly evaporated, at least in that area, thanks mainly to the extreme heat that had washed over during the Chaste’s crash landing. For all that fire, he thought, it wasn’t doing much to warm him.
    “We are cold, yes we are.” He spoke to his dangling rifle as he glanced at his chronometer again. “Guess I’ll just get in the car and turn the heater on.”
    His thoughts of warmth were violently interrupted as an arm thrust itself across his chest and clasped his rifles strap. From the other side an arm swung round, rock in hand, towards his throat. He cried out as the jagged stone pierced his throat and began sawing its way through his neck. Blood spilled out and he thrashed around violently, reaching with his hands to halt his attacker’s progress.
    “Sto..op…please stop!” He gurgled and sobbed.
    Much to his surprise his request was granted and he forced himself free before falling face first on the ground. Blood continued to pour out of his throat and oddly enough he could feel hands other than his own pressing gently against the ragged tear in his throat. He cursed colorfully at the slender fingers and they quickly retracted.
    “What’s…going…” He sobbed as the color drained from his face. He was openly crying now, sobs interspersed by disgusting gurgles as blood was sucked into his lungs as he breathed. Slowly his vision began to fade and he realized that he was dying. He wailed at the injustice and he forced his eyes to stay open but the only sight he could see was the filthy gravel road and the pool of red slowly covering it.
    “I don’t….wanna…don’t…” He sobbed one last time before his eyes closed for good.
    Eythilus stood shivering, eyes glued on the dying blank as he bled out the last of his young life. Lying casually on the ground was the jagged stone he’d used to murder the young man. Bright blood plunged like tears from his hand, adding to the pool that had crashed like a wave against his worn shoes. He didn’t know why he’d killed the man; he didn’t suppose he had to or at least in not such a prolonged and gruesome way. Guilt filled the Eldar and he turned away from the twitching corpse. He walked away but only got a few feet before falling to his knees and emptying the contents of his stomach. Several minutes later when he could vomit no more he wiped his mouth on his sleeve and rose. This wasn’t like the man in the apartment, he thought. Granted he’d tortured the last man but he hadn’t begged or cried. He’d moaned and gnashed his teeth and even screamed towards the end but he hadn’t sobbed the way a child would. He hadn’t questioned his fate, simply accepted it, almost calmly as if he’d been expecting to die all along. Not so with this one, he’d screamed and cried and thrashed and gurgled and begged and made Eythilus feel as if he’d killed Eresis with his own hands.
    Still, he reasoned, what’s done is done and there was no telling when the null with the scythe would return. He reckoned just by looking at the man that tangling with him would be something akin to a death wish and since he’d no soul-stone to keep him he decided that to flee would be the most sane thing to do. Through an effort of will he himself to look upon his vicious work. Mustering his strength he fumbled through the dead boy’s pockets until he found a pair of brass colored keys. With those he took to the battered car and drove off.

    Eythilus’ ire was rising. “So what are you telling me?” He spat.
    Kyrre Ulinsk shifted through the vanilla folders that were stacked on the most secluded booth in the Fable café. The café wasn’t crowded, only a few people lounged about though Kyrre could imagine this was as busy as the place as disgusting as this ever got. There was little light, most bulbs sat idly in their sockets having burnt out long ago. The green tiled floor was covered in various coffee stains and insects raged a constant battle with the hazel haired waitress who sashayed to and fro taking orders and serving drinks. Earlier she’d delivered to them a dottam pie which sat half-eaten on the table, helping the several cups of cold decaf to clutter the table.
    “This,” he said when he found the dossier in question, “is inconclusive.”
    Eythilus felt his spirits drop when he heard the man’s words. He’d come to the hastily called meeting with the expectation that Kyrre had put to good use his decades of research. He wanted to hear him say ‘we have them.’
    “What the **** do you mean inconclusive?” Eythilus spat nearly rising out of his seat. What more could the man need, he wondered. How much more damning could his evidence get? Did he need to risk his life to abduct another of the militants and draw a confession on tape? In retrospect he should have recorded the first man’s confession but he’d had physical proof, what need for more?
    Eyes darted towards the two men’s conversation and both men lowered their voices accordingly. Business had returned to the city of Linthicum and Ulinsk began to regret having his meeting in such a public place. The café was filled with the tinkling of glass and relaxed conversation.
    “What the hell do you mean inconclusive?” He repeated once gazes had diverted back to their original distractions.
    “I mean you’ve got nothing except you writing down that the Astartes were bombed by the Black Dragons. There’s no references for this. You have no witnesses, no proof, nothing.” Kyrre explained. “Everything else you’ve got is documented, has sources but this,” he said indicating the single sheet of paper with the red writing, “what is this? It’s a scrap of paper, it doesn’t tell anybody anything.”
    “I had proof, I had pictures and a helmet and a witness-
    “None of which you have now.” Kyrre interrupted. “And that’s all that matters.”
    Eythilus cursed himself. If he’d just kept hold of the photos he wouldn’t be having this conversation. If only he could find out where his car had been deposited he could retrieve them and present them to Ulinsk. The whole matter would be done with. He sat back in his seat and tried to calm himself.
    “What about the rest of their history?”
    Ulinsk threw his hands up in the air. “Which part? The one where they opposed a corrupt government headed by a collaborator with Chaos or the part where the nuked the shit out of your home? You’ll excuse me for being blunt but in the eyes of a Space Marine those are grounds for canonization not damnation. That’s why I didn’t include them in the files presented. The less they know about their, you’ll forgive me, ‘good deeds’ the more likely they are to believe any story we give. And don’t forget that we’re at a disadvantage as it is. Chapter Master Siloden, the head of the Space Marines if you didn’t know, is without solid proof going to take the side of his allies, pure and simple. Why he’s even open to our inquiry is anybody’s guess.”
    Eythilus chewed his lip. “What about the man who stole my car? Have you found him yet?”
    “Kirin? I’m checking up on the guy soon as we get done here. I’ll let you know what I find.”
    “I’ve got a few other leads.” He added. Polu the cab driver was still at large though he might take some coercing to testify before Space Marines. That wouldn’t be a problem he knew. If money couldn’t convince him then a knife in the eye might. Crace could also help out with their case but it’d be nothing short of a miracle if he actually found him. More than likely he was still out West camping out at whatever bars remained open or out on freelance work.
    “Well you’ve gotta get something.” Ulinsk said as he leaned forward on the table. “Our necks are on the chopping block and there’s an axe resting on em. If we can’t prove this thing Siloden will and I quote ‘kill us’. So I reiterate to you: find something and then find me and do it as fast as alienly ****ing possible.”
    Ulinsk took a final stab at the pie between them and gathered up the vanilla folders and packed them into his handbag. He then wished the Eldar good luck and walked out of the café leaving Eythilus alone with an unsightly mess and a hefty bill.
    This wasn’t a complete setback Eythilus consoled. All he had to do was find Polu and bring him to the investigations officer. He already knew where the stubby man worked, finding him wouldn’t be a problem.
    As he sat there contemplating how to fix his dilemma a hazel haired waitress sashayed up to him asking if he was ready for his check. Realizing with no small amount of annoyance that the investigations officer had left him with a hefty bill he shook his head and asked for a coffee. The waitress smiled and took off to make his drink. When her back was turned he slid out his seat and maneuvered stealthily towards the door.
    That night Eythilus dreamed of the boy. He was standing over him, his bare feet in an ever widening pool of dark blood. Blood dripped from his hand and a bloody stone and from somewhere in the crimson sky he could hear insane laughter.
    Eythilus awoke from his dream with a startled cry, sweat coming off his bare chest in great droplets that drenched the heavy blankets he was cocooned in. A small moan broke from his throat. Apparently amasec, while a wonderful tool to drown one’s doubts and sorrows, did nothing to prevent guilt ridden nightmares. He freed himself from his insulated cocoon and rose carefully to his feet.
    The night was near silent. The only sound was the creaking of the apartment and the sway of the wind.
    The cold air chilled his exposed body and he wrapped a blanket around his person as he made for the kitchen. Waiting for him on the counter was a bottle of Kievian sherry, a strong tonic whose fruity taste reminded him of the Filiu berries grown in the endless plains of Caliuen. Searching for solace he drank deeply from the bottle. His dreams, so much gentler in his youth, were plaguing him even more so than usual. All his life he’d been told that dreams were a gift, a way to navigate the threads of the future or chronicle and make sense of the past. The gift of prophecy seemed to have skipped Eythilus but the latter talent was well within his capabilities. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to skim from his dreams other than he was scared, angry, angst and guilt ridden.
    Knowing full well that he couldn’t afford to intoxicate himself when so much was at stake he downed a quarter of the sweet drink and relished the burning numbness that followed. His mind became blessedly clouded, his earlier anxiety replaced with a tingling that coursed through his veins.
    Half-way through the bottle Eythilus heard the soft scuffling of feet from the adjacent living room. He crept cautiously towards the sound but relaxed when he discovered the intruder was Nisa. She was stumbling in the darkness one hand cradling her head the other extended outwards to feel for obstacles in the night. She was dressed in a pair of green sweats with blue trim and a wool sweater whose length extended far past her hands. A skullcap with an odd half skull have cog rune adorned her head.
    When she was close enough to touch he asked, “When did you get back?”
    Nisa let out a short cry of surprise and swung at the noise. Eythilus saw the blow but was too impaired to dodge it. The fist split his lip and made him drop his bottle of Sherry.
    “It’s me! It’s me!” He shouted angrily as he regained a modicum of focus and blocked a punch aimed at his ribs.
    When he spoke Nisa halted in her attack and squinted into the darkness trying to scry from its depths her alien neighbor. “E? Is that you?”
    Eythilus gave affirmation. She relaxed and let her arms fall to her side. Silence filled the room again. He took the moment to retrieve his bottle of Sherry.
    “Throne I’m sorry.” She said as he checked to see that not too much of the bottles contents had spilled out. She put a hand on his arm and he felt his anger melt away. “I was trying to sleep when all of a sudden my head just felt like it’d been hit with a hammer. I heard you calling out. Thought maybe I should see if you were alright.”
    He accepted her apologies without hesitation. He figured he must have let out a psychic scream when he awoke. Probably, there were others in the complex who’d felt the same hammering. Secretly he was relieved to know that his psychic powers were still with him. Other than to cheat at gambling houses he’d not made much use of his psychic talents. He focused his mind on the young woman’s thoughts trying to discern if there was any underlying reason for her being there. Faintly he knew there wasn’t but intoxication made him irrationally hopeful. Summoning up a psychic probe he thrust it into her mind. The probe took considerable effort hindered as he was by the alcohol but he managed to penetrate her outer mind without causing too much discomfort to either party. She registered his intrusion as a dull thumping in her head, his mind strained as if he were stretching a long unused muscle.
    Mild pain aside, what lay within her mind struck him deeply. The surface image on her mind was of a boy, face down on a road bleeding his last while crying out for mercy. Just a little deeper than that were thoughts of someone named Reik. A brute with swollen knuckles and a matching face. Did he plague her nights just as his father haunted his own? He was about to go deeper when he noticed Nisa was nearly doubling up with pain. He ceased his probing and put a hand on her slender shoulder.
    “You’re going through my head.” She accused.
    “No I wasn’t.” He lied. “And even if I was you’re trespassing.”
    Nisa grunted in a most unwomanly way and reached out for his bottle of sherry. He surrendered the drink reluctantly; he supposed he owed her for the probe. Oddly enough she didn’t drink from it. A slightly less obtrusive probe revealed she’d decided he didn’t need any more.
    “I said I was checking on you.” She growled. “Most people would be grateful.”
    Eythilus said nothing. He snatched back his bottle of sherry and took a long defiant drink. The liquid put fire in his lungs and courage in his heart. He’d do as he pleased. Certainly he wouldn’t take orders from some Mon’Keigh to whom he was nearly forty years senior. She should know who was boss.
    When he spoke however, his words came out slurred. “I didn’t…ask to be afta…looked.” Embarrassment welled up when he how badly he’d butchered his epic speech. Nisa was eying him with something between amusement and pity. The bottle in his hands was nearly empty. He hadn’t drunk that much had he? The room began to spin violently. Perhaps that was enough for the night.
    “Come on idiot.” She said. With one hand she retrieved the bottle and took him by the arm with the other.
    She led him to the kitchen and emptied the sherry into the sink. Longing etched at his soul as the sweet liquid slid down the drain. When the bottle was empty she set it on the counter. Eythilus felt his shoulders hunch over and mumbled something about wastefulness.
    Next she took hold of him by his shoulders. “Well, you’re still a sight for sore eyes.” She spoke softly. “I was afraid you’d gotten yourself in some crazy mishap after we split up.”
    “Not everything went as planned.” He said slowly trying desperately not to slur his speech anymore. “I ended…up met an off-world internal investigations guy. From Yakar.”
    “Internal mm. I can only imagine what the two of you are up to.”
    “We are working…on some…thing. Long process, tomorrow I have to go find somebody.”
    Nisa smirked and he felt himself foolish all over again. Without saying a word he gestured towards his bed on the floor hoping she’d take the hint and leave him to wallow in his newly found shame.
    “You too huh?” She commented on the bed roll misunderstanding his gesture as a remark on where he laid himself down for sleep. He nodded in resignation. His study had been trashed and the closest thing to renovation he’d done was scouring the room for his precious vanilla folders and their apparently ‘inconclusive’ documents.
    “I need sleep.” He stated.
    “Well don’t let me stop you.” She replied.
    She helped him over to his bedroll. He was certain he could walk fine but he didn’t want to embarrass himself further by falling on his face.
    “Hey.” She knelt by his side as he eased himself down. “I’d come with you tomorrow but I’ve things to do. So my advice; getting some sleep is a good start but Throne knows you need a little more than that. Lots of water and maybe some decaf. Any chance of danger on your little adventure?” She asked.
    Eythilus shook his head. At least there shouldn’t be, he thought. All he had to do was find Polu and bring him to the investigations officer. From there it was just a matter of watching things fall into place. The Space marines would attack with help from the PDF and the bane of his father’s existence would be no more. Revenge from beyond the grave would be his.
    The darkness lit up for a single second as she smiled and brushed her hand against his cheek. “Well that’s good. Anything that involves more than a butter knife in your state, well…playing dead isn’t a terrible option.”
    She flicked his ear playfully and sauntered off. He watched her until the shadows claimed her.
    Moments later a dreamless sleep seized him and for a few blissful hours he was plagued no more.

    Eythilus awoke late the next morning, his head throbbing like a jackhammer. He swore vividly in a vain attempt at returning some life into his weary limbs. In the streets outside the noise of a city returning to life, the honking of horns, the screech of tires, the angry shouts competed with his curses and battered his sensitive ears. Adding to his discomfort were beams of soft light pierced through his apartment, highlighting his long features and stressing his eyes. In reality the light was dim compared to the majesty of his home but years of dwelling in the dark had paled his skin and dulled his sense of light.
    Sleep still had a tangible hold on the Eldar but he threw his blankets off and forced himself up. Slender fingers massaged his forehead trying to force the pain away as a cool wind wafted through the room causing him to shudder. Looking down he realized he was bare save the white sweats with black trim that he’d gone to sleep in. He grabbed the ochre hoodie he’d worn the day before and pulled on a pair of wool socks and tan boots. Hidden within one of the boots was the pair of keys he’d lifted off the dead boy. He pocketed them and made for the door.
    Midstride he stopped. There through the shattered cavity of the wall was Nisa, snoring gently on the floor, covered in blankets just as he’d been. Events from last night were hazy at best but he was fairly certain he’d seen her wandering around his apartment. He couldn’t fathom why she would and he couldn’t remember his reaction but he didn’t bother dwelling on it. Vengeance was needed and it wouldn’t orchestrate itself. He snapped his fingers and left the apartment.
    The three-hour journey to the garage had been fretful. At nearly every intersection the PDF had set up a VCP and showed thoroughness he hadn’t seen them perform since Temple had been murdered. The streets were filled with furious drivers who shouted obscenities at no one in particular and revved their engines whenever anyone came close. Eythilus decided that the garage was well within walking distance.
    Unfortunately foot patrols were just as numerous as their counterparts and twice as vigilant. Groups of heavily armed men made random inspections of citizen passerbyers. If Eythilus had developed his psychic senses beyond what was necessary to shield his mind from the denizens of the city he would’ve been able to scry from the cities collective mind their location and thus avoid them without fuss. Instead he forged along blind, chancing across checkpoints that he’d have to circumvent by backtracking entire blocks. To avoid the patrols he stuck to the back alleys and deserted streets. Sometimes he’d navigate through the ground floors of buildings and thus slip past both.
    Once he’d hopped into a café just a small group of the psychic blanks were passing by. They’re numbers were suspiciously low as of late he realized as they walked by. While still maintaining a presence they had for the most part disappeared. He’d noticed the disparity earlier but he hadn’t thought to ask Ulinsk about it earlier, too incensed by his apparent inconclusiveness to ask. The whole thing reeked of twenty years ago, or was it twenty-five? Time was beginning to blur and he renewed his oath to Eresis that as soon as his business was finished he’d leave and never look back.
    Suddenly a man in a brown overcoat brushed past him. “Watch it asshole.”
    Eythilus sneered at the back of his neck and watched the man slip his wallet in his coat pocket. In the time it took him to extricate his hand and reach for the door Eythilus had slipped slender fingers in and plucked the wallet away. Looking inside he determined the man was well-off. The sweet aromas of the café reminded the Eldar of his parched throat and he decided that it wasn’t wise to try and take on the world with an empty stomach.
    He joined the line of motley people waiting to be served. People chatted idly at half-moon tables and booths in the far corners. A waitress slid by carrying a dottam pie in one hand and a familiar smelling coffee in the other. Looking around he became slightly alarmed to find that he was in the same café as the day before.
    Suddenly the woman in front of him disappeared and he stepped up to find the hazel haired waitress, elbows resting on the counter staring intently at him. Thank Isha or whoever his hood was still up.
    “Let me guess. Coffee?” She spoke caustically.
    He cursed inwardly and retracted his prayer. Several stolen Imperials bought him reprieve however and he moved to the side to wait for his drink. Moments later the hazel haired waitress handed him his drink and he sipped at it as impassively as he could manage. The drink was hard to describe, though a refreshing taste of shit seemed to apply nicely. As he sipped the hot beverage he could feel the ache in his head abate. If there was any part of Imperial culture he’d take with him when he left coffee would be it. And maybe amasec. When he’d finished scalding his throat he tossed the cup away and left the café.
    He emerged into the midst of heavy snow and a squad of burly PDF soldiers whose agitated minds were looking for an excuse to pummel something. Summoning all of his will he convinced them he was just a regular disgruntled citizen on his way to work. Still they shoved him out of their way and with a short cry of frustration he felt the ache in his return due to strain. His lack of foresight was costing him but he pressed on, weaving in and out of the cities increasingly crowded streets until finally the hideous brick garage came into view across the street.
    Dido’s Ferry was much as he remembered it; noisy, dank and filled with people of questionable character. The only noticeable difference was the trio of bullet holes above the entrance door. He imagined they’d be left there partially because it looked stylish, partially because the asshole that ran the place was too cheap to shelve out the money needed for a repair. He hawked up a wad of spit and sent it flying towards the mark of history. Taking the cold brass handle he stepped inside.
    People raced around the garage. Men shouted, doors slammed, engines roared into life and tires screeched across the ferrocrete floor. A group of drivers dressed in heavy leather jackets and jeans shoved past him, swearing loudly and waving pay stubs in the air. They were headed towards a lonely office which must have been the ex-guardsman’s idea of safety. He followed the crowd but discovered the office whose door they beat on was home to another, far more dejected man whose obesity was barely contained in his imperial sized chair.
    From above a voice directed at him called out. “What the hell’re you doing in here!”
    Eythilus looked up to see the ex-guardsman leaning over the railing above.
    “Workers only punk. Piss off!”
    He slipped the hood off his head and though the raucous that consumed the garage was deafening he thought he could almost hear the man mutter an ‘ah shit’. The man motioned for him to come up and Eythilus jogged the distance to the grated stairs and ascended.
    “**** are you a secret agent?” He chided referring to the hood. “No one gives a shit.” The ex-guardsman muttered once he’d reached the top.
    Eythilus ignored him. “Polu?”The name was reverently spoken as if it were the name of a god.
    “Shoulda guessed. Over there.”He said pointing towards an orange car on the other side of the garage.
    He muttered thanks and turned to leave.
    “Hey!” The ex-guardsman shouted. “Little compensation?”
    “**** you.” He spat.
    The ex-guardsman shrugged his massive shoulders and walked away.
    Below in the expanse filled with orange cabs and shouting men Eythilus forced his way through. Random showers of sparks assaulted his person as mechanics, oblivious to his presence, worked fervently to repair dents, replace tires, spray paint, and a dozen other tasks which needed doing. Business was good, as it always was during the winter months. People were loath to travel out in the snow and only weathered the storms out of necessity. The government would never admit it but the snow was a blessing. Every winter they had something to innocently cull their homeless problem.
    Polu was leaning against his cab waiting for him, garbed in filthy overalls and a pair of heavy boots. His face and hands and everything else were covered in grease and carbon. His grey beard was equally dirty. The only part of his person that was clean was his bright blue eyes.
    “Mr. Alien how can I help you?” His voice was as rustic as ever.
    Eythilus decided that now was not the time for belligerence. Now was the time for careful wording and a plea to, some god please help him, humanity. If that didn’t work he could always bludgeon the driver and steal the car.
    “Polu you believe in the Emperor do you not?” He began.
    “You’ve been hit in the head have-
    “Of course you do. Every self-respecting man does.” He continued cutting the man off. “It is the duty of the faithful to perform his will in every matter and I-
    “Wait. Wait. You believe in the Emperor?”
    “Of course I do.” Eythilus replied with gusto.
    “My life has just taken a turn for the surreal.” Polu spoke with incredulity. “Before you dig yourself a grave with your own deities, what do you want?”
    Eythilus considered the man’s words for a moment, deciding if he should continue. He hadn’t exactly practiced his speech but now that he’d started he felt the need to finish. But then, in some distant part of the webway, Cegorach was probably instructing a lone harlequin to spear him at the earliest opportunity. He decided to air on the side of safety.
    “I need you to testify.” He said suddenly.
    “I’m assuming on the blanks and the Marines?” Eythilus nodded his head. “Alright. Sure. Yeah I’ve got nothing better to do.”
    Suddenly one of Polu’s overalls pockets began to vibrate and ring. The cab driver pulled out a phone and Eythilus gestured if he could use it. He hadn’t realized it until now but he’d forgotten his back at the apartments. Polu examined the tiny screen and then past him. He followed his gaze to the ex-guardsman who was now pacing nonchalantly on the second floor. Polu blew out a breath of chilled air and handed him the transponder.
    Natalya lay doubled up on the floor clutching the knife buried deep within her belly. Her son, Andrei was crumpled up next to her dead from a hole in his tiny head. She’d wept hot tears when the gunshot had ended his unjustly short life, until moments later a knife had been stabbed into her.
    All around her men in blue jump suits were tearing down her home. They knocked over bookshelves, broke lamps, pulled up the floor boarding. They destroyed her life and now they were destroying her home. Through the ransacking of her home she heard a melodic chiming and through drowsy eyes she saw a man, the one who’d shot her boy, examine his transponder. His face twisted in confusion.
    “Hello?” He spoke. “Oh. What’s the news? You did; good, that’s good. What VOX are you using? Oh. K. Me I’m following up on that…thing. Uh hell I’m done. Yeah. Yeah. I’ll make a few calls. Meet me up at Irminsul at say…fifteen. Everyone will be there, you won’t you understand but we’ll get this thing done. Alright? Yeah I can do that for you. Good. Bye.”
    Ulinsk returned the phone to his pocket and breathed a sigh of relief. The Eldar had come through. Back at the café he’d been worried by the ease with which he became excited or incensed, no control over their emotions. He didn’t want him to run off and get killed, at least not until he’d supplied the evidence he needed to bring the Black Dragon down. After that well, it’d be expeditious of him to find out where the Eldar lived.
    “Everyone!” He called. The disguised Arbites seconded to him all halted in their search. Ulinsk encompassed the home with a wave of his hand. “Burn it.”
    Arbites left the house, returning moments later with cans of gasoline. Without having to be prompted they began dousing everything. The woman, Natalya Kirin, writhed on the ground as she realized what was about to happen. He didn’t suppose she deserved to be burned alive for marrying a monster, so he pulled out his pistol and shot her through the head.
    Eythilus returned Polu his phone which he took gratefully. “What now?”
    “What time is it?”
    Polu glanced at chronometer. “bout thirteen.”
    “Then we should probably get going.” He walked around the cab and hopped in.
    Polu smiled revealing blackened teeth. “Where to?”
    He nodded and climbed into his cab. The cabin was spacious and immaculately clean and he made note of it.
    “Yeah but it’s my good looks that gets the ladies in.” He laughed. Eythilus assured him it was and Polu started the engine and backed out of the garage.
    As promised the drive to the government building was without incident. The soldiers manning the VCPs were far more relaxed and the traffic had mostly dissipated. Security increased the closer they got but no one bothered to check their cab or the hooded man inside. At one checkpoint a military convoy consisting of three heavily armed Chimeras was waiting for them. A sergeant walked up and politely informed them that they’d be escorting them the rest of the way. Polu was mildly impressed but Eythilus felt a chill run up his spine.
    He didn’t protest however, and in a few moments he was in the armored carrier squeezed between the bulkhead and a scarred vet who felt the need to chew dip and spit disgustingly in a bowl nailed to the deck. The soldier offered some of his chew but he declined politely.
    The armored transport trembled constantly as it ploughed down the streets of Linthicum. The engines were a muffled thrumming through the deck below. The interior was cramped and every time the Chimera turned he felt as if in a vice as the troopers, each who was weighed down by a hundred pounds of gear, leaned into him. Occasionally the Chimera would come to abrupt halts or turn suddenly and Eythilus thought he be crushed or otherwise die of asphyxiation. Polu didn’t seem to mind the cramped interior though and he hummed placidly to himself. With a deft movement he flicked one of the compartments overhead open and retrieved a ration pack and began chowing down. None of the soldiers objected to this obvious pilfering and Eythilus guessed the cab driver had once been a regular passenger in vehicles such as these.
    “What’s your name killa?” The trooper to his left asked. “Mine’s Mazzie.”
    He peeked out from the edge of his hood. Mazzie was a young man, mid-twenties with a clean shaven face. His eyes were hidden behind a pair of black goggles that he supposed were a replacement for sunglasses. Why he needed them in the gloom of the city was beyond him.
    “Eythilus.” He replied warily.
    “Mm. See Gorman, we’ve got ourselves a live alien here.”
    Eythilus rolled his eyes. If it was so obvious why hadn’t the rest of the world picked it out? Did they just not care? He decided to make a trip back to the café and see if the hazel haired waitress had discovered his ‘secret’ too.
    The trooper across from him, Gorman, a heavy man whose flacktern fatigues barely contained his girth slapped his knee. “So how long you been here?”
    “Almost twenty-three years.” He replied.
    “What out in the woods, man that’s crazy.”
    “Not out there, here. I live in the Gable apartment complex.”
    Incredulity sparked in Gormon’s eyes. “No shit my brother lives, there.”
    Suddenly the Chimera turned and Eythilus was crushed between Mazzie and the hull of the Chimera. Three hundred pounds of trooper struck him in mid-breath and he gasped as he tried to suck in more air. When the Chimera straightened out Mazzie righted himself and he was able to breathe again.
    “You OK?” Mazzie laughed as he slapped his back.
    Eythilus nodded his head and coughed.
    “There’s a trick for that. Soon as we start to turn you gotta suck in as much air as you can and hold it. Soon as the turns finished just exhale, simple as that.”
    Eythilus thanked him for the advice. Mazzie laughed hoarsely and slapped him once more on the back for good measure. The rest of the ride was pleasant enough despite the fact that he had to employ Mazzie’s tactic of asphyxiation prevention, as he’d called it, extensively. The two troopers chatted at length about any nonsensical topic they could drudge up from the depths of their gutter minds. Most were immature comments on the state of their lives and the women involved but the sheer creativity of their monstrous insults and jeers was enough for Eythilus to forgive them the barbarity of their conversations. Fortunately the conversation rarely required his input. He just nodded his head whenever eyes fell upon him as if somehow the opinion of an alien would validate one of the men’s claims on this or that. He wasn’t really listening.
    Suddenly a hand nudged his knee. “So what’s her name?” Mazzie insisted.
    Eythilus looked over at the trooper and then to Gorman on the parallel bench. They were both staring at him intently, broad smiles spread across their features.
    “You nodded your head that means yes right?” Gorman spoke thoughtfully.
    Cursing silently to himself he realized he must have nodded at some irrelevant question about his life. He shot a glance over to Polu hoping he might be able to fill him in. Sadly he was passed out and snoring loudly.
    “Come on we promise we won’t tell anybody. What’s her name?”
    He flashed by the past ten minutes of his life and dimly recalled the conversation had something to do about women, he grasped for a name to throw to the two troopers. He couldn’t think of any human sounding ones so he settled on Nisa.
    Gorman looked stunned. “Really.” He looked over at Mazzie. “I think I know her.”
    Dread overcame Eythilus. “You sure?”
    Gorman nodded his head and Eythilus listened to a perfect description of his neighbor.
    “Black hair, kinda short, bit of a pointed chin, tiny tits, foxy little bitch as I recall. Met her at my brother’s birthday party last year, hung around some big guy. Who woulda guessed.”
    “Not me.” Eythilus said, barely able to contain his sorrow at having opened his mouth. For the rest of the ride he did his best to keep his mouth shut and prayed fervently to every god he could think of save the dark powers and even then he thought of making an entreaty in the hopes news of his apparent love making to Nisa wouldn’t reach her. Fortunately the two men had the attention span of a five year old and the conversation lingered for about a minute before Mazzie began talking about butt sex. Eythilus couldn’t understand what they were talking about or why it was so funny but off and on for the next five minutes the two kept saying the phrase in different tones and pitches. Whatever got them off the original subject was fine by him.
    He was grateful when their journey finally came to an end. The Chimera came to an abrupt stop and moments later the hatch at the rear dropped unceremoniously with a loud clank. Cold air rushed in and the occupants swore almost as one at the world of Kiev. The troopers ushered Polu and Eythilus out the hatch so that they could reclose it and thus be saved from a slow hypothermia induced death. As the hatch slid closed Mazzie and Gormon promised to look him up the next time they stopped by to visit Gormon’s brother. Eythilus waved to them unsure of how he felt about that.
    “Interesting bunch.” Polu yawned.
    “Undoubtedly.” Eythilus replied.
    The two watched the convoy until it disappeared from view only a hundred yards away. It was only late afternoon and already it seemed as if the sky was darkening. Snow was falling heavily now, in great torrents and the ground was covered in the stuff. Where it touched his skin it burned and he quickly threw on his hood and tucked his hands in his sleeves.
    They stood outside the fortified glory of Irminsul. Dozens of troopers took shelter in sandbag bunkers with concertina wire wrapped around. They peered out of firing slits at the two men but didn’t seem to acknowledge them. Suddenly the storm intensified and even though they were only twenty yards from the building its towering form was lost from view. Flood lights sprung to life taking back a little of what the storm had stolen but even still the building was barely identifiable.
    “I hope nothing happens to my cab!” Polu shouted into the howling winds.
    Polu didn’t have time to reply. From beyond the realm of their vision a mechanical grinding competed with the wind as gears came to life and the great doors of Irminsul creaked open. Light burst free from the gateway and like an angel Kyyre Ulinsk walked out and greeted them. He was surprised to find that the man braved the weather in a pair of gray khakis, a plain button-up dress shirt, and suave shoes. The man must have been freezing but he made no show of it. Following close behind him was an Arbite sporting a flak jacket which stuck out from his several layers of clothing. At his side was a power mace and in his hands a shotgun.
    Ulinsk leaned in close to Eythilus and spoke loudly. “I was getting a little worried.” He then took the Eldar’s hand, shook it and smiled warmly. “Where is he?”
    Eythilus motioned towards Polu who waved at them before he returned to the job of rubbing his hands together.
    “I’ve got a guy.” He indicated the Arbite he’d walked out with. “He’ll take you home.” He patted Eythilus’ shoulder one last time and walked over to Polu.
    “Good afternoon sir…” He heard him begin before his words were lost to the wind.
    Moments later the Arbite, who had been keeping a respectable distance, approached.
    “Sir if you would?” The Arbite gestured towards a waiting car.
    “Throne I’d love to.” He replied. He strolled over to the waiting vehicle, with its heated interior, fine leather seats and…then he stopped. What had he just said?
    “Sir?” The Arbite began as he continued on to the car. “It’s cold as shit.”
    Eythilus shook the thought away; it was just a slip of the tongue. But then hadn’t his father praised him for being quick-witted in his youth? Had all the time he’d spent on Kiev finally gotten to him?
    “You coming or not?” The Arbite hollered.
    “Yeah yeah!” He yelled back. He’d be leaving the world soon enough, no need to worry. With frozen fingers he pulled open the sedan’s back door and hopped in.
    By the time they’d made it half-way to his apartment complex the thrice damned snow, bane of all living things, was nearly a foot high. Chimeras fitted with great plows cleared the streets but theirs was a losing battle. Natural light had ceased to exist and for the next few days at least the city would have to survive on the artificial light of technology.
    The source of the world’s light however, was not predominant on his mind. Was it really just a slip of the tongue? He didn’t really believe in some corpse seer but then he couldn’t profess to have faith in any Eldar god, living or dead, either. Had this place made an atheist of him? Had the casual barbarism burned out his spirit and tarnished his soul? He doubted anyone from his home, his original home, would recognize him upon his return but hadn’t he known all along that to live on an Imperial world for so long would change him. Perhaps irrevocably?
    He wondered if upon his return he would even be welcomed back. The Lyn-Cathe, who had taken in the remnants of the murdered Div-Ave were known for their detestation of the Mon’Keigh. What if he’d become so much like them that they’d not allow him to dwell on their world? Where would he go then? To another Craftworld? To the Maiden Worlds? Would the Exodites, whose contact with the Imperium was far more frequent, be sympathetic to his plight? Why wouldn’t any of them be, he wondered, after all hadn’t he avenged the murder of his home, people, and father? Hadn’t he devised ruin upon the enemies of the Eldar? Of course he had! For two and a half decades he’d braved the driving storms, the nightmarish locales, and brutal people. Who among them could say they’d come near face to face with a demon king and still persevered. He’d accomplished what others had balked at, what an entire host geared for war had failed to do. They would…
    Eythilus sighed. He was overreacting and deep down he knew it. Of course they would take him back. Rarely was an Eldar barred from a Craftworld and never for anything as trivial as saying the word ‘throne’. This was a time for rejoicing. He’d finally delivered his proof and soon, probably after the storm abated, Zmey чорний would be hunted down and eliminated once and for all. The great work of his life had been completed, the final piece set in place. No matter that he hadn’t gathered all the pieces of the puzzle, he could live with that.
    Suddenly a bright red neon sign reading liquor flashed by his window. He smiled. This was a time for celebration.
    He tapped the Arbites shoulder. “Hey stop the car.”
    “What do you want?” The Arbite asked.
    “Pick up a drink.”
    In the time it took for the Arbite to slow to a halt the sign had already disappeared but he was insistent.
    “Just back up the car.”
    The Arbite sighed and the car lurched backwards until the neon light came back into view. Eythilus made the driver swear not to leave him and he sprang out quickly covering the distance between the road and the store.
    Athenry wasn’t the usual store he graced with his presence but he immediately dismissed any concerns of loyalty to the Nightingale when he gazed upon the stores vast selection. Shelves stocked with aged amasec, sherries, rum and rem, punci, and of course whiskey lined the store from wall to wall. Lyn-Cathe be damned he’d live here if he could.
    Before setting out he checked his pilfered wallet. He’d only bribed one person that day so money wasn’t going to be a problem. That settled he set off down the aisle like a kid in a candy store. He picked bottles from the shelves and examined them closely, inspecting their year and aroma. Considering the occasion only the finest he could afford would do. He realized the Arbite was probably pissed about having to wait but he took his time. After about fifteen minutes he settled on three bottles, amasec, Lyneq, and a fine Elysian wine whose combined cost would leave him with about half an imperial. He seriously hoped the Arbite didn’t want a tip. The first was to celebrate, the second to ease himself out of a hangover, and the third was a gift for Eresis. At least that’s what he told himself.
    Pleased with his selection he paid for his drinks and left the store. Miraculously the car was still there, its engine running idly. Even if it hadn’t the stop would have been worth it. They were only a mile or two from home.
    “Took you long enough.” The Arbite said once he’d returned.
    Eythilus muttered an apology as the car glided back onto the street.
    For the next twenty minutes they continued on, at one point trailing behind one of the Chimera plows. Along the way he unstopped the bottle of amasec to take a drink and then stopped suddenly. It’d be a terrible waste to simply glug a treasure like what he held in his hands. This had to be enjoyed.
    The Arbite seeing his hesitation piped up. “Go on take a drink.”
    Eythilus stared with quiet bemusement at the Arbite. “Think I’ll save it for later.” He replied as he twisted the cap back on.
    “Just saying”, he said looking out the window, “pretty cold outside, it helps.”
    “I’ll live.”
    The Arbite shrugged his shoulders and began tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. “Papa was a rolling stone…my son…” he began to whisper to himself.
    Eythilus ignored the Arbites odd behavior and turned to the world outside his window. They were close now, only a block away. Familiar landmarks barely visible through the raging snow were glimpsed with relief.
    Suddenly a musical chime interrupted the man’s tune and he pulled a VOX from his pocket and flicked it open.
    “This is Terq.” He spoke. On the other end Eythilus could just make out a male voice. “Gotcha.” The Arbite named Terq said as he closed the VOX and placed it on the dashboard.
    “Who was that?” Eythilus asked still looking outwards.
    “No one.” He replied curtly.
    Out of the corner of his eye he saw Terq reach across his seat. The car began to slow. “What are you do- Speech failed him as heard the sound of a shotgun being racked. He threw himself to the driver’s side just as the seat in front of him exploded in a mix of cushion, leather, and twisted wiring. Pieces of shot tore into his side and he cried out in pain. The car lurched to the left Terq slammed on the brakes. The sudden halt sent Eythilus tumbling over the front seat where he landed badly next to the stick and directly in front of the shotguns barrel. Terq squeezed the trigger and with a curse realized he hadn’t coked the weapon.
    He pulled the pump back but before he could send it forwards Eythilus grabbed his arm and kept it pinned backwards. For the few seconds they struggled against each other, Terq trying to force the pump forwards, Eythilus struggling to stop him.
    Eythilus screamed in rage and frustration. The pain in his stomach was intense but it was as nothing compared to the pain in his mind. To come so far only to be denied in the end, could he not bear witness to the fruits of his labors? So like the Mon’Keigh to hold nothing sacred, there were no clean breaks from the species. Every time you think you got away they’d sink their claws in your flesh and drag you back into their diseased world, kicking and screaming.
    Their brutality was so…casual. Already he could see the pump sliding slowly forward. Knowing he couldn’t win a battle of strength he lashed out at the man to no avail. Terq’s nose began to bleed and he squeezed his eyes tight with pain but he never stopped. Seeing the opportunity in the man’s closed eyes Eythilus brought the rest of himself over the seat and kneed Terq in the side of the head. For an instant Terq’s grip relaxed and Eythilus forced the weapon up against his chin and pulled the pump upwards. For a brief second their eyes met and then Terq’s head exploded showering Eythilus in gore.
    For long moments Eythilus rested his head against the bloody chest of his would be killer. His breaths came in ragged gasps. Though he’d dodged most of the blast pieces of shot had still penetrated his stomach. Looking up he knew Terq had gotten the rawer deal. The only part of his head left intact was the lower jaw. His tongue hung loose from his mouth and Eythilus was afforded a view straight down the man’s sarcophagus. Fragments of hairy skull and teeth stuck to the window, trapped in the blood that had flash froze there.
    Slowly he reached behind Terq’s body and opened the door. He pushed the headless corpse out into the snow. The effort made him cry out in pain but he managed to crawl out of the car and stand. Standing defiantly in the wind was a street sign that read Bergen. He was home. The barely discernable building in the distance had to be it. Willing his battered body on he began the unsteady journey onwards. After a few steps however he halted and turned back.
    Crawling back over Terq’s body he reached into the back seat and retrieved his bag of liquor. This was a celebration damnit.
    Alone in the dark Nisa stabbed a near frozen fork into her cup of spiced noodles. She twisted the fork around wrapping the soggy strands up before blowing on their chilled bodies in spite. The ends of her loose grey sweats fluttered as a cold wind mirroring her mocking breath rushed through the apartment. She paid the cold no mind as she slurped the noodles down. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply to keep from hurling the cup across the room, further adding to the ruin she and the tank shell had already wrought.
    Earlier that day the ‘esteemed’ Doctor Shokav had regretfully informed her that her services were no longer needed. He’d found another, far more talented apprentice, whose remarkable skill, while still base, could not be simply cast aside. And since he could not afford to have two apprentices, ‘bullshit’ she’d cried, he was forced to let her go. Four and a half years of dedicated study and tutelage all wasted. On her way out she glimpsed the new apprentice, a blonde slut with tits the size of goddamn melons.
    Getting fired wouldn’t have been so bad if she didn’t desperately need the money. Tank shells didn’t magically unexplode after a set amount of time and apartments didn’t rebuild themselves without the help of hours of mindboggling dull labor and a little stream of money. Considering whose complex it was Gable would have to shelve out something but being the cheap fat bastard he was the chances he’d pay for the whole thing were about as good as the sun shining. On top of that if he found out she’d lost her job he’d evict her in a heartbeat. No matter that the rent wasn’t due yet.
    Another gust of wind blew through and suddenly moving out didn’t seem so bad. Take what wasn’t burnt, crushed, or in some way destroyed and move out before anyone realized she’d gone. Maybe become a monk or hell maybe the Marines could use a medical expert, Throne knows they took a beating.
    Her thoughts were disrupted as the sound of a door being shattered filled her apartment. She grabbed a flashlight from the edge of the table and illuminated her door which was strangely intact. Another splintering impact and the beam shot across the room and through the man-sized hole in her wall. She watched the hole impassively waiting for her drunken neighbor to collapse into view.
    Her suspicions were confirmed when a final crack signaled that the door had finally succumbed and a cloud of dust billowed across the hole followed shortly by a near doubled-over Eythilus. Bottles inside a black bag clanked loudly together as he stumbled around. His ochre hoodie was stained with…something, probably Barhuda and it similarly dripped from his lips. He was covered in frost and she imagined he’d just had a close encounter with death. Still if he was up here he’d live and there was no reason she couldn’t be belligerent to him.
    “It’s not even night yet you know.” She chided.
    Eythilus twisted near instantaneously releasing his bag and shielding his eyes. He was in luck Nisa was there, sitting at a brand new table, blinding and berating him but there nonetheless.
    “Could use…some help.” He spoke through gritted teeth.
    “I can see that.” She replied dryly.
    Eythilus stared at her in disbelief. “Well ****ing help me then!”
    The outburst stunned Nisa and she rose from her seat. She tiptoed towards the staggering Eldar and he took her grabbed her shoulders for support.
    “Oook.” She said as she escorted the Eldar to the table. With an undignified grunt she hoisted Eythilus up onto the edge and laid him down on its smooth surface.
    “Got shot, but I got ‘em.” He babbled.
    Indeed he had. A second examination revealed that the stains on his hoodie were far too thin to be the syrupy alcohol and the dribble from his mouth was a bit too red to be anything else but blood.
    “The hell did I tell you E. Butter knives. ****ing butter knives. Shoulda said soup spoons.” She muttered as she pulled up his hoodie.
    She strafed the beam across his bloody abdomen and rolled her eyes. Pieces of wire and an unidentifiable material were stuck in his belly. Judging by the tiny holes that peppered his right side she imagined it was shot from a riot gun.
    Daintily she began picking out the loose materials. “You’ve never been shot before.” She stated rather than asked.
    “What?” He managed before she pulled a long thread of wire from his insides.
    “You’re not going to die dummy. Barely a flesh wound. See?” She stuck her finger in one of the holes. It didn’t penetrate far. “Gut shots just hurt is all.” To emphasize her point she buried another finger inside his belly and pulled out a tiny shard of metal that she plunked onto his chest. “I don’t imagine the cold or the radiation helped you much. Shot to the stomach won’t kill you but I guarantee you they will.”
    She left his side to rummage through a storage cabinet opposite her devastated kitchen. With slender fingers he plucked the piece of metal from his chest and examined it. How could something so small kill him? He probed his stomach taking great relief in the knowledge his intestines weren’t spilling out as he’d feared. He tried to sit up but a hand gently pushed him back down.
    Nisa stood above him a wide dressing in hand an uncapped bottle of amasec in the other. He was about to protest when she began pouring the drink onto the bandage but an eerie smile silenced him. “You won’t die from that but infection well…” She trailed off and set the bottle on the table next to him. “Well this is just really going to hurt.”
    Before he could react she pressed the dressing against his stomach and his muscles bunched in response. His vision blurred as his eyes watered and there was a heavy thumping in his ears. He gasped for breath as if Mazzie had fallen from a lamp post onto his exposed chest.
    A few seconds later the pain receded and the dressing was peeled away. “Always wanted to do that.” Nisa was absolutely beaming.
    “Oh…shit.” Was all he could think to say.
    Nisa laughed and continued picking at his insides.
    Whatever Gets You Through The Night

    Mirror: A polished or smooth surface (as of glass) that forms images by reflection. Most famous for instigating in the psyche of billions of detectives, romantics, soldiers, teachers, Captains, alcoholics, marauders and mercenaries, at some critical juncture, the intellectual spark or inward revelation required to save the girl, the day, the night, the battle, themselves, or the world.

    The visage and figure of those who stare longingly into that reflective wishing well are diverse and endless; furious, maniacal, laughing, and insane. Thus the maker of the mirror must reflect that too. Tall, wide, short, macabre, plated with gold, trimmed with frivolities, secured to walls, hidden in closets.

    Catherine gazed into the infinite depths of hers, a mock-Tudor, shunned, like the dingy flea ridden mattress against the earthen wall of a cell that reeked of urine. In the center of a circle of flaming candles, her hand tracing the history etched in her grime encrusted skin, she stood in defiance of her collapsing world, trying to divine some meaning from its patterns, its twists and turns. Stepping back, finding out how she’d finally ended up where she was and hoping to find recourse out.

    One hand traced the curve on her neck that ran from collar and ended at chin. Incurred in front of a mirror but not by the solemn girl she was staring at now. That had been someone else, similar, nay near identical but a wholly different entity altogether. A split personality she’d hoped done with what seemed like millennia ago.

    “Tell yourself you’ve seen worse girl. Say I can’t do no harm and see how I take it from there.” That’s what He’d said. That corporeal body she simply did not think about. A neglected set of memories, shunned at every opportunity. Moments of time repressed more violently than even a detachment of Arbites with free reign during riot control could manage.

    Her hand slid lazily down the slope of her narrow shoulders and ran the hypnotic rings around her arm. His jovial commentary had thus far been withheld on those darkened spirals, estranged as she’d been, from Him.

    There were legends in her mutilated flesh, in the winding river in the curve of her neck and the spirals engraved in her arm and the frailness of her sanity. A jerk of the eyes, down her pointed nose, across her chapped lips, over the cliff of her chin and there, and then back up. A quick foray into her exposed history. Then later when she was not around…

    ‘Psycho that’s her.’ ‘Just curious who gave her that.’ ‘Throne she’s ****ed up.’ ‘She needs help.’ ‘Wrong, sick, ****ed, double ****ed, shot, in the head.’ ‘Needs meds, needs tranqs’ ‘Animal.’ ‘****ing feral man. Those eyes man she’s lost man lost in the sauce…’

    People would talk. Some deigned, to her face.

    ‘You’ve got issues.’ Said Lijew. ‘Maybe’ she’d say.

    ‘No.’ Said Naves. ‘Well why?’ She’d think sheepishly.

    ‘You’re ****ing dead.’ Cyrillic promised and with that she broke.

    The exchanges thundered like trumpets in that cranial cavity. Unbidden her hand rose to the pulpy hole below her eye and if she could be honest she’d admired him for at least looking her in the eye and not to an underling and not at the ground.


    Borya had introduced the cells with his trademark flair but it was Lijew, filling his capacity as her father figure, who’d given the history, at tedious length after she’d settled in. An expanded dugout made decades ago for recuperation, resupply and during certain eras, holding. Thus the drab ‘cells’ and that ever present feeling of them being haunted by the souls of the gruesomely departed. ‘Which is odd,’ he added, ‘were blanks we don’t feel.’ She shrugged her shoulders. The only thing she felt was the layer of grime encasing her body in its filth.

    Dungeon might have been an exaggeration but it was the first thought that struck her upon being kindly introduced to the underground hovel. The twin smells of decay and disuse reigned supreme, a close second was ammonia, intense enough you’d have to pinch your nose and cover your mouth.

    “Smells like piss.” She’d said.

    “We don’t get any better.” Lijew replied. “Besides it’s only for two days.”

    “Am I supposed to sleep on that thing?” She complained indicating the plaid mattress where the ammonia smell seemed to originate.

    “Only if you want to.”

    She certainly did not. Carefully she reached up and relieved Lijew of his bayonet and attached the blade to her rifle and speared the mattress. With a testing push she leaned in and slid the diseased bedding across the dirt floor into a corner where it remained, untouched except for licking of flames, for the duration of her stay. Early the next morning, with Cyrillic by her side, she’d reduce the reeking pad to ashes and twisted springs out of spite. The charred remains would permeate the room with an altogether different aroma entirely unpleasant but at that point she’d be far too exhausted to care. Later she’d emerge from the room reeking of burnt urine, covered in soot.

    ‘The hell happened to you’ Lijew would ask while pinching his nose when she emerged from her room.

    ‘Just thinking,’ she’d reply.

    For the better part of an hour Lijew recounted the dugout, the Kingdom’s history. From the one-sided lecture she was able to gleam a few curious facts: First that the history of the Kingdom was everlastingly dark, torture and murder abounded in such magnitudes that it was a miracle the Inquisition hadn’t stepped in and called foul. Second no fewer than a dozen Eldar had once called the place home. Whether they enjoyed their stay or not was another matter entirely, also entirely irrelevant. For clarification see the first fact. Lastly, in those few moments before he muttered his accusatory words, she discovered she didn’t give a damn about the history of the Kingdom.
    From the unlit depths a savior, a rodent appeared, interrupting the Nord’s droning, scurrying for the door, desperate to escape some unseen predator or perhaps investigating the room’s newest occupants. Thankful for its timely interruption she pinned its waving tail with her boot before escape or discovery could be had. The rat squeaking in vain protest she lifted it from the floor and dangled it playfully in front of Жалость’s toothy snout. Cruelly, the Threnody stuck its blue tongue out and licked the length of the furry rodent who rebelled futilely at his undeserved fate. One satisfying crunch later and the squealing rodent was no more. Жалость swallowed, she beamed.

    “You’ve got issues.” repeated Lijew. “Two days, plenty of time to work in a sit down.”

    Two days. That’s what Cyrillic had said when they’d arrived in his flashy Mikazi, dramatic and dangerous. He’d driven for hours, characteristically quiet down a dirt road barely wide enough for their sports car. His only emotion was outrage as branches from the roads flora walls scraped the paint. Again she sat on the speakers, pushed and pulled every time the road made a turn sharp or slight it didn’t matter, on the leathery belly of her vicious pet that in two years she’d have to kill for fear of devourment on an epic scale. The beast barked and growled, gnashed its teeth and bit at the air and Cyrillic turned the speakers up loud to drown the beast out and the rumblings of the subwoofers egged it on. Still it made a nice cushion. Lijew kept her company, acting as a barrier to keep her from being flung from one end of the car to the next every time Cyrillic decided he couldn’t slow down. ‘It’s a sports car damnit. It’s meant to go fast.’

    “Why are you keeping that damned thing?” asked Naves. He twisted around in his seat gracing her with his handsome features.

    “Company.” She said patting the creature’s head. “He’s better than most.”

    “Can you keep it quiet?”

    Catherine shrugged and prodded Жалость’s bright red gums and he snorted in reply, temporarily forgetting his claustrophobic and fluctuating surroundings to clamp down on the interloping hand. Blood was drawn and she stared lovingly into its reptilian eyes.

    “You’ve got issues.” Lijew said.


    “There’s no maybe.”

    For a while they continued on in silence or near silence, a few sparring words on behalf of Naves with Cyrillic until finally the deep beat of drums vibrating the car suddenly stopped and Lijew grabbed the collar of her blouse and braced himself against the driver seat as Cyrillic brought the Mikazi to a grinding and hasty halt outside a hill.

    “We’re here.” He declared unceremoniously as he shut off the engine and exited.

    The three of them followed suit piling out to bear witness to their latest home. A sickly hump on the horizon was the vista. From the belly of this blackened eyesore belched very visible, very noxious fumes that rose high into the already malefic sky.

    “That’s where were staying?” She spoke the query as if giving rise to the thought might somehow change the minds of the men in her life to find a more hospitable area of cleared land.

    “Two ****in days.” Cyrillic confirmed.

    A curt nod from Naves and a grunt from Lijew confirmed his suicidal decision just as the hill emitted a heavy mechanical grinding and the bleeding smoke was sucked suddenly back into the ground, revealing the barren hill for what it was. Hell. An ear-shattering crack that sounded so much like a shotgun at close quarters heralded the opening of a hatch hidden cleverly within the smokes midst. A trio of figures climbed from their communal grave, spotted the interlopers and approached warily, scoped and lasered rifles pointed threateningly towards them. Behind the trio the unseen hatch sealed itself with another explosion of sound.

    Cyrillic walked slowly forwards, his hands held up in submission, as if approaching living relics or avatars of mercilessness. One of the three, a blistery bare-chested man hidden behind a heavy mask whose visor was tinted and whose half-moon filter protruded off to the side creating sucking sounds like a respirator stepped forward to receive his guests.

    “Borya.” Said Cyrillic.

    “Harry.” Said Borya. “What brings you here,” he let dangle his rifle and encompassed the hill, “to my Kingdom?” His voice was muffled, his tone perilous. As he talked the smoke shot up from the barren world around him as if it were steam pushed outwards by speeding pistons hidden in the hills depths. The smoke gathered around him and he was hidden once more.

    “What else,” Said he, “but a place to sleep?”

    “Well, only the best for you.” Spoke the swirling clouds.

    Best. The word had rung untrue in her ears the moment she’d heard the sneer in his throaty muffled voice. Confirmed when the rank smell of piss assaulted her nostrils. His best amounted to a lightless cavern. Water, dark and rancid seeped through cracks in the earth.

    Borya spoke a word into the wind and the gears of the hill came alive again and the flinch inflicting explosion followed. He bid the motley group follow before disappearing into the mists.
    “Hold your breath.” Said Lijew as they passed into the smoky realm. “Acid.”

    “Ah, of course.”

    They stepped into the relentless clouds just as the toxins fumed up into the sky again. Her skin burned on contact and her eyes stung as if they’d been stabbed by a scorpion’s tail. They hurried after Borya and his two silent companions stopping at a rust orange hatch built into the hill. Without a word being spoken unseen hands took hold of Catherine’s waist and eased her down into the hatch and then dropped her down the hole. One of the silent companions, another bare-chested beast with enlarged red eyes, caught her mid-air and set her down on the concrete floor. For an awkward moment they stared at each other. She at their blistered skin, their mechanical breathing, their piercing goggle and visored eyes. In turn they wondered at her curious stature, the scar at her neck and the violence in her pose. Restrained libido one thought hopefully.

    One of the masked men, similarly in need of a shirt, who wore a necklace with dozens of teeth, motioned for her to move out from the beam of light she stood in. Seconds later Naves fell from above followed by Lijew and then Cyrillic. Borya pressed a bright red button on the wall and turbines and gears roared into life. The hatch screamed shut and a metal portal on the far side of the room swung open with such force that chips of rust fell from above.

    When everyone was safely through the hatch Borya began, “Welcome. You all know the place but in case you’ve forgotten,” he turned from them and walked down a long and narrow corridor, “the royal suites where you’ll all be staying.” He gestured towards a half-dozen cast iron doors before continuing on. Catherine stopped to peer into one of the doors. Stale urine ruled its austere dimensions and a man squirmed lividly in fretful sleep in the corner. There are others she noted. Before she could determine anything else about the man, other than he was obviously having the nightmare of his life, Lijew hurried her forwards.

    Borya stopped in his tour at an intersection and turned to face them. “To your left: VOX communications, lounge and food.” He shot a spindly finger to his right and inclined his wrist.

    “To your right, down the stairs is the armory and entertainment of the feminine kind.”

    Lijew leaned down by her side. “Means you don’t go down there.”


    But she did wander. That same night after Lijew’s historical lecture she gave in to her sense of rebellion, righteously repressed for so long by her Lord and creeped out of her dystopian cell. She felt like a spy, in her loose fitting fatigues, scurrying around the tunnels barefoot for stealth. The entire night was open to mischief. She snooped her unit’s cells. Lijew had stripped to his waist and was snoring loudly on the cold dirt floor, his hairy and bountiful chest rising in time with shallow breaths.

    Naves was practicing aerobics, naked. His well muscled body, complete with pocks and burns and cuts and all the marks and character of life, was illuminated by a hundred candles scattered about the room and in the instant she peered through the shining crack in the door an excitement rush through her. She watched as he arched his back feline like and threw his neck backwards. Glimmering beads of sweat rolled from his pectorals and he breathed hard as he forced himself upwards. She exhaled loudly as he reached his apex. Perhaps too loudly, for as soon as the breath had left her rapidly contracting lungs Naves collapsed from his tantalizing position onto his haunches and stared amusedly at the entrance of his iron cell. Without saying a word he stood up, not bothering to cover himself and swaggered over, his manhood swaying gently from side to side.

    Cheeks royally flushed she shrank back from the door expecting what?

    Come in. Sit down. She imagined him saying.

    Instead Naves displayed a mysterious smile, winked and shut the door.

    A denial yes but nothing eternal, certainly ephemeral, she mused. Not wholly unexpected either.
    She continued on.

    Cyrillic’s cell was absent and she needn’t guess where the negligent absentee might reside and for how long. Stealthily she slipped in and poured through his baggage, his trusty rucksack. The artifacts inside never ceased to amaze her. She just couldn’t reconcile the murdering bastard she knew with the despairing and childish soul of one who read skinny titles like ‘Forgiving Helen’ or ‘Judin’ or ‘The Red Sock’ and a dozen other vaguely poetic names.

    She plucked one of the novellas, ‘Beasts’, and skimmed the jacket.

    ‘A lusty and twisted tale of revenge…’ ‘Erotically violent, unapologetically brutal…Meilan plunges his hand in your gut twists and never let’s go.’

    The book soon found itself cast to the ground amidst its brothers. Deeper in the packs depths was a faded photo of some lass with royal proportions whose striking resemblance to her unstable leader was far from uncanny. A family member for sure though the photo revealed no specifics and she deviously pocketed the decrepit familial picture in her blouse and returned the packs contents to their proper location and slipped out from the room.

    Her attempts at infiltration were far more successful than she’d hoped, especially her surveillance of Naves and she decided that now was the time to venture deeper, to the heart of the Kingdom. Down the forbidden steps, she’d tread, to armories and amorous entertainment.


    The wind howled like a forsaken wolf and Catherine finally feeling the cold, stopped in her remembrance to pull Lijew’s heavy flannel jacket over her shoulders. Poor Lijew she thought. Took a bullet for her and in return she’d stolen his jacket. Who would have guessed? Died for her, without hesitation just the way a father would. With a defiant, murderous, possessive scream. Died protecting his what though, comrade? Depressed friend? Mistaken daughter? She’d never once understood him and now supposed never would but those last words...

    She shook the thought from her mind. This was chronicling, she chided, sequence matters. Thus she drifted back to the basement of the Kingdom.


    A memory had come to mind, of a phrase uttered by a being whose existence and involvement in her life she actively repressed, when she stepped into that dank interrogation cell.

    In this one instance she allowed the words to come to her. “Baby, I’m carnal incarnate.” The event that followed those delicately sensual words on that unfinished table in that ordinary room she quelled before they could take hold, letting the scene before her act as a replacement.

    There was Borya, the Kingdom’s guide and caretaker who, according to Lijew had for the better part of forty years dwelled underground only seeing the light when he need welcome especially unwelcome visitors like themselves, was there. Underneath his naked and pocked body was a woman, face down on lo and behold a table. The room was well lit and the walls were scrubbed clean. Behind the one-way mirror Catherine couldn’t make out the floor but she was somehow sure that was immaculate as well.

    The table itself was different from the one she’d graced. Rotted and moldy it looked barely able to withstand the vigorous assaults upon its less than sturdy frame. There were a number of stains upon its dented surface brown, yellow, green, and a mix of all three. There were pictures that looked as if they’d been finger painted.

    She gazed in awe through the looking glass as the two lovers, limb locked, screamed in shameless ecstasy. If the two were afraid of being caught in the amorous act they made no sign of it. Both doors were wide open and the sound reverberated through the dugout. Upstairs her comrades would most certainly hear it and may come to investigate. If they found her there, well…she played with the thought of leaving.

    Suddenly the girl gave out a surprised yelp. Not due to any spectacular move on Borya’s part only that she’d spotted a peeping tom in the window which Catherine realized too late wasn’t at all one-way. The blistery man twisted his head round and a sinister smile grew across his evil face as he saw what his lover’s surprise was.

    Without bothering to remove the straddled girl he grunted his way to the door and opened it leaning in to address her.

    “Hey there kiiidooo? What’s crackin?” He said with a familiarly slow draw.

    His voice was so similar, that slithery wet tone that hypnotized the ears with irresistible loathing. After a few seconds of silence the girl protested but he hushed her with a devious ‘Shh, give her time.’

    After which her voice returned and she replied, “God, you didn’t have to stop.”

    Borya laughed the laugh of the insane and in that she found His voice and her decision was made. She nodded towards the rotted table in the other room and he smiled all the wider and much to the girl’s horror left the observation chamber and proceeded to throw her face down on the table and go about his business. She leaned against the glass and watched them copulate. It took a few moments for the two lovers to get back in the rhythm of things but sure enough after a few moments she was screaming in wild ecstasy again and he was grunting with the effort.

    After a while she noticed an intercom button and she made use of the system and began offering suggestions to the duo. Faster! Slower! Gentler! Harder! Hit her! Push her down! Flip her over! You’re doing it wrong! Borya laughed at the challenges and did his best to acquiesce to his young critic’s spurious demands. At some point the girl, Linda, she’d later been informed, decided she’d had enough and gave the order for the ‘sick ****ing bastard’ to get off her. Of course Borya would hear nothing of the sort and Catherine who was too engrossed in the suddenly violent turn of things could suggest no recourse or middle ground for the two. In lieu of a solution she stepped back from the foggy window and watched as Borya forced her to lay face-down on that rotted table with grimy and cracked hands.

    The cries of sweet rapture gave way to shouts of protest and violation that transported Catherine back to a time she’d not intended to revisit. True she’d flirted with the recreation of her traumatizing first encounter with the opposite sex, the suggestion ‘**** her on the table’ came to mind but she hadn’t actually meant to see the haunting scene reenacted in its brutal entirety. Still, she couldn’t bring herself to look away and as Linda screamed and beat back with her petite fists she realized that this was exactly what she’d wanted. Back in the alley with Cyrillic and the distraught redhead she’d wanted to help. Now it occurred to her that she wanted to hurt. To rend and mash and stab and disembowel and cut and kill and the revelation filled her with an abject terror that welled up like a tidal wave and bore down upon her and for a while she stood at the window and watched and found herself unable to move until Cyrillic, who seemed more attuned to these incidents than any of her comrades, appeared in the doorway, exhausted and furious, dressed only in a pair of dark green skivvies.

    Without muttering a word he stepped into the interrogation room and pulled Borya off of his charge and proceeded to beat him until his knuckles cracked. Linda shot off the table, bloody and naked, and went to retrieve her clothes and dignity from the floor. Her eyes were shot and her cheeks shined like a moon she’d once seen years ago. She dressed silently as Cyrillic, unable to continue punching, choked the man with his kneecap.

    A moment later when Linda had donned her outfit she willed her eyes away from the bloody spectacle raging beside her and peered intently through the glass at the tiny interloper who’d ruined her day and perhaps her life. Her eyes had the quality of sapphires, deep and depressed, and when their twin irises met one said to other ‘you should be the one down there and I’ll make sure you are.’

    Their threatening gaze was interrupted by a throaty scream and both turned their heads to watch as Cyrillic thrust his hand into the man’s mouth, grasped his jaw, put his boot to the man’s bare chest and pulled. Borya screamed insensibly. Several seconds later the jaw came loose with a sickening tearing of skin and the breaking of bone and the misty spray of blood that condensed on his hairy legs. Linda added her high pitched voice to the yelling and shouting and petrified silence that filled the room and Borya moaned and squirmed and clutched hopelessly at his ruined half-face. Catherine stepped back an inch from the window. Cyrillic stood panting with the exertion over the dying man’s body, his jaw in his hand.

    Without looking up he asked, “The **** are you doing?” His voice carried through the rooms.
    She glanced over to Linda who was trying to recover from the shock of seeing her lover’s face torn off. Apparently she hadn’t expected Cyrillic to kill him or if she did not in such a brutal fashion. Part of her thought to somehow implement the girl in some crime that might eclipse her own but there was nothing. She was trapped in that observation room guilty as sin and the owner of those sapphire eyes bereft of mercy or compassion would most certainly point a shaky finger in her direction when Cyrillic inevitably asked what the hell had happened.

    “I asked you a ****ing question.”

    “I’m fine.” She spat as harshly as she could.

    Cyrillic fresh off his bloodlust wasn’t in the mood. He turned to regard her and she cringed. “Didn’t Lijew tell you not to go down here?” The question was only the first of a long query complete with enough violent undertones that the blood god himself might shiver on his skull laden throne. “What the **** are you doing here? What the **** was going on?”

    He hurled inquiry after brutal inquiry at her; each more prying then the last and she pillaged her mind for believable alibis even though she knew that, in the end when Linda finally broke her blessed silence, there would be hell to pay. Still she clung to the hope that Borya had wronged her enough in her life to keep quiet and that she could see how this was all just a mistake and that she hadn’t really meant any harm.

    A futile hope it turned out to be for no sooner did she admit to being nothing more than an innocent bystander did Linda cry out hysterically and inform the blood spattered madmen of the intercom system and the god-like commands that it emitted. Slowly at first and then picking up in intensity as she progressed she detailed an altogether exaggerated account of how Borya’s immoral behavior had stemmed solely from Catherine’s savage lusts.

    Cyrillic stood silent as a statue as he listened to Linda’s impassioned rant, doing his best to keep the hurricane raging underneath his brow from breaking loose and destroying everything around him. By the time she’d finished recounting her nightmare his iron fingers had punched through the mouth of Borya’s jaw and the murder in his eyes seemed to reach out for her.

    “Stupid ****.” He muttered and pointed a bloody finger at her. “You’re dead. You’re ****ing dead.”

    She was preparing a biting retort, something that called into question the girls testimony on basis of character and that informed Cyrillic in no uncertain terms that her accuser was a slut of the highest order when suddenly something inside her broke. Maybe it was the fury in his eyes or the way Borya tried to scream or the girl’s hysterical ranting, or the pain in between her legs or the fact that there weren’t any splinters in her arms and chest, or that it had all been wrong and his voice had been off and the cut on his hand was two inches farther south than it should have been and because he wasn’t Naves and because she hated herself and the Marines hadn’t wanted her and because she’d killed a little boy and was living with the people who’d killed her friend and because of a million other disgraces and hardships and insanities and broken promises and men and women and scarred hands and their nightmarish owner and the pain in her feet and the scar on her neck and the gazes that went with it and the... Like an earth that could hold no more water but was being bombarded by a monsoon the emotions just rose up and she realized that no catechism or prayer or God was going to stop their apocalyptic coming. With an abrupt wail she collapsed to the ground and for a long while she sobbed and after a time she muttered, “It hurts…” and the words came out choked and the rage in his eyes softened a sliver and he squeezed the back of his neck and he stared upwards at the tiny light bulb dangling from its beaded string as if the light had somehow revealed an ancient secret to him.

    Finally after a while Cyrillic strode over to her, lower jaw still in hand, and said, “Well no shit it hurts dumbass.”

    “Did you hear a-

    Cyrillic hurled Borya’s toothy jaw at Linda, silencing her incredulity toned outburst.

    He took a deep breath and massaged his forehead. He was obviously deep in thought and at random intervals he would shift his piercing gaze from her to Borya to Linda before returning to study her again. He continued his cycle for a while as if his conscious was trying to resolve some mystery only he could see. In truth he was deciding whether or not to take the opportunity and just kill her but for all his plotting and scheming he couldn’t help but remember those few words of his father’s ‘do what’s right because its right’ and killing a hapless child, sociopath or not he knew in his gut wasn’t right.

    After a while he sighed and gently slapped her cheek. “Upstairs,” he instructed, “we’ll talk.”


    A muffled scraping from outside Mistress Helma’s dressing room’s several windows alerted Catherine to an intruder and she turned around, pulling her pistol from its holster, just in time to see a frost covered Cyrillic, rucksack and all, huffing through a tiny frame on the east side of the room.

    With a heavy clunk he fell to the mahogany floor. A moment later he shook his head from side to side peppering his chilled surroundings with flecks of snow.

    “Did you find him?” She asked already knowing the dreadful answer but unable to release the small hope until she knew for certain.

    Without speaking he nodded his head and pulled a silver ring from his pocket. He rolled the gleaming band in his palm rubbing an appreciative finger across the ruby mounted at its top.
    “Was that his?”

    Again he nodded.

    Later when his interest in the jewel had been sated he pulled himself to his feet. Almost imperceptibly he gestured towards the pile of clothes which lay in the center of the room. She muttered a quick curse and produced a pocket lighter which she ignited with the press of a button.
    Without waiting for acknowledgement she tossed the igniter into the pile of clothes. For a few minutes there was no result other than the ruining of a few expensive dresses and Cyrillic released an exasperated sigh. Not to be deterred she nudged a neon green culottes closer to the burgeoning flames that took surprisingly fast, forcing her to extricate her hand before it went up along with the rest of the wardrobe.

    They took seats either side of the fire and stared silently at each other through the flickering light. Catherine fidgeted with her pistol, flicking the green laser sight on and off. Cyrillic, forever distant and impersonal, dropped his pack and eased himself to the floor. He rummaged through his possessions selecting from among them a novella that he opened briskly and buried himself in.

    For a long while the only noise was the crackling of the fire.

    “Can I see it?” She asked suddenly an hour later.

    Without hesitation he replied, “**** no”, and turned a page.


    His assholery was unsurprising. Little more than a week ago she’d endured a day and a half locked in a cell with a far more agitated version of him and she’d become jaded to his casual but vicious barbs. Which wasn’t to say he’d shut her away and berated her. Quite the opposite and in fact his laughable but genuine attempts at compassion had helped ease her way onto the road of recovery.


    “Take a seat.” His commanding voice brooked no room for argument and a second later she slid cautiously past him onto the remarkably clean cot at the edge of the room.

    He watched her stoically as she went, shutting the door behind her and planting himself in front of its heavy frame.

    “Out with it.” He said with a wave of the hand.

    She remained as she was, teary-eyed and silent except for the occasional sniffle or sob.

    “Dumb shit.” He whispered to himself. He considered another approach. “We’re not leaving till you talk and I have…” he glanced at the chronometer nailed to the wall, “one day and 29 hours. So unless you don’t mind pissing yourself for the next day and a half I suggest you start.”

    She studied his face. There was a severity she’d seen in that face before. A determination that said he would not budge from that door even if the God-Emperor himself came down from the throne and tried to smite him. She glanced at the wall; two minutes had passed, and then back at Cyrillic’s unflinching gaze. This, she decided, would be a long two days.

    He kept his promise. As she knew he would. For hours they sat opposite each other, him unwilling to back down, her unwilling to speak up. No attempts were made to broach the subject. There was no endeavor to speak.

    When three hours into the wait she tried to lie down on the mattress he instructed her to remain upright. Exhaustion gnawed at her and out of habit she began to intone a short prayer but she cut herself short before even Cyrillic could.

    “No prayers.” His words mirrored her thoughts.

    God was a lie.

    And so she drifted off into sleep.


    In her dream her satanic doppelganger who had so gleefully slit her throat and who she was almost positive had been put down during an earlier encounter performed and exotic dance while chanting in a demonic tongue that made her ears bleed. Her wavy blue dress fluttered in the air as she twirled and twisted. Her bare feet kicked up dust that embedded itself in the trailing garment.
    Catherine flicker her eyes at the girl and muttered a derisive, “You.”

    The twin’s dance came to a sudden stop. “Miss me?” She asked with a disconcerting smile.
    Catherine snorted in reply and assumed a defensive posture.

    The other girl shrugged her unblemished shoulders then bent down to beat the dust from her dress.

    Catherine took a second then to take in her surroundings. She stood in the center of a great glowing forest, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of sizzling candles that gave off a pure white light. Heavy grey robes like those of a serf hung loosely from her bony frame. In her hands she held a massive volume, The Lion. With no small amount of awe she ran a guilty hand across the unblemished metal casing.

    Suddenly, her other self let out an ululating scream and began running a dwindling spiral that Catherine deduced would see her at the end. Remembering her last, mistakenly fatal encounter, the decision to confront this insane threat was made. From beneath her grey robes she pulled out a misshapen dagger whose blade looked like a dying branch of a bonsai tree. She flipped the dagger in the air and took it by the sharpened tip when suddenly a dozen thorny roots ripped up from the ground and wrapped around her tightly. The dagger fell amidst the glowing candles but she managed to hold onto the book. She shouted threats and entreaties and struggled and in return her thorny restraints wound tighter and dug themselves into her skin. Immobile she watched her psychotic twin fly past her vision laughing deviously until she felt the light touch of fingers slither against her neck and the twin twisted around her backside and came face to face with herself.

    A toothy grin filled her vision and without warning the bleached teeth lunged forwards and bit her lip. A sharp cry echoed in the candle filled expanse and Catherine felt her grip loosen before her other self snatched the book away.

    The pain abated and stolen book in hand she hopped a few playful steps backwards, dress trailing in front of her, and suddenly the organic chains that had confined her rotted away into nothing.
    “Give it back!” She cried and took a step forward.

    Her twin ignored her. Still smiling her porcelain white smile she let the book hover over a knot of candles. The arm holding the book began to melt like wax and the book dangled dangerously close to the candescent lights. Fortunately for her she’d become jaded to such insanity. She took another step. The book didn’t move.

    Suddenly the girl’s face became deathly serious and Catherine realized that she wouldn’t burn the tome without her permission. Her first thought was to retrieve the tome and bury one of the flares into her tormentor’s eye but a dimly remembered memory of shooting the girl in the face nagged at the back of her mind and she discarded the notion altogether. Instead she strode purposefully forward, repossessed the tome and turned to walk away.

    Time to wake up, she thought.

    “Wake up!” Her incensed twin spat as she walked away. “Wake the **** up!”

    Suddenly her double bounded over wrapped her tiny fingers around her face and lifted her off the ground. For a few seconds she hung in the air while her second’s mouth jerked open and then just as quickly shut. The other Catherine gave a frustrated growl and lowered her significant other back down.

    The twins stood still, unsure of how to end their confrontation. Finally, the other girl closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. When she reopened them the fury had vanished and she smiled warmly. Slowly, she leaned forward and kissed herself on the forehead and left for the forest of candles. As she did the sky lost its beautiful hue to an encroaching darkness and she cried out in alarm.
    She called out after her twin but the phantasm did not hear her. The black clouds congregated above her and the candles began to flicker out and it seemed to Catherine as if all the light in the world was dying.

    “Wait!” She cried and began running after her departing self.

    This time the girl turned. Her childish demeanor was gone, replaced with a dire sense of urgency. Without speaking she pointed a reconstructed finger at the book. Catherine looked down to see that the metal tome was glowing and as the darkness enveloped her surroundings the light it radiated grew in intensity. Holy, she thought. So enraptured was she by the tomes radiance that she didn’t notice the candles flickering out one by one as she continued onwards to her frantically shouting self.

    White phosphorous bombs exploded within the clouds and streaks of lightening began to strike the ground, each screaming bolt blasting away dozens of the defiantly glowing candles. A sudden wind howled and hundreds more went out. The other girl renewed her screams but Catherine was oblivious to her warnings. There was a face on the tome now, the outline of Him her Emperor, her God and on the eve of that revelation the blinding light grew all the brighter and bathed her in its cold luminosity.

    The purity was almost too much to bear. From within the tome voices deep and melodic whispered to her and she stopped a few feet from her screaming self.

    Then without warning something crashed into her and she was forced to the barren ground. The shining tome was knocked away and she howled in protest. On top of her, restraining her was Catherine, an unscarred child shouting words that wouldn’t reach her ears. With a strength she didn’t know she had she threw off her attacker and leapt for the book but before she could grab it hands strong and nimble took hold of her ankles and she fell to the ground inches from her objective. Without hesitation Catherine dragged herself backwards and pinned her struggling self to the ground with a knee to the back. With both hands she took hold of her real self’s head and forced it to gaze upon the burning tome.

    Both Catherines watched as the ground around it ruptured and from those rupture liquid steel poured out. The candles in its provincial feeding ground lasted only a few seconds before their flames were snuffed out. A bolt of lightning slammed into the ground beside them and the deafening explosion showered them with bits of dirt and suddenly Catherine realized what she had to do. She looked up at her twin who nodded briskly and she released her hold.

    Catherine rose unsteadily to her feet and began the slow walk to the burning book. The ravages of war marked the earth and the signs of death swirled in the air and with every act of destruction and every dead candle the tome shined brighter. She knelt down to retrieve the tome upon whose sleek surface she could see in perfect detail, the face of her Emperor. As her fingers touched the holy tome words came unbidden into her mind, tales of heroic deeds and noble causes and hopes and dreams and the warning to tread carefully upon them.

    Frightened she turned back but her twin was there and she gave an affirming nod and her cool grey eyes lent her strength. Mustering their collective courage she grasped the book and carried it over to one of the few burning candles and forced herself to thrust it into the tiny flame…
    …and the skies cleared and the steel receded back into the earth and the grass grew and bulb-shaped flowers bloomed and the sun shined as if it were making up for its years of banishment and as it did the last bits of papery ash floated away upon a cool gentle breeze.


    A while later she awoke to the sound of a piercing hiss that filled the room with dull vibrations. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes she glanced at the Chronometer on the wall. It was late morning though to look around there was nothing to suggest this. They were after all underground on a world that no sun could reach. The only illumination was a cadre of candles positioned at certain strategic points around the room. Her muscles were stiff and her mind registered an ache in her back from being hunched over for so long. Despite her pains however it felt as if she’d just emerged from a terribly dark fog. There was a crisp clarity to the room and the softly glowing candles that flickered at the weakest of winds, as if she was once again standing on the chilled mountains of Jugiinbaii with her lo…Eurydice at an endless ocean of blue.

    She let out a cat-like yawn and stretch.

    Snoring lightly against the door, legs pulled up close and arms folded was Cyrillic. A thin brown book laid by his side, one of many she’d tossed carelessly to the ground not six hours before and then repacked. For a time she eyed its weary dimensions, a book of maxims or so the title led her to believe, its worn leather cover and the wrinkled spine. Fragments of her dream suggested that a certain tome had played a critical role in an unconscious decision and she found the books presence somewhat ominous.

    Stealthily, doing her best to keep the cot from creaking as she rose, she walked over and grabbed the book all the while eyeing Cyrillic to see if her muffled movements had woken him from his slumber. They did but curiosity kept him from stirring.

    Carefully she opened the book to its title page, ‘Love’ it read and just below it a handwritten message: To my only son, Kel ‘83.

    Harry, she thought, his name is Harry. Obviously the book was a gift. There was a golden tassel lodged halfway between the book and she flipped through the pages until she arrived at its mark. The page was filled with dozens of sayings in tiny, elegant print. She skimmed through their accumulated wisdom until she came to a particularly touching maxim that had it not been highlighted and circled in bright yellow she would have completely missed.

    ‘Children need love especially when they do not deserve it.’ –Harold Hulbert

    Calmly she ran a shapely finger across the words. Then she read them. Then spoke them. Then read them again and again and intoned them like a prayer and then closed her eyes and imagined Cyrillic reading them and looking at her, sleeping when he’d forbidden it and then read them again.

    After a while she closed the book and replaced it by his side. It took a moment but it occurred to her that she was in fact, still a child.


    “Fourteen.” She’d said.

    Kirin tipped his head backwards in mock disbelief. “Really? When that happen?”

    “Yesterday.” She said proudly from atop the hood of the Mikazi.

    He turned around. “Hey Lijew guess what, kid turned fourteen yesterday!”

    “No shit?” Asked Lijew.

    “No shit.” He replied.

    Brandis who was packing his gear into Kirin’s truck paused and shouted, “One down two to go!”

    Then he made an obscene gesture and burst out laughing and Lijew waltzed over and trounced him over the head.

    From across the street Vaughan offered his compliments.

    Though she didn’t see it Cyrillic glared at her from the driver’s seat. Behind him…insert Threnodies name here…growled.

    All around them hundreds of black clad militants were climbing into vehicles, loading gear, and driving off. That morning Apostlin was alive again. The sound of revving engines echoed up and down the street.

    Kirin mussed her hair and leaned in close. “Listen when we get back you, me and Natayla we’ll have dinner together. Maybe make you something to eat. God knows you could use some meat on your bones.”

    Then he smiled and kissed her forehead. “See you in a couple days.” He called and then left.

    She watched as he crossed the busy street to exchange a few words with Lijew. Then he motioned for Brandis and Vaughan to hop into the flatbed. With a final wave from the merry trio Kirin started the engine and began the long drive to Nara where he’d search for Parse’s labs and then leave them to their fate on the eve of a great battle.


    The battle, she remembered, would be her first and would live up to everything everyone had ever said. She would be covered in dirt, shoot men in their back, and leave people behind, fight without any shred of honor or pride or nobleness. Contrary to her beliefs the battle for Linthicum was, according to the men of her unit, a minor skirmish. A few thousand people died but most were just civilians caught in a cross fire. In the case of the cultists well, Lijew had been the first to admit they’d taken a step back and let the PDF handle things.

    “Throne knows if we’re still supposed to be on the same side. If they shoot at you, shoot back. If we’ve got stragglers…well guess the good Emperor wouldn’t mind if we got in some target practice.”

    So in fact her first battle had not been a battle but a tutorial. An introduction to basic marksmanship and a desensitizing of the senses, not of course that she’d needed the last part, the evil ****. In Nara urban warfare was the name of the game and when Naves told her this she felt herself slightly confounded. What then was Linthicum?

    “Sniping, kid a tutorial. Room clearing, close quarters. That’s some whole other shit right there. Heartbreak shit kid.” Said Naves.

    “Nasty shit.” Added Cyrillic. “Very messy.”

    And so it was. Lijew would be gunned down by one of his own in just such a fashion seconds after bellowing his nonsensical oath of possession.

    Then for a moment she stopped thinking and just listened to the crackle of the flames. Hotly glowing cinders floated skyward, carried aloft by the immense heat before gravity reasserted its hold and brought them tumbling back down, cold and lifeless back into the fire. Something within the inferno snapped. Across from her Cyrillic flipped another page and did his best to remain stoic.


    He’d done the same a little more than a week before in that dreary room in that underground locale known as the Kingdom when Catherine took a single white sheet from the cot and returned to curl up alongside him.

    With a tiresome sigh he lowered his legs, wrapped an arm around her fragile shoulders and pulled her onto his lap. His anger was still raw and there was the word ‘liability’ that leered at him like a full grown Threnody, hungry and ready for the kill. He held her in his hands. He shifted uncomfortably. He scratched his brow.

    After a while he nudged the sleeping child in his arms awake.

    She looked up and he rubbed his brow. His lips moved but they made no sound. He had to approach the subject delicately. Unfortunately tact was not his forte.

    “Tell me about these Space Marines.” He blurted after a moment’s hesitation.

    Her ears suddenly perked and her eyes took on a pitiful glazed. Without realizing it she hugged herself closer.

    “What about them?”

    “The crash site. What happened?”

    “Don’t you already know?” She pushed herself upright in his lap and began fidgeting with the zipper on her blouse.

    “I got a gist, not the specifics.”

    “Well…” She began. And then she told him. She decided to start from the beginning. Reluctantly she told him about Gesture, the backwater jungle world where she’d been born. The nomadic tribe she’d traveled through the Sapli Mountains and how one day a great bird descended from the skies and landed before them. She remembered the entire tribe fleeing in terror except a young boy named Hini who would later die in a tournament hosted by the great warriors. Her father too would perish in those games and her mother, as was custom, threw herself into a fire to meet him in the afterlife. At the time she couldn’t imagine why her father would throw his life away for some bout of pride and privilege. Her mother’s actions too bewildered her. What were they trying to prove? Didn’t they have her? Why didn’t they love her?

    The questions ate at her insides and as the giant’s game came to a close and half the tribe’s male population was dead she was of the mind that her parent’s had come to detest her for some perceived lacking of something, a trait or a quality that she did not possess nor could come to possess.

    On the final day of the games the remaining members of the tribe packed up and made to leave for the Lpoi pass. Catherine, which was not her original name, followed but because she was bereft of any familial ties to the tribe she was soon driven out. For a while she tried to stealthily reinsert herself into the tribe only to be chased away by spear-wielding madmen. Attempts to blend in with the other children were doomed from the start. Parents were vigilant. Sometimes she’d trail behind the tribe, keeping a safe distance but still staying within sight. Soon however, her former tribe mates caught on and again they grabbed their spears and clubs and gave chase and this time they hounded her until she collapsed on the ground and one man made a big show of beating her with a stick.

    After that she didn’t follow them anymore.

    For the next three days she wondered the Sapli Mountains. Walking aimlessly across its ridges, its knolls and hills, circumventing its chasms while contemplating throwing herself down into their bottomless depths. Food was scarce and even if it wasn’t she was barely four years old and no hunter. She ate the grass and the bugs that dwelled within. Twice it rained and had it not been for the warm climate she was sure she would have frozen to death. Still the waters soaked her through and through and already weakened by malnutrition she soon became ill. For a time she could still function, she could still pick grass out of the ground and walk a few steps without falling but soon after she began coughing up blood she collapsed onto a grassy mound and decided to let death take her.

    She couldn’t remember how it happened but after she’d passed out someone must have retrieved her for when she awoke she was in a massive cavern surrounded by flashing instruments and from whence long tubes protruded and hooked into her body. Standing impossibly high above her was one of the giants, an Apothecary she would later learn. He would inform her in a language she didn’t understand that she was in the medical bay of the Strike Cruiser known as The Chaste. The same ship that now lay ruined out in the Territories. For many days she laid in the bay unable to move, attended by the Apothecary whose name she discovered was Plias. Six years later he would die in a campaign against greenskins on the world of Io and she’d be given the privilege of watching his geneseed removed. It was a ghastly procedure by any measurement.

    She apologized. She was getting ahead of herself. During her months long stay in Plias’ sterile province a Marine would come to visit her. Her first memory of him, this Captain Eurydice Plias informed with awe, her soon-to-be mentor in all things was the heavy clunking of his armored boots on the deck. Nowadays such a thing was not very impressive but one had to keep in mind that back then even the concept of metal would eventually blow her mind.

    Three or four times a week the Captain would make time to visit her and teach her language, Gothic. Progress was slow in this department; though to be fair her former tribe’s language amounted to little more than organized grunts. Still the Captain was patient and after a month of intense practice she could claim to have a decent grasp of the language.

    Once she’d mastered that simple subject he moved onto the history and philosophy of the Chapter. Right off the bat without pause to tell her what a ship or a pen might be. As it were they we’re the Dread Angels, descendents of the Dark Angels, commissioned during the twentieth founding on a trio of gloomy hive worlds. Their doctrines consisted of fire-and-maneuver, so yes no different than what anyone did, with a heavy emphasis on brute force.

    She felt the need to note that while he was her mentor he wasn’t the one who’d rescued her from that grassy mound and though he sought out the unknown savior no Marine could admit to plucking a young girl from any grassy knoll. That was the mystery that had cemented her faith in the God-Emperor. Of course at the time she was unaware of what the God-Emperor even was. Her tribe worshipped a great dragon that dwelled in the sky and upon death would consume their essences to fuel his everlasting fire. The sun, she said, in other words. Eurydice quickly did away with those beliefs, enthusiastically instructing her in the true way of the God-Emperor, Lord and Savior of Mankind, blessed be his name.

    Then came one glorious day when she was unhooked from her tubes and pumps and chiming instruments and Eurydice, fondly referred to as her Lord after several dozen visits, bade her walk for the first time in months. Comedy would have ensued if the Marines hadn’t been such a dour bunch. Fortunately this trial passed too and the mechanics of walking returned quickly, far faster to be sure than the complexities of the spoken word.

    Suddenly Cyrillic cut in, “Shit kid I asked what happened at the crash site not your ****in’ autobiography.”

    Catherine frowned. “We’ll sorry. I thought you’d be interested.”

    “Very. But right now there are other issues.”

    Catherine sighed and glanced at the chronometer on the wall. Mid-afternoon. No wonder he was complaining.

    After a while she said, “It doesn’t matter anymore really.”

    “How so?”

    “Eurydice is dead.” She cringed as she spoke the words. “I don’t want anything else to do with them.”

    “Mm. I see. Elaborate?”

    She adjusted herself before replying, “I just…don’t want to go back.”

    “So you want to stay with us.”

    She nodded her head.

    “And what if…” he fumbled for words. Damn Ms. Fila and her incomprehensible chalk board.

    “We have to contend with the Astartes?” She finished for him.


    She shrugged her shoulders. “Then that’s that. Like I said I don’t care for them anymore.”

    There was bitterness in her voice. He took it as a good sign. Things might just work out after all.
    Suddenly he picked her up and put her off to the side. “Gotta piss.” He said. “When I come back we’ll talk about Borya and this time no ****ing eight hour wait.”


    Borya. She sighed. Knowing full well you have to do something doesn’t make it any easier. It’s embarrassing, shameful, potentially life-altering; the task of explaining oneself. She knew he wanted to justify her actions but what could do other than shrug her shoulders and mumble that she didn’t know what came over her.

    “You do. Start talking.” Said Cyrillic.

    He was pacing back and forth in the cramped quarters, hands in his pocket, concentration firmly set upon her struggling lips.

    “I…just wanted…to see…see I was…well…when I was…”

    Cyrillic paused in his stride already knowing what the girl was going to say.

    Earlier after she’d dozed off he sought out Lijew and sought out advice that he was not too prideful to take.

    “Hits a little close to home doesn’t it?” He asked when he stepped into his unfurnished cell.

    He took a deep breath and nodded his head. Slowly the cell’s walls faded and for a moment it was mid-summer in the Neciea valley again. Gunfire, screams, explosions. So many sounds vying for his attention but none of that had mattered to him. He was immune to death. It was the damn chirping that cinched it. That incessant screeching that followed the living plagues through the sky. He remembered hearing a sharp wail. He felt burning sand between his knees. At some point he remembered dropping his rifle and clutching his ears.

    Later Sergei would come find him lying in the grass and he’d kneel down and say wryly, “Well well what have we here.”

    And all he could manage to say was ‘it hurts’.

    Smiling a great big smile Sergei kicked him in the head then grabbed his collar and dragged him back to the EP.

    “Shoulda seen him,” he would later say, “like a damn baby ‘it hurts, it hurts’.”

    “So the deal is she got, you know, ****ed. I didn’t ask for details but I mean it’s kind of obvious.”
    The words pulled Cyrillic back into reality. “What?”

    “I mean someone screwed her.”


    “Against her will you deft bastard.”

    “Oh.” Cyrillic muttered. “That actually explains a bit about her.” He scratched his head and leaned back against the wall. “Know anything about the scars? I mean they were fresh when Mathias gave her to me.”

    Lijew ruffled his beard. “Same sicko.”

    He pondered the Nord’s words. “A doc?”

    Lijew shrugged his shoulders.

    After a moment he kicked off the wall and pulled open the door. Suddenly he turned around. “How’d you find this out?”

    “Kirin.” Lijew replied, a hint of sadness in his brusque tone. “Tried talkin’ with her but…I’m not that good with kids.”

    Cyrillic grunted and left the cell.

    It took a week before he was able to talk again. He remembered sitting away in a corner, his shame burning, while his friends, yes he’d had them once, would come up and say, ‘hey no sweat’ or ‘happens to all of us’ and he’d try to mutter an apology but he couldn’t. At the end of the week Sergei came to visit him.

    “Listen Harry,” he began but never finished. Instead he dropped his rucksack and fished out a few cans of beer and he handed him one and after a few moments he accepted and snapped the tab off. The beer tasted like shit but there was remorse in its amber tone and a sweetness of texture and soon the can was gone.

    “Throw me another.” He said and then Sergei smiled and tossed him another can and sat down beside him.

    They drank for a long while.

    After the pack was finished Cyrillic mumbled some nonsense about how he just couldn’t cope with the goddamn screeching. How the noise just clawed at his mind and no matter what he did he couldn’t shut out the sound and it was just driving him insane and he couldn’t even hear the guns it was just this long droning and all he wanted was to stop and-

    “No sweat man. No sweat.” And the words meant everything to him.

    So decades later when Catherine finally spat out her woeful tale and the slits of her eyes watered, Cyrillic strode up, patted her on the back and said, “No sweat kid.”


    The fire snapped and a cinder swam over into Catherine’s waiting palm. It burned for only a second.

    “We can’t stay here.” She whispered.

    “Your perception is amazing.”

    She stuck out her tongue. “Sarcasm doesn’t suit you, you know.”

    “Something has to.”

    “I’m not staying here.”

    “Keep in touch then.”

    “I’m going to go kill him.”

    “Thought we were gonna hold off on that.”


    “I suppose.”

    “Doncha think we should kill Kirin first?”

    “No him first, Kirin later.”

    Cyrillic sat up and packed away his book. “Let’s go then.”


    Catherine bounced around the backseat of the Mikazi as it followed the myriad twists and turns of the uneven road. A constant slapping noise accompanied their drive as the Mikazi ran over the black grass that had nearly overtaken the road and obscured everything below waist height. Жалость remained surprisingly quiet, apparently used to the bumpy confines of its cramped quarters. Every so often Cyrillic would swerve around an abandoned car or truck just as they appeared, always at unnecessary break neck speeds. If those combined haphazards weren’t enough the sky’s gates had finally given way and radioactive snow flittered down to the earth imperiling the Mikazi further with a thin layer for it to slide and crash on.

    Beside her Naves mumbled and did his best, nothing when compared to Lijew’s cushy bulk, to keep the both of them from being flung out a window. Lijew sat up front silent.

    “So this guy, this butchered man. Who is he?” Naves asked.

    “A bad euphemism.” Lijew chimed in. “Couldn’t think of a better name for this sicko?”

    “You’ll forgive me if heart wrenching terror kept me from coming up with a better alias.”

    “So who is he?”

    Who was the butchered man? She’d oft wondered that very question. A man, though that was up for debate, over six feet tall covered from head to toe in weeping scars. There was a fire in his cobalt eyes behind the stringy black mop that hung over his head that seemed to twitch as if it were alive. His fingers were muscular and dirty.

    He had a nasty disposition that matched his raspy drawl.

    “Pleased to make your acquaintance…Ms. Gillespie,” he once said, “I’m sure we’ll be best friends forever and ever…”

    When the mood hit him he waxed lyrical.

    “I’ve got a friend Ms. Gillespie, names Sam, and he’s a good man. But I’ve know Sister Holly and Momma Sue, Daddy Bin, and Brother-Jias too.”

    Sometimes he simply made no sense at all.

    “Hark! Ms. Gillespie, the Angels sing! Glory indeed to the reborn King! I’m that king back from a forgotten grave. I’m the usurper. I’m the herald of death. That timeless fury. Don’t **** with me.”

    He lived underneath a school in a flesh covered basement.

    “Sounds like quite a guy.” Naves said sarcastically.

    “He’s gonna be a very dead guy.” Catherine replied.

    “All of you shut-up.” Ordered Cyrillic.

    He picked up a short-hand VOX transponder. +Kirin we’re almost there talk to me+

    The VOX cackled a moment and then a familiar sounding voice rang out of it.

    +Woo boss you wouldn’t believe what we found down here it’s ****ing amazing+

    Cyrillic continued exchanging curt messages with the indistinguishable voice, presumably Kirin, while Catherine leaned forward to get a better look at their rapidly approaching destination. In the near distance the city of Nara loomed, vast and unwelcoming. The ruins dominated the horizon even more so than black grass that pervaded every nook and cranny of the planet. Here and there Crescent trees towered over their lesser cousins of death, their leering black visages made softer by the addition of a small veneer of peaceful misleading white.

    +No I see you+ cackled the VOX and then the Mikazi began to slow.

    Suddenly the grass gave way and a pair of battered trucks came into view. “Wait here.” He said and then stepped out.

    Outside Vaughan strode up from the assembled militants. The wide grin on his face suggested he was happy with his first command, even if it was tangent.

    “Sir.” He greeted.

    “I take it you found the labs?” Cyrillic replied tersely.

    “Yeah. Just a…” He pointed off towards the center of the city, “…ways over there, past a bunch of storage warehouses over in the North district.”

    Cyrillic looked off in the general direction but he wasn’t looking out towards the horizon, he was studying the six stiff figures forming a 360 around the trucks. Apparently Vaughan had the sense to provide security for the meeting, a good indicator that the chaos worshipper had decided to take his new commission seriously. Fatigue was heavy on the troop’s faces, a mask for their discontent, and Cyrillic made a mental note to find Vaughan alone and give him a few pointers. A leader could be harsh but you never gave the men good reason to hate you.

    Cyrillic grunted and wiped some of the falling snow from his all black uniform. Almost a century, he thought, and we haven’t gotten something that fits in the winter. Iconic, Mathias had said, let them see we’re unafraid. An amusing fact, three years later they’d go into hiding.

    “Take us there.” Cyrillic spoke curtly then turned to leave.

    “One more thing.” Vaughan added.


    His face contorted slightly and his voice betrayed a hint of fear. “We’ve found tunnels, dozens of them they-

    “We’ll talk about that later. Right now I want you to drive.”


    Drive they did. For an hour they traveled the diseased veins of that metal beast. Past Admantanium fingers with too many joints and cracked ribs whose spires had once stabbed the sky now lay as massive and nonnegotiable roadblocks. They circumvented these rusted spires by traveling down the thin capillaries that snaked between the looted organs of the city, restaurants, cafés, schools, hospitals, museums, and ghettoes.

    Along the way Catherine marveled at the meticulous destruction. Doors hung from melted hinges, gothic style buildings were caved in, and skyscrapers had fallen or collapsed upon themselves. The city was a scrap yard, the largest she’d ever seen. Mountains of debris clogged the cities slick highways and rivers flowed in its subways and sewers. Here and there meatless bones marked the spot of an unfortunate’s death.

    “Like a grave yard.” Someone said.


    “Should I tell you not to wander?” Lijew asked the tike at his side.

    “You could...” She replied playfully as lifted the blue tarp draped over the shattered glass entrance and squeezed into the crowded lobby. “But I don’t think it’d do you any good.”

    “Smartass, I’ll get Harry to do it.”

    Catherine faked a smirk then bit her lip.

    “It’s been three days already. I can’t stay in this ****ing lobby anymore. I just want to have a look around.” She began walking towards the arguing duo, glass crunched beneath her boots.

    Lijew hesitated a moment and then followed. Outside the snow had begun to fall in earnest and all parties operating in the city had converged on the lab site, Parse’s Deductions, for shelter. Counting themselves it amounted to almost a hundred men. For the most part they huddled about glowing rod heaters that they’d hooked up to the constantly humming generators. They played cards, dice, ate, drank, and generally busied themselves with the labor of trying to be happy.

    “I mean there isn’t anything down there. Nothing living anyways and besides it’s not like the place is a labyrinth. We mapped everything out.” She waved a hand over an expanse of the lobby filled with small green tents that she’d been sleeping in, uncomfortably, for the last three days. They’re arrangement defied logic, at best they’re unknowable pattern bordered on madness, at worst she was sure if someone said the right words and shed some blood a pantheon of demons would spring to life.

    Lijew gazed out at the madness and mumbled a concession.

    The two muscled through the expanse, walking over bodies and tents and pieces of gear until they reached a hallway that had been sealed off with two rolls of yellow tape as a joke. ‘Danger Mr. Robinson’ a chubby man had said in jest earlier that morning.

    ****ing adhesives, she thought as she went to work on tearing the chubby man’s masterpiece down. The stuff was industrial grade and it took a few minutes before she was able to make a whole wide enough for her to climb through.

    “I’ll be back in a little while.” She said.

    “Two hours, no one hour, be back in an hour.”

    “Alright, Dad.” She said with a roll of the eyes and then disappeared.

    For a few moments Lijew played with the locks of his beard then he laughed and departed.


    Catherine had been right. The labs were no labyrinth. They didn’t even amount to a simplistic maze and the need for a map signified either extreme navigational or mental challenges. To her the place seemed more like a scientific assembly line.

    To the immediate right, after an irritably long descent down the azure staircase and through a checkpoint station with metal detectors, was an automatic door, currently inoperable that led to a monitoring station of sorts. A reinforced window allowed a dim view of the blank screens and rusted terminals inside. Further down the hallway the walls expanded and then branched off into three separate rooms. The first to the left housed an oval-like generator that was half buried in ferrocrete and upon which two foul smelling Nords were laboring over. Both were heavy set but one, a goggle wearing man whose locks reminded her of Lijew’s was towered over the other, a wiry fellow naked save for green underpants. They paid her no mind as she watched them fumble around with ratchets and electric screwdrivers. Things got interesting when the goggle-bearer pulled out a chain sword, attached a hand guard to the hilt and according to the second Nord, ‘got to it’.

    Sparks flew everywhere and looked as if the wielder was making some real headway until the teeth of the blade started shooting through the air. Defeated by a seemingly impenetrable case the Nord cut the power and examined his work.

    “Got through lil bit.”

    “Aye. A lil bit.”

    The two exchanged looks then laughed and then looked back at her. “Oy lass, run upstairs and go get us another chain.”

    Catherine muttered something about child labor under her breath but the two Nords were insistent and in a few moments she was back upstairs searching for the maniacal workers tent. Fortunately her search wasn’t long as their tent was the only tiger-striped tent out in the sprawl and she rummaged through its contents until she found a leather bag containing spare chains. Unable to lift its amassed weight she was forced to drag the bag by its straps all the way down.

    “Oooyyy thanks there lass.” Underpants said when she finally returned, soaked in sweat despite the cold.

    “She’ll make a fine wife one day.” Said the other.

    She muttered a curse and left the two ungrateful louts before they could task her further. Metallic screams and insane laughter followed her out. Later cries of triumph.

    The second room was dedicated to storage and reeked of waste. Like the power housing room the door had been forced open though in this case the door was twisted and there was a large depression in the center where it looked like someone had taken heavy ordnance to and then wedged the door open. She thought it strange though, she hadn’t heard any explosions earlier. Light was non-existent in the spooky confines and she fished a flashlight out of her webbed vest and fired it up. The interior was filled with three rows of stacked polygonal crates, orange in color and marked with emboldened words: Test Subjects/Do Not Open.

    So of course a few of the crates were lying on the floor, their octagonal lids pried open. No respect for the dead either apparently. Left to rot on the floor, were three bodies, covered in a clear jell, all perfectly preserved, all irrevocably alien. Mockingly she applauded herself for discovering the source of the stench.

    Nose firmly held between fingers she strode forward and examined the Xenos at length. After a while she declared them Eldar on account of their pointed ears and vaguely human features.

    “So you’re an expert?” She said sarcastically.

    “I’ve seen them before.” She snapped back.

    Then she sighed at the voice in her head and ignored its later chastisements.

    She kicked the head of one of the creatures, almost as an afterthought and left.

    The third room, a surgical bay, was also locked but again a window offered a pitiful venue of the bloodstained operating tables and the shelves and cabinets filled with utensils and the cutting tools of surgery.

    The fourth room housed the labs.

    What the hell is this place?” Catherine whispered to the chilled air as she ran a finger against the slanted reinforced glass tank built into the lab’s stained tile walls. The tank as inclined slightly forward and a faint malevolent green radiated from the tanks base that bathed the occupant, a partially decomposed male, in sickly light. The cadaver was hooked to hundreds of tubes and needles that ran from the top of the tank into various plugs that lined his body.

    To her right was another tank with another specimen. Beyond that another and then another, the same scene repeated all the way to the end of the cavernous hall. Tanks filled with people. Tanks filled with the remains of people. In between each tank were carts that held monitoring devices whose power source had long run out. In front of them, mounted on metallic pedestals were notepads with occupant bios scrawled upon their aged surface. In between one set of tanks there was a large pile of ash.

    She took a step back and the hollow expanse was filled with the echo of shattering glass. She looked down to see the pieces of a medicine bottle leaking its healing contents.

    “God.” She whispered. The echo carried and spoke to her. God, God, God.

    Suddenly hushed words sprung from behind to envelop her. “God’s not here. Never was.”

    She turned to see Naves, his rifle cradled in his arms. He brushed past her silently and placed a gloved hand across one of the tanks. Quietly he wiped the veneer of dust from the mirror surface revealing the body of a young male, who was very dead. As he wiped the dust scattered outwards and sunk into his black fatigues. When he was finished he stepped back and stared into the eyes of a newly revealed corpse. A young man it seemed, very dead.

    For a while he stood there utterly silent, the only noise the barely audible clicking of his rifle against his gear. Then without warning he kicked the tank with his boot and then unslung his rifle and battered the stock into the glass. Four, five six, times the fiberglass brace crashed into the tank but no crack was made. His face was madness. After the twelfth time Naves paused and Catherine knowing she was witnessing something infinitely special, crept carefully forwards. A flurry of flinch inducing gunshots lit up the lab as she reached out to him with her scarred fingers and the glass cracked but did not break. Then everything was still again and all that could be heard was the reverb of casings as they hit the floor.

    Naves was tranquil once more, the rifle cradled again. Kicking the ground lightly he turned and muttered something about her needing to go upstairs and walked out of the hall; composed and dignified.

    Catherine remained for a while. Blues eyes studied the cadaver for a long while. He’d been well-muscled once, she imagined. He’d attended a university in Apostlin, scholarship of course, and majored in the humanities. One day he met a girl and he knew instantly that he loved her and the next day he asked to marry her and with a joyful heart she said yes and…Catherine smiled at her fantasy.

    She strode over and consulted the yellow notepad on the thin pedestal. For a while she studied its faded margins.

    Finally after much deliberation she spat an accusing word, “God.”


    Upstairs in the lobby the various squads hunkering down in Parse’s Deductions did something Catherine had never seen them do before, assemble for formation or at least a laughable resemblance to one. Fifty or so shambling men formed an irregular shaped square. There was muttering and cursing within their ranks and after a short while it became apparent to Catherine that the oblong shape was made up completely of those younger men, third generations or so she’d been told. She was supposedly fourth generation and thus required to attend but she had no inclination to join their despairing ranks. Instead she circled around the amassed men until she spotted Kirin sitting on a small wooden stool chatting amicably with a fellow she’d never seen before.

    She snuck her way through the maze of tents towards the two, as a man on a hastily constructed pedestal began barking loudly.

    “Alrighty den evy’ one hear? Good. First off water, evy one show me a canteen or pack.” The man shouted.

    With a collective groan of discontent fifty men pulled sloshing carriers of water and held them high into the air. A few disobeyed and their respective leaders barked out orders of obeisance or punched jaws, depending on their disposition and the level of the youngster’s belligerence.

    “Oust****ingstanding. Next, ammo twelve mags or packs. Show em to me.”
    Then Catherine reached relative safety at the side of Kirin who eyed her, along with a wire thin man with a dense white beard, with amusement.

    Smiling he introduced them. “Jacob this is Catherine, Catherine this is Pierre.”
    They shook hands and she took a proffered seat next to Kirin that would hide her from the crowds that were currently holding their flak jackets, one handed, over their heads. The horrifying wails were nearly sidesplitting.

    “Have you seen Naves?”

    Both men shook their heads and did a brief scan of the room and shook their heads again. “Why?”

    She shrugged her shoulders. “No reason, I just, no reason.”

    “Boots, two of em, over your head!”

    “This is bullshit!” Someone yelled and Kirin and Pierre chuckled to themselves.

    Suddenly Kirin’s breast pocket started to chime and he reached in and retrieved a com-VOX.

    “This is- he began but what was cutoff. Catherine could hear the man on the other line sputtering frantically. Suddenly Kirin’s face went pale and for a while the man on the other end kept repeating his name, Kel, Kel. After a few moments Kirin managed a quaky ‘ok’ and then hung up. Without saying a word he got his feet and walked off.

    Pierre glanced at her and then at Kirin. “Kel what the hell was that?” When he didn’t reply he spat on the ground and muttered, “Asshole.”

    Kirin entered the formation and emerged again moments later with Vaughan and Brandis in tow. The two were protesting but followed nonetheless. No one seemed to notice the two men’s departure.

    “Kirin?” Catherine was standing now her voice shaky. “What’s going on?”

    He ignored her. In curt gestures he ordered Vaughan and Brandis to prep for combat.
    She ran over and tugged on his sleeve.

    He brushed her away and continued on to the doorway pulling out his keys as he went. She followed closely.

    “Where are you going?” She yelled but the sound was drowned out by the formation which was loudly protesting its cruel fate.

    “Where are you going?” She repeated. “What’s wrong? What happened? Who was that?” Kirin turned and sighed and knelt down to give her a hug.

    “I have some business I’ve gotta take care of sweetie.” His voice was nearly choked. “I have to go.”

    “Go where?”


    “I’ll come with you, give me a sec-

    Kirin shook his head. “Sorry kid not this time.”

    Anger erupted in her eyes. “I’m not letting you go.” She said defiantly. “You have to stay here. Cyrillic doesn’t know you’re leaving, you have to stay.”

    This point seemed to talk some sense into him and he relented. For a while he stayed kneeling considering his options. He tapped her shoulder, he breathed heavily, he blinked what must have been a thousand times, finally he said, “You know what you’re right. Find Harry, I’ll need his help with this. Hurry up,” he slapped her on the back, “this has to be fast.”

    Catherine grunted an affirmative and dashed off into the dispersing crowds. She fought against the current eyes scanning every face as it passed. At times she hollered out Cyrillic then after a few unlucky shots she switched to Harry. One of the departing stopped and she looked up to see a balding, heavily tattooed man staring down at her, a query in his eyes. She growled frustration and moved past him.

    After a while the crowds dispersed enough for her to maneuver and she ran over and climbed up onto the pedestal. A few moments later she spotted Cyrillic in a far off corner talking to Naves who was sitting Indian style with his rifle resting on his thighs. He stared into nothing. Quickly she jumped down from the pedestal and made her way to them. When she got there she nearly screamed Cyrillic’s name and both men nearly jumped.

    “What is it?” Cyrillic spat.

    Sweat rolled down her upset features. She mumbled a bit unable to form words until finally she pointed off in Kirin’s direction and motioned for them to go.

    “Throne.” Cyrillic and Naves rose to their feet. “This had better be good.” He warned.

    Finally her voice returned, “Its Kirin! He wanted me to come get you.”

    “Kirin huh? Wonder what he wants.” He said and then began the walk to the lobby entrance.
    Catherine wanted to run but the two men reeled her in and maintained a casual gait. When they finally arrived they looked around. Then asked the others, they called names and VOXs and searched tents and bellowed and cursed and gnashed their teeth and promised vengeance but in the end nothing could change the fact that Kirin was gone. And one more person had abandoned her.


    For a long while Naves tried to call Kirin’s VOX alternating between obscene threats of bodily harm and appeals to their longstanding friendship which this sudden deportation surely jeopardized. Cyrillic called an emergency headcount and discovered that Vaughan and Brandis had disappeared as well. His earlier rage had disappeared, replaced by a vexed rationale that told him there must be a reason. Unfortunately that reason was broadcasted on the VOX only an hour later when a dour reporter by the name of Jared Fig came on and announced that war had once again been officially declared, this time on the militant organization known as the Black Dragon.


    Quietly, in case there were still hostiles lurking around, Cyrillic heaved himself out of the window and into the lightless day to fetch the ride that would deliver them from their graves.

    So, off to the mirror once more. Waiting for her, like a hunting wolf, was the savage twin, cold and unbothered, belying the oceans of emptiness that dwelled within like a lake in an underground cavern. There was no decency in her azure eyes. No concept of morality or knowledge of goodness. Sadness, horror, despair, those were the provinces of their spherical dimensions. Her only constant companion, her faithful shadow.

    There was something within she was sure, not deep just under her barely civil veneer, the cause of her repeated abandonment. Her mother and father, her tribesmen, Apothecary Plias, Brother-Captain Eurydice, the boy, the librarian, Sandra, the Chapter en masse, the Emperor, her faith, her sanity, her virginity, Kirin, Lijew, Жалость and mother of mercy Naves, her everything. What perpetuated the vicious cycle that caused her loved ones to die or leave or both? Still, she consoled herself with the knowledge that there was still one left, Harry Cyrillic who was even now risking life and limb to save her from a lonely death, out in the urban hell.

    Then a thought rose unsolicited in her mind. It was just a question, raised by a momentary lapse of faith in the goodness of mankind mixed in with a hint of skepticism. Why hadn’t Harry taken her with him? For a moment she pondered her understandable reservations about Cyrillic and inadvertently she began to shiver as if she’d been plunged into an ice cold pool.

    What would stop him from leaving her? Hadn’t he once jumped at the opportunity to ditch her? Hadn’t he driven for hours through potentially hostile territory to dump her on someone else? Teeth chattering and fingers gripping pointed jaw she thought of every time Cyrillic had yelled at her, scolded her, screamed and berated and ridiculed her. Wasn’t his newfound kindness just a by-product of Naves and Lijew and the liar Kirin’s good graces? Had he ever really loved her?

    The rotten seed of doubt grew into distrust and then into outright contempt. For ****’s sake she’d loved him and he left her! Gone and left her to save his lying, manipulative, selfish bastard self. Her face had taken on a silvery sheen in the mirror. What was it? What the **** was it?

    Sniffing she turned left and right to gain different vantages of her staggeringly thin body. There she was she thought, a tall for her age, newly fourteen year old, sickly thin girl encysted in dirt, whose black hair hung at her shoulders, garbed in baggy digital black fatigues and a heavy matte green flak jacket and tan boots with a thin layer of frost covering all, a dark green rucksack nearly half her size mounted on her back filled to the breaking point with food and ammunition, a tired and worn and pale face with a pulpy star that bled dark blood just below the cheekbone, near broken eyes, a carbine rifle held in firmly in unrelenting hands.

    “That’s me.” She said in resignation. Then slowly the despair drained from her face as the gears in her head recognized Cyrillic’s betrayal for what it was. A vicious snarl began to take form and fantasies of cruelly inflicted pain, of revenge, of howling cries of terror, of pleas for mercy. The more she thought about it the more she realized that she didn’t want to know why she’d been discarded; she just wanted to hurt the people responsible. To let the world know in no uncertain terms: don’t **** with her.


    Order, as was usually the case in times like these, a fragile thing not unlike a bowl of china, delicate, intricate, praiseworthy, expensive, a bitch to maintain but worth every moment of devotional cleaning, every penny to whatever unorthodoxly long name it bore. Right now there was a raging bull, in heat and in pain staring it down and the ancients of Zmey чорний were beating it back with thatch belts. The storm had taken a sudden turn for the worse and the world had devolved into a primordial darkness; the kind of darkness where a man could blink and not know it; the realm of shadows where nightmares, revealed and imagined lurked.

    Catherine flicked the safety switch of her rifle on and off nervously as the Mikazi plodded along through the endless night. To the front and to the fore were other vehicles a train of trucks and cars plowing through the frozen avenues and boulevards, their headlights creating her silhouette in the rear window. Up front Lijew and Cyrillic went back and forth at each other trying to figure out what the hell had happened. In the back with her Naves offered up dire hypothesis, a misunderstanding, a leak, a snitch, defector, maybe a collaborator? Names were tossed around, potential suspects, hers not among them. Several times the deserter Kirin came up in conversation.

    Beside her Жалость growled lowly as if it could sense the electricity in the air. She patted his head and cooed to it, partially to soothe the beast, partially to take her mind off Kirin and their current state of rushed exodus.

    Earlier, barely an hour ago when the radio host Jared Fig had announced the declaration of war and the leaked destinations of the kill companies being sent to the outlying towns and cities, the laager had devolved for a good amount of time into pure chaos. Some shouted their disbelief others hunched over VOX transponders trying to pick out scraps of information that might later prove useful, some threw down their weapons and fell to the ground defeated before even the first shot was fired, and still others tried to make an escape. All of this was done by the youngest generation.

    “****ing pitiful.” Cyrillic had said.

    “Who ****ing recruited these pussies?” Naves asked.

    “You hit it, ****ing pussies.” Lijew spat.

    It had taken nearly twenty minutes for the leaders to regain a modicum of control over the hysterical masses and whip them up into making a semi-orderly departure. Cyrillic had joined his fellow old-timers but before he did he instructed her to grab all her belongings and head for the Mikazi. She nodded briskly, secretly pleased to be trusted enough to not have to be held by the hand, and retrieved her rucksack from the tent and bounded for the waving tarp cover.

    Жалость, who’d been forced to remain in the car on account of all the unfamiliar faces, leapt from his seat and knocked her onto her back and throwing her into pile of snow. From the vicious hisses that emitted from its muscular throat she seriously thought he might try to eat her, two years be damned, but thankfully he began licking her face with his serpent like tongue.

    “Not now!” She chided and heaved the reptile off her chest.

    Жалость nipped at her sides as she struggled to her feet, snaring her hand in his dagger like teeth. She ripped her hand free in a small spray of blood and then deposited her rucksack. For a while she stood outside in the midst of the blizzard listening to the discordant sounds that even the screaming winds couldn’t drown out. Then figures began to file out of the building, laden with supplies and cursing to themselves, just a trickle at first and then growing in intensity until nearly the entire expedition was outside searching for their vehicles.

    “Get in!” Lijew had ordered when the trio finally emerged from the crowds.

    Hastily she gestured towards Жалость, trying to communicate to the beast to get back in the car. The Threnody, having already spent the majority of several days cooped inside was reluctant. She called and yelled but still it would not budge.

    “Catherine we are leaving right now!” Naves shouted.

    “Just give me a minute!” She pleaded then turned to Жалость. “Come on you dumb shit get inside!” She wailed and then grabbed its pointed snout and dragged him through the snow. Жалость thrashed his head left and right snarling and hissing then lashed out with its leg hooking a claw into her thigh. She grunted in pain then twisted its head and forced it to the ground. Panting she wrapped her arms around its flailing body and threw it into the backseat next to Naves. The passenger window shattered as it continued to thrash.

    “****ing watch it!” He called as a tail swiped out at him.

    “Get that ****ing animal out of my car!” Cyrillic ordered.

    Catherine shoved Жалость farther into the back and then yelled, “No!”

    Cyrillic was about to climb back when the truck behind them honked it horn. The herd had begun to move. “**** it!” He cried and then started the engine. Beside her Жалость arched its’ back and was hissing in a manner that reminded her of the abomination that had once given chase to her and the librarian. Steadying herself with deep breaths she ran her hands across its scaly skin and whispering softly. After a few minutes her ministrations had a calming effect but as the convoy rode off the beast was still edgy, wrapped tight like a spring, full of animalistic paranoia, ready to jump and fight and kill at the first sign of danger and it was that paranoia that saved their lives.

    It started as he was emitting a deep hissing that sounded as if the animal was trying to dislodge something from its throat with one single breath. Then abruptly it stopped then stooped low on its haunches stuck its head outside then sniffed the air, once…twice, faced the front windshield, crouched low and remained completely silent and began dragging its bony sickles against the speakers. Strange how a simple sound, one not unlike a knife cutting through leather, could give such pause but pause they did and for a while all that could be heard was the muffled engines and voices and tires digging into the road and that slow symbolic clawing that had over the centuries engrained itself into the psyche of men as a omen of imminent and grizzly death. The three men remained still.

    Catherine shifted her gaze from one still figure to the next. “What is it?” Her whispered words were lost among the deafening silence.

    “What is it?” She repeated with renewed urgency.

    Naves stuck two fingers at his eyes, then at Жалость’s, and then out the front window. She followed his movements to their end but all that could be seen was the bus end of the truck in front of them and the arguing silhouettes inside.

    A ruthless wind circulated through the cabin. Жалость clawed. Cyrillic flashed the lights and everyone began donning rucksacks and checking gear then popping the doors open and jumping out. Vexed, Catherine followed suit. Suddenly the window cracked and a bullet punctured the passenger seat and plinked into the stereo. Жалость ignored the bullet but Catherine nearly jumped out of the car at the casualness of its lethality. Crack, fft, and plink. Жалость crept out after her, snout low to the icy ground and Cyrillic flashed the lights one more time, cut the engine and then departed as well.

    “Move, move, move.” He chanted.

    Outside the scene was being repeated, lights flashed then died and occupants disembarked. It continued until the city was once again plunged into absolute darkness.

    Somewhere in that universe without substance a God must have noticed the absence of light because from a mile up the road a rapidly flashing beam could be seen escorted by a distant muffled roar like a heavy rain falling on wood.

    Sparks momentarily lit up their world as the gunner, a mile away, raked the column. Dirt burst upwards and some fell to the ground screaming clutching bellies or legs or arms or otherwise fell to the ground and screamed not at all. Shouts and orders and the scuffling boots and scrambling of men filled the street.

    Catherine could see none of this.

    Suddenly the darkness had substance and she felt it pulling on her sleeve. “That you?” Lijew asked.

    “It’s me!” She said and the next thing she knew she was being pulled deeper into the lack.

    “To the right, to the right! Get inside!” Someone shouted and suddenly Lijew slid to a halt, falling to the ground, dragging Catherine with him and then just as quickly picking himself up and running towards the voice. The ground rose gently and upon reaching the top they slammed into a heavy brick building that knocked the breath out of both of them.

    “Harry where the **** are you?” Lijew yelled into the darkness and from barely two feet away a harsh reply sounded.

    “I’m right here.” He said huddling up close to the other two. “Where’s Lane?”

    Lijew shook his head but the motion was futile. They couldn’t see each other. After a moment’s hesitation they began calling out and were rewarded seconds later with a fretful reply and then Naves’ charging form slammed into the wall next to them.

    To their left someone was still calling to head inside and the four of them took hands and followed the wall until they reached a large wooden gate. The gate was already open and an impromptu sentry rushed up to them.

    “Get in!” He cried. “Hurry up, we’re shutting the gate.”

    They nodded their thanks and rushed inside. There was nothing to mark their transition though, save that the thud of boots against concrete replaced the crunch of snow. The gate began to close when a scurrying thing shot through the crack, startling the sentry and causing him to cry out. Жалость rushed past him and trotted up to its owner.

    She knelt down and tickled its gullet anxiously looking up to Cyrillic who dropped his pack, rummaged through it and produced a pair of 7Bs that he quickly donned. Though there was almost no light to speak of what was there was amplified just enough to make out the basic shapes of their surroundings. To their right were towering vats that reached halfway to the invisible ceiling. Running alongside them were ramps that he followed across the room to an open staircase running along the far left wall. Behind them the door slammed shut. It sounded like death. Like finality.

    Suddenly a vague form came up to them and identified itself. “Jacob. Hubris.” His voice was boyish.

    “No shit.” Said Naves.

    Footsteps alerted them to the sentry. “I think we got fifteen.” He said.

    “Fifteen what?”

    “People.” He clarified.

    “Where?” Someone asked.

    Jacob pointed off towards the back of the room where six or seven men were crouched against the wall. Twenty feet to their right was another double-door entrance, this one locked by what seemed to be chains. Then at the ramp upstairs where another five or six he’d missed were huddled against the wall inches from a stream of broken windows that ran round the perimeter of the building.

    “Wait here?” Lijew wondered.

    “For the moment,” Cyrillic confirmed then gestured upwards with his thumb, “Upstairs.” Then he turned to Jacob, “Stay down here, I’ll…check the street up ahead see if we can’t maneuver there.” He paused and then added, “Don’t wait by the door. Noise and light discipline. You’d better not even think…Don’t even ****ing breathe.”

    Cyrillic watched through a green filter as the young boy nodded his head then he tapped each individual of his unit and proceeded as silently as they could upstairs. Outside the shouting and screaming and sound had died off. The noise their boots made was like thunder.

    After a few moments they reached the top and tip-toed to the top and took their place next to the unit then Cyrillic peered out of the window, searching for hostilities.

    He spotted what he thought could be a platoon, advancing down the windblown street barely sixty yards away las rifles pointed outwards, like him, searching for something to shoot. Judging by their rigid movements he guessed they’d been out in the cold for a while. In the center egging them on was a figure of such immensity that it could only be an Astartes. It moved tirelessly, inexhaustibly, the severe cold seeming to have no effect upon its formidable constitution. Without speaking he cursed as profanely as he could.

    Stifling a deep sigh he turned to Catherine who was currently squeezed in between his two charges.

    He leaned over, until his lips were almost touching her ear and whispered, “Catherine.”

    She inclined her head slightly towards him and he paused a moment considering how to word his query. After a moment he licked his lips and continued. “I need to know a few things about the Astartes. Double quick. Dispositions, tactics, load-outs, formations. Go.”

    “Wait what?” She whispered back. “You want everything?”

    “Summarize. Fast.”

    Catherine swallowed as she realized the implications of his request. Sweat formed along her brow. He might as well have asked if she still loved the Marines and to that she would have to answer a resounding triumphant YES! But then she loved Naves and Lijew and even Cyrillic and they had never shunned her like the Marines had. But then there had been regulations in the Chapter, strict, and they had to be followed. Fraternity was something frowned upon and didn’t Eurydice break more than a few to take her in? Hadn’t he showered her, in his own stoic way, with love?

    “Catherine!” Cyrillic whispered urgently. “Now!”

    She couldn’t see them, but she imagined all eyes on her, waiting for her to deliver some precious scrap of information that might save their lives. She imagined Naves eyeing her in the darkness and for this she forsook the chapter. Not a gun, not fury, love and embarrassment.

    “What do you see?”

    “A platoon, regular guys, they’re being led around by an Astartes.”

    A few barely audible moans emitted from around her. For the silence they might have been screaming protests.

    “He’d be a tactical marine.” She replied.

    “I don’t know what the **** that is.”

    “A Brother-Marine, basic heavy infantry.” She replied. “Carries a bolter and pouches of grenades, they’re generally inexperienced compared to Brother-Sergeants but still above and beyond any normal trooper. But they’re easily goaded, they like close combat. One or two of those Brother-Sergeants will be wondering around here. He’ll have a banner sticking out of his back, might carry a plasma rifle. If there’s one they’ll be ten, if two then twenty.”

    “Holy ****ing shit.” A voice muttered.

    “Zip that shit.” Another voice chided.

    Cyrillic tapped her shoulder once in thanks and then returned to the window. The platoon was closer now, thirty yards at most, practically right on top of them. Closer now he could see that the Marine’s helmet was off and it looked as if he were; what sniffing? Was he tracking them by scent? A flurry of swear words raced through his mind and he looked down to see that the Marine was staring straight at him. His heart froze.

    Then the Marine looked away and continued on. He could hear him barking orders even with the howling of the wind.

    “To the other street!” He bellowed. “To the center!”

    There were other voices, they sounded like wails but their true meanings were lost in the night.

    A voice shouted something and the Marine replied, “Then go through here!”

    Suddenly the chained double doors slammed open and everyone inside flinched including the beast. Fifteen rifles switched to auto. Cyrillic nudged everyone to hold fire then he made eye contact with Jacob below and ordered him to do the same. It must have taken a supreme effort of will not to open fire, he thought, considering the proximity of the door.

    Cyrillic adjusted his 7Bs and watched as ten then twenty then thirty men rushed through the building. Sloppy, he thought, they weren’t even bothering to check. Still, he and everyone else were holding their breath.

    NCO’s barked orders and boots pounded against the concrete floor, gear rattled, and curses were made but no one noticed the fifteen men with lusting weapons huddling against the walls.

    Then the Marine walked in and they stifled a collective gasp. Could he hear them? Could he smell them, see them, sense them, and feel them? Their essences, if they had any to begin with? Could he taste the rot in their souls? Apparently not, Catherine thought, because after a very brief, very futile search he kept after his weary charges.

    Then suddenly, as if one couldn’t leave well enough alone, some idiot stood up. The Marine swung around the instant he heard the sound but his ears registered a casualness to the motion that stayed his hand and his trigger finger momentarily.

    “Sir?” The man hailed as he jogged up to the Marine.

    Squinting the Marine replied, “What is it trooper?”

    “It’s all clear Sir.” He then motioned towards the entrance where the last of the troopers was exiting. “Prisoners Sir?”

    The Marine looked away into the night, “No pri-

    Catherine watched in horror as the unknown soldier stood on his tippy toes and reached up to place his muzzle against the Marine’s head. When he pulled the trigger the Marine’s unguarded head simply caved in and then flowed out, gray matter spilling onto the soldier who was toppled over by the twin causes of off-balance and recoil.

    “Thank you mother ****ers!” The devious soldier shouted triumphantly, completely disregarding Cyrillic’s orders. This didn’t matter however for his feat had taken guts and cunning and they probably wouldn’t live anyways.

    “Crazy.” Cyrillic smiled then got up did a quick one over on the street and ordered everyone into it.

    Catherine hesitated only a moment, trying to formulate some kind of prayer for the disgracefully murdered Marine but was unable, Naves nudged her on and before she was downstairs and rushing by the headless Marine.

    Then from behind them someone shouted, “Friendlies?”

    Lijew turned back and asked, “PDF?”


    A dozen guns lit up the room momentarily and Catherine watched as images of a man being dismembered flashed across her vision in time with the gunshots.

    “Come on let’s move!”

    They rushed through the broken double doors and continued onwards into the freezing abyss. The storm had abated a little, a plus for those with 7Bs but no difference to those without them. Men stumbled as they ran, slipped on ice or tripped over pieces of pieces of debris and each other. Catherine ran afoul of a can of paint and tumbled hard to the ground. Inertia and a slippery downwards slope carried her forwards almost a dozen feet but she managed to keep her mouth shut. Unseen hands grabbed her rucksack and hauled her up and she continued onwards.

    Noise discipline: The men puffed and breathed hard and their boots, weighed down by packs and gear and flak jackets and kevlars and guns and knives, slammed against the stripped pavement hard. Some whispered curses, some coughed, and some were as silent as the stones. The wind covered for them.

    Light Discipline: The men could not see. There were no stars or moons to guide their steps. To stay together they held onto sleeves and packs, like great human chains. Obstacles could not be seen. When one fell the others tripped or were dragged down with them. Landmarks went past, blocks, swathes of the city, unnoticed their enemies too.

    “Contact left!” Someone shouted and as one they all turned and open fired, blindly. Tracers ran parallel to las trails and Catherine found herself aiming for the muzzle flashes and their momentarily illuminated firers. Twice she fired into the blinding flashes and subsequently rewarded with a glimpse of a trooper in mid fall. They fired in the middle of the street with no cover. Some stood, some kneeled. Cyrillic and the other veterans went prone in the radioactive snow, picking the poison of cancer over a gunshot wound. The snow burned. They gritted their teeth and kept firing.

    Catherine, too inexperienced to lie down but too sensible to stand crouched and fired and fired. Suddenly her magazine went dry and as she reached down for another a blistering hot casing fell into the back of her shirt. She reached back just a las bolt whizzed past her and impacted the man next to her with a meaty thump. Steaming blood splashed across her face and dripped down into her shirt, sizzling as it came upon the lodged casing.

    Then there was silence.

    “Clear?” Someone called and when nothing else shot back at them they assumed so.

    After a few seconds had passed they began to look around to see who had perished and who had not. With great relief she found that her friends had survived. Four others had not. Two more had been wounded. No one knew how many of the enemy had died and no one bothered to find out. They wanted to go but first they would strip the dead, replenish their spent ammunition. Naves handed her a rifle with a PVS14 and PEQ2 attached. She took it gladly and let her sight return.

    Quickly she looked through the scope and found herself amazed they hadn’t all been killed. They stood in the middle of a completely exposed T-intersection. True some had been protected, unknowingly, by an abandoned car but most had been out in the open. The PDF troopers had been few, only six and only thirty yards away. They all lay dead on the street. Quickly she glanced around to gleam more from her surroundings.

    To their front was more open road that abruptly cut off due to a mountain of debris that she reckoned they could climb. The road was enclosed on either side by infrastructure, on the left a mall stretched out to the mountain and to the right was a series of gift shops and a tavern.

    Then a las round impacted one of the men and someone shouted ‘sniper’ and they were off again. As she ran she tried to keep her eye glued to the scope but the constant jittering rendered it an impossible task and so she grabbed onto Cyrillic’s pack and kept running.

    The city was still silent though.

    After a while they reached the urban mountain without incident and then began to climb. The climb was awkward. There were obstacles, sharp and numerous that impeded their progress. Half-way up another of the Marine led platoons appeared. Not from above but from the side. They passed each other as one was on their way down the other on their way up. It was a vicious encounter and eight men dropped in the first salvo.

    Catherine hopped down into a small hole that turned out to be an open refrigerator. She took aim and fired off a single round that blew a trooper’s teeth out. No las shots came close to her position and she aimed and fired and dropped a trooper and aimed again until she heard the familiar revving of a chainsword and looked up to see the Marine disemboweling a screaming man whose face she didn’t recognize. Willing herself to forget her years in the chapter she drew a bead on the Marine’s unarmored neck and pulled the trigger. The rifle kicked and then she flew back gasping, and pulled down by her rucksack capsized out of the refrigerator and onto a slab of concrete. She wheezed and looked down to see a smoldering glow coming from her flak jacket and it dawned on her that she’d been shot.

    Then the revving sound returned and another scream and she realized that her aim must have faltered. Pulling herself up she sighted in again to discover that she had in fact not missed. The Marine was fighting on despite the thick blood running out of its neck. Easier than before she pulled the trigger and again the Marine was struck in the neck just as he decapitated another of their group. The bullet struck home but he paid no heed and continued onwards until someone opened up on full auto, illuminating the night, and emptied his magazine at the Marine’s head until a single round pierced the visor and lodged itself in the Astartes’ brain.

    The sight almost made her choke.

    Then a noise sounded off to her left and something crashed into her. She cried out and her attacker screamed as well. It seemed this was not an expected encounter. Invisible hands wrapped around her throat and began to crush the life out of her. Without thinking she released her rifle and stuck a thumb into her assailant’s eye, pressing as hard as she could. The trooper cried out in pain and released her and clawed ripped her hands away. When he did she took his eye with him and it fell to the ground with a squish. Rifle raised she prepared to put the soldier out of his misery an unbelievably fast blur raced across her scope’s sight and pulled the trooper to the ground.

    Loud biting, snapping and crushing noises, accompanied by screams from the troopers ripped open throat filled the chilly air and Catherine looked through her sight to see Жалость tearing away at the man.

    “Where the hell’ve you been?” She yelled at the feasting animal.

    Drawn by the noise las bolts impacted all around her and she climbed back into the refrigerator. She popped back out just as a PDF trooper let out a short burst up into the mountain not five feet from her. She dispatched him with a shot to the spine and then climbed back out. She didn’t bother calling Жалость figuring he’d follow when ready. Right now she had to go up.

    Up the broken mountain, over toasters and pillows and slabs of concrete and an automobile, and then into a bus where two PDF troopers were busy firing up into the mountain. Neither noticed her as she entered and she threw in a grenade that blew covered the confines with thick viscera. She hopped in and stared through the PVS14 seeing the gore drip from the ceilings and the two chunks of meshed meat on the floor. Outside a voice she recognized as Cyrillic’s called for a retreat and she hurried outside, following the sound of his voice.

    She spotted him by a bronze monument depicting a man riding a horse about to leap over an unseen obstacle yelling and lobbing grenades into the darkness. The exploded in torrents of dirt and the light burned itself onto her retina and she was temporarily blinded but that had been no different from earlier and she kept on.

    “Kid!” He called when he saw her approach and then ducked when a burst whizzed past his head. “We’re getting out of her let’s go!”

    She sprinted and jumped the last few meters and he grabbed her by her blouse and hauled her up the rest of the way and then they began to descend the mountain as quickly as they could. At the edge of her vision she could see another figure running with them and then it came to her that the fire, while still present, had become distant. She looked back to see the PDF troopers still firing burst after burst across the mountain, unaware that the defenders no longer occupied it.

    What remained of the group ran as descended as fast as they could. Still their progress was slow and they were forced to use their hands to guide their way down. The storm had picked up again and that confounded the NVGs even more than they’d been earlier.

    It took a while but after a series of mishaps and falls and oaths and curses and punctured feet and scraped hands and bruised ribs the ground beneath them leveled out. Behind them the troopers had ceased their fire. But she still ran. They ran long after the mountain had disappeared from sight, they ran until the sounds of battle grew dull and then they ran some more until their throats were raw and they coughed blood and the cold threatened to take them.

    When they finally stopped it was in front of the main gate of a small villa far in the outskirts of the city. No one really knew where they were but someone said they were in the North part of the city. A blessing, that meant they wouldn’t have to circumvent whatever forces were left in the city. The popular opinion was to wait out the night, they couldn’t keep going or they’d die and become popsicles. And so they decided to spend the night in the villa and venture out the next day to find transportation. Before they climbed the Tudor styled gate they consolidated and that’s when she realized Naves was not with them.

    The realization hit her like a punch to the sternum. How could she have missed him? Where had he gone? Did he hear? Was he still around? Did he fall out? Was he hurt? God, was he dead?

    “Naves! Naves!” She pleaded with the winds until one man too tired to care anymore pulled out a pistol and shot her through the face, just below the eye, leaving a pulpy hole. There was no hesitation in his actions and for a moment she thought she could see his bright orange eyes before the flash threw her on her back. It wasn’t the bullet, she thought, it was the light.

    Guns went up suddenly and Catherine sputtered a senseless moan. The veteran who shot her was remorseless, he trained his pistol back on her and then Lijew had cried, “You stupid **** she was mine!” and lying down she couldn’t understand what he’d meant by that but the old timer shot him in the chest and Cyrillic shot Lijew’s killer in the throat.

    He attended to Lijew first who was dead before he hit the ground. He stripped his clothes and talked to his corpse and puffed air into his lungs and beat on his chest and then kicked open the gates and dragged him inside leaving her squirming in the cold, alone.

    After a while he walked back out to see if she was still alive. She was and she cried and he said he was sorry for leaving her and he picked her up, pack and all, and carried her inside.


    And that had all been forgotten until he left her again, alone with Lijew in a ruined dressing room in a deserted villa and she swore vengeance to herself in front of the mock-Tudor mirror. She flicked her rifle to semi and imagined sighting in on Cyrillic with hard eyes that she didn’t have and then she heard a noise and she looked to the window to see Cyrillic hanging there managing a bitter grin and gesturing for her to follow
    Ne Cede Malis

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