One. =I= fall
An Inquisitor should always be prepared for every inevitability. An Inquisitor’s work is never done. ~ Last words of Inquisitor Goltan.
Re-entry made his teeth hurt. Dahl theorised the ozone layer’s attempts at stalling them from landfall were the cause. A chain reaction of shaking that went from outer hull to the seat he was strapped into, up his spine and into his battered jaw.
Or, Zealot’s Paradise, as the planet was designated, was the kind of world that just generally got on his wick.
“Hey Quis,” said a voice belonging to something else that was likely to make his teeth hurt.
“Knake, please refrain from calling me that,” Dahl replied. “I didn’t work myself nearly to death for this rosette, to be called names. I expect your training was equally as gruelling and therefore you would dislike me referring to you as ‘Vin.’”
He didn’t turn his head, but even out of the corner of his eye he could see his companion, as animated in her response as usual, even with the safety restraints.
“’Quis’ Inquisitor, whatever. It’s a term of endearment, between friends. You can’t dislike it that much. Maybe if I batted my eyelashes at you? I mean you can’t see them, but it’s the thought that counts.” Her voice carried the usual feedback from the vox/breather combo, hidden beneath her face mask. The mask was integrated with many other instruments so as to make her job easier. It also meant Dahl didn’t have to see any of her stupid expressions. Although when he was really weary, he sometime thought he could make out the expression in her eyes, even as they were shrouded behind yellowed lenses.
“Refer to me as Inquisitor, Inquisitor Dahl, or Sir at all times, and I shall return the formality, Vindicare Knake,” Dahl said, determined that was the end of it. He made an effort to check his greying hair and beard were at a length to his standards, straightened his cloak, and meticulously removed any perceived dust from his rosette.
“Okay, Sir Quis,” the crackle of static not hiding the cheeky mirth from her voice. She did however quickly look away, as Dahl slowly turned his head to scowl. “I just wanted to know how long this hunk of scrap was going to take. I’ve got an itchy trigger finger.” She mimed a gun with one hand, stretching a finger out.
Dahl unbuckled his restraint and stood. “Yes, even by Adeptus Mechanicus standards, this is slow.” Also any excuse to rid him of the woman, even for a few minutes, was good enough reason. Even now she was annoying him, her legs propped up in a casual manner that still managed to block his access to the rest of the ship.
“I have it on good authority that those that come out of the Vindicare Temple are not normally as...” He paused to think of the right word.
“Funny? Amazing? Talented?” Knake tried.
“Unprofessional.” He knocked her legs aside in one swift motion and marched purposely towards the front of the ship. A sudden bounce of what could only be turbulence caused him to momentarily stagger, but he kept his balance, the shake only intensifying his eyebrow’s angled descent on his nose.
The Inquisitor banged on the sealed hatch to the cockpit with three precise knocks.
When there was no answer, impatiently he shouted, “By order of the Inquisition, open this door.” There was silence. Not wanting to be left unaware, and noticing the hatch was not quite as sealed as initially inspected, he immediately went for his pistol.
“Whats up Quis?”
Dahl half jumped, half turned, instincts making him point his weapon to the source. Knake, who stood behind him, was already reacting with impossible reflexes, disarming him, the gun in her hand and at his head in seconds.
The lenses before her eyes darkened fractionally before lighting again. She flipped the gun in her hand so the grip was now pointed at him instead of the barrell.
“Woops, sorry, reflexes, it happens sometimes. You know how it goes,” she said.
He snatched the gun away but didn’t scowl. He hated to admit it but she was right. Hadn’t he reacted to her sneaking up on him in a similar manner? He wasn’t used to the light feet of an assassin and so she had taken him by surprise, which showed some merit to her abilities if nothing else. He had learned to subconsciously listen to footsteps coming up behind him, a trick a lot of those in the order had picked up, so as to keep track of allies. But also as an early warning of sneaking enemies.
He pointed to where the doors didn’t quite meet and muttered, “Help me with this.”
Knake bent down to pry it open, while Dahl, his back to the adjoining wall, weapon ready for any eventuality, helped her with his free hand. They managed to open it a fraction before the motorised mechanisms took over automatically, the door opening by itself.
Knake leapt back, cart-wheeling over herself, procuring a pistol of her own as she finished in a crouch. Dahl filled the gap she had left, immediately scouring the cockpit from behind the sight of his pistol. The motion looked practiced, as though done thousands of times before.
“Feth,” Dahl cursed, as in front of him, the pilot’s head lolled to one side as though sleeping. Cables, snaking out of the back of his head, sparked dangerously, but the blackened one writhing on the floor caught his attention.
“I don’t suppose there’s a helpline for when your pilot malfunctions,” Knake joked, before clapping her hands together as an idea struck. “Oooh! Maybe we could claim a refund.”
Ignoring her, Dahl examined the fallen cable, before looking back to the man’s head. From the looks of it, the cable had overheated, melting from the inside, before simply snapping. He nodded to where the other end still sat, plugged into a port at the tip of the pilot’s spine. A moment of relief washed over him. It wasn’t a plot by herectics or Emperor knows what else, but simple clumsy failure.
The moment faded however.
“Come on,” he said, grabbing her arm and pulling her further back though the small ship.
“Wait, Dahl, I don’t think our pilot’s in the right state to drive anymore.”
He turned to look at her sharply. “This is exactly why we should hurry.”
A sudden intake of breath crackled and he knew she got the picture.
“Wait, let me get my baby,”
Knake dashed back through the craft. Unperturbed, Dahl continued with his hastily made plan and not waiting to mess with locks or to appraise the machine spirit, he fired his pistol at a sliding door compartment, which flung open revealing three identical pieces of equipment. He recognised the grav-chutes immediately, thankful for standard template designs meaning he knew exactly where to look.
Knake reappeared, cradling a long rifle in her arms. He nodded as understanding dawned, before throwing a chute to her. He then began putting one on himself.
The airlock was easy to open. Wind, heavy with the smell of manufacture, billowed in loudly as they did. Dahl looked out across the expanse of the quickly approaching spires of the city below. If he had to guess, he estimated the pilot had failed just after entering the atmosphere and they had slowly been gliding downwards, picking up speed. He motioned to Knake who nodded before jumping from the craft.
He waited ten seconds, watching her descent suddenly slow as the grav-chute kicked into motion. He took a deep breath and threw himself out next.
Or at least that’s what he should have done. Instead he stayed stone still, one hand clutched to the side of the craft like a vice, as fear took him. His breathing increased, becoming more rapid. His jaw clenched painfully, an old wound resurfacing. A knot formed in his stomach.
He closed his eyes.
The face of his old mentor materialised in his mind.
The man inclined his head, as if to say, go on then, if you’re going.
He wrenched his hand from the metal, crossed his arms over his chest, leaned forward, and fell.
He plummeted downwards.
Opening his eyes, he rotated himself as best he could and initiated the grav-shute. He slowed down as though hitting a sudden updraft and began to simply descend.
Descend like an angel.