PART VI - TRADERE
Gun barrel sweeping ahead, he moved out of the room and back into the hallway, following the trail of blood. It twisted through an open room with a fallen chandelier in the middle, one with only the metal remaining. This former grand room was a wreck, the walls full of bullet holes, lasgun scorch marks, and blasted stone from explosions many years old. The blood trail was thinning, but Gaz was able to follow it to a door on the side of a grand staircase. He opened the door, which opened to a staircase that led to a basement or pantry. No threats were visible. Gaz moved in, stepping slowly to avoid making noise. As he came near the base of the stairs it turned sharply to the left. He pressed himself against the wall, stifling a gag as a horrible smell assaulted his senses, and looked around the corner, fearing the worst.
A hellish scene greeted him. The room was dimly lit by rapidly flickering ceremonial candles which dripped wax the color of blood. Numerous cells lined the walls, each of them containing a set of skeletons chained to the wall. In the center of the room was the co-pilot of the Valkyrie, but she was not alone. She was on hands and knees, blond hair covering her face, lying naked in the center of a foul symbol that had been created from body parts and internal organs. It took Gaz only a second to come to the horrible realization that it was the remains of Abel that had created that symbol. Standing around the symbol was four incredibly muscled men, each holding a pair of rusty and jagged cutting implements and wearing only a loincloth and a leathery mask. Another robed figure had his back to Gaz. Gaz was no psyker, but he could feel the taint of the warp seeping into this room, giving him mental images of violent and sadistic acts and causing a feeling akin to needles in his brain. As Gaz took in the nightmarish scene the co-pilot looked up, her face stained with tears and blood but a defiant look in her eyes. She looked around the circle, her eyes stopping for just a moment to meet his, and a look of hope seemed to spread across her face. She quickly masked it and looked up to meet the eyes of her antagonizers.
He leaned back around the corner into cover, his back against the wall and his gun held in front of him, and swallowed hard. Five of them, looks like no guns. Probably a witch. This is going to have to be bloody surgical. Committing himself to action, Gaz stood up and spun around the corner, weapon raised and ready to fire. There he froze. No more than two meters from him was the robed figure, his face hidden behind a leathery mask of human flesh, his eyes glowing red with sorcerous energy. In his left hand was a human head, so mutilated Gaz barely recognized it as Abel’s. In his right was a chainsword that seemed to glow red with malice so strongly it was palatable, which started spinning as soon as Gaz turned the corner. Startled, Gaz swore aloud and attempted to pull the trigger on his weapon, but then he could feel his strength leaving his body, his will to fight fleeing him and his senses dulling. He felt unable, and unwilling, to do anything at all. A part of his mind railed against the walls that were enclosing it. You will die! This will be the end of you! It screamed at him, but he could not stop it. His eyes began to close.
The co-pilot’s scream, a terrible sound full of pain and hopelessness, jolted Gaz out of his forced slumber, his eyes opening wide and his jaw setting, his adrenaline flowing from a primal reaction to a woman’s screams of torment overpowering the sorcery. A bony hand had clenched around his neck, and the warp-tainted whirring blade was mere inches from his eyes. Nice bloody try. His left hand reached out to grab the arm holding the blade as his finger clenched on the trigger, and his weapon hummed as it emptied round after round into the foul witch. Gaz held down the trigger and refused to let up until he saw the glowing red eyes behind the mask dim. The sorcerous blade fell to the ground, releasing sparks as it clattered on stone and stopped glowing, and the hand released from around his neck. Gaz stopped firing and slammed the stock of his weapon into the face of the dying witch, accelerating his collapse to the floor. The feeling of triumph stopped as soon as he raised his weapon and sighted down on the center of the room.
The co-pilot was being held up by her hair by one of the cultists, leaving her neck exposed to the other who was muttering heretical prayers to some foul deity in preparation for the sacrifice. She wrestled with her tormenter but could not break free. The two other cultists were quickly approaching him, jagged weaponry poised for a kill. He could not kill all of them fast enough. Either he was going to die or she was. The choice was practically made for him.
A precision shot took the cultist holding the co-pilot through the wrist that was holding her up, forcing him to recoil in pain and drop her, and her screaming stopped as she dropped to her knees. A quick burst of three then took the praying cultist to her left, two shots through the chest and a single through the head, and he dropped quickly to the ground, weapons clattering as they hit the floor. Gaz quickly spun the rifle to bear on the two charging cultists but could take aim fast enough. His weapon was easily batted aside by the first cultist, his leathery mask contorted in a leering grin that was probably mirrored underneath. Emperor protect, these sods are strong. Gaz let out a scream as the second cultist took advantage of the opening and plunged his jagged blade through the gaps in the side of his carapace chest plate. A leathery visage with mouth stitched shut stared in silence as the blade was twisted and yanked from his side, the jagged implement tearing muscle and scraping against his ribs as it was pulled. Gaz nearly went unconscious from the pain of it all, but forced himself to stay awake. Not for nothing. Can’t give up yet.
Gaz was still screaming as he threw his head forward into the leering mask of the cultist who held his gun, a loud crunch announcing a broken nose as his helmet slammed into the bastard’s face. The cultist released his hold on the gun and recoiled back, holding his nose as blood leaked from under the mask, his eyes and actions revealing pain that the smiling mask would have hidden. Gaz followed up quickly and swung his gun towards the head of the second cultist. Sparks flew as the steel of his gun scraped the steel of the cultist’s weapon and his attack was blocked. He ducked under a follow-up attack from the cultist’s second blade that would have gone through his ear, the knife banging loudly off the nearby wall instead. The cultist maneuvered his arm around Gaz’ weapon, trapping the gun between his body and left arm and leaving his right hand free, which was even now maneuvering for a killing attack. Gaz was stuck with both hands on his now trapped weapon. Looking past the cultist, he could see the leering bastard recovering from the hit, and Gaz’ vision swam red with rage when he saw the cultist he had shot in the wrist moving with purpose towards the co-pilot, who had backed herself against a cell door.
Gaz threw himself into the body of the cultist holding his weapon, wrenching the gun around to point at the cultist approaching the co-pilot, and pulled the trigger. His weapon hummed to life and emptied the remainder of his magazine, the sound of brass hitting the floor the loudest of the noises it made. Several shots missed, hammering loudly against the walls and metal bars behind him, but a round took the target through his kneecap. The cultist crumpled to the floor in a heap, his scream the first sound Gaz had heard any of these bastards make. Gaz would have loved to take the time to revel in that sound but his joy was cut short. A knife buried itself in his left arm near the shoulder, narrowly missing the joint and bone. Gaz could tell it had been headed for his throat. Gaz let out a small yell and fell to the ground, the blood coated knife slipping out of the hand of the attacker. As he hit the ground he sent his left boot out in a fast kick towards the cultist’s groin, determined to make him pay for the attack and teach him a lesson about why you wear an armoured codpiece in combat. His boot landed on target and the cultist immediately dropped the empty gun, fell to his knees, rolled onto his back, and threw up, vomit seeping around the sides of the mask because of the sewn shut mouth. Despite the gravity of the situation, Gaz started laughing a juvenile laugh, the kind you expect from a teenager when a friend takes a hit to the knackers, and he suddenly realized he was losing his damned mind.
The leering cultist was moving towards Gaz with purpose, anger plainly visible in his eyes. At least I’m pissing them off. Leaning back in a half sit-up, his laughter subsided as he drew his laspistol with his right hand and his compact shotgun with his left. As he tried to raise both weapons on the approaching cultist he winced at the terrible pain in his left arm, realizing there was no way he could fire that shotgun with that arm – the pain would be too great. Looking back towards the co-pilot he could see that the cultist he had shot was struggling to get up and she was looking around in a panic, trying to find a weapon. Gaz took the shotgun in his left hand and threw it forward. It slid on the ground past his two assailants, coming to a stop halfway between the co-pilot and the cultist. Not quite what I intended. His laspistol let out a crack as he fired, the energy bolt striking the leering cultist in the abdomen. The look in the cultist’s eyes changed from anger to disbelief, and he fell to the ground into a fetal position.
Gaz lazily swung his gun around to his left to finish off the other cultist, the slow swing in part due to lethargy as his adrenaline subsided, and was surprised as a foot slammed down on his right wrist, pinning his good arm to the floor. Standing over him was the cultist he had kicked. His mask was removed revealing an expression so full of hot rage it could have melted ice. Spittle and vomit leaked from the side of his mouth. His hands both held the haft of his remaining blade above his head. He seemed to be taking the time to savor exactly what he was about to do. Gaz used his left arm to remove his helmet, wincing in pain the entire time. As he dropped his helmet to his side, the cultist pinning him laughed to himself and spoke the first words he had heard since this fight started. “You mean to tell me we were bested by an Elysian? An old man?” He almost spit the last words.
“If you only knew” Gaz responded through gritted teeth. His left hand landed on the handle of the chainsword that the witch had dropped. As his hand grasped the handle and flicked the activation switch he seemed to fill with energy and hatred, and he could no longer feel pain the pain of his wounds. The muscled cultist in front of him began to look small and weak, his face showing fear at the sound of the chainsword spinning. He plunged the knife into Gaz’ chest, the knife forcing its way through the armor and embedding between his ribs. His weakness made Gaz angry. He heard a loud blast come from the rear of the room, but it barely registered. Gaz moved his right foot under the cultist and shoved him off with contemptuous ease. He stood up and threw his laspistol to the side. The then used his right hand to rip the embedded jagged knife from his left shoulder. The cultist was on his back, retreating away from Gaz as he approached, and Gaz dropped the knife to the ground. His vision swam with images of bloodshed and the room glowed with a strange red light.
Gaz grinned as he walked up to the panicking cultist and grabbed him by the throat, lifting him up into the air with his right arm. The little weakling started to scream as Gaz hovered the end of the chainsword inches from his face and started to push forward with the blade. He met a little resistance at first as chunks of flesh and bone began to fly, but then the screaming stopped and he pushed the blade all the way through, letting it spin for a moment before he pulled it back. He flung the worthless cultist aside and looked to his right, keeping the chainsword spinning to remove bits of bone and brain from the mechanism. The leering cultist he had shot in the abdomen had stood up and was limping towards the exit. Gaz ran up behind him and swung his weapon low at the knees, removing both of the cultist’s legs in a single swipe. The screaming cultist fell to the ground, and Gaz put the sword through the leering mask to stifle the screams. As he was enjoying his kill he heard a strange sound behind him. It took a moment for him to recognize it as a shotgun chambering a round.
He turned around slowly, prepared to kill again. Behind him was the co-pilot holding a shotgun that was pointed at this head. His shotgun. Her assailant was dead near the wall, his face a ruined mess from a close range blast. He grinned and prepared to lunge at her when she spoke to him. “What did you say?”
The red light faded from his eyes and the sword stopped spinning, a calm reason returning to his brain, and with it, pain. He dropped the sword and fell to the ground, clutching at the jagged wound to his left arm he had afflicted when he ripped out the knife. He looked down and noticed he had a knife buried to the hilt sticking out from his chestplate, just underneath where his heart is. Gritting his teeth from the pain, Gaz responded.
“What are you talking about? I didn’t say anything.” Gaz wore a look of pain and confusion. He wasn’t quite sure why she was pointing his gun at him. He wasn’t quite sure of anything except that he had just killed these two cultists with a chainsword. She responded. “No, you did. I heard it just a moment ago. You said it very quietly. Something about blood. It was just a whisper. I heard it.” Gaz looked around, pausing pointedly at the copious amounts of blood that had been spilled in this room. “I don’t remember it, but it’s not important. I mean look around us. Wouldn’t you say something?” He then put his right hand on the handle of the knife embedded in his chest. “I need some help.”
She considered the offer for a second, seeming to have some kind of inner debate as to whether or not to just pull the trigger. Thankfully the debate seemed to have been won by the side that favored him living. She dropped the shotgun to the floor and covered her chest with her left hand and grabbed the knife handle with her right. How did I not realize she was still naked? Together they pulled on the knife handle, Gaz nearly vomiting from the pain of it all, and removed the blade from his chest, blood flowing freely from the wound. The blade appeared to have slipped between his ribs and missed vital organs, but he was bleeding heavily. He was going to have to hope there was some medical equipment here or he was not going to live through this. He gave an exasperated look to the co-pilot, making very sure to look her in the eyes. Not that he was in any position to capitalize on his heroics anyway.
She looked at him, some respect evident in her face, and spoke. “I don’t know how the hell you got out of that Valkyrie alive. And I don’t know how you managed to make it here without being caught. And I really don’t understand how it is you managed to kill these bastards and survive those wounds.” Her look softened a bit. “Thank you. Gaz, right? I remember your name from the briefing. My name is Sila.”
“Sila? Good to know. I don’t know how I manage to live either. It’s a continual mystery to me. I’ve never fought Blood Pact before. Bastards are quite tough.”
She gave him a concerned look. “These aren’t Blood Pact.” She could see the question forming in Gaz and answered before he could ask it. “I don’t know who they are. I think they are… were Guardsmen Traitors probably. But that one?” She pointed over to the witch Gaz had killed. “I’m pretty sure he was an Inquisitor.”