The deceptively mild looking man rose from his chair and smiled. "Kyra! What brings you out here?"
The woman chuckled. She was of age with her friend and looked it. Both of them had dark hair with a few streaks of grey. The start of crow's feet marked the skin around her eyes. Unlike her friend's heavy brocade robes, she wore an armoured black body glove and equipment harness. The body underneath was obviously in good condition. "The usual, unfortunately," she said as she strode forward and hugged her friend.
"Finished with young Maladar already?"
She smiled. "He became a full inquisitor three years ago and has gone his own way for about a year."
"So you are here for reinforcements," he said. "What took you so long?" he sat back in his chair and gestured to a waiting chair. Inquisitor Neven sat down.
"Busy. I grabbed two Sanctioned Psykers from a Necromundian regiment to make up the shortfall, but one of them is dead and the other isn't strong enough for our work."
"Hot lead?" he asked.
"Mobile target. It's a funny story. It was one of the loose ends from Maladar's last investigation. He kept jumping system and leaving messes behind. I must have had a dozen junior inquisitors trailing my wake, cleaning up the damage. Anyway, I put out a call and Maladar of all people managed to intercept him."
"I'll have to get the full story sometime. Tonight over dinner?"
Kyra smiled. "Agreed."
"Good. Now let's see. You want a bright young thing. Higher end intellectual abilities, mentally flexible, and a combat psyker."
"Got it one. I must have done this before."
"Funny. I have just the one for you." He passed a data slate across the desk.
"Hmm. Not the brightest bulb in the class."
"Have faith in someone besides the Emperor and your former students. He's bright and he's smart enough to hide any radical sympathies from our more puritanical instructors. Not that he's really more than a particularly pragmatic Almathean. But his real recommendations are that he is not only a strong psyker, but he has the best understanding of all the students of what field work will be like. He's been preparing himself with an eye for that for years."
"Oh, I can see that he's good. High scores in his classes, but mediocre hand to hand and marksmanship scores. Gamma rated psyker."
"And climbing. And dedicated. A thinker. And a phenomenally talented combat psyker. Fast, strong, steady. An eye for weakness."
"Sounds good. I think I should meet this Jolan Gix."
Jolan Gix waited outside Magister Venox's office for permission to enter. The servitor in front of him was silent. It was a beautiful piece, a serenely beautiful naked woman cast in silver. Then she spoke. Even that was perfect. Deep, but not quite husky. Serious and alluring, but not quite seductive. "You may enter," it said.
Jolan touched a control and the matte black door slid open. Inside the magister waited at his desk. With him was a handsome woman much older than she appeared. Her long, dark hair was gathered in a single braid and was lightly touched by silver. She wore an armoured black body suit, which added to her air of severity. A weapon harness was worn over her armour and some of the most powerful and terrible products of the Imperial technology hung from that harness. Jolan made a quick calculation and then spoke. 'Inquisitors, how may I be of service?"
Magister Venox smiled at the woman and then turned back to Jolan. "Interrogator Gix, I have the pleasure of introducing Inquisitor Kira Neven."
"The Inquisitor Neven of the Radstadt Incident?"
She smiled. It looked good on her. "The same. I am here needing to recruit some psychic muscle. Someone who can directly confront the servants of the Arch Enemy and defeat them in battle. Of the recently graduated interrogators, who would you advise me to choose?"
A test, Jolan thought. His eyes narrowed. Might as well play along. "You are obviously considering me. As for the others, I can tell you that Harad Garvansson is your best alternate choice. He's the strongest and most versatile. But he thinks because the Black Ships toughened him up and didn't break him, that he can handle what field work entails. Everyone here survived the Black Ships intact. He thinks because he has always triumphed easily, he always will. He is unprepared for the realities of work in the field, no matter how good his scores on paper."
"No one else is clearly superior to me in the psychic arena. Several are a little stronger or have a more diverse array of talents, but I am steadier than they are. They also don't have my aptitude for psychic confrontations. They may joke that I am a hammer, but a hammer is what you are looking for. I am who you need for this kind of work. No other graduate is as comfortable wielding psychic energies as I am. You want a combat psyker, I am your best choice."
Inquisitor Neven raised an eyebrow. "Steadiest?" she asked.
"I've known for years that an Inquisitor usually dies in the field and I have accepted it. I don't worry about it. I know that the horrors that await are beyond my comprehension. I don't worry about that. Someday, they will kill me. In order to advance the Imperium, I can't worry about that. I just have to focus on destroying them utterly."
"Interesting. You're right about the horrors you will face will be beyond your ability to conceive of them. No one who hasn't faced them can truly know what it means to face the Ruinous Powers. You've addressed the present, but what about the future?"
"Let me face the enemy first. Let me crush them and learn what they are and their methods firsthand. Then I will have enough knowledge to start planning for the future."
"Welcome to my service Interrogator Jolan Gix. Together we shall see the future and set about securing the Emperor's Dream."
The ship was a small tramp freighter, capable of landing on a planet and cruising into the warp. It was something a free trader or rich noble might own. Or an inquisitor.
The outside was thickly armoured and encrusted with gargoyles and purity seals. It resembled a barnacle encased whale. The inside was business like, well maintained, and clean. Until you reached the crew quarters.
These were luxuriously appointed. Thick carpets from a dozen civilized worlds. Elaborate brass fitting on the lamps and pic screens. Fur hides from Catachia. Sophisticated technics from Necromundia. Food and liquors from all over the Imperium. These were displayed in goblets and on plates of Vitrian glass, on a table of Vitrian glass, covered in an Iltherian table cloth, hovering without legs on Necromundian suspensors.
But the men and women who sat around the table were not the normal members of high society. Inquisitor Neven had thrown on a fur lined red silk robe so she at least could pass for one. She went clockwise around the rectangular table, introducing each one.
She pointed to a meek, shaven headed woman in clean overall. "Melissandra, formerly Sanctioned Psyker of the Necromundian Spiders. The tall drink of water next to her is Calidan Vils, bounty hunter and free lance enforcer. Gerran Balmish is our Navigator and that grim unsmiling man is our pilot Ziv Caldain, formerly a bomber flight leader with the Imperial Navy. That leaves Yvarine Recket, former member of several criminal gangs, former soldier of the Imperial Guard, and enforcer for the Three Systems Mining Consortium, which you've never heard of, at the edge of the Halo stars. Bella was a concubine and an assassin for a cult called the Tears of the Emperor. All of you, this is Interrogator Jolan Gix. Jolan, these are my people and they are now yours as well."
Gix nodded to them. Kyra continued. "Gix was one of the best combat psykers of his class and he got the usual training of budding inquisitors. I am sure I don't have to go into detail about that. Jolan, each and every member of my staff does his or her job to the standards which the inquisition sets. I suggest that you get to know them and appreciate them as I do. Now, what's the soup course?"
Jolan picked up a slug thrower and examined it. Compact, high calibre, large magazine, probably high rate of fire. He examined a magazine stored near it. Large, pistol type bullets. Close quarters weapon. He put it back and reached for a longer barrelled weapon.
"Getting a feel for the armoury?" said a voice behind him. He turned to see Calidan Vils standing in the doorway. "Yes," responded Jolan. "Nice selection of weapons here and I haven't even gotten to the exotics."
"That there is. Usually don't need them. Las and slug weapons handle most problems just fine and most of the rest can be handled with a knife or a sap. Still, it's nice to know you've got the backup when you need it."
"Hmm," said Jolan as he searched through the handguns. He selected two and walked over to the range. He flicked on the warning light, activated the holotargets, and put on goggles and sound blockers. Vils followed him.
Jolan raised the slug thrower and fired. The target was set at twenty meters. Jolan emptied the magazine into the target's torso. He set it for a new tally and raised the las. He quickly emptied the power cell into the target's head and chest. He switched off the firing warning and activated the display. He took off the safety equipment and looked.
Every shot had hit. The torso of the target had been peppered, with a noticeable concentration of hits closer to the center. The las shots were in a tighter cluster. "Not bad," said Calidan. "Especially with that *****," he said, gesturing to the slug thrower.
It was a 10mm automatic that fired a high velocity round. It performed quite well against armour, especially with specialty AP ammunition. Jolan hadn't missed with a single shot with either weapon. It wasn't anything to boast of by the standards he had been trained with. The better shots in his class would have gone for head shots with stubber and gotten them. Jolan shrugged. "It'll get the job done."
Vils gave him a wintery smile. "Look my friend, it's nice to know that you can shoot and all that but you've got big shoes to fill. You've never done field work and Maladar may have been a son of an ork, but he carried the weight of three people easy. So, until you prove yourself, we're going to watch you like a hawk."
"I know," said Gix. "I won't tell you not to worry. To you I am an unproven element that you're going to have to go into a dangerous situation with. But don't let it interfere with your job. I will carry my end. Make sure you carry yours."