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#21 Cynical Cat

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Posted 27 March 2009 - 10:14 AM

"What is it that distinguishes an Inquisitor from the other servants of the Lord of Mankind?" the instructor thundered to the class. Several hands shot up and then a moment later several more. The instructor, a heavy set man with full white hair and beard, picked a student. "Jase," he thundered.

"An inquisitor has the power of life and death over entire worlds."

"Wrong!" the instructor thundered. "These are powers shared by the Admirals of the Fleet, the Lords Militant, and Space Marine Commanders. Phila!"

The girl responded immediately. "The power to act and enforce judgments without recourse to imperial law."

"Wrong! Space Marines and the Officio Assassinorum also employ their abilities outside the normal frameworks of Imperial law. Jolan!"

The lithe teenager responded. "An inquisitor has full knowledge of the threats against the Imperium and bears the burden of informed choice."

"Correct! The Commissariat can kill out of hand as they see fit. The Adeptus Arbites can take extreme measures to restore order. The Assassinorum can kill or destroy as they see fit in order to accomplish their mission. The Lord Admirals can burn planets if militarily necessary."

"Only inquisitors see the larger picture. Only know the full extent of the threats to the Imperium and take responsibility for it. Personal responsibility. Not military necessity, not the dictates of law, personal judgment. Most of you here will not become full inquisitors. Most of you will serve the inquisition in a variety of ways because your knowledge, your perceptions, and your judgment aren't good enough."

"Willingness to kill, even on a planetary scale, does not distinguish an inquisitor from the rest of the Emperor's servants. I can find commissars, Astartes, Sororitas, generals, admirals, and Arbitrators who can do that. It is a necessary condition, not a sufficient one. An inquisitor needs to know when to burn a heretic's nest from orbit and when to send thousands of Imperial Guardsmen to their deaths to capture valuable evidence and information. An inquisitor must know when to send thousands to their deaths now in order to prevent the deaths of billions in a hundred years. The job is not simple. It is not easy. Mistakes will be made. An inquisitor must make good judgments, must not be broken by his mistakes, and see clearly the impact of their choices on the future of the Imperium. And they must make the right choice, regardless of the cost."



#22 Cynical Cat

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Posted 27 March 2009 - 10:17 AM


The withered crone sat as still as death as the boy stared at the cards. Then her lips moved. "Touch them," she commanded. "Stroke them. Familiarize yourself to them."

The boy hesitated and then reached out. He stroked the cards. Several of them shivered as the displays changed showing different images. "Good, good. They are attuning themselves to you. Yes. Time flows differently in the warp. If flows fast and slow and bends. Through this you may catch glimpses of the future."

The boy nodded. "Pick up the card that represents you." The boy reached down and touched a card, hesitated, and then picked up another. It was the Magister, a tall robed man with a book in one hand and a staff in the other, attended by floating cherub.

"Good. Good. Now concentrate on the card. Let me mind flow free and see what surrounds it. " The boy frowned and stared at the card. Nothing happened. And then the world fell away.

He saw the crone's soul, a dark and terrible blaze that shown through her flesh. Currents of power flowed around him and he saw his own soul glowing through his own all to mortal flesh. Energy swirled around him, responding to his will and desires. The power had always come when he desired, but now he was seeing it for the first time.

He gasped as it faded. The crone smiled. "Now you know the true nature of what you will face."

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Jolan Gix looked at the laspistol. He was supposed to be practicing weapon maintenance, but his curiosity had pushed this to the fore. Independent thought had been ruthlessly crushed at the Schola Psychia and here thought and questioning was permitted. Up to a point. Applied in the approved direction.

This wasn't. But he had to know. He had seen spirits in the warp and he knew this ancient and honoured weapon had one. But he had sensed nothing from it. But that was from casual contact. Now he would look into the warp, as he had with the tarot cards. The world fell away.

He saw the other students working at their benches, blunt and talented alike. He saw the instructors, blunt as they were. He saw the raw energy of the warp. He felt the traces of the emotions of guns previous users. But the gun had no more life than the bench.

That shouldn't be. Perhaps he was not skilled enough to sense the gun's spirit. Or perhaps their was no spirit. There was a way to find out. Jolan began go through the rituals of maintenance, leaving out everything that did not treat the gun like it was just a complicated tool. As if it possessed no more life than a fishing net.

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Instructors wandered around salle's floor, watching their students. A dozen different styles were in use in widely varying match up. Sword and dagger against heavy hammer, longsword against axe, sword and buckler verses staff, and other combinations. The training weapons would deliver injuries no more serious than bruises to the students, the instructors would deliver expulsion to the incompetent.

It was not enough for an inquisitor to master his chosen weapons. He or she must be familiar with the use of all weapons. A hammer blow smashed a cadet to the floor. The other cadet hesitated. The instructor struck her with his electrified prod. "Finish him," he ordered.

The cadet brought the training weapon down on the cadet's chest and then again on his helmet. The cadet quivered. "Good," said the instructor. "Find another opponent." He squatted next to the downed student.

The student silently rolled around to his hands and knees. He carefully got up. The instructor took off the student's helmet. "You can proceed,' said the instructor with a look of distaste. This one was on the lower end of the proficiency scale, by Inquisition standards.

"Instructor, request permission for another hammer match up."

Students didn't make such requests. "Why?"

"My skills are obviously lacking. I need further practice."

"Granted student Gix. Halthor! Match up over here." The instructor stood back to watch Gix get pounded again. But he did better this time.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The teenager put down the gun he was firing, striped out the power core, put it on safety, and returned it to the racks. The instructor registered the score transmitted by the range auspexes and grunted. By standards less demanding than the inquisition, it would be considered good shooting. "Try again," the instructor ordered. The teenager looked up. The rest of the students had switched over to slug throwers. "Again with the las," the scarred veteran repeated. "Do better." The las was the easiest of weapons. The student wouldn't move on until he demonstrated adequate proficiency with it.

A golden cherub hovered through the door. The servitor brain recognized the range master. "Student Jolan Gix is required in Magister Venox's office," it's artificial voice repeated.

The former stormtrooper turned to the teenager. "You heard it. Get moving. "

Jolan Gix followed the gilded machine down the halls and up the lifts to the magister's office. The armoured tower provided excellence in both scenery and protection. They were also accessible to students, while being extremely inconvenient for them to reach. The heavy door slid open and Gix entered into a surprisingly spartan room.

Almost everything was matte black. The desk, the walls, the bookshelves, the cogitator, the chairs, and the carpet all were black. The magister wore robes of white silk, shot through with threads of gold. His face was smooth an barely touched by age or injury. He extended one slim, pale hand studded with jeweled rings. "Sit down," he commanded.

Gix did so. There was a moment of silence and then the magister spoke again. "Do you know why you are here?"

The safe thing to do was to say nothing. That was contrary to what the school said you were supposed to do, but he wouldn't be here if that was the truth. But he there was another way of playing it. "It's about my paper," Gix replied.

"Yes," said Magister Venox. "Most unusual. Somewhat . . . radical in its conclusions."

"It is the most effective way of handling the situation."

"But not the orthodox way."

"With respect magister, the proposed situation is unlikely barring a long term warp incident and even in that case my solution is still the most effective one. Using the Jilnoy, the minor heretics, against the followers of the Ruinous Powers and then bringing them back into the fold."

"Instead of crushing them both?" the magister queried.

"The Imperium's troops can be put to better use elsewhere. The Jilnoy heretics can be dealt with without using such heavy handed methods. The Officio Assassinorium, Ecclesiarchy preachers, and few other agents would be a more effective way of going about it. But you know that. You've read my paper."

"I have. Most students your age do not think of such methods, being more enamored with brute force and zealous efforts. You will be transferred to a more advanced academic program. That is all."

"Yes magister," Jolan turned and began to leave.

"And Jolan? Keep up the weapon practice. You're scores are just above borderline. Dead prodigies accomplish nothing."



#23 Cynical Cat

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 03:29 AM

Jolan swept up the remains of his stew with a hunk of bread. The food in the refectory was simple fare, but good by the standards of institution cooking. "Throne," said a cheerful voice a few meters away. "Look at those heffers. Damn if the girls here aren't prime cuts." The owner of the voice sat down opposite of him. "Mind if I join you?"

Of course, he already had. "Suite yourself," Jolan shrugged. They were about the same age, although the other had about fifteen centimeters on Jolan's unimpressive one-eighty and at least thirty kilos on him as well. He was big, blond, smiling and put together like he could throttle a bull. "You're new."

"Yep. Just transferred from the Schola. They saw my worth. The teaching schedule is insane. They sure keep us busy."

"Newts like yourself don't have free time. That's something you get later. Then you have some control over how much time to practice, how much to study, and so forth as long as you score well. It's a privilege."

"Newt huh? I guess that's what they call the new boys." He reached across the table and grabbed a piece of bread from Jolan's tray.

Gix had been waiting for something like this. A lot of the new ones liked to establish themselves by bullying students already here into subservience. Everyone one here was a Schola orphan or a virtual orphan by way of the Black Ships. Only the best were selected. The meek never made it into the gates of this particular school.

Jolan grabbed his thumb and twisted. Big boy dropped his bread and gasped. "I'm not prey, dumbshit. I'm the one who has been trained here for years. I've passed the culls. No, don't try using the Power, I'll crush you like a gnat."

"Take a look around. There aren't any fat kids or kids afraid of their own shadows. The timid don't make it here. Conditioning of body and mind is the rule and you just made it. You don't have weight to throw around and even if you did, no one here would back down. You're used to being the big fish, well you just graduated from the pond to the lake. **** with me again and I'll put you in the Sanitorium. Understood?"

"Yes."

"Good. Now if you're hungry, go ahead and grab more food." Big boy blinked. "Yes, there isn't a food limit. They know a bruiser like you needs more than me. Just make sure whatever mass you put on is useful."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The lock tore itself apart with a screech like it was being tortured by daemons from the warp. Daemons might have left less of a mess. Jolan telekinetically lifted the pieces up and placed them in the garbage. Enough of that for tonight.

"I see you still have that fine touch," Harad said behind him. Jolan turned to his friend.

"To the unenlightened it may appear that I was shredding a lock, but the the enlightened I was merely practicing lock picking, 'the ork way'."

Harad snickered. He was taller, darker, and more heavily built than his friend. "You're not going to climb to the top of the class with that performance."

"I thought you had exclusive claim on that position."

"I don't know about that," another voice purred. Saratta stepped into the room and Jolan's eyes followed her. "Some would think that I might have a chance."

Harad smiled back at her. "You're good, but you're not that good."

The raven haired woman smiled. She was pale, but not unhealthy looking. She had an infectious, mischievous smile. "Are you sure?"

Harad smiled easily. "Very sure." It was a joke, but also the truth. Everything came easily to the big man. History, technosorcerous arts, hand to hand, ranged weapons, his own psychic abilities, his social skills, everything. That he was the top of his group was an accepted fact.

"Why do you put up with him?" she asked Jolan, half teasingly.

"Because, like you, I don't care. No one here isn't a top performer. We compete and are graded on the minutest fractions of competency and the even the worst is merely "quite skilled." Harad doesn't care, because although he has rivals in each class, he's unquestionably the best overall. You don't care, because you are sublimely confident in your own abilities to carry you through. I don't care, because this is meaningless. Here we learn, hone our skills, and pass. Everything else doesn't matter. Once we graduate, then it matters. More than anything else in the galaxy."

"So says the swift mind of Jolan Gix," teased Saratta.

"It's half the reason you're attracted to me," Gix replied. He swept forward, grabbed her around the waist and spun her around. He kissed her on the lips and she responded.

"How come if I'm the best, you get the girl," complained Harad.

"Poor lonely Harad," Saratta mocked. "I seem to recall a certain young woman strutting past you earlier this morning, in a posture one could call suggestive."

Harad smiled. "Yeah. That wasn't bad."

"As for why you don't get me, tell him why Jolan."

"Easy. You always get everything you want, but that doesn't work here. Every male and female is used to being the leader of the pack. So you expect them to fall into your arms, like everything else. But they aren't prizes and you won't do the work. Of course, that cuts both ways."

Harad smiled. "Well, I'll let you to lovebirds enjoy the rest of your free time." He turned and left.

Saratta kissed Jolan again. "Convenient of them to give us usable time for some prolonged. . uh. . consultation."

Jolan smiled back. "It's deliberate. Emotional association and management. Aggression is channelled into hatred of the enemies of the Imperium. Lust, which adolescents have plenty of, can only be consummated by earning enough unsupervised time by getting high enough scores. Despair is molded into fatalistic faith. Ambition is sculpted into serving the Imperium instead of the selfish desires of the individual. It's another training program, just subtler than the rest."

"You're talking too much," she said and kissed him hungrily.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The students stood nervously in the hall. They didn't know why they had been called down for. All of them had been in training for years. Speculation was rampant. They stood alone or in their cliques discussing rumours and speculation.

"I'm sure they are announcing some kind of graduation exercise," said Harad. "One more test to go and I will be enshrined as number one." Vanya coughed. Harad punched him lightly on the arm. Jolan Gix said nothing.

A man unknown to them strode out to the podium. He wore a robe of heavy samite, shot through with gold. A rope of gold was tied around his waist. A sword and a bolt pistol hung from gleaming black scabbards. His hair was black and his face was marred by scars that Jolan could see even from here. Two servo skull floated near him.

His voice carried even without augmentation. With it he thundered. "You are students no longer," he shouted. "You are now interrogators in the service of the Holy Inquisition!" The student body stirred uncertainly.

He continued. "This is not a case for celebration. You have been trained, and you will continue to be trained. One by one, you will get your field assignments, as we see fit. And there, many of you will die. Some of you are unfit and will either die or be reassigned to another part of the inquisition. Some of you will turn out be unready and will serve as interrogators for an extended period of time. Some of you will be merely unlucky and will die horribly. And a few of you will be both worthy and lucky. After even more training and field experience, you will become Inquisitors."

"This is not the Schola Progium. How well you score in your classes here does not determine your future. It only influences your first assignment and when you get one. All of this training and expense is only to prepare you for what really matters, the service of the Emperor. In his Holy Service, we shall separate the great from those that have great scores. All of this has been to prepare you for the most important Schola of all, working in His Service. For The Emperor!"

"The Emperor!" the class roared back.

"Dismissed. Celebrate your good fortune. The Imperium has spent a fortune training you. Now you may prove your worthiness as I know you ache to do. Tonight is yours! Tomorrow you will pick up a burden you will never put down. Go now and celebrate: Tomorrow is the beginning!"



#24 Cynical Cat

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Posted 05 April 2009 - 06:47 AM

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."

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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."



#25 Cynical Cat

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Posted 07 April 2009 - 12:42 PM

The Navy officer turned back to them. "So up to here, everything was normal. And then we opened this hatch and well, we kicked it up to you after getting a good look. Brace yourselves. It isn't pretty." The young lieutenant spun the wheel, unlocking the hatch. With a grunt he pulled it open.

Yvarine stepped through first. The stocky veteran cautiously advanced, a shotcannon held in his hands. Melissandra twittered nervously in her armoured overall. Kyra stepped through confidently. "Come on," she said.

Jolan took a deep breath. This was his first investigation. He wore a stark black uniform with an Inquisition insignia. He was armed with the combat blade, stubber, and laspistol he had previously selected. He stepped through the threshold.

It was bad, but his nose had already told him that. Corpses were sprawled through the room and the floor was crusty with dried blood. The bodies were torn, as if by wild animals. Underneath the gore, some of them wore the recognizable remnants of crew uniform's. Jolan looked around. "No sign of weapons."

"Correct," said Recket. "Whoever did this took their weapons. The crew's I mean."

"No," said Jolan. "These wounds weren't caused by weapons or even genestealer claws. They tore each other apart."

"Correct," said Inquisitor Neven.

"Score one for the rookie," said Yvarine. Melissandra fluttered at the edge of the room.

"Now," continued Kyra, "what caused these men and women to fall on each others with their bare hands? Not one of them even tried to use a weapon, not even a wrench. Even frenzon doesn't cause this. I believe we have quite a job in front of us."

Auspexes hummed as they swept the derelict freighter. A squad of heavily armed Naval Security troopers accompanied them, along with a team of technical specialists. Inquisitor Neven personally oversaw the work of the Adeptus Mechanicus trained personnel. Every nook and cranny, every alcove and niche, was searched and scanned. Jolan observed the whole process. The inquisitor was going about the task using her preferred methods, but Jolan could tell that they weren't going to produce any results. At least, any results that she would want.

The scan came up empty. So did the physical search. The next step was to bring in even more team members and to begin to tear the ship apart. It was now or never. Jolan stepped towards his superior. "Inquisitor, might I have a word with you?"

She raised her eyebrow. "Of course," she replied and stepped away from the group. Jolan followed her.

"It isn't my intention to criticize your methods or undermine your authority, but I don't feel that this particular method of searching will be productive in this case."

Her face was almost impassive. A man who was less observant would have missed the slight upward twitch of her lips or the momentarily widening of her eyes. Combined with the rest of her body language, it meant that she wasn't displeased. Unless she was skilled enough to send such subtle and deliberately misleading signals. A Callidus Assassin was that good. A senior inquisitor . . . . could very well be that good. "What alternate method do you suggest, Interrogator Gix?"

"Psychic sweep, inquisitor. With no detectable chemical residue, some kind of psychic or warp activity is the most likely cause of this. . . . aberration. We should scry for traces."

"I concur. Melissandra is somewhat skilled in that area. Your own file mentions that you are not completely untalented in that area. Conduct the seance as you see fit."



#26 Cynical Cat

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Posted 13 April 2009 - 08:47 PM

Jolan sat down cross-legged next to the slaughter scene. Melissandra was nervously laying down cards from the Imperial Tarot down on the deck. She was fidgeting. She didn't read the Tarot, but arranging the cards helped settle her for her visions. She rubbed her hands together and sat down, looking everywhere but at the slaughter across the room.

Power began to spill from the psyker as she tapped into the warp. Jolan extended his perceptions and slipped into the stream with Melissandra. Time did not flow the same way in the warp and traces of events remained imprinted their for those who could find them.

Violent currents buffeted the psyker's souls as Melissandra swam back through the currents towards the past. A pulsing core awaited them, undoubtedly the event itself. Melissandra hesitated at the periphery of the dark event. A massive current suddenly pushed out, washing over both psykers.

They saw a bloody crewman chasing a wounded man into the room. The attacker was caked in gore, his hands twisted into talons. He fell on the wounded man, tearing and ripping at him. The wounded man struck at him with his fists and feet, but the other seemed insensitive to the blows. Other gore streaked crewmen followed in. They surrounded the wounded man and tore him apart with their bare hands.

Then they turned on each other. They bit and clawed and chewed, fighting like wild beasts. They fought on after being mortally wounded, falling only their hearts stopped beating the last bit of blood out their bodies. The winner lasted only moments longer than his last victim. As he fell, a shiny glass marble fell out of his pocket and rolled into a pool of gore. It dissolved, as did the vision.

Jolan blinked and looked around. Melissandra had gotten up. Her fingers curled like cat's claws and madness blazed in her eyes.

The psyker lunged, hands outstretched. Jolan instinctively lashed out with a telekinetic blast. Blue light flashed as he batted Melissandra to the floor. Jolan sprang to his feet as Melissandra flipped back onto her feet. He struck again, but she deflected the blast in a flash of power. Tarot cards fluttered into the air in the aftermath of the clash.

Jolan struck her hard in the solar plexus. She should've dropped. Melissandra was unfazed and gripped his upper arms. Jolan broke her grasp before she tore chunks of flesh out of his arms. He fell back, fending off a rake aimed at his eyes and twisting to avoid a groin strike.

Recket smashed her in the back of the head with his las carbine. The psyker staggered and turned on the Guard veteran. He butt stroked her in the midriff and she folded momentarily. And then she straightened and tore at his groin. Recket back peddled frantically and reversed his grip on his weapon.

Jolan put a las pulse into her left shoulder and another into her right lung. She coughed up blood, but kept coming, her left arm still striking forward to grip the barrel of Yvarine's carbine. Her other hand crawled at his visor. Jolan shot her point blank at the base of the spine and her legs collapsed under her.

Yvarine kneed her in the face, knocking her back freeing himself from her grip. The enforcer backed away and raised his weapon. Jolan raised his hand as he took a step back. Green fire erupted around Melissandra. She did not burn. A blue glue outlined her body as waves of heat emanated from her blazing body.

Then the glow faded in a flash. Her body was reduced to a blackened mannequin in an instant. She fell to the ground, dead.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Calidan dropped a strongbox on the desk and backed away. "I guess these are the culprits. They don't seem to be active at the moment."

Jolan approached the box. "They are psychoactive. A soul, like yours," he said looking at Calidan, "provides the spark that activates it. It then acts as a conductor to a warp entity. It exposes the user to being influenced and eventual possession. It probably begins with projecting feelings of power, confidence, or ecstasy. The warp entity gains more power over the user as he uses the bauble more and more."

"The one that was used must have been connected to a daemon of Khorne, or something similar. It was almost able to manifest fully. When Melissandra and I chased it's trail back, it was able to take her. She wasn't strong enough to resist."

Kyra nodded. "Excellent work, interrogator. It stands to reason that these were to be sold as luxury items to the wealthy and powerful. Someone got greedy and tried one, with the results we see here. Disposal of these will be easy. The real question is where did these come from?"

"The Eye," muttered Calidan.

"Probably," said Kyra. "But how do they get into the hands of these free traders? And how many more of them are out there?"



#27 Cynical Cat

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 06:21 AM

Calidan Vils sprayed autopistol fire into the room and ducked back behind the doorway. "Proximus," he yelled in Cryptia, the secret language of Inquisitor Nevan as he bounced a grenade back into the room. Two seconds latter it exploded, sending shrapnel through the doorway. Jolan Gix, crouching on the other side of the doorway, went low. He snapped las bolts into the room.

Vils went high, going for suppression fire. Two dead men lay on the floor as Vils put rounds into the opposite doorway. "Via!" yelled Gix as he fired into the doorway. Vils leaped to Gix's side and they both ran down the corridor.

There was trouble ahead. The men at the bar had heard the gunfire of the deal going sour in the back room. The huge barkeep, a heavy g worlder just small enough not be classified as an Ogryn, whipped a combat shotgun out from beneath the bar. The big weapon looked like a child's toy in his hands. A bouncer at the door had drawn a handgun and another had ducked into a booth on the opposite side. Something metallic glinted in his hands.

Vils didn't hesitate. He placed a burst in the bartender's head. The hollow points blew out the back of his skull. The bounty hunter was moving even as the bartender fell. Rounds cracked around him, but failed to connect.

Gix charged ahead, firing at the shooter in the booth. Las bolts drove the shooter back into cover as Vils fired at the bouncer in the door. The bounty hunter missed and dived into a booth to reload as wild return fire struck around him.

Gix burned open the man in the booth's skull at point blank range. He turned and raised the stubber in his left hand and fired at back the way he had came to discourage pursuit. Ragged return fire answered him. A slug took him in the chest and he hissed in pain as it impacted on his armour.

The bouncer at the door fired on him. Several bullets missed, one took him in the shoulder. Gix pulsed las bolts back and advanced as he fired blindly at their pursuers with his off hand. One bolt struck the bouncer on his right forearm, burning through to the bone and blasting it open as the water in his tissues exploded into steam. The bouncer screamed and dropped the gun. Gix shot him twice in the torso and then in the head as he advanced on the door. The stubber in his other hand clicked noisily as the interrogator pulled the trigger on an empty magazine.

Bullets flew back at the interrogator. One struck him in the chest, causing him to grunt. One took him in the right thigh and Gix nearly fell as blood streamed from the wound. He fired las bolts back as Calidan Vil chucked another grenade at their attackers and hosed the area with autofire. The bounty hunter darted across the room and towards the exit.

Gix covered him. Calidan hurtled another grenade and reloaded. Then he saw Jolan's wound. "Emperor's Teeth," he swore. "Can you run?"

Jolan grimaced. "No, but I won't have to. Give me a grenade." The bounty hunter tossed him one. The psyker activated it and it zipped like a hornet straight towards their attackers and detonated. "Another." Jolan ordered. Vils complied. It went the same place as the first one. "I think I can make it now."

"Yeah, but lets try to make good time," said the bounty hunter. "And for the record, you were right about the passwords. I think they might have been wrong.'

"You think you might have been wrong?"

"Well, they were criminals. The passwords could have been right and they just decided it would be easier to kill us and take the money."



#28 Cynical Cat

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Posted 27 April 2009 - 08:37 AM

Articulated arms closed around the crime lord. Some scanned him, others injected drugs. Others burned, or bored, or manipulated nerves. He screamed. He screamed and screamed and screamed. Answers spewed from his lips, a froth of truths, half-truths, lies, and speculations. Cogitators in the room relayed those answers and matched them against other information. Matches were made, lies detected, paths of inquiry noted. The machine projected the data directly into the interrogator's brain using an display based on power armour autosenses.

The interrogator continued. Lies were punished with even more agony. Drug levels were adjusted. Question were reasked. New ones were whispered. New tool arms curled into position. New torments applied. Flesh was rent and senses distorted. The interrogator pressed on.

The victim was trapped in a timeless hell. His own sense of identity was lost as it was peeled from him with the ruthlessness of a spider. The interrogator pressed on, the cogitators recorded and processed new answers. Finally, the body failed under the stress. He was revived and left hanging for another session. He would need to recover some of his strength. Jolan Gix left the room.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The interrogator slid curled his toes on the fur carpet. He wore a heavy brocade robe lined with mink and his skin was still wet from the shower. It felt good to be removed from the claustrophobic nightmare of the interrogation cell. Across the room, Kyra waited. She was wearing a loose maroon robe. A regicide board sat on the table before her. "Join me," she said.

Jolan sat down opposite of her. "A hard session," she continued. "How did it go?"

"It was productive. We have a good list to begin. A lot of points match up."

"Good," she said as she made her opening move. "It's also good that you switched methods of investigation when your first one wasn't working."

Jolan shrugged and made his move. "You don't like torture much, do you?" she asked.

"I'm good at it," he responded. "It doesn't matter if I like it. It matters if I do it when it's appropriate and if it gets results."

Kyra smiled. "True." She made another move. "It's been . . . .what about a year?"

"Thirteen months," Jolan replied. "As you well know." He studied the board.

"You've shown your mettle in that time. You've made mistakes, but those are important to make. The real test is how you react to those mistakes. Some think they need to become tougher, more ruthless."

"I'm ruthless enough," he replied. He moved a piece forward. It wasn't a traditional counter. Kyra eyed the board carefully.

"Yes, you are. You didn't respond to challenges with bravado, but with cunning. You didn't try to become tougher, but better." She moved a different piece.

He looked at her. She looked her student straight in the eye. "Do you know who does this job well, Jolan Gix? Do you know who should do this job?"

"You seem to have the answer."

"So do you. I want to hear yours."

"No one is good enough at this job."

Kyra smiled. "That's right. No one is good enough. Not even the Emperor is good enough. You've seen the real histories. You've seen all the warnings that there was something wrong with the Primarchs. And did he act well? If he was an inquisitor and not the Emperor would you say he handled the situation well?"

Jolan's jaw worked. He was silent. "No," he finally replied.

"Yes. We do an impossible job. A job that must be done. We err. We fail. We flail around blindly way out of our depth. And hope we do the job well enough that it makes the difference. To truly be an inquisitor, one must understand how inadequate you are to the task. But the task must be done and if an inquisitor is inadequate, how much worse will anyone else be? So we must do it."

Jolan's jaw clenched. "The implications-"

"Yes," she replied. "It takes a while for most inquisitors to figure this out, let alone to be ready for this, but you are. The highest duty of an inquisitor is to purge the unworthy from our ranks. The brutal thugs that think all problems are nails and that the solution to everything is a hammer. Those who lose sight of the goal in search of the means to accomplish it. Those who are rigidly doctrinaire and who will not bend, not matter how much will be accomplished. The spiritual deviates who have bent too far and are loyaler to esoteric philosophies and strange plans than the Imperium itself. Those who have been corrupted by power so that they believe what is good for them is good for the Imperium. These are among the most serious threats the Imperium faces. And thus you know the Inquisition's most carefully kept secret. We war against ourselves."

"I suspected as much. Not that it was this bad, but in Schola the expected answer was always the right answer. Sometimes that meant being rigidly doctrinaire, sometimes that meant being flexible. And you had to know when to be which."

"Yes. The war happens at all levels, although few understand it to actually be a war. Most don't perceive enough of it to really see it as anything other than a series of philosophical debates that occasionally lead to heresy. But you do, Jolan."

"Why tell me now?"

"Because I have seen you are ready to hear it. I've trained seventeen interrogators of which eleven have become inquisitors. I've had this talk with six of them. You'll make seven. Including yourself, four live."

"You're part of a faction."

"In a way," she replied. "And you have been a part of a faction since you came to Schola. But the question remains, are you an ignorant pawn or a regent?"



#29 Cynical Cat

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 11:59 AM

The giant strode through the vast hall, impervious to the sights before him. Although he was not Astartes, he could easily be mistaken for one such was his stature. A burgundy robe pocked with burn holes shrouded oil slick black powered armour. The armour was not that on the Astartes, but marked with the gold seals of the Inquisition.

The grand hall was strewn with bodies. Some shredded by bolter fire, others crushed, blasted open, incinerated, or blasted open by las fire. There were hundreds of them. Many had died at the inquisitor's hand.

The black armoured storm troopers that stood at the gilded door let two humans enter. Kyra Neven and Jolan Gix entered, long coats swirling over armoured body gloves. The stench of day old corpses did not appear to faze Inquisitor Neven. Interrogator Gix seemed to slip from olive coloured to green.

The massive inquisitor removed his helmet, revealing the horror that was his face. Both inquisitors started at the sight. Ravaged, cicatrice covered skin was stretched over his skull. Gold sutures held seams together. Cold, unfeeling eyes peered from the mask of his face.

"Kyra, it is a pleasure to see you again," the inquisitor said in a smooth baritone.

"Maladar, this is my new interrogator Jolan Gix." She gestured at the room. "Heavy handed as always."

"It works. But I encountered something interesting. I need your expertise."

"You've peaked my curiosity."

"I've left the scene undisturbed so not to taint your inquiry."

"Other than the massacre and the rotting."

Massive shoulders shrugged. "Just because you prefer to sneak around first and massacre second, doesn't mean I have to do it that way." The huge man strode to a single body. He pulled the cowl away. A tattoo was revealed. "Recognize this?"

Kyra knelt. "Yes, that's it. After all these years, he was here."

"I thought so. How do you wish to proceed?"

"You always made a good beater. I'll be waiting when you flush the game."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"There is history between you and this cult magos," said Jolan.

Kyra was silent for a moment. "There is a kind of fear you do not know. It is the fear of blunt confronted by a psyker strong enough to discard you like a toy. He killed my team and tossed me down a lift shaft. It took two years and the best augmentics from Mars for me to recover from the damage. His cult has popped up on several far scattered worlds, always found after he has left and the damage has been done. Since that day I have always carried Hexagrammic wards and made sure that I have a powerful psyker on my staff. You're my insurance against that ever happening again."

"And Maladar?"

"My chief student before you. And my psychic shield and sword before you. His appearance, that is something new but his brutality and directness are the same old Maladar."

"And where does he fall on your list?"

"One who is an asset. He realizes there are other valid methods. He just sticks with the ones he likes."



#30 Cynical Cat

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Posted 12 May 2009 - 11:23 AM

The troopers hit the room firing. The ragged band of cultists took cover behind the gallery's pillars and returned fire with sluggers and autoguns. Imperial fire teams leapfrogged forward, firing as they came. Cultists fell, spilling blood on the floor as their bodies were blown open. Behind the soldiers of the Imperium came Kyra Neven and her retinue.

Yvarine Recket wielded a heavy caliber, drum fed autogun. He sprayed pillars with heavy fire, blasting chunks out of them and covering the Imperial advance. Vils stalked near him, pulsing las bolts across the long hall. To exit the hall and reach the starport pad beyond, the cultists would have to break cover. And then they would be Vils's meat.

A pulsing mist coalesced in the center of the room. It was a mix of softly glowing lime and cyan clouds. It drifted towards the Imperials. It enveloped one man and he stood blinking, oblivious to his surroundings. A burst of gun fire tore open his face and he fell.

The cloud shimmered and halted. Swirling bands of cobalt light surrounded the cloud, binding it in place. Jolan Gix bared his teeth. "I can't hold this for ever!"

Kyra ran up the side of the gallery with the speed of a championship sprinter, her coat trailing behind her. Recket followed behind her, autogun barking. Bullets flew around them, one splattering itself on her ceramite breastplate.

The long barrelled bolt pistol in her hand blew open the chest of a cultist and drove two others back into cover. A cultist partially emerged from behind the pillar and a burst from her bolt pistol severed his right arm just below the shoulder. He fell screaming. She could see Keranor before her, shrouded by a haze of pastel colours.

She ejected the clip and reached for one of the clips of psyk out rounds. A huge bearded man lunged at her from the behind a nearby pillar, knocking the bolter out of her hand and carrying her to the floor. He had forty centimeters and at least fifty kilos on her and was on top to boot.

She threw him off and sprung to her feet. She didn't bother reaching for her powerblade. The giant was regaining his feet. She shattered his jaw with her fist, crushed his sternum with a second blow, and stove in the left side of his chest with a finishing kick before he hit the ground.

She scooped up her bolter and caught a bright flash out of the corner of her eye. She straightened to see Kerandar surrounded by jade flames. The swirling pastel haze contracted under the pressure of the the hellish flames. She fired. The psyk out rounds blew open the magos' chest in a spray of blood, bone, and viscera. A split second latter and he was burning. It seemed that Jolan Gix could do more than hold.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Maladar walked past through the perimeter of armed guards around the courthouse. They acknowledged his authority and let him through the edifice of Imperial law and authority. A junior Arbites showed him down long, dark staircases illuminated by holo torches. In these ancient and inaccessible precincts, he found Kyra Neven.

The inquisitor turned and smiled. "Maladar, good to see you."

Maladar nodded. "I heard you got him."

Kyra smiled. "Yes. He was-" she was interrupted by a door sliding open. Jolan Gix walked through, his coat splattered with blood. His posture was firm, resolute. Kyra continued, "barely able to hold off interrogator Gix. I can't say if he would have won the fight, because I shot him before it was over."

Maladar's gaze drifted over the interrogator. He had seemed unspectacular when he had first seen him, without the power and presence that Maladar always found with inquisitors and those interrogators who made the cut. But to fight Kerandar was no easy task and here he stood, a meek and obedient subordinate. With blood all over him.

"Jolan?" Kyra asked.

"He won't give anything up under pain so far. I think he's been conditioned. So I've got the machine dosing him. With some suggestibility drugs in his system, he might give something up after being sufficiently disorientated and confused. And if that doesn't work, we can take him apart in full view of the other prisoner. We do it messy and slow enough, his own fears might break him."

"Good," replied Kyra.

"Pity about Kerandar," Jolan said. "I would have liked to plumb his secrets. But at least he is no longer a problem."

A watcher. One who gathers information before striking. Maladar had mistaken Jolan's ability to fade into the background as docility. This one preferred to strike from shadows, the cunning plan to the direct assault. But he did not shirk from a fight, according to Calidan Vils.

Maladar turned his awful gaze upon the young interrogator. Gix's posture signaled submission, a signal that was unmistakable to a trained inquisitor. But his gaze was firm. No coward here. Let us see what time makes of Jolan Gix.



#31 Cynical Cat

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 06:30 PM

Jolan arced through the air, twisting and turning for ten meters, before he hit the water. He shot down through the pools depths, kicking towards the surface. A few powerful strokes took him to the side of the pool. He pulled himself out with a single surge.

"Nice," said Calidan Vils. He tossed the interrogator a towel. The bounty hunter was lounging on a chair, with bottles of three different kinds of alcohol beside him. The sunlight coming through the armoured glass made the pool house oppressively warm, but Jolan liked the heat. Sometimes he felt that he had spent most of his life being cold. The cells under the governor's palace, the Black Ship, and the Schola had been cool at best and frozen at worst.

Jolan shrugged. "Lots of gymnastic training. I didn't have a bruiser's build, so my training emphasized speed and agility." And a lot of intense weight training, because the instructors had no use for scrawny weaklings of any kind. Life and death struggle was a given for an inquisitor's life and the Schola had done its best to prepare its student for that reality. "I have to say-"

A beeping interrupted him. It was the com sitting by his chair. Jolan strode over to it and picked it up. Kyra's voice came through. "Iron Lady covets Pupil."

He hadn't mastered Cryptia yet. Kyra used it a lot to as a means of encouragement. "Pupil via Iron Lady. Time suspended, the holding of breath."

He walked out of the pool house down the long carpeted corridors to his quarters. He changed out of his swimming trunks and into heavy weave trousers and tunic. He slipped on a pair of comfortable shoes and headed towards the stairs to the sanctum.

His hand print and a secondary code opened the armoured door to him. The series of secret rooms contain Kyra's most secure secrets. The holo table in front of him displayed a vast network of stars floating in mid air. Glowing red and green lines formed tangled paths of connections.

"You've been working on the pattern," he said. Kyra looked up. She wore on her usual armoured body gloves. She would be willing to wear the most revealing fashions or the grubbiest coveralls if necessary, but her preference was for business like functional garb. Jolan followed her lead in such matters.

She looked up at him and said nothing. Jolan switched to Cryptia. "Iron Lady stalks the web." She nodded. And pointed to a star. Then she spoke in High Gothic. "An intersection of routes. Not only our ship, but that of another. And the trail of a chaos cult exterminated by Maladar last year."

"A recently reclaimed world," said Jolan consulting the data displayed on the tables matte finish. "Wasn't it cleansed?"

"Yes, but the inquisitor assigned to the planet died in the taking of its capital. Arbites and Guard gave the capital a thorough screening and their have been no additional incidents."

"That we know of."

"Yes, and the Inquisition has been busy with real problems in this sector."

"Too much work, too few men. So we caught it. I take it we are going to investigate."

"Yes. And one other matter. You are no longer Pupil. You have established yourself as something besides a student. It should have been done earlier, Infernas, but it is done now. We will burn out the Emperor's foes together."



#32 Cynical Cat

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 02:57 PM

Jolan Gix walked down the long halls of the Administerium building. It was a huge edifice of ferrocrete and ceramite, less than two decades old. Holopicts of saints and heroes, particularly the heroes of the last crusade, glowed along its walls. The floor was a checkerboard of polished marble and the ceiling was twenty meters above him. Along the sides legions of clerks and minor functionaries processed data and went about the varied tasks of bureaucracy.

Jolan walked up to the appropriate line (having been redirected twice) and waited twenty minutes for the robed acolyte to get to him. Jolan stood, straightened his uniform, and presented his data slate and papers to the clerk. "I am Major Gareth of the Imperial Guard. I have a schedule Seven-six-B form and an Gamma-three form here, as per standard protocol."

The clerk looked over the forms. "This is a most unusual request. We don't usually get requests from the Guard about retired soldiers."

Jolan smiled blandly. "Yes, it is. But my request is in order."

"Yes, it is. But why-"

"Need to know. You'll have to file the appropriate papers with the Guard."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hethor pointed on the schematics. "It was right about here." Kyra looked closely at it.

"How sure are you?"

"I'm sure." The big veteran was acutely conscious of the junior officer watching his back. Well, Hethor had dealt with a long line of lieutenants and junior captains in his career. Some of them were almost as bad as Commissars.

The pretty boy tapped the edge of the map. "If you suspect the Imperial Commander has been compromised, he's not just going to let us search the palace without doing something to interfere."

"You think he'll defy the lawful authority of the Inquisition?" Kyra asked innocently.

"Knock it off. We both know 'accidents' happen. And criminals and heretics might come out of the wood work and suddenly decide to kill us. Or we could simply be delayed while something happens to the site. Or he could have his guard gun us down and then bury the incident."

Well, the pretty boy was smarter than most lieutenants.

Kyra smiled. "You suggestion, Interrogator Gix?"

"We sneak in. Just like you are planning to do." He smiled back. It was a predator's grin.

"The Grand Palace of Illiza is quite a massive structure. All sorts of people have legitimate business being there." Her grin answered his.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The four Adeptus walked down the long corridor. It had been painstakingly restored to pre-war status with its marble statues of saints and heroes, huge stained glass windows, and immaculately polished checkerboard floors. One could not tell that the Grand Promenade had ever taken any damage.

But people still felt there was something wrong. Maybe it was haunted by some of those who fell fighting here, maybe the taint of Chaos had never entirely removed, or maybe it was the minds of men playing tricks. Whatever the cause, the Grand Promenade was deserted at night.

Holo torches on the wall provided some illumination as they marched down the corridor. One of them abruptly stopped in front of a niche.. "Here," said Hethor D'eckor. "Different statue, but this is the place.

"There isn't any room here," Yvarine said in disgust. "Unless it's hidden."

"Wasn't hidden when we took it," Hethor grunted. "Maybe they walled over it."

"No," said Jolan Gix. "There is something here. A psychic residue." He touched the engraving around the wall of the niche. "This one," he said touching an skull that was slightly shinier than it's neighbors. He twisted it. The other side of the niche opened.

"Damn, that's slick," Yvarine said. "I didn't see it at all."

Hethor withdrew the shotcannon he was packing under his robes. "I'm ready."

A smile touched Kyra's lips. "By all means, let us proceed."

The door silently swung open. Inside was as black as a dark eldar's heart. Jolan flashed a beam inside, revealing a large room. He cautiously advanced, Hethor behind him.

The interrogator touched a control inside, causing lights to flicker on overhead. The room was blackened and scorched, the grim testament to the efforts of the cleanse and burn team. Other than a set of shelves with a few strange lumps the room as an unremarkable square. Kyra followed her pupil in. Yvarine remained outside to cover their rear.

"I was expecting something a little more impressive," Kyra mused. "Jolan, if you would?"

"With pleasure madam," said Gix. He pulled out a particularly arcane auspex and touched several runes. The device hummed and projected several glowing glyphs.

Hethor prowled the room. This place made him uneasy. There was something deeply wrong here, he could feel it. "There's a false floor," Jolan said. "The floor is made of a composite to try to fool scans into thinking its solid underneath."

"Clever," said Kyra. "Now we have to find our way in." Jolan frowned and began examining to floor.

"I don't see it," said the interrogator. "Didn't spare any effort on this one."

"Like the door," said Kyra. "Keep looking. Put those fiendish instruments of yours to good use."

Jolan consulted his devices. He ran another scan. And then another, inches from the floor. "Emperor's Teeth! I can find the joins, but no sign of how to open this thrice-cursed thing up."

Kyra sighed. "Ah well. So much for subtlety." Her voice changed, becoming harsh. "Crack it."

"Everyone stand back," Jolan commanded. After everyone had retreated to the edge of the floor the interrogator extended his hands and pointed at the center of the floor.

The floor exploded silently upwards. The fragments drifted slowly back down to the room beneath like leaves in autumn. The debris settled on the floor. The room had a single set of stairs leading about two and a half meters down. It was bare, except for a complex design now covered by the rubble and a heavy chest.

"Throne," Hethor swore softly.

"Hmm," said Kyra. "A treasure chest. I wonder-" the half buried symbol began to glow. Things began to coalesce beneath them. They were vaguely humanoid, with rough golden skin like a crocodile. Their heads were circled by a crown of horns and their hands were tipped with vicious talons.

Jolan raised his las pistol and shot the closest one to the stairs three times in the chest. The bright white beam burned through its hide and deep into its chest. It didn't faze it. It leaped up the stairs.

Kyra blew it apart with a burst from her psycannon. The pieces began to dissolve into ectoplasmic mist even before they hit the rubble. The death of the first one did not deter the pack. The next two were already on their way up.

Kyra's blew off the arm of the next one at the shoulder before it crashed into her. The inquisitor fell back against the wall as the daemon grappled with her. It butted her in the head with its crown of horns and reached towards her throat with its remaining claw.

The third daemon rushed towards Gix. Thunder roared in the confined space as Hethor opened up with the shotcannon. The daemon's hip and thigh were blow open, flesh was torn apart and bone shattered. The next burst blew its head to pulp. The fourth leaped up at Hethor.

A blazing lance of cyan psychic force intercepted it. The daemon was smashed to floor and blown to ash. Jolan turned towards Kyra.

The inquisitor's rebuilt skull and neck withstood the headbutt. With her right hand she caught the daemon's arm at the wrist. With her other she pulled a power blade from under her robe. She stabbed the daemon in the abdomen and yanked up. The blade went through the daemon's chest, opened up daemon's throat, and up into the skull.

Kyra pushed the dissolving corpse to the floor. Bubbling goo covered her robe. She ignored it and strode forward. "Jolan, any psi residue on the chest?" Her voice gave no sign that she had a cut on her forehead and that she had just been in hand to hand combat with a creature of the warp.

"Yes, but it isn't the chest. It's something inside."

She turned off the power blade and handed the ornate dagger to the interrogator. "Crack it."

Jolan thumbed the blade on and stabbed the lock. Gix twisted. Metal screamed as it was torn. With a jerk, Jolan threw the lid open. Inside, hundreds of crystal spheres glittered with a familiar light.



#33 Cynical Cat

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 11:16 AM

The front facade of the Grand Palace exploded, showering the front courtyard with marble fragments. Black armoured Arbites shock troops rushed forward as fighting vehicles raked the palace with autocannon and heavy stubber fire. Jolan Gix turned away from the display. "So, the governor was in on it."

"Probably," replied Kyra. "Either that or his chosen retainers were easily corrupted. Either way its a death sentence." She handed a data slate over to Jolan. "Nice work."

"Thank you. Just a matter of matching data. More trails to check. Interrogation will reveal more avenues of investigation."

She smiled. "You're coming along nicely. What do you think of Sergeant D'eckor?"

"He's good in a fight. Steady, even when those daemons appeared. Uneducated, but not stupid. A lot of valuable battlefield experience. We can use him."

"I agree. And it is preferable to shooting him for knowing too much."



#34 Cynical Cat

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 11:19 AM

The fat man reclined in his chair. He handed the flimsy back to Gix. The seal of the Guilder Bank was displayed prominently in the corner. "Your credit is impeccable Maistre. I am sure we will be able to do business."

"Wonderful," said Gix, drawing out the syllables of the word. The wore a loose fitting crimson robe over a tunic, pants, and shirt. A gold band constrained his hair. The room was boiling hot, but the custom was against climate control in most places. Instead the wealthy wore extra layers of clothes and carried personal cooling units in a display of conspicuous consumption. "I am most interested in the exotics produced by your interests," he continued languidly. "They should sell very well."

A bronzed servant in a long kilt and sleeveless tunic came by with a silver platter. "Some refreshment?" his host asked.

"Delighted." Balancing the platter in one hand, the servant poured with the other, filling two glasses with an amber liquid. He then put the pitcher down on the platter and placed the glasses in front of his betters.

Gix sipped the cool cider made from the pericha fruit. Delicious. A side door opened. A short, tubby man wearing a simple white robe entered. Gix could see the power around him. Apriggo Vanx spoke again. "Maistre Glinn, may I present an associate of mine, Dominus Vain? He is very skilled in these particular-"

Gix wasn't paying attention to his words. Vain wasn't a registered psyker and for that alone he was the Inquisition's prey. He saw Vain's power despite his attempts to conceal it. And Vain knew he had been seen. Vain knew also that cells his own cult had distant relationships with had vanished. And he also knew that he did not face a foppish young noble, but a psyker skilled enough to spot him. Jolan only had a few seconds before he reacted.

Throne! I wish I had been able to dig deeper. His hand was already diving for a pistol a he slammed a bolt of telekinetic force at the chaos cultist. Vain staggered, but did not fall. Jolan triggered his vox. "Infernas, the heavens burning," he cried out in Cryptia. A powerful had gripped his wrist before he could bring his pistol to bear.

Outside Hethor D'eckor reacted. He whipped out his stubber and put two rounds into the face of the guard in front of him, splattering blood and brains over the polished marble floor of the great hall. The other had his gun half drawn when Hethor put two in his chest, dropping him. Another two went into his face as Hethor charged the door. He could hear footsteps echoing behind him. Two bullets past, too close for comfort.

The servant grabbed Jolan by the neck with his other hand and hauled him up. Jolan's cooling suit was armoured against lases, cutting weapons, and projectiles, but wasn't much use against have his throat crushed. A spear of telepathic force tried to break his mind and scatter his thoughts. It shattered on his shields.

He didn't bother striking the bodyguard-servant. He outweighed Jolan almost two to one and the interrogator didn't have much space to strike. Instead he telekinetically juggled the hellpistol to his other hand. The free one. He blew a hole in the servant's chest, in the general vicinity of his heart. His grip slackened and Jolan freed himself from the dead weight.

Hethor crashed into the room, stubber in his hand. He fired on Vain, but the bullets ricocheted away. A telepathic blast dropped him like steer in a slaughterhouse.

Vain was strong, probably stronger than Gix. But not as well trained, not as disciplined. And Gix's strongest powers had yet to be fielded. The interrogator's eyes glowed with and eldritch light. A volley of hellish green bolts of witch fire leaped from his eyes. Vain stepped back, on the defensive. His defences held as he took a moment to gather strength for a brutal telepathic counter attack designed to burn out the young psyker's mind.

Too late. Gix had hit Vain hard enough to keep him off balance, so Gix could truly bring his full might to bear. Beams of blue-white flame poured from eyes. Vain's shields, already battered but holding, failed for a moment. If Vain hadn't been diverting some of his power and attention for a counter attack, they probably would have held. But he did and Gix only needed a moment.

Vain was blasted to ash. The wall behind him blackened. Jolan fell to one knee as the exertion caught up with him. He turned he head towards the door way, where he could hear more guards coming.

Apriggo Vanx struck. He was not strong, swift, or skilled. But he had been forgotten. He struck Jolan in the side of the head with the crystal pitcher, which shattered on impact. Gix hit the floor, blood pouring from lacerations on his cheek and scalp. Then holes were blown open in Vanx's chest and he fell.

Hethor dropped the empty stubber and rolled into the doorway, las pistol in hand. The guards were much closer now. Two fired as they came. Several rounds came close as the veteran rapidly and methodically placed his shots. He killed three and they broke to the side. Hethor dropped a fourth before they left Hethor's field of vision.

He rolled up and out of the way. His head hurt like he had been on the receiving end of an ork boot. No matter. He just had to hold out until help came. Jolan crawled up, getting to hand and knees. He was stripping off the bulky, bloodstained robe. Half of his face was covered in blood. Gix barred his teeth in a wolf's grin and gripped his pistol. Hethor smiled back. A lot of people were going to have a very bad day.



#35 Cynical Cat

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 10:21 AM

Jolan ran his thumb along the scar on his cheek. The surgeon had done a good job of repair, but he would carry this mark to his grave. "It was a bust," he said with disgust.

"Not totally," said Kyra as she placed a glass in front of him. "Drink up. We cleaned out a nest of heretics. Still a win."

"We didn't crack the network," said said with disgust. "They'll continue to move around and go to ground. We lost an opportunity."

"We haven't given up yet," Kyra said. "And we have far much information of their past activities. A lot of leads to run down. Some of them will bear fruit. Patience, Jolan. You aren't even thirty yet. We're tearing up cults that have been in operation for decades. In this little war at least, we're winning. Now drink up."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Alexos watched his guests drink and debauch themselves. The vaulted chambered was packed, as befitted one of his parties. Three groups of dancers, bathed in multicoloured lights, moved in through various sexual positions. Richly dressed nobles sucked on hookahs, snorted powders, or drank intoxicants of one kind or another. Some were engaging in sexual acts with their paramours or peers.

Alexos accepted greetings and congratulations from his guests. Hands patted him, lips touched. He smiled and moved on. His master would be very pleased and soon Alexos would be promoted to the next circle. Already he had been marked, although not in a way most would notice. It was a most useful sign of favor and it would-

Well, well, well. What was this? The beautiful gutter morsel Anjun Chou was here, which wasn't unusual. But the gorgeous stranger with him was. He was a dark haired, handsome man wearing crimson and ebony silks. His skin was unusually dark for a hive dweller. Chou put his hand on the stranger's shoulder and whispered something into his ear.

Alexos walked toward them, swatting away a hand that groped at his crotch. The stranger smiled. He had a scar on his left cheek. "Alexos!" Anjun called out.

"Who is this tasty dish?" Alexos asked.

"This is Jeslen. He's from off world. He's interested in a good time and of course I thought of you."

Jeslen extended his hand. "Nice party," he said.

"Thank you. Where are you from?"

"Zrenka. My family is the second largest stake holder in the Straker Combine. Nearly a third of our beasts end up on the tables on this world."

"How fascinating," Alexos lied.

"Peasant work. It's as dull as all hell. But the money comes in useful when one is looking for amusement."

"Well, you've come to the right place," replied Alexos. It would take him two nights tops to get this tasty treat into his bed. He gave Chou a covert signal. Chou was taken aback for a moment and replied. Between his charms, the aphrodisiac musk that his perfume helped conceal, and drugs from Chou he would get Jeslen into his bed whether he was willing or not.

"I can see I have," replied Jolan Gix.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Don't drink anymore," Chou hissed in Jolan's ear. The interrogator smiled at the next party goer and nodded.

"Why not?" he replied.

"Alexos is going to try to drug you if you play hard to get," Chou hissed back. He didn't much like the inquisitor or her lackey, but he had a very good idea of what would happen to Anjun Chou's one and only arse if anything happened to Jolan Gix. The thug Hethor had given him a quick tour of the autorack and that had been enough to give him nightmares. Inquisitors didn't have a reputation for being forgiving.

Jolan smiled and waved. He put an arm around Chou's shoulder and dragged him to a darkened corner. "How unpleasant of him," he replied. Jolan through himself down on a mound of cushions and dragged Chou down with him. "I suppose I can stall him by claiming voyeurism is my thing, but not for very long. How soon until he introduces me to his friends?"

"A lot of them are here. As for the rest, I don't know. I've been to a few of his secret parties and they do these weird ritual things, but I don't see anything really heretical."

"You know names?"

"No. Everyone wears masks and these strange robes that expose half of your chest. Not that those stay on too long."

"Do the masks come off as well."

"A few times. I recognized a few people, Alexos's close friends." He saw the look on Jolan Gix's face. He was smiling like a shark. "What is it?"

"I'm going to give Alexos what he wants."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The young noble screamed as the arms of the autorack closed around him. Jolan Gix smiled and turned to Kyra. "I don't think this is what he had in mind when I suggest we go to my lodgings."

The inquisitor smiled. "Hmm. You may be right about that." She touched several runes. Nerve inductors around his toes sent the sensation of his flesh being seared off into his central nervous system. "Torture is often ineffective against Slaaneshi."

"Only the most deeply warped are that resistant. This one might be corrupt, his pain threshold is certainly high, but he certainly isn't screaming in pleasure. No, we'll break him soon. Alternating stimuli combined with drugs and rest intervals will make him pliable."

Anjun Chou leaned in the corner, wanting to vomit. Alexos hadn't really been a friend, but he had betrayed him to torture easily enough. What the inquisitor was doing was unspeakable. No one deserved this.

Gix turned his head. "Chou, he won't be missed right?"

Anjun's throat felt dry and raspy. He swallowed. "Yeah. They'll assume he's on a long bender. His servants know he left with you. But if he's not back in a couple of days . . . ."

"He'll be broken by then. On the off chance he isn't, we'll make something up."

Chou swallowed. The inquisitor and her protege went back to discussing torture methods. Anjun wanted to get out of this hell. The trick would be how to do it. He had a feeling the moment he wasn't useful, the inquisitor was going to put a bullet into the back of his skull and consider another loose end tied up.



#36 Cynical Cat

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 11:17 PM

Anjun was working his through a decanter of amnasec under the cold gaze of Calidan Vils when Jolan Gix burst into the room. He wore an equipment harness over his blood streaked body glove. He face was twisted in barely controlled fury. Anjun shrank back.

"Why didn't you mention him before?!" Gix yelled. Chou backed up over the couch in terror. An invisible force slammed him against the wall and pinned him like a bug. Gix strode over to him. The interrogator was walking through the air, his feet thirty centimeters off the floor. Jolan's merciless glare was inches from face. "Is it true?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Anjun babbled. "I don't know what you think I did!"

"Karl Vallec," growled Jolan.

"He came to some of the parties," Chou blurted. "Lots of up stack people go."

"Alexos said that Vallec was the one who brought him in."

"I don't know anything about that. I didn't see him at that cult thing. Please!"

Gix stared at him intently a moment. Then the force let go and Chou slumped to the floor.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Karl Vallec?" Kyra asked. "As in-"

"Yes. Eldest son and heir of Imperial Commander Azlan Vallec. According to Vils and Chou, the rumor mill has it that Karl kidnaps, *****, and kills with impunity."

"If this comes out, the Vallecs can kiss their position good bye, if any of them manage to survive. So we can forget about local cooperation."

"What about the Arbites?" Jolan asked.

Kyra shook her head. "They might act, but the PDF outnumbers them and the commander's palace is a fortress. We can't important substantial forces from off world with any kind of secrecy in the time frame we have and if we can get local commanders to come on board, the attack plan will probably leak. Civil war on a subsector capital and industrialized system. The cost in lives and material will be immense, but better by far than letting this world fall to the Arch-Enemy."

Jolan taped the holo table. "I'm beginning to have an idea. There might be another way."



#37 Cynical Cat

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 03:42 PM

Jolan Gix walked down the long halls of the Administerium building. It was a huge edifice of ferrocrete and ceramite, less than two decades old. Holopicts of saints and heroes, particularly the heroes of the last crusade, glowed along its walls. The floor was a checkerboard of polished marble and the ceiling was twenty meters above him. Along the sides legions of clerks and minor functionaries processed data and went about the varied tasks of bureaucracy.

Jolan walked up to the appropriate line (having been redirected twice) and waited twenty minutes for the robed acolyte to get to him. Jolan stood, straightened his uniform, and presented his data slate and papers to the clerk. "I am Major Gareth of the Imperial Guard. I have a schedule Seven-six-B form and an Gamma-three form here, as per standard protocol."

The clerk looked over the forms. "This is a most unusual request. We don't usually get requests from the Guard about retired soldiers."

Jolan smiled blandly. "Yes, it is. But my request is in order."

"Yes, it is. But why-"

"Need to know. You'll have to file the appropriate papers with the Guard."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hethor pointed on the schematics. "It was right about here." Kyra looked closely at it.

"How sure are you?"

"I'm sure." The big veteran was acutely conscious of the junior officer watching his back. Well, Hethor had dealt with a long line of lieutenants and junior captains in his career. Some of them were almost as bad as Commissars.

The pretty boy tapped the edge of the map. "If you suspect the Imperial Commander has been compromised, he's not just going to let us search the palace without doing something to interfere."

"You think he'll defy the lawful authority of the Inquisition?" Kyra asked innocently.

"Knock it off. We both know 'accidents' happen. And criminals and heretics might come out of the wood work and suddenly decide to kill us. Or we could simply be delayed while something happens to the site. Or he could have his guard gun us down and then bury the incident."

Well, the pretty boy was smarter than most lieutenants.

Kyra smiled. "You suggestion, Interrogator Gix?"

"We sneak in. Just like you are planning to do." He smiled back. It was a predator's grin.

"The Grand Palace of Illiza is quite a massive structure. All sorts of people have legitimate business being there." Her grin answered his.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The four Adeptus walked down the long corridor. It had been painstakingly restored to pre-war status with its marble statues of saints and heroes, huge stained glass windows, and immaculately polished checkerboard floors. One could not tell that the Grand Promenade had ever taken any damage.

But people still felt there was something wrong. Maybe it was haunted by some of those who fell fighting here, maybe the taint of Chaos had never entirely removed, or maybe it was the minds of men playing tricks. Whatever the cause, the Grand Promenade was deserted at night.

Holo torches on the wall provided some illumination as they marched down the corridor. One of them abruptly stopped in front of a niche. "Here," said Hethor D'eckor. "Different statue, but this is the place.

"There isn't any room here," Yvarine said in disgust. "Unless it's hidden."

"Wasn't hidden when we took it," Hethor grunted. "Maybe they walled over it."

"No," said Jolan Gix. "There is something here. A psychic residue." He touched the engraving around the wall of the niche. "This one," he said touching an skull that was slightly shinier than it's neighbors. He twisted it. The other side of the niche opened.

"Damn, that's slick," Yvarine said. "I didn't see it at all."

Hethor withdrew the shotcannon he was packing under his robes. "I'm ready."

A smile touched Kyra's lips. "By all means, let us proceed."

The door silently swung open. Inside was as black as a dark eldar's heart. Jolan flashed a beam inside, revealing a large room. He cautiously advanced, Hethor behind him.

The interrogator touched a control inside, causing lights to flicker on overhead. The room was blackened and scorched, the grim testament to the efforts of the cleanse and burn team. Other than a set of shelves with a few strange lumps the room as an unremarkable square. Kyra followed her pupil in. Yvarine remained outside to cover their rear.

"I was expecting something a little more impressive," Kyra mused. "Jolan, if you would?"

"With pleasure madam," said Gix. He pulled out a compact auspex and touched several runes. The device hummed and projected several glowing glyphs.

Hethor prowled the room. This place made him uneasy. There was something deeply wrong here, he could feel it. "There's a false floor," Jolan said. "The floor is made of a composite to try to fool scans into thinking its solid underneath."

"Clever," said Kyra. "Now we have to find our way in." Jolan frowned and began examining to floor.

"I don't see it," said the interrogator. "Didn't spare any effort on this one."

"Like the door," said Kyra. "Keep looking. Put those fiendish instruments of yours to good use."

Jolan consulted his devices. He ran another scan. And then another, inches from the floor. "Emperor's Teeth! I can find the joins, but no sign of how to open this thrice-cursed thing up."

Kyra sighed. "Ah well. So much for subtlety." Her voice changed, becoming harsh. "Crack it."

"Everyone stand back," Jolan commanded. After everyone had retreated to the edge of the floor the interrogator extended his hands and pointed at the center of the floor.

The floor exploded silently upwards. The fragments drifted slowly back down to the room beneath like leaves in autumn. The debris settled on the floor. The room had a single set of stairs leading about two and a half meters down. It was bare, except for a complex design now covered by the rubble and a heavy chest.

"Throne," Hethor swore softly.

"Hmm," said Kyra. "A treasure chest. I wonder-" the half buried symbol began to glow. Things began to coalesce beneath them. They were vaguely humanoid, with rough golden skin like a crocodile. Their heads were circled by a crown of horns and their hands were tipped with vicious talons.

Jolan raised his las pistol and shot the closest one to the stairs three times in the chest. The bright white beam burned through its hide and deep into its chest. It didn't faze it. It leaped up the stairs.

Kyra blew it apart with a burst from her psycannon. The pieces began to dissolve into ectoplasmic mist even before they hit the rubble. The death of the first one did not deter the pack. The next two were already on their way up.

Kyra's blew off the arm of the next one at the shoulder before it crashed into her. The inquisitor fell back against the wall as the daemon grappled with her. It butted her in the head with its crown of horns and reached towards her throat with its remaining claw.

The third daemon rushed towards Gix. Thunder roared in the confined space as Hethor opened up with the shotcannon. The daemon's hip and thigh were blow open, flesh was torn apart and bone shattered. The next burst blew its head to pulp. The fourth leaped up at Hethor.

A blazing lance of cyan psychic force intercepted it. The daemon was smashed to floor and blown to ash. Jolan turned towards Kyra.

The inquisitor's rebuilt skull and neck withstood the headbutt. With her right hand she caught the daemon's arm at the wrist. With her other she pulled a power blade from under her robe. She stabbed the daemon in the abdomen and yanked up. The blade went through the daemon's chest, opened up daemon's throat, and up into the skull.

Kyra pushed the dissolving corpse to the floor. Bubbling goo covered her robe. She ignored it and strode forward. "Jolan, any psi residue on the chest?" Her voice gave no sign that she had a cut on her forehead and that she had just been in hand to hand combat with a creature of the warp.

"Yes, but it isn't the chest. It's something inside."

She turned off the power blade and handed the ornate dagger to the interrogator. "Crack it."

Jolan thumbed the blade on and stabbed the lock. Gix twisted. Metal screamed as it was torn. With a jerk, Jolan threw the lid open. Inside, hundreds of crystal spheres glittered with a familiar light.



#38 Cynical Cat

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 08:56 PM

If this bloody forum software allowed editing I might be able to correct that accidental repost.  Unfortunately it does not so I'll have to leave it there and move on.  My apologies.

 

"You recognize this ring, right?" said Anjun Chou with more than a little exasperation in his voice. "Prince Vallec will want to see me. Let him or his valet know. It's urgent."

The bored guard recognized the ring. The Serentens were prominent and the crest seemed authentic. The man wore flash clothes, but the one behind him wore a lifetime's worth of wages in his outer layers. The odds were good that they had juice. And if he made their lives difficult, they could send it back ten times worse. Screw it. It was the valet's job to make these kinds of decisions. He keyed the com.

"What is it?" snarled Grasso Lymk.

"A man requesting audience with the prince. He has a Serenten seal."

"Put him on screen, dolt." The guard gestured Anjun Chou forward.

Chou held up the ring. "Alexos Serenten sent me. It's urgent."

"What is it?" growled Lymk.

"Nothing your master wants discussed openly."

"All right," grouched Lymk. "Let them in."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They strode down a long floor of polished marble. Gilded gargoyles looked down on them as they entered a brass lift cage. Suspensor motors in the cage floor lifted them up while holo projectors created illusion of forests that had been dead for five millenia. Chou fidgeted. Jolan Gix was outwardly calm.

Chou had surrendered his gun at the entrance, along with his knives. He had been surprised that Gix had let him bring them, until he gave them up. The weapon scanners had only found the slim barrelled las that Gix had surrendered. Chou wondered why the interrogator was willing to go into the enemy's layer unarmed. Unless he had something really slick, so slick the sensors couldn't find it.

The lift came to a stop. Jolan and Chou were lead down a carpeted hall by a silver bodies servitor that had been cast in the shape of an ancient hag. The servitor lead them down a junction a took a side corridor. Anjun's jaw dropped. He stopped and stared.

The corridor's wall were transparent vitria. Outside dark clouds swirled in a murky green half light. Hell red lightning flashed between them as they clashed against one another. Below them was the dark, turreted mass of the hive. It was a diseased, cancerous mass piled higher and higher. Anjun's knees felt weak.

Jolan pushed him forward. At the other end of this enclosed bridge lay Karl Vallec's spire. The young prince had thousands of lives as his personal playthings and bodyguards sufficiently callous that they could serve such a monstrous master. Here Jolan's power as an agent of the Inquisition was nothing and a slave of darkness was ruler of his own private hell. Two guards were ahead, faceless in their rebreather masked helms. A great ceramite slab carved with hideous faces slid open and Jolan Gix stepped in.

A guard wearing a bronze groin guard, heavy boots and gloves, and a leather harness lead the two men down the corridor. It was uncomfortably warm here and the carpet was a thick shag. Holos of dominant men triumphant over reclining women or defeated beasts lined the walls. Two rouged, naked girls past them going the other way. They wore control collars around their necks with drug injectors. The guard touched a keypad on the wall. "They are here, lord."

"Send them in," came the reply.

Jolan Gix walked in and Anjun Chou trailed behind him. The valet's office was a marked contrast to the hedonistic display of the rest of the spire. It was simple and comfortable. The valet, a dark haired, sallow man who's hair was just slightly frosted with white, sat in a chair in front of a chrome cogitator screen. "You said it was important," he said.

On thousands of worlds of the Imperium a valet was just a personal servant, but Lymk was obviously more than that. After all, someone had to manage Karl Vallec's personal affairs while he was busy ****** minor nobles or hunting people for sport.

"Private business with your master," Jolan Gix replied. Lymk's eyes narrowed. Jolan raised his hand and triggered his electoo. An image apeared to writhe and twist on his palm. It was a tangled mass of naked bodies, each one a different colour so that the debauched acts that were taking place could more easily be recognized. The interrogator closed his fist. "Do you understand?"

"Ahh, yes. He is . . . busy at the moment," Lymk replied. "He will not like to be disturbed. I can, of course, offer the hospitality of his servants." He rubbed his hands together and displayed an oily smile "Would you like a girl or boy? Perhaps both?"

Gix wet his lips and then pouted. "You mean he would object to us joining him?"

"His highness is very particular about his pleasures and it is his business who he invites to share them with."

"Pity," replied Gix. "There are a few items I wish to show the noble prince. They are, hmmmm, exotic. Yes, exotic. Regular inspection might be, hmmmm, troublesome."

"I believe I can help you with that," replied Lymk with a broad smile. "His highness is always interested in new diversions.

"Excellent,' replied Jolan Gix as he shot him with the digital needler. Lymk convulsed and froze as the interrogator walked forward. The psyker unceremoniously pushed the valet out of his chair and examined the cogitator. Smiling, he sat down and began to type.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

He sent an message authorizing the landing of several lifter barges that would shortly be en route and then tapped into the palace's comm traffic to give the innocuous sounding go signal. Everything was going fairly smoothly. He searched the valet's desk and found a slim barrelled las with ivory grips. The barrel was embossed with gold leaf in the form of clinging thorns. He pocketed the gun and administered the counter agent to the valet after searching him. And then he injected him with another drug, one to enhance suggestibility.

"You are in it deep," Jolan Gix said. "I represent the Inquisition and your master is a member of a prescribed cult. And you've been helping him. The minimum sentence is death, unless the Inquisition can find a better use for you."

The valet's eyes narrowed and he slowly moved to a sitting position. "You run your master's household, which is part of the governor's palace," Gix said. "I want the codes to the palace security system."

"You're just going to kill me anyway," Lymk responded.

"You are a dead man unless you start climbing your way out of the pit you've dug," Gix replied. "Start making this easier on both of us."

"All right," Lymk said, shoulder's slumped. "Beta - seven - gamma - nine - six - six - kappa allows command of the security system. The prince, the commander, and the senaschal all possess override codes though."

Jolan examined the man carefully. Lymk had displayed strong cues from his body language and he saw no treachery now, only resigned defeat. He turned back to the cogitator and began typing.

 

 



#39 Cynical Cat

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 05:05 PM

Jask Vacka watched the lifter descend. The series of shipments had arrived without prior notice and that was very irksome. He was going to be stuck sorting through this mess at least half an hour past the end of his shift, if he was lucky. He keyed up his data plaque as the vessel touched down with a loud clang.

He had already wrapped his poncho tighter around himself against the rush of cold air from outside. The Ten Thousand Times Cursed uppers never registered things in time and it was men like himself who paid the price. He gestured to two guards. They followed after him. It was procedure, pointless procedure, but his failure to do so would be noticed by whoever checked the pict logs.

A cargo door on the side slid open. Jask's eyes went wide. Black armoured Arbites with mirror finished visors and the Imperial Aquila prominently displayed on their armour looked back. His jaw dropped.

Gunfire roared from the lifter as Hethor D'eckor let loose with the heavy stubber. The targeter mount on the end fed data to the helmet clipped optic piece. Heavy calibre armour piercers ripped the guards and the cargo master open. They spun and fell back, spraying blood and twitching.

Hethor raised his weapon and fired on the control booth. The armoured glass withstood the first few rounds. An Arbites krak grenade shattered it. Choke grenades were fired after it.

Behind them a second lander descended. A cargo door slid open and Sororitas warriors in full armour leaped the three meters to the deck. They and the Arbites had only been told of the exact nature of their targets while en route to maintain surprise.

Hethor turned back to the first unit of Arbites as more landers arrived. "You, with me! Move out!" He lead them at a fast jog. Inquisitor Neven had told him to reinforce Interrogator Gix and the Emperor have pity on those who got in his way, because Hethor D'eckor would have none.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gix turned back to Lymk. "It appears you were honest with me. The attack has begun and the palace's security system in nicely offline."

Lymk glowered back. "That won't last long. Someone will figure it out and override it soon enough."

"True," replied Jolan. "But it has already given us surprise." Gix tossed a pair of plastic flex cuffs to Chou. "Tie him up."

"You got it boss," Chou replied. Lymk didn't resist. "What now?"

"We secure Karl Vallec."

"We? Uh boss, does that include me?"

"I can either take you with me or shoot you. Which would you prefer?"

"Uh, take me with you," replied Chou hopefully. "Does that mean I get a gun?"

"No," responded Gix as he opened the door. The guards turned and Gix shot both of them in the face with Lymk's las before they could react. A servant half way down the corridor froze and dropped the platter he was carrying. Jolan shot him in the chest and he toppled. Unfair, but nothing about Inquisitional work was fair.

He picked up the guard's lases. They were unremarkable in most respects, standard guard issue pistol in this subsector. Not surprising since the factories on this world supplied most of the arms to every planet within fifty light years.. He stuck the beautiful but low capacity pistol of Lymk's into his pocket and armed himself with a las in each hand. "Let's go," he said to Chou.



#40 Cynical Cat

Cynical Cat

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Posted 26 September 2009 - 06:38 AM

Brass flew as Hethor's heavy stubber roared. Palace guards dived for cover as the hard nosed slugs sprayed the corridor. One was too slow and took a half dozen rounds through the chest. The slugs punched through the lightly armoured uniform and exited out the unfortunate's back. As Hethor suppressed the guards the Arbites with him fired choke and frag grenades from rapid fire, drum magazine launchers. Two Arbites unleashed executioner rounds that twisted in the air to seek the heat of living flesh and detonate within.

"Move up," Hethor ordered. Two Arbites with suppression shields and bolt pistols advanced towards the rooms formerly held by the guards. Their bolt pistols barked as they finished the wounded. Hethor was only a few steps behind them. A guard moaned feebly, his left arm a shredded piece bleeding meat and half of his face a bloody mess. Hethor put a burst into his head that blew his skull apart in an explosion of blood and grey matter.

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Jolan Gix ducked behind a pillar and fired back at the harem guards with his left hand las. A sizzling green bolt took one guard in his left shoulder and a second shot punched a hole in this breast. Return fire chewed chunks out of the marble column and scorched the walls around him. One shot clipped him in the right arm, its energy mostly dissipated by Jolan's psychic shield.

He fire back, hitting the shooter in the eye and flash charring his brain. The survivor crouched down behind an obscene golden statuette mounted on a marble pedestal and fired back. Jolan discarded the empty pistol in his right hand and reached out with the power. Several hundred kilos of golden perversion smashed into the hapless guard. He fell, his body pinned beneath the instrument of his death.

Jolan walked forward and tossed nearly empty las in his left hand forward. The weapons clenched in the dead guards' hands leaped into the interrogator's hands. It was unfortunate that guards didn't carry extra ammo packs, but the forty shot power cells in each pistol did last a while.

Before him were the ivory white doubled doors embossed in gold that lead to Karl Vallec's rooms. Jolan could faintly hear music being played within. The doors swung open before him, propelled by a telekinetic shove.

Jolan's eyes watered from the cloud of musky smelling incense that circulated through the room. Or the musky smell could be from the sex. The dark chamber was half lit by deep red lights and dominated by a raised bed large enough for a whole family of very large people to sleep in. It was not unoccupied. Several individuals of both genders were sliding around on top of it like a coiled mass of serpents. Jolan couldn't quite tell because he had better things to do than count them.

In each corner of the half lit room stood a man. They were nude except for an obscene groin guard in the form of a gargoyle's face with an exaggerated phallus thrusting out of its mouth. Their heads were plated in chromed steel and their perfect musculature was crisscrossed with surgical scars. Their hands hand been replaced by terrible steel claws that could shred flesh and carve through bone. They were grotesque mockeries of arcoflagellants, surgically altered and conditioned to kill on command. And they were not the worst thing in the room.

She held Jolan Gix's attention as she slithered off the bed. Her eyes were luminous greed saucers and a crest of pink hair protruded from her bald head. A single line of three breasts marked the left side of her torso. Her hands ended in great pinchers and she walked on a raptor's claws. Her spine ended in a terrible scorpion tail which arched over her head. Jolan watched her slide forward, momentarily mesmerized in horror as voices whispered to him and promised unspeakable caresses.

A blast of telekinetic force blasted her over the bed and through its canopy. The rich velvets and silks tore free as she smashed into the wall. From the writhing mass on the bed came a clear voice instead of insane gibbering. "Rend!" it shouted.

The servitors leaped forward as the pacifier helms switched them into attack mode and pumps sent drugs surging through their systems. Jolan shot one in the face. Twice. It toppled over and thrashed. The other three closed the distance.

A shockwave of force erupted from the interrogator which sent the altered killers tumbling like nine pins. A rush of force carried Gix back a dozen yards out of the room, making space. The chamber guards leaped to their feet and charged.

Gix shot one in the chest three times. It didn't even slow down. Implanted armour covered and reinforced all the areas that were instant kills and anything less wouldn't stop them. A telekinetic hammer blow knocked one down. The other two kept coming.

Gix shot the one closest to him twice in the leg. The hits blew open its left thigh and shattered the bone. It still staggered forward, impervious to pain, destroying its own leg in the process. Jolan's third shot took out its knee and it toppled. The fourth servitor hit the ground hard as an intense chartreuse beam flickered into its neck. Twice. It's head bounced on the floor a second later.

The daemonette leaped through the door as the last servitor fell. Jolan caught her and slammed her into the wall before his telekinetic grip unravelled. The second servitor got up. Several las shots hit it in the torso. It charged the shooter, ignoring Jolan Gix. The third servitor tried to stand and fell.

The daemonette rushed forward. Jolan Gix's eyes were wells of light, furnaces of green-yellow flame. She reached out, claws outstretched. There was an intense flash. The corridor was blackened along its length to the door. The third servitor twitched, it's skin burned off. In front of the interrogator a swirling column of ash slowly drifted to the ground.

Gix shot the third servitor in the back four times and twice in the head. It twitched, but stopped moving forward. He turned around behind him. Anjun Chou was shaking like a leaf, the remaining servitor dead a scant two meters in front of him. One of the dead guard's laspistols was clutched in the criminal's hands. In a flash Anjun Chou raised his weapon and fired.

Gix was too slow. Anyone short of an Eldar would have been too slow. But the beam went wide. A body toppled behind him. Chou lowered the gun. Gix turned. One of Vallec's paramours was a few meters behind him, a knife with too many spikey projections gripped in his hand. Jolan strode back into the bed chamber. "Keep close," Jolan ordered. "And keep the gun."






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