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#161 Cynical Cat

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 07:43 AM

A loud crack resounded down the long hallway, followed quickly be two more. The bolter shells raced through the air at supersonic speed before striking their targets clustered behind bulwarks of thick steel plate. The first shell struck a pirate wearing a steel breastplate over leather. The shell punched through and blew his intestines, spleen, and stomach into paste. Blood blasted out the wound and the pirate toppled.

The second shell passed through the first rank and struck a scrawny killer with filed teeth in the right arm, just below the shoulder. The limb was severed in a spray of blood. The third shell shredded a huge marauder's heart and lungs. Las beams and bullets flashed through the air in retaliation.

Domina ducked back around the corner, a bullet ringing off her shoulder plate. "I believe they intend to defend the lift junction vigorously inquisitor."

"I concur," said Jolan. "How are you for ammunition?"

"A little under half," she replied. "One clip Kraken, the others a mix of standard and Metal Storm."

Jolan passed her one of his magazines. "Standard," he said.

"Thank you inquisitor."

"You're welcome sister." Jolan checked the data from Domina's autosenses to double check range and then tossed three frag grenades looted from pirate bodies. His telekinesis picked them up and sent them over the improvised barricades to detonate with a series of loud bangs. Screams echoed down the hall.

"We need to move quickly inquisitor or more will move up and trap us in between them."

"Go too fast and we find ourselves on the receiving end of a melta or an autocannon," Jolan replied. "Timing is everything."

He peaked around the corner. Las beams and heavy slugs flew his way. His conversion field flashed as it converted the impact energy into light. The first barricade was splattered with blood and strewn with bodies. The second barricade was firing and some big guns were being brought to bear on him.

Psychic frost formed on the metal a moment before the slabs of armour thrust themselves back ten meters without regard for the men hiding behind them. Bone was smashed into splinters and flesh became hamburger as unfeeling steel was propelled towards the lifts at high velocity.

A few pirates had managed to get partially out of the way. The stunned lay panting on the deck next to the moaning wounded. The struggled to regain their bearings and their feet. A pair of bolt pistols barked out rounds for several moments as the wounded were finished off.

Gix's vox channel crackled on. "D'eckor here. We have boarded the pirate vessel and met minimal resistance." The crack and hiss of rapid firing hellguns was clearly audible. "We're conductin' demo operations on enemy batteries. And killin' them dead."

Jolan smiled. "Continue. Gix out." He addressed Domina. "Time to find another way."

"What?"

"The lift shafts are booby trapped, or will be. These men were just cannon fodder. We find a different route." Not that that was important. Jolan and Domina were really here to kill the enemy and act as a distraction of Danell Keys. So far everything was going according to plan. Not bad for a three minutes special.

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"Commissar Nofield," hissed her vox, "please come in."

"Nofield here," Shala replied. She was half soaked in gore and bruised in more places than she cared to think about. "What is going on captain?"

"I regret to inform that another wave of enemy boarders is on its way. Two boarding pods and approximately forty men in vac suits with reaction packs."

"Alert all crew to stand by to repel boarders. Keep a data feed active to me. I need to know where those boarding parties land."

"Yes, commissar."

Shala turned to her men. "The Emperor has sent us more heretics to kill. Shall we thank him for that?"

"Yes commissar!" came the answering shout.

"For the Emperor!" she yelled.

"The Emperor!" her men roared back. With such lions as these with her, what could stand against them?

Edited by Cynical Cat, 13 February 2014 - 07:48 AM.


#162 Cynical Cat

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 07:44 AM

Jolan raised the autogun to his shoulder and fired rapid single shots down the corridor. The pirate who had originally possessed the gun had owned a good weapon. The magazine held a twenty four ten millimeter bullets double stacked. The recoil suppressors were probably pretty good, but superfluous. Jolan's power armour gave him more than enough strength and mass to control the weapon's recoil.

Gix hit one pirate in the shoulder and drove several others back into cover. Jolan fired off the rest of the clip before reloading. "They're tenacious," Jolan said. "You would think after so many dead they would have lost some of their enthusiasm."

"They fear their lord," said Domina. "They tremble but still fight. If they fought for love of the Emperor, then we would be hard pressed. But we are the righteous," she intoned. "Cover me inquisitor," she said, hefting her captured flamer.

Jolan went back around the corner. He fired at the pirates where they huddled in cover in adjoining corridors. Laser and bullets whizzed back. The conversion field flashed blindingly bright as it absorbed hits. Lasers pitted his armour and bullets bounced off. The yawning maw of a melta gun was pointed at him.

The gunner screamed and dropped the weapon as fire consumed him and the pirate next to him. Slugs flattened themselves on Domina's armour as the Sister of Battle sent bursts of flames at the pirates. Jolan advanced with her, putting bullets into any pirate that moved. Hopefully, Danell was making good use of the distraction.

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The assassin checked his auspex, confirming the absent of nearby pirates, and slid ahead. Jolan and Domina had left a bloody trail through the ship, which served to clear his path. He walked around the pools of sticky blood and into the lift junction chamber. Here lifts went up into the command and communication towers of the ship.

They had been locked down and trapped, of course. Keys climbed the wall, placed a melta bomb, and retreated. He triggered the bomb. Ravening white hot heat ate a hole more than two meters wide in the lift shaft.

Keys waited a minute before advancing. The heat hit him like a hammer, even in his armoured suit. He gingerly avoided the still red hot edged and entered the shaft, the adhesive pads on his gloves and feet. There was some risk of being crushed by a moving lift, of course, but such an occurrence would only happen if the lifts started moving towards him and Danell was both clumsy and quite unlucky. Not a likely occurrence. Soon, this would be over.

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A chief ran past Gard, directing a handful of crewmen forward. He stopped for a moment. "We need you! Come on!"

Gard sputtered. "You can't be serious."

The chief gestured with the pump shotgun in his hands. "No armsmen to block this bunch. We need every hand to prevent from being overrun. Which means you."

Gard looked at the wiry man. "I suppose I can't man the teleporter if I'm being garroted by some microcephalic corsair." The scientist opened a case a retrieved a weapon that was unmistakably some kind of rifle, albeit one of xenos design. Instead of a barrel, a cluster of sinister looking rods protruded from the main body of the weapon.

The chief looked uneasily at the weapon. "Shall we proceed?" asked Gard.



#163 Cynical Cat

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 07:44 AM

Hellgun fire from the gallery peppered the corridor, blasting holes in two pirates and forcing the rest back. Hethor D'eckor looked up from his position hiding behind the breach of a colossal macro-cannon. "How much longer?!" he yelled.

"Minute, maybe two!" was the response of one of the demo troopers. Hethor's aggressive assault had taken them into a weapons bay containing four macro cannons. Unfortunately this time the pirates had managed to muster resistance that his troops couldn't simply cut through like red hot wires through soft cheese. Hethor fired a grenade into the corridor that the pirate reinforcements were attempting to emerge from. "Hurry the **** up," he yelled eloquently. "Everyone, teleport homers active! If those goat ****** sister rapers want this so badly, they can have it. All of it!"

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The roar of guns game from just ahead. Gard Vikal gripped his death arc tighter as he kept pace with the crewmen around him. He had been operating in the Imperium's occasionally violent underbelly long before he had met Jolan Gix and was no stranger to it, although he preferred to avoid it. Now it didn't look like he would have that option.

Four members of the Eternal Will's crew was blasting away with shotguns and autoguns, trying to hold the corridor junction ahead against an enemy that was filling the air with las fire. Gard knew intellectually that his mesh armour and light drinker fabrics provided him with quite good protection against such weapons, but that didn't alleviate his fear.

One of the defenders fell, struck several times by las fire, and then the other three were struck by a fusillade of scarlet las beams. Oh Emperor, Gard thought. He could here the sounds of men charging forward. The two groups almost collided at the intersection.

Gard had a brief moment with which to recognize the attackers as Cruz, a savage species that was scattered over a handful of worlds. They produced no technology of note but were well known as fierce raiders and mercenaries. The squat and powerful xenos were wearing heavy armour plate and carried a variety of vicious weapons.

Gard pulled the trigger on the Xenarch death arc and swept the emitter across the corridor. The invisible ionization beams blazed a track through the atmosphere that the massive charge stored in the weapons capacitors eagerly followed. The weapon emitted a brilliant blue-white beam that seared flesh and armour alike. Four Cruz were reduced to smoking corpses almost instantly. Unfortunately, that left nearly a dozen of them alive and Gard only a few meters from them holding a weapon which had just discharged its capacitors. The closest Cruz, ropes of saliva hanging off of its jaws, shot him twice with its las carbine and then smashed him in the chest with its mace.

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A shout from behind him and the crackle of las weapon fire alerted Captain Jengal Steel to the fact that something was very wrong on his bridge. The fearsome pirate swiveled his command throne around as several of his crew clawed for nearby weapons.

The attacker was a lone man who was firing a single pistol. He was inhumanely fast, trained and conditioned flesh augmented with combat drugs or the like. He was a black clad blur shrouded by the haze of a refractor field, almost impossible to target. The assassin fired twice blazing white beams burned down two more of Steel's crew.

Steel reached for his bolt pistol as he lunged out of the command throne. The assassin burned down another crewman and turned toward him. Steel's gun cleared the holster and he brought his arm up. The assassin was a spectacularly good shot, to score so many hits while moving, but Steel wore gilded carapace armour. A hit wouldn't put him down. The bolt pistol barked.

The shot went wide. The assassin pointed his gun, but nothing came out. The sound of minor impacts plinking off the top of his breastplate distracted Steel for a second and then there was a brief needle of pain in his throat and the world spun. The captain sank to his knees as the paralytic toxin from the needle went to work almost immediately.

Keys switched the combipistol back to hellgun mode to finish the rest of the bridge crew with the hellgun tube mounted above the needler barrel. A few of their shots even managed to hit him, but the refractor field took care of those. He shot the last two in the head and activated his com and teleport homer.

"This is Knife. Target is secured and neutralized. Proceeding to disengage grapple systems from master gunner's panel." He walked passed two servitors still going about their assigned duties to disengage the grapples. He flipped several switches with lit lights. "Grapples disengaged."

"The is Eternal Will," came the reply. "Disengagement confirmed. Stand by."



#164 Cynical Cat

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 07:44 AM

"Inform the teleport room to prepare to retrieve personnel from the pirate vessel," Selanon Kay ordered.

"Yes captain," said a young officer. "Signaling teleporter room now." There was a long pause. "No answer sir."

Kay's head snapped around. "What?"

"No answer sir. Internal schematics do show fighting occurring nearby."

"Throne of Earth," Kay swore. "Get reinforcements there. Now."

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Gard Vikal struck the deck hard. The las blasts had been powerful enough to give him serious burns despite his mesh armour and the spiked mace had cracked ribs. His whole body was swimming with pain. Drug injectors kicked in, flooding his system with endorphins and adrenalin. Move or die! part of his brain shrieked at him.

He scrambled back, the next mace blow catching him on the meat of his left thigh. The mesh armour went rigid to absorb as much of the impact as possible, but it hurt. Emperor above, it hurt. His hand freed the pistol holstered about his waist.

Gard raised the sinister pistol and pulled the trigger. A stream of high velocity crystal splinters erupted from the gun. The first shots smacked into armour plate but the barrel rose. Several struck the Cruz in the thigh, boring through tough hide and bone as if wasn't there. The ammunition was impregnated with a powerful paralytic, but not one tailored to the Cruz's biology. It fell, not because the toxin was working, but because its left leg was a chewed up and bloody piece of meat.

The Cruz snarled and grabbed Gard's leg and bit. The xeno's fang were unable to penetrate the mesh armour, but the pressure was intolerable. Gard screamed and fired into its head. Splinters bounced off or lodged in the plates covering the alien's head, but one pierced its left eye and into its brain. The Cruz convulsed, shaking Gard, and let go as it spasmed.

The scientist scrambled back and raked fire across the legs of another Cruz, tearing up flesh and bone and sending the alien to the deck in a spray of blood. The crewmen were fighting a vicious, close quarters battle. Shotguns boomed at point blank range and las carbines sent lethal beams of light into all too frail human bodies. War blades pierced flesh and maces cracked bone. The humans fell back as the Cruz's ferocity and heavy armour allowed them to push forward through the hellish melee. Blood covered the deck and the wounded and the dying lay groaning upon it.

Gard scrambled back on his hands as the Cruz came forward. A stream of bullets and las beams flashed over his head, tearing up the closest Cruz's armour and then punching several bullets into the alien's torso. Blood jetted out and the Cruz fell. The other Cruz opened up with their carbines and Gard rolled and wrapped himself in his las resistant coat. The snarl of high powered las weapons filled the air and so did Cruz screams.

Gard looked up to see black armoured troopers blasting the rear of the remainder of the Cruz war pack at point blank range. Blazing hellguns beams sliced through armour and exploded flesh as the stormtroopers slaughtered the survivors. The boom of a bolter signified the death of the last one.

Mikal Camron walked towards him, a smoking bolter held in one hand as the stormtroopers put double taps into the skulls of the downed Cruz. The young lieutenant extended his hand. Gard took it and the Imperial officer pulled the scientist to his feet. "You alright?" Camron asked.

"No," said Gard wincing. "I'll live."

"Good. You're needed in the teleporter chamber. Leave playing hero to the professionals."

"Gladly."



#165 Cynical Cat

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 07:45 AM

Explosions ripped across the starboard side of the Iron Claw as Hethor's explosives set off a chain reaction among the capacitors and shells feeding the guns on her flanks. Blast doors slammed down, preventing the ship's air from escaping to the void. The Eternal Will, the connecting grapples severed by Keys's actions in the command deck, fired maneuvering thrusters and drifted away.

The Inquisition starship had retrieved her crew. The ship's machine spirit powered the guns in obedience to her captain's commands. The Iron Claw's gun crews had been pulled from their stations to assist in damage control or fight in the boarding actions. The survivors of those brutal actions would need time to reach their stations and make their weapons operational, even if their had been a captain to order it.

Void shields sprung up around the Eternal Will at full power. "Inquisitor," signaled Selanon Kay, "we have cleared the pirate ship. Void shields operational, weapons are powered."

Jolan Gix stepped out of the teleportation chamber. His armour was scarred and pitted, but unbreached. "Captain, target the vessel's plasma reactor."

"Inquisitor," said Kay, "Plasma reactors will survive a breach, but they explode if they suffer catastrophic decontainment."

"Exactly," said Jolan Gix. "As valuable a prize at is it is, it is of more use to the Imperium destroyed without a trace that captured intact."

"As you wish Inquisitor." Kay turned off the vox link. "Helm, get us another five thousand kilometers away from that beast and then lock on to engineering with all weapons that can be brought to bear. Master Gunner, charge all batteries to maximum power."

His crew chorused obedience and maneuvering thrusters fired again. The ship's machine spirit had no trouble calculating the necessary fire control solutions. The massive dorsal fusion batteries and the starboard las cannons swiveled into position and locked in as their power systems rose to maximum charge.

The range ticked away as the enemy ship fell away. "In position," said the Master Gunner.

"Fire." Ravening beams of energy lashed out and tore through the Iron Claw's hull, Keys having deactivated the void shields during his stint on the bridge. Steel and ceramite were instantly blasted into gas and a fraction of a second latter a new star erupted in the Iron Claw's guts. The blue-white explosion swelled and devoured the ship in an expanding plasma shockwave that tore through space. Lightning played over the Eternal Will's void shields as the blast passed over her.

Jolan Gix strode onto the bridge. The inquisitor had shed the bulky power armour and wore a loose white shirt over dark pants. A laspistol was holstered on his belt and the conversion field generator hung as a pectoral plate inside his shirt. "Status?" he asked.

"Ship destroyed inquisitor."

"Good. The ship is to proceed stealthed to a safe spot to reenter the Immaterium. Avoid contact and identification at all costs."

"Sir?" said Kay. "Have our plans changed?"

"Yes," said Gix. "And captain, you are hereby ordered to use all means, including the silencing of loyal Imperial subjects through death, to avoid this ship being positively identified."

"Understood inquisitor. Our destination?"

"CMX-997."

"A barren system?"

"Almost barren," said Jolan Gix with a smile. He turned and walked from the bridge as Selanon Kay began to issue orders. Keys was waiting for him.

"The prisoner is secure inquisitor. Gard verified him to be in good health before retiring."

Jolan nodded and headed down the corridors of the ship. Kill teams of stormtroopers were running patrols with auspexes, hunting for any pirate survivors who may have crawled into hiding. On many vessels such a strategy could be successful. Not on the Eternal Will. Jolan reached a thick blast door that sealed off the corridor. His codes opened it and they stepped inside.

A line of featureless rooms lined the corridor. Here was where Jolan's secret work was done, where the breaking of truly valuable prisoners and the practice of warpcraft and occult technosorcery was perfected. Jolan stopped in front of door and entered a code.

The mighty form of Jengal Steel was inside. A baroque frame of cold chromed steel and polished brass held his body helpless while monitors recorded his vital functions. Armatures holding needles, probes, and various terrible instruments of Jolan's office were folded against the frame. Tubes of useful chemicals were connected by tubes to the armature and its needles. A holographic display stripped Jengal Steel naked in a far more profound way than nudity.

"Captain," said Jolan Gix, one eye flickering to note the display revealing heightened anxiety levels. "We have much to discuss."



#166 Cynical Cat

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 07:45 AM

Selanon Kay entered the conference room. Jolan Gix was there along with the senior members of his retinue. Hethor was looking like he wanted to take a nap and Domina had her eyes closed in prayer. Keys was as immobile as a statue and the Guard officer and the commissar were clearly nervous. Gard Vikal was reading a pad. "We have entered the Immaterium and are on course Inquisitor."

"Please have seat captain. We have important matters to discuss."

Kay nodded and sat stiffly in an unoccupied chair as far away from Gix as possible. He was pretty sure this "conference" would consist of orders coming from the inquisitor and "yes sir" coming from everyone else.

"The situation is worse than I thought," said Jolan. "The Rising Phoenix has been able to access some of the most heavily secured files, hunt down and ambush inquisitors, plant false communications, and arrange ambushes in deep space. The resources and information at the disposal of the Illuminated Masters is, quite frankly, terrifying.

"My usual procedures are unlikely to succeed. In fact, no Inquisitional investigation of the Rising Phoenix has done more than scratch the surface in the last two hundred years that we have known of its existence. Therefore, I have decided that extraordinary measures need to be taken. The first is to fake all of our deaths."

"That's why you ordered the destruction of the pirate vessel instead of taking it as a prize," said Kay.

"Yes," said Jolan. "As far as anyone is concerned a battle of some kind occurred, but either we were destroyed in it or lost in the warp."

"That won't be convincing," said Keys. "They will keep looking."

"I know," said Jolan. "That's why we won't resurface."

"Special Condition," said Hethor. "I take it we'll be under a long time?"

"Yes," said Jolan. "And the Inquisition will believe us dead as well."

"I take it CMX-997 is in some way related to this venture?" asked Kay.

"Correct. There is a stealthed satellite in system which acts as message drop for . . . . certain associates of mine. They'll take the necessary actions and keep them secret."

"What's our role boss?" said Hethor.

"Danell, Camron, and Gard will be coming with me. The rest of you will be meeting up with Melina and assisting her."

"Boss," said Hethor, "I should go with you in-"

"No," said Jolan firmly. "Our enemy is far too familiar with your appearance. They will expect you to be near me."

"Boss, they know what you look like and they will be looking for you."

"Gard will be attending to that detail," said Jolan.

"Lord," said Domina speaking for the first time, "I should remain with you."

"No," said Jolan. "Absolutely not."

"Lord, how can I convey the messages of Nathan to you? My duty demands-"

"You duty demands that you follow my orders," said Jolan with iron in his voice. "Means of communication will be established. Any of Nathan's messages can be conveyed but I cannot bring you into the places I must go."

"Where is that inquisitor?" Mikal asked.

"Into the darkness," said Jolan Gix. "Deep into the darkness."

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Five weeks latter the free trader Via Astria appeared in the Vola system, in the Teraborn subsector, nine thousand light years from where the Eternal Will had disappeared. Thousands of ships visited the world every year, carrying goods from every corner of the Imperium to the wealthy world and carrying the products of her factories and the warrior sons and daughters of Vola to wherever they were needed.

A shuttle dropped from the Via Astria towards Helopolis, one of Vola's many starports. The shuttle descended to the sprawling city of shining steel and glass towers. The spaceport was a vast expanse of reinforced rockcrete, steel, and armourplast ill that was as much monument as institution of commerce.

Customs officers waited as the shuttle connected to a boarding passage. A dark skinned man wearing flowing silks of cobalt and ebony stepped out to meet them with a sheaf of papers. Mechodendrites replaced the man's hair and photoblock lenses with holo displays covered his eyes. "I am medicae Carl Shraef. These papers are for the transfer of my patient and my equipment."

The senior custom officer, a blond man wearing the navy blue uniform and scarlett shoulder boards of Vola Customs looked over the documentation. "This appears to be in order," he said. "We will need to perform an inspection."

"Of course," said Shraef. "I should warn you that my patient has severe burns and at the moment is completely dependent upon life support machines."

"Lead the way," said the senior agent. The doctor lead them into the shuttle towards its cargo hold.

"This has been converted into a recovery chamber," said Shraef. Vats and a variety of arcane machines lined the room, some of them connected to the bed being watched by two robed and masked attendants. "This is as close as I can permit you without gowns and masks. The patient is very vulnerable to infection."

"This is good enough," said the senior agent. "Purpose of your journey to Helopolis?"

"To arrange for further care for my patient and allow him to convalesce properly afterwards."

"He must have money."

"His family is not without resources."

"Ahh. Well, everything appears in order. Carry on."

"Thank you," said Gard Vikal.



#167 Cynical Cat

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 07:46 AM

Gard carefully reached down and removed the life support mask from Jolan Gix's face. The inquisitor's eyes fluttered open. "We are safe inquisitor. A suitable space and equipment have been procured. Not a single element is connectible to who you really are."

"Good," croaked Jolan as he sat up on the bed. Cosmetic burn scars covered his face. Gard handed him a water bottle and Jolan greedily sucked in fluid through the straw. Gard had secured a vast room, now lined with vats and technoarcane medical equipment. "When will you be ready for surgery?"

"You won't be for another forty eight hours, as a precaution. The last of the drugs have to be flushed from your system."

"Understood," said the inquisitor. "Where are Camron and Keys?"

"In an adjacent room. Waiting and standing guard."

"Good. Bring them in."

"Of course," Gard touched his vox and a moment latter a door opened. Jolan's retainers entered the room. The stopped at the foot of the bed.

Jolan didn't bother with a preamble. "We'll be going under deep cover," Jolan said. "For that, we all need new faces and I need full body work since I will be who they are looking for."

"That's why Heth is staying behind," said Mikal Camron. "Too big, been with you too long, and too recognizable."

"Yes," said Jolan. "I also need him for something else. They're going to help Melina to continue to build a clandestine network so when we find our target we will have something to hit it with."

"We will be doing infiltration work?" ask Danell.

"Yes."

"Emperor have mercy," said Camron. "You want us to pose as heretics."

"It won't work," said Keys. "There is no way that a-" then he stopped.

"Correct," said Jolan.

"What?" asked Camron.

"See if he figures it out himself," said Gix. "We'll be going to dark places for a long time. You left behind all items that could possibly identify you or link you back to the Inquisition?"

"Yes," said Keys. "I supervised. We're clean."

"Good," said Jolan. "If you could leave me with the good doctor now?" His retainers bowed slightly and departed. "Well doctor, lets get started with the planning phase of the operation."

"As you wish inquisitor." He pointed at one of the vats. "In there new skin and hair follicles are growing. After the surgical peel I'll put your own tissues in storage with a stasis field. Bone and tissue growth stimulators will slightly increase your height and weight and the ceramite struts I will add will increase your bulk further. The eyes are of a compatible tissue type. When we are done, you will look nothing like who you really are." Gard triggered a holo display and the finished results rotated slowly in front of Jolan.

"Good," said Gix. "Good."

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The Gamesman looked up from one of his data panels as the Psy King entered his lair. Four guards in gilded ceramite plate stood by the door, with chain glaives in their hands, ready to kill at his command. "So my son," said the Gamesman, "you have returned to me."

The Psy King bowed. "I am yours to command."

"Indeed," said the Gamesman as he touched a control on the transparent crystalline board, sending events into motion in the machine mind that ran that particular game. "And how goes our campaign against Jolan Gix?"

"His ship has gone missing," said the Psy King. "There is evidence of a space battle occurring at about the right time and place. He may be dead."

"So you think your assassination plan succeeded?" said the Gamesman mildly.

"Master-"

"Be very careful how you respond," said the Gamesman.

"I'm not sure," said the Psy King. How had he known?

"It was foolish of you to try and kill Gix when I had plans for him," said the Gamesman. "Another inquisitor would have been useful. Very useful. And now if he's dead, we've lost him.

"But if he isn't dead, then he is falling even deeper into the darkness. But you will have revealed too much about how far our grasp reaches. So there remains the question of your punishment." The Psy King was silent.

"I have a job for you. If you succeed, I will be very pleased. That is the easy part. Surviving it is another matter entirely."



#168 Cynical Cat

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Posted 13 February 2014 - 07:48 AM

"Listen up," said Hethor D'eckor as he addressed what remained of Jolan's retinue. They were gathered in one of the conference rooms about the Eternal Will. Hethor was standing behind the empty chair at head of the table. "The boss hasn't forgotten us," he continued. "He's given us the easy job while he walks into hell."

All their attention was focused on him now. Good. "He's going to dig them out. He won't have weapons or backup or anything from the Inquisition, he'll be under too deep. We have to provide him with that. Melina is going to have to turn Gix's hidden assets into a secret empire and we have to train and equip that army. When the word comes we have to be all mighty hammer of the Emperor and be ready to stage a dozen campaigns at once. And we will have to do all of this from the shadows."

"And my role in this?" asked Selanon Kay. "I am contracted to fly the inquisitor's ship, not waste years of my life doing . . . whatever."

"You will be a free trader and shipmaster," said Hethor. "Melina will provide backing."

"This was not my agreement with Gix," glowered Kay.

"What is your agreement with the Emperor?" growled Hethor. "How will you account for your life when you stand before the Throne. Will you tell him you walked away from a chance to destroy an enemy that threatens sectors and the Inquisition itself? Or will you tell him you were afraid?"

"Call me a coward again," said Kay, his eyes glittering. One of his hands was on the table's edge, near his pistol. The other could rip off his bandanna and unleash the lethal power of his warp eye. "Stand on the deck of a ship I have sheparded through battle and call me a coward."

"Talk is just talk," Hethor said. "Actions matter. You in?" He wouldn't leave the room alive if he wasn't.

"Yes," said Kay. "I'm in."

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The flash dealer whimpered in the iron hard grip of Danell Keys. The assassin could twist and break bone, rupture organs, or cripple nerve clusters. He chose to hold. "Please," whined the dealer. "I-"

"Listen little man," said Keys's companion. They were in meat locker just off from the long cutting lines of the slaughter factory. Terex's World was classified as civilized in Imperial almanacs, but it was mostly an agricultural concern. In a dozen huge slaughter houses the livestock of the world were continuously killed, cut, and stripped. Men were involved every part of the process from the loading bays, to the conveyors, the packaging, the cutters, and the killing floor. The operation slowed only for routine maintenance and cleaning, one line going still in rotation while the others hacked away.

Men worked long, hard shifts here, but a little flash or lightning could make things go faster. They could also keep you alert when you were tired and that could keep you out of the cutting blades or the rendering vats, but it made you sloppier too. More than a few men supplied their fellow workers as a second job.

"No one is going to get through my friend at the door and no one is going to hear or care. I don't care whether you live or die. Do you believe me?"

The dealer stared at the ice eyed blond. He was about average height and carried a lot of muscle. His face was craggy and his eyes were merciless. Like everyone else, he was wearing a splattered worker's coverall. He didn't even need to carry an illicit weapon in this place. There were no shortages of blades and killing tools in a slaughter factory. "Y-yes," said the dealer, who wasn't a small man himself.

"Good," said the blond. "I don't want you or your business. I want your supplier."

"He won't talk to you," said the dealer. "You aren't known."

"That's my problem, isn't it?" said the blond. "Name and location?"

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

To move secretly from world to world in the Imperium is not an art, it is a craft. Between them Danell Keys and Gard Vikal had considerable expertise in this craft and Gard had a whole array of contacts and long history of practical experience. Booking passage for their cover identities had been easy, although mostly because they had yet to do anything to cause them to be hunted by the Imperium.

There had been a delay, of course. One does not book secret passage overnight, but they had used that time. Jolan needed time to recover from the surgery and Gard had to arrange for the safe and secret storage of Jolan's stasis preserved tissues. Keys had glided through the Helopolis underworld, acquiring weapons and gear to replace some of what they had left behind on the Eternal Will.

Eventually they had found passage on a fat and slow bulk cargo and passenger ship Lady Joy. It had meandered through the warp lanes carrying the Throne agents in almost bare cabins as the Lady Joy was no luxury liner. It had sufficed.

Now they prowled the shanty towns that had accrue around the slaughter factories. Originally they had been prefab shacks and hastily constructed houses, but over the years decay had outpaced renovations. The streets were unpaved, there was filth and garbage everywhere, and vermin, both human and animal, were everywhere.

A rectangular house was in better shape than most and lacked the ever present garbage. A huge man with dark brown skin stood guard by the door. His face was marked with hashmark scars and he wore a long leather coat with revealing bulges underneath. Jolan stopped about three meters from the guard, his retainers hanging back. "I'm here to see the Vice."

"Why should the Vice see you?" the guard replied.

"It's worth a lot of money."

"You have any references?"

The blond crossed the distance between them almost instantly, a thin bladed knife in his hand. He slammed the guard against the wall and pressed the point to his throat. "I'm an off worlder who isn't interested in getting the run around. Care to confirm that?"

"Easy blade. Easy."

"Camron," said the blond. The Guard lieutenant had a large bore slug thrower drawn and the guard covered. Keys stepped into the house. There was the sound of several meaty smacks and then a voice rang out.

"Clear," said Keys. They entered and stepped over the body of another guard, Camron still covering the other guard.

A man sat at a table, sipping from a large mug. The wore a multicoloured shirt of checks of alternating colours. His head was shaved bald. "Get it done," he said.

"I'm not here to hurt you," said the blond. "I'm here for business."

"You have a funny way of showing it."

"I'm off world and I'm not interested in ******* around."

"Who are you?"

"You can call me Sevren Dask," said Jolan Gix. "I'm either going to make you very rich or very dead."






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