I enter the “neonroom”. Accolytes have been known to calling it such in whispered voices. What else should you call it? The winter solstice remembrance? The war room? The harlots den? It did seem a little like a red light district. All these names have been proffered. But the neon room is the name that stuck. Its the name that stuck because even for the most devout it’s a nickname that can be ushered without fear of the Emperor.
The flashing displays of far-flung systems immediately catch the eye. Soft shadows lick the floor and the edges of the outer walls. This is the place the Inquisitor comes when he needs to think. Always solemn but today with good reason. The multitude of red dots are a disturbing sight. Each one a place of conflict. A conglomeration of boltshells, boardingtubes and worship. A dance of death for the Drusus that shouldn’t be.
“You wanted to speak.”
I flinched ever so slightly. That voice could command a cybermastif to sit and give paw. He manages to collect himself. My intentions alone would be reason enough for a soulscrub and a one way ticket to the servitorshack.
“We need to speak”
The Inquisitor takes his time. Observing the left corner while finishing his thoughts. The left corner is especially covered in red dots. When he turns around he reveales a face of deep sorrow. I am not used to seeing him like this. He seems almost…. vulnerable.
“Make it short. There are more important things at hand. What is it this time? Another request for more salary? Please don’t waste my time. Again.”
I hold up a cloth bag.
“This is for you. A gift. Or a curse. Depends on the holder. Just be glad it’s me.”
I throw it at the Inquisitor’s feet. A heavy clunk reverberates through the room. The echo takes a fraction to long to reach them. The room is a fraction to big for just two people. The inquisitor doesn’t look down or even flinch.
“You are to old for silly games. Speak up”
I look at the radiant symbol I that forms the center of the power armour. How many heretics have looked upon this and pleaded? Begging for a few more moments of life?
“That bag holds a multitude of fates. But fate can be channeled. If you want it to.”
A quick glance down shows a slight sign of confusion. Another sign he’s under pressure.
“I wanted to leave. Quit. Tell all of you ‘So long and thanks for all the misery you Emperorloving maniacs.’
Wait don’t talk. Let me finish. I have quite the story. Then you visited me. And I don’t know how, but you convinced me. It wasn’t your words but your eyes. Something made me hesitate. And I condemned myself again.”
“For serving the Emperor?!? It is what everyone should aspire to.”
“Serving you isn’t the same as serving the Emperor!”
The harshness was apparent to both of us. But I wouldn’t stop now. I went into the deep and he knew it. Why stop?
“I served the Emperor on Holy Terra! I didn’t need you for that!”
A moment of silence. Sometimes it says more than words. Nobody noticed the two extra red dots appearing on the screen.
“There is no greater glory than...”
“Shut up! I’m not finished. I was happy then. One of the few moments I ever was. And then you came to ruin it all. Just like you ruined your so called family.”
A subtle flinch. Who knew power armour could be subtle.
“I was convinced you were the enemy. You helped Eisen destroy me! And for what. So you could have your little plot? So you could better mankind? A unknown savior to the masses? And I believed you. I joined so naively. And i hated it, you, ever since.”
“Nobody forced you. I try to gain voluntary followers. They are so much more willing to go the extra mile”, he said with a slightest of smiles on his face.
My heavy panting was all that could be heard, except for the far away cawing of a crow.
“We are having fun now? I’ll show you something funny. Feel terror cloud your senses! I know what you fear!”
And with these words I sprouted two enormous black feathered wings. Slowly I became unattached from the ground. With every swoop of my wings I levitated a bit further up. Feathers kept dislodging and turn to gold. When they drifted to the flour they turned into golddust and a cold breeze blew them away. White robes sprouted from nothing and decaying cherubs circled the vision of terror and devotion.
“This whole sector will soon be lost. It, a synthetic Drusus, walks between the stars and there is little to stop him. You need this frail witch. These frail accolytes. They have fought him before and they will vanquish him again.”
How does it feel when something scrapes the inside of your skull? An itch you can’t scrath. A sore you can’t rub. A pain you can’t describe. Even with the benificiairy boons of warded armour, granted to the greatest of Inquisitors, this level of power was difficult to handle. It took Strom quite the mental strain to keep his decorum. I had become surprisingly powerful in a short amount of time. And even though he knew the vision and ethereal voice were a mental manipulation of a grieved psycker and influx of the warp, it was still very convincing. The fully powered angstspells of the telepath are nothing to underestimate. I wanted him to be afraid.
I felt my face melt and turn into the face of a savior. He who freed this sector of the taint and brought it under the wing of the Emperor. Saint Drussus, befouled by the attachments of black wings, hovered above Strom. And with a crack the image was gone and I plummeted to the floor.
At the moment of disenchantment Strom felt the release of a spirit. A young boy hounded by the realisation of damnation. To be born a witch. Despised by society. Loved by none. Except for… Helena. Sweet, sweet Helena. Poor, poor Helena. How could Strom ever explain what he had allowed to happen to her. Why was he so cursed to be forced to allow so many sins?
Slowly I picked himself up. My withered arm dangling. I looked up at Strom and none of the anger had left his eyes.
“I don’t know why but I still believe in you. It feels like betrayal to myself. But I still have… hope. That you are seriously in this till the end. To stop the madness from spreading. Somewhere something about you makes sense. We are not that different. Both damned beyond redemption. With a slight difference.”
Now it was me whom had a slight smile.
“I condemned myself again because I chose to follow you, again. A fool whom believes he still has a chance at reconciliation. With your rituals and purity rites. It will not undo the choices you made. Consorting with the enemy. Using the enemy to counter the warp. Radical. Traitor”, and with a soft whisper I added, “Heretic. At least I know there is no redemption for me.”
“Hear my proposal”, I added, “I want the implants in that bag. I could have sold the whole lot. I could have traded the brain for your reputation, station and life. What the inquisition would give for that tome of knowledge. Imagine what the machinepriests would give for just a sliver of the heretek information that’s locked inside. I could have asked for anything I wanted. I could finally learn what you have done to me if I broke into those databanks. All those many many times you have betrayed me. But I choose to follow you. You undeserving basterd!”
“This insolance! How dare you defile Holy Drusus his sacred image! If Odessa would have been here she would have torn you to pieces!”
“The mother of your bastard grandson? None of you have the right to speak to me about virtue. I want you gone from my life! But we know that won’t happen. Trade the brain with the techpriests if you need to. But you won’t. That brain could end you and we both know it.”
“You think you can just walk in here , defile our precious saint, demand anything you like and expect to stay a living man?”
This was the first time Strom showed some real emotions. Anger fuelled by shame was engulfing him. He was a bastion of inner restraint but now he could feel those walls breaking. Never did an accolyte have the arrogance to stand up to him like this. The sound of plasteel scraping against plasteel could be heard while his armoured fists clenched.
“Not only am I walking in here. I’m walking out too”
And with those words I turned and walked to the automated containmentdoors. The rage was building and felt strangly reminiscient of a father being angry with his son. He could feel a slight pang inside. He thought he had come to terms with his own inner deamons. His failure with Gallus, the son that is convinced he is devout but has a hole in the heart Like father, like son. The hurting apparently had found a good hidingplace somewhere deep inside the Inquisitor
“Strom, one last thing”, I added without turning around. “Roth and Odessa should get the eye’s. They belonged to that sniper Eisen used to try and kill us. They deserve something too for all the misery you helped unleash on us.”
“Mere trinckets will buy you? I expected more elegance from you.”, Strom added with sincere disdain.
“We are going to fight a war. A bigger war than any of us had imagined. And we are going to need every edge we can get. No more tricks Inquisitor Faustus Strom. If you play any, I will know, and I will kill.”
And with those words I left the neonroom. Strom was left alone with the cloth bag at his feet. He grabbed the closed end and pulled. Two soft clunks as a left and right one hit the floor. The highest of machinewizardry that turns a good sniper into a perfect one. The image of me plucking out eyes gave him a chill down the spine but he wasn’t sure why. Immediately the two soft clunks were followed by a heavy one. The dead glare of Magos Eisen stared right at him.