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Logen Ninefingers

Nemamiah

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Nemamiah

- Adrian Collins –
Story 1 of The Mortiurge

 

Thousands of people crammed into the streets. Every man and woman bore the same worn down look as they picked their way past trash piled knee-high against the dark and pitted walls of towering hab blocks. The immense structures disappeared into the low-lying, rust coloured smog cloud sitting fat and heavy above. Flickering glow-globes hung from sagging cables, swaying gently in the artificial breeze as they provided synthetic light. A beaten series of vox speakers blared out a pre-recorded sermon from one of the upper-hive templums, urging the depressed river of grey dressed underhivers to greater effort in the work at the manufactorum.

 

He stood out like a star against the backdrop of the void, gaudily dressed in gold-stitched red satin and wearing a fortune in gold chains, bangles, and other jewellery. His hooded green eyes were quick, sharp and vicious, staring down anyone stupid enough to make eye contact with him as he strolled casually through the masses. Two golden bolt pistols were slung in holsters on his lower back. They were worn openly and without fear of reprieve from an Arbites precinct that was far too undermanned to take him on. Such immunity in the face of Imperial law overflowed from his shoulders in waves of arrogance.

 

On either side of him was a stunningly attractive woman, each in a plated bodyglove, both as deadly as they were beautiful. The way they moved spoke of high quality training and augmentation, of a cat like grace matched with wolf cunning. Around them, like fortress walls pushing back the press of the crowd, strode a solid circle of heavies, thugs and bruisers. Most had the look of ex-PDF. Some sported augmetic limbs and all brandished weapons in plain sight.

 

One of the heavy’s eyes lingered on the freely flaunted wares of a house of ill-repute a moment too long and lost his place in the steadily moving formation. As the mass of manufactorum workers continued to slide around them like a glacier sliding past a mountain, a young man, just another depressed face amongst thousands, stumbled through the sudden opening. His rolling gait painted him as incredibly drunk, his vomit stained grey coveralls sported an employee number that put him as a night shift worker who had drank his way through his time off.

 

The heavy turned and threw an arm out to grab at the man. His massive hand swung by the drunk’s dark, roughed-up hair as the youth’s foot dragged and caught on the uneven ground and he stumbled forwards. The two feline bodyguards were on him in a flash, interposing themselves between their boss and this potential threat. The man tripped again, accidentally hammering one surprised woman to the ground with a thickset shoulder and, almost unbelievably, stopping himself by placing a hand on the boss’ bare forearm while the second bodyguard struggled to grapple with his drunken gait.

 

The boss didn’t move, just stared at him as the youth straightened himself up with a stupefied grin wrapped in thick stubble and a belch that shook the very air around him. At the same time two thugs and the two bodyguards crashed in to him, taking him from his feet and away from the boss. They crunched into the ground, the youth pinned down and shouting, begging for forgiveness now he’d realized what he’d done.

 

The boss stood over him with pistol in hand, gleaming gold in the flickering lights above, and pointed at his head. The drunk let out a whimper and a wet sob as the world around him seemed to pause to witness his death. The bolt pistol boomed, sending Imperial citizens running in a stampede away from the youth’s plight.

 

“Release him,” said the boss, his voice quiet and calm and full of power.

 

The youth stood, wiping chunks of skull and brain matter from the offending heavy off his face. The boss reached out and picked a piece of flesh from the youth’s hair and discarded it to the ground.

 

“There. That’s better, isn’t it, son?”

 

The youth looked at him, his face ashen and his fear obvious in his nervous, submissive stance and downcast dark eyes.

 

“T-thank you, sir,” he stammered, lowering his gaze to the ground where one hundred and twenty-three kilos of headless muscle was already being eyed off from afar by rats the size of small dogs.

 

“You know who I am.”

 

It was a statement, not a question.

 

“Underboss Yaziniki, sir, I know who you are… sir”

 

“Then you know that I am considering shooting you in the head, just as I did Junar a moment ago,” said the underboss.

 

The young man visibly started shaking, a dark stain spreading across the front of his pants. He fell to his knees.

 

“Please, sir, please! I want to live!” he wailed, snot bubbling from his nose and spittle linking his shuddering lip to the ground.

 

The underboss smiled for a moment, relishing the effect he was having on the poor bastard before turning and walking away.

 

“You’re not worth the bolt, or my time. Wyren, Tonas; beat him. Make sure he remembers who rules these stacks.”

 

Two immense men broke off from the group as the young man stood up and backed away, only to trip and fall to the ground. They jogged a couple of steps to catch up and then laid in to him. The river of people just kept walking past as his body was brutally hammered by the two massive brutes. None amongst the thousands had the courage to speak out or act against the violence; barely any had the fortitude to even look.

 

When they were done, he lay there for a while, just another piece of trash amongst the piles of garbage he rested half covered in. A few minutes passed before he moved with a loud and long groan, sending the approaching rats scurrying away. He staggered to his feet, using the wall as best he could to keep his balance. Smearing blood from a cut lip and a split eyebrow, he stood and did his best to clean up his face before tottering off down the street, his step unsure, and melding back into the countless thousands of people going to and from their shifts.

 

A few blocks passed by before he stopped and stood at the door of a small, hole-in-the-wall bar. An overweight door watchman stood at the front, surveying the crowd with a look of complete disinterest as he gnawed on an animal bone, grease dripping down his four chins. He spotted the young man; his face freshly beaten, vomit and snot and blood covering his shirt, a lightening wet patch on his pants and the smell of urine hanging around him like a cloud of trash-flies.

 

The youth approached and the door watchman moved to intercede, a fat lipped mouth wobbling open in a not yet spoken challenge. Without breaking in his stride or the stony gaze of his bloodied and bruised face, he flipped out a few ratty looking folded Imperial credit bills and tossed them at the bouncing man-breasts of the guard. The door watchman shrugged his shoulders as he grasped the bills and went back to indifferently watching the crowd outside, sucking on the bone to slurp off the last few pieces of cooked meat.

 

There were four patrons inside the bar. The youth noticed immediately that two were definitely carrying, their backs to wall and gang tattoos running up their necks. They watched him with kroothawk-like eyes, sharpened by Blaze or some other narcotic. The young man walked to a table at the opposite end of the bar from them, taking a seat away from windows and resting his back against the green paint of the wall with a grunt of pain.

 

 

His eyes rolled over the other two men. One was so drunk his head rested upon the table from which the owner was serving, the other was silently crying into his drink. He dismissed them as threats. A girl, probably no more than seventeen or eighteen standard, walked over to him. She was pretty, but had a large gang tattoo on her cheek that marked her as the property of one of the gangers sitting in the opposite corner.

 

“Sir, I think you’ve had too much already…”

 

The youth looked up, his dark eyes unclouded, sharp and intelligent.

 

“Get me a drink, girl. Amasec. Rotgut, whatever. The cheaper and nastier, the better.”

 

The girl stood there, a little taken aback by his sudden resolution to clarity. He sat straight, his shoulders square, his fingers drumming on the table.

 

“Did I not make myself clear? I asked you to get me a drink, not to stand there staring at me. It’s not like I’ve asked you to recount the ten-thousand year history of the Martians or anything. This shouldn’t be difficult.”

 

Her mouth dropped open a little, working open and closed as she tried to labour through the insult, confusion running rife across her face. Then her face reddened as she whirled around and went back to the bar. He smiled to himself and pulled out a palm-sized picter unit from his pocket. The screen had cracked in the beating he had taken but the image came up clearly after a short time. He looked up once more. The girl was pouring his drink. The two gangers were deep in conversation. Sleepy was still sleeping. The last patron was watching his glass with hurt intensity, tears rolling down his cheeks.

He looked back down at the screen, where a user ID and password was being requested.

 

 

Name: Thale Rook

Password: Nemamiah

 

Instantly the screen blinked and Thale’s eyes were shown a top-down view of a public toilet on the left-side of the picter. A waist level view of the small public waste disposal unit that the first image sat in blinked to life a moment later on the right. It was a fairly standard unit, three collection cubicles, all rusting brushed steel and a mirror that was more backboard than reflective surface. Nothing moved. Thale looked up as the girl placed his glass, still adorned with another patron’s lip marks, before him and walked off in a huff. He grabbed the glass, wiped down the rim with a cleaner piece of his shirt, and settled back, his boots resting on another chair.

 

He watched the screen. He didn’t have to wait long. Three men and one of the lithe bodyguards burst in through the door on his pict-unit. There was no sound, but the way the image shook with the hammering of the door into the wall spoke volumes for their urgency. Pistols drawn, they cleared the room, kicking open the doors to the three cubicles. The look of disgust on their faces as they looked in the first two cubicles made Thale smile.

 

The first cubicle had an over-flowing recovery bowl. Clogged by a stout factorum worker after a solid night on the drink. The next cubicle had a good coating of vomit, also courtesy of the factorum worker. A night of perceived friendship with the man had been almost too much to bear for Thale. The man was a well-known petty criminal, a piece of scum too small time for the Arbites to bother shutting down. He bragged incessantly of his prowess with women and his ability to take them at will, and usually against theirs.

 

 

Thale hadn’t felt bad at all as he slipped drugs into the man’s drink. Had felt nothing but disgust for his companion and at the fetid stench of the public waste collection unit as he guided the big man into one cubicle, and then the other. There had been no remorse when he’d knife-punched the man in the throat and then snapped his neck before dumping him into a furnace unit. A small piece of positive collateral damage the Imperium wouldn’t miss.

 

Thale’s attention returned to the screen as he raised the glass to his lips and enjoyed the pure chemical burn of the amasec as it moved down his throat. His thumb hovered near a small button cover below the screen as the underboss rushed into view, his pants already down around his knees held in one hand while the other clutched at his stomach. The underboss charged into the cubicle, his bow-legged waddle desperate. Thale switched his gaze to the left hand, top-down, screen.

 

Without even closing the door Yaziniki dropped his pants fully, put a hand on either wall of the cubicle, and arched his back to look at the ceiling, his eyes squeezed shut with pain and effort.

 

Diharetinum will do that to a person.

 

Thale chuckled to himself; absorbed through the skin, and quite fast acting, it’ll twist your guts up and make you wish the Emperor had never given you life in the first place as you lose about three kilos in one sitting. Thale carefully removed the fake finger coverings with a kerchief, making sure not to end up like Yaziniki, himself.

 

Thale flicked up the button cover. The screen went out of focus for a moment, and then came back sharp, a crosshair sitting in the centre of the top-down view. Yaziniki opened his eyes, most probably having heard the lens whir as it focussed.

 

“Tunley Yaziniki. I, Thale Rook, Mortiurge of Arbite precinct five-one-four, six-west, Lerrunhive, have found you guilty of two hundred and fourteen counts of murder, sixty-seven counts of supplying and manufacturing blaze or obscura, nine counts of trading in heretical documentation and materials, and three counts of murdering or wounding Arbites in service to the Emperor. In the Emperor’s name, may you burn in the warp you piece of ****.”

 

He pressed the button and the screen flashed white. He almost wished he could have heard the commotion; could have enjoyed the underboss’s misery in his last moment of life.

 

 

Thale shrugged his shoulders, dismissing the thought. There simply just had not been enough room in the vent above the cubicle for the pict-capture unit, transmitter, the combat shotgun with its single Executioner round and trigger-actuator, and a vox-thief.

 

 

Thale licked his lips, savouring the burn of the amasec. He’d had nastier ones, sour vintages more to his liking, but this one would do to celebrate a job well done.

 

 “Another drink, officer?”

 

Officer? ****. She’d heard him. Thale gathered himself in a heartbeat and fixed her with his stare.

 

“You know what I am?”

 

She averted her gaze and nodded. “An Arbite.”

 

Thale smiled coldly.

 

“Not just an arbite, girl,” he said, his voice low to avoid attracting the gangers’ attention. “I am the one they call when the only justice is blood.”

 

He turned the screen around in his palm and showed her his handiwork, a thick finger reaching up to his lips. She gasped and covered her mouth with her hand as her wide eyes drank in the scene. The executioner round had detonated Yaziniki’s body, but external limbs could still be easily made out.

She took a step back from him, flicking a nervous glance over at the two gangers at the opposite end of the bar. They were still engrossed in conversation.

 

“Don’t look at them, girl. Look at me. Look at my eyes. Listen to me carefully.”

 

He drew her in with his intense stare, letting the moment hang, lowering his voice to an apex-predator growl. “The same fate awaits you should you discuss this ‘chat’ with your owner over there. Do you believe me?”

 

She nodded, hand still over her mouth, eyes wide with fear.

 

“Good.”

 

He sighed, drained the last of his amasec, put the picter in his pocket, and stood.

 

“The body you just saw was Underboss Yaziniki.”

 

The girl gasped in surprise. Yaziniki was supposed to be untouchable, even the Arbites wouldn’t go near him. It was said you’d need a Guard regiment to dig him out.

 

“If I can get to him through an empire of body guards, imagine how easily I can get to you.”

 

Thale got out his credit bills and dropped a few on the table before leaving the girl and the bar.

 

 

She was an innocent. Some poor wench trapped in a game of violence she could never escape. He hadn’t enjoyed the look of gut-wrenching terror his threat had brought out in her. As soon as she had identified him, however, Thale had been forced to quickly turn her into a necessary pawn in his righteous endeavour.

 

She wouldn’t tell the gangers, he could read it in her fear. The gangers were a present danger to her, but he was like the spectre of her nightmares. She would never forget him; his young life spent gathering experience eliciting terror from other criminals would ensure that. His pitch was perfect in its malice, his features tilted forwards to take advantage of the lights above to create the right amount of shadow over his eyes, his body up straight and intimidating in comparison to her small frame, and his intent clear like a terralion eyeing its wounded prey - despite its falsehood.

 

 Yaziniki’s associates would look for him, but wouldn’t find him. Wouldn’t know where to start looking. Plenty of innocents would be killed in his stead if she spoke; he had a common face and a build that was solid, but not overly large, like so many men in the precinct. She would have a hard time recognising him without blood and snot and huge bruises covering his beaten features; the heavies he’d allowed to slug him had made sure of that. It would protect him as much as put those around him at risk.

 

Overboss Radacast, master of a hundred gangs and precincts, would try to hide this. He’d try to keep it from reaching his foes, hiding a potentially perceived weakness in his organisation. Nevertheless, in time, word would get out. Someone out there, an unknown Arbite or vigilante with access to military grade weapons and tech, had got to one of their big bosses. The crime chiefs would rage at their inability to find him, expend untold resources into trying to guarantee their safety instead of into their illegal trades, and fear would spread amongst the gangs and cartels that plagued this underhive. His underhive.

 

They would search, but Thale would slip into the darkness, where his only light was gifted by the Emperor and shielded within his soul from the foulness around him. In time he would be given, or find, his next target. Ever the lone wolf, he’d strike out deep into the darkness once more. Ever, he would be Lerrunhive’s dark shadow.

 

 

Thale Rook smiled. It was the way he liked it. What he was born to do. Love, respect, brotherhood, compassion; these virtues were not the armament of the Mortiurge. Fear was Thale’s greatest weapon. Fear, and a combat shotgun drum-fed with executioner rounds.

 

 

+++

 

 

A big thanks to Atma01 for letting me use his, and his gaming group's, character, Thale Rook. Also for his proof reads and fact checkings.

Edited by Logen Ninefingers

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This was a good read: quick and to the point, I think it it introduced the character of Thale Rook with brutal efficiency.

 

The only tiny thing I can pick at is the use of "amongst" rather than "among." The word usage is considered anachronistic among modern scholars; I have no clue how that transfers to works of fiction (same with "whilst" instead of "while"). I assume it could be drummed up to artistic interpretation/representation.

 

Well done.

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