Warhammer High is the name given to a bunch of writefaggotry stories, centered around the daughters of the Primarchs and other students at Imperator High. The stories take place in an alternate time line of Warhammer 40k where the Horus Heresy never happened and the Emperor's grand plan succeeded. Thus none of the Primarchs fell to Chaos; yet certain daughters do show some signs of Chaos influence, mostly amongst the daughters of the Primarchs that really did fall. The deviation point between the 'real' timeline and this one seems to be Emps taking Eldrad's advice about Chaos being a bigger threat than aliens at the very, very start of the Crusade, before he had recovered any of his sons; rather than ignoring it as he did in the canon 40K timeline. Thus warned, he very sharply beat down Lorgar's Chaos-aligned officers before they had time to corrupt the Primarchs, averting the entire Heresy.
- 1 The Kids
- 2 The News
- 3 Meet the Primarchs
- 4 Other loose stories
- 4.1 Motherhood
- 4.2 Angela Grows Up
- 4.3 Roberta's Chess Game
- 4.4 A Day With Cora
- 4.5 Racing the Khan
- 4.6 Hints and Suppositions
- 4.7 A Day With Dirk
- 4.8 The Lion and the Fist
- 4.9 Furia's Failed Date
- 4.10 Dean Yarrick and Furia
- 4.11 A Morning With Furia
- 4.12 Angela's flight
- 4.13 A Day With Isis
- 4.14 The Test
- 4.15 The Field Trip
- 4.16 Tales of Victory
- 4.17 Freya and Miranda
- 4.18 Fixing Hana's Bike
- 4.19 Petra's art exhibition
- 4.20 Lament of Krieg
- 4.21 A Strange Exchange
- 4.22 Just Another Day On Void Platform 13
- 4.23 Bike Ride
- 4.24 The Exchange Student
- 4.25 The Staff Room
- 4.26 An Afternoon With WD
- 4.27 A Day With Enragus
- 4.28 Back From The Grave
- 4.29 Bleeding Out
- 4.30 ROAD TRIP!
- 4.31 The Lioness
- 4.32 Ghosts of Rage
- 4.33 Trip Into Hell
- 4.34 Eternity
- 4.35 Appraisal
- 5 Fapfics
- 6 Gallery
- 7 See Also
Please note that the bios below are merely a guideline, created from Warhammer Fluff both official and not, as well as the first stories written for Warhammer High in /tg/ threads. Individual authors disregard these descriptions, or not, at their own discretion.
Also note that the images and descriptions of the sons are under the same exemption; indeed most stories assume that there are no children of the Primarchs aside from the daughters themselves.
Lion El'Jonson - Lyra: Were any of the Daughters to consider entering the political sphere after graduation, it would be Lyra. Possessed of a class and taste that put a truth to her upbringing, she comes off as Old Money to nearly all that meet her. Lacking her father's interest in both poetry and vineyarding, she found herself a natural singer, and took to it well. For the better, she shares none of her father's often-good-natured, ever-noisy rivalry with the Russ family, and indeed counts Freya amongst her closest relatives. She commands the loyalty of the juvenile Watcher in the Dark named, imaginatively enough, WD, whom she treats somewhat like a servant. Finding sports and general bookishness somewhat repellent, she spends little time getting to know her surroundings and the help, preferring instead to hone her admittedly substantial musical talent.
Rachnus - Unknown (semicanon, such as it is)
Fulgrim - Victoria. If anyone was affected by mortal culture during their upbringing it would be Victoria. Raised by her father with a gentle hand the young girl grew quickly to a beautiful woman. Victoria can easily be seen as the darker aspects of perfectionism, as opposed to her father. Fulgrim, since he was never tainted, retained the approachable, trustworthy, polite demeanor that he had had throughout his whole life. He preferred to reach towards the unobtainable, because it was something he felt he had to do, to stride towards a pinnacle. Victoria, by contrast, assumes that perfection is something she already has, and others need to work to catch up. Her behavior could be best described as 'self-centered,' since, as she well knows, she's perfect, right? When she does make mistakes, she doesn't get angry, she just dismisses them, as someone else's fault, perhaps. Her father knows that to break her of the habit by any means other than gradually opening her eyes would be traumatic, so he has taken a background role in her life in the disciplinary regard. Victoria has a reputation of being a bit of a slut around the school, which is a fair assessment, but she's discreet enough that the tabloids have to make to with the occasional drama bomb in her public appearances, since she has never been caught jumping from one bed to another.
Perturabo – Petra: Petra is what every parent wishes their daughter was; dedicated to studies, socially accepted by many, and physically fit and healthy. Sadly for her father Petra differs from this in the aspect he desires most: mechanical aptitude. Petra herself is quite a capable engineer; indeed she finds dark delight in shattering Remilia's constructs (if in non-reflected hatred of her father's desires). However she desires nothing more then to create art, with painting and sketching being forms she finds most pleasing, blending in colors and lines in ways that are anathema to her father's strict form to function attitude to all things. In social circles, as in her studies Petra, is calm, centered, and only comfortable in a routine. She greets friends with a smile, goes about her business and then dismisses herself if things are not progressing at a pace blissful to her. This means she often comes off as stand-offish. However this is more due to the fact that she is just not used to dealing with people and their variety of emotion as much as she is the array of colors in paintings. Shoo-in for salutatorian.
Jaghatai Khan - Hana. Very confident, very brash, and the only girl besides Freya to ever put Furia on her ass. Genuinely talented with machines, she loves nothing more than tuning and riding her bike, a gift from her father. She's one of the few Royal daughters to genuinely consider a military career, something of which her father is both utterly proud and faintly horrified. She's the assertive face of the Daughters, and the one farthest from the elite, near-perfect angels the public often expects, if only because Furia at least attempts to hide her drug habits. She had been something of a bully as a child, though she grew out of it, and took up metalworking with her cousins Venus and Farah, which was something her parents weren't expecting.
Leman Russ - Freya: The only daughter of the Great Wolf is as passionate about life, quick to joke and foul of temper as her father; so much so that many say she was cut from the same cloth. Freya retorts against such rude comments saying she has her mother's eyes and ears, and that makes her ten times prettier then her father at least. Her constant attempts to mate with her boyfriends have always been halted by the over sensitive nose of her father who, if a single pheromone is detected, runs the boy clear out of his home much to his daughters fury. She is further thwarted at school by the eternal vigilance of Dean Yarrick, who has cameras installed in most places young people would go for private time. The school's top athlete, Freya was brought up in a household where binge-drinking and fast-food was the norm. She has taken a bit of a turn when her father went through a mild health crisis. She dove head first into a healthier lifestyle, forcing her father to make some changes to his lifestyle too.
Rogal Dorn – Remilia: Noble in mind, strong of heart, pure of soul. The dictum of the Imperial Fists is the model that Remilia lives for and strives every day to uphold. A plucky young lady with a genuine smile and laughter where ever she might be, Remilia is known as one of the more stable of the primarch family. Welcomed in most academic and social circles at Imperator High, she's generally recognized as a chipper and affectionate individual (though perhaps overly so to her cousins, whom she often greets with a cry of, "Sister!" and a tackle-hug). An ace at architectural studies Remilia's work has already seen construction in several parts of the city including, her Grandfather's Summer home fence (something he is always boasting about to his neighbors). However the daughter of Dorn is not friends with ALL of her family, having an active hate for Petra's antics and an abject fear of Furia when the girl is angry. In contrast, Remilia adores her older 'sister' Roberta and constantly follows the older girl around trying (and often failing) to live up to her perfection. Though she claims to know better than to ever hold to Furia's or Kelly's self-destructive lifestyles, the small red cuts on her arm betray her own (supposedly long-gone) tendencies.
Konrad Curze - Kelly: Though she inherited none of her father's problematic psychic ability, Kelly Curze possesses all of his magnetism for trouble. If she decided to apply herself she could be a scholar, athlete, musician, or craftswoman to match her cousins. Instead, she finds the quiet and introversion of her home more attractive, poring endlessly over the Terran Networks for everything from games to music to gossip. Though she has a deep thirst for new information, she doesn't let her apparent network addiction control her entirely. She is perhaps closest to Morticia, feeling some of the same isolation that plagues her cousin. She doesn't possess either Furia's or Victoria's cruel side (nor her father's, for that matter), but makes up for it by projecting a wall of isolation that nearly registers on a voltmeter. At some level, she knows this isn't a sustainable pattern for her life, but given the frequently empty company of her father and her own self-cultivated reputation for the darker sides of entertainment, she can't really think of an alternative.
Sanguinius – Angela: Angela was born different from her cousins, bearing a noble form of her father's angelic wings. Amongst her kin Angela is well respected for she is a demure creature amongst superhuman beings (some of her cousins opine that this is because she's a wimp) often not even making mention to her abilities and never openly boasting about her heritage. She enjoys taking flight from high points in the city (of which the high school offers several) and just feeling the breeze run through hair and feathers alike. It gives her a sense of freedom, and allows her to forget her troubles (though her rather inadequate physical development of her wings means that she requires a bit of technological assistance). Having manifested psyker abilities early as a child, Angela takes additional classes to learn how to control her constantly growing mental strength. However even her teachers and father have no idea that she has inherited a far darker secret. Occasionally she suffers from terrible nightmares, images of things she knows are not true: blood soaked fields, family alone far away, dark hatred, and a deep hunger. These scenes strike pangs of fear and doubt in her caring heart, eating away at her resolve and threatening to overcome her if she gives in for even a moment. She fears that there will be a day that this dark anger will cause her to lash out against her beloved family. She lacks both Isis' unquestionable ambition and Miranda's far, far greater psychic abilities, and is as close to the beta female role as the group could be said to possess. Still, even on her worst days she is as polite and kind-hearted as any could ever want her to be, and never lets the pressures of life weigh down her spirit overmuch.
Ferrus Manus - Farah: Years ago Farah was your average preteen girl, a bubble of energy, witty, with cute freckles and dimples that only made her ever more adorable. While she enjoyed tinkering like her father before her she never really did want to follow in his footsteps. One day however her father left his workshop unattended, and a wondering Farah noticed a discrepancy in one of the machines inner servos. When she reached into it however the machine mysteriously collapsed upon her hands, crushing them to nothing. Her screams brought her father in seconds. Even though she came out of it with the finest prosthetic hands he could make and a thirst for all things mechanical, her father has never forgiven himself. In the wake of the accident, he has pushed her even harder then his own marines; partly in hope of redemption, and part in hope of quenching her new thirst and maybe returning her to that cute little girl whom reminded him of her beautiful mother.
Tlaloc - unknown (semicanon, such as it is)
Angron - Furia: Due to events that occurred at a young age (many rumors circulate that it was or domestic violence) Furia has developed an exceptionally hostile attitude toward most anything that irritates her. What's worse, Furia has a hair trigger that can reduce her from a surprisingly angry young lady into a fire storm of rage that shatters nations (or genitals, whichever's closer). Believing herself to be something of a rebel and a proud anti-establishment figure Furia has spent countless hours of her school time in Dean Yarrick's office (one of two people in the galaxy she can't outshout) undergoing disciplinary action when evidence of her behavior (or its bloody remains) are found. Many of her extended family find her hard to suppress, and many do not even bother trying to control her rage (thought Isis has been known to cunningly direct it). It is of note that Furia is somewhat of a chain smoker, destroying as many as three to five packs a day in sheer burninating lust. Recent events have planted the seed of doubt in her mind as to whether she's hurting those few people she does care about as much as the people she genuinely resents; the latter list, of course, being far longer.
Roboute Guilliman - Roberta: Born to excel, the apple of her father's eyes was to serve as an inspiration to the common folk and to her cousins alike. Her intelligence, beauty and physical skills meet in harmony, striking a balance often lacking in her cousins. Roberta serves as Head Girl of her high school (much to Isis's chagrin) despite not being of age and is always called to serve as spokesperson for sporting events, community activities and social meetings with public officials. She also claims a position in the top five seats of all school subjects, as well as a few university ones. In Remilia, Rogal Dorn's daughter, she finds her closest friend (the two are seen as the most normal of the Daughters) and in Isis her closest foe (the two try constant to out maneuver each other to claim top chair). Recently in the junior called Ursarkar E. Creed, of the school's Chess club, she finds a budding rival. Despite all her precognitive abilities, her amazing intelligence, and her ability to devise strategies that are several layers deep, she has often lost games due to what can only be described as her opponent's sheer 'TACTICAL GENIUS.' In the aftermath, the young woman often wonders how she didn't see it coming. Due to a slight mishap early in high school which led to a case of the nerves, Roberta is secretly addicted to ketamine, something not even her father knows. She may have even kicked it by now.
Mortarion - Morticia: A delicate young girl, meek and innocent when compared to her more direct cousins, Morticia has always found it hard getting close to others. She was born with a unique disease which causes her eyes, nose and mouth to bleed as a savage coughing fit shakes her lungs and her cells are ravaged from within. Her condition leaves even astartes apothecaries baffled as to its nature. The young woman is constantly in need of medical supervision, and as a result can tragically attend school only a few times a week and never for extended periods of time (at least not without a visit to the school nurse). Socially at a disadvantage due to lack of interaction, and underlying fears amongst many that they might catch whatever she has, Morticia has relatively few friends outside of her superhuman family. However she is lovingly dotted on by friends and family alike with even the rage filled Furia holding her anger in front of her and her selfish cousin Victoria taking her to the nurses office when needed. She is never seen without her inhaler, which is the only known dispenser of the medicine she needs to abate the disease's ravaging effects.
Magnus the Red - Miranda: The school prime nerd and a powerful psyker, Miranda can often be found in the library looking for new books to delve through. Her father's Moniker, the Cyclops, was due to injuries to one eye rather than literally lacking one. Miranda possesses the opposite affliction: she has three. Her third eye acts akin to the Warp Eye of a Navigator, allowing her to see directly into the Warp. She places amongst the top ten living psykers in the Imperium. Though her abilities allow her instant respect from nearly all people she meets, her third eye and rather lacking social skill deter many potential friends, something that eats at her more than she lets on. She and the Warp Studies faculty of her school get along famously, as one would expect, given that several are retired Librarians. She is on particularly good terms with Professor Ahriman, whom she has known since she was a small child. She is perhaps the only student at IH who can get away with calling him Ahzek.
Horus - Isis: The Prime; the First born. These are the names given to Isis, apple of her father's eye and daughter of the first son of the Emperor. Her titles and other marks of entitlement extend deep into her beliefs. Driven to be the best from a young age by her father, Isis's life and attitude were driven to overcoming adversity and crushing those that would not aid her in this task. Having been first amongst the cousins in most everything they ever strove toward, she was proud of the jealousy most gave her and welcomed readily those that chose to bask in her glory. She is a proud teenage girl, fully aware of her talents and how to excel in any field demanded of her. Since coming to High school she has wrested control of 70% of the school student council and rules it with an iron fist, often coming into conflict with her cousins when her agenda requires them to kneel before change. An expert strategist, Isis has thwarted every attempt by Roberta to take control of council votes with the aid of her most trusted cousins Faith and Miranda. Unfortunately this attitude has affected her relationships somewhat, as she believes that a male is not worth her time unless he can become her equal. Needless to say, the chance of that is laughable to say the least, with only one even coming close. Upon her 14th birthday her father presented to her an amulet of lunar metal in the shape of a wolf's head; when she ponders on her actions she has been known to stroke it absentmindedly.
Lorgar Aurelian - Faith: When the Daughters think, "faith," they think two very different things. Faith in their grandfather the Emperor, whom they love; and Faith the daughter of Lorgar, whose tenacity, radical beliefs, and overwhelming superiority complex grate on them like rust in an open wound. For her own part the red haired beauty does not care for the prattling of her siblings; she has a cause and a purpose to draw all of the high school, and eventually the world, into the worship of her Grandfather and his virtues of Honor, Tradition, Hope, and Perfection. She holds school mass every morning (despite no body turning up), helps the needy in exchange for only a moment of their time, and hands out flyers everyday that speak of the glories of conversion to the 'true' faith. She does her father proud, but unfortunately this single-mindedness has resulted in a stunted emotional spectrum and next to no social life. Her loyalty however, once earned is eternal, and there is no more faithful friend then Faith. Miranda has noted that Faith's eye color changes from their dark black to occasionally reflect Red, Blue, Green and Purple.
Vulkan - Venus: A gear-head of the highest order, Venus is completely inseparable from her cousin Farah, who could be her sister for all their shared interests. Of all the daughters, Venus has the hardest time accepting that she's really not human, though she's determined not to let that get in the way of her social life. She has all of her father's stubbornness and all of his respect for the bonds of family, and a goodly portion of his love for technology and artifice. Her forge is right next to her father's in the basement, and is nearly as impressive. Her night-black skin and glowing, solid red eyes make her an easy target for social malcontents among her classmates, though few are stupid enough to openly bully a Primarch's daughter. Second on the swim team behind Isis, she has resolved to go and visit Nocturne as soon as she can, to see the horrible splendor of her father's home first-hand. Alone amongst the Daughters, she fell for a hiver, something that vaguely alarmed a few of her more elitist cousins.
Corvus Corax – Cora: A mirthful girl and quick to smile, Cora is the shining light in the dark of her father's eye. An athletic minded sort of genius, Cora is always embroiled in school sports. She's so skilled in fact that her perfectionist cousin Isis invited Cora to join her on the school volleyball team. Despite this, the two of them do occasionally squabble. Cora possesses a calculating mind, one apt to find the finer details in anything she observes and take advantage of any weakness. A trait she surely inherited from her father, but further nurtured by herself. Though she is a genius, she is not without her faults; she commonly over analyzes matters and ends up being incorrect or taking too long to reach a decision. She sometimes resents herself for this, as she hates falling short of others' expectations of her. Cora can often be found on the school roof, either sitting in conversation with Kelly or flying with Angela.
Alpharius and Omegon - Alpharia and Omegan: The Twins are renowned mischief makers at best and devious schemers at worst. They spin tales and spread falsities to make what they believe to be their tragically dull school lives a little more in line with their desire for dramatic flair. Neat and exemplary students to a fault, they enjoy some of the best test scores in the school along with naturally amazing attendance rate and honorable participation in many events (as well as a healthy dose of sucking up to teachers hence never seeming to get into trouble despite the tricks they pull off). However, they never seem to truly excel like their other cousins, a fact which annoys them greatly. To get what they feel is their just revenge, they spin truly exceptional tales with particular bite to them. They take particularly sinister pleasure in stalking and hassling Roberta, whose Honor Student ways and seemingly natural talent to excel seems as the ultimate slap to their faces. One trait that stands out between the twins is their ability to uncannily finish each others sentences, or even speak for each other piece for piece. Many have suggested they must have a telepathic link to each other. However Mr. Eldrad, one of the most powerful psykers known, has flatly stated said the twins are not psykers in any way. But then, no-one's entirely sure that he isn't in on their tricks.
Lion El'Jonson - Thoreau: The Son of Lion El'Jonson and a very strange kid to say the least. Is very introspective, and tends to philosophize out loud over things whenever allowed. He is regarded as something of an airhead, often spacing out and daydreaming in the middle of class. Outside of school he is often found in one of the many nature parks usually staring at the clouds or taking a nap. However despite his perpetually laid back nature, his powers of observation are unrivaled, able to discern even the most minute details with a single glance. Is also on the boxing team like many of his cousins. Is best friends with Gill the son of Guilliman who is also abnormally laid back. He has a fairly good relationship with his sister and spends a lot of time with her discussing philosophy. Also a (Horrible) poet. Likes the outdoors and nature.
Rachnus - Maloris.
Fulgrim - Giacomo: Flamboyent. Vain. Egotistic. These are but some of the words used to describe Giacomo's attitude in school and around the womens. He has a natural born flair for Art and Duelling, but is quite good at Math which he downplays for fear of ridicule. Giacomo does not get along with his sister Victoria, as he disapproves her methods of relationship handling, believing that one should only ever go out with a "near-perfect" match so one can finetune their relationship to find their real lover. Him and Furia look at each other discretely, for fear of her father's reaction, but Giacomo has been known to look at someone with wooing eyes constantly, so no one can be sure.
Perturabo - Arkhimedos: A polymath like his Father and Sister, Arkhimedos is very awkward socially, but he has an intuitive grasp at math, science and engineering. Much like his sister's love of painting, Arkhimedos has a passion for sculpting. Tied with Miranda, Caliban and Petra for most intellegent of all the Primarch children.
Jaghatai Khan - Temujin: Temujin Khan, or Jin (pron. Jean) for short The son of the Jaghatai Khan and Hana's older brother. He is essentially The Dude of the family. He is best friends with Vulkan's son Perrin and spends nearly all of his time at Perrin's house either working on his Custom Lightning Runner Assault Speeder, or just kind of hanging out around the city, or racing. Due to the amount of time he spends at the Vulkan's house, he feels they are his second family. He hardly ever goes home because of the way his father treats him. As the oldest son, it was his duty to join the the White Scars and gain fame and recognition, to make his old man proud and eventually succeed him as the leader of the white scars so Jaghati Khan tried to mold Temujin into what he wanted him to be, not what Temujin wanted to be. Despite this he still respects his father (especially on the racetrack), and cares deeply for his younger sister. He is also captain of the Fencing and Kendo teams respectively. Is almost always seen with his sword, his most prized possession, worn across his back Chokuto style.
Leman Russ - Fenrir: Fenrir is regarded by many to be the spitting image of his father however he is also markedly more handsome. When it comes to athletics he is his older sister's equal and the two are very close. His overly aggressive, loud mouthed, and violent personality has earned him a reputation as the most hot headed, impatient, overly boisterous, and over the top Freshman, ever. Has a drinking habit and the beer chugging contests he has between him and his sister are the stuff of legend, emptying entire kegs of beer, mead, or ale at a time (They make Russ shed manly tears of pride). Is every bit as over the top and bombastic as his father and sister. Hangs out quite a bit with Miranda and is a frequent player in Caliban's D&D games. His older sister affectionately calls him Fen-Fen, much to Fenrir's rage and embarrassment. There are rumors going around that he and Freya's relationship goes way beyond what any brother and sister should have. He is an all around pretty fun guy to be around.
Rogal Dorn - Roger"': Roger is a Stubborn and proud individual, and often argues with others but sheepishly loses as he is very sensitive to his emotions. He has a strong bond with his sister, who he lovingly protects, but can often squabble with her over simple matters. He is very level-headed and can go along with the group sometimes, but Roger likes to place his own needs in life ahead of his cousins sometimes aswell, casting him as a fickle person. Roger is the best fighter at the Boxing team, easily capable of knocking out his own father with a well placed uppercut. Roger is seen as a friendly and warm person, and can hang around with anyone. He has a natural apt for architecture and warfare, earning respect from others in Tactics class. Roger is sexually naive and tense, and is easily led by Victoria to do her biddings.
Konrad Curze - Bruce: lives in a comic-book world and wants to be a superhero, even though he wouldn't admit it. Hangs out with Dirk, Corvus Corax's son, and the two often get into all sorts of trouble together. At night he prowls the streets and spires of the city under the guise of the Night Seeker visiting terrible justice upon the scum of Terra. He is essentially the space marine Nightwing, to his father's space marine Batman. Is equipped with a custom suit of powered scout armor, and a pair of lightning claws. The bodies of those thieves, murderers, and rapists that have the terrible luck of running in to him (or get caught) are always found horrifically mutilated beyond recognition. Prone to over-planning.
Sanguinius - Gabriel: The unmotivated, *cough*lazy*cough*, son of Sanguinius, and Angela's elder brother. Despite his massive potential and great natural talent, he refuses to apply himself for reasons incomprehensible to all those around him. He seems to be perfectly content spending his days enjoying peace and quiet, and lazily drifting through the air with his head in the clouds. Despite his lazy attitude and lack of aspirations he is actually a genius that could go toe to toe with Petra or even Arkhimedos Is good friends with Isis due to the bond their fathers share. Has a bad habit of flapping his wings when bored (much to the rest of the class's rage and frustration) His wings are noticeably larger than Angela's (although his fangs are smaller) Is the only other person Angela will bite other than her boyfriend.
Ferrus Manus - Stark: The son of Ferrus Manus and Farah's older brother by one year. Regarded as a technological genius by all. Even among the Royal children, when it comes to genius, Stark is in a class all of his own. When Stark was little, he got his arms stuck in a smelter that contained purified Necrodermis. The metal bonded to his flesh giving him arms like his father's. Stark's arms were able to survive this process because Stark was born with a skeleton made of the same metal as his father's arms. He cares deeply about Farah and would do anything to protect her, even when that meant putting himself between her and a rabid Fenrisian dire wolf that had escaped from the zoo. Unfortunately, his caring side doesn't stop him from showing off like nobodies business, and projecting an aura of arrogance and cockiness. Despite their fathers' close friendship, Stark despises Giacomo. Because of his metal arms he was banned from boxing, wrestling, or any other sport where he could accidentally kill someone with his metal arms and extreme strength. He is the only other being in existence (other than his grandfather) able to wield his father's hammer.
Tlaloc - Ollin.
Angron - Ragio: The extraordinarily angry and immensely strong son of Angron. if there is one person you do not want to piss off, it's definitely Ragio. Unlike his sister or father he has actually taken steps to control his anger, he practices yoga every morning, meditates 5 times a day (he even has his own zen garden), and uses boxing as a way to direct his anger. Has an obsession with weapons of all kinds, having a massive collection that he spends 4 hours every day maintaining, polishing, and cleaning. Spends a lot of time with Dirk and Bruce of all people, after a particularly brutal fight, he and Dirk found common respect for one another and became good friends. He is a dangerous protector of his sister, breaking noses for guys so much as looking at her. Was born with a strange mutation in the adrenal glands that allows him to shut off pain, and taps into some latent inner power that enhances his physical strength and durability to levels that should be impossible even for a Primarch. He also possess minor psychic powers that are somewhat...limited. (can set his fists on fire and shoot said fire to some degree)
Roboute Guilliman - Gill: The "Golden Boy" of the staff, Gill is what every student wants to be: Naturally gifted at everything, punctual and friendly. He is not the smartest person ever, however he has a logical thought unparrelled by most 4 times his age. Gill is pressured by almost everyone to live upto something as great as our spiritual liege, but with the ever increased stress at home from Robute's "constructive critiscism", Gill is being pushed evermore over the edge of sanity. These traits show, as Gill was never OCD before, and Gill finds it difficult to relate to anyone, especially girls. Him and Isis are common rivals, but some could say there is more going than meets the eye.
Mortarion - Mortimer: If any of the children were to go into the medical field, it would definately be Mortimer. When it comes to pathogens, toxins, pollutants, diseases, and injuries, Mortimer is in a class all his own. Keeps an enormous archive of every single disease, toxin, and pollutant in the galaxy and has spent countless hours meticulously analyzing each and every one and has actually developed cures to previously incurable diseases. He is also fascinated by biology, specifically xeno-biology and would be willing to fight an entire hive fleet just to get a sample from a norn queen. When not shut up in his lab, he spends a great deal of time with Caliban.
Magnus the Red - Caliban: The son of Magnus and one of the most powerful psykers in the universe. His powers surpass even his father's and even G-pa Emps would think twice before messing with Caliban. He can read minds, change form, create clones, shoot fire from his hands, and is capable of mind rape that would impress Tzeentch himself. He is even capable of slowing time down indefinitely. This doesn't stop him from being the biggest bookworm ever. He cares deeply for his younger sister and plays several tabletop, live action, and video games with her when they aren't having Warp Picnics. Has a unique psychic mind link with his sister allowing them to feel what the other is feeling. Almost never pays attention in class, often telepathically talking with Miranda instead of listening to the lesson, although this is because he already knows all of the subject matter and gets 100 percent on tests one hundred percent of the time. Runs the chess club, book club, and is possibly the best DM ever, of all time. Completely lost his shit and nearly burned the entire sector when he became aware of Miranda's pregnancy by Dirk.
Horus - Ezekyle 'Ezzie' Failbaddon . the first attempt at making children for the Primarchs, rather than work from scratch the Emperor started with a neophyte space marine, cloned from Horus' gene seed. The results were less than perfect and the Emperor made the rest from the ground up. The oldest of the children, Failbaddon is in his father's legion as the First Captain but drops by his half-sister every now and then. He also has no arms.
Lorgar Aurelian - Merus: What happens when you take a traditional aescetic warrior monk of the far east, cross them with a classical Christian Monk, and proceed to instill within him the devotion of a Space Marine Chaplain. and make him the son of a Primarch. You get Merus, the son of Lorgar. Parish priest sort of character, very friendly and calm (idealized religious person).
Vulkan - Perrin: The combination of Perrin's pitch black skin, glowing red eyes, unnaturally high body temperature, and towering physique cause most people to be intimidated by him. His skill and knack for creating and using weapons does not help this. However, despite his admittedly terrifying appearance (He towers over the school's Astartes teachers) he is actually a really nice guy. Basically, a TOTAL FUCKING BRO. Need money? He'll loan you some if you promise to pay it back. Need a ride? Pitch in for gas, and he'll take you anywhere you need to go. Getting bad grades? He'll help you study. Need a wingman? He'll help you get laid. In short, a TOTAL FUCKING BRO. Is very protective of his little sister, Venus and cares about her deeply. He cares about all of his various cousins but Venus is his number one priority and he constantly worries about her. Can almost always be found hanging out with Temujin, Jaghatai's son, aka The DUDE.
Corvus Corax - Dirk: Laid back Smooth-talker who becomes Overly Bold and Dramatic in front of girls. Is almost always seen with his trademark twin tailed scarf and raven necklace. Always violates the dress code in some way but due to his inhuman stealth abilities the teachers and staff never notice. Is secretly infatuated with his older sister Cora. He would even choose her over Victoria, the daughter of Fulgrim!
(Is also secretly Slaanesh's most devoted follower) GOD DAMNIT!!! WHO LET THE HERETIC IN!?!?!. Anyways, you get the picture. (He still boned Miranda first! trololololol! Just as planned. *satisfied smirk*) Also the fastest punch on the Boxing team, able to hit you with 2 jabs and a hook before the second ring of the bell.
Alpharius and Omegon - Primus and Ultimo: Take Fred and George Weasley. Give them an even better ability to make mayhem, the ability to find whatever you need, and an information network that makes the Friend Computer look like mall security. Just don't piss them off. Your car will be filled with jello, your locker with gay porn, and you may just end up thinking everyone you know is these two.
Staff and Students at Imperator High
Professor Ahzek Ahriman - formerly the Chief Librarian of the Thousand Sons, now charged by his Primarch Magnus with the education of the Daughters of the Primarchs. Teaches Warp studies, however few students enjoy it despite his enthusiasm, primarily because of his tendency to drone on and on and on about the most esoteric subjects, and his unfortunate penchant to draw out warp so it sounds like ‘Waaaarrrp’. Uses his Librarian Powers to aid in teaching, and is highly popular as a substitute for that very reason, especially for History Classes. Is highly popular with his fellow teaching staff in part thanks to the incredibly fine wines he grows back home on Prospero, generously shared out with his fellow teachers.His students greatly fear the harsh Rubric by which he grades their work,and only the best and brightest can meet its rigorous expectations. Godfather to Miranda, and very close to her. Some wagging tongues report there’s more to their after school meetings than meets the eye.
Professor Iacton Qruze - One of the oldest Space Marines still alive, now ‘honourably’ retired from the Sons of Horus. Still known as the ‘half-heard’, because most students don't pay attention to half the things he says. Prone to rambling on about ‘the good old days’ of the Great Crusade, and also prone to giving long-winded and somewhat irrelevant declamations of his personal opinions on matters.
Councilor Celestine - The Spiritual Advisor at Imperator. Half the boys at Imperator have a crush on her.
Captain "Ironhand" Straken - a Veteran Catachan officer and warrior from the Imperial Army, He now devours his time at the academy to help train the new batch of officers able and worthy to fight in the Emperor's wars and prepare for the war ahead. He's known and feared for his brutal training program and his lack of Giving a fuck to titles. Frequently Helps Yarrick keep control of the school and does the detention program.
Jacob Seager - The boyfriend of Venus. Notable for being the only hiver in the Royal Consorts, and one of less than a dozen people in the school who isn't either noble-born, a Rogue Trader's child, or the offspring of a war hero. In his heart, he wondered what Venus saw in him, and if maybe he would never accomplish anything in his life except through nepotism, coasting on the reputation of his Magos grandfather. He and Andrew, Hana's latest boyfriend, get along surprisingly well. Some part of him finds the unthinking waste and opulence of the surface lifestyle profoundly profligate. He's determined not to show it.
Julius Pius - The only child of nigh-mythical Imperial Army war hero Ollanius Pius, Julius has known the Daughters for the longest, having grown up alongside them for many years. Boyfriend of Isis, he is the only boy who could match her standards, and over time she has mellowed because of him. Unusually for a Terra resident, he is a highly devout Catheric(Christian) who practices abstinence, which considering his girlfriend is seen as weird. He is a friend of Jake and on good terms with Andrew, who idolises his father.
Alex Carlin - The only child of an only child Rogue Trader, Alex is a cocky tail-chaser with outstanding rugby skills and a seething dislike of his father. Alex dated Freya right up until graduation, and though he initially let some of his family's dislike for the hoi polloi(the masses) rub off on him, Imperator's gifted and diverse student body challenged his perceptions of the world greatly. As did, it should be noted, dating a girl who could kick him into orbit. Alex doesn't really know who is is, exactly, but with graduation creeping ever closer, he knows he needs to make up his mind soon.
Andrew Hannover - The son of an Imperial Army veteran of significant wealth and connections to the Crusade-era Legions, Hannover has never made a secret of his desire to enlist upon graduation. The fact that he seems uninterested in officers' school perplexes his family, and his girlfriend, Hana. Somehow, he and Jaghatai hit it off, and Jaghatai tolerates the boy's open interest in his daughter.
Johor Tull - Son of Mithras Tull, Johor is an Exchange Student from the Independent Protectorate of the Interex. Teased and bullied for his deviant appearance and friendship with Xenos, his only saving grace is his best friend and closest confidant, Farah Manus.
Catherine Lidus - Freshman at Imperator High. A mercurial girl who goes through many moods, and is constantly changing her outfits to match the latest fashion or fad. She's popular in the freshman classes, and is rumored to spend her nights with both boys and girls.
Charlie Lex - Freshman at Imperator High. Adopted brother to Catherine, he is often ignored or unnoticed by the other students.
Edward Verso - Sophomore at Imperator High. Charlie's adopted brother, and a member of the school's football team. He is known to be brash and impulsive, and has earned a reputation as a troublemaker both on the gridiron and off it.
Victor Care -Senior at Imperator High. A brother to Edward, Victor is a hard, young man who relishes the chance to compete with Isis and Vulkan at swim meets. He has never beaten them yet.
Violet Munev - Sophomore at Imperator High. Adopted sister to Victor, she has been the winner of the Imperator High Ascension Day Bake Contest for two years now. Her skill with cooking is only matched by her knowledge of drugs and chemicals, and she is one of the few people comfortable with Professor Bile.
Janus Sigitine - Junior at Imperator High. Adopted brother to Catherine, Charlie, Edward, Victor, and Violet, he is a quiet boy without close friends, choosing instead to spend his time burying his head in books. Janus reports to the siblings' adopted father, Malcador the Sigillite, on the movements and daily activities of the Royal heirs.
Constantine Jeager- One of the 12 students with no connection to anything worthy to get him inside the Academy. This upper-middle class son from a far off world was only accepted due to a typo on his forum to his regular school. However, he has earned accolades and mentions at the school of royalty as being currently it's highest ranked officer and master marksman in The School's Officers program and frequently ranks high in the school's more physical sports. He is friends with several of the Primarch's children and has earned respect from many people. Considered too weird and militaristic to date, despite having one of the sexiest bodies on campus. Rumors abound and soar about him dating the daughter of Mortarion, Morticia,Though he denies it. Still, The daughter of the death guard has appeared at nearly everyone of the young man's events.
Terra, Imperial Palace Astrotelepathic Station: M34.280
Plugged into the myriad devices that allowed her to see and speak across the universe, Senior Astrotelepath Liana studied the formless landscape of the Warp and listened for messages from the furthest reaches of the Empire. Being an Astropath on Holy Terra was a near-painless experience: the proximity of the God-Emperor calmed the Warp and allowed Astropaths to do their work nearly strain-free, and so Liana idly studied the shifting colors and lights and awaited transmissions. Suddenly the colors and shapes began to pulsate and flare violently, the signs of information traffic through the Warp. Just as Liana opened her mind to receive and decode the news, she realized her mistake.
What had begun as a single message rapidly became 2, then 4, then more. At her station and the astrotelepathic stations around her, red lights lit up and alarms went off. Technicians and supervisors watched in horror as the astropaths spasmed violently with the force, ripping wires from their harnesses and life support monitors. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. Most of the astropaths slumped over in their seats, and the asides hurried through each one, finding only minor injuries and occasionally, a small amount of blood. The Magos on shift stepped in front of Liana’s station and his mechadendrites began uncoupling her from her station.
“We have important news, I would imagine”, he said, his monotone voice sounding as if this happened every day, “Can you tell me what it is?”
Liana blinked and shook her head. Her head was pounding like she had just been hit with a Battle-Barge, but she quickly shook off the pain and examined the messages. “…..No. The messages come from across the galaxy: Macragge, Nocturne, Cthonia, Caliban, but….they’re all encrypted above my clearance. I cannot read the messages, Magos.”
For all of a second, the Magos did nothing, possibly thinking as his internal machinery whirred and clicked. “Very well”, it said, “We bring this message to the Omnissiah”. There was a faint burst of static as Liana assumed the Magos used some sort of internal vox, then a Speeder transport painted crimson and gold and embossed with the Imperial Eagle landed expertly outside the station. A single Custodes dressed in full battle plate stepped out the back and swiftly approached the two.
“This one has news for the Emperor, Magos?” His eyes did not leave Liana, and she cringed inwardly at the lack of expression on his face.
“Yes, Lord”, replied the Magos. “The information we received is above her clearance level, and as she is the Senior Astropath on duty…”
The Custodes didn’t even wait for the Magos to finish speaking. He simply lifted Liana as if she weighed nothing and headed back to the Speeder. Once he stepped through the back hatch, he laid Liana into a grav couch and strapped her in. The rear hatch closed silently and the craft immediately took to the air and accelerated. As she felt the G-forces on her body, Liana wondered where she was being taken to.
“You have news for the Emperor. He is not in the Throne right now. He is with the Eldar representative. We will bring your news to him.” Liana noticed as the craft banked and changed speeds that the golden-armored warrior was content to stand perfectly relaxed, as if he was anchored to the floor.
As the craft sped through the Imperial palace, Liana was able to gaze out the viewport and think about what was going on. Caliban, Nocturne, Cthonia….those were all home worlds to the different Space Marine Legions. So something had just happened simultaneously across the galaxy to at least 5 Legions of Space Marines. Liana quailed as she tried to consider what news she could possibly be bringing the God- Emperor of Mankind. At this last thought, the Custodes tilted his head.
“Be at ease”, he said. “If there was any information of a tactical significance, it would not have even made it to you. Many of the Primarchs have special channels or means to pass along information that is urgent”. That only served to confuse Liana even more, and so she returned to her impromptu tour of the palace. The transport was now passing through the section where Emperor had had great facades the size of buildings of his children and their Legions constructed: Leman Russ, looking vicious with a pair of vicious wolves at his heels and his Space Marines racing through the ruins of some city, Lorgar at the pulpit addressing a large congregation of his warriors and new citizens to the Imperium, Horus and his Sons marching in perfect formation at the Triumph of Ullanor, and on and on.
Near the end of this ceremonial hall, the craft passed through two newer chambers. The first showed a warrior in golden armor with a spear of some sort fighting viciously with a monstrosity from the Warp, while his Space Marines nearby were gunning down other creatures with wrist-mounted bolters or impaling them on weapons that crackled with deadly energy. Under the rendition, a golden script read “Constantin Valdor: Primarch of the XXI Legion” and beneath that “The Emperors’ Daemonhunters, Legion XXI: The Grey Knights”.
Liana remembered hearing about Valdor. Once the Emperors most loyal bodyguard, he was granted the highest honor the Emperor could bestow: his geneseed was mass-produced and implanted into soldiers to produce a new legion of Space marines, trained solely to hunt the daemons from the Warp, and Valdor was made its Primarch. Most of the other Primarchs assisted to make them what they were: Magnus developed a system of wards that were written into their skin to protect them from daemons and Warp energy; Lorgar developed a book of prayers and litanies to hone the Knights minds and keep them focused; Gulliman and Corax sent specialists to train the new Legion in small-unit tactics, because the Knights needed to be nearly everywhere in the universe and were permanently spread thin and Vulkan and Manus seconded their finest weapon and armor smiths to keep the Knights well-equipped. The next chamber was part of the reason for this new specialty legion.
In the center of a massive chamber near the heart of the imperial Palace stood an enormous statue of the Emperor of Mankind in golden armor flanked by Custodes and the Sisters of Silence, facing a delegation of Eldar led by Eldrad Ulthran. Eldrad had found the Emperor at the outset of the Great Crusade and warned the Emperor of the dangers of Warp beings. As a show of loyalty, Eldrad was able to get the Eldar to cease aggression against the Imperium. Slowly, the tenuous cease-fire solidified into a Treaty, then a pact of mutual assistance between the two races. During the Crusade, Fulgrim and his Legion had run across maiden worlds that the Eldar had planned to return to, and with coordination between the Imperium and the Eldar, the Eldar had managed to start anew on the eastern fringe of the galaxy. Now the Emperor worked together frequently with Eldrad; Liana mused that maybe powerful psykers attracted their own. It was the Eldar who first insisted that the Emperor take the threat from the Warp more seriously and resulted in the creation of the Grey Knights. As the speeder passed out of the chamber and into another tunnel, the monument faded from view to be replaced by more of the palace. Liana leaned back on her couch and rested her eyes.
Liana opened her eyes as she felt deceleration and blinked away some sleep; her vanguard still immobile in the center of the craft. After a fast but smooth descent, the speeder came to a stop and opened its rear hatch. The Custodes leaned forward and quickly unbuckled Liana, then stepped out of the speeder. “Move quickly. We do not keep the Master of Mankind waiting”.
Liana’s heart rate picked up as she stepped out. They were just outside of the palace, in a beautiful garden on top of one of the mountains the palace was built into. The air was warm and a pleasant breeze carried the scent of exotic flowers through the air. About 20 feet away the Emperor stood in a clean crimson robe and conversed quietly with the Eldar Farseer who, without his bizarre helmet on, looked almost human. Liana realized that she for all her years in the Palace, she had never seen the Emperor in person before; this was the opportunity of a lifetime. She was about to step forward and speak when a man in dark blue robes blocked her view.
“You have news for the Emperor”, he said flatly.
“Y-Yes”, Liana replied. “I received some news that was above-“
“It was not a question”, the man snapped tersely. “I am Malcador. You will give your news to me.”
Liana’s eyes bulged, Malcador, the Emperor’s advisor? “I told you, Lord, I cannot access the infor-“
“Of course you can’t, fool. Open your mind to me and I will retrieve the information”. With that, he placed his hands on either side of Liana’s head.
Liana saw flashes of space in her head, then some of the primarchs- Russ, Vulkan, The Lion… they were with women, and… Liana’s eyes grew large, and Malcador’s jaw dropped. He quickly released her head and spun to the meeting. “My Lord Emperor!” he called out. “News from your sons!”
The two psychic superpowers didn’t even appear perturbed; they merely turned to look at Malcador.
“Robute, Vulkan, Horus, The Lion and Russ are going to be fathers! All of them to little girls!”
Eldrad looked confused. “I suppose a congratulations is in order?” asked the Eldar Farseer. His voice was simultaneously smooth and unnatural to Liana’s ears.
Malcador put his face in his hands. “How in the Warp…? Why did they all have to be girls?” Liana saw a faint smile played across the Emperor’s lips.
Meet the Primarchs
Other loose stories
Lotara Sarrin had done many things during her life. She had become at the age of twenty-nine one of the youngest flag-captains in the entire spread of the Emperor’s expeditionary fleets when she was promoted to command the Conqueror. She had met and gained the respect of its master, the Primarch Angron of the XIIth Legion, and become one of the very few he trusted. She had burned worlds and destroyed ships for the Legion, gaining many awards for her exemplary bravery, steadfastness and patience, her self-control and level-headedness. She still wore the Blood Hand, a red handprint across the chest of her uniform given to her after the Ashul Stellar Principality war.
Yes, she had seen and done much during the final dying years of the Crusade. But all of that had little prepared her for what she was now. A mother. And not just any mother, mother to a very special child.
She was fast asleep at the moment, which was a relief. Lotara had thought the harsh sirens of damage control bad, but a crying baby was something else. Nothing she had experienced during the years of Void War had prepared her for the rigours of motherhood, it was a ‘learn as you go’ situation. None of the others were much help; none of them understood what it was like to be married to the red angel. Their husbands were not broken, always forced to fight the implants which buzzed in their brains demanding blood and death.
Their regular get-togethers annoyed Lotara. She was obliged to go of course, but she didn’t like it. She was used to the chaos of the Conqueror’s bridge, not the twittering of a gaggle of mother hens. Though she had to admit some of the other mothers, most notably lady Misja the wife of Lord Vulkan were very nice to her.
“Lady Sarrin, a pleasure to meet you at last. Do you mind if I call you Lotara?” Misja had said warmly when they had first met, shaking her hand before she could even react. After that Lotara had warmed to her, and had grown to feel somewhat fond of the Lady of the XVIIIth. She had helped Lotara with some of the basic understandings of motherhood, and she had to admit that she would be even more lost if it wasn’t for Lady Misja’s guidance.
The others though treated her warily; she was a breed apart from them. She stuck out like a sore thumb clad in her naval uniform, the red hand proudly borne on her chest. None of the others had brought exterminatus to worlds at their husband’s command. None of the others had seen ships die and worlds break. But she had, and she would not give up her position for all the gold on Terra.
Reclining on a couch in the spacious lodgings provided for them both, Lotara gazed over at the cot sitting prominently in the corner of the room. She was spire-born, the scion of a noble Albian family who had decided to buck family tradition and serve the Imperium hands-on. Juveat treatments kept her looking in her mid thirties terran standard, and her long blonde hair was bound back in a ponytail to keep it from her face, a habit from her days commanding the Conqueror. Though now there were bags under her eyes, and she was wearier then she had ever been fighting the Emperor’s foes.
A thin wailing came up from the cot and sighing, Lotara got up and padded over to the crying infant, gently picking her up and holding her close.
“There there Furia, mummy’s here. Hush now.” She still felt foolish saying those words, but they did the trick, and Furia’s wails ceased, and she gurgled contentedly in her mother’s arms.
Mother. It was still a novel concept even though the novelty had long since washed off. She remembered the day Angron had come to her with news of his new arrival, and his proposal to her.
“Lotara.” He had growled. “I need someone who I trust; who I know will never let me down. There is only one woman who fits that bill, only one I know can do this.” “My lord…” “I am no one’s lord Lotara, and I grow bored of telling you that.” Angron smiled a predatory smile which scared most people out of their wits. But Lotara wasn’t most people, and she knew it for what it was, bluff. “Now will you do as I’ve asked?”
Asking was a novel thing for Angron. But he had done so, and she couldn’t refuse him. They were joined on matrimony the next day, and shortly afterwards baby made three.
She was brought back to the present when little Furia stopped gurgling, and Lotara saw that she was asleep. She continued to cradle her, feeling her small warm body and the faint coo of her soft breaths. Gently she laid little Furia to rest in the cradle, then turned as she heard a familiar stomping sound coming from outside.
Angron strode into the room, instantly filling it with his blunt, savage grandeur. He looked uncomfortable now that he no longer wore his armour, and the dreadlock-like cables of the Nails snaked from the back of his head into the flesh of his shoulders.
“Sorry to disappoint.” Angron grunted. “The Nails were biting badly, so I took a detour while they cooled down.”
She nodded. Though the Nails were not as bad as they were during those last years of the Crusade, when Pain tics had flawed one side of his face and chronic nosebleeds had left streams of blood running down his chin, the Nails still bit him every so often and when that happened he had to get away before he was drawn into a killing frenzy to sake the thirst of the agony engine in his brain.
“How’s my daughter?” Angron asked.
“Our daughter is fine,’ she replied. “She’s fast asleep at the moment, and will remain so if you can keep quiet.”
“When she’s awake she screams like those elder hag women, what are they called?”
“Banshees.” Lotara answered.
“Yes them.” Angron rumbled. “I just wish I could shut her up the way I shut them up.” He mimed a sweeping blow from Gorefather, and chuckled. To anyone else that would be horrifying, but Lotara had spent enough time around Angron to understand his unusual sense of humour.
As if in anticipation, a faint cooing sound rose up from the cot.
“Speak of the Daemon.” Angron rumbled.
“You’ve woken her.” Lotara scolded as she went over and gently picked up Furia.
“Look Furia, daddy’s back. Say hi to daddy.”
“You know how ridiculous that sounds?” Angron commented.
“Mothers have been talking like that to their children for millennia, and nothing’s gone wrong yet. Hell, my mother spoke to me like that, and have I turned out poorly?”
Angron didn’t answer, and Lotara rolled her eyes.
“Do you want to hold her?” She asked, holding Furia out. Angron rarely held or played with Furia, and this concerned Lotara. She was his child; he couldn’t be a bystander on her life even with the omnipresent problem of the Nails.
“Every time I take her she just starts crying. She doesn’t like me.”
“She’s your daughter, of course she likes you. You just need to show her that she shouldn’t cry. She is born of your blood you know.”
Angron grunted, but he carefully took Furia in one massive hand with a gentleness none of his brothers would have believed he possessed.
For a few seconds he held her, and she stared right back at him with wide eyes.
For a split second Lotara swore she saw something fleeting in his eyes, a faint fragment of a lost emotion the Nails had burned out of him. But whatever that emotion was it departed as soon as it appeared, leaving Angron the same way he always was, a mountain of barely controlled rage.
Furia started to cry, and he handed her back to Lotara.
“Like I said, she doesn’t like me.”
Lotara clicked her tongue – a habit of hers when she was on the verge of losing her temper, which seemed to happen more and more often these days.
“I wish you’d show a bit more affection for her. She can’t grow up with you emotionally distant all the time, except when you’re angry.” “It’s hard to show affection when that part of your brain has been lobotomised.” Angron snarled. “Sorry if I’m not as emotionally engaged as you’d like, Lotara.”
“You should be. She is your daughter, your future. With her, you have a chance to start again, to make amends for the sins of the past.”
She wished she had never spoken those words, but they slipped from her mouth regardless. Angron hated being reminded of Nuceria, of his greatest failing. He didn’t say anything; he just strode to the window and gazed out across Startseite, the home custom made for the Primarchs and their families.
“I never wanted her you know.” He said. “I never wanted to be saddled with parenthood, but father insisted. He forced it on me, on all of us. That is why you are here, to help me with this burden. He stole me away from my first family, and now he thinks giving me a new one will fix that?”
“He didn’t do this just for that. He did this so you would have something to live for now that the Crusade is done.”
She switched to Nagrakali, the language unique to the XIIth Legion. She only did that when she had to make a point to him. “We cannot change the past Angron, but we can change the future. You can give Furia a better childhood then you had, a loving family, freedom, peace. You just have to be willing to play a part in this. I can’t raise her alone, she needs you as well.”
He didn’t say anything, and after a while Furia finally fell asleep.
“I’m taking her to bed. Will you be joining us?”
Angron shrugged. “The Nails still itch. I’ll spend a few hours in the training cages.”
As Angron stalked off, Lotara realised something. As long as the Nails were in there, as long as they buzzed in his brain, he would never truly appreciate his daughter, their daughter. The Nails were shackles, preventing him from immersing himself in his daughter’s life. She would have to do the unthinkable, convince him to have them removed. She knew the Emperor could do it, but Angron had refused time and time again.
Would she be able to do it? Succeed where even the Emperor had failed? She would have to try. For Furia’s sake, she would try.
Angela Grows Up
A faint wind crossed the grass behind the mansion that afternoon. Some quiet sounds of grass mowers and passing vehicles echoed past its façade and holofield, but they sounded muted behind the field’s protection.
Angela, thirteen-year-old daughter of Sanguinius, lay facedown on the thick green grass. She was cradling her head in her hands, trying to talk without her voice breaking. It wasn’t easy. She was in a lot of pain.
“That rough, was it?” her cousin Miranda asked in sympathy.
“It hurts, Miranda,” Angela said miserably. She drew her wings as close to her body as she could out of pure instinct, even as her fingers dug into her hair. “How…how are you dealing with it?” she asked into the grass.
Miranda shrugged, helpless. “It doesn’t hurt.”
“At ALL?” Angela asked incredulously. “I mean…I know you’re stronger, but…this is agony!” she wailed, fighting back the pain in her head.
Miranda stared at her beautiful cousin, her own heart aching. “Angela…where does it hurt?” Miranda asked, trying a new tack.
“It’s…” Angela searched for words, then whimpered as the psychic pain returned. “It’s like when you hit your arm on something sharp…a lancing pain in a specific place, not…oh, hell, that hurts,” she groaned, cradling her head. Her wings trembled for a moment as the pain flared back up. “It’s like a needle stuck in my head,” she whispered into the green rolls of plants.
Miranda, whose third eye was taking on a peculiar shine, looked sadly at her cousin. “How did you make it through school today?” she asked quietly.
“I didn’t,” Angela whimpered. “I came home with tears in my eyes.”
Miranda blinked back a tear of her own. “I’m so sorry, Angela,” she said. “I wish I could help.”
“Everyone I’ve asked said it will pass soon,” Angela said miserably. “But…soon can’t come fast enough.” The pale blonde laced her fingers behind her head and tried to relax, but the spike of manifesting psychic power in her brain ripped a fresh line of agony through her young body, and she gasped in pain.
Miranda’s powers manifested in the same way as Angela’s but for whatever reason, be it her eye acting as a focus or simply superior training from her father, she wasn’t wracked with pain. She just found it intensely creepy, and tried to ignore it unless she felt she needed it, which hadn’t happened yet. The redhead lay down beside her cousin and stretched out on Sanguinius’ luxurious lawn, watching the haze overhead. “Let me know if I can help,” she said quietly.
“I will,” Angela promised. She reached over and quickly squeezed her cousin’s hand. “Thanks.”
The hours passed. Angela’s knuckles turned back to their normal hue as her death grip on her throbbing head faded. “It…it’s easing, I think,” she managed.
Miranda glanced over at her. “Can you feel anything new?”
Angela slowly raised her head from the grass and wiped loose blades from her face. “…Do you hear that?” she asked.
Miranda cocked her head and listened. “I don’t hear…”
“Shh.” Angela turned her head to face the house and pushed off the ground with one hand, twisting at the waist to stare at the mansion. “What…what is that?” she asked, staring intently at the house.
Miranda listened hard, but all she could hear was the wind. Then it hit her. “Angela, can you hear this?” she asked. She focused for a moment and arced a tiny spark of psychic power between her fingers.
Angela’s head whipped around, waving blonde hair everywhere. “What the hell was that?” she asked. “I saw…or heard or something…what was that?” she demanded.
“That was your extra-sensory perception coming alive,” Miranda said. “That ‘sound’ you hear from the house is your father’s presence.”
Angela turned, very slowly, and drew herself up into a cross-legged position. She stared at the house again, her eyes wide, perhaps even frightened. “It’s…” she started, before trailing off again. “Wow.”
“Yeah, he’s pretty complex, isn’t he?” Miranda asked. That was understating it somewhat. The faint psychic shadows of the people on the street out front were completely insignificant compared to the raging typhoon of psychic power inside Sanguinius. The rippling ‘sound’ of his passing through the building, no doubt freshly returned from the Palace, was cutting through the background noise like a chainsword.
The door opened as Angela sat up. Sanguinius himself, no doubt sensing his daughter’s pain recede, looked about the lawn and spotted them. “Angela, dearest, there you are,” he said. “Miranda, hello.”
“Father,” Angela said eagerly, scrambling to her knees to rise. He gestured her to stay. As he made his way over to her, Miranda rose and popped her shoulders, sensing her presence becoming superfluous.
“Feel better tomorrow, huh?” she asked.
“I’ll try,” Angela said. She looked up at her cousin and smiled at last. “Thanks.”
Miranda headed back through the house to her waiting bicycle. Sanguinius passed her with a nod on his way to his daughter, who was now kneeling in the waving grass. The wind was picking up considerably, now, and it was blowing the clouds away.
The giant warrior was clad in a shimmering robe of light yellow over red, but all Angela was seeing was a fiery vortex of energy racing through his physical form. Her eyes weren’t blind, but suddenly, she was seeing something new.
“Dad,” she said quietly. “Is this what you see?”
Sanguinius smiled. “No, little one, it isn’t. If you can believe it, you’re not quite finished.”
“More?” Angela winced. Getting this far had hurt. It had hurt a lot. Sanguinius noted her discomfort and offered a sympathetic look.
“Little Angela, please just bear with it. The next part isn’t painful so much as…unnerving. Even frightening.”
The two of them stared at each other until Angela asked the question. “Um. How?”
Sanguinius sighed. “You will be presented with certain temptations. Some will come overtly, like the desire to use your powers to harm people who dislike you, or read minds and emotions of those all around you. Others will be more…subtle. Impulses. Dark dreams.”
“And…how is that scary?” Angela carefully asked. “I’m already…you know, fairly powerful…I never feel like I should be abusing my authority or Royal connections, Father.”
“I know, little one, and I’m proud of you for that,” Sanguinius said gently. “But I speak of something more…base.” He drew his legs beneath him and knelt facing her, realizing with a pang how slowly she was aging compared to him at the same age; and yet it felt like she had been learning to walk only days ago. “You know of the more depraved aspects of the Warp, of which I have warned you, don’t you?” Sanguinius asked, his tone turning darker.
“I do,” Angela said with a shiver. The stories he had told her of his own battles with the lesser half of existence had been terrifying.
The towering Primarch lifted one hand to his daughter’s cheek. “Little one, please believe me when I say that no impulse or drive you ever feel from your powers should be acted upon,” Sanguinius said slowly. “Do you understand? Daemons and their ilk do not need to appear in the flesh to twist normal desires into service and zealotry.”
Angela’ new senses alerted her to a streak of pure, black hatred running through her father at that moment, and she shuddered against his hand. “I understand, Father,” she said.
Her father finally smiled again. “Do you know,” he said, his tone lightening considerably, “how many strings I’ve had to pull to keep the Sisters from transporting you off to the City for training?”
Angela managed a weak grin. “No.”
“I’ve had to fend off calls from the Adeptus Astra Telepathica perhaps…seven or eight times now,” Sanguinius sighed, sitting back on the grass and gazing up at the sky, and looking nothing like the Angel of Death. “It was only after Magnus personally told them to stay their hands that you and Miranda were saved from the City.”
Angela cocked her head. “Saved?”
“Saved,” Sanguinius said heavily. “Were it not for your parentage, you would both have been…isolated for mutancy.”
Angela shook her head. “Well…thanks, father.”
Sanguinius nodded. “You understand, little one, that this means you will have to be trained by either myself or Brother Magnus, instead,” he cautioned.
His daughter bowed acceptance. “I do. Thank you again,” she said.
The sound of the wind picked up as the breeze fluttered the two Blood Angels’ feathers. Angela shivered as the cold air puckered her arms, and she scooted over to sit where her father was blocking the wind. “Father, as long as we have a moment, may I ask you something about this?” she asked, gesturing broadly at her head.
Sanguinius nodded. “What are the little…lines that hold things together?” Angela asked, struggling with the words. It was all still so new!
“Those…hm. No two psykers see the universe in exactly the same way, you know,” Sanguinius hedged. “If I were to wager…I’d say that they were probably the ties between the Warp and the real world.”
Angela’s eyes unfocussed as the wash of unearthly color over the world swam in and out of her second sight. “It’s…they look fragile,” she said nervously.
“They aren’t,” Sanguinius promised. “It takes something terribly powerful to break them.”
Angela knelt again, this time rubbing her temples. “It’s…hard to see normal things with this Warpsight over everything,” she admitted. “Will it get easier to focus?”
“It will become much easier to focus,” Sanguinius said solemnly. “Simply understand that what your Warpsight allows you to see was always there, it was simply not possible to detect consciously. Your powers will awaken, slowly and, it seems, painfully. But they will clarify your sight. For all that, you had ought to remember: your normal senses are no less important.”
“How do I tell what’s coming in through my Warpsight and what’s real?” Angela asked, waving a hand at the shimmering lights that danced over the world now, lights that just couldn’t really be there.
Her father opened his hand and clenched it again, and as he did, the lights around him faded somewhat. “What you must do is remember, little one: the world of the mortals is fixed and immutable. What is put in place stays there. The Warp is not. Discerning the real from the nonreal will be easy with practice,” he reassured her. “What is difficult is telling the simple Warp illusions from foresight. That is a skill even I have not yet mastered.”
“Really?” Angela asked in surprise. The sky was growing darker yet, and she shivered in her exercise shorts and tank top. The complex fabric ties and folds that accommodated her wings weren’t exactly keeping out the cold.
“I would caution you to avoid relying on anything your Warpsight shows you until you are trained properly, little one,” her father said. He placed his hands on her shoulders as she scooted closer to him on the grass. “Are you feeling better?”
“A bit, yes, thank you,” Angela admitted. “But it’s getting very cold out here. I hate how fast the pseudoweather changes this time of year.”
Sanguinius smiled regretfully. “I will never agree with Father’s decision to make the whole world a macro-hive. I miss what little remained then of the old world. It felt like there was so much to uncover.” He rose to his feet, and Angela did too. “Still. We can discuss this more inside, if you’re uncomfortable.”
“Thanks, Father,” Angela said. At the threshold, however, she paused. Her Warpsight was flaring. “Wait…”
Her father glanced back from the door of the luxurious manor. “What is it?” he asked.
She slowly turned to stare out over the yard. “I…Father, what does it feel like when you’re being watched?”
“I can not truly relate it to you, but…” Sanguinius trailed off as he realized what was happening. “For what it’s worth, you are being watched.”
Angela stared over her shoulder at him. “What?”
Her father gestured to the fence that separated the manor’s yard from the neighbor’s. The neighbor’s son, Michael, was just clambering over it, disregarding the gate between them a mere fifteen feet to his left with a determination that always made Sanguinius roll his eyes. As soon as he landed, he came running. Sanguinius closed the door behind himself as he entered the house, granting his daughter a measure of privacy.
The lanky young noble skidded to a halt in front of the porch, and looked up the few small steps from the ground to the plastic deck. “Hey! Are you alright?” he asked immediately.
“I’m fine, yes, thanks,” Angela said, trying to conceal her shock. Mike’s thoughts and emotions were a roiling cauldron in his physical shell. It was distracting.
“You missed school today!” Mike said worriedly. “Are you sure you’re fine?”
Angela kicked herself mentally. “I’m fine. Really.” She smiled shyly. “Thanks. Um, did I miss anything?”
Mike shook his head. “I don’t think so.” He was much more modestly dressed for the season, with a rather expensive outfit for climbing over fences. Angela flushed a bit as he finally offered her a grin in return. “So did you level up, or whatever?”
“Mike, my brain metamorphosing is not a video game,” Angela giggled.
“But you gain new powers as you acquire experience! That’s pure video game logic!” Mike pointed out.
Angela pretended to ponder the point. “Well, now, that is true,” she admitted. She hesitated. “I would appreciate it if you didn’t make light of it, though, Mike.”
Mike’s face fell. “Sorry. I’m just worried about you.”
Angela felt a completely alien – but energizing – rush of sensations echo through her Warpsight. She ran her hand over her forehead, trying to clear the haze, and an image of Mike sliding his hands around her waist and drawing her into a hug appeared in her mind. She opened her eyes to see Mike simply standing at the base of the porch, looking up at her with concern etched on his face. “Angela?” he asked.
“S-sorry,” Angela said, trying to figure out what had just happened. “I think I saw something.”
Mika shuffled his feet. “Um. Can I, uh, can I come in? It’s getting really cold out here.”
His friend pushed the door open behind her and beckoned him in. “Sure, come in.”
Sanguinius was already upstairs, Angela sensed, but her mother was back from work now too, and was sitting in the study closest to the main door to the manor. Angela elected to just sit inside the door on the thick carpet, sitting on her knees and ankles so her feathers didn’t brush the carpeting. Mike sat across from her on the carpet, sprawling on the floor. He stretched and rubbed his elbows, trying to restore some heat. “How are you not freezing in that outfit?” he asked, gesturing at her minimal attire.
“I was, actually,” Angela admitted. Mike stared at her, then laughed.
“Putting on a brave face?” he asked. “Nice.”
Angela didn’t have anything to say to that. She was too busy watching him change. Where outside his sense in the Warpsight had been a bit tumultuous, now it was quite placid and stable, and the vortex of light in him was symmetrical. He sat up a bit and stretched again, then sank back against the side of a chair. As he did, the vortex barely shimmered, but as he turned to look at her again – and his eyes lingered on her lips – it suddenly flickered unearthly colors. “So, what are you up to this weekend?” he asked, and his vortex shifted colors again. This time it was almost like it was…trying to hide behind itself? Nothing made sense yet.
Angela tsked in frustration. “Uh, just sticking around here, I think,” she said. “I don’t want to be seen in public, if I have another attack.”
Mike nodded glumly, and the tremors of…what? Thought? Emotion? Whatever it was, the tiny ripples in the vortex of light in him dimmed. “Sorry.” The tremors returned, a bit less energetic. “Can I drop by to see how you’re doing?” he asked hopefully.
“Of course, Mike, you can come by whenever you like,” Angela said. The tremors flittered again, and again they were maddeningly different. She sighed aloud at the nonsensical behavior of her new senses.
“Something wrong?” Mike asked, instantly all concern again.
She shrugged angrily. “I just can’t get my senses to line up.”
Mike grimaced. “I wish I could help.” He suddenly looked up at her eyes again, and his vortex lit up with a new color. “Maybe I can.”
“I know you pretty well, right? And you’re…you know, having trouble seeing what’s going on, right?” Mike asked, excited. “Well…can you just…you know, spend the day with me and focus on that, and let your new…powers I guess, just align themselves on their own?”
Angela stared at him. “Are you…asking me out?”
Mike blinked. “I, uh…huh.” He coughed, blushing. “Guess it did sound that way, didn’t it…” he muttered. “Uh, we don’t have to…”
“Because I’d love to. I have to spend my time doing something other than wondering what the hell is going on around me,” Angela said firmly.
Michael perked up immediately, and his vortex – what was it? His soul? – flickered a whole rainbow of colors. “Great! But, uh, you said you didn’t want to go out in public...” he reminded her.
“We can stay here, then,” Angela said. “If it starts to hurt again, I’ll just talk to Dad and see what he can do.”
“Okay!” Mike beamed. Angela found the flickering of lights in his soul accompanying his sudden euphoria quite a bit less distracting, all of a sudden. Maybe familiarity was the difference after all.
On an impulse, she rose to her knees, waddled over to where her friend was sitting, and squeezed her arms around him in an awkward hug. He stared over her shoulder into the soft white feathers on her wings, stunned.
“Uh, A-Angela?” he managed.
“Sorry, but…I need to see something,” she murmured. He relaxed his shoulders as her frigid skin, still chilly from the icy winds outside, pressed against his bare hands. He reflexively squeezed back, and she flinched in his hands as he brushed the base of her wings.
“Sorry,” he said, desperately hoping she wasn’t paying any attention to him below the waist.
She wasn’t. Her eyes were screwed shut with intense concentration. She was staring into the vortex at the heart of him, trying to map it, to understand it, before it drove her mad. “Mike, I’m sorry I missed class,” she whispered. “I know you were counting on me for the Bio project presentation.”
“Hey, forget it, Morticia was in today, so we had enough people to do the thing,” he said. The faintest taste of the air of the school bio lab brushed her tongue as he said it. Was it a memory? Even as she wondered, the image of her cousin Morticia, gangly and sickeningly thin, appeared. She was reading from a cue card as Mike stood behind her.
Angela gasped in Mike’s ear and threw herself backwards from him. She toppled from her knees and fell onto one hand, bruising her wing on the chair behind her. “Shit!” she managed.
“What? What?” Mike demanded.
“I…I saw into your mind for a minute there,” Angela said. She clapped her hand over her mouth, nearly retching. How perverse had she been? How horribly invasive? “I’m…I’m so sorry,” she said through her hand. “Mike, I’m so sorry!”
“Easy, Angela, I didn’t feel a thing!” Mike said helplessly. “I…you didn’t do anything!”
Angela managed to fight back the impulse to vomit in revulsion. “Mike…was Morticia wearing a green jacket over a white frilly shirt today?” she asked tremulously.
Mike blinked. “Yeah…but you saw her before you went home, didn’t you?”
Angela shook her head again. Her eyes were wide and shaky. “No, Mike. I haven’t seen her in days.” She sank onto her side, sliding her hands over her eyes. “Oh, no, no, no…”
Mike dropped onto his side, trying to make eye contact with her. “Hey, Angela, snap out of it!” he said urgently. “Tell me what’s wrong!”
She buried her face in her hands again, trying not to snap at him. “Mike, please! I just…I just fugging read your mind! That’s…that’s beyond wrong!”
“And you can’t control it!” Mike said, starting to feel a little angry himself now. “Look, I live next door to Lord Primarch Sanguinius! All of my parents’ coworkers are Navigators! I’m used to being around psykers! They can’t even read your mind unless they’re actively trying!”
“I just DID!” Angela bit off, finally glaring at him. Their eyes met-
She saw him standing up and storming out. She saw him staring at her with pained eyes. She saw him lean in and kiss her. She saw him gripping her by the shoulder and trying to shake her loose of her funk. She saw him try to pull her upright. She saw herself reach out and try to slap him.
Her mind spun and twisted with the overlapping and contradictory actions. She choked on a sob. “This is so scary,” she whimpered.
Over half of the possible actions disappeared in an instant. His vortex dimmed. His face-how could she even still see it? – got closer as he hesitantly leaned into her. “Okay. Okay, Angela, stay with me, alright?” he asked. “Just…stay with me.”
“I’m trying,” she said. “I’m so overwhelmed…it’s so frightening…” Tears stained the carpet under her head. “Mike, please don’t leave, alright?”
Mike shook his head. “I wouldn’t.” The number of visions of him leaving instantly narrowed to a few. She squinted her eyes, staring into nothingness beyond him. She tried so hard to see what was coming, but the futures tangled and mixed and tore. Some were grotesque, even violent…his slapping her senseless and leaving forever, and a few of her unleashing her psychic power, and unthinkable things of those natures. Most, however…
Her wings were aching. She had clenched them so tight that the bones were rubbing against each other through the feather and skin. She forced them to relax and tried to see into the visions that soothed her. Specifically, the ones where he stayed, and his manner was gentle and non-judgmental. She stared into them, trying to see which ones had her taking the initiative, and saw one she liked.
She very gradually rose up from the floor, wincing as her bruised hand brushed the ground beneath her. He was beside her in a moment, trying to help, but she distractedly brushed him aside, and to her alarm, some of the more promising visions disappeared.
Angela looked up at him, trying to make eye contact with him again, but as suddenly as switching a lightbulb off, all the visions, all the vortices, all the colors were gone. She blinked, but they had faded away. The little lines that held the world together had faded into nothingness, her father could have been anywhere, and all she could see was a handsome boy with a worried look and outstretched hands.
“Mike…I don’t know anything,” she said heavily. Her powers had faded until the next, no doubt even more agonizing psychic shockwave. She leaned against him as she sat beside her, and buried her face in his shoulder. “I’m so bad at this,” she mumbled.
Mike awkwardly tried to shift her to a position that didn’t have her wings digging into his arms, but she didn’t notice his discomfort. Once he was settled, she silently slid one arm and one wing around his back, pulling him close. “I need to take this one step at a time,” she said. She sounded exhausted, and felt disappointment weighing her down. She looked up at him, tucked into her wing’s crock. “Still on for this weekend?” she asked.
If she had had her Warpsight available, she would seen his vortex flicker a bit, in a way she would have liked. “Sure,” he said gamely. “I’ll be here.”
Angela’s bare shoulders slumped. “Thank you, Mike,” she said quietly. She leaned against his shoulder and let the minutes pass.
Roberta's Chess Game
Roberta looked down at the chess board as she moved a knight forward, her pieces in position to move in for a secure win within five moves the next move. She could not help but smile, imagining the simple board playing out as a battlefield with her units supporting each other in unison, just as her father had envisioned. Her smile faded somewhat as she remembered what her father had said about feeling too good about one’s victories, something hard to take too seriously considering his own bragging about his “perfect” record.
She looked up at her opponent, who answered her with a grin. Her eyes followed his hand as it descended upon the board and picking up… wait, what did his Queen do there? How had it slipped past her defenses? She examined the board and saw how her death-trap had been outmaneuvered. The man put down his queen in a position that now shone in its obviousness. Check-mate. How could it have happened? It must have been some tactical ge…
As the man pulled out a large cigar and lit it, Roberta fixed her glasses irritatedly. She cleared her throat.
A Day With Cora
A Morning With Cora
Cora lazily reached for her alarm; thumbing the switch and opening her eyes. She grinned, she had pre-empted the alarm by five minutes, it was a small victory. She rolled over and considered if fifteen more minutes would be so bad. With a slight frown she dismissed the thought, there was a test today. She stirred herself and sat up on the side of her bed, sliding her feet into her waiting slippers. The first few buttons on her pajama shirt had come undone during the night and her dark hair was only slightly disheveled, she had avoided the worst of bed head. She stood up and shuffled sleepily to her dresser, nudging the backpack on her desk as she passed. The raven charm on its zipper chimed its bell as it swung and she opened her dresser. A quick observation and she weighed her options for today. Deciding quickly she grabbed her selection and walked out of the room, leaving the door half open.
She glanced at few of the pictures as she walked down the hall, mostly of her herself, her dad, and her grandfather and a few with some of the extended family. She tossed her clothes into the bathroom as she passed, letting them land and wait on the sink counter. She walked out into the living room and then into the kitchen. She noted the time and knew her dad would be getting back from his run in ten minutes, she would be ready. Cora hit the brew button on the coffee maker and sparred a glance outside the kitchen window. The morning sunset left a light red hue in the cloudless sky, as the trees in her yard rocked slowly with the wind. She spun her black fluffy slippers on the kitchen floor and walked for the front door. Three feet from it, she heard a thump on the other side and she frowned, it was early. She opened the door and stepped out into the cool morning air. She watched the car of the newspaper boy turn the corner and she pouted, she had been hoping to catch the paper and talk to him a bit. She noticed it seemed a little chilly this morning and she looked down at her fluffy slippers and white and blue striped panties. A small bug was crawling near the paper at her feet and-
She wasn’t wearing her pajama pants.
Her face contorted in an embarrassed grimace and she blushed as she ducked back inside, slamming the door. She was such a dunce, if the newspaper boy would have been on time she considered, she might have died of embarrassment. Small schedule deviations were sometimes blessings in disguise, she thought. She cracked the door open and quickly snatched the paper from the deck floor, scanning to see if anyone had seen. Satisfied none of her neighbors were up, she shut the door and set the paper on the kitchen table. She looked to the clock and lamented that she had lost all her extra time in the incident, but she was still on schedule she knew. She pulled one of the chairs out from the dining room table as she passed, angling it toward the bay window that looked out into her large backyard. She knew how much her dad liked to think as he watched the trees and birds. She allowed herself a moment to enjoy view. She saw a small flock of ravens beginning to form on one off the trees and she smiled. She enjoyed the birds too, she had even had a pet raven when she was younger. He had died two years ago now, she considered and her mood became more sullen. He had been very clever, a trickster to the core, and he had had the most beautiful jet black feathers, with just a hint of a blue hue. She had cried for a week after the accident, her father tried to comfort as best he could. He hated it when she was unhappy and she simply became more sad that she was hurting him.
She let the memory fade leaving the view behind to enter the bathroom. She set the water just as she liked it and quickly undressed, stepping into the shower. She felt relief as the warm water washed over her body and she began to lather up some soap. She thought about this morning’s incident and found herself laughing as she washed herself. She still wasn't sure how she had let herself get caught in such a position, being such an airhead sometimes. Still, a part of her wondered what would of happened had he not come early. He was certainly handsome enough and the few times she had chatted with him, he seemed very nice. She had been wanting to make an impression on him this morning, maybe greeting him in her underwear wouldn't have been such a bad choice? She felt her pulse quickening as she rubbed the soap harder onto her skin. She felt a chill run up her spine and she began to rub herself more delicately, her hand subconsciously wandering lower. She felt it brush against her womanhood followed by a surge of ecstasy. Oh, how it would have been wonderful, she thought, to have gotten a much more special delivery from him. She went to feel again when she heard the front door of the house shut.
“Crap,” she said, surprised. She had gotten distracted, if if her dad was home she was now at least five minutes behind schedule. She quickly considered her options and adjusted plans. She opted to not condition her hair this morning, something she might hate herself for later. It would just have to be, she thought as she quickly rinsed and stepped from the shower. She slipped a fresh pair of panties, black with white frills, on and took a moment to look herself over. Her porcelain skin still gleamed from the shower and she took in her form. She was fit, nicely toned, the product of working out with her dad. She certainly wasn't the most athletic, or very muscular at all, but she certainly didn't have to worry about “the pudge” some of her friends were so frightened of. Her diet and exercise had always been sufficient for her figure and she was glad of it. Her breasts were a healthy C-cup, but she knew her money-maker was her hips, a feature further accentuated by her thin waist. She may not be the most gifted, physically, she allowed, but she knew how to use what she had. She giggled to herself as she brushed her teeth and continued to dress.
She had decided on a mid-length black skirt and loose jacket, with a white button-up shirt underneath. She put on a little make-up; a light dabbing with a subtle rosy blush, too much would be glaringly obvious with her light skin, and just a touch of blue mascara for her eyes. Her lashes had always been sufficiently curly for her taste and she had no vendetta against her eyebrows, making the rest easy. She fixed her raven hair, keeping it short and straight, with a very gentle curve, and placed her bangs in their proper place. She lightly applied her favorite perfume, a gentle cherry blossom scent, and gathered her mess. She fell back to her bedroom, noting with a slight annoyance her pajama pants lying oblivious to sense on the floor beneath the foot of her bed. She tossed her dirty clothes in the hamper and opened her closet. She looked over her various accessories and faced the toughest decision of the morning. She reached for her red scarf, passing over the blue and yellow in favor of a more direct color. She set the scarf on her bed for the moment and went to her jewelry box.
If she were to only have one fault, it would be her love for jewelry. Her collection, though not overly large, was quite impressive she thought. She often fought with herself over putting her allowance toward more jewelry or other, less important, expenses; Jewelry often won. She decided on the silver banded watch her father had given to her on her last birthday and a pair of silver earrings with small blue gems. She felt a little giddy as she put them on and wrapped her scarf around her neck, admiring her completed self in the mirror. She slipped on her shoes and spun theatrically, slipping her lead arm followed by the other into her waiting backpack and grabbed a pile of change from her desktop, dropping it in her coat pocket. She left her room and entered the dining room, smiling as she saw her freshly-showered father relaxing at the table sipping his coffee and reading the newspaper. The flock outside was larger and she considered getting them a treat, but she decided against it. Fat ravens, though adorable, weren't often the fittest of the flock she thought. She walked up to her father and leaned over, kissing his cheek. He looked up from his paper at her and smiled, something she was very happy to see him do.
“Morning, you didn't want to exercise today?” he inquired.
“No, I have a Biology test today, so I needed the rest and focus,” she replied.
“Hmm, good luck with that one,” he said seriously. Neither bothered to hide the fact they were less than brilliant on the subject. Her father had always made sure she was smart when it came to things like math or history, but certain sciences were a weak point for him and he had unintentionally passed it down to his daughter. If she couldn't break a biological principle into chemistry, then into physics, and then into math, it was difficult for her to really appreciate what was going on. “Congratulations on last night by the way, I caught the end of the game on the vox on my way back planetside. I’m very proud of you.”
“Thank you,” she beamed, the volleyball tournament was mostly a local affair and not involved in determining the state championship, but it had a lot of bragging rights between local rivals riding on it. She was the best Wing Spiker on the school volleyball team. While not given the respect of Isis for her captaincy, the lauding of Roberta for her genius ability, or even the awe and mysticism of Freya’s thighs, she was proud to know she was considered the best technical player and their ace in the hole. “Will you be able to come to the district matches next week?”
“I think so,” he smiled, “maybe you’ll be able to celebrate properly after your next win, instead of having a test to worry about.”
“Hopefully!” she laughed, “I should get going, I don't want to be late.”
“I understand, good luck again. I love you.”
“Love you too, daddy!” she said as she walked out the front door. He was certainly in a better mood, she thought. She was almost certain he had gotten into another fight with Horus last night. He had seemed very troubled when he had gotten home, so much so she had let him quietly slip into his room, exchanging only a simple “Good night” before he retired for the evening. She understood though, he was very hurt by the arguing, he always wanted to understand everyone and have them understand him, but it was a tough goal to achieve. She took a last glance at her home and started her walk properly.
All things considered, the distance, pace, and traffic, she could expect to take twenty minutes to reach her school and additional five to become situated at her desk, ready for the test to begin. That is, if she stuck to just walking. As it would happen, she had prepared for a necessary delay. With a determined grin she walked confidently into a bagel shop along her route. An older lady greeted her from the counter and Cora hesitated and began to glance around expectantly. A few silent seconds passed before he appeared.
If she were to have only two faults, if would be jewelry and boys. He was a couple years older than her, working his way through one of the local colleges as a manager at a bagel shop. They had never spoken much, so she didn’t know much more than that, but she knew he was complete cutie and always the gentleman. He walked from out of the bakery in back, with a tired look on his face, but upon seeing here, lit up noticeably. He asked the old lady to take her meal break and she disappeared. Cora was about to say hello and order, like she usually would, when he raised his hand to stop her.
“Pardon me,” he said quietly, “but I can guess you want a whole grain bagel with strawberry cream-cheese and an apple juice box. Am I right?”
She smiled and nodded, unsure if she would be able to speak, rather than just squeal for joy. She reached into her pocket and pulled out the change from her desk, handing it to him without counting, the weight familiar enough for her to know it was correct. He took her change with a flourish, which made her giggle, putting the change into the register and handing her the bag with her purchase in a motion made of equal parts ballet and tango. She managed a thank you, before turning to leave. She spared a glance back and their eyes met, before she giggled again and walked out of the store. She let out a sigh and started to beat herself up for never saying more. She was a frequent customer not only for how good the bagels were, but for him. Maybe she would come up with an excuse to speak to him tomorrow. Perhaps she would “accidentally” leave something of hers there and come to him to help find it. Perhaps, she could simply forget to wear pants again and--
She braced for the shock.
Bounding from behind with a loud shout of “Surprise!” the attacker leapt upon Cora’s back. Cora nearly stumbled forward but, caught her footing and used her momentum to grasp the attackers arm and throw them from her back. Landing in a crouch, with a gentle touch, the attacker turned to Cora, revealing a gleam of anger in their eyes.
“How did you know I was coming?” Kelly said, pouting, her dark hair and skull pendants swinging with the motion of her head.
“Well...” Cora smiled, she straightened her jack and adjusted her scarf. She shielded her eyes and looked toward the sun, licked a finger and tested the air, and stomped on the concrete of the side walk three times. Considering certain atmospheric and geological conditions, the consistency of the sidewalk, and the fact you have, within the last fifteen minutes, woken up late after spending another night out in town I have most the information necessary. Additionally, the fact I counted the steps between here and your house the last time we walked together and factoring in that you never run before 0930 in the morning, I was able to predict your approximate arrival time with an error of plus or minus six seconds. As for your leaping attack, that just comes from playing hide and seek with you for the better part of two decades.”
Kelly looked at Cora with a startled expression, then one of confusion, followed by one of doubt, and lastly, one of suspicion, all within five seconds.
“You heard me,” she asked bluntly, “didn't you?”
“Yes,” Cora smiled, “but only because you let me, right?”
It was Kelly’s turn to smile. They were good friends, similar, yet different in many ways. While Cora was calm and calculating, Kelly was cool and cunning. Their styles were functional opposites, but seemed to compliment eachother . Where Cora was good at school and sports, Kelly was often a loner, preferring to keep middle of the pack approach in academics but she and Cora shared a connection that was special to both of them. They had grown up like sisters and, though their fathers would have little to do with the other, the two were nearly inseparable. Kelly stood up and joined Cora on her walk, which was now thirty seconds behind her calculated schedule.
“So, when are you going to ask him?” Kelly asked.
“Who,” Cora started, “What do you me-”
“I mean that guy your practically stalking. The bagel dude.”
“I am not,” Cora huffed, “Stalking him. I just like the bagels.”
“The sausage too, apparently.”
“Shut up!” Cora playfully pushed Kelly.
“I’m serious! Just ask him.”
“Ask him what!?”
“You know, ‘Do you want to go out with me?’ ‘Blondes or brunettes?’ ‘Do you prefer little boys?’ That kind of stuff.”
“How about ‘Hi! I’m obsessing over you and I know exactly what you do in the privacy of your bedroom every night at 0145.”
“….What does he do?”
“Kelly!” Cora groaned, “I’m being sarcastic. I’m not that obsessive! Well…He closes his curtains way before that at least…”
The two shared a laugh, then Kelly changed the subject.
“Take a look at this!” she said gleefully, holding up her hand. She was holding an obsidian pendant, inlaid with white and red gems in the form of a red eyed skull, on an obviously fine black leather collar. Cora had to stop herself from simply grabbing it, she settled instead for gawking dumbly.
“It’s beautiful!” she exclaimed as she leaned in to look closer at it’s workmanship and quality. It was simply stunning to her senses, so much so she didn’t see the curb, her foot landing awkwardly on the corner. Reacting a split second too late, her other foot shot forward to brace her, crossing her other leg. She fell sideways and directly into Kelly, who yelped in surprise. The two fell backwards, thankfully landing in the grass. Cora took a moment to gain her bearings. From the feeling and sight, it seemed she was on top of Kelly, face first in her breasts. It was soft and warm and smelled of--
She sat up quickly, getting off of Kelly.
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Cora apologized.
“It’s alright,” Kelly laughed, she put on a devious smile, “Cherry Blossoms?”
“Cinnamon?” Cora asked, relieved.
The two laughed as the helped each other up. Cora noticed the skull pendant collar on the ground, with thankfully no visible damage.
“I’m so sorry about the pendant, I didn’t mean to-- I can pay to fix it if it’s broken! I didn’t-”
“Don’t worry,” Kelly stopped her, “It’s yours.”
Cora was dumbstruck.
“Don’t stare with your mouth open,” Kelly laughed, “People will think to put something in there.”
Cora snapped out of it, “Do you mean it? What for?”
“It’s a gift, in celebration of your amazingly elite volley-lobbing skills and our friendship!”
“I can’t word right now, but thankful am I.”
“It’s alright, I know how you can be. Just accept it already or we’ll be late to class.”
It dawned on Cora they were standing outside the school, 3 minutes from class time.
“Oh, crap!” Core cursed and bolted for the school door. She stopped before she entered, running back to Kelly. She hugged her and accepted the collar, giving her a peck on the cheek. “Thankyou-thank you-thank you,” she managed before running to her class, Kelly laughing at her panic.
Cora hurried into her classroom and got to her seat without a moment to lose, happily she put on the collar, feeling the cool leather on her neck. It was a perfect fit. Some of the other girls were lost in conversation or cramming last bits of precious information into their head. Cora noted Isis lost in thought and she nudged her elbow.
“It’s time,” Cora said.
“Hmmm?” Isis seemed a thousand miles away before waking up, “Oh.” She stood up and turned to the class. “Class, attention!” The all-girls school was big on formality, something it’s worldly teachers wanted to impart on the students. Isis, being the class leader, was responsible for such things, though everyone had their own way to do things. Cora was just happy to help. There was a general moan, but everyone stood up, as three seconds later the teacher entered.
“Good morning!” The class said in unison, as Morticia stifled a cough.
“Hello, everyone!” The teacher sad happily. “First off congratulations to the volleyball team on their defeat of the Green Tide last night! Freya, Cora you had some amazing combos! Isis and Roberta, splendid performance as always! Everyone else, as well!”
There was a small cheer from the students that cared and were actually paying attention.
“Ugh...Sir?” Freya chanced, putting on her most powerful puppy dog eyes, “In honor of our astounding victory, is there anyway we could cancel the test or at least guarantee a D- for the volleyball team?”
He was unmoved in his cheeriness.
“Unfortunately, Ms. Russ, Tests, like death are inevitable. And some of you seem to have the same amount of control over both!” He said it with a smile, though it did nothing to soften the blow. Freya exaggeratedly let her head fall to her desk with a clunk.
Cora checked her desk and retrieved two pencils and a block eraser. She sighed as he began to pass out the tests. She was banking on a decent ratio of problem questions and concept checks over rote memorization of principals. The teacher paused at her desk and she gave him a happy, hopeful look. His face became solemn and he shook his head. He gave her the test and continued on. Cora calmly wrote her name and began to read the first question.
With three words, she calculated her chance of passing to be less than 5 percent.
“Not as planned.”
Lunch With Cora
The lunch bell rang and she gave in to defeat. The test had drained her completely and Cora knew she would come up short As disappointing as it was, her mood was further darkened when she realized she was the last student in the room, the rest having long finished and enjoying some free time. With a sigh she turned the test to the front page and verified her name was on it. She inspected her pencils and judged them to be too worn or chewed to be of any future use. Quietly gathering her things, she tried to let her mind drift to happier thoughts, but was brought crashing back to the fact she was now in peril of failing the class overall. Why couldn’t she just study and pass this like any other class? Why was she allowing herself such a dark spot on her, otherwise, clean record? Her melancholy was rising and she felt a small headache coming on. A tear gently rolled down her cheek, which she quickly dried. Fighting back any further tears, she realized it was wasting her time to just stand and stare at her desk. She brushed some eraser shavings into her hand and carried her test to the front of the classroom.
Mr. Bile was dozing at his desk and for a fraction of a moment she considered something underhanded. Cheating wasn’t unheard of here, but still Cora pushed the thought aside. Deciding there was no reason to make it worse than it had to be she attempted to place her test and make a quiet escape before he awoke. Her effort was in vain, no sooner had the test hit the desk then the biology teacher stirred.
“Ah,” he yawned, “Finished at last! How did it go?” His tone was, as ever, cheery and friendly, which seemed to make it all the more demeaning as Cora thought of it. Fearing how she might respond, she simply shook her head and continued to avoid meeting his eyes. Wasn’t it bad enough they replayed this scene nearly every test, she wondered, why does he expect her to change? Dropping the pencils and eraser bits into the trash she started to walk away from his desk, as he started paging through her test.
“I’m sorry,” she managed to say softly, as she placed her hand on the door handle, “I just don’t get it.”
“If you keep this up, we’ll have to take serious action,” he began, “I’m well within in rights to make recommendations. You might have to be suspended from your extra-curricular activities.” His face was no longer friendly, replaced by a serious expression with little empathy in it. Even though she had considered the possibility, the fact it was now being waved at her hit something deep within. She wanted to say how she would show them, that she would improve on her own, no matter the sacrifice and that they didn’t need to punish her. Yet, she felt more tears forming and she turned and left the classroom wordlessly, leaving the heavy atmosphere of the nearly empty room with tears on her cheeks. Fabius Bile was left with the test and set about to grade it. If she didn’t appreciate his warnings, he decided, she would understand the consequences.
Cora opened her locker and leaned inside, allowing her self to sob for a moment longer. Crying was no solution she knew, but it certainly seemed to be the most natural option at the moment. She dabbed her eyes with her sleeve and took a deep breath. Looking into her locker mirror she attempted to regroup herself. Her eyes focused on her pendant collar and she felt her mood turning. Finding a suitable thanks for Kelly would be a challenge, as she was notoriously hard to shop for. The problem swirled in her head as she finally pushed the test to the back of her mind. Improving her mood took a little effort, but Cora was proud that she could. As if on cue, she felt a hand fall on her shoulder. She opened the locker door further and caught the reflection in the mirror.
“Hey, Isis,” Cora smiled, “What’s up?”
“Nothing to much,” Isis said, as she leaned in close behind her. Their eyes caught as each of them looked into the mirror, their faces next to each other. “It seems as though one of my squaddies is having a hard time.” Isis brought her hand up, straightening one of Cora’s bangs and said, “A good captain always should keep up squad morale.”
Cora frowned, she had just gotten over this too.
“I appreciate the offer,” she said, trying to hide her annoyance as she turned from the mirror to look at Isis’ face over her shoulder, “But, you should consider squad morale restored.” “Until when?” Isis retorted, “Until they kick you off the team a handful of games from our championship?”
Cora felt a bit flush, but realized Isis wasn’t meaning malice. She sighed, “I suppose your right…”
“Come on, let’s discuss things over lunch.”
Cora relented and let herself be led to cafeteria. Being the peak of lunch, it was quite crowded and there was a great deal of activity. Farrah and Hana were having a discussion about gear drive balancers or something, Victoria sat in the middle of her clique, apparently oblivious to Faith trying to get her attention, and then she spotted Freya and Remilia lunching with a few extra seats near them. Isis stepped into the food line and Cora motioned to where she was going to sit. Nodding, Isis turned and cursed something, apparently just realizing how long the line really was. Cora walked over and took a seat next to Freya, enjoying her home made lunch of a sizable magnitude. Despite some of her habitats, including her well known drinking, Freya was a bit of a health nut. Having grown up in a culture of binge drinking and near constant fast food when she was younger, but had taken a bit of a turn when her father went through a mild health crisis. She dove head first into healthier lifestyle, forcing her father to make some changes. How well he followed them was debatable, but he was too much of a softy for her to ever out rightly refuse. Freya took a large bite from a delicious red apple and greeted Cora, with just little apple juice dribbling from the side of her mouth.
“’Sup, Cora? Bomb the test too?” she asked happily, already taking another bite.
“How did you guess?” Cora asked as she sat down and opened her backpack.
“Eh, you seemed a bit more gloomier than your normal gloominess when you got your test.”
“I am not gloomy,” Cora tried to counter, she was more occupied with trying to find her lunch then defending herself.
Remilia chimed in, “That’s a pretty collar, where did you get it?” Freya looked up and tilted her head, before noticing Cora’s neck, apparently just seeing it.
“Oh,” Cora giggled, “It was a gift from Kelly, she practically tackled me this morning to--” With a flash, her mind cut her off mid sentence and transferred her to mere hours ago as she was walking to school. Cora had just anticipated Kelly’s surprise attack and braced herself, one of her reactions being setting the small bag, with bagel lunch inside, carefully out of the way to avoid he foot movement as she flung Kelly with her own momentum. She had never bothered to pick it up. Now she was without a lunch. “Oh, no…” she said dejectedly.
“Not gloomy at all,” Freya quipped. Cora shot Freya a look but realized her eyes were closed. “Here,” she outstretched her hand, “Have an apple!”
Cora felt a bit guilty for having come so close to snapping at her, she was just being personable in her own way. With a short bow she thanked Freya and accepted the apple, realizing she was quite hungry, she guessed the test must of really drained her.
“How are you so happy, you probably failed too, right?”
“It’s just a test, besides, I earned enough extra credit with my ecology project that I can coast the rest of the quarter.”
“What happens then?”
“Then all the sports I care about are over and they really can’t do anything about it,” she said with a proud smile.
“Just enough to not get held back?” Remilia joked, pushing her finished tray to the side and leaning her head on her hand.
“And not an effort more,” Freya concluded, still holding her proud expression.
“I don’t think Freya’s master plan is a good guide for you,” Remilia turned to Cora, “But just remember the team is behind you.”
Cora smiled, “Thanks a lot.”
With her long-awaited lunch in hand, Isis joined the conversation sitting across from Cora.
“And because of that,” Isis said straightly, “We want you to take a break from the team.”
Cora blinked, “What?” Isis’ face was serious and unmoving. She looked to Remilia, who tried diverting her eyes before giving her an empathetic nod. Freya seemed to be as surprised at Cora, albeit the sandwich in her mouth contorting her expression. “You can’t be serious. No way. Unacceptable.”
“It’s not a suggestion.”
“Yes, it is,” Remilia interrupted, with a more competent face. She ignored Isis‘ stare as she continued “The team wants to help you, but you have to be willing to show us you really care.”
“But,” Cora tried, “We’re just now starting the tournaments! I can’t just quit!”
“You don’t have to quit. You can still practice with us on the weekend, so you can keep up and you can support the team other ways. During the week has got to be your study time.”
Cora knew they were just trying to help, but she did not want to just give up, “Who would replace me?”
“We were thinking of moving Petra up--”
“And take away your backup as librero? We’ll be weak in the backcourt!”
“We could always try Furia,” Isis offered.
“She doesn’t play ‘low-contact’ sports, she’ll have a hard time too, because all of our opponents have been really focusing on my side. We need someone with experience--”
“I can make Furia an offer she can’t refuse,” Freya entered, “I could move to your spot, we put Furia in front of me, and the Golden Girl can easily pick up the slack on our side. Besides, it will give each of us a little breathing room from each other and we won’t fight over every volley…as much.”
“See,” Isis said, “We can cover for a few games, but we’ll need you down the stretch. I can’t risk losing you later, but I can compensate for now.”
“And you two,” Freya looked at Remilia and Isis, “When did the ‘team’ decide this? I don’t remember being asked.”
“We said there was a meeting, you said you had a party to get to and it could wait until tomorrow.”
“…Oh,” Freya slumped, “Sorry, Cora, I would of said something to make it easier…”
Cora was deep in thought, this was turning into some kind of day. A part of her wanted to believe it was all joke, another part angry that it had to be planned like some kind of conspiracy behind her back.
“Can I at least practice today?” she asked sadly, “I could kind of use the stress relief.”
“Fine,” Isis said, “but as your captain I want to remind you I’m looking out for the good of you and the team. Beat this problem with us, not against us.”
The school bell rang and lunch was starting to finish, Cora stood up
“Thanks for the apple Freya,” she paused, before looking at the others “And thanks for caring, I know it’s for the best, but I still think it sucks.”
“Noted, see you at practice.”
Cora walked away from the table and threw away her apple core.
Some kind of day.
Intermission: The Bonds of Metal
The loading dock door slowly opened out into the bay. With the stealth of a natural hunter, Freya slowly stalked from the shadows inside the school and out into the dimly lit alley. Eyes wide, already adjusting to the light, she scanned slowly as she slinked, searching for her target. There would be no one else out here, she knew, the janitors were all on lunch and any potential interlopers had already been dealt with. No, there would be no one else to watch she thought, as a wolfish grin formed on her face. Even though there was no sign for the moment, it wouldn’t be long--
Freya sniffed the air. Her target was here, no doubt. The familiar smell of the preferred brand, no more than a few yards a way. She silently stepped against a large dumpster in front of her and edged carefully toward the other side. A small orange glow bobbed a bit through the darkness, delicately placed between two fingers of a not-so-delicate woman leaning against the dingy school wall, gazing in the opposite direction. A predatory glint shined in Freya’s eyes, the hunt was at an end and the battle was about to begin. In her head, she checked the plan one last time, reviewing each perfectly thought out step. Who said she couldn’t be brilliant, she thought proudly. The hairs on the back of her neck started to straighten upward and her hands clenched slightly, it was the adrenaline kicking in she knew, confrontation was unavoidable now. She inhaled deeply, quiet as a ghost and she crouched down to prepare.
“What is it, Russ?” Furia asked, still looking emotionless down the alley.
Freya almost fell over as she ducked backward. With her cover blown she would have to alter her perfect plan, no matter though, it would still work. With a quick change in attitude she turned from predator to puppy. She stood and walked happily around the corner separating them.
“Heeeeeey, Furia! What’s goin’ on?!” she asked giddily. Furia didn’t even look in Freya’s direction. A moment of awkward silence passed between them. Realizing the delicacy of the situation, Freya decided to be direct.
With a flash, Freya surged forward off her right leg, her well trained muscles propelling her with great take-off speed directly at Furia. She knew she would have one chance. Snarling, her hand shot for Furia’s face. Furia, realizing the situation, reacted. She turned her head, relatively slowly at least, to dodge the assault and to her satisfaction, Freya’s hand missed her face by two inches. Furia was about to comment when she noticed the absence. Her eyes looked down her nose, her cigarette was missing. Freya grinned, the precious stick in her hand, a shining, transluscent strand of spittle still attaching it to Furia's cracked lips. Furia realized that Freya hadn’t missed at all, she had planned that. Before she could realize anything else, Freya stood upright and flicked the cigarette into a dark, moist corner of the loading dock. The burning end bouncing pitifully before being extinguished by the puddle it landed in.
“You know,” Freya said, her face smiling, eyes shut, and index finger raised, “Smoking is very bad for young girls…”
Perhaps once in the existence of mankind there had lived a certain man, a man who straddled the fine line of genius and insanity. Perhaps this certain man had, in a fit of brilliance or demented delusion, envisioned a level of hell more horrible then any man before him had considered. Every terrible and burning detail was made plain to him in one fleeting moment, to the horror of his consciousness. In that evil place he had created, he found he had also created the master of it, a terrible daemon of sickening feature and unequalled rage and hatred. In that single moment, this man stared into the abyss and the abyss reached out to him. For a reason no one should ever wish to know, the doomed man had created so much terror in his minds eye that the place ceased being imagined and passed the dream divide into the material. As blood tears ran from the crazed man’s eyes, the daemon king of his own creation ripped from him his sanity and consciousness with nothing but it’s hatred and malice of him. If such a rage had ever existed, it was but a bucket to the ocean of hate compared to the anger now building on Furia’s face. Realizing the situation was now on the knife edge of a volcano, Freya revealed her trump card.
“…But metal isn’t!” she cried, withdrawing two paper stubs from her pocket and holding them in front of Furia’s face. For a moment, Furia considered ignoring words and just biting Freya’s hand off…and then the other. That was, until she realized what the stubs were. The killing haze faded from her eyes and her anger was temporarily abated.
“These are tickets to Metaldammerung…” Furia finally said.
“’Metaldammerung: The largest metal event ever conceived, every sound, every style, united in the ultimate metalhead experience!’ I GOTthem for the Nordic guys flying in, even Bjorn is going to be there! But you probably know everyone else who’ll be in attendance, I’d guess…”
“Those sold out in twenty minutes when they started selling. I broke some dude’s legs and he still wouldn’t give them up, cutting bastard…How did you…?”
“Pop’s an old friend of one of the headliners, I think you’re familiar with 13th Company?”
Furia was momentarily taken aback, she loved their sound, they were easily one of her-- The thought died and her anger returned.
“What’s the price or are you just showing off?” Furia spoke with a murderous tone.
“No price,” Freya shook her head, “Just a service.”
Furia stared icily.
“We need a temporary substitution on the volleyball team. I think you’ll do the trick,” Freya said.
“I don’t do non-contact.”
“Not even for tickets? Or for me?”
Furia almost laughed at that one.
“Oh, forgive me for not thinking of your feelings. Dean’s rule too. I can’t play sports where the school will get sued if I get too rough.” “…woof..” Freya said, defeated, “I guess we’ll have to think of something else.”
“You do that. Leave me alone, before I break you.”
Freya looked gloomy for a moment, before she perked up and held the tickets out again.
“You can have these anyways,” she smiled.
Furia hesitated, “W-What? Why?”
“I was going to give them to you anyway,” Freya tilted her head, “Because I remembered how angry you were when you didn’t get them. Besides, I have a couple for myself still, I just thought you would appreciate it a little more than the other girls I hang out with. I just thought the chance to get something from you in return was too good an idea to pass up, but know I got to do some thinking again. Please, I know you want them.”
Furia took the tickets as Freya beamed another smile. Furia looked at them closely, they were good for the Pit too…
“I accept your apology, but to make this even you owe me a free one.”
“Eh?” Freya looked dumbly, “Oh, I suppose that’s fair…but only if it’s my face.”
“Got it,” Furia said, before unleashing her rage. Her fist connected like a train to a school bus against Freya’s face, sending her reeling backwards. She stumbled a bit as she stood up and tried to shake it off.
“Naht bad…Be happy…I’m…falling down now….” Freya said as she hit the ground face first, apparently unconscious. Furia looked at the tickets and then Freya, her head was probably the hardest thing within a lightyear or nine of Earth, she’d be fine after a nap. She stepped over Freya and walked back into the school, turning at the door, back at Freya.
She left Freya, thankful she hadn't heard and maybe just a little sad she didn't...
Another morning with Cora (optional sequel)
As she climbed out of her bed, Cora was eager to do something today, something she hadn’t dared to do for too long: Talking with the cute boy at the bagel shop. To be in time, she had set her alarm some minutes earlier. Everything should work out just as planned. She would walk in, talk to him for a while and then ask him casually if he had any spare time soon.
Nodding to herself in the mirror, she put on a nice black dress to go with a pair of dark blue jeans, and, as it was a bit cold in the morning, her green scarf.
After a shower and her breakfast, she waved her father goodbye and left the black Ravenspire, surrounded by a flock of ravens that were searching for food.
The pallid girl entered the bakery at the planned time, and seeing only the boy, she decided to be straightforward. Yet, somehow her feet weren’t really obeying her, and she walked slowly, with shaking legs, towards her aim.
The young man greeted her, smiling widely, and said: “The same procedure as every day?”
She bit her lip and only managed to say a mumbled “Yeah.”
As he put her order together, Cora slammed her fist on the counter to get her thoughts clear, a bit too hard to be unnoticed by the young man, and he spun on his heel, surprised and confused.
“Um… is there a problem, Miss?”
Realizing how it must have looked, she blushed hard and tried to sink deeper into her scarf, her delicate white face becoming an embarrassed red.
After an extremely uncomfortable moment of awkward silence, she said hastily: “Ohmygod I’msosorry! Ididn’tmean to…”
Seeing Cora shrinking in front of him, the young man walked around the counter and held his hands up before her. “It’s okay, no problem, Miss. How couldn’t I forgive you? Err, I mean… uh…”
Now it was his turn to blush, as Cora could see when she removed her scarf from her face. Letting the meaning of his sentence sink in, she suddenly pulled together all her courage and said: “Well… hi, I… I’m Cora.”
She could see him trying to calm down, as he answered carefully: “Hey, my name is Zacharias… but would you mind calling me Zac?”
She managed a slight smile and extended his hand towards him. “Sure. Pleased to meet you, Zac.”
He nodded and took her hand, breathing an elegant kiss on it. “The pleasure is all mine, Cora.”
Hadn’t she been already head over heels for him before that, she would be right then. To her own surprise, she suddenly stepped towards him and gave him a short kiss on the cheek. While he looked completely stunned, Cora noticed a knock on the door. As she turned around, she saw Kelly grinning widely through the glass door, causing Cora to turn red again. Behind her, Zac said: “Well, uh, I guess you have to go...”
She turned around and sighed. “Yeah... my schedule is vicious”, she grinned and tried to shoo Kelly away with a gesticulation, which – of course – didn’t work out.
“But maybe we could meet somewhere outside the shop, maybe go to the cinema?” Zac suggested hesitantly.
With another elegant move, he handed her the bagel and the box of apple juice. He grinned and said: “So I guess that’s on me today. But what about today at eight o’ clock?”
“Well, I live down the street, the huge, black tower... you can’t really miss it”, Cora smiled and couldn’t stop giggling in anticipation.
“Well, until then, milady.” He waved at her as she left the bakery.
Outside, on their way to the school, Kelly said casually: “So you’ve got a date, huh? Hopefully it’s not only because he wants you to stop stalking him.”
“Hey! I am SO not stalking him, you meanie”, Cora pouted. “Besides, don’t talk to me about stalking with YOUR dad, honey.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kelly said, her eyes narrowing.
“Well, there’s this story about some people seeing someone with a bat mask at night in the city...”
“And what about these nightly raids your father does with his friends?”
“Nah, as I asked him about that, he only quoth “Nevermore!” and went away...”
Yet another morning with Cora
Cora opened her locker, whistling a cheerful melody, and took out her biology book. No matter how much she hated having that subject, she was too glad to be annoyed about it at the moment. Well, it still itched her that the team had decided that she should learn rather than playing volleyball during the week, but now, she had another activity to make up for it. Finally, she had had a date with Zac, although she had felt the presence of her observers at any time. Oh, this overambitious Kayvaan!
As she looked in the mirror in her locker, she noticed a familiar shape standing behind her, grinning maliciously. Her joyful facial expression changed into a stern look, clearly showing the cunning behind her ice-blue eyes.
“So, the little emo girl finally had a date, huh? And you went to this run-down café named “Eldrad’s Exquisite Establishment” with him? How pathetic,” sneered the girl with the beautiful, cruel face behind her.
Cora turned around, waving her raven hair out of her face. “Well, Miss “I’m so proud of how slutty I am”, not everyone lures innocent guys (and girls) into an expensive-as-hell nightclub, hits on six other people there and finally leaves the date without paying anything.”
Victoria shot Corax’ daughter a disdainful look, turned away and strutted down the floor, mumbling something like “You’re just jealous!”.
Sighing, Cora closed the locker after looking one last time in the mirror. She ducked down, turned around and dodged the attack from behind, lifting her attacker over her against the closed locker door – a rather painful experience, but she knew that Kelly would recover soon. At first, however, she collided face-first with the metal door, and Cora could hear a muffled “Ow!”.
The Night Hunter girl stood slowly up and wiped the blood from her nose. Still dazed, Kelly grabbed Cora’s shoulder to stand still.
“Damn it! So that’s how you thank me for the collar?”
Cora grinned. “Well, blood diamonds they are...”
Kelly shrugged and said with a much more friendly voice that was filled with curiosity: “So... how was it?! You should have told me this morning already...”
“Sorry, school started later today for me...” Cora interjected.
“... but nevertheless, how was it? I demand to know what happened!” Kelly said in an imperative tone.
The raven haired girl smiled widely and licked her lips. “Well, it sure was delicious; this Mr. Eldrad definitely knows how to cook a thing.”
She winked, seeing Kelly glaring angrily made her continue hastily though.
“He is such a gentleman! I’ve never felt so cared for! Oh...” Cora put her hands against her cheeks and sighed adoringly.
“Eldrad? Really? And I thought he was a scheming dog,” Kelly answered, laughing at her friend.
Cora pouted. “Well, if you don’t want to...”
“TELL IT! NAO!”
“Okay, okay. Fine. So we went to this café, ate cake and talked about this and that. It turned out that he likes the same music as I do! And he was very eager to watch a volleyball match of our team!”
“Now THAT I can imagine, with dozens of round things jumping up and down...” Kelly grinned.
Cora rolled her eyes. “I’m still wondering why I’m telling you anything.”
“Oh, don’t be so whiney, you know how boys are. It’s not like you’ve never... oh, wait a second...” Kelly eyed her friend suspiciously. “You... you never had a boyfriend before?”
Cora shifted and seemed to be embarrassed. “Well... uh... there was this boy in the kindergarten... oh damn it, I never had the courage to do anything! And those guys who asked me out were insensitive pricks!”
Kelly’s face was a mixture of amazement and amusement. “Then you’ll find out soon enough, little princess. But speaking of insensitive pricks...”
She pointed down the hallway, where a bunch of girls walked towards them: Victoria, smiling arrogantly, followed by Petra, Alpharia, Omegan, and Faith. Fulgrim’s daughter spoke first, looking disgustedly at the blood on Kelly’s palm: “Oh, I’m sorry to interrupt your cutting session, please go on; I won’t disturb you killing yourself.”
She proceeded and left the two girls, while her fellowship shot dismissive glances at Cora and Kelly.
Kelly moaned. “Imbeciles. However, you’ll learn that every white knight is also a macho deep within, the difference is just how good he’s able to hide that. But as I know that Miss Macha and Miss Taldeer work at the café, it seems like he’s pretty good at hiding it. Or you just can’t spot it yet.”
“How can you say such a generalising thing? I...” Cora was interrupted by a loud voice from outside the building, which she recognised in an instant: Only Furia had a voice like a megaphone and anger in every decibel.
The two girls decided to look outside, where Furia definitely was up to something that would get her in trouble – not that she wasn’t used to it. Outside, besides an impressive white motorbike and a red monster on wheels, stood Furia and Hana, arguing about a little scratch in Hana’s bike.
“Damn you,” she shouted, “I’m totally sure that this scratch wasn’t there before you couldn’t handle your rusty piece of junk and crashed into my baby!”
“That’s a lie, you whiney irritant! You’re just too dumb to realize when you’ve hit something, and now you want to blame it on me!” Furia growled, inhaling deep from her lho-stick.
Hana stepped forward, slapping Furia’s cheek with her fist and said contently: “I realized that I hit you, if that is good enough for you, you choleric barker!”
Suddenly, the air seemed to heat up, and Cora thought that she had heard something snap, like the little rest of self-control Furia had had. Now she clenched her fists and put down her helmet, her eyes narrow and her face a mask of uncontrollable rage.
“That’s enough! You’re so going to regret this!” she yelled, hatred pouring almost visibly out of her.
She stepped forward and hammered her right fist into Hana’s ribcage, making her gasp in pain.
“First, I’ll tear you apart, then I’ll smash your bike to scrap!” Furia yelled, leaping forward again and placing her left fist on Hana’s cheek, sending her sprawling across the muddy ground. She recovered quickly, however, dodging the next blow and kicking the steel toe of her boots against Furia’s leg, which caused her to fold over into the mud as well, cursing rudely. She wiped the dirt off of her face, but there was no time to prepare for the next attack. The biker girl jumped towards Furia, smashing her fists into the short-haired girl’s groin.
“You! Will! Pay! For! This! Scratch!” Hana shouted.
Furia suddenly grabbed Hana’s fists, spun her around and punched her elbow into the leather-clad girl’s back.
“I! Will! Crush! You! And your damned bike, too!” Furia hissed through gritted teeth, foam dripping out of her mouth.
Then, she jumped on Hana, wrestling her to the ground and biting pieces out of Hana’s black leather jacket in frenzy.
Cora stood at the side, her mouth opened, but she was unable to do anything. Somewhere in her mind, she found the idea of two girls wrestling on the ground, ripping off their clothes, strangely arousing. By looking around, she noticed that she probably wasn’t the only one: At least half the boys of the school thought the same way and cheered for Furia or Hana to fight on.
Furia stopped only when Hana managed to land a blow on her chest, rolling down from the biker girl, but taking a fighting stance in an instant, although she was panting heavily. As Hana leaped towards her to punch her in the face, she was abruptly stopped mid-air by a white gauntlet.
“It’s enough, sister. You do not need to embarrass the White Scars further,” Temujin Khan said, his voice calm, but with a scornful undertone.
“Oh come on, man, it just started to get funny. Furia would have beaten the crap out of your sister, Tem,” Ragio, Furia’s brother, shouted, protesting against the end of a good fight. “But you,” he addressed the crowd, “piss off, and don’t stare at my sister, you weaklings!”
Temujin sighed. “Come on, Hana, time to go. There’s still plenty of skull white colour to paint over that scratch.”
Cora looked at Kelly, who just shrugged.
“Well,” Kelly said, “seems like the safety-car ended the rage.”
Cora nodded. “Yeah, that’ll give some penalty points.”
Practice with Cora
The rest of the afternoon had passed in haze after the events of the morning and the news that lunch brought. The raven-haired girl looked up into her open gym locker and sighed. She finished tying her sneakers and stood up, adjusting her practice jersey with a few gentle tugs. A quick gaze around the locker room revealed that only a few girls had yet to finish changing, practice would be starting soon. Quickly folding her clothes, she placed them inside and shut the locker door. Cora hurried out the locker room door and jogged out onto the gymnasium floor. Most of the girls had assembled on the far end of the court, while a few were still joking around while they waited. It seemed the cheerleaders were practicing today too, Cora noted, seeing Victoria and the rest in their own training gear stretching near the band section. Cora quietly fell in at the end of the line, no one had yet said anything to her, save for a smile from Freya as she approached.
“Doin’ alright?” the daughter of Russ tempted.
“I’ll be better when we start,” Cora responded, a bit more coldly then she meant. She sighed and then noticed Freya‘s shiner, “Sorry, how did you get that black eye?”
“Eh, I got hit by a Thunder Hawk, I won though-- ANYWAY, Miss Gloomy, you won’t be waiting long, at least,” she said nodding to the top of the nearby bleachers. Had she not known who was there, Cora would of looked. As it was, she simply started stretching.
“LISTEN UP, MAGGOTS,” came the blaring call of the assistant coach, “STRETCH ROUTINE, BEGIN!”
Perhaps not the most subtle of assistant coaches, Kell certainly had the volume to command respect. The old stiff-neck was as unforgiving as he was loud and never seemed to lose any enthusiasm for both faucets of his leadership style. Starkly opposite to Kell was the head coach, who was directly to his left. Since taking over the program, Ursarkar E. Creed had made every state tournament, won numerous championships, and had never failed to make a surprise entrance. As far as Cora could guess, the coach had probably rigged some kind of rappelling gear from the ventilation ducts high above. That, or he had been hiding under an unassuming backpack in the bleachers everyone had failed to see, each was equally likely given the circumstances. Creed cracked his trademark smile as he bit down on a new cigar, unlit for the moment. The two then seated themselves at the top of the bleachers, preferring to watch from the vantage point, Creed always claimed it gave him a tactical edge. For a moment, Cora wondered if the coaches were even aware of her punishment.
Turning to the fore of the gym, Cora noticed Isis had taken her position in front of the team and had begun to call out different stretches for them to copy. Together, the team counted out the familiar motions, they followed the routine to the letter almost everyday with few exceptions. After a short while, the players paired up for more involved stretching. Freya and Cora took turns stretching out the other’s calves and hamstrings. As Freya lied on her back upon the gym floor with one leg raised, Cora pressed it forward gently, noticing that the cheerleaders had started to practice their tumbling. Changing off with Freya, it was Cora’s turn to be stretched. The stretching was feeling very good to Cora, after a rather tense day she felt herself slowly unwinding and the familiarity of the routine was, itself, comforting. The weight on her shoulders seemed to slowly be lifting and she was playing with the idea of just falling asleep there.
A blaring whistle robbed her of any possibility.
“ON THE LINE, MAGGOTS!”
The team stood up and ran to the nearest court line. Another whistle marked the start and each girl immediately began to sprint forward. The cyclic running lasted for about ten minutes when the “last round” whistle blew. Each player redoubled her efforts and tried to make the last run their fastest. Though no slouch, Cora certainly wasn’t the fastest of the team. That title probably went to Angela or Isis, but Roberta was always quick to claim that she was a better distance runner and, if the rumors were true about her toned legs, Freya could run as long as she could stay awake. As the team finished their running for a short breather, the cheerleading squad took the opportunity to run through a new routine, which was rather impressive and completed with only a few minor mistakes. The timing and coordination of all the flips, throws, and jumps was very involved and something Victoria was always very proud to claim as due to her natural ability in the subject. By the look on her face now, however, Victoria seemed quite displeased and berated a few of her squad for their sloppy timing. In truth, Cora could agree with the reasoning, but not with the execution, it just wasn’t the way she would run a squad.
As the break finished, Cora noticed the volleyball nets had finished being erected by a couple of the teams managerial servitors and the girls began to split up into the sections, divided by the more senior and junior players and then further by starters and the rest. The starters would take their places on one side of the net and the others on the opposite, cycling through so the starters always faced relatively fresh opponents. In theory, a starter could be challenged for her spot, but the lineup had been solid since the start of the year, the other girls content to sub in or start when a player was indisposed for a game. Cora had to keep reminding herself not to go to her usually spot, which Freya now took. Furia hadn’t shown, as Cora had expected, honestly, and Petra filled in the open position with Roberta to her left. It certainly wasn’t a weak team without her, Cora calculated, but it wasn’t optimal. Russ was a natural athlete, but she was better up front and Petra was the stronger pairing for Remilia and wasn’t as experienced up close. For all this, it seemed that the coach was at least willing to rubber stamp the lineup, he had hardly even made eye-contact with Cora since practice had begun and she wondered if it was intentional. In the back of her head, she knew what she had to do, even though it would probably do more harm then good.
She had to prove the numbers wrong, the team was far weaker without her, more so than Isis had considered.
The whistle sounded and the scrimmage began. The starters always had the disadvantage and Cora caught the ball passed to her, it was her serve. With a quick wink from Farah and a nod from Venus, she knew she had a solid team of her own, but this was going to take a lot of effort on her part. She quickly glanced over the starters for her first target, settling on the most obvious. Petra was a fine player, but she was the interloper in this sense and was missing her knee pads for some reason. The plan formed in Cora’s head and she immediately put it to action. She tossed the volleyball high and stepped forward jumping to meet it before it had begun to come down. With a hammer blow she sent it rocketing downward over the net and outward toward the line. Petra anticipated, but hesitated, certain it would go wide. The ball slammed the ground a hairs width from the line.
A few of the starters traded looks and Petra seemed to realize her mistake. Freya was visibly stirred, her instincts unsure how Petra had let that one go. The ball was returned to Cora and she readied herself. Another leaping hit and the ball, again, soared in Petra’s direction. To her credit, she didn’t hesitate twice, but instead dropped to her knees, a move she would regret, and hit the ball into the net. Petra rubbed her knees as she stood up and Freya fumed, she was showing very little patience for her replacement. As if on cue, Cora watched Freya take a few steps forward, attempting to shore up the deficiency in her eyes. Such was according to plan. The stare on Cora’s face was as cold as Valhallan ice when she lined up and it was directed straight at Petra, who, despite the setbacks, seemed only more determined than ever. Their eyes locked for a moment and Cora repeated the motions again. The ball shot forward, Petra dropped, and Russ moved to back her up, realizing the trap too late. Freya knew the ball would over shoot her and Remilia hadn’t yet noticed her being so far out of position. With trained precision, Freya spun on a dime and dove to keep the ball in play. She reached out, but was mere inches short and the ball bounced off of the court. Petra regained herself and shot a look at Cora, Freya was now visibly miffed. Cora considered another shot, but decided against it, it was better to let Freya stew and keep Petra on her toes. Reverting to a more docile attack stance, the next volley was less hostile, lasting several bouts until Isis finished with a fantastic spike on a perfect set from Angela.
A few points traded back and forth later, Cora had perfected her next plan. Freya was set to serve and Cora knew what was coming. A thunderous blow that could shatter bones sent the sphere hurtling toward the spot between her eyes. Reacting fluidly she deflected the shot high and motioned to Venus, who knew her part. With a set the match of any other person on the team, Venus left the ball hovering lazily near the net. Angela moved to block and Cora charged the net. Angela was, perhaps, the most gifted of any of the girls in terms of sports prowess, Cora would need a bit of luck to pull this off. As it was, she knew Angela was prone to go with her gut instincts more often than she ought and preferred up-front confrontation, Cora was not going to allow this. As Cora jumped to spike, Angela leapt to block, perfectly in the way of the ball’s path. At the last moment Cora did the unexpected, she tapped the ball with her hand upwards, just above Angela’s natural reach. The angelic visage turned to one of agony as he stretched her fingers, only managing to graze the ball on the way past. Isis was sent reeling and only barely managed keep the ball from the ground, but sending it back over the net. A strong hit from Farah followed by another set from Venus and Cora again charged. The starters were off balance, but braced for the impact. Cora spiked the ball and caught Remilia on her off foot, a rare mistake for the defensive star, but one Cora couldn’t pass up. The ball hit the ground. Another point.
Substitutions were called and Cora jogged off the court. A couple of the starters seemed relieved to see her go, a few more than just a bit angry, and one simply stared. Compared to her victory conditions, things were going well enough, she supposed. She toned down her assault but kept the pressure on every time she was called in, scoring a few more points and earning several sour looks. However, her main goal was still left to be achieved.
Isis hadn’t become the team captain by accident. Her abilities were enhanced by natural gifts and trained to a keen edge. Where Cora could count on her finesse, Angela her raw talent, or Freya her athleticism, Isis was a blend of each and, though she wasn’t entirely certain, Cora would not have been surprised if she exceeded each of them. Simply watching Isis play was a learning experience, like watching a sword master dismantle an opponents defenses or an artisan crafting a masterpiece. Her shape, her very movement was beautiful, but not in a classical sense. Certainly, Cora thought, it was the same beauty one might see in a fine blade or bolter, elegant, yet rigid. Beautiful, but deadly. She had yet to be truly bested on the court, her instincts were rarely wrong and she had enough natural ability to cover any mistakes with ease. Thinking very long and hard, Cora locked in to studying her, nearly missing her call to re-enter the game.
The clock on the wall revealed that this would probably be the last volley and Cora’s last chance to complete her mission. The last obstacle would be the greatest she knew. Despite playing solidly for the entire scrimmage, Isis showed no sign of wear, only a light perspiration from her extortions could be seen on her face. She swayed as a predatory animal might before assaulting its prey and her movements were as crisp as ever. Ideas swirling in her head, Cora tried to find an approach that could possibly work. Knowing she didn’t have enough hours in a day to wear Isis out or even enough room to order a lance strike safely, her options were rapidly deteriorating. This was turning out to be more of a mental exercise than a physical one, she chuckled to herself, it was enthralling. After a long day of uncontrolled experiences, this duel of wills was a blessing in disguise. She took her spot, still focused on Isis, as Freya stepped forward to serve. The berserker champion of the team was no more tired than she was when the game began and the serve rocketed toward Cora with all the force of the first. Her mind raced and her body reacted batting the ball into high arch. Venus adjusted her footing and squared off for a set. Venus nodded to Farah who immediately prepared to charge. To Cora’s surprise, Isis reacted. The team captain came forward to the net, abandoning her position to block the inevitable spike and finish the scrimmage on her own note. The iron-fisted spike of Farah was among the most brutally powerful of the team and the captain was allowing no chance for it’s success.
It was then Cora found her answer and, as much as she hated it, she knew it would work.
Bounding off her back foot she charged forward toward the net. As Farah jumped, she was followed shortly by Isis, and, by less than a blink, Cora. The great plan depended on two factors: One, she was faster than Farah, and Two, Isis held Cora’s devotion to the team in high regard. On the first, Cora was almost positive, the second wasn’t as clear, other factors were at play and it was too late to properly guess their effect. The last moments of the scrimmage was a do-or-die scenario, not optimal, but acceptable.
Even as the iron hand of Farah was beginning to descend, Isis knew where the ball was going to go. She knew because she had seen it play out in her mind over and over. Farah was strong, but crude in her form. Perhaps she wouldn’t go as far as to call it simple, but it was predictable. Her hands together and as flat as she could make them, Isis was in the perfect position to block. There were no surprises left, nothing that could change the outcome. All was to her will and soon it would be finished, in her favor. Cora’s little vendetta would fizzle and the captaincy secure an unquestioned. She smiled, it was just the way as it was intended to be.
While thoughts of victory filled Isis’ head, Cora focused only on the ball. The time to strike had come. With a precise impact, Cora knocked Farah aside, the iron hand still descending for the ball. With a lightning fast strike, Cora contacted the ball and gave it forward motion. It was directly beside Isis’ head when the team captain realized she had been out-maneuvered. Never, not in a thousand years, would she have guessed Cora to go to such lengths just to prove her wrong. She watched as Farah’s hand came down hard on Cora’s back and the two fell awkwardly, crashing to the ground. Managing to turn her head from the scene, she saw the impossible. The volleyball impacted the ground exactly where Isis had been standing not five seconds before and bounced away, the other starters as astounded as her. Her own landing was awkward and she stumbled, trying to catch herself, taking another incredulous look to the other side of the net.
Cora hadn’t seen the result, she even missed the look on Isis’ face. The daze of Farah’s hit was still smarting and she tried to help Farah up after regaining her feet. Perhaps the most confused of all, Farah accepted the help and then begrudgingly took her hand away when she began to realize what had happened, so hurt by the act that tears had started to form in her eyes in anger. Cora searched for an apology to say, but was cut short by the end of practice whistle. The team seemed hardly to notice, until they began to walk to the locker in ones and twos. Farah turned and left in anger as Venus chased after her, sparing a look at Cora that seemed to ask “Why?” Isis seemed in a daze and slowly walked to the other side of the gym, sparing not a word to anyone. Roberta was the first to speak to Cora.
“What are you trying to pull?! Do you think you’re special or something?!”
“I just wanted,” Cora started, “to sho-”
“Shut up! Are you a moron or something!? Isis went out of her way for you! Bile wanted you off the team and she stuck her neck out for you! She stopped him from just kicking you off the team outright! She cared enough about you to risk our entire season!”
“’I didn’t know that! She never told me-”
“Do you really think she would!? After all the crap your dad’s went through, after all the fights you two have had, do you think you really would have believed her? On top of all that, you disrespect her and the teams decision and nearly hurt a teammate to do what? To prove you’re good at volleyball? Newsflash, moron: We knew that! Had I been the captain, I would have used you until they removed you from sports entirely, but you know what? Isis should have done the same damn thing for all the crap you pulled today!”
Cora was stunned, she didn’t know how to respond. As Roberta stormed off, Cora was left speechless.
The silence was only barely broken by Coach Creed.
Who was right behind Cora.
The old coach leaned forward and whispered so only she heard, “Do you think you accomplished anything?”
“I don’t know,“ she said. Cora felt tears coming on. The dawning realization that she had made a terrible mistake all the more clear.
“I’ve commanded many armies, coached many teams, mentored many people. Sometimes, the ends justify the means, but rarely does it make the fallout any easier.”
The young girl swallowed hard, almost not realizing the coach was already gone.
“How the crap does he do that?” Freya asked, ducking under the net and approaching Cora.
“I’m sorry…” was all Cora could managed as she looked down at the floor, her tears starting streak her cheeks and falling to the ground.
“Ah, no big deal,” Freya beamed.
“Why aren’t you mad at me?” Cora asked, unbelieving.
“I know you were right about this whole thing sucking. I think it sucks too and, personally, Isis having her feelings hurt doesn’t bug me that much. Farah’s a tough girl, her pride is the only thing that’s hurt, just give her a Baneblade or a Land Raider to play around with and she’ll probably forget the whole thing happened. As for Miss Perfect, she’s just upset the ball hit her in the face, that was funny.”
“You’re wrong, I was wrong…very wrong…” Cora started to cry.
“Come on,” Freya comforted her, placing her arms around Cora, “it’ll be fine.”
Cora embraced Freya and squeezed tightly. Despite her over-simplification of everything, Freya was being truly empathetic and it was very comforting to Cora. She spent another good minute crying before she could compose herself.
“That’s better!” Freya smiled, “I know what you need, how about a good 40k run to relax a bit?”
“Maybe not that far…hey!” was all Cora could manage before Freya started dragging her around the court.
The two ran together for sometime, long after everyone else had left, Cora was sure. To her surprise, it was strangely relaxing, it at least let her mind focus on other things. She felt very at ease around Freya, she was happy to have her close by. It was similar to the way she felt with Kelly or Morticia, but neither of them practiced or played sports with her. Freya had shown her true kindness and friendship in her own special way and Cora was glad to count her as a friend. Cora realized it was getting to be late and she would need to go. Freya was showing no desire to stop and she felt a little bad ducking out before 20k were finished, but she needed a break. She leaned in close to Freya.
She split off as Freya continued making laps and jogged for the locker room. She entered to see that locker room was as deserted as she expected, her bag and locker untouched, thankfully. The sound of running water came from the showers, but she expected it had just been left on from the rest. She quietly undressed, removing her practice gear down to her undergarments. It had been a good workout, but a shower was very much in order she giggled to herself. She removed her bra and slipped off her panties, placing them into her gym bag. She was about to grab her hygiene products when she heard the running water abruptly stop. Cora instinctively turned and looked toward the showers. She watched as the door slowly opened and Isis stepped out staring numbly ahead. Cora was instantly struck by her appearance. It wasn’t the first time she had seen one of her teammates naked, but it was usually short and fused with an air of humor or embarrassment. As it was, Isis had little to be embarrassed about. Her still wet body was amazingly perfect, her smooth skin, tan skin unblemished, the well toned legs and arms connected by her thin, flat stomach and shapely breasts and full hips. She seemed to lose herself for a moment before realizing Isis was looking at her and her own pale, exposed body. She felt herself turning red and she reached for her towel on the bench, quickly covering herself. Isis made no comment and began to dry herself, seemingly content to not say a word to Cora.
Her embarrassment was replaced by sadness and Cora felt the urge to say something, anything to her, even if just to try. She searched for words but, again, found herself lacking. Her eyes fell to the floor and she felt like crying again. When she looked up, Isis was in front of her, garbed in only her towel.
“You surprised me,” Isis spoke, not coldly or cynically, but sounding genuinely hurt.
Cora’s mouth trembled, “I’m sorry…I didn’t kno- I didn’t think…”
“I suppose we’re both to blame though, aren’t we? I backed you into a corner and you lashed out in defense. I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same thing, I just didn’t expect you to do the same.” Isis reached out a placed a soft hand below Cora’s chin, slowly lifting her head to meet her eyes, “There’s a tough girl behind the tears after all.”
Cora felt ashamed and a lone tear slowly drew down her cheek. Isis gently wiped it away and moved a lock of Cora’s hair from her face to behind her ear, gently stroking her head.
“If you’re really sorry,” Isis began, “Study hard. Get help, if you have to. Stop Bile from meddling in things that aren’t his business. If you can do that, I can have you on my team again, we can be a team again.”
Cora felt excited as Isis drew her in and the two embraced. They released each other and Isis began to change as Cora walked to the shower, neither saying another word. By the time she had finished, Cora saw that Isis was long gone. She quickly changed and voxed a short message to Kelly and Morticia.
She needed to unwind from the day’s events and she needed her most trusted friends to do so.
Racing the Khan
I was at a bike rally when I first met her. Not one of the big ones, but the kind of local shindig where you can find some really crazy shit. She was riding the biggest, baddest bike I'd ever seen. It had to be a custom job, probably built it herself or had someone she knew really well do it. She was wearing a leather jacket and an expression of absolute confidence, in herself, in her skills, in her machine.
It was beautiful.
I worked up the courage to talk to her and found myself vindicated. She was as cool as she looked, and quite a bit friendlier. She didn't dismiss me and I wasn't TOO intimidated by her. I knew bikes, and actually paid attention to personal hygiene, and that gave me a leg up on almost anyone else there. I complimented her bike, and she offered me a ride.
I won't say she didn't wink when she said it, but I won't say she didn't.
Two weeks later I'm astride my own bike. Nothing to sneeze at, but not exactly a monster like Hana's. The rumble of the engine is some comfort. Something stable and steady I can focus on to distract myself from my nervousness. Maybe I'm a romantic bastard, but dammit, I wanted to impress her dad. Maybe it's love, who can say?
I'm contemplating my navel like that, when suddenly the fucking KHAN rolls up beside me. If Hana's bike was a monster, his was some kind of eldritch chopper from beyond the abyss. The whole thing looked like someone had taken a single massive engine and bolted a seat to the top and wheels to the bottom. The Khan himself grinned at me and pulled his shades down to get a good look at me. It was only then that I noticed the tiny figure seated behind him as Hana. She grinned too, almost sheepishly. I'd only just put two and two together when the Khan revved his bike's engines, jets of flame spurting forth from it's exhaust pipes as he turned back to the road.
I'd have thought I'd panic. But I set my teeth instead.
And the race was on.
Needless to say, I lost. But I did keep up, and I even managed to stay on my bike despite the insanity of some of those turns.
I stood up, shakily, ready to hang my head in shame, when I felt a pair of leather-clad arms wrap around my neck, the smell of road-grit and engine oil filling my nose. I looked up into Hana's smiling face (Great emperor she's tall..) and felt a hell of a lot better.
"Not bad." I heard a heavy voice say. "With practice I'd say you'd make a fine enough white scar."
I heard myself thank him, just before he peeled off down the highway and Hana sat in the seat of my bike, patting the seat behind her with a smoldering look in her eye I can still recall perfectly.
And that's when I knew that from then on, everything would be awesome.
Hints and Suppositions
Lyra lay sprawled across her desk, staring towards the wall. Her watcher grunted and fumbled with her books beneath the desk, organizing them for her next class. It wasn't unusual to see her sprawled across the desk - despite her fair hair and lack of skulls and chains it was "common knowledge" she was a great deal more emo than Kelly was purported to be.
She was actually staring at Freya, who was doodling idly in one of her textbooks. A surge of some emotion - Lyra did not care to dissect exactly what the contents of that emotion were - made her heart beat faster. Her hand clenched into a fist as she stared at the redhead.
"You know what they say-" "-about Freya don't you?"
Lyra sat up and looked at the twins. No, that wasn't quite right - they were The Twins.
Lyra glared sullenly at The Twins and waited, but a sidelong glance that gave them an uncanny mirroring of one another was all the response she got. "No, what do they say?" she asked, exasperation finally getting the better of her.
Alpharia grinned wickedly. "They say she fucks like a wolf-" "-because she fucked a wolf, you know," Omegan finished, her twin's wicked grin presenting itself in stereo across her lips.
Lyra felt the intense blush crawling up her cheeks and setting her ears on fire.
"What, you didn't think any of the boys-" "-who go to this school could possibly-" "-manage to catch her interest long enough-" "-to survive a night in the sack with her?"
Lyra was getting dizzy from looking back and forth between the two short haired students. "Well, it's not like there aren't rumours about you two, you know," she replied, her blush making her snippy. "From what I hear you still sleep....in..." Lyra's eyes had gone wide and she was looking up and behind The Twins, who looked at her in confusion.
A dark shadow had gown behind the twins and they seemed to realize it just as a low, heavy growl emerged from the darkness behind them. They slowly turned, their hands dropping away from each other, but it was too late.
"SHADDUP!" roared Freya, her thick red hair flying as she grabbed the twins by their necks and whipped them around, taking them both off their feet and putting them in individual headlocks, one under each arm. Lyra nearly toppled backwards out of her seat at the whirl of legs and arms as the twins squeaked in dismay. Small, firm hands and a heavy grunt behind her told her her Watcher had caught her balance for her.
"I WOLFING DO NOT WOLF ANIMALS!" roared the irate athlete, causing laughter to ripple through the room. The Twins made strangled noises, and Lyra noticed - due largely to their awkward position - that their panties followed the same reversal scheme as the rest of their clothing did. Unlike the glimpse she'd gotten of Freya's panties, there was no surge of....well, whatever it was.
What the hell that meant, she wasn't sure she wanted to know.
"Bah!" Freya unceremoniously dropped the blue-faced twins, who lay on the floor gasping. "Come on," she muttered at Lyra, who clenched her fists. "Let's go get some coffee before the next class." She growled menacingly at the twins one last time, who looked at each other with wide, bloodshot eyes.
"Nah I think I'll...." she started, and then blinked as Freya turned those dark eyes on her. A flutter went through her chest and she swallowed. "....get something with less caffeine this time" she finished lamely, not willing to risk Freya's anger.
Freya relaxed. "Cool. Hurry up." Freya grabbed her book bag in one hand and slung it over her shoulder, despite the fact it was at least twice the weight of anyone elses in the room. The twins propped themselves up on their elbows and grinned up at Lyra as she stood, her Watcher clambering up onto her shoulder.
Alpharia smirked and lifted her other hand, spreading her pointer and index finger and miming a licking motion between them, while Omegan held an invisible object in her free hand and bobbed her head while pressing her tongue into her cheek rhythmically. Lyra harrumphed and straightened her skirt, her cheeks reddening as she followed the redhead out of the room, hating the fact that she could be teased about everything by anybody and ignore it all...unless it involved her would-be best friend Freya.
She wasn't sure if she hated Freya or liked her, but one thing was for sure - the idea of Freya doing anything like THAT wouldn't be coming out of HER mouth ever. She wasn't suicidal....
A Day With Dirk
The blaring alarm roused Cora from her sleep. She yawned and rubbed her eyes before sleepily slipping out of bed to turn it off. No sooner did she switch the alarm off then a shout sounded from across the room followed by a loud slamming noise. "FFFFFFF-" Dirk shouted from his bunk. Cora jumped in shock and swung around. Dirk was sitting on the top bunk and rubbing his head. "Dirk! What's wrong? Are you okay?" She asked, catching her breath and trying to calm herself. He panted and turned to her slowly, his forehead and torso glistened with sweat. Unlike his sister, Dirk was an athletic type. His body was muscular and he was even part of the boxing team. "Wha? Yeah I'm fine. Just a nightmare." He said, rubbing his fingers up his face and through his hair. "What was it about? Was it the same one?" Cora asked as she approached the bed. "Yeah. Same shit, different day." he said, regaining his composure. "Maybe you should talk to dad about it, I think it might help. I'm not trying to pressure you but I'm worried about you." Cora said, genuinely concerned for her brother. "Oh Emperor, not this again. Just leave it alone." Dirk said defensively. "I'm just not sure that it's normal to have a re-occurring dream about mutating into some hulking tentacle monster Dirk!" She retorted. Dirk smiled, reached over the side of the bunk and patted Cora on her head. "I'm fine. I have you to talk to about it. But if we don't move, we're going to be late for school." he lept from the top bunk gracefully.
Cora nodded in agreement and gave Dirk a hug before leaving the room. He looked into the mirror and rubbed his eyes. He took a moment to make faces at himself before heading off to the shower. He spent longer than usual just letting the water hit his face after washing his hair. Physically, Dirk felt pretty invigorated. Mentally, not so much. As he turned off the water, he heard a pounding at the door. "Come on Dirk. They'll be here any minute!" Cora shouted through the door. Finally he sprang to life and hurried out of the shower. Corax was sitting in the living room in his favorite chair, reading as usual. Dirk rushed into his room and threw on his usual attire of black jeans and a matching t-shit. He made sure not to leave behind the wristbands and scarf Cora made for him. More often then not, people harassed him for his sense of style but he was never one to really bother with other's opinions of him, at least not anyone who didn't matter to him. He grabbed an open text book off of his desk and snapped it shut before rushing out into the living room. Cora was already waiting for him. Dirk smiled as Corax looked up from his book.
"Have a good day at school kids. Dirk, you watch out for Cora." He said calmly. "Daaaad! I'm not a helpless little girl you know." Cora protested. "Yeah but you have to worry about all kinds of douchey guys teasing you." Dirk added with a sly smile. Cora turned to him and narrowed her gaze. "What about you!? You have to worry about all those trashy girls." Cora exclaimed. "Nah, I'm not a brain-dead fuck-head. You don't have to worry about me catching anything." Dirk said before bursting into laughter. "DIRK! Watch your language young man! There is no need for those kind of words in my house or anywhere else." Corax interjected, lightly pounding his fist on the arm of his chair. Dirk nodded and wiped the grin off of his face. "Alright dad I'm sorry." Corax stared at Dirk with an angry look on his face. Dirk cleared his throat and gave a goofy smile to try and make his father smile. Corax was not amused.
A horn sounded outside causing Dirk and Cora to turn their heads towards the door. "Dirk hurry up and put your shoes on. That's them!" She commanded urgently. Dirk looked down at his feet and twiddled his bare toes. "Oh yeah, look at that. I thought I was missing something." He said casually. Cora opened the door and waited eagerly for her brother. Dirk placed his text book in between his teeth, grabbed his socks and pulled them on as he hopped towards the door. "La-er da-!" Dirk mumbled as he pulled his sneakers on. He swung himself around in a half-circle to face his sister. The bright light stunned Dirk, causing him to throw up his hand and wait for his eyes to adjust. He stumbled down the cobblestone walkway towards Cora and Kelly's voice. "Yeah I know. Bruce isn't all to happy about it but dad says that we're going to alternate." Kelly explained. Dirk's eyes finally adjusted and revealed Cora leaning on the Curze's car. It was a pretty nice ride. Lots of custom parts and a spiffy dark-blue paint job to boot. It was complete with a knarley looking skull with batwings on the hood and even a vanity plate that read "IMTGDBM" whatever the hell that meant. Bruce had a strange style but Dirk had grown fond of it after spending so much time around him. The two were as close as Cora and Kelly were but shared far less similarities. While Dirk was loud, light-hearted and bold; Bruce was quiet, awkward and more than slightly morbid.
With a jogging start, Dirk slid effortlessly across the freshly waxed hood and landed softly on the other side of the car. "Shotgun!" he exclaimed. "Hey, watch the paint. My dad will kill you if you scratch it." a familiar monotonous voice rang from the back seat. Cora looked at Dirk angrily but couldn't find the right words to shout. Dirk chuckled and opened the passenger's door. "Morning Bruce. Morning Kelly." he said as he slid into the leather seat. Cora slipped quietly into the back next to Bruce. Bruce was your typical pasty emo/goth kid. He only wore dark colors and he was always somber and quiet. He went the whole nine yards with painted nails, eyeliner thicker than his sisters and black wristbands much like Dirk's but with that same winged skull on it made by Kelly. "So Kelly, you're looking awfully beautiful today by the way. Are you single?" Dirk commented. Kelly shook her head and blushed. He'd complimented her every opportunity he got once he discovered that it's cause her pale face to burn a bright red. "Dirk! Stop teasing Kelly!" Cora demanded. Dirk laughed lightly before abruptly being strangled. He chuckled and struggled to break the thin plastic string Bruce had looped around his neck. Dirk chuckled and snapped the string with little effort. "Easy! Easy man. I had a rough night." Dirk said with a chuckle, turning around to face the back seat with a smile. "Nightmares again?" Kelly blurted out. Cora's eyes went wide for a second before she turned away from Dirk awkwardly. "Oops..." Kelly muttered. "Cora. What the shit? You told her?" Dirk asked, slightly peeved. "It... slipped?" she said innocently. Dirk smiled at her and turned back around. "It's cool. So Cora wen are you gonna ask him out?" Although he wasn't facing her, Dirk was grinning wide. "Kelly!" Cora exclaimed embarrassed. "What I never told anyone I swear!" Kelly claimed. "I overheard." Bruce admitted plainly. Cora covered her red face, embarrassed. "Can we please just go. We're gonna be late." Cora suggested.
Kelly put the car into gear and drove down the road, gradually increasing in speed. As a rule of life, Dirk knew that new drivers either drive at snails pace or speed. Apparently Kelly was the latter type. Dirk, Cora and even Bruce held on for dear life. Kelly seemed calm as always as she ran stop-signs and cut of cars. Dirk's life flashed before his eyes as Kelly finally rolled into the school's parking lot and brought the car to a screeching halt. "We're here!" Kelly announced proudly. The car was quiet for a moment. "Sexy" Dirk finally announced before pushing the door open and hopping out. He quickly surveyed the parking lot to see if any one of note was around. Furia and Ragio were in the corner of the lot smoking by the hole in the fence. Primos, Ultimo, Alpharia and Omegan were all chatting near the flagpole, each twin mirroring the next with subtle adjustments and hand movements. Lastly, Freya and Miranda were walking towards the entrance side-by-side. As he surveyed the lot, the rest of the passengers exited the vehicle. Bruce and Dirk leaned against the car and watched the two girls move towards the entrance. The two stopped and Cora turned to her brother. "Dirk! You're going to be late!" She warned. "Don't worry about it. My first period teacher isn't coming in today." He said plainly. "How do you know?" Kelly asked, twirling her finger around a coil of her long dark hair. "Oh I know." Bruce interjected with a grin.
"We'll see you after school then. Don't take to long or we'll leave without you!" Cora said, turning and jogging towards the school's entrance. "Uhm, bye Dirk!" Kelly said with a small wave before chasing after Cora. The two watched their sisters rush off as the warning bell sounded. By now the two sets of twins had disappeared inside and Dirk was alone with Bruce. Furia had also entered the school though it was unlikely she was doing anything scholastic. Ragio had drove off in his hulking truck."Women drivers, no survivors" Dirk commented. "I think you convinced her that she has a crush on you." Bruce said plainly. "I think I've convinced MYSELF that I have a crush on HER." Dirk started. "I don't want your dad to cut me up thought like all her other potential boyfriends though. Plus Cora'd get my dad to brow-beat me until I backed off." He added. Bruce nodded and the two gazed around in a moment of silence, backs to the car. "Plus you just want to sleep with her." Bruce stated. "Fuck yeah I do." Dirk admitted with a slow nod, his scarf blowing a the light gust of wind.
"We better get you inside before you accidentally tan." Dirk said, pushing himself up off the car with a quick jerk of his body. "I don't think I'm capable" Bruce stated. The two entered the school and moved past the main office, stopping in front of the cafeteria. "I think I'm gonna go with a power bar today. What do you want? " Dirk asked, peering into the empty cafeteria. "Nothing for me." Bruce said quietly. "You sure? You don't want an emo potato?" Dirk asked, smiling inwardly. Bruce leered at him silently. "Emo Potato. You know fries...it cuts itself into little wedges...?" Dirk trailed off as Bruce's stare continued. "Fine. I'll meet you in the usual spot during PE. Catcha later Bruce." Dirk said, pushing open the door and entering.
The morning flew by. Dirk's first few classes flew by until PE rolled around. Most of the class was already changed and ready by the time Dirk got into the locker room. "Crap. Late again." He muttered as he hastily changed into his workout cloths; A black muscle-shirt and matching shorts with white stripes going down either side. Dirk strolled into class just as everyone was stretching out and veered towards the dark underside of the bleachers. Casually he leaned against the wall to which they were affixed. "What's shakin'?" Dirk called out quietly. "Not much." Bruce said as he lowered himself from the underbelly silently. "Miranda and Freya have been talking about you." Bruce said quietly, staying in the shadows. "Why do you smell like flowers?" He asked in his usual tone. "What? Oh I had to use Cora's shampoo this morning...Why the fuck are you smelling me dude?" Dirk responded, puzzled. The two shared a long awkward. "How did you do on your test for AP-Bio?" Bruce asked. "Aced it. Can't do better then 100%." Dirk stated, looking out onto the floor and watching his classmates stretch out. "Good. That means I got 100% too. I know I only got the answers to you a few minutes before the test but you were and to memorize them on the spot again." Bruce added. Dirk just nodded in agreement. "Just as goddamn planned." Bruce said with a grin. The two then shared a most excellent brofist.
"Alright. I'm gonna run out there once we start laps. I'll chatcha later Bruce." Dirk said, watching everyone line up. "Bruce?" Dirk called out. He turned back around only to find that he had vanished again. Dirk was used to his strange behavior but he was always impressed at how quickly and quietly Bruce could vanish. "Alright! Get your asses outside and run some laps MAGGOTS!" A loud and booming voice snapped Dirk back to reality. Coach Kharn was always in a bad mood it seemed. There were rumors of the hulking man involving himself in sports just so he had an excuse to throw kids around during wrestling practice or knock the shit out of them as boxing coach. It was probably true. As the students bantered and began walking out onto the field, Dirk wedged himself into the crowd so not to be noticeably late. The ticking of the sprinklers could be head watering the football field in the distance and It was a bit cooler out since a light breeze had whipped up since this morning. Dirk's scarf flapped in the wind as the class trudged out towards the track. He took a deep breath as he stepped from the grass onto the track. He let the majority of his classmates pass by him until he spotted Miranda and Freya walking side by side talking. Dirk smiled slyly to himself, adjusted his scarf and trotted up alongside them.
"Pardon me ladies, I couldn't help but notice that you were enjoying a nice conversation before I rudely interrupted. What's up?" Dirk interrupted with his usual grin. "Oh. Good morning Dirk." Miranda said shyly with a smile, sticking close to Freya. Freya was far less reserved and gave Dirk a hearty pat on the back that caused him to stumble slightly. "Hey Dirk! We we're just talking about you. What a coincidence." She said with a chuckle."Oh yeah? I hope it was something good." He said, subtly winking as he spoke. "No actually. We were discussing how when you found out that Ragio has been harassing her that you were going to kick his ass." Freya said with a more serious look on her face. Dirk's light-hearted smile faded and an angry scowl replaced it. Freya pointed down the track where Kelly and Cora were walking together. Sure enough Ragio was walking besides them, shouting insults and mocking Cora. Dirk wouldn't have cared if it was him but he was never one to sit by and let people bring down his sister. His fists balled up in rage and he began stomping towards Ragio. "Dirk wait. You're going to get yourself hurt" Miranda warned. Dirk was no lightweight and had been in fights before but he knew damn well he was nowhere near as strong as Ragio. Ragio was a powerhouse. Although he wasn't the hugest of guys, Ragio was a vicious, racist skinhead and a paranoid gun-nut.
Dirk heard footsteps coming up besides him. He glanced over to see Bruce jogging with him. "Aim for his neck, use your scarf to feint and try and kick sand at him if you're getting pummeled. Kharn won't be able to resist interrupting for too long." Bruce suggested. That's always the way it was. Bruce was always the strategist and Dirk was always the muscle. Sometimes it seemed like Bruce was just pulling the strings but that's the way their whole relationship was. They walked a fine line between friends and tools for each other. Dirk nodded at the suggestion and broke out into full sprint. "Why don't you shut the fuck up emo-bitch and butt out!" Ragio shouted, turning his attention to Kelly. "FIGHT!" A voice echoed from across the field right before Dirk made his opening move. A swift kick to the side of the head sent Ragio stumbling towards off of the track and onto the wet field. He sloppily turned to face his assailant when before throwing his hands up to block a second blow. Ragio slapped Dirk's hand away with ease and delivered a swift left hook of his own to Dirk's torso with such great force that it sent him skidding through the water grass. "Dirk! Don't!" Cora shouted from the sidelines. He shrugged off his sister's protests and remained focused on the fight. Ragio chased after Dirk and delivered a second punch to his mid-section.
Dirk glided along, trying to catch his breath and waiting for Ragio to go for his blowing scarf. Sure enough, Ragio reached forward to yank the scarf but Dirk whipped it away at just the right moment, leaving Ragio wide open to attack. Dirk finally halted himself before lunging forward and slamming his fist into Ragio's neck, robbing him of oxygen and putting him on the defensive. Dirk followed up with a flurry of punches but only found himself hammering against Ragio's massive arms he used to protect himself. By now a crowd of students had gathered at the near edge of the track that encircled the field and were shouting all kinds of random profanities and cheers. Ragio regained his composure and answered Dirk's cheap shot with a vicious strike that caught Dirk right in the mouth and sent him tumbling backwards. No sooner did he roll onto his feet than another blow slammed into his side, forcing him to fall back onto the sandy track. "HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT SHIT BITCH!?" Ragio shouted lept into the air to deliver a lethal knee-drop. The attack failed and instead pounded down into the ground as Dirk rolled away. He was too slow to get however and Ragio began stomping Dirk. He covered himself the best he could but Ragio's kicks struck Dirk's mid-section, arms and even his head once or twice. In desperation, Dirk grabbed a handful of dirt and sand and whipped up a cloud with it as he rolled onto his feet, getting some into Ragio's eyes and blinding him temporarily.
Dirk got in one last good swing before Kharn grabbed him. The final blow knocked Ragio backwards but again failed to take him off of his feet. He was one tough bastard. Khran yanked Dirk back and tossed him back on the ground. Ragio charged but was caught and held back by Kharn. "YOU'RE FUCKING DEAD YOU SUCKER PUNCHING FAGGOT!" Ragio shouted. "GET YOUR ASS INSIDE AND GET CHANGED RAGIO! YOU TOO MAGGOT!" Kharn demanded, shoving Ragio towards the school and pointing at Dirk. Ragio flipped Dirk off and made threatening gestures as he left. "THE REST OF YOU GET THE HELL BACK TO RUNNING!" Kharn roared. General sounds of panic issued form Dirk's classmates before they swiftly dispersed. Dirk sat there for a moment before Cora, Kelly, Freya and Miranda all ran up to see the damage. Dirk spat blood into the sand, staining it red, and ran his fingers on his busted lip.
Now that he was coming down off his adrenaline he was really feeling the pain and soreness from Ragio's punishing blows. Blood ran down from his forehead and his mid section was aching from the punishment. Nothing broken but it sure as hell hurt. "Dirk are you okay?" Cora asked quietly, looking down on her injured brother, tears in her eyes. Freya offered him her hand and laughed. "Damn that was some flashy fighting there Dirk" Dirk's expression changed back to his usual smile before he rolled onto his back and kicked up onto his feet. "Thanks, I try to put on a good show." Dirk proclaimed as he pat Cora on the head, fighting back the urge to show signs of injury. "I'm fine. He's not as strong as he looks." he added. Freya withdrew her hand and punched him in the arm playfully, Miranda hiding behind her. "You're pretty strong looking yourself. You should work out with me some time Dirk. I'll spot you." Freya offered. Dirk laughed and put up his hand in protest. "Maybe. We'll see how long I get suspended for but when I get back, you're on. Now, if you ladies will excuse me." He adjusted his scarf as he spoke and then made extra effort to look dramatic as he walked silently past the girls, back straight and scarf blowing in the light breeze. "Looks like you're hurting." Bruce announced quietly. He was standing in the shadow of the goal post but Dirk managed not to jump in surprise. "Sure am. Don't let anyone know or I'll look about 50% less cool." Dirk said with a grin. "Never do, never will." Bruce responded.
The Lion and the Fist
Rogal and Lion elbowed each other hard as they stood near one another, laughing and throwing insults back and forth. Aside from a few other parents and the coach, there were no others around the boxing ring. After a few moments and another elbow, the men parted and moved toward the corners of the ring as their sons approached.
"Alright, Roger," Rogal said as he clapped his hands down on his son's shoulders. "You've been giving it to him good, but you need to keep your hands up! He's been giving you one or two in the gut and then abusing your head. You're a Dorn! You don't take blows like that from anyone!"
At the same time, Lion was holding up a water bottle for his son. "What are you doing in there, Thoreau? He's leaving his head wide open! Before you give me any lip, you have to take advantage of that! Hammer in on him, wait for him to feint and give him the hard south!"
All the while, the boys kept amused smiles on their faces and nodded as their fathers spoke. Simultaneously, they said, "Understood, dad." Both of the huge men grinned and stepped away from the ring as the bell sounded the start of the next round.
Stepping back into the ring, the boys nodded to one another as they stepped back in and laid into each other. Roger landed a few sharp jabs to Thoreau's jaw, dazing the boy. Before he could press, though, it was returned through a hard right hook into his ribs. The blow brought his hands down and Thoreau caught it, bringing his left hand into Roger's temple. He staggered for a moment before losing his balance, hitting the mat hard. Thoreau stood overhead, watching his friend as the coach began to count.
"Roger! Get up, boy! You're not done fighting yet!"
"You obviously don't know your boy then, Rogal! My Thoreau cleaned his clock!"
"Oh really, now? You're going to say that I don't know my own son!?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying!"
The two men continued to shout and fight as Roger slowly made his way back up to his feet as a count of "9" was called.
"Nah. I'm done. Good fight, Thoreau."
Furia's Failed Date
"WHERE IS MY DAUGHTER! WHERE ARE YOU HIDING HER!"
The snarling voice of Angron reverberated through the hospital as he crashed through ward after ward, flinging aside those doctors and nurses who dared to stand in his way.
"FURIAAAAA? FURIA? WHERE ARE YOU?"
"I'm here Dad."
Furia leant heavily against the tiled wall, the bandages around her head hiding her shock of hair.
"My God, Furia, what happened to you?"
Angron's voice trembled slightly, the furious anger draining away in shock as he saw his injured daughter. Furia shuffled towards him, eyes watery, and clasped herself around his leg just as she had when she was just a girl.
"Oh Dad... I was out with Si..."
"SO THIS IS HIS FAULT! I'LL KILL HIM! I'LL KIIILLL HIM FOR HURTING YOU! WHERE IS HE?! WHEERE IS HEEEE?!"
"He's through there but Dad, wait! Please!"
Angron was in a killing mood. He wrenched a cleaver like knife from his boot and stalked towards the dark room where his daughter's boyfriend was supposed to be. He kicked the door off its hinges and bellowed a challenge.
"YOU CANNOT HIDE, MAGGOT! I AM ANGRON AND I AM... YOUR... death?"
The room's occupant was mummified in plaster casts. Blood and painkillers were pumped into him from gently beeping machines. Angron's slab like face creased up in confusion until he heard his daughter speak.
"We were coming back from the movies. We got... attacked. These gang guys. Wanted money. Guy hit me over the head with a lead pipe while I was whaling on his friend. When I came to, Si was like this."
She sniffed and wiped her eyes on the hem of her hospital gown.
"The witnesses said he kept trying to protect me. He tried to hold them off, but they were much stronger than him. He wanted to make sure I was OK."
Angron blinked, uneasy at this sudden twist of fate.
"How... is he... is he going to be OK?"
Furia's lip trembled as she tried to hold back the tears, but it was too much. She fell weeping into her father's strong arms.
"They... the doctors... they... they don't kno-o-o-ow!"
Angron stroked his daughters head and murmered to her gently to calm her down. Anyone who did not know him as his daughter did would have been surprised at the gentility of the monstrous man.
As soon as he had soothed his daughter and directed her back to her own room, Angron made his way outside, stopping only to threaten a doctor with disembowelment if the young man he had just seen did not recover. Outside, he reached into his pocket for a mobile phone and slowly punched in a number with his meaty fingers. He was not raging. He was beyond simple anger. He had crossed deep into the levels of calm fury beyond that.
"Is that Kelly? Hi Kelly. Is your Dad there? I need to talk to him urgently."
Kurz put down the phone with exaggerated care. He paused, lost in thought for a moment, and then smiled slightly.
"Some thing's come up. I have to go to work. Will you be OK on your own?"
"'Course. As if anyone's going to break in after what happened last time."
"Ha. Yeah. Good times."
"Dad... I heard uncle Angron on the phone. He seemed... quiet. Is everything OK?"
The Night Haunter paused uneasily, a razor sharp meathook in hand. He didn't like to involve his daughter in the family business.
"Do you know about a young man named Simon? He's stepping out with Furia, apparently."
"Yeah, a bit. Didn't think he'd be her type, but he seems nice enough. Why?"
"He's in hospital. Furia too. Mugging."
"Yes. They're not sure if Simon's going to pull through."
There was silence from the den before Kelly spoke again.
"Don't forget your toolbox."
~Later That Night~
The cinema where Furia and Simon had visited was situated down town. The area had gone downhill in recent years, urban decay and crime claiming an area that had once been fashionable. The muggy, humid night air was alive with the thumping bass of loud music and the distant sound of fights breaking out. From his position in the gloomy shadows of an ally, the Night Haunter could sense a thousand different tastes and sensations on the air, from the pungent perfume dancing about a street walker to the acid tang of vomit pooling in a gutter. He could sense the lingering outlines of where Furia and the boy had been, and the fresh young blood spilled on the pavement. But what most interested him was a single delicate scent that teased his sense like the scent summer flower. Fear. Fear, strong and close.
It was but the work of moments to track down its source. An apartment overlooking the street where the mugging had taken place. The fat man inside had clearly been the witness who had seen what had happened. Kurz adjusted his hat, put down his toolbox, and knocked at the door. A nervous voice called out from inside.
"Who is it?"
"You can think of me as a concerned parent." said the Night Haunter, slipping off his gloves and examining his claw like nails. "I just want to go over the details of an incident you observed earlier tonight."
Behind the door, Kurz heard the sound of shotgun being loaded. He smiled slightly.
"Go away, man! I ain't talking to no pig. Back off. I got rights.."
"Oh, but sir, I'm just a concerned parent. I certainly wouldn't want any police here. I just want a friendly conversation, that's all. Is that really too much to ask? Perhaps if I came in..."
The door burst open as the fat man came blasting out with the shotgun. The corridor was empty. There was no sign that anyone had ever been there. The man relaxed. Then he heard a mocking whisper in his ear.
"Angron? Yes. Turns out it was the local pill peddler. They were his clients, apparently. Didn't want the police to get involved, so he was decidedly unhelpful. Hmm? Oh no, he talked to me. Positively babbled. They hole up in an abandoned hotel on first and tenth. You can't miss it... oh of course. Wouldn't miss this for the world. You go on ahead, I'll catch up. A few loose ends to tie up."
The night haunter snapped the phone shut and returned to his task.
"Where were we... ah yes, we were discussing your future. Tell me... do you remember those old anti-drug messages? They weren't very effective, were they?"
Kurz positioned the nail and raised the huge mallet in his hand.
"You, on the other hand, are going to be a much, much better spokesman. You see, if thing I've learned as a parent it's that if you can't set a good example..."
Kurz snarled and brought the hammer came down with a sickening crunch.
"...you can serve as a terrible warning."
In the hospital day room Vulkan and Guiliman sat in front of a flickering television in chairs designed for much smaller men. Guiliman sipped water, the plastic cup seeming comically tiny in his hand. They had been discussing their niece and her boyfriend.
"How is he?"
"Hard to say." shrugged Vulkan. "The doctors aren't telling us anything. It's serious though. The parents have agreed to let Magnus try and reach him. They wouldn't do that unless there was something very wrong."
"Oh no. Poor boy. How's Furia taken the news?"
"Not well. Most of the girls are with her now, or on their way. Lorgar and Faith are in the Chapel, praying for the boy with his mother and father. They feel they can be of more use there."
"We're such a close family."
Vulkan shrugged again.
"It's the right thing to do, Roboute. It shouldn't matter if they're family, we should care for all who fall protecting the innocent"
"I suppose so. On that subject of family, where's Angron?. It's not right to leave his daughter's side at a time like this. Why, if it was Roberta... well, suffice it to say that I would not leave her side for an instant."
Vulkan shifted uncomfortably.
"I... am not sure. Furia says he was here, but he left again. I believe Horus is trying to track him down. You know Angron. He can't stand sitting still."
"Hah! Yes, I can believe that. Probably got bored and wandered off, the brute."
Vulkan said nothing. He suspected he knew exactly what Angron was doing, but the less Guilliman knew of his whereabouts the better. He didn't approve of his brother's methods, but he knew for damn sure he wasn't going to let Guiliman interfere.
"I'm going to find Dorn, help him repair the damage our dear brother caused. Perturabo said he was going to do it, but he had to leave suddenly. You coming?"
"Sure. Least I can do, under the circumstances."
Magnus the Red loomed next to the bed as still as a statue, his hand resting on the bandaged forehead of the boy lying there. To a casual observer nothing appeared to be happening, but the thin patina of frost forming on the metal bedstead spoke otherwise. The Cyclops' hidden might was focussed entirely upon the frail figure before him, a last desperate attempt to rekindle the soul of the child that had almost given his life for his niece's. He was failing. Simon was dying.
Magnus drew himself together and probed deeper. He would not be denied this. He would combat this threat at close quarters. Closing his eyes, the Sorcerer reached out with his astral form and touched the flickering soul of the boy.
Magnus reopened his eyes. The hospital room had disappeared, to be replaced by a twisted and distorted parody of a city street. The sky above boiled as lightning shot clouds scudded high above, red tinted stormlight casting too-long shadows. Across the street a neon lit cinema sign flickered intermittently, advertising a series of violent films. Magnus realised that this must have been the place where Simon and Furia had been attacked, seen through the warped memories of someone who had suffered terribly there.
The psyker was jolted from his reverie by a whispering voice.
"Who are you? You don't belong here."
Magnus turned, but saw nothing. He spoke gently.
"Spirit... my name is Magnus. I'm here to help."
The ghostly voice laughed softly.
"Too late for that. See the shadows?"
The furthest ends of the street were now completely dark., crawling shadows climbing slowly up buildings and shrouding them in cold darkness.
"They will be here soon. They couldn't kill them before, so they came back."
"Kill who, spirit?"
At these words, the door to the cinema collapsed into a fine dust that blew away on an ethereal wind. From the darkness stepped Furia and Simon. But just as the street appeared differently here, so too did they. Simon appeared smaller than he did in real life, his features obscured and hard to see, as though hidden by thick fog. By contrast, Furia glowed with red light, somehow more real than anything else here. She looked taller and stronger than she truly did, and more beautiful too. The scars and imperfections that marred her face had melted away, and her smile was not the irritating smirk that Magnus was used to but a beaming grin that lit up her whole face. As he strode towards the couple, the voice spoke in his ear.
"Young love. He sees her as so much more than what others do. An ideal. She does not truly feel the same way."
For a moment Magnus caught a glimpse of another face beneath the smiling countenance of the girl, one marked by irritation and boredom.
"Spirit, you know more of this than I do. How did this all come to pass? How did these two come together?"
The voice sighed.
"He has long held feelings for the girl. They are of the same age, and of the same class, but she has only recently noticed him. She was failing her assignments, he was tutoring her. She sees this as some kind of reward for his services. He sees it as a date. He will soon tell her how he feels. She will soon laugh. And then..." "What spirit? What then?"
On the top floor of the hospital, Perturabo heard the voice of his daughter.
"Dad, people are beginning to ask where you are- why are you building a large bore artillery piece?"
"Because I was asked to by your Uncle Angron, Petra. That is all you need to know." he said impassively.
Perturabo worked steadily for another few minutes before becoming aware that the girl had not left.
"Do you require anything else of me, daughter?"
"No, I just... never mind."
"Speak. Whatever it is you wish to say is clearly important enough for you to waste your time and mine."
"I just wanted to ask if I could help, that was all. But don't worry about it, I'll go back downstairs."
Petra was just about to close the door again when she heard the Iron Warrior speak.
"There is a welding torch in the case over there. Lock that door and come make use of it, please."
The Astoria Plaza hotel had seen better days. Once a jewel of a building, its façade of white marble gleaming white and its legions of staff oiling through polished halls with industrious pride, it now squatted in the decaying wasteland of the downtown area. Its magnificent windows were boarded shut and covered with metal grates, its doors barred and its walls covered in gang signs and years of graffiti. Where the rich and powerful had once rested in well-appointed rooms, the gang members of the Six Points Squad lurked. The location gave them a perfect stronghold from which to rule this neighbourhood. It's only working entrance was heavily secured, and a glimpse through the barred windows into what had been the lobby revealed a killing ground designed to halt a frontal assault in its tracks.
Angron contemplated the building in front of him from a position in the shadows. He had seen the gang assemble for the night, heard the pounding beat of music and raucous voices singing and shouting and smelt the mixed aromas of fried food and strong liquor. Bright light shined from an upper room through the boarded windows. The thugs were enjoying themselves, secure in the knowledge that they were safe. They believed that they were untouchable. They were wrong.
Angron nodded to himself as he finally decided upon a plan. Few of his brothers would credit the berserker with tactical nuance, refusing to see him as anything more than a crude brute. What they failed to realise was that Angron's simplicity was not stupidity. It was directness. It was efficiency. It was homicidal bravery. Only those who were afraid that they might fail bothered to sneak and hide. A true warrior faced his enemies head on. Angron stepped forward, roared a challenge at the top of his lungs and hefted a parked car into the air. With the guided precision an orbital strike, the vehicle arced through the air towards the upper floor, tearing through glass, metal and concrete as though it were little more than cardboard. While the building's inhabitants screamed and shouted in alarm, Angron charged forward and began to climb up the wall towards the hole he had made. The assault had begun.
In the mind of a boy named Simon, Magnus the Red also prepared for battle. The encroaching darkness oozed against fine filigreed walls of frosty white psychic energy, a magical cage of light to hold it at bay long enough for the cyclops to ready himself. The astral spectres of Furia and Simon, memories drawn from events that occurred only hours ago, ignored him completely, engrossed as they were in a pantomime of a conversation.
As Magnus sat on the grey steps behind them, meditating and focussing his energy, the whispery voice came to him.
"Why are you doing this? The ending is already written. There is nothing that can be done. These events are mere shadows of what has been already seen and done. Choices were made that can never be unmade. There is no hope."
"Wrong." growled the psyker. "There is always hope. The future is not written. I know it. I know I can save him."
"Words. They mean nothing. And your walls are already breaking."
Magnus felt rather than saw the hammering blows that assailed his defences. Their delicate, frost -like patterns pulsed and glowed as something beat against them. Although the murky shadows denied him the sight of his enemies, he caught glimpses of the foe with his witch sight - cold eyes glinting with baleful intent, the flash of an absurdly sharp knife as it struck the walls holding it back.
"Red Man, this is the boy's nemesis. You cannot fight his fate. This is not your battle. Sooner or later, you will have to realise this."
"Spirit, while I draw breath, I shall not allow this child to die. The doom that comes for him is conjured by his own mind, by his feelings of despair and failure. He can overcome them. He MUST overcome them."
Magnus stood and raised his hands, summoning baleful blue fire that burned cold around his fingers.
"And I will show him how."
Magnus lowered his defences and charged at the surging shadows.
Kaz squealed as he fled down the halls away from the devastation. Only twenty minutes ago it had been a perfect night. They had all the drugs, loose women, and, thanks to the mugging of some teenagers earlier that evening, the money to make the night go with bang.
Then the explosion happened. The screams began. Kaz had been in his room entertaining some woman he had picked up in a bar somewhere when he heard the first blast, and the shouts of the first men on the scene. He could remember struggling into his clothes and tumbling after them half-dressed. He heard again Zack shouting something about a car and fires and the horrible gurgling shriek that marked the end of his life. Over and over again he saw himself coming to the blasted threshold of the door and seeing through the smoke and flames the enormous monster seizing his friend, lifting it above its head and tearing him in half. As the blood and viscera rained down upon it, the creature's eyes met Kaz's. In their yellow orbs Kaz saw his death. He had run, not even attempting to fire upon it. Whatever the creature was could not be stopped by mundane weapons.
That hadn't stopped his gang mates from trying though. The sound of gunfire and more screams echoed around the building, as well as the savage roars of the maddened beast charging at its attackers. It was unstoppable. Kaz knew it. His only hope lay in flight. A few people had already tried to leave via the main exit, but had found it blocked from the outside by an iron bar far too large for a man to lift pressed against it. As they had pounded against it, desperate to escape their doom, the monster had come for them. Kaz had heard it coming and had hurled himself into a dark corner, trying with all his might not to breathe out. He was sure that the giant figure had spotted him, but it had carried on past him, swinging an axe with practiced ease as it walked almost casually towards its prey. The men and women at the door had screamed and tried to run, but it was no use. The giant was upon them, hacking, slashing and tearing through them like a hurricane filled with razorblades. Arterial blood sprayed everywhere, painting the walls and floor with sticky crimson gore, the defences that they had erected to keep intruders out now serving to pen them in with their nemesis. The giant had shouted as he murdered them, the booming sound carrying over the slaughter and the gurgles of the dying, crying over and over words that sounded almost distressed.
"YOU DID THIS! YOU HURT HER! YOU WILL DIE! YOU WILL ALL DIE FOR THIS!"
Kaz could not imagine anything that his gang could have done to earn the ire of this beast, and did not intend to stay long enough to find out exactly what it meant. He had a plan. Fleeing through the old service corridors away from the sounds of combat, he headed downwards. There was a back door in what had been the hotel's kitchen. Kaz had been assigned to bar it shut, but he had never bothered to finish the job. It hadn't seemed likely that it would ever be a problem. Now, as he ran full pelt through grimy passageways thick with dust, his feet skidding across the wood, he was thankful for his indolence. It was perhaps the only thing that would save him now.
In moments he was on the threshold. He grappled with the door, frantically turning the lock and pulling at the deadbolt. He could hear something coming closer and closer behind him, the roar of the beast accompanied by the regular crash of exploding mortar. The monster was nearly upon him. "Please!" he screamed as he wrenched at the handle. "Please, for the love of God open!"
With a shuddering jolt, the door slammed free and Kaz stumbled forwards onto the night. He tried to get up, but in some dimly understood part of his brain, the young man realised something was very wrong. The rank smell of blood was even stronger out here than it was inside, and the pools of gutter water gleamed scarlet in the fluorescent orange city light. Before he could so much as scream, a huge, dark shadow that eclipsed the light loomed over him. With snakelike speed he was hoisted into the air and brought face to face with a creature from his darkest nightmares. As his overworked heart finally gave out, the ganger just had time to hear a mouth full of sharp teeth whisper into his ear
Magnus the Red fought in the centre of a howling vortex of psychic energy, his curving sword cutting through the shadowy figures emerging from the swirling darkness. It was an impossible battle. The darkness oozed around him, the amorphous shapes clinging to the memory of the street and forming and reforming as he cut through them. Every ward he threw up was broken or methodically worked around, and even with his prodigious strength at arms, small clawed hands still managed to strike at him. Magnus himself being forced back, ever closer to the two ghostly figures of Furia and Simon. With every step back, the dark creatures harassing him grew stronger and more solid, drawing together to form the shapes of men in heavy coats, clubs dragging behind them. From beneath hooded tops, small white eyes filled with horrible purpose stared unblinking through Magnus at Furia and Simon. Magnus struck at them again and again, but the advance of the shadow creatures seemed inevitable. As another of his blows was thrown aside by length of pipe that seemed to be becoming more real with every passing second, Magnus snarled in anger.
"This is unnatural! These creatures do not belong here!"
"They are his personal demons, warrior. I told you this. Whether they were always here or only appeared after he fought and lost is irrelevant. They have come for him. Why do you delay the inevitable?"
"More importantly, why do you seek to stop me, spirit? Are you with them? Are you responsible for this? Show yourself!"
The whispering voice ignored Magnus.
"Look behind you, warrior. The memories play out. The past becomes the present."
Magnus punched the closest shadow as hard as he could in its hooded face and risked a glance behind him. The conversation between Furia and Simon seemed to be becoming more animated. The irritable face of the girl that the Cyclops recognised appeared on the doll like figure that stood before Simon, and the voices of the teenagers began to be heard growing ever louder. An argument seemed to be in progress.
"What? You and me? Get real."
"But... what about tonight? I thought we-"
"Listen, I was just repaying your favour, alright? I was just trying to be nice. Didn't think you'd have any stupid ideas about this being a date. "
The memory of Furia scoffed and spat on the grey pavement, the angelic veil evaporating to reveal the girl as she looked in the real world, flushed and angry.
"Look at you. Are you going to cry? Please. As if a weakling like you stood a chance with me."
"I am not a weakling!"
"Oh yeah? Prove it. Go on. Hit me."
"What? I'm not going to fight you."
"Pfft. Coward. Won't even fight a giiiiirrrrl."
"I am not a coward! I'm not going to fight you because... because..."
"Go on, say it." sneered Furia. "Because woo wuv me!"
The gathering shadows wrapped themselves around the couple, draining all colour from the scene, while the figures continued to argue obliviously.
"NO! I... I.... I'm not going to because I like you! I thought there was more to you than just... just violence! You're not the dumb bully they say you are!"
"Who says I'm dumb? It's gotta be Big Berta..."
"Look, no, I mean...fine. Maybe I was wrong."
"Yeah." said the memory of Furia, a note of sadness breaking through the anger. "Maybe you were."
As the girl padded away, the shadows detached themselves from their hiding places and followed her, becoming more solid with every second until they had formed into hulking, night-black figures. Magnus glanced at the shade of Simon shaking and spluttering on the steps, confused as to why his demons had not attacked, but the sound of grating voices speaking in harmony drew his eyes back to the figure of his niece. As one, the dark creatures began to harass the girl.
"HEY GIRL. HEY RED. WHERE ARE YOU GOING RED. COME BACK. WE JUST WANT TO TALK."
"COME ON, DON'T BE LIKE THAT RED. A LITTLE RESPECT DIDN'T HURT NOBODY. "
"Get out of my face."
"Or this happens"
Furia's fist arced around and slammed into the face of one of the creatures, the inky matter splashing apart before it was reabsorbed by its fellows.
"OOH. FIGHT. FIGHT. FIGHT. FIGHT."
The creatures attacked as one, the distinct shapes of individual thugs melting into one another in a shifting mass of dark limbs and grinning teeth. Furia fought well, but her blows did little damage, the mass of the emergent creature shifting and swirling about her. First one shadowy tendril struck her, and then another and another. The girl was forced back, but refused to give up, lunging forward with murder in her eyes. But she was not the warrior her father was. She was struck from behind and tumbled to the ground. The dark entity engulfed her like an ocean wave and she was soon lost from sight in the mass.
As Magnus moved to intervene, the shade of Simon howled and charged past him.
"Leave her alone!"
The creature (or was it creatures?) shifted and looked at the boy with dozens of half-formed eyes, grinning teeth emerging from the smoky darkness to smile menacingly. Magnus knew that this was the pivotal moment, the moment this entire dream quest had been building to. The boy faced his own demons, the manifestations of his own guilt and despair for being unable to save his friend, but alone he would surely fall. Alone he was powerless to resist. He needed help. He needed allies.
Magnus the Red pulled the strands of his power together and sent out a single message into the aether as he charged forward. Two words with enough force behind them to register to even the bluntest mind.
The remaining gangbangers ran screaming toward the top floor. Only three had survived the events of the night so far, among them the leader, a man named Wayne. Wayne had been busy getting drunk when the screaming had first started, but had sobered up with lightning speed when he saw the blood.
It had been awful. Nothing had prepared him for the scene of carnage which he had found in the now deserted state room. Some had died when a car had somehow crashed through the windowed facade of the upper room, their bodies instantly pulped by the hurtling metal and the jagged spears of broken glass. They were, perhaps, the lucky ones. The survivors had been torn apart as though by a frenzied animal, blood and gore spattering the decaying plaster of the walls. Someone had been able to fire off a shot from their pistol - the weapon had been crushed through the man's chest. The beast that had done this had then slunk off deeper into the building leaving a wide trail of blood and viscera.
As Wayne stumbled away from the horror, his terrified mind filled only with the thought of escape, the laughter began. Soft at first, but growing louder by the moment, the sinister chuckling seemed to come from all directions at once, a rough, ugly sound that no human throat could possibly have produced. The laughter was soon joined by a delicate scraping noise dancing just at the edge of perception, the sound of a long knife brushing delicately across concrete.
Wayne had fled upstairs, away from the screaming, away from the mad laughter. He had rallied a few of his men on the way, the small group dazed and confused by the sudden attack. Two had been sent back the way he had come, and told to shoot anything that moved. They barely had time to scream before they were attacked, but Wayne didn't care. Escape was the only thing on his mind. Perhaps if he could get onto the roof, he could somehow get away! Only one more flight of stairs to climb and he was free! As if sensing the flicker of hope blazing in his heart, the building echoed to the bestial roar of the monster. Wayne shrieked and shoved the gang members with him out of the way, knocking them to the hard floor in his panic.
"No! They won't get me! They won't!"
Wayne didn't listen to their howls of pain and betrayal as he burst through the skylight door, bracing it shut with a beam of rotting wood. It wouldn't hold for long, but if he was lucky it wouldn't have to. The edge of the roof was so tantalisingly close, and beyond it was a wrought iron fire escape. He could do it! He could escape this nightmare!
It was at this point Angron came through the floor. Exploding through the aging concrete and timber as though it were nothing more than a papier-mâché shell, the World Eater roared to the night sky a bellowing shout of furious exultation. He had found his prey. The Primarch's massive fist clenched around Wayne's throat and hoisted him bodily into the air. The gang leader found himself looking directly into the mad eyes of the hell beast that was slowly choking the life out of him, the blood shot pools of insane, unquenchable hatred boring directly into his soul. He heard the door behind him shatter and an awful, frightening voice speak.
As he slipped into unconsciousness, the voice continued.
"We're not done with him yet."
Magnus fought with all his might to reach Simon, but it was no use. The unnatural shadows resisted his every effort, and for every one that he cut down another two replaced it. The spectral form of Simon fought bravely, but his soul light was guttering and failing as blows rained down upon. Magnus knew that the boy's physical body was failing as his soul died. Nothing could stop it. The despair and guilt over his failure to protect the woman he loved was overwhelming him, the psychic wounds murdering him as surely as if they came from real bats and blades. The circle of life and light around the boy diminished faster and faster until he was just a vibrant splash of colour in an endless void, using the last of his strength to shield his memories of Furia from the onslaught.
Then the heavens opened.
A shaft of light, pure and brilliant, broke through the darkness like a pillar of fire to burn the shadows away. The dark creatures shrank back, disorientated and confused at this turn of events, white eyes blinking at one another and clacking jaws gibbering softly. Simon too seemed confused that the assault had suddenly stopped, looking up warily and taking the momentary respite to better cover Furia. Magnus concentrated all of his psychic power on the light, focussing and strengthening it. It was hard to bridge the two worlds like this, even with help from the other side, but the Cyclops would not be defeated. His efforts did not go unrewarded, and Magnus rejoiced as he heard the words he had hoped to hear.
"Get off me you fat bastard. And take your damn hands off there unless you want 'em broken."
"...Furia? You're alive."
"But I thought... I saw you.."
"Yeah well, you know, takes more than that to take me out."
Furia sat up, the ghostly memory form becoming more solid and more real with every passing moment. She smiled. "And I had help, of course."
She stood, helping Simon to his feet, and grinned in anticipation.
"So what do you say - ready for round two?"
Pain. So much pain.
That voice. That terrible voice. Almost instinctively Wayne tried to flinch away from it, but found himself unable to move
" Don't struggle. It won't do you any good."
Wayne finally opened his eyes and gazed up in horror at the two giants looming above him. He was on his back, tied down tightly by sturdy chains. The larger of the two giants crouched down on its haunches and leaned down so that it could whisper directly into the young man's ear, its hot breath stinking of raw meat and coppery blood.
"Any last words?"
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because you hurt my family. Because you hurt an innocent. Because I was born to destroy filth like you." The creature paused before continuing gleefully. "But most of all because I really enjoy it."
The blood soaked giant stood and nodded to its companion, who pulled what looked like a gigantic pistol from the folds of its clothes. Wayne shut his eyes and begged for mercy, knowing that it wouldn't make any difference. A shot rang out, followed by a hissing shriek. Wayne blinked. He was still alive, and the giant killers had vanished. It was only he breathed a shuddering sigh of relief that he saw the smoky trail of the flare lighting up the night sky above him.
Across town, Perturabo smiled.
As one, Simon and Furia attacked the darkness, soul light building around them and chasing away the shadows. Magnus heard a voice behind him hiss in his ear. "It won't work! He will fall soon enough, warrior. Maybe not today, but soon, and he will drag down the rest of you with him."
Magnus snarled in response and blasted ever more power into the aether.
"Begone spirit!" He roared. "Enough of your lies! Go back to the void and trouble us no more."
With a shriek, the shadows disintegrated, flying apart and burning up like scraps of paper caught in a fire. Magnus approached Furia and Simon and put his arms around them.
"Miranda, it is done. Bring us home."
Magnus awakened from his trance, shards of ethereal ice cracking and steaming off him as his body came back to life. Furia sat opposite him holding Miranda's hand, gazing intently into Simon's face for any sign of life. Long minutes passed. Then, just as Magnus was beginning to lose hope, the boy's eyes flickered open.
"You're ok!" shouted Furia "I am?" "Yes, my son." said Magnus, stroking his hair with paternal affection. "It was touch and go for a moment there, but we brought you back." "Thank you." "Don't thank me, thank Furia. She fought for you, just as you fought for her." "Really... but I..." "Oh shut up and kiss me." said Furia.
As the two kissed, long and deeply, the whole hospital rumbled to the sound of an explosion.
"What the hell was that?!" said Roboute. "Sounded like it came from the roof. Come on!"
Primarchs, doctors, nurses and even some patients were soon on the roof of the building. There they found Perturabo sitting in an oversized folding chair, smiling contentedly as Petra scurried about lighting huge fireworks covered with black and yellow chevrons.
"Perturabo... what are you doing?" "I knew Magnus would do it. I thought a celebration was in order." The Iron Warrior paused, a flicker of doubt passing almost imperceptibly across his face. "The boy is alive, correct?" Vulkan raised an eyebrow and made to respond but was interrupted by Guiliman.
"Look! Down there, the city is burning! Vulkan, come, leave him"
Vulkan and Guliman left swiftly, but the Salamander's primarch paused at the doorway.
"Perturabo... what did you do?"
"Me? I did nothing. And you should go. I imagine that fire is spreading quite fast now."
When the two had left, Perturabo called Petra over and helped her onto his huge lap.
"Thank you daughter. You did very well."
"Thank you Papa."
Together they watched the night explode with coloured flame and listened to the wail of sirens.
Dean Yarrick and Furia
The crowd of high-schoolers parted as Dean Yarrick strode through the hall. Simply his scarred appearance with crude prosthetics would scare most, but in this school it was much more. Rumors about what he had been doing in the army, that he was a Commissar and had no regret to murder anyone for order in his school. At the same time, people respected the discipline that followed and Yarrick’s absolute faith in it so much it spread to them as well. In fact he never needed to take to any disciplinary actions, since all the students respected and feared him.
Well… Almost all.
As he exited the school building his large evil-looking eye scanned the yard before fixing on Furia who was standing talking with Hana, leaning on her motorbike. He fixed his eyes on the delinquent and roared on top of his lungs, a roar that would have sent greenskins crying to whatever they could muster instead of mommies.
The entire hall was silent. The smarter students skulked away to their classes
The delinquent girl's eye twitched. She balled her fist so hard it went bright red. She slowly turned round to face Yarrick, and Hana, realizing what was about to happen, covered her ears. Furia inhaled deeply. So deeply that Hana thought that the breath would last for hours. With a bellow that would kill a grox, that would shake mountains and destroy souls, Furia released.
"HOW MAY I HELP YOU TODAY, SIR?!!!"
Yarrick's face contorted into a mask of sheer rage. Furia looked around, then looked Yarrick straight in the eye.
"I'm fucked, aren't I?"
Yarrick nodded. He was so red she thought that his head would explode. He was quiet when he next spoke. It was slow, drawn out.
"In my office. Now."
Furia spun round to face the assembled students who hadn't run away already, and she adressed the crowd as a doomed revolutionary might.
"Know that I died a martyr, and keep my memory in your hea-"
Yarrick yanked her collar before she could finish.
Hana smirked as she watched Yarrick drag Furia away. She imagined it as a funeral procession. As Furia was dragged round a corner, Hana gave her a quick salute.
A Morning With Furia
“Another day, another... FUCK... who knows; some sort of graaa... Fucking waste of my time, thats what it is”, thought Furia groggily as her morning alarm blared from her bedside. Squinting against the growing light, she rolled over onto her face and slapped at the offending machine. The tenacity of the alarm added to her growing frustration, boiling it over into a pure hatred of Thursday mornings. She spun herself over again and slammed her right hand into the clock. Plowing through its flimsy plastic and aluminum body, her fist crunched the data control medium against the hard, cherry-wood nightstand, silencing the morning messenger forever. The young woman held her hand up over her face, fingers spread. The pure light of dawn glittered as it caught in the droplets of blood gathering in the myriad of small cuts that opened as skin met cogs and circuitry.
The color of the wildflowers that grow alongside the house...
Thoughts that drifted across her mind, but would never leaver her lips. After a moment's musing, she brought the injured hand to her mouth. The cupric blood tasted sweet on her tongue as it flicked into each wound to clean them. She bit down gingerly and pulled out a shard that had embedded itself into the back of her hand.
Minor, not even...
She spat the nib of plastic out onto the floor of her room and let her hand flop down to the side of her bed. After a few scouting pats, it returned victorious; clenched around a crumpled card-stock box. She tilted the box to her mouth and a hand-rolled lho-stick slid out invitingly. The familiar weight on her lips and send of cut tabac leaves helped soothe her sparking nerves. Its mission complete, her hand dropped to the side again and let the container fall back to the floor.
The bedclothes were completely disheveled; scattered, pooling on the floor, and tangled about the sprawled limbs of the bed's occupant. The bed itself was nothing special: a low, sturdy, metal frame of burnished brass with a squat arch of bars at the head and foot. The mattress and pillow, while both extra-firm, provided the proper support where necessary in order to facilitate quality, medically restful sleep. Such was only to be expected when one wished to maintain the peak physical and mental awareness needed for optimum combat efficiency. Besides, soft beds are for pussies. The pillow-cover and bedsheets were both made of 100% cotton that was dyed a brilliant crimson. Darkened and faded only slightly by use, they gave the illusion of sleeping in a pool of blood. The comforter on top was white with blue trim, adorned by the heraldry of The Emperor's own World Eaters Legion. Though thin, it was quite warm; replacing fluff with survival grade insulating fabric. The bed would have appeared stately had the owner cared to make it more than once it a while.. Instead, the daughter of a Primarch simply slid the bedding off of herself as she stood, tangles and all, before unceremoniously dumping them on the foot end of the mattress.
Furia stretched as she arose, the blue and white stripes of her midriff exposing top and low cut shorts rippling along with the sinew of her tall, athletic frame. Her undergarments/sleepwear were comfortable, flexible, breathable, and insulating. Similar to the ones she wore as part of her training kit, but lighter, lacking the compressing elastic, and with admittedly less fabric. She would be ready for a fight, even if caught with her pants down... so to speak.
A quick scratch of the flank, a tousle of bed-head inflicted hair and a few steps off to the bathroom to start her morning routine.
Teeth... check. White, check. Gargle and rinse, ... …. … check.
Hair... FUCK! Furia glared at her reflection. The red dye was fading and sandy blond streaks began to crisscross through in her choppy, boyish hairstyle. “Note to self, buy more dye.” She pondered which color to try next, but only for a moment before continuing to the next step.
Body... Cursory once over to check for blemishes and to note the healing of the latest round of scrapes... All good, check. A small wave of pride washed over her as she looked over the lean muscle structure of her arms and legs, at her sleek torso, and defined abdominal muscles that would make even Victoria jealous. Would it even be possible to make her jealous, jealous of muscles? “Snobby bitch,” Furia muttered as her eye twitched; anger rising as her thoughts turned to Fulgrim's beloved daughter. “I bet the slut can't even open a jar of legume paste by herself.” Furia shook her head to dismiss the irritating thoughts of that... scandalous tart. As much fun as it was to direct her rage at a classmate, it really wasn't getting anything done.
Last Step: Sniff test... Results dismissed. Gym class is early today.
Clean enough for now, the girl trudged back into her bedroom and shed her undergarments, tossing them at her bed. A nondescript pair of hiphuggers went on underneath black bicycle shorts. The spandex athletic wear was as much for utility as an act of defiance against the school uniform. Furia grumbled to no one in particular, detailing the manner of execution she would enact upon the designer of the regulation pleated blasphemy, as she fished a skirt out of a pile and fixed it to her waist. She slid a wide, black leather belt though half of the loops so that it sat slanted upon her hips. A large, chrome-plated Imperial skull icon adorned the front as a belt buckle. “Not even Dean Yarrick can complain about this one,” she gloated , as if the holy symbol was a ward against the accursed dress code. “Oh, I thought it was an appropriate display of piety sir.” She slipped on a a sport-bra, still laughing with irreverent mirth. The regulation white button-up shirt and red tie came next, with the top two buttons left undone and the tails left untucked. The black boots she donned barely passed the dress code, but they did a wonderful job of covering up the pink and black skulls on her not regulation socks. Lastly, she clasped a slim metal choker around her neck. Furia was not much for jewelry or cosmetics, but the studded brass collar was one of her dearest treasures.
Books, papers, and regulation uniform jacket alike were stuffed into a worn, black, canvas rucksack and dragged down a flight of stairs and into the kitchen. Furia's father, Angron, the illustrious Primarch of the World Eaters Legion, was out in the field training (read: terrorizing) the new recruits and wouldn't be back for few standard days or so. His absence was nothing new and as usual, he had left a messily penned note plastered on the fridge.
Out for the week. Gotta put the meat through the grinder. Leftovers in the fridge. And do your fucking homework for fuck's sake! I'll punt your ass right through the Cadian Gate if I gotta read another fucking letter about lack of EFFORT!
Angron's “Little Schnookims” growled with suppressed rage as she opened the walk-in refrigerator, it's mere presence reminding her of that sappy nickname. She filled a container of stew from a 3ft deep cauldron and packed it in her bag along with a loaf of dark bread. Leftovers, in the Angron household, meant that the barracks' cook had made extras. The thick soup present this week had everything but the scullery sink in it; meat, tubers, legumes, vegetables (read: rabbit food), synthetically derived vitamin based nutrient mass, fungus, more meat... It was everything a growing teen and/or space marine neophyte needed. And, like any good military food, flavor was a secondary priority and seasoning was achieved with a generous helping of “Vulkan's Red Hot”.
Furia's mood brightened considerably when she left the house. Rucksack over one shoulder and leather jacket over the other, she followed the stone slab walkway towards the motor shed. If there was a silver lining to a school day, it was in the transit. A few wildflowers had managed to leave the woods and take seed at the edge of the pavement. Spring was in full swing again. The ”shed” was a small, private motor-pool that housed Angron's personal vehicles, as well as the equipment needed to maintain them. However, one area was reserved for Furia and her very own pride and joy; Gorechild, a massive crimson motorcycle that was truly like none other. Three standard years ago, Uncle Kharn returned from battle literally dragging the wreck of an ancient assault-bike back with him. Having long admired the similar war machines of her father's legion and those of the great Primarch Khan, the brash young teen decided that this pile of twisted metal would be hers. And so Furia, together with her father, Uncle Kharn (really such a nice guy), and a few eager adepts from the World Eater's motor-pool, rebuilt the bike into the glorious beast it is now.
Furia gently taxied the monstrous motorcycle out onto the pavement, kicking the shed doors shut behind her. Fingerless, black, leather gloves complimented her boots and jacket. She swung her leg over her mighty steed and slid on a racing helm, matching red with a tinted visor. Checking over the dials and intoning the proper rites, she awoke the the machine spirit of Gorechild with a brush of fingers over the activation rune. The bike roared to life, it's engine humming like the blade of a chainaxe as she eased it out along the road. The biker girl progressively tilted her body into a racing crouch against the fuselage as she increased speed. The motor's vibrations pulsed through her in increasing frequency until machine and rider melted into one. With a sudden howl, Furia and Gorechild broke into a gallop towards the battle of youth.
5 Minutes Later...
Furia was quickly nearing the Guilliman manor, where the class president Roberta Guilliman lived. She could see that stuck up goody goody in the distance, waiting patiently for the bus. A devious smirk grew hidden under her tinted visor as she edged the motorcycle along the other side of the road. Roberta's shriek was heard for blocks as Gorechild and his tamer blazed past, the wind shear from it's passage briefly billowing the prim and proper girl's regulation skirt up for all to see.
Sleep wasn't coming. Angela knew it. Sleep hadn't come to her in nearly three nights, and it was beginning to catch up to her. She smiled as effortlessly as ever with Victoria, and even managed to laugh through her asinine jokes at Lupercal's expense. But then, that's why she did it.
Opening the doors to the balcony of her loft high in the spires of Terra, Angela looked down at the planet below. Skycars and bulk lifters flitted through streets and thoroughfares above the ground, and she could hear the din of humanity normally abated by the sound-blocking armorcrys of her windows. Armorcrys, they thought it would protect her, from the myriad things lurking out there in the night. She knew what awaited her...what wanted her, hungered for her. Angela would never let it have her, but she vowed she would do everything she could to tempt it.
Angela felt a breeze come from outside of the towers, swept up in gulf currents so ancient that they may have been formed centuries before even her greatest father was conceived. She then cast another glance at the windows. Their paltry protection meaning so little to her. She may as well have been nude in the open, compared to what awaited. She let the gossamer of her nightgown fall from her shoulders. Angela feared no voyeur, as none existed from her perch high on the tip of the spire. She was alone up here. Completely alone. She slipped on the sculpt-formed bodyglove as if it weren't there, its every curve molded to her physique. Looking over the starline of lights stretching below her, she felt small, and inescapably sad that, as bright as those lights were, she could never be with them from here. Could never touch them. Could never...she leapt.
For a young girl to leap from her spire in the dead of night was sadly no strange occurrence within the Imperium, in fact it seemed to happen with an unpleasant regularity, albeit it was because they were joined by countless other lost souls. It was unusual, however, for these so-called suicides to then gain momentum and begin moving horizontally.
Angela twisted and flexed, using her lithe muscles as counterbalances and ailerons. In the same fluid thought cursed her father for not blessing her with his full vestigial wings, and pitied the Astartes who had to make jumps without even her diminished physical attributes. Then again, she had always found their style to be rather graceless, simply leaping from point to point without any semblance of nuance or precision. While she was by no means and skillful as her father, she could fly veritable circles around anyone else with her pack. It was a miracle of design, forged on Mars by the Fabricator General himself. It was a specially-crafted jump pack that blew air that did not burn through her wings, giving her the control she would have had naturally, had she been born as her father had, while giving her a similar element of speed. At first, when she received the gift, she thought it was a wonderfully selfless thing. Years later, she surmised it was likely because the old mechanical lecher probably still had functioning biological remains. Pushing that aside, she dived into the morass of the city below. The city was teeming with activity, as the planet always was. Busy with the continuation of the grand Imperium of Man. Always a chauvinistic term, she thought, and wondered why her great father, as wise beyond measure and devoted to equality as he was, had decided on such a luridly masculine title for his empire. As she juked and spun between passing skycars, she let the question fade, realizing that he always had a satisfactory answer to every question she had ever asked.
Angela asked herself as she felt the wind whip against her face. Why couldn't she rest? What was keeping the deep caress of sleep from reaching her? Would great father know? Certainly he had to. Just as she ruminated over dodging Adeptus Custodes flak fire to speak with her primogenitor, a shriek startled her back into the real world.
Angela dove down, following the origin of the yell with her enhanced hearing. It was a familiar voice, albeit through the filter of screaming. She peered down. There, in one of the alleys interconnecting the numerous skyports overlooking a data collection manifold, was a man, nearly into his sixties, standing over the knocked down form of...her heart nearly burst in her chest. Angela swooped down, her neural links to the pack nearly fusing as her mind sent one message over and over: faster.
The man smelled of liquor and guilt, as if he knew what he was doing was wrong, but was either too inebriated or too dumb to care. He cast a rolling glance at her, through blurry eyes.
"You. You got a pretty face. You're next after cutie down here," he gestured with his thumb to the downed form of the girl who looked like...she charged.
The man would have had no chance of stopping her even if he was sober. As it was, there was no challenge at all in what she did. A quick stab to his throat with the tips of her fingers silenced him. As he reached for it, her outstretched palm collided with bridge of his nose, shattering it, and sending shards of pain through him that no amount of liquor could dilute. She could have killed him then, right there, but opted not to. For doing what he did to who he might have, this man was going to pay. He charged at her, his liquid-fueled bravado cutting through the blistering pain. She ducked each wild blow as if they weren't even coming towards her, like a fighter whose opponent was bribed beforehand to throw the match. Angela stepped back, each blow missing wide, but forcing her away to avoid the man's tumbling girth. She heard the girl yell about the edge of the port, and how she was coming dangerously close to it. Perfect. She cast a quick glance behind her to gauge the distance she had left to go and, dodging four more poorly aimed punches, grabbed the mans wrist mid-swing, like a dancer, and spun him around, trading postions...and her position was on the edge of the port. She held him, the thin patina of grease on his wrists causing the the material of the bodyglove to slip. He began pleading, through the blood and bone. Swearing to never to do it again, swearing on every relative the bastard likely never knew or had. Angela tilted her head and let the man see the girl on the floor, see what he had done, what he was about to do, and let him fall. Angela heard him scream until he passed through the cloud cover.
Angela then sprinted back to the girl and picked up her chin which was blue from the beating.
"Is..." the name caught in her throat. The girl was the same height, weight, size, and even had a similar voice to the person she thought the girl was. But it was her face. While her girls' face had eyes that were widely set apart, like planets preparing to collide, this girl's eyes were narrowly set and bloodshot.
Foolish. Utterly foolish, Angela thought, for someone with their lineage to be beaten around by some plebian drunkard? It was inconceivable, but she'd gone anyway, gone looking for... she stopped. As she looked in the eyes of the girl she had saved, who was blubbering incessantly about thanks and praises she would give to her, Angela clasped the girl tightly, shutting her up. She leaned down to the girls ear and whispered, "thank you." The girl said nothing, too stunned by recent events to create a response.
As Angela powered away, back to her spire in the lonely skies, she understood why she couldn't sleep. She wanted something. No. She needed someone. And she was going to get it, before the thing in the dark got her.
As the servants opened the door to Angela's room, they found an open back door, a worn bodyglove, and Angela resting comfortably in her bed.
A Day With Isis
Isis moved through the halls of Imperator Junior High, ducking and weaving through the rows of plasteel lockers, ducking low whenever one of the Administers or their ubiquitous servoskulls flittered by. Five minutes late, of all the bad luck. She'd anticipated having to help Hana with her broken moped, but hadn't expected the thing to nearly explode on the both of them. Hana herself was already in class, having the great fortune of having her opening classes on the other side of the school. Isis wasn't so lucky. She heard the tolling of the bell as she entered the reinforced adamantine doors, its sound as lyrical as a funerary dirge. It might as well have been if... she turned. Someone was watching her. Smelling the almost overpowering scent of exotic perfumes and unguents, Isis rolled her eyes as Victoria, belle of Imperator High, rounded the locker she was using as ad-hoc cover.
"Well well, if it isn't the golden girl? You're gonna be rust when Ahriman finds out you aren't on the roll. Oh," she said with mock worry, "whatever will daddy think? I'd think he'd practically turn to heresy when he finds out." What Victoria didn't realize was that Isis was smiling. And not at her. Feeling a creeping sense of being watched, she spun on her stilettoed heels and beheld and awe-inspiring sight. The man that stood before her was as close to a god as can be imagined, an image of glistening purple and gilt edifice, more the image of a statue than a living person. But as beautiful and well-crafted as the armor was, it was a trifle compared to the figure beneath. He was fair skinned, and white haired, like a passing winters breeze. It seemed to shimmer and flow as if being caressed by the kiss of an unseen wind. The man, as far departed from humanity as he was, was upset. The scowl on his face marred the otherwise perfected features of his visage. Leaning down, a seemingly titanic feat for a being as large as him, he said with a voice as clear as springwater,
"Yes, Victoria. What WOULD daddy think?" Victoria's features were riddled with fear, a fear that made her look as ugly on the outside as Isis knew she was within. "To your scholam. Now." Fast as lightning, Victoria faded from view. "And you, child?" Isis bowed respectfully.
"Yes, Mr. Fulgrim, sir." The patrician features of the man changed from a condemning scowl, to a smile so large and genuine, that she had trouble believing that the same face was capable of instilling terror in Victoria, a girl with a heart as cold and frigid as Freya's favorite drinks.
"I see now why my brother speaks of you so highly. Off with you now." He gestured with his massive gauntlet, and Isis ran, making good speed to Professor Ahrimans lecture. From an unseen shadow, a hand reached out and patted Fulgrim on his shoulder pauldrons.
"Brother, you need to watch out for your Victoria. I feel she's heading down a dark path." The primarch registered the voice as Corax's, lord of the Raven Guard and his brother.
"Yes, I know, you and Vulkan give me no end of grief about her. Perhaps she needs a spanking..."
"Fine...but what about punishing her?" Fulgrim turned and saw a wide, toothless grin on Corax's face.
"That's not funny."
"On the contrary, brother, it's hilarious."
Isis looked inside the scholam. Professor Ahriman was lecturing to the class with his back turned, discussing something about the principles of Warp telemetry. Perfect, she thought. Isis recalled the more useful lessons she learned from Cora about sneaking into class without Ahriman suspecting. Which words had hard consonants to click the doors lock on, which ones he droned on to mask the sound of the hinge. Paying painful attention to Professor Ahriman's words, more closely than she did during normal sessions, she noted, she waited for the perfect words...and opened the door. It was just as Cora had told her. Waaarp. Professor Ahriman took forever saying it. She wondered why sometimes, but at the moment she was more worried about getting into her seat before Professor Ahriman...looked straight at her.
"Good to see that you weren't taken by Orks, Ms. Isis. I trust you have a...wonderful explanation for your tardiness?" Isis gulped. Deep. It hit the back of her throat like a bolt round. And it slid down like ancient sludge, worse than Morticia's cooking. The class was looking at her, though some, Furia being a prime example, were too caught up in other entertainments to be bothered. Sweat, like droplets of liquid nitrogen began to build on her neck, and she stammered, trying to concoct a reasonable answer. She wished that Miranda were here to slip her something telepathically, but she had classes elsewhere. Just as Professor Ahriman was opening his vox to the Principals office, a whir of augmetics entered into the noise.
"Professor Ahriman?" It was Farah.
"Yes, Ms. Manus?" he asked, off-put by the declaration.
"Isis was late because Hana's moped exploded on them...again."
"Oh," he said, the vision slits in his helm beginning to burn with a light blue flame, "and how would you know about...oh." and noticed she was twiddling her fully mechanized hands and playing with her pink hair, making sure to flick it away to give the professor a good view of the cybernetics underneath.
"Well then, I suppose it's alright then. However, Ms. Lupercal, the next time altruism such as that comes across your mind?"
"Yes, Professor?" The blue flames erupted into novae of black and red infernos.
The rest of the class was mercifully short. Isis made a mental note to get the lecture from Farah when the bell tolled. It wouldn't be much of a request, she considered, since Farah was as much a walking cogitator as well as one of her best friends. The locker hall was a sprawl of activity as the girls grabbed their gear to leave. Isis noticed Tanitha and Cady talking about how badly dressed Valhilda was, and was about to intervene when the freezing chill that only seemed to come by when Victoria was around settled across her like a black frost.
"You got lucky, big shot. Lucky and that's it."
"Yeah, watch yourself, golden girl!" That snow turned yellow when that nasal voice hit her ears.
"Still following Victoria around like a little puppy, Petra?" Isis turned around and saw Victoria's little posse. Angela, Faith, Kelly, Petra, and Morticia were standing there, waiting patiently for Victoria's go-ahead. Petra was now Mechanicum-red with anger, and had a vein that looked like it was going to shoot off her bandanna like it was a taut rubber band. The others were giving her snide looks.
"Now now, girls, remember: royalty must stay in it's place." Isis was growing tired of this catty banter.
"Look, just because my dad got titled with 'Warmaster' doesn't mean I'm any better than anyone else." Victoria cast her a confused look.
"Who says I'm saying anything about you?" she flicked her hair and lifted her chin to drive the point home. Isis felt like she wanted to kick that perfect chin of her's so hard into her skull that she'd have dreams about her own teeth. That's when she felt a gloved hand around her shoulder.
"These skanks bothering you, Icy?" It was Furia, and was Isis relieved to hear her sultry voice...and smell her lho-breath
"I, um, well that is..." Furia cut her off and nodded beside either row of lockers, and four other girls walked in, making a cordon of sorts around Isis. To her continued relief, she saw Venus, Hana, Farah, and Cora, arms crossed, take their positions beside Furia. Victoria's smug demeanor evaporated, replaced with incandescent anger.
"So, I see Squad Ugly is reporting for duty."
"Right," Furia replied, flexing the leather of her gloves. "Girls, I wonder how pretty that face would look with a nose dislocated in five places?" She pointed straight at Victoria while the others laughed slowly. Victoria's face reddened.
"I...uh! A lady wouldn't be caught dead engaging in streetfights like some trashy brawler. Girls, let's find somewhere decent to spend our time," and began walking away. Furia cupped her hands around her mouth.
"The city dump's a nice start!" To which Morticia replied with some very...un-ladylike hand gestures.
Isis was happy to see Victoria and the rest of her ilk leave. She wasn't so happy to see Furia and the rest of them staring at her.
"What? What is it?" she asked, her concern genuine. It was looking as if she had gone from bad to worse.
"My dad's not too keen on yours getting gramps' attention." This was acknowledged by a small chorus of 'yeh's' and 'uh huhs'.
"Mine either," Cora piped in. "Tactical brilliance like that, and he gets put aside just like V and Farah's dads? Not looking so good for you, Isis Lupercal." They were closing in on her. Isis was almost beginning to backpedal, when she lost her footing and fell, the rockcrete cold against her flesh. Something wasn't right about this, and she knew it.
"Girls? I thought you were..." and that's when she noticed it. Hana, who up until that moment was as las-focused as the rest of them, let up an imperceptible crack in her frown, like a hairline fracture running through marble. As Isis concentrated on it, Hana noticed and began to chortle under her breath, her ruse seemingly undone. The rest of them began to emit stifled laughs, until, at last, Venus, copper skinned and ebon haired daughter of the Forgefather, let out a deep, cathartic laugh that spread like a virus to the rest of them. Isis tried to join them, but felt like she'd walked outside of a Gellar Field for a moment, as if all semblance of sanity had swallowed a laspistol. Furia waved her hand to try and regain some order from the cackling bunch.
"Ah, hells, Isis, we were just messing with you!" and she let out her hand to help her back onto her feet. "We don't really care about your dad getting the promotion, we just wanted to see if that would work."
"And it did, didn't it?" Hana said, her coat almost black from oil stains.
"You thought this up, Farah?" Isis asked, her demeanor easing up in light of the joke.
"Hey Farah? How did you know about Hana wrecking her moped?" She smiled and cocked her head.
"What do you mean? I made it up, silly, you don't mean to say..." she stopped and cast a long glance at Hana, who was busy tenting her hands and staring anywhere but at her. Her pistons nearly cracked as she clenched her steel fists.
"What. Happened. To! That! MOPED?!" Steam was almost literally escaping from Farah's ears and Hana was about to bolt, no pun intended, for the door, when the distinct sound of a match striking a box and the acrid scent of sulfur entered the air. Furia lit up her lho and released a rough circle of smoke.
"Aw, come on, girls, it's Friday, and I'm not about to knock you two out over some little mixup with some dumb bike." Both of the girls were preparing to disembowel Furia over the insult to Hana's well-maintained piece of mechanical excellence, when a wheezing screech blared above them. A maintenance servoskull blared above them
+FIRE HAZARD. ALERT FIRE SUPPRESSION TEAMS+
And the water ejectors activated, dousing the lot of them.
"Well," Venus mused, "at least bathing's not on our worry list anymore." Everyone looked deadfaced at her.
The sun was bright outside, or at least as bright as it could be through a fog of thousands of years of nuclear winter and global warming. The girls, now drenched, waved each other goodbye for the moment as their lifters came to escort them back to their homes. Cora's sleek, jet black escort darted in from seemingly nowhere and took her before she could even say her goodbyes. Venus was then whisked away by a transport that looked like not even gramps himself could put a dent in it. Farah left in a similar transport, although her chauffeur was hardly as human as Venus' was. Hana almost had to jump to catch her transport, a blur of bone white and red marks.
While Isis and Furia waited, the air grew pregnant with conversation. Not wanting to continue the awkward silence, Isis chimed in.
"Furia?" The blazen-haired girl in the messed-down shirt flicked her spent lho-stick to the floor and stamped it down with her iron-toed boots.
"Thanks for helping me back there. It's good to know I've got friends like you when it's really important." She let out a ghost of a smile, as if the genuine expression were alien to her.
"Don't think about it, Icy. It's a good sign of a friend when..." she was cut off by a blare of a horn. Like something primal cut loose from a cage of eons. Like a death scream that never ended. Suddenly, like a blazing dagger, a jetbike swooped down, nearly crushing Isis, who was saved only at the final moment by Furia, who tossed her to the side. As she picked herself up, she was met by a leering, horned face that spoke of unrivaled brutality and horror. Fortunately, it was just a helmet. The helmet spoke, with a voice that came from a throat that must have swallowed molten copper a second before.
"She's cute. What's her name?" Furia clicked, and got the helmet's attention.
"Eyes here, Kharn, she's off-limits, got it?" The helmet moved, if with some reluctance.
"Yeah, yeah. Hop on, babe, we've got us a party to crash over near Sicarus." Furia looked at her.
"But Kharn, I'd promised the girls I'd visit them this weekend!" The helmet spoke again, this time with threat pure and unfiltered in its' voice.
"Sicarus, Furia. We're visiting Sicarus, understood? Now...get on." The helmet's arms patted the extra seat that seemed to materialize from nothing behind him, although the seat itself looked just about as uncomfortable as the helmet. Furia gave Isis a glance, with what almost looked like a tear welling up in it. She seemed to almost say something when that horn, like dying angels and cackling devils, blared out and silenced any further communication.
"Sorry, Icy, I gotta go. Sicarus, y'know?" Isis didn't respond as she saw Furia ease herself onto the painfully spiked seat and wrap her arms around the helmet's torso, with no small amount of reluctance. It sped off in a trail of flame, and disappeared behind some Munitorum complex. Isis barely had time to register this, when a modest, grey transport hovered nearby, its' doors sliding open with a comforting hiss of hydraulics. As she entered the lifter and felt the pressure of takeoff, she then felt a hand, massive and callused, but soothing and supporting at the same time, pat her on the head.
"Father," she said, with a twinge of disorientation, "school is a weird, weird place."
Professor Ahzek Ahriman, former first captain of the Thousand Sons, master of the manipulation of the Great Ocean and now one of the foremost scholarly minds in the Imperium, quietly read through the test on Warp Storms he had planned for that afternoon’s lesson. A long time before he remembered telling a Remembrancer that when the Great Crusade was over, he and his fellow Thousand Sons would retire to write scholarly texts and memoirs and make fine wines. He still made fine wines; his wines were famous across the Imperium even if he hadn’t been back to his groves on Prospero for many years. No, at the personal request of his Primarch he was now a teacher, an instructor for the up and coming minds who would govern the Imperium in the future, and for nineteen of those minds in particular.
He remembered back to that meeting, shortly after the great triumph at Angelus on the very rim of the Galaxy, when the Great Crusade was finally declared over. The Primarchs now had new, more unintended problems to face above and beyond the end of the Emperor’s Crusade. “Ahriman, now more than ever we need minds who will train the next generation of leaders, those who will govern my Father’s empire when the memory of the crusade fades from the forefront.” “My lord, I know the real reason you want me to be teaching there. How is she doing by the way?”
Magnus turned away, and when he spoke again it was with emotions that Ahriman had never thought possible for a primarch to have. “Have you ever held something in your arms, and found it to be the most precious thing you have ever found, so precious you would willingly lay down your own life to protect it?” Taken aback, Ahriman answered. “Sir, I wouldn’t know and if I may speak frankly?”
“I’m still amazed the Emperor gave you and your brothers such a boon.” A deep, bass chuckle rolled up from Magnus. “Ahzek, always the one to question. To be honest, I have no idea either. My Father never gave mention of his full designs; I think he may have planned this all along, something to keep us occupied with no more wars to wage. Certainly I think it will do Angron, Mortarion, the Lion and Kurze some good to have someone to care for...”
He stopped, noticing the way Ahriman was staring out over the cold, dead pyramids of Angelus. “If only Ohrmuzd was still here, to see this day. He’d have been so proud of how far we’ve come, how much we’ve done.” “That dear Ahzek, is why you must teach those to come about what we sacrificed to give them this victory, this perfect new world. They will need to know about the dangers we faced, we still face. Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, remember?” That evening, he set out for Prospero with the Legion, and a few months later, set out for the new Scholum built in the shadow of the Imperial Palace that was the last time he had seen many of his friends, Phosis T'kar and Uthizzar. They bade him farewell, T’kar joking about the hell he was about to throw himself into. If only he’d heeded T’kar’s advice…
The bell rang, snapping him out of his reverie. Sighing, he picked up his Hequa staff, a relic of his service in the XV Legion, and began to set the tests down upon the desks. They would be here soon, and he needed to be prepared. He wished he had a bottle of his wine with him, for he feared he’d soon need it. When he had first started, near fifty years ago, he had never expected that it would be such hardship, and when the daughters arrived, it became a whole lot worse. He didn’t regret his choice, he was doing a valuable service and his Primarch was proud of his efforts. But it was still hard work, and dealing with the nineteen was always an adventure…
A second bell sang out, and a few seconds later the doors slammed open as the students came in. he noticed Miranda giving him a little smile as she entered. Just like her father, that one. They got on very well together, she often staying long after school to learn from Ahriman’s personal library, or else hear tales of her father’s exploits in the Great Crusade. If there was one he was truly fond of, it was her. Behind her was Roberta, another top student and the very epitome of her father, the great Roboute. Fortunately she never inherited his somewhat inflated ego, preferring to help, not to lead. The true leader walked in next, looking somewhat relieved. Ahriman didn’t blame her. Isis had a bad habit of coming in late to too many of his lessons, infuriating not only him but also her father. Ever since that incident when he was wounded on Davin, he tried to ensure that everyone knew about the dangers of the Great Ocean, and he invested heavily in his daughter. Isis was very much like her father, charismatic and a natural born leader. Certainly there was a bright future for her.
Old Iron Gloves was next. When it came to the study of the Great Ocean, Farah had several failings in Ahriman’s eyes. Farah was too technical minded, she grasped the mechanics but couldn’t quite grasp the metaphysical impossibilities of the Great Ocean. However she was a good student, and he liked her direct way of doing things. Behind her was trouble, plain and simple. Furia was nothing but a headache, that one. She was too much like Angron, used her head rather than her brain. Freya was the same, both were the daughters of the most uncultured, vicious of the Emperor’s sons and they inherited that trait in full. He was glad he had Yarrick’s office on line two, for he feared he might need it before the day was out. He was quietly relieved that she didn’t have one of those Fug-awful Cigarettes with her; she knew how he hated the stink of them. She sat down like a drop pod from orbit, and he was surprised the chair still held.
Breezing in, with Petra, Faith and Morticia in tow, her own little circle of fans, for lack of a better word, was Victoria. As beautiful, perfect and vain as her father Fulgrim. To most of the girls, she appeared to be cruel and cold hearted. But he could see past the façade, and knew that deep down inside her was a part of her she shielded from plain sight, a piece of her only her father and Grandfather ever got to see. If the others knew what he knew, they wouldn’t be so quick to judge. More and more flowed in. Angela, Venus, Faith and Lyra joining the expanding class. Two pale, dark haired females came in joking to one another. Cora and Kelly. Those two were practically inseparable, the two almost mirroring each other with their, what was the term? Emo, a strange phrase if ever there was one, behaviour. He didn’t quite understand what it was all supposed to mean, but he didn’t try to anyway. You could understand more about the Great Ocean than you ever could about females of their age.
Finally everyone was in place, and Ahriman addressed them. “Right. Before we begin, I must block off the room from the Waaarp, so none of you will try cheating again.’ As he said that he stared straight at Furia, who returned his stare with one of angry amusement. The last time he had been forced to call upon the Great Ocean to keep her from starting a fight. That had got him a very angry message from Angron, and he’d rather not ever get another one of those. “If you please…” He hefted his Hequa staff and began a complex series of movements, chanting the higher ennumerations as he did. A psychic block to prevent any form of cheating. He still felt slightly miffed that his powers which once smote enemies all across the galaxy from Aghoru to Heliosa were now reduced to this. However he had to smile as the students watched his every move with astonishment. Even Furia couldn’t take her eyes off his fluid movements.
Finally he finished, and hefting his Hequa Staff, he addressed them. “Now Class, as you all should know today we have our test on the effects of Waaarp Storms on Realspace.” A slight smile crossed his face as he saw Cora’s discomfort. Once again he felt glad that he still wore his helmet, although he suspected Miranda knew exactly what he was doing. “I trust that you have all studied long and hard.” Yes, rub it in why don’t you. “Now begin!” Inwardly he cringed. He could never get used to the term ‘Warp’. It felt like an artificial word that could not contain the true majesty and mystery of the Great Ocean.
For nearly an hour there was nothing but silence, along with the scratching of mnemo-quills. For once, everything went well, no hint of cheating, tampering or trying to worm out of it. Even Furia was busy staring furiously at her paper as the mnemo-quill tore across it with lightning speed. After his latest report to her father, Furia was actually doing some work for a change, her slipping grades taking a turn for the better. Ahriman could only guess at the confrontation that must have happened between Angron and Furia, and even that guess made him wince. Already Miranda sat back, a small smile on her face and her test completed before her. Ahriman didn’t need to check to know that she would get yet another A+ from him. A few minutes later both Isis and Roberta were also done, and one by one the others finished. As the clock ticked on the final few still yet to finish became more and more worried, Cora and Morticia in particular. Finally the bell rang, and straight away the silence was shattered by the scraping of chairs and rustling of paper as everyone hastily packed up and exited. Cora scribbled down several last second sentences before exiting with Kelly. He hoped for her sake those final sentences would boost her score a bit.
As she left, Miranda looked at him, and words bred inside his mind, asking if he was staying late that evening. He shook his head regretfully. Replying in the same manner, he told her he now had thirty tests to mark, and that would take all night. However he was free tomorrow and he had finally found his untranslated copy of a book on Enuncia, the ancient language of magic. What he didn’t tell her was that her father had given it to him after Angelus as a going away present. She waved at him as she left, and his heart soared. He now understood somewhat about what his Primarch had meant that cold day on Angelus, as the celebratory fires burned into the night, and the Crusade faded into history.
Once everyone had gone, he began to type out his report on the lesson, knowing that his master and his brothers read the reports regularly, keeping tabs on their daughter’s behaviors even when they were offworld. And many of them were offworld. Angron was wiping out a Greenskin Waaagh!, Mortarion was training a new levy of troops on Barbarus and the Warmaster was engaged in trade talks with the Interex, a race he had established contact with near the end of the Great Crusade. Finally he finished, picked up his Hequa Staff and books and turned to leave. As he left he turned and smiled as an idea came unbidden into his mind. If he truly wanted to teach them about the Great Ocean, why shouldn’t he show them first-hand its true face, the true danger and beauty facing them? Mulling over that thought and how he could make it work, he left the room in darkness.
The Field Trip
Professor Ahzek Ahriman stood before the principal, mentally prepared for the storm that was about to come. He had researched and planned for this for several months, ever since the idea came into his head after a long day at work, but he also knew it would be a long shot. “Professor Ahriman, I have my gravest doubts about this.”
“Sir, with all respect I was instructed by my Lord Primarch to teach them about the dangers of the Great Ocean, and what better way to do it than to show them the single most important example of how powerful and deadly it can be?” “A field trip to the Eye of Terror? The single most dangerous place in the entire Imperium? After what Eldrad and the Eldar told us about it? I fear Professor Ahriman that you must have lost your mind.”
“Sir, I have made all the necessary checks. We will use a powerful Nullship to keep us shielded from detection, and we will have an entire company of Grey Knights along with us for escort. I am the third foremost human expert on the Great Ocean; I know what I am doing.” “There’s still a gargantuan risk that I will not be prepared to take. Imagine what the Primordial Annihilator would do if it could get its hands on one of the daughters of the Primarchs? The Maelstrom has none of the risk attached; surely it would be a better plan to go there.” “They need to know sir. Knowledge is power, and if it wasn’t for Eldrad then we would never have known until it was too late. Can you imagine if the Primordial Annihilator had turned one of the Primarchs?”
The Principal grimaced. “I admit that is a truly scary proposition. Fine, you will have to talk it over with the Emperor and the Primarchs, but you have my blessing. But if anything happens to them, it will be on your head. Got me?” “Understood.” Ahriman turned away, hiding the look of triumph. And yet as he left, a cold chill crept up his neck. Was he truly doing the right thing, trying to show them the face of the great foe that they were forever opposed to? And would they truly be safe from the temptations of the Great Ocean?
To be Continued...when I get the time
Tales of Victory
Professor Ahzek Ahriman cleared off his desk, and smiled as he pulled out the bottle of wine. It was one of his own wines, M34.260 vintage, one of the best known wines across the entire Imperium. He had been waiting for it for several months, and the latest bulk hauler from Prospero delivered. He felt it would be good company for his afternoon plans, and the tale he was about to tell. Today was another of his customary afternoons with Miranda, and today he promised to tell her about the Great Triumph at Angelus, where the Great Crusade was finally declared over, and the Primarchs returned to their homeworlds and the surprises waiting for them there. She had been begging him to tell her that tale for many months, and only now had he finally relented. He poured himself out a goblet of Wine, removed his Helmet and slowly sipped as he waited for 1600 hours to arrive.
A soft tapping sound on the door. Enter! he sent telepathically. Miranda cautiously opened the door. “Ahriman?” she said quietly. During these sessions she was allowed to speak to him as equals, instead of teacher and pupil. “I…kinda told some of my friends about this and they wanted to hear the story as well.” Miranda slipped in, followed by Freya, Cora, Kelly, Farah, Lyra and an unknown girl, who looked way too young to be present at Imperator High. Ahriman raised an eyebrow. “This is Lofn, granddaughter of the Eldar Representative. She’s here on an exchange program.” Ahriman gazed intently at Lofn. She was a strange girl, with a strange mix of Eldar and Human features which struck Ahriman as suspicious. But he trusted Miranda, and if Miranda trusted Lofn…
“I thought these sessions were just for us two. Now it seems you’ve brought the entire class along with you.”
“They all want to know about Angelus. Wasn’t it there that we, I mean our fathers…” “Learnt that you were on the way? We’ll get to that, but first, if you’ll all drag up some chairs, I’ll begin.” There was a scraping of chairs as the girls sat in a tight semicircle around Ahriman. He pulled out several more goblets, filled them with wine and offered them around. Lyra, Kelly and Miranda were the only ones to accept. Ahriman hefted his trusty Hequa staff. Usually he liked to use the power of the Great Ocean to share his memories with Miranda in a more intimate fashion, but in this case the others wouldn’t get to see anything, so he would have to tell it the old fashioned way, with a little Warp magic added for effect. He took a sip of wine, cleared his throat, and began.
“It all starts with Angelus, star system XCV-103. A dead world once inhabited by an ancient civilization far more advanced than our own.”
“The Necrontyr.” It wasn’t Miranda who said that, but Lofn. Ahriman replied, surprised.
“Exactly. They were wiped out millions of years ago; long before humans arose on earth, long before even the Eldar reached the heights of their glory. A Remembrancer I know is currently doing excavations on their ruins on Naogeddon. Continuing. So Angelus remained empty and forgotten, until by chance the 12th Expeditionary Fleet came across this dead world.”
“My Father’s?” That voice came from the door. Roberta was there, along with Remilia.
“Still more of you come.” He sighed, though his heart was warming to his story. “Come in, grab a chair and join us. I’m telling them about Angelus.”
“I heard. Miranda was bragging about it all week.” Ahriman shot Miranda a look, waited for Roberta to grab a chair and join them, offered her some wine, and continued.
“So Lord Guilliman found this world, and spent a week orbiting it. What he discovered would set everything in motion. There were no stars beyond it. His navigators were frozen with fear, blind and beyond the Astronomican. It was quite literally the end of the line, the last planet in the Galaxy. By that point virtually everyone knew the Great Crusade was practically over. Conquest had tapered off, there was only a few scattered campaigns being wound down. It was then that the Emperor made a general broadcast to all the Primarchs, his first in many years. He declared a great triumph at Angelus, to celebrate the Warmaster’s successes, and declared that he would be there in person. We were told that it would be a spectacle to rival Ullanor, a spectacle the likes of which the galaxy would never see again. Of course we all suspected it would be to declare the Great Crusade over, however we were still caught up in the excitement. The Emperor joining us again? Returning to his sons? Excitement was in there air in every ship, on every world. Lord Guilliman remained on station and landed troops to prepare the stage as hundreds of ships started to translate in system to prepare for the great triumph. First were Mechanicum vessels, carrying four Labour Fleets of geoformers, the great terraforming machines which would level flat the rocky wastes of Angelus. Soon after that the vessels of the Thousand Sons joined them.”
“You and Father?” Miranda piped up.
“Yes. We were asked to use our ‘gifts’ to help clear the stage, direct the millions of servitors, automatons and penal battalions and do what we could to help with the preparations. As he paused to take another sip, he said aloud. “I know you’re out there, come on in.” Angela guiltily walked into the room, her small wings quivering. Behind her was Remilia and Faith. How was it that so many of them were still here so long after lessons had finished? Pushing the thought to the back of his mind, he waited for her to join them, and continued.
“Over the course of eight months, more and more ships entered the system, turning it into the single most heavily defended system in the entire Imperium. Fleet after fleet joined. After my Lord’s Twenty-Seventh Expeditionary Fleet, the next fleet to join us was the Fourth Expeditionary Fleet.”
“My Father’s forces.” Lyra added.
“Right. We met him personally on the bridge of his flagship. I have always been struck how seemingly emotionless your father is.” Lyra nodded. Even she found her father somewhat unresponsive, rivalling the way that Petra found Perturabo. “Anyway, barely a week after he arrived it was the turn of the 52nd Expeditionary Fleet to join us. I already know what you’re going to say Farah; it was your father, along with Vulkan. The Emperor wanted them to make some items for the Triumph, decorative metalwork and other objects. We all had to pitch in to ensure this was bigger and grander than Ullanor. I’ll spare you the further details, but one by one the other Primarchs arrived, until all eighteen of us were busy on Angelus, while the skies above were filled with ships of all different shapes, sizes and classes. I was present when the Expeditionary Fleets massed over Terra, and I thought that was a grand sight. When I saw the fleets over Angelus, I was proven wrong. That was a sight I will carry with me forever. Here, I’ll show you.”
He hefted his Hequa Staff, muttered a few words, and struck the desk top. As he did a bubble of memory appeared in the middle of the group. It swiftly expanded to engulf the entire room. Miranda smiled, while Farah and Freya looked distinctively uncomfortable as they were swallowed up. Now the classroom had vanished and they sat suspended in an empty black void, the void of space. The scene shifted and they found themselves in orbit around a solitary planet, orbiting twin stars.
“This was Angelus after Lord Guilliman found it. Now you will see it as it looked before the Emperor arrived.”
The scene shifted again. Angelus was still there, but it was now surrounded by a sea of ships. Thousands upon thousands of Warships of every description and class clustered around the Planet. Ahriman pointed out the Primarch’s Flagships. The Vengeful Spirit sat alongside the Phalanx; the Pride of the Emperor was flanked on either side by the Alpha and Macragge’s Fist. There was even an Eldar Void Stalker class battleship sticking out like a sore thumb among the legions of Imperial Ships. He heard a loud voice cut through the bubble of memory. “Where the fug are they all?” he could recognise that voice anywhere. A door miraculously appeared in the void, slammed open and Furia stormed in. for a second she didn’t realise what was going on, until she abruptly stopped and stared at the sight arrayed around her. He could tell even without using his gifts that she was impressed.
“Good grief. You’re the last person I expected to see here. Never mind, grab a chair and join us. We haven’t reached the good part yet.”
After yet another interruption when Hana walked in looking for Furia, Ahriman resumed his tale. “Now I shall take you to the surface, show you what I saw as we escorted my Lord Primarch to the Dais.”
The scene around them blurred. Now they sat on the surface of Angelus, a sun-baked plain of sand and rock. Before them stood a great road, so wide a full platoon of Baneblades could drive line abreast along it. Poles were placed every ten metres lining the road, each pole topped with the head of a different foe the Imperium had vanquished during the Great Crusade. The road was lined by troops from all over the Imperial Army, and Marines from all the Legions. Behind them were columns of tanks and the massive God-Machines of the Titan Legions. The road faced the ancient Pyramids of the Necrontyr, each of which was overlaid with great friezes and frescos celebrating the many triumphs of the crusade. Between the two tallest pyramids stood a great dais suspended between them, and Ahriman explained that it was there that Magnus and his Brothers stood with the Emperor and reviewed the troops. Everything about that was designed to exceed the Great Triumph at Ullanor, and it did. “I was there along with my Primarch’s equerry, Amon, as his personal escorts. We prepared for many days, every word, and every move.” Though this was but a memory, he could still see how overawed the girls were. Even Furia stared around her with amazement as the endless ranks of soldiers, the towering Titans and the distant pyramids.
“Finally the moment came. A golden ship translated in system on the eighth of Novembus. The Emperor had finally arrived, unlooked for and unannounced. Now the Triumph could commence.” Ahriman smiled, and he continued with a strange note of awe in his voice.
“Not even at Ullanor were all eighteen Primarchs in attendance. Over a million Astartes from all eighteen Legions were present, along with ten million men and women of the Imperial Army, Titan Legions, and Mechanicum. Hundreds of Remembrancers covered the event, the best from every field gathered to record the great event. Karkarsy, D’Angelus, Keeler, Delafour, Vivar, Voss, Kallimakus, and a close friend of mine, Gaumon. I still pity them and the poor Imperial Army Troops, caught out in that sweltering heat. Gaumon told me it was like Aghoru, but worse. Great pits cut into the surface were filled with great flames. So the troops were mustered, and took up their positions along the great road. We fulfilled our duty of seeing Lord Magnus to the Emperor’s great podium, and we marched in procession alongside the honour guards of all the Primarchs. Mortarion’s Deathshroud, Dorn’s Huscarls, the Justaerian Terminators of Horus and all the others. After all eleven million men and Astartes had paraded before the Emperor he stood up to the edge of the Podium and made his announcement. It was as epochal as when he relinquished control of the Crusade at Ullanor. The crusade was over, the Galaxy had been won. With the aid of the Eldar, the Primordial Annihilator had been driven off, and apart from the omnipresent threat of Orks and the Eldar’s dark kin, there were no more enemies left. The Imperial Army was to be demobilised, the Legions returned to their homeworlds to await further orders."
“I heard that Lord Angron kicked up quite a fuss about that.”
“You got that right.” That was Furia, lighting up a cigarette. Ahriman’s eyes narrowed, he hated them, he hated their stink, but he chose to ignore her action.
“But what about us? Weren’t you there when our father’s learnt that we were on the way?” Ahriman was so engrossed in telling his tale and sustaining his memory field he had failed to notice that Isis had joined them. When did she show up?
Ahriman paused to refill his goblet. “You make a relevant point Isis, and by the way it seems you’re late again.” Isis blushed.
“Actually I arrived before Furia, you have just been so focused on your tale you never noticed me.”
“Uh uh.” Ahriman answered. “To answer your question, alas, I wasn’t there. It was a private moment, with only the Emperor, his sons, Lord Valdor and Malcador.”
“I will finish.” A mighty figure squeezed through the door, a red giant clad in a cloak of feathers.
“Father!” Miranda squealed as she ran over to embrace Magnus.
“Yes.” He addressed the other girls. “I was sent to fetch you all and take you home, it’s nearly 2000 hours and my brothers were getting worried. they needn't have bothered. However I will conclude my first captain’s tale.”
Magnus poured himself a goblet of wine and began.
“After the Triumph my Father called me and my brothers over. While he was working on the Terran Webway Portal, he had also been working on another project, a special one just for us. He knew that we would be without purpose with the Crusade over, and so he resolved to do something which would keep us occupied, give us some joy and help create the next generation of leadership, who would rule the Imperium far into the future. He knew that there would still be conflict, with the Eldar’s dark kin, the Ork, Hrud and many other enemies, and he wanted the Legions always ready for action. “Of course that was before Brother Guilliman’s infamous Chapter Plan.” It was shortly after that that Lord Guilliman revealed his Chapter Plan, creating autonomous chapters of a thousand marines each which would act as fast response units capable of responding to any crisis, either defeating enemy threats on their won or else holding up the enemy long enough for a Legion Force to come to their aid. Most of these ‘Chapters’ came from Guilliman’s own Legion, as the others were not quite as enthusiastic about the idea of Chapters as he was.” Ahriman smiled to himself and watched the somewhat guilty looks on Freya, Cora, and Remilia’s faces as they remembered hearing the arguments and fights over the Chapter Plan. Even now it was still a hot topic.
“And so my Father presented us with a strange golden cylinder each, covered with wards and sigils and filled with the power of the Great Ocean.”
“That was us?”
“Yes. You weren’t to be created the way we were, for the Primordial Annihilator would doubtless try to snatch you away again. No, you were to be born of women, each chosen by one of us. That way you would be safe from the Primordial Annihilator and have a more…Human entry into the world. So each of us took our cylinder, our unborn child, and we returned to our homeworlds, there to search for good mothers and await your births.” "Um, if i may ask, how did those cylinders work?"
there was unnatural silence, so suddenly and abruptly it almost broke the strange smell. Ahriman saw that Magnus wasn't looking any of them in the eye. finally he said. "My Father said he would tell you all himslef, personally when you were ready. Unitl then, I consider that matter closed. And that is the story.” Magnus finished. The memory bubble faded, revealing the classroom again. Ahriman saw the varying expressions on the faces of the Girls, and knew that the Primarchs would have some rather awkward questions asked to them. he was glad he wouldn't be there to hear any of those. As the girls put their chairs back, Lyra commented. “The Twins are so going to be pissed they weren't here for this.” “But we were.” As they said that, they got up from hiding behind a desk. Ahriman facepalmed, while Magnus chuckled.
Freya and Miranda
When the aether opened itself to Miranda, she found that she would rather not be anywhere else but within it. Father had warned her...strongly... against so much as visiting the plain of souls, but after her first time glimpsing the indescribable majesty of the other universe, Miranda found that anywhere else was little more than a hovel, created for the sole purpose of binding her to limitations, and fears, and wants she cared nothing for in the ethereal. Stars gave birth and died before her in the time it takes someone to blink. Seconds of time stretched out for millenia in the grandeur of the aether, and she relished it. The sea of spirits was calm, eddying in tides of joy and surfs of joy. She was sprayed with blasts of sorrow and confusion, intermingled with lust and fear, although these were trifling descriptions to what she felt as her soul self drifted aimlessly through the Great Ocean.
Suddenly, the waters of consciousness began to tremble, as if some great fissure were causing them to bubble and ripple. Miranda tried to make sense of the insensate, but found that she was little more than a passenger on this trip, her control over her coming and going no longer existed. She watched a great, dark star, piteously heinous be born in the blackness of the void. It swallowed other stars, bright, but not as bright as the anti-light of this new constellation. Star after star was sucked in, and she felt as if the very sea of thought itself was being pulled in, like a vicious tide away from shore. As soon as she was about to panic, her thoughts exploded with light. A new star, small, but incomprehensibly bright was birthed next to the pulsating, morbid solar body. This newcomer was greeted fiercely, and rampant flares and bursts of energy were hurled at it. Each blow, which had felled dozens of lesser stars, dissipated before it even reached this new, glowing entity. She almost wanted to venerate this new star when it split. No. It didn't split. Because it was never just one. It was many stars. This awe-inspiring light was the sum of many. But why did they separate? What could cause them to...the seas began to boil. To burn. To blister her otherflesh. Something was terribly wrong.
Miranda noticed that the stars seemed to be separating from one central point of light, which shone with a diamond clarity. It had a billion points of light, each one different and majestic, in a simplistic sort of way. But, as the other stars, each bearing a single, distinct color separated, the diamond began to tarnish. It stained, as if it were being covered with some kind of muck. It was then that she realized, with horrible clarity, that it was not being covered. The diamond itself was changing.
Turning from a piece of brilliance to a creation of utter wrongness, the light turned to something so black and incomprehensibly dark that it outdid its' former rival a hundredfold. And swallowed it up. First it ate the black star. But that would not sate it, not ever. This black diamond would never be sated. All of the stars it once held were swallowed next, as if their lights never were. Then, the diamond looked at her...and it was hungry. The sea of thought began to sway, back and forth, to and fro, as the black diamond began to devour everything. It was devouring even the Warp itself. Back and forth. Back and forth until the coldness of death ate Miranda, and she drowned.
"Wake up, would you! Cut it out, Miranda, you're spooking me!" Miranda coughed. She choked and hacked out water, which even coming back up felt as cold as an untouched glacier. She spit and choked and breathed in gulps of air, her lungs greedy from oxygen deprivation. "I keep telling you to lay off that dabbling, or next time, I'll let you die!" Miranda looked up at Freya Russ, and smiled.
"You make such a horrible liar, Freya." Miranda saw Freya's face contort in a strange mixture of disgust, fear, and thankfulness that she was alive.
Having to convince their fathers that living on campus was a good idea was monumental in and of itself. Later having to explain who they were roommates with was miraculous in that either one of them still had a pulse. The daughters of the Wolf and the Red King so much as existing under one roof was difficult to accept. To know that they were roommates had sent their respective fathers into near apoplexy. They, however, didn't see things in such black and white differences. From the moment they saw each other at the great orientation at the Isstvan Building, they knew that somehow, for some reason, they needed to stay together. To help each other. To the faculty, it seemed like a mutually beneficial arrangement: Freya would help Miranda develop her physical talents in Phys Ed., while Miranda would help Freya with her other studies.
The faculty, however, would know nothing of what they thought of each other after classes. During school hours, they kept up appearances, openly taunting and jibing the other until it seemed like hair-pulling was the only reasonable course of action. Behind the doors of their rooms...and most anywhere else they felt was somewhat private, for that matter, they cared for each other more knowingly than any other being possibly could.
Fixing Hana's Bike
The scent of the garage was odd. It always had been to an extent, but now it was absolutely curious. Where a moment before, the air was filled with the acrid tang of welded ceramite and burnt plasteel, now the scent of rose oil intermingled with vanilla and cherry blossoms. This confounded the chemical auspexes of Techpriest Jerlaek, and was preparing to order a diagnostic on what tentatively was his nose when suddenly the garage door opened with a blast of relatively cool summer air. Kept in his dungeon-like state of perpetual darkness, having little need for ambient light when the full spectrum of vision and color were at his augmetic eyes beck and call, the Techpriest was blinded for exactly 3.023 seconds as his ocular lenses adjusted to the new stimulus.
He saw three figures standing in silhouette at the mouth of the garage. The Techpriest readied his mechadendrites, and charged them discretely. His mission was not only to maintain the Legion's vehicles, but also in this respect, to protect his charge, and would do some come death or malfunction. As the figures approached him, and entered the din of his work strobes, he immediately deactivated his lethal array of vibrowhips and neural disassemblers. He clicked a few times, his vocoder activating with slowness.
"Mistress Farah. Forgive me, I was unaware you were arriving here." She offered the polished chrome faceplate a warm, disarming smile.
"No problem, Jerry! We just came to fix a couple of things." The Techpriest had always been confused as to why Farah Manus had opted to give him such a pseudonym, but filed it away for processing. To even try to understand females of her age was asking for a complete cogitative meltdown.
"I see, Mistress, and what is it that needs consecration and soothing?" Farah pointed over her shoulder to the tall, imposing girl in the middle with a strangely familiar two-wheeled apparatus slung over her shoulders, its white and red paint marred black in a number of places by smoke and poorly anointed unguent. He reached out his partially biological hand towards it. "Of course, Mistress Farah, I shall offer the Omnissiah's blessings to..." a vice-like grip registered on his subdermal neurotransmitters. Focusing, he saw the girl, whom he now cogitated with some embarrassment and fear as Hana Khan, daughter of the Great Khan. She leaned in and whispered loudly,
"Listen. Farah and Venus help me fix Janggi, but nobody," she pulled him even closer for added effect, not an easy task considering his augmetic bulk, "and I mean nobody touches Janggi but me. Understood?" The now terrified adept nodded the pistons in his faceplate and let out an assuring blurt of machine code. "Good. Ladies!," she said, with an air of an aristocrat, "we have work to do!"
"Torque driver. Pneumohammer. Plasma torch. Swab." Hana was working at a furious pace, but with the precision of a chirurgeon. She repaired the damage from this morning, Venus handed her the proper tools without even having to look, and Farah observed, ensuring the proper rites were being initiated. Janggi was in pain, Hana could feel it. Not perhaps as acutely as Farah did, but Farah felt a general empathic feeling from nearly everything from lumen strips to battle Titans. But she wasn't bound to Janggi, not like Hana was.
The graceful machine was a gift from her father, a glory of twin-wheeled excellence the envy of any machine in the entire school. She could run down anything that called the ground its home, and could keep up with anything that didn't. True, Janggi wasn't exactly the artisan-crafted masterpiece Moondrakken, but she understood it would be rather awkward if she were to accidentally gun down five of her classmates each morning in a hail of bolter fire. As it was, the school had her coming to the office nearly every morning for disrupting some scholam lecture with her blaring engines. Engines that also had a bad tendency to want to erupt on her. That, however, wasn't Janggi's fault. It's spirit was a docile one, powerful, yet gentle, and expected to ferry a poised, collected girl from place to place. What it had found, however, was a hellion of speed and danger, a dark-haired blitz of energy that the fragile machine spirit couldn't possibly contain.
That changed today.
"Okay," Farah said, after the superficial damage was repaired. She flicked her mechanical fingers around the chassis, which Hana didn't seem to mind as she didn't have fingerprints to leave behind. "it looks like the problem you have is that Janggi's motive engine can't...keep up with you." This sharpened a dagger behind Hana's eyes.
"Are you calling me fat?" Farah leapt back, put a hand behind her head and waved away the thought, knowing full well the reputation the daughter of the Khan had.
"No! No! What I mean is that...it's not capable of holding your fighting spirit! Yeah..." her words seemed to work, as Hana went back to polishing the outer hull of the moped.
"Hmph," she grunted, as daintily as an Ork with a rash. "Any suggestions then?" Venus looked over, and nonchalantly said,
"Why don't you just put a rocket on it, and call it good?" The other girls looked at each other, smiled innocuously, then, suddenly, they grasped Venus and shouted in both ears,
"Awesome!" Feeling like she'd just put her ear next to one of father's anvils while he was pounding out some new piece of weaponry, she slumped down and nearly passed out. "Just one thing though," Farah noted, "if you have so much of a problem keeping that old fuel-burner from exploding, what's going to happen when it's got fusion cells?"
Hours later, the garage door opened once more. Techpriest Jerlaek peered into the gloom with his regular optics, seeing nothing, but hearing an odd humming sound. He almost had his thermal sensors primed when suddenly a blur of white plasteel, hair, and skirts zipped outwards and upwards from the garage, the sound of an anti-grav motor being taxed and a ululating shriek piercing the peace of silence that had existed. Then, as soon as it had ended, with the sound of a battle cry upon the field of glory, three girls shouted out, like warriors triumphant,
Petra's art exhibition
Perturabo was baking bread. Some would call what he was doing an art, but the Iron Warrior disagreed. It was a science, cold and hard, a science which relied upon exact mixes of time, thermal energy and raw material. Chemical engineering for those afraid to deal in truly important compounds. The act relaxed him. The fact that you could eat the products was also a nice bonus.
When Petra returned home she found her father removing golden loaves from the colossal stone oven dominating their kitchen.
"Daughter, your arrival is anticipated. The glazed buns you like so much are beneath that cloth."
"Thanks Dad. "Please stand aside, this tray is exceptionally hot. Now report. How went the day?"
"It was fine."
"Your studies progress well?"
"I haven't got my physics paper back yet, but the teacher has been sick and hasn't had a chance to look over it properly."
"He is weak. He should do his duty. That is what they pay him for, correct? What else? Anything important?"
"Well... Ms. McCann, my art teacher, she thinks I'm doing really well this semester. She wants to put up some of my work on display."
"I said 'important', daughter."
"DAD! This is important to me."
Perturabo rolled his eyes.
"Oh very well. What is it, an exhibition of technical drawing?"
"No. Besides, I told you, that's Victoria's thing."
Perturabo began to sweat slightly .
"Architectural planning? Botanical illustration? Surely not installation work?"
"Daaaad... come on... I told you all this."
"I am sorry, daughter, I do not know."
"GRRR! YOU NEVER LISTEN! YOU NEVER TAKE ANY INTEREST IN ME!"
"Petra, wait! Don't storm off!"
Perturabo moved to intercept the girl but thought better of it at the last moment. As he heard the sound of the front door slamming he noticed flyer his daughter had left behind on the table. The school art fair was less than two weeks away. The primarch studied the paper for a few moments more before walking purposefully to his office. There he took a diary from his desk and wrote in small, neat letters:
Petra's art exhibition. Important.
Lament of Krieg
I did it again. What, you ask? Ach, you know already. Another day has passed, and I, child of eternal penance already have laden my shoulders with even more shame. And cowardice! Of all things cowardice!
Oh, you know I must but how could I ever? This one thing I must, I desire and yet I cannot.
Shame on my existence! Shame, I say! How could I keep looking in the faces of my brothers, let alone father? Yet, what is there to be seen? Derisive amusement! And rightfully so.
Oh God-Emperor, by now she must be engrossed beyond measure. To find each day so stuporous a poem slapped together in haste, shame and sweating passion. Oh I can see her rip them apart in anger. Or not? Or what if she has a liking to them? What if she if overjoyed to find such interest taken in her? Away, haughty minds! How could she, my dark muse, my warrior princess ever like so cruel a feeling smeared in her face? And who am I to face her?
And yet, yet, thinking of her makes unworthy my heart leap! Oh I want to write her name all over the school! Oh a hundred times all over! Cora, Cora, Cora! I love you, no I burn in passion! This affection knows no name, no boundaries!
But still, here I sit, another ramshackle poem on my lips, fiery joy burning my heart, yet sorrows icy claw holds it fast in place.
Oh woe is me! Two hearts beating in my chest!
Tomorrow, tomorrow will be the day I face her, confess myself!
Shush, fool, you do none of the likes! You write on blank paper with your left so she won’t know your hand nor your pad.
My poor diary, you heard my desperation a hundred times. Oh sardonic a part of me grins at this caitiff boy, wants to be caught, better today than tomorrow. Get over with it. See her impressed face filled with disbelieve. Yes, it was me all along! You thought me an oaf? A militaristic blockhead? Well, you were wrong!
And then again…
Merciful sleep take me away to oblivion!
Await my next wail by tomorrow, dear diary.
A Strange Exchange
"HEY FURBALL! CATCH!" Freya spun around just in time to see the projectile speeding towards her head.
She jumped and took the object square in the chest, bracing her hands against a force that would have downed the likes of Morticia in a heart beat. Glaring down the hallway, she saw Furia glaring back with that infuriating smirk.
"What the hell's your problem!" The other students in the hall fell silent as Freya roared back at her assailant. "Ya run out of initiates to harass or are ya just lookin to meet the Emprah early?"
"Tsch, such harsh words," chided Furia, that grin never leaving her face. "Maybe I should just take it back then?"
"Take what back?"
"I thought dogs were more observant than that. You said you needed those accelerator parts for your bike right? My dad had a spare in the garage... so... here you go."
Freya finally looked at the thing she caught: a heavy, beat up, rectangular box, wrapped sloppily in newspaper. The other students in the hallway let out a sigh of relief and stopped bracing for disaster. Caught between embarrassment and frustration, Freya yammered out what passed for appreciation. "Ummm... well... thanks. But ya didn't have ta try and bean me with it."
"Oh? but where would be the fun i.... HEY WAIT DON'T OPEN IT NOW!" Furia started walking towards the other girl, her trademark smirk smirk, as well as all color, drained from her face.
"What? Don't tell me its a trap. That's totally not your department anyway." Unimpressed and typically impatient, Freya tore through the shoddy packaging and pulled out chrome plated motorcycle parts from amid the packing peanuts. "Awesome, just what I needed!"
"Good... lets just say you owe me." Furia's smirk was beginning to creep across her face again, but the tone of hesitancy in her voice was obvious.
"Sure thing, so long as you don't act like an asshole all the time". Freya was about to turn and leave when she felt a shift in the weight of the box. "Hmmm... Something else at the bottom?" Digging deeper, she found another, smaller box, poorly wrapped in red paper and adorned with a paper flower cut from red construction paper. "What in the Emperor's name is this?"
Furia's face was as white as Konrad Kruze's butt reflecting a full moon. She could only stutter a pathetic opposition as the contents of the secret package were revealed to the world.
"Chocolates? Did you pack somethign by mistake? HA! I got it, they are probably filled with Catachan Death Sauce. Ya almost had me."
"Ya... exactly... Go choke on a few..." The blond bully mumbled, her fists clenched and knuckles white.
"Ya almost got me. Here, take em and try it again on someone else. I bet you can catch that stuck up bitch Lyra if you play your cards right"
"No. Just take them" Furia snapped back between grinding teeth.
The other students began to scatter or take cover again.
"Just fucking take them ok!" Furia shoved the sweets back, trying to cram the already dented gift back into the box of machinery.
Now, Freya is the type of lass that is easily confused when familiar people exhibit strange, new, behaviors. This event was no exception and so she started to push back. Her confusion was only heightened when she found herself plastered to the lockers with her arms pinned above her head. Furia's body was centimeters away, eyes glaring intently, one hand around her wrists and the other holding the box against the wall.
Suddenly, the agressor became aware of just how compromising the position was and dropped her prey. Flustered beyond words for perhaps the first time in her life, Furia shoved the box into the other girls hands and backed away. "Do you want the fucking stuff or what"
"Why do ya care if I take these or not? Its not like ya like me or anything, stupid. ... Right?"
The hall became as silent as a necron tomb world. Furia just glared a response.
"Wait... you're serious... aren't you" Comprehension bubbled to the surface of Freya's mind but her thoughts were stolen by a sudden blow to her diaphragm.
"Check your calendar asshole!" the delinquent shouted before sprinting out of the building.
The sound of Furia's choked-back sobs reverberated in Freya's ears as she slumped against the lockers, trying to find her breath.
A thunderclap shocked her back to reality as a blanket wrapped Miranda appeared in a sudden plume of ozone and menthol scented air.
"Miranda... I thought you were sick."
"I still am", the psyker wheezed, "However I felt reality break for a moment in this vicinity and I felt the need to investigate. It was almost like the warp froze over."
"Really... Hey Miranda. What day is it?"
"Day? The fourteenth day of the second month of the year of our Emperor 298.M34. Why?"
Just Another Day On Void Platform 13
Living on his own for so long, the Emperor had quickly become accustomed to hiding his thoughts. The great leader of Mankind had further learned, upon revealing himself to humanity as a whole, that keeping his psychic powers very tightly constrained when others were around was wise.
So it was with some surprise that he found himself one day eavesdropping on one of his granddaughters. He hadn’t meant to, but it was hard NOT to, he had simply been walking through the rooftop gardens of the Palace on Terra and found Venus chatting with someone he didn’t recognize. Before he could say anything or Venus could spot him, though, he saw the young man she was with speaking.
“So, of course, we freeze. We all know what that sound means,” the young man said excitedly.
“Of course,” Venus giggled. “What did you do?”
“Well,” the young man said, sighing dramatically, “I…TRIED to maintain order, but, you know, panic sets in so fast.”
“Oh, I know,” she replied flatly, a smirk tugging her lips. The young man didn’t notice her sarcasm.
“Well, I’m frantically voxing the rest of the squad, trying to keep them in line, when the crazy son of a bitch rounds the corner in person. He’s coated from head to toe in varnish, naturally enough, and I was lucky enough to have a soap grenade handy, so I try to use it. It works, and he comes bumrushing in, going all ‘vengeance’ this and ‘HONK HONK’ that,” the young man said, apparently making a conscious effort to keep his voice down. Venus spotted her grandfather out of the corner of her eye and waved while the young man paused for breath.
“Wait, you can make soap weapons?” she asked, returning her attention to her boyfriend.
“Sure, if the assistant isn’t being a shitheel and off bothering the miners or something,” the young man said. “It’s all on the net. Anyway, he’s coming at me with a mad-on, and I’m backpedaling like crazy, hoping that the rest of the squad can stop him before he gets me.”
“And did they?” Venus asked, struggling to hide a grin at her boyfriend’s enthusiasm and grandfather’s mounting confusion.
“Hell no. I gave it a good try, but he was just robust for me. Anyway, I’m dead as a doornail at this point, ghosting around like a silent fart in a crowded elevator, watching the whole server go to hell as the varnish singularity spreads, and the security guys finally manage to down the stupid clown, but the damage is done, and nobody alive has soapies. So the Captain calls in the shuttle, and the survivors crowd around the bay, when someone asks if the vents are sealed.” He leaned closer to her, his face grim. “Dead. Silence. NOBODY thought to seal the vents.”
“Fuck,” Venus giggled.
“No kidding. After about ten seconds of the loudest silence ever, the air vents start spewing varnish. EVERYWHERE. The crew is freaking out, trying to get the hell away from it, but it just didn’t work. The shuttle was FIFTY meters from the station when the pressure wall gives, and the whole, freshly varnished crew just launches into the black.”
Venus clamped her hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter, while her companion didn’t even bother with that, slapping his knee and doubling over in his chair with mirth. Finally, he turned back to his girlfriend and sighed contentedly. “You had to be there.”
The Emperor very quietly backed up a few steps, then shook his head and walked back into the building. “Kids these days,” he muttered.
Remilia nearly cried out as the bus pulled away from the curb. She knew she wouldn't catch it, but that didn't stop her frantic waving and whimpering as she was left at the curb. It didn't help that it was raining and that she didn't bring an umbrella with her this morning. Or that the curb itself was dangerously slippery, which she had forgotten as she ran for her bus. Maybe she would be able to catch it if she took a shortcut...
All thoughts of such interception however, left her mind as she slipped and fell unto her ass. She didn't move. She was cold, wet, exhausted and slightly in pain. She was worried people would notice the tears at her eyes, but her face was too wet to tell.
Her day wasn't going as planned.
She knew the next bus was in 15 minutes away, but the bus stop had little to no shelter to hide under till then. She almost lost all hope of arriving home without being sick when suddenly a bike pulled up in front of her. Remilia looked up, making out the details as they came to her. It was a black sports bike, ordained with decals of feathers throughout the hull. The rider was similar decorated, wearing a black jacket with a modified Cadian helmet with a visor. On the back of the jacket was a white symbol of a blade in between two wings.
Still, it wasn't till the rider raised her visor and looked at her did she recognize her.
“Hey Rem, you okay?”
“...Not really” she said depressingly. Lyra extended her hand towards her.
“Need a ride?” she asked. Remilia paused at this, surprised to receive such an offer from Lyra. She barely knew her, so this friendly behaviour caught her by surprise.
“I don't want to be a hassle. Its out of the way for you isn't it?” she said, her polite side trying to hide how dreadful she felt in the rain at the moment.
“Ten minute detour is not a hassle Remilia. Also, I was headed your way anyway, so its not really like I'm doing you a favour” Lyra answered, portraying how most people see her as being a stubborn girl with a very logical mind, which usually ended up making her look like she was against everybody. Remilia sighed, knowing she wouldn't be able to win the argument with the girl. And as the rain got worse, she wasn't going to argue with herself any longer either as she grabbed Lyra's extended hand.
A minute later, Remilia had her arms wrapped around Lyra's stomach tightly, holding on against the onslaught of rain as the Dark Angel sped her way towards the Dorn estate. Thankfully, she now had some protection against the elements as she wore a similar style helmet as Lyra's as well as a spare jacket she kept with her. And as they sped past the bus she would have taken home, Remilia felt a bit better about her day.
“Thanks again” she said, the radio within their helmets making a conversation quite easy.
“It's not a problem. Again, I had to go your way anyway”
“Well, you still didn't need to. I mean, its not like I would have expected you to stop.” Remilia immediately regretted letting that sentence slip out. It was common knowledge among the cousins that Lyra was the loner, keeping to her studies and books. Her only true friend she had seen was Freya. Remilia couldn't remember the last time they actually spoke. Still, saying something like that didn't help her attempts to become friends.
Surprisingly, Lyra simply laughed, catching Remilia off guard. “Yeah, I guess people would think I wouldn't stop. My reputation isn't exactly golden, and that's a fact” she said slowly down into a curve before speeding back up. “Yeah, well, I see you every day waiting for that bus patiently. I always wonder if I should offer a lift when I drive by, but I always get cold feet. Talking to people isn't a skill I have.”
“So what changed today?” Rem asked, breaking her silence. They were about five minutes now from her house.
“It was raining. I don't want you to be sick cause I'm being an idiot.” Remilia paused briefly before smiling to herself in her helmet. She could only think now that there might be more to the mysterious girl then she originally believed.
The bike rode on, finally coming towards the Dorn stronghold. It was a flat clear land in every direction, with the fortress in its centre. The Primarch had planned the area as if he was expecting an attack. Marines patrolled the walls, ever vigilant of nearby threats, and Remilia knew that their arrival had been expected even before they had seen the fortress. The gates opened slowly as the duo approached the walls, large ceramite doors creaking to open for the bike. As they passed the gate, they rode under a series of tents, offering them protection from the storm raging overhead.
Lyra smiled to herself at the difference between their house. While Dorn made it very clear that the area was well protected, her father had scout squads with teleporter beacons hidden within his grounds. Their presence was very hard to find amonsgt the many Caliban imported trees, and if anything became too much for them to handle, they could call in Deathwing terminator squads to deal with the threat. Two different approaches to the same problem.
Ultimately, Lyra came to a full stop in front of the house doors. Both got off the metal steed and freed themselves from the bike helmets. Remilia stretched and ran her hand through auburn hair. She checked her watch and noted she had made it home faster then she had planned. Suddenly, her day had turned out to be better then expected.
“Thanks again Lyra. So, why are you coming in this direction anyway?” Lyra simply smiled as she pointed past Remilia.
“That is why.”
The Dorn turned and noted the door had opened. Thoreau walked down from the steps with Rem's brother, Roger. She had completely forgotten that they had boxing practice today.
“Hey sis” the boys said in unison. Roger gave his sister a look of surprise, seeing that the majority of her clothes were wet from the rain, and some of it even had some dirt on it. “Rough day?” he asked.
“Could be worse” she answered, taking the jacket off and handing that and the helmet to Thoreau.
She finally turned to Lyra who was leaning unto her bike, waiting for Thoreau to get ready. She didn't expect the surprise attack from the Dorn as Remilia move in quickly and hugged her,catching Lyra off guard. It took several moments for her to return the gesture, hugging the girl back. Rem backed away and smiled at her, but Lyra only blushed and looked away, clearly embarrassed by the whole event.
“Thank you Lyra” she said, but the El'Jonson didn't answer, putting her helmet back on. For several moments, Remilia though she had pushed too far, but as the siblings prepared to ride away, Lyra raised her visor and finally smiled at her.
“Find me after class tomorrow. I can give you a lift again.” Remilia nodded with enthusiasm as Lyra waved goodbye and rode off.
The Exchange Student
Johor Tull of the Interex nervously looked around him at the looming façade of Imperator High, and the crowds of students pouring into the cavernous maw of its entrance. It utterly dwarfed his entire home city on Xenobia. Today would be his first day as an exchange student, another link in the chain between the Interex and the Imperium. His father Mithras Tull was a close friend to the famous Captain Garviel Loken of the Mournival, and he suspected that he had pulled some strings to allow him to be the first Interex exchange student to the wider Imperium. Like his fellows in the Interex, he was gracious and noble, and he hoped that would win him some friends here. Like all in the Interex he was handsome and lean, with short dark hair, piercing blue eyes like his father’s and intricate dermatoglyphics covering the right side of his face, like the tattoos of the ancient races of Terra. His ears were bat-like, all the better to hear the melodies of the aria, though his father had warned him of potential teasing before he departed for Terra. Laced around the high collar of his neck and hanging off his arm was his aria, though the Imperials called it a harmonic synthesizer, and it would be less useful here than at home. He disliked the uniform he was wearing; it wasn’t anything like the robes or metal armour uniforms he was used to. He heard that if he was successful, than others would follow. There was even a rumour that the Eldar Ambassador was also watching, and he was also considering an exchange program at Imperator high. So much rested on him, and he chafed at the burden. Everything was so strange! Taking a deep breath, he clambered out of the hold of the air speeder, shouldered his new pack and joined the throng heading into the scholum. Trying to keep himself as hidden and unnoticeable as possible among the crowds, he kept his head down and used his ears to listen to anyone or anything coming around him. It was an imprecise art at the best of times, and this was the worst of times with so many sounds assailing his sensitive hearing.
With a loud ‘thwack’ he bumped into someone, sending them flying. Instinctively he bent down to help. “Are you alright?” he asked, a faint melody covering his words from his aria to reinforce his sincerity. Old habits die hard. As the girl collected up her books, he suddenly got a gut-wrenching feeling as he recognised who it was. Isis Lupercal, the Warmaster’s daughter and first student at Imperator High. He instinctively bowed his head, his aria beginning a muffed majestical tune. She reached up and grabbed his fingers before he could play any more, hauling herself to her feet. “You must be new. No-one ever does that…” it was her turn to be astonished. Her gaze shifted from his ears, to his dermatoglyphics, and back again.
“You’re that Interex student Uncle Loken was talking about.”
“Johor Tull of the Interex, at your service ma’am.” his words were accompanied by the music of the aria, as his fingers played along it.
“Is that your harmonic synthesiser?”
“Aria and yes. They all said it would be useless here, but no Interex is complete without his or her aria.” Isis smiled at him, a smile so infectious he fought not to smile as well.
“You obviously know who I am, and vice versa. I presume you’ll need someone to show you around, teach you the ropes as my father put it. Follow me.” Before he could get a word in edgeways, she grabbed his other arm and hauled him off. He noticed that she kept on peeking at his dermatoglyphics as they glided around the corridors, she pointing out certain rooms. He remembered he had to find his new locker, and she took him past endless rows to where the high profile lockers of the top students were, where Johor was surprised to find that his locker had been located. He swiftly stashed his books away.
A few lockers over, a black girl, talking animatedly with a boy. Isis all but dragged him up to her.
“Venus, Jake. This is Johor Tull of the Interex.” Now she turned and stared at him, her fiery red eyes scanning over his unusual features. The boy with her spoke first.
“You’re a real Interex?”
If looks could kill, then poor Jake would be deader than if he’d been hit by the Life Eater. Venus quickly spoke. “Jake didn’t mean it that way. Welcome to Terra, Johor of the Interex.” She shook his hand; her grip was firm but soft. He remembered that she was the Daughter of Vulkan of the Salamanders, but this time he kept his cool. Slowly but surely he was adjusting to the ‘unusual’ inhabitants of this scholam. Soon he was answering questions about the Interex, showing them his aria, which Jake found fascinating. As they talked another joined them.
“Wow, is that an aria? I’ve always wanted to see one of these. Your ears are cool, is your hearing better than a Space Marine's?
“The person firing the barrage of questions is Farah Manus. Please excuse her; curiosity may have killed the cat, but not her.” Farah offered her hand, and with trepidation Johor shook it. As he feared his hand was nearly crushed, and Farah apologised profusely as he nursed his throbbing hand, the digits still plying over the aria.
As if things were not already too complicated, Isis ran up and embraced a boy with short dark hair. She then turned to Johor.
“Johor Tull of the Interex.”
“Julius Pius.” He looked at him morosely, as if he expected him to comment. When he didn’t, Julius quirked an eyebrow. Isis nudged him.
“His father is the greatest non-Astartes war hero in the entire Imperium.”
“We don’t hear too much about the wider Imperium in the Interex. It is hard to shake of the stain of Old Night.”
Julius sighed in relief. “That is a blessing. You know how many people want to ask me about how my father took out that Ork Gargant on Quetansk, or fought those Daemons on Morosis Prime. I wish they’d just leave me alone.”
“As you can see, Julius here is a bit melancholic.” She pecked him on the cheek, and he blushed deeply before promising to meet her at lunch and departing. She laughed as she watched him go. “We go very well together. Sometimes I don’t know what I’d do without Julius for support. There are so many responsibilities on my shoulders, just like my father.” Her voice dropped to a whisper so low his aria sounded deafening. One of Farah’s metal hands rested on her shoulder, and she visibly brightened.
“Enough of all that. We have classes, so let’s get to it.” As luck would have it, they both had the same first class, Professor Ahriman’s Warp Studies. Ahzek Ahriman was the former First Librarian of the Thousand Sons, and famed as the greatest scholar in the entire Imperium.to his credit, he made the usually impenetrable topic of the Warp understandable. He took copious notes, the aria still sounding ever so softly in the background. If Ahriman heard, he did nothing.
The class spilled out of the room when the lesson finished, and Johor went with Farah, Venus and Jake as they made their way to the canteen. As they walked, Johor swore he heard someone mention Isis. He paused. He could hear someone speaking in a low whisper, and he distinctly heard Isis mentioned. He focused, and swiftly it sounded like he was there beside the plotters.
“Do you know anyone named Victoria?” he asked.
“She is planning an ambush. Wants to humiliate ‘the golden girl’ in her words.” Isis stared at him, as if seeing his massive ears for the first time. She nodded, and whispered something to Venus and Farah. They continued along the corridor, chatting as if nothing was wrong. Suddenly a lush girl of amazing beauty rounded the locker she was using as ad-hoc cover. Several other girls were behind her, and Johor recognised Petra and Lyra. He shifted her gaze away from Isis to Johor.
“And who are you?” she asked in an icy tone, sneering at his distended ears.
“Johor Tull of the Interex. And you?”
“Victoria, daughter of perfection. Nice music by the way. Is that all the famous Interex can do? Play some B-grade music?” Johor gritted his teeth as the aria reflected his mood. Her posse smiled at his discomfort, but they didn’t realise what he was doing.
Johor had been told many times never to overcharge the aria, and never to combine that with a hypersonic setting. But it seemed to be a rite of passage for all young Interex to try that out, with nasty consequences. He however had practiced, making his aria into a weapon as much as a tool of music or communication. Isis! Cover your ears!” he commanded, and he raided the aria, and aimed it at a stupefied Victoria.
The sonic blast threw Victoria over, blowing her skirt up. Johor blushed at the sight, and Isis giggled.
“Did someone forget their panties?” she asked, sweet faced. Victoria scrambled to her feet, and all but ran, her cohort following close behind. Isis whooped loudly as they ran, reaching over and hugging Johor.
“I never knew the aria could do that as well.” Farah said breathlessly.
“You’re a handy person to have around. I think we could find a use for you.” Isis said, and Johor found himself smiling. Maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as he’d feared.
The Staff Room
Professor Ahzek Ahriman all but crashed into the staff room, his armour wheezing at the strain. After four hours of non-stop lessons, he’d almost snapped. Not even the Higher Enumerations could save him for very long when it came to the students here. If they truly were the future of the Imperium, then the Imperium was in for a Grim Dark Future.
He knew he was being somewhat unreasonable, but after all those years of conquering the Galaxy for the Imperium, the last thing he wanted was to have to deal with the endless whining and winging, not to mention the practical jokes of The Twins. They were good and attentive students, but…
The staff room was a large, open structure overlooking the vast indoor playing fields, where the students hung out during lunch. Several screens showed live Servo-Skull picts as they kept an eye on the students below.
There were a few ex-astartes on the teaching staff, each the master of his particular field. Ahriman nodded at Fabius Bile, former chief Apothecary of the Emperor’s Children and now head of Biology. After his exemplary work on the Laer, he’d been ‘promoted’ to become the head Biology Teacher at Imperator High. There were rumours that it was a punishment for illegal experiments done during the last days of the Great Crusade, but Ahriman couldn’t uncover the truth. A short way away, slouched in a great armchair was Iacton Qruze, The Half-Heard, head of the History department. Qruze was one of the oldest surviving Astartes, and teaching history was a blissful retirement for him.
Dean Yarrick, Old One Eye had his one eye glued to the Servo Skull feed, maintaining his eternal vigil over the school. Behind him was Celestine, half councilor and half spiritual guide, who as usual was staring out over the balcony at the crowds below, pointedly ignoring the muted cat-calls below her.
Ahriman had brought over a bottle of his wine, and shared it out with everyone.
After the drinks and the usual pleasantries, once again the topics of the conversations moved, as they always did, to the students, and 19 students in particular. Fabius started it off, his mechanical arms twitching as he spoke.
“Cora barely scraped through another test again. Honestly, something needs to be done for her. She’s a damn good kid, and I respect her father immensely, but he needs to do something for her.”
A few scattered agreements echoed across the room. Ahriman could sympathise, Cora was a decidedly average student at his course as well, though she was brilliant at Physical Education and History. Ahriman always wondered why the girls were being educated alongside normal humans, not educated by their fathers, or the Emperor Himself. More voices intruded on his thoughts.
“Morticia missed another lesson. I’m amazed she hasn’t slipped behind everyone else!”
“Miranda freaked out the whole class again, by demonstrating how elliptical orbits work. Ahriman, I wish you’d instruct your protégé about using her warp manipulation to show off.”
For a brief moment, Ahriman toyed with activating his Heqa staff and banging Mr Skurner on the head. Skurner was an Ex-Imperial Army, always either arguing with his students or reminiscing about the campaign on V’Narm, where he fought. Before he could do any more than light up the vision slits in his helm with angry red flames, Mrs McCann changed the subject.
“That T.G! I wish he’d shave off that bloody neckbeard! It’s as ugly as an Ork’s backside.”
“At least he has manners. Furia crashed her way in the middle of art, and didn’t even offer up an excuse.”
“The only person who can get her to do anything is old Yarrick here. Isn’t that right?”
Yarrick grunted, while taking a draught from his hip flask. Widely considered the second bravest in the entire Imperial Army, second only the ever famous Ollanius Pius, whose son Julius was one of the star students and on very good terms with Yarrick.
All of a sudden Ahriman saw a flash in his mind, of two students fighting. He couldn’t tell who they were, but he immediately voiced it to Yarrick, who nodded and started attaching his Battle Claw. Sure enough, a few seconds later the Servo Skull monitor started to whine.
One of the screens showed a group of students clustering around a fight. The picture blurred as the Servo Skull approached closer. After a few seconds, the picture sharpened enough for them to see who was fighting. Furia and Hana. Of course it would have to be them. Furia was a near permanent headache for all of them, and only Yarrick could keep her in a semblance of line. From there they couldn’t tell what they were fighting over this time, but it hardly seemed to matter. Those two were either thick as thieves or else fighting like Grox and Squiggoths.
Dean Yarrack slowly hauled himself of his chair, flicking on the controls on his Battle Claw. A scowl cut across his ruined features.
“Need any help?” Ahriman asked. They often worked together, Ahriman using the Great Ocean to support Yarrack as he did his work.
“No need. This one won’t take long.” And with that, he was gone. Ahriman sure didn’t want to be either Furia or Hana, they were in for it.
An Afternoon With WD
Lyra rolled her sleeve up to glance over her watch and huffed with impatience. “Late. There’s a shock.” She glanced down the winding street in front of her house, waiting for the yellow aircar limo that Remilia always used.
Finally, it slid to a halt next to the mouth of the Dark Angels’ house, and the gull-wing door popped open. Remilia waved Lyra in from the seat. “Hey, there you are. Sorry I’m late.”
“Hi.” Lyra tossed her bag into the open door, then turned to WD, standing patiently next to her. “All right, little guy, I’ll see you later.” WD waved its tiny arm as Lyra climbed into the car and the door slid shut. As the car lifted and shot off in the direction of the mall, WD turned around and waddled back into the house. He had a lot of work to do, and who knew how much time to do it? First things first. WD clambered up to the mistress’s bedroom, which she had left in commendable shape, for once. Still, to a trained eye, there were so many LITTLE things to improve upon. WD hefted the pile of clean laundry outside the door and hauled it in, dropping it on the table next to the dresser, then waddling back out to retrieve an errant sock. He opened the drawers in her dresser one at a time, meticulously depositing each article of clothing in the proper drawer. That accomplished, he leaped from the dresser to the sprawling bed, laboriously tugging the sheets into T-square-perfect alignment.
He paused to look over the room, wondering if there was anything else that needed urgent attention. His tiny eyes alighted on the pile of homework in the corner of the desk. Of course. Mistress hated cleaning up after work. The gap was too far to jump, so he clambered down off the bed and climbed up the desk side, then carefully straightened up the sheets of paper and the occasional data card littering the desk.
A knock on the door caught his attention. Lord El’Jonson poked his head in, glancing around for Lyra. “Ah, blast, did I miss her?” His gaze caught WD, still fidgeting with the papers on the desk. “Did she leave already, WD?”
WD nodded, gesturing expressively at the window. El’Jonson sighed. “Of course. Well, I’ll just see her when she gets back.” He pointed at the pile of dirty laundry in the hamper in the corner. “Don’t do those. The young lady needs to learn a little about responsibility.” Without another word, he walked away.
WD listened to him go, utterly confused. What was he supposed to do now? There wasn’t anything else to do in the room. He had the afternoon off?
After considering that for a moment, he waddled off the bed and into the hall, looking both ways. Apparently master El’Jonson was the only one in the house right now, because it was a good bit quieter than he was used to. He waddled determinately over to the stairs and climbed down to the first floor, heading over to the massive kitchen. If he had some time, which was something he really wasn’t prepared for, the least he could do was have a snack while he ruminated on his newfound free time.
The little xeno walked into the kitchen, looking over to where the butler servitor was plugged into the wall, recharging. The cook was absent too, apparently, because her coat wasn’t on the peg. Did everybody have the day off? WD climbed up the little set of stairs next to the prep counter, and started to open the cabinet that had the food he had set aside for himself…and paused. After a long moment, he glanced over at the human food refrigerator. Glancing slyly over his shoulder to ensure his privacy, he nonchalantly walked over to the fridge and heaved it open, staring at the piles and shelves of human food inside. How could humans even eat this much? With an effort, he slid the vegetable drawer open and pulled out a half onion someone had opened, and carefully carried it back over to the smaller prep area he had for himself. Glancing furtively around, he hefted a little knife and cut off a thin slice, then popped it into his mouth.
Whoa. That was different.
He hurriedly wrapped the onion back up and replaced it in the veggie drawer, and closed the fridge with a thump. Human food was gross. Curiosity sated, he went back to his own prep station and made up a snack, wondering how he was to spend the day. He had never been in the backyard by himself before. Would that be fun? Come to think of it, he had spent a lot of time outdoors, but never without somebody with him all the time, or some goal to accomplish.
Sudden guilt grabbed him as that last thought percolated through his head. Was there something ELSE he was supposed to be doing? He tried and tried, but couldn’t think of any chores or housework the mistress Lyra or Lord El’Jonson had given him.
The sound of footsteps – heavy and quick – broke his introspection. He hurriedly rubbed the onion juice off the knife he was using and waited. The door – the big one – opened, and the cook walked in, dropping her coat on the peg, and walked straight over to the menu for the day. “All right, let’s see…hmph, grox tenderloin. Easy enough…” her voice trailed off when she finally sensed someone else in her kitchen. She turned around and spotted WD, doing his best to look casual at his prep station. “Oh…hello there, WD,” she said, opening the fridge and getting the dinner ingredients out. She focused on the task at hand, sorting through the food, putting the silent alien out of her mind.
WD sighed in relief and made for the door, before she could notice anything awry. Well, staying in the house wasn’t appealing any more, and it was a lovely day out…so why not go enjoy it? Wd made up his mind and navigated through the cold, imposing halls of the building to the backdoor, pushing it open with a mighty heave. The cool breeze of Terran artificial autumn blew over him, ruffling his hood, as he looked at the dense pine copse over in the distance, on the far side of the untrimmed grass lawn.
The outdoors was BIG. He started to close the door behind him, then quickly thought better of it. He couldn’t tell if it was unlocked. Looking around, he noted a lawn chair in the mess, and wandered over, determined to familiarize himself with the landmarks. The chair was easy enough to climb, and he stared at the pine copse, wondering distantly if they had been transplanted from Caliban.
The wind picked up a bit, whistling off the hive wall in the distance, and WD climbed back down, making his way over to the trees. The grass faded back as he approached, until he was walking on bare dirt ground, with a layer of pine needles instead of ground cover. WD wandered to and fro in the trees nearest the house, wondering who took care of them. Lord El’Jonson didn’t have a gardener. He ran his little hand over the bark of one tree, remembering how, when he had been very small, mistress Lyra had tucked him in one hand and climbed the tree, and looked out over the manor together. He glanced up at the branches, gauging how far apart they were. Experimentally, he reached out to grab one, and found that it supported his weight easily. He climbed up, balancing on the branch, and grinned to himself. This was fun!
With an effort, he scaled a few more feet of the thick, dead branches, until he was at about where the eyes on that scary helmet Lord El’Jonson once wore would have been. The noise from the wind was fading, with the trees all around him. He stared off into the copse of trees, just enjoying the quiet. He could see why mistress Lyra liked it out here. He carefully picked himself back down the tree, landing on the ground with a whuff of breath. Dusting himself off, he wandered deeper into the trees, following a very faint path between them. He had been out here before, of course. He knew where he was going, now. It was just that mistress Lyra usually carried him.
The carpet of pine needles underfoot was getting a lit thicker. Twice, he had to stop and shake his robe free of the little tree droppings; but finally he reached his destination. Mistress Lyra liked to come out here if she needed some peace and solitude. Which, on reflection, was odd, because she sometimes brought him with her. He arrived at a small clearing, less than forty meters from the start of the trees, where a bunch of trees had been cleared away. There was a big, scary knife stuck in the stump, WD noted nervously. He had never noticed THAT before. He cautiously approached it, tiptoeing onto the stump and squinting at the inscription in the metal.
It was High Gothic, unfortunately. He gave up and looked across the clearing, where a couple of beer bottles were lying in the grass, and a whole rack of smaller knives were sitting on the stump next to him, under a waterproofed basket. Well, just because he was on break didn’t mean he couldn’t get something done… He marched across the clearing to grab the bottles, and started to drag them back to the stump. Partway back, however, a low rumbling noise caught his ear. He froze, listening, and the noise came again, fainter. He strained to pick out details, but it didn’t return again. Looking around nervously, he started to pull the bottles back towards the house.
WD got most of the way to the house before the noise came back. He paused again, wondering uneasily if maybe that knife had been there for a reason… Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, he gamely clung to the beer bottles, dragging them the rest of the way back to the house, glad he had left the door open. He lugged the bottles over the step, closing the door behind him, and set them down in the trash next to the door with a sigh.
Distantly, WD heard the noise of people talking at the front door. He wandered towards the commotion, wondering if this meant his break was over. Sure enough, he had heard true; mistress Lyra was home, and deep in an argument with her father. Lyra was angry, he could see, her hands were clenched, and her cheeks flushed red. “Dad, you can’t be serious! That’s not fair!”
“Yes, young lady, it IS fair,” El’Jonson shot back, glaring coolly down at his temperamental daughter. “You missed two homework assignments in a row last week. Having to do chores is hardly a disproportionate punishment. Besides, WD was never supposed to be your servant, it’s not fair of you to make him do all that himself.”
“I don’t treat him like a servant!” Lyra protested feebly. The Lion peaked an eyebrow.
“Really? Guess what he started doing when you left.” Lyra flushed again, looking away in silence. “That’s right. He made your bed. Which you didn’t do. Well, I gave him the afternoon off. Now, you can do it yourself.” WD must have been less stealthy than he had thought, because master El’Jonson suddenly turned to him. “Well, look who it is.”
Lyra’s head snapped up, and she hurriedly dried her eyes. “Fine, I’ll…do the damn laundry.”
“Yes, yes you will,” El’Jonson said with an air of finality. Without another word, he turned on his heel and walked off. Lyra stood there, angrily staring after him. WD waddled up and raised his arms, and Lyra glanced down her anger fading into something that almost looked like guilt. She kneeled and scooped WD up, perching him on her shoulder.
“You don’t think I treat you like a servant, do you?” she asked him. WD awkwardly shrugged. “I do. Damn it.”
WD sat down on her shoulder as Lyra went back up the stairs, wondering if maybe it would be better to make tracks for a while until it all blew over. Lyra opened her door and stared at the clothes in the hamper with a groan. “Where do I even start...?” After staring at the clothing in a huff for a few more seconds, she seemingly gave up and sank down on the desk chair, staring at the homework WD had organized for her. WD scooted off her shoulder to land in her lap, and Lyra looked at him morosely. “What would I do without you?” She snorted in sudden amusement. “Laundry, apparently.” WD clambered up to the desk and sat down on the edge, letting his robed legs hang over. Lyra dropped the bag of crap she had bought at the mall on the floor next to her desk and sighed. “Well, little dude, I hope at least you had a good break. I think mine is over.”
A Day With Enragus
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
A formless stream of explicatives poured from Enragus' mouth as his way to the "shower" in his father's house. The son of the primarch of the Angry Marines was pissed; making it a better morning than most for him. Enragus started the pressure washer that functioned as a shower because a normal shower was "TOO FUCKIN' SOFT ON THE SKIN TO WASH THE LOVE AN TOLERANCE OFF!!!!!". Finishing his shower with only a small amount of skin being scoured away he looked at the pressure washer and found that it was set to medium and figured that his dad, Enfuratori, must have the day off. After getting dressed and going down to the kitchen he was greeted by his father's usual "good morning" greeting of a kick to the nuts. "YOU FUCKING KICK LIKE A BITCH OLD MAN!!!!!" "I WAS GOING EASY ON YOU YOU LITTLE SHIT, DONT MAKE ME GET OUT THE BELT!!!!!!" Enragus knew it was no empty threat, and shut up. Enfuratus' belt was made of barbed wire and had a power field generator attached to it, in case he needed to "SHOW THOSE BITCHASS SAGGY PANTS WHOSE THE FUCKING BOSS!!!!". Enfuratori walked over by the jury rigged meltagun that served as their stove and shouted "THE FUCK DO YOU WANT FOR BREAKFAST YOU SHIT?!?" Enragus though for a moment and said "GET ME SOME GODDAMN EGGS, OLD MAN!!!!!!!" "FINE, HELP YOUR FUCKING SELF BITCH!!!!" Enfuratori picked up and whipped the carton of eggs at Enragus' face. He caught them in mid air and started breaking them into his mouth, when he was finished he threw the empty carton of eggs into the garbage, screaming "I'M GOIN TO SCHOOL NOW, OLD MAN!!!!" and kicked the door out of the frame onto the huge pile in front of their house. As Enragus approached the end of the driveway his father's head jutted out the door yelling "IF YOU DON'T BEAT UP SOMEONE IM GONNA MAKE YOU WISH YOU WERE NEVER BORN!!!!" "FUCK YOU, DAD, I ALWAYS FUCK SOMEONE UP!!!"
Freya was walking to her first class of the day, English, one of the many subjects that she hated. Come to think of it the only subjects she liked were gym and lunch. She walked to her locker and retrived her copy of Low and High Gothic: Sixth Edition from the pile of accumulated refuse that she kept in the bottom of her locker. If she was lucky her English teacher, Tigerius, wouldn't give a quiz on the chapter she was supposed to have read last night; but she doubted it. He seemed to have strange love of giving out excessive amounts of quizzes that made her think he was compensating for something. She spotted Furia walking to class; all the other students parting around her to stay out of her punching range. Then someone she had never seen before: a boy wearing a shirt with a stylized red frowny-face with angry eyebrows broke through the safety bubble and stopped directly in front of Furia. Freya stopped and watched thinking “this new kid is gonna get the lesson of his life”. Furia's face took on a look of annoyance and said “move, freshmeat!” and, to Freya's suprise, the boy looked back to her and screamed at the top of his lungs “NO YOU MOVE, DYKEWAGGON!!!!”
All the students in the hall stopped moving and looked at the two, waiting for the inevitable. Furia's face took on a look of utter shock, which quickly faded to an anger that could have melted through a Baneblade. She took a deep breath and screamed “The fuck did you say to me, jackass?!?!?!?”, a vain bulging in her forehead. The new kid's face turned beet red with anger, and anger that so far surpassed Furia's that her's seemed calm by comparison, and screamed with a voice that seemed, impossibly, louder than Dean Yarrick's “YOU FUCKING HEARD ME YOU FAT FUCKNUGGET!!!!!”. Furia hesitated for a moment, the only time she had done so since she had come to the school, then her usual anger reasserted itself and she lifted her steal toe boot high in the air behind her, and brought it whisting forward towards the vulnerable crotch of the new kid. Freya looked away at the last moment as while she enjoyed a good fight now and then, she knew first hand just how nasty Furia's kicks were. Freya heard a loud snap and thought that Furia must have broken his hips; after all she had done it twice before to other boys. But nothing could have prepared here for what happened next. She heard a startled shout, which must have come from the new kid, but then, alarmingly, she realized that it was in fact Furia's voice she heard. She looked back and couldn't believe her eyes: the new boy was standing in exactly the same position as before, but Furia was standing on one foot holding her other in shock and pain. Then the boy did something that Freya will remember forever: without another word he stepped forward and struck Furia in the sternum, not with his fist, or his foot, or his elbow, or knee; but with his head. The new boy delivered a head-but that not only produced a slapping sound that echoed down the dead quiet hall, but also knocked Furia to the ground a good distance from where she was originally standing. The boy then walked calmly over to her and said “YOU HAVE A DAMN FINE KICK THERE, BUT I'VE GOT BALLS OF STEEL BITCH! NEVER FORGET THAT!!!!” and then walked to class. Freya walked over and carried the gasping and thoroughly confused Furia to the nurse. Where the medical staff confirmed that Furia had broken almost all the bones in her foot on the new kids nads....
Back From The Grave
A man with the tattared coat of a geno regiment disembarked from the transport. Breathing in the recycled air of the terminal, he watched the white spires of terra stretch for miles. From the starport he could see the the wall of the Palace, residence of the Emperor of Mankind, and probably one of the most guarded places in the whole universe. Walking down the ramp, the officer adjusted his duffle bag on his shoulder, smelling the hair of his wife. Moving along with the queue, he watched down where the line spit in smaller stream, a stream per every arbites check point. Waiting with growing impatience as the arbites controlled the other traveller's documents, he toyed with the laces on his bag. He had been away for years, fighting for a handful of dirt on a god-forsaken abhuman world somewhere in the galactic anus "No more" he said, to nobody in particolar. "What?" said a woman on his left him. The man turned to observe her. A long white tunic with red trims and a blue turban "Nothing". No more he would leave his house; No more he would leave her loved one.
For he had done both of them already too many times.
After another hour, he finally found himself in front of the check-point. Extracted the documents from the pocket in his coat, he handed them with his scarred hand. The arbiter examined the documents with a black expression. When suddendly his jaw dropped. "Citizen, are these your documents?". "Yes they are" responded the man. The lawman moved a hand under the table. "Any problem, officer?". "Ah... yes for you". The sound of boots on the stone floor alerted the man. Turning around, he saw a squad of arbites and enforcers moving towards him. "Impersonating a dead man, or simply using a false identity during an interrogation is a crime" informed the arbiter, raising on his feet and placing a hand on the holster. "What? I'm not impersonating..." "Silence, you violated the law!" commanded the arbiter "Follow us quietly, or do it a body bag". "Is this the way to treat a veteran?" asked the soldier, eyes wide in confusion. "Make you choice, creep". "I'll follow you". "Good, then" complimented the arbiter. Like he had a choice. "You're smart" he added, voice oozing sarcasm.
The ex-soldier stared at the interrogation block he was in. The walls were made of ferrocrate, with micro recorders on the walls. The local was simply decorated: a wooden table, and two wooden chairs. What worried the man were the blood spots on both of them. Not the return he had hoped for. The hours passed. Eventually, after a long time the door opened and the same arbiter that had arrested him entered the room. Taking one of the chairs -the other was already occupied- the sat and stared at the man. He was hoping for a confession, the veteran knew that. "So... if you think this will unnerve me, you're wrong". The arbiter open a little paper folder he was holding in his hand. "I'm not trying to unnerve you, I'm just waiting for some informations". The soldier seemed confused. Then he undestood; yes, the gene verification. "Look, friend, this is a piece of advice you'd better take: let me go, now, and nothing will happen to you". The arbiter simply laughed in his face. "And this is a piece of advice for you: you might become a commedian, after your time in jail". The door pommel moved. An enforcer stepped inside the room. The blood had left his face. The arbiter, not worried one bit by his collegue's appearance, took the documents from his hands and wawed it under the nose of the soldier. "See you, little punk, this is the proof you've lied to me". He took a sit, staring at him and at the foto in the documents. "So lets see..." the lawman started, while the other one left the room "The man you've been impersonating had short, cropped, black hair" he said, comparing the man to the picture "Check". "Brown eyes...check". "5'9 feet...more or less check". Satisfied with his inspection, the man took the other paper, the one his associate had brought in "But, even with the fisical resemblance, there's no way to cheat this test..." he stated, examining the paper "and here it says you're... Julius Pius". The arbiter's jaw dropped; color run from his face. "Sir, I'm sorry but...". Julius sprang on his feet, throwing the chair away, "Yes, you fool, I'm Julius Pius, son of Ollanius, and future husband of his majesty, Lady Isis" he yelled, fuming "and now tell me: do I look dead to you?".
If a person could disappear, in that moment the arbiter would have. Looking at the face of the young Pius "Well...s-sir, The news of your death by e-e-enemy f-fire...". "I can't undestand when you stutter!". "... by enemy fire reached Terra some weeks ago". He looked at the built-in crono in his gauntlet. "You are being buried in this very moment". The lawman was considering to shoot himself. "Now, officer...Oh good god, Isis" he said suddenly, staring at the door. He looked at the arbiter "Arbiter, I will forget to punish you, if you give me a car and let me go free" he proposed. The arbiter stood up "Yes, sir, yes as you wish" he said, opening and keeping the door open for Julius.
Five minutes later, Julius was already travelling towards the city of Starselite, where his loved one lived. He had to reach her as fast as possible: he couldn't imagine was his future wife was going through. Using the code the arbites had provided him, he accelerated on the air way, heading towards the surface. Dead, how weird, he though in his mind. Starselite was a four hour drive from the spaceport, so he had quite a long time to think. "Autopilot engage". The car machine-spirit took control of the vehicle, leaving Pius free to relax and process what happened. He had always considered himself a man-at-arms, a warrior; how else could it have been? His father was Ollanius Pius,hero of the imperium, and one of the few non-enchanced human to obtain the glory usually reserved for a primarch. And now what? This was his last tour with the genos: he was a simple citizen now. He could re-enlist angain, sure. But did he really wanted to? He had seen enough for not only one life, but for ten. He had fought in the mud of the trenches, in the narrow corridors of the hives, in the boiling hot of the jungles. He had fought terrible enemies, and he remembered them, all of them: from the man-eating giants of Coria, to the sea beast of Scilla, to the ab-human warrior-women on Lesbonius. Did he really wanted to do this again? Maybe. But killing was all he knew? What else could he do. He enlisted when he was barely out of school. What else could he do? he reapeted in his mind. And what would his Isis say?. He buried his face in his hands. Damm it. It was far easier in the army, for sure. Kill that, destoy this... not all this life-changing bullshit.
A beeping noise awoke him from his thoughts. He was reaching Isis house. He sorted his tattared uniform and smartened his hair. Not a lot better.
Arriving at the road in front of the manor, he saw many car, some with the imperial aquila. Probably his friens were having an after funeral celebration. Oh lord, this is going to be akward, Pius thought. The insegna with Luna wolves were crossed with strips of black cloth to mourn his death. The front garden was empty. He looked at the majestic house. The windows were closed, and he couldn't see a thing of what was happening inside. "Oh, this is not good" said Julius, walking down the paved path in the grass. When he was near the steps, he started hearing voices from inside. "He was a good man" someone - maybe jake but Pius couldn't tell with certainty- "We will all miss him". He rang the bell on the door. As voices picked up, the scarred soldier could hear somebody walking to the door. A girl with metal hands opened the door.
"Hello Farah" saluted Julius. The daughter of Ferrus Manus stared at him, silenced by what she was seeing. "Is this for me?" he said pointing at the glass of wine she was holding in one hand "Very nice of you". She didn't move a muscle. He grabbed the glass of wine from her hand and emptied it in one go. "Thank you, I'll need it". He moved pass her and turned left, walking down the corridor to the living room. He looked at the people in the room: Freya and Thangir where sitting in a corner of the room, speking quietly with Remilia, Miranda and Nate. Venus and Jake were conforting Isis, sitting in the couch, her face buried in his hands. Remilia was with them, standing behind the daughter of Horus. Angela and Micheal had been chatting with Farah, before she left to open the door.
"Well, I'm glad you missed me so much" Julius started. The room became silent. The eyes of every person turned to him. Isis became white a bed sheet, eyes wide open. She stared at him with those orange eyes. Jake's jaw dropped, Venus simply stared at him, eyes wide, hands over her mouth. The other had similar reaction. "Guys...come on guys, you are scaring me! Say something" Julius said. Nobody spoke. "It's like you have seen a ghost" he joked. Nobody moved. Leaving the glass on a small table, he walked over to Isis, squeezing her hand. "Hon, come on" he tried. He dragged her on her feet, hugging her in the process. "Isis, come on, say something". The firstborn touched his cheek with one hand, as to control he wasn't a ghost. "You...you're alive" she whispered, so low that even Freya had trouble hearing her. "Yes I know" he admitted "Amazing, isn't it". The other were starting to recover. "You're alive" she repeated. "Yes" and he kissed her. Her eyes closed, overwelmed. Jake was the first to recover "So... why are alive". Julius separated himself from his soon-to-be wife. "I honestly don't know". This was too much for Isis; she faited, falling in his arms.
The daughter of Horus woke up half an hour later. All the occupants in the room where staring at her, a worried look on their faces. She groaned, raising herself to sit. A hand was touching hers. A man she thought dead was chrouched at her side, alive if a bit worn out. "Are you all right?" he asked. "Yes, I think so". She was starting to recover herself. She was shaken, but happy at the same time. The only man she loved was alive. They could live together again. She snapped hugging him, hard enough to hurt. Tears washed her eyes. They kissed again. The other who were present let out a sigh. After a while they were sitting the dining room, still a bit speechless. Isis was radiant with joy. She and Julius were still hugging eachother, sitting in the same chair, the one Horus usually occupied when he wasn't conquering the galaxy. They were trying to put the pieces back together, to understand why Julius was listed as K.I.A. while he clearly was not. "We were told that you were fighting on some ab-human world, Majugla, if remember correctly, when you were hit by an artillery barrage" Venus explained. "And they were able to identify me? after a barrage?" asked Julius. "Well...not exactly, they found only your sword, we didn’t have a body to identify" Jake said. "That I lost shortly after my departure" he informed them "Sorry, Venus" he added, turning his head to her red eyes. "I forgive you" she said jokingly. "Now that I think about it... I've never even set foot on Majugla" he recalled. "Wait, wasn't your regiment assaigned to that campaign?" Isis asked. "Yes, it was, but we were attacked by ork pirates as soon as we entered the sistem" he said "We defeated the green bastards, but we lost more than eight thousand men when some of the troop trasports were shot down". Remillia looked at him in disbelief "In a single battle!".
He shook his head "This is the Imperial Army Remilia, not the your Astartes. Loosing eight thousend men in a battle is deemed acceptable" he pointed out. "Although not from a single regiment". He closed his eyes, thinking at just how many of his friends had died "So in the end we were too few to fight as a Regiment, but too many to be sent home. So the Administratum decided to break up the survivors and use us to reinforce other regiments" he explained "A part of our forces, included my old company, but not me, was sent to our original destination. I was sent to Tulasan V with companies from all over the empire to quell a rebellion and recruit new troops". He smiled at Isis as she snuggled closer. "Those pen-pushers must have forgotten to register the dismemberment of the regiment" he speculated, displaynd the usual disdain of the soldier for the burocrat. He caressed his wife arm "So when they recovered the sword they must have thought I was in command of the company, while instead I was far awayr". Freya leaned back in the chair "Ok, that explains why you are here" she said "but what about the sword?". Julius straighted a bit, starting to unbotton his shirt. "Well, during the battle with the greenskins I had a bad encounted with a smaller ork warboss" he said "When I tried to cut his arm off, he grabbed my sword with his power claw, snapping it in half, and puched me in the stomach". He revealed his chest, covered in one big bruise.
Thangir observed the wound "That looks bad". "Yeah, that hurt like a bitch" Julius corfirmed, making the other laugh. He buttoned up the shirt. "Anyway, after the blade was broken, so I sent to the smith to be repaired. He probably sent it to the one commanding my company" he explained. "Hey" he said "What happened to my sword anyway". Venus looked down, while Farah twisted her hand nervously "Venus and I melted it and reforged it for Andrew". Julius stared at her. "Ok" he said after a while. The two girls looked at him, unsure of having heard correclty. "Are you sure? You always loved that sword more than the arm you use to swing it. We can forge another one if you want" Offered Venus. Julius moved his stare to her "Sure, sure... I won't be needing it, or a different one, though". "What?" Miranda asked. "You heard me, Miranda: this was supposed to be my last tour with the genos" he stated "Even without my funeral". Isis stared at him. "And this whole thing made me even more willing to retire". She was speechless. "Isis, my love, I've seen you before, there, sitting on the couch, when you were mourning me" he explained, looking at her, straight in the eyes, "This time was a mistake due to burocratic incompetence but next time might not. I won't make you suffer like that again". She was about to say something, touched, but the food servitor came into the room, carring a platter full of delicious-looking food.
They started eating with gusto, enjoying the flavors of the dishes, especially Julius, who hadn't eaten something that had a taste in the last couple of years. They started to chat about the changes that happened in their lifes when Julius was fighting the Emperor's wars. In the end they rested quietly, reveling the the company of friends and lovers, while Julius narrated his story. After a toast to the warrior, they moved back to the living room, waiting for the weariness brought by the food to fade. Without anyone noticing, a poker set appeared. While prepairing the game, Jake felt Venus' stare burn the hair on his neck. "Whatis wrong with you?" she exclamed "Bringing poker cards at a funeral..." "They're not mine!" Jake defended himself "And when your soul hurts, you need to distract in some ways". Nate laughed at the statement. "Your words bear wisdom, my frind" said Thangir, raising his cup of wine. The game went on for a few hours, untill only Jake and Julius remained. Micheal set his hands on the table, Thangir leaning against his chair. Nate remained silent; being a mind reader, he had decide to not partecipate at the game. The two remaining players remained silent, scanning each other over the cards. Julius, looked his cards: three aces. "All in" he said, challenging the other to match him. "All in" said Jake, moving all his chips. The veteran tapped the table with his fingers; maybe the hiver had a poker, maybe he had made a mistake to go 'All In'. "Gentlemen, lower yourcards" Nate said, observing the two titans fight. Julius, showed his hand; Three aces and two figures. Jake smiled. Oh,oh thought Pius. Jake threw his cards on the table: A king, a queen, a jack, a ten, a nine, all of the same color. "God damm it" cursed Julius. The other laughed. "I've come back from the dead, and I can't still beat you". Angela looked at the ornated watch in a corner "It's time go" she said, queezing Micheal shoulder. He stirred "Alright, time to turn in". "We have to go too, sweetheart". "Oh come on Venus I enjoying myself" joked Jake. "Well Farah, do you want to go too?" Asked Remilia. The iron-handed girl yawned "Yes, it sleepy-time". "Freya, time to go back to the wolf den" said Thangir. Nate and Miranda undestood eachother without speeking. Time to leave Julius and Isis alone.
When the room was empty, Julius and Isis started cleaning up the mess. She, cleaned took away the wine glasses, whilst he packed the poker set. "I'll send to Jake tommorow" he said. "But, if it was his, why would he have left it here?". "To uphold the lie" he smiled. She put the wine glasses on a small table. "Julius" she said extending her arms, inviting him "Come here". He came to her, hugging her. She rested her head on his shoulder. "Are you sure with your decision" she asked him. She was referring to his retirement. He caressed her blond hair. "No more". "What?" "No more; It's what I said when I stepped down the trasport that took me Terra". "But what are you going to do?". "Isis, love of my life, I have enlisted in the army as soon as I came out of Imperator. It was almost twenty years ago. Since then all I've done was kill people and watch people be killed. No more. I'm tired." he explained. He stared at her, brown eyes versus orange eyes. "All I want to do now, is to marry you, and spend the rest of my life with you" he told her "As I had promised you". They stayed like that for way, conforting eachother, enjoying the vicinity of the other after such a long time. "Actually I'm more worried by the paperwork". "I'll help you don't worry" she promised, knowing how much her future husband hated paperwork. "Yes, but I'm legally dead now. So the question is... how do I legally resurrect? And most of all how long will it take?". "I don't know, but we'll discover it soon enough". As they detatched, Julius gave her a concerned look "Are you ok now? You scared me before". She took his hand, queezing it "I'm now".
Writefag Someone else. produces an entire Warhammer High NOVEL. We are not kidding. A full-length novel.
This story was an experiment on Someone else.'s part to show what a few of the girls would be like after high school ended.
Lyra finds out that being a El'Jonson means that you have some secrets to keep.
Ghosts of Rage
Furia finds out its hard to be Angron's daughter.
Trip Into Hell
Julius Pius goes on a relaxing vacation.
Someone else. concludes his contribution to the setting with this massive epilogue.
ILikeCommas continues the storied tradition of writing oversized Warhammer novels as a hobby.
The Daughters, in all their varying portrayals.