This is a story created in multiple parts by reddit user Iamnothereorthere and it can all be found Here. It was created from changing a disney movie to have a 40k spin on it.
An Explorator fleet of the venerable Adeptus Mechanicus had noted the world on one of their galaxy spanning journeys on the hunt for archeotech from the Dark Age of Man, and first thought to pass it by, the entire planet seemingly overwhelmed by a thick, undisturbed jungle that would delay them beyond acceptable parameters. However, that was before the first scans had shown trace elements of rare metals that the planet quite simply shouldn't have. Loathe to let such a mystery go unresolved, the magi had elected to dispatch one of the lesser ships to perform deeper investigations.
This task had fallen to the Illuminator , a glorified frigate, and at first the magi aboard cursed their ill luck. The only magi that seemed pleased by this turn of events was a Magos Biologist, known to his fellows as Archimede, that had a particular fascination at studying new lifeforms. His contentment (glee was too strong a word for the adherents of the Omnimessiah) was alone until investigations had shown that Tublat was the most likely resting place for The Greystoke, a Colony Ship from before the Great Crusade. The Magi were enlivened by this discovery: this was not a prize that they could afford to ignore. The Explorator Fleet was too far away to recall, so astropaths had sent messages along the Warp to forge worlds, demanding the supply of skitarii and additional servitors that would be required to properly survey and investigate the planet.
Eventually, the patience of the Magi aboard the Illuminator ran out, and they elected to send a small team to establish a base camp. Among those selected for this perilous first trip were Magos Archimede and several of his fellows. One who had not been selected yet came anyway was Inquistor Callen of the Ordos Hereticus, who brought along a contingent of Adepta Sororitas from the Order of the Sacred Rose. Sister Janna had been one of those sisters, and she had looked forward to bringing the Emperor's wrath on those vile and decrepit creatures who called the planet their home.
That, perhaps more than anything else, was what had led to her current predicament. Soon after landing, the Imperials had been assaulted by creatures from the forest, long prowling things with fangs and claws that looked at the newcomers as predators looked at prey. They soon learnt that, if anything, the situation was the other way around. Her sisters had cautioned her against letting her passions overwhelm her, but her desire to burn the enemies of Man had caused her to pursue a fleeing band of creatures beyond the rest of her Mission. Holy wrath had filled her, and led her into an ambush.
As one of the creatures before her was reduced to ash by her heavy flamer, a body flung itself at her, unbalancing her and knocking her to the side. At this interruption, she became aware of her surroundings. Before her was not the small band of three creatures that she had pursued, but a plethora of the snarling cat-like creatures that circled around her position. The auspex in her helm registered at least fifteen of the creatures, too many for her to destroy. While another, lesser, human might have balked at the odds, beneath her emotionless helmet, Janna smiled. She would send as many of the foul xenos screaming into the warp before she was sent to the Emperor's side. The fight began in earnest. One of the creatures leapt from the trees, intending to overwhelm her with its bulk, but a scorching jet from her flamer set it alight. Turned to her side, she left the yowling beast to scream its death cry. Enraged by the death of their brother, several others of the band had abandoned their circling to strike at her. This time they had thought more about their foe's capabilities and came at different angles, reasoning that the flamer could not move fast enough to catch them all.
Sister Janna reacted as only one such as she could. With a flick of the trigger, a gout of flame served to delay two of the beasts while she drew a combat blade from her side and sunk it into the chest of a third. Unfortunately, this allowed a fourth to strike at her back, sending her careening to the ground.
It was on her in an instant, claws and fangs desperately seeking purchase upon her armor. She struck where she could, but the beast seemed impervious to her blows. A claw caught a weak spot near her throat and tore the helmet off of her head. The beast's joy was short lived, however, for as it gave voice to a victorious screech, she reached into its mouth and ripped out its tongue. Panting, she raised herself off the the ground.
Several of the creatures lay dead around her, but more still lived. Janna prepared to herself to take at least one more down, when out of the jungle a crude metallic spear plunged through one of the beasts' heads. It was long and cruel looking, with various pieces of ornamentation hanging off the sides.
Momentarily taken aback, Janna was not prepared for what happened next. The beasts stared at their impaled comrade and a flicker of recognition crossed their faces. Giving one last final cry, they immediately broke off and fled deeper into the jungle. Alarmed, but not frightened, Janna looked around to see if she could spot her erstwhile ally. She did not have to wait long; a wild-haired man soon came loping out of the trees.
Well, perhaps "man" had been an understatement, as she looked closer, she realized that he was closer in size to an Astartes than a baseline human. The spear obviously belonged to him, seeing as he walked over to it and ripped it out of the creatures skull with practiced ease. Following this, he turned and looked towards the one whose life he had just saved.
"Halt! I am Sister Janna of the Emperor's Adeptas Sororitas seconded to Inquisitor Callen of the Ordos Hereticus. Identify yourself!"
The man drew himself to his full height. God Emperor, he's large, Janna thought to herself. Unarmored as he may have been, in her present state, she was unlikely to be able to do more than wound him. Gesturing to himself, the man said one word: "Tarzan".
Tarzan. That certainly wasn't an imperial word, and from his style of dress, it was almost certain that he was a feral inhabitant of this planet. The problem was that Janna had no idea what the word 'Tarzan' meant. It could be his name, but it could also be a title like 'hunter' or the name of his tribe. She was no Dialogous, the deciphering of primitive human dialects was completely unknown to her. What she did know was that he had helped her against the foul xenos, which meant he might be a possible ally. Hoping that he had not done so out of a desire to enslave her, she attempted to communicate through the use of body language.
"I", she started slowly and pointed to herself as she spoke, "Am. Janna".
She then pointed at him, "You. Are. Tarzan". Every word was spoken slowly and with great care.
At this, he broke into a broad grin and gestured to himself once more, "Tarzan". However, this time, after he said (what was probably) his name, he slowly approached her. Janna noticed that when he walked, he adopted a slightly hunched over posture although, from when he had stood earlier, she knew that he had no physical malformity that would have caused such a limp. Perhaps it was local custom? When he was nearly within arms reach of her, she held out her hands in a warding stance. While he seemed friendly, this was no time to be taking unnecessary risks.
Luckily, the wild man seemed to understand the gesture and did not take any offense to it. Instead, he paced a crescent around her, looking at her with curious eyes. Normally she would have thought him fascinated with her arms and armor as humans from more primitive worlds tended to be, but instead his gaze never left her face.
As she was contemplating what to do, Janna heard a noise behind her. Quickly pivoting, she dropped into a defensive crouch in case it was the xenos returning. She needn't have worried, striding instead were suits of power armor that were awash in black and white signifying that the wearers were members of the Order of the Sacred Rose, her companions. They broke into the clearing in a hurry, no doubt advancing as swiftly as they could without exposing themselves to needless danger to find her.
Janna quickly realized that they might mistake the feral human as an enemy instead of the potential ally that he might turn out to be. "Sisters, hold-!", but it was pointless. As she snapped her head around, Janna realized that the man had disappeared into the forest as swiftly as he had appeared.
"Sister, you are safe! Truly the God Emperor was with you this day!" Sister Superior Portia cried as she laid eyes upon the comrade that had she feared lost. However, she noticed that her sister, instead of greeting her properly, was looking around the area with a note of confusion, "Sister, what is wrong?"
"There was a man here, Sister-Superior. He slayed one of the foul xenos and sent the rest to flee. He was standing right over there... I cannot fathom how he could escape my sight so easily"
"A man? Are you certain, Sister Janna? The scans detected no signs of human civilization"
"I am certain of it. Look there, at that xeno's head, I had not the weaponry to make such a wound."
Another Battle-Sister walked over and knelt by the body, "She speaks true. This wound is unlike that of a combat knife or heavy flamer. There was someone else here"
Nodding gravely at this, Portia quickly came to a decision. "Sisters, we are returning to the base camp. Janna, you will report what you found to the Magi and the Inquisitor while the rest of us secure the perimeter." Janna nodded, "And then you will come to receive penance. You broke away from the rest of us, not only putting yourself in danger but also weakening the formation as a whole." Once again, Janna nodded to this, but quite a bit slower.
"I'm telling you Terk, they looked like me!" Tarzan spoke hurriedly to his best friend.
"Sure, sure, there's a whole bunch of hairless, hornless, two armed Gorils out there. You definitely didn't hit your head on a rock and imagine the whole thing." replied his friend.
A casual observer would have found this exchange to be confusing for several reasons. The first of which would be that it was between a human and a 8 foot tall hunched over beast, that had slavering jaws and six oversized limbs that all scrapped the ground as they walked, consisting of a pair of legs and two pairs of arms, stumpy antlers sprouting from their brow.
"Why can't you take me seriously for once? I'm telling you, there could be a whole tribe of Gorils out there like me. This could be life-changing!"
"Look, I respect your ability to delude yourself, but right now, we have to make sure that there are no Lepris around. You said you also saw several of them, right? we don't want to lead the village into them" replied Terk, "Tantor, do you see anything around?"
Next to her, what one might have mistaken for a small hill shook itself and revealed great hooves under a large fur coat that resembled stone covered with moss. "....I...", the great beasts always took a while to get up to speed, "...see nothing, nothing at all". A shaggy, tusked head slowly turned its head from side to side. "But Tarzan, you were saying something, my small friend?"
The man started to smile, "See, Terk? Tantor knows how to listen. Tantor, I found another who looked like me. It might be of my tribe. You know, my real tribe."
"We are your real tribe," Terk muttered
"You know what I mean. I know that this is my home, but I'm not... natural to the tribe. This could be a clue as to where I came from."
As the friends bickered, looming figures took shape behind them. Many more Gorils were trailing behind them, lugging their jungle hammocks and other necessities along with them. It was a noisy, slow affair, but many of Tublat's inhabitants had learned long ago that attacking Gorils were they were most clustered was a foolish idea.
"Once the tribe finds a spot to settle, I'm going to go back to find the one who looked at me." Tarzan announced
"Just don't let Kerchak know...". The words carried a degree of mock grumpiness, but the three friends all knew that it was said in the utmost seriousness.
Kerchak, the tribe's head was a suspicious and wary one, and had never trusted the (comparatively) small and hairless Tarzan. If he felt that Tarzan was endangering the tribe, he would take care of things, bloodily. That was not something anyone wanted.
Terk and Tantor returned to silence, choosing to focus on the jungle in front of them, cautious of any rival tribes stupid or dangerous enough to attempt an attack. Tarzan should have done the same, but he could not put the person that he saw out of his mind. I will find you, he promised himself, as he trudged along with the others, slipping across the jungle floor.
"The magos would like to know if you wish to see the specimen that he just collected"
"What? No, I-", but it was too late. A metallic hand pushed a container against Inquisitor Callen's face, and he heard an outpouring of binary.
"Magos Archimede finds this specimen particularly fascinating as, from what he had been able to observe, it lays its eggs in the eyes of other animals, which are then devoured by the larvae, who will use the blinded animal as a host for them to grow up in."
The toothed, winged insect inside chittered at him, and hurriedly Callen pushed the hand away from his face. "I'll have to look at it some other time. I must see to my... inquisitorial duties and whatnot. No time to chat!" As he walked away from the magos (was the thing smiling? No that was anatomically impossible ), he swore at the day that had seen him saddled with the only magos that delighted in going on jungle "excursions" for no other reason than to collect samples of the flora and fauna. What was even worse was that he only communicated in binary and that damn assistant had to translate it every time. He half suspected it was done simply to upset him.
As he looked around for something to do, he saw that the contingent of Battle Sisters had returned from looking for their sister. To his surprise, rather than come back with a piece of armor to bury, the lost sister was included in the retinue. That was a small piece of good luck, one more asset to find the Greystoke.
Portia called out to him, "Inquisitor, sister Janna has something to report. Magos Archimede should also be present to hear this."
Something that both he and that buffoon needed to hear? This must be important, and perhaps it would be better if he was the only one who knew about it. He was about to tell Portia that there was no need to call over the Magos, when he heard the telltale creak of artificial limbs. The old bastard must have overheard Portia and decided to come over. Eccentric as he might have been, his mechanical upgrades were for more than just show.
"Give your report, Sister"
The Sororitas stepped forward and removed her helmet to better address the two, "I was pursuing the xenos to deliver unto them the Emperor's wrath, when I was ambushed by a greater number of them." As she described what had happened, the rush of memories quickened her speech, "I managed to slay several more of them when I was knocked down and my helm removed due to the xenos finding a catch in my armor."
The magos clicked at this. "Managed to rip off your helmet you say? The magos says that this will have to be looked at.", the assistant translated
"Yes, so my helmet was off of my head, and I thought this was my last stand, when out of the forest a spear flew out of the forest and killed one of xenos menacing me"
"A spear?" questioned Callen
"Yes, a spear!" Janna mimed throwing a spear, "It sent the beasts into flight. And then a man came out of the forest. A very tall man. He called himself 'Tarzan'. And then my sisters found me, but he took that moment to escape." "Is there any truth to this, Sister-Superior?" Callen asked Portia.
"Yes. We examined the bodies, and as Sister Janna described, one possessed a wound inconsistent to her weaponry."
"Intriguing... If there is indeed a human civilization on this cesspit of a planet, they could very well prove to be the key to finding what we seek. But the scans revealed no such presence. We shall have to hope that they find us again." Inquisitor Callen thought for a moment, "Contact the Illuminator and have them send down Sister Brigitte. Her skills will no doubt come in handy."
Portia snapped to attention at this, and made to requisition the Dialogous as the inquisitor had asked.
Archimede, on the other hand, began emitting a seemingly unending stream of binary that the assistant was having trouble translating. "The magos would like to ask-... that is to say-... if you would describe-..." before giving up and settling on asking for Janna's time so that the questions could be answered to the magos's satisfaction.
No sooner had the last hammock been pitched, did Tarzan leave the confines of the settlement to go and look for the one who looked like him. He had told Terk to say that he was scouting the area if anyone asked where he had left to. It was true, in a way. He just left out exactly what he was scouting for. Pausing only to take his spear in case the Lepris had returned, he set out into the jungle.
It did not take him long to return to the clearing that he had seen his tribesman being threatened by the Lepris, and it took even less time to discover which way they had come from. There was a trail of destroyed foliage and matted grasses where some party had come through. Common sense indicated that it was the one who looked like him, as nothing else in the forest tended to leave such a trail.
Advancing cautiously through the trees, he soon came to another clearing, but this one was much larger than any that he was used to. There were strange structures all over the place, and odd creatures lumbering around the clearing, absorbed in tasks that made no sense.
Then his heart skipped a beat. Here and there, he saw figures wearing the same sort of shell that his tribesman had been clad in. Not only that, he noticed more of those that looked like him. One of them was even more similar than the one he had seen earlier, and had the same type of features that he possessed.
He mulled over what his choices were. He could just drop down, but he remembered that they did not speak the same language as him, so they might get into a fight. But slowly observing them was also not an option. What if they left? He did not want his one chance to learn more about himself slip away.
Luckily, it seemed that he would have ample time to consider his choices. His tribesmen did not seem to be aware of how they should properly survey the jungle, they did not look up nearly enough. Not only that, but he was adept at concealing himself. They would not find him hiding in the trees unless he wished for them to do so.
Thoughts of caution versus curiosity battled it out in his head. Both had their points, and both had their downsides. But eventually, curiosity won out. Dropping into the center of the camp would likely be bad form, so he decided to make himself known to one of the sentries.
Tarzan dropped from his perch and landed in front of one of the shelled figures. Startled, it shouted a word of alarm and pointed a tube at him. He did not know what it intended to do, but his instincts kicked in and told him that whatever the tube was, it was a threat.
Reaching out with his free hand faster than anyone his size had any right to do, he grabbed the side of the tube that was closest to him and shoved it into the air. No sooner had he done this, than he heard a loud sound ring out from the end of the tube and a profound sense of force and heat seared into his palm.
The shelled figure dropped the tube, and instead lunged for him with a knife, although it was bigger and shinier than any that he was used to. He sprung backwards, out of reach, and noticed that more of the shelled ones were approaching. They were holding similar tubes in many of their hands, and were shouting in a strange language. By this time, the one that he had appeared in front of him had recovered their tube, and was pointing at him once more. As they surrounded him, Tarzan was forced to admit to himself that this might not have been the best idea.
At the sound of a bolter shell breaking through the air, Sister Janna quickly redressed herself in her armor and headed for the source of the disturbance. She had disrobed to receive scourging for her failure to maintain position, but this new threat superseded any such punishment.
It did not take her long to find the source of the disturbance. The man who had saved her earlier was surrounded by half a dozen of her sisters, all of whom had weapons raised at him. He was doubled over in a manner that seemed quite bestial and was clutching his spear close to his body.
"STOP! He's the one that I was talking about. The one who killed the xenos that threatened me!"
At this, several of her sisters turned to face her, but in credit to their training, the remainder did not stop covering the man. As she wondered how to diffuse the situation, the Inquisitor approached from his dwelling.
"Well, it seems we did not have to wait long after all. Portia, do tell them to hurry it up, will you? The need for a Dialogous has quite suddenly become quite urgent."
The Illuminator had received the urgent request for Sister Brigitte and was acting in all due haste, but there was still the matter at hand. They did not want to harm their only connection to the human population of Tublat, but at the same time, they could not risk him escaping or harming any of them.
Before Inquisitor Callen could give an order to restrain the man, Sister Janna stepped forward without bringing her weapons to bear. Keeping her arms raised in the air to show that she meant no harm, she slowly walked towards Tarzan.
She did not bother speaking, she had no soothing tone and he would not be able to understand her words. Instead, she deliberately approached the feral human. His eyes were wide and panicked, but soon narrowed to a calmer state once he recognized the woman as the one he had helped before. Gradually, he loosened his grip on his spear, and let it hang loosely at this side, and straightened up into a more relaxed position. Giving a sigh of relief upon realizing that would not have to watch as a potential ally was killed, Janna took his hand and led him deeper into the camp. The other sisters kept their weapons trained on him, but many of them returned to their duties as sentries. A small guard followed Sister Janna in case the man tried anything, but otherwise did not do anything else.
With a small shrug the Inquisitor returned to his temporary dwelling. There was nothing that he could do that the sisters could not, so he might as well wait for the Dialogous to arrive.The Magos, on the other hand, followed the procession with no small amount of excitement, here was a research subject worth experimenting on.
As he was led through the camp, Tarzan could not shake the thought of how soft the person's hand was, and how his fit into it so easily. It was nice, and there was something comforting about not being the smallest one in the vicinity aside from the infants, as had often been the case throughout his upbringing.
He was eventually led into (what seemed to him) an unusual cave by the familiar one. The walls seemed unnatural, and the cave was very small, but the one leading him sat down on a very rigid formation, and motioned for him to follow suit. He acquiesced; he was here to learn more about them, and this seemed like the best way to avoid any more of the unpleasantness that he had experienced beforehand. Resting his spear along a wall to show he meant no harm, he put his mind to work on how to get over the language barrier. He was no stranger to learning the languages of the other races of the forest, but it was a time consuming process, and generally there was at least one other being that had already mastered it. Now, however, he had neither of those luxuries. This was going to be a problem indeed...
While Tarzan was deep in thought, and (unknown to him) guarded by the Adeptas Sororitas (both from escaping and from Magos Archimede, who it was quietly decided should not meet the young man until the Dialogous arrived), the shuttle containing Sister Brigitte was able to land without any major difficulties, and the inquisitor was there to meet her. The doors opened, and out stepped a demure woman clad in flowing Imperial garb with a servo skull trailing behind her.
"Sister Brigitte!" Callen said as he walked towards her, a warm (and very fake) smile plastered on his face, "you are the answer to my-"
The sister held up a hand to interrupt him, "Hwhere is the feral?" she trilled, "If your summons are truly as urgent, as you made them out to be, then hwe have no time to waste".
Now he remembered why they left her in orbit.
"Of course sister, right this way, you uppity whore... " the last bit was said under his breath as he led her towards where they were keeping the deathworlder. Sister Brigitte made no motion of having heard what he said, or if she did, she made no remark about it.
They stopped in front of a small hab that had two armed Sisters of Battle standing in front of the entrance, "He's right inside. I trust that you know what you are doing?" "Of course!" Brigitte snapped back, "I'll have him singing the Emperor's praises in a few days!"
It, in fact, took several months to reach the point where Tarzan was able to recite even the smallest of verses of the Imperial cant, and that was with many whispered hints. Even then, it was only after they convinced him that the "Father of the Forest" was merely a facet of the God-Emperor. During that time, he was allowed to come and go to the camp as he wished, with some restrictions of course. While he was generally allowed to leave whenever he wanted to, to be allowed back into the camp he had to make himself known to one of the sentries, who would then escort him to his daily sessions with the Dialogous. Sister Janna, who seemed to be the one who had the greatest connection to him, was often asked to sit in on the lessons as well, in order to put him at more ease.
Eventually, Magos Archimede was allowed to sit in during the sessions as well, however, his requests for blood and saliva samples were politely declined
The other humans of the camp gradually got used to the wild man, and in some ways were slightly fond of him. In an attempt to curry favor with them, he often brought gifts of food to the camp. The magi had decided that the food was probably not poisonous, and it added variety to their meals. Over the months, no one died, so they seemed to have the right of it.
That is not to say that everything had gone swimmingly, of course. There were several attacks by the beasts that had swarmed the camp that first day. Tarzan had told them that they were known as the "Lepris", a warlike feline race that ruled a large swath of the jungle. The attacks had faded in their occurrence as the Imperials proved their more than ample might, but they still kept on their guard.
They had also made little to no progress in finding the Greystoke, and Inquisitor Callen was losing what little patience he had. Every day, he pressured Brigitte more and more to have Tarzan reveal everything he knew about the area and anything remotely resembling the ship. Thus far, however, she had steadfastly refused, not willing to allow her hard work to go down the drain due to impatience.
"Emprah want help all human. Human should help Emprah Tarzan human. Sisters, people of Emprah. Tarzan should help Sisters." Tarzan enunciated to Brigitte.
"Yes, very good," the Sister smiled, "it seems hwe are finally getting to hwhere hwe need to be. There will be many ways for you to help us, I hope hwe can come to count on you"
The savage smiled. Sister Janna, seated on a nearby bench looked up from maintaining her weapons. Tarzan had come a long way in the past few months. Apparently he was a polyglot, having learnt many jungle languages, and that had helped immensely when it came to picking up the basics of low gothic. He had attempted to teach them as well, and while she had picked up a few words of the grunting language, Sister Brigitte had carefully recorded everything he said, and was rapidly becoming fluent in many of the languages.
Janna had a small feeling of warmth in her chest, having been the first to meet the man, and although she was careful to avoid the sin of pride, she felt that without her own actions, his interactions with the Imperials would have gone much worse.
There had been some awkward moments of course. Such as when he saw a pict of typical imperial dress and thought that it was proper to him to wear a dress because all the women he knew were warriors, so it was obviously for the more militant humans.
However, the peaceful atmosphere was interrupted by Inquisitor Callen barging into the area.
"Hwhat are you doing!" shouted Brigitte in high Gothic, leaving Tarzan unaware of what was said, but on alert due to her panic.
"I've had enough of this monkeying around! Feral! You will answer me! Do you know where the Greystoke is?!"
Instead of giving a proper answer, Tarzan simply drew himself to his full height and repeated, "Gar-Ay-Stow-Kuh!" into the man's face, causing his eye to twitch with rage.
"By the God-Emperor..." Callen swore under his breath; snatching a piece of parchment and charcoal that Brigitte had been using to illustrate some more difficult to word concepts, he sketched out a blocky image of what the magi had been able to theorize the Greystoke looked like.
"THIS!" he shouted, "Have you seen THIS?!"
Tarzan took the parchment from him, and twisted it this way and that, and when he turned the paper nearly ninety degrees, a feeling of recognition sparked in his mind. Luckily, he was able to stop his face from expressing any emotion, instead he simply shook his head.
"Useless among uselessness" The inquisitor murmured, "We have no more resources to waste on this, Brigitte, consider your duties here at an end."
"You can't simply-!"
"I can and I will. He's obviously of no use to us." He turned to Tarzan, "You heard me wild man! Get out, or I will have you evicted by force!"
Tarzan scowled at the way that the inquisitor was treating his friends. He was barely stopping himself from striking the man, when he felt a restraining hand on his shoulder.
"Tarzan, it might be better for you to leave for a while," Janna told him gently. For a second, it looked like he was going to argue with her, but he caught the look in her eye, and with a great deal of regret, he fled. "Now that that's been dealt with, perhaps we can return to the actual mission? Since the feral is gone, you can join your sisters with surveying the land, Sister Janna, and you, sister Brigitte can have as many conversations with the magos."
With barely contained fury, the sisters moved to do as he commanded. As they should, Callen thought to himself.
As Tarzan traveled through the jungle, he thought back to what had just happened. He knew that the Inquisitor was the head of the local tribe of Imperials, but he had not known how foul the man was, as he had declined to meet Tarzan throughout the months. It bothered him that such a man was their leader, but also that there was nothing he could do about it; from what Sister Brigitte had said, Imperials did not take kindly to people murdering their leaders, unless, of course, their leaders stopped listening to the Father of the Forest, or as they called him, the Emperor.
He had recognized what the man showed him, it was the sacred object said to have fallen from the heavens so long ago. He was smarter than many of them realized, and knew that they were looking for something, and now he knew exactly what. If the Imperials truly were the servants of the Father of the Forest, surely he would have told them where to find it? Maybe this was a test for them.
A small part of him whispered that he had held back out of fear that they would leave once they found it, but he forced that traitorous thought into the back of his head.
It would remain there along with the embarrassment he suffered once realized that all the softer looking tribesmen were actually women.
He did not have much longer to go, he would be arriving at the Goril's latest settling spot in a few minutes. He moved swiftly towards the trees to where the sentries should have greeted him. However, waiting for him was someone he dreaded to see: Kerchak.
"Ahh Tarzan, there you are. You know, you've been going missing quite a bit lately. Where have you been spending your time, hmmm?" The ten foot tall Goril asked him
Tarzan would have to choose his words carefully. The tribe's leader could easily kill him in a fight, and a fight he would have if he answered poorly. He opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted.
"Don't bother. I know. You've found a pack of others like you. Oh don't look so surprised, Terk isn't as good as lying as she thinks she is, and you aren't as stealthy as you think you are." He bared his teeth, "Did you really think I wouldn't find out?"
"I only wanted to'-"
"Endanger the tribe?! You do know that your foolishness might lead to that? The Lepris have been provoked by them, and if they find out you are affiliated with them, their anger might spill over to us!" "The Lepris attacked them first! They were only defending themselves!"
"I don't care!" A massive fist pinned Tarzan to the ground, "If anything happens to the tribe because of your curiosity, I'll kill you myself. I should have never let your mother convince me to take a freak like you in"
He released Tarzan. "Go, but think about what I just said, and think about your future in this tribe. If you still think you even have a future, that is"
Tarzan rubbed his neck gingerly where he had been held down. The pack leader could move much faster than his size indicated. When he got to his dwelling, he noticed that Terk was waiting for him.
"Kerchak found you, huh?"
"Yeah, turns out I disappointed him, again"
"The usual, huh?" Terk bit into a piece of fruit. "Maybe you should listen to him, stop hanging around those 'humans' as you say they call themselves. You're a good scout, Kerchak probably won't bother you too much if you stick to that."
"But I can't Terk, these people, they're where I came... I finally have some of the answers I've been looking for all my life", he sighed, "I can't just forget about them"
Terk put one of her arms around his shoulder, "Look little guy, you have people, it's us! We've been here all this time for you, do you really think we're going to stop?"
"I know that!" Tarzan shouted, "But it's different. When I'm with them, I feel like I fit in, like I'm normal...", his voice trailed off.
For the first time in a long while, Terk realized what it was like to be Tarzan. How it must have felt watching the others do what he could not. She tried to think of how to comfort him, but words did not come. "Go to bed, alright? Just don't do anything stupid, I'm sure we can work this whole thing out in the morning when we've gotten a good meal."
"Yeah", Tarzan said and then repeated with a degree of conviction, "Yeah."
Later that night, when he thought that everyone was sleeping except for the night sentries, Tarzan took his spear and leaped into the night. He did not realize that he was being observed by two nearby figures
"He's going to do something stupid, isn't he?" Terk deadpanned.
"...Yep" Tantor agreed.
Months of living in the jungle had made Janna aware of her surroundings in ways that she was not before. For example, right now she was aware that there was someone in the tree above her. Looking up, she saw the figure that she had become used to.
"Tarzan? What are you doing here? You must leave before the Inquisitor finds you! We do not wish to harm you, but we are sworn to him"
Climbing down from the tree, the death-worlder came to a stop with his face only inches away from her faceplate. Unused to the extreme closeness, she found herself backing away before she stopped herself. She was a member of the Adeptas Sororitas, and they did not retreat from anything, not from savage xenos, not from creatures of the warp, and certainly not from a man from a feral world, even if the man possessed several attributes that she found pleasing.
"Has something happened?" A dark feeling gripped her heart. She did not think that the Inquisitor was a man who gave himself over to his passions, but if scouts had found Tarzan's village... well, there were certain inquisitors who were known for their pettiness in settling scores.
"If you find thing you looking for, you leave?" Tarzan asked.
"The Greystoke? You know where it is? I must inform the rest of the camp at-"
He simply pressed the question. "You find, you leave?"
"I cannot say." Seeing his face freeze up, she continued, "Most likely. After the Mechanicus seizes the artifact, and if the Inquisitor does not feel there is anything wrong, we will likely leave."
"You go, I come?"
"You come? There is nothing greater than to give yourself to the Emperor's service, but what of your tribe, your family?"
By this time, Tarzan had come to sit on the ground, his body hunched over, "I... no have family. I human. I not tribe."
She knelt to hear him better, certain that she had misheard something. Although there was much that she had not understood many of his conversations with the Dialogous, she knew that he had not been raised alone. "What do you mean?"
So he told her. Of the Gorils, of his upbringing, of how he, nor anyone he knew, had not known what a "human" was before the arrival of the Imperials. She clenched her fists in rage once she heard of how he was considered "weak" for being a human, but felt a short thrum of joy when he told her how he had proven himself despite his physical shortcomings. Once she was told of how he had been labelled a mutant for being a human, her mind was filled of thoughts of filling the forest with sacred flame to eliminate the blasphemous xenos.
"So you wish to be with your kind, and for that you'll lead us to the sacred artifact, yes?"
"Then I will do all in my power to make it so."
"And how can we know that he is telling the truth? He did, after all, claim he knew nothing earlier." Janna had taken the matter to her sisters, and more specifically Sister-Superior Portia. It would better to try and win her over than take chances with the Inquisitor.
"My spear. It made of shikk-la" The man volunteered.
"The closest translation is 'hard not-rock' , the peop- creatures of this planet have yet to advance beyond stone age technologies. It's hwhat they call metal" Sister Brigitte explained. "Right. So, do you trust him, after he lied to us before?" Portia asked Janna and Brigitte.
Sharing a quick look, Janna spoke "We do. This is an extremely important religious artifact to them. It took a great deal for him to tell us about this. Normally, even speaking about the artifact is forbidden, for fear it shall call down their god's wrath."
Portia closed her eyes, and thought about what she had just been told, "I suppose if a mysterious stranger came to a Shrine-World and demanded the artifacts they kept, they would be turned away as well. I shall bring an edited version of our conversation to the Inquisitor. Pray that he does not lose his temper or doubt what he has been told."
"So that's it then? He was told about the artifact by his chief when he asked, and is willing to take us to it?"
"So we could have been done so long ago, if people had just bothered to tell him what we were looking for. Idiots. We strike out in the morning, I've had enough of this cesspool of a planet."
"And what of the magos?"
With a sigh, Callen answered her, "It'll prove to be trouble if we do not alert him of this. He'll probably come with us. Tomorrow promises to be an interesting day".
What set out in the morning was every single combat asset that could be spared. Upon learning that the Greystoke might very well be in their grasp, the techpriests had committed everything that they could: combat servitors armed with heavy bolters and repurposed mining tools were marshaled by techpriests, a few squads of stormtroopers that the Inquisitor had kept in reserve, and of course the sisters of battle, armed with sacred shell and flame. The reason for this battlegroup was twofold. The first was that they were going to be traversing a large stretch of jungle that was unknown to everyone but Tarzan, the second was that according to the deathworlder, the sacred artifact was in the territory of the Lepris. Originally, it had been in neutral ground, but in recent years, the beastmen had become bolder and more warlike, and had taken over the area by force, claiming to be its "protectors".
Tarzan remained ahead of the column, scouting the way, and dealing with the occasional Lepris as they edged closer and closer to their territory. However, both he and everyone else knew that it would soon be impossible to hide their approach. As soon as they were deep enough for their enemy to be running actual reconnaissance, their presence would be known and reported.
Hacking away a particularly hardy piece of shrubbery, Janna turned to the man who was leading them. "This... temple. Have you ever been inside it? Do you know what we might expect?"
He shook his head, "Temple long time forbidden to enter. Found spear metal far away; wreckage. Just know one thing. Be prepared for many Lepris. Many manys will be there"
With a grim nod, she continued to press onward. With the advanced technology that the Imperials possessed, they should not be in any danger, but she could not help shake the feeling that something was wrong.
It did not take them long to run into the first real patrols. A shout from the treetops was their only warning before four of the feline xenos burst from hiding. The first was caught by a servitor, who crushed it between a huge metallic pincer before throwing the body away like a ragdoll, but two others sprang on its back, clawing and stabbing at exposed flesh, while the last grappled with a stormtrooper. A light wash of cleansing fire quickly dissuaded the ones on the servitor's back from remaining where they were, but as they tried to move, they were cut down in a hail of hellgun fire, while the remaining Lepris misjudged a feint and was skewered. It was a quick and bloody affair, but it reminded the Imperials of where they were.
"If this is all the savages can muster, then we needn't have brought this whole force at all" Inquisitor Callen remarked with a smirk, but few others shared his conviction. There was a dark feeling in the air, and none could shake it.
They suffered three more ambushes before Tarzan had judged an area safe enough to rest in. From the first day of march, they had a single casualty, a servitor. Overwhelmed by enemies, it had leaked fluid after an encounter, gradually slowing as its artificial lifeblood continued to seep out. The techpriests had eventually decided to scrap it rather than let it continue onward, and now its metallic innards were carried by another.
As they were not yet ready to take Tarzan at his word, Storm Troopers swept the immediate vicinity, looking for any signs of the enemy, or of treachery, but found none. After this, tents were pitched and sentries posted; the techpriests, who needed neither rest nor light of day, had protested, unwilling to delay even for an instant in their pursuit of technology. Cooler heads had eventually prevailed though, and with some small murmurs of discontent, they took up places of watch around camp along with their servitors.
Janna found Tarzan with his back to the camp, staring into the depths of the forest. Without turning around, he asked, "Space. What it like?"
Of course, the promise that they had made.
"Space is... Space is unlike anything you can imagine, I promise you that. The Warp is tenuous,yes, and you are confined into a floating piece of metal, but when you witness the stars in all their glory, and the vast nebulas and planets, you understand why people are willing to give their all for the Imperium. It is enlightening."
Still without looking at her, he spoke again, "The forest. All I know. On other planets, can Tarzan survive? Wonders you speak of, what I to them?"
"I cannot say you will be happy or successful. It is not my place to know. But you will have a chance. I, er, that is, my sisters and I will see to that."
How far they had come. From a chance meeting due to the attack of xenos, to her comforting him about the vastness and strangeness of space. If someone had told her that this would happen before she came to Tublat, she would have accused them of watching too many vids.
He nodded, and somehow, she found herself seated at his side. "With the God Emperor at your side, nothing is impossible. No foe too great, no evil too powerful. And how could he not be at your side? On a planet with no other humans, he led you to me, I mean us", she clarified with a small cough
"Yes" He said, with a tinge of melancholy and hollowness, "I think so too".
She grasped his hand then, and felt his grip tighten. She did not know why, but it felt right.
The night passed without any ambushes, and in the morning they started out again. Several hours passed without them encountering another Lepris, as they had the day before, but rather than put them at ease, they were all on edge. No Lepris would have been a blessing, but they also did not hear any animal, not the sound of insects, nor the chirping of birds. It screamed of a trap, but with the tantalizing prize drawing closer and closer, none could bring themselves to turn back.
Tarzan returned from scouting ahead to report to the Sister- Superior. "We get to artifact soon. Clearing should be up ahead." Nodding crisply, she ordered the news be relayed to the Inquisitor and for everyone to keep on guard. It would not do to fail this close to their prize.
That last warning proved to be unnecessary. Soon after Tarzan had reported, they started to hear chanting. It was an unholy mix of yowls, shouting and other noises of battle. At first, it was barely a whisper, but as they drew closer, it grew in volume exponentially.
"How in the void did we miss that?" swore a stormtrooper before being quieted by one of his fellows. They were all ill at ease without someone bringing it up.
The chanting grew louder and louder. It felt like they were surrounded by the screaming Lepris, but their auspexes confirmed that was not the case. Distinct words could now be made out in the din, but as it was in the beings' strange language, Sister Janna and many others had no idea what they meant. Even Sister Brigitte was not well versed in this particular tongue, despite her months long exchange of information with Tarzan.
The group stopped, and the Inquisitor was brought up the line, along with Magos Archimede and Sister-Superior Portia to confer with Tarzan on what was being said.
They found the deathworlder with his eyes closed, focusing to make out the words despite all the noise. "It battle cry, but new. Never heard before"
"Wonderful, so even the savage can't understand it", the Inquisitor rolled his eyes at this piece of news.
"Me know words, just not understand meaning" Tarzan explained. He had spent the last ten minutes trying to decipher what the words meant, partially because he had never heard them combined in such a way before, but somehow they still filled him with dread.
"Then tell us what it is, and we'll figure it out! Can't be that bloody hard," Callen grumbled
"They say, they say..." Tarzan paused, not wanting to translate incorrectly.
"Blood for God of Blood. Skulls for His Seat"
The battle cry of those sworn to the Khorne, the Chaos God of violence and murder was unmistakable, even in its mangled state. Somehow, the gods of Chaos had learned of this bounty, and had come to rob the Imperium of it. Or perhaps the Emperor had seen fit to send His forces to rob the Chaos of what would otherwise had been their prize. It was of no matter, the Imperials could not retreat at this point.
Shouting orders, the Imperials rearranged their formations. Standing at the forefront were the remaining servitors, while flanking them were sisters armed with flamers. Behind them, the stormtroopers were arranged, and the remainder of the sisters formed a solid core, which included Tarzan and Callen. Although he may not have acted like it sometimes, he was still an Inquisitor, and with it came certain expectations and responsibilities. The techpriests were at the back; they would not be able to contribute much to the fight beyond coordinating and empowering the servitors.
To some, it may have seemed foolish that the Imperials would reorganize with their enemy so close at hand, but Khorne was a being who favored head on conflict. Ambushes and the like were not favored by him, which explained the lack of forward sentries.
The Imperials advanced towards the light that promised a clearing, with the Sisters singing a hymn to the Emperor to combat the foul chants. As they broke through into the sunlight, they saw what was arrayed against them. It could best be described as a horde. It seemed that all of the forces that they had expected to find had instead decided to congregate here. There was no rhyme or reason to the formations of the chaos beastmen, for them it merely sufficed to howl at the enemy and thirst for blood. Many of them were armed with crude weapons,but others relied on their natural gifts. At the center of the great mob stood a giant of their kind, no doubt blessed by their foul patron. It held a battleaxe of hewn rock, and even from across the field, they could feel the malice in its eyes and the stench of its breath. But the Imperials were also invigorated by what they saw, for behind all the foul chaos tainted things loomed the unmistakable profile of a great ship.
The two forces sized their opponents up for what seemed like an eternity, although it could not possible have been longer than a few minutes. Neither side showed weakness, and ultimately, would not show mercy either. It was the Lepris who charged first, as befitted the one they worshiped. They met the slow moving servitors head on, and as heavy drills and axes hewed their comrades, others swarmed over the mechanical constructs, biting, clawing and stabbing.
Great gouts of flame were expelled at the mob to try and break the charge, but where before fire had proven to be a potent repellent, the blood crazed xenos pushed and shoved their comrades through the flames. Many were claimed by the holy promethium, but even as their bodies were consumed, others forced them to the ground, using the bodies of their former allies to smother the flames. No price was too great to pay, and more and more made it through the flaming barrier.
Chants of binary came from the techpriests, granting motive force far beyond the norm to their servants, but it was not enough. They were simply too few, and although they slayed many a foul xenos, eventually the tide of bodies wore them down. One by one, they fell to the ground, slaying one or two more of the Lepris by crushing them with their bulk, but others stood over the bodies triumphant, screaming their cries into the air. Throughout it all, the Sisters and stormtroopers fired volley after volley into the throng of bodies, timing their shots so that they provided a chorus to their hymns to the Emperor. Both were potent weapons, their bolters ended the lives of their enemies while their songs combated the chaos chants.
Tarzan quickly found himself in the thick of things. He impaled a Lepris through the neck, but even as he was drawing his spear out, another sprang at him. He grabbed it by the head, and slammed it into the ground over and over again until it was a bloody mush, but in the time that it had taken him to do that, two more had taken their own crude wooden spears and stabbed at him. The first pierced his shoulder, sending a blossom of pain throughout his arm, but before the second could pierce his heart, its head exploded like a ripe fruit. Looking over, Tarzan saw the smoking gun of the Inquisitor. With a small nod of acknowledgement and thanks, he returned to the gore, stabbing the one who wounded him in the stomach and contemptuously knocking it into the ground.
Sister Janna was locked in mortal combat as well. She had been using a flamer, and so had been one of the first groups to engage the enemy. She had slain eleven so far, but the tide showed no signs of stoppage. She stabbed and stabbed and stabbed, and shot and shot and shot, but there was no end. A sharp claw came at her neck, but the magi had been hard at work fixing that particular flaw, and it found no purchase. Without hesitation, she shot the daring xenos in the face. Covered in the gore of her enemies, she screamed a prayer to the Emperor and went back to the killing.
By now, the battle had devolved into nothing so much as a gigantic brawl. Although the Imperials had the advantage of ranged weapons, the enemy had closed the distance, and the fighting now comprised of close range engagements, with the occasional shot ringing out through the din of battle. The Imperials had superior weapons, armor and training, but the chaos beasts had numbers on their side, and many a time, that was enough. It was then that the chaos blessed Lepris entered the fight. It trampled over its allies to get to the middle of the fray, uncaring of the deaths it was causing as it rushed to sate its bloodlust.
With a blood-curling screech, it raised its ax high in the air and split a stormtrooper in two. The man's armor had offered no resistance, and he died with a curse on his lips. Another Lepris had been caught in the blow, but it was quickly stampeded over by others of its kin, surging to fill the gap in the battlefield. It grabbed a sister by her leg and lifted her into the air before slammed her into the ground, breaking her spine and ending her life. The entire time, she had not stopped chanting or shooting.
"Beast!" Sister-Superior Portia cried, as her powersword beheaded a foe, "Come face me! Face me and die!". Her challenge roared across the battlefield and caught the monster's attention. Shifting its attention away from other opponents, it strode across the tide of bodies, crushing those unfortunate to be caught underfoot. With a hideous grin, it approached the sister, and brought its ax above its head, intending to split her in two with its unholy might.
But it was not meant to be. Shining with a holy light, Portia caught the blow with her sword, and rather than be broken, she held. If she did not know better, she could have sworn there was a look of surprise on the xeno's face. She redirected the blow so that it landed neatly to the side of her. At this, the chaos beast became momentarily unbalanced; it had put too much of its strength into the blow . Seizing the opportunity, Portia unloaded the entire magazine of her bolter into the thing's stomach, causing it to rend and bleed, exposing foul acids to the air.
But the beast was not dead, merely wounded. Discarding the ax, it grabbed the Sister-Superior, intending to kill her the same way that it had killed one of her sisters. It never got the chance. As she squirmed in its grasp, an iron spear came flying out of the air, piercing its eye. Rather than slam her into the ground, it relinquished its grip out of pain, and she dropped to the ground. She was hurt, but still alive.
"NOW! NOW IS OUR CHANCE! IF YOU INTEND TO LIVE, FIRE AT THE CHAOS SPAWN!" The Inquisitor's words rang out across the battlefield and was heeded by his forces. Choreographed by the hymns to the Emperor, bolter after bolter discharged into the gigantic, tainted Lepris. Flesh exploded in chunks, and blood showered from countless wounds. Eventually, it was too much, even for one blessed by Khorne and the beast fell. At that moment, it was if time stopped. Disbelief spread through the Lepris ranks as their leader fell.
That was all the opportunity their foes needed. Emboldened by their success, the Imperials engaged the Lepris with renewed vigor. In their madness, the xenos had not realized that they had slowly been enclosed by the "wings" of the Imperial formation, and every shot rang true. The insanity in their eyes faded, and they realized the great cost that had been exacted in their number. With a number of frightened screeches, the Lepris disengaged, fleeing from the victorious humans.
From across the field of bloody slaughter, allies recognized one another, and breathed sighs of relief for every familiar face. This feeling was soon mollified as they caught sight of all those who did not rise, and remained on the bloody ground.
The price had been heavy and paid in blood, but it was worth it. The xenos had been driven from the field of battle and the wreckage of the Greystoke lay before them. It was their prize, and they merely had to claim it.
Of the proud host that had set out to reclaim the Greystoke for the Imperium of man, precious few remained. The Inquisitor still lived, as did Tarzan and Magos Archimede, but beyond that they counted a mere six sisters of battle and nine storm troopers. A shot rang out, the Emperor's mercy: make that eight storm troopers. They would not be able to secure the area, but they had driven off a chaos threat, and with the use of a homing beacon, they would yet be able to claim the site.
The field was awash with blood and gore, the stench of dead and dying everywhere, but every death had been worth it to the Inquisitor and Magos. As they approached the ship's doors, their allies scavenged the bodies of the dead for supplies; the fallen would not need them anymore.
"Would you like to do the honors?" Callen asked Archimede
The techpriest replied in binary. His assistant had been slain in the battle, so no one could translate what he was saying, but his tone conveyed his answer.
Extending his mechadendrites to the door, he began manipulating the delicate machinery that would allow them entry. He needn't have bothered, there were gaps in the ship all over from what had obviously been a forced landing, but there was a sense of ceremony to the whole thing.
It did not take long, the doors of the ship had meant to protect against the hazards of space, not cunning entry by a half-man half-machine (well, more than half at this point). In mere moments, the doors opened with the -whoosh- of a time that had promised a bright future instead of the dark one it had turned out to be.
Wounded but able, the rest of the force staggered over to the opening and followed the two men inside. As could have been expected from the outside, the inside was completely and utterly destroyed. Once delicate machinery lay hanging from consoles overhead. Panels were smashed, the mechanical innards they had once protected exposed to the elements and worn away.
These rooms would have to be examined later, stripped down to their basest parts and every bit of data mined, all to be reviewed by the Adeptus Mechanicus, but these were merely the outermost rooms of the colony ship; the greater secrets, that which they would have desperately protected, and might still be protecting would be further in.
While the other members gaped at what seemed to be the lost miracles of mankind, Callen and Archimede pressed onwards. However, even they stopped for a moment when they came to what had been the cold sleep room. Some chambers had been likely been crushed by the sudden impact, the occupants inside killed due to the trauma, but those had been the lucky ones. Others had been trapped in their chambers, slowly suffocating as the systems that had been keeping them slowly failed when the generators had been responsible for them were destroyed or had otherwise gone offline; their partially preserved last moments depicted their desperate attempts to escape. Cruelest of all were the ones punctured by crude weapons and other tools; they had been the ones who survived the odds, only to be slain by simple malice.
The others had caught up to them at this time, and many were similarly affected, with several of them swearing oaths of vengeance on the creatures of the planet that had attacked the defenseless humans so. "Imagine if, somehow, one of these ancient humans had survived, preserved in stasis, until this day. What ancient wonders we might have learnt from them." Inquisitor Callen trailed a hand over the shattered glass of one pod, "the creatures of this planet shall burn for this". This statement was met with grim nods from his fellow Imperials; not only did these beasts worship Chaos, but they had also deprived humanity of what might have been a great boon. Even Magos Archimede let lose a binary stream of agreement
Tarzan alone remained quiet and contemplative. He looked upon the cold and decomposed bodies, the bones that remained, and the utterly empty beds where not even dust lay. Had he descended from a small group of survivors, who, thawed and unused to the harsh world, had been cut down one by one until only he was left to be taken by a kind-hearted native creature? He could not even begin to imagine the life he might have lived had the ship not met with tragedy.
The group continued on in somber silence, the joy at reaching the lost artifact all but gone. But still, they moved with renewed vigor, their mission all the more important with the knowledge about the cost of human lives. They walked up, then down, then up again. They stepped sideways through ruined archways and collapsed corridors, following a trail that only the Magos seemed to identify. Eventually even he stopped, coming to a halt in front of two intact doors, and the speakers in (what was once)his throat thrummed with noise.
"This is the door then, magos?" asked Callen, and was answered by a short screech that he had long since learnt meant agreement. He looked over the vault, and came to a conclusion. Turning to what remained of his retinue, he commanded them, "Spread out and search, there are doubtless controls to this somewhere. The magos and I shall remain here and see if we can somehow access the insides." A trooper approached with a demolition charge only to be waved away, "Do not bother. Wonders from Mankind's past would not budge an inch at such things. And even if they did, we cannot risk harming what is inside." The remaining soldiers split up in teams of two and three to explore the nearby wreckage. By singular coincidence (or perhaps not), Tarzan and Janna ended up together. Eyeing a stairwell that lay half exposed down a corridor, Janna led the way. The two walked in absolute silence, both still thinking about the colony ship's dead.
The staircase had partially collapsed, but Tarzan had grown up in a jungle, and leaping the gap was of no challenge to him. Reaching down, he helped Janna ascend to the next level. Before them lay banks of monitors, and Janna made a mental note to inform the Mechanicus that this was a high value room. On flickering screens, they were able to see some of their comrades in different parts of the ship; the area that they were in must have once been a security office, now useless in the aftermath of a great failure it had been powerless to prevent.
More interesting were a row of monitors that seemed to be stuck on an eternal playback, showing events that the fading artificial intelligences had seen fit to remember before they too had gone to the long dark. They depicted the Lepris and other vile creatures stalking the halls of Mankind's once great ship, desecrating them and slaying the humans still in their pods. From the images, they had occurred at different times in the planet's history. They could not have happened mere hours apart, several details, such as excessive overgrowth, made Janna suspect that there were decades, centuries, millennia even, between events. She felt her hands tighten into fists and her face twist into a snarl as she watched the past.
But her fascination with events were nothing compared to Tarzan's, who had fixated on one screen. In this one, the latest, seeing as the ship seemed to be in its current state, depicted a female Goril fleeing down the halls, chased by a pack of Lepris. She fled down a narrow shaft, and then the scene shifted to another room. It had previously been part of the main chamber, but had collapsed, and by some miracle was still receiving power. There, almost on a pedestal, was a single active pod. The scene depicted the Goril looking in with curiosity before hearing a noise behind her. A look of consternation crossed her fact, before she wrenched the door open and took the inhabitant, a sleeping baby. She fled immediately after, and the last pic was of the Lepris arriving too late in the chamber and finding it deserted.
Tarzan placed one hand on the screen and one hand over his chest. He managed to gasp, "Mother!", before breaking down into tears, realizing that the ship truly was once his home, and how it could so easily have been his tomb. Unsure of what to do, Sister Janna put a hand on his shoulder as the giant man wept.
It did not take long for Tarzan to compose himself, but she wondered if it was due to acceptance or a simple refusal to show weakness in front of another. Her commbead buzzed, the Inquisitor was calling her back to the front of the vault. She briefly considered leaving Tarzan to his grief, but he strode in front of her, leading the way back.
With a tired voice, the Inquisitor questioned the group assembled in front of them, "Have you found anything that might open these gates?" He was answered by a chorus of negatives
"Of course you haven't... Well, luckily I am here. With my help, Magos Archimede has manged to unlock a secret of these doors" Pressing his hand against a small section of the metal, a hand sized scanner was revealed. "Here is the keyhole, and now all we need is they key. Someone return to the bodies and look for a preserved hand. It is desecration, I know, but some indignities must be suffered for the good of the Imperium"
However, before any could move, Tarzan strode up to the scanner and placed his hand on it.
"What are you doing, you sav-!"
A mechanical voice spoke in a long dead language <DNA profile accepted. Welcome back, Captain Burroughs>, and with that, the doors began to open.
Momentarily rendered speechless, Inquisitor Callen was the first to recover, "Well, we shall have to look into that, but first, our prize". Taking the lead as if it was his by right, Callen strode into the vault, followed by Magos Archimede, then the Sisters and Tarzan, and finally the stormtroopers.
Inside were not precious minerals, nor technological databanks or stores of weapons. Instead, lining the walls in row upon row were stasis tubes, with monstrous organisms growing within them.
"As expected" Inquisitor Callen said with a smile.
"As expected?!" Sister Superior Portia shouted, accompanied by a hacking cough, "What do you mean, as expected? I see nothing here, except blasphemous technology!"
"Now, now sister, do not strain yourself. We wouldn't want your wounds to reopen, now would we?"
"Explain yourself Inquisitor" she answered coldly
"I must explain nothing. But you have had a great role in my triumph, so I suppose you have a bit of a right to know. Tell me, do you recognize what's in these tubes?"
She glanced over the large chambers filled with amniotic fluid. For a moment, she did not know what the man meant, but then noticed that several inhabitants closely resembled the xenos that they had battled through to reach the Greystoke.
Tarzan pointed to several creatures while naming them, "Lepris, Goril, Elfan, Banib"
"Very good savage, you seem familiar with these creatures, and why should you not? I suspect that they are the inhabitants of this planet, or as would be more correct to say, what became the inhabitants of this planet. Bio-manipulation. An option that certain colony ships took to have the perfect servants. Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men, as they say"
Portia snarled, "You still have not explained the nature of your blasphemy, Inquisitor"
"Ah Portia, so direct, so simple minded. Can you not see the possibilities?"
"What, you do plan to grow your own troops? Your own Space Marines, perhaps? Blasphemer, that is the realm of the Emperor, and the Emperor alone"
"Space Marines? Me? Are you ridiculous? It is one thing to create these creatures and another entirely to have them obey you, as these 'Lepris' clearly showed," He place a hand on a glass wall and looked inward, triumph written on his face, "No, I shall use these to craft a new body for our great master, He who sits on the Golden Throne on Terra. I shall be hailed as the hero who saved the Imperium. Finally, the dreams of we Thorians shall be recognized" He raised a fist, doubtless imagining the glories and accolades that would be thrown his way.
"All I hear are the deluded ramblings of a madman," the Sister-Superior spat viciously . "Alas, you have no choice but to comply, unless you wish to be slain by my storm troopers that is." The reason that his personal troops had entered last became clear, the sisters turned around to see that the men had taken position around the entrance, their guns trained on their former allies, "The Inquisition shall be taking possession of this, with or without the blessing of your sisters"
At this, the magos let out a screech, "Yes, yes, not the deal that we had agreed upon, Archimede, but cheer up, you may have the scraps after we are done."
The inquisitor smiled at his former allies. "All those months on this cesspit of a planet, and finally it all pays off. Why, I believe I deserve a reward. Men, kill the savage, he has irritated me for far too long"
As Sister Janna ground her teeth, a storm trooper took careful aim at the deathworlder. Suddenly, Magos Archimedes screamed. Inquisitor Callen had disregarded the magos, thinking of him as only a particularly useful adept, forgetting that magi often achieved high rank over the remains of their enemies. Hateful binary reverberated through the helmets of the storm troopers, momentarily dazing and disorienting them. The shot went wide and harmlessly impacted on the floor.
The Adeptas Sororitas did not let their opportunity go to waste. Weapons appeared in their hands as if by magic, and they let loose on the storm troopers, unleashing the fury they reserved only for heretics. Three men died in the opening volley, and the remainder scattered for cover, their united front broken.
"FOOLS!" cried Callen, "Do you realize what you are doing? You will doom the Imperium to further millennia of suffering!" The Sisters ignored him, taking cover themselves among the stasis tubes, and returning fire wherever they saw an opening. Glass exploded all around, leaking fluid onto the floor and sentencing the inhabitants to death without the nurturing fluid.
The Magos advanced upon Callen unleashing more sonic screams while his mechandrites coiled with rage and hateful purpose. But the Inquisitor was ready this time, and was not nearly as taken aback. Bracing against the streams of binary, he returned fire with his pistol, wounding the magos's shoulder, but not slowing his advance.
Two more stormtroopers had fallen, but one of the sisters was out of ammo, and another was pinned by fire. Taking advantage of their concentration on her sister, Janna threw a "liberated" grenade their way. She had pocketed it in the aftermath of the battle, never thinking it would be used against those who fought alongside her.
One man dived out the blast radius, but another was caught unaware, his upper left torso quickly becoming a blackened and bloody stump.
It was now two against five, but the stormtroopers were not about to give up. A hellrifle blasted though the shoulder of a sister, putting her out of commission. Two against four.
The battle had not gone well for the magos. Although he had seemed the stronger of the two at the beginning of their fight, the Inquisitor was clearly the more experienced of the two. The magos lay collapsed at his feet as Callen gloated over his prone body, "This is for annoying me with your damn specimens all the ti-". He was suddenly interrupted by a flying tackle. Tarzan, biding his time, had seen his moment to strike.
Unfortunately, he had misjudged Inquisitor Callen's experience. Rather than simply try to struggle with Tarzan, who would have the advantage in positioning, Callen simply rolled away, and got to his feet. He pointed his pistol at the feral human and laughed, "Good try, good try, but alas, not good enough. Any last words, savage?"
"Yes. you favor left side."
"Wha-?" But Tarzan was already moving. With a curse, Callen let loose a shot and it impacted mere inches above Tarzan's head. He tried to aim and fire once more, but felt the sharp pain of a spear puncturing his stomach and lung. He looked forward with empty eyes, "Done in by a savage. Just my luck" then collapsed, vomiting up blood.
The death of their inquisitor shocked the storm troopers, who returned their attention to their battle to see Portia charging them with her sword raised. Her first strike sawed off a trooper's arm and leg, and her return stroke cleaved though the second's clumsy attempt to block with his rifle and cut into the artery in his neck. He clutched at the blood-flow, desperately trying to staunch it, but soon lost consciousness before dying. The first man, the one who had lost his limbs looked up to see a bolter pointed his way. He attempted to beg, but it fell on deaf ears.
Janna surveyed the destruction of the room. So many lives lost, but the enemies of the Emperor had been punished. She moved to help her wounded sisters and looked over to see Tarzan helping with the magos. He was too heavy for anyone else to carry.
Slowly, agonizingly, the few survivors made their way to the opening of the ship. There, Sister-Superior Portia, the highest ranking survivor, activated the homing beacon taken from the Inquisitor's corpse.
After a while, the shuttle finally arrived, having threaded a maze-like route through the treetops to make it to their position, and was greeted by a group of suspicious sisters. Witnessing the bloody carnage that remained from the earlier battle, no questions were asked, but still the sisters were on alert, in case the Inquisitor had hidden allies left alive.
When they returned to the ship, Archimede was returned to his fellow magi, and a few messages were sent along the astronomicon. These did not take as long to be answered as the previous calls for supplies, and brought along several inquisitors, enemies of a certain Inquisitor Callen
The proceedings took over a month, with questions upon questions asked, and interrogation occurring frequently. Eventually, Inquisitor Callen was declared a traitor to the Imperium and the bioforges he had worked so hard to recover were destroyed. The rest of the technology was examined by the Inquisition and that which was found to be "pure" was handed over to the Mechanicus who, in turn, made no trouble for the Inquisition.
But today, the survivors of Tublat were gathered in a room for a particular reason. The Adeptas Sororitas were considered paragons of faith, and so they were soon found to be pure, but the same could not be said for a deathworlder, especially one raised by non-humans.
An interrogator exited the chamber, his gloves immaculate, but no one there thought that what had occurred was bloodless. He looked the first sister he saw in the eye, by chance it was Janna, "He has been found to be... acceptable", and without emotion left the room. Staggering out of the interrogation chamber, a shaven and tired man nearly collapsed on a seat.
The relief they felt was palpable. He had been their comrade in arms, and they wished him safe. He had been put through trials to see if he was worthy of serving the Emperor, and in His divine mercy, He had seen fit for it to be so. During that time, however, they had been separated from him and had worried, knowing that he had never been on a ship or experienced space as they had.
Their reunion was interrupted by a black cloaked man who entered from the same door that the Interrogator had exited. They all quieted, unlike Inquisitor Callen, this man radiated authority.
"You have all been tested, and been found true to the Emperor. Ones such as yourselves are in short supply. The Holy Inquisition has further use of your talents. Know this, I will not force you into service, not now, not after you were betrayed by another that once made the same claims I do now. Yet still I ask, will you serve?"
For the sisters, it was no question, and they turned to the one uncertainty.
Tarzan spoke, his throat still raw, "I want see many things. You show me, I follow"
The cloaked man smiled, "Then we have an accord".
At long last, after noticing the attention of the Inquisition, several forge worlds had sent the needed ships and forces to properly excavate the Greystoke. Several of the planet's inhabitants had attempted to stop the intruders from making off with the sacred artifact, but they were no match for the masses of skitarii. They mourned for a season, but soon life returned to normal on Tublat.
That was, of course, before the ships arrived. The Imperium of Man had processed the reports of the planet and learned of the sentient beings that populated it, as well as their crimes against humans. The sterilization fleet took great pleasure in their work. The forests burned, the seas evaporated and the population of Tublat learnt just how seriously human took their oaths of vengeance.
Aboard the Inquisitorial Ship, The Glorioso
"Have you seen the reports?"
"Yes, but can the mutants truly have amassed so much power?"
"I fear they may have. And the Emperor's tarot portends only doom"
"Then such matters cannot be left alone. I believe I have a few acolytes that might be useful in such matters"
Closing the communications array, Inquisitor Hans Andrachson of the Ordos Malleus turned towards the captain of his ship.
"Set course for Triton. There is work to be done".