Story:Praise the Emperor (and Pass the Ammunition)
This is a short story about a member of a Planetary Defense Force saving the day. It was originally written by Namewithheld. This article is slightly modified from the original: it incorporates some spelling fixes, internal links, and added names to the section transitions.
On the Emperor's Shoulder
Private Connie Obel of the Interix PDF paced slowly back and forth on the broad shoulder of the Emperor and prayed for rain. Looking to the heavens, she only saw the clear blue sky that had been mocking her for the better part of a week. She didn’t see the streaks of orbital insertion, or the winking lights of a retribution fleet, or any of the other signs of an imminent rescue. Slowly, Connie sat down on the smoothed stone that had been her home for three months and sighed.
“We really need to finish our discussion…”
Connie turned her head, slowly, as if she would see something new when she looked to her left. She didn’t. Sitting, about three meters away from her, was the wiry form of Sebastian Thor. He looked younger in person than he did in the religious iconography that had surrounded her for her whole life – in the stained glass and statuary and reliefs, he was depicted as he had been at the end of the Crusade of Light: Withered and elderly, a massive beard roiling down his face to his ankles, wearing only the robes of a penitent while he was flanked by the miniscule followers who made up the background, a great river of humanity looking up to him, their hands clasped together in adoration.
Connie rubbed her palms against her eyes, feeling the gritty texture of callouses, dirt and bits of stone worked into her palms by pressure and by constant contact.
“I can’t simply go away, Connie.”
Connie stood, with a sudden jerk. She walked towards the edge of the shoulder, moving carefully. The statue that she stood on was a very tall one, as it had been commissioned five centuries before by Governess Alicet Oblique III, to commemorate the victories of Interix’s regiments on distant battlefields. For all of Connie’s life, the statue had simply been a convenient landmark to navigate with: Anywhere in the hive, she could look to the half a kilometer tall statue and see the marble and gold and know which way to go.
She leaned back and put her palm against the slope of the armored pauldron that covered the Emperor’s shoulder and then craned her head down.
A sea of rotting flesh looked back up at her. Even after weeks, the millions of former citizens of Hive-Prime, the capital of Interix II, still thronged about the ankles and shoes of the God-Emperor of Mankind. From this distance, the wind cast their incessant moaning away, and all she could see was an impression of grasping hands, some of them worn to the bones by their futile attempts to climb. She felt the temptation, pressing at her temples…
Then Sebastian Thor put his hand on her shoulder: “Connie…”
“I’m just…doing a head count.” She gritted her teeth, then scrabbled away from the edge, turning to crawl on her hands and knees until she was back at the top. Here, she saw her supplies…there was the makeshift tent, made by taking a regulation frame and then draping it with thin sheets she had looted in her desperate flight. There, the bedroll. There, the dozens of buckets that she had scavenged in the nightmarish final hours of Interix II, some of them shimmering faintly with water. Water that she drank slowly…
But still, more than half were empty.
Connie put her hands on her hips and frowned.
“The Emperor will provide.” Sebastian Thor stepped between her and the buckets. “But as I said. Our discussion.”
“There’s no point…” Connie turned around. She started to walk away from the long dead Saint, her boots scuffing on the marble of the statue, leaving tiny smudges behind them. She brushed her hands through her short, tightly bound hair – knotty, that was what they had called it – and tried to ignore Thor.
“But there is. Why did it take so long for the call to arms to be sound?” He asked, his feet making no noise as he walked after her. “Use your logic, Connie. When you were deployed, the hive was already half overcome by the walking dead.”
“The arbiters were eaten at their homes, far from their combat stations.”
Connie got to the very edge of the shoulder, where the arm of the Emperor reached out, holding aloft a sword, a titanic sword made of the captured chassis of enemy tanks, melted down and reforged into the blade. This close – a mere hundred meters away – she could see the way the different metals and alloys had interacted, creating something as garish and ugly as any she had seen. From far away, the different colors blended into a uniform gold-white hue that she found breath-taking.
Here, she had left her long-las. The rifle was clean and polished, and currently empty. Three charge-packs sat beside it, each of them within an upturned helmet, the interior of the helmets focusing the heat and light of the sun onto the cubical packs.
Connie knelt, picking up one of the packs. She hissed, feeling the burn, but didn’t care right about then. The indicator flashed and numerals appeared: Full Charge.
She nodded, then picked up her long-las with one hand, standing and turning…
To find herself facing Sanguinius. The angelic figure was bloodied and battered as when he had fallen in battle during the Horus Heresy, his armor pitted and marked by deep rents. His eyes burned, bright blue despite the massive lacerations that ripped his beautiful face nearly off.
She blinked and he stood, pure and clean as if he had never been touched. He towered over her and his titanic hand pressed to her shoulder.
“The angels are coming.”
She shook the hand off her shoulder, walking past Sanguinius without a backwards glance.
When Connie came to her shooting perch, she had to walk past almost countless marks in the marble, made by a now-blunt combat knife. She didn’t make those any-more, simply for the reason that she had lost count in a moment of distraction. Still, Connie, sat down on the chair she had fashioned from a snapped tent-pole and a stretched out bit of sheeting and a M41 Multilaser tripod. She sat down, sighed, then lifted her rifle to shoulder.
The scope threw the ruin of Hive Prime into intense relief. There, the homes that had been shattered by the rioters and the looters. There, the bones of those lucky enough to be devoured rather than raised. There, the grisly pillars of bone, one which the ecclesiarchs and confessors had been mounted by the victorious heretics that had drowned the hive in blood and rotting flesh. And finally, she swept her long-las down to aim into the massive crowd. By now, the clothes had rotted away from their desiccated bodies, but the faint miasma that rose from the rotting corpses seemed almost supernaturally thick, blotting out detail and obscuring faces.
Connie could smell the rot through her scope.
She adjusted the sights, marked range, then sighed out a slow breath as she squeezed the trigger.
The long-las cracked, a tunnel of ionized air drawing a line from the extended barrel to the forehead of a walking corpse. The corpse fell to the ground, lost in the teeming hoard.
“How many people lived in this hive alone?” Thor asked her as she fired again, exactly one second later, letting the internal heat-sink work. She waited, then fired a second time. “Three? Four billion people?”
She fired a third time.
“And not one of them managed to reach the alert-stations, to call out for help? The astropaths sent no message to Segmentum Command? The ships in orbit sent no shuttles-“
She fired and missed, the shot impacting into a chest. The corpse she had struck staggered, but then continued to try and crawl over the others to try and get to her. How did they know? How did they know she was here?
“You made me miss…” Her voice was sullen.
“Because you need to listen to me!” Thor’s voice trembled as he spoke. His hands grabbed her shoulders, turning her to face him. “Connie Obel, listen to me! The fall of your world does not make sense.”
“Of course it doesn’t!” She surged to her feet, almost casting her long-las aside in her anger. Instead, she clenched her fists on it, hard, white knuckles showing. “The dead don’t walk! Th…They don’t! They shouldn’t!”
“That is self-evident…” Thor’s face creased into a frown, which made his rugged, narrow features contort into an image of age. “But even if they did not walk, this world was made to resist attacks far more powerful and overwhelming. These things have no ranged weapons, no tactical or strategic capacities. That leaves…”
“You sound like General Somna.”
“I led a crusade, Private!” His finger jabbed her in the chest. “And I will not let you fire on them again, not until you answer me truthfully.”
Connie looked down at the writhing mass. She bit her lip and worked her way through the bloodshed and the nightmares – it always seemed to be night, her memories of the fall of Interix II. Night, either from the time of day or from the smoke that wreathed the sky, smoke long since burned away and blown to the distant reaches of the world. First…she…had been at home. Her father had been celebrating…
He had been…
She set her jaw, and glared at Sebastian Thor.
But he had gone.
She sat down, scowling. With him gone, there was no one to talk to. And she wasn’t about to start talking to herself.
She raised the long-las to her shoulder and fired.
At night, she slept with an autopistol in her hands, cradled against her chest, her body coiled around, pressing her knees almost to her belly. Her eyes closed and she muttered under her breath.
She jerked away, with a sudden rush of adrenaline and fear. The wakefulness that she was in was a confused one. For a moment, she was positive she felt clammy, rotting hands grabbing her by the hair, dragging her towards gaping mouths. She shook her head, banishing the night terror. What had she…
Music wafted through the empty hive, carried to her ears by a traitor wind. The music was slow and stately, then suddenly sprightly, as if the earlier steadiness had been a trick to get the ear to listen. Now, the music flowed fast like a brook in a garden, burbling and calling her to stand and dance. She heard laughter with it. Mocking laughter, for it was unreal, it had to be unreal. She curled up tighter around the pistol.
“Why do you have walls to your tent?” Thor’s voice came from the tent-flap. They were not a question so much as a condemnation. “I think I know why you built the tent this way.”
“I know why you do not look north.”
The words, as minor as they seemed, struck an intense, crawling terror in Connie. She started to tremble and when she slept, the music was in her ears, playing endlessly, faster and faster and faster…
Heresy Begets Retribution
Rain poured from the sky. It pittered and pattered and bounced off of the barrel of the long-las, droplets hissing away with the shots, boiled into steam by the fury of the lasbolt’s passage. The scope had a small awning over the lens that kept it from getting spattered, and a bit of sheeting wrapped around Connie’s head, keeping her head dry as the rest of her body soaked in the closest thing she had had for a shower in months. She grinned, fiercely, and fired again.
She had taken the time in the morning dawn, before light was good enough to shoot, to count her ticks. She was up to five hundred thousand, six hundred and seventy seven.
She fired again.
Five hundred thousand, six hundred and seventy eight.
But then, she pulled the trigger and the charge-pack made a faint sputtering noise. The long-las’ ammo indicator blared a bright red and she sighed, standing up.
“Can’t very well charge in this rain!” Thor called over the pounding sound of the rain, his voice carrying to her ears despite the distance between them. “Come, sit with me!”
Connie glanced at him, but she kept her eyes downcast.
He was sitting at the far side of the shoulder, facing towards…
She instead, walked towards her buckets. They were full to overflowing. She picked one up, tilting her head back, drinking deeply, laughing, coughing when her laughter interrupted her drinking, but she didn’t care. After praying, praying every morning and every evening, she had been given this bounty. The rain hadn’t stopped for almost two days, and she felt a pang of regret that she didn’t have more buckets.
When she set the bucket down and turned around, she was face to waist with Sanguinius. The titanic figure looked down at her, blood mixing with rain water. His hand, gauntleted and missing every finger, reached for her. She didn’t recoil, more out of shock than anything else…and his fingers laced through her hair, his hand whole once more, his golden armor shining. He petted her, like a father touching a child.
“My angels are here.”
He was gone when she blinked. She shook her head, then looked…and saw that Thor was striding towards her. She turned around, facing towards the edge of the Shoulder, towards the south edge of the shoulder.
“We are running out of time, Connie! You need to put it together. It all makes sense, and you know it. You know it.”
“I can’t!” She closed her eyes.
“You can! Look north!”
His voice boomed. Thunder rumbled through the air, and for a moment, their shadows stretched long across the soaked marble. She closed her eyes, and tears joined the rain. Her shoulders shuddered.
Connie Obel turned around.
The spire of Hive Prime rose into the air. They went high above the statue of the Emperor, a single spire thrusting almost to the clouds themselves. That spire was made of gold. It was surrounded by a massive, thrumming blue field, which created a storm of steam, water droplets flashing away as they struck it. And through the field, she saw the noble palace, open to the air. She saw people, tiny specs at this distance. Her hands trembled as she brought her rifle up and aimed.
The telescopic sight zoomed, focusing in.
And she saw the grand gala. Nobles sat about inside, draped in silks and fine cloths, served by tight lipped servants wearing only simple garb. Massive heaping of food unlike any she had seen in…unlike any she had seen ever were placed on tables and the nobles, who had grown and swelled in massive size, becoming as bloated as a walking corpse to a man and woman, ate. They ate and ate…and laughed…and listened as musician servitors played and played and played.
Slowly, Connie lowered her rifle.
“This cannot be allowed to continue.” Thor’s voice was a low, deep rumble. But it was a righteous fury, not one born of the cold facts that Connie knew, that Connie had been trying to ignore.
“It can’t…” She slid the rifle on her shoulder strap, then walked towards the tent, her head bowed against the rain. “Governor Cerol Oblique has the machine spirit of the hive’s cogitator systems keyed to his genome. His cousins are dead, his brother was given to the Tech-Priests. He and he alone can activate…” She knelt inside the tent, pulling out her autopistol and shoving it into her jacket, where it would be safe. “The orbital defenses.”
Thor nodded, slowly.
She stood, then turned to face him. “Guard the tent while I’m away.”
Thor watched her until she was to the grapnel that she had climbed up months before. The grapnel had been fired from a rooftop, and she had managed to drag the gun back by standing on the shoulder of the massive statue, spooling up the flex-rope until it was a messy series of loops. She started to work the crank on the grapnel launcher, trying to not imagine what the hive streets would be like. She tried to tell herself that it would be easy. It would be simple. The undead had been drawn to the base of the statue by her months of shooting, so the few left in the side streets and stairwells of the hive would be easily handled.
Finally, she cranked the grapnel back to full strength. She hefted the heavy, rifle-like projector to her shoulders. She triggered the wings on the grapnel, which spread out with a faint metallic cry. The grapnel’s wing shapes were formed into the Imperial Aquila, and she tried to take comfort in the symbol as she fired it at the nearest rooftop. The grapnel sailed in a smooth arc, before landing, the legs automatically driving into the plastcrete of the rooftop.
Connie reached into her tattered tank-top and pulled out a dangling medallion, one stamped with the sigil of House Oblique. Governor Cerol Oblique may be a traitor, but the house had financed and trained and lead to the PDF on Interix for five centuries. She drew some comfort from that legacy, then slid on her combat gloves. She grabbed onto the flex-rope, then slid off the Emperor’s shoulder, her long-las slung over one shoulder.
The flex-rope bowed under her slight weight, and her arms immediately started to cramp, the gloves hissing loudly as she slid down and down the rope, keeping her legs tucked up under her. Her eyes tracked the roof that approached and she resolutely refused to look directly down. After an eternity of cramping and sweating, she finally let go, her feet hitting the roof. She rolled well, coming up onto her feet and gasping, her gloved palms flat against the rooftop. The stink of death was strong here, and she took a moment to simply gather herself. The noxious smells of a hive city that had rotted for months assaulted her.
She grabbed the bandana that had kept the sun from her eyes and tied it around her mouth, replacing (or at least mitigating) the scent of the dead with the smell of her own fear and exertion. With her long-las in hands, she stalked towards the entrance of the hab-complex that she had landed on. She prodded the door open with the barrel of her las and found herself looking at a stairwell choked with gnawed bones. The stench smote her like a fist and she staggered back, trying to keep her eyes from watering.
Connie looked at the sky.
Did she see the glinting lights of a retribution fleet moving into orbit?
Did she see plasma trails as the fleet decelerated?
It was hard to tell, clouds still clung, spreading only slowly.
Connie’s heart clenched and ice-fear ran down her back she imagined the orbital defenses of Interix firing into the sky…
She shook her head and slung her long-las over her shoulder. The heavy rifle pressed against her back as she pulled out the autopistol and a luminator, which she flicked on with her left hand, bracing her right hand over the left. The light shone the way as she padded down the stairs, stepping carefully to avoid crunching over bones. It was a nearly impossible task, and every time that she stepped onto a bone, she gritted her teeth.
No noise, other than her own breathing and the occasional cracking-crunch of bone, reached her ear. The air ventilators of the mighty city were dead. The luminators didn’t hum in the ceiling. Only the sun and the open aired courtyards would have any light or air at all…she would have to remember that.
When the nightmare of walking down the stairs came to an end, Connie opened the doors in the bottom of the hab complex, coming into the open aired courtyard that linked to it and every other hab-complex in the neighborhood. She tried to not remember the millions of people who had streamed down this concourse, the hundreds who had stopped to play in the parks – now withered and dead. She tried to ignore the scrawled graffiti – the symbols that made her head hurt, and the pleas for help written onto buildings that looked as though they had been claimed…not by the living dead, but by their damned (in both senses of the word) allies.
Connie, instead, slid her autopistol into her jacket and went back to the long las, moving forward at a tactical crouch, her legs starting to burn with long disuse. Her heart pounded and her skin stank with fear, but still…she walked forward.
She moved out of the concourse into a connecting mega-corridor. The slidewalks were stilled, and one was piled with corpses, row after row that had been shot in the head. A stand against the living dead? An execution? She didn’t know. She kept walking forward, her boots picking around skulls.
“I have to go faster…” She whispered. No one responded. She suddenly, acutely missed Sebastian Thor. The Saint had a clear headed, logical mind. He would think of something less insane than this.
Unless, of course, he wasn’t there at all…
The voice that whispered in her mind sounded like hers. She clenched her jaw and kept walking. She was not crazy.
Oh? Not crazy? You spent five months under the baking sun, shooting your fellow civilians in the head, and you think you’re not crazy…
The snideness in her mind reminded her too much of…
She shook her head, all thoughts vanishing as her ears heard something before her head did. She froze, her jaw working. A faint moan came from the end of the megacorridor, followed by…voices? She lifted her long-las back to her shoulder, though she didn’t look down the scope. She just walked forward.
When Connie came to the end of the slidewalk, she froze all over again. The bazaar in the space beyond was filled with the living dead. They slouched about; walking into one another, though more than a few looked in a single direction – not hers. They were looking at a large cathedral, which had been…defaced. Bile and blood had been smeared over the stained glass windows of saints and angels, while the doors had been hacked open. The Aquila had been tossed down, and in its place rose a grotesque, interconnected triplet of circles, painted in a noxious green. Something about the symbol made Connie gag.
Then she heard the voice, clearer now.
“Let us all join the Plaguefather! Papa Nurgle waits!”
And a figure stepped from the tower at the top of the cathedral. That tower, like most Ecclesiarchial structures, had been built with defense and grandeur in mind. The window had been tall and thin, so that it could make a good firing position. The heretics had exploded it wide and open, a jagged rent in the stone. Slowly, a figure wearing tattered green robes stepped up to the edge. They smoothly walked off, falling into the mass of living corpses, singing praises to their foul god.
The corpses all surged to the base of the debased ceremony. And…
Connie took advantage of it. She clutched onto her pendent so hard that the edge of the Oblique sigil bit into her palms, and she hurried forward, her heart in her throat. Not a single corpse looked away from the sickly fruit that fell into their waiting hands.
Connie was almost to the base of the noble spire, her movement growing faster, more ragged, her legs screaming at her for to stop, to rest. She didn’t want to wait, she didn’t want to listen to her body. But then she had to stop, for a loud, low rumble echoed through the city. She looked over her shoulder, but the blaring klaxons that sounded after the rumble left her with no doubt in her mind. The orbital defenses were being activated.
Flak cannons. Hydra missiles. Ground-To-Orbit lances. Macrocannon batteries. Atomic silos. Enough to butcher the Retribution fleet…or, at the very least, claim thousands more lives. All because of him. Governor Cerol Oblique.
She growled and broke into a run.
Behind her, she heard a moan. She ignored it, sprinting towards the gilded door that led to the base of the noble spire. It was almost a hundred meters tall and twenty meters wide, and it was closed. She ran towards it still. Behind her, the moans were growing louder, and she risked a single backwards glance. Corpses, drawn by the sound of her running, were starting to spill from the houses and shops that lined noble concourse.
Connie reached the door. She slammed her fist into part of the decoration, her knuckles pushing the decorative skull into the recess that it lurked on. The secret switch caused the machine spirits of the doorway – still active despite months of neglect from the Tech-Priests – to start to open the door. As they slid aside…she found herself no more than five paces from a teeming mass of plague zombies. The stench, thicker than even the rest of the hive, burned her nose and made her eyes bleed.
Connie staggered backwards. Then, she noticed…
The mob that slouched towards her was only three, maybe four members thick!
She let her long-las dangle on the shoulder strap, lifting her autopistol. She let the automatic weapon chatter, aiming at head height. Thick slugs ripped apart skulls and faces as she carved out a narrow corridor, running forward as she bellowed.
“FOR THE EMPEROR!”
The plague zombies to either side reached for her.
Connie ran faster.
She felt a hand clutch at her shoulder. She jerked.
Her clothes ripped even more. She heard the click of her autopistol’s magazine emptying and tossed it aside. She found herself in the interior of the noble spire, ringed with an elegant ramp that circled the inside, going up and up and up. The power field that protected the upper spider didn’t reach inside.
She started to run, her legs burning, her lungs seeming to be nearly empty of all air. Connie clenched her jaw. She ran and ran, she ran as if she had the whole hive behind her, chasing her.
And…come to think of it, she did.
She ran as she heard a subliminal rumble. The lances were charging. The atomics were targeting the Imperial ships in orbit. The macrocannons, without men to service them, were auto-loading and auto-targeting. The whole of Hive Prime was readying its fangs.
Connie gasped, her vision actually starting to go black around the corners of her vision as she reached the top of the ramps. She staggered to a stop, finding herself facing two guard servitors. One of them started to bow to her, the mind-wiped body combined with Tech-Priest augmetics not intelligent enough to recognize anything about her. She fired her long-las from the hip and took the servitor in the chest. It collapsed, not built for combat. She ignored the other, keying the door open.
Her feet padded onto the garden. The music, the traitor music, filled her ears as she worked the cooling bolt on her long-las. It wasn’t necessary, but the action felt very final as the heat-sink discharged to the ground, smoldering on the grass, the secondary heat-sinks slotting into place.
She came to the front doors of the noble manor. She had seen the nobles through the windows as she strode through the garden, her boots crushing flowers and grass and miniature statuary that had once…
The doors opened to one, solid kick. The impossibly valuable nalwood splintered under the force of her kick, adrenaline and desperation and raw fury giving her strength. As the doors flung open, she smelled the rot in the room, the rot of obese flesh, of bed-sores from supine nobles. The music filled her ears, and she saw Governor Cerol Oblique, his body stretched and bloated and covered in puss-dribbling sores.
He had raised a goblet of blood to the air, as if toasting the window behind the table he sat at.
The window showed streaks of light from the sky. Wreckage falling from a destroyed ship?
She was too late to save the Retribution Fleet.
Connie Obel shouldered her long-las.
She was not too late for revenge.
The Governor’s eyes widened.
Connie took the shot. A mere hundred meters separated her from him – any recruit in the PDF, let alone a sharpshooter – could have made the shot, with a standard M39 Las-rifle, let alone a specialized sniper’s weapon. The las-bolt punched out the back of the Govenor’s head, and the goblet hit the ground…but not before she had fired again, taking another noble in the heart. The slug-like bodies of the nobles kept them in their chairs as they screamed for their Plaguefather. She fired and fired and fired, the barrel of her long-las glowing with heat.
Slowly, Connie lowered the rifle and walked towards the window. The clear glass showed the distant streaks and Connie smiled. She felt a hand on her shoulder, a hand larger than any human’s. Sanguinius, the Angel himself, spoke to her, the warm blood of a martyr soaking her clothes.
“They come.” His voice was soft.
The falling streaks were not debris.
They were drop pods.
They peppered the hive and even from here, she could see the titanic red figures leaping from them. She saw the Space Marines, the Angels of Death of the God-Emperor of Mankind, start to work their terrible wrath among the living dead and the living cultists.
Connie sank to her knees and watched with a smile on her lips.
Epilogue: The Angels of Death
Librarian Castilus strode through the corridors of the noble palace, the stench of the Ruinous Powers assaulting him mentally and physically. Even behind the helmet that he wore, his nose curled and he hardened his mental walls even harder. The Librarian was a veteran of five hundred years of conflict for the Blood Angels, and he had not seen a massacre as terrible as this. Billions dead, many of them raised as the living dead by foul sorcery…
He shook his head as he came to a team of Tactical Marines, the battle-brothers flanking a door that had been splintered by some combat. The Sergeant of the squadron looked to her, bowing his head.
“Honored Librarian, the nobles are dead. Slain in their seats by what appears to be a long-las…permission to enter?”
The Tactical Marines entered in good form, their bolters raised, their armor gleaming it the ruddy red sunlight that shone through the window. Castilus stepped in after them and frowned as his mind felt the raw psychic miasma of the chamber. Before he could probe it and identify it with his Talent, Brother Vargis called out.
The white-painted figure that stepped into the room moved with a steady, loping gait. Apothecary Longian’s narthecium had been stained with blood, the bright red blood of a Space Marine. He had performed surgery recently. Castilus followed him to Vargis, who knelt beside a human woman. Castilus felt every inch of the five centuries that stretched between him and stepping into the Golden Sarcophagi that had completed his induction into the Chapter as he looked at her. He felt nothing for her, a puny human with skeletal thin body, wasted by misuse and lack of nutrition. Her gums ran and her teeth were loose, rotting from some form of nutrient deficiency. A vast stain of red blood covered her shoulder and arm, so she had been wounded in the fight. She was clearly plagued, but still he reached out with his psyker’s Talent.
He felt only peace within her. A serenity impossible for any sane survivor.
He jerked his talent back, lest taint seek to corrupt his mind. As he did so, Vargis asked: “Brother Longian, I find no cognem-tag…and yet, this is the uniform of the local PDF.”
Castilus tried to squash his irritation as he turned, planning to find the apex of the foul cult that had cast the sorcery that had destroyed this world. Before he stepped away, Longian called out.
“Honored Librarian! You need to see this!”
Castilus turned. The Apothecary gestured him over, still kneeling by the woman, who murmured something under her breath, still sleeping. Castilus strode over, his armored boots thudding on the floor. He knelt beside Longian, who showed him the glowing screen of the gene-scan.
“Her name is Consuela Oblique…the Governor’s daughter.”
Castilus stood. His hand went to the bolt-pistol that hung off the maglock on his hip. The weapon felt comfortable in his gauntleted hand and he aimed it, casually, at the woman’s chest.
“Heresy begets Retribution.”
Castilus was stunned by Longian’s forearm slamming into his own wrist. The bolt pistol went off into the glass window, shattering it, the explosive shell bursting fifty meters into open air, the overpenetration prevention system triggering in open air. Castilus glared at the smokey trail between his bolt pistol and the puff that the explosion had left. Growling, he turned to Longian.
“You must have a very good reason for this, Apothecary, for this-“
“I noted that her shoulder was not wounded.” Longian gestured to the bloody swath on the woman’s shoulder, matting the fabric against her. “And so, I did a gene-scan on the blood. And…”
He turned the gene-scan to Castilus.
And, centered in the display, was a single name.