The Wager coasted next to the smaller ship. Maneuvering thrusters fired, matching velocity and bringing the ships close. An armoured docking corridor extended from the rogue trader vessel to clamp on to the Dreamer's airlock. The hull reverberated at the docking clamps locked on.
It might be possible that the smaller craft might try to overload its plasma reactor to take the rogue trader with it in a blaze of glory, but that wouldn't work very well. The Wager's surveyors would detect that and explosive bolts would jettison the docking corridor. Maneuvering jets would move the Wager away and even if the void shields weren't brought up in time, distance and the trader's armoured hull would minimize damage.
Melina clutched the hell carbine. This was not how she had expected to die. Gix removed his helmet and looked back. "Everyone ready?"
Hethor nodded. Keys responded with a simple, "yes."
"A moment," replied Gard fiddling with one of his cyber orbs. "There," he said and closed the panel. "All ready inquisitor."
"Alright," said Jolan as he hung his helmet on his belt and turned on his conversion field. He wove a further shield of psychic force around his head. "Time for me to go out and meet the Gamblers."
"Jolan," said Hethor, "remember the advice I gave you a long time ago? About these ones?"
"Yes, I haven't forgotten." Smoke them all, had been Hethor's advice (and Severa's for matter) after they had been confronted by resistance and obfuscation as well as crew prepared to kill both of them at the drop of a hat.
"They won't have forgotten either."
The Gamblers, the armed company of the Fool's Wager, were distributed around the docking bay and in fall back position's in the compartments beyond. They were a well drilled and well equipped force. They had fought and won dozens of engagements on ship and on planetary surfaces. They knew their business, possessed the right tools, and were very good at it.
Lasguns of the highest quality and pair of melta guns were pointed at the entrance of the docking corridor. A pair of crewman manned an autocannon that covered the entrance. If whatever came out was hostile, the Gamblers were ready.
"Gamblers this is the bridge," came a smooth male voice. Synnove controlled a burst of irritation. "The captain wants a word with you."
"Then put her on, you rapscallion," Synnove responded with a touch of affection. He may not have known his father, but Engelier took after him. Too many stories, she thought. Too many stories of the great man.
"Synnove," said Uschi Valk, "status?"
"Fine captain. Everything's under control. Even if that ship is packed to the gills with Traitor Marines, we're ready for them. Now let me do my job."
"Will do," replied Valk. Over the years camaraderie and shared grief had become a comfortable friendship. Adraxis hard left its mark on the Wager and it hadn't been a pleasant one.
The door cycled open. A man wearing black power armour stamped with a gold inquisitional markings stepped through. He wore no helmet. Synnove almost fell over with shock. The scar had faded so it wasn't visible at this range, but there was no mistaking that face. She had seen it often enough in her mind's eye. Inquisitor Jolan Gix.
"Security Chief Synnove," came Jolan's Gix's voice. "I hope you will forgive me for concealing my identity up to this point, but I thought it wise. Me and my crew are grateful for the assistance of the Fool's Wager."
Synnove's throat went dry. She had not dreamed of this moment. A word or gesture from her and the Gambler's would cut Gix down like ripe wheat. Blood vengeance for the humiliation, pain, and betrayal. Vengeance for the casual conscription of the ship despite all that they had done. Vengeance for assault which had almost caused her to miscarry her son.
Jolan tensed for Synnove's response. The moment the hammer dropped he would detonate a line of blind grenades in front of himself while opening up with his bolt pistol and plasma pistol. Targeting data would be projected on the nearly invisible film eyepiece he wore. While telekinetically seizing the locks on the docking corridor, the cyber orbs would begin to weld them into place. Simultaneously, he would launch spreads of plasma grenades among the gamblers as the first wave of servitors advanced. Hethor would lead the second wave. Keys would sneak behind them and bypass the battle lines to kill and wreck havoc in the rear. The others would move up to support the fighters. A lot of things could go badly wrong and they would be outnumbered by a formidable enemy, but they would at least have a chance. It was the best he could do.
Synnove touched an earpeace, never taking her eyes off Gix. As much as she hated him, her duty was to the ship. Inquisitional trouble was the worst and she had to admit that Gix's intervention in the Wager's dispute with the Ecclesiarchy had been immensely helpful. It was the captain's call.
"Captain," she said in flat tone of voice, "I have the survivors here. They are lead by Jolan Gix."
There was a pause on the other end. She looked into Gix's eyes and saw a sense of eagerness. He anticipated this, she realized. He's ready to fight. All it would take was one misread movement to start a bloodbath, one that Jolan Gix was primed to fight. Just like the first damn time. It's happening all over again, just one a larger scale.
"Syn, don't do anything precipitous."
"Yes boss," she replied. "Where's your attack dog?" she asked Gix.
"Hethor? He's well enough. I didn't want him coming out first to avoid any unpleasantness."
"I was speaking of the bitch," Syn replied unable to resist the urge to goad him.
A shadow flashed over his eyes. Oh yes, that was a sore spot. "Captain Valin commands the battlecruiser Lord Vonrilyental. I would suggest a more respectful form of address when you are under Navy guns. They have little enough love for the way Old Charters tend to act as if they were a law unto themselves."
That was a threat and a potent one. If Gix were to disappear, she would notice and definitely point out the rogue trader operating in the area that had bad blood between them and the inquisitor. The Inquisition didn't need hard proof. Gix had shown them that. And if Captain Valin's suspicions weren't satisfied, she might sate her desire for vengeance with her ship's weapon batteries.
"Syn, stand down and send him up. Alone."
Something withered in her breast. "Are you sure?" It was bad to question the captain openly, but despite everything that was telling her it was a bad idea to kill him, she longed to do it."
"Yes. Send him up Syn and stand down. We're traders first and we made a handy profit off the last time we met him. I intend to make this time really cost him."
"Keep him away from-"
"I will. I already sent him out of the bridge. Now send the Inquisitor to my office with a big escort."
"Alright." She spoke up. "Inquisitor Gix, Captain Valk requests your presence in her office. The Gamblers will escort you up."
"Certainly," replied Jolan Gix as if he wasn't prepared to wash the deck in blood. "A moment for me to call forth a companion-"
"Alone," she said. Gix stopped for a moment, calculating and then nodded his head. "As she wishes," he replied. "Lead away."
Captain Uschi Valk waited in her office for Jolan Gix to arrive. Their last meeting, nearly twenty years ago now, had taken place here. Then the inquisitor had held all the cards. Now that was not the case.
She spared a thought for Syn's son, Engelier Fulgenzio. He took after his namesake in every possible way. Gix had been there when Engelier had died, knew what the Wager's captain had meant to them and the crew. There was no sense in making him a potential hostage to the inquisitor. He had objected, of course, but he had obeyed. He had his father's courage as well and the crew all loved him.
The door slid open. The armoured bulk of Jolan Gix strode into the room. Syn and two Gamblers took up the rear. If their presence disturbed him, Gix gave no sign.
He hadn't seemed to have changed much. The armour was new yes and the weapons he carried were different, but it was the same Jolan Gix. Age had not seemed to have touched him, except that his scar had faded. It made sense with the rejuv he had access to, but it was still unsettling. Uschi was keenly aware of the few grey strands that had started to show in her dark hair. "Inquisitor Gix," she said, "we meet again."
"Yes indeed," replied the inquisitor. "Thank you for rendering assistance to my people and myself in our time of need. I will see that you are rewarded for your efforts on our behalf."
"It was the least we could do as loyal Imperial citizens." The expression on Synnove's face did not indicate agreement, but fortunately she was behind the inquisitor.
"My assistance with the Charter bore fruit?" he asked politely as if he hadn't slammed Synnove up against the bulkhead and threatened to torture her to death in front of Uschi's eyes.
"Yes, it lead to a favorable resolution." She regarded him with cold eyes. Gix's affability was a mask, of course. She knew that it could vanish in seconds, but this was different. He had become harder, as she had once told Severa. She had twisted that emotional knife because it had been on of the few tools she had at the moment and it had almost backfired, but that hadn't made her words less true.
"What kind of compensation were you going to offer, inquisitor?"
"Whatever ever is the going rate for the rescue and recovery of high ranking Imperial servants from a dangerous region, perhaps with a sweetener on top." Which was damn high. The warrior's cry for vengeance was being put up against the trader's desire for profit and the good of the ship. Gix was putting a hand on the scales. Well, she had always known he was clever. "I don't think Synn here much likes our company and I imagine much of your crew share her opinion of us. I believe it would be advantageous to assign us out of the way rooms for ourselves and our gear."
He was already assuming victory. Well, he had played it well enough. If things had been different, he might have made a good trader. But if things had been different, Engelier would still be alive and his son would still have a father. "I agree," she said. The trader won and really, she should have. Gix hadn't killed Engelier, hadn't killed any of her crew, and had brought her profit and was doing so again. She remembered the way Severa Valin had spoken his name and knew that in many ways they were alike.
"I don't want any of your people to leave the area of your quarters without my expressed permission. I don't want any unnecessary and tragic incidents."
"Of course," Gix replied. "Anything else captain?"
"I think we have an understanding," she replied.
"I believe we do," he replied. He half turned to leave and then stopped. "Captain, do you remember what was said in the conversation you held with Severa?"
"Yes," she remembered clearly. She had pushed hard to the edge and had succeeded with that one. She remembered words regarding feelings, the burdens of necessity, and the primacy of loyalty to one's people.
"There is nothing but tragedy to be gained from our conflict. I have no desire to tear open this old wound."
The conflict had almost killed Engelier in his mother's womb. Almost. What revenge for that? What blood should be spilled on account of an incident that the mother emerged whole from and from which the child grew up strong? How many should die for an injury that had healed long ago? "I think that would be best," she replied.
Shrouded in robes, Jolan Gix walked down the halls of the Officio Inquisition. Privacy shrouds and void screens shielded the passers by from one another, creating clusters of anonymous supplicants. So in theory no one knew he was here but a select few.
That wasn't true, of course. There had been a leak somewhere, either from The Fool's Wager or some Inquisition functionary processing the compensation claim. Inquisitors and interrogators knew that Jolan Gix was on world with his tail between his legs. The once promising inquisitor, famous for his role in the arduous and daunting Adraxian Affair, had lost his ship. This topped off a series of months where he had lost a colleague, his force rod, his primary prey, and been hospitalized by an assassin. The murderous perpetrators behind the Mandrassi Harrowing continued to elude him and apparently continued to strike targets. Once Jolan Gix had seemed to be on the path to greatness. Now he seemed to be circling the drain.
Lord Carrell of the Ordo Hereticus admitted the younger man into his office. The elderly inquisitor was still vibrant and strong. He leaned back in his chair as Gix entered. There was a darkness around Jolan Gix, a palpable bleakness. Jolan bowed to his superior. "You gave instructions that I was to report to you immediately, my lord."
Carrell nodded. "It has been a rough few months, hasn't it?"
"Yes, although not without some successes."
"That is true Jolan, but not how it appears to others. Enemies escaping you, old friends slain, weapons given to you by your mentor taken as trophies. There are whispers about you Jolan, that you've lost your golden touch, and they are only going to get stronger with your ship wrecked and having to be rescued by rogue traders. If one looks at other participants in the Adraxian Affair, you're star is most definitely in eclipse."
Jolan would have loved to argue, but it was pointless. Carrell had already decided his fate. It was sealed before he had even stepped foot in this building. Pater Novum had covered himself with glory, Varian had engineered famous victories, and Jolan Gix had not. Successes were to be found, but of late even his victories seemed tainted. And, of course, the secret ones could not be counted. Jolan stood stiffly at attention. "What do you command?" he asked.
"There is a crusade taking place through the Segad Worlds. The forces of Walduv IV could use a combat hardened Inquisitor with experience behind his belt. A simple, straightforward assignment. A victory to get you back on track."
"I see," said Jolan and he did. A set assignment to one world that would lasts months or years. An assignment that one with Inquisition level access could discover and have plenty of time to alert his assassin and move said assassin to the world in time to take another shot at putting Jolan Gix into the grave. The heretic troops on world would be the least of his problems. "I will do my duty," Jolan answered.
"I know you will inquisitor. You are dismissed."
olan Gix reclined on the couch in his quarters and carefully read through the reports on the Segad Worlds. He and his retinue had secured berths on the Navy transport Diligence which was en route to to Walduv IV with three regiments of Imperial Guard troops in its holds. The quarters were in officer country, suites reserved for important passengers. They were spacious and comfortable without being luxurious, although Gix paid such details little attention.
The Segad Worlds had been a peripheral subsector with few worlds of any importance. The subsector had been named for the rogue trader who had charted them nearly five millenia ago and who had planted the first colonies of men upon them. The occasional Navy patrol and tithe ship was their only real contact with the rest of the Imperium, with the exception of the once-a-decade tour of a Black Ship. The worlds were mostly agricultural and possessed no great wealth and comparatively few people, so even the Ecclesiarchy had little interest in what happened there.
When communication and travel to the Segad Worlds had become hazardous because of a warp storm, the worlds and the Imperial Commanders had not been seriously inconvenienced. They were mostly self-reliant and developed industries to provide substitutes for the few products that used to travel their way by trade. On several worlds, minor deviations from the Imperial cult became stronger.
Over the space of three decades several Imperial Commanders, who had known little from the Imperium other than the demands for tithes and the harsh gaze of the Arbites, felt the last brakes on their powers erode and vanish. The priests were weaker. The Arbites aged and died and their numbers were not replenished. When the storm abated after thirty-nine years, they no longer felt like part of the Imperium.
It took two years for an expedition to resurvey the Segad Worlds began. The Dauntless class cruiser Sebastian Victorious was assigned the task. The ship vanished sometime in the early part of its survey. The increasing activity of ork raiders put the Segad Worlds on the back burner for another decade.
When the Navy finally got around to sending another expedition they sent the Gothic class cruiser Starhammer and the Dictator class cruiser Lord Juro. What they found were the system ships of the Star Guard that were enforcing the edicts of Protector Deraiden of Free Stars Confederation. After a hostile exchange of vox signals a vicious battle erupted and the Imperial cruisers crawled back towards Imperial Space.
Five years later a crusade was pronounced and two years after that it finally launched. It had been raging for two decades now, with the Imperium finally establishing a foothold on the industrialized world of Walduv IV. The enemy still held most of the planet and the Free Stars Confederation still possessed a formidable navy, but actual progress was being made.
He called up his orders on his data slate.
To: Inquisitor Jolan Gix, Ordo Hereticus
From: Lord Inquisitor Ignasius Carrel, Master of Ordo Hereticus in Candalus Subsector.
You are hereby ordered to the world of Walduv IV where you will offer assistance to forces of the Imperium fighting to bring this heretic held world back into the embrace of the God Emperor of Mankind. While eliminating enemy psi-assets and heretic resisters in conquered territory will comprise a large part of your mission, it is essential that you also search for any sign of chaotic or xenos influence.
May the Emperor protect and watch over you.
Lord Ignasius Carell
In his own hand.
P. S. Don't overdo it. If you discover anything big, call in reinforcements. I don't have enough inquisitors that I can afford to lose any of them in foolish blazes of glory.
It took seven weeks for the Diligence to cross the Immaterium and emerge at the fringes of the Walduv system. The warp currents were still unsettled in this region and the convoy was twice blown off course. It was a great relief to all aboard when they finally emerged into real space and were able to gaze upon the stark beauty of the empty void and distant stars.
Gix had used the time well. Every scrap of data on Walduv had been hunted down and every flimsy rumour had been extracted from the Diligence's crew. Strategies and tactics had been discussed and those who's command of Cryptia was uncertain had their proficiency advanced. D'eckor and Keys trained the others in what to do in a firefight, in case of ambush or misfortune. The assassin and the veteran did not relent until they were sure that even the meek and mild Iriza was an asset in a gun battle and that all of their charges could take care of themselves.
Jolan Gix spent much of the time in an unused cargo hold. He had salvaged his grimoires as well as Gard's technical manuals from his poor dead ship. He practiced demanding mental exercises designed to enhance his skill, concentration, and strength. On Walduv IV the lines were clear cut and already drawn. Many of his most familiar strategies would be useless. So be it. He was more than capable of digging the enemy out of his holes where he hid and putting him to the torch.
Not that Gix was worried about the heretics. They were the easy part. The odds were excellent the assassin would also know of Gix's assignment and if he wasn't already waiting for him on Walduv IV, would be there soon. An assassin with the backing of an Inquisitor, undoubtedly equipped with several different identities that would allow him to move easily through Imperial lines and have access to all sorts of information and locations. An assassin that had already almost killed him who would make the most of his next opportunity.
The cargo ship shuddered as its landing struts touched ferrocrete. Steam hissed from vents as hydraulics went to work and cargo bay doors groaned open and ramps were extended. All along the five kilometer long landing field Imperial ships were touching down and billowing clouds of steam rose into the air. Reinforcements had arrived.
Munitorium personnel conferred with staff officer's attaches and space port foremen regarding the off loading of supplies and munitions. Commissar cadets marched among the ships as the Imperial Guard began to disembark by platoon. There were almost two score transports present and the cadets clutched data slates with orders from above concerning the disposition of the arriving units. Soon they were shouting with captains and lieutenants, trying to make themselves heard over the din, who were in turn left puzzled and trying to figure out how in the Emperor's name they were going to get all their men and equipment to the proper place.
Commissar Shala Nofield stood rigidly at attention, doing her best to appear as nothing more than a marble statue adorned with a commissar's elaborate stormcoat. Her skin was only a few tones pinker than stark white and her frost-white hair was cut short enough that it was barely noticeable even without her cap. "Which transport was he supposed to be on?" she growled.
Lieutenant Mikal Camron consulted the data slate for a fourth, useless time. "Seven B commissar." Which they had checked. Twice. She was in a bad mood and Camron knew that doing anything to exacerbate her bad temper would be not help him make captain. He was a cheerful man who was as dark as the commissar was pale. Taking part in a victorious campaign was a great way to get on the promotions list and even better if one could be useful to one's superiors without a prolonged presence on the front line.
He scanned the crowds surging down ramps and marching to and fro for any sign of the inquisitor. He watched a company of infantry slowly give way to a column of Leman Russes. Damn, if someone didn't start doing a better job of traffic control some poor bastards where going to get squished. He scanned the crowd. "Commissar!" he said pointing.
Nofield followed Camron's hand. The unmistakable profile of a figure wearing power armour was moving their way. A small crowd was travelling along with it as it moved behind a platoon and then under a ramp. When they emerged Nofield had a better look at them.
The armour was night black and embellished with gold inquisitional rosettes. A lanky, dark skinned, tech adept with mechadendrites and some kind of exotic weapon slung over his shoulder accompanied him. A huge soldier wearing carapace armour was by his side, an aquilla tattoo prominently displayed on his forehead. A small robed woman and tall, handsome golden skinned woman wearing utility coveralls completed the group.
Nofield couldn't help but keep staring at the woman. He dress was plain but there was something about her. Those matchless eyes and that perfect skin. Something . . . . . the commissar blinked for a moment and approached the inquisitor. Now was not the time for such thoughts. She saluted. "I am Commissar Shala Nofield. I have been assigned to assist you by order of General Garst Hivkel."
"Very good commissar," came the reply from the helmet vox. "These others?"
"A squad from the 127th Strellan Dragoons. Lieutenant Mikal Camron, Intelligence."
"You have done a good job of anticipating my needs," replied Jolan. He turned to Mikal. The officer was about the same size and build of the commissar, which was to say athletic looking and about average male height on most worlds. "Where is the commissar's file."
Mikal blinked and then tapped his data slate. "Here," he said handing it over.
"Inquisitor," she began. "Is there something . . . ." Her voice trailed off. Hethor D'eckor's hand was on his gun but, which she now recognized as a bolt pistol.
"I have reason to examine who and what you claim to be commissar. Such paranoia is unfortunate, but necessary in this case. If you intend to last in my service, you will need to practice it constantly."
"Your will, inquisitor."
Gix turned. "Gard?"
"Confirmed with my data inquisitor, all but the most recent entries which aren't present on my data base."
"As to be expected," replied Gix. "Alright commissar, present your men to me. Your vigilance will be essential to our survival. There is an assassin who will be on world shortly if he hasn't arrived already. He has access to considerable material and intelligence resources. His mission is to kill me. You are to proceed from the assumption that everything is compromised until proven otherwise. Am I understood?"
"Yes," she said. "Sir, if I may ask, how do you intend to function in such an environment."
"Watch and learn commissar. The assassin isn't the only one with resources and I will deploy mine to the fullest."
Superb writing Cynical Cat. I hope you will continue this tale. Some fine examples of intra-Inquisition 'politics'.
Pericula in mora
Danger in delay
I concur with Decessor's statement. Excellent material here, with very insightful plots and intrigues in mind. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your story. I wish the best upon you and your writing career, and look forward to seeing more of your work!
"Live long, so that others may prosper in your endeavours…. or so that you can piss on your enemies graves."
Additional DH & RT material can be found on the link provided below. Most of the material was provided by others players, while some of it was created/edited by me. GM discretion is advised.
The troop transport rolled to a halt. Gix's retinue began to unbuckle themselves. A ranker from the Dragoons popped the hatch and the rest of the squad filed out. Nofield followed her men, her eyes unreadable behind flash goggles. Camron and D'eckor trailed her out. "Clear as far as I can tell," said Gard.
"Good enough," said Gix as he lumbered out of the transport. They were just west of the city core, in what used to the district inhabited by high officials, minor nobles, and senior officers in the so-called Free Stars Confederation. The building was less ugly than most, a slate grey box that was decorated with scroll work and the heraldry of some of the greater families. A wrought iron fence, concrete barrier pylons, and road blacks all acted to restrict access.
The men guarding the road blocks were armoured in mottled grey carapace plates marked with the aquila and a insignia of crossed sword and rifle over an orange sun. Laspistols were holstered at their belts, several of them were manning heavy bolter or missile launcher batteries, and all the infantry were armed with bolters. Extravagant armament for Imperial Guardsmen. "Who are they?" Gix asked.
"Jivannians," Camron replied. "They're hell on the line, but a lot of them have been pulled off the line to act as security. Their auspexes pick up most bombs before they get close and with their weapons and armour they chew guerrillas to pieces."
"I've heard of them," replied Jolan. Jivanne was a backwater system with poor warp access. Coms were often lost and warp travel time was often twice as long as even ordinary routes. Jivanne could have gone the same way as Segald, but about two millenia, under somewhat murky circumstances that indicated either Arbites or Inquisition approval, the Levian dynasty took over. Not content to rule an outback planet, they began an aggressive campaign of development and industrialization. Although Jivanne would never be a sector or subsector capital or match the production of a hive world, the Levians would not let that stop them. Its members could now be found in positions of authority among the adeptus and the military. The leading edge of this political campaign were the crack regiments of the Imperial Guard that Jivanne provided.
The Jivannians checked his rosette and then let him pass. They entered through the ceramite double doors and into the lobby. The interior was a stark contrast to the outside. Polished brass fixtures, warm yellow lighting, thick carpets, and bright white walls surrounded them. Lifts operated by chrome bodied servitors wearing satin gowns carried them to the penthouse.
Four servitors and half a dozen junior officers were operating cogitator and vox systems under the supervision of a tech priest. Two more Jevannians guarded the door. Several officers in uniforms bedecked with medals stood at the edge of the room, junior officers attending them like courtiers to a king.
General Garst Hivkel was shorter than Melina and plump. His navy blue uniform was embellished with scarlet piping and his chest with covered with medals. His face was smooth, untouched by wounds or age. He looked soft, until you saw his eyes. "Inquisitor Gix, I was not expecting you. Your request for troops to be sent to Golesh immediately lead us to believe you would be heading there."
"Which was my intention," Gix replied. There was a pause as he took off his helmet. "I have reason to believe an assassin has been sent hear to dispatch me. He has in the past had access to the Imperial data net and various access codes and identities, courtesy of his heretic co-conspirators. Misdirection will have to be a tool of mine until he is hunted down and dispatched."
"Unfortunate," said Hivkel blandly. "It sounds as if that will interfere with your duties."
"Not if I succeed. I will need a certain amount of cooperation from your people to put my plan into action."
"Of course, inquisitor. We are loyal servants of the Emperor and can use all the help we can get."
Zacharus smiled blandly at the Jivannian at the check point. The soldier took his card and stuck it into his reader. It hummed for a moment, beeped, and spat out his card. Perfect. Smooth as glass. "Go on through," said the soldier. Zacharus nodded and drove past.
Gix had decided to play hard to get and hide his movements. There was only so much Gix could do in that regard. There were problems an inquisitor had to address eventually. Zacharus had two options. Either he could jump around trying to find Gix or he could set up near a place that Gix would eventually have to deal with.
Setting up ahead of time risked getting found by whatever sweeper team Gix set up or being noticed by the local troopers as being unusual. That was a problem, which was why Zacharus was bringing in his gear in first, disguised as a simple delivery. Gix would pop around from one guerrilla hot spot to psychic on the front line as he chose and Zacharus would probably miss him every time or not have enough time to set up. So instead he would wait, not on top of a site, but close to it. Far enough to be outside the radius of a sweep team, but close enough to notice when it came by. And then he would slide in, set up, pop the inquisitor, trigger the distraction, and slip out. Perfect. Easy.
"This is your idea of counter terrorism, captain?" Gix asked.
"Yes, sir," the captain said puzzled. He was young, blond, and pale wearing a iridium glazed cuirass under his greatcoat. "It works. These people won't be hiding terrorists anymore."
Gix looked down into the pits. There were four of them and they were all filled with bodies, from babies to the elderly. Perhaps one hundred people per pit. "They won't be doing anything anymore. Including telling me about these terrorists or providing useful labour for the Imperium."
"Uhh, yes sir." The captain was clearly having trouble with the point.
"These people don't have any reason to love the so-called Free Stars Confederacy," Gix continued, "in fact it has gone out of its way to beat them down. It takes their sons for the army and their daughters to serve their high officials. It steals most of the fruits of their labour and leaves them the dregs. It houses them in buildings slightly better than shacks. If they are in contact with guerrillas, their secrets can be coaxed or torn out of them. If they are alive to tell them. Do you understand captain?"
"Uh, yes sir. Save some alive for interrogation. I understand inquisitor. My apologies. Uh, what now?"
"Burn the bodies and gather your things."
"Are we going somewhere?"
"You're going to the front line. I don't need clods like you making my job harder and you could use some seasoning under fire."
The man went paler. His jaw dropped and then he shut it, saluted, and turned around stiffly.
"Boss," said Hethor, "the way the Free Stars runs their people into the ground, they shouldn't have this kind of guerrilla support."
"I agree," replied Jolan. "They don't. They've left supply caches behind and sent in special units, whatever their designation happens to be."
"Why? They won't slow us or hurt us that bad. Got to be somethin' else," said Hethor.
"Yes, there's a missing piece to this puzzle, but I need more information. We need to start catching live heretics."
"Everything you asked for," said Gard Vikal. The table in front of him was covered in neat lines of devices ranging from the size of a fly to a human head. "The Mechanicus were not overly cooperative and not all of them were in our inventory. I had to have some of these manufactured from the plans in the data base."
Keys nodded. "But everything is here?"
"Yes," said the scholar. Several of his mechadendrites twitched. "I don't see what the use of all this gear is. My surveyors have superior performance."
"You don't see the need because you are a scholar and I am an assassin. These aren't going to be used with your surveyors. You're going to be with Gix, sending your toys ahead to sniff out bombs and ambushes. And I have full confidence in that you'll do your job well. I won't be there."
"I would think given your expertise in assassination that your presence would be invaluable," replied Gard.
"It is," said the assassin. "I know the problems he will have hunting. Gix is constantly on the move. There are a number of possible sites of interests he can set up at, but he doesn't know Gix will be there. Your auspexes make an on site ambush or booby trap likely to fail. So his best bet is to covertly monitor a probable location from afar and then move in and set up after Gix moves in."
"He has additional problems. He may have security clearances, but no one local to vouch for him that he is actually attached to a field police company or whatever ident papers he will be traveling under. That will get him detained and then dead if things go wrong at any checkpoint. That further narrows down his options."
"I see. You will be hunting him. That's what these are for." He gestured to one half of the table. "You'll be looking for his monitoring equipment. "
"Exactly," replied the assassin. "Killing with a gun, poison, or a blade is the last part of the assassin's skill set. It comes in at the end. The game and the hunt are where the real skill lies."
"I think the Eversor shrine disagrees with you."
"Callidus and Vindicare would agree with me," he said as he began to pack the instruments. "The first rule is that an assassin is measured by success or failure." He shrugged. "Brute strength and shock attack are valid tactics. All rules have their exceptions, as long as the kill is achieved."
Mud fountained into the air, accompanied by a thundering roar. "Get me some counter battery fire!" Nathan Comstock screamed into the vox. "The vulking heretics are hammering the hell out us!" It was the third time he had called and each time he had eaten static.
"Captain!" Yelled a voice behind him. He turned to see the doughy face of Commissar Petrason. He seemed almost lost in his great coat. "Enemy armour is advancing!"
Vulk. He turned and looked. Something was coming out of the woods about two klicks away. He pulled up his field glasses and peered through them. Wolfhounds. At least a dozen and more coming out. A medium tank produced in endless numbers by the Free Stars Confederation. Protector Deraiden hadn't kept the design to himself. It was cropping up in other subsectors.
It was a relatively fast promethium fueled tank. They were armed with a turret mounted autocannon, coaxial heavy stubber, and a hull mounted stubber. Four man crew, autoloaders, moderately thick slopped composite armour, basic surveyors, and com equipment completed the package. Variants included grenade launchers and an all too common destroyer variant with a dual lascannons in the turret.
The armour boys worried about those destroyers, as the autocannon, despite the fact that the Wolfhound packed a hard hitting version, was capable of penetrating the front armour of a Leman Russ only at close range under optimal conditions. Too bad the tank boys weren't here to do something about it, because the standard model's autocannon and heavy stubber combination was a much better choice for chewing up his infantry.
The shallow trenches would give them some protection from enemy fire, but once those tanks punched through they were dead meat. More dirt fountained into the sky and he felt his bones vibrate. Manning the heavy weapons meant being more exposed to the enemy shells.
"Get on the guns!" he yelled. "Commissar!"
"Your will!" Petrason shouted back. Petrason began to rally the men. "For the love of the Emperor stand fast!" He brandished his laspistol. "I stand ready to absolve all weaklings of their sins!"
Then his vox operator was slapping him on the back. "Fire Central says volley en route!" Where in the Emperor's name had that come from and why had the static vanished? Never mind. Right now he wasn't too inclined to look a gift horse in the mouth.
The lead tanks were closing fast, despite the somewhat uneven ground. A little more than a kilometer and a half away. Given the terrain, they would be here in two minutes, give or take. The heavy bark of an autocannon opened up on his left. Two missile contrails streaked from his right. One hit dirt. The other scored a a direct hit on the glacis plate. Fire blew from the hatches. The brilliant beam of a lascannon scored the mud.
Las beams flashed overhead, far too many to be his men. Missile contrails joined them. Three more enemy tanks were burning. He turned to Ventathian heavy weapons teams setting up in the woods behind him. They had a little cover at least, although the woods had taken a beating in the shelling. The Ventathian's heavy armour was at least good protection from shrapnel.
The shelling was slacking off. A lot. Either the counter battery fire was working or the enemy was trying to avoid shelling their own men or a combination of the two. More vehicles were still coming forward. Emperor take him, this was looking more and more like a big push.
He turned to his vox operator. "Can we still get through?"
"Yes!' he shouted back.
"Tell regiment it looks like a major push!" Richardson began working on it
A big bastard in carapace armour came toward him up the side of the trench. He was wrapped in a heat shimmer. It took Comstock a moment to recognize it. Force field. The man wasn't wearing any insignia. High up. Had to be.
"Tell your men to hold the line," he big man shouted. He wore a bolt pistol on his waste and had a hellgun at the ready. "Reinforcements are on their way. And be ready for witch work."
"Vulks?" he said using the local idiom of Cerosa. "They're bringing psykers?" he asked, switching out of slang.
"That's why coms have been raped," the man replied. "Steady your boys. We're on the job. He gestured out of the trenched as mud splattered him from an exploding autocannon shell. "They're about to get a taste of hell. The Inquisition is here and is taking charge."
"Gard, Iriza, stay back. Keep a line open. I'll need your auspexes and witchsight to get an over view of the battle. Feed me." Jolan didn't wait for a response and began heading through the last fringe of the trees. Two of Gard's orb drones trailed behind him. He surveyed the field of battle and consulted the data being dumped into his autosenses.
The Imperial lines were a quick and dirty trench system with some weapon emplacements at the edge of what had been a forest before it started getting shelled. The Free Stars had decided to make this, the trailing northern edge of the Imperial lines, the place to attack. A horde of armour was crossing no man's land and pouring fire into the trench lines. Some of the Imperials were shooting back.
The Ventathians he had snagged from the rear were setting up their heavy weapons teams. He hadn't had much time. His readings of the Emperor's Tarot had indicated something big was up, but it wasn't until the psychic jamming that he had known where. He had been able to trace it here and headed to reinforce with the only scratch force he could muster. More reinforcements were en route, but whether or not there would be anything left to reinforce when they arrived was an open question.
The Ventathians began to fire. Tanks were burning now, but only a few. The closest were half a klick from the trench lines where Hethor had gone to stiffen the defenderss spines. Jolan wasn't sure that had been a good idea, but it was done. Now it was time to draw out the sorcerers.
He focused his will on one of the lead tanks. The warp responded to him, eagerly. In his mind eye he could see dull red fire blossom inside the hull, searing the flesh of the crew where they sat. Hatches popped open and flame jetted out as the tank lost speed. Blackened arms tried to pull seared torsos out of the Warp made hell before the ammunition or the fuel went. Jolan was no longer paying attention. He was focusing his mind on the next tank.
The lead tank took a direct hit from a lascannon. Molten metal and hot gas sprayed in both directions in an incandescent flash. "Keep it up!" Hethor roared. It was going to get really nasty soon. Why in the holy name of Him on Earth had he volunteered to go and do this rapin' job?
He slung his hellgun over his back. He liked it. A high powered, rapid firing archeotech model that hit like a max powered Tripex and fired faster the Necromundia carbine; but it wasn't an anti-tank weapon. He unslung the other weapon, another piece of archeotech. He didn't buy the triple the range bilge that Vonrilyental spouted off. He had tested it. Double the range was about right. He raised the melta to his shoulder.
The tank spearhead was getting fucking close now and behind them were the infantry carriers. The armour was beginning to take it in the teeth. A bunch of them were burning without being hit. Jolan. Nice having an Inquisitor provide fire support. Shells were beginning to fall around their rear elements. Even the arty boys played nice when an inquisitor was doin' the askin'.
Lead tank was close now. There was a buzz in Hethor's ear. He ignored it. It got louder. Some of the men were shaking there heads. Sorcery. He held steady. "Snap the fuck out of it!" he yelled. They didn't pay attention. An autocannon shells blew one of them to pieces the two guys next to him were knocked to the trench floor.
"Get up and fight!" roared the commissar. There was the crack of a pistol shot and one of the shock cases dropped in the muck. "Fight for the Emperor!" the commissar roared. They staggered back to their positions like men in a dream.
What had been the lead tank was now coasting to a stop in the mud. A moment later there was a dull thud and then a whump as ammo cooked off. It's turret shot in the air. Hethor brought his melta to bear on the nearest tank. It was too damn close. Where in the Emperor's Name is our fuckin' armour? he though as he squeezed the trigger.
There was the briefest of pauses before an eye searing beam of intense heat struck the tank dead on. Superheated gas blasted away from the impact point, leaving a meter diameter hole and a raging inferno inside. Hethor aimed at another tanks when an explosion spilled him on to the trench floor.
He was dazed for a moment. The world was shaking and thunder was all around him. His limbs felt like jelly. Autocannon round must have hit right next to him. Refractor field must have deflected enough energy that he was merely stunned instead of killed. He shakily got to his feet. The buzzing was louder now. Half the men in the trench were trembling like leaves. The rest were fighting. The short, doughy commissar was gouging out his eyes with his bare hands. Rape me with a chainsword, Hethor thought. He had received special conditioning and had blocks implanted to give him some resistance to witch work and he still felt it. It was whispering to him, despite the psi-blocker Gard had worked onto the back of his gorget. All that added up to is that the witch couldn't take him out with a blanket effect.
A tank was bearing down on him, maybe ten meters away. In his peripheral vision he could see infantry pouring from carriers, ready to storm the trenches. There was a lot of trashed armour on the fields, but a lot had made it through. The tank's hull mounted stubber fired on him. A round creased his jaw, one smacked into his visor, and another two struck his helmet full on. Hethor fell back into the mud as the tanks rolled forward and the Confed infantry stormed the trenches.
Hethor shook his head. It hurt. Their was buzzing in his ear and his cheek was wet, probably with his own blood. Didn't know how long he had been out. Fuck it. Got to get back on his feet. Limbs like lead. Get up and fight or die like a dog in the mud. He heaved up.
There was fighting all around him. Heretic armour was all over the trench and APCs were disgorging a fucking horde of troopers. Heavy weapons fire was still smashing into them from behind the trenches and there were still boys in the trenches fighting. About ten meters south of him was a promethium fueled blaze filling the trench. And there was a mother rapin' heretic Wolfhound about four fuckin' meters from him.
It was firing its turret guns into the trees at the Ventathians. The hull mounted stubber wasn't doing shit, probably jammed or damaged. Hethor raised his melta and fired. The blast of intense heat struck the bottom of the tank, in the vicinity of the driver's chair. Glowing gas blasted back as the fighting compartment filled with the breath of hell. Hethor ducked down. The tank exploded.
This was serious fucked up. He must be getting cocky otherwise he would have never have volunteered for this shit. Free Stars boys were moving through into the trenches and towards his own tender ass while the only really close pieces of heretic armour were burning. Hethor slung the melta and whipped out the assault las.
He unleashed a stream of bolts against three advancing troopers wearing light grey flak jackets. The high energy beams burned through armour and flash-boiled flesh. Goblets of flesh and bloody mist exploded from their chests. They dropped. Hethor shifted aim and gunned down two men exiting from an APC. Hethor was grinning like a maniac. This sweet thing hit almost as hard as a bolter. He picked off another pair of troopers near a burning tank.
No targets for a moment. Hethor ducked down and dropped the power packs out, switching two more high capacity models in. The bitch was dependable, but high maintenance. Standard Guard issue power packs wouldn't last long the way she drank down energy and only the best internal components would do. She was a long way away from being manufactured for anybody but Stormtroopers, but she was a sweet killing machine.
Fighting in the trench north of him. Hethor raised the las. It was connected to the targeting eyepieces in his helmet, but the bullets had knocked those off line until a tech adept or Gard placated the spirit. Not a problem. He would just have to do it the old fashion way.
It looked like a couple dozen Free Stars boys were swarming a half dozen or so loyalists. The Guardsmen were fighting hard, but numbers were against them. He gazed down the sights and fired single shots. Two grey boys toppled back.
The Guard wasn't going to last much longer. Hethor tossed two frag grenades towards the far end of the the melee, dropped the las, and pulled out the melta. Sorry boys, but you're already dead. The grenades went off with loud cracks. Men fell, screaming and bleeding. Bullets and las beams flew back. A few hit. The refractor field leeched away their power and they failed to do more than mar his armour.
Hethor fired, filling the trench with the wind of the inferno. And then he fired again and then again. The sides of the trench burst as mud became steam and scorched earth. Flesh became ash, plastic withered and metal ran like water. Only half visible through the shroud of steam, a twisted pile of blackened, twisted refuse remained where men had once fought. Dark shapes moved towards him. Las beams sliced trough the air and he could hear the chatter of autoguns. He dropped the empty melta and picked up the las.
He fired two long bursts into the fog. He tagged at least one Free Stars boy. Bullets zinged around him. Two las beams burned small holes in his breastplate. Time to bug the fuck out. Going over the mother-rapin' top was a shitty idea, but at least he wasn't likely to get taken out by a stray stubber round.
He heard a loud roar above him and behind him. He had heard it once and it wasn't a sound one forgot. Big ass shotguns going full auto. Ripper guns. A woman's voice, strong and pitched to carry. "Ogryns! The Emperor wants you kill those heretics and protect that soldier!"
Eight Ogryns trampled past Hethor's trench, their ripper guns making a hellacious noise as they open poured fire into the northern part of the trench. Shala Nofield dropped down beside him. She was wearing a ceramite breastplate and her leather stormcoat over her flak armour, with a Necromundia pattern carbine in her hand, her pistol holstered by her side, and a chainsword scabbarded on her belt. A flash visor hid her eyes and her hair was tucked under her peaked death's head cap. "Get moving soldier. Reinforcements have arrived. Where's the enemy psykers?"
"Don't know," replied Hethor. "Didn't see the fuckers," he continued as he changed fuel canisters on the melta. "They hit the trench fuckin' hard. Lot of the boys lost it all of a sudden. How the fuck didn't you get cut down going over the top like that?"
"Chimeras just a bit back. Only a short dash and the Orgryn's attracted the fire. Nice kit they've got. Ceramite plates over flak, armour piercing flechette's in the ripper guns. They didn't notice the enemy shooting them much. And Leman Russes have joined the party."
"Nice friends you brought. I take back half the things I've said about commissars. Where's the boss?"
"Gix? I don't know."
"Well, there's one way to help him."
"How?" she asked.
"Drop the hammer on the bad guys so hard we draw the psykers' attention."
The pale woman went even paler. "Emperor above."
"What's a matter commissar? Afraid of a little witch work?" Hethor laughed. "The stories I could tell you. Let's go kill some more heretics."
Two figures in heavy robes approached. "Inquisitor?" the tallest one said tentatively. Jolan turned slightly. He could sense the psychic pall the heretic psykers were throwing over the trenches. Somewhere in that psychic static where the originators of it. Right in the middle of battlefield hell.
The two sanctioned psykers fidgeted. "Can you shield yourselves from enemy fire?" he asked.
The taller one replied. "I can. Rigel can't."
"Shield both of you. Advance. Attack the miasma. Defend yourself against psychic counter attack. Take cover in the trenches."
The shorter man grew paler. They were much alike. Heavy robes with Imperial Guard and Schola Psykanna symbols on them over standard issue flak armour. Shaven heads, pale, watery eye. "Y-yes lord," said the taller.
"Wait ten seconds and then advance," said Jolan. He turned to the Ventathian squads around him. "Guard my flanks and cover me. Don't worry about the psykers. Kill every heretic in front of you." The soldiers nodded in acknowledgment. They had been through the meat grinder more than once and knew that they were going to lose friends and comrades. They were resigned to the coming fight and knew that their best hope lay in victory. "Let's go."
He started past the tree line. The Ventathians were pouring supporting fire into the line and the armour had finally arrived from the reserves. A half dozen Leman Russes were firing on the heretic armour. Imperials were still fighting back in the trenches. He shouldn't have let Hethor go into that muck.
Autocannon rounds burst around him as a Wolfhound raked his path of advance. Mud fountained around him and two rounds struck him in a brilliant flash of light. The Ventathians went to ground as autocannon and stubber rounds raked the area. The impacts merely caused Jolan to stagger backward, but his armour was merely scarred and not breached.
Fire came to his call, filling the the interior with of Wolfhound with crimson flames. Hatches popped open and flames jetted out as the crewmen struggled to leave the blazing steel coffin. Gix ignored the screams of the dying. His real prey was ahead. He signaled his picked squads to continue advancing.
Hethor placed a long burst into the chest of the charging shock trooper. The carapace plate failed under the hellgun's barrage and he toppled. Nofield put a burst into another one and did nothing but chew up the armour. "Throne!" she screamed in frustration. Hethor blew out his legs with a burst and the trooper fell into the muck.
"Don't shoot them in the Emperor-damned breastplate! It'll take too damn long to chew through the ceramite!" In a lower tone of voice. "Dumb ass commissars. Figures that they wouldn't know shit about shooting the enemy." He mowed down another heretic trooper. "Jolan, get your ass over here now."
The ogryns were taking fire, but the big abhumans were shrugging it off. Their most vulnerable points were protected by armour plates and flak covered the rest. They just shrugged off minor injuries. The flechette bursts from their ripper guns tore apart heretic troopers.
One of the Wolfhounds swiveled its turret towards the ogryns and blew off his right arm and tore apart the right side of his chest with an autocannon volley. The abhuman collapsed. The turret moved another four degrees. An ogryn was decapitated.
"Rape this," Hethor muttered. "Here," he said tossing the assault gun to Nofield. "This has some real killing power." He unslung the melta and drew down on the tank.
The battlefield was full of smoke and wrecked vehicles. It took a moment to zero in on the one targeting the ogryns. There. Twenty-odd meters away. Hethor pointed and fired.
A beam of white hot heat struck the tank. A cataclysmic explosion shot the turret into the air. "Burn and die." He drew his bolt pistol, blew apart the thigh of Free Stars trooper, and spun back towards the trench and the amputee fell screaming to the muck.
The ogryns were on their knees. Two were screaming and one was clawing out his eyes. Nofield was in a daze, as if she was trapped in a dream and was trying to fight her way out. "Well, they've got to be right on fuckin' top of us," Hethor said to no one in particular.
Jolan walked into the miasma. He felt the pressure on his mind, trying to make him shut down. Capitulate. Sleep. Give up. He answered with a psychic blast that shifted the warp currents around him and tore apart the web of heretic sorcery.
He could see the sorcerer now. How badly the Free Stars were corrupted by chaos was an open question, but the denigration of the Imperial Cult, the naked ambition, power lust, and desperation that must be rampant in their society assuredly made them more vulnerable. The sorcerer had certainly succumbed.
The sorcerer and his retinue were walking past the burning remnant of a heretic tank. He was wrapped in rune-marked black robes. A conical helmet and battle-mask obscured his features. A gilded breastplate covered his chest. He was haloed by dancing runes of pink and cyan fire. Five acolytes in similar robes surrounded their master. They were armed with lasguns and were firing into the trenches, but the power they yielded to their master was of far greater import.
Jolan brought forth another firestorm. Tongues of scarlet flame swirled around the coven and were then snuffed out by a cold wind. The sorcerer's head turned towards him. Bolts of black fire shot out towards him.
Jolan countered with a warding gesture and the doom bolts shattered like glass on impact. Tear down his wards and strike at his mind Gix telepathically ordered the sanctioned psykers. It was probably a death sentence for them, but it wasn't like a lot of men weren't dying here.
He focused the power of the warp. One of the coven was consumed in a flare of green fire. A telekinetic blast pulped the rib cage of another acolyte and he fell. Las bolts came his way. The Ventathian's weapons seemed to bounce off an invisible wall.
The sorcerer retaliated with darts of golden flame. There was a crash of thunder as Gix swept them away. Sweat was beading on his brow. He was pushing his attacks through and parrying the other's strikes, but it was costing him dearly. He twisted his fist and extended his will. Another acolyte fell, his heart exploded within his chest.
The brilliant white flare of a melta beam blew another acolyte to ash. "Finish the job boss," came Hethor's voice in his ear. A withering blast of warp lightning arced toward him. He tried to deflect it. Failed. His conversion field emitted a blinding flash and his world shook. His head swam for a moment, but he was still on his feet.
A brilliant beam of blue-white flame shot from his hand and struck the sorcerer. It burned through his weakened wards and out through the back of his chest. The chaos sorcerer stood for a moment. Then his left hand dropped. Then his head. Then his whole body came apart as if it was made of child's blocks.
A soundless blast of pink and blue flame erupted from the sorcerer's body. Nearby tanks were flipped and the blackened bones of heretic troops were tossed to the winds. For a moment shocked peace reigned on the ghastly scene. Then Imperial troops were freed from their stupor and heretics began to recover from the shock.
"Reinforce and hold," ordered Gix over the command frequency. He was already targeting another tank. The heretics had shot their bolt. Time to finish them off.
Smoke rose from burning tanks. The enemy had abandoned the field, leaving much material behind. Ventathians were swarming over the vehicles, finishing the wounded and attaching recovery hooks to others. Those that could be resanctified into Imperial service by the Tech Priests would find their way into the arsenal of the Imperial Guard.
Jolan unlocked his helmet and immediately regretted it. The smell of burning promethium and scorched flesh assaulted his nostrils. He shook his head and looked around. The taller sanctioned psyker was still standing, his eyes glazed over. The other was sprawled limp on the ground. His witchsight told him that he was dead with a single glance. His soul was gone. Gix waved his hand in front of the living psyker's face. He blinked and turned toward him. "You with me?'
"Yes lord," the psyker responded.
"Good. Your name?'
"You're with me now Batista. You understand?"
"Yes lord. I'm part of the Inquisition now."
"Correct." Motion at the corner of his eye attracted Jolan's attention. Hethor was helping Nofield up wrecked ladder out of the trench. A smile touched Jolan's lips. Hethor's usual impulse in these situations was a boot to the chest when the commissar reached the lip followed by half a power pack's worth of las bolts to the torso while the commissar lay sprawled. Not that he had actually done that. At least not more than once.
Hethor hauled Shala up and nodded to him. "I guess we won."
"That we did. Thanks for the assist."
"Well, if you're dead then who's goin' to set the tankers on fire?"
"Good point," replied Jolan smiling slightly more broadly. "How the melta work?"
"She's a sweet hurtin' machine," said Hethor with a smile. "Not quite as flash as she's claimed to be, but close enough. She can lay a hurtin' and has a range better than a spitball."
Nofield drew herself erect. "Sir."
"See to it that Batista here is transferred to ne. He'll be joining us. We're leaving, at least for a while."
"What about the prisoners?"
"We killed the interesting ones. The Guard can have the rest. If they encounter something unusual, I'm sure they'll let us know."
"Yes lord," Nofield responded. She began to talk on her vox. Jolan's attention shifted as he moved away from the trench. He had received a communique from Keys. It simply said "ready."
The process of elimination had whittled down the target list. There were a few places that Jolan had to check out that were suitable for the assassin. Only a few avenues of approach, more than a few spots to hide. He had set up his monitoring equipment, as he had done the previous two times. Then he had sent in the bait.
It had worked beautifully. The astropaths had tripped the psi-detectors, which had then sent their little signals and that had shown up on his instruments. Several more auxpexes had been activated, but the assassin had not moved from his lair. Perfect. Now the hunt began in earnest.
Zacharus's eyes shot open. The loud beeping in his earphones indicated his psi detector had been tripped. He activated the pict screens. A psyker and a strong one at that. He activated the other auspexes. Three Chimeras were rolling through the deserted town. A wave of cyber skulls preceded them. He smiled.
It was as he predicted. Gix had shown up and his minions were checking the ground in front of him. The desecrated church demanded Inquisition attention and Gix would eventually have to show up and cleanse it. Imperial Guardsmen were disembarking and forming a rough perimeter. Anyone hiding in the ruins would have been spotted by the cyber skulls. But Zacharus wasn't there.
He raised the roof of his hiding spot and crawled up onto the ground. The underground bolt hole he had fashioned had allowed him to be nearby and yet invisible. He glided forward, his camouline sneak suit blending in to match the environment. The technosorcery talismans that were part of the suit would mean that a bioscanner could only detect him at close range.
Gix hadn't brought enough soldiers to form an effective perimeter out to a distance that would include Zacharus's destination. He had planned for that too. A large retinue would be slower and easier to find and that would give Zacharus other hunting options. Like tracking him down and killing him.
The assassin slipped into a gutted building at the edge of town. His auspexes were located elsewhere, in case they were found they wouldn't lead his enemies to his shooting location. He climbed the battered, filth smeared steps up to the fourth floor and headed to the north east corner.
The two windows provided a perfect view of the church and its approaches. Now came the next problem. How to kill an psyker-inquisitor travelling in an armoured vehicle who was protected by power armour and a conversion field while maintaining his distance Zacharus had considered and discarded a number of exotic weapons before settling on his chosen instrument.
He turned back to the adjacent room. The weapon had been too bulky to sneak around with, so he had hid it on site. He drew a power knife and begun slicing through the wall. He had stashed it and replastered the wall.
The chunk of wall fell away to reveal two black bags. Zacharus took the smaller, moved it to the corner room, and opened it. With the swift and smooth motions of long familiarity he assembled the tripod. He then went back for the other bag and pulled out a Javinne pattern infantry lascannon. He walked over to the tripod and set the cannon on its base and began to adjust the attachments.
A sound no louder than the paw fall of a feline caught his attention. He spun, his hand falling to the las pistol at his belt Too slow. There was a flash of violet-white light and Zacharus was a charred ruin from the waist up. His corpse toppled to the floor.
Danell Keys stepped around the room gingerly. Once he knew that this place was the spot, it had been all prep work. Gard's toys had allowed him to alter Zacharus's auspexes so they didn't record his presence. Then it was just sending in the sanctioned psyker in Gix's armour to trigger the trap and using his own bioscanners to track the assassin when he showed his head. There were only a few places he could go and they were all covered. Then it had simply been a matter of quietly walking up and shooting him.
He took down the lascannon. He activated his vox and spoke in Cryptia. "Knife seeking Infernas. The Archer the way of all flesh."
"Infernas, the heart soaring. Knife covered in glory."
"Knife sheathed, its purpose fulfilled."