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Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

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Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Squiggle » Sat Sep 13, 2014 9:59 am

Morning. For the sake of completeness, I am reposting this as I can't for the life of me remember where I posted it before. I thought it was pretty good when I first wrote it in, er, 2010... Love to hear your feedback.

As an aside, you can read the previous 3 Finch tales following the links in the handy Librarium, should you be intrigued as to how she got here. Link Here

Enjoy. I am hoping to write the fifth story this winter. Should be fun.

The Governor’s Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead


I felt like I’d been there before.

It was cold; my breath clouded the air. I looked up towards the curved ceiling of the chapel, down at the stone floor and gazed unseeing at delicate tapestries; anywhere but at her. Single strands of winter sunlight cut through the stained glass windows and cast green and red images on the opposite wall.

Evgene Worhle shifted behind me and his boots squeaked against the polished floor tiles. I cleared my throat and cast around for the right words to say. I coughed and adjusted my gaze by fractional increments until finally I was looking at her.

They had cleaned her up, hidden her wounds and now she lay in peace, her hands clasped on her breast and cradling her rosette. Her white skin glowed, ethereal in the pale light and her lips were a bruised purple. Her black hair was arranged carefully across the white velvet pillow and the delicate lace of her black bodice was trimmed with glittering gold thread. Even in death, she was magnificent. I cleared my throat.

‘I hate you,’ I said. ‘You cost me everything, became everything I had and now you’ve ducked out of even that responsibility.’ A grim smile parted my lips. I reached out, placed the gloved knuckles of my left hand gently against her cheek. ‘But it was a good death.’

I turned around and caught Worhle’s eye.

‘I don’t do dead people,’ I said and stalked past him, out through the archway and into the snow. I had to get away from that place, wreathed as it now was in agonising memories.

Outside the chapel the wind had got up. Thick black clouds scudded across the sky, wearing at the fading sunlight. Fresh snowfall beckoned. I fumbled in a pocket of my black, waxed parka, fingers shaking as I struggled to slide a lho stick from the case. I sheltered it from the wind with my hands and lit it with my battered, promethium-fuelled lighter.

‘What will you do now, Finch?’ Worhle asked. He had followed me outside and was wrinkling his nose at the acrid smoke wafting from the ‘stick. I glanced at him and fought to control my irritation. He was a tall, arrogant man, sporting a thin, dark moustache and slick black hair. I didn’t like him, but at Zalkamar’s bequest I’d tolerated him and now we were united in our grief.

‘Find out who killed her,’ I replied. ‘And seek vengeance.’

‘But you weren’t responsible,’ he said. He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his trench coat and hunched his shoulders against the cold.

I drew on the lho stick until it was a glowing ember between my fingertips and cast it away into the snow. Fresh flakes were beginning to fall now, glistening on Worhle’s hair and coat.

‘Am I not?’ I replied, sudden anger cracking my voice. I started walking towards the waiting Rhino, craving its warmth, needing to be away from this place. ‘If we aren’t responsible for our failings then who is?’

‘Inquisitor Zalkamar died bravely,’ he replied. ‘We were ambushed. We all took wounds. We could have done no more.’

Bravely?’ I was incredulous, shouting now. ‘Zalkamar is dead. We were ambushed, Worhle, ambushed. We thucked up. We are all responsible and I am going to make up for my failure.’

We reached the rhino. I banged hard on the rear ramp. After a couple of seconds, it lowered with the groan of near-frozen hydraulics. Saris ducked out of the compartment, her face wrapped in a scarf and her eyes covered by goggles. She was wearing full carapace armour and a Cadian-pattern helmet, both in a nifty winter urban camouflage pattern of pink and grey smears. She was holding my much modified autogun. I reached out for it, casually checked the chamber and racked the slide. Worhle didn’t react but then it wasn’t unusual behaviour; outside of its bulbous hive cities, Limbyr was untamed and these snowy wastes were home to vicious, often starving predators.

Worhle was still standing near the bottom of the ramp. He wasn’t coming with us. He had chosen to spend the night here, holding a candlelit vigil and praying for Zalkamar’s soul. I admired his devotion, but I knew her soul was safe. No daemon from the warp could get between Lady Eliza Zalkamar and her rightful place with the Emperor. A lifetime of personal sacrifice and ruthless servitude to the highest cause had seen to that.

‘So what will you do?’ He asked again.

‘Vengeance is not in my nature, but now it’s all I’ve got.’ I levelled the autogun, stared not unkindly, into Worhle’s widening eyes and shot him.

Twice. To make sure.

He stumbled backwards, grasping at the holes punched through his coat. The snow behind him was splattered with his blood. He dropped to one knee, breath squeaking in his throat as his respiration system failed.

I shot him again. He collapsed onto his back. I followed Saris into the welcoming warmth of the rhino. The ramp groaned shut behind me. I left Worhle’s body out in the thickening blizzard.

I sat down on the hard metal bench, carefully set the autogun in the rack above my head and let out a breath.

‘She would have approved, Finch.’ Saris said, her blue eyes and squat features now revealed from behind scarf and goggles.

‘Vengeance? She would have classed it as atonement. It may take the rest of my life,’ I said, ‘but I will do it.’ I ran one hand through the metal tresses of my coppery bionic hair, and the strands curled and crackled with static.

‘Worhle was their insider?’ she asked.

‘Worhle was their pawn. Worhle was a moron. Now he’s dead, we’ll have a real fight on our hands.’

‘Good,’ Saris said, ‘because that last fight, when Zalkamar was killed and we all nearly died; that wasn’t a real fight.’

I looked at her, but her lips were split in a wry smile. I reached into my inside pocket, withdrew a flask of cheap amasec and raised it.

‘To Eliza Zalkamar,’ I said, ‘the damndest bitch I ever knew.’
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Re: Finch IV - The Emperor's Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Squiggle » Tue Sep 16, 2014 8:26 am

‘So what happened with the tarot reader?’ Saris asked. I scowled but she just grinned and readied her hellgun.

We were standing in a narrow corridor on the second floor of a hab block, deep within the wretched slums of Hive Statyon, Limbyr’s rapidly deteriorating capital. It smelt of piss. Frigid air blew in through a broken window, bringing with it a scattering of snowflakes. Our combat boots had left sticky footprints in the rime that had formed a greasy patina across the cracked floor tiles. I studied our destination. The door had no numerals, just a scratched, low gothic scrawl that was barely visible in the faltering light provided by the overhead lumen strips. There was a significant dent in the plasteel just above the handle.

I reached out and gave the door a gentle push with my fingertips. It swung open, silent on greased hinges. It was dark inside. The stink of putrefying flesh wafted out to greet us and I pulled my scarf up over my mouth and nose, unclipped a lumen stick from my belt and drew my boltpistol.

The narrow room was a mess. Rotten food stuffs littered the floor. The only occupant was slumped over the room’s only furniture – a battered chair and a desk - and he was sporting an impressive head wound. As I stepped closer a cloud of flies rose up buzzing angrily. A close range discharge had removed most of the back and top of his skull, leaving a charred mass of burnt flesh and a smear of sticky grey matter up the nearest wall.

His eyes were still open, staring glassily at nothing. Blood had formed a sticky puddle on the desk alongside a thick, high capacity data slate. He was naked from the waist up and maggots writhed in his green, rotting flesh. Rank fluid had gathered on the floor beneath his chair and the muscles in his tattooed arms were beginning to sag as the skin decayed. I studied them for a moment. This was definitely our man; Worhle’s contact within the shady organisation responsible for Zalkamar’s death, the shady organisation we were now hunting.

‘He’s dead,’ Saris said.

I looked up from my position, crouched by the body.

‘Thank you. I hadn’t noticed. I’d add it appears to have been a single, close range shot from a las weapon. Judging by his dress, I’d say he was caught unaware. He’s been dead for a week at least, but the Verispex teams will be able to do better than that.’

I stood, walked quickly to the window and slammed one fist against the frame so hard it rattled. I hit it again for good measure and swore, loudly. In the distance the spotlights of Albrecht Space Dock gleamed through the thick, freezing air.

‘We’re too late. Much too late.’

‘Aye,’ Saris moved to the window alongside me and peered out at the fresh blizzard now pelting the plexiglass with soggy smears. ‘However, while we wait for the verispex, you can finish your story about the tarot reader.’

‘He read wrong.’ I said. I placed one gloved hand flat against the cool glass surface and fought for calm. ‘He said I would meet my sister again,’ I continued. ‘My sister is dead. I buried her. She didn’t die well. I’m not going to see her again, not even if…’ I stopped. I still didn’t know what I believed would happen.

‘So what happened?’

‘I killed him and torched his tent,’ I said.

‘You’d have thought he’d have seen it coming,’ Saris said.

‘I guess he wasn’t paying attention.’

‘But he must have been a sanctioned psyker?’

I scowled. ‘Why else do you think I ended up working for Zalkamar again? Before the tarot-reader incident, I was as I am now, a Captain in the Rigantan Cavalry. I soon became a Captain of limited freedom, especially when it emerged that I had cremated the Governor’s favourite soothsayer.’

‘And then Zalkamar came along.’

‘Aye, then Zalkamar came along. I didn’t have much choice, really.’

‘No,’ she said. ‘No you didn’t.’

I shrugged and lit a lho stick.

‘The important question,’ Saris said, gesturing with a thumb at the body slumped behind us, ‘is why they killed him.’ She pushed open the window, admitting a blast of frigid but fresh air.

I rubbed gloved fingers over my eyes and forehead, massaging the flesh.

‘I’m glad you came along,’ I said. ‘With your razor-sharp mind we’ll get to the bottom of this in no time,’

Saris leaned out of the window and peered across the white rooftops beyond. It had been snowing all night and drifts had formed in the narrow alleyways of the hab complex. She turned back to me, her eyes sparkling with a smile that was hidden beneath her scarf.

‘There’s no need to get angry,’ she said.

‘I’m not angry, Saris,’ I said. I sighed, stared vacantly at the window, watched snow turn to water and run in trickles down the glass.

‘What is it?’ she asked. Saris was a short woman, with thick muscles in her arms and shoulders and big sultry blue eyes set incongruously in a lantern jawed face.

‘I’m not angry, but I should be,’ I said. ‘Zalkamar was a,’ and I baulked at the word, ‘friend. She and I had a history.’ A smile ghosted over my lips. ‘If anyone was going to kill her, it should have been me.’

Saris smiled broadly. ‘So that’s why you’ve had a face like the arse end of a chimera APC for the past three weeks? This whole vengeance “mission” is not because you feel strongly about Zalkamar’s death, it’s because someone robbed you of the satisfaction of being the one to pull the trigger.’

‘That’s what I like about you,’ I said, reaching out for her face with one hand, ‘you really understand my thucked up mind.’ A brief flash of light in the street below grabbed my attention. My cupped hand became a pointing finger. I let out a strangled yelp and took Saris down in a clumsy tackle as the window exploded into a million shards of scything glass.

More shots followed, an angry hissing salvo that shredded the window frame and wall and sent lumps of plaster and dust tumbling down from the ceiling into the sweeping silence that followed. Snow blew in and sparkled amidst the glittering shards of glass.

‘They know we’re here,’ Saris said, deadpan.

Flat on the floor, I rolled away from the window, crunching through broken glass. My battered helmet – unstrapped of course – had come off. I jammed it down over my hair and activated my vox mic.

‘Poul, you receiving?’

‘Go ahead, Captain.’ He was a good man. He’d come with me from Perseus. He sounded calm and capable over the vox.

‘We are under fire, repeat under fire. Require immediate support.’

‘What’s the mark?’

I scooped the auspex from my belt and glared at it for a couple of seconds.

‘Hostiles are believed to be less than two hundred metres west of mark alpha five two nine.’

‘Received, Captain. Two birds inbound. ETA two minutes.’

‘Thank you, Poul.’ I glanced over at Saris. ‘You get all that.’

She wasn’t listening, just staring over my shoulder, back to where the corpse was, an expression of fascinated horror on her face.

‘What’s the matter,’ I said, starting to twist around. ‘You’ve seen rotten bodies before, right?’ The words died in my throat and my stomach clenched hard.

The dead guardsman was upright, swaying as he took faltering steps to face us. Brown fluid dribbled from his ears. I looked into his eyes. They glowed with yellowish light. He opened his mouth, revealing a set of surprisingly healthy teeth and hawked up a gobbet of black phlegm from behind his festering tongue. His putrid breath washed over me, far worse than the original stink of his corpse.

‘Emperor’s blood,’ Saris swore. There was a high pitched whine as she adjusted her hellgun to its highest setting.

‘I thought you said he was dead,’ I said, raising my autogun.

‘He was dead,’ she retorted. ‘Now shoot it!’

I shot it. The slug tore a ragged hole through its shoulder. It staggered but didn’t fall. The wound filled quickly with pus and sealed over. It took a step closer and towered over me. I fired again, ripping away a chunk of its cheek and its right eye. It didn’t react and reached for me with jagged, yellow fingernails. Saris opened up with a blaze of hellgun shots that punched it back across the room, each blast leaving a charred crater in its flesh. It pitched clumsily over the table and lay still, smoke and the smell of burnt flesh drifting towards us.

‘We’re inbound,’ Poul chirped in my vox. I could hear the roar of the valkryies’ turbine engines through the ruined window.

‘Engaging target.’ The roar of multiple rocket pods drowned out the engines. I stood up, spared a glance at where violent explosions were blossoming in the street below and looked back at the corpse. Saris was covering it with her hellgun, a wary expression on her face.

‘Think it’s going to get up again?’ she said.

‘I don’t know,’ I replied. ‘But either way, we aren’t going to get any information out of him.’ I grabbed the data slate from the desk. ‘Maybe this will hold some answers. Come on.’ I pulled open the door and slid out in the hallway. The building was silent. Saris joined me on the threshold.

‘I don’t trust it,’ she said. ‘It’s not right.’

I glanced back into the room and stifled a curse. ‘You’re right not to trust it,’ I said. ‘It’s trying to get up.’ And it was. One of Saris’s shots had destroyed its right knee and the corpse was trying to stand but kept slumping sideways. I unclipped an orange phosphorous flare from my vest and armed it. I rolled it up to one of the corpse’s foetid feet. I pushed Saris out, slammed the door behind us and walked quickly across the hallway to the top of the stairwell. There was a muffled crump and an angry hissing from behind us.

I looked back. The door burst open, slammed into the wall and fell in two pieces. What appeared in the ruined doorway was bulging, rancid and a single crooked horn had sprouted from its forehead above a cyclopean, yellow, weeping eye. Its skin was black, cracked and oozed thick, white puss. In its clawed, three fingered hands it held a huge rusty cleaver. It started towards us. I squeezed the trigger and pumped bullets into it as it lunged forward.

‘Back,’ Saris yelled, bundling into me. We stumbled together, her arm looped awkwardly around my shoulders. I took a step back, reached for the rail and missed. The world spun as I pinwheeled down the stairs, Saris tumbling after me. I crashed into a landing, lost my helmet again and looked up in time to see the dead thing let out a roar and brandish its cleaver at me from the top of the stairs. I threw my autogun to one side. It leapt from the top step. I drew my boltpistol in one fluid movement, grasped it firmly in both hands and shot the corpse in the eye. The bolt shell blew its head off and showered me and Saris with sticky gore. I wiped my face with the back of my hand and stood up gingerly, my right hip now registering the impact of at least one of the steps I’d bounced off.

Saris got to her feet beside me. We both looked at the headless body now rapidly losing its form and starting to trickle down the stairs towards us.

‘We’re too old for this,’ I said, rubbing my hip through my fatigues and wincing.

‘Aye,’ she replied. She handed me my helmet, now sporting a fresh scratch. ‘You should really strap it on, you know.’

‘You know what that is, don’t you,’ I said, finally convinced it wasn’t going to get up and retrieving my autogun.

‘I’ve got a good idea,’ she said.

‘It’s a thucking daemon, Saris,’ I said. ‘A thucking daemon. What is a thucking daemon doing in a rundown hab block in Limbyr Prime?’

I activated my vox. ‘This is Finch. Transmit a message to Oscar Delta One Three on my authority. Tell them that Green Eyes needs a quarantine team to hab block Alpha nine. We’ve got some clearing up to do.’

‘Copy that, Finch.’

‘Green Eyes?’ Saris asked.

‘It was my Ordo Hereticus call-sign,’ I said, blowing smoke into the cool, stale air.

I sighed, lit a lho stick and glowered down at the steaming, stinking ichor that had just reached my boots.

‘Kossoff would actually have been useful, right about now.’

‘I know, bastard Malleus Inquisitor that he is,’ she said. ‘Who do you think is going to turn up?’

‘I have no idea.’

I couldn’t have been more surprised.
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Re: Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby kurisawa » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:19 am

Hi Squiggle. I know it's good form to make constructive criticisms and suggestions for improvement, but I have none of that for you. It's great. Love your style and pace. The story gripped me from the first surprising autogun shot and drew me in from there. Looking forward to the next part.

[Well... maybe the otherworldly nature of the plaguebearer could have been expanded upon - an aura or disturbance around it perhaps - I think they are too often described as 'just' smelly zombies. Maybe not. That does seem to be how they appear in many BL works after all.]

Thanks for sharing.


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My short stories:
1. Extraction = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=2127
2. Intoxication = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=2188
3. Desecration = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=2294
4. Indoctrination = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3172

My novel:
BLACK SHIELDS: INCOGNITUS = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1901
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Re: Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Squiggle » Thu Oct 09, 2014 11:58 am

Hi Kurisawa -thanks for your kind words. I am glad you are enjoying it!

More follows

**

‘So go on,’ she said, ‘tell me exactly what he said. We were sat at the bottom of the staircase, relegated to security by the more-qualified support I’d called in.

I rounded on her. ‘Saris, are you mentally deficient?’

She looked puzzled; an elaborate but convincing mime involving crossed eyes and a trickle of drool from the corner of her mouth.

‘You’ve seen what is upstairs sifting through that puddle of warp-gloop, right?’

She nodded.

‘We were just attacked by a walking corpse, which turned out to be a daemon and then my request for assistance brought us the most unexpected help.’

‘They can hear you, ya know, even from here,’ she interrupted. She leant in. ‘I heard they can hear a gnat parp at eighty paces.’

‘I...’ I stared at her for a moment, whilst my brain flailed with the idea. ‘Right, well that’s not important. The point I’m trying to get across is that whilst all this goes on, you are mainly concerned with my involvement with an unreliable fortune teller?’

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘don’t be so uptight, it’s a good story. You might as well give in because I’m going to get it out of you. Besides, there’s nothing else going on. What did he look like?’

I glared at her until she started grinning. I gave up, took a swig of warm water from my canteen and sighed. ‘Ok,’ I said, ‘since there’s nothing else going on. He was a big, fat man. He took a long time to burn.’

The staircase shuddered under heavy footfalls. I got up just in time. The man was huge. To describe him as a man, however, wasn’t entirely accurate. I managed a hasty salute. Prognosticator Jibral Irkusk of the Silver Skulls space marine chapter raised a massive gauntlet in acknowledgement. He had a slight smile on his lips and the movement creased his heavily tattooed skin.

His burnished, blue-grey adamantium breastplate was easily the width of both Saris and I. His vast, pitted shoulder guards nearly reached the staircase walls. A sword hung from his belt. I doubt I could have even lifted it. Even his head was massive, piercing grey eyes looking out from beneath a vast mane of black hair that hung in a tangled, matted mess around his face. He was easily two feet taller than me.

I looked up at him and tried not to let the base, instinctive fear show on my face. I was still unsure of what had brought such august company to respond to my plaintive cry for assistance. I’d been expecting nothing more than an Ordo Malleus clean up and sterilisation team. I’d been expecting the entire block to have been placed into lockdown and brutally cleansed with fire and incense. I was wrong. My instinctive scepticism told me that the appearance of the Silver Skulls couldn’t be attributed to anything as random as coincidence, but I hadn’t summoned up the courage to ask.

‘Do you know what that was?’ he said, without preamble and with a frankness of speech I hadn’t been expecting.

‘Not exactly,’ I replied.

He reached out towards the boltpistol holstered at my right hip.

‘May I?’

‘Please,’ I said, passing it to him.

He weighed it for a second in his hand, then removed the clip and peered into the chamber.

‘Curious,’ he said. He reassembled the weapon and handed it back to me. ‘That was a warp daemon,’ he said. ‘It was very strong. You shouldn’t have been able to kill it.’

‘They say faith can banish the foulest of foes,’ Saris said, passion colouring her cheeks. Irkusk eyed her for a second.

‘They do,’ he replied. ‘Although from my own extensive experience, I’d recommend using an actual weapon.’

‘So what-’

‘Finch!’

I spun around; Poul was marching towards me, his uniform marked with smears of dirty snow and splatters of blood. His bearded face was set in a deep frown. He had a comforting arm draped loosely around the shoulders of his second in command, Trix. Her left arm was in a rough sling and her brow was twisted with pain.

‘What happened?’

Poul said nothing, but reached into a pouch with one and held up what looked from a distance like a polished shard of glass. He held it out to me. I took it and stared at it.

‘What is it?’

‘I don’t know,’ Poul replied. ‘But the medic dug fifteen out of Trix’s arm. Armour was useless. It’s a wonder we didn’t lose anybody.’

I became aware of Irkusk looming over me. He reached out and picked up the shard with a dexterity belied by the thick fingers of his gauntlet.

‘Shuriken,’ he said, frowning. ‘Eldar shuriken. There are xenos here with us.’

‘Casualties?’ I asked.

‘No, but we didn’t inflict any either. They just melted away after laying down fire. We suffered lots of flesh wounds but nothing that won’t heal. Those shuriken leave nice tidy lacerations.’

‘The shuriken rifle is a close range weapon,’ Irkusk interjected. ‘The Eldar are supremely accurate. What armour were your soldiers wearing?’

‘Flak vests and helmets.’

‘Vulnerable at the neck and under the arms, but I imagine you suffered no injuries in those places?’

Poul frowned. ‘No, we didn’t.’

Irkusk turned to me and his intense eyes burned into mine. ‘The xenos were not trying to kill you, merely attract your attention. They want you to chase them.’

‘Where are they going?’

Irkusk tapped the side of his skull with one thick forefinger.

‘I will be able to help you with that.’ He picked out a data slate. ‘I’ve carried out a psychic augury of the city. Any psychic activity leaves traces and the scars of a daemonic incursion remain in place for days afterwards.’ He pointed at a series of concentric rings superimposed over a map of the city. ‘This is not what I see, but the easiest way to represent it. And this shows quite clearly that the source of whatever foul ritual was responsible for the re-animated corpse emanated from this building.’ And his pointing finger was directly towards the Adeptus Administratum Quarter and their multi-storied headquarters building.
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Re: Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Insomniac » Fri Oct 10, 2014 6:06 am

A short but excellent addition. Nothing to really critique, but I like where this is heading with the Eldar.
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Re: Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Squiggle » Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:01 am

Thanks Insomniac - more to follow!

~~


‘Why did you burn him?’

‘Why did I what?’ I stopped walking and looked at her.

‘Why did you burn him?’ Saris said again.

We were at the head of a column of marching soldiers, a mix of my Rigantan Cavalry and Saris’s storm troopers, winding our way through the labyrinthine corridors of the Adeptus Administratum. It was in lockdown; ancient sirens had been goaded into life, and red warning beacons flashed above every doorway. The hunched, cloaked figures of scribes, curators and bureaucrats scurried towards pre-assigned evacuation points.

It wasn’t my preferred strategy, but due to the nature of the threat, Irkusk and his marines were taking point, which meant we were going in heavy and hard. The Administratum had not been happy, but even a Primary Arch Overseer with glistening neural augmetics and six million staff doesn’t argue with an eight foot space marine.

‘Burn who?’ I said.

‘The tarot reader; who else have you been burning?’

I started walking again and Saris had to hurry to keep up. We were closing in on our objective. Irkusk and his team of marines were already in position, scouring the executive levels for any trace of a taint. We were the back up, securing the lower floors and exit points.

‘How are you still interested in that story?’

‘Because you won’t talk about it.’

‘It’s done now. Don’t you think we have more important things to deal with?’ We’d arrived at our allocated command point; the main intersection of the thoroughfares of floor eight hundred. The corridors here were the width of streets and each floor was easily five metres high. Huge ventilation ducts ran along the ceiling and massive fans forced the air into lazy circulation.

Poul and Trix started moving their squads into position. The stream of evacuating administratum workers was starting to thin but the corridor was still thick with bodies. Saris’s storm troopers forced the crowd apart to create the much needed room so they could set up the complicated psychic sensor array they had brought with them.

The briefing had been simple. Irkusk and his marines would scour the Administratum command levels for anyone with the slightest trace of psyker ability. Those individuals would likely be killed. Irkusk was confident he would be able to locate them.

Our job was harder – lacking a psyker of our own, we were using a converted auspex array to filter the crowds of workers in case our target eluded Irkusk. I was impressed with his humility.

I turned to face Saris. ‘This has got to stop,’ I said.

‘No. This is too important. You’re not a murderer, Finch. You’re a killer; you kill for a reason. You murdered that tarot reader in cold blood because he saw something in the warp that you didn’t like. And now you’re out here, knee deep in daemons and xenos and the Astartes and I don’t know what you’re going to do next.’

‘I don’t-‘

‘Contact, mark three seven seven alpha.’

‘Confirm the contact,’ I barked.

‘Contact confirmed. It’s moving fast, Captain.’ The storm troopers had finished setting up their equipment and now a glowing red blip was moving rapidly through the corridors towards the central stairwell.

‘Alert Prognosticator Irkusk. Keep me updated with its position. Come on Saris, we haven’t much time.’ I took another look at the auspex readout, orientated myself and then started barging my way through the crowds, Saris at my shoulder.

They thinned rapidly as we moved away from the main corridors and soon I was able to break into a full run, homing in on the barked coordinates provided by the storm trooper manning the auspex. Our boots rang heavy on the exposed plasteel flooring. The ventilation fans in this sector had failed and dust hung thick in the air.

‘Target has stopped moving. I repeat target has stopped moving. You are less than five hundred metres away. Confirm current target location as sector ten, room seven one two.’

‘That’s received.’ I slowed to a fast walk, got my breathing back under control and made eye contact with Saris. Her face was flushed from the run and her eyes sparkled with excitement. I drew my boltpistol and loosened my knife in its sheath on my thigh.

‘You ready?’ I asked. Saris nodded and patted her hellgun affectionately.

‘My girl and I are standing by.’

‘You’re thucking weird.’

‘Thanks.’

Room seven one two was set back in a dirty alcove. Saris’s hellgun was already thrumming with power. I wasn’t taking any chances. I took a couple of steps back across the corridor, slipped sideways and levelled my pistol at the lock.

‘Contact has gone. Captain, we lost it.’

‘Confirm the last recorded position.’

‘It was in the room.’

‘We’re going in anyway,’ I said and blew the door off its hinges.

I ducked through the smoke wreathed doorway. It had been an office, once. Now it was a ruin. The desk had been snapped in two and flung to one side. An ancient cogitation device was shattered, spilling springs and delicate components across the blood slick, tiled floor. There were sprays of blood on the walls and the ceiling. Light was provided by a single, flickering glow globe, now hanging out of its cracked housing and mounting a swinging, strobe light vigil over the carnage.

The man was in pieces. His torso had been severed roughly across the belly and his legs and part of his pelvis were hanging from a smashed shelving unit. The rest of his torso was on the floor, his robes torn and blood-soaked and his exposed entrails flopping untidily out.

I couldn’t find his head.

I poked around the shattered room with the butt of my autogun looking for a trace of the dead man’s severed cranium until she appeared, standing behind me and cradling it in one blood soaked hand. In the other she held a dripping double-ended pole-arm with amber blades that shimmered in the low light.

An abhorrent xenos, she wore no helm and her screaming inhumanity was clear in the elongated curve of her cheek bones, the slant of her jaw and the ancient wisdom in her hypnotic, aquamarine eyes. She was mind-numbingly beautiful and wore a grey hazy cloak over a form fitting suit of dark green armour. A length of black cloth was tied around her right upper arm. She fixed me with an inscrutable gaze and when she spoke it was a sibilant whisper that sent tingles down my spine.

‘Your future was not misread,’ she said.
#


‘Xenos,’ Saris barked, bringing her hellgun up and round. The glow globe went out. Saris fired anyway, the red muzzle flashes lighting up the empty room. I turned around. The Eldar was standing in the open doorway. I stepped towards her, my head filled with fog. I was barely able to focus my eyes on her indistinct outline.

‘What did you say?’ I said, thickly.

‘The tarot-reader did not make an error. You may not want to hear the truth, but you will see your sister again.’

‘But her death, her soul-‘

‘She is waiting for you. I have foreseen it.’

‘Who are you?’ I’d followed her silent footsteps back into the corridor and gained a throbbing pain in the side of my head. Saris emitted a muffled curse behind me and fresh shots rang out. The vox chirped unheard words into my ear.

‘I am Fa’Arin’Te, the last farseer of Tur’Ta Meere, my broken craftworld. We are shattered, facing our end, but still we fight on.’

‘Why are you here?’

‘To eradicate this,’ she tossed the severed head towards me. I caught it clumsily, the blood sticky on my fingers.

I started to speak. She shook her head, slotted the polearm into a clasp on her back and gathered her cloak around her. She faded effortlessly out of my sight.

‘Finch, are you alright?’ I glanced up from the severed head I was still holding, to find Saris looking at me with concern written across her taut features.

‘Yes,’ I said. I grinned slackly, ‘I found his head.’

Saris looked down at the head I was still holding. ‘Yes, I can see that. Did you see that xenos woman?’

I nodded at her. The Eldar’s words came back to me as if from a dream. You will see you sister again. She is waiting for you. I bit my lip, met Saris’s gaze. ‘I might have a problem,’ I said and concentrating on blinking.
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Re: Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Insomniac » Thu Oct 16, 2014 1:32 am

The little section with Saris and her gun is a perfect example of why I dig your style. Little touches of characterization that flow into the story rather than become distractions or info-dumps. If that makes sense.
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Re: Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Squiggle » Thu Oct 16, 2014 5:39 pm

Glad you are enjoying it still. Kinda weird to be getting comments on something I wrote a good 4 years ago :)

I really need to write more!!

Anyway, the story continues...

##


Irkusk was a picture of scepticism. ‘I’ve dealt with the Eldar before,’ he rumbled, pacing the corridor outside the shattered office. ‘They deal in half truths, in lies and in subtle manipulation. This farseer has told us nothing.’

‘We don’t know that, Brother.’ The second marine was, to my mind, even more terrifying than Irkusk. Where Irkusk was the prognosticator, the seer, who scoured the strands of the warp for the telltale skeins of the future, Brother-Captain Chita was a brutal war lord. More massive even than Irkusk, his armour was pitted with age and scarred, gouged and blackened with use. A massive chainblade was strapped across his back and when he removed his helmet, his black hair stood up in a savage tribal crest. Purity seals rustled as he moved.

‘We don’t know what this Eldar wants from us, but thus far they have done nothing to harm us. They could have slaughtered the Rigantans down in the slums and this Farseer – begging your pardon, Finch – could easily have killed you and your storm trooper ally. Instead she has offered up the corpse of an unsanctioned, highly dangerous psyker, which our own augury linked directly the daemon in the slums.’

‘We still know nothing.’ Irkusk replied, his lip curling at the mention of the Eldar.

Chita sighed, ran one hand through his Mohawk and focused his clear brown eyes on his battle brother. ‘Then we must unearth more of this riddle. The Eldar are involved and they have not been delicate in guiding our hand. The xenos led us here and made sure we knew of their involvement. I’d wager plenty that she will have left a clue in this shattered office. Get in there and throw your bones, wizard.’

‘Throw my bones?’ Irkusk hissed, taking a step towards Chita. ‘Brother, I am not some cheap conjurer capable of divining the His will on a whim. I’d have you treat me and my art with more respect.’

Chita squared up to Irkusk, ‘And I’d have you stop whining and pay heed to the orders of your Captain, Brother.’

They glared at each other. I cowered, unsure of the outcome, convinced they would come to blows. Finally, after the tension had become almost unbearable, Irkusk let out a bark of harsh laughter. Chita’s face softened in response.

‘Very well, Captain,’ Irkusk said. He reached for a brown leather pouch that hung from his belt. ‘I will do as you ask and trust that the Emperor will guide us once more.’ He strode away towards the office. Chita glanced briefly at me and though I know it cannot be true, I’d swear he winked. Chita followed his seer. I lit a lho stick with shaking hands and looked down at the blood still smeared on my fingers. Saris patted me on the shoulder.

‘So you want to know about the tarot reader?’ I said.

She glanced at a chronometer strapped to her wrist. ‘I don’t think I’ve got time now, to be honest.’

‘You thucking bi-.’

‘I’m messing,’ she said, punching me lightly in the arm. ‘Have you got any amasec left?’

I scowled, but reached for the flask anyway. Finally I told her.

‘Poul, Trix and I were on shore leave after three years campaigning on Perseus Minor. They hit the amasec pretty hard.’

‘This was after you’d turned down my generous offer of rejoining the Ordos?’

‘After that, yes. Anyway, you’re distracting me.’ I reached for the flask. ‘I’m not a big drinker, so after they got stuck in I left. Poul and Trix get on it whenever they can and it gets messy, fast. I ended up walking alone through the city.’

‘This city? You were walking through Hive Statyon after you’d been drinking?’

I nodded and took a swig. ‘I’d been drinking but I wasn’t drunk and we weren’t in the slums. The barracks were on Imperial Avenue, where nobles, generals and the governor’s aides reside. My meandering route took me to the palatial square.’

‘Sounds fancy,’ Saris said, retrieving the flask and taking a swallow.

‘It wasn’t.’ I lit up another lho stick. ‘I just remember leaning against an empty stall. I was tired. Perseus Minor had been exhausting; three years digging genestealers out of the canyons hadn’t been easy. And my eyes focused on this tent at the top of the square.’

‘So you went in? You, went in, voluntarily, to a see a tarot reader?’

‘I did and he wasn’t cheap, neither. Maybe I was drunk.’ I shrugged, knocked ash off the end of the ‘stick against my boot heel. ‘So after a certain number of crowns had changed hands with the two henchman types at the front, I went into this little curtained off bay at the back of the tent and there he was.’

‘And he was fat, right?’

‘He was corpulent,’ I gestured with my hands, ‘he was gargantuan; he was a veritable behemoth amongst tarot readers. And he was ugly; he had a pug nose, sticking out ears and too much jewellery jammed onto his fat fingers.’

‘Sounds repulsive,’ Saris said. We were sat on the floor now, shoulder to shoulder, swapping the amasec flask back and forth. I’d run out of smokes. I pulled my helmet off and ran my hands through my hair. It crackled.

‘He was grotesque. I sat down at his table and he produced a deck of cards from the folds of his robe. He looked at me, his fat head on one side and then just started to deal them out, face down. He had a squint actually, while I remember.’

‘A squint?’

‘Yeah, a squint. One of his eyes was all screwed up with trying to focus on me.’

‘So your fortune teller was overweight, ugly and partially sighted?’

‘It was only a squint, Saris. It’s not like he had a glass eye or anything. Anyway do you want to hear the story or not?’

‘Ok, go on, go on.’

‘The atmosphere got tense. I’d swear the candles started to flicker and it got darker in that little tent. He passed his thick fingers over the cards a couple of times and started to hum.’

‘Was he in tune?’

‘Saris, I swear by the Emperor’s sacred enema bag I am going to-‘

‘I’m sorry,’ she held her hands up by way of an apology. I growled at her.

‘It was discordant humming. I think it was meant to be that way. Then he started to deal the cards again, this time face up, placing each card on top of a fellow. It looked like a random pattern. After doing this there were eight cards face up on the table. I looked up at the ‘reader and his eyes were glazed over and the colour had gone from his cheeks. He reached out and took one of my hands. He guided it until it was over one of the cards. I looked down at it.

‘There was a woman, facing away from us, she looked like a guardswoman from the kit she had on, with a lasgun across her back. I stared down at this card and the ‘reader asked me to pick it up. I was pretty sceptical, but I did it. I got a shock off of it; I’d swear blind I saw sparks flash between the card and my fingers. I held it up to get a proper look at it and nearly shat myself.’

‘What was on it?’ Saris was finally interested and was looking intently at me.

‘It was thucking Kris, Saris. Thucking Kris, in the guard’s gear. I went off; I mean I was angry automatically, like on instinct. I threw the card at him, got to my feet and had my pistol out. He was shouting at me, “It’s just a reading, it’s just a reading. It just means you will see her again.” I lost it, smashed the butt of my pistol into his fat head and knocked him off his chair. He sort of rolled around on the floor, all the while pissing blood out of his face. His guards rushed in. I shot one, the other grabbed me but I threw him over my hip and stabbed him in the eye.’

I took a breath, found I couldn’t meet Saris’s eye. ‘I got out my lighter, lit a lho stick and took a couple of puffs and then used it to set light to the tent. It went up like kindling. I went and sat outside and watched it burn until the Arbites arrived. They saw me sat there, saw my uniform and ignored me. Then a detective came over, looking all nonchalant in a grey trench coat. He asked me what had happened and I told him. They locked me up. Zalkamar turned up three days later. The rest you know. I’m not proud, Saris. I’m not in the least bit proud.’

She shrugged and grabbed my hand. ‘It was only a tarot reader. If he was stupid enough to give you a genuine reading, then he deserved what he got. I’d have burned him too.’

I looked at her face. She wouldn’t have burned him.

‘Make way.’ The shout was deafening. I was half on my feet before my brain managed to process the image. Chita was surging towards us, a scowl on his face. Hanging over his shoulder was Irkusk. His face was slack and pale. A thin trickle of drool hung from the corner of his mouth and his hair was lank and plastered to his brow.

I straightened, momentarily unmanned by Irkusk’s expression. Chita caught my gaze as he passed. ‘Captain, get your men ready.’ He barked, ‘We leave for Guttrit in four hours. We cannot delay any longer than that.’

‘The Prognosticator, is he-‘

‘You didn’t see this, Captain. This does not go any further. Do you understand?’

I nodded meekly and Chita was gone, carrying his comrade away. Already running towards our rendezvous point, I activated my vox and starting talking urgently to Poul.
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Re: Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Insomniac » Tue Nov 11, 2014 7:10 pm

Another solid addition. I like where this is going.
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Re: Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Squiggle » Tue Jun 20, 2017 8:09 pm

threadomancy! and because i have thoughts on a 5th installment...

##


Guttrit was a mere four days warp travel from Limbyr. I don’t like travelling in the warp. I vomit, my nose bleeds and I dream of death. I shan’t waste anymore words relaying the experience to you. After a hasty briefing, we were waiting in the hangar bay of the Silver Skulls strike cruiser, Varsavia’s Fangs. Such was the urgency, Chita had eschewed our usual transport in favour of the faster strike cruiser and so we had stuffed our Valkyries and weapons into the hangar bay until it was fit to burst. Now we were waiting for further orders.

‘I don’t want to die.’ It emerged from Trooper Saly’s mouth as an involuntary yelp. I was perched on an ammunition crate mere metres away and I saw him look around guiltily and with some confusion. It was as if his mind had rebelled and vomited up his fears, taking control of his mouth. Saly was trying to look nonchalant. He was no doubt praying that no-one had heard his unconscionable outburst, or at least, that those who had would see to ignore it as the ravings of a terrified soldier on the brink of his first combat drop.

None of us could have predicted what would happen next. Unfortunately Saly had a loud voice and it hadn’t been so much a yelp as a shout. I caught his eye – I was the Captain after all – and I glared at him. He looked down at the floor, shame-faced. I glimpsed Commissar Horat still staring fixedly at a data slate and let out a relieved sigh. Saly would be lashed later; he would be lashed to within an inch of his life if he survived. But he was a good shot and I needed him for the task we had ahead of us. I was going to let it lie, for the time being, anyway.

‘We are all of us going to die, Trooper,’ the speaker didn’t raise his voice – he didn’t have to – but it still carried, still boomed off the distant hangar walls and echoed back to us. I spun around, half rising from the crate. Prognosticator Irkusk strode across the hangar, his boots ringing against the deck plate. He appeared fully recovered from his ordeal on Limbyr. The men and women of my unit, brave though they were, shrunk back and opened a path directly to the now terrified Trooper Saly.

He stopped mere yards away and sneered down at Saly, his massive hands clenched firmly by his sides.

‘Are you scared, Trooper? Is your faith in the Emperor broken?’

Saly gawped back at him, rendered immobile by the god-like figure in front of him. Irkusk reached down and grabbed Saly by his flak vest. He hoisted him up until they were face to face and Saly’s boots were a clear metre off the floor. ‘Should I kill you? Kill you before your fear spreads like a canker among your fellows, kill you before your pathetic fear ruins our chance of victory?’

Saly looked back at him with eyes big as bolt shells. He was physically shaking and it was a wonder that he hadn’t voided his bowels yet. The entire hangar bay – the twenty five marines of the Silver Skulls detachment, the two hundred men and women of the 12th Cavalry and Saris’s forty-odd storm troopers – were staring at the unfolding scene. I’d had enough. I stood up, clambered onto the ammunition crate and raised my voice to a bellow.

‘That will do!’ I shouted.

Irkusk swung to face me, still holding the shaking Saly. ‘I haven’t finished yet, Captain.’

‘I don’t care.’ I replied. ‘Your behaviour is unacceptable and in direct contravention of Imperial regulations.’

‘Regulations?’ Irkusk growled. He dropped Saly and took three quick, thunderous steps until he was facing me. Even with the crate to my advantage, he was still the taller.

‘I am one hundred and fifteen years old,’ Irkusk began, ‘and I have fought in campaigns alongside guard regiments more times than I care to recall. I have never been treated with such disrespect.’

I fought down the abject terror now clenching at my stomach and summoned a smile in its place.

‘Well,’ I said, ‘you’ve never fought alongside the 12th Rigantan Cavalry before.’

Irkusk glowered at me for a moment and then his face split into a savage grin. He reached out and cuffed me on the shoulder with enough force to nearly knock me from my perch. My arm immediately started to throb.

‘Very well, Captain,’ he replied. ‘But you have raised the stakes now. The Silver Skulls will be expecting you to uphold your end of the bargain.’ He threw a lazy salute, which I returned, scarcely able to believe that I was walking away from the encounter, and utterly baffled as to what had made me confront the Prognosticator in the first place.

‘The Cavalry will not let you down,’ I said. Irkusk nodded and turned away. He glanced over at where Saly was struggling to light a lho stick with twitching fingers. Irkusk pointed at an elaborate passage of high gothic script painted on to his left shoulder guard.

‘Do you know what this means, Trooper?’ He asked. Saly shook his head. Irkusk continued. ‘It means I have certain gifts given to me by the Emperor. It means I am able to divine certain future events.’ He took a breath, flashed a smile. ‘It means I have some idea of how the battle will unfold. And it means that I know that you are not going to die tomorrow.’ He grinned again, glanced at me and then strode back to his battle brothers.

I watched him go, heart thudding against my ribcage. Wordlessly I reached out a hand and Poul filled it with the reassuring shape of an amasec flask. I took a swig, passed it back to him and then resumed my seat on the crate. I exchanged a glance with Saly, who was now talking excitedly to the other members of his squad and then extended my view to the rest of the 12th Cavalry. They were all up, animated and exuberant. It was the most positive they had been since the briefing prior to our imminent combat drop.

I glanced over at Irkusk, who had now assumed a meditative stance with his eyes closed. I studied him for a moment, his lined, scarred face, his gleaming blue plate and the shrunken heads that hung from his belt by lengths of cord. I studied him and then considered the effects of his intervention on my unit.

Clever bastard.
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Re: Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Wed Jun 21, 2017 7:42 pm

Right, I'll do this post-by-post, if I may. First post:

Now that was an intro that did grab me by the pendulous plumbs! You seem more at ease with Finch than with anything else I've read of yours; more at ease writing in the first person, too. Assured, involving, with an unexpected outcome - can't ask for much more, really. Good stuff.
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Re: Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Squiggle » Wed Jun 21, 2017 9:51 pm

Thanks Chun. As ever your feedback is appreciated :)
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Re: Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Mon Jul 10, 2017 8:56 pm

The second post continues to be enjoyable. Nice action sequence, though the change from struggling-to-walk corpse to cleaver-wielding -and quite ambulatory- deamon is a tad abrupt. Love the trademark Finch Sarcasm :D .
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Re: Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Squiggle » Fri Jul 21, 2017 10:41 am

glad you are enjoying :)
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Re: Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Mon Jul 31, 2017 7:22 pm

Third post:

His vast, pitted shoulder guards nearly reached the staircase walls. A sword hung from his belt. I doubt I could have even lifted it. Even his head was massive, piercing grey eyes looking out from beneath a vast mane of black hair that hung in a tangled, matted mess around his face.
Two many 'vast's. And I know everything is relative, but vast is really... vast, and I'm not sure it should be used to describe the things it does here.

Poul said nothing, but reached into a pouch with one and held up what looked from a distance like a polished shard of glass.
What is he reaching into the pouch with?

Otherwise a nice, easy read. I like the sound of this Space Marine, too - not stuck up his vast arse like most of them.
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Re: Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Squiggle » Mon Jul 31, 2017 9:47 pm

fair play on the vast and the repetition!! glad you are enjoying it though :)
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Re: Finch IV - The Governor's Favourite Tarot Reader is Dead

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Mon Aug 14, 2017 8:43 pm

And to the fourth:

She faded effortlessly out of my sight.

Why 'effortlessly'? There was nothing before to suggest she might find fading out of sight like that a strain, or that anybody else -assuming the capability- would.

Other than the above, and what I think is an errant hash, everything slipped down easily and enjoyably, like a nice chicken korma.
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