Obsoletus

Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim, dark future there is only war.

Obsoletus

Postby Revenant » Tue Oct 09, 2012 5:43 pm

Hey everyone, long time no post. I thought that it was about time to get another tale on up here. Hope you all enjoy, Rev.
Last edited by Revenant on Tue Oct 09, 2012 6:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Obsoletus (40K)

Postby Revenant » Tue Oct 09, 2012 5:46 pm

OBSOLETUS.

Prologue.


‘Help. Help me.’

She whispered out into the rain, her voice quivering as she fought to ignore the pain and chill of the cold night air.

‘P-please. I’m bleeding. Throne have mercy, I’m bleeding.’

She received no answer save for the staccato bark of distant gunfire.

Beyond this blackened shell the township burned. The blood of innocents ran freely through the broken streets, all because of her.

No, not her. The b-----ds didn’t want her, not really. They had come here to Qumast for him. They had come here to hunt the Count and they did not care who else they destroyed as long as they took his head.

She wanted to hate him for that, to despise him with all her heart but she could not. She loved him despite all that had happened to her. Because of him, everything and everyone else she had ever loved was gone now. She wept hot tears of grief as she remembered the scorn, the pure hatred in her mother’s eyes. Her own mother.

Jenya.

The voice chilled her to the bone. She stifled a sob, her hand shaking as she clamped it over her mouth.

Jenya….

The psyker. The inquisitor’s psyker. He was out there somewhere, hunting for her. She fought the urge to vomit and placed her other hand over the mound at her belly, willing the life within to remain silent, willing that one thing with all her heart.

She was strong, she had to be. Far stronger than she appeared. The Count had taught her how to be and yet she knew that the life inside her could yet give her away. Even as she thought this she felt the infant stir.

‘No, please no.’ She whispered. ‘Don’t think. Don’t feel. Just sleep.’

Jenya. The voice said again. Such a beautiful name. I hear you. I know that you are out there, so close. So close…

The fiend was closing. How did he know that name? Had he torn it from her mind? She whimpered and pushed herself into the corner of the room, fighting the fear that threatened to overwhelm her. She did not want this. This was not the life she had chosen. Because of her love for the Count her own mother had betrayed her, condemned her to death at the hands of the Inquisition all because of him.

Valayev DoSharn was not the man she thought she knew and loved and now she was going to die because of that mistake. Had her mother known of the life growing inside her? Perhaps not. Perhaps she did, and that was the reason she had betrayed her only daughter.

Call to me, Jenya. I hear your heartbeat, child. I am coming to save your soul…

The voice was so strong now that it pounded through her brain. The child inside her started, her tiny limbs thrashing. She cried out in pain, unable to keep the sound in.

‘There you are.’

A dark shape filled the doorway, its eyes blazing with cold, burning light. The shade raised a hand out towards her and she screamed, the sound long and forlorn. She knew then what was about to happen.

‘Heretic.’ The psyker hissed, his voice thick with resonant power. A slow, shimmering flame ignited around his gnarled hand.

‘Please, no.’ She whimpered. Don’t. Please don’t kill us. We…we did not know. I swear it. I am a child of the Emperor.’

‘Suffer not the heretic to live.’ The psyker growled.

She screamed then. She screamed and she screamed until the darkness took her.
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Re: Obsoletus (40K)

Postby Revenant » Tue Oct 09, 2012 5:54 pm

Chapter 1.

+++ In Heresy we serve. +++




‘I still can’t believe we have him. We finally have him. And now this.’

Landra Arkendale turned away from the viewing port, her hands held fast behind her back, and glanced across the quiet corridor. The ship shuddered around her as she turned, causing the thrumming conduits above her head to sway gently and the lumen strips set into the curved ceiling to flicker.

Spook leant against the curved frame of the elevator hatch beyond, her stick-thin arms wrapped around her body. Her eyes were dark, dark as always they were after prolonged periods of abstention. Her black hair was wild and unkempt, and the clothes that hung from her skeletal frame were stained and tattered.

‘You look like s—t.’ Arkendale answered. ‘Hit the sonic showers, for Throne’s sake.’

Spook lowered her gaze at this, shame passing over her face.

‘I…I can’t. I mean, I want to, but the waves, they burn my skin. It’s always the same after a while on detox, you know that.’

‘That’s no excuse for smelling like a bloody grox, girl. Grit your teeth and bare it. In three days we reach Ahbaraz, and we’ll be spending at least a month there. Get yourself sorted.’

‘You never answered.’ Spook said then, rising from the frame. Arkendale had been in the process of turning back towards the viewing port when she paused.

‘You never asked a question.’

‘DoSharn. We have him. Don’t you feel anything, mistress? Don’t you care? I had expected you to put a bullet in the b-----d’s head yourself after…after Jeyna.’

Arkendale’s demeanour did not alter, even at the mention of the name. Her expression remained impassive, as neutral as ever.

‘DoSharn is on his way to Ahbaraz, girl. Our work is over. Now hit the showers.’

Spook frowned and shook her head but did not argue. As she disappeared down the silent corridor, Arkendale tapped the vox stud set into her high collar. Within moments, one of the ship’s message runners appeared, a young man she could not recall meeting before, doubtless picked up from the shipyards of Sordolis.

‘You requested me, mistress?’

She nodded.

‘I want you to head down to the Astropath station and deliver a message, care of inquisitor Landra Arkendale. The Empyrean Blade has translated and we are three days from making planetfall. DoSharn is in our custody. Master Farnett has the relevant clearance codes already.’

‘Is that it, mistress?’

‘Yes. Go now.’

The menial bowed and scurried away, leaving her alone with her thoughts once more. She turned back towards the portal, but instead of peering out at the distant stars, her attention was drawn to her own reflection upon the thick glass.

Arkendale was a solid and cumbersome woman, almost square in appearance. Her short, greying hair was tied back in a diminutive ponytail, and she wore the angular collar of her grey overcoat high, almost as if to hide her pale, scar-laced face. There was little to be considered feminine about her.

She placed her fingers against the glass and felt the cold generated by the vacuum beyond even through the thick leather of her glove.

Jenya. She hadn’t so much as thought of that name for a long time now, although the memory of it had lingered at the edges of her mind for five years. She cast her train of thought aside and looked back into the corridor, hearing the echo of approaching footsteps a second before. Sure enough, Andri swept into view, his pace hurried. He wore his stormcoat over his black bodyglove, and with high boots and padded fingerless gloves, his attire seemed to sit ever at odds with his youthful frame.

Many men had not lived long enough to regret their underestimation of Andri Enchen. On the outside, he looked to be no more than a boy, a youth approaching his teenage years, but he was a killer of men who underestimated him.

‘There you are, mistress. The salvage master has just informed me that the lifepod has been brought onboard. I assumed that you would want to be present when it is opened.’

Arkendale sighed. They were so close now, days away from putting this entire affair to bed. This was the last thing they needed. The Empyrean Blade was her ship now, and it was a ship of secrets. They had been free of the warp no more than a few hours, and now this.

Arkendale joined the young man and they set off down the corridor.

‘What do we know?’ She asked, pulling her gloves tighter.

‘Well, the ship was Imperial. There isn’t enough left of it to identify. From what they can ascertain, the craft was destroyed perhaps one solar week ago. From its course, it looks as if the lifepod was set to head into the orbit of Ahbaraz. No doubt the survivors were hoping to be picked up before it entered the atmosphere.’

‘If there are indeed any survivors.’ Arkendale answered.

+++

The sight of it hit her the moment the doors to the docking bay slid open. The lingering cold of open space rushed out into the corridor, a telltale sign that, mere minutes ago, the hold of the Empyrean Blade had been open to the void.

Salvage crews fussed about the lifepod, the men and women clad in their bulky pressure suits. Steam hissed from conduits all about the hold as the ship’s systems pressurised the space once again.

Arkendale waved a hand in annoyance and the blaring warning klaxons cut off sharply, the pulsing crimson globes that accompanied their cries dimming a moment later.

She strode out to meet the new arrival, Enchen matching her pace, as a number of the menials broke away from the group and headed to meet her.

‘She’s stable, ma’am.’ The salvage worker said, his voice made tinny and distant by the vox emitter at his throat.

‘We’ve run preliminary checks but so far, there’s nothing to identify her. No markings, no pulse ident…’

Enchen pushed past the man and jogged ahead of the inquisitor, his eyes widening. He took in the sight of the plain, gunmetal grey vessel, its sleek and angular design giving it the likeness of a bolt shell, and turned to look at Arkendale.

‘Ordos class. Throne, it’s…it’s one of ours.’

‘I see that, Andri.’ Arkendale answered, her voice low and quiet. She slowed then, one hand finding her chin, her grey eyes narrowed.

Enchen circled her, animated by the revelation of the find. He snatched the auspex from a nearby crewman and began to pour over the information on the readout, his excitement and agitation a stark contrast to the cool demeanour of his mistress.

‘There’s nothing here. No distress beacon, no…no anything. We’re just going to have to open it up…’

Arkendale’s hand snapped out, silencing the youthful interrogator.

‘Gather your bloody wits, Andri. I’m not going to compromise my ship for this, not even for another member of the inquisition.’

She glanced up and to the left then, as she always did, whenever she spoke to the ship, a reaction born of the instinctive need to connect on more than a vocal level.

‘Phasma. See if you can get inside this thing.’

+As you wish, mistress.+ Came the reply, soft and quiet and layered like the voices of a legion of wraiths, emitted from every vox speaker in aural range.

+Attempting system shunt…+

‘Have a care.’ Arkendale warned the presence. ‘This is an inquisitorial craft, not some dilapidated pirate junker.’

+You warning is noted, mistress. Expanding augurs now… Augurs have been expelled. Compiling Ordos seal-breaker subroutines… Seal breaker unsuccessful. Primary protocols are exhausted. Would mistress like me to attempt an overload of the craft’s security systems?+

‘I doubt very much that any direct force would work, Phasma. No, have the bay’s security systems set to full alert, please. I’ll try a more subtle approach.’

She beckoned Enchen to follow her as she made her way up to the craft, extending one hand out before her.

‘Sometimes, Andri, the best path to take is the most direct one. This is an inquisitorial craft, after all.’

The cygnet ring glinted beneath the harsh lights of the bay. The stylised emerald ‘I’ set into its gilded frame looked to shimmer softly as she extended it towards the smooth hull.

‘Phasma, locate the release lock, please.’

+Right where you are, mistress, at least that’s what the schematics suggest.+

Arkendale nodded to herself. Just as she had thought, her familiarity with the design accurate enough. She extended the ring towards the featureless hull and let the device activate itself. The symbol began to glow, pulsing with a soft light. Moments later the small craft shook slightly at the sound of multiple locks disengaging. A thin rectangular line formed upon the surface of the hull before her, and with a hiss of steam, the section sank inwards and then slid from sight.

Steam and recycled air puffed out into the bay, causing the Inquisitor to step back. She signalled those members of the salvage team forward who were armed, giving them room to proceed. Two of the men fell to one knee before the newly formed hatch, while another two ducked into the dim interior, their combat shotguns held out before them.

‘Perhaps we should have summoned the others.’ Enchen said. Arkendale disagreed with a shake of her head.

‘They don’t need to be here, Andri. Whoever is inside that thing can’t and won’t get past this bay unless I allow it.’

Moments later, both of them heard voices coming from within the lifepod. Enchen’s hand slid to the pistol at his hip, while Arkendale’s fingers tightened around the hilt of the sabre hanging at her side.

‘Phasma…’

+I am detecting a single bio-signature, mistress. There are no weapons traces on board the vessel.+

The heavy suited salvage workers emerged then, and behind them, still wreathed in steam and made obscure, came the occupant.

He was a giant of a man. Arkendale’s eyes narrowed as she took in his towering form, watching as the ratings scattered before him in order to allow him to shove his armoured bulk through the woefully inadequate opening.

He wore a suit of ornate power armour of obsidian and gold, its every inch worked with the most skilled artifice she had ever seen. He stepped out into the hold and rose, sweeping his crimson cloak aside with theatrical flourish.

Age lined his face deeply, the wrinkles criss-crossing the many fine scars he bore. His hair was long and pure white, braided in a number of places with fine gilded twine, and he wore an electoo of glittering silver upon his cheek, wrought in the likeness of the imperial aquila.

‘How did you deactivate the seals?’ He demanded then, offering no introduction. The man’s voice rolled like thunder, given depth and weight by the hidden vox casters worked into his ancient armour.

‘Who are you?’ Arkendale asked, ignoring his question. She folded her arms before her, a subtle yet clear gesture of defiance.

‘Identify yourself, and tell me how you came to be adrift in this system, alone and without a ship.’

‘I will not ask again, woman.’ The brute growled, bunching his fists.

Arkendale rolled her eyes, utterly unconcerned by the threat.

‘Good, sir. You should set aside your breath for answering those questions I have just put to you. This is my ship. You are a guest onboard this vessel. Who are you?’

The man snarled, his face colouring in anger. He rapped his armoured knuckles against the inquisitorial symbol worked into his breastplate, as if the act of drawing her attention to it would somehow force her to surrender completely to his will.

‘I am inquisitor Elentius Gogol, and were it my damned will to do so, I would have this ship and everyone on it as my own! Do you understand what this holy symbol means, madam?’

‘There.’ Arkendale answered, beginning to pace before the man. ‘That wasn’t so hard, was it? Welcome onboard, Inquisitor. Consider my ship yours for as long as it takes to deliver you to Ahbaraz. A little less than three solar days journey, actually.’

With that she dismissed the ratings and approached, paying no heed to the incredulity wrought into the man’s expression.

‘Inquisitor Landra Arkendale at your service. Fortunate that our paths crossed, don’t you think. For you, at least.’

At the mention of her status, Gogol’s eyes widened a little, a measure of the anger draining from his face. She ensured to flash her cygnet at him as she closed, the act serving to quell any further questions as to her claim.

‘I would be happy to provide you with sustenance, sir, if you require it.’

‘I…no, no that will not be necessary. Thank you.’ He added, after a thought. ‘Fortunate indeed, my lady. I should have guessed of course. There are none outside the inquisition with the ability to unseal such a guarded craft as this.’

‘You’d be surprised, sir.’ Arkendale answered quietly. ‘Still, you are safe now. Come, walk with me. Tell me what happened to you out there.’

Gogol glanced back to the lifepod and then to Arkendale once more, a small measure of embarrassment in his manner. She looked him up and down, one finger pressed against her chin. After a few moments thought, she spun on her heel and began to march away.

‘My ship, the Empyrean Blade.’ She said, brandishing one hand out before her. ‘Not much, but she is sufficient. You were lucky that we dropped out of the warp when we did.’

‘I do not believe in luck, madam.’ Gogol replied, raising his chin a little. ‘I believe that the hand of His Immortal Majesty guides us in all things. I believe that He protects His most faithful servants.’

‘Hereticus?’ Arkendale asked, eyeing the hulking man.

‘Aye. What of your allegiance, my lady?’

‘Xenos.’ She replied, almost too swiftly. The man offered no vocal response to this, but she could feel the tension in the air thickening. After a few more overwrought moments of silence, she felt as if she needed to kick-start the dialogue once again.

‘We have prisoners awaiting processing and judgement on Ahbaraz. Very dangerous people, inquisitor. Xenos collaborators.’

‘Heretics.’ Gogol hissed. Arkendale inclined her head.

‘Oh yes, very much so. Given my affiliation, I am sure you can imagine the type. But, enough of me, sir. Your situation intrigues me. What happened to you out there?’

‘Pirates.’ Gogol answered, his voice weighted and low. It was clear by his tone that he felt discomfited by the admission.

‘We were three days out of the Barellis Cluster when they set upon my ship, the Lex Imperator. A little over three solar weeks ago, we picked up an astropathic distress signal, originating from a sororitas ship of mercy, the Selentia. The vessel was scheduled to make orbital dock at Ludion, the world my cell is based on. We found no trace of the Selentia herself. All we found was a single lifepod.’

‘Really?’ Arkendale answered, slowing as she looked back to her fellow inquisitor. ‘And you don’t find that ironic?’

Gogol fixed her with a quizzical look, a brief expression that soon faded as he continued, eager now to replay his recent past.

‘We brought the craft inside, but alas we never found the opportunity to discover what had happened to the Selentia. The utter swiftness of it all mystifies me still. I was headed to investigate the recovery when the attack came. There was absolutely no warning. The pirate vessel was cloaked, you see. Even now, speaking to you as the only survivor, I still struggle to understand how the damned ship proved to be so stealthy. There was nothing there. Absolutely nothing, save for dead space.’

‘Then you never saw the ship? Forgive me, sir, but how can you be sure that there even was one?’

Gogol frowned as he cast her a bemused look, as if her question was utterly ridiculous.

‘I saw their attack craft, only briefly, but I saw them nonetheless. Vile things, like blades of liquid crimson. They circled my ship, their cannons flashing with lurid pulse energies. Our guns were woefully outmatched by their speed. For all their swiftness, though, they were small and simple constructs, barely as large a navy marauder. No, such fighter craft are the brood of much larger vessels, madam, and you yourself must know that there is nothing here between Ahbaraz and Ludion, not so much as an asteroid.’

Arkendale decided not to press the matter further. Gogol was correct, if indeed his assumptions were accurate. This however set her on edge, for the thought of an enemy craft prowling this region of space, utterly hidden to the sensors of her ship, did not sit well.

‘So, there was no warning at all?’

‘None. The first I knew of the attack was when the shipboard augurs began to sound. I swear upon the Holy Throne, the b-----ds were in amongst us within minutes. They spread like a contagion through the ship, overwhelming our defences with disgusting ease. There were no breaching alarms, nothing to allow us to discern the entry point. It was as if…as if they were amongst us all along, hiding in the shadows, awaiting their moment to strike.’

‘A disturbing notion. So, tell me, who or what were these pirates? What did you encounter?’

Gogol hissed through his teeth at the question and lowered his head, fighting back his burning frustration.

‘Xenogen filth. Beasts clad in the likeness of men. Slender things in sculpted, organic armour. What they lacked in physical strength they made up for in speed and reaction.’

‘They were eldar then, most likely.’ Enchen reasoned, speaking for the first time. Gogol’s eyes widened at this, and he turned to regard the interrogator.

‘What manner of child is this, that speaks of the xenos with such casual knowledge?’

Enchen coloured at the unintentional insult. Arkendale threw him a warning glance as she took charge of the conversation.

‘A reasonable assumption. We are aware of these creatures, though we have yet to encounter them directly. They are foul predators, given to such raids.’

‘Foul does not begin to describe them, Arkendale. I encountered but a handful of them before my vessel’s systems were set to critical overload. By the time I had worked my way halfway towards the ship’s bridge, I received the warning that it had been overtaken. I happened upon them as I was headed to the lifepod bays. They…’

Gogol’s face twisted in disgust as he recalled the horrors he had seen.

‘They were already there. Most of the launch bays lay open, the lifepods beyond burning. Those few who had made it to the bays were dead, mercifully. The pirates were slaughtering those still alive, butchering them as if they were less than beasts.

‘My disgust was matched only by the wrath in my heart. I descended upon them, fury seizing me, and carved a path through the beasts. As I say, the creatures were fast and supple, but in the confined space of the ship’s corridors, they had little room to manoeuvre. I took my toll of them before finding the only lifepod untouched by their foul hand.’

‘And you say that you never got a chance to release whoever had been inside the sororitas pod?’ Arkendale asked then, diverting the focus of the conversation. Gogol answered her with a bemused look.

‘What I mean to say, sir, is that it is possible the enemy were secreted inside the pod.’

The larger inquisitor came to a halt then. He shook his head, clearly frustrated by the suggestion.

‘I fear I have not explained the situation sufficiently, madam. The craft we recovered was empty. We knew that before we had even retrieved it. Our scans showed that there were no signs of life onboard.’

‘And yet you recovered it?’

‘As evidence, yes.’

Arkendale looked to Enchen briefly, no more than a fleeting glance, and then found Gogol once more.

‘Let me get this clear in my head, sir. You responded to a distress signal. You found no trace of the ship, save for a single lifepod. Your own ship was overrun by hostiles that seemingly materialised from the air, almost immediately after you recovered this vessel. The Lex Imperator was destroyed, and you were the only survivor. The only part of your ship that remains, sir, is the lifepod. And none of this vexes you?’

‘I see where you are taking this, Arkendale, and no, it does not vex me. The Emperor guides my fate. He walked beside me when I found the last remaining escape vessel, and He guided my hand when I smote the creatures that were in the process of befouling it. He delivered me, so that I may seek revenge for this travesty.’

‘They were inside.’ Arkendale said then, here eyes widening. ‘They were already inside when you reached the launch bays. Inside the pod.’

‘And I annihilated them.’ Gogol hissed, shaking his fist as if to accentuate the murder he had committed.

‘You stupid b-----d, Gogol. Don’t you see what you’ve done?’

The face of the youth at her side drained of colour.

‘Throne have mercy.’ He uttered. ‘We have to seal it.’

‘Phasma! Seal the bay!’ Arkendale cried.

Even as the words left her lips, the first warning klaxon began to sound.
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Re: Obsoletus

Postby Revenant » Sat Oct 13, 2012 8:57 am

Chapter 2.



Jericson lay spread-eagled on the deck behind him, either unconscious or dead, thrown clear across the bay by the burst of energy. Hertz did not know which and he did not have time to check. The klaxons screamed all around him, brought to life by his own hand.

Hertz rolled across the bulkhead away from the alarm stud and raised his shotgun with shaking hands. He could see what remained of Chribs lying on the deck, broken and bloodied, beneath the swirling vortex of violet light emanating from the open hatch of the lifepod. Sedamm was pressed against the bulkhead to the left of the small vessel, cutting torch at the ready.

Farrus was hammering her fists against the hatch beside Hertz, screaming at the top of her voice, pleading to be let out.

‘It won’t do any good, damn it! The bay’s sealed now!’ He snapped, kicking her shotgun across the deck to her feet.

‘Pick it up and face them like a bloody Imperial!’

Farrus tore her pressure helm free and cast it away as she fell to her knees. She snatched the gun up and rose, fighting to keep her legs from buckling.

They came from the swirling gateway then, sliding from the void like liquid shadow. Tall and sinewy, nightmares given form, the enemy spilled out into the docking bay.

Hertz raised the shotgun up to his shoulder and fired out at the emerging creatures. They parted before the blast, rolling or leaping away from harm with contemptuous ease. One of the things rolled right up to Sedamm’s feet, rising even as he made to counter it. It swept one arm out and the curved blades fashioned into its crimson vambraces took his head from his shoulders as easily as if it had never been attached. Sedamm’s body crumpled into a loose heap, spouting blood, and his head bounced away across the deck.

They were fast, faster than anything Hertz had ever encountered. Farrus cried out as a shard of flashing metal hissed from the shadows and punched clean through her chest to ring as it embedded itself in the bulkhead behind her.

+You are trespassing.+ Said a voice from all around him. +This will not be tolerated.+

A fine beam of laser energy flickered out from one corner of the bay and punched a hole through the tall helm of the thing that had killed Sedamm. The pirate’s eye slits and rebreather grille blew out, sending a fine mist of cooked blood out in the wake of its falling body. More las-blasts zipped through the air as the hidden security systems powered up. Hertz flinched as another of the raiders died, punched clean of its feet and sent skidding across the deck.

‘Let me out, Phasma!’ He cried, backing away towards the hatch.

More flashes of fire zipped through the bay, hunting the alien killers. He looked on as one of the abominations skipped and danced around the questing shots, its slender body arching away from each blast. It ran towards the left hand side of the bay, firing as it went. Its pistol spat shards of crystallised shadow out into the gloom and something burst in a flash of flame. A second later and it fell, punctured through the back by several las-rounds.

+I regret that I cannot, crewman Hertz. The integrity of the ship is compromised.+

Something else came from the lifepod then. The void at the centre of the vortex looked to swell, to bulge out into the bay. A ball of hazy darkness detached itself from the vortex and flickered its way out into the hold, as if hate and madness had found the power to gain physical form.

Something small and hard flew from within the emerging mass to ring against the corner of the bay. It exploded as it struck the wall, the resultant pulse causing the lights to flicker and die.

Whatever the phenomenon was, it was fast, almost too fast to follow. It breezed by Hertz and appeared this time in the opposing corner. Lasfire flashed into it, only to be turned aside. Again, something flew from the ball of roiling energy. There was a swift, concussive flash and the lights there went out, the wailing sirens following a second later.

+Warning. Electro-magn…+

Phasma’s voice deepened and slowed to a syrupy crawl before dying away completely. Hertz let out an unintentional whimper.

All around him, the remaining lights guttered and dimmed. In the gloom the phenomenon was barely visible, little more than a black ripple gliding beneath the hot shadows. Hertz began to rise then, a quiet prayer spilling from his lips.

Fingers of ethereal lightning speared from nowhere to quest through the air. Reality peeled away then, revealing a snapshot glimpse at whatever unknown realm lurked beneath it. The ball of black energy swelled instantly and then burst with a flickering flare of blinding radiance. At its centre, a true horror was revealed.

The sight of the abomination loosened his bowels and bladder instantly. The gun in Hertz’s hand quaked, and he could do nothing to prevent it.

The creature stood tall, taller than most men. Its slender body was armoured in plate the colour of polished night, edged in burnished gold. Its shoulders were laden with heavy, bladed plate and a cloak of leather that looked to be fashioned from silent, screaming human faces. It held an ornate, fluted pistol in one hand, while its other was a terrifying, oversized thing, with long, rusting blades for fingers.

The terror that seized Hertz was summoned mainly by the thing’s visage. It looked almost human, and yet he knew it had to be xenos. Its features were pale and elongated yet hauntingly humanoid. The white, dead flesh of its face looked to be riveted to the edges of its helm, and its oval eyes were striking, glittering like icy azure jewels and radiant with malice. To look upon it was akin to looking upon some long-dead yet reanimated horror, a cadaver cursed with the ability to maintain animation.

‘Don’t…don’t…’ Hertz stammered, unable to force the warning from his throat. He pulled the trigger and a mushroom of fire exploded from his gun, only to hiss redundantly against a wall of sparking darkness.

It opened its mouth then and emitted a strangled, broken scream. The thing ghosted forward almost too fast to follow and struck. Silver flashed before him and he saw the shotgun fall away. There was no pain, not even a hint of it, as he raised the stumps of his arms up to his face, the blood spurting from them keeping a perfect rhythm with his thundering heart.

The creature flicked his blood from the long blades of its hand as he slumped down onto his rump, clutching his ruined arms to his chest. He snapped off an obscenity at the thing, his curse wet with blood. It simply regarded him with cold, inhuman eyes, its head cocked slightly to one side.

Only then, as close to death as he was to his killer, did Hertz see the truth in the details before him. Then the thing swept its claw-hand out and Hertz was no more.

+++

Arkendale slammed her fist into the hatch, displaying an anger that her ever-unchanging expression could not. Gogol stood beside her, his weapons drawn.

‘Let me in, Arkendale! Let me in and I will tear the xenos whoresons apart!’

She spun around to face the hulking man and raised an accusing finger.

‘Not a chance! You brought those damned things onto my ship, Gogol! The last thing I’m going to do is let them loose to run rampage! No, this needs containing, here and now. These alien pirates are a sickness that cannot be allowed to spread. Phasma, how close are you to restoring the damaged systems?’

+Close, mistress.+ A voice replied, its sudden emergence causing her fellow inquisitor to leap in surprise.

+The enemy have destroyed the bay’s security net, but communications have been lost only as a matter of electro-magnetic interference. I am restoring the grid now…+

‘Good, you do that. As soon as you can, open me a channel to the docking bay. Andri.’

She looked to her interrogator then.

‘Rouse the others.’

Enchen nodded and spun on his heel without waiting for any further word. Gogol watched him leave and then looked back to Arkendale.

‘Your retinue?’

She nodded.

‘Try not to be alarmed when you meet them, sir. They are…unorthodox. You may judge them harshly on first appearances, but understand this. They are your best chance of making it through this alive. You need to remember that.’

+Channel open, mistress.+ Phasma said then. Gogol glanced around him at the sound of the voice, perplexed at its omnipresence.

‘Who is that, Arkendale?’

‘Magos Longinus Phasma.’ She replied.

Gogol frowned.

‘Where is he?’

‘Everywhere.’ She replied simply, turning away.

Gogol opened his mouth to speak, only to have Arkendale’s raised hand cut him short. She leaned against the bulkhead as a small pict screen came online before her, the grainy image displaying an image of the bay beyond. Her eyes narrowed as she took in the sight of the creature there, standing hunched yet defiant at the centre of the bay, surrounded by the bodies of her salvage crew, its pallid head turning slowly to regard its surroundings.

The thing seemed to sense her attention within moments. Its piercing eyes looked to her and it advanced a few paces, closing on the hidden pict-capter filming its presence. It cocked its head to one side and simply stared at her as more of its debased kin spilled into the bay.

‘Listen to me.’ She said then, her voice transmitted instantly into the bay. ‘I do not know if you understand me, but if you do, then heed this warning. You cannot comprehend the level of misjudgement you have displayed in boarding my ship. At this moment in time you still have the opportunity to retreat. I urge you to take that opportunity. If you do not, if you persist in this display of aggression, I will hunt you down and I will annihilate you, every last damned one of you.’

For a moment, the creature did not respond. It looked away and began to direct the others with sweeps of its arms and unintelligible vocal commands. Several of the corsairs moved forward to inspect the hatch, bearing short but bulky weapons.

‘You are sure that these filthy things are eldar?’ Gogol asked, almost choking as he uttered the name of the xenos species.

‘More through accumulated knowledge than experience, but yes, quite sure. I have not encountered them in the flesh before but I trust my intelligence sources.’

Gogol’s eyes narrowed as he heard this and he nodded after a short pause, evidently satisfied with Arkendale’s answer.

‘One last chance.’ The inquisitor warned them, distaste colouring her voice. ‘Leave now and you leave alive. Persist, and your carcasses will be jettisoned into the void when we have finished with you. Either way, you will leave this ship.’

The creature beyond did not respond with any intelligible reply. After a few moments of silence it opened it simply raised its blade hand up towards the screen and scissored the razor-sharp fingers closed, the motion flicking the blood of its previous victims out into the air.

‘So be it.’ Arkendale whispered. She backed away from the screen then, watching as the brace of eldar armed with the short and bulky rifles took their places before the hatch. The weapons came alive in their hands; the resultant bursts of power causing the pict-capter to flicker and fuzz. Gogol backed away at the sound of the blasts ringing against the thick hatch and activated his sword, his actions causing the blade to become wreathed in azure fire.

‘Melta weaponry.’ The larger inquisitor growled. ‘Or so I would surmise. It won’t take them long to cut their way through.’

Arkendale gave the occurrence no more than a moment of her attention. She looked back at the display, the scowl upon her face deepening.

‘They say that the eldar species is awash with psykers, Gogol. Do you suppose that any of these filthy things are psykers?’

‘I am sure I have no idea.’

‘Damn it. I hate psykers, Gogol. You’re not a psyker, are you?’

‘Certainly not.’

‘Good. I’d have thrown you through the nearest airlock myself if you were. I hate psykers.’

‘So you say, Arkendale.’ Gogol replied, looking to the screen before her. ‘Now, I suggest that you turn your attention to the problem at hand. They will be through the hatch in minutes.’

‘My attention is fixed firmly on the problem at hand.’ She answered, turning to face him. ‘Now, I need you to listen to me vary carefully, inquisitor. We have a serious problem here and we don’t have much time to solve it. If we act without thinking then we will lose this fight. This is what I do. I solve things. I seek solutions. I uncover and eradicate problems that you could not begin to imagine even exist, so please, let me do my work.’

‘Open the airlock.’ Gogol said then, unable to match Arkendale’s composure. ‘Open the airlock and blow the b-----ds into space. It’s the only way.’

Arkendale closed her eyes for a moment and sighed.

‘You are not listening to me. That won’t work, sir. These creatures are clearly experienced in what they do. It’s obvious that this attack is the latest link in a chain, a chain that leads back to the destruction of at least two Imperial vessels. We can see that they have altered the lifepod somehow and are using it as a means of gaining entry. We have to assume that this is a recurring pattern.’

‘I don’t care!’ Gogol raged. ‘Just do it! Open the damn airlock!’

‘Shut your mouth and listen. They gain entry to our ships using the same method time and again. They allow a single vessel to escape the destruction, a vessel they have modified, and wait for it to be salvaged. They wait for it to be brought onboard, and then they attack. How many times has this scenario already occurred, Gogol? Their entry point is always a docking bay or some other parallel area. It’s too simple, sir. It’s too obvious.’

To his credit, the inquisitor was faster than even she could have imagined. His blade flashed through the air and came to rest less than an inch from her throat, its proximity causing the flesh there to prickle and begin to blister.

‘I won’t ask again. Do it.’

+Permission to exterminate, mistress?+

‘Denied, Phasma.’ Arkendale answered calmly, eyeing the crackling blade. ‘Do as he says. Override all safety protocols and open the airlock. Let him have his moment.’

+Of course.+

Gogol backed away and lowered his weapon, appeased by his counterpart’s supplication. He opened his mouth and made to speak, but the words did not come. His eyes narrowed as he looked to the screen beyond Arkendale.

She spun on her heel to follow his attention. The corsair commander and its companions were somehow locked in communication. The commander gestured towards the screen and then ghosted away from sight. Those pirates visible followed suit immediately, ceasing whatever they had been doing in order to reposition themselves.

‘They know.’ Arkendale said, her voice heavy with scorn. ‘What did I tell you, Gogol? They know exactly what we are doing.’

Several deep and echoing rumbles shivered through the deck then, signalling the activation of the bay’s airlock. A flash of hazy light blinked across the screen, rendering the image unclear for a moment, and when it returned, the two inquisitors could see that the lead corsair had repositioned itself before the airlock, almost as if in defiance of what was about to happen, totally unfazed by the fact that the entire area was about to be opened up to the void. Its glittering eyes remained fixed upon the screen, burning with boundless malice and total contempt.

‘Phasma, where the hell are the others?’ Arkendale asked, stepping back in order to scan the surrounding doorways and corridors.

+They are approaching, mistress…+

‘Will the hatch hold under the force of the decompression?’ Gogol asked, eyeing the glowing slabs of reinforced metal.

Arkendale nodded.

‘It should. The vacuum will leach the heat from the metal in seconds. We have bought ourselves minutes at the most.’

‘We? The decision was mine…’

‘Decision?’ Arkendale spat, twisting around to face him. ‘It was a demand, Gogol, and believe me when I say that you will make no more demands on my ship. I hope you are satisfied, sir. We have just done half their job for them.’

‘What in Thor’s name are you talking about, woman?’

In response to this, Arkendale first tapped her temple, then pointed to her eye, and finally extended the finger towards the screen.

‘Don’t you ever listen? This is what I do. You say these pirates had attack craft, yes? The type of craft incapable of deep space travel, and yet you detected no larger class of enemy ship. I don’t think there was a ship, inquisitor….’

+Mistress. I regret to inform you that I am to be the bearer of grave news…+ Phasma began, a moment before his ghostly voice degenerated into scrambled static. All the lights illuminating the immediate decked flickered and dimmed as tremors so slight as to be almost undetectable agitated the deck beneath their feet.

Arkendale raised her head and glanced about her as if chasing ghosts, a reaction that both Gogol and Mulligor could not fail to notice.

‘We are under external attack.’

Gogol opened his mouth to respond when Phasma’s voice filled the air once again, vomited forth on a surge of hissing static and white noise.

+Enemy craft have engaged us. I repeat, enemy craft have engaged us. This is a most bizarre turn of events…+

The voice droned on as Phasma proceeded to reel off a ream of technical statistics and situational data, largely ignored by those present to hear it. Arkendale glared at Gogol, as if to accuse him of being responsible for this latest grim occurrence. Gogol bared his teeth and turned back to the screen.

‘We cannot worry about that now. We have more pressing concerns to deal with.’

The eldar gathered beyond stood firm as the airlock opened. Loose detritus not secured since the lifepod had been brought onboard spun away into the void. Even the craft itself shifted across the deck, but the air was drained from the bay within seconds and it ground to a halt.

None of the pirates so much as shifted from where they stood. It was almost as if they were rooted to the deck. Worse still, there were no visible signs of any of the corsairs suffering any of the effects associated with hard vacuum. Within seconds it became clear that this was a course of action that would fail to produce the desired result.

‘Now, would you object to me closing the airlock once again, or would you have us all perish here where we stand?’ Arkendale asked after a moment.

Gogol did not find time to answer. A brace of heavy thuds hammered against the hatch nearby and he looked back to see the thick metal there already aglow once again.

‘It seems the enemy are far better protected from hard vacuum than we are.’ Arkendale said, already backing away.

‘As soon as their weapons cut through that hatch, two things will happen. First, our every route of retreat will be sealed off by the emergency systems in order to prevent the decompression of the entire ship. Second, we will be dragged through the breach as soon as it is formed. Most likely, our bodies will be crushed as the vacuum tries to pull us through the smallest emerging puncture. Looking at the armour you wear, sir, I would say that your death will be a lingering one.’

‘Close it.’ Gogol hissed, angered at what she perceived to be his own incompetence. Arkendale nodded.

‘You heard him, Phasma.’

+Yes, mistress.+

The impact of the closing airlock rumbled through the ship a moment later. Even as the noise died away, the inquisitors could hear something else, a rhythmic hammering that seemed to grow in volume by the second. Arkendale peered beyond her companion and then looked back at Gogol.

‘Remember what I said, sir. Hereticus or no, if you want to survive this then you need to cast your bigotries aside, right now, and defer your judgement on those who serve me. Every member of my retinue exists but to do the Emperor’s work, every single one, even if they fail to realise it. This is the way of the Obsoletus.’

A shape hurtled around the corner then, moving so fast Gogol found himself struggling to follow its progress. Roughly humanoid in its proportions, its loped forth on all four limbs, its forearms vast and simian-like augmetic things that rang against the deck.

The creature skidded to a halt before the glowing hatch and then stalked forward, growling like a feral beast, its scarred chest rising and falling as if each breath was an effort. Gogol could see now that it was a man, or at least it had been, once. Red stubble covered its scarred head and face, vying for dominance with the many wires and tubes sutured into its ruddy skin. Spittle ran from between its bared teeth and down its chin. The creature’s face began to blister at its proximity to the hatch, but this did not seem to affect it.

‘You have an arco-flagellant?’ Gogol asked, the faintest hint of wary disbelief colouring his voice. ‘An impressive beast, but I fear we may need more than that thing to put these xenos b-----ds to flight.’

The thing’s head snapped around to regard him then, its red-veined eyes sharp and wide with anger.

‘Beast? Who are you calling a beast, you whore-strangling son of a bitch?’

The arco-flagellant bounded towards him and landed at his feet, its vast paws crackling with power.

‘Don’t even think about it, Mulligor.’ Arkendale warned him, drawing her sabre with a shrill ring. ‘Inquisitor Gogol is a guest on this ship.’

Mulligor growled beneath his breath as he regarded the towering man, but he advanced no further. Hissing through his teeth, he spat on the deck and then began to circle the astounded inquisitor, his eyes snapping forth between the man and the glowing hatch.

‘Hnngh. I can smell them already. They’ll be through within the minute. Where the hell is everyone else?’

+They are on their way.+ Phasma answered, his ghostly voice drifting softly through the corridor around them.

+Not everyone is as fleet of foot as you, my friend.+

Gogol could not keep his eyes off the prowling arco-flagellant as he moved to stand alongside Arkendale, the desperation of his circumstances forgotten for a moment. The expression etched upon his face was a strange mixture of disbelief and apprehension. The arco-flagellant was a nightmare construct of flesh and augmetics, designed to purposely provide what any potential heretic could perceive to be both a fate and a punishment far worse than death. The enemies of both the Inquisition and the Ecclesiarchy rightly feared such constructs, for they were primarily engines of murder and destruction employed by these organisations in times of most dire need.

It soon became clear top Gogol that this particular machine was more unique than any other he had thus far encountered.

‘It speaks. How is that possible?’ He uttered, his voice heavy with disbelief.

‘It is a he, and his name is Benzo Mulligor.’ Arkendale answered. ‘And yes, he speaks. If you are going to ask me how that is possible, then save your breath. I don’t know, and neither does he. No one does. Let’s just say, I suppose he…didn’t take. I’m informed that it does happen. You’re Hereticus, you probably more qualified to explain exactly what Mulligor is than I am.’

‘But…but such abominations are destroyed immediately…’

‘Then he must have been an oversight.’ Arkendale replied, her voice low and menacing. ‘An oversight that is about to fight to preserve your life, sir. Do not overlook that fact.’

Enchen appeared then, leading a small mixed group of crewmen and other, more outlandish individuals. The young man’s face was as red as ever, coloured by his exertions in gathering the others. His eyes fell upon the hatch and he slowed, quickly directing those crewmen with weapons into position.

‘You cut it fine, Andri.’

‘My apologies, mistress. I have just heard from the bridge…’

‘They have fighters out there. We know.’ Arkendale replied with a scathing glance in Gogol’s direction.

‘We can’t worry about that for now. We need to deal with those here on the inside.’

A number of individuals broke away from the group and approached the female inquisitor. Gogol’s brow furrowed as he took in the sight. Two of them were quite unimpressive, if not eccentric in their appearance. One was a young girl, perhaps in her late teenage years. Faded combat fatigues hung from her emaciated frame. Her eyes were dark, giving her the appearance of one who had not slept for days, and her jet-black hair was wild and unkempt. The man at her side, despite his muscular build and strong features, seemed as troubled and anxious as his younger companion.

‘Throne have mercy. Eldar pirates, here! We have to open the airlock, mistress! We have to…’

‘We already have, Leash. It didn’t work.’

The man clutched his companion’s shoulders tightly as he heard this, his eyes wide with fear. The girl winced as his fingers dug into the thin flesh of her shoulders

‘What? Oh no. No no no. I’ve heard stories of what they do to the crews of the ships they raid, mistress. We can’t let them take us. You have to…you have to start popping, Spook. Burn them out…’

‘Shut the hell up, Leash!’ Mulligor snarled. ‘Grab a gun, and some balls if you can find them!’

Beyond them Enchen finished organising the deployment of the crew just as the first melta-beam cut its way through. He eyed the superheated beam warily as he crossed over to where his mistress waited, leading the strangest of the individuals he had brought with him.

The two abhumans could not have differed from one another more in both size and appearance. One was an ogryn, his vast, oversized form towering over the stunted ratling at his side. The ogryn inclined his head at Gogol as he passed, whilst the ratling merely scowled at the unfamiliar face. Both were armed, and Gogol found himself made uncomfortable as he eyed the immense cannon the larger of the two abhumans carried.

‘Does it know how to use that?’ He asked, backing away. The ogryn heard this and looked to him, its mountainous brow creasing.

‘Have no fear, good sir. I can assure you that I wield this weapon with the skill of a surgeon. It’s a distasteful thing, I admit, but it will clear these degenerates from our ship admirably.’

‘Don’t waste your breath, Descartes.’ The ratling said, eyeing the inquisitor. ‘All he sees is a big, dumb ugly grox with a ripper gun in its hands. It’s a sight bad enough to worry anyone.’

‘I’ve warned you before, Bromm.’ Descartes snapped. ‘One good stamp, that’s all it will take…’

‘Ready yourselves!’ Mulligor shouted then, his voice snatching everyone’s attention. ‘They are through!’

Mulligor was standing directly beside the breach, ready to take the first head that appeared clean off its shoulders. It was not a head that first pushed through the breach, however, but something far worse.

The vertical column of sparking violet flame screamed like a living thing as it speared through the breach. Mulligor cried out and fell back as the fire billowed through into the corridor and engulfed the waiting crewmen.

They did not even have the time to scream as the fire consumed them, literally, burning their bodies to ash in seconds. So swift were their deaths that their dissipating bodies left behind a lingering silhouette of greasy ash that hung in the air for a second, frozen in twisted agony, before fading away. Even as the conflagration subsided, its murderous work done, several objects flew from the bay and rang against the opposing wall.

‘Grenades!’ Mulligor cried, leaping forward. He kicked the first of them back through the breach and scooped the second up in one outsized fist. Thick fingers closed around the device and it shattered like glass in his grasp, with no more than a flash of energy and electrical discharge to herald its demise.

Mulligor grunted and shook the immense metal slabs that were his hands, the thick fingers there wreathed in crackling discharge.

‘Hggn. Sodding electromag discharge…’

Beyond him the first of the explosive devices detonated, sending a flash of light through the breach. Another grenade spun through the air and struck him square in the head, sending him staggering sideways. Darts of black malice hissed in its wake to draw bloody lines across the arco-flagellant’s body, each hit sending small puffs of blood out into the air. Mulligor dropped and rolled clear of danger as more of the shard rounds chased him, ringing against the deck and walls as they shattered.

The grenade that had hit him exploded then, but instead of fire and shrapnel the result was akin to the death-howl of some nameless horror of the warp. Waves of pure sonic force battered the walls of the surrounding corridor, harsh and mournful, like the cries of the damned. The noise sent bowel-shuddering ripples of fear and pain through all those present, causing bodies to cramp and tense, and hearts to freeze in chests.

Arkendale raised her arm up instinctively and heard Leash cry out beside her, though she knew that this was fear, not pain. The grenades were a distraction, nothing more. The enemy were coming.

‘This is it!’ She called, activating her blade. ‘Make ready to meet them! Leash, get your mask on now, boy! Spook, it’s time to pop!’

‘No…’ She heard the young woman groan.

‘Yes, damn it! Bromm…’

‘Suppressor off.’ The small abhuman said as he read the inquisitor’s thoughts, whilst at the same time reaching for the rune at his throat.

‘Suppressor off.’ Arkendale echoed. ‘It’s time for you to unsheathe those claws, Bromm.’

Lubus Bromm smiled.
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Re: Obsoletus

Postby Gaius Marius » Thu Oct 18, 2012 10:20 pm

REVENANT!!!!! :D

Great intro and first chapter. Has me interested.
Space Cowboy, Spartan II, Specter, Reclusiarch

'I see the fear you have inside.'
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Re: Obsoletus

Postby Revenant » Mon Feb 25, 2013 7:52 pm

Chapter 3.



Bromm, like all those under Arkendale’s wing, was an individual that should not have existed. He was an anomaly, a freak of nature. Lubus Bromm was unique, but he had not always been this way. Like all the others in Arkendale’s retinue, circumstances had changed the diminutive abhuman into something far more than his origins had intended him to be. Something far worse.

Bromm spun on his heel as the first of the alien corsairs tumbled through the breach, his stubby fingers pressed against the crimson rune hanging around his neck. The eldar came to rest on one knee and swept its barbed rifle out around it, hunting for its next target.

It saw Bromm and froze, the gun firing even as it found him. Glittering shards hissed from the rifle and cut through the corridor in less than a second, but they did not find Bromm. The ratling had already pressed the rune and deactivated the device fashioned into its frame. He cried out in pain, as he always did, as the suppressor shut down and allowed the horror inside him to blossom to the fore.

The extra limbs burst from his sides where they had been secured and hidden by the loose folds of his fatigues. His once ruddy skin paled immediately, taking on an almost iridescent violet-white hue, and his eyes became jewels of shimmering indigo.

He leapt up into the air and rammed the curved talons of his extra arms into the ceiling as the crystalline splinters zipped by beneath him, denied the kill, and began to swing his way through the corridor, digging his claws into the ceiling again and again.

At first, the pirate did not see his approach; such was the unexpected speed of the small man. Bromm was almost overhead when the eldar finally glanced up and reeled back, startled by his proximity. The creature was fast, its reactions much faster than those of a human, but Bromm’s altered form gave him a speed that no eldar could match.

He wrenched his claws free and tumbled to the deck, twisting end over end, to land on his feet. The pirate shifted his aim but a sweeping claw sent the rifle tumbling away and another tore the creature’s neck out, sending its dark blood spraying up the walls around it.

Bromm rolled back against the frame of the ruined hatch and clambered up the wall like a spider as more of the corsairs threw themselves out into the corridor, their rifles spitting death. He put a laspistol round in the back of the first pirate’s head and then swung up onto the ceiling to scramble clear as Descartes lumbered forward with the ripper gun and fired.

The sound of the blast burst like a thunderclap through the confined space. The ripper gun was a weapon designed exclusively for use by the type of towering abhuman Descartes was, and for all its abrasiveness, it was a formidable firearm at such close quarters.

Lean, armoured bodies were literally blown apart as the powerful ripper shot filled the space. Three of the aliens were thrown back away from the hole, their blood and viscera coating the surrounding bulkheads.

One of the aliens somehow managed to avoid the blast and threw itself clear. It rolled across the blood-slicked corridor and rang against the adjacent wall, firing wildly as it came to rest.

Gogol thundered forward and struck the pirate’s head from its shoulders, the energised blade of his sword finding no resistance there. He raised his bolt pistol up towards the breached hatch and quickly emptied his entire clip into the hole. For a moment, there was no reply to his attack, and he lowered the smoking weapon.

Shards sailed through the hatch then and rang against his armour, the hits sending sparks cascading before him. He jogged back into cover behind the hatch and ejected his spent clip.

‘It would seem they need more persuasion!’ He called, rearming the weapon.

More of the ship’s crew emerged from the surrounding corridors then to converge upon the scene of the conflict, quickly adding their firepower to the exchange. This allowed the inquisitor time to fall back and join the others.

‘The first attempt has been turned aside.’ He said, joining Arkendale. ‘Attrition has already set in. Let us hope that these creatures are weak enough of resolve to be put to flight by this.’

‘I doubt that.’ Arkendale replied. ‘We may have them contained for now, but we have to remember that they have committed themselves. They have fighters surrounding the ship, remember.’

‘Order your guns to engage them.’ Gogol demanded. ‘Show them your teeth, woman.’

‘That’s not a good idea.’ She replied. ‘Not until we know more about them.’

Once again, Arkendale’s failure to act coloured Gogol’s cheeks with anger.

‘What the hell is there to know, Arkendale? Those fighters represent a threat to us. The only thing that is keeping this ship from being blown to pieces is the presence of those creatures on the other side of the bulkhead. If the enemy fall back now…’

‘I know. They will blow us into the warp. That is why we need to fall back and let them in.’

Gogol’s eyes widened as he heard this, a look of utter disbelief slackening the muscles of his face.

‘Let them in? Let them into the ship? Have you lost your mind?’

Arkendale raised a hand up to the screen beside her and rapped a knuckle on the glass.

‘You are right, sir. At this moment in time, they have us by the throat. They may try to storm the breach again, and we will turn them aside. Sooner or later, if we hold out long enough, they may realise that they aren’t going to get any further than the docking bay and then they will retreat. As soon as they are clear, those fighters will destroy us. All we are doing here by holding them back is compounding our own fate. I can see by your expression that you need to be convinced. Very well. Phasma?’

+Mistress?+

‘Select a weapon of your choice and engage the enemy craft.’

+Of course. I am activating dorsal lascannon seven. Turret online and charging…Enemy engaged. Tracking…The enemy is running, mistress. Tracking…By the forge, but they are fast. Tracking…Glancing hit. They are shielded, mistres…Dorsal lascannon has taken a hit. We’ve lost the gun.+

‘Disengage and leave them be, Phasma.’ Arkendale ordered. ‘Keep your eye on them. I want a full assessment by the time we enter the bridge. In the meantime, stand by for further orders, I have a feeling we’ll be needing your help soon. Is that understood?’

+It will be done.+

Gogol turned to her.

‘The bridge? You…’

Behind him Descartes’ ripper gun roared once again, followed instantly by a salvo of booming shotgun fire. Gogol flinched at the sudden noise of the exchange but did not take his eyes off Arkendale.

‘You were serious then? We really are going to fall back and let them in?’

‘It’s the only way. I know it sounds perilous but we need to draw them from the docking bay. The saviour pod is their means of entry into this ship, and, I hope, their only means of escape. While ever they hold the bay they hold the pod. We need to destroy it. Once they are stranded here on the Blade, they are mine.’

‘If the saviour pod truly is their only means of retreat, then it is doubtful that they will leave it unguarded.’ Gogol reasoned.

‘That said, you must not forget what these creatures are, Arkendale. They are xenos. We cannot afford to attempt to second guess the ways and motives of the inhuman.’

‘There you go with that monodominant sh-t. It doesn’t matter who or what you face, Gogol. Alien or human, if you know the goal of your enemy then you can anticipate his actions. The eldar want our ship, and, I suspect, us. They will not leave the pod unguarded. I have considered this. Now, there is something I need to do, and I need your support, sir. I need you to trust me.’

More splinter fire poured through the ruined hatch beyond them to ricochet across the walls, sending blossoms of sparks out into the corridor. Enchen cried out in pain as one of the deadly shards rang from the wall behind him and thudded into his arm. He jogged further into cover, holding the injured limb.

‘Forward! Move in!’ He called to the surrounding ratings, showing no trace of emotion as another of the crewmen fell, punched off his feet and onto his back by the unforgiving eldar fire.

He knelt on the deck and closed his eyes. A subtle but visible tremor ran through his body, as if something was alive beneath the folds of his black leather stormcoat, and the offending shard clattered to the deck a heartbeat later, expelled from the wound.

‘Hggnn. Damn it. Their ammunition is poisoned.’

He glanced up to see Arkendale’s eyes on him, narrowed in concern. He shrugged.

‘Nothing I can’t handle, but the others need to exercise caution.’

‘This situation is rapidly escalating beyond our control.’ Gogol said, eyeing the increasing fire warily. Arkendale shifted her gaze from Enchen to Gogol.

‘That is why I need you to trust me, inquisitor. You argue that we cannot hope to understand these creatures, but I disagree. We need to understand them.’

‘We need to destroy them.’ Gogol replied. Arkendale exhaled deeply.

‘We will, but first, as I said, we need to understand them. I can see now just how deeply rooted your beliefs are, inquisitor Gogol. You aren’t going to budge on this, are you?’

‘Not an inch.’

‘Very well. Spook, are you active?’

The young girl had been covering behind the vast form of the ogryn. As she heard her name, she peered from behind him, her dark eyes wide with worry. She extended a hand to show the small blue object she held. Arkendale nodded and gestured for her to use it. She blinked away tears as she did as ordered. She pressed the hypoderm against the thin, bruised skin in the crook of her arm and jabbed the trigger.

Descartes guided her gently forward as she sobbed in pain, concern writ across his twisted features.

‘We all have our own cross to bear, my dear.’ He whispered, the deep tone of his voice rendering the murmur easily audible.

Arkendale inclined her head towards Gogol, a gesture that caused the inquisitor’s eyes to narrow.

‘What is this..?’ He began.

‘Keep him out of trouble, girl, at least until he begins to understand. You know what to do.’

Spook shuddered softly and closed her eyes. When she opened them again an intense light blazed there. She lifted from the deck slightly, so that only the tips of her toes were touching the floor, borne aloft by sudden ghostly winds. Her hair, wild at the best of times, now stood on end, as if every strand was charged with electrical energy.

She looked to Gogol and raised a hand. His ancient armour groaned as if compressed by giant, unseen hands, and his eyes bulged as he realised he was held immobile, unable even to speak.

‘Are you stable?’ Arkendale asked her.

‘Yes.’ The girl replied, her voice layered and deep, and echoing as if she were at the centre of some vast cavern.

‘But…hggnn…he is…he is warded. His armour…’

‘Then try harder, and make sure he does not slip from your grasp. Everyone else, stand back and make ready. If this does not work…’

‘We know the drill, ma’am.’ Mulligor growled, loping swiftly across the corridor to join her. The arco-flagellant stalked around her and came to rest at her side like a faithful and protective pet. Arkendale motioned for the crewmen to keep up the punishing shotgun fire and then signalled the others to join her.

She eyed Enchen’s arm once again as he approached.

‘Is it bad?’

‘I’ve already healed it.’ The diminutive interrogator replied, but scowled as he showed her the damage to his coat.

‘Although it took a little longer, what with the poison. Just another scar, but they’ve ruined this bloody thing already.’

He looked at Gogol then, whose eyes shone with anger at his current situation.

‘I don’t think he’s going to be very friendly when you let him go.’

‘I’ll worry about that when the time comes. I need to ask this now, Andri, before we go any further. What’s the status of the others?’

‘They are on standby, mistress. Just in case.’

Arkendale inclined her head.

‘Good. Let’s just hope we don’t need to activate them. She paused then, her stare widening a little.

‘Even Haakivo?’

‘Just in case, as I said. I know he’s hardly reconditioned enough to be let loose, but if the eldar get to him while he’s out of it, they’ll either kill him, or worse, they’ll revive him. That said, Haakivo’s the least of our problems. Legion and Ragnarok are still in stasis, but I’ve had to send Kunnin off to the engine rooms. I’ve told him that we’re having problems with vermin…’

‘Vermin?’ Arkendale said, wrinkling her nose. Enchen shrugged.

‘I was put on the spot, ma’am. Sooner or later he’s going to realise that something’s up here, and he’s going to want to come and join the fight.’

He gestured towards Gogol.

‘How the hell is he going to react when he sees Kunnin?’

‘Forget that brute. How do you think the good inquisitor will react when he uncovers the residents of the cell deck, both prisoner and colleague.’ Descartes continued, his deep voice wavering a little.

‘I am quite sure the sight of this little collective has shunted the good inquisitor’s tolerances to the very edge of the precipice. It is quite likely that he will all but rupture his reproductive organs in trying to…ah, purge the Blade of it more outlandish residents.’

‘And then there’s DoSharn.’ Bromm called from the curved ceiling above them, his pistols still trained on the breach.

For a lingering moment, the group fell silent. Arkendale’s mood deepened at the mention of that name.

‘He will not be leaving the cell deck. Make no mistake about that.’

At the far edge of the gathering Leash cried out as he saw another of the ship’s crew fall to the enemy fire. The man’s comrade dashed forward in an attempt to drag him into cover, only to be shredded by splinter fire.

‘Cease fire! Cease fire and fall back!’ Arkendale called to the survivors. Enchen joined in, waving his arms at the harried crewmen.

‘Move! Now! Fall back to the access corridor and await further instructions!’

Leash skulked to the rear of the group, his eyes fixed permanently on the smouldering ruin of the hatch.

‘This is risky, mistress. We’ve never tried this with the eldar before. We don’t know how they’ll react.’

‘Get your mask ready, Leash, and leave the worrying to me. Are you listening to me?’

The cowering man nodded nervously, and after a moment’s hesitation he reached inside his pocket and removed a piece of thin black cloth. He held the material tightly in one trembling hand, as if afraid to allow his fingers to slacken.

‘He is ready, my lady. I will make sure of that.’ Descartes said, placing one oversized hand on the man’s shoulder.

Arkendale worked her neck then, and took a step forward.

‘I know you can hear me.’ She called. ‘And I know that you are able to understand me.’

In response to this, the lights of the corridor flickered and dimmed. The picture on the screen beside her shivered and blinked out. Arkendale regarded the dead viewer with little concern.

‘I understand how it is you transfer yourselves from ship to ship. The last Imperial vessel you attacked, you overran its defences in moments. You have not done so here. You are currently trapped within the bay of my ship. My ship, you degenerate alien b-----ds. You are at my mercy. I had feared the eldar up to this point, I will admit. Now that I have faced you, I have seen that fear was unfounded. If you are willing to communicate, I would advise this. It may well save your lives.’

As she expected, there was no response. Mulligor let out a low growl at the ignorance of the aliens, while the others merely remained silent, ready to unleash themselves at a moment’s notice.

‘Perhaps I have also overestimated your intelligence. Perhaps you are unable to understand the language of my race.’

Again, there was no answer. Something about this entire situation troubled her. Of course, the fact that they were under attack by xenos pirates was troubling enough, but there was something else, some other consideration that, try as she might, she could not shake. Something was wrong here, fundamentally wrong. There was something about this attack that simply did not sit right. She needed to uncover more.

‘Why do you cower behind cover, eldar, when you displayed such arrogance in storming my vessel? Could it be that you have begun to realise that you will not take this ship easily? You find yourselves outmatched, pirate, and you know it.’

Hidden beyond sight, the corsair leader simply hissed in reply.

She narrowed her eyes then. It was clear that that the xenos beast was unwilling to give much away. She would have to take this a step further. She looked to Gogol, still held fast in his psychic chains.

‘If I release you, sir, do I have your word that you will hold back? Trust me when I say this, your time for vengeance against this enemy will come. I need your support, inquisitor. I need you to work with me.’

After a moment, the anger in the inquisitor’s eyes softened, for it was the only way he was able to respond. Arkendale took this as assent and gestured to Spook.

‘Release him.’

Gogol sagged as his captor did as ordered, his armour clattering as his body adjusted to bearing its own weight. The anger returned to his eyes, but a slow shake of Descharte’s head made sure that anger did not develop into physical confrontation.

‘Never do that again.’ Gogol snarled, looking first to Spook and then to his fellow inquisitor. ‘I will not allow such violation.’

‘Then rein yourself in, sir.’ Arkendale replied with an animated sweep of her hand. She looked to Spook.

‘I need you to get inside the thing’s mind and find out what you can. Be cautious though, we don’t know how potent the eldar psyche is. At the first sign of resistance, withdraw. Everyone else, keep your weapons trained on that hatch. Phasma, I want you to spare no effort in gathering as much information on these pirates as you can.’

+Of course, mistress.+

‘We know that they are eldar.’ Arkendale continued. ‘Assess every inch of them. Feed armour and weapons configurations into our database. I want to know them inside out. Oh, and be sure to keep a record of every action, every decision they take. What we learn from this may prove to be invaluable to the Ordo Xenos.’

+Understood, mistress.+

‘You gave me the distinct impression that you despised psykers, Arkendale.’ Gogol said then, snatching her attention. His voice seemed overtly laden with bitterness, though she understood why given his current situation She glanced over her shoulder as she replied.

‘I do. Spook is no psyker. She is a drug addict with a unique talent. She is different.’

‘In what way? A psyker is a psyker…’

‘Not so, sir. She is as human as you or I. Now, please…’

‘I have him.’ Spook whispered then, an icy mist drifting from between her lips. ‘But there is…there is something amiss. I…I can’t seem to grasp his mind, mistress. His thoughts. His thoughts are plastic. They are slick, greasy. Hate and…and oil and misery. Its hurts to brush his mind, like electrodes fired into the brain…’

‘Just say the word and withdraw, girl.’ Arkendale said, reaching for the softly glowing ‘I’ fixed to the lapel of her jacket.

‘As soon as you sense him chasing you…’

The young girl shook her head, her eyes still squeezed shut.

‘There is something strange about him, mistress. I…I can’t… Oh. Oh Emperor, no. No, it can’t be!’

She cried out then and staggered back, her feet touching the floor. Her dark eyes snapped open and she stumbled, falling into Descartes’ arms. Arkendale started forward and pressed the symbol, her actions causing those around her to moan softly. Leash whimpered, and even Mulligor let out a quiet whine.

Gogol gasped, as if icy fingers had snatched his heart. He fought to steady himself, gasping as he did so as if suddenly emerged in icy water. No sooner had Arkendale done this than she pressed the symbol again and Gogol felt the deep, aching nausea inside him subside with immediate effect.

For a moment, there was only silence, and not the anger or astonishment she had expected.

‘What is that?’ Mulligor asked then. He shook his head and sniffed the air. Arkendale’s face tightened and she spat on the deck before licking her lips and wiping the back of her glove across her mouth.

‘Does anyone else taste blood?’ She whispered, disgust twisting her features

‘I smell it.’ Mulligor answered. ‘Blood and sweat and oil.’

It came without warning. The bulkhead behind them peeled open with a sound like tearing flesh, followed less than a second later by a thunderous boom and a flash of molten fire. Arkendale rounded on the disturbance as Mulligor charged past her, his huge fists pounding the deck.

A speeding shape threw itself through the resultant smoke, leaping from the rend to engage the charging arco-flagellant. The corsair held a long, serrated blade in each hand, weapons that shimmered with deadly power. Had Mulligor been anything other than a living weapon, a meld of man and machine that existed only to destroy, he would have fallen at that instant.

It was clear that both the warriors had underestimated the skill of his opponent as they clashed, for both were incredibly fast and powerful. The eldar was a nightmare, clad in little more save for segments of blood-red armour. He swept his blades out in a wide arc before him, intending to cut Mulligor in two, but the arco-flagellant ducked in below the twin strikes and swung one fist up to take the eldar’s head from his shoulders.

The corsair leaned back away from the swing, using the tips of his swords to arrest his fall, and then sprang back, twirling the blades out before him. His speed was absolute, his limbs blurring as they moved.

The blades connected with Mulligor’s arms again and again, sending sparks flashing out in their wake, and then the eldar began to twist around on the spot, swinging to the left and then to the right, each strike stopped by the armoured fists only inches from Mulligor’s neck.

Mulligor kicked out and connected with the eldar’s groin. The eldar doubled up and, though he did not cry out it was clear that Mulligor had inflicted pain.

‘So, you got something like balls.’ Mulligor snarled, pressing home the attack. He leapt through the air, one fist drawn back, ready to end it.

He stopped dead. One of the alien’s blades was buried in the meat of his shoulder, right up to the hilt. The eldar had recovered much faster than he had anticipated, and now he found himself impaled.

Arkendale appeared at his shoulder and wrenched Mulligor back, her pull strong enough to cause the eldar to let go of his weapon. She reached to her throat and tapped the rune hanging there. The eldar gave out a pained shriek and staggered back, shaking his head vigorously.

The inquisitor wasted no time in pressing home her attack, and as she brought her chainsabre to bear it began to whine, the hundreds of miniscule monomolecular teeth that lined the blade whirring to life.

She lunged at the pirate and swept her sword around to take its head, but despite her suffocating proximity, the eldar managed to gather its wits in time to counter the strike. Both blades met amid a clash of sparks, only momentarily, and then Arkendale’s chainsabre sliced cleanly through the alien weapon, severing it in two.

She flicked her wrist back and returned, her second strike splitting the alien’s head apart from ear to ear. She caught sight of the eldar’s oval eyes as they widened in shock, and then they fell away, the thing’s body crumpling to the deck a second after.

Her brow glistening with sweat now, she reached over to pull the sword free of her henchman’s shoulder, only to pause as she noticed the barbed hooks that covered the blade. Mulligor waved her away with a sweeping paw.

‘I’ll deal with it.’

He slammed his shoulder hard against the bulkhead and the blade snapped in two. His teeth bared, he pressed the thick metal of his palms against the hilt and pulled, tearing the remainder of it free. The vials screwed into his external metal spine hissed as they released a measure of their contents into his body, and the pain in his expression softened.

‘Mistress! Stand aside!’

Descartes’ powerful voice boomed through the corridor, causing Arkendale to start. She spun on her heel in time to see more of the half-naked eldar attackers leap and tumble through the hole.

The floor and walls shook beneath the ogryn’s weight as he charged forward, shouldering past Mulligor as he did so. He hefted the powerful gun up and unleashed a single, thunderous blast. The two eldar caught in the salvo literally broke apart as they were blown into bloodied smears and spread across the corridor.

Ruffled but largely unfazed by the ogryn’s timely intervention, Arkendale ordered him forward to cover the new breach with a wave of her hand, indicating for Mulligor to follow suit, and then glanced back down the opposing corridor. Gogol and the others were similarly engaged, pouring copious amounts of firepower through the ragged, molten hatch.

‘This is doing us little good!’ She called. ‘We need to fall back and let them funnel in! Mulligor, Descartes, follow me!’

She did not hesitate to see if her instructions had been heard as she broke into a sprint, heading back towards the entrance to the bay. Behind her, the arco-flagellant and the abhuman swiftly complied.

Within moments she crossed the space and reached the others. She snatched at the man named Leash, her fingers curling around the folds of his collar.

‘Mask!’ She snarled, pulling him around to face her. ‘Or so help me, I’ll throw you in there with those b-----ds!’

+Phasma here, mistress. I feel it pertinent to warn you that the xenos interlopers appear to be deploying some as yet unidentified configuration of weapon.+ Said the ghostly presence of the magos, his voice swirling around her.

+It appears to be some form of heavy cannon, shoulder-mounted. I am reading suspensor fields…+

‘To the point, Phasma!’ She ordered, flinching slightly as shard rounds scattered across the bulkhead nearby.

+Quite. The weapon is charging, mistress, and the readings are powerful if enigmatic. The target appears to the deck of the bay itself. I regret to admit, I have no functioning engagement system with which to engage. The w…+

A loud and resounding boom echoed through the ship then, followed by a bow wave of force almost strong enough to throw her off her feet. The lumen globes set into the upper sections of the walls flickered and dimmed.

+…pon has been activated. I’m reading massive energised dark matter particle acceleration. By the Omnissiah, damage augurs are being roused throughout the lower decks, mistress. Levels have been breached all the way to deck quintus...+

Sure enough, fresh alarms began to wail their warning out into the corridor, some more distant and muted than others. Arkendale reached Gogol just as the large man was in the process of engaging another of the xenos attackers. The creature was female, and armed with a hefty trident, its forks serrated and barbed. It stabbed at him, moving with a speed that far belied the size and cumbersome nature of the weapon. The charged prongs rang against his gorget, almost close enough to take his face off, and he stepped back and hacked at the pirate, taking her arm off at the shoulder.

‘Blessed be the Emperor, Him on Terra!’ Gogol bellowed, reciting words of faith and fortification. ‘Blessed be the hand that guides me, and the faith that burns within my breast! Blessed be the protection He affords me, His son, His arm of vengeance!’

He spun on his heel and brought the sword down hard into the corsair’s shoulder even as it began to rise, the strike driving through flesh and bone. Bisected from collar to waist, the eldar fell to the deck, its dark oily blood pooling around it.

Gogol swung around to face Arkendale, a look of triumph illuminating his face.

‘Follow me.’ She said simply, offering nothing in the way of congratulations at his efforts. ‘Things are swiftly turning to s—t.’

+I have grave news, mistress.+ Phasma said then, the tone of his phantom voice low and ominous. +It seems the alien weapon is some manner of breaching tool, and it has been employed effectively. I am reading an energy signature emanating from several of the lower decks.+

Arkendale uttered a curse at this harsh enough to draw a breath from Gogol, but she cared little for the sensibilities of her companion.

‘Well, it looks as if I’m about to get my wish, sir.’ She said, spinning him around to face the hatches beyond.

‘The enemy are well and truly dug in now, and believe me when I say, things are about to get a hell of a lot worse before they get better.’

+The readings suggest that the extremity of the breach is located within the munitions secundus sector.+ Phasma informed them.

‘The gunnery deck.’ Arkendale added, her words causing Gogol’s face to pale a little. ‘I suggest we move, sir, and move now. Bromm, Enchen and Mulligor, cover our advance.’

Behind them, Descartes gave out a bellow like a wounded grox and the others spun around in time to see a surge of the attackers spill through the far breach, howling and baying like animals. They tumbled across the deck and kicked out against the walls like a living tide, intent on the annihilation of their prey.

The first of them sprinted across the deck and rolled beneath Descartes’ cumbersome swing to come to rest before Leash, its leering face inches from his. The man gave out a strangled sob as the alien snatched at his collar and slammed him back against the bulkhead, an evil blade glinting in its free hand.

Descartes’ thick fingers curled around the corsair’s neck and he hauled the creature away, spinning on his heel to smash the creature against the corridor wall with bone-shattering force. Pipes were ruptured and panels shook free beneath the force of the blow.

‘Filthy brute!’ Descartes snarled, casting the shattered body back into the oncoming horde. Almost heedless to the approaching danger, he snatched Leash up shook him like a rag doll.

‘Put the mask on, you damned imbecile!’

Terrified beyond measure by the ogryn’s incandescent rage, leash did as he was ordered. He pulled the tattered, skull-faced mask over his head, and in that instant the pupils of his eyes narrowed almost to nothing. The fear that had jellified his limbs dissipated, as every single muscle across his powerful frame tensed.

‘Annihilatum.’ He whispered.
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Re: Obsoletus

Postby Revenant » Tue Oct 20, 2015 9:36 pm

Aaagh! How long is it since i posted on here? Anyway, i've started so i'll finish.
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Re: Obsoletus

Postby Revenant » Tue Oct 20, 2015 9:40 pm

Chapter 4.



Descartes let Leash go and swung around to unleash another blast from his ripper gun. The nearest of the attackers were almost upon him as the mighty gun thundered. The resultant volley painted the corridor red as it shredded the armoured bodies apart.

‘They are all yours.’ He snapped, breaking into a heavy, lumbering run.

Leash did not answer. His simple attire bulged as the muscles beneath swelled, his every vein standing on end as if about to burst. He raised his fists as the surviving eldar began to recover, many of them scrabbling and clawing at their kin in their eagerness to engage their prey.

‘Cover our retreat!’ Arkendale called from behind him. ‘Wait until we are through the hatches and then follow!’

Again, Leash did not answer. His breathing was harsh and frantic now, his chest rising and falling as if he was hyperventilating. A number of the eldar before him screamed that same strange, inhuman scream as they threw themselves forward, and though a handful of them fired their pistols as they advanced, most chose not to, desperate instead to wet their blades with his blood.

The swiftest of the pirates were before him in seconds, carried forth by their inhuman speed. A brace of them bounded into him, their blades flashing around to slice him apart.

Leash let out a shuddering cry of release and exploded into motion, his limbs blurring as he attacked. He snapped his left arm out, his palm flat, and smashed the first knife away, shattering his attacker’s wrist as he did so. He hammered home a punch that liquefied the eldar’s face as he caught the falling knife with his other hand. Ducking low and spinning on his heel, he flipped the knife around and thrust it deep into the chest of the second attacker with the force of a bullet.

More eldar ran to engage him and he rose with a swing of his elbow, crushing the windpipe of another foe, as one of the corsairs flipped over in the air above him to land lightly on the balls of its feet, its eyes burning with hunger for the victims beyond.

Leash snatched at the alien and closed his fingers around its long ponytail. He hauled it back, snapping its spine with a raised knee, and then kicked its crippled body out into the mass. Most of its kin simply rolled or leapt out of the way, displaying reactions that were far beyond anything human.

Leash leapt up and kicked out against the corridor wall, using the momentum of the manoeuvre to spin around in the air and sweep his legs out. The kick connected with the side of a head and sent the victim careering into the bulkhead.

A loud crack issued through the confined space as the segmented length of a lash snapped out past Leash’s face, missing him by a hair’s breadth. As he landed he rolled, passing beneath the sweeping blade of a falchion, and came up just as another of the lithe gladiators unfurled what appeared to be a barbed, monomolecular net.

The alien twirled the net around its head, ready to cast it at the rampaging man. Leash rose sharply and thrust his arm out, snatching the pirate’s arm. He twisted the eldar’s wrist harsh enough to snap the bone and then spun his opponent around as the lash flicked by him again, scoring a thin groove across his back this time.

He did not so much as flinch as he wrapped the net around its owner’s neck and pulled it tight. The eldar gave out a strangled cry as the mesh constricted as if of its own accord, turning its master’s face to bloody pulp. Leash hauled the dying killer around as the falchion came at him again and alien flesh stopped the serrated blade this time, biting deeply into armour, meat and bone.

Leash kicked the dead alien’s leg up and sent it hammering into the groin of his attacker. He let the body go and leapt at the falchion wielder as the eldar stabbed at him. He turned the first attempt aside with the back of his hand and landed, using both hands to smack the return away over his left shoulder.

The eldar lurched forward beneath the momentum of its own swing and Leash twisted, their backs touching for a moment, before hammering his elbow into the back of the eldar’s neck, snapping bone and ending another life.

A foot speared through the air towards his head and he caught it with both hands, a swift flick of the wrist making a ruin of the offending ankle. His own foot darted out to pin the pirate’s opposing toes to the deck and then he pulled as hard as he could.

Both the eldar’s hip joints dislocated with a brace of sickening cracks. He let go and leapt back, literally drop-kicking the crippled eldar across the corridor into its comrades.

Once again, the lash came for him, but the fallen falchion was on the floor now and he rolled over it, scooping it up as he passed. Another eldar armed with a pair of wicked-looking knives ran at him as he rose, propelling itself off the opposing wall as it leapt for him. He raised the blade and met his foe, deflecting a series of swift and vicious strikes. The eldar came at him like an enraged animal, twisting on the spot each time it rained a blow down onto his defences, but Leash stood firm and met each strike with an expertly placed counter-swing.

The pirate with the lash snarled at the intrusion of its kin and slid between the two combatants, intent on finding an opening. Denied and frustrated, it raised its pistol and fired.

Leash reacted in time to save his life, shifting his captured blade just enough to deflect the hissing dart of black crystal up away from his chest to slice through the meat of his shoulder and shatter against the bulkhead behind him. Blood misted from the wound and splattered across the pale skin of his would-be killer’s face.

The thing screeched as the toxic blood burned through the flesh of its face, blinding it. Leash ducked beneath the knives of his second opponent as they came for him again and kicked out, sending the lash wielder flying across the corridor into the bulkhead. It let go of its pistol and Leash flipped over, kicking the weapon up to bounce off the curved ceiling as he cast the falchion back behind him. The curved weapon speared the blinded warrior through the shoulder even as it began to rise, pinning it to the bulkhead and drawing yet more shrieks of pain from the tortured creature.

He rolled over and punched the pirate with the knives hard in the stomach, doubling the warrior up. An uppercut as he rose lifted the stricken eldar clear off its feet and then he snatched the falling pistol from the air.

He twisted and fired, riddling the falling warrior with poisoned shards. The convulsing eldar let go of its knives and as they fell, he snapped out a leg and kicked one of the spinning weapons out towards the breach.

The knife spun through the air and lodged itself up to the hilt in the throat of another emerging alien. The second knife rang once as it struck the deck and bounced up. He caught it in his free hand and swung it hard around to split the skull of the blind warrior pinned to the bulkhead behind him, ending its life once and for all.

Leash rose and fired out at the breach, swiftly filling the air with a hail of splinter fire. More bodies fell, spilling through the ragged bulkhead amid a storm of blood and crystalline dust. It took the deadly agent seconds to finish off those before him, each shot placed to ensure a kill.

‘Enough!’

Leash threw himself around at the sound of Arkendale’s voice, his eyes widening and his body freezing rigid. Beyond him, at the far end of the corridor, the inquisitor gestured harshly.

‘Retreat!’

The killer did as ordered without hesitation, throwing his body into a pounding locomotion that saw him cover the space between them in a handful of seconds. No sooner had he passed beneath the central section of the corridor than the thick pressure hatch slid closed behind him, sealing the second breach off, courtesy of Phasma.

Tinkling thuds rang against the substantial metal even as it slammed into place, a telltale sign that the eldar attack was far from spent. Still, for the moment at least, the area was sealed off and secure.

Gogol found his attention drawn to the sibilant hiss of another hatch behind him and turned in time to see the slab rise up and armed crewmen spill from the exposed section beyond. Arkendale left Enchen and the others to cover the ruined bay hatch as she moved to meet with the new arrivals.

‘We are not going to be able to stall this attack here.’ She informed the officer at the head of the group. ‘We need to seal this entire deck off. See to it that security teams are placed at both elevators this end of the ship and then have the crew quarters evacuated.’

The armsman answered with a curt nod and turned to the others behind him, snapping off orders with all the demeanour of an angry canine. Once done, he turned to Arkendale once again.

‘Do we hold this position, ma’am?’

‘For now.’ Arkendale answered, pushing past him. ‘Sell yourselves dearly as you can. Force these b-----ds to fight for every inch of deck they take. Your service to the Immortal Throne will not be forgotten.’

‘Understood, ma’am.’ The officer answered, betraying no emotion at being ordered to effectively give his life to defend the inquisitor’s retreat, and she wasted no more time, ordering the others to follow her with a curt hand gesture.

This time Gogol did not pause to argue the point. He shouldered his way past Arkendale and raised his arm as he broke into a run past the ruin of the contested hatch. Almost immediately he found himself assailed by enemy fire, his ears filling with the sound of shattering crystal and the sibilant hiss of escaping toxins, but his armour protected him from sustaining any injuries.

He reached Arkendale just as the crewmen began to file past, their shotguns barking. One by one Arkendale’s agents began to peel away from the standoff, allowing the ship’s crew to take their place.

‘You are really going to allow this?’ He asked as he tilted his head to pass through the hatch. He took a sharp left as he followed Arkendale and then slowed as the female inquisitor came to rest before a large hexagonal hatch emblazoned with the letter ‘A’.

‘The bridge will be your best option by far.’ She replied, glancing briefly over her shoulder as the elevator iris slid open.

‘I have a competent and experienced bridge crew, by far the best combatants on the Blade.’

Gogol moved aside to allow the hulking ogryn access. Descartes squeezed his bulk through the opening and gently placed the comatose Spook onto the deck at the inquisitor’s feet before pressing himself into the cramped space, the bulk of the huge weapon in his hand serving only to restrict the available space even further.

Gogol looked on in puzzlement as Arkendale pushed past him and hauled the skull-faced assassin into the elevator, swiftly trading places with him as she did so. She clicked her fingers in Leash’s face, mere centimetres from the man’s almost pupil-less eyes.

‘Listen to me. He is now your primary concern. Elentius Gogol. Activate sentinel protocols, effective until I give the order otherwise. Confirm.’

‘Confirm.’ Leash answered, hissing the word out in between heaving, ragged breaths. Arkendale nodded and then stepped out of the iris, ducking sharply as Bromm scuttled in from the ceiling of the corridor and swung up onto the curved apex of the elevator.

‘We will take care of him, mistress.’ Descartes assured her with a warm but brief smile.

Gogol’s eyes narrowed.

‘Take care of me? I don’t understand.’

‘Listen to me.’ Arkendale said then, forcing her voice to rise above the thunder of shotgun fire. ‘Exit the elevator to your right and you are at the bridge. Descartes will fill my crew in with the details. All you have to do sir is sit tight and survive this. We can do this. The Emperor protects.’

Arkendale made the sign of the Aquila before her chest and then turned away into the corridor, allowing the iris to close behind her once again. Gogol started forward, an angered protest on his lips, but she was gone from sight before he was able to speak, and the elevator was sealed.

‘What in Karamazov’s name is going on here!’ He bellowed, his voice booming through the confined space.

‘How dare she dismiss me? I will not tolerate this!’

‘Please, my lord, compose yourself.’ Descartes cut in, holding his slab-fingered hands up in an appeal for calm.

‘My mistress wishes only to safeguard your well-being…’

‘I am no defenceless infant!’

‘Of course not, but you are a guest on this ship, sir, and my lady Arkendale is a most gracious host. She would not see your come to harm.’

His eyes wide with rage, Gogol looked into the faces around him, one by one.

‘Guest? I am no guest. I am an inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus. I am the divine retribution of the Emperor, and I run from no foe. Mark my words…’

His gaze lingered on Bromm, still perched upside down above his head. The strange ratling held his stare and did not waver.

‘When this is over, when these foul aliens have been expelled from this ship, your lady Arkendale and I will have much to discuss.’

+++

‘If ever he was beginning to warm to you, mistress, I think you may just have put paid to that.’

Arkendale glowered at Enchen for a moment and then signalled Mulligor to activate the opposing elevator. The arco-flagellant spun on his heel and trotted over to the iris on all fours. He depressed the rune there with a clumsy thump of his paw.

‘Better I attract the fool’s angered attentions, Andri.’ Arkendale said. ‘The sooner he starts asking questions around here, the sooner we have a problem. Do you have convincing explanations for any of this?’

She gestured about her at the ship. Enchen shrugged.

‘We could tell him the truth.’

Arkendale’s glaring silence was all the answer he needed. Despite her demeanour, he flashed her a defiant grin.

‘Perhaps not. Let’s just hope Descartes and the others are able to keep him confined to the bridge.’

‘We can’t worry about that for now.’ She replied tersely. ‘That damned Hereticus fool is the least of my concerns. We have a situation of potential disaster developing here and we must fight to contain it.’

‘Pandora’s box.’

Arkendale turned her attention towards Enchen, one eyebrow arching in puzzlement, an almost grand gesticulation for one such as her.

‘It is a term I have heard Descartes use before, mistress, describing this very ship, although I could not claim to understand its origins.’ He continued with a shrug.

Mulligor sloped away from the elevator hatch as it began to quiver slightly, a telltale sign that the carriage was on its way. He circled the others on all fours, his scarred face set in a deep, almost perpetual scowl.

‘Hggn. I got me a more colourful axiom. If you crack open a septic tank, don’t be shocked if you get covered in s--t. I’m guessing that’s the kind of flavour the lunk-head was going for.’

‘Eloquent but accurate.’ Arkendale answered. ‘Now move it.’

She swept into the elevator and spun on her heel to face the opening as the others followed. The arco-flagellant’s head snapped around to regard the exchange beyond as a shrill cry of pain rose up from the small knot of crew still defending their retreat. The man in question fell back, his visor shattered and his face little more than a red smear. Mulligor looked to his mistress but she merely shook her head.

‘Deck level quartus.’ Arkendale said. A moment later the elevator hatch slammed shut, and the last thing any of them saw was the sight of the enemy overwhelming those still standing.

Lithe eldar bodies spilled out into the corridor amid a storm of flashing blades, swiftly dispatching those still standing in defence of the Blade. The last few remaining crew members fell to the murderous surge, coming apart in a billowing storm of blood mist and twisting, separated limbs.

They were in.

+++

Flickering motes of light emanated from the innards of the lifepod once again, bathing the bay in cold otherworldly light. Fingers of electricity flicked out of the open lifepod to rake the surrounding bulkheads, drawing scorch lines across every surface they touched. Those eldar still present in the bay froze where they stood and turned slowly as one to regard the birth of the new arrival, the nearest of who retreated back into the bay, as if fearful that their presence would offend the newcomer.

The figure was tall, taller than most. As it passed into the bay it moved like liquid, gliding forth like some hunting feline predator.

The pirate was female, that much was made obvious by the flattering shapes of her segmented armour’s curves. The armour she wore looked to be made of flawless jet glass. It seemed to shimmer with an internal light, giving the warrior a soft, jade hue, and was inlaid with millions of small threads of turquoise veins, like marble.

The eldar’s features were hidden by a polished brass grotesque that looked to encase her head. She wore her long, jade-green hair in a tight scalp lock that flowed behind her like a scorpion’s tail, its every inch festooned with micro-thin coils of razorwire, serrated teeth and microscopic bones.

She drew the sword at her back as she emerged and stepped out into the bay, regarding all around her slowly. The blade was a nightmare, terrible and utterly black, so much so that it was lost amid a thick void of impenetrable shadow.

The very pressure within the bay increased noticeably at her arrival. The deck groaned beneath her, as if tested by some overbearing weight. The air grew thick and cloying, seeming almost alive with some underlying sentience. Whispers echoed through the bay, too quiet to truly hear but prevalent enough to detect.

The twisted, claw-fingered thing sloped forward to meet the new arrival, almost bending double in supplication as it did so. The rest of the gathered eldar fell to one knee and bowed their heads, clearly fearful of this imposing creature.

She did not speak as such, but rather she emitted a curt series of sharp, sibilant commands, each one accompanied by a harsh gesture. The eldar began to disperse, no doubt in accordance with these commands. A number of the pirates began to circle the bay, their heads snapping back and forth as if searching for something that could not be seen. Eyes glittered red in the gloom, eyes that were neither human nor indeed natural in any way.

After a few moments the female froze, her burning eyes widening a little. Her black eyes came alive, blazing crimson as she took in her surroundings, scrutinizing every inch of the space around her as if hunting for something.

‘Little spy.’ She whispered, her voice deep and resonant, a world away from anything her appearance would have suggested.

‘I sense you, hiding amongst the technology of this heretic vessel.’

She spoke the most perfect High Gothic, both her accent and pronunciation impeccable. She fixed her gaze firmly upon one corner of the bay, its furthest recesses bathed in deep shadow.

‘What are you? You should not be, thing of echoes.’

Those shadows shifted, only briefly, betraying the briefest glimpse of a robed humanoid outline, a shape that faded away as soon as the eye attempted to focus upon it.

+Daemon.+ Said a whispered, digitised voice then, the sound breezing into the bay from every conceivable direction. Many of the gathered corsairs snapped their heads around as they fought to assign a direction to that which had none.

+You are not what you appear to be. Why you have chosen to invade my ship, I cannot say, but I can promise you this. The Empyrean Blade will soon become a name that shall be etched upon your lips for an eternity.+

The pirate commander lifted her mask up then and smiled at this. Unseen by all save for Phasma, both the smile and the face that met him were not those of a xenos.

‘I see now why he thirsts for this ship so.’ Came the woman’s reply.
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Re: Obsoletus

Postby Revenant » Tue Oct 20, 2015 9:43 pm

Chapter 5.



Gogol was the first out of the elevator, exiting the confined space as soon as the iris retracted. He glanced briefly to his right and the massive, arched hatch there. The gateway was emblazoned with a huge darkwood carving of the Aquila and guarded by a brace of heavily armoured troopers.

He scowled at the sight and then turned sharply on his heel to march in the opposite direction, his boots ringing against the deck.

Descartes pushed his way clear of the elevator and set off after Gogol, his angular face tight with bemusement.

‘Inquisitor, the bridge…’

‘The bridge be damned.’ Gogol snapped, glancing over his shoulder. ‘I know the layout of an Imperial vessel well enough.’

He slowed then and pointed the tip of his sword out towards the hatch in the distance, some fifteen metres ahead of him.

‘The commissar’s quarters lie to the fore of this deck. I will seek out those with faith enough to take up their weapons and drive the enemy from this vessel.’

Descartes’ footfalls shook the plates beneath as he lumbered after the inquisitor, the vast ripper gun swinging in his grasp. Behind him, Leash exited the elevator in a flash and sprinted after them both. Within seconds he had passed Descartes and in no time at all he skidded to a halt beside the inquisitor, his fists permanently balled.

The ogryn slowed then, eyeing the assassin warily. Arkendale had instructed Leash to guard Gogol from harm, a situation not without its problems. If Gogol persisted in fighting his mistress’s orders, then the circumstances could only get worse.

‘Please, inquisitor, for you own safety I implore you to follow me to the bridge. There is no need for you to…’

‘Hold your tongue, brute!’ Gogol snapped, bringing the sword around to point it at Descharte’s neck. ‘I will not seek to justify my actions to a lesser creature such as yourself! My authority is absolute, damn you!’

‘I do not question your authority, my lord.’ Descartes began, holding up a hand. ‘My first and only concern is for your safety and continued well-being.’

‘Then join me.’

The inquisitor’s offer stunned the ogryn, forcing him into silence. He blinked, struggling to comprehend Gogol’s suggestion.

‘Join me, if all you claim is true. One way or another I am going to bring about a suitable and effective defence of this ship. Arkendale intends to retreat and let this enemy in. This is a vessel dedicated to the Emperor and she would see it overrun with xenos filth, ogryn! You may be able to condone that decision, but I cannot. I will not.’

‘This is my lady’s ship.’ Descharte answered, his tone hardening slightly. Gogol was clearly unmoved by the hint of threat in the ogryn’s voice.

‘I care little for who claims ownership to this vessel, and I have seen enough imprecision here to warrant a potential investigation into heresy. I will rouse the commissar from his post and urge him to join my efforts. Perhaps then we may begin to pull this ship back from the brink of oblivion.’

Descartes glanced behind him to where the entrance to the bridge lay in wait, tantalisingly close. Bromm was still in the threshold of the elevator, struggling to revive the still-comatose girl.

The hulking ogryn sighed deeply and turned back towards Gogol, who was in the process of turning once more in the direction of the ship’s prow.

‘You are wasting your time, sir.’ He called after the determined man. ‘You will find no support within the commissar’s quarters. The Empyrean Blade, she…she has no commissar.’

Gogol froze in mid-stride, his sword falling slowly to his side.

‘And so the heresy deepens.’ He whispered.

+++

Arkendale stepped out into the corridor, her blade to hand and ready to be activated. Mulligor bounded out behind her and Enchen brought up the rear, his pistol sweeping across the open space of the deck quartus docking area.

The area here was far larger than the exit to the other decks, for deck quartus held the ship’s brace of ship-to-ship docks. They were quite unlike the bays above them, spaces designed to receive smaller ships like the saviour pod that had brought the enemy onboard.

Several access ways led off from this area, five in total including the elevator hatch. The area immediately ahead of them showed signs of quite considerable damage

The bulkhead there had been carved open, from the ceiling to the deck. Sparks still issued from the damaged areas, spilling from writhing wires and burning consoles. Thick black smoke rose up from the deck beneath, under-lit by the ominous orange flicker of flames.

‘Phasma warned us that the raiders had managed to breach all the way to quintus.’ She said, indicating the damage before them.

‘The alien weapon managed to carve its way through deck tertius…’

‘The gunnery deck.’ Enchen hissed, his eyes widening slowly. Arkendale inclined her head in confirmation.

‘Straight through ammo storage, judging by our position. Thank the Emperor for His mercy at the earliest opportunity, for I will be sure to do so.’

The inquisitor marched briskly over to where the blast had torn its way through the entire level, slowing only when the heat generated by the damage there became overbearing.

‘Phasma hypothesised that the weapon was in fact designed to penetrate, rather than destroy. Again, if this is true then we are fortunate in a way. The capacitor chambers take up much of the space in the deck below us. If it had indeed been a weapon of destruction then this entire ship would be little more than space debris by now.’

‘Fortunate? Forgive me, mistress, but more of the pirates are now potentially loose amongst the bowels of the ship. That can’t be good.’ Enchen began. Mulligor interrupted the interrogator with a snort.

‘Hggn! Let the bilge rats deal with them! Kunnin’s skulking around the hold, isn’t he? He’s probably bagged himself a few scalps already.’

Arkendale did not answer. Warning alarms were already screaming throughout the level, and even as she stepped away from where damage before her, one of the side gates hissed open and a number of bodies spilled out into the space, slowing only when they laid eyes on the inquisitor.

‘Ma’am!’ One of the crewmen called, slapping the barrels of the shotguns held by his companions down.

‘It’s lady Arkendale, you cretins! At ease!’

There were five bodies in the small group and each one wore the thick, padded heatsuits associated with the crew of deck quintus. All five of the men and women were in various states of disarray, though as well as the expected layers of soot and perspiration that always accompanied a shift in the engine, capacitor or torpedo rooms, all of them looked to have sustained various injuries.

‘Mistress, we have a security breach on quintus!’ The aging man at the head of the group began. ‘Emperor, they are bloody animals! They are everywhere, inquisitor…’

‘They came from the light.’ One of the women cut in, her voice harsh and broken. ‘The intruders slaughtered the crew of capacitor A before we were even aware of their presence. The deck masters have mustered all the support they can…’

‘Slowly.’ Arkendale commanded. She took a step forward and raised a hand. ‘I need to know numbers. I need you to tell me everything you can.’

The woman nodded frantically and swept the matted hair from here eyes. At that the older male moved to stand between her and the inquisitor, the whites of his eyes standing out all the more against the layers of grime coating his face.

‘We are all that managed to make it to the elevators before the attackers overwhelmed the main corridor. We can’t tell you much, mistress. All I know is that there was a bright light coming from within the capacitor room…’

‘Capacitor A.’ One of the others chipped in, his eyes darting nervously from side to side as he spoke. The older man spat a curse and shoved him back.

‘The attackers came from the light, just like Heric says, mistress. Ahhh s--t, none of this makes sense. They…they just flooded in, screaming and laughing and killing. Throne, the deck was so slick with blood we could hardly keep on our feet.’

‘How many?’ Enchen interjected, eyeing his superior warily. The man shook his head.

‘Too many. Too many. They move like oil through water, so fast. What are they, inquisitor?’

‘Daemons…’ The woman whispered. The old man spun on his heel and struck her square across the face.

‘Shut your mouth, you stupid slut! Don’t ever say that! Don’t you eve…’

Mulligor reared up and slammed the man against the bulkhead, pinning him with an elbow to the neck. The terrified crewman’s eyes bulged in their sockets as he fought to draw breath. The arco-flagellant pressed the palm of his free paw against the man’s head, letting it linger there for a moment, as if savouring his captive’s fear.

‘Take a nap, cuckoo boy.’

There followed a loud crack as a surge of electrical power flashed from the thick gauntlet into the crewman’s forehead. He gave out a yelp of pain and sagged, rendered instantly unconscious.

Mulligor stepped back and let the man slump into a heap at his feet.

‘The shock took his mind.’ He growled, looking first at Enchen and then Arkendale, a faux innocence altering his expression.

‘What? He could have gone ‘spawn’ at any time.’

‘Hardly.’ Arkendale answered, raising an eyebrow at the flimsy excuse. Unwilling to pursue the matter any further, she turned back to the others.

‘Is quintus compromised?’

‘Compromised? The deck is as good as gone, my lady.’ The woman answered, cowering slightly. ‘We were the only ones to make it to the elevator and even then we thought that the dae…the invaders would follow us up. The last thing we saw was the torpedo and engine crews rushing forward to attack.’

‘Why did you leave your deck?’

It was Enchen’s turn to question the crewmembers. Although small in stature, he held a presence that was intimidating and much belied his size.

‘I asked you a question.’ He pressed, his eyes piercing and inescapable. Every one of the gathered crew faltered in their reply, all too suddenly fearful of answering the interrogator’s question.

‘We…we weren’t turning tail, if that’s what you’re asking.’ The woman finally managed to answer, straightening her back slightly as if to make a show of standing her ground. She pointed back the way they had come.

‘We didn’t know how much of the ship was compromised, see? Sure, the boarding alarms are screaming like burning children but the vox net, it’s dead. We expected the net to be swamped.’

‘Nothing. We couldn’t even raise him. The techpriest.’ Another of the men added with a fearful sneer, his voice strained with the effort of hauling his groaning and dazed companion back up onto his feet.

Arkendale’s eyes narrowed as she heard this.

‘Move it. Get to the arms station and raise the alarm, let the deck master know what’s going on below us. Move!’

The small band did as ordered, the terse tone of the inquisitor causing them to explode into action. She watched them leave for a moment and then looked back to Enchen and Mulligor.

‘So, we may have lost the lower deck…’ Enchen began.

‘Vindolanda’s rabble be damned.’ She hissed in reply. ‘Let the bloody captain worry about replacing his menials when this is over. For now at least, this deck is secure. We have bigger problem on our hands.’

‘The vox net.’ Mulligor growled, sloping by her. Enchen’s eyes widened as he heard this, his thoughts finally aligning with those of his superior.

‘S--t. What, you think that this is the work of the enemy?’

Arkendale did not answer him directly. She glanced up and to the left as she always did.

‘Phasma, respond.’

Much to the relief of the small group, it took the phantom techpriest only moments to answer the inquisitor’s call. The lights above their heads flickered briefly and then dimmed. The temperature dropped noticeably, causing their breath to mist. No more than a flicker of movement, a fleeting glimpse of shadowy darkness passed through the chamber.

+Mistress?+

‘Deck quintus is experiencing a total loss of communications. What the hell is happening, and why have you failed to do anything about it?’

For a moment, the ghostly voice did not answer.

+My apologies, mistress. I had assumed other matters to be of greater import than the communications status of deck quintus.+

‘Please never assume anything, Phasma, unless I order you to do so. Is that understood?’

+Translucently, mistress. One moment please…+

There followed a short, indistinct burst of machine code, a gust of pure binary noise, and then the techpriest spoke again.

+I can confirm that the vox net has been compromised, mistress. This…this simply will not do. The intruders have somehow managed to corrupt my systems…in such…in such a way…running diagnostic algorithms…+

‘That can’t be good.’ Enchen whispered to the others. ‘These b-----ds have managed to get Phasma spooked. Phasma doesn’t spook.’

‘He is the spook.’ Mulligor said, sniffing the air ducts nearest to him.

‘Phasma doesn’t suffer such intrusions lightly.’ Arkendale said, her voice thoughtful and low. ‘This ship and its techpriest have been tested by the best and most powerful invasive systems available to the Obsoletus. How is it that the damned eldar have managed to do what should, for all intents and purposes be the impossible?’

+I am unable to detect the cause of the problem.+ The ghost admitted after a few more moments of silence.

+I do not know how they have managed to corrupt my systems, mistress, but I can sense it. There is a sickness at loose within this ship. Furthermore I have made what appears to be a somewhat disturbing discovery with regards to our ‘alien’ attackers.+

Arkendale’s frown deepened as she heard this.

‘Try not to keep us in suspense too long, Phasma. We don’t have the luxury of limitless free time.’

+Of course, mistress, it is just that I am currently vexed by the enigmatical nature of my findings. It would appear that these eldar attackers are led by a human female.+

All three glanced slowly upwards as they heard this. Mulligor gave out a harsh bark of a laugh. Arkendale and Enchen remained utterly silent.

‘Perhaps this is some manner of foul alien deceit.’ Enchen finally offered with a shrug. Arkendale shook her head at this.

‘An unacceptable explanation, but we can’t afford to ponder the meaning of this now. We have enough to deal with as it is. This is my ship, my territory. I will not allow this xenos filth to gain any advantage.’

She looked to her interrogator and arco-flagellant.

‘The continued security of this deck is our primary concern. Is that understood?’

Both Enchen and Mulligor answered her with a nod.

‘Good. Phasma, locate and nullify the source of this supposed corruption. Once you have a better idea of what is going on down there, report back to me. In the meantime, we have an entire incarceration deck to secure.’

As the others made to move then Arkendale hesitated. She bunched her fists until the aged leather of her gloves creaked in the near-silence.

‘If this situation becomes insurmountable, we may be forced to activate the labyrinth engine. Is this understood?’

Mulligor merely grunted, his face hidden from view. Enchen answered only hesitantly, his scarred face loose with dread. Lost around them, Phasma’s answer came as a slight flicker of the ambient lighting.

‘Good.’ Arkendale continued, gesturing for the others to proceed. ‘Let us pray to the Emperor that it does not come to that.’

+++

No sooner had the hatch slammed open than the light that streamed in briefly from the corridor beyond was extinguished, suffocated by the bulk of the armoured form that rushed into the chamber.

Gogol slowed as he entered, his lips drawn back in anger. He glanced around the silent space, hunting for any evidence that would decry the ogryn’s claim. It did not take him long to realise that the room had not seen regular use for a good while, just as Descartes had said. The air in here was stale and close, a good indication of the fact that this chamber did not have a frequent occupant. The inquisitor eyes the stacks of crates and scattered stowage piled up around the edges of the chamber for a few moments before turning back to glare at his companions.

‘I told you, sir. No commissar.’ Descartes said quietly, meeting the inquisitor’s gaze with a wary eye.

‘How?’ Gogol answered, his voice little more than a low growl. ‘How can a ship of the line, even an inquisitor’s ship, justify such an omission? The Creed is absolute…’

‘This…this is no ship of the line, sir.’ The ogryn cut in before he Gogol was able to settle too much into his argument.

‘I have been trying to tell you this much, sir. The Empyrean Blade is lawfully permitted to run without the presence of an Imperial officer. She is registered as a rogue trader.’

This latest information served only to curl the inquisitor’s lip. The disdain set into his face deepened, an occurrence Descartes had until this point thought impossible.

‘I should have suspected as much.’ He finally hissed. With that he swept his cloak aside and marched past the others back into the corridor. As he passed through the hatch he slowed, his eyes falling upon the opposing doorway. There, emblazoned on the door was a faded but recognisable symbol, recognisable at least to one of Gogol’s status.

An eight-pointed star with an eye at its centre. The symbol of the Navis Nobilitae. Descharte and Leash exited behind him, and although the assassin remained silent and brimming with fury, the ogryn seemed to grow cautious as he followed the inquisitor’s gaze.

‘What are you to tell me next? That the ship has no navigator?’ Gogol snapped derisively.

Descartes paused, his eyes narrowing.

‘Of course we have a navigator, my lord. We would be unable to function as a warp-capable vessel otherwise. Please, we waste time here when we need to be heading for the safety of the bridge.’

‘Yes, yes, the bridge.’ Gogol answered thoughtfully. ‘Perhaps an audience with the captain of this ship may serve to provide me with answers. The bridge it is.’

Gogol set off at a good pace back towards the bridge, his chin raised and his expression rigid with determination. Had he looked back even briefly he would have caught the look of relief that passed across Descartes’ face, and the lingering glance he gave the entrance to the navigator’s chamber. The inquisitor passed beneath the raised central partition and carried on; Leash ever in tow and Descartes no more than a few paces behind. He slowed slightly as he passed by the large hatch to his right and read the words stencilled condensation-laden surface.

BRIDGE CREW.

Without a moment’s more hesitation he hammered his palm into the door stud and physically barged the first body to emerge from the chamber within out of the way as the hatch slid upwards.

‘Look lively, you dogs!’ He cried, barely even glancing into the expansive room. ‘This vessel is under xenos attack! I am Elentius Gogol of the Emperor’s Inquisition, and my voice is the voice of His law!’

As he made his strident demands, he reached down and hauled the same dazed man back onto his feet, spun him on his heel and shoved him back into the chamber without so much as an acknowledging glance.

‘I will suffer neither hesitation nor argument, and I will respond to dissent with extreme and swift prejudice! Enemies of the Throne be damned, but I will see a fervent and absolute response to this foul and despicable threat! On your feet, all of you! Arm yourselves and prepare for glorious conflict, or by the bloody Throne, I will flay you one and all!’

Gogol’s vociferous voice was still resonating throughout the chamber as he turned smartly on his heel and marched back out into the corridor, the determination in his eyes shining now with all the keenness of the surface of his golden armour.

There he paused, his gaze boring into the ogryn.

‘The time of indecision is long over, abhuman.’

‘You will find no indecision here on this ship.’ Descartes answered slowly and quietly, his deep voice tinged with rising menace.

‘You are a guest here, my lord. Rally all the crew you feel you must, but I feel compelled to warn you, inquisitor, that my lady’s word is absolute law here.’

At that the ogryn’s fists bunched ever tighter and his mountainous brow fell almost low enough to obscure his eyes.

‘If it is the contemplation of mutiny that currently occupies your train of thought, I would urge you to balance your humours and, as my lady requested, follow me to the safety of the bridge.’

‘Ah yes, the bridge.’ Gogol answered, a strange and somewhat disconcerting calm settling over his manner.

‘Very well. Lead the way.’

Descartes issued a barely imperceptible nod to the silent assassin standing behind the inquisitor and then glanced back towards the elevator that had carried them to this deck. Bromm was still standing sentinel over his young charge, his composure in the face of her insensible state telling of his previous experience with the situation.

‘Stay where you are and guard the elevators, Lubus…’ He began, just in time for the rising screech of the general warning klaxon to drown out his voice. All those present raised their heads and glared around the corridor for a moment, all save for Gogol.

The inquisitor slowly folded his arms and gave a muted, self-satisfied smile, an expression completely devoid of mirth.

‘It would seem that time is most definitely not on our side, ogryn!’ He called over the din. Behind them, the first of the crew spilled into the corridor, brandishing guns and casting worried glances in either direction as they responded to the warning sound. Gogol flexed his gauntleted fingers and then broke into a brisk pace, gesturing before him as he did so.

‘I think we had better make haste. The eldar are on their way.’
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Re: Obsoletus

Postby Revenant » Fri Oct 23, 2015 2:48 pm

Chapter 6.



The ancient wooden doors to the bridge crashed open with force enough to shudder them upon their hinges. Gogol strode through the opening and into the bridge with the manner and bearing of a conquering hero, his shoulders squared and his chin raised. He swung his sword before him in a slow and deliberate arc, as if to brandish it in turn at each of the startled bodies that filled the space.

‘By the bowel-liquefying light of the Eye! Who the hell do you think you are?’ A strident voice thundered from beyond at his arrival. Gogol did not answer. Instead he planted the tip of his blade against the deck and rested his hands upon the upturned hilt of his sword as he met the gaze of the figure rising from the captain’s chair. Those of the bridge crew that he had roused from their quarters spilled out onto the bridge around him, stumbling and cursing as they fell under the scrutiny of those already at work here at the heart of the forecastle.

The captain of the Empyrean Blade stepped down from the dais upon which his command throne sat and unfurled the long braided lash that had hung from his hip a moment before. The weapon cracked loudly as it unravelled and the ancient leather began to smoulder and hiss, suddenly alive with a powerful charge.

He was a tall and slender man who wore an overtly ostentatious suit of damson felt overlaid with lacquered leather and gold filigree. His greying, shoulder length hair was braided intricately, not unlike the length of his neuro-lash, with each tress ending either in a sparkling jewel or an example of worked precious metal. He wore an elegant brass-rimmed monocle over his left eye, and as he regarded Gogol with anger and clear disdain, the coloured lens set into the mechanism cycled and changed hue constantly.

‘You are an unknown intruder upon my bridge, sir. My bridge. This is my ship, no matter…’

One of the men accompanying the captain leaned forward and placed a hand upon his shoulder, his eyes radiating caution. The captain stayed his tongue then, although the anger in his expression failed to dissipate. His eyes flicked over the Inquisitorial markings worked into Gogol’s armour only briefly, for he required only a glance to tell him all he needed to know.

‘Listen to me. I don’t know you and I don’t care to know you. What I do know is that my ship is apparently under attack. I say ‘apparently’ due to the fact that the good lady Arkendale has thus far failed to inform any of us here exactly what is happening.’

Gogol opened his mouth to speak then, only to have the captain demand his silence with a raised hand and a lash of the whip against the deck.

‘No, I will finish. First the lady inquisitor decides that she is going to take onboard salvage without so much as a cursory consultation. Then, far too coincidentally, I find my ship under attack. When she finally deigns to grace us with a measure of correspondence according to the situation, she sends ahead one of her lackeys instead of coming here personally.’

‘Captain…’ The man at his side began, growing ever more apprehensive by the moment. Gogol took in the faces of the crew around him then and he was satisfied to see that everyone visible seemed equally as fearful of offending his rank, if not him personally. Even the captain spoke with an edge of caution in his voice, as if the bravado he seemed so keen to express was as superficial as was possible.

The man was scared and so was his crew. They were terrified of Arkendale, that much was obvious. It was clear that they did not serve the woman through choice, but then again this manner of arrangement was quite common amongst the stars of Imperial space. Inquisitors had to travel just like everyone else, and theirs was the authority to commandeer any vessel they saw fit.

‘What is your name?’ He asked, the question quite taking the captain aback.

‘I…my name is Vindolanda. Captain Urlac Vindolanda, rogue trader by right of Imperial Decree Descendent. My family have owned this ship for generations…’

This time it was Gogol’s turn to stay the conversation with a raised hand. He moved forward to stand before Vindolanda, so that he was looking down upon the smaller man despite the rogue trader’s height.

‘Inquisitor Elentius Gogol. It would seem, captain, that you have me mistaken for one of lady Arkendale’s lackeys. I can assure you that this is not the case.’

‘He is a guest on this ship.’ Growled a deep and resonant voice from behind him. Gogol allowed himself a muted smile at the sound of the ogryn’s voice.

‘Ah yes, my escort.’ Came Gogol’s reply. He threw a glance in the direction of Descartes, who stood alone at the centre of the gathered crew, his vast firearm held loose but ready for use in a moment’s notice. The abhuman’s lip curled as he looked to the rogue trader.

‘Captain Vindolanda appears to believe that he is exempt from Imperial law. He believes that my mistress inconveniences him in the execution of her holy duties. He would like for nothing more than to see us expelled from his vessel ineradicably. Is that not correct, captain?’

‘Oh.’ Gogol uttered, raising his eyebrows in a show of mock surprise. He rounded on the captain, his expression expectant. Around him the other members of the bridge crew shifted uncomfortably at what they perceived to be a mounting confrontation.

‘Is this true, sir? Do you find the agents of the Inquisition incommodious?’

‘Incommodious?’ Vindolanda answered, unable to keep the corners of his mouth from rising ever so slightly.

‘Inquisitor, forgive me but are you really so unawares as to the inconvenience of my situation?’

The man who stood at the captain’s side shifted uneasily and opened his mouth to speak again, his face ruddy with ever-mounting exacerbation.

‘Forgive my captain…’

Vindolanda sent the unfortunate fellow reeling with a swift backhanded blow. All those present in the vicinity of the episode rapidly dispersed, as if the act of coming into contact with the ill-fated man would somehow serve to involve them in the dispute.

‘I will bloody well speak for myself, Zekozy! Damn your cringing heart, man! Look to the instrumentation around you and then apologise for me, if you feel the situation to be acceptable! There are xenos pirates at loose with my ship! Alien filth soils the confines of the Blade as we speak, warp damn it, and where is she? What in all the myriad hells of the Immaterium is she doing to put this damned situation right?’

‘You will hold your tongue!’

Descartes’ voice shook the walls of the bridge; such was its weight and fury. The ogryn stomped forth from his position near the doors of the chamber, one oversized finger raised in accusation. His unprepossessing features quaked with fury, every vein standing on end. Vindolanda paled visibly at the abhuman’s advance, the aggression and bravado in his manner draining away. Descharte loomed over the captain, so that his mass cast a dark shadow over Vindolanda’s shrinking form. Those of the crew nearest him bristled visibly yet none dare act, for the ogryn was a fearful thing when enraged.

‘Utter but one more affront to my lady’s honour, cur, and I will insert by hand into your intestinal cavity and remove your bowel. Slowly. I dare any of these inbred sycophantic morons to so much as flinch in an attempt to prevent me doing so.’

Descartes bared his teeth as he gestured out into the bridge. Sure enough, no one so much as flinched.

No one present could deny the fear in Vindolanda’s manner, yet despite it the captain remained defiant. The hand that held the lash twitched, as if independently thirsting to unleash the weapon upon the ogryn, but the captain himself made no move to follow up that threat.

‘Your loyalty does you credit, ogryn.’ Gogol said, genuinely impressed by the ogryn’s reaction. The large abhuman merely grunted and brought the ripper gun up so that the oversized barrel was almost touching the captain’s face. By his side leash stood in silence still, his wild eyes snapping from left to right as he took in the exchange, though he did not act. For a moment, the bridge was a theatre of silence, the tension palpable enough to reach out and touch.

‘I think that I have seen enough here. More than enough.’

The sound of the inquisitor’s voice seemed to break the steel union of Descartes’ anger and Vindolanda’s alarm. Both faces turned to regard him, only to find a scowl of disgust waiting for them.

‘Lady Arkendale could have expected no less from this…rabble.’

He gestured at the gathered crew and their commander as if together they were a collective of human detritus, the contempt in his expression bolstering that presumption.

‘I can see why she would not demean herself by keeping you informed of current events. You are all cowards and malcontents, and I debase myself by remaining within your proximity. Heed this warning, captain, and heed it well. When this crisis is over, if you and your men should somehow find the means to survive, then we shall have a reckoning.’

With that he turned smartly on his heel and gestured out towards the doors at the far end, signalling his intent to leave. Descartes withdrew from the personal space of the rogue trader with a snarl and turned to leave, his every colossal breath still heaving with anger. He passed by the inquisitor as he headed towards the doors, and when he spoke he did so without turning to face Gogol.

‘I will stand sentinel at the doors to this chamber sir but we are not about to leave. My lady’s instructions were clear. The bridge is still by far the safest area aboard this vessel.’

‘For me, perhaps, but not for you, gene-filth.’

For all his quick wit and vast intellect, the inquisitor’s words still took several seconds to filter into the ogryn’s brain, simply because of their unexpected nature. To his credit, Gogol was swift despite his size and the burden of his oversized armour. His hand snatched out like quicksilver and his armoured fingers closed around the black cloth of leash’s mask. Before even the assassin had time to react he pulled the elastic material free and cast it aside. At the same time he kicked out, planting the sole of his boot squarely in the assassin’s back.

Leash gave out a strangled cry of almost pained alarm and staggered forward into Descartes. Had the assassin not been in the way, the ogryn may have found the opportunity to put a fatal round into the inquisitor. As it was Leash stumbled and collided headfirst with the solid mass of the ripper gun, the toll of skull against metal producing a resonant clash.

Gogol’s bolt pistol was in his hand in an instant and trained squarely on the back of the dazed man’s head. The inquisitor’s eyes blazed with homicidal intent. Descartes had stared murder in the face many times before, and in that moment he recognised what was about to happen.

‘You treacherous b-----d.’ He growled, his voice low and rumbling like stirring thunder. ‘My mistress will not let this sedition go unpunished.’

The inquisitor smiled and pulled the trigger. Descartes was fast despite his size. The shot was faster. He managed to both curl his arm around Leash in time to save his comrade’s life and bring the ripper gun to bear. Even as he pressed the trigger, the bolt punched into the bulging meat of his shoulder and detonated, throwing him back. At the same time the huge weapon barked, the shot redirected but still potentially deadly.

If Gogol had been anyone else then his life would have ended at that moment. He flung his arms up as the blast enveloped the left hand side of his body. An aura of energy popped and hissed about him, flickering intermittently as it turned the deadly hail aside. Vindolanda was fortunate enough to find himself directly behind the bulk of the armoured inquisitor, but those of his crew directly around him were not so lucky.

Several bodies, including that of the man the captain had called Zekozy were shredded by the spreading shot, rendered into bloodied viscera and fragmented bone. Those who were without the area of effect scattered as fast as their reactions were able to carry them, drawing weapons as soon as they were able.

Gogol lowered his arms with calculated slowness, his lips drawn back into an almost feral snarl. The man’s eyes blazed with zeal, enough so to render him feral.

‘Sinners of flesh and of faith. Charlatans. Whores and whoresons, one and all.’ He uttered, the mounting rage within causing him to shudder slightly.

‘Fear me, for I am your apocalypse.’

Descartes hit the deck hard. The collision sent a fresh mist of blood out into the recycled air. The ogryn cried out in pain, the sound a harsh and guttural bark. The bolt had taken a good measure of flesh and muscle with it as it had detonated, more than enough to rob him of the use of the limb. To his credit he rolled up onto one knee and braced the ripper gun beneath his good arm. He let off another thunderous round, the harsh light of the explosive discharge bathing the bridge in blinding light for less than a heartbeat. He laughed at the melodrama of the inquisitor’s statement despite the pain and the calamitous situation, the noise issuing from his throat like both clouding with grit.

Gogol twisted clear of the explosive discharge and fired again. The bolt hammered into the thick cylinder of the ripper’s barrel and exploded with force enough to send the weapon spinning from the ogryn’s grasp.

Descartes hissed through his teeth as ice-cold javelins of pain coursed through his fingers, the shock of the impact near bleeding the agony from his shoulder. Everything was happening so fast the pace of it all threatened to overwhelm his wits. He saw the inquisitor advance, his gleaming power sword alive and singing with power. Descartes was a genius, a thinker, but the time for thinking was over.

He stepped back away from Gogol’s first swing, the hissing blade of the sword missing him by inches. Leash was still held fast in his grasp and so he swung the struggling man around and threw him across the chamber. Leash hit the deck and tumbled from sight out into the corridor beyond.

‘Subdue him!’ The ogryn bellowed, his voice thundering through the bridge. Again he stepped back and pivoted sharply to the left as the inquisitor’s blade scythed by a second time. He kicked out but Gogol easily twisted away from the steel-shod boot.

His order had been directed towards the bridge crew and their captain, yet no one present seemed to be willing to comply. Indeed, Vindolanda ordered his men and women to move back out of harm’s way with a series of curt hand gestures.

Gogol’s advance was relentless. The inquisitor thrust his blade forth and made to strike Descartes a third time. To his credit, the ogryn was far more lithe than most of his kind, but his was a frame unsuited to grace. He overbalanced, stumbling back a few paces before falling onto his behind. He landed hard, cursing as he did so, and his plight allowed the inquisitor to close the gap in seconds.

+ENOUGH.+

It came as a roar, that single, spoken word. It issued from every vox speaker set into the bridge and beyond. It breezed in through the atmospheric filters. It resonated through the deck plates and the bulkheads, as if a hundred voices or more had spoken it at the exact same moment.

The lights of the bridge flickered and dimmed significantly as Magos Longinus Phasma materialised before the inquisitor. He appeared first as a shadowy outline, formed from the gathering darkness. An ethereal light whispered from the nearby consoles and swam through the air to form around the outline, its soft glow incorporating what appeared to be shimmering traceries of miniature stars.

The image of a robed man whose features were completely hidden from view flickered in an out of focus, as if close examination of the figure rendered its details vague. A number of the crew cried out or muttered oaths of protection at the manifestation of the ghostly techpriest.

Gogol ground to a halt and drew back, startled by Phasma’s materialization. He found his breath misting as the temperature around dropped alarmingly. Face to face, the two figures stared at one another.

Descartes did not waste the temporary reprieve. He hauled himself to his feet and sprinted for the doorway, the deck quaking beneath each footfall. Gogol saw this happening through the insubstantial figure, and this was enough to dispel any astonishment.

‘Phantasm.’ He whispered, his voice radiating murderous intent. ‘Begone.’

With that he thrust both arm and pistol through the incorporeal magos and fired. There appeared, for only the briefest of moments, a face amid the diaphanous shadow, its flesh pallid and grey, its definition indistinct. Its mouth opened in a silent scream of anger and then the entire figure vanished, dissipating into the air like dispersing mist. Phasma simply melted away and ceased to be, but the distraction had proved enough.

Descartes was gone.

Gogol stood staring at the open doors of the bridge and the empty corridor beyond. In the aftermath of the confrontation all was silent, save for the distant wailing of the boarding alarms and the hissing pulse of the inquisitor’s power sword. Slowly, surely, the intensity of his stare lessened and the grimace of rage faded away to be replaced by a peculiar, almost calm aspect.

‘I do not know you, inquisitor, but it seems that you are…less than popular with lady Arkendale’s subordinates.’ Vindolanda said behind him. Gogol’s eyes narrowed slightly as he heard this and despite the situation, he smiled.

‘Then it would seem that we have something in common, captain. You made no attempt to stop me when the brute ordered you to. I commend your foresight.’

Vindolanda gave a derisive snort at this. He shook his head slowly as he moved back to the ancient command throne. The cracked crimson leather creaked softly as he slumped down into its folds, a heavy sigh issuing from his lips.

‘The Inquisition.’ He breathed, making no attempt to conceal the condescension in his voice. Gogol merely raised an eyebrow.

‘Seven years, as measured by the Terran cycle. Seven years I have navigated these stars at the behest of your damned organisation. I am a sanctioned rogue trader, sir. It is my lot, no, my right to ply my trade between these stars. For seven years I have been denied that right. I had thought myself well educated in the ways of wiles of the stars until she found me. She has shown me the truth that lies beneath all that we think we know. She has shown me all the hidden horrors of existence, sir, and more. I do not want this life anymore.’

Vindolanda scowled, his weathered face creasing further. He waved his free hand about him, as if to present the ship itself to Gogol.

‘Look what she has brought upon us all. Aliens, filthy degenerate xenos scum, come to claim our lives. I warned her. I told her it had to be a trap. The chances…’

‘Perhaps she should have listened to you.’ Gogol cut in, his eyes glinting with a malevolent light. This unexpected interruption, or rather its subject, quietened the rogue trader’s tongue. The inquisitor inclined his head as if to confirm his support.

‘You seem to be an intelligent man, captain. You are indeed correct, of course. About the trap.’

Vindolanda worked his jaw as if his body knew he wished to speak but his mind did not know what to say. A murmur of astonishment whispered through the bridge. It was clear that no one present, especially the captain, had expected the inquisitor to confirm this.

‘Who are you?’ Vindolanda hissed. Though he made no attempt to advance upon the inquisitor, a newfound aggression soaked slowly into his demeanour. Despite this, Gogol smiled.

‘If what I have heard from you is to be believed, captain, then I am your saviour.’
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Revenant
 
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Re: Obsoletus

Postby Revenant » Sat Nov 07, 2015 4:20 pm

Chapter 7.



Arkendale slowed as she reached the end of the corridor. Here the tight oval contours of the passage splayed off in all directions, opening up into the shadows beyond. From here she could see the steady rhythmic blink of crimson warning lights flashing in the gloom. Alarm sirens wailed forlornly in the distance, made to sound resonant and almost ethereal by the spaces beyond.

The incarceration deck. She hated the fact that xenos attackers were at large within her vessel. The very thought sickened her to the core. That said, if it came to it she would gladly let the alien filth run riot throughout the Blade if only she could ensure that they would not gain access to this deck.

‘We cannot let them in.’ She whispered, staring out into the gloom beyond. ‘Whatever it takes, we must hold them back.’

‘Whatever it takes.’ Enchen echoed.

For a moment Arkendale, Enchen and Mulligor stood as if rooted to the spot at the very edge of the pool of light created by the glow of the corridor’s lumen globes. It was as if even the light itself was afraid of entering the incarceration deck, for fear of what lay beyond.

‘Mistress, what do we do if the eldar manage to penetrate this far?’

Arkendale turned to glare at her interrogator. Despite the absence of emotion upon her face, it was clear that she considered the very notion of such an occurrence preposterous in the extreme.

‘Hnngh. We pray to Him on Terra that they don’t.’ Mulligor growled.

‘But what if they do?’ Enchen insisted. ‘What then? We need to decide who we dare to release and who we…’

‘When the time comes, Andri. If the eldar get this far then we will make that decision. For now we must ensure that this deck is locked down tight. Get in there and round the staff up. Let them know what is happening and what our intentions are.’

Enchen nodded and began to move into the massive chamber, only to falter a few strides into the darkness. He turned to look at Arkendale.

‘What about the others, mistress? Do you think that they made it to the bridge? We haven’t heard from them yet.’

‘He’s got a point. Lumphead should’ve voxed in by now.’ Mulligor added, pacing around Arkendale on all fours before scuttling out into the cool shade of the incarceration deck and sniffing the air.

‘He’s nothing if not a stickler for punctuality. What do you think? Should we be starting to worry about the others by now?’

Arkendale’s eyes narrowed as she considered this. For all his inelegance, Mulligor had a point. Gogol had most definitely thrown a spanner in the works as regarding their delicate situation. He had been the cause of all this, albeit unwittingly, and despite the jeopardy his arrival had brought upon them, his presence amongst them posed an even greater threat. He was Hereticus, after all. The longer he spent in amongst the denizens of the Blade, the more danger he posed to them all. She just had to hope that Descartes would keep the situation contained as long as he was able to do so.

‘Damn it.’ She whispered then as a thought crept into her mind. ‘As far as Gogol is aware, we are affiliated to the Ordo Xenos. At the very least, he must expect that we know how to fight these things.’

‘With the greatest of respect, ma’am, we don’t know a damn thing about the eldar, save for the fact that they are unclean xenos things.’ Enchen answered.

‘At least Gogol himself seems fairly ignorant to the machinations of these creatures. We just have to hope that we are able to stay one step ahead of him.’

‘No, we have to hope that he stays put until we sort this s---t out.’ Mulligor snapped. ‘That, and we hope and pray that Vindolanda keeps his damned mouth shut.’

Arkendale let out a long sigh as she considered all this. In hindsight, perhaps sending Gogol to the bridge hadn’t been the best course of action, but then again the options had been limited. She knew that she could trust Descartes and the others to keep Gogol in check, and more importantly keep Vindolanda from revealing sensitive information, but despite the combined threat they posed they were but three individuals.

Vindolanda was still effectively the captain of the Empyrean Blade, and his men feared Arkendale and her retinue perhaps even more than they loved their captain. No, everything about the current situation was appalling, at least in the sense of containment. The sooner they expelled these alien attackers, the sooner she would be able to begin damage control. The best she could hope for now would be to secure the incarceration deck as best she could.

‘Phasma.’ She uttered into the gloom, waving the others forth as she did so. ‘I need this deck locking down. Locate Descartes and open a private channel if you are able. We need to liase.’

Enchen and Mulligor swiftly disappeared into the open void of the incarceration deck beyond her as she called to the ship’s techpriest, which meant that by the time she came to realise that her call had gone unanswered, they were out of sight.

‘Phasma?’ She called again, raising her voice this time. Again there came no answer, save for what appeared to be a brief and strangled burst of disembodied digitised noise over the ship’s internal vox system.

Something was wrong. Phasma was in trouble.

+++

‘Captain!’

Vindolanda cursed beneath his breath, forced to tear his gaze away from the inquisitor that had invaded his bridge. One of the menials seated around the circumference of the bridge’s main control bank was clearly troubled by the readings currently spilling across the screen before him.

‘Speak, damn it!’ He snapped, his frustration boiling over. ‘What the hell is it now?’

‘All internal and external augurs are fluctuating, captain. According to these readings they are destabilising faster than any of our sentinel systems are able to maintain them. At this rate we will be blind and deaf within moments.’

Vindolanda spat a curse beneath his breath at receiving this news. Around him the bridge crew immediately mobilised, each individual spurred into independent action by the information.

‘Warp-cursed aliens! Mr Venns, try to maintain cohesion of the augurs as long as you can. I need to know to what extent the b----ds have penetrated my ship. I want you to run comprehensive theory trail analyses for as long as we have control of the logic core. Kurzo, track and engage those damned ships…’

‘Please don’t.’ Gogol said behind him, barely loud enough for the captain to detect. He cast a fleeting glance in the direction of the inquisitor before turning his attention back to the spread of consoles at the head of the bridge.

‘Come on, look lively here! What are we, rank amateurs? Mr Kurzo, may the warp curse my mother if she birthed a child devoid of the gift of sight, but I don’t see anything resembling the glow of engagement runes over there!’

‘You are wasting your breath, captain.’

‘Stow it!’ Vindolanda snapped, the words hissing forth through his bared teeth. He rounded on Gogol, anger flaring like twin sunbursts in his eyes. Once again the rogue trader had allowed his anger to boil over and sear away whatever mantle of caution he may have previously worn. Tall though he undoubtedly was, as the rogue trader marched into the inquisitor’s shadow, it was as if Gogol’s armoured immensity all but engulfed him. Despite Vindolanda’s seditious turn, the older man displayed neither anger nor concern. Indeed, it was almost as if he were enjoying the rogue trader’s distress.

‘Accuse me of incitement to rebellion if you will, sir, but the presence of the High Lords themselves would fail to sway me at this moment in time, what with the fact that my vessel is currently under attack by hostile alien pirates. You see, all the inquisitorial menace in the universe, at least in my humble opinion, pales in significance when faced with the very real possibility of receiving what could well be a fate worse than death. I have sailed these stars for many years, inquisitor, and I have heard all that I need to hear of the kind of creatures that are peeling their way through the lairs of the Blade. If you feel that I deserve castigation then, by my personal invitation, do your bloody worst, sir. I will not let these eldar take my ship, not without a fight.’

Despite the greater tension of the situation, the atmosphere throughout the bridge almost solidified. Every single member of the bridge crew within earshot ceased to breathe, as if any instance of exhalation would somehow condemn all those present to some inescapable and eternal torment.

It seemed to all like an age passed before Gogol responded to the captain’s display of bravado. Much to the incredulity of all, Gogol allowed himself a smile.

‘How incredibly rousing. Tell me, captain. Would you like to survive this?’

He spread his arms and raised his eyebrows.

‘It’s a simple question. Truthfully now. If I could guarantee your safety…no, even better than that. If I could guarantee that you survive this episode intact and take back full command of this ship, would you accept my offer? Don’t be reticent now. Time is not exactly of the essence, one could argue.’

Unsurprisingly Vindolanda failed to answer. He simply stared at Gogol, as if awaiting the punch line of some obscure joke. A punch line that ultimately failed to surface, despite the captain’s bated breath.

‘I do not follow.’

‘Really? I had thought the offer astoundingly simple to understand.’ Gogol replied, pacing forward past Vindolanda in order to better observe the varied readings pulsing across the collected screens at the head of the bridge.

‘You see captain, it is by no quirk of fate that you find yourself in my presence. Indeed, it is extremely fortuitous for yourself that I find before me a man who is, to put it frankly, disillusioned with the current chain of inquisitorial command.’

‘Get the hell on with it!’ Vindolanda seethed. It was clear by now that the captain had exhausted whatever reservoir of prudence he may have once possessed, and that the frustration he clearly felt at his situation was now approaching critical mass.

Gogol bowed slightly as if to accede to some unspoken request, and then marched briskly up to the nearest console and jabbed his fist into the conduit before him. Runes blinked and flashed immediately in response to his influence. The screens all around him swam with new data, much to the astonishment of those seated before them. After a few moments Gogol withdrew his hand and retreated a number of steps, as an artist would in order to admire his handiwork.

‘There. The bridge, your bridge, is now exempt from invasion. You are safe, captain. Exactly how far that area of safety extends outwards is up to you.’

‘P--s off.’ Vindolanda said simply. He pushed past the inquisitor in order to better assess whatever improbable changes had taken place, only to find himself unexpectedly astonished by the scrolling output before him.

‘I don’t understand. How is it that you are possibly able to influence the attack patterns of the corsair craft? This…this is absurd. This cannot be.’

‘My offer is genuine, captain Vindolanda. It is clear that you serve Arkendale only under great sufferance, and in doing so you are denied the full and just rights and privileges afforded to you by your rogue trader status. I can free you of this hindrance, sir. I can give you back your ship. I can set you free. All you have to do is renounce your previous allegiance and assist me.’

‘In doing what?’ Vindolanda asked, ever the mistrustful creature. Gogol smiled.

‘In bringing Landra Arkendale to her knees. What say you, Urlac Vindolanda?’

The captain opened his mouth to answer, yet the words simply would not come. His jaw worked redundantly as his mind fought to process all that it had absorbed over the last few moments. Gogol’s revelations had come as gently as a bolt to the temple.

‘How…how did you do that? I mean, how did you…what the hell is going on here? Zekozy…’

He fell silent then and grimaced, uttering a curse beneath his breath. Zekozy was gone. The first mate had been killed only moments before.

‘Lesto. Amasec, as fast as you like.’

He snapped his fingers in order to accentuate the command. Seconds later the woman in question appeared at his side, a generous measure of the intoxicating liquid in question sloshing about in the crystal flute she offered the captain. He took it and tipped the drink down his throat in a single gulp, exhaling sharply immediately after. He tossed the priceless glass out into the gloom where it shattered somewhere beyond sight.

‘Right then. Let us try this again. Damn, but that is good amasec. Okay. How the hell did you do that? How the hell did you call those fighters off? Are you in league with the xenos? Listen to me, please. I want Arkendale out of the way as much as any of us but I will not slave myself to a xenos master.’

‘Delighted to hear it.’ Gogol answered. ‘This means that I don’t have to inconvenience myself with the act of killing you. It would seem that you continue to misunderstand the situation, my good captain. My arrival here is no accident, just as Landra Arkendale is no colleague of mine. I am here with one sole purpose. I am here to wipe clean the stain of her existence, and to lay waste to the stable of filth she currently commands. Come now, captain. You have made no secret of your hatred for this woman. Work with me and I guarantee that, when all this is over, you and your ship are free to wander the stars once again.’

Vindolanda’s expression softened visibly at this, as if he were quite unable to believe what he had just heard, or at least unable to believe the sincerity of Gogol’s words. Still, given the vigour with which the captain had clearly hated his forced secondment as Arkendale’s glorified chauffer, it was an offer he simply could not refuse. An offer, quite understandably, that he found hard to accept at face value.

‘Seal the bridge.’ He commanded with a nod, the order sending some unnamed menial scurrying away in order to manually engage the hermetic field surrounding the ancient wooden doors and indeed, Gogol imagined, the entire chamber. No sooner was he satisfied that his order had been followed than the captain looked to Gogol and nodded.

‘Okay inquisitor, this is as secure as we get, and believe me that is a situation that is far from inflexible. Guarantee is such a strong, definite word, and you are but one man, sir, no matter the implied power and authority of the seal you wear. All the conviction in the world will not prevent you from being crushed by this woman and her unholy cohorts. How can I know that throwing my lot in with you is not a sure-fire way of tightening the noose around my neck?’

Gogol smiled, an expression of pure malevolence.

‘Landra Arkendale has most definitely met her match in me, of that I can assure you. As we speak, xenos raiders are rampaging their way through this vessel, having infiltrated it with such preternatural ease, whilst their foul attack craft threaten to shatter the hull of this vessel at any moment.’

‘I will scour those craft from my sight, and that is a promise.’ Vindolanda cut in, his anger returning. ‘They cannot evade our ordnance forever. And if it costs me every last man and woman on this ship, I will see these invaders put to flight. Arkendale be damned, sir, as far as I am concerned. I will not lose the Blade this day.’

‘And what if I told you that I could guarantee that?’

Even as he spoke, Gogol was striding across the bridge towards the console array.

‘What if I were to tell you that all you have to do in order to guarantee both your survival and the survival of your ship is pledge allegiance to me?’

Before the captain could even give his answer Gogol loomed over the nearest console and thrust his knuckle of his ring finger into one of the many sockets given over to maintenance via techpriest mechadendrite connection. The ostentatious ring there hummed softly to itself as it proceeded to do something to the console, much to the surprise and alarm of the crewman seated before it.

‘This is Gogol. Disengage attack run and commence boarding actions.’

No sooner had he spoken than he withdrew. There was no audible or visible confirmation to the order, but moments later the reports began to filter back to Vindolanda. The enemy craft were disengaging.

Vindolanda rounded on the inquisitor as soon as his mind had been able to process what had just transpired, as many of those of his crew in Gogol’s proximity left their posts and retreated, as if fearful that the inquisitor was somehow tainted.

‘Did you just order the enemy to disengage?’

‘They are not the enemy.’ Gogol smiled.

+++

Bromm’s pallid face creased visibly as he took in the sight of the approaching ogryn. The ratling hybrid was exactly where Descartes had left him in the entrance of the elevator. Spook was conscious once again now. She was back on her feet but clearly far from fully recovered.

Bromm took one look at the ruined shoulder of his hulking comrade; the shock of such a sight meaning that he noticed the thrashing form of Leash tucked under one arm only after a second or so.

‘Now what the hell is all this meant to mean?’ He asked in his gruff agri-world enunciation, his violet-tinged eyes wide. Spook glanced up at Descartes’ approach and gave out a yelp of fearful astonishment.

The ogryn slowed as he neared the elevator, his sudden deceleration causing him to stagger and curse with pain. He let Leash fall to the deck without warning and the terrified man crumpled into a heap at his feet.

‘Where are they?’ The ratling roared, bringing both his laspistols to bear. The weapons each gave of a telling whine of activation as Bromm leapt clear of the elevator, landed against the left wall of the corridor and scuttled over the heads of the new arrivals, his brace of alien claws clacking against the thick metal where they dug in for purchase.

‘No! Bromm, n-no…’

Descartes slumped against the side of the open elevator hatch, the impact sending a fresh spray of blood across the gunmetal surface. Spook shrieked as she laid eyes on the damage done to the towering being, her dark eyes almost popping free of her skull.

‘Not…not the eldar. Bromm, listen to me. It wasn’t the eldar.’

Shock and no small amount of blood loss had stolen much of the power behind the ogryn’s voice, but as luck would have it Bromm noticed Descartes’ words just in time. He dug his claws in and arrested his overhead progress with bone-jarring abruptness.

‘What? What do you mean, Descartes? Where is Gogol?’

The ogryn looked pale now, far more so than was normal for him. His breathing was heavy and laboured and the metal he used to support himself groaned beneath his weight as he fought to stand on his own two feet, a fight he was so far failing to win.

Leash hauled himself to his feet and ran into Spook’s embrace, the fear he radiated adding to the young girl’s own.

‘It was him, the treacherous b-----d! He did this! He tried to kill us!’

He was shaking, they both were, though the tremors quivering through her body were as likely caused by Leash’s powerful grip on her arms as they were by her own fright. Spook glanced between Leash and Descartes as she fought to make sense of what was happening. Somewhere beyond sight a distant explosion shook the deck beneath their feet and caused the lights overhead to flicker, an occurrence that only served to add to her panicked state.

‘Who? What the Throne is going on?’

‘Gogol. He tried to kill us, Spook. He tried to kill us and Vindolanda stood by and let it happen. Something bad is happening here. We’re losing control…’

‘Gogol.’

Bromm’s voice came as a rolling growl, a feral and animalistic sound. He bared his teeth and hissed, and in that moment the violet intensity of his eyes looked to deepen.

‘Gogol.’

‘No! Bromm…’

Descartes stretched out a shaking hand to plead with the short abhuman, but it was too late. He was already gone.
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