Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 71, last but one update)

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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 58)

Postby Chh » Mon Dec 30, 2013 9:59 pm

Emperor preserve us all


Not any more I think... >)



Great work as always Meaneye; if you can get another section up before 2014, cool, but if not, then I suspect that the suspense will not kill us
Currently writing: http://www.thebolthole.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=2138 (Sanguinian Heresy)

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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 58)

Postby Midgard » Thu Jan 02, 2014 6:54 pm

And this is how a Chapter dies. Great work!
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 58)

Postby Chh » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:50 pm

Midgard wrote:And this is how a Chapter dies.


To thunderous applau- wait, wrong universe



Sorry, couldn't resist :twisted:
Currently writing: http://www.thebolthole.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=2138 (Sanguinian Heresy)

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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 58)

Postby Meaneye » Sat Feb 08, 2014 9:47 pm

It seems that real-life obligations weigh on me a lot stronger than I imagined, so I am going to take an official break and say that I will only continue posting from March. Not that I posted anything during the past month, but it would be easier for me specifically put this story aside for a few more weeks.

The story is not dead by far and I have some interesting ideas in my head even beyond Fatemakers's Odyssey (which will have one last chapter and then it will be concluded). So see you guys in about three weeks :)
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 58)

Postby Meaneye » Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:57 pm

Wow. This update took a long time, but at least i is almost double the normal ones. With this update, only one final chapter remains before the story of the Fatemakers conclude.





Aboard the Opportunity

600 days after the Emperor’s death



The great hall was packed with people. Humans, Astartes and Ogryn alike were standing in front of the podium, waiting for the speech which their Captain ad promised. With the recent losses Strike Force Four suffered, one hall was enough to house the survivors, while holo-projectors and pict-slates broadcasted the podium to the various parts of the ship.

Everybody was watching. Word of the reserve fleet’s fate had got out, and people were shocked and scared in equal measure. Everybody wanted to know how to continue.

Everybody wanted to know if there was anywhere left to continue.

Captain Malistrum stepped on the podium. His sad gaze swept over the people in front of them. Then he turned his eyes towards the pict-recorders, and to the people watching him.

‘We failed. The Fatemakers failed completely and shamefully,’ he simply said.






‘How is this possible?’ Apothecary Ruffar breathed.

Nobody answered him. Almost twenty people were present in the briefing room – veteran Astartes officers, experienced specialists, Mechanicus adepts – but the shock of the revelation they had received forced silence on every single one of them.

Fatemaker killing Fatemaker! The leaders of the Chapter turning against one another! Strike Force Four fought long and hard to find out about their lost brothers, and what they had just seen was worse then their most fevered nightmares. Not even their indoctrinated minds could comprehend it. It was simply not real. It could not be. The implications of this recording...

'How could this happen?' Ruffar asked again. This time, the other reacted, even though they did not answer. Heads turned hesitantly, eyes locked into each other, hoping the other could make more sense of this madness. There was faint murmur as well. To Captain Malistrum's enhanced ears, most of the soft whispers seemed to be praying.

The Captain had seen this recording earlier, and the shock had still not worn off. He let his people mutter among themselves, even if for no other reason than his own helplessness. All the sacrifice, all the effort for this…

Scout-Sergeant Essen was the one who started to speak.

‘It makes sense.’ He shrugged as everyone looked at him sharply. ‘The damage we saw on our sister ship… we all have wondered what could have attacked her. Now we know. The rest of the reserve fleet could do this.’

‘But why?’ Ruffar burst out and looked around. ‘Why would anyone commit… a sin like this? How can the Chapter-Master… the Librarian-Captain… how could people like them have become these…’ he waved towards the holo-projector helplessly, ‘… these beasts?’





‘It is hard to accept that a man can fail,’ Captain Malistrum continued, ‘even though he does the right thing all along. It is hard to accept that a man can fail because other people, people he respected and trusted, fail him in his expectations.’

His voice carried over the great hall effortlessly. Hundreds of silent gazes met his eyes, but he did not flinch. He was well past that.

‘Yet this is exactly what happened to Strike Force Four. We failed, even though we did everything right; we failed because of other strike forces from our Chapter stumbled and fell. We set out from the Malachias Sector to catch up with our brothers in the reserve fleet. They left without any explanation, but we trusted their motives and went after them without any hesitation. When we found one of our sister ships in this system, we were afraid for our brothers’ lives. We asked ourselves what may have happened to them, we wondered what manner of enemy could have crippled an Astartes vessel like that. Today, we have our answer, and what we found out is the most shocking and outrageous thing we could have ever imagined.’

He gestured with his hand behind him.

‘Strike Force Four has a simple promise to all its members. We tell each other everything: the good and the bed in equal measure. This is no exception.’ A holo-projector came alive at the far end of the room and illuminated the wall behind the Captain. ‘This is a recording from a servitor stationed aboard the Chad-Okhlam As far as Magos Brakk was able to say, it happened twenty-six days ago. You will see the shame of our Chapter as it is.’

The projector started the recording.






‘How could we have become what we are today?’ asked Chaplain Uskovich in answer to the Apothecary’s question. ‘How could Pelidor take his own life and the life of his comrade? How could we fight against the Howling Griffins? How…’ he hesitated for a moment. ‘How could we ever say the Emperor died? How could we leave behind people who needed us desperately? How could we kill loyal Imperial subjects?’

‘We had no choice in those matters,’ someone broke in. the murmur around the table took up an angry edge.

‘We always had a choice,’ Uskovich answered.

‘The brothers in the recording…’ Librarian Akichi started, and this somehow made the others stop talking. ‘They all seemed unfocussed before the fighting started. At least two of them were playing with their weapons while the commanders were talking.’

‘Small wonder if things were as heated as we saw,’ another officer said. ‘Librarian Berzevicz clearly wanted confrontation.’

‘That is not the same as bloodshed, and that is not what I was talking about’ Akichi retorted. ‘I would understand if they were all holding weapons, but they were playing with them. They were fumbling at the hilts of their swords, and one of them was tapping the side of his gun with his fingers.’

‘Oh,’ Chaplain Uskovich said.

‘I don’t understand.’

‘Astartes do not tap,’ Uskovich sighed. ‘They do not fidget. They do not make unnecessary movements. I do sometimes. Whenever I don’t pay attention. My mind can wander off because I am no longer conditioned. You still are. However,’ he added, ‘there was a time when we all acted like them.’

‘The Withdrawal,’ someone sighed.

Akichi slowly nodded. ‘They all showed the symptoms. They were twitchy. It is no wonder their guns went off.’

‘The effect of the Withdrawal should have worn off by now,’ an Apothecary objected.

‘We don’t know that. We have never experienced anything like this. The death of the Emperor and the breaking of the psychic connection with all his vassals is a unique occasion in the history of the Galaxy.’ Akichi shook his head. ‘We don’t feel its effect because we spent time strengthening ourselves with meditation and mental exercises. The soulstones help too.’

‘Librarian Berzevicz should have seen the effects of the Withdrawal,’ an officer murmured from the other side of the table. ‘You have seen it, and you came up with a solution.’

‘I came up with a solution because the Captain ordered it,’ Akichi answered. ‘I may have seen it, but my duty is only to warn my superiors of such dangers.’

‘Berzevicz was a Captain on his own right. He could have acted on his own.’

‘And he didn’t,’ Akichi nodded. ‘I have no explanation for it.’

‘You only try to fix something if you see it as a problem.’

This was the first time Malistrum spoke since the recording. Everybody looked at him.

‘My lord?’

‘We took the Withdrawal for what it was,’ Malistrum explained with a soft voice which nevertheless carried all over the room. ‘A symptom of the death of the Emperor. We also accepted His death. We were shocked, we suffered, some of us even gave up, but we did not doubt it. They,’ he nodded towards the projector, ‘they did not accept the truth. They wanted another explanation, and they were looking for one, which is why they headed for Terra in the first place. They did not devote any time or energy into curing themselves.’

‘So they just suffered?’

‘If they believed this was some form of a test, they might have,’ Uskovich broke in. His voice was more controlled, as if some of his professionalism had overcome the shock of seeing the recording. ‘The Chapter-Master seemed to lean heavily on Chaplain Iolau. I don’t know him too much, but I saw on myself that this… crisis… has a greater effect on Chaplains than on any other brother. If he had escaped into denial, he may have decided that this was a punishment or test. Pain is a good way to cleanse yourself of doubt, so he started to preach redemption through pain. Most heretics start this way’

‘As for Librarian Berzevicz… I don’t know,’ Akichi took over. Interestingly, he and the other conditioned Astartes still seemed more under shock than Uskovich, perhaps because their conditioning worked against the notion of fratricide and the betrayal of the Chapter. ‘He must have known, and he did not do anything. It’s almost as if…’

‘He was busy,’ Malistrum said.

‘Busy doing what, my lord?’

‘Busy conspiring against the Chapter-Master.’ Malistrum stood up and started to walk up and down the room. ‘I don’t care what we just saw. Fatemakers do not star slaughtering each other after a simple debate, no matter, how heated it was. You need more than that. Not that I know just what I needed for… this.’ He looked over his men. ‘Perhaps… perhaps two years of uncertainty and mistrust is enough. Both my fellow Captain and my Chapter-Master are strong-willed men. Put enough conflict between them and eventually...’

‘No,’ Hemethor shook his head. ‘Forgive me, Captain, but this cannot be enough. Not… not for this. It doesn’t matter how much they disagreed or how desperate they were. They… we… can’t. A Fatemaker cannot do this. ’

‘These people were no longer Fatemakers at this point,’ Essen said.

‘Isn’t it obvious?’ he asked when everybody looked at him. ‘They argued before they started killing each other. Chapter-Master Fiffito had been putting people in front of the firing squad. How often do we do this?’

‘We don’t. But by this point, Chapter-Master Fiffito was already…’ the other officer silenced as if he had no stomach for an expression such as unhinged. The others understood this well enough anyway.

‘It doesn’t matter,’ Essen argued soberly. ‘Battle-Brothers have been executed in the Chapter before. Some of you are old enough to remember Brother Yathari from Strike Force Five.’ The others nodded, not sure where he was heading. ‘He committed a crime. The circumstances were dubious. He had a public trial. He had a defender, he was heard and found guilty, then he was euthanized and his gene-seed was harvested. That is the law. We do not shoot people. Not without a legal trial.’

‘Which the Chapter-Master had neglected to do.’ Malistrum started to walk up and down again. ‘He had our brothers shot and shortcut the procedures. He also fired on civilian installations and took their supplies. He had no regard for the naklonjenost.’ Malistrum’s fists clenched. ‘He also left his post because he was insecure. He failed to handle the Withdrawal, he failed to handle his own Chapter. He answered criticism with oppression.’ He shook his head in disgust. ‘He really was a tyrant in the making.’

‘And Librarian Berzevicz was another future tyrant,’ he continued. The officers shifted uncomfortably as he looked at them, as if they felt they were somehow to blame. ‘Did you notice what he called the Imperial planets? Cattle. Cattle to be ruled over. We do not think this way. We do not form our own realm. We do not wish to overthrow mortal governments so we can replace them. Neither of them are true Space Marines any more. I think…’

He stopped for a tension-filled second.

‘I think we are witnessing how our Chapter is becoming renegade,’ he said. ‘This is how other fallen Chapters started – except probably we slipped on our own, without the influence of Chaos. That is not far away in the future. Chaos has a way to find obsessed people. Fiffito was a fanatic at this point, and the Berzevicz wanted to rule. The reserve fleet is already corrupted. If we let that corruption fester, who knows what will become of our brothers. They have to be stopped. Their madness has to end.’

‘And we are the one who will put an end to it.’

The officers exchanged glances.

‘So we go onto find them?’ one of them asked. ‘Even after what we saw?’

‘We have to.’ Malistrum shook his head. 'I know your objections. We have been fighting for two years to find them and now I want to make war upon them. A war which the rules of numbers say we will probably lose. It. Does. Not. Matter.' He put special emphasis on every word. 'We are still duty-bound, and that duty still ties us to our Chapter. Our previous mission has been accomplished. We have found our brothers and we now know what happened to them. The new mission is to find and neutralize a renegade Astartes fleet. Not Fatemakers. Not our Chapter. They no longer belong to us, even if they have the Chapter Master and we are but one depleted strike force. At this point, we are the last group of Space Marines still worthy of the Fatemaker name, not counting the other lost ships.'

Malistrum looked into the eyes of every single officer one by one as he said the final words.

'We will prevail. We always have, and we will not fail this time. Our Chapter is in ruins, and perhaps there is no way to save it, but this is no excuse not to try. We will face our brothers and we will make them account for their crimes. There is no other way for an Astartes.'

The officers looked back at him. It was difficult to read their facial expressions, but their eyes betrayed them nonetheless. Their eyes showed hesitation, worry, anger or even defiance. Malistrum could understand them. Going against the Chapter, even if it had clearly become renegade... this was more than difficult. This kind of decision touched the conditioned part of their mind, forcing them to think against their very traditions and teachings. By declaring war against their own Chapter, Malistrum essentially ordered them to commit cultural suicide.

In the end, the Captain's will prevailed, just like he knew it would. Slowly but surely, the heads nodded, only slightly, but this much was enough. Malistrum had been the architect of their fate well before the beginning of the Extinction. He was the only person keeping them together. His will was still law.

'No.'

The word was said in a quiet voice, but there was steely determination behind it. Every head turned.

Scout-Sergeant Essen had been looking at the table even during the speech of the Captain. Now he looked up.

'No,' he repeated. 'I will have no part in this mission.'

There were hisses and sharp intakes of air around him, although a cautious observer may have realized that a few officers in the room did not seem to be that shocked.

'You... will have no part in the mission?' Apothecary Ruffar slowly asked.

Essen nodded. 'That's what I said.'

'Impossible!'

'Are you mad?'

'Preposterous!'

Angry shouts started to fill the room. Essen did not even seem to notice it. His eyes were locked with Malistrum's, who did not say a word either. Neither faces betrayed any emotion.

'Explain yourself,' the Captain ordered. He was looking at the Sergeant, but he did not fail to notice that almost half the officers were not voicing their disagreement. 'Would you not have us follow the reserve fleet any more?'

The room quieted, and Essen started to speak.

'I would not try to dissuade you, my lord. I knew you would say this, and I understand your reasons. But I have no intention of following you down that path.'

The room had been silent before; now the silence deepened as the officers present held even their breath.

Malistrum frowned, a strange reaction to a defiance of this magnitude.

'What do you mean?'

Essen stood up. 'I have been meaning to do this,' he started, 'but I have put things off, saying to myself that the time was not right. The time may not be right, but this is the last chance I have.' his gaze never left Malistrum's eyes. 'I have been talking to some other officers about this. I have the consent of those officers and Battle-Brothers to speak in their name. We think Strike Force Four is heading the wrong way. We understand your reasons, Captain, but we do not accept them. I don't think that there is a protocol for this, so I will have to be blunt about it. We cannot persuade you. Actually, we don't want to persuade you. You are right. But you behave as if these were the end times, and the only way left for us is to die honourably.'

'If these are really the end times,' he continued, 'then we will want to make something useful of our life, and you cannot give us that. You will go after the reserve fleet, but we wish to go our own way. We want to secede from the Chapter.'





The projection stopped. Shocked silence descended on the hall.

‘This is not a trick, this is not an illusion,’ Malistrum said. ‘You saw proud Astartes warriors reduced to animals, tearing each other apart without sense or reason. It was difficult for us, Space Marines to believe, but we cannot turn away from the truth. The leaders of the reserve fleet turned against each other, and the Chad-Okhlam was destroyed in the fight.’

He paused for a little, allowing the crew to voice their own shock and fear. Low murmur replaced the earlier silence, and Malistrum could hear the uncertainty and fear behind the noise in the hall.

‘We can explain why they did this, although the explanation is neither good nor helpful,’ he finally continued. The voice abated immediately, and the faces turned towards him again. ‘People are afraid. We Astartes are not designed to fear any foe, but we can fear the future. The Emperor is dead. We all felt the empty void in our souls He left behind. We had no idea how to continue. We did not know what our fate would be.’

‘But we are Fatemakers. We, Strike Force Four, made new fate for ourselves. We overcome the Withdrawal, and we filled in the void with new purpose. Our Specialists, together with the Adeptus Mechanicus, made soulstones for us to protect us in the afterlife. The mortal priesthood went around and consoled everybody as much as they were able. When there was a problem, when there was a new challenge, we gathered, we talked, we found a solution together. Space Marines, mortals and Ogryns stood together and prevailed.’

‘This is something that the reserve fleet failed to do. The officers were bickering, and I believe Chapter-Master Fiffito refused to consult with his advisors. He merely used his authority and brute force to overcome problems, and the other Captains were no better than that.’

He shook his head. ‘Master Fiffito was right to call Librarian Berzevicz ‘traitor,’ and the Librarian was right to call him ‘tyrant’ in return. When two people accuse the other with crimes, sometimes both of them are right, and the both sinned. As commanders, they bear responsibility of the actions of their own people, but every single Astartes in that hangar could have decided not to take part in this madness. They fought and killed each other, just like the officers. All of them are guilty. None of them deserve the name ‘Fatemakers’ any more. As far as we know, we are the last strike force still worthy of that title.’

‘And now we came to my personal shame,’ Malistrum said. His face showed no emotion, but his voice took a different tone: his words became slower and more silent. ‘I sacrificed the greater portion of the strike force to conquer the planet under us. I had one goal in my mind: I wanted to get answers to the mystery of the Chad-Okhlam. Now I have my answers, and I also know that the Chapter did not deserve this sacrifice. I did not know at the time that our brothers fell so low, but this is not a real excuse. I cannot ask any more sacrifices from you in good conscience.’






Malistrum glared at the Sergeant in front of him.

'Everybody leave the room now,' he said. His voice was very quiet, and the Space Marines around the room felt something which resembled human dread for a second.

They stood up and left. Some of them looked at Essen or the Captain, not reassuringly or accusingly, but with complete puzzlement. The two officers did not return any of the stares, and Magos Brakk, the last person the leave the room.

The door closed behind them and the knot of Astartes exchanged clueless looks o the small corridor. One of them finally turned towards Nikomaus, Essen's right hand.

'Did you know about this?' he snapped. The others moved closer, hoping to find out something which could explain all this.

Nikomaus, who had sat through the whole briefing and said nothing so far, looked at him with grim eyes. ‘It doesn’t matter whet I know. Let the two of them sort it out.’

The other stepped forward and tried to place a hand on the scout’s shoulder. ‘What do you kn…’

Nikomaus pushed the hand aside. ‘I said, let them sort it out,’ he repeated with emphasis.

The other snarled and tried to talk again, but he realized that Nikomaus was not paying attention to him any more. The scout was looking down.

The other Astartes followed his gaze. Nikomaus was looking at the bolter mag-locked to the belt of the Space Marine. The Astartes suddenly realized that he was armed, a piece of knowledge which was so natural to him that he never consciously considered. What he also realized now that he instinctively put his hand on the weapon in the face of an unfamiliar crisis situation.

He yanked his hand away from the weapon and stepped back, only to bump into one of his brothers. The Spaces Marines in the corridor saw what happened and looked around.

It was sobering to realize just how many weapons a small group of warriors could carry even to an officer’s briefing. They had combat blades, plain and energized, bolt guns and bolt pistols and more exotic weapons like power fists and power claws worn on their hand. These few people who considered themselves out of any combat situation carried an armament big enough to kill a whole settlement with it.

Just like the Fatemakers on the recording did. The Space Marines saw with shocking horror that they were now standing in a small circle, surrounding two of their brothers who were about to engage in a tension-filled debate, just like the Chapter-master and the Librarian-Captain had before all hell had broken out. The tension in the corridor matched that on the recording, and the officer who addressed Nikomaus was not the only person with a firm grip on the hilt of his weapon.

Nikomaus slowly looked up and his eyes met the other officer’s. He made a sharp, hissing sound through his teeth.





Malistrum tried to interpret the words of the Scout-Sergeant as the two locked eyes. He failed to see any other meaning behind his statement besides what was the obvious message. The Sergeant looked somewhat paler than usually, but otherwise he was determined. He stood straight, holding his head high: he was ready for the inevitable confrontation.

Malistrum did not wish for any more confrontation, but he would not shy away from it either. ‘I have to believe my ears and accept that you wish to leave,’ he said in the end.

Essen looked at his silently for a second, and suddenly he sighed. His shoulders sagged a little, as if he had been carrying a weight which was too much for him.

‘I must apologize to you first, my lord,’ he started. ‘I meant to tell you this… under different circumstances.’

‘Perhaps when we are alone?’ Malistrum asked quietly.

‘I would not have kept it a secret from the crew,’ Essen answered. ‘Quite a few of them knew anyway, and the rest has the right to know my reasons.’

‘And just what would those reasons be?’ Malistrum asked. ‘What kind of reason would make you say these words?’ He made a step closer to Essen. ‘What could be the reason for revolting?’

‘My lord, I am not…’

‘You are not what?’ Malistrum did not let him finish the sentence. ‘A renegade? An outlaw? Dare I call you a traitor?’ His levelled voice was in stark contrast with the murderous expression on his face. The Captain of Strike Force Four was furious, to the point of how he felt on Saint Menthas after Cardinal Paulino ordered a volley fire at him at point blank range, and his rage showed. Essen had to gather all his mental reserves just to stand and not back away from his commander.

‘How did you think I would react?’ he hissed. ‘Hmm? Am I supposed to be understanding? Am I supposed to let you talk?’ His hand reached down to the hilt of his sword. ‘Tell me, Sergeant, why shouldn’t I simply…’

He stopped mid-sentence and took a good look at Essen. The other straightened up again.

‘You are unarmed,’ Malistrum finally said.

Essen looked down at his belt. He was still wearing his carapace armour from the battle, although he had wiped off the bloodstains and soot from it. He had no weapon, not even a mere knife on him.

Malistrum cocked his head aside. ‘You came here to tell me about sedition, yet you made sure I see no weapon on you.’

‘I wanted to talk,’ Essen said, ‘and I wanted to call your attention somehow.’

‘That you did.’ Malistrum went back to the table and sat down. Essen followed him after a moment of hesitation and sat down opposite him. Their eyes locked.

‘I will listen to your reasons,’ Malistrum murmured. ‘You earned this much. I don’t promise I won’t draw my sword in the end, but I promise I will consider it very carefully first.’

‘Thank you, my lord,’ Essen bowed and started his explanation. ‘I… have been talking about our situation with some of the other Astartes aboard.’

Malistrum nodded. ‘I know. Oh, come on,’ he said as Essen frowned. ‘I know you have been talking with my crew. I did not want to investigate, which was a mistake in retrospect. Were this secessions what you are talking about?’

Essen nodded, and Malistrum exhaled loudly.

‘Continue,’ he ordered.

Essen stretched out his arms. ‘The Emperor is dead, but we are still alive,’ he said. ‘We are left here with His mandate, but without His guidance.’

‘And it seems without His guidance you no longer see the path ahead,’ Malistrum remarked.

‘Not this way, my lord,’ Essen asked. ‘You can berate me any way you like, but I don’t think I deserve that. I don’t want to flee. Nor do the others. We just want to make something of our life before we all die. We need to have a new purpose.’

‘I thought we have a purpose,’ Malistrum said.

‘Not beyond this point,’ Essen retorted. ‘When you gave the order to go after the reserve fleet, even though we all know that at this point they are renegades, you accepted the death of our Chapter, my lord. You are talking about closure and responsibility, but this is really only about burying the dead and lie in the last grave.’

‘Just because you don’t like your task, it doesn’t mean that it can be abandoned. Our duty…’

‘…bounds us to the Malachias Sector,’ Essen answered back. ‘We had our duty there. Our mandate was handed down to us from the Throne itself. We had to patrol the region and protect humanity from all dangers which may threaten the Sector. That sector. Not this one. We have left our home, even as it started to burn around us. We abandoned planets and systems which were in obvious peril. We let civil wars fester and we let Chaos cults unrooted. Either the locals could handle those conflicts or not, it would have been our duty to stop and help.’

‘This is called prioritizing, Essen,’ Malistrum said. Most of his anger was gone at this point; the Scout-Sergeant said nothing which h himself had not considered and regretted before. ‘When we face multiple tasks, we go and solve the most urgent, and there is nothing more urgent than our own Chapter.’

‘That task has been solved fifteen minutes ago,’ Essen said. ‘We know what happened to our brothers. They fell. Whoever survived is a fallen Space Marine. We know that the Chapter-Master won, and they went on to Terra. We know – you know and I know – that they will die there. At any rate, they will never come back to the Malachias Sector. Even if we managed to catch up with them, then what? We would have to make them answer for their crime. Perhaps we can destroy them, although I doubt it. Even then, they would take us with them. That is the future we look forward to. The end of the Chapter is a final battle where the last few Fatemakers kill each other, and that is the end of our history, although I doubt there will be anyone who would witness and record it.’

‘I want something more,’ Essen continued. ‘I will fight and die for the Emperor, even though He is no longer. But I need a good reason to fight, and this is not a good reason. Hundreds of years ago, our ancestor Chapters went against traditions and decided to choose a path which seemed to be without honour. We are facing the same choice here. Let us go back to the Malachias Sector, Captain. Let us go home and continue the fight there.’

Malistrum pressed his lips together. ‘You cannot know that they are beyond redemption,’ he managed to say. ‘Maybe we can save some of them.’

Essen shook his head. ‘We know how our Chapter would end,’ he answered back. ‘Librarian Akichi will be the last survivor, and he would die by his own hand. I still remember his last words. I believe he was talking about this conflict. We will destroy ourselves. I see nothing noble in this suicide. Pelidor…’

‘Don’t compare Pelidor to us,’ Malistrum snapped. ‘And do you think you could change that future just by quitting?’

‘It would give us a fighting chance, my lord,’ the answer came.

‘Fighting chance.’ Malistrum leaned back in his chair. ‘I have heard these words before. Others have managed to sway me by saying it.’ He shook his head. ‘You won’t. Tell me, Sergeant, how many people agreed with you to leave?’

Essen did not hesitate. ‘Approximately twenty or twenty-five. I would need to see the casualty lists to say any exact number.’

‘A quarter of my force.’ Malistrum’s voice was bitter now. ‘I lead you so far with the understanding that you trust me and I can trust you in return. To see how my crew give up and turn on the strike force…’

‘We did not, my lord.’ Essen said firmly. ‘We did not abandon you. At least not in the way you think.’ He sighed. ‘When I found Andorias on the battlefield, he was still alive. He could tell me a few things. He… he deliberately attacked one of those Ogryn flagellants, even though he knew it would kill him. He didn’t care. He wanted to die.’

Malistrum opened his mouth. ‘It was… suicide? But… why?’

‘He told me that he had overheard a conversation between you and Chaplain Uskovich. He heard you appoint him to be next Captain.’

Malistrum was shocked. ‘The armoury?’ he whispered. ‘He heard me…’ he looked up. ‘But why did he decide…’

‘Not to accept it?’ Essen smiled sadly. ‘He knew that you would order him to continue chasing the reserve fleet, even if it would ruin the strike force. He did not want to cause the death of the Chapter. Even a shameful death was a better option to him.’

The pain on Malistrum’s face was clearly visible. Of all the possible explanations, he never expected to hear this one.

‘He told me one more thing,’ Essen continued. ‘He asked me whether I knew that there was only one thing in this system which could have killed an Astartes vessel. I knew what he meant. The only thing capable of killing a Space Marine ship… is another Space Marine ship.’

This was how far Malistrum could sit on his chair. He jumped up.

‘You knew about this before we attacked?’

Essen looked up to him. ‘We only suspected, but yes. It was fairly obvious to almost everyone. You were among the few who did not realize this.’

Malistrum stepped back from his chair. For the first time in a century, he actually gave ground to someone.

‘We followed you to the battle because we knew that you are essentially right,’ Essen said. ‘We knew that you didn’t realize the truth. We knew that you overlooked something. It didn’t matter to us because we needed closure, just like you. But for some of us, this recording was enough closure. We need nothing more from the reserve fleet. Our place is now in the Malachias Sector. I implore you not to make another oversight and truly sacrifice everything for no gain.’

Malistrum fell onto another chair.

‘I know I cannot persuade you to come with us,’ Essen continued. He pitied the Captain, but this was his one chance to persuade him. ‘You would go on and eventually catch up with the others. Our presence would make no difference to the outcome. We are no longer battle-ready, and even if we were, we would be outnumbered and outgunned. Whatever you want to do with Fiffito, it would not involve brute force. Go on if you want, but let everyone who wants a different fate go, Captain. Give us the chance to do something useful with our life.’

Malistrum looked at Essen like a complete stranger. The words of his Scout-Sergeant were rushing round and round in his head, questioning all his actions, all his convictions. He had made oversights. He had made mistakes. It would have been hubris to think he was infallible, but… this many mistakes? Such blindness to the truth? He could not believe it. Could this be true? Could his Sergeant be right? Did he still deserve to lead the strike force?

Essen sat in his chair quietly. He had said everything he wanted to say. Now it was the Captain’s turn to decide on their fate. He sat, using the reserves of trust accumulated between him and Malistrum over the decades to wait what the Captain’s final verdict would be.

Malistrum forced his breathing to slow down. Maybe he had made mistakes in the past. Maybe he was no longer eligible for his post. Nevertheless, he was the commanding officer and he had the final say in the matter, even if he no longer felt he deserved this privilege.

The Captain cast a final look on Essen’s face, then he closed his eyes and stayed immobile for a very long time.





‘And yet the Opportunity has to move on and follow the reserve fleet,’ The Captain continued his speech. ‘Whoever survived the battle must be made accountable for their actions. We may no longer be strong enough to face our former brothers in open battle – and mark my word, it may come to that now – but this is not an excuse. Once an Astartes loses his honour, he becomes a monster, no better than the followers of Chaos. They will commit atrocities in the name of the Fatemaker Chapter. They have to be stopped.’

‘It was not an easy thing to decide what to do next. We can think of ourselves and preserve what is perhaps the last remnant of the real Chapter or we can go and put an end to the rampage of our brothers, but we cannot do both. This was perhaps the most difficult decision in my life, but as your commander, it was still my duty to make it. I am officially disbanding the Fatemaker Astartes Chapter.’






Malistrum finally opened his eyes.

‘No,’ he said. ‘Allowing you to leave on your own terms would be the easy path. We are still Fatemakers. We will make new fate for ourselves; but as long as I am your commander, I will tell you what fate it will be – and you are still my man.’

He stood up, and Essen involuntarily lurched back in his chair.

‘My lord, what are you…’

‘Be quiet and listen to me,’ Malistrum ordered. He said this in his old commanding voice: strong and confident, without any doubt or hesitation in his own right. ‘Listen to me carefully, Sergeant because you will not like what I have in store for you.’





The door opened and Malistrum came out to the corridor. His eyes narrowed immediately.

‘What the…’

Nothing he had experienced before prepared him for this sight. The officers of the strike force were crouching and kneeling along the two walls of the corridor, as if they were members of two opposing groups. At the end of the corridor, there was a small pile, and the Captain saw with no small surprise that the pile consisted of weapons. Combat blades, bolters and more exotic weapons were heaped up as all officers voluntarily put down their weapons for fear that they would start using them against their brothers. Crouching in front of the heap was Magos Brakk, who, as a non-Astartes, took it upon himself to guard the weapons – and, in a way, guard the Astartes from themselves.

The officers looked up and slowly stood up. Malistrum felt genuine pain when he realized the helplessness on their face.

‘My brothers,’ he said and stretched out his arms towards his men. Essen appeared behind him at the door, and he looked just as shocked as the Captain at the sight.

Malistrum made another step towards his men. ‘It is time to go,’ he said. ‘It is time to sort out this mess.’





It took quite a few days to sort out this mess. The final stage of the sorting found Captain Malistrum in the Apothecarium, lying on the operation table.

‘I will take my time and be careful,’ the Apothecary said. He leaned above Malistrum and held up a needle full of colourless liquid. ‘There will be no pain involved, but the strain will be huge on your system. Are you sure you want to go through with this, Captain?’

Malistrum nodded. ‘It has to be done.’ He eased himself on the operation table. ‘Let’s waste no more time. There are others scheduled for today.’

‘Indeed.’ The Apothecary’s lips moved and Malistrum heard a faint prayer.

‘To the Emperor?’ he asked.

The other paused. ‘It is hard to forget the protocol,' he admitted. ‘If you don’t like it…’

‘It is fine,’ the Captain said. ‘Carry on.’





Orbiting Khadmus IV

615 days after the Emperor’s death





The lance strike bore deep under the surface. Even from orbit, the devastation was obvious; a large superheated globe of fire blossomed in the middle of the continent where the heretic Mechanicus camp had been.

The camp ceased to exist in the first second of the attack. The dead of the engagement on both sides were incinerated: just s fitting for a funeral pyre for the glorious victors as a simple waste disposal for the losers. The ruins of the three Warhounds, the wreck of the proud Fatemaker armour division, all the buildings also disappeared. In an instant, all memory of the battle was scoured from the surface of the planet.

This was not the aim of the attack, merely a side-effect. The lance bore deeper and deeper, breaking up the solid mantle of the world to reach down the magma layers. This wound would not heal in a while, and the aftershock of this strike would probably destroy the meagre ecosystem of the entire planet, but this was a small price to pay.

The firing stopped. The world continued to burn down there, and the orange glow did not go away. The work was finished by the lava which the lance strike brought up to the surface. By the time this wound healed, the entire area would sink down into the planet core.

Malsitrum turned away from the viewport. Murdering a planet this way was not something he had been looking forward to, but it was necessary. The machine which the Fatemaker strike force had found at the digsite was obviously Necron in origin. He had no idea what the machine was capable of, but he knew that the heretics had been trying to dig it out, and this knowledge was enough to propel him to action. Where the Necrons were involved, standard imperial policy was extreme prejudice, and the Captain agreed wholeheartedly. Even though he had broken countless laws and traditions of the Imperium, he had no intention of breaking this one.

Speaking of breaking traditions…

‘Open a channel to the Pearl of Malakash,’ he commanded, while his hand unconsciously scratched on the breastplate of his armour.

The crew obeyed, and a familiar voice filled the air at the bridge in no time.

‘Essen here.’

‘The Necron machine is finished,’ Malistrum stared without preamble. ‘We leave in ten minutes and we leave a standard warning beacon on orbit.’

‘We have been following the strike,’ the answer came. ‘The Pearl is already moving out of the system.’

Malsitrum nodded again. It was pointless to leave the other vessel nearby. There was always a chance that the attack would awaken the Necron machine.

‘Do you require any more help?’ he asked.

‘We are as ready as we can, Captain.’

This was true as well. The crew was not idle in the last two weeks. Even though the Pearl of Malakash was intact and the Navigator was indeed found aboard, there was always a chance that the heretic tech-priests left a few physical or machine-spirit traps on the vessel. Magos Brakk and his priests had purged all systems abroad not once but nine times during those two weeks while special Astartes kill-teams searched every single corridor and deck along the vessel. Neither group found anything. The great majority of the Opportunity’s crew had moved over to their new home, be them humans, Space Marines or Ogryns, leaving only a skeleton crew and the barest necessary supplies on the Astartes vessel.

‘So this is it, then,’ Malistrum said.

‘Yes,’ the answer came. There was a little pause before Sergeant Essen continued. ‘I… went to Astropath Lucas this morning. I asked a very specific scrying from him… about you and your mission.’

Malistrum raised an eyebrow. ‘Did he succeed?’

‘Yes. I left no room for interpretation, so he knew what I wanted to know.’ There was some sarcasm in the voice, which went away at once. ‘He told me that you would find what is left of the reserve fleet even before we reach our destination. He also told me that you will not like what you will find there.’

Malistrum was unmoved. ‘This is no surprising news for me.’ He sighed. ‘This is probably the last time we will ever speak to each other.’

The other agreed.

‘I don’t know what to say,’ Malistrum said. ‘You will be alone; without the Emperor, without the Chapter, the whole Galaxy against you. Nevertheless,’ he added, ‘you are strong and capable. If there is anyone who can secure our future, it will be you.’

There was a soft chuckle on the other side of the vox-line.

‘Forgive me, my lord, but this is typically you. You are the one who is about to face our fallen brothers, you barely have anyone with you, and you are worried about me?’

This made the Captain smile. ‘True. But I have no future to build. I will not make any more fate. I will only end it.’ he hesitated for a moment. ‘Essen?’ he called. ‘I think I just wanted to tell all of you one more time… to be safe.’

The Sergeant did not answer immediately. ‘We will not forget you, Captain,’ he finally said.

The voxline went out. Malistrum slowly turned towards his seat and sat down. He looked around as if his gaze could penetrate the walls and decks and look at the remaining of his flock.

Seventeen Astartes warriors, a small contingent of tech-priests under the leadership of Magos Brakk, two shift’s worth of human bridge crew and a handful of Ogryns who decided to stay behind and act as honour guard for the great cannons: this was all he had left of his once proud strike force. He had sacrificed so much to get here, only to find that he had actually failed. He had lost his god, the status of his strike force, his own Chapter and the people closest to him. He had tasted defeat, hopelessness, failure in equal measures. He was no longer pure or certain of himself.

And still, beaten and broken, he had to move on. He had a last mission to undertake, perhaps the most important as a Fatemaker Space Marine. In his heart, the Chapter no longer existed, but it mattered little. He needed to have closure; he needed one last mission, which would probably put an end to any further future missions – just as it would put an end to his life as well.

Malistrum’s features hardened. He had no more time to contemplate his actions. Freed from most of his responsibilities and only with companions who were truly committed to this task, he could only go forward now.

‘Set course to the system edge,’ he ordered. ‘Our hunt continues.’




Malachias Sector

Novi Lexxo system jump point

643 days after the Emperor’s death



‘This is captain Elias from the Pearl of Malakash calling the Novi Lexxo auspex satellite. I repeat, this is the Pearl of Malakash calling Novi Lexxo auspex satellite.’

Elias looked reassuringly at Scout-Sergeant Essen and shook his head. ‘They are still quite far away, Brother-Sergeant. They will need a few seconds to answer.’

Essen nodded. He was standing besides the command chair next to the new captain of the Rogue Trader vessel. Elias had proven to be a competent commander of the ship in the last month, and he had no reason to doubt his words. Besides, they were in no hurry just now.

‘This is Satellite Three Seven from the Novi Lexxo auspex ring,’ the answer finally came from the vox. ‘Pearl of Malakash, state your intent. Repeat, state your intent.’

‘I am patching you through to Brother-Sergeant Essen,’ Elias said and directed the Astartes to the vox console. The other side of the link stayed silent for a few seconds before the reply came.

‘Did you say Brother-Sergeant?’

Essen leaned towards the console. ‘He did,’ he said, ‘although possibly not the Brother-Sergeant you expected. Am I safe to assume that this system belongs under the protection of the Twilight Monk Space Marine Chapter?’

Another few seconds of pause.

‘This is correct, Pearl of Malakash. This system belongs to the Kapellan Safe Zone and stands under the protection of the Twilight Monks.’

‘Excellent. My name is Essen Gelcar, formerly from the Fatemaker Astartes Chapter. I am looking for your protectors to speak with them.’ Essen leaned even closer to the console. There was a curious expression on his face which captain Elias did not recognise. ‘Tell your masters we want to negotiate with them. Tell your masters we want to join them.’





Two hours later, Sergeant Essen was walking through a corridor towards one of the prow storage chambers. He had a few hours before they reached the escort ship, and a few more hours to reach the first inhabited planet in the system, but then he would not have any free time for a very long time – if ever. He needed a few last minutes to make a closure for himself.

It was not easy to get this far. Captain Malistrum’s decision to have the strike force join the Twilight Monks made sense, but it was difficult to swallow even for him, and he had to spend a lot of energy into keeping a firm grip on every Astartes aboard. Technically, they were no longer proper Space Marines with a proper Chapter behind them. Any one of the remaining Space Marines could have decided to strike out to try to get by on his own, away from the others.

Nobody did in the end. The company could very well have fallen apart, but it did not. Strike Force Four did not follow the path of the reserve fleet. They were too well trained for that.

Essen smiled sadly as he turned into the corridor leading to his destination. Malistrum’s shadow was large enough to fall on them even here and now.

The future would not be much easier. Essen had no idea how the Twilight Monks would receive them. They had stated that there was no more animosity between the two Chapters, but it is one thing to let a former enemy go when he wanted to go away for good and another to let the same person inside your house. There would be accusations and mistrust. There may be refusal. There might even be open hostility, which would probably lead to the death of the entire strike force.

For some reason, Essen did not believe that things would go that bad. The Twilight Monks seemed to be level-headed and calculating. They would weigh the pros and cons and they would probably realize how much they would benefit from the admission of a half-strength strike force with all their experience and training. If they really wanted to stabilize a chunk of the subsector, they needed every help they could get. They needed the ship, the crew with their experience working with Space Marines, they needed the Ogryns and their brute strength. They needed the secret of the Withdrawal, they needed knowledge about the soulstones. The Fatemakers had a lot to offer to their former archenemy.

Most of all, the Twilight Monks needed the Fatemaker Space Marines themselves. Essen stepped to the door at the end of the corridor, and opened it. The room behind the door was even more poorly lit than the corridor itself, but Essen did not need much light anyway. He stepped in.

The room was not large, but its content was all the more valuable. Shelves were put up along the wall, each of which held a pair of plasteel cylinders. The Apothecarion had done their best to save and store the content of the cylinders without causing any more death among the Space Marines, and they succeeded. Essen thought for a second what it would feel like to cut something so vitally important out of him, and he as glad that he would probably not find it out until his death.

None of the tubes were labelled. Normally, naming them was part of the procedure, but these were not normal times. The names attached to them would have to fade out of memory, just to be safe. Dark fate was attached to this room, which the strike force could ill afford to carry on.

Essen knew, though. He made a point of memorizing which tube belonged to which brother. He knew he would never pass this knowledge on, but he felt he had this much to owe to all the people who helped him get this far.

He stopped at the first tube on the top shelf and looked at it.

Brother Changrapopulos.

The last brother to pass away with the secure knowledge that the Emperor protected. Essen did not know whether he should have envied him for that.

He moved on to the next shelf which contained a pair of tubes similar to the first one.

Pelidor.

Just Pelidor, not Brother Pelidor. He had lost this right when he gave up and killed himself and his squad-mate. There may have been a time when Essen could have understood his decision, but not any more. People may have given up, but his kind was not really ‘people’. They had more responsibilities even at the end of the world.

Moving on.

Brother Andorias Mortan.

Essen did not move for a while. Andorias stood closer to him than any other brothers, but they never really clicked, not even in their childhood. He did not know what to think of him. By his own admission, he threw away his own life, more out of cowardice than for any other reason. Yet he gave him the final push with his dying words to confront the Captain and propel him to action. He would not be where he was today without Andorias.

‘It was foolish of me to hate you,’ he said and stepped aside.

He passed by other shelves. Even without labels, he knew who they were. Here it was, all the gene-seed grown in all the members of Strike Force Four. Dead or alive, the Apothecaries harvested every single one of them out of everyone.

Captain Andros Malistrum.

He sighed heavily and patted the shelf. ‘It is a bitter cup that you made me drink,’ he said loudly, ‘but I will drink it. I would do it solely because I love and respect you – but I will do it mostly because you are still right.’

There. He was ready. He cast a last long look at the long row of shelves and their precious cargo. Gene-seeds. The future of his people. Not the future of the Fatemakers, of course. He knew how the Fatemakers would end. The Opportunity, Malistrum and the others would go on, and at some point in the future, they would travel through time in the past to the Borshak system. The ship would explode and everyone aboard would die, except for Librarian Akichi, who would be killed by his own younger hands with the secure knowledge that he would be the last Fatemaker alive. The circle would close.

Essen and his men were no longer Fatemakers. Even if the Opportunity had died, they would go on, under a different name. They had the chance to rebuild, but they also had the chance to strengthen someone else. Someone with better chances and no connection to their Chapter. This was the last present from their Captain. He would go on and die as a Fatemaker, but he had managed to push the majority of the strike force out of the circle.

Their legacy would eventually dissolve in the Twilight Monks. It was inevitable. However, a true Astartes would serve even if his deeds remained unremembered and unnoticed. Even under someone else’s name, they would have the chance to do something good.

‘Goodbye,’ Essen told the gene-seeds and turned away. He went out of the half-lit room back to the corridor where it was not quite as dark.

He did not look back again.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 59)

Postby Midgard » Mon Mar 03, 2014 9:16 pm

This was a very powerful chapter, well written and poignant. I really enjoy what you are doing here, and am sad that this story is almost over. Kudos to you for an excellent tale! :)
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 59)

Postby Tandrax218 » Tue Mar 04, 2014 12:56 am

Oh my .... :o

E one question mr. Meaneye

what ever happened to that Magellanite autonomus drone thing that attached itself on the hull of the Oportunity ???

or will it have a role to play in the last chapter??
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 59)

Postby librisrouge » Tue Mar 04, 2014 5:52 pm

Sad day. I shed a single, solitary manly tear for the poor lost Fatemakers.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 59)

Postby Meaneye » Tue Mar 04, 2014 9:58 pm

Thanks for the positive comments, guys :oops: . There is only one chapter left, true, but the remaining Fatemakers will have more some fate to make in it, so stay tuned.

Tandrax218: The Magellanite drone is still attached to the Opportunity, biding its time. Although Sardaukar took what is possibly a final break from the 'Eridani Records', we have actually talked about the drone and possible linking points between our two stories, and I will finish my story as if he had fully concluded his. The drone (MUTO-35145) will have a part before this story is over.

(also see my post on page 48 in the 'Age of Dusk' section - I have no idea if I will ever even start that story, but the potential is there).
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 59)

Postby Tandrax218 » Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:23 am

Yeaah riiight i remembered there was this talk with 2 figures about someone not beeing "true " fatemakers, but could not find it where or who ...

Your post on p. 48 Age of Duskis the one im talking about...

Hope you write that one :D
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 59)

Postby Chh » Wed Mar 05, 2014 1:59 pm

A good chapter. Sad to see that this will end soon, but I know it needs to happen. Will we get too find out what the Twilight Monk's big secret is?

However, looks like this story will be going out with a bang (figuratively and literally) :)
Currently writing: http://www.thebolthole.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=2138 (Sanguinian Heresy)

Please read some of it, and give feedback. Please?
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 59)

Postby qah » Fri Mar 07, 2014 4:57 am

BRUHHHHHHHHHHH, this story is so A1 it got me saluting Andorias in front of my computer as he was dying. Someone get a Bl author to read this. Malistrum bout to pull off some tactical genius maneuvers that'll put Creed to shame tho.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 59)

Postby Sardaukar » Tue Mar 11, 2014 11:13 am

Meaneye wrote:Thanks for the positive comments, guys :oops: . There is only one chapter left, true, but the remaining Fatemakers will have more some fate to make in it, so stay tuned.

Tandrax218: The Magellanite drone is still attached to the Opportunity, biding its time. Although Sardaukar took what is possibly a final break from the 'Eridani Records', we have actually talked about the drone and possible linking points between our two stories, and I will finish my story as if he had fully concluded his. The drone (MUTO-35145) will have a part before this story is over.

(also see my post on page 48 in the 'Age of Dusk' section - I have no idea if I will ever even start that story, but the potential is there).



Carry on as you're going Meaneye, it's been interesting and inspiring to see your growth as a writer and the quality of your story. I'm a professional writer and I frankly wish I could write half as as well as you. I cannot update because I've simply got too much going on in my personal life, in terms of business, family and everything else. I do intend to write the story and finish it, whether this year of the next. But it looks increasingly like next year will be the case.

Look forward to seeing the ending
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 59)

Postby Meaneye » Sat Sep 13, 2014 9:53 pm

Wow.

Well, I am back. There have been points where I felt the story would never continue, but it seems I got back at least some inspiration to finish it.

This is the last chapter of the Fatemakers, but there is still some interesting twists ahead. I have no idea how often i will update, although I can say it would not take me another half a year :D .

Enjoy.


Aboard the Opportunity

616 days after the Emperor's death

It was a lonely experience to walk the corridors of the ship now. Malistrum had to realize as he was heading for the training cages that several dozen people could simply not produce the same level of background noise as a couple of thousand. It was an almost unconscious, but eventually reassuring sensation to hear the faint sounds of all the hundred crewmen going about their business in all corners of the ship. Steps, quiet conversations, machine noises crated by the actions of humans... now it was all gone.

The Captain was disciplined enough to shake off the unease, but he did notice it, which was telling in itself. An era was over aboard the vessel, just like Strike Force Four itself was over. What was left was only the final chapter in the history of a five hundred years Astartes order: a last act of defiance, almost a formality to put the Fatemakers' affairs in order.

Being Space Marines, that last chapter was to end in violence and death, but not the death of everybody. The majority of the strike force – what was left of it after the pyrrhic victory – had left the system a day earlier and headed for the territory of their once enemies, the Twilight Monk Space Marines. Their fate now rested in the hand of Scout-Sergeant Essen and the Chapter Master of the Monks; Malistrum had no more say in it. He was only responsible for the small token task force which stayed on the ship to finally catch up with the rest of the Chapter fleet and confront the now undoubtedly renegade Fatemaker Chapter Master. Fiffito still had three ships at his disposal, and in a conventional battle, not even Malistrum's whole strike force could beat him. The Captain was counting on a more personal confrontation, for which only a skeleton crew was necessary, one which could operate the ship and make sure he himself would get to the Chapter Master.

Malistrum was sure he and the entire remaining crew would perish in the final showdown, which meant whoever had made the decision to stay had in fact resigned to die. Staying behind had been entirely voluntary, safe for those people who were bound to the ship herself with special oaths of servitude. Duty was not supposed to play any role in their decision, yet there were some who did the dutiful thing and refused to go with the others. These people had to have a personal reason to stay, and Malistrum was interested in their reasons.

There were not so many people left to ask, and the Captain mostly wanted to hear what the Astartes and the specialist contingent had to say, which meant he had to visit only a handful of people. The training cages were the closest to his quarters, so he went there as he was sure he would find the first man on his list there. He was not disappointed.

The training cages only occupied the back of the great room, but they were the most important piece of equipment here, so even the precise Astartes used this name to the hall in general. This place used to be louder as well, but now there was only one occupant. A large – although not Astartes-large, not yet – shape was leaping and moving inside the cage, battling with a set of pre-programmed mechanical arms, all of which ended in razor-sharp blades. None of the blades were wet with blood, and Malistrum nodded with approval. Although the young person in the cage was only an initiate, not a full-fledged Space Marine, he had shown great potential in the past, both physically and mentally. The boy had a future at the Chapter, and yet he had decided to throw it all away and follow his Captain to death.

Malistrum had to know his reasons.

The initiate sensed his approach, but he observed the protocols and did not simply jump out of the cage. Malistrum watched as he properly disengaged the training arms and stepped out to meet his superior. He was barely breathing faster than normally after what seemed to be a full training session, and the Captain nodded to himself. This initiate was indeed a worthy addition to the Chapter.

‘Brother-Captain,’ the younger one bowed respectfully. Malistrum raised a hand.

‘Initiate Loriant. I needed to speak with you, but for this conversation, we cannot keep up the formalities. I need to have an honest hour with you.’

‘Of course.’ If the initiate was surprised, he did not show it. The ‘honest hours’ were a Fatemaker invention, although as far as Malistrum knew, not all strike forces practiced it. Basically, the new initiates under training regularly got a full hour of time when they could speak freely with their drill instructors about any topic they wanted. Any other time, questions would have been considered insubordination which would have resulted in punishment meted out according to the harsh conditions of the Codex Astartes. The honest hours helped the initiates to better understand the aims and goals of their training and the tasks ahead of them. In most cases, the questions of the initiates were the same and could usually be summarized in one question: ‘Why the hell do you have to push us with the training like this?’ In some cases, however, the initiates could come up with surprisingly intelligent topics as well, and the instructors could gain valuable insight into the mindset of their charges. It helped to ease the tension and also served to meld the initiates with various background into a more cohesive unity.

The questions were usually not asked by a full-fledged battle-brother during an honest hour, not to mention the Captain of the strike force, but the times where these things mattered had long been gone. The two Astartes – one ancient and one at the beginning of his life – sat down on two opposite benches.

‘What would you ask of me, Captain?’ Loriant asked. He was not cowed by Malistrum, which was also a good sign. The boy was made of good material.

‘I studied your files, initiate,’ Malistrum started. ‘Your performance during the training was consistently good. You were promoted junior squad leader quite early, and you could motivate the other initiates like a real officer. You also acquitted yourself well during the battle at Khadmus. You stood your ground under circumstances which you were not fully prepared for and you managed to keep up with Sergeant Essen, which is no small feat in itself. In short, you have great potential.’

‘I have thought of this, Captain,’ Lorian nodded. ‘I tried not to think about it because I did not want it to get in my head, but…’ he shrugged. ‘I was somewhat better than the others. The instructors didn’t tell me, but I knew what I can do and what the others can. I would have probably become a good Astartes.

Malistrum frowned. ‘Would have?’ he echoed.

Loriant shifted uncomfortably. ‘If we are having an honest hour, I should speak with you openly, Brother-Captain.’

‘I would not have I otherwise.’

‘Then I must say, and you must know this yourself, that we are all going to die in this mission. Maybe we will succeed, but we are about to take on three companies of Fatemakers, and we will not survive it. At most we will take them with us, but we will not live to have another mission. My training will not be over by that time and so I will die as an initiate, not as a full-fledged brother.’

Malistrum did not say anything for a while, and Loriant looked at him questioningly.

‘Is it not true what I have just said, Brother-Captain?’

This conversation did not start the way Malistrum planned, and for the second time in a few days, the Captain felt he was being pushed into a corner. Still, this was an honest hour, and the strike force had so few of its old traditions intact that he did not want to squander this one. He nodded.

‘This is true, initiate. This is nothing less than a suicide mission, and all the remaining personnel aboard are facing certain death. As a matter of fact, this is exactly the reason why I wanted to talk to you. Few of the Space Marines aboard remained and this is good because Sergeant Essen needed all the men to make a fresh start. Some stayed, and in most cases, it was completely voluntary. You stayed voluntarily as well, even though you did not have to and you had a bright future ahead of you – a much as anything can be called ‘bright’ any more.’

Malistrum leaned forward and raised the question.

‘Why did you stay with the ship?’

The Captain knew that this question was important. The strike force may not be alive long enough for the answers to make a difference, but they would make a difference to him. He had just sacrificed the better portion of his company to carry out a task which eventually turned out to be futile, and if he wanted to give their sacrifice a new purpose, he would have to pay attention to his remaining men. The answers would be enlightening.

Loriant sighed. ‘I stayed behind,’ he said, ‘because I drew the shortest rod.’

Now this answer, the Captain did not expect.

What did you do?’

‘I drew the shortest rod. It was…’ Loriant stopped for a moment to gather his thoughts, and he was probably also taken aback by the look the Captain gave him. ‘After the battle and your speech, we… the remaining initiates… sat down and discussed what to do. It was obvious that the majority would go with Scout-Sergeant Essen, but we felt that your mission was important. The Sergeant himself told us so.’

Malistrum raised an eyebrow.

‘Did he?’

‘Yes.’ Loriant was deadly serious. ‘He always talked about you with utmost respect. The stories he told us about you… during the Neodevourer Wars and other campaigns…’ the initiate stretched his arms out as if he what not been sure what to say. ‘He almost worshipped you. And us too.’

This praise sat uncomfortably with the Captain, but the initiate had not finished yet. ‘We knew that you needed all the support you could get, and we understood how dangerous a renegade Chapter is. We also knew that you would not get a lot more ahead with us scouts. But we needed to show you our support, even if it was symbolic. So we drew lots. We took the cleaning rods we used to clean the bolters – they came in two lengths for some reason, I don’t know why – and the one who drew the shortest one stayed behind to represent us in your final mission.’

Loriant finished his speech and looked at the Captain expectantly. Malistrum was not sure what to say. He wanted an answer to his question and this was an answer, but not one which was easy to address. Then a thought occurred to him.

‘The way you put this suggests that staying behind was an honour,’ he said.

Loriant nodded.

‘It was, and it still is. This is perhaps the most important mission in the history of the Chapter. And probably the last one too.’

‘Then why did the one who drew the shortest rod stay behind?’

The initiate sighed. He obviously felt uncomfortable with this question, but not more so than Malistrum had a minute earlier.

‘This was important, and we knew it. But none of us wanted to volunteer to stay behind. We… I…’ Loriant shook his head. ‘Captain, I was an orphan in Belandon when you recruited me. The scholam was better than the streets but still… I had nothing to look forward to in my life. You trained me, turned me into a new man, a being above men. You gave me weapons and a purpose to use them. I was destined to do great deeds, you said it yourself. This mission is a great deed… but not mine. I will have no part in it, only witness it. I wanted to do something more with my life.’

These words echoed Essen’s almost perfectly, and Malistrum had to fight not to swallow hard. ‘Did the others feel the same?’ he asked.

Loriant nodded.

‘Then why did any of you stay behind in the first place?’

‘Duty,’ the answer came. ‘We knew what was expected of us, and we all accepted it. The majority goes and fights with Scout-Sergeant Essen, and one stays behind to support you in any way he can. Our motivations and personal desires are unimportant as long as we do our duty. I would have preferred to go where I could have contributed more, but my duty is the same here. I will stand by your side and do whatever I can to assist you in your quest no matter whether I drew the longest or the shortest rod. That is…’ he added after a moment of consideration, ‘I will stand by your side if you still take me after this, my lord.’

Malistrum stood immobile for a few seconds before standing up. ‘You have sacrificed a lot for the strike for and for me too,’ he said. ‘I know this now, and I appreciate your dedication. I shall be honoured to have you on my side when the final confrontation occurs.’

Loriant’s relief was palpable. ‘The honour is mine, Brother-Captain.’ He sat for a little while, as if to wait for Malistrum to do something more. ‘Was there anything else you wanted…’

‘No,’ Malistrum shook his head. ‘This honest hour is finished. You may return to your training session, initiate.’

‘Thank you, Brother-Captain.’ Loriant stood up, cast a final glance at Malistrum and turned back towards the cages.

The Captain looked as he turned on the machine. He had got his answer to his question from the first person he wanted to ask, but suddenly, he was not sure he really wanted to know what the others had to say. Still, he had made a decision and he intended to carry it through.

Loriant was about to enter the cage when he turned back for the last time, only to see that the Captain had disappeared. Frowning, the initiate gripped the handle of the practice blade and returned to the training.





Magos Brakk was the next in line, and, just like initiate Loriant, he was easy to find as well. Most of the Mechanicus contingent had left with the Pearl of Malakash to assist the now independent Fatemaker remnants, but some, their leader included, stayed behind. They exclusively occupied the engine section now and only went out to the other parts of the ship to do maintenance work. The Magos did not take part in those: he stayed in the main engine chamber, overseeing the myriad consoles and instruments which eventually made the ship move in real- and Warp-space.

Malistrum approached with reverent slowness. This was the Magos’s realm, the realm of the Machine-God, even though the Emperor might have been its manifestation, in which case this was a temple of a dead deity. Nevertheless, this place represented a world quite different from his: a world of logic and order which he had to appreciate in these dark days.

The Magos was busy adjusting something on the main console, using not only his regular arms but also his mechadendrites. As Malistrum came closer, one of the servitor-assistants emitted a short blur of machine codes, and the Magos turned back.

‘Brother-Captain Malistrum,’ he named the Astartes with his monotonous machine voice. ‘I was not expecting your company today. Is there a technical problem aboard the ship I am not aware of?’

‘This is an informal visit, Magos Brakk,’ Malistrum answered. He knew how little the Magos was used to social interaction, but this was important to him. ‘I would like to have a private conversation with you.’

Magos did not move for a second, save for a few twitches along his mechadendrites. ‘This is an… unusual request,’ he finally answered.

‘I know. I am touring along the ship to get informed about the general morale and sentiment among the remaining crew. As master of the Mechanicus section, your opinion is important to me about certain issues.’

The Magos slightly moved his head aside. ‘Do you wish to reassess the human factor of the ship?’

Malistrum thought about it. ‘I merely want to know the answer to one question. But yes, I am eventually interested in how the human factor has changed on the ship,’ he admitted.

The Magos nodded. ‘We can converse outside the chamber.’

‘Good idea,’ Malistrum agreed. The Magos blurted some instructions to his underlings, and the two left the chamber. The engine section was a safety hazard for the ship, and so it was designed to be detached from the rest of the vessel as much as possible. The chamber opened onto a huge chasm with a simple metal bridge spanning it. They walked over the bridge with slow, steady steps as dictated by the Captain. He needed time to collect his thoughts.

‘I am interested in the reasons why the volunteers on this vessel decided to stay behind,’ he eventually said. There was really no point in running circles with the Magos. ‘There was no logic in staying, except in a few cases. Yours was not an obvious choice. You could have gone with the others and leave a subordinate behind.’

‘I was needed on the Opportunity,’ Brakk answered. His voice did not betray any emotion.

‘This is true,’ Malistrum said, ‘but you were also needed on the Pearl. Besides, you are not answering the question.’

He received no response to that. He stopped and turned towards the Mechanicus adept, just at the end of the bridge.

‘Magos?’

The other seemed hesitant, almost uncomfortable, which was not something Malistrum was usually able to read on people. This was surprising, but the Captain knew enough of the tech-priests to know that he would eventually explain himself.

‘I… have been thinking about my decision myself,’ the tech-priest admitted. ‘There is indeed no logic in staying here in a mission which will inevitable end in our death. I am hesitant to say, but I came to the conclusion that the reason why I decided so was that cowardice.’

Malistrum was surprised the second time that day. ‘Cowardice?’ he repeated.

The Magos nodded. ‘Fear is an emotion. A chemical response to a dangerous situation aimed at self-preservation. It can be supressed even by unmodified humans, and a tech-adept of the Mechanicum does not even have the necessary brain components to feel it. However, cowardice is more than just an instinctive response. It is a hesitance to make the necessary sacrifice to achieve a goal. I am guilty of cowardice because I am unwilling to make the right sacrifice.’

Malistrum did not understand.

‘You said it yourself that staying here means certain death. If dying does not bother you than what is the sacrifice that you don’t want to make?’

‘Staying alive in this world,’ the answer came. The Magos slowed down and his voice seemed contemplative now. ‘Techmarine Guztav had a conversation with me before the attack on the heretic Mechanicus site. I suggested to him that Mankind is eventually doomed without the help of the Omnissiah as our species is not enough to face the challenges of the Warp and the natural dangers of the Galaxy in itself. I said that it was still worth living and fighting to protect others, even if only in the short run. I now regret making that claim.’

‘Malistrum contemplated this for a second.’

‘What has changed?’ he finally asked.

‘I received first-hand experience of that sacrifice during the battle. I have never commanded an army in a ground engagement before. This was partly the reason why I accepted that task because I wanted to see what I will need to do to survive in the future. What I saw on the planet…’

He stopped.

‘Forgive me, Brother-Captain,’ he said in the end. ‘I do not feel emotions like ordinary people do, but my brain still struggles to interpret what happened down there. It was total chaos where logic offered almost no advantage and the success of our mission eventually depended on a few random elements which I was unable to calculate. This would have been enough, but I also had to review the state of our troops and armour division after the battle had been won.’

His mechadendrites twitched as the Magos recalled that memory.

‘The final conclusion as that both the human and the vehicle contingents suffered irreparable damage. Theoretically, it was possible to replace both, but the practical analysis claimed that we would never get in a situation where such a complete overhaul would happen again. Strike Force Four and the Opportunity would not renew. When I extrapolated this thought, I realized that this would also be the eventual faith of the Imperium as well. We are strong, but this only means that our decay would happen slowly. I have the potential to live even twice as long as I already have. I… did not wish to live out the rest of my life watching that slow decay, so when I realized that my presence here in this lethal mission could be validated, I volunteered to stay behind.’

The pair slowed down at the end of the bridge and then stopped completely. Malistrum did not look at the Magos: instead, his eyes gazed into the emptiness in the great chasm.

‘I believe you are disappointed in my decision and my character, Brother-Captain Malistrum,’ the Magos said in a soft voice.

The other sighed. ‘You have offered my help and you are ready to die in carrying out our current mission,’ he answered. ‘This is the very definition of the duty of an Astartes, which means I have no right to be disappointed. I wanted to know your motives, and you answered me honestly, and for that, you have my thanks.’

‘I am glad to be of assistance,’ Magos Brakk said. ‘I can also assure you that my cowardice will not affect my performance aboard this vessel. Was there anything else you wanted to know?’

‘No,’ Malistrum waved dismissively. ‘No, I… No, I do not require anything else from you, Magos.’

‘In that case, I will return to my duties,’ the other said.

Malistrum nodded. His mind was already occupied as the faint whirr of the Magos’s steps faded in to the distance. The answer the tech-priest had given him was disturbing, even more so than Loriant’s. He needed to ask even more people, it seemed.

‘Brother-Captain?’

Malistrum turned. The Magos was standing on the other side of the bridge now, and looked back at the Space Marine captain.

‘You must have had the same conclusion to the recent events as I did,’ the Magos called to him. ‘Do you also believe that all we do at this point is futile?’

‘I do not,’ the Captain answered back after a moment of thought.

‘But you have the same data at your disposal as I do. How can you come to a completely different conclusion?’

This answer was, at least, an easy one.

‘We Astartes have our duty,’ Malistrum stated. ‘We cannot and should not ponder over the future too much. Our existence is bound in our responsibilities to our Chapter, to out oaths, to our Emperor. Even if most of those things are no more, we can still move on and cast out any doubt.’

‘So you say that you can fulfil your duties better if you ignore reality?’ Brakk asked.

This was definitely not how Malistrum would have put it.

‘In a manner of speaking,’ he answered in the end, mostly because he had nothing better to say.

‘I would not be able to exist this way,’ Brakk stated.

The two of them stood there for a while, separated by a physical – and now also a metaphorical – gap. Then the Magos turned back to the engine room and left Malistrum alone with his dark thoughts.





Most remaining members of the crew were now occupying the same area of the ship, as if they had found some form of comfort in the same familiar set of activities. Techmarine Guztav was no exception: the Astartes almost exclusively resided in the hangar bay where the strike force collected the few salvageable vehicles they could save after the last battle.

‘Why I decided to stay here?’ the Techmarine asked back. He was holding in his two hands the biggest wrench the Captain had ever seen before and he was busy dismantling the plates on the side of a damaged-looking Thunderhawk. He was wearing his mask now, even though this was not strictly necessary for his work. This somewhat worried Malistrum. Now that he was thinking about it, he could not remember seeing the Techmarine without the helmet since the battle.

‘I would like to know more about the motivation of the remaining people,’ he said.

Guztav slowly went to the Thunderhawk and placed the wrench against the plate of the machine.

‘I don’t think I will be able to fix it,’ he said in a flat voice. Then he turned towards his leader. ‘We Astartes are not supposed to hesitate even in the face of certain death.’

‘We are not,’ Malistrum agreed, ‘but we are also not supposed to cast our lives away. I have heard a lot of reasons for staying here. I would know about yours.’

Guztav cast his head down.

‘I need atonement,’ he said. ‘I have sinned gravely.’

Malistrum frowned. ‘How so?’

‘I have betrayed the teachings of the Mechanicus,’ Guztav said. ‘And my personal code as well.’

Malistrum now said nothing. He now knew that this conversation would disturb him, just like all the others had, but backing down was obviously not an option for him.

‘In the end phase of the battle… I gave an order to the crew of a Thunderhawk gunship,’ Guztav started. ‘Not this one,’ he gestured behind him towards the machine he had been working on. ‘Thunderhawk Two. I ordered the crew… to ram the last wounded Titan. They obeyed. They flew into it, destroyed it, and we won the battle.’

Malistrum had read the reports. He nodded.

‘The basic teaching of the Mechanicus…’ Guztav was clearly struggling with the words. ‘… is that you are not supposed to exert yourself to a bigger extent than you have to. If you can achieve your goal smaller resources, you should do it. That sacrifice was too big.’

‘Your forces had to destroy three Titans,’ Malistrum reminded him. ‘That is no small task. You could have been killed to the last man down there. The loss of the gunship was unfortunate, but unavoidable.’

‘It was not.’ Guztav looked at the Captain. ‘The Opportunity had already defeated the heretic ship above the site. We had space superiority. We had the higher ground and we had the tools. I could have dispersed our forces and asked for reinforcements. I could have asked for an orbital strike.’

‘This is true.’ Malistrum started to understand. An experienced battlefield commander would have made sure to combine the elements of his force to the greatest efficiency, but Guztav was not a battlefield commander. It was only by virtue of the fact that the other officers were either busy or dead that he had to make this decision, and, as he had correctly stated, his was not the most efficient way.

It was not his fault. He did not fail, but he was too inexperienced to do a perfect job, and more people had died because of it than necessary. Malistrum often had to sacrifice members of the strike force, and it had never been easy for him. He could very well imagine how Guztav felt about it.

‘Sometimes we make decisions we regret in life,’ he started. ‘We could ask ourselves what we should have done, and we should because we must learn from our mistakes. What we cannot do is get stuck in the past and relive that one bad moment over and over again. It would consume us in the end, and we still need our strength.’

‘I know that, Captain,’ Guztav said. ‘I will do my duty to the last moment, but I feel I have been compromised. I made an unnecessary sacrifice, and I’m not sure if I could make it again, even if the need arises. I am… ashamed that I did not think things through. As a Techmarine, analysing and thinking is my main duty, exactly to avoid losses like this. I have failed, and I need to atone.’

‘And your death in this mission is atonement enough?’ Malistrum asked.

‘I have survived while another spirit perished because of me, even though I could have prevented that,’ Guztav said. ‘Balance must be restored.’

Malistrum sighed. He would not have considered Guztav to be so sentimental towards the human contingent, although in retrospect, this made sense. The crew of Strike Force Four had always been a close-knit community, mortals and Astartes alike. Even though it was sad to see one of his men half-broken, it was at least a reassuring thing to know that the moral integrity of his remaining people was still intact.

‘That Thunderhawk was almost four hundred years old,’ Guztav continued. ‘It was venerated even when I started my services here, and I destroyed it and the machine spirit that dwelled within. It was a trusted ally. It should have ended in glory, not as a battering ram. I betrayed it by giving that order.’

Malistrum froze for a second.

‘What about the crew of the gunship?’ he asked.

‘The pilots?’ Guztav cocked his head aside. ‘What about them?’

Malistrum’s eyes grew cold.

‘Thank you for your time, Techmarine Guztav. I appreciate that I could talk to you about this.’ He stood up and went away, but he turned back after a few steps.

‘I believe…’ he started. The Techmarine was also standing now, waiting for his answer, hiding behind his faceless, emotionless visor. ‘…I believe that you staying here in this mission was the right decision for all of us.’

‘Thank you, Captain.’ The other Astartes’s posture changed and he now seemed somewhat relieved.

I did not mean this as a compliment, Malistrum wanted to say, but resisted the urge. Why bother? If he had not understood it this far, it was hopeless anyway. It was a sobering thought to realize that he did not know the people serving under him well enough, even after decades of service together. It also spoke volumes about himself.

As he went out of the hangar bay, he suddenly stopped for a moment. A lonely Thunderhawk was standing just beside the entrance. He had not given much notice to it upon entering, but now he was in the right mood to realize just what he was looking at.

Thunderhawk Three. Intact, with only a few scratches on it.

The look Malistrum gave to that Fatemaker vessel was one he normally reserved for his enemies – and he was right in that regard. He pressed his lips and moved on, his steps getting determined, as if he was heading towards a new battlefield.




‘I am bloody old. That’s all, chieftain.’

Thokk, leader of the remaining Ogry contingent aboard the ship, was sitting cross-legged on the floor of one of the loading bays. Like the other parts of the ship, this area was uncomfortably quiet, devoid of the usual noise of a couple of dozen Ogryns and tech-priests going about their business. Malistrum – who was standing, and so his head was almost level with Thokk’s – was reminded once more just how much his strike force had lost in the past few days.

‘Is that enough to stay behind and possibly die?’ he asked the Ogryn. The two of them were not friend, especially as the subhumans essentially revered all Astartes, the Captain included. Still, there was a warm yet professional atmosphere between the two whenever they conducted business together. This was the same now – even though the conversation was about more problematic topics than usually.

‘It was time my son takes over the tribe,’ Thokk said. His eyes showed a kind of wisdom as most people who lived long and experienced much did. ‘He was never the loader, my son. He was more happy with the shock troops. Wearing power armour, breaking stuff, you know what I mean, chieftain. But he is a good lad and has the brain to tell the others what to do. He will be happy with the Sarge, and he will be a better chief if I am not around no more.’

Malistrum thought this over. This was perhaps the most human answer he had heard to his question so far. This Ogryn was not burdened by guilt or a heavy code of honour. He merely decided that this was enough of a life for him.

Sometimes he has the feeling that Thokk and his tribe made more out of their lives than Astartes.

‘And I don’t wanna leave the cannons,’ Thokk added. ‘Where do I go? This is my home. Strike Force Four is my tribe. We talked it out with the old ones, and we sent the youngsters away, and we stayed.’

Malistrum looked past the Ogryn’s shoulder. There were a couple of other subhumans on the other side of the hall, and he could now clearly see that they were indeed old. Thokk misunderstood his gaze.

‘Don’t worry, Chieftain-Captain. We will load the cannons just like those little snots,’ he sniggered in a raspy voice. ‘Even better because they are not gonna slow us down no more. If we fight again, we are gonna shoot the enemy to pieces.’ He seemed to hesitate for a moment. ‘But…’

‘Yes?’ Malistrum asked. He felt a little better after hearing a reasonable answer to his question, but now he found he did not like that ‘but’ at all.

‘Did you know Morakk?’ the Ogryn asked. This was an unfair question when put to a man with perfect conditioned memory. Malistrum had no trouble recalling the image from his mind.

‘He was one of the shock troops,’ he said. ‘He died while fighting the Howling Griffons.’

Thokk nodded. ‘My son told me. He was there. Morakk died because he had to hit a Howling Griffon with his club, and he stopped. He looked like he didn’t want to hit a Space Marine. That’s how he died.’

Malistrum frowned. Was Thokk blaming him for the death of that Ogryn. ‘The H’ he reminded the other. ‘They attacked us on our own ship.

‘I know,’ Thokk was shifting uncomfortably. It was obviously him that felt guilty about it. ‘But this is the thing, you see?’ he stopped. He couldn’t hit a Space Marine. We can’t. We can’t fight Astarteses.’

Malistrum started to understand. ‘We are going to fight against our own brothers now,’ he said.

‘I know that too. And we can do it. We will load the cannons, just like we do always. But Chieftain...’ Thokk looked into Malistrum’s eyes. ‘If we meet them face to face, we will stop. We cannot help it. We will get a weapon, yes, we will go to them, no problem, but they will cut us down. I’m sorry. We can’t kill… we can’t…’

‘I understand,’ Malistrum interrupted. Thokk looked physically sick at the mere thought of hurting a Fatemaker, a member of the Chapter he thought of as demigods. The chance of him actually facing an enemy Fatemaker was so slim it was not even worth mentioning, but the thought that these loyal people were limited by their own loyalty was sobering nonetheless. The Captain tried to calm the other down with some reassuring words, but he was now feeling less reassured himself. A nasty thought starts to nag him, and he started to wander if his own remaining Astartes could raise a hand against their own brothers.





‘I’m not going to lie to you, Captain. Should we confront the others Fatemakers, our men may hesitate, even though it would probably kill them.’

Malistrum sighed. He was afraid he might get this answer, and he was right.

The Captain’s gaze went through the room and took everything in. This was obviously no longer a Space Marine’s quarter: it was clean and there was relative order in it, but only in human terms. The weapon and armour racks had all the equipment on in no recognisable order and the bedsheet was so creased one might have thought the room’s occupant slept on the bed every single day. He probably was, too: another worrisome sign of the mental state of the person sitting in front of him.

‘We will fight against our own brothers if we have to,’ Chaplain Uskovich continued. ‘In a way, we our taste of fratricide in our battle against the Howling Griffons. Our own Fatemaker brothers, however… That’s going to be completely different.’

Malistrum looked back at the Chaplain. ‘You don’t seem to be bothered too much by this,’ he remarked in s casual a voice as he could.

Uskovich shrugged. ‘I do not and I am not. I had time to think about this. Besides, I no longer have my Astartes conditioning intact, and this actually give me an advantage here.’

‘How so?’

‘Part of our conditioning,’ the Chaplain explained, ‘is a set of mental blocks which prohibit us from harbouring seditious thoughts against our own Chapter. We have very similar blocks regarding the Emperor and the Imperium in general, but the latter usually… erodes over time. We have to fight against other Imperial organizations quite regularly, you see. Astartes in general have great faith in the Emperor, but those blocks are no longer reinforced. Akichi could tell you more about the psychological background, but my point is that most of our brothers have two remaining constants in their life, and one of them is the sanctity of the Chapter. That remained. That is still valid. Test their faith in combat, and…’ he shrugged again.

Malistrum processed this for a while.

‘I should have known about this,’ he finally said. ‘If our brothers are in such a state, then why did you allow me to order the Opportunity towards the Dark Torch? Why did you not say anything?’

‘For the very same reason I decided to stay with you.’ Uskovich’s face showed genuine pain. ‘We still trust you. You alone. That’s the other constant. We no longer have the Chapter, not truly. We no longer have the Emperor either. But we still have you, and we trust that you will steer us through this.’

Malistrum shook his head, dissatisfied.

‘I have made mistakes before. I could make new ones as well.’

Uskovich made a grimace, and Malistrum suddenly had the feeling that the man in front of him is deadly exhausted. ‘Well, then you are merely the best option we have. The only option.’

‘And the rest of the strike force? Those who left? They offered another option.’

‘Essen is a child. How old is he? Fifty? Fifty-five? He has been living in your shadow from the very first day he was promoted. He has a vision, but not all of us felt he had the confidence to carry his will through. Besides, his path would change us beyond recognition. Not all of us are willing to accept change. Our conditioning works against such thoughts as well.’

Malistrum said nothing.

‘This is the problem with those who stayed behind,’ Uskovich continued. ‘They are mostly traditionalists, and the very same traditions which convinced them to stay here may – may – hold them back if they have to shoot at their own brothers. If you came here for my advice, it is this: you cannot allow us to come to blows with the reserve fleet face to face. You have to find some other way to confront Fiffito, and only him, not the rest.’

Malistrum thought about this.

‘I need to consider all this, Chaplain,’ he said ion the end. ‘Nevertheless, I am grateful for your advice.’

Uskovich nodded, and the Captain stood up.

‘I may not be able to leave the rest of the strike force out of this,’ he said. ‘Will you and the rest of our brothers do all you could, even against our own conditioning, even if it meant fighting against our brothers?’

Uskovich cast his head down.

‘Are you determined to go all the way?’ he asked.

‘I will,’ the Captain answered, and he was not lying: even after all what happened, he was still sure that this was the right way.

Uskovich looked up, and for a moment, Malistrum could see the old zeal in his eyes. ‘Then lead us,’ he said, ‘and we will follow you to the deepest bottom of the Warp.’

Malistrum nodded once more and left the room. He did not raise his question here, but he did not need to either. In fact, he had the feeling that he did not really need to ask anyone else about their motives. The Chaplain had answered in their name.

Except, perhaps, in one last person’s name.





‘I must be of purpose,’ Akichi said.

The two of them were sitting in the small meditation chamber at the prow of the Opportunity. There was no light in the room, so Malistrum had to leave the door a little. Even the half-lit features of the Librarian showed tenseness.

‘Explain to me this, please,’ Malistrum addressed the other. ‘I was very surprised to find out that you of all would stay here when you know very well how this journey is supposed to end.’

‘With our ship hurled back in time to meet our past selves moments before it explodes,’ Akichi sighed. ‘With me the only survivor, only to be shot by my own past self. I would do almost anything to prevent that future.’

Malistrum cocked his head aside. ‘Almost?’

‘I would not make a pact with the Gods of Chaos even to prevent that,’ the other answered. ‘But yes, anything else is fair game. I do not fear death, Captain, but the thought of looking up and seeing myself pulling that trigger… I cannot tell you how much I regret doing that.’

‘Then why did you not go with Essen? You could have changed the future that way.’

‘I am not sure I could have done it that easily,’ the Librarian said. The effort of keeping a level voice was clearly audible. ‘Changing the future may cause a time paradox, although that would not have prevented me from leaving. Perhaps me leaving with the rest of our brothers was part of the circle, and I would have somehow still ended aboard our burning ship in the end. I wold have taken that risk anyway.’

He stopped talking. Malistrum waited for a few seconds.

‘So?’ he finally asked.

The Librarian looked aside.

‘Merely stopping that future is not enough,’ he stated. ‘In a way, you already prevented the complete destruction of the Chapter by ejecting as many brothers from the strike force as possible. Even if we all die in the future, even if I face my younger self, I will not have to lie when I say that we are the last true Fatemakers. Still, I cannot help but feel that I have a greater part in all this than just being the last person alive in the strike force.’

‘You want to be of higher purpose?’ Malistrum asked.

‘I have to be of higher purpose. ’ Akichi looked up straight into the eyes of the Captain. ‘I was there. I had a vision of Terra the moment He on Earth died. I saw him struck by a veiled assassin, and for a moment, He saw me too.’

Malistrum was silent. He knew about the details of his Librarian’s failed attempt of contacting with Terra, and the thought of what he went through there greatly disturbed him.

‘He looked at me, then He died.’ There was zeal now in Akichi’s voice. ‘I should have died there. The aftershock of His death killed the whole Cephalo system a Segmentum away. I was there in the middle of it! A whole astropathic choir was strengthening the psychic shockwave, and the blast caught me in the face. Nothing should have remained of my body or my soul. Nothing!’

‘And yet I survived,’ he continued with a much softer voice now. ‘I would had never had the power to do so on my own. As heretic it may sound, I believe that the Emperor somehow intervened and protected me. And if I am right…’

Malistrum slowly nodded. ‘Then perhaps your presence is still needed here,’ he said. Claiming that the Emperor paid special attention to someone was great hubris, but the circumstances actually supported Akichi’s claim. ‘Still, maybe your destiny was to go with Essen and help him.’

Akichi sighed again. ‘Captain. We both know that I will be involved in time travel on this ship. I believe the Emperor would pay more attention to that than to a depleted strike force trying to find a new home and a new identity.’

The last sentence came out badly, but the Captain could not fault the other for speaking his mind. ‘And if you are mistaken?’ he asked.

The Librarian looked aside again. ‘Then I have effectively killed myself.’

There was not much to add to that. Malistrum stood up after a moment of silence.

‘Let us hope you have made the right decision.’

Akichi nodded. ‘Let us both hope so.’





Ten minutes before making the next jump.

Malistrum was sitting in his private quarters, pondering over the answers he had received from his crewmen in the past few hours. He made a tour on the ship to get confirmation of his own decision, but it seemed now that he had simply managed to get burdened with the troubles of his remaining brothers. He would have never guessed that they would have so varied and, eventually, so uniformly depressing reasons to stay with him. Dutiful but hesitant brothers, crewmembers who have given up on life itself, people who followed him because they could find no better option. The leftover of a once proud Chapter.

He shook his head. These were unworthy thoughts: whatever the motives of his men were, they stayed beside him, and that was the only thing which mattered. He was fairly sure his own motives would have sounded just as strange to the others as theirs sounded to him.

He cast one last look at the screen of his cogitator. That one particular picture of the side of the ship which he had seen so often that virtually every detail was burnt into his mind by now. He pushed a button and called froth a new picture.

He looked at it for a long time too.

Yes. He could still make it. There was still a way to get out of it all.

It should work. It would work.

At least he hoped it would.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (Igor! It's alive!)

Postby librisrouge » Thu Sep 18, 2014 5:19 pm

A worthy addition to the story. You, sir, have a knack for getting into the heads of your characters and taking the audience along for the ride...and what a ride its been so far.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (Igor! It's alive!)

Postby Midgard » Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:53 pm

I am really glad to see this story return. This is a very well-written chapter, and I can't wait to see what happens next.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (Igor! It's alive!)

Postby The Hillock » Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:22 pm

Hi Meaneye. Just wanted to add my voice to the general clamour of approval - this is really good. Nice work.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (Igor! It's alive!)

Postby Meaneye » Mon Oct 27, 2014 1:24 am

Tanks a lot, Hillock, and thanks a lot everyone else :)

Another update, which I wrote almost entirely at a sitting. I am willing to risk and say that I will finish the entire story this year, even at this update speed. We shall see.






The room was poorly lit, and it was obvious even in the half-light that it was inhabited by a person who barely came here. Malistrum had to admit that even an Astartes had more personality in his quarters than the person sitting in front of him.

‘The Opportunity enters the Warp tomorrow,’ he said quietly. ‘All preparations have been made.’

The other person nodded. ‘This is going to be perhaps the most perilous Warp journey this ship as ever made.’

Now it was Malistrum’s part to nod. ‘I know that.’

‘The Dark Torch is just as dangerous as the Eye of Terror, perhaps even more so. One tiny mistake on the part of the Navigator, and the ship is lost forever.’

‘Yes,’ Malistrum said.

There was a pause. ‘Even if the ship gets through, am not going to survive the journey.’

Malistrum opened his mouth, only to close it again immediately.

He could not do it. He could have given an order, he could have tried to reason, to persuade. He had asked worse things from his people in the past; in fact, he had just sacrificed a large portion of the strike force for dubious gains at best. This he could not do. He found himself incapable of saying the final word in this matter.

It seemed he had reached his limits just a mere step before arriving at the final goal.

The other watched his hesitation with a neutral expression. Finally, there was a soft sigh.

‘There are things you must know before we leave, my lord, so listen to me carefully. Our souls may very well depend on it.’

Malistrum closed his eyes for a second before looking back at the other one.

‘Thank you, Navigator Yasmilda,’ he simply said in the end.





‘Close panels.’

Malistrum looked as the metal shutters fell in front of the viewport. Shading the viewports was a standard practice for Warp travels, but this time, the panels would stay even in normal space.

‘Panels in place, my lord.’

Malistrum nodded. He did not need another general check-up to know that everything was ready. The engines were running properly, the cannons were loaded and ready to fire and the remaining forces of Strike Force Four were deployed as equally as possible along the ship following anti-boarding protocols. The Opportunity was as ready as she could have ever been.

The crew was waiting for the final order from the Captain, but no order came. One by one, the serfs at the consoles turned back and saw the face of their leader strained, as if he had been unsure about his next move.

I am going to sacrifice one last person.

These were the thoughts circling in the Captain’s head. He had done so before – in fact, he had just sacrificed the better portion of his forces a few days earlier. He had been sure about himself then. He was not so sure any more.

Navigator Yasmilda would die on this journey. She had said it herself, and based on what she had also told him, she would be right. The Dark Torch sounded bad. Very bad. It would burn her out and it may even destroy the entire ship. It may condemn the soul of every single person aboard the ship Astartes or mortal alike. It may even… who knows? It may even manage to close the circle which the Fatemakers had come to dread by now.

Facing death or even damnation was something which Malistrum could do. Even the possibility of a fatal Warp-accident was something he could deal with. The ship could have died on her next jump anyway. Space travel was not designed for the weak and the hesitant. The death of Yasmilda, however… Technically, the Navigator was oath-bound to the vessel, and so every human naval tradition would have given Malistrum the right to use her and her abilities as he desired. Practically… it was hard.

Malistrum was no longer sure of himself. He had made terrible mistakes, and he no longer felt that he had earned the right to consign his own people to their death. All other crewmembers he had asked were ready to die – one way or another. Yasmilda would have preferred to live. Was he ready to sentence her to death? Was this the right choice?

Still; what could he have done? He had managed to achieve which people thought would have been impossible and actually saved the larger portion of his strike force from the time-travel which was waiting for them in their own future. The rest were to die. He remembered the face of Librarian Akichi’s future self when he had asked him what fate could have been more terrible than the destruction of the entire strike force. Not moving on along the circle would have more dire consequences for all of them than mere death.

The Captain knew that he was a faulty man. He now knew that his heritage, his traditions, the principles of his Chapter – all the things which made him into what he was – were eventually false. He no longer had the right to ask the ultimate sacrifices from his people. However, he was still the captain of the vessel and the leader of the people travelling on it. The burden was still his, and as Chaplain Uskovich had pointed out, even being the only acceptable option still made his option the best one.

‘My lord?’ one of the serfs asked, and Malistrum snapped out of his revelry.

‘Engage Warp engines,’ he ordered, and leaned to his vox-speaker. ‘Navigator Yasmilda?’

‘I am ready,’ the Navigator answered. This sentence meant more than it usually did, but the Captain had made up his mind, and his determination left no more room for hesitation.

‘Take us to the Torch,’ he said.

‘The journey would take us approximately forty-four minutes,’ the answer came.

‘Thank you, Navigator,’ Malistrum said, and he meant this sentence as something more than usual as well. He leaned back in his chair and cleared his mind as the Opportunity around him started to hum with energy. All his remaining Astartes and the human crew did the same as much as they could.

The Opportunity made a final shake as she entered the Warp.

And then the fall came.





‘The Dark Torch is a misleading name,’ Navigator Yasmilda started. ‘The first Navigators who mapped this area named it so because it is bright; very bright, in fact. It could serve as an excellent point of reference, especially now that the Astronomicon is out forever. But the nature of the Torch is too sinister. Too evil…’

The Navigators’s voice trailed away. Malistrum waited patiently.

‘We have no idea what lies in the heart of the Torch in real space,’ Yasmilda finally continued. ‘It is roughly the middle of a star system, and our Navigator cartographers usually agree that the phenomenon itself must be the star itself. Or what is in place of the local star. We don’t know what is there because nobody has actually travelled there physically. The stellar charts have a pict-recording of the region of space where it is found. The pict was made from the planetary orbit of the nearest Imperial system and so we know that it looks like a star purple star from a safe distance.’

‘Not unlike the Eye of Terror,’ Malistrum nodded.

‘Indeed, my lord. It is said that there is a hole in the fabric of space there, just like in the Eye. But the hole is different. I have not been near the Eye, but it is said that it can be seen from a distance in the Warp, and it emanates… menace… but it is a stable landmark which can be avoided if necessary. Now, when the first Navigators tried to use the Torch as a point of reference…’

Yasmilda sighed.

‘Those ancient Navigators described the feeling as a fall towards something. Perhaps into something. They could barely return to real space before it was too late. It turned out that travelling towards the Torch was an extremely fast journey, much faster than any of them could have imagined, but they were all universally scared of falling into the Torch in the end. It also hurt their third eyes. They claimed that the brightness was so strong, it almost burned them.’

‘So the Torch became forbidden,’ Malistrum concluded.

‘With good reason. The theory is that the torch indicates a deeper region of the Warp than the rest. We have no idea what it means, but the conclusions are terrifying. Is it possible that there is a lower level of existence under what we believed to be the primordial forces of the Universe. Perhaps Chaos is not the ultimate negative force.’

This thought sent a shiver through Malistrum’s spine.

‘The reserve fleet knew this, and they still decided to take this path,’ he said.

‘Because it is perhaps the fastest Warp route in the Galaxy,’ the answer came. ‘They could have saved months of their journey, and I don’t exactly know how much time they would have needed to spend in the Warp navigating towards the Torch in return. Certainly a few hours at most. If they were desperate enough, this is a gamble which would have paid off, but the strain on their Astropaths would have been great.’

‘Would they have survived?’ Malistrum asked quietly.

‘Some of them at least did, I think,’ Yasmilda answered. ‘It could be done. One of them could look at the Torch, and the others could follow that one. That one Navigator would die, but the others would survive. They could also do several smaller jumps. There are ways, but they must have paid the price.’ Yasmilda looked up at the face of the Captain. ‘As we must.’





Malistrum’s mind was empty.

This was the result of Astartes conditioning. It had caused problems to Strike Force Four before, but this time, it was beneficial. It focussed him. It erased the doubt in him. His mind, his emotions caused smaller tumult in the Warp.

The crew had no conditioning, but there was nothing they could do about it. They had bene warned, and they seemed to follow the advice given to them by Librarian Akichi and Chaplain Uskovich, at least on the bridge. Most of the bridge crew were either reciting some mantras or simple poems in their head or they were simply praying. Even if the Emperor was no longer there to hear them, the familiar words meant solace and greater balance for the crew, which was important.

The ship was surrounded by the Geller-field, but this jump was not an ordinary one, and so every small gesture was counted on. The Astartes warriors were sitting in meditation at their designated posts, while the humans and the Ogryns were having mass meditations (a simple mass praying in the case of the Ogryns) under the guidance of the remaining specialists. The Mechanicus contingent, being able to simply switch off parts of their brains, anticipated no problems during the journey.

The tension was palpable, no matter the preparations. The air had a different feel to it: nothing the instruments were able to show, but every being aboard with a soul knew that something was not right. The people felt the fall, even though the gravity was working. It was a sensation in their mind, the feeling of great speed, fall and a quiet dread of the thing they were falling towards. It was worse than the fear of death or the fear of great pain. Somehow, every person aboard knew that what was lying ahead of them, at the bottom of the fall, was something worse than death, perhaps even worse than damnation. It was a hole, a sensible hole which was a deadly trap, yet it was possible to continue and fall through it, into something which was too dreadful, too alien to the human mind to find words for it, save abstract notions.

Destruction.

Unmaking.

Dissolution.

Every now and then, a crewmember looked back at the Captain, only to see his reassuring nod. As they turned back to their posts, somewhat relieved, Malistrum’s remaining attention was divided between keeping his own mind calm and quiet and wondering about Yasmilda. The ship may never have been more dependent on the endurance of her navigator, and she had probably never been more vulnerable than now.





This was worse than anything she had imagined.

Yasmilda was falling. Not the ship, not the people aboard. She and she alone. The walls around her disappeared, and she was alone in the Warp, falling towards something pulsing and terrible. She knew that this was just an illusion. She was still in her small chamber, lying back on the chair, concentrating on keeping the course while the chamber’s automatic systems were doing their best to keep her body functions optimal. It did not help. In fact, it was difficult to keep anything in her mind, except for the pull the Dark Torch was exerting on her.

Because it was a pull. There was something on the other side, something which could have consume the Galaxy, the Universe, all Universes in existence if it could. This hole was not in the fabric of space. It was on the fabric of the Warp, and whatever was beyond it was something even Chaos had no power over.

By the Emperor, it was burning! The light of the Torch was boiling her mind. Every meditative formula, all her experience in navigating the Warp came to nothing at that moment. She was falling, half blind, alight with otherWarpfirecomingfromtheothersidethesideoftheNe

The thing which used to be Yasmilda a few moments ago emitted a final scream.




‘We are losing energy, my lord,’ a serf addressed Malistrum. Then he added, ‘I think.’

Malistrum leaned forward. He could only see a few readings on the consoles of the crewmembers ahead of him, but he knew something was not right. There was a tremor in the frame of the ship which had not been there before.

The Captain’s lips narrowed.

Come on, Navigator. Our fate is in your hand. Nothing else can help us but you.





It was not afraid. It needed emotions for that, and it had none of them. Nonetheless, it could still feel dread.

The Machina probe was still latched on the hull of the Opportunity, just as it had been since Borshak. It had since had the chance to tap into the communication lines of the ship, and so it now knew a lot more of the goals and motivations of the crew. Looking forward towards the Dissolution tear, it now also had some ideas about the rupture the ship was eventually going to make in time-space continuum.

When it found out about the destination of the ship, the survival subroutines built into its programming almost overrode its original objectives; its first natural thought was to either flee from the ship or somehow disable it before it could enter the Warp. The ignorance of the crew and the Captain could not only doom everyone aboard but also the human species as a whole. Nobody was sure in the Magellan Reich how and where the Dissolution would penetrate reality next, and the ship was heading for one of the Warp-tears which could very well become a veritable rift by the time they finished.

The probe could have acted, but it did not. First of all, it now knew that others have already travelled to the tear with more chaotic intentions than the crew of this vessel. The people aboard the Opportunity were more balanced, and they could have potentially stopped the others – provided they did not cause an even greater catastrophe.

Secondly, there was still the problem of the perfect time loop the probe had witnessed. It focused on this ship, and the probe was now part of the time loop. It did not have the luxury of acting on impulse. Whatever was waiting for the ship at the end of the journey, it had to be done, if for no other reason, because the circle – which the crew was apparently was also aware of – had to be closed.

The probe was not sure they would make it that far. The Navigator aboard seemed to be dieing, and without her, the ship would simply fall into the tear, never to return – at least not in the form and concept it used to possess. The Warp-energies were too strong for a human mind, no matter how used to the Warp, especially when in contact with the anomaly. A second layer of Geller field was necessary, which the ship had no way of generating.

The probe, on the other hand, did.





The tremors suddenly ceased. Malistrum looked at the serf who had reported the energy loss.

‘Are we still losing energy?’

‘No, my lord,’ the serf answered, studying the console in front of him. The tense edge did not disappear from his voice. ‘Now we are speeding up.’

Malistrum stood up. ‘What do you m…’



There was a sudden relief. The walls returned around her, and she now saw much, much clearer.

Yasmilda understood that something was assisting her now. She had no idea who – she sensed no living or dead soul around with enough power to balance the effect of the Torch – but this was irrelevant. She could now act.

The Torch was still burning her. The light was too alien, too infernal, and while it could not dissolve her soul for the time being, it could still kill her and cast her soul out into the Warp. However, it was clearly visible now, and she suddenly saw a new path, a new possibility in the fabric of the Warp.

They could make it. They could have caught on with the reserve fleet, no matter how much lead they had on them. Distance was irrelevant, and time was almost equally unimportant. The question was, as usually, just what she was willing to risk to get to where and when she wanted.

The path was not completely clear. Something was still blocking her view, and now she knew what it was. She had it on her, and she had had the experience to ignore its negative effects, but this was not a simple Warp jump. Now even a small effort mattered.

The Navigator was one of the first people who had received a soul stone. She knew what it did, and she was immensely happy she had it, but she knew what it did on Navigators. The stones effectively dimmed the soul energies of the bearers when they died, but even in life, it put a small haze on them towards the denizens of the Warp. A crude, but effective, protection; a desperate gamble on the part of the Librarian and the Chaplain which seemed to have paid off eventually.

The effect worked both ways. The haze was around Yasmilda, and even though it was almost insignificant – the Astartes Librarian aboard probably not even knew about it, even though he was also a psyker – it did distort the upcoming possibility. If the Opportunity wanted to get to the Torch quickly – very quickly – and in one piece, she had to make a decision.

How much was she willing to sacrifice?

Yasmilda wept a single tear. She had no home except for this ship and no family in the past decade except the people who bothered to contact her. Of those people, only Captain Andros Malistrum remained. The man who had always been frank and honest with her, who occasionally had consoling words for her even when simple orders would have sufficed, the man who was willing to talk to her even when it was not necessary.

The man who did not give her orders to die in the end, letting her decide for herself what to do with her life.

Yasmilda reached up to her neck. Her fingers gently brushed over the soulstone, then clenched around it.

She tore the stone from her neck with a savage jerk.





‘…ean?’

It took only a heartbeat. Every single person aboard flexed, as if the ship suddenly exploded around them. The lights seemed to have gone out, the walls seemingly fell in and for a second, all the noise and light of the Universe stopped. To every single person a board, it seemed that for an unimaginably short time, they simply ceased to exist.

The Opportunity shot out of the Warp into real space at almost light speed. It managed to stay on course, but the vessel virtually screamed at the strain her hull had to endure. The crew, Malistrum included, were holding onto their consoles. Shouts of panic and prays filled the bridge.

‘Slow her down, no matter how!’ Malistrum bawled.

It took more than a minute for the ship to start shaking. The internal stabilizers of the vessel had managed to catch up with the speed by then, and although the panels of the windows were still down, the feeling of dread slowly eased in the crew. Malistrum went forward to the sensor consoles.

‘Did we arrive where we intended?’

The serf checked his instruments.

‘We seem to be at the Dark Torch, my lord,’ he said. ‘The anomaly is… there, or at least it distorts the sensors. The space around it seems empty.’

Malistrum turned his head aside.

‘How long were we in the Warp?’

‘For seven minutes and twenty-three seconds, my lord,’ another serf answered.

Instead of the forty minutes which Yasmilda suggested. Something was not right.

‘Librarian Akichi to the Navigator’s chamber. Emergency, ’he said into the vox.

Minutes passed, and reports came from the different parts of the ship. No damage. No mental breakdown in the crew, apart from a few panic attacks. The engines were running. The Opportunity seemed to have made it.

‘Librarian Akichi from the Navigator’s chamber,’ the voice came from the vox. ‘Captain… Navigator Yasmilda is dead.’

The crew exchanged looks. Malistrum closed his eyes for a moment.

‘Captain?’ Akichi’s voice continued.

‘I am listening,’ Malistrum answered. He felt tired and very old.

‘It seems that before she died… she had taken off her soulstone.’

Malsitrum’s eyes opened.

‘What?’ he snapped.

‘She is not wearing it. She must have taken it off, although… the way she was holding it when I opened the door… I think she tried to put it back on before the end.’

‘Did she succeed?’ Malistrum asked with a strange urgency in his voice.

‘Succeed?’

‘Is it enough if you hold it in your hand when you die?’

‘I don’t know,’ Akichi answered.

‘What happened to her soul?’

‘I don’t know.’

The crew remained silent. They watched on as Malistrum went forward to the viewport and slowly put his hand on the glass from the inside.

Yasmilda was dead. Another person had sacrificed herself for the goals of the Captain. Who knows whether it was worth it this time? They had no more Navigators, which meant no more Warp jump. Whatever was waiting for them in this system, whatever was on the other side of the glass and the metal shutters, the Opportunity would not go away, now or later.

Strike Force Four reached the end of its journey.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 61)

Postby Midgard » Mon Oct 27, 2014 3:25 am

A cliffhanger. I am eagerly anticipating the continuation of the story, and the upcoming climax thereof.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 61)

Postby The Hillock » Tue Oct 28, 2014 1:26 pm

Another cracking update Meaneye. Keep it up! :)
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