In the Line of Duty
915 words without title
Inquisitor Caoxoch sipped her recaf daintily and half-listening to her two fellows: Kharon and Nathaniel discuss their latest brushes with death. Naturally, there had been many, since their line of work was one of the most dangerous—if not the most dangerous—jobs in the Imperium.
One could be shot at, stabbed, tortured, drowned, and burnt, to name but a few mundane dangers. She wasn’t even counting psykers or the more exotic xeno breeds, but then there was no point in enumerating the ways an Inquisitor could be maimed or killed. Life would always find a way to surprise one.
Kharon’s smiled, the grin twisting his scarred face into a gruesome mask. “Did I say it was over?” he asked. “No, my boy-“ he continued, ignoring the annoyance that flickered across Nathaniel’s face at being called “boy”, “just as the hybrids lay dead at our feet, Marimaia-my late psyker-started screaming and vomiting blood. Right on Theon’s favourite shoes, too. I’ll leave the racket that caused to your imagination, though that was nothing compared to what happened later.”
He paused dramatically, and Caoxoch took a chocolate biscuit from a silver platter. She took a small bite and savoured the sweetness. “A Broodlord?” she guessed, before taking another sip of her recaf.
Kharon glared at her venomously, something of a feat given that his eyebrows were missing and a part of his forehead was metal. “Indeed. A Broodlord. The idiot of a regenade adept somehow managed to strap the thing to a psy-amplifier, and cranked it up. Then he cranked it up some more, which in turn left me without a psyker and remains of her skull sticking to my forehead.”
Nathaniel snorted. “That’s nothing. I stopped a Hrud migration.”
Both Caoxoch and Kharon gave him long measuring looks. Then, the woman said, “You don’t look any older, dear.”
“I didn’t get near them,” Nathaniel replied, and then, preempting the comment about cheating, he added, “but they were trying to get close to me all the time!”
“You drowned them, didn’t you?” Caoxoch asked, and earned herself another venomous glare. Nathaniel was getting better at them, she had to admit. “It’s the safest method young ones like you usually can think about.”
That earned her another glare, but then she supposed it was rather unsporting of her. Young men tended to be horribly sensitive about their achievements, and Nathaniel was likely still feeling uncertain in the company of more experienced colleagues. He had been an Interrogator not long ago, after all.
“I can’t help but notice you did not regale us with any tales of your latest exploits,” Kharon said, smirking. It probably had not been a flattering expression when he had a whole face, but now it looked downright terrifying—to others, naturally. Caoxoch was not that easily scared.
“I thought that since you cannot whip out your… instruments and measure them, you were resorting to proxies,” Caoxoch replied, adjusting her glasses.
Both other Inquisitors sighed heavily. “I blame holos,” Nathaniel mumbled.
“Oh, so it’s not a contest just for boys?” Caoxoch asked her voice oozing false girlish enthusiasm. “Now, what impressive things have I done recently?”
She tapped her chin with a red-lacquered nail faux-thoughtfully. Kharon rolled his eyes, and Nathaniel produced one of his, quite masterful, weary sighs.
“Do forgo the theatrics,” Kharon said. “You’re enjoying yourself as much as we do, so do not pretend to be above us.”
“I was enjoying myself now too,” Caoxoch replied, but did get to the point. “Eldar Harlequins.”
Kharon groaned. “The worst meddlers of a race that sticks their noses where they shouldn’t.”
Nathaniel gave her a suspicious look, but remained silent. Caoxoch guessed that he was wondering if perhaps the insidious aliens had not subverted her and if she would start trying to convince them that whatever the xenos had planned would benefit the Imperium. While it was not exactly the most flattering sentiment, Caoxoch had to admit that it spoke of vigilance necessary in their line of work.
“And naturally, when I ran into them, they were meddling,” Caoxoch said. “It wasn’t easy to discover—there was a cult, which reacted rather… forcefully to an Inquisitor, and there was a Governor, convinced I was an agent of the Tau Empire. The whole planet was trying to kill me.”
“Sloppy,” Kharon said.
Caoxoch shrugged. “Perhaps,” she conceded. “But you have to understand that when I came the spiky-eared bastards had their fingers in every pie. They were pulling strings, and everyone of importance was dancing to their tune.”
“So, there I was, out-gunned, out-numbered, and I suppose that lured the Eldar out of hiding. One of them had to come and gloat. Or possibly flaunt the fact that he weighed less than my thigh. And then…” she paused dramatically, “the Harlequins appeared—you’d think they look ridiculous, like a parody of a carnival, but they were terrifying.”
“The Eldar leader started shrieking something, the traitors started shooting blindly, the Harlequins were dancing all over the place…”
Caoxoch spread her hands wide with a modest smile, making another pause. “And then Adept Theta-Rho finished rigging our trap, and we snuck out. The explosion had been quite picturesque.”
Kharon sighed. “That’s not bad. True. But it can’t compete against the time I nearly got squashed by a Titan-“
“Which happened before I was born and doesn’t count,” Nathaniel replied quickly. Then, he added, “And this is not a contest.”
The two older Inquisitors coughed and exchanged glances.