The cruiser Death by Butterfly
glided through the second spacetime maze, concluding its arc towards the lost world of Pyrrhia. A coven of five Stormseers guided the ship through the impossible spacescape, signaling the best path for the ship to the command throne.
There, Jaghatai Khan, Primarch of the White Scars Legio Astartes, manually guided the cruiser, countless configurations of bent reality passing through his vast mind every second.
The cruiser flew effortlessly through the impossible convolution, an image of triumph; but the Primarch’s brow was furrowed in anger, for they were moving not inwards, but outwards. The Death by Butterfly
had passed through the minefield without issue, had traversed the first impossible maze, had successfully dodged the set of asteroids and their obliterating fire, and had even succeeded in flying through the second maze in full manual mode, a feat unachievable without the combination of a Primarch’s mind and potent psychic powers; and after emerging from that impossible journey, they had come into a pocket of realspace.
An empty pocket.
“A decoy,” Sonsu Khan observed. The Khan of the Brotherhood of the Sand was discussing the mission with his counterpart, Noray Singh Khan, leader of the Brotherhood of the Ideal.
“It was not a decoy,” Jaghatai Khan said on reflex. “Too many defenses for that….”
And then, as he twirled his moustache, something clicked within his unconscious, and then his conscious as well.
There had been a gap, in the first maze. It had not let through, and was clearly not the main path. But if one wanted to hide a planet, that gap would have been his own choice – not obvious, but not unfindable. No, not a gap. A gate.
“Pyrrhia was in the first maze,” he stated when the Death by Butterfly
had emerged from the labyrinth, freeing enough of his mental capacity to express thoughts coherently. “The third Gelmarian gap is the most likely location.”
“By Chogoris,” Singh muttered as he remembered the first maze. “That… I do not know why the third, but that does make perfect sense.”
Sonsu frowned; Jaghatai suspected he was not entirely sure what a Gelmarian gap was, just like the Stormseers. Fortunately, Jaghatai did, and understood it as well.
He guided the cruiser onwards, switching to assisted control when the anti-machine field was past. His brain seemed to sigh in relief – the sheer density of calculations needed to fly a spaceship without a cogitator’s aid was intense, even for one such as him. Still, he’d been sufficient, as any of his brothers would have been.
His brothers…. The thought led, inevitably, back to his father. He had truly thought the Emperor of Mankind was different from all others who had once claimed that title. But, it seemed, he had never actually known his father. That, at least, was the more comforting option.
If the Emperor had not been lying, and had truly trusted in honor and freedom before so desperately throwing it all away, then Jaghatai was even more worried for the galaxy. If one so heroic could turn to darkness so utterly, then what hope did even one such as Horus Lupercal promise?
So, now, he had gone to Pyrrhia with a select few of his Legion, to help the war effort without taking his mind off these questions. Others would have tried to put them away – even many among the other Primarchs were embracing rage over peace. Another thing he would have to fix, when he returned to the war from Chogoris.
Chogoris, where he would pass from Pyrrhia.
The lone cruiser skimmed unreality, dancing like a faerie between the automated asteroids. Those did not have particular intelligence guiding them – a trick, Jaghatai knew, to make intruders confident to complacency. The White Scars had not made that mistake; if they had, they would never have survived the second maze, so much more trick-filled than the first.
And then they were back within that first. They flew slowly, now, barely faster than the minimum to avoid getting trapped in the temporal eddies. But they were faster nonetheless, gradually settling into a path that would allow them to be stationary before the gap in question. Jaghatai knew, intuitively, that this would be the gate hiding the wonder of Pyrrhia. How terrible that wonder was, though, remained to be seen.
The Death by Butterfly
turned, and then it was spinning, but remained otherwise motionless. Noray Singh was left guiding the rotation to ensure the ship did not fall into a compressive zone, to be crushed as by a singularity; Jaghatai looked at the codes on the gate.
It took him a full minute to understand.
The codes were constantly changing, evolving, in a manner that was impossible without an intelligence to guide them. Something was alive on Pyrrhia – something very intelligent, in fact, because even Jaghatai would have a hard time solving the code.
He could do it, of course. And if Pyrrhia was not a mere ruin, but an active world….
Then there was no need to poke the hornet nest. The Coalition of Horus had plenty of enemies already. They did not need to make more. And he would not risk begging for help from this unknown set, either, for that broke both honor and common sense.
“We move on,” Jaghatai Khan said. “There is nothing here for us. We fly for Chogoris, and for home.”