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post #12 of (permalink) Old 11-09-15, 02:52 PM Thread Starter
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The middle door at the far end of the hanger slid slowly open and several figures marched in. They looked like military, probably ex-Guard and now mercenaries working for the highest bidder. Stroms touched each of their minds and found the usual mixture of ‘muscle’ bravado, confidence and over-hyped superiority complexes.

Far too much stimms and testosterone-enhancers
No obvious threats amongst them

One of the approaching figures was a woman and apart from the rest. She bore the marks of authority, and lead the group who dropped back into step behind her.
Ó Báire quickly closed the box and straightened up. He brought his Lasgun to high port and eyed the visitors with suspicion.

The female walked with a quiet confidence. Stroms had never come across her before in his dealings with the cartel.
She had a dark, almost ebon complexion and had shaved her head. She was dressed in a black body glove that shimmered with a hidden power grid. High diamond-encrusted stilettos finished her off to perfection. She stared at Stroms and his companions through black onyx eyes, the only augments that he could detect.

High class socialite, Stroms thought. A hint of rejuve’s and some minor body work but otherwise untouched. Forty-five standard Terran years old if he was a good judge of the female anatomy.

When she saw Dombi’s brooding presence she stepped back, visibly shaken.
“What is this?” she whispered before regaining her composure and straightening up.
Though he was resplendent in an expensive black silk, three-piece suit, and wearing his finest patent leather shoes, Dombi tended to take people’s breath away on first contact.
Ogryns often had that effect on the unwary.

Stroms inwardly chuckled to himself.
“Ah,” he began. “This is Dombi. Dombi, meet…”

“Welcome Morthen Stroms,” she cut in with a deep accented voice, and then added as an awkward after thought. “Welcome… Dombi.”

Ó Báire stepped forward and offered her his large hand.
“I’m Deaglán. May I say it’s a pleasure.”
If her reaction to the muscle-bulked giant was distain and momentary shock, to Ó Báire it was disgust and horror.

People had died for less.

She viewed his powerful hand with what looked like genuine revulsion, as if the delightful rogue was offering her a plate of grox dung. You could almost hear her screaming inside to be removed from this place and be allowed to return to the comforts of her extensive apartments in the uppermost level of the Hive.

And that was of course the point and Ó Báire knew it.
He was not one who took lightly to authority or those who looked down on him. He believed that it was his role in life to level them all by whatever means necessary, physically or mentally.

She refrained from taking Ó Báire’s offered hand, ignored Dombi’s obvious affection, and composed herself, subconsciously wiping away non-existent creases from her body glove.

“We hope you are not offended by our initial hostility Morthen Stroms, but my Master has many enemies.”
“Enemies?” Stroms smiled back, though he made it obvious that it was false. “I have known your… Master, for many years and we have a long and established trading partnership. He knows that I am not his enemy, so why all the show of strength? Perhaps your ‘Master’ is not who I should be dealing with. Perhaps we should take our business elsewhere?”

The female lowered her head slightly and stared deep into him.
“Apologies. That will not be necessary. We are aware of your long-standing business relationship, but we have to be sure you are who you say you are. There are rumours abound…”
She was wired up and Stroms heard a tinny voice in her ear. She quickly straightened and opened her arms wide.
“Please follow me.”

That was interesting?
Quiet Juliana. Watch the signs

Stroms took Ó Báire, Dombi, the brooding Mubarak and two of Sergeant Garcha’s men with him. He left Garcha with the box and two more of his group to guard the Valkyrie.
Stroms skimmed the females mind again.

Her name was Pásztor Dea. She was a professional hostess and the cartel General’s concubine, though, and she knew it, he had other lovers scattered amongst his various residences.
She smelt of arrogance and contempt and interestingly, she had many hidden secrets that she struggled to hide. She delighted in watching violence, an almost sexual obsession. She would often stand in on interrogations, torture and executions.
Stroms laughed inwardly when he discovered that she was also having an affair with one of the Generals trusted Lieutenants, an animal called La Hoja Pricipal – The Master Blade.
He stored that delightful ditty away for further use.

“So Pásztor,” he began slowly. “Sorry, may I call you by your first name?”
The female stopped and looked at him with the hint of a sneer on her face.
“You may not.”
“Miss Dea perhaps?”
She cocked her head.
Stroms loved these games. It always put people on the back foot when they realised that he could see right through them.
“Leave your psyker mind-tricks to the fools Mister Stroms. You do not impress me.”
Stroms smiled a beaming smile.
“But you have such a beautiful name.”

Master Hoc?

On board Stroms ship The Alabama, orbiting several miles above the planet's surface, a small wizened man suddenly woke up from a deep slumber. Bien Hoc was an accomplished psyker, but at two hundred standard years old, he was more at home resting than reading minds or altering matter.
He coughed and then sat up from his rack.

I was dreaming
Something nice I hope?
About ice cream actually
Ice cream?
Yes, specifically from that last planet we went to. What was it called?

Stroms remembered their last spell of rest and revival after a particularly long period of running. A place where his whole group had hidden without fear for three months before moving on.

Never mind your stomach old man. I need you on the ball.
Query. On the ball?
Old Terran saying… I need you fully functioning.
I am with you.
There is another psyker in the complex with us. He is not major League… I mean that he is not a high level operative, but I want you to hunt him down and study his abilities. I do not want any interference whilst I am skimming around.
There is also a brooding presence here that smells of treachery. I cannot quite put my finger on it. I have a feeling. I am not sure what it is, but it is a niggling doubt.
I shall watch your back.

* * *

Money. Power. Respect.

Lar Orosius, Capo Crimini of the Vardaro cartel had all of these and more. He also had the ear and lined the pockets of the Planetary Governor. What he did not know about Rophus and its workings was not worth knowing about. Orosius had his fingers in every pot including the Imperial Court, the Administratum, the Ecclesiarchy and even agents within the Arbites and justice system.

In Gord Hive itself, nothing moved without his authority. If anything slipped through, and the Cartel found out about it, the consequences were always dire.
Orosius was the true leader here in the city and probably the planet, Orosius was, heretical as it would seem to some... God.

But his absolute power came at a price. He had many enemies.

At present there were forty-eight contracts out on his head, from the sublimely ridiculous low-level gangers to Supplicium orders from off-world Barons and Administratum oligarchs. Orosius had survived eighteen separate assassination attempts in this year alone.

As Stroms and his small band were lead through the warehouse and into the more acceptable and upmarket areas of the complex, they entered a long corridor.

+ The freak show +

Ó Báire rolled his eyes. He had walked this way many times and it was meant to impress, no, perhaps impress was not the right word, it was to warn the unwary.

The walls of the corridor were lined with the finest Fragua velvet, entwined with gold lace making intricate patterns. The floor was black Neskara onyx covered with Chenzira rugs of the finest quality. Expensive marble busts of famous figures from antiquity watched from golden plinths. Subtle lighting pleased the eye and the sound of distant seas soothed the senses.

Two hundred and sixteen heads floating in suspender fields, lined the way. One hundred and eight of Lar Orosius’s enemies on each side of the corridor.

As the group neared the far end, there were four glass booths. Inside were four naked males, wired up and suspended above the floor as if floating in clear water. Their eyes had been sutured closed and their ears and tongues removed. As the group passed, the men twitched and spasammed and their faces contorted with pain.
Soundless screams escaped their wide mouths.

+ Pain amplifiers +
+ Courtesy of the Inquisition I suppose +
+ Barbarians +
+ We should waste this lot +
+ Quiet, all of you. Comms discipline from now on. Thoughts only and only on the job itself.
They have a mind-reader here somewhere. I will block him but not all the time. Deaglán, Sergeant Garcha, I have put a block around you so they will not find out what is in the box +

The burly bodyguard laughed.

+ We would not want that now, would we? +
+ Thoughts only +

Got it

Stroms knew that Bien Hoc was tracking down Orosius’s psyker. But at the moment it was quiet. He kept his own powers skimming the surface. He could not be detected himself, but an accomplished psyker would know that something was amiss if he got close enough. Stroms probed the surroundings.

+ Keep your thoughts on the job in hand. Non-confrontational and professional. +

Is that clear Deaglán?
Of course Boss. Nice thoughts only. I will concentrate on Juliana in that nice warm cockpit, wearing that incredible…

The disturbing show ended when a door at the far end glided open.

Weapon sniffers on either side. Deaglán, this door is blast proof
Got it
Mubarak to the rear

+ Dombi behind me please +
+ Yes Boss +

There was a large Conference Room at the far end with pale yellow drapes covering the walls. Long flouro lights were positioned in a checkerboard pattern across the ceiling. At the end of the room was a long nalwood table with antique-style high-backed chairs, which looked decidedly out of place in such a sterile environment.
A vox screen dominated the far wall.

Vox thieves and… a hidden door in the right wall.

Ó Báire noticed the bar area over to the left and immediately made his way towards it. Mubarak went to stop him but thought better of it. He busied himself scanning all the corners and watching for any signs of trouble.

Deaglán. Do you have to?
Boss, it’s been a long trip

An impeccably suited female barkeep cleaned a glass with a bored expression on her face. When she saw the approaching rouge she straightened up and eyed him up with undisguised distain.
Ó Báire rubbed his hands together in anticipation, noticeably licking his lips.

“Your attack dog is thirsty.” Said Dea, breaking the long and awkward silence. Her face gave away nothing but Stroms could feel her desire to be free of them all and away from what she believed to be a job for another menial. She was uncomfortable in Stroms presence. He tapped her a little more.

He could feel fear and anticipation, loathing and disgust.

She was clearly punching well above her weight and knew it. She was one step above the gutter trash and only the protection of the Cartel kept her to this level of sophistication. Her obvious charms and experience as a hostess were the only things that kept her in Orosius inner circle.

Stroms smiled.
“We have been away from civilisation for some time. Ó Báire,” he paused, “My attack dog, has need of refreshment. He’s soaked up all our grog on board ship and now wants to recharge his batteries.”
“Grog?”, the woman enquired and stopped walking. She frowned. “Lar told me that your speech was unusual and that you like to use,” she paused. “Some ancient tongues. He also told me that you like to reminisce, tell old stories and use odd phrases.”

Stroms smiled back, an open beaming smile.
“Grog was a drink,” he explained. “That ancient mariners used to be issued when out at sea. It was a mixture of beer and water.
Mister Orosius was right about that. I do like to tell stories and I often think about the old days as you would call them. I have many fond memories from the past. I like the past, I like history. Life was so much easier then.”
The woman scoffed.
“You sound like you have trodden its paths, though I think you no more than fifty Terran?”
Stroms smiled again.
“Fifty perhaps, or then again I might be much older. Who knows?” He turned as the vox screen flickered into life and then watched as the hidden door to the right opened revealing six more ‘heavies’ and a smaller, slender figure wearing the crimson robes of the Mechanicum.

Ó Báire walked over to Stroms and positioned himself to his right and slightly to the rear. He was holding a tall glass of amber liquid. He had a beaming smile on his face as if he was privy to the greatest joke in the world.
Dombi eyed the drink with anticipation.

It’s not bad

“It’s very nice Dombi. It tastes like apples but it will make your head go funny.”
The Ogryn grunted.
“Dombi no like apples.”

* * *

The face on the Vox screen was not that of a monster. Stroms had seen tyrants and murderers up close and had studied them over the years and this man did not fit the profile.

Academics state that some of the signs of a psychopath are glibness, superficial charm, a grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, a lack of remorse, emotional shallowness, callousness and lack of empathy. Someone who permeates boredom, and a leads a parasitic lifestyle.

Lar Orosius, Capo Crimini of the Vardaro cartel had none of these traits, except perhaps a lack of remorse, for he cared nothing of those who crossed him, and he always accepted responsibility for his actions; he was after all, the head of a large and violent crime syndicate.
Boredom… seldom, parasitic… only on the weak-willed and desperate.

The face that stared back was that of a kindly figure, a grandfather… a Magister teacher. Grey eyes looked back through thick-rimmed glasses above a hooked nose and long pointed face. There was a hint of a smile at the corners of his small mouth.

“Morthen, my friend. It is good to see you.”

The close, cloying tension inside the room immediately dissipated as an invisible wand washed it away.
The robed figure motioned to the men behind him with a quick nod and the main door was flung open. Even more men arrived, this time pushing or pulling large trolleys piled up with boxes and containers.

+ Sergeant Garcha. Bring in the delivery +

“Mister Orosius,” Stroms began with a beaming smile and his arms spread wide. “I sense unease. Is all well with you?”
The teachers face swept from side to side as he watched his cohorts carefully. The robed figure directed the unloading of the trolleys. Pásztor Dea moved behind the bar and helped herself to a drink. Ó Báire followed her with his eyes. Ever the optimist, ever the dreamer.

Ummm, high-class, nice
Deaglán, watch the perimeter. Orosius is a wily fox
Red-coloured hound
You do make me laugh!

“Ah,” the teacher began. “The famous Deaglán Ó Báire.” He smiled a deaths head smile. “Help yourself to anything at the bar.”

Ó Báire raised his glass.
“Already have, thanks.”
The teachers smile disappeared in an instant.
“Enjoy my hospitality.”

Deaglán, please, not now
He started it boss

The rogue raised his glass and surveyed the muscle that was gathered. One of them stood out from the rest, a taller, broader, stimm-enhanced enforcer with a face like a butchers chopping board of scars and cuts. Ó Báire’s face broke into an even wider grin. He turned back to the screen.

“How is your man after our last visit?”
The enforcer stepped forward, pushing aside two of his companions. Ó Báire placed his glass town on the table and stepped past Stroms. He slung his Lasgun over his shoulder and casually rolled up his sleeves.
Stroms stood between them and held up his hands in supplication, whilst Dombi placed a heavy hand on Ó Báire’s shoulder.

“Mister Orosius. I suggest we begin business?”

Stroms was exasperated. Ó Báire had a bee in his bonnet about something. (Note: Old Terran Saying, Circa M1. A person obsessed with something so as to be agitated, like having an insect {a bee} under ones’ hat). He was belligerent and being very difficult.

He skimmed his friend.

Just testing the ground Boss. Something is amiss here. If you cannot see it, I can. It smells like an Ork ambush

Mister Hoc. Have you anything for me?


The old Psyker was not answering. Stroms did not have time for this. He could reach out and find the Psyker and the cartels man, he could reach out far beyond the planet if he wished… if the need arose, but he had to remain here.
He too was aware of something that was not quite right.

I Let’s push these murderers Boss. Let them show their hands
Not yet my impatient pugilist. Things will reveal themselves in good time

Years before, on their last visit, Juliana had been part of the negotiating party. Ó Báire was hopelessly infatuated with her even then. He was like a small child… on heat, and followed her everywhere and watched her every move. Despite Juliana’s obvious marshal prowess, Ó Báire decided that it was his role to be her protector against all.

When Orosius’s enforcer tried to engage Juliana in friendly conversation, Ó Báire took it as a direct attempt at usurping his affections and a direct attack on his honour. The wily pugilist then went about systematically destroying the enforcers face and body.

The explosion of primeval violence had cost Stroms half of his cargo in repayment for damage caused.
Ó Báire was assigned to the ships brig.

Juliana was mildly impressed.

“Morthen. We have known each other for many years and business has been good…”
Stroms sensed anxiety. The cartel leader was hiding something. He noticed the bottom lip, a slight quiver, a subtle twitch.
“Indeed it has.”

A question?

“There have been rumours circulating.” He now looked directly at Stroms. “You are a wanted man.”
Stroms smiled.
Hardly the news of the Millennia. That fact was well known.

“Yes, I have people who wish me out of the business. You know how it is with the competition. I deal in… how do you say, exotic goods that the average trader cannot acquire… or afford.”
“I am talking about the authorities, the Planetary authorities.” Orosius interrupted. You know who I am talking about.”
Stroms cocked his head.

From your lips

“Now who might that be?”
If the lights seemed to dim and the temperature drop, it was all but in the mind. But Stroms felt the tension building up again.

“The Inquisition,” he hissed. “The Emperor-loving Inquisition. What on Rolphus have you been up to, to attract that mobs attention?”
Stroms shrugged his shoulders feigning ignorance. He pointed a thumb back at his own cargo.
“My goods are not exactly standard Imperial now are they?”
Orosius paused.
“Do you know of the Ordos?”
“Of course.” Stroms knew them well.
“The Ordo Hereticus?”
“I have heard of them.”
“What do the witch-hunters and those butched-up man-hating Sisters want with you… Stroms?”. His name was almost a hiss, and Orosius had dropped the first name.
Stroms shrugged his shoulders again, raising his eyebrows for effect.
“I would not know. Perhaps you might be able to tell me. You are remarkably well-informed.”
“I have my sources,” Orosius replied almost casually and then looked back at Stroms over his glasses. “Should I be worried?”

Mubarak slammed a long crate down onto the nalwood table and looked up at the screen.

“You are not in danger Mister Orosius. I have a very good team by my side and access to some excellent resources.”
“Ah yes,” the cartel leader smiled. “I noticed your new toy in the hanger. Where in the Emperors name did you get hold of a Valkyrie Sky Talon? That is some serious military hardware.”

And you would like to have it?

Stroms nodded for the other crates he had brought to be opened.
“You know how it is Mister Orosius, I am very good at what I do.”
“Care to sell it?”
“Not today,” he smiled, false of course. “I’ll never leave this planet in one piece, what with this war going on and all that.”
“And all that,” Orosius agreed. “The Tau exterminator thing you have then? I will pay top price.”

Does he mean that made up box with all the flashing lights?
Sell it to him Boss, I can always make another
I might want to come back here
You know that will never happen. After what he knows about us now

Mubarak opened the first crate.

Bien Hoc. Stop dreaming of deserts. I need your report… anything that might help.

“Shall we begin?” Stroms was gambling that Orosius would be more interested in what he had in the boxes and his curiosity would get the better of him.
Stroms placed a large red-jewelled ring over the crate reader and the lid flipped open.
The Cartel leader seemed to lean forward from the screen.

The first crate was packed with various coloured gems and stones.

“Precious emeralds and rubies from the mountains of Plomia.”
“Spices from the ultramarine fields of Tesparth.”
“Elea silk.”
“Wine from the vineyards on Vaynus Twelve.”
Orosius was interested. He would get an excellent price for all those items.
Stroms waved one of Orosius’s men forward.
“May I?”
“Feel free.” Orosius replied. Stroms opened a plastik box containing a brown mass.
“I think you might find this interesting.” He held up some strange-looking fungi.
“From the mountain slopes of Stoneholt, a medicinal root used by the natives.”
He offered a small piece to Orosius’s man.
“Chew and then swallow the juice.”
The ‘heavy’ was unsure and turned to the screen.
“Do it.”

Reluctantly the man did as he was told. The result was instantaneous.
A wide smile crossed his face and he made a loud ‘whooping’ sound before erupting into a series of dance moves to hidden music.
The rest of his men began laughing as the man then began clucking and braying like various farm animals before trying to copulate with the bar, quickly followed by the barkeep.
Even Orosius was chuckling and egging him on before Dea stepped in and knocked him onto his backside with a well-placed palm strike.

Orosius ordered two of his men to take the paralytic wreck away.

Stroms unwrapped a material cover and laid the item on the polished wooden surface.
Xenos manufactured. A projectile weapon of some kind. Stroms held it up horizontally.

“Ah, that is Tau!” quipped Orosius and he clapped his hands gleefully.
“Your knowledge of weapons is correct.” Stroms knew how to flatter those who could not be flattered.
“A Tau pulse rifle. I have ten of these, plus twenty power cells and each power cell is capable of thirty-six shots.”
Mubarak picked the weapon up and handed it to the robed figure.
“It’s light and robust and can disable an Arbite Rhino.” He smiled at Orosius and raised his eyebrows expectedly.
“Morthern, please give me credit. That is not my style.” A faint smile. Stroms had him hooked.

Another box was opened and Stroms laid out a row of small metal objects.
“Standard Imperial Guard snare mines.”
“Two Eviscreators, courtecy of the Adeptus Ministorum.”
“They will be pleased.”
“A couple of military-grade Surveyors,” he looked up at Orosius. “To track your enemies.”
“Finally, a few combat knives… ten, no eleven of those and half a dozen, that is six, Laspistols with two charge packs each.”
“Well worth your visit.”

Stroms waved at the other crates.
“There are Guard flak vests and a few vox-sets in the other boxes and I think a few gas masks. There are even a few copies of The Infantryman’s Uplifting Primer in there for a little light reading.”
“I look forward to it.” Stroms raised a finger. “Ah! Almost forgot.”
He lifted up a lone box and placed it on the table.

“My man Ó Báire over there thought you might like this little ditty. He got it at a sale on some outer rim planet. He says it reminds him of your display cabinet.”

Stroms opened the box to reveal a clear plasglass dome. Inside was an Orks head suspended by a field. The Orks eyes were open and as soon as it saw Stroms its huge fanged jaw began rapidly opening and shutting.
“It’s a Warboss apparently. At the point of death, but not quite if you know my meaning. It is technically alive and kept this way by nutrients.” Stroms studied a panel at its base. “If you press a button, you can hear its last words if you like.” The Orks deep, gravelly voice then boomed across the room.
A few of the ‘heavies’ brought hidden side arms to bear, thinking there was an attack. The guttural stream of obscenities was enough for only a few seconds worth and Stroms switched it off.
Orosius laughed a hearty laugh.
“Fantastic!”. He turned to Ó Báire. “I thank you.”

The rogue raised his glass in return.

The bored barkeep was suddenly at their side with a tray of flutes. Stroms and Ó Báire readily accepted the expensive wine as protocol insisted. Mubarak gave a curt shake of his head and stepped to one side whilst Dombi moved back as if the drinks were some sort of explosive device.
“Such riches Morthen. Should I ask where you got them from?”
Stroms raised his glass.
“From people who care little of our ways or devices.” He sipped slowly and then raised his glass in salute. “And may they ever be ignorant and free of the clutches and hypocrisy of the Imperium.”

“Here, Here!”, added Orosius.
The robed figure clicked a hidden finger and the exchange began.
“Medical supplies, vaccines and plasma as requested. Oh and the specials,” he sighed. “I have to confess that I struggled with the armaments. However, three thousand bolter rounds as requested.” He paused. “How are your pet Astartes anyway?”

Stroms spared Ó Báire a glance and they both placed their flutes down.
“Intolerable as always.”

Morthen! Morthen!
Bien. Where have you been?
Get out of there, most expeditiously. Get out now!

Fire her up

“We are leaving… Now!”

* * *


"Death occurs when a lethal projectile comes together in time and space with a suitable target, in the absence of appropriate armour or protection”

Check out my 40K 'Epic' about the Hunted verses the Inquisition: https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...98#post2184698

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