(My first attempt at fanfiction. Comments, criticism?)
I was told once that Piety used to be a nice planet, a rare, sterling example of harmonious society amongst the scum of Drusus Marches. Perhaps it was great calamity that changed all that, though more likely it was a slow tarnish, decay through the planet’s political structures. Like all civilizations, Piety grew the cancerous elements of corruption, compounded by millennia of stagnation. By the time I was a young man, it was a hell world, albeit one I owe my career to.
On Piety, thievery and violence are considered a regular part of youth culture, and I was no different. One’s livelihood was won with a gun in one hand and a dagger in the other. It is surprising, perhaps, that the turning point in my life would not be the success of a major heist, but rather the failure of one.
Guilt is not something I think I entirely understand, a problem I believe may have been made worse by my childhood. As far as I was concerned, a hard day’s work was a well planned robbery. It was such a belief that led me and the small gang I once lead to target a merchant who sold his wares in one of the wealthy districts of Piety.
I can remember distinctly the smirk on the man’s face as we loudly demanded he hand over every bit of currency he had. We were armed modestly, all homemade weapons and makeshift armor. We hadn’t expected the merchant to be so heavily armed, so when his mutant of a bodyguard hefted a heavily modified autogun, the plan went to hell.
Firing wild shots over my shoulder, I ran, leaving most of my companions to die by the heavy slugs that tore through them. The mutant seemed to take round after round into his ceramite armor, and even those that struck his twisted grey flesh did little to slow his fire. I slid across the worn marble floor to seek cover behind a pillar, and found myself beside my best friend at the time, a sickly-looking young man by the name of Constantine. He looked even more ill than usual, all pale, and twitching so hard I feared his weapon might fire on accident.
As I said, guilt is rarely a factor in my dealings. Constantine was a friend, but he was also a resource. I had reached over to touch his shoulder in an attempt to reassure him when I heard the heavy steps of the bodyguard approaching. The heavy racking of an autocannon was the only impetus my more ruthless side needed. I suddenly slammed the heel of my hand into Constantine’s shoulder, sending him tumbling out from behind the pillar. As solid rounds tore his body to shreds, I stepped around the other side, raised my shotgun and unloaded into the mutant’s face.
Even ceramite fails to hold up at a point, and by the time my weapon ran dry, the bodyguard’s head was mostly painted across 10 feet of marble floor. I dropped the shotgun, my razor sharp instincts telling me to acquire a loaded weapon, and pulled the stubgun at my side. Across the store, the merchant held a similar looking weapon, but seemed too shocked to use it. With little thought I emptied my clip at him, watching detachedly as his body twitched and fell.
The still that fell over the ruined store was unnerving. My ears rang from the barrage of weapon fire, almost obscuring the moans of dying men. Breathing heavily I reloaded the stubber with a clip from my belt and shuffled wearily towards the front of the store. Looking over the dead body of the merchant I felt a rush of relief; the heist was successful after all, or so I thought.
My feelings of triumph were short lived as the front wall of the store literally exploded, throwing my off my feet as I was showered in splintered marble. I was suddenly aware of the gruff, authoritative bark of some military type, the heavy thud of combat boots on the floor, and the dull hum that I now know comes from a fully-charged hellgun. My world a blur of agony and confusion, I weakly pointed my weapon at an armored figure surging toward me, only to have it swept from my hands by similar men flanking me. I can remember little beyond that point, beside the sharp, sudden pain of a gun butt to my head, and a sudden curtain of darkness.
I awoke to a similar darkness, and for a fleeting moment I feared I was blind. That was when the darkness was torn from my eyes, revealing a soldier before me, holding the dark hood that was previously on my head. The man’s appearance, to be honest, is lost in my mind to the ravages of age, but I can remember his uniform with clear distinction. It was clean pressed and well cared for, displaying a number of medals upon its lapels. The uniform was patterned with some angular grey mosaic, designed to blend in with the urban decay of worlds like Piety. Upon the man’s combat helmet, a peculiar crest gleamed: the skull and wings symbol of the Imperial Guard. No longer was I dealing with local authorities. In that moment, I felt distinct fear.
The room I had been located to was dark and small, lit only by a dingy light hanging from the ceiling. The illumination was enough to show dark stains on the concrete walls, either rust or blood, and a single, reinforced door, but little else. A pounding in my head forced my eyes shut, and for what seemed an eternity, I sat in silence. After a time I tried to stand up, only to notice my arms were firmly shackled to the arms of the metal chair I was seated in. Now aware of my captive position, my body began to scream in agony. My eyes shot open and I looked to where the soldier stood.
“What the hell is this?” I rasped, my throat dry. The soldier looked at me with revulsion.
“Shut up you piece of shit.”
I slumped down in the chair as well I could to suffer in silence. A lifetime of moments passed in that unbearably quiet room, the aches in my body growing exponentially. I thought that in that moment I could hear a pin drop within a mile of the building I was housed in, and so I was particularly startled when the door suddenly swung inward with an angry shriek. Through the portal strode a single man, dressed in shiny black leather and holding a bulging file pressed to his chest. He looked sternly at the soldier, who got the hint and marched out of the room, shutting the door behind him.
I examined the newcomer. He was a tall man, and thin, so that his cheeks threatened to press against each other in his mouth. The structure of his face was razor sharp, as though he was little more than pale canvas stretched over a lattice work of blades. His long coat was impeccably clean, and matched the shiny leather of his jackboots and pointed cap. Beside a plasma pistol and a ceremonial saber at his sides, he wore no other weapons. I had the feeling he didn’t need any more, the man was lethality incarnate. He looked at me with fiery eyes and spoke quietly.
“Manuel Sangre.” It was not a question, but a statement. The man spoke with a slight accent. The barest hint that indicated he was an off-worlder. He walked slowly around me, his heels clicking loudly on the floor, coming to rest behind me. “We’ve been looking for you. Do you know who I am, Manuel?” My defiant side flared up.
“A scrawny off-worlder with his nose in Piety politics?” I asked with all the acid I could muster. The man laughed softly, and from behind me I heard a mechanical click and a low humming. The man pressed something against my back, and suddenly my skin erupted in agony. I howled with pain, straining against my manacles, sure that whatever it was had burnt through to my spine. Suddenly, the pain stopped, leaving the sharp shooting pains of a bad burn. The man walked back around me, revealing his plasma pistol unholstered, its cooling vents wafting low power, albeit painful heat waves. He flipped a switch near its butt and suddenly the whole weapon took on a hellish glow.
“I am a commissar, Manuel. I am stationed with Imperial Guard officers to watch for signs of heresy or weakness.” His tone remained as calm and quiet as ever. The glow from the weapon gave his face a ghoulish appearance. “My unique station gives me a number of freedoms, namely, the ability to kill anyone I deem unfit for the Emperor’s service. Do you think you are fit for the Emperor’s service, Manuel?”
I did not dare look him in the eyes. Instead my head lolled near my chest, trying to keep my cheek away from the weapon that threatened to overheat at any moment. The commissar kept talking.
“I’m sure you’re curious what the Imperial Guard has to do with you, Manuel, after all, you’re just some shit from the Piety underworld. I could kill you and no one would care. I’m half tempted.” He paced around me, the plasma pistol’s glow casting bizarre shadows in the tiny room. “Listen carefully, boy, I have an offer for you. Every planet in Imperial space, including this miserable trash heap, must pay tithes to the Imperium, in the form of able-bodied men to serve in the Guard. You know that; we cull from the local militias and police forces all the time. What you don’t know is that these authorities, these ‘good guys’, are almost useless to our forces.” I raised my head to look at him, intrigued despite my agony. He continued to speak as he stalked a circle around me.
“It seems to me that people on Piety only join the police when they have the skill for combat but lack the creativity for crime. They’re cannon fodder, useless sides of meat we throw to the grinder every day. On the other hand, most of the criminals are worse than useless: Rapists and murderers and common thugs who only live for cheap thrills before their inevitable deaths. If it was up to me, we’d virus bomb this place and start over. Do you understand that, Manuel? I hate you and everyone else here.”
His words were not spoken in anger, but rather truth, I could sense that the commissar wanted nothing more to melt me to slag with his pistol. Still, his promise of some mysterious “offer” kept the fear from controlling me. The man seemed to notice my intrigue and smiled a bit.
“Ah yes, but you do indeed serve a purpose. You see, Manuel, you are not a run-of-the-mill thug, but a successful gang leader, a master mind if one is so inclined. In your short life we’ve noticed the incredible heists you’ve pulled off. It is this… ‘profit-mindedness’ that interests the Guard so much. We know you sacrificed your friend Constantine Castille today. We know he isn’t the first you’ve killed in the name of success. You are a young Chenkov, Manuel, if that means anything to you.”
It didn’t, not then, but I remained silent.
“Do you know what a kappa-level psyker is? It is a man with unconscious powers, ones that manifest as bouts of good fortune and extreme charisma, no matter how much of an asshole he might actually be. You are one such asshole. In short, Manuel, you have all the characteristics we look for in a Guard officer. Let me propose my offer: join the Guard, leave this hellhole, and gain more in a year than you could hope to have in a lifetime. You will be placed in an officer’s retinue and trained under him. Most likely, you will die on the battle field, either by the enemy or by a man like me, tired of seeing shits like you. If you are lucky, and all indications say you are, you will survive to be promoted.”
I actually looked him in the eyes, incredulous.
“You want to recruit me?” I asked in disbelief. The commissar stopped in front of me, switching off the plasma pistol so suddenly it left a bright square of color in my field of vision. He reached down swiftly, touching each manacle. I felt a weight lifted from my body, and heard my restraints clatter to the floor. I rubbed at my aching body, carefully avoiding my burned shoulder, and looked up at the commissar. He was looking back with that same fire, his pistol still held loosely at his side.
“I hate people like you with every fiber in my being, Manuel. You are scum and nothing more, but by the Throne we need pricks like you. Refuse and we will throw you back on the streets in an instant. This is a one-time deal, do you accept?”
I started to stutter, still a little confused. He held up a hand.
“Manuel Sangre, do you accept?”
-From the memoirs of General Manuel Sangre, Piety Light Infantry “Street Wardens” 806.M41