Daul would have gladly slept for a week given the opportunity. His entire body ached. A patchwork of cuts and abrasions covered what little of his body was not bruised. Cairn had all but carried him to his quarters and forced him into bed after they'd managed to strip him out of his armor. His beloved power armor was now little more than scrap.
When Cairn shuffled the Daul towards the inquisitor's chambers Daul had protested vehemently that he could not sleep yet. The security forces onboard would need his expertise in repelling warp entities. Throne forbid they should be boarded by a full Demonic incursion while he slept. The Endless Bounty had been buffeted and bucked around in the warp for a good twenty minutes before they were able to get enough power from the generators to break back into real-space. Twenty minutes was more than long enough for possession and daemonic incursion. There had been scattered cases of sanctioned psychics and crewmen being overtaken by murderous entities but if the initial security reports were to be trusted the immediate threat had been contained.
He needed to screen the entire population of the Bounty for possible demonic possessions. He needed to debrief Sáclair. He needed to do any one of a million tasks running though his head. He very well might not seep that week let alone that month. He could do it, he may die from stimulant overdose but he could do it.
Cairn had listened to none of the Inquisitors excuses. When Daul had tried to lift himself out of bed the Skitarii had simply held him down with his remaining arm and administered a sedative with one of his mechandrites. It was a weaker sedative that Daul would have chosen to use normally, not one that would prevent dreams. Daul was so injured that anything stronger would have been risky.
"Let me up you over-important toaster," he muttered groggily as his vision swam.
The feeling of dread he always associated with falling asleep washed over him and he suddenly felt blackness and the world of dreams. His first dreams were inconsequential nonsense. It was to be expected. His nightmare was always the last of his dreams. Daul walked the shadowed twisting corridors of his dreams staring into bizarre tableaus of near reality, a confusing but comforting nonsense of flight and fancy. He was a novice under the care of Inquisitor Gaal being praised for his research of Imperial history. He was a soldier watching the retaking of Choros IX. He was a proud father staring at a newborn child dreaming of a large family in his estates on Metzik. He was standing next to the Primarchs watching the glories of the great Crusade. He was a young man feeling the warmth of a woman's flesh for the first time. Dreams spun at random, confusing him with their abrupt changes and shifting geometries, truth, fiction and memory churning without cause.
He tried clear his head mind. He wanted to make sense of the memories and fantasies or find an exit. He pleaded with himself as he felt his body shrink and stretch till it was child sized "Damn, not the dream, please don't be the damned dream," but he was unmistakably in the house of his childhood but not the scene of his nightmare. He stood in the kitchen opposite his grandfather watching him carve a bit of wood. He bit his lip and stared at Bast Hilder's friendly face. It had been too long since he thought of that face. It was decidedly odd that his grandfather was in the kitchen but not his mother. The dream usually started with his mother… three years later come to think of it. Bast Hilder died long before his father. The lung disease jokingly called the venerable miner's breath took most men from the mines. It probably would have taken Daul if he'd stayed. Bast stared at him over a set of spectacles and took the pipe from his mouth, tapping the ashes into a stone pot at his side, "Child if you mean to keep staring at me like I've just kicked your pet dog I plan to take it personal."
Daul stuttered, "No it's just I was expecting… It's nothing really Opa," the Metizk world slipped off his tongue for the first time in years not said as a scream in a nightmare, "I'm just surprised to see you. That's all."
"Surprised not to see my damned fool of a son you mean," Bast Hilder packed his pipe with Talbac, Daul's grandfather always had the best Talbac, and rooted around in his pockets for match. He looked up at Daul's terrified expression, "Oh calm yourself boy. No damned fool is going to lay a hand on my grandson. Took me long enough to find what the idiot has been up to but I set things to right. You can see for yourself. Get me those matches off the sideboard would you?"
Daul turned and walked to the sideboard. He grabbed the matches from where they always were on the sideboard next to the change jar. Or rather they were on the side board next to where the change jar had always been. In place of the change jar was a small clear glass aquarium that held a single occupant. Daul's twisted monster of a father sat sullenly on top of a bed of cottonballs and sawdust muttering murderously. When he noticed his son he jumped up, waving his arms and screaming threats. His entire body shook from the effort of waving his arms and his voice was entirely too high to understand a word of it. Daul turned to his grandfather, "Opa how did you… how did you do that?"
"You listen with your ears but never think with your head boy. Didn't I always tell you that you need to shrink your fears down to as big as they deserve to be? My boy's been dead going on a century, shame that, but what he became died with him. He doesn't deserve more of you than that box he's in right now. Don't start thinking otherwise," he looked at the box in Daul's hand, "Now are you going to bring me those matches or are you going to make an old man stand up."
Daul rushed over and handed the cardboard box over to the Hilder patriarch. Bast took the box with hands calloused from years working in the mines and shook it next to his ear before taking out a match and striking it. He lit his pipe and puffed at it contentedly before picking up his knife and whittling the bit of wood into an armored shape vaguely resembling Daul's grown up self, "Sit down child you're hopping about like a startled toad."
Daul sat down with on the stool behind him with such force that it knocked the wind out of him. He tried to articulate exactly how he was feeling into words but all he managed to do was sob a bit and say, "I miss them Opa. I miss them so much. Especially now that… now that he's dead," Daul choked on the name of his most recent loss.
"Can you not bring yourself to say his name child? There's no sense in dishonoring family by forgetting them. He's gone but as long as you love him he's still with you," His face crinked with a kind smile, "Though I'll admit having someone watching over you from beyond is less comfort than being able to hold them in your arms and your eyes, even if they are still in your heart."
"It's just too soon Opa. It just still hurts," Daul felt Bast's hand ruffling his hair in the way he used to hate as a boy, "It never seems to go away. It won't go away not till he's dead," his voice brimmed with hatred, "Faust will die. Faust will die by my hands. I'll make Faust feel the pain he felt, die the death he died. He deserves it. He needs to die."
"That well may be child, that well may be," His grandfather walked over to the kitchen table and started fipping through the pages of a lovewarn copy of the "The Teachings of Sebastian Thor" that his mother always had around till he reached his favorite passage, "Revenge is a task that hurts everyone and helps none. Justice is riteous but revenge will always be torn by spite. Rage is the weapon of the enemy. The enemy will drive you and use you through your rage. He will seek to make you into him. Seek not revenge but find justice for it is in reason and righteousness that we stand in the Emperor's light." He chuckled, "Don't give me that sullen look boy. You well may have to kill him but if you do make sure you do it for the right reasons. Now let's stop talking about this unpleasantness. I've got a century of catching up to do and a whole mess of common sense what needs to get beaten into you again."
It was wonderful to have a conversation with the man again, even if it wasn't real. Daul sat, and listened, and dreamed without fear for the first time since he was a child. When he was woken by Cairn ten hours later he felt calmer and more refreshed than he could not remember ever having been. It was just as well. Cairn's news was decidedly unpleasant. Unpleasant enough to forget that Bast's voice from his dreams was not as he remembered it.
The wine glass flew half the distance of the great hall before it shattered on the floor. None of the servants bothered clean it. They scurried about righting statues and freeing servitors from the rubble. The Hall had taken the worst of its damage to non-critical systems but the damaged pride of Sáclair was mirrored every pane of shattered glass and broken chandelier. The Captain had not slept in thirty-six hours and refused to leave his post for anything, even to sleep. Even his concubines had retreated to their quarters for fear of his mood. The Captian sat on his throne brooding, eying the court beneath him, and shooting murderous looks at anyone foolish enough to make eye-contact.
Everyone capable of assisting with repairs had been enlisted to do. Even the nobility was making a show of scurrying around with reports and data-slates. The queue to his throne was blissfully empty of crewmen. Nobody wanted to give Sáclair even the vague impression they were slacking. His penalties for doing so were decidedly unpleasant. Sáclair had sent the ship's assistant Quartermaster to oversee the servitors clearing bodies from the hold after he showed up late for duty by two minutes.
The only people in the great hall not spending every waking moment appearing as busy as possible were those unlucky few who reported directly to Sáclair. Hakam Danzig, Donat Enzo, Étienne Sácomer, Zorn Calven, Anoosheh Osma and Faest Nor stood in a semi-circle in front of Sánclair. Even the normally jolly Sácomer was in ill humor. He stood sagging from the spidery legs of his agumentic walking frame like a deflated balloon, wobbling slightly with the effort of staying awake. Sácomer had taken the loss nearly as hard as the captain. Sánclair spoke in clipped businesslike tones even as a servant appeared with a fresh glass of wine, "Gentlemen we have all been working non-stop for the better part of the past day. I understand that the past hours have been trying. However, if someone does not at the very least tell me where in the blazes we are I will be irked beyond measure," the jovial tone and forced smile did not match the furious look in his eyes, "It would be unwise to allow that."
Sánclair downed the new glass of wine in a single swig and chucked it into the distance where it cracked on the ground with a satisfying smash. It wasn't fair of him to take out his frustrations on the crew but the voices of his ancestors were in a state of turmoil. The collective spoke to him in a passive state generally, offering words of wisdom at times and sharing their memories when asked. Since the Endless Bounty had exited the warp the voices of his ancestors had gone from a calming voice in the distance to an impossible mess of gibbering words and shouting matches. Those who came before him were terrified, and not without reason. He was fine with their fear but he could have done without their arguments. More than once he'd found himself to be shouting for silence in an already silent room, his attendants eying him with uncomprehending fear. Alcohol dimmed their voices some, and work distracted his mind from their quarrellings. He tapped his hand on the arm of his throne, eying the navigator in annoyance and speaking in a voice dripping with cruel sanctimony, "Well esteemed Navigator? What light does your house have to shed on this situation? You of the most clever house of navigators."
Calven ignored Sáclair's rudeness entirely, "As my Captain will recall I did warn him that the warp tunnel could lead anywhere. As my Captain was told it was beyond the knowledge of any navigator how such a feat could be done or to what purpose it might serve," Sáclair could not help but think of the Navigator's ornate feathered cloak was looking increasingly flammable with each word, "As my Captain will remember it was only the fast thinking of Setvan Illrich of the Navigators that we were able to get enough power from the reactors to escape the warp at all. My captain knows that Navigators Illrich and Zain are overseeing the astropathic choir to seek solutions. My Captain is a very capable man so he has no need for me to remind him of what he already knows."
"So stop wasting my time by talking about what the Captain already knows you translucent, three eyed, toad," Sáclair cracked a smile. Danzig, bandaged and bruised was as loyal to and protective of Sáclair as ever. Sáclair would not have put it past Danzig to punch the Navigator in his third eye given the chance. The sanctimony of the Navigators never sat well with the Lionhearts, "If you've got something new to say then say it otherwise I've been beaten, shot at, stabbed, and burned in the past twelve hours. Every minute you're spending with this infuriating game of words and meanings is a minute me and him," he pointed to Faest, "aren't down in the damned hospital making sure my men pull through."
Zorn eyed Danzig loftily but said nothing in response, not to avoid angering the soldier, the navigator knew too well the Lionheart would never willingly allow harm to befall an navigator, but for fear of the Chief Docere Medicus. Medicus Nor would stitch Zorn's mouth shut if he believed that it would speed up his ability to go back to his beloved hospital a second faster. The navigator curled his lip but continued as though there had been no interruption, "In short Captain we are somewhere beyond the galactic rim. We cannot find any consistency to the stellar geography matching the areas mapped by the navigators."
Donat blinked, "What of the Astronomicon? Has the choir recovered from the unpleasantness and found it yet?" Sáclair sighed, Donat was a faithful second in command but an unimaginative one. The idea that there were great sections of uncharted space beyond the light and grace of the Emperor was something that no amount of proof could convince Donat to believe. He would obey but he would not believe. Sácomer required far less proof of their circumstances. Sáclair had never taken the larger man for a fatalist but Sácomer's blind panic was obvious. It wasn't beyond belief, Sácomer had a keen mind in spite of his foppishness and blubber.
"Lieutenant Enzo if you insist upon living in a fantasy world I cannot be blamed for your ignorance," there should be a law against the level of smugness in the Navigator's voice. He would have to confer with the ancestors later to see if there is an existing law he might repurpose to that end, "We are beyond the limit of the Astronomicon's light. If that means we are simply at the extremes of where Solar Macharius' armies refused to go or are in an entirely new galaxy remains to be seen. The Astropaths had to be forcibly stopped from killing themselves from the shock of losing its light. I suspect we well may have to kill the ones who have gone mad from the shock anyway. This is not some spatial anomaly we can simply coast through. We are truly in the rough," his voice became clinical and he pulled out a small hololithic projector and held it up. A small swirling mass of stars appeared with a red dot at the galactic southern edge, "We estimate that this is our place in the galaxy but honestly any stellar cartography we have of the area will be an estimate at best. On the bright side I am reasonably convinced that the ship we were chasing was hit by a group of mines soon after we were. I cannot say for certain if they were tossed out of the warp as well, but it seems plausible. That we were not tossed out into the coronal mass of a sun is nothing but luck, perhaps they were not so lucky."
"Wishful thinking accomplishes nothing navigator," Sáclair had no patience for optimism at the moment, "Do we have any way of navigating in the warp?"
"To where sir? I can direct this ship through the flows of the warp but I must have an idea of to where I am to go. The Astronomicon provides a point of reference off of which the navigators judge distance and location," the navigator zoomed out the image of unfamiliar stars as far as it would go, "without a point of reference I am just reaching in the dark. I can take us into the warp and out of the warp but we would be sailing blindly. We have nowhere to go to or from. We will at least have little difficulty in getting to there, the warp currents seem especially mild in this region which is some small comfort."
Sáclair motioned for another glass of wine, the servant came with a silver pitcher filled to the brim. Sáclair raised an eyebrow and motioned the servant closer. The servant, a particularly frightened looking girl wearing the livery of his household approached him nervously. She carefully avoided eye contact, "Yes sir? Do you need anything else?"
"This is not a glass," he lifted the sliver pitcher up to eye level, "Where is my glass?"
"The Lady Sáclair told us we weren't to bring out any more glasses sir. The lady told us that if you asked we were to pass on a message," Her face turned beet red, "The Lady said to say 'If my fool of a husband thinks he can destroy all the good crystal just because he's in a tiff then he can damn well forget it. He'll drink from the pitcher and like it or neither I nor his concubines will warm his bed for at least a year." She blanched and clarified as she nervously rubbed her hands in her apron, "She said that sir, not me! I'd never talk about my betters like that. I know my place."
"Calm yourself girl," Sáclair chuckled, "I know my wife's words and temper better than any man. I have no doubt she said it and meant it. Do be so kind as to pass a message back to her for me. For her and for no others."
The girl nodded wide-eyed, "If you want me to sir, I will sir."
"Good," He leaned in and whispered, "Love makes a man do foolish things but it does not make a man a fool. Your good crystal is safe. If I am a fool of a man I am still your fool of a man and I expect to see both you and my concubines in my chambers tonight. You may be mistress of my heart but I will remind you why I am the master of our bed." The girl blushed a florescent red and bowed herself away as fast as she could, clearly eager not to give him the opportunity to elaborate.
As she lifted up to the servant's entrance a grav hook he yelled, "And I want to see her in pearls!" at her retreating back. The girl blushed with her entire body, she must be new to his wife's staff. Not many of the serving girls who worked for her stayed modest long. Her temper and frankness robbed them of that. His wife's words had brightened his humor, as had the prospect of the night to come. The Lady Sáclair only bothered to threaten withholding her company if she had something equally entertaining in mind to reward him for making the proper decision. The officers looked at him with of mixed expressions of amusement and consternation. Generations of outlandish behavior from house Sáclair had since rendered the shock value of his words moot for the officers.
"Spoilsports," Saclair muttered a stage whisper. The officers all chuckled dryly. He rolled his eyes downed his wine and remembered why he had been sullen in the first place, "Medicus how many did we lose?"
"It's difficult to say, most of the damage was limited to the aft sections which were already mostly abandoned after the first fight with the smaller ship. The major population centers are in the mid decks away from the engines for obvious reasons. There were a number of fatalities but not enough to leave us understaffed in any critical areas. We lost a lot of dock workers in the decompression, not all of them were lucky enough to have attached the grav hooks to keep them on the ship. Fewer still had their survival masks in reach," he looked over his scrolls, "That we haven't instituted carrying one of those at all times for the dock workers is nothing short of criminal. We really must fix that."
Sáclair nodded, "Consider it done. The workers will complain but I suspect their supervisors flogging those who don't comply will change their tune. I'll mention it to the chief of the Tech-priest ensigneers once Kerrigan lets him go. I would have called him for this meeting for you to tell him yourself but I'm not fool enough to get between the Adeptus Mechanicus and fixing a hull breach."
"Odd that he's not here," muttered Calven.
"Chief Ensigneer Iino and Father Al'Ashir are seeing to duties that obviously take precedence at the moment. I we expect the Admech to stop their devotions to the machine any more than I can expect the church to stop their devotions to the Emperor," Osma's deep grumble ground out its disapproval. Osma did not like the navigator and made no secret of his dislike, "And considering it's me who'll have to oversee any floggings I assure you we are more than capable of seeing punishment going to those who deserve it." He let 'deserve it' hang in the air, pointedly staring at the navigator, leaving no doubt in anyone's mind exactly who deserved it in his eyes. Calven stared back murderously. Osma had been one of the few in support of allowing the Inquisitor to interrogate navigators. The chief's belief that all are subject to the rule of law was categorical and unmoving.
"I doubt floggings will be necessary, we lost half our dock workers due to asphyxiation in plain view of the rest. Even then they had to float there hanging from the grav hooks in open space till we could get a patch on the doors. The dockworkers are going to sleep wearing those damn things for the next year if I don't miss my guess," he pulled out a pen and made a note on the page, " I might too for that matter provided we don't get someone in to scrub the smell out of the main halls soon. One of the sewage lines ruptured along the main drag. It's not a medical emergency yet but it will be if we don't disinfect the entire drag stem to stern before disease breaks out. The last thing we need right now is a cholera epidemic."
"I'd actually like to get the Belzafest survivors working on that sir," Donat's face showed no signs of restlessness but he was shifting nervously on his feet and looking down at a pocket watch every other moment, "The main drag is well guarded in case any of them try anything funny and it might do us some good to have the crew seeing them pitching in their share. Tempers are high, the last thing we want is for the crew to start thinking of the Belzafesters as spoiled or lazy. We have enough issues without starting a mutiny against a group of trained soldiers, even if they are from a backwater PDF regiment." He looked back down to his watch again.
"Am I keeping you from an appointment Mr. Enzo? One with someone more important?" Sáclair snatched the pocket watch out of Mr. Enzo's hand and looked at it. It was a heavy watch of Sezan designs, infinitely less fashionable than even one of Damascan make and dented in several places. I wasn't even gold or silver but one of the silvery metallic alloys favored by the crew for its durability rather than its style. In fact the only remarkable part of the watch was the inscription on the inside "So that you'll never be late no matter where you are" written inside in a child's messy hand underneath a portrait of a round cheeked blond child.
Donat responded in a voice of measured calm as he snatched back his watch, "Yes, Captain. As a matter of fact misters Danzig and Nor are not the only ones who have an immediate interest in being in hospital."
It was sometimes easy to forget that Donat had a daughter. He spoke so little of his family. It wasn't as though Sáclair had never met the man's wife and child. They were regularly in his court on business but they seemed to have developed Donat's talent for disappearing in plain view. Donat did not ever speak of emotion or love but Sáclair had never know the man to miss anything that he promised her he would attend at the Escole-Imperailis most of the officers sent their children to. Sáclair could not claim the same but he had five daughters and ten bastard sons, they couldn't expect him to show up for everything. Come to think of it he believed one of his bastard children was romantically interested in the girl. It was a pity really. Donat would never consent to a marriage between his daughter and a bastard. He would have to arrange someone suitable for the boy else there could be trouble on the horizon.
"Calm yourself Donny, we're all not at our best," Chief of Security Osma's stroked his hand through the messily groomed braids of beard handing from his face. The lower breed Damascan's had never been truly purged of their pagan ways but Osma's backwardness was a boon really. He was substantially less threatening for the crew to approach than his predecessor and did not judge guilt or innocence based upon breeding alone. Minor pagan irregularities were commonplace in the cult of the Emperor and few could be credited with true heresy. Osma was not of high birth but his meticulous successes made the nobility of the bounty willing to overlook that slight flaw of character. Or rather it did till they themselves were brought up on charges. Sáclair tolerated the pillbox hat and ceremonial knife worn in addition to the standard uniform of the Security Chief in the same way he tolerated the Lionhearts custom of calls to prayer six times a day over the intercoms. They were minor concessions that allowed the ship to function. He was a clever and capable head of security but his oratory was like close to listening to someone gargle rocks, "I'll have to insist that there is an additional security presence around the Belzafesters till the Inquisitor has had a chance to screen them for heretics. Oh don't give me that look Lieutenant, you can still have them cleaning the main drag, but I'm not going to risk any one of them going south and starting a fight or some damned fool heretic committing sabotage. It might to have some 'off duty' Lionhearts wandering around the ship as well, strapped with their side arms of course. I don't want them to do much other than be there just in case. We're not at martial law yet."
"It we might be soon," Sácomer kicked a foot in the air as he talked. His many chins wobbled as his beady eyes looked determinedly everywhere but at Sáclair, "Sir, we lost a good portion of our food supply in the attacks, grain, meat, most of the non-perishables. We even lost a good number of the livestock we'd been using for milk and eggs. If we start rationing now we'll probably be able to make it last a month in relative comfort, two if we tighten our belts," belt tightening was said with the same gravitas as one might refer to execution, "That's the least of our worries however. Mr. Enzo would you be so kind?"
"Of course Mr. Sácomer. Captian if I may?" he waved at the massive holo-lithic projector in the center of the great hall. Sánclair nodded and Donat pulled out a small remote. A massive glowing green rendering of the Endless Bounty appeared hovering in the middle of the room. The officers below stopped scurrying around to stare at it. Even their fear of extra duties would not stop them the chance to speculate about the conversations of the Captain. By this time the next day half the crew would speak of the conversations prompting the use of the great hololith though none of them could hear through Sáclair's privacy filters. Not that any of the crew would let a little thing like the truth get in the way of good gossip.
Donat twisted a knob on the remote and the image started to divide into a isometric cross section by deck. Areas of the ship damaged in the fight glowed red, including a number of major systems that made Sáclair cringe, "The sewage line bursting was only the tip of the iceberg. We lost most of our water reserves when the cisterns burst. We even if the water reclamation systems were to go nonstop for the next two days we could only force a weeks worth of water out of them. Less than that considering how many wounded we have. We need water, and soon. I've started dispatching the flight wings to search the surrounding area." Water, of course it had to be water. A body could go for days, or even weeks if deprived from food but a crew without adequate water would mutiny fast as anything Sáclair could imagine.