okay you asked for it. I hope you are not dissappointed.
Virus bombs are messy but not very destructive unless it is meant to be. Some burn the oxygen in the air and reduce everything to ash in a matter of hours while others melt the flesh and reduce everything to paste. But there is another type that is used for a specific kind of cleansing.
Death comes almost instantly in most cases without the victims even having time to realize what was taking place. The epicenter of the detonation suffers the most collateral damage as surrounding structures crumble away into powder and are blown away by the world scything winds that are produced.
Death is instant at the epicenter when all flesh is corrupted and melts from the bones. That flesh is robbed of all liquid in an instant from the heat of the blast and is swept away by the winds as well. At the epicenter of the detonation everything is razed to the ground and blown away and not even the memories of ghosts remain.
The blast wave weakens after only a few moments but the winds do not; no, the winds carry on with the virus in its gales. The winds caress the standing structures and swirl through the streets as the virus continues with the purpose with which it was created to do.
Away from the epicenter all flesh dies upon the surface of the world within hours as the virus painlessly enters the sinuses and pores of the body. Those the virus comes in contact with fall into comas and dies within moments as their hearts slowly stop and quit their life giving beats.
Vadican Primary’s assets could not be lost to the Empire so there could be no destruction of buildings, cities, space-ports and docking rigs. There could not be any harm to the mining stations or equipment or refineries or fuels or technology or science facilities or weapons factories. Flesh could be replaced to resume the works of Vadican Primary but only if the world was still intact when the end came.
For these reasons Inquisitor Rafael V’haulston planed the destruction of Vadican Primary with precision. Though he had hoped the preservation of Vadican Primary could be maintained and even cleansed from all plague he had planned for the worst.
‘Are the structures still intact?’ Inquisitor Rafael V’haulston asked. ‘Yes Inquisitor. All structures still stand. There are no life signs upon the planet’s surface ether. Everything is dead Inquisitor.’ The servitor confirmed. V’haulston frowned and closed his eyes. This was another stain upon his conscience that no amount of alcohol or prayers could expunge.
He knew there was nothing that could be done. The plague was a fire that could not be quenched and the failure of the B.D.C.P.A. had only compounded things. Though there had been rumors of the dead coming back to life or walking or whatever, he had not believed them. In his experience the dead stayed dead, but the sick did not always stay down.
Sometimes the sick had to be put down like a rabid dog or injured horse. V’haulston hated to think of humanity like that, especially the faithful citizens of the Empire. This was not the time for mourning; there would be plenty of time for that late when he was dead and being judged at the Emperor’s right hand. The thought of that made him shake his head in doubt. There would be no hope for him, of that he was sure.
‘I will be in my chambers. Inform my team as well as the 155th infantry we will be debarking in two hours; full chem-suits and weapon loads as usual.’ Though he did not want to go down to the surface, he knew there were confirmations to be made.
The 155th Infantry consisted of a thousand men completely obedient to the needs of the Inquisition. Each man was a veteran of at least ten conflicts of which they had been forced to retreat from their enemy. To some that claim was not something to be proud of, but to Inquisitor V’haulston it was the one thing that mattered.
To be forced to retreat while in the heat of battle against overwhelming odds meant two things. One; the men were obedient even in the face of dishonor and two; the men were survivors. They knew what it was to fail and to be victorious and had flourished in both settings. These men could be trusted to make the hard decisions and when the hard times came when they were under fire, V’haulston knew they could be trusted to keep their heads.
The docking stations were relatively clean except for the few controllers and servitors that lay at their stations having been killed by the virus four hours ago.
The lights were still on and in the night their warm glow was a welcome thing. This was not a warzone but a grave world that when pronounced “Purged” would have to be cleaned up, the dead buried and their memories mourned.
The elevators and escalators were still running and the 155th used them as they exited their shuttles and made their way down to the surface of Vadican Primary. Though the city’s lights still shone brightly upon the surface of the dead world everything else was quiet.
The doors to the docking ports opened with exasperated hisses as the 155th made their way out to the open square at the base of the massive tower.
Nothing lived and there were bodies everywhere lying in the street, leaning against the walls and sat within the confines of their personal vehicles. The offices the men passed by felt empty even as the bleeps and static screens made their presence known to lifeless corpses that would never answer their urgent calls again.
The 155th had received their orders and had dispersed from the docking tower in groups of three people each. Armed with shotguns and las-rifles they proceeded to the medical facilities, research centers and development centers in search of any unlikely survivors that may have escaped the plague or lived through the virus winds. There was a chance that some still lived who were quarantined or still wore the Chem-suits of their trade.
The wind still blew with hurricane force and if not for the chem-suits the men wore they would have died instantly when the breeze touched their unprotected skin. Though there were other cities and continents they could have touched down in, Prague was the primary place of interest to the Inquisition.
Prague was the Military Science and Developmental Research Center. Its purpose was many-fold and utterly secret. For all intense and purposes Prague was like any other city with its families, schools, businesses and entertainment venues, but behind closed doors and under the crust of earth that separated it from prying eyes the Emperor’s work was being accomplished.
The Inquisitional Rosette swung from the neck of Inquisitor Rafael V’haulston’s chem-suit as he walked through the streets of Prague, his small unit of men following behind him. He was tall and heavy but not fat. No, his bulk was made up of muscle covered prosthetics and robotic replacements. His hair was full and jet-black like ravens wings and his eyes glowed blue in the limited light of the city’s glow-globes.
His men were like him in many ways, each having been enhanced in one way or another in order for them to fulfill their tasks to the upmost possibility and accurateness.
‘What is it that we are looking for?’ Mizer Fission asked as he caught up with Inquisitor V’haulston. ‘The source.’ he answered.
The doors to the M.S.D.R.C. opened without a sound and light flooded out illuminating the shadows revealing all the lifeless things that inhabited them. Inquisitor V’haulston led the way in and was not surprised to see bodies lining the floors, research labs and desktop areas.
There was no blood, no sign of distress to mar their features. The corpses looked as if they were asleep, eyes closed, mouths open; they looked peaceful and serene uncaring of the troubles that happened by. But there was something about them that did not seem quite right. Black lines like cobwebs had spread throughout their flesh; it was possible these had died before the virus bomb had spread its fell cargo in the air.
‘I do not like this place Inquisitor.’ Koleck whispered in the stillness. ‘We should gather what you came for and leave.’ She was a small young woman with long red hair and dark green eyes. Her complexion was light, almost pale white, and she was exceptionally attractive in the right setting, but cross her and she could very easily cut your throat.
The Inquisitor understood. He could feel it too. But what “it” was he did not know. There was a chance that the plague had not entirely been wiped out or “it” could be something else too. He could not put his finger on what it was, but he had a bad feeling just the same.
In the lowest depths of the M.S.D.R.C. the director, General Omagon Izak had died. He was found in his quarters with a hole in his head and a las-gun beside his prone body. Black lines were wormed throughout his flesh and brain-matter lined the back wall and ceiling.
Upon the mirror the words scrawled in blood said, “It was my fault.” Inquisitor V’haulston walked past the corpse and over to a desk in the corner. His robotic eyes scanned the surface first then the drawers. Having not found what he was looking for there, he began to probe the walls and ceiling for secret compartments hidden therein.
‘There.’ he said. And walked over to the closet, opened the door and hit the right hand wall. The wall collapsed into the floor and V’haulston walked through the newly formed portal. Inside the small room the furnishings were sparse. There was a small desk made of rosewood and a small wooden chair. The walls were covered with maps and faces of some of the scientists and doctors from the B.D.C.P.A. and the M.S.D.R.C. as well.
Inside the left hand drawer there was a small black booklet with the symbol of the holy Inquisition. He frowned as he opened it and began to read. “The plague was a result of negligence on my watch.” The forward note began.
“We named it the Death Web because of the cobweb patterns that form on the infected. The Death Web is an airborne virus we were manufacturing for Inquisitor Rafael V’haulston for his reasons alone.” There were ink stains where the General’s tears had fallen onto the pages as he wrote.
“We created it as a trial specimen not to be given to Inquisitor Rafael V’haulston until we understood its properties and limits, but the virus escaped. The virus has a life of its own but it would have died out when it had run its course but for the efforts of the Bureaus of Disease and Chemical Prevention and Authentication. They altered the plague in ways I cannot explain.” There were more ink splotches from where the General’s tears had fallen upon the page.
Inquisitor V’haulston scowled with bitter hatred as he read the next words. “I am guilty of aiding the efforts of Inquisitor Rafael V’haulston, traitor to the Emperor and collaborator with the Chaos powers that be!”
Quickly Inquisitor Rafael V’haulston tore the page from the booklet and burned it. With that done his mission was complete. ‘It’s time to go. I have found what it was that I was searching for.’ He said as he walked from the room. Before he left the General’s quarters he leaned over the dead man’s body and asked, ‘How did you find out?’
The servitor maintaining the sensors of the Inglorious contacted Inquisitor V’haulston before he had left the subfloor of the Military Science and Developmental Research Center. The communicator beeped twice before Inquisitor V’haulston was able to retrieve it from his belt. ‘What is it?’ he growled.
The servitor’s voice was that of an old man devoid of emotion when he answered the Inquisitor, ‘The Inglorious’s sensors have detected movement throughout Vadican Primary and Prague especially.’
‘What kind of movement? Be specific.’ He said.
The servitor hesitated for a moment before answering. ‘I cannot say, Inquisitor. The movement comes from millions of sources all closing on the life-markers of the 155th and yourself. You are surrounded, all of you.’ Inquisitor V’haulston shook his head instantly aware of the silence all around them. ‘Life signs?’ he asked. ‘No, Inquisitor. Not a single one.’ the servitor answered quizzically.
‘Weapons free, gentlemen and keep your guard up. We are not alone.’ He whispered. The company around him slid their shotguns from their harnesses and began to move up the stairs. The elevator would have been faster in reaching the surface, but when those doors opened there was no telling what they would meet.
Static reports began to pour in from the sergeants of the 155th as the dead began to rise up and surround their positions. Reports of corpses attacking were beginning to flood the vox-net and one by one the green icons upon the Inglorious’s sensors began to disappear.
The servitor began to relay the information to the Inquisitor, but he did not need to be told as he was finding out for himself just how deadly the plague had become. He was finding out that the virus bomb killed everything that was not dead, but did nothing to stop the mutated infection. The dead were not only walking, they were running, crawling and lunging at anything still living.
The web patterns upon their epidermis pulsated and burst as their dead flesh began to stretch into use once more. Blood flooded the animated corpses as they moved bathing them in viscera and vital fluids. Though in many cases the blood had started to clot from inactivity, it still painted their dead skin in sticky red. Tacky footprints were left in their wake but as they moved through the artificial light of the dead city their lifeless minds paid the blood no heed.
With only the need to feast upon the flesh of the living, the dead advanced through every open street, building and alley of Prague. ‘Back to the shuttles, now!’ Inquisitor V’haulston yelled into the vox as he sprinted up the stairs. Behind him his team shadowed his every movement; as he turned right, they turned right and when he stopped, they stopped.
Weapons ready, they moved from the sublevels of the M.S.D.R.C. and emerged from the stairwell into the ground level hallway. Inquisitor V’haulston fired his las-gun four times almost as soon as the stairwell door had opened. The body before him fell to the ground pulped by the raw energy that eviscerated its chest, but still it crawled forward, hands methodically searching for purchase as Inquisitor V’haulston and his team stepped past it uncaring that the corpse still moved, but content that it was out of the way.
There were upwards of fifty flesh eaters, plague victims all, moving through the hall aimlessly up and down its shadowed length when the stairwell door opened, but they did not notice Inquisitor V’haulston and his team until the las-gun was fired and the body fell before them, but when the action was taken and the noise was heard they turned as one and began to move like a rushing river down a sloping ravine.
At once all ten members of the Inquisitorial unit knew they could not fight their way out no matter how nay weapons they had or what type of augmetics they were geared with. Death was rushing at them and there would be no escape. They fired their shotguns and las-guns anyway but the dead still kept stumbling forward.
The chem-suits they wore were slowing them down but they could do nothing about that now. ‘Up, we have to get above them, now!’ Mizer Fission yelled over the din. Inquisitor V’haulston agreed and ordered the strategic withdrawal. Behind them the stairwell door stood open and they took the opportunity to escape the hall’s close confines and the dead that pursued them.
Officer Comell turned to close the stairwell door as the last of the unit passed the threshold and began to move up to the next landing, but as he took hold of the door handle the dead took hold of him and pulled him to the ground. The door could not close because of the press of the bodies and his screams could be heard echoing up the shaft even as his team escaped with their lives to the second floor of the building.
There were more of them on the second floor and they stalked toward the unit with focused purpose and deadly intent. Inquisitor V’haulston shot one in the head and it fell motionless to the floor, blood and brain matter pasting those following behind. Seeing the Inquisitor’s example the others fired their weapons into the heads of the cadaverous masses and stepped over their still bodies, blood caking the leggings of their chem-suits as they passed.
At the end of the second floor hall there was a board room devoid of any threat, clean and ready for the next meeting that would never be held. The strong wooden door was closed and barricaded from the inside; scratching and pounding could be heard on the other side.
From outside the plate-glass windows the city streets were awash with the movements of the hopeless dead. There were thousands of them moving like an angry sea in the courtyard below and hundreds of thousands more beyond that.
The stench of their rotting flesh permeated the air and caused a light fog-like residue to float just above the ground. The web-like black lines that marked the victims of the plague now appeared upon the very soil of the planet, upon the statues of the Emperor and those rulers who had gone before. The lines were growing upon the brickwork and climbing the buildings like wild vines upon a garden wall.
The lights of the docking platforms could be seen from the board room’s windows, but as it was there was no way of getting to its massive towers and the shuttles that rested there without becoming victims themselves.
Inquisitor V’haulston contacted the Inglorious via vox-caster and paced back and forth through the meeting room like a caged grox. His tones were low but there was desperate venom held in his voice. ‘What of the 155th?’ he asked. The servitor manning the comms answered as if there was nothing wrong and all the time of the universe was on its side, ‘According to the sensors before me, Inquisitor, the soldiers of the 155th are all dead.’
The Inquisitor cringed at the thought of the 155th having met their end so uselessly but smiled at the thought too. He did not let his feelings show to the others in his unit, there was no need for them to know his mind on the matter of the Emperor’s own fading into nothingness.
Instead he ordered the commander of the Inglorious, Admiral Graswhell, to send a fresh shuttle to their position and hover outside their window. The windows would be blown and they would make their escape. Admiral Graswhell refused the order though, stating Inquisitorial bylaw 147.990-x215 which stated, “Under no circumstances shall an Imperial vessel be allowed to proceed into an actively quarantined plague zone and return again if the threat of contamination exists and the risk of spreading said plague is not prohibited.”
Inquisitor V’haulston screamed into the vox-caster, ‘How dare you quote bylaws to me. I am a fekking Inquisitor by the Emperor’s will and you will obey me or I will have you terminated upon my return! Do you understand me Admiral?’
There was a long pause and then the Admiral’s voice came back across the vox-caster’s receiver core, ‘With all do respect, Inquisitor, I do not care if you were the Emperor returned. You shall not return to the Inglorious by any means or under any circumstance until the plague has not only been contained but abolished and the quarantine lifted.’ With that the transmission ended abruptly and completely.
Inquisitor V’haulston cursed and threw the device across the room where it shattered against the wall. The others looked at him now completely aware of their situation. ‘Our only chance is to get to the docking bays.’ Koleck stated.
Outside the hardwood door the dead continued their siege, scratching and banging against its hard surface. Trapped and without any means of escape the only option for them was to stay put and hope the corpses outside would forget about them. Inquisitor V’haulston knew that would not happen. He looked at the time remaining on the oxygen regulator providing breathable air to his chem-suit and knew they only had a little more than five minutes remaining at best.
The dead knew they were here. They could not only hear them behind the office door, but they could smell the life’s blood coursing through their veins.
‘Ready your weapons and prepare to fight. If I’m going to die here it will be on my terms and not as victims waiting for the end to come!’ the Inquisitor pronounced. With that said the unit reloaded their weapons and stood ready for the door to be opened.
As the doorknob turned the door was pushed open and the plagued corpses flooded in. Mouths were agape with diseased saliva running down unfeeling chins and hands clutched nothing but air, opening and closing in anticipation of laying hold of living flesh.
Mizer Fission fired his shotgun point blank into what had been a beautiful woman; the blast and led pellets ripped her body in half but she continued to crawl across the floor unfeeling of her injury. Blood trailed behind her as she crept across the carpeted floor, but Fission stomped on her head while he fired again and again into the rotting river flowing in.
A hand took hold of his chem-suit and tore the sleeve wide open. Within seconds the blackness of death consumed him and he fell on his face as the germs from the virus bomb stopped his heart and seized his lungs. He did not feel the teeth close upon his flesh as the dead consumed him.
Inquisitor Rafael V’haulston stood beside the last seven members of his unit and fired his las-gun pointedly at the heads of the frenzied dead. Heads exploded with each of his shots but there were too many of them to make a difference.
The others fired too and the bodies piled up, but still the corpses continued on. Finally against the plate-glass windows and the wall that supported it they ran out of ammunition. Koleck dropped her shotgun and unhesitatingly drew her power sword.
She was beautiful to behold, like a whirlwind of torment twisting through the room. The sword bisected torsos and severed limbs and decapitated heads effortlessly. The sound of dead flesh slapping the floor soon was a constant sound and it was joined by the others as they added their talents to the fray.
Though their efforts were valiant, the river of plagued corpses did not abate. Instead the tide grew stronger and more insistent as time went by. Grenish Thyson, a large man committed to the Emperor’s will and strong as a grox fell to his knees clutching his chest, desperate for the life giving air needed to survive. In a panic he tore off the canopy from his chem-suit and gasped in vain for hope.
The others began to move more sluggishly as their oxygen supply came to an end, yet the dead did not slow but fell upon them without emotion or remorse. Blood and flesh poured from open wounds and teeth ripped muscle from bones, hands extracted lungs, intestines and hearts from still warm cadavers but the dead were not satisfied.
Koleck refused to quit the fight but her body finally gave up unable to support her fierce determination any longer. Upon her knees the plagued surrounded her and hurled themselves upon her suffocating frame, tearing open her chem-suit and devouring her even before her heart quit beating.
Inquisitor Rafael V’haulston knew what kind of man he was. He knew that without him this plague would never have been dreamed of. He now understood the danger associated with dealing with Chaos. His chance meeting with Fabius Bile convinced him that living for the Emperor and watching over the weak was a lost cause. Fabius Bile had promised he would be rewarded for his help, but he never expected any of this.
Even as his oxygen supply failed and he fought with all his might he knew he was lost. He knew there would be no chance of redemption and he knew, even as the flesh was torn from his arms and face, even as he screamed his last breath, that this was the end.
A good reputation take a long time to build, but only a moment to destroy. Wow, that's deep!
Check out the H.O.E.S. short story competition.
Other stories from Adrian.
Look up Adrian in the "Compendium" to find them. Thanks