I find myself standing amid my squad mates in the brig. But amazingly, I am not the one to be executed. We stand at attention, Lasguns raised to our shoulders. We all tremble slightly as the prisoner is brought in. He is already blindfolded, walking as if beaten. He is chained before us, prepared for execution all for voicing his thoughts aloud.
I can feel Inquisitor Delania staring at my back from the catwalk above and behind us. Was it my staring at her that brought this detail on our squad? Is this a test for us?
Our Sergeant steps forward to issue the firing orders. We all follow in unison, moving as if at drill, yet shaking. We're barely more than kids and yet have been ordered to execute one of our own. As the order comes, I aim my Lasgun at the man, my hands trembling. I cannot even keep my aim steady: maybe I'll miss. As the order to fire comes, I close my eyes, not wanting to know if my shot hits. I envision my shot going wide as I pull the trigger.
I hear a body slump and slowly open my eyes, hearing Inquisitor Delania moving down from the catwalk. I can only see one wound on the man, burned deep in his chest. The scorching on the walls indicates most of us missed. The Inquisitor steps to my side, taking the Lasgun from my hands. "Well done, Tierios," she says, her voice sounding so sweet. "It seems you are the only one with the conviction to execute a traitor." She looks around to my squad mates, some ghostly pale.
"Take the rest back to the hanger and continue loading, Sergeant," Delania instructs. She hands my Lasgun to my sergeant as he leads the rest of the squad out. My legs turn to mush as I am left alone with the Inquisitor. I want nothing more than to pass out but it does not happen.
Delania steps away from me but turns back to size me up. "You surprise me boy. And I'm not easily surprised these days." It is only now that I cannot look at her. "I didn't expect any of you to hit." She sighs softly, moving toward the door and motioning me to follow. My legs numbly comply as she leads me from the brig.
"War is no place for children," she explains. "Your squad will need more training before we arrive at Draugr. I expect you to continue to set the example. Perhaps you will earn more honour on this mission." I listen silently, wondering what honour I had earned. "For now, you may re-join your squad. But you will dine in the officer's mess tonight. You need to be rewarded for your actions."
I still feel numb from the execution detail. The looks I got from my own squad mates, let alone everyone else have put me at unease. They whisper around me, making furtive glances in my direction. Even the sergeant seems hesitant to order me.
We finished loading the transport and as per the Inquisitor's new orders reported for a long session of target practice. Everyone was careful to not shoot at their best. Like me, they had fired with their eyes closed at the execution.
Dining with the officers was thoroughly unenjoyable. The Inquisitor and Lord Commissar took turns praising my "honourable actions." It was all I could do to not be sick and I ate very little. A medal was then pinned to my uniform for valorous service to the Imperium. I plan to lose it after planet-fall on Draugr. The stares it gets make me uncomfortable. It's not as though they are jealous. The others seem to fear me, as though I have become an extension of the Inquisitor. I can hear the jeering whispers that call me her "new favourite." I fear she may soon come to me, asking for reports on the "heretical actions" of those around me.
But for tonight, I am exhausted yet unable to sleep. The hard work of today should have seen me collapse on my bunk like the past week; ever since we left orbit of Drisinta. But there is much on my mind tonight. The heavy thrum of the Warp Drive is not all that keeps me awake.
Even two nights after the execution I am having trouble sleeping. It seems the staring has grown worse, despite me having no contact with the Inquisitor since. But word has spread through the whole ship; perhaps the whole fleet. The veterans' looks of pity have changed when they look at me. It's as if they know my future and I may not like what is to come.
The chrono on the barrack wall tells me I have been lying here for some time. All others seem asleep in their bunks. Yet, I can hear the subtle sound of footsteps; the footsteps of one trying not to wake anyone. As I sit up, looking for the bearer of the footsteps, a figure comes from the shadows. All I can see is an outline, though the person is nearly beside me.
"Tierios," a harsh voice whispers. "Inquisitor Delania requests your presence." I sit unmoving, dumbstruck by this "request." Not a demand but a request. "It would be unwise to keep the Inquisitor waiting," the voice adds.
I quickly get to my feet and dress. We are soon walking in the lit corridors of the ship. The speaker is Delania's apprentice but he is very different than her. He wears black armor and has shaved all his hair. "Why does she want to see me," I ask casually, unable to help my curiosity.
does not disclose everything to me, guardsman
." His voice is crisp and condescending. "And you would do well to keep that curiosity of yours in check."
We make our way to the upper decks and the quarters of the ship's officers. Our path has had nobody else on it the whole time. I begin to realize the reason for the late hour is to keep anyone from seeing me going to the Inquisitor's quarters. After some time, my escort stops in front of one of the doors. He enters a code I cannot see on the panel and the door slides open.
We step into a small ante-chamber with two other doors. The apprentice points to the one on the right. "The Inquisitor is waiting for you. I suggest you mind whatever manners you have in her presence." He moves to the other door and steps through, leaving me alone. I straighten up as I approach the door and step through.
The room beyond is quite large and well furnished, brightly lit but not too bright. It has a small dining area and several chairs clustered on the far side. Through a doorway, I can see the sleeping area with a large and lavish bed. I cannot help but be jealous of how much space this one person has. Inquisitor Delania is sitting in what looks to be a comfortable chair on the far side of the room.
She looks up from a musty tome, the cover written in a script I cannot recognize. She smiles slightly, setting the book aside. She is not in her white armor but what looks to be silk sleepwear, a pale blue. I quickly stop myself from looking at her attractive figure and instead focus on her one green eye.
The Inquisitor's smile fades a little as she looks me over. "You've not been sleeping, Tierios." Se stands from her chair, walking toward me. "I need my men to be well rested. What's keeping you awake," she asks, her tone concerned.
I shift uncomfortably, not used to others concerned for my well-being. But I can't tell her what is really bothering me; I cannot gauge how she would react. "I just can't sleep, Inquisitor."
Inquisitor Delania smiles again. "I would think all the extra practice I assigned your squad would have you exhausted, Tierios. No matter." She steps closer and begins to circle around me. She takes one of my arms and raises it, gently squeezing it with both her hands. "Hmm. Not much to you is there?"
I blush slightly, knowing I'm considered scrawny by most standards. But surely my training in the Imperial Guard has built some muscle. The way my arms ached when I was first conscripted ... "I-I guess not, Inquisitor."
"Well," Delania begins, lowering my arm and continuing to walk around me. "Not all Guardsmen can be from Catacha," she whispers softly, perhaps mournfully. Her hands caress my backside, gently squeezing.
"In-Inquisitor," I ask softly, finding my voice catching in my throat.
She comes around, smiling wider now. "Do I make you nervous, Tierios?"
"No, Inquisitor. I ..."
"Of course I do," she cuts me off softly, moving away. "It comes with my title. I'm supposed to make you nervous. That's why you still refer to me as 'Inquisitor,' even in private." She sits down again and points to the chair beside her. "Sit."
I move slowly and lower myself into the seat, keeping my eyes on her. The chair is more comfortable than my bunk and lack of sleep causes me to relax some. "From now on, I want you to call me by my name when we're here."
I sit up suddenly. Is she implying I will be in her chambers more often. "I-I can't. It's ..."
"Don't make me order you, Tierios," she says softly, no hint of threat. She smiles a little wider. "Or is that what it takes to make Guardsmen obedient?" She stands again, the smile fading. "Think about what I'm offering you, Tierios. The favor of an Inquisitor can go a long way. Careers in the Imperial Guard are made and broken by my peers and I." She pours herself a glass of water from a pitcher at the table.
Our eyes meet again as she sips the water. But I don't know how to respond. She presses a button on the command panel on the table. Within moments, her apprentice strides into the room. I stand quickly, feeling I should. "Take him back to the barracks, Malos." I move across the room to follow, but Delania holds out her arm to stop me. "I expect more cooperation from you next time I summon you," she says harshly but adds more in a soft whisper, Malos out of earshot. "Try to get some sleep before then."
A couple of days have passed since I was summoned to the Inquisitor's chambers. Word has already spread that I left my bunk in the middle of the night. But rumors told among the men say several others have been receiving late night summons. The fact that nobody has been executed or detained has made things easier for me.
My squad-mates no longer regard me as a pawn of the Inquisitor. If anything, they believe she is displeased with me as our time spent training has increased. I cannot help but wonder if this is true though her interest in me has been uncomfortable. But the increased training has at least allowed me to sleep easier.
Our mornings have been consigned to running laps around the main corridors of the barracks decks. This morning we've already run for an hour and the sergeant shows no sign of issuing the order to stop. We are all dripping in sweat but hold the pace. I feel the blood pounding through my body, my heart surging within my chest.
As I fall to the deck, I fear my muscles have finally given out. It is only as a power surge makes the lights flicker that I realize the ship had been jolted. I quickly scramble back to my feet as the sergeant orders us to the armory. Red emergency lights begin flashing as the ship is jolted again, further power fluctuations surging through the ship.
As we approach the armory, a power conduit explodes, showering another squad in flecks of molten metal. The ship bucks once more as we race past and into the armory. "What's going on," my sergeant demands of the armory staff as we grab Lasguns.
"The Gellar Fields went offline in the port stern lower decks. Before they were re-activated there was a Daemonic incursion."
We all tense up, checking the charge of our weapons, knowing we could all die. "How many Daemons got on board," our sergeant asks.
"Unknown. But if they can shut down the Gellar Fields again, it won't matter." We quickly follow our sergeant from the armory toward the point of incursion.
My heart continues to pound but new waves of adrenaline keep me going. But as the ship jolts sharply to the left, the gravity generators cannot compensate. We are thrown against the wall and then dropped to the deck. We pull ourselves up, the ship beginning to list. I fear the worst as I can hear the guttural Daemon babble in the distance, screams of our fellow guardsmen occasionally echoing up the corridors.
We round a corner and encounter a group of the red fiends. They seem to be cheering as they hold aloft the bloody skulls of their victims. We do not hesitate to open fire and cleanse the ship of these wicked abominations. But our fire draws the attention of something worse. Before we can fire more than a few shots, the new enemy is upon us. The red beasts covered ground quickly given the hulking muscle of their four legs and they snarl and drool as they drag my companions down. The rest of us keep firing but most of these beasts seem immune to our shots.
One leaps over the others to push me to the deck. Its hulking mass holds me down, drool dripping from its fanged maw. I am unable to struggle as it lowers its head to kill me.
A bolter shot rings out and the great beast slumps to the side, falling off me. Blood oozes from its head as the beast melts back into the warp. I look up to see Inquisitor Delania leap into the beasts, her sword slicing through them as if passing through air. But I cannot watch as I roll to side, sick spewing from my mouth. My arms shake as I try to push myself up. I was within an inch of death's frigid embrace.
"Get up," the Inquisitor orders me from above, nudging me in the ribs with her foot. I look around to see no trace of the Daemons, but only myself and two others have survived from my squad. "Get up!" This time she practically kicks me.
I drag myself up and grab a Lasgun. "Wha ..."
"The fleet has been pulled back into real space by a warp rift. But we still have Daemons on board. You three are coming with me!" She starts down the corridor and we fall in line behind her. As we head for the plasma reactors, we pick up the remnants of other squads.
The power surges seem to be increasing but we find no Daemons on the way to the reactors. "It would seem the Daemons have decided on sabotaging the ship since our escape from the warp," Inquisitor Delania comments.
As we enter the engineering section, we find ourselves in the midst of battle. Guardsmen are firing on large groups of the various red creatures who in turn rush the shootings, slashing with jagged blades or chomping wth massive jaws. There are Daemons not involved in the fighting hacking or gnawing on power supplies. We quickly add our firepower to the others, trying to end the infestation.
The battle rages for several brief but intense minutes. As I fire I catch glimpses of Delania whirling through the red fiends in a deadly dance. Her power sword cleaving several in half and lopping heads from others. She turns and fires a bolter round that just misses my head. I turn to see it fell the Daemon coming from behind me. "Pay attention to the enemy!"
I heed her words and go back to shooting as many of the Daemons as I can. We slowly manage to turn the tide as reinforcements arrive; a luxury the Daemons don't have. But even before the battle's end I know we have suffered heavy loses and damage to our fleet.
As we prepare to move on, I notice a skulking shadow near the Inquisitor. She is breathing heavy from fighting so many Daemons and despite her targeter does not see the shadow. Without thought, I rush towards the shadow as it leaps out, revealing one of the red beasts. I fire furiously, the beast howling as my shots hit. But its dead bulk continues its leap ... right toward me. It slams me into the deck before fading back to the warp.
My vision blurs as the back of my head hits hard. I lay motionless, looking up as Inquisitor Delania enters my fading field of vision. She is smiling down at me, though that quickly fades to a frown. As everything goes dark, I note the concern she wears on her face. Concern for me, a lowly guardsman.
(Sorry for the delay everyone. I've been wondering where this story is going as it has become far bigger than intended originally. I changed the name to better suit where things are going but I still view this as a companion to 227-5. Where a Necron Warrior feels nothing and has no background of note, Tierios is the opposite.)
It took me several moments to even realize I was conscious. The glaring light of the medical center seemed to dim and people and objects took shape. Sound slowly began to filter in; the screams of my injured comrades most noticeable. My mind felt sluggish and it would be quite some time before I pieced everything together. But it was soon clear that I was better off then most.
"He's awake," a voice said above me.
"Then get him out of here! We need the space for real
I was helped to my feet, feeling dizzy, my head throbbing. I heard a nearby scream and looked to see somebody being fitted with a prosthetic arm. I was quickly lead past scores of others with severed limbs or missing eyes. I turned to my escort to ask something.
"Don't speak. You still need rest in your bunk." I was conveyed out of the medical center where an uninjured veteran took my escort's place.
"Take it easy, kid. You've got medical leave to rest and you'd better use it while you can. The fleet's in disarray right now." As the veteran tells me this, I notice we are walking past technicians working; access panels removed, exposing the ship's power conduits.
It is not long before we reach the barracks; left dark as power has been re-routed to critical systems. The veteran gets me to my bunk and promptly leaves. But I don't have long to feel alone before I fall aleep again.
In only a day's time I was expected to be capable of aiding the repair effort. I was assigned to a hull repair team where fortunately, the zero-G environment made me less dizzy. That was of course as long as I kept my eyes on the hull and not the surrounding sea of stars. It was only during meals and night that I was not in an environmental suit for the next three days. But in the guardsmen mess, the news was spreading amongst our ranks.
Officially, the officers had told us nothing, but we all new the rumors to be true. We had lost two of our 12 cruisers, though nobody seemed to know if they had been destroyed by the Daemons or had not been sucked through the Warp Rift. The battleship was also not capable of Warp travel for almost a week.
While the remaining ten cruisers' Gellar Fields had not been penetrated, the Daemonic incursion had left the battleship suffering. Engineering crews were being transferred from the cruisers to replace those lost but nothing could replace the loss of Guardsmen so far from an Imperium world. We were already within the Eastern Fringe, the nearest sector our destination. We had lost nearly 1/5th of the Guardsmen on board and the officers were scrambling to re-assign the squads. I was one of three from my original squad to survive.
It was on the eve of the Warp jump that a ceremony was held to honour or fallen comrades. Several were given medals, including myself. It was described by all who witnessed my actions in the engineering section that I had saved the Inquisitor's life. In truth, I guess I did, though she had saved many more lives herself, including myself; not once but twice. It was also announced that our squads had been re-assigned and our regimental commissars would announce the new squads en-route to Draugr.
That night, I was summoned to Delania's quarters again. When I arrived, she was shouting into a data recorder. " ... don't care how few Astartes are on Crepuscular. You will
send reinforcements to Draugr!" She looked up to see me and quickly coded the message to be sent.
"Sorry, Tierios, business." She is wearing sleepwear again but this time it is a white, fine lace material. The outline of her undergarments is just visible. I find myself resentful of her apprentice telling to wear full uniform.
"You're summoning Astartes," I ask softly, trying to avoid staring at her seductive form.
"The Twilight Lords," she says with a heavy sigh. "But their commander says there are only two hundred in the sector right now." She sighs again, rising from her chair. "I don't want to talk about it," she says, examining me, my medals displayed prominently on my chest.
"You're becoming quite useful to the Imperium," Delania says with a smile. "But something is missing from your uniform." She tosses something to me and I catch it. Upon examining it, I see it is a Sergeant's emblem. "Put it on."
"I don't understand."
She crosses to me, taking the emblem. "I wanted to tell you before your commissar." She proceeds to pin it to me and I look down to watch. I find I must quickly look away as her gown's neckline is low and quite revealing. She smiles knowingly and steps back. "That's better," she says, sizing up my "new" appearance again.
"Thank you," I mumble softly as she goes back to her chair and gestures for me to sit in the other.
"It does make you quite handsome." I can feel myself blush. "And I can see the way you look at me. Ever since that day in the hanger." By now my entire face feels hot and I'm sure it is completely red. "Tell me. What is it you find attractive about me."
I gulp heavily, not really sure how to answer. She smiles wider, her face almost glowing. "Not much experience with women, I see." She looks away, clearly pondering something. "I thought your regiment was 'recruited' from street gangs?"
"They were ... I was. But only the strongest could claim conquest rights." I freeze, knowing how those outside the gang typically viewed our practices when it came to women.
"I see," Delania says simply, but I hear the faintest irritation in her voice. "You still have not said what you find attractive about me, Tierios," she says sweetly, changing tact again.
"Inquisitor ..." Her one eye shoots a look at me that practically freezes my blood. I manage to recover before she can scold me. "Delania," I say timidly but she smiles again. "This doesn't ..."
"Seem right? Tierios. You saved my life. I can reward you as I see fit. But if I am to do so, I need to know this." She waits for me to answer her posed question, but my mouth feels dry.
"Your eye," I finally manage to say.
She sits up as if shot, her hand reflexively going to her targeter. "My ... eye?"
I am even more uncomfortable that my answer caught her by such surprise. "I've never seen green eyes," I mutter.
She lowers her hand, a smile slowly returning. "Nobody has ever said that to me." I look into her one eye, but my gaze flits to the rest of her elegant body. I wonder if perhaps I should have said that her body was what I found attractive.
She stands suddenly and walks to me, taking my hand in her's. I stand up and find her kissing me. My reaction is to pull away but her hand presses the back of my head toward her. I close my eyes as she has already done, finding myself enjoying the sensation.
She slowly steps back and I lean forward slightly, reluctant to stop as I had been reluctant to start. I open my eyes to see her smiling wide again. Still holding my hand she leads me into her bed chamber. A strange euphoria prevents me protesting in any way.
Delania kisses me again, her hands moving over my upper body. Almost instinctively it feels, my hands match her movements and she giggles. "Fast learner," she says after leaning back a little. Her hands move quickly, removing my uniform.
With my shirt off and my arms around her, her hands move below my waist. She leans in for what I think is another kiss but goes to one side. Before pulling me down onto the bed, she whispers something in my ear. "Let's be clear. I'm the one claiming conquest rights."
(Please comment while I prepare to post more.)