Wrote this during a lull at work. Let me know what you think. I might write more if people would like it
The rain was incessant.
Sluicing from the acid-etched boards outside the pawnbroker, the thick, black water pooled in the gutters, running over the mixed trash dropped in the streets by the hive city’s tens of millions of inhabitants.
This far down natural light was at a premium, and the electric lighting just as unreliable, leading many of the underhive’s denizens to gather around guttering candles or burning oil drums, trying to rub some scant warmth into their bones.
Still the rain pattered down, soaking everything in filthy, stinking water, finding gaps in the hive’s towering spires – where the blue-bloods lived in relative comfort - and running down to the darkness below.
The hive’s spires were so massive that the rainclouds pouring their polluted load into the gutters actually formed below the spires’ tips, leaving the blue-bloods with a view of shifting clouds wafting through the dark sky.
This far down, below the spires and the rainclouds, it wasn’t only the rain that was filthy, either.
The dregs of Yrabu’s culture padded through the filthy rain in their multitudes, all of them clad in the world’s distinctive woolen greatcoats – Yrabu’s only notable export, and essential to the Imperial Guard’s millions of men. All of the greatcoats worn this far down, however, were threadbare and worn, compared to the tidy, bejeweled examples worn by the heights of society.
The five people watching the pawnbrokers were similarly attired.
As the crowds of underhivers moved around them, the five offworlders seemed insubstantial in the whirlwind of brown and black greatcoats.
Of the five, one was a hulking brute who kept his face hidden beneath his huge cowl - which would of been a small tablecloth in another life. Two lithe, slim women stood beside him, silent and still, poised dancers. To the left of the women, tutting as the rain ate away at his shabby greatcoat, a tall, austere man with the pinched cheeks of an aristo checked a map on a dataslate, his long nose dripping with the rain - and to his left a shorter man sporting a wide metal band over his eyes, waited quietly for a summons.
“This is it,” the aristo said, and pocketed the data slate. His sharp eyes analysed the pawnbrokers shop, checking for exits and defences.
Finding nothing out of the ordinary he paused, tilted his head to one side for a moment, as if listening, then ran his hands under his greatcoat to check his kit.
Finally, with a nod, he signaled his companions forward, crossing the busy street with ease as the massive bruiser pushed them a path.
With a flick of his wrist the aristo bade the others to remain outside, and pushed the door open.
Raas looked up as the bell hung over the door chimed loudly.
At 120-standard, Raas looked about 60, thanks to an expensive regime of rejuvinat treatments that any down-hive shopkeep shouldn't be able to afford – but he ‘had his means’, as Raas himself put it.
The customer was a tall man in an acid-etched greatcoat, tutting as he lowered his hood.
“Sodding rain.” The man said, approaching the counter with a bouncy, genial pace, passing through the shelves and piled goods with ease - though seemingly trying to keep his clothing from brushing the shop’s more sordid items.
Rass just watched – and kept one hand near the shotgun he kept under the counter.
“Evening,” said the customer.
Raas just nodded, noting the bulge at the man’s waist. A pistol, probably a laspistol or an autopistol. Nothing unusual this far down in the underhive.
“What’cn I doya?” said Rass, forcing a smile to his cracked lips.
The man paused, looking around subtly. Raas noted his pale skin and haughty manner – and the way his greatcoat was damaged on the outside – and yet perfectly lined inside with soft, red felt and a silk underlay. He took in the cut of his suit, and hid a smile – uphiver.
“I’m looking for... Ah... Certain items of value.” The uphiver muttered, looking around furtively, his eyes taking in the pawnbrokers’ selection of old vid units stacked in one corner.
“Wotcha meanin?” Rass grunted dryly.
The uphiver drummed his fingers on the counter, leaning in conspiratorially. He locked eyes with Rass’s milky orbs.
“I’m looking for some... Off-world produce...” the man said softly.
Rass kept his face neutral, but his hands moved a little closer to the edge of the counter. “I gots all kindsa foodstuffs from sector planets, or clothing, if that b’yawantin?”
The uphiver shook his head and leaned even closer. “I’m looking for ‘Genius’.”
Rass leaned back slowly, locked eyes with the aristo, then shook his head. “Ain’t got none o’ that, uphiver, yous’d be better lookin elsewise, I ain’t hearin o’ no ‘Genius’.”
The uphiver seemed perturbed, then he shook his head and sighed softly. “That’s a shame. I was hoping we could do this the easy way.”
The door chime rang again, and Rass’s eyes widened as two beautiful women stepped in, pushing their cowls down to reveal ponytails of ebony hair and high, pointed cheekbones, framing black eyes. They were followed by a massive, heavily scarred abhuman - an ogryn, by the size of him - and a slight, slim man with a metal band over his eyes.
Rass looked back to the ‘uphiver’, who produced a medallion from his neckline with a flourish – a stylised ‘I’, with a skull branded upon it.
Rass felt his heart turn to ice.
“Imperial Inquisition,” the ‘uphiver’ said wryly. “You, Tubor Rass, are royally fucked.”
With a speed which defied his advanced age, Rass sprang into motion. Yanking the shotgun from under the counter, he raised it to his hip and blasted the ‘Uphiver’ full in the chest, sending him flying backwards through a counter stacked with knock-off timepieces. Racking the slide, he turned the weapon on the group by the door, loosing another blast, but hitting nothing but air as the abhuman brute pushed the slight man aside, and the two willowy women sprang away from the blast.
Hurling the gun to the floor, Rass bolted through the door behind him, kicking it open and sprinting up the stairs to his pathetic apartment, above the pawnbroker. He grabbed an autopistol from under a pillow on his damp bedding, loosing a few shots at the door as the sound of running feet sounded behind him, and ran for the window.
As the door flew open, revealing the two women - now wearing just tight-fitting bodygloves and brandishing wickedly curved shortswords, having discarded their greatcoats in the wreckage of the store.
Rass gave them the finger, and - with a surprisingly deft jump - hurled himself through the window.
Aiming to land on the balcony of the next hovel over, he pistoned his arms as he jumped, the autogun in his hand windmilling.
The rain soaked his clothes as he soared.
Until he hit a wall of invisible force, face first, and found himself plummeting to the streets.
Rass slowly opened one eye and dragged himself to his feet, peeling his cheek from the wet, sticky pavement.
He swung his shotgun around, sending fat, black raindrops whipping as he searched for a target – and he found one.
Standing in the street 50 metres away, black rain drumming off the metal visor over his eyes, was the slight, thin man who had stood with the now-dead inquisitor.
“KILLED YOUR BOSS! You SHIT!” Rass screamed, raising the gun and squeezing the trigger.
The shotgun bucked in his hand, sending three solid slugs towards the silent, still man - slugs which sparked off an invisible, psychic shield projected a metre in front of him, sending whining ricochets echoing around the alleyway.
Rass was so shocked by the sight he never heard the massive abhuman lumbering up behind him – but he felt the crushing pain of its massive, prehensile paws gripping his gun arm and throat – and a questing paw rubbing his neck, finding the small, black amulet worn there on a silver chain - and ripping it off.
With thunderous pain, Rass felt an incredibly powerful, cold, calculating mind press upon his own, sending waves of agony rippling through his body, freezing it in place. He tried to scream, but found his throat tightened to the point of strangulation.
Said a soft, yet infinitely deadly voice in his mind. “The pawnbroker who can get you anything, if the price is right. Even psi-dampening torques.... Remarkable.”
Rass swiveled his eyes, painfully, and stared at the slight man in the red robes as he approached, one hand outstretched towards Rass’s form, held in the abhuman’s meaty fists. Behind the slight man, the aristo ‘Inquisitor’ staggered out of the pawnshop, heavy body armour showing through the shredded robes he wore.
He wandered over to the slight man, grinning, even as he gripped his belly. “Boss... Can someone else be the ‘Inquisitor’ next time?” he said dryly. “Only, I’m fed up of getting shot at.”
The abhuman gripping Rass let out a low, deep chuckle. “Then you signed up for the wrong job.”
The slight man, however, didn’t smile.
Rass’s eyes widened in shock as the penny finally dropped.
“Yes, Rass. I am Inquisitor Archus Navarri. And we are going to get to know each other... Very well indeed.”
Behind Navarri, the two women – Death Cult Assassins, Rass realised – stepped from the pawnshop’s front door.
Rass felt his body shutting down as the psychic pressure on his throat increased, and he croaked weakly.
As he slipped toward blissful blackness, Rass felt the gossamer touch of a Psyker probing his mind.
“Tell me, Tubor Rass... What you know of the ‘Genius’.”