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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 12-14-12, 07:18 AM Thread Starter
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Default Desolace [40k]




"Duty is the altar upon which men bleed."
- Saint Tuomos Kirschein


It was the heat that got to him, always the heat. Even in this supposedly air-conditioned building, where it was cool enough to take off his vac-sealed helmet, he was sweating profusely.

Marshal D'Albeqaas gritted his teeth and fished a stained rag from a pouch on the exterior of his carapace armor with his free hand—his helmet was tucked under his other arm—and wiped his brow with a clumsy gloved hand. Perhaps that was part of the problem: in spite of the frequent live exercises he participated in, and that he put all of his arbitrators through, he never felt wholly at home in his armor. It was bulky, constricting, and felt little cooler, at times, than the desert outside. What idiot, D'Albeqaas wondered, had had the bright idea of foisting regulation black armor on the arbitrators posted to a Throne-damned desert world? He tucked the rag back into its pouch and glanced irately out the window that made up three of the room's walls again.

His vantage point here in the comms tower provided the best available view of the mining emplacement. The habitation quarters his men were searching lay sprawled out immediately beneath him, nestled into the rugged mountainside. Three mouths yawned open in the sheer rock face along the minehead's left edge, leading out onto the loading area that served as a central plaza: entrances to the mine shafts proper. Five Arbites Rhinos idled on the plaza, their bored crews covering the openings with their pintle-mounted storm bolters.

Inactive processing machinery girded the right side of the loading area, which broke away into the well-used dirt track the Rhinos had taken up the mountain switchbacks to get here. The area's far side dropped away to give a breathtaking view of the tired, ancient desert that stretched to Myria's horizon.

But it wasn't just heat and discomfort in his armor that fed D'Albeqaas's growing frustration. The whole situation felt bad. A question bubbled in his gut and buzzed at the back of his mind, a question he dared not ask aloud in front of his men and that his men dared not ask him. Where was everybody?

Footsteps rang on the metal stairs. D'Albeqaas turned and found Proctor Zyphes approaching.

"Update?" he asked. Unspoken: have you found anyone? He didn't begrudge Zyphes the task of reporting to a superior officer in such a foul mood as his.

"Ah, not much, sir," Zyphes replied, snapping a salute. "Just coming to inform you that Harbess has finished his diagnostics downstairs and made successful contact with Aquinas Base—the vox systems are functioning fine. No reason that we, ah, shouldn't have heard from the arbitrators stationed here."

D'Albeqaas pursed his lips bitterly. It had already been evident from the time they had arrived to find the minehead empty that it wasn't a technical fault that had caused the mine to go silent. It was not some irritated machine spirit that refused to cooperate or a broken transmitter, like he'd hoped setting out. Still, he'd had to check, and what pieces of the puzzle he'd found so far had left him only more bewildered—and infuriated. Undisturbed beds, no signs of violence: something stranger was at work here, something that had spirited away the population of the mine, overseers and all, and he'd be damned if he knew what.

"All right," he snapped. He refastened his helm, sinking himself back into a world with limited visibility, a world that smelled of acrid sweat and poorly purified air. He spoke into his vox: "All squads, come in. Return to the staging point. If we haven't found anything yet, we're not liable to. Time to head down into the tunnels. Dismissed."

Zyphes saluted again and turned on his heel, heading back down the stairs to the operations room of the comms tower. D'Albeqaas received confirmations from his other proctors, picked his shotgun up off the table, and slowly followed Zyphes downstairs. He took Squad Alpha back out to the plaza, where they were soon joined by Proctors Bowde and Mesry, who led Squads Gamma and Delta, respectively.

"Beta and Epsilon," he snarled over the helmet vox, "you're tardy. Gaur, get your ass out here."

"Yes, sir. Coming, sir." D'Ableqaas could almost hear Proctor Gaur biting back a retort. Of course the two squads that Gaur had led deeper into the complex would take longer to extricate themselves. Gaur was a fine officer, D'Albeqaas recognized, but it did him good to keep him in line, and to remind him that results were what mattered, not excuses.

"All right," D'Albeqaas said, turning back to the assembled three squads. "Alpha, you're with me down the center. Bowde: you and Gamma have the right tunnel. Mesry and Delta: the left. Gaur: you and Cheris will hold Beta and Epsilon up with the Rhinos as a rearguard. All of you: until we know otherwise, we assume the worst—that the convicts have overwhelmed the garrison and are hiding out in the mine. Keep firm trigger discipline, though; I'll want a report and mandatory volunteer castigation hours from anyone who fires at shadows. Move out."

The squads hefted their shotguns and riot shields and marched past the Rhinos with crisp discipline. D'Albeqaas and Squad Alpha led. He could hear Mesry belaboring her squad to keep in tighter formation (unnecessarily, as it were—but he approved of his proctor's belligerence). Behind them, Gaur and his squads were emerging from the housing complex.

The thick layer of gravel crunched beneath his feet as he approached the minehead. His suit was sweltering, as ever, but he dared not take it off. The armor was a variant of Arbites gear not usually issued, but considered a necessity for the operation of these equatorial penal mines. Without proper protection, Myria's blazing sun would cook a man within minutes.

It was too quiet. The only noises were the clatter of his soldiers, the subdued rumble of the idling Rhinos, and the faint whistling of the wind as it slashed itself across the jagged ridge. None of the usual machinery thrummed beneath the earth. No overseers barked commands at clanking gangs of convicts. As his squad neared the gaping maw of the mine shaft, D'Albeqaas checked his shotgun, making sure that it was ready. If the mine was occupied by hostiles, now would be the time that they made their move, so he had to be sure that-

Wild shrieks shattered the sweltering silence. Workers burst from the mine shaft mouths, their bare flesh exposed to the blistering heat. Their shouts sounded utterly unhinged: not cries of pain, but howls of insane, boundless rage. What was this madness? The heat would char the miners' skin in minutes; every breath would sear their lungs. Nevertheless-

'Address!' barked D'Albeqaas. His squads drew into tight lines and raised their riot shotguns. He cursed himself mentally for not moving up supported more closely by Beta and Epsilon. His own squad, farthest forward, would bear the brunt of the wave. 'Respond!'

Shotguns roared, spraying the oncoming mob with buckshot. Penal miners staggered, but none fell. The front rank had been bloodied but their charge continued unfazed. The arbitrators fired again. Several miners collapsed, but the press of bodies carried the remainder forward, injured or not. As the enemy closed the last few meters, D'Albeqaas's men let their third and final volley fly to devastating effect.

The five arbitrators in the front rank locked their riot shields en echelon and braced themselves as the mob crashed into them. Nevertheless, the thunderous impact nearly swept them off their feet. Shotgun blasts from D'Albeqaas and the rear blew miners back, relieving the pressure on the front and freeing the shield-bearers to swing their power mauls.

Miners died, their flesh roasted by electrostatic discharges; holes blasted in their torsos; their bones broken; and their limbs severed. Those slain were swiftly replaced by more of the crazed criminals, whose charge spilled around the edges of the small arbitrator formation. They clawed at the arbitrators' unguarded sides as the squad shifted to meet the foe. One arbitrator, then a second, was torn down, dragged out of line and into the voracious, grasping mob, before D'Albeqaas's men could reform into a bristling, deadly ring.

Crazed penal miners piled over the broken corpses of their compatriots and each others' flailing bodies to get at the squad. They tore at the arbitrators with their heat-scorched hands, their crude weapons, and their jaws.

The arbitrators fought back, pumping shell after shell into the writhing mob and lashing out with power mauls. D'Albeqaas saw the other arbitrator squads moving in on the melee, weapons firing. The Rhinos' pintle-mounted storm bolters stitched bloody furrows through the mob.

D'Albeqaas blew the face off another lunging attacker and his shotgun clicked empty. He clubbed the next miner, a scrawny woman, back and fumbled for his holstered bolt pistol. An armored face jerked into sight, a man wearing a standard arbitrator-overeer's armor and half-helm—not one of D'Albeqaas's task force, who all wore environ-sealed masks and rebreathers. A throne-damned looter; it had to be. The man lashed out with a flaring power maul and shattered the neck of the arbitrator beside D'Albeqaas.

D'Albeqaas cursed and lunged forward, grabbing the man's arm in an attempt to disarm him. His opponent batted his grip aside with a standard Arbites counter, and D'Albeqaas jerked away.

This was no miner in stolen gear. Here stood one of the mine's original, conditioned overseers, fallen as far into madness as his penal charges. The traitor laughed scornfully at D'Albeqaas.

Blind, unreasoning fury surged through D'Albeqaas, and he leapt from the relative safety of his squad's formation to lash out with his shotgun. He swung his gun by the grip, as if it were a child's bat, and knocked the arbitrator back.

The power maul came around to parry his second blow, but D'Albeqaas had expected that. He grabbed the enforcer's wrist, yanking his opponent close, and rammed his armored forehead into the man's bare chin.

The man staggered back again, spitting blood and teeth. His lips were already blackened and splitting from the deadly heat, but his face was still locked in a crazed grimace.

D'Albeqaas didn't let him recover his balance. He swung the shotgun again, slamming its full weight into the enforcer's face. The man dropped, and D'Albeqaas followed him to the ground. The marshal rammed the shotgun butt repeatedly into the enforcer's mouth and nose.

The man was surely dead, but that didn't matter to D'Albeqaas. He kept pounding at the corpse. This scum had attacked him, killed one of his men, and broken his holy oath of service! Rage coursed through D'Albeqaas's being as he smashed the overseer's face into a pulp.

Another miner crashed into D'Albeqaas from behind, knocking him off the fallen man and to the ground. The miner landed atop him, scrabbling at his helmet. D'Albeqaas pistoned his fist up, knocking the wind out of the man. He rolled aside and grabbed the dead traitor's power maul, then scrambled back to his feet and slammed the maul down, dispatching the winded miner. Another tried to tackle D'Albeqaas, once more from behind. He roared with fury, shouldered back into the assailant, and whirled to crush the wretch.

A shotgun blast removed the back of his new-found challenger's head. Black-armored forms, D'Albeqaas's men, marched past, their guns barking.

He pushed away his bloodlust and looked around, taking stock of the battlefield. Corpses of more than a hundred miners littered the ground, interspersed by the occasional carapace-armored figure. Some of the latter were his men, but more... could no longer be counted such.

As the last of the miners were dispatched, vox reports filtered in:

"Five dead, three from Alpha-"

"-get these three back into the Rhinos, now! They've lost their helmets-

"-were they thinking? It's just insane-

"-sir? What do you-"

"-handful of incapacitated-"

He shook off helping hands, letting his newfound power maul hang limp in his grasp as he took stock of the situation. The enemy welcoming party had decimated his five squads. There were far more than this hundred penal workers stationed here, he knew, too. Closer to six times that, plus forty arbitrators. What had prompted them to this? And if they had all turned to this inexplicable madness, he considered with horror...

The necessary cleansing would be bloody.


Blood. The word resonated in his mind and dragged his gaze downward. The red, iron-rich soil was greedily drinking in the blood bloodblood of the fallen and running into depressions in the plaza's flat, dusty ground.

Depressions shaped almost like...sigils.

Throne of Terra, no.

'Get back!' D'Albeqaas howled into his voxbead. 'Fall back to the Rhinos!'

The sigils flared with unholy light and convulsed, sending a painful shudder through the ground and through his gut. The blood bloodbloodblood was a ritual, a God-Emperor damned summoning-

Reality shrieked and the gore-soaked earth, unnaturally rich and dark, swam upward into shapes.

Terrible, terrible shapes.


CSM Plog, Tactica

What sphinx of plascrete and adamantium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Imperator! Imperator!
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 12-14-12, 07:23 AM Thread Starter
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Yup, starting this up again! Those who read it last time will notice a substantially different beginning, before it verges into familiar territory. I felt that the story benefitted from a slightly less abrupt beginning, all told, and a little gentler exposition--plus we get some more character development out of D'Albeqaas. Expect more such changes to come as I edit and repost the first half of this, then new stuff as I write the rest.

Yes, I'm aware, I should be focusing on my HOES competition entry. But I go where the muse leads me, in this case, and I should think that some of you lot will be happier for the fact that I'll be spending less time on my entry--so, logically, it should be correspondingly poorer when I get around to posting it. I think I can still pull both of these projects off, though...

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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 12-14-12, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Mossy Toes View Post
Yup, starting this up again!
But that will force me to read it again! Oh the inhumanity!

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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 12-15-12, 01:17 PM
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Sweet decision Mossy

Have You Hugged Your Dread Today ?
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 12-16-12, 10:35 AM Thread Starter
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Blood and blood-soaked earth coalesced into pillars that coagulated into hulking crimson figures. Flesh formed and distorted as bulging muscles flowed fluidly into place. Jagged black blades and horns sprouted from the swirling morass of blood. Gaping, fang-toothed maws split these daemons' faces, from which unraveled slavering tongues. Their skins were slick with the ichor of their birth, and their eyes and mouths burned with an internal infernal fire. Their faces and forms were those of the predator incarnate, spilled from the Archenemy's deepest hells and mankind's oldest nightmares. Nearly thirty of these beasts rose, scattered across the length and breadth of the yard.

This happened in a mere handful of seconds. The nearest creature leapt into D'Albeqaas's fleeing squad with a fluid grace, it's blade licking out to decapitate Proctor Zyphes then ram home into the gut of another arbitrator. The hellblade pierced through the woman's carapace armor as if it were a sheet of foil. D'Albeqaas screamed in horror and rage and lunged toward it with his power maul. He had no illusions about survival. All that he could do was buy his men, his squad, time to escape.

The blood-soaked beast flowed around his swing with grace and ease. It tore its blade from the stomach of the already-dead arbitrator and lashed out with shocking, blurred speed. D'Albeqaas flailed out in a desperate parry. The force of the blow shattered his power maul, spraying its internal workings in an arc of small mechanical pieces and lubricant, and knocked D'Albeqaas back. Sweat stung his eyes, blinding him. He fired his bolt pistol wildly at the beast, attempting to ward away the follow-up blow he knew was already on its way.

The shots bought him the time he needed to stagger into a guard position and gather his bearings. The daemon hissed at him, its long tongue flickering. Mocking amusement danced in its eyes. The marshal knew he couldn't survive another such brief exchange of flurry of blows.

A trio of shotgun blasts tore into the beast, ripping holes in its unnatural flesh. It shrieked and turned its attentions back to D'Albeqaas's squad, lunging past him in a blur to open one of the gunners, Arbitrator Harbess, from waist to collar with a slash of its sword. Harbess toppled back, flailing.

D'Albeqaas leveled his pistol and fired rapidly. His bolts blew fist-sized craters in its back. It shrieked, stumbled, and lurched toward another of D'Albeqaas's squad. That arbitrator back-stepped, barely avoiding the flickering blade, and pumped a shotgun round into the daemon's face. It finally fell, its corpse gushing torrents of blood back into the earth.

Screams over the vox-net—screams D'Albeqaas hadn't noticed while fighting for his life. Squad Delta was surrounded, being hacked to bits by half a dozen of the beasts. Proctor Bowde and Squad Gamma were similarly beset. The proctor himself had, incredibly, slain two of the creatures before a third cleaved his legs from his body. It threw his flailing torso into the air and he was tossed from monster to monster in a horrific game of sport. Proctor Gaur, meanwhile, had marshaled Squads Beta and Epsilon with commendable speed and gunned down those beasts closest to them. He was leading his squads back to the Rhinos at a full march, laying down covering fire to support Gamma.

More blood-soaked daemons were forming even as the battle raged, sloughing from liquid up off the ground into their obscene, unnatural forms. More, certainly, than were being slain.

Another quintet of the daemons loped rapidly toward D'Albeqaas and Squad Alpha. The arbitrators leveled arms, blasting away at the creatures with shotguns and killing one through sheer weight of fire, but D'Albeqaas knew it wouldn't be enough. These things were too tough, too agile, and too numerous.

Engines roared. A Rhino smashed into the creatures, crushing one and forcing the others to scramble aside. D'Albeqaas seized the opportunity to pick off another with a pair of well-aimed bolt shells, blowing apart its skull.

Another Rhino pulled to a halt behind him and his men, slewing to the side to give them access to the side door. “Get in!” shouted the driver, revving the engine. D'Albeqaas and his survivors were quick to do so, dragging the badly-injured Harbess into the vehicle.

“To Gamma!” D'Albeqaas shouted. "Support!"

The driver gunned the vehicle toward the beleaguered Squad Gamma, not pausing to close its doors. Another member of D'Albeqaas's squad, Arbitrator Mycot, scrambled up the hatch to the pintle-mounted bolter.

D'Albeqaas assessed the field again. Two of the Rhinos were picking up Squads Beta and Epsilon, but the fifth vehicle had been carved apart by massed hellblades—detracked, its doors chopped open, and its driver and gunner butchered. As D'Albeqaas watched, the last arbitrator of Squad Delta was cleaved in two by one of the daemons. Another grabbed one of the four standing members of Squad Gamma and tore into him, tearing through carapace armor and into flesh with long, powerful talons.

A sustained burst of bolt fire from Mycot tore the daemon to shreds. The Rhino drove the others back with its bulk as it slid to a halt by the three surviving members of Squad Gamma. They staggered into the vehicle and it was rolling again, spinning around to get out. Mycot blazed away above the hatch, pounding more daemons to a pulp through weight of bolter fire.

The Rhino's doors began to shudder shut, but a last sight stuck in D'Albeqaas's horrified mind: Proctor Bowde, his legs lost, his armor shredded, his exposed flesh deeply scored by claw-marks and roasting in the heat—but still alive. He reached beseechingly toward the receding Rhino as still more daemons approached him from every side.

Blood sprayed from above, trickling down into the troop compartment. Mycot slumped, slipping down the turret well—his head and right arm missing. A daemon peered down through the open hatch, hissing from its perch atop the careening Rhino. D'Albeqaas cursed, firing up through the hole.

The daemon screeched and lurched back. The Rhino's driver swerved hard and the daemon toppled from its perch. D'Albeqaas clambered forward through the Rhino's hold to the ladder, pushed Mycot's body aside, and climbed up himself.

The minehead was receding. The four surviving Rhinos were driving away as fast as their machine spirits allowed, easily outdistancing the daemons that loped after them. As D'Albeqaas watched, the beasts gave up, staring hatefully after the receding arbitrators.

D'Albeqaas slumped, exhausted and aching, as the Rhinos wound their way down the hillside. They had done it. At a grievous cost, to be certain—he had lost more than half of his command—but they had survived. They had escaped the servants of Hell and lived to tell the tale.


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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 12-16-12, 10:59 AM Thread Starter
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The Rhinos juddered across the roasted rocky terrain, carrying the surviving arbitrators in their iron bellies. The setting crimson sun glared harshly down, as if in admonition of the arbitrators' failure.

Marshal D'Albeqaas sat alone at the front end of the hold, his armor coated in a film of gore. The heat, in the brief time before they had sealed the Rhino to protect the injured arbitrators, had boiled away the wetness, leaving a residue of flaking blood and caked viscera. When he shifted, he shed a fine rain of dried blood. The blood of his own men. Vomit rose in his craw at the recollection, and he choked it back. O Emperor, that such things could exist in this galaxy-

His hands were shaking and he couldn't still them. He stared at them for several blank seconds, then pressed them to the bench on his either side and looked around at the arbitrators in this Rhino. Those few that had survived the massacre, the butchery. All six of them. Six survivors out of twenty, and one of them slowly dying. Perhaps Beta and Epsilon had gotten off more lightly. What he had seen in the yard indicated as much—but he didn't dare get his hopes high.

Harbess was a mess. D'Albeqaas didn't know if he would manage to make it back to Aquinas Base. Arbitrator Sheria, from Squad Gamma, was doing what she could to make Harbess comfortable—insofar as such a thing was possible wearing full carapace in the stifled interior of the Rhino.

He ought to comfort them, his survivors. They needed him now more than ever. He ought to at least speak to them, to assure them that their fallen comrades would be avenged. To tell them that the Emperor was with them even now. But what could he say that wouldn't ring patently false? The Emperor here in this pit of despair, this ragged flight? Vengeance against that, so recent in memory? D'Albeqaas couldn't bear the thought of such hollow hypocrisy.

He clamped back a convulsive shudder. He felt sick. Sick to the stomach; sick to the soul. A dull, blurred emptiness rang in the hollow space left by the hateful, bloodthirsty rage that had filled him earlier.

The miners' madness and their deaths—as one-sided as the arbitrators' reciprocal slaughter—that had been the Archenemy's catalyst. It had used the righteous actions against His Servants to fashion their undoing. The death, the blood, and the arbitrators' righteous hatred: all of these had been tapped by that summoning. They, the arbitrators, had helped conjure those daemons.

The thought set the marshal's stomach roiling even worse. He clamped down on his gut, focusing on breathing steadily. Think what the arbitrators would think if he vomited. Perhaps he ought to comfort them—but failing that, he would remain aloof. He couldn't afford to let them see weakness. Let them think him to be a pillar on which they could lean, no matter how fragile his interior. Nothing would be worse for morale than showing weakness now.

The worst part wasn't the deaths, though. It wasn't the humiliation, or failure of duty. He had done as much as he could against the greatest horror the galaxy could throw at him: the vaunted Archenemy, the mythical Daemon. He had done all he could do: survive.

The worst part was the recognition of how outclassed he was: the awe he felt for that which he knew to be utterly wrong. The daemons had been revolting and horrifying... but they had also been consummate killers. They had been predators, expert warriors, avatars of warfare. They had been skill and slaughter enfleshed. No mere man could match that. He was pathetic compared to those entities; a cringing scrap of flesh in which to sheath a blade. He was nothing, and humbled for it. How could the Imperium, mankind, face such a foe and win? To that, there was the simplest of answers: it couldn't.

He needed—he needed to take council from Chastener Ripula, Aquinas Base's spiritual guide. Where was he now, if not in a crisis of faith? He needed to contact Judge Kuoras and high command. He needed to alert authorities higher than himself about the Moral Threat that had erupted beneath his command—and to suffer the consequences for having allowed it to be birthed.

He shifted, shedding a dust of human viscera, and looked out the Rhino's frontal view slot. The sun was setting on the barren vista. Soon, the temperature would plummet below freezing. Already the winds, the cold gusts from beyond the terminator that shrieked in to replace the rising heat, were rising. The bitter elements, in their stark extremes, were this planet's greatest sculptors, and humbled the constructions of man.

The desolace sculpted by such elements stretched out before him: an endless sea of baking sands that stretched from the mountains from which they descended to the far horizon, broken by chaotic jumbles of jutting rock, haphazard pillars, and similar edifices of nature. Web-like scatterings of deep ravines were the only remnants of waterways boiled away millions of years ago. Red stone mesas and buttes rose in the distance like jagged fingers, thrown into sharp contrast by the setting sun.

The hollow emptiness of that rugged landscape touched something in D'Albeqaas, some hidden vein of pathos to match the losses of the day. He let himself get lost in the wilderness, discarding the bruised trappings of his flesh, the uncomfortable confines of his carapace armor, in favor of the oblivion of letting his eyes choose their own path.

He didn't know how long he stayed there, staring. It was entirely dark, though, by the time that the shuddering of the Rhino shook him from his reverie. Harbess had quietly died. Had D'Albeqaas fallen asleep? No, he had not. He did not think that he would be able to sleep without nightmares for some time to come, in any case.

The vox was crackling. It had been asking for him for some time, he realized. Aquinas Base had come into contact range. Had the other Rhinos voxed ahead the news? Throne, but he didn't want to have to explain to the arbitrators under his command what had occurred today. There was no way—no way at all—that they could understand what he had seen. They would think him a coward, or worse, broken. But there was no avoiding it. He had put off his responsibilities long enough. He crossed the hold and crouched beside the voxcaster, picking up the receiver.

“Coming in, Aquinas Base,” he said. “Marshal D'Albeqaas speaking.”

+Finally,+ came a gravel-voiced response—not one of the usual vox-officers, and with a curtness wholly unsuited to an arbitrator speaking to a superior officer. +About time you reported back. I'm sure that you have a great deal to report. We regret not having arrived before you departed, Marshal, and are glad that you are still alive.+

“I-” D'Albeqaas began, caught off guard by the presence of a stranger. Who could possibly be visiting this desolate equatorial Adeptus Arbites penal base? And how could they possibly know that he had been venturing into danger? “Who is this? What is your authorization level?”

+My clearance is Alpha Phi Iota, Marshal. Far above the scale of your usual interactions, I am sure—though perhaps no longer. I am Brother-Captain Samnite of the Adeptus Astartes, and I hear tell that you have something of a daemon problem.+


CSM Plog, Tactica

What sphinx of plascrete and adamantium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Imperator! Imperator!
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