Hi everyone! This is your friendly neighborhood Commissar Ploss reporting in. I would like to let everyone know that i'll be posting parts of Chapter one as i go along. i'm adding things right now so the entire thing unfortunately isn't done yet, but here is what i have so far for the first chapter. if you would like, you can read the stories previous to this by following the links below. i highly suggest this course of action, because it may not make sense if you don't. please follow the links below to read the previous relevent stories.
At The End Of All Things
(This short story won me the title of "First Heresy Fiction King" and the character is whom all material from here on out is based.)
The Ghost of Iron - Prologue
(This is the Prologue for the novel "The Ghost of Iron." It picks up twenty years after the events in "At the End of All Things." It also introduces a new character.)
And finally, we come to Chapter one of the story. I hope you enjoy this and i would like your feedback. as i update this chapter further, i will color the latest updates in lime green
so that if you have read the rest of the story you can just read the new stuff. Please, Enjoy!
THE FOOD tasted horrible. Nothing he couldn't handle though. Dinner, if that was what you could call it, was never really that exciting. To the amusement of his troopers Captain Bulous held his nose as he shoveled another spoonful of slop into his mouth. He never outwardly complained about the food, but it was common knowledge that he despised it. For the sake of morale, he told himself, he sat with his troopers every night, both planet side as well as in transit, and ate whatever gruesome feast was available that night from the Munitorum stores. He figured that if the troopers had to eat it, then he should have to as well.
Looking around the mess tables he could see the tired faces of his troopers. He wanted badly to give them a break, but he had a deadline to meet. And his troopers knew it too. It was the end of their first day on the job since planet-fall and already they were exhausted. The itinerary that command had given him allowed for only two fifteen minute breaks, one in the morning after breakfast and one at night before dinner. The brunt of the work was done in the afternoon when any normal person would be having lunch. Of course it was very difficult to define normal in the Imperial Guard. But, such was the curse of an Imperial salvage team. You fought like a bastard, then you were expected to work like an Ogyrn.
Mid-spoonful, Captain Bulous felt a tap on his shoulder. Wiping his mouth and cursing his food he spun around on the bench. What he saw startled him. Not two inches from his face stood a set of black fatigues. Not just any old standard fatigues, but a very familiar pair of the more form-fitting pair of female fatigues. He had to admit, the Ordo Medicae had an excellent taste for outfits.
“Eyes up here cowboy.”
He smiled, and was surprised he hadn't recognized her right away. Beautiful brown eyes, and flowing brown hair. Not to mention the best set of...teeth in the regiment. Her name was Paula. Chief medical officer for their operation and the object of his affections since he had first laid eyes on her.
“Did you need something Paula?”
“Thats Chief Medic to you,” she said with a wink. “And yes, I need you in the medical ward immediately.”
There were some wolf-whistles and sarcastic remarks from the troopers around the table.
“Was there something some of you would like to say to the Chief Medic?” He growled at them, staring at each of them in turn. None of them met his gaze. Turning back, he smiled and said, “Yes Doctor, I will meet you there post haste. Head on over while I dispose of this axle grease they call food.”
She saluted and he returned it. And with an alluring smile, she strode off down the row of tables. He watched here walk away, loving every minute of it. There was a certain quality to her walk. One that kept your eyes glued for the duration. The two of them had joked about it casually before, but she had never admitted it. She only walked that way for him. That was one thing that he was sure of. She added a little more sway to it when she thought he was watching.
As she rounded the mouth of the mess tent his gaze was broken. Praise the God-Emperor, she sure was a fine specimen. However, he knew that she was out of his league. He was Guard. She, a high ranking medical officer. It probably would never amount to anything. Oh, but he could dream.
Turning back to the troops at his table he raise an eyebrow and said quite eloquently, “Pray for me lads, for i may never return.” His troopers all laughed and made a series of derogatory hand gestures. “But if i do, it shall be with sweat upon my brow and a smile upon my face!” With a flourish of his hand he bowed to them. Then he turned and jogged down the length of the tent in the direction Paula had gone.
Paula chuckled as she pulled here head back from around the corner. She had stopped to peek back through the entrance of the mess tent once she had gotten out of site, so she had heard everything. She hadn't originally needed him for personal enjoyment, but the more she thought about it, she figured she could probably use the exercise. Oh well, her pleasure could wait. There was a trooper in the medical ward that required attention from the captain first, and if he was telling the truth, her fun would have to be put on hold. For a while.
IT WAS ONLY the end of his first night of travel and already he had come upon some of them. Emperor damn them, they were getting bolder.
In all he counted twenty. Not the largest group he'd seen, but not the smallest either. Just looking at them made his flesh crawl and his blood boil. The climate control systems in his power armor had silently engaged when his core temperature had reached 104 degrees. That was less than four minutes ago. The Orks were gathered around a fire in the middle of their campsite. He had already disposed of their perimeter patrols and by the look of it, he wasn't going to have any trouble with the rest of them either.
He hated the Orks with a passion. As had every single one of his brethren. When they had been alive. The Orks were the reason his chapter had come to this foul planet in the first place. It had been the Orks that had destroyed his home world, Angarius. As such, it was the Orks whom inhabited his every waking thought. They were ever present in his mind. Not only in his curses and litanies, but in his dreams and writings. He could not escape them, nor did he desire to. He would kill them. By the Emperor of Mankind, he would kill them all.
It was almost sport for him now. He new almost everything there was to know about the Orks. Inside and out. He got the most joy from dissecting them. Oh how he loved to tear them apart. He would study their insides as thoroughly as an esholi might study the Imperial teachings in their planetary Scholam. He enjoyed finding their weaknesses and discovering new ways to kill them. He would then test his torturous new discoveries on the foul mutants every chance he could get. He loved to challenge himself by killing larger and larger groups. Over the last few years however, the Orks were fewer in these parts. Not because they had given up on their salvage efforts, quite the contrary. They had doubled, no tripled, their lust for these mountains of scrap. It was their fear of the unknown and unseen guardian who inhabited the battlefield which kept them away. They were spooked.
He smiled to himself, there outside the reach of the firelight. It was him they were afraid of, and he was not about to let that fear subside. Long ago had he cast aside the Iron Diamond of his past and taken upon the title the Orks had given their invisible enemy. He was now, and forever would be, the Ghost of Iron.
Seeing as he should not delay their deaths any longer, he silently stepped into the firelight. As close as he was to them they still did not notice his presence. Oh, but they would. Like a ghost, he silently walked up behind the nearest Ork. He took a little time to observe his prey. This was a big mutant. No doubt an Ork Kommando who had volunteered for this mission, whatever it was. Muscles rippled underneath its green hide. The sight made his grin twist into an insane smirk. He felt like a ghost, and his matte black armor made the firelight bend around him like a daemon. He silently drew his bolt pistol with his left hand, and raised it up to the Ork's skull. It felt surprisingly light. 'You must be hungry for Ork as well old friend,' he though to himself. At nearly point blank range Brother-Captain Lucian Vicarus pulled the trigger. His pistol barked its approval.
“ARE YOU SURE son?'
'Yes sir! As sure as the nose on my face! Well, figuratively speaking, sir.”
Captain Bulous surveyed the youth. The boy was fidgeting slightly sitting on the edge of the examining table. His name was trooper Brillo, first name Ado, nickname 'lucky'. He was just a fledgling Imperial Guard soldier. He had only seen combat once before fate delt him an almost fatal hand. During Brillo's inaugural deployment, Bulous had never taken the time to find out where, the drop ship that Brillo had been riding in took a rocket to its aft end and crash landed behind the enemy's front line. All of his squadmates and the two Astartes pilots had been killed on impact and he had been left to fight for his life alone. For about ten minutes, the time always varied between stories, he held his ground quite viciously behind the wreck of his drop ship. His luck was cut short when he was flanked by a squad of heretics. He took a flechette round to the head that blew out his bottom jaw completely, along with his nose and upper teeth. He had been fortunate enough to be recovered by a second drop ship that had followed their smoking contrail. The commanding party that was overseeing the campaign, Imperial Fists no less, had arranged to have him fitted with an Osmotic grill as a replacement for his lower jaw and face. He also said that he had been awarded the Imperial Medal of Honor for his “heroic defense” of the breech in the enemy's line however, he lost it sometime afterwards. It didn't really add up in the mind of the Captain, but damn, the lucky bastard had fought alongside Astartes. Bulous decided that he would have to hear the whole story sometime.
“Why don't you lay back down soldier, I'll have the doctor vox this information back up to command. I'm sure they'll be interested in it.” He nodded to Paula who quickly left the room. He turned back to Brillo who had his head in his hands and was rubbing his face. Bulous noted the exhaustion in his face. “Your gonna be alright son. I know it shocked you. You probably didn't think that you'd ever see one again, and I don't blame you.”
“Thats just it sir, I wasn't shocked. At least not in a bad way. I'm not sure why sir, but it made me smile...”
AS THE DOOR to the medical ward ground shut behind her, Paula let out a long sigh. She wasn't use to this kind of trouble. Her specialties were in medical trauma; blood, guts, and gore she could handle. These were all tangible problems. Things she could treat and understand. This was nothing like that. There was nothing tangible about this. It was quite unsettling.
She was glad to have people like the Captain who understood things like this. People who based their entire careers around the horrible and the unseen. She realized then that she much preferred her role in the Imperial Guard. There were no surprises in medicine. At least nothing this serious.
Paula hurried herself passed tents and billets were men were rousing themselves for the morning shift. It was the start of the second day planet side for most of them and she was sure that each and every one of them was hoping that this would be the last day of prep work. If they were able to stick to the schedule and were short on surprises – 'surprises' she chuckled to herself – they would be off the planet within a standard month with full cargo holds. Then it would be off to the designated forge world where they would cash in their scrap and then do it all again somewhere else. Wishful thinking.
Rounding the corner between the mess tent and the officers billets, she arrived at the vox station. It was a building that she never really visited that often. Then again she never really had to up until now. She was only now realizing how odd it truly was. The building sat square enough on the ground but the enormous vox towers made it look tiny in comparison. Along the outside walls, wires spewed forth from the building like an infected and leaking pustule. The foundations for the masts themselves looked as though they had budded from the building itself. Crawling with wires and oddly bulbous in shape, they reminded Paula of a tumor she had once seen inside a patient's brain. She chuckled at herself for the comparison. It didn't really apply. There had been nothing they could do for the poor soldier. The diagnosis had ended with a round to the head. It was the least they could do for him.
She thought about the consequences of waking the Lord-General at this time of morning, and hoped that her fate would not be the same as that poor soldier in her memory.
She steadied herself and pushed open the doors.
SHE WASN'T quite sure what she was expecting, but this sure wasn't it. Soldiers, whom she assumed were Guard, were sprawled about the room at various tables and desks. They were all huddled over various pieces of equipment that she could not begin to understand. Most if not all wore jumpsuits of olive green with the top halves trailing behind them. Only then did she notice how hot it was in there. The ventilation system was absolutely horrid. There were a total of three fans moving air that she could see. She could feel her fatigues beginning to stick to her as she stood there.
After a few seconds she was approached by a young half-dressed trooper who called himself Leguier.
He stood at attention and saluted. “Is this your first time in the vox station Doctor?” Leguier asked with a grin. Paula wondered if she really was making it that obvious.
“Yes it is and hopefully, my last,” she said.
“Well, what can I help you with?”
“I need to speak directly to the Lord-General,” she said without hesitation.
Leguier turned and looked at her in quizically. The whole room had gone silent. Every single one of the troops in the room had stopped what they were doing and turned to listen in on the conversation.
“Do you know what time it is? I don't think thats such a-”
“I have the clearance. Vermillion level. From Captain Bulous himself,” she said flatly.
“Bulous huh? Vermillion level? Are you asking for an execution!?”
“Soldier! By the Emperor of Mankind, I require a direct link to the Lord-General's personal quarters aboard the Sister Clara
! Would you prefer it to be your head or mine? Because if you delay me a second longer, we might as well all be executed!”
Leguier let out a long sigh. “Better your head than mine.” He said. “But don't say I didn't warn you.”
“Will you need a side room?”
“Yes I will.”
“Give me a moment to set up a unit in the room to the right and you'll be all set. You can follow me if you like.”
She watched Leguier as he muscled a high gain caster from one of the wall mounts. He carried it over to a little side room off to the right of the main and attached it to another wall mount. She was amazed at how quickly he reconnected the wires to their corresponding jacks.
Leguier wiped his brow with the trailing end of his jumpsuit. She wondered how heavy the caster really was, but bit her tongue. She didn't want to sound any more naïve.
“May I have the clearance codes?” Leguier asked extending a hand. Paula quickly handed over the clearance card. It was a little card signed by the Captain that gave the four digit clearance cipher and channel numbers for the Lord-General's private chambers. Over all of this information was stamped in purple ink the word VERMILLION.
Leguier turned back to the caster and took the headphones from their hanger. He studied the clearance card for a second or two. Turning back to Paula he sighed. “Do you still want to do this?” He asked with a nervous smile.
“No,” she said truthfully. “I'd much rather be disemboweled by a Khorne Beserker, raped in this eye socket by a Carnifex, and then squashed by a Squiggoth! But I'll have to settle for verbal abuse from the Lord-General.”
“How dissapointing,” laughed Leguier.
“I know. Patch me through anyways.”
“Right-O! one verbal black eye coming up!” Leguier exclaimed as he dialed up the channel. “All you have to do is hit 'send' and the caster in his chambers will start beeping incessantly. I'm sure he'll hear it. If he doesn't he's probably dead!”
“One can only hope,” smiled Paula. “I use the headphones right?”
“Aye, and you talk into the speaker right here on the front.” Leguier popped off the cover from the speaker and set it on the table. “Tap it a couple of times until you hear it in the headphones. This set is kinda old.”
“Right, thank you. A little privacy now please,” she said. Leguier handed Paula the headphones, saluted and left the room.
She really didn't want to do this, but she had her orders. This was top order intelligence. There was no way they could keep this from the Lord-General. She adjusted the headphones over her ears, sat down on the chair and punched 'send'.
“Yes trooper Brillo?”
“I know what you're thinking, Emperor knows everyone else is too, but I'm not crazy. I know what i saw. For the Emperor's sake sir, they don't just die like that from any old lasgun. Those were Bolter rounds sir. That's Astartes work.”
“I know Ado, I know. I believe you. But the Lord-General is an ignorant bastard who doesn't give a damn. He wants this job done and done quick. He wont break his stride for a grunt like you. No offense.”
“None taken sir. I know the way the other troops talk about me. Pardon me sir, but they're a bunch of superstitious bastards. They peg me as a lucky charm or something. A lucky charm that's full of hot air. They don't believe me at all. They think that i got transferred to salvage detail because i lost some of my brains from this injury.”
Bulous walked up to the boy and place a hand on his shoulder. “Both you and i know thats not the case. I trust you with my life. As should every single other person in this regiment. I'll shoot any bastard who says otherwise.”
“Thank you sir.”
“I'm serious! One bad word and BLAM! Right between the eyes!”
Brillo laughed. The captain always had a way to turn any bad situation into a good one. No matter how scary or depressing it was.
He needed it too. The first nights events had left him drained and emotionally spent. At least he had been able to tell the captain and Paula what he saw.
A BRISK knock at the door broke off their laughter suddenly. Clearing his throat and flicking his shirt collar, Captain Bulous crossed the room to the door. Leaning towards it he asked, “Who is it?”
“Could one of you men help me with this ridiculous door!” It was Paula.
“Right away! Brillo come help me with this thing!” Urged Captain Bulous.
Together they managed to slide the heavy iron door open enough so Paula could get through. She staggered in under the weight of a huge iron box.
“Could you pull that table over here for me Malleus.” Paula growled through clenched teeth. Bulous quickly rolled the side table over to where she was standing. “Thank you very much,” she said as she slammed the box down onto it.
“And what may I ask is that?” Bulous asked as he gazed suspiciously at the box. There was nothing special about it except the fact that it was an iron box about two feet square and covered in shiny metal rivets. It made no sound, but as he put his hand on it he noticed that it was vibrating slightly.
“After my little chat with the Lord-General, I received notice from the Ecclesiarchy of the arrival of Father Tibor and his retinue. Seems they've finally taken some interest in this world now that there might be...you know...one of them still about.”
“Paula, that information was given under the strictest confidence. Is that clear? You of all people should know the significance of doctor-patient confidentiality. We don't need to cause any excitement amongst the troops while there's still work to do. That goes for you too Brillo. Nothing outside this room. Now what about this box.”
“The Ecclesiarchy sent this box down via drop ship once they heard in prep for Father Tibor's arrival. They said that they were going to interview Brillo here and that this was a very important piece of equipment. Which naturally, means nothing to me.”
“And what of the Lord-General?” Bulous pushed.
“All of these questions! You frustrate me Malleus.”
“My apologies, I didn't mean to sound so...captain-esque,” Bulous said with a grin. How about this? Excuse me, Paula, what may I ask has become of our beloved (quite over embellishing “beloved”) Lord-General?”
“Haha! That was wonderful Malleus!” Paula laughed. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the Lord-General will be staying aboard the Sister Clara
for the time being. That is, probably until this situation is sorted out. He did assure me, however, that he is discussing options with his advisory and tacticians.”
“Alright, so we prepare for the Father's arrival,” said Bulous. “Agreed?”
“Agreed,” Paula and Brillo said together.
“When should we be expecting Father Tibor and his following?”
“He should be arriving any minute now. His drop ship was scheduled to be planet-side at 0200 hours.”
“Emperor praise the faithful.” Bulous said rubbing his temple.
“To serve Him is to worship Him,” Paula yawned slumping into a chair.
“Serve the Emperor today, tomorrow you may be dead,” Brillo sighed. Closing his eyes, he laid back down on the gurney with his hands crossed behind his head.
They all felt it. They had been awake now for the better part of two days. Exhaustion gnawed at each of them. There was no escaping it, they might as well just.
All they had to do was close their eyes and gain some peace from this madness.
“Sleep does not aid the stalwart in completing his task, but merely grants the fool release from his duty. Come my friends, let us fight sleep a little longer. We will be granted surrender when our task is complete.”
Bulous and the others opened their eyes. Standing at the entrance to the medical ward was a man. Flanked on either side by servitor cloaked in dark linens. He himself robed in black and leaning on a staff of gnarled wood topped with a golden aquila.
The three of them made the sign of the aquila and dropped to their knees in reverence.
“In an hour of Darkness a blind man is the best guide. In an age of Insanity look to the madman to show the way.” The robed man beckoned them stand. “Please, do not bow to me. Only the Emperor deserves your reverence.”
“Standing, Bulous smiled. “Welcome Father Tibor. As always your presence and words are reassuring. But we were hoping to prove that the events brought to your attention are not the ravings of a madman.”
“I would hope that they are not. For if they were, It would not be me who stands here before you now, but a much less welcome company.”
“The Emperor knows, for the Emperor is watching.”
“You quote the teachings well, Malleus. Now, where is this madman?”
“He sits behind me Father.”
“Ah, so he does. Young Ado Brillo. I have watched you since your coming to us. And I know your story. You are no madman.”
“Thank you Father, I was beginning to wonder.”
“There are however, a few things that need to be cleared up. Details, always details.” Father Tibor crossed the room over to where the riveted iron box lay on the side table. “You may not enjoy what happens next, but I am going to have to ask you some questions.”
The box on the side table began to hum. The hum grew in volume until it was a nagging buzz. Father Tibor beckoned for Paula and Bulous to leave to the room, as well as his servitors.
Brillo moaned and his head swam. He tried to fight the urge to vomit but it was too strong. As his vision blurred he began to feel his consciousness fade. He fought for his awareness but the box only buzzed louder and with more intensity. Father Tibor's gaze did not waver as he spoke, “Now is your time to surrender Ado! Do so and peace will follow you!”
Brillo found the Father's words warming. Tibor was his friend, he was only here to help. Father Tibor's urgings grew softer as Brillo laid his head back down on the table.
He would not resist the urge any longer. For now, his task was done. The others would take care of the rest.
As the room faded to black, Brillo felt comfortable. Peaceful even.