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post #1 of 62 (permalink) Old 03-20-10, 06:43 PM Thread Starter
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Howdy folks. I used to be a dedicated servant of the BL forums under the username FireFox before they went down; now I come to you in search of a fresh fiction repository. I’ve written a series of novel length pieces based around a Commissar named Albrecht Vandemarr (five in all, with a sixth in the pipeline). I would describe them as part mystery, part detective, part action stories. This one I wrote going on 2 years ago now so it isn’t up to my current standard, and it does jump around a lot and generally not make sense, but I hope you all enjoy it nonetheless. Chapters are about 1,000 words long.

As always, comments and criticisms are welcome and encouraged. Please do enjoy.


Captain John Garrick stands accused of three counts of heresy after a violent action on a Tau frontier world sees his Company all but destroyed. When Commissar Albrecht Vandemarr and Lieutenant John Codey are sent to Gortlemund to defend him in his court martial, however, it soon becomes obvious that there is a lot more at stake than first meets the eye. Can they uncover the truth behind the trial before it's too late?


"He who allows the alien to live, shares its crime of existence."

~Inquisitor Apollyon

Uvolon Quintus
Ultima Segmentum
12:11 (local)
15:56 (Imperial) 07.982.M41

~Prisoner of war~

“INCOMING!” Someone screamed; though it appeared too late. Amidst the frantic shrieking of two entirely alien jet-engines, the desert-pattern Leman Russ suddenly crumpled under the immense force of an unseen projectile and ground to a shuddering halt. A second later, the delayed fuse detonated, touching the tank's magazine off, and it exploded in a mushroom cloud of orange flame.

The harsh crack of the blast ricocheted off the surrounding dunes, in the sudden and eerie silence that ensued. For a few brief moments, Captain John Garrick left his face buried in the sand, feeling the hot concussion wash over him. He found the darkness of his closed eyes comforting. It seemed cooler in the dark – harking back to the old childhood folly ‘if you couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see you’.

But no. They could see him. They’d seen him and his men for three days.

He sighed as some distant voice called ‘clear!” from over the other side of the embankment, and uttered a cursory oath. There was grit in between his teeth, uncomfortable and annoying, and he spat crudely as he stood up.

The sorry remains of the battle tank confronted him with startling definition. Thick black promethium smoke billowed from its ruined hull, and the salty aroma of burning sand – mixed with the acridity of melted human – assaulted his nostrils.

“Schtan,” he whispered, arching his neck backwards. All that betrayed the brief and unwelcome presence of the Tau fighter were two white contrails, slowly expanding in the midday atmosphere. He followed them to their source, to see a black speck on the horizon, heading for home.

Some kind of pathfinder no doubt; a reconnaissance vehicle. There would be more soon, and in greater numbers.

He looked out across his company. Three hundred men, suffering from serious torpor and dehydration, wearily pressed themselves up from their cover – though to call it cover would be an overstatement. Save the dunes they were lying against, the desert ground was as flat as a billiard table. Their primary objective – at least, what had been their primary objective, back before most of the regiment was slaughtered and split up – was still kilometres away, and lost in the heat-distorted atmosphere.

The white city. The white alien city.

They didn’t know the name of the city, nor did they care. It was xeno, and that had been enough. Enough to start this miserable campaign. Enough to commit an entire battlegroup – five ships and two-hundred thousand fighting men - to cleanse, to murder a planet.

But now, in the harsh glare of the foreign sun, Garrick knew that they were all going to die here. Low on ammunition. Low on armour – low on morale. They had underestimated the aliens, underestimated them in the worst way.

It was just so hot on this world…

“Uden,” he said into his microlink, breaking from his musing. The company vox officer jogged up to him, sweating under the bulk of the vox caster.

“Sir?” He breathed.

“Let’s move out. Skirmish formation.”

“Yes sir,” the man replied, pulling the rubber coated mouth piece from the side of the set.

Garrick turned away and looked back out across the sweltering desert once more.

It was going to be a long day.

* * *

They travelled for hours through the desert, footprints and caterpillar tracks marking their journey across the flat, unchanging terrain. Several men had died from exhaustion. Two halftracks and another ‘Russ had overheated and seized up. What should have been a forced march became a nightmare slog, across kilometres of baking sand with melting boots.

A slog from which death would have been a mercy…

Nonetheless, they reached the city without further incident. The tall, gleaming spires of alien architecture that seemed so distant – a mirage, almost – four hours beforehand, had become a large and unsettling reality.

Unsettling, because the place was deserted.

It was a ghost town; there was no two ways about it. Even as they reached the kilometre-expanse of flat white marble that surrounded the city – forming some kind of open walkway – Garrick could see that it was empty. He remembered the old Guard idiom; ‘if the advance is going well, it’s an ambush’. Even his adrenaline seemed lethargic in its response.

He didn’t even care anymore.

Their boots stuck to the stone as they trekked over the last stretch of their journey. They had lost all purpose now, all sense of objective. Every minute, it seemed another man just slumped to the ground and gave up. Garrick didn’t even know why they were heading for the city. If it turned out to be populated, the streets would be as unforgiving as the desert.

He cocked his head suddenly, straining to hear. The gentle breeze – the first of the day – brought sounds of seemingly distant machinery to his ears.

His lethargy suddenly left him. He brought his fist up to his shoulder, and the company – or what remained of it – stopped. He lowered a flattened palm to the ground, and they crouched. Suddenly, they moved as if invigorated, as if their torpor was cured by the prospect of combat. Suddenly, the comparatively favourable prospect of dying peacefully from fatigue was abruptly replaced by the fear of being painfully shot up by enemy pulse rifles.

Suddenly, all hell broke loose.

As if someone had flicked a switch, a blue inferno exploded out from every available alcove of the city in front. Men were cut down in droves, hot red blood staining the road, as a blizzard of shots weltered from the shadows. Scores of tan vehicles flickered overhead on strafing runs, whilst Hammerhead wide-beam laser fire split tanks and flatbeds in half. Armoured alien warriors appeared in previously invisible windows, or unloaded from the back of hovering, bulbous transports, to form effective and deadly firing ranks. Unmanned, circular gun drones whined overhead, unleashing lethal barrages of static pulse.

Everywhere was high energy death.

“Return fire!” Garrick cried desperately above the colossal din. Ignoring him, Imperial troops scattered in all directions, heading for the streets. Less than half made it.

Snarling, he grabbed Uden by the scruff of his neck and threw him towards the nearest alleyway. Four others followed him. Lieutenant Winters, Second Lieutenant McShaw – a couple of troopers he didn’t recognise. They sprinted in their bulky ochre armour, amidst lethal volleys of pulse. One took his shin guard clean off. Another seared through Winters’ helmet.

“Go go go! Faster!” Garrick roared, thumbing the safety of his lasgun off. Despite the chaos, he briefly slowed, took aim, and shot one of the damned aliens through the head. There was no way he was going out without a fight.

“Come on!” Winters cried, mistaking his hesitancy and grabbing him by the arm. A second later, the side of his neck plastered Garrick’s face, warm carotid blood ejecting in regular gouts.

“Throne!” The Captain shouted, slapping his hand over the wound and dragging him towards the alley. He could see Uden and the others gesticulating wildly, urging them on.

When they stopped, he realised he’d been shot.

“Dammit!” He shouted weakly, watching as they ran away. “You dogs!”

He could feel the cold air rushing into his sucking chest wound as his lung collapsed; yet he still clutched the Lieutenant’s – in his opinion survivable – neck wound. He was damned if both of them were going to die.

The decision, however, wasn't his to make:

Seconds later, the side of a Tau pulse rifle knocked him clean into unconsciousness.

Stone Temple Library - Archive of my Vandemarr fiction.

‘Do you think they know we’re watching?’ August asked, focusing his eye back through his lasgun’s telescopic sight. From their vantage point on the sixth storey of one of Gortlémund’s trading hubs, they watched as a bulky Tau sweeper unit cleared the worst of the snow from the cratered roads below with heat blasters. Behind it, a few fire warriors warily eyed the thousands of overlooking windows.
Vandemarr didn’t move. ‘Probably.’
(Fallen City)

Last edited by Zwan; 03-21-10 at 06:23 PM.
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post #2 of 62 (permalink) Old 03-21-10, 03:13 AM
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I am inescapable.

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 #3 of 62 (permalink) Old 03-21-10, 10:41 AM
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Hello Firefox! Errr, Zwan rather, good to see you have finally joined lovely work thus far, a great opening for a awesome series, plus rep for you!

Nyctophobia- Fear of the Dark Angel.

"No one ever spoke about of those two absent brothers. Their separate tragedies had seemed like aberrations. Had they, in fact, been warnings that no one had heeded?"

'Killing a man is like fucking, boy, only instead of giving life you take it. You experience the ecstasy of penetration as your warhead enters the enemy's belly and the shaft follows. You see the whites of his eyes roll inside the sockets of his helmet. You feel his knees give way beneath him and the weight of his faltering flesh draw down the point of your spear. Are you picturing this?'
'Yes, lord.'
'Is your dick hard yet?'
'No, lord.'
''What? You've got your spear in a man's guts and your dog isn't stiff? What are you, a woman?'
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post #4 of 62 (permalink) Old 03-21-10, 05:08 PM
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Hey I really enjoyed that piece, can't wait for more. Nothing glaring to comment on except I would think that he is unlikely to survive a collapsed lung.
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post #5 of 62 (permalink) Old 03-21-10, 06:16 PM Thread Starter
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Hi guys!

Mossy - good to see you, old friend.

Dark angel - thanks very much, good to see you too - and rep! Not sure what it is or how it works, but it can only be a good thing, so thanks!

Nikolai - howdy there, thanks very much for reading! I know he wouldn't survive the sucking chest wound, but at the time of writing I thought it was cool (sucking chest wound does sound awesome) - so I'm going to ask you to just sort of... ignore it. *inane grin*

Cheers chaps. Here's more;


Chapter 1

”For every enemy without, there are a hundred within”

~ Inquisitor Gabriel, Reflections Vol. IV

INS Strength and Honour
Segmentum Ultima
18:01 (ship time)
22:16 (Imperial) 12.982.M41

~A good lawyer couldn’t win this case!~

The Princeps suite was usually reserved for the most important of officials; but when the ship was – or had been – on battle stations, it was rarely used. Thus, it was where Commissar Vandemarr now took his evening meal – whilst sorting through the increasing amount of paperwork he seemed to be receiving – where he knew he would remain undisturbed.

It was an extremely luxurious state room. The high, domed ceiling was trimmed with intricate gold leaf – leaf which was skilfully engrained into the marble pillars running the length of the walls. The walls themselves were panelled with an expensive and majestic Terran oak, decorated with portraits of great lord generals militant, or past Fleet Admirals of note. The floor was laid with a royal blue carpet, again with gold floral patterns – the Imperial Aquilla woven into the centre; and a stately chandelier illuminated the wide oval table in the centre, currently set for one hundred guests, occupied by only one.

It was indeed a beautiful room, and a very old room – modelled on eighteenth century Europa, far away on Holy Terra. Vandemarr enjoyed the solitude it offered, relishing in the fact that the only sound being made was his silver knife and fork against the inlaid plate. In front of him, platters presenting cold meats, cheese and biscuits, bread, butter, quiches, new potatoes and an assortment of vegetables and fruits were spread, carefully prepared by the ship’s human cooks, and not the culinary servitors the lower decks were stuck with.

He was biting into a cherry tomato when the far doors opened, and Fleet Captain Denver walked in, clad in the regal blue of the Ultima Segmentum 23rd Thunderbolt fleet. Vandemarr made to stand, slightly startled, but Denver waved him down with a white-gloved hand.

“Sit, please,” he said. He was not a tall man; but what he lacked in height, he made up in presence. The hundred and ten year-old Captain certainly didn’t look it, and was as energetic as the day he was augmented for command. His shock of white hair and trim white goatee certainly made notable physical features, to say nothing of his charisma and sense of humour. In short, Vandemarr liked him, and though not strictly under his jurisdiction, he had a lot of time for the Captain.

“I seem to have caught you taking dinner,” he said, pulling an ornate wooden chair from under the table and settling onto the plush cushion it offered.

“Please,” Vandemarr gestured awkwardly, indicating the platters.

“Don’t mind if I do,” he replied, picking up the tongs and selecting various morsels. The fact that the Commissar wasn’t supposed to be there didn’t seem to faze Denver in any way. If anything, the old Captain seemed to be relishing in the luxurious surroundings.

A short silence passed between them as he loaded his plate.

“Feels good to break a rule every now and then, doesn’t it?” He said.

Vandemarr stopped; coughed politely. He had almost rehearsed his apology – such was the inevitability of the reprimand, with the amount of times he’d been in the suite.

“You must accept my apologies, Captain, I thought that since –” He looked up, to see the old man grinning.

“Relax Commissar,” he winked, “it seems a shame to let such a…magnificent room go unused.”

Vandemarr agreed, and did indeed relax, sliding another piece of quiche Lorraine onto his plate.

“One does tire of eating alone,” Denver said after a second silence, tucking into the potato salad.

Vandemarr nodded his agreement, swallowing a mouthful of buttered bread.

“I noticed we changed course last night,” he remarked, by way of conversation.

“Mm,” Denver replied, “Gortlémund. It’s about three days in warp space. We should be in orbit early on the 15th.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, why?”

The Captain rolled his eyes, and gave him a sideways look that could strip paint off a navy frigate.

“That bad huh?” Vandemarr smiled.

“Well the Guard made an absolute mess of ‘Quintus, if that’s what you mean,” Denver said, forking a roll of ham into his mouth. “Ha! Colonel Burke even ordered a second expeditionary force down on the 8th to recover the POWs, if you can believe that.”

“Wow, what did they have? Generals?” The Commissar laughed.

Denver snorted. “Footsloggers.” He said through a full mouth.

“You’re serious?” Vandemarr said as he leant forward, genuinely intrigued. “I wonder why,”

The conversation was suddenly broken by the sound of the doors opening once more. This time, however, it was Lieutenant Codey who strode in – clad not in the blue of the 23rd, but in the ochre fatigues of the Imperial Guard assigned to the battlegroup. The Commissar noted, with a certain humour, that the man had removed his boots before entering the room; and was sporting a pair of green, holed, Guard-issue socks.

“Ah, Codey,” Vandemarr said, as he and Denver both stood. “Captain Denver, this is Lieutenant Codey of the 15th Vargonroth – we fought together on Septimus a few months back; Codey, I’m sure you know the Fleet Captain,”

The Lieutenant gave a short bow as he approached the Captain, clearly unaware that he was going to be present, and then clasped his outstretched hand, slightly taken aback. It wasn’t, after all, considered protocol that the Fleet Captain should be familiar – by any count –with a low-ranking Guardsman.

“Will you join us for dinner?” Denver asked, indicating a seat. Codey eyed the platters, not wanting to say no; it wasn’t every day, after all, that he had the opportunity of dining with the Fleet Captain – and over such thoroughly-prepared food. He was stuck with the culinary servitors – servitors who, he was sure, didn’t have taste augments.

“I’m afraid I must decline,” he said with a polite bow. It was then Vandemarr noticed the files under his arm. “I have been blessed with a rather important issue from the Commissariat, which requires Mister Vandemarr’s immediate attention, unfortunately.”

“Would you like me to leave?” Denver asked. Codey gawped for a brief second, before pulling himself together.

“Oh, Throne no sir, not at all –” he started, but was cut off.

“Then I must insist you dine,” The Captain said simply. “The food is quite excellent; and I am not unaware of the slop they feed you downstairs these days. Believe me; I’ve tried to change it.”

Codey sat down dumbly, handing the files to Vandemarr. The food did look good.

“What’s this about then?” Vandemarr asked, sifting through the papers. “Department of Imperial Justice v. Captain John Garrick, circa 8th 982 M41? What have you got me into, Codey? This looks like a case,”

“It’s a court martial, sir. The indictments are on the next page.” The Lieutenant said.

“Indictments? There’s more than one? What the hell did he do, genocide?”

“No, sir,” Codey said with a smile. He’d always found the Commissar’s particular brand of humour appealing.

“I take it you’ve read this then?” Vandemarr asked, glancing at Denver.

“Only the indictments, sir,” Codey replied, now heaping food onto his plate.

Vandemarr scanned the documents further, muttering under his breath.

“Captain John Garrick lies hereby charged by the Commissariat, 12th day, 982nd year blah blah blah, ‘collaborating with the enemy, conspiracy to commit mutiny, and gross misconduct in action’? God Emperor on his Golden Throne, a good lawyer couldn’t win this case! Why on Terra haven’t they shot him?”

“Apparently Colonel Burke said he was to be court martialled, sir. Explicitly.”

“I knew that Colonel was an idiot,” Denver said. “Didn’t I say he was an idiot?”

“You did,” Vandemarr said, not taking his eyes off the file. “Codey?” He said, slowly.

“Yes, Commissar?”

“Did you know that you’re to be my junior in this? On the defence council?”

“N-no sir,” the Lieutenant replied. “What? Why? I don’t know the first thing about martial law,”

“I know you don’t,” Vandemarr replied, in a tone laden with suspicion.

There was a deadly pause, whilst both the Fleet Captain and Codey watched the Commissar read.

“Lieutenant,” he said after an interminable pause. “Where is Garrick? In the dock, I take it?”

“No sir, he was transferred to the INPS Divine Justice, sir.”

“Hm. I think we’re going to have a problem.”

Stone Temple Library - Archive of my Vandemarr fiction.

‘Do you think they know we’re watching?’ August asked, focusing his eye back through his lasgun’s telescopic sight. From their vantage point on the sixth storey of one of Gortlémund’s trading hubs, they watched as a bulky Tau sweeper unit cleared the worst of the snow from the cratered roads below with heat blasters. Behind it, a few fire warriors warily eyed the thousands of overlooking windows.
Vandemarr didn’t move. ‘Probably.’
(Fallen City)
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post #6 of 62 (permalink) Old 03-22-10, 01:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Zwan View Post
Nikolai - howdy there, thanks very much for reading! I know he wouldn't survive the sucking chest wound, but at the time of writing I thought it was cool (sucking chest wound does sound awesome) - so I'm going to ask you to just sort of... ignore it.
Lol, yeah I can manage that. I am enjoying how the story is shaping out. Keep it up.
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post #7 of 62 (permalink) Old 03-22-10, 02:20 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks man, much appreciated. I'm going to post it fairly quickly I think since I've got 5 novels' worth to get through!

Chapter 2

Ultima Segmentum
00:46 (local)
05:01 (Imperial) 12.982.M41

~A conflict of interest~

The room was dark.

Outside, the nightlife of Gortlémund’s capital city, Kalen Primo, continued, with floating pict displays blaring multicoloured advertisements through the half-closed blinds, and drunken individuals parading through the streets.

He watched as parallelograms of purple and green light formed on the cheap beige carpet of the hotel room floor, illuminating half-eaten morsels in cardboard boxes, and travel pamphlets for chartered off-world trader flights.

Clearly, the Imperial official was intending to leave, and in a hurry.

Inquisitor MkCormack of the Ordo Militum watched from a chair in a dark corner of the room, as the man slept in the large bed against the far wall. The official was fat – obese, even, and his vast bulk strained the bed springs beyond their tolerance every time he rolled over. Aside from the muffled sound of the music and revellers outside, his rank, cluttered breathing made the only noise in the room.

MkCormack grimaced. He was dressed in a brown leather storm coat, white gloves, black trousers and boots, and a simple grey tunic, with his head crowned with a wide-brimmed, gunslinger-fashioned brown hat, and a black visor to mask his eyes; yet to the untrained eye, he might as well have been invisible.

He steepled his fingers in front of his face for a few brief seconds, before sighing, standing up, sliding a long, ornate pistol from a chest holster, and levelling it at the man’s head.

“Boo,” he whispered. The official’s eyes fluttered open.

“What the –”

His exploded head gelled the wall, pillow, sheets and MkCormack’s face in dark red in less than a second. The muffled echo of the gunshot was quickly smothered in silence, as if it had never been.

The Inquisitor re-holstered the pistol, and produced a handkerchief to mop away the bloody detritus from his visor. Almost as soon as he was finished, the commcaster on the bedside table bleeped into life, its electric blue flashing slicing through the dark.

MkCormack let it ring for a full minute, before picking it up and thumbing it on. He waited for the caller to speak.

“Inquisitor MkCormack?” A gruff voice said, after a pause.

“You’d better hope so, now,” the Inquisitor replied. It flustered the man on the other end; a lot more than he’d care to admit, MkCormack expected.

“I was told you’d be at this location, at this time.” The man pressed.

The Inquisitor smiled. Only another member of the Ordo Militum would have known his whereabouts; a very specific member, at that.

“You are well informed, Major General Burkhardt.”

There was a brief pause, punctuated by the General’s spluttering.

“How did you –”

“You are not the only one who is well informed.” MkCormack swiftly interjected. “Now what is it that I can do for you? Speak quickly.”

He smiled again as he felt Burkhardt’s anger rise. He enjoyed the immunity his position gave him. Immensely.

“A man, Captain John Garrick of the Imperial Guard has been arrested – after an action on a Tau frontier world.” The General growled after gathering himself. “He is to be court martialled. Your…services on the panel are required.”

“And why hasn’t Captain John Garrick of the Imperial Guard been shot?” MkCormack asked, tucking the handkerchief back in his outer coat pocket and pulling out a box of lho sticks.

“I don’t know – look, please, Mister Inquisitor, your co-operation in this matter is of paramount importance.”

“I am, as they say, all ears,” he replied, walking across the carpet and to the door. The flash of the lighter illuminated his grim features for a second, before wisps of grey smoke flooded away from the Inquisitor’s mouth, and the lighter snapped shut.

“You are to assemble two other officers of your choice, to preside alongside you on the panel. You are also to select two men – two very good men, for the prosecution council. I want this to be as low-key as possible.”

There was another lengthy silence.

“Do you…understand?” Burkhardt asked, cautiously.

MkCormack opened his mouth to speak, smiled, and thought better of it.

“Yes, General.” He said, and terminated the link.

Peace once again claimed the room. MkCormack stood still for another minute, taking a long drag of the lho stick, before the commcaster rang again. Unfazed, he thumbed it on and brought it to his ear once more, waiting for the caller to speak first.

“Who am I speaking to?” The voice said – a different voice, a darker voice.

“That depends,” MkCormack replied smoothly, “on who’s asking.”

The line went dead. The Inquisitor, again unfazed, counted the seconds on his chronometer before the next incoming call; thirty-nine exactly.

It was another Inquisitor.

“Speak,” he said.

“A Major General has just contacted you. He has given you information regarding a trial involving an Imperial Captain.”

MkCormack said nothing. These were not questions.

“You are to disregard what he has said. You are to allocate eight other officers for the panel, to preside alongside you. One of them must include Major General Reece. You are also to allocate two officers for the prosecution council. The senior is to be Commissar Vurdan of the Imperial Guard. The junior is to be another Commissar of your choosing. You are not to be discreet about the trial. It will take place in the Emperor’s Court, in the Department of Imperial Justice, Kalen Primo. It is to be open to the public.”

“Understood.” MkCormack replied.

The link terminated.

He stood alone in the dark room once again, taking a last drag of the lho stick; then he flicked the still-glowing butt onto the bed. The cheap, synthetic material smouldered briefly, before catching alight.

He waited for another minute, before tossing the commcaster into the flames.

Then he disappeared into the night.

Chapter 3

INS Strength and Honour
Gortlémund, High Anchor
Ultima Segmentum
03:59 (ship time), 04:19 (local)
08:13 (Imperial) 15.982.M41


The INS Strength and Honour tore through into realspace in a blaze of cracking warp energy, one thousand kilometres above the grey world of Gortlémund. It was a huge Mars-class cruiser, its hull a proud royal blue with burnished gold crenelations, furnished with the older gothic spires and archways that characterised the ship style of the immediate post-Heresy millennia.

Vandemarr was asleep, again in the Princeps suite, when Fleet Captain Denver’s voice sounded over the municipal address system. The discreet, splayed brass horn above the doors at the far end of the grand room broadcast the message surprisingly well, considering its size. Well enough to cause the Commissar to leap out of his chair, bolt pistol drawn, with a legal paper stuck to his forehead.

Once he’d disabused himself, he coughed, holstered the pistol and removed the paper from his forehead. He quickly scanned it through blurred eyes, muttering under his breath.

“…Mister Garrick was interrogated shortly thereafter…is said to have divulged valuable information…when discovered was wearing Tau armour…”

He groaned, and slapped the document back onto the table. It was hopeless. There were hundreds of papers and dataslates he’d managed to dig up from the ship’s library; files of old cases, instances of judicial precedent – any instances of mutiny, co-operation with the enemy, exceptional circumstances – and he’d learned only two things;

Firstly, that this was the first time a Guardsman had been tried for alleged treachery;

And secondly…

He’d learned only one thing.

“Message repeats;" said the MA, "we are holding high anchor over Gortlémund. Manoeuvre to low anchor will commence at 04:30 ship time.”

The Commissar turned and strode quickly towards one of the portholes at the other end of the suite. There, amidst the inky blackness of space, and the whorls of blue gasses that marked the Eastern Fringe – and the Tau Empire – lay Gortlémund, a huge Imperial world of great wealth and importance.

It was breathtaking to say the least.

“Commissar?” Came a voice he recognised. Vandemarr whirled round with a flourish, to see Lieutenant Codey next to the table, admiring his research.

“We’re screwed,” he said, extending his palm as he did so, as one might do in a play when beseeching another.

“We are?” Codey replied dejectedly.

Vandemarr dropped his hands and levelled his eyes at the young Lieutenant.

“No, Codey, we are not. At least, that it what we want the prosecution council to think. We are not screwed – quite the opposite, in fact. You will walk into wherever we’re to conduct this blasted trial with all the air of a man who has never been so sure of something in his life.” He resumed his actor’s stance and voice. “Appearances, my dear boy; it’s all about appearances.”

Codey scowled; he hated it when Vandemarr called him ‘boy’.

“I wish you’d told me all this three days ago,” he said. “The trial starts tomorrow.”

“Yes,” Vandemarr replied, “and methinks, someone doesn’t want us to win. Aside from the prosecution, of course.” He added quickly.

He hopped onto his other foot, as if now a ballet dancer. Codey was, however, long since used to the Commissar’s eccentricities, and merely remained still, his brow furrowed.

“What do you mean ‘someone doesn’t want us to win’? Who?”

“One of the brass, I’d imagine,” The Commissar replied, offhand.

“One of the brass? Then what’s the point in even trying to win?” Codey asked, now slightly angry at Vandemarr’s cryptic answers.

“Because there's someone else…” another hop, “…who does want us to.”

“What are you talking about? In plain gothic, please,” The Lieutenant said.

Vandemarr sighed, walked over to the nearest chair, and slumped down into it.

“Did you read the facts of the case?” He asked, reaching for a decanter of port and pouring a measure into two glasses.

“Briefly,” Codey replied, taking one of the glasses. When he caught the Commissar’s expression, he quickly added; “I’ve been busy with the troops!”

“If you’d read them over and over and over again – like I have,” Vandemarr said, pausing to clear his throat, “one thing will become very obvious.” He shook his head. “Very obvious indeed.”

“What’s that?”

“Someone has taken great pains to ensure it’s almost impossible for us to win.”

“How can you tell? They’re just the facts, surely?”

“Yes, they’re just the facts, but look,” The Commissar said, thrusting one of the documents towards Codey. “What kind of Imperial Captain – a thus far loyal Imperial Captain of several campaigns, I might add – just up and renounces his oath to the Emperor, dons a suit of Tau – xeno – armour, and starts singing like a tin whistle about all upcoming Guard actions – many of which his rank wouldn’t permit him to know about anyway – on the planet?”

“The…kind that has his life threatened, sir.” The Lieutenant replied.

Vandemarr snatched the document out of his hands, suddenly angry, and threw it back onto the table.

“Oh, you can’t afford to be this naïve, Codey!” He snarled. “You don’t spend twelve years in the Imperial Guard, face the unimaginable horrors that would make every civilian in this Imperium crap their pants, and fight your way to a well-earned Captaincy, just to throw it away in one night of – if our friends on the prosecution are to be believed – very mild interrogation!”

“Why mild interr –” Codey tried to interrupt, but was shouted down.

“Mild because they want it to look like he gave them the info at the first available opportunity, don’t they? Conspiracy to commit mutiny, Codey! Emperor alive!”

The Commissar calmed himself visibly.

“I know someone doesn’t want us to win,” he said quietly, “because the ‘facts of the case’, have been misrepresented.” He knocked back another glass-full of port. “Which in any other case would be grounds for a mistrial.” He snorted.

He thumped the glass back onto the table, and leant back.

“So…” Codey said, evidently choosing his words very carefully, “how can you tell that there’s someone who does want us to win?”

There was a long pause.

“Because,” Vandemarr replied slowly, “Commissar Vurdan is on the prosecution council.”

There was a second, considerably more awkward pause.

“What?” Codey asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” Vandemarr replied, standing up and checking his chronometer. “We need to go anyway."

He caught the confused look on Codey's face as he gathered up his papers, and sighed.

"I’ll explain on the way down.”

Stone Temple Library - Archive of my Vandemarr fiction.

‘Do you think they know we’re watching?’ August asked, focusing his eye back through his lasgun’s telescopic sight. From their vantage point on the sixth storey of one of Gortlémund’s trading hubs, they watched as a bulky Tau sweeper unit cleared the worst of the snow from the cratered roads below with heat blasters. Behind it, a few fire warriors warily eyed the thousands of overlooking windows.
Vandemarr didn’t move. ‘Probably.’
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Chapter 4

“Thou shalt be glad of thy Master's punishment, for it is deserved, and it improves thee”

~ Ecclesiarchal Proscriptions, MCXVII.IV

Uvolon Quintus
Ultima Segmentum
16:59 (local)
21:14 (Imperial) 07.982.M41

~Things aren’t always what they seem ~

It wasn’t so much the noise of the plasma explosion that woke him; mainly the smell. The acrid, static fumes of ionised gasses, mixed with the pungent tang of vaporised flesh, snapped him back to a hazy consciousness that was, needless to say, a lot worse than the dream world he’d been privy to for the last fifty minutes.

Garrick opened his eyes, to find himself staring straight into the deep cerulean atmosphere. The sun was still high in the sky, despite it being late afternoon, and it was still as hot as ever. His body called out for water; his tongue was dry and beginning to swell, and the inside of his mouth felt like sandpaper – not to mention the sunburn on his face and arms. The side of his face smarted sharply where the skin had split under the force of the pulse rifle being smashed into his cheekbone, and Winters was nowhere in sight.

He realised, without having to move anything, that he was lying on his back, spread-eagled, still about twenty metres from the streets of the white city. There was still a heavy amount of fire being exchanged between the beleaguered Imperials and the Tau fire caste; but it was nothing like as ferocious as the opening xeno gambit. Garrick was surprised that the whole company hadn’t been annihilated by now.

Since moving meant that he would not longer be mistaken for dead, he tried to piece together as much of the situation as best he could. With a few hidden turns of his head, he saw that most of the fighting had moved into the city, and that the Tau forces still on the walkway were gathering the corpses – human and alien alike – and clearing away Imperial wreckage. Only one Devilfish troop carrier had been hit, as far as he could tell, by a ‘Russ. Grounded, the desert-pattern APC leaked Tau corpses from its rear-access ramp like string-less marionettes, with great rents and blast marks marring its dusty hull.

He suddenly froze as a rank of fire warriors trotted past, talking over helmet-speakers in their alien language, pulse-rifles slung over shoulders or wielded nonchalantly. Behind them, stark against the blue, billowing plumes of rank black promethium smoke cut into the air. Through one, a flat-pulse beam lanced away from an unseen Hammerhead railgun, dragging with it whorls of the smoke in miniature vortices.

The ensuing explosion was punctuated by Imperial screams.

He needed to get into the city, and fast, before he was picked up and dumped on a pile of dead – a pile of dead which would most likely be burnt.

“Schtan,” he whispered, moving his head more obviously now. His lasgun was still next to him and within reach. It would take him, he estimated, seven seconds to get up, grab it, and sprint to the relative cover of the street.

Then again, seven seconds was a long time to be out in the open, with a whole host of Tau surrounding him. The longer he thought about it, the more it seemed like a wholly unattractive prospect –

Thus, he simply stopped thinking about it, stood up, and grasping the handle of his lasgun clumsily, sprinted as best he could towards the white city ahead.

His timing couldn’t have been better. As the first of the Tau pulse started flying his way, an Imperial rocket from one of the upper floors of the approaching tower blocks smashed into the starboard engine of an overhead Barracuda, sending ribbons of blue and white fire streaming away from the impact. It listed wildly for a precious few seconds, before the wing detached and sliced a Hammerhead clean in half, touching off its plasma reactor and engulfing two ranks of fire warriors in flame. The remainder of the Barracuda screamed into the desert floor, exploding violently and sending great plumes of burnt sand and earth into the air.

Still sprinting, Garrick reached the shadow of the first building he came to – the one the rocket came from – and slipped into the ground floor.
* * *
Half an hour later, he silently exited the building by the same passageway, yellow-ochre Tau body armour now adorning his chest.

The top of the building exploded outwards shortly after his departure, charred white rubble cascading outwards like a waterfall of dust and masonry.

Having substituted his lasgun with one of the aliens’ pulse carbines, he ran down the empty street, his boots making the only sound against the rubble-strewn ground as they echoed sharply off the white architecture. The sun was just beginning to go down in the west, and a few lonely clouds were forming in the upper atmosphere. The firing also seemed to have grown faint and distant, carried only to his ears on the later afternoon breeze.

He moved in-city for ten minutes without seeing a single Tau – civilian or otherwise – when he saw an Imperial Guard trooper – a young man he recognised as LeVyn – crouching by some kind of market fruit stall. His face was contorted into a grimace as he scanned the wide street junction up ahead, and sweat marked his helmet-less brow. Aside from minor amour damage, he seemed unharmed.

“LeVyn!” Garrick shouted sharply, drawing the man’s attention as he observed a Tau fire warrior creeping up behind the Guardsman. Raising the pulse carbine, the Captain shot the trooper in the shoulder, and he span round with a squeal, hitting his face against the wooden counter of the stall and falling into unconsciousness.

Garrick watched as the alien pounced on his limp body, knife out.

Chapter 5

Ultima Segmentum
05:00 (local)
09:16 (Imperial) 15.982.M41

~I hate Mondays ~

Vandemarr sighed as he saw, for the first time, Kalen Primo in the morning cloud. Though only five o’ clock, the sun’s rays still permeated the eastern horizon, under-lighting the dark grey with yellow incandescence like some deistic presence.

The sky above them, however, was marred with colossal thunderheads, sliding across each other in the wind.

“I can’t help but feel it’s an omen,” Codey said dejectedly from the bench opposite him. The shuttle cabin was cramped, and his voice was startlingly loud off the bare green metal interior.

Vandemarr could see what he meant. As he stared out the small glass porthole, the first of the morning rain speckled the side, running in horizontal streaks as the shuttle powered through the sky. Below, the tall, grim gothic architecture rose out from the ground like some city-spanning, satanic castle, with grey, gargoyled buildings threatening to engulf them.

“What a miserable planet,” he remarked. Codey silently nodded his agreement, and the whining of the engines became the only noise in the cabin.

“However, we have the opening day of a court martial to look forward to,” the Commissar continued, his sudden mood change making Codey visibly jump, “so we must be positive.”

“Is there anything I should know before we begin?” The Lieutenant asked.

“Well thirty years in the Commissariat would be useful,” Vandemarr replied, massaging his chin. Codey snorted, despite himself. “But I can run you through a few basics, if you think it would help. You aren’t actually going to have to say anything, just sit there and hand me documents.”

“Thank the Emperor,”

Vandemarr mused. “…But on the other hand, it might be useful to tell you a few tricks – just so you know what to look out for. Plus it would do me good to remember them.”

“I’m all ears,” Codey replied, leaning forward and clasping his hands.

Vandemarr stroked his stubbled chin again.

“Well the first thing you need to know is how a court martial works.” He began, casting his eye upwards as if looking at his brain. “Usually they last about…a couple of days. Usually. But some can go on for weeks, depending on the crime and the rank of the person who committed it. This case in itself is unusual because they’re actually giving him a trial. A Captain’s still well within a Commissar’s jurisdiction without upsetting the brass – and looking at his alleged crimes, he’s committed just about all of them that can get you summarily executed in the blink of an eye.”

“What, collaborating with the enemy –”

“– Conspiracy to commit mutiny, gross misconduct in action, all of those yes. You see, conspiracy to commit mutiny usually means there’s at least another man involved, but what I think they’ve done here…” he paused to watch something out the window, “…is sort it so he’s been conspiring with the Tau themselves – and thus getting him under that and collaborating with the enemy.”

“What, so he gets double the punishment?”

“Precisely – you catch on quick. We’ll make a Commissar of you yet! Oh, that reminds me, both of the prosecution will be Commissars. Vurdan and whoever the other one is, I can’t remember.”

“Hold on a second, you never told me why it’s good that we have Vurdan against us.” Codey said, giving Vandemarr an accusatory squint. “You said someone high up obviously wants us to win because he’s on the pross.”

“Oh that, that was just speculation, I don’t actually know if someone does. I meant he’s pretty rubbish at his job, that was all. I just got the distinct feeling that since the facts of the case have been misrepresented – which, by the way, we’re going to appeal against – someone high up has given the pross their blessing to proceed anyway. That is, assuming the pross know the facts have been misrepresented. All I was trying to do was make us both feel better by saying that because Vurdan’s rubbish, someone might want us to win. Speculation. Not allowed in court, of course, but if you can use it, and moreover, get away with it, it can steer juries towards your cause faster than a Baneblade strips morale from a cultist.”

Codey sat in silence, digesting the mass of dialogue Vandemarr had just issued forth and then seemed to have forgotten about.

“So…there’s not a high-up who wants us to win?” He asked cautiously.

“I don’t know,” Vandemarr replied simply. “Isn’t that what I just said?”

“Yes, but I wanted to be sure,” the Lieutenant replied. He fidgeted in his dress uniform – black boots, cream breeches, black, gold and red braided tunic, and gold, neck-length epaulettes. Vandemarr was simply wearing what he wore every day – along with a leather trench coat. From the bags under his eyes, and the three-day stubble, Codey could tell he was tired. He had, after all, been up for two nights trying to build a case. The Lieutenant had to admire him.

“So what else goes on in a court martial then?” Codey asked.

“Ah right. Yes, that’s what I was talking about. So yes, anywhere up to weeks in length. There will be any odd number up to nine officers on the bench, led by the president, who’s usually another officer – though sometimes an Inquisitor, if it’s a big case. The pross puts forward the case, show us their witnesses, we cross examine them, put forward our case, we both say our concluding speeches, and then, in our case, the bench goes away and votes, comes back, and tells us Mister Garrick is to be shot.”

“So…you’re optimistic then?”

“I’m realistic, my boy, I’m realistic. If the facts of the case aren’t right, then I’ll bet this whole thing’s going one way, and one way only.”

“Why don’t we get any witnesses?” The Lieutenant said, once again ignoring the reference to his age.

“We do, technically. But all the men who were with Garrick on the day have been stuck on the INPS Divine Justice with the pross – deliberately, I suspect, out of our reach.”

There was a long silence, during which the rain outside increased. They were descending; the tops of buildings were now flashing past the port holes, increasing in density.

“The only thing is,” Vandemarr said, startling Codey, “well, the thing that gets me is that someone’s gone to all the trouble to make sure Garrick gets a trial in the first place.”

“I thought it was Colonel Burke,” Codey said.

“It was,” Vandemarr replied, “but even a Colonel doesn’t really have that kind of power. No-one below…I don’t know, a General can sue for a court martial and get one. Not in this day and age. Garrick’s either a very lucky man, or he’s got some friends in high places.”

“Ah,” Codey said, resuming his staring out the porthole. A few minutes later, the vox crackled into life.

“We’re just coming into 3 District now. We’ll be there in about five minutes.” Came the pilot’s voice. There was a stab of static as the link shut off.

“Be where?” Codey asked, not taking his eyes off the outside world.

“To meet our witness.”

“I thought you said –”

Vandemarr held up a hand for silence.

“You’ll spoil the surprise,” he said, smiling.

Stone Temple Library - Archive of my Vandemarr fiction.

‘Do you think they know we’re watching?’ August asked, focusing his eye back through his lasgun’s telescopic sight. From their vantage point on the sixth storey of one of Gortlémund’s trading hubs, they watched as a bulky Tau sweeper unit cleared the worst of the snow from the cratered roads below with heat blasters. Behind it, a few fire warriors warily eyed the thousands of overlooking windows.
Vandemarr didn’t move. ‘Probably.’
(Fallen City)
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Chapter 6

Uvolon Quintus
Ultima Segmentum
21:38 (local)
01:53 (Imperial) 07.982.M41

~A rude awakening ~

A thousand kilometres away, a small light flickered on. It was a dirty yellow, and had a strange, reflective quality to it, like it was somehow…alien. He watched it, transfixed, as if by a hypnotist.

Straining to hear, he realised there were sounds too, issuing from the light. All around him was darkness – but this light, this strange orb, was calling to him, beckoning him forth. The voices were not ones he recognised – not Imperial voices, by any stretch of the imagination. They were sharp, cutting voices, with elongated vowels and harsh consonants, nasal, and issued as if coming from underwater.

He struggled to listen, struggled to make out what they were saying. There was pain now, as well, lethargically seeping across his cheek. Hot, smart pain – again, and again.

The light was growing now, rushing towards him with immense speed. The voices were also getting louder, and the stinging more intense. It was throbbing over other parts of his body now too; ribs, legs, back. He could almost see it, like red tendrils expanding out from epicentres of pain.

With a sudden explosion of clarity, the world around him snapped into focus, as if someone had flicked a light switch.

When it did, he wished it hadn’t.

He was in a bare room of dusty, soiled grey walls, with a huge, paneless rectangular window in front of him, looking out over a portion of the immediate city and the thousands of kilometres of desert that lay beyond it. The sun was low in the sky, but had not yet started to set. Drawing on his experiences from his short time on the planet, he guessed it was about seven o’ clock. The sun never fully set, but night-time was usually characterised by a dark blue twilight.

Right now, it was blood red.

“Mensa kai! Set gau’gola neet? Dasta gan pur’tan dai?” Something shouted.

Captain John Garrick tried to turn round to the source of the voice, but met a fist instead. A greyish, blue fist.

Warm blood dribbled from a laceration across his cheek.

“Dasta gan pur’tan dai! Dasta gan pur’tan dai!” It shouted again.

“I-I don’t understand yo-” Garrick tried to answer. More alien shouting. A fist thumped into the back of his head. Another flattened palm chopped into the side of his neck. He winced; it had been bruised before, whilst he was unconscious.

“Neayep y’dans sin dar kan’dar!” A different voice shouted, a lower voice. He felt a boot thump into his back, and the chair toppled forward. Since his hands and feet were bound to the chair, his face and neck took the full force of the eye-watering crunch. His nose broke instantly, and he felt his jaw recess painfully into his throat, popping twice as it did so. Lances of fire shot down his neck, and he screamed into the filthy floor, tasting sand once more in his mouth.

A hand grasped him by his hair and yanked him back upright, threatening to loosen his scalp in the process.

“Gola a’sheet,” Another snarled. He heard footsteps, before one of them stood in front of him. It was a Tau fire warrior; that much was obvious. He observed, through swollen eyelids, that they didn’t wear boots; rather their feet were cloven hooves, with a downy brown growth extruding below the base of the shin guard. Its body was clad in desert-pattern armour, with a large, angular shoulder pad over the firing arm, bearing the circular black and white insignia of the planet. Its helmet was smooth and swept back, with two vertically-stacked, dull red ocular units; and its pulse rifle was a good metre and a half long, currently slung over its back on a strap.

The warrior flicked a hidden button on the underside of the helmet, where Garrick would have guessed its chin was, and he was surprised to find its next words were in gothic.

“Why have you come here, human leader? What is you are purpose on our world?” The helmet’s speaker said. It was obviously a pre-recording of a more learned Tau speaking gothic, for the words were disjointed, and the sentence clumsy. Probably a cheap, standard-issue translator he guessed – the alien envoys, after all, could speak fluent gothic unaided.

He remained silent, consolidating all the bloody saliva in his mouth and spitting it out down his ochre smock. His body armour had been, needless to say, removed.

“Talk!” The helmet said again.

The Captain did not.

Moments later he was on the ground, at the wrong end of a good kicking. By some strange fortune, his dislocated jaw snapped back into place the second time his face hit the floor.

Once again, they pulled him back up by his hair.

“Human, we have you are other warriors in capture.” The Tau said. “Talk, they may still alive.”

Garrick snorted at the poor quality of the translation. What right did these...xenos think they had to interrogate one of the Emperor’s soldiers? One of the Emperor’s children?

“I will not,” Garrick replied, gasping as a sharp pain lanced across his ribs with the expansion of his diaphragm. Outside, a trio of scout vehicles thundered overhead, surrounded by more of the unmanned drones like flies around dung.

The Tau in front of him uttered some kind of untranslatable oath, and brought the pulse rifle over his shoulder. Garrick turned his head away slightly as the twin-linked barrels pressed into his cheek. He could smell the static odour of the plasma charring from inside the mechanisms; feel the cold metal against his skin, the potential energy almost tangible in the chamber. A sideways glance told him that the telescopic sight on the top of the rifle was optically linked to the lower of the two ocular units on the Tau’s helmet – he could see himself in it, shirking away from the weapon.

“Talk.” The alien said again. Garrick flinched slightly as a fresh trickle of blood drooled from a wound in his forehead, warm and wet, skirting down the side of his nose and dripping onto the floor.

Success is measured in blood; yours or your enemy's, said a voice inside his head.

The Imperial Captain took a deep breath.

“I said no,” he replied.

Chapter 7

Ultima Segmentum
07:00 (local)
11:16 (Imperial) 15.982.M41

~A confident witness is? ~

The central avenue leading towards the Department of Imperial Justice was a five kilometre long, five hundred metre wide boulevard of dull white rockcrete, lined with hundreds of regimented Imperial statues and overlooked by some of the grandest, most gargoyled buildings Lieutenant Codey had ever had the pleasure of staring at.

Having met their mystery witness – in a somewhat dank and dark spaceport café – Codey was left feeling thoroughly perplexed and small, like there were forces behind this trial that were much, much bigger than himself. He also especially got the feeling that Vandemarr wasn’t letting on all that he knew, as he struggled to keep up with the striding Commissar through the torrential downpour of cold rain that had blighted their walk to the nearest tram station.

But, alas, in the end he was merely a lieutenant, and had no real jurisdiction or right to know much about anything.

“Remember; always have all the documents ready.” Vandemarr was saying over his shoulder. “Hand them to me promptly. Don’t look down as you pass them to me, don’t look at me as you pass them to me; don’t cough or scratch yourself, don’t wipe your nose, or rub your face. A court case is like a game of five-card las; you never let our opponent think that there’s anything potentially wrong with what we’re about to submit. If we’re bluffing, then only I know about it. Understood?”

“Yes sir,” Codey replied, watching longingly as they walked past the next tram station, the Commissar having evidently decided their fate was to remain in the rain.

“In court, never look at the defendant – especially when I’m submitting. Organise the files if you need to keep yourself occupied. Every time you leave and enter the court room, bow to the bench, or you’ll be found in contempt of court. Sit still when I’m talking, and don’t fidget. If there’s something important you’ve noticed, that I haven’t picked up on, however unlikely, write it down calmly and discreetly, and hand it to me with whatever the next document is. Never interrupt me whilst I’m talking. Never interrupt the prosecution when they’re talking. As I said, if you’ve noticed something, write it down, and hand it to me – always with another file.”

“Yes sir,”

Vandemarr pulled the collar of his coat up and brought his satchel further up into his armpit as they struggled on through the rain. Codey half skipped to keep up with him, amazed at the Commissar’s normal walking speed. He hastily wiped rainwater from his eyes, trying to see the huge gothic palace up ahead that constituted the Department of Imperial Justice. Inside were all the court rooms for both civil and criminal cases; all the offices for the Commissariat, and several kilometres of underground cells for some of the more dangerous criminals to befoul the surrounding systems. Gortlémund was the centre for all administrative and legal issues for a fifteen parsec catchment area – encompassing the majority of the eastern Mordant Zone all the way up to the western Realm of Ultramar. The Administratum complex itself took up an entire continent in the southern hemisphere.

“In the unlikely event of my illness or absence, you, as my junior, will take over my job.” Vandemarr continued. “If this happens, read my notes. I have tried to make them as user-friendly as possible. Read all the facts of the case, all the witness statements – I would say read up on all the previous cases regarding Tau auxiliaries, but there hasn’t ever been any. Only make a point if you’re sure it’s either right, or it’s going to put the prosecution in a position where your subsequent point will be right. That’s what it’s all about; anticipating your opponent’s arguments before they make them, and thinking up counter-arguments on your feet.”

“Yes sir.”

Again, they walked a short distance in silence, the boulevard empty in the grey, rainy morning. Above, a pair of shuttles, flanked by two dark red thunderbolts, tore overhead, the rumbling of their combined engines remaining in the air long after they disappeared into the cloud.

“Tell me Codey, did you get drafted into the Guard, or did you volunteer?” Vandemarr said suddenly.

“I was drafted, sir.” The lieutenant replied, only slightly taken aback.

“What did you have to do to become a commissioned officer?”

“Apply for and pass officer training, sir,” Codey replied, with a smile.

“Good. You have some initiative then.”

They walked on, the first signs of the palace now becoming visible through the wall of rain.

“Remember Codey, for all we know this man could be innocent. His life is on the line. If we fail, he will be shot and killed, make no mistake. Bear that in mind, the whole time we are in the court, whether you are handing me documents, or making arguments of your own. It is for exactly this reason we will always refer to Garrick as ‘John’, or at the very least ‘Garrick’. Play the human angle. The officers on the bench are humans after all. This man is a man, and he will be killed. People don’t like killing other people for no reason, Codey, no matter what they tell you. Especially their own men.”

“Yes sir.”

“Do you know where we’re going now?”

“No, sir.”

“We’re going to see Garrick. I don’t want you to be shocked or frightened or nervous around him. It’s important you prepare yourself now. He’ll no doubt be some kind of celebrity in your eyes, after we’ve been talking about him for so long. But he can’t think we’re anything other than on top of the situation. A confident witness is…?”

“A reliable witness.”

“Very good, Codey. We’re going to brief him on what he’s been charged with, what it’ll mean if the pross win, how we’re going to go about trying to make sure he doesn’t get thrown to the wolves; and we’re going to do it in a manner that suggests he’s got nothing to worry about. As far as he’s concerned, we’ve got it in the bag. Understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Same rules apply, boy. If you hear me lie to Mister Garrick, don’t give it away. I most likely will, at least on some points. If he tells us anything – anything at all – receive bad points with neutrality, good points with enthusiasm. If he says he’s innocent, that’s good enough for both of us. If he confesses everything, I’ll shoot him myself.”

“Yes, sir.”

“How long have you been in the Guard, Codey?”

“Three years, sir.”

“Hm. Some of the things you will hear from Mister Garrick may disgust such an...upstanding Guardsman as yourself. For example, at one point on his excursion on Uvolon, he dons Tau body armour.”

Codey made a noise that conveyed his revulsion. Vandemarr whirled round to face him, rain dripping off the peak of his cap, his voice dark and level.

“That’s exactly what you never, ever do. I bet you thought three years in the Guard was a long time?”

“Yes, sir,”

“Garrick’s been in it for twelve. Let me tell you this now; as a Captain, he’ll know about things and he’ll have done things, things they explicitly prohibit in Imperial propaganda. How to stay alive, for example, by utilising alien technologies; how to speak xeno languages. These things keep men alive, Codey, and boys like you don’t understand that. So when he tells you that he wore the Tau armour, or used the Tau weapon, you don’t, do, that. Understand?”

He poked the young Lieutenant in the chest as he growled the penultimate three words, his expression unreadable. Codey knew Vandemarr had been a Commissar for a long, long time – something in the order of thirty years – and thus held an immense respect for – and at the same time, healthy fear of – the man in front of him. If he said it was what they did, then who was he to argue? His three years of service was paltry in comparison.

“Yes, sir,” he replied lamely, swallowing. The Commissar’s face seemed to brighten.

“A confident witness is?” Vandemarr said, slapping him on the shoulder and grinning.

“A reliable witness, sir.” Codey exhaled.

“Trust me, Codey,” The Commissar said, turning back, “if you knew what some of the Inquisitors were up to, you’d have a fit.”

Vandemarr laughed as he walked off into the haze, leaving a stunned Lieutenant Codey standing stock still in the rain.

Stone Temple Library - Archive of my Vandemarr fiction.

‘Do you think they know we’re watching?’ August asked, focusing his eye back through his lasgun’s telescopic sight. From their vantage point on the sixth storey of one of Gortlémund’s trading hubs, they watched as a bulky Tau sweeper unit cleared the worst of the snow from the cratered roads below with heat blasters. Behind it, a few fire warriors warily eyed the thousands of overlooking windows.
Vandemarr didn’t move. ‘Probably.’
(Fallen City)
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Join Date: Mar 2010
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Originally Posted by Nikolai View Post
Hey I really enjoyed that piece, can't wait for more. Nothing glaring to comment on except I would think that he is unlikely to survive a collapsed lung.
On a random note: it's actually not that inconceivable to survive a collapsed lung. They occur due to a buildup of pressure in the chest cavity from a perforation. Air builds up while inhaling, then doesn't get properly released. That's why you take a large gauge needle and shove it into their chest (above the third rib on the collapsed side) as well as tape on a flutter valve over whatever wound was suffered (basically, a non breathable material, i.e. plastic, taped on three sides that both allow the wound to breathe and keep any extra air from getting sucked in to the wound). The large gauge needle allows the built up air to escape, re-inflating the lung by lowering the pressure in the chest cavity (so that the pressure of the chest is lower than the pressure of the lung).

Yeah, I know weird stuff.

Very enjoyable reading, though I'll have to read the last two later (damn job, apparently they expect me to do work?)

And now you know about sucking chest wounds, and knowing is half the battle

Heresy-Online's Expeditious Stories Challenge 13-06: "Serenity" has started, get your stories in by July 11th!

Originally Posted by spanner94ezekiel View Post
3. Nothing Boc said should ever be taken seriously. Unless he's talking about being behind you. Then you run like fuck.

Last edited by Boc; 03-25-10 at 08:54 AM.
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