Susan's kidnapping would have been substantially easier to stomach had the Lady Sáclair been easier to dislike. Had the woman been cruel, or short tempered, or unreasonable, or any number of any equally unpleasant things Susan would have been able to just grab a gun and shoot her way out. However the Lady Sáclair was none of these. Vivacious and funny, the Lady was equal parts ruler and matriarch.
Susan had been trained to resist torture and avoid interrogations. Everyone broke eventually but she could be sure to make they work for what they took. She had not, however, been trained to resist the constant mothering of an extremely pregnant noblewoman insisting she have another helping of soup because "she really was much too thin." Kindness was potent weapon to which Susan lacked a prepared defense.
Susan had spent the past two days in the Lady Sáclair's decadently opulent household being educated in the art of acting like a lady in the imperial nobility. It was a job that involved substantially fewer curtseys and a great deal more concealed weapons that Susan expected. The lavish silk garment the Lady's servants brought to her, a flattering dress with more jewelery sewn into it than Susan had ever owned in her entire lifetime, was full of so many places for concealed weapons it was as much an armory as an evening dress. The Lady Sáclair had gone over every pocket in detail, suggesting the ideal weapon to spirit into each of them.
She hadn't wanted to wear the dress but there seemed no way to do it without offending the Lady Sáclair. It was befuddling to be simultaneously treated as prisoner and royalty. She'd been expecting torture and death, not caviar and pampering. Susan had servants, though slaves was probably the more accurate term for them. A girl of twenty, Tsubune Nebu Tus, who saw to her wardrobe and a boy of twelve, Ivan, who's job seemed to largely consist of declaring the titles of anyone who entered her room.
She'd tried to escape of course. Three attempts, each attempt ending more disastrous than the first. Each time she'd managed to get out the front doors the swarthy skinned Lionhearts brought her back in handcuffs, took her to her room and let her go. The Lady Sáclair found it highly amusing, telling her in passing as she forced yet another helping of stew upon her that the Lionhearts were betting on who would be the next one to bring her back.
It was several days gilded incarceration later that the Lady Sáclair presented her with a set of knives and a small but elaborately worked pistol, much to Susan's confusion. Especially so as the Lady Sáclair had chosen to forgo her usual cadre of Ogryn, "Why on earth are you arming me?"
"My dear Ivanova, we are in the warp. Simply put there isn't anywhere for you to escape to," The Lady smiled, "It could be days, even weeks before we get back to realspace."
"You aren't worried that I'll harm you or your family?" Susan picked up the pistol, feeling its weight. The weapon, one of the laser pistols favored by the Empire, was heavier than her PPG had been. It felt wrong in her hand.
"When home was only a heartbeat away? Possibly," The Lady Sáclair rolled her eyes a glibly imperious gesture of maternity, rubbing the elaborate golden lion over her belly, "But you aren't dumb enough to think you can fight your way past the entire crew, all of whom would kill you for looking at me crossly."
"That's a hell of a gamble," Susan pocketed the pistol in her dress. It did, in fact, fit perfectly in the pouch under the fur ruff.
"I'm a month from delivery, irrational leaps of faith are entirely within my perrogative." The Lady laughed as she sashayed out of the room, the skin tight fabric of her tunic clinging to her curves invitingly, "Speaking of my children I'm in need of your talents."
"You are a psychic are you not?" Susan blushed crimson. There was something deeply unnerving about having her deepest secret stated so openly. The Lady Sáclair was matter of fact about it, her only interests in it practical ones, however she couldn't help but feel a shudder of fear at other people knowing her unspoken shame.
"I'm... I'm barely a P1," Susan gulped, following the Lady Sáclair down the corridor and up a stairwell "I get flashes... sometimes bursts of emotion."
"Perfect, you'll have a step up from me," the Lady Sáclair stopped in front of a bright yellow door with 'Ami's room' painted on it in careful gothic calligraphy, "I can never even begin to figure out what this girl is thinking."
Susan eyed the pile of obviously untouched food trays in front of the door with a quizzical eye, "How long has it been since she's eaten?"
"I couldn't say. She has a personal icebox in her quarters, though none of the food in there is fit for a growing girl to eat in excess. Sweets and the like," The lady Sáclair pulled back her veil, looking exhausted, "She's refusing to talk to anyone. She went absolutely mental when Preston, who changed her swaddling clothes mind you, woke her from a nightmare. Tossed things at him till he left. Screaming not to touch her."
"It was when she refused to let Danzig into the room that I knew something was really seriously wrong," the Lady Sáclair sighed, "She loves him like an uncle. She won't tell me anything other than 'everything is ok', which is a teenage code word for "the world is ending."
"And you want me to talk to her," There was no way she was going to be able to turn this down, even if she'd wanted to. To hell with it, apparently this would be her mitzvah for the year.
"It is that or I have to bring in a Medicus who will declare her to be hysterical and have her sedated." The Lady Sáclair spat the word 'hysterical', clearly disgusted at the very thought of it.
"Yeah," Susan snarled at the sheer chauvinism, "I'll talk to her."
"Good," The Lady Sáclair pressed a button on the wall, opening the door.
A single figure on the four poster bed in the center of the room had enough time to screech a disgusted "Moooom" before the Lady Sáclair all but tossed Susan into the room, shouting "I have someone for you to meet dear," over Susan's confused, "Woah...Wait a second!"
The door shut with a noise that sounded suspiciously like a lock fixing into place as a furious teenage girl leapt off the bed and started jabbing Susan in the chest. Her bony digit prodded the jewlery of her dress, poking her with the sharp pins of the various golden ornaments, "Who in the Eye are you?"
"If you poke me one more time I will be the woman breaking your finger," Susan batted the girl's hand away, "But my name is Susan Ivanova."
The girl gaped at her in astonishment, "You're the Inquisitor's apprentice. The one from the Alliance."
"I'm the Inquisitor's prisoner," Susan corrected.
The girl cocked her head in confusion, "But I thought you'd been entered into the ship's logs as his apprentice."
"He kidnapped me," Susan massaged her arms, remembering the broken bones, "Brutalized me, shamed me, and harmed my friends. But yes, for some reason both he and your mother are convinced I'm going to become his apprentice."
"That... that makes no sense at all," Ami shook her head.
"Trust me I've been trying to convince your mother of that for days now," Susan sat down in an overstuffed chair next to Ami's bed, idly picking up a copy of Troubled Crossroads: A tale of the Manchurian Crusade. The book's gaudy cover promised tales of the fabled Sable Swords chapter of the Adeptus Astates, whoever the heck they were, "No sense at all."
"No I mean turning it down," Ami sat down on the bed, "You do realize what an Inquisitor is right? What they do? The opportunity he gave you?"
Susan massaged her temples, trying to massage the tick out of her forehead. After everything she'd been through the thought of just winging the snot nosed brat with a bit of laser fire for actually having the audacity to suggest she should be grateful. But she bit it down, gathering some intelligence couldn't hurt, "Ok Ami. Why?"
"Miss Ivanova... it's one of the highest positions of authority in the Imperial government. They're basically royalty," Ami shook her head at Susan's incredulous expression, "No seriously, an Inquisitor is given all sorts of stuff. Armies, private estates, some of them rule star systems. Pretty much anything you could ever want."
"The world has gone insane," Susan waved her arms in disgust, "I've been kidnapped and made into a noble by a race of nutjobs."
"It's not all bad," Ami balled her skirts in her hands, "I mean we're not all bad."
Susan gritted her teeth, realizing her gaff, "Ami, your mother is very worried about you. Worried enough that she'd asking her...guest... prisoner... whatever I am... to talk to you."
"Why you?" Ami squinted in confusion, "A servant I get, my sisters I get, but... this is just weird."
"I'm a psychic," the words hit the Ami like a ton of bricks, filling her eyes with tears as she started blubbering out of control.
The little girl buried her head in the pillows and started screaming, "It's not my fault."
Groaning in disgust, Susan realized why the girl's mother had wanted her to be the one to talk to her daughter. Given the apparent presumptions of psychic might associated with an Inquisitor, as well as their absence of psychic privacy laws, the girl assumed that Susan already knew her secret. She rubbed the girl's shoulder comfortingly, "Honey, it's ok. It's ok. Let it all out."
Ami looked up at Susan with her tearstreaked face and hiccupped, "I didn't know it would happen. I didn't want it to happen."
"Ok," Susan wiped the girl's face with the sleeve of her dress, "Lets start from the top. What happened."
"I... I was looking for clues about the man murdering teenage girls in the Belzafest sector," Ami hugged herself not daring to make eye contact with Susan, "I wore a disguise to sneak into the space security cordoned off."
"You snuck into an active crime scene by yourself trying to find a serial killer," Susan couldn't keep the bemusement out of her voice, "I assume your mother told you not to, which is why you aren't telling her."
Ami nodded, another tittering sob coming out, "It was stupid, I know. But I couldn't do nothing I'm good at things! I can help."
"Ami, I wouldn't go by myself to a dangerous crime scene and I'm a professional soldier. There's being brave and there's being stupid," Ami's face fell, "It's the truth. That was stupid."
"Yeah," Ami shuddered, "I know that now."
Susan recongized the tone, knowing all too well where Ami's story was heading to a dark place, "What happened next?"
"He was there," the pronoun rolled off her tongue like a vile swear, like the last bit of bile in your throat, "He found me... he wanted to... It wasn't ok. I didn't want to." Susan just listened, not daring to interrupt her.
"I pretended to be interested, let him get in close, and kicked him in where it hurts," Susan couldn't help herself, she snorted with laughter. Ami laughed with her for a good three minutes. They laughed so hard it hurt, "Yeah... But it wasn't enough. I wasn't fast enough. He caught me."
"Oh sweetheart," Susan's heart broke for the girl. She brushed the hair out of Ami's eyes, patting the firearm beneath her dress with deliberate intent. Considering the old testament style justice the Empire seemed to favor she might actually get to shoot the bastard, "Who was he? Where is he?"
"Dead... he's dead..." She crawled into a ball on the bed, hugging her knees to her chest. The girl hesitated, emanating the slightest of shuddering psychic impressions. It must have been an overwhelming feeling for Susan to have sensed it.
Ami didn't want to talk about how he'd died. Nor was Susan inclined to force the matter. She muttered inaudibly, "Good. It saves me the trouble of killing the bastard."
Ami bit her lip, "Are... are you going to tell my mom?"
"That you had to kill a man who assaulted you in a dark alley in self defense and feel guilty about it? Yes, I have to. But it's up to you how much or little you chose to share with her," Susan hugged the girl comfortingly, a gesture she wasn't generally comfortable with, "But you need to share with someone you trust. And for god's sake eat a meal."
"Ok," Ami smiled, "It's a shame you don't want to be an Inquisitor."
"I don't think there are a whole lot of nice ones," The girl sniffled, resting her head on her knees, "You're nice... even if you are a bit blunt."
"I'm not blunt. I'm Russian," Susan shrugged, "We're just more practical about these things."
"What's Russia?" The girl crossed her legs, "Is that your planet?"
"Well... its certainly a world apart, but no it's on Earth..." She stopped mid sentence as a chill ran up her spine, vague tendrils of psychic familiarity echoing through her mind. The overwhelming sense that a predator was stalking her hummed in the back of her mind as she reached in to her dress for the pistol, all too cognizant of its meaning.
The yellow door swung inward, unveiling the nightmare beyond. Hobbling forward with the aid of a long ebony cane, Inquisitor Daul entered the room. Terrifying fluttering skulls hovered around him, their tiny tendril mounted surgical tools and complex instruments dangling from glowing antigravity harnesses. His face was one giant purplish discoloration, giving his already tired face the distinct impression of purification.
Heedless of the danger Susan pulled out her pistol and fired, clicking the trigger several times before realizing that nothing was happening, "Oh no..."
"Oh honestly," the Inquisitor beaconed with a single finger, tearing the gun from her grip and summoning it in a single fluid motion. He examined the firearm idly, turning it to its side and tapping one of the gems, "You need to disable the safety first." He depressed the jewel and brandished the firearm, "Like this."
"I'll try to remember that for next time," Susan's eyes flitted around the room, searching for an escape, a weapon, anything really, "What are you going to do now?"
"Nothing, if you mean what am I going to do to you. We are going to walk to the Captain's library and have a conversation like civilized adults," The implication that Susan had somehow betrayed the Inquisitor's hospitality was not lost on her. Susan considered the merits of stabbing him in his fat hypocritical face like the condescending bastard deserved, a wildly impractical if greatly satisfying fantasy.
"And if I refuse?" She wasn't about to make this easy for the self entitled jerk, "You strip me naked, break every bone in my body and parade me past everyone I know? Oh wait, you already did that!"
"Miss Ivanova, perhaps these matters are best discussed elsewhere," He gave a significant look at Ami, "Away from the impressionable and obviously terrified?"
Susan swallowed guiltily. Ami, who only moments ago had been bursting with curiosity about Susan's homeland, had balled herself into a ball and hidden beneath the covers. An entirely reasonable reaction to someone trying to start a gunfight in your bedroom. Oye vey, the last thing that girl needed was to lose her safe place in her own house, "Ok, I'll come with you. But it isn't for you understand."
"Miss Ivanova if you had been anything other than your stubborn self I would have been greatly disappointed," The Inquisitor cracked a smile, "Now, if you please." So it was that Susan found herself being led at gunpoint to the Captain's library, only a yard from the most evil man she had ever known.