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post #101 of 159 (permalink) Old 06-03-12, 09:40 AM Thread Starter
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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."

"My 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."

"Why?"

"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.
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post #102 of 159 (permalink) Old 06-03-12, 09:41 AM Thread Starter
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David arrived with his package at the appointed time, taking special care not to drop it or disturb the contents for fear that they might be as dangerous as the man he delivered them to. He walked in to fight deck D-225 and found hangar R-2, a nondescript place short range transports sat in storage. Most of them were either outdated transports replaced long ago and kept for parts or the disused transports of layabout nobles too disinterested with life outside the ship to see to their hereditary transports.

At the end of the row behind a boxy Rodan make transport under a thick tarp was a sleek ship strategically covered in grease and spare parts to give the illusion of disuse. The sleek engines of a mark-3 Kor interceptor were welded to the body of a ZV series six transport, rounded bulky nose sporting what looked suspiciously like retractable gun ports he was positive did not come on the standard model.

No special effort seemed to have been made to either conceal the transport or prevent entry, the door to its cargo hold yawed open without needing identification. David crossed the threshold, taking care not to present himself as too open of a target. Stenatoda was fond of clubbing him from behind when he made deliveries, her hatred of his father vented upon him by proxy.

His caution proved excessive, the cargo bay was entirely bereft of crew or cargo. A few confused moments of further examination of the ship revealed signs of habituation but no inhabitants. Discarded playing cards, a still smoking cigar in the ash tray of the necessary, and even the still warm cup of tea abandoned in the cockpit with the remnants of toasted bread all indicated someone was supposed to be in the ship.

It was alarming, Dex had never given David a delivery date or location that hadn't had someone to pick up the package, apparently mistrusting dead drops. If Dex's intended recipient had yet to arrive it meant that something had gone wrong, which in the case of Amon Sui mutiny might mean his own undoing. Fearful that Osma's enforcers might drop in at any moment David stowed the package in his rucksack and made a beeline for the door.

Stuttering to a stop as the sheer wall of the cargo bay receded, David jerked in astonishment as Dex poked his head into view. The saboteur looked at his chronometer in astonishment, blinking in surprise. He tapped it twice, shaking it next to his ear before sighing in disgust, "Damned magnets botched the internals."

"Sir," David probed, unsure what to call Dex. The Amon Sui were impossibly strict with their titles, "I have your package."

"I'm sure ye do boy," He waved in to the concealed compartment with an oil-stained rag, idly pocketing his broken chronometer in the pocket of his velvet jacket beneath his thick smock, "Put it on the yellow table next to my tools."

The cramped workshop housed within the secret compartment of an otherwise nondescript cargo ship was not exactly the base of operations that David would have expected from Dex. Immaculately clean and uncluttered it was more reminiscent of an operating room in a surgery than the lair of a dangerous and unrepentant techo-heretic. Tools of all descriptions lined the walls, hanging from pegs and marked by an outline of each tool drawn in permanent marker. A place for everything and everything was in its place.

Dex flopped down into a well worn looking chair, pushing snub faced and wheezing dog to the ground with a mild reproof, "This be' my chair boy. Not for doggies." He continued to wipe the grease from his fingers and stared at David intently, "Stenatoda told me that you're causing her a whole mess of trouble, that you're unruly and unusable."

David bristled at the comment, his thoughts straying to the pistol he'd stowed in his rucksack as he slammed the package on the table next to the tool box, "I am not!"

"Says the boy who just smashed a box of pressure trigger grenades on the table," Dex's voice hitched in horror.

"I... but... what..." David gulped, staring at the indentations in the package his fingers made.

Just as David was contemplating if it was more economical to use his last moments fleeing for his life or making his peace with the Emperor, Dex burst into uproarious laughter. He laughed till he had to wipe tears of mirth from his eyes.

"Lad. Stenatoday is a complete hag. If she'd liked you I'd worry. If she suspected you of betraying us you'd be dead. Consider yourself employed by the Amon Sui. You just manhandled some tools used for engine repair. Not delicate and most certainly not explosive," Dex reached into a metal pail on his shelf and tossed a foil wrapped package to David, "Relax boy."

On reflex David caught the package, opening it to discover a pocket of flatbread filled with savory meat and cheeses. Unsure what he was supposed to do with it, he sat on the stool of the work bench. Dex's flat-faced dog woofed hopefully at David's flatbread, hoping for something to drop.

Dex sighed and pulled another pocket out of the bucket, "Lad it works better if you put it in your mouth and chew."

David tentatively took a bite and swallowed, surprised by the meat's leanness, "This isn't grox."

"Nay, it's one of the devil birds they imported. Ostriches or whatever they're called. Vile creatures but they taste a damn sight better than they look," He snorted, "Some damned fools are actually trying to ride the psychotic things, getting hurt good and proper for their stupidity too."

"Riding them?" David couldn't imagine looking at the oblong figured angry creatures and thinking that mounting them was anything other than a fools errand. Then he was hardly one to make judgement calls on fools, "How would you do that?"

"They've made these saddles they're trying to fit the birds with. It aint bein' especially well received I assure you. Ye' canna believe how damned funny it is," Dex sighed, "But that isn't why I brung' you here."

"Why am I here?"

"Ta listen boy," He smiled sadly and rain his fingers through his thick beard, stroking the chin of his dog absentmindedly. It's leg scratched the floor rhythmically in satisfaction, "You've heard half a story. It has to have been... by the saints boy has it been fifteen years? Aye it has. Fifteen years and you've been only given half stories and platitudes about what has happened."

"And you're going to tell me the whole truth?" David's sarcasm slipped past his teeth before he could consider the danger in mouthing off.

"Lad, truth is all I do," Dex crossed his arms across his wide chest, "Have I lied to you about anything yet boy? Told you any half truths? Hell have I ever not answered a question you've asked?"

Much to David's frustration nothing came to mind, "I suppose that's true so far..."

Dex slapped him on his knee with bone jarring joviality, "Of course it is lad. Old Dex is a teller of truth. Now you're going to sit back and listen to Dex's story, and you're going to listen. Now Dex is a traitor you say? A saboteur? Nay lad. Dex is a patriot. You only know the Amon Sui as bogeymen, the devils who haunt you and your family. But it were not always so."

He chewed pensively, apparently considering where to start David's education, "I started me path to the Amon as a boy not much younger than you are. I started tinkering. Machines interested me, and though I caught the eye of the Enginseers, who allowed me to observe them in the machine shops in exchange for completing errands. They thought it harmless, I was too young and uneducated for them to worry I would learn their secrets. But learn I did."

He paused dramatically, clearly deeply satisfied to have outsmarted the Tech-priests, "After a while I stopped just learning. I realized that with some slight differences I could not just do the same repairs as the tech priests, I was better. With my bare hands and some tools I could fix machines they condemned to the scrap heap."

He held up his hands, examining the fingers fondly, "It were as though I had found my calling in life. I showed the priests what I'd learned, hoping for praise, only to receive their disgust. They called me heretic, arrested me, gave me to the Amon Sui representative visiting the colony and demanded my extradition to a Ad-mech world to await execution."

"You look surprisingly healthy for a dead man," David said through a mouthful of ostrich.

"Aye, I do at that," The technopagan snorted, "Nay he did not kill me. He protected me, gave me a job, gave me a purpose. For years I discovered and re-discovered Dark Age technologies, replicating what I could not invent through the use of xenotech. Lad, I saved lives, I improved the quality of life on dozens of worlds and ships, including the Endless Bounty. If doing that makes me a heretic then I'm damned proud to be one no matter what your father says to the contrary."

"I notice you not mentioning all the people you killed. How you tried to sacrifice my father to achieve your goals," David's blood boiled, "How your group tried to murder me in my sleep."

"After your father turned us in for a sin that was his lad. You'll pardon us for being a bit miffed that he'd gone and had anyone in the entire bleeding nation slapped with a death sentence because he couldn't manage to smuggle a single parcel of grain five systems without tipping off an Imperial patrol," He sighed, "They tossed your father under so that billions, trillions of well meaning men like me could avoid persecution for our beliefs."

"Beliefs like the coven of Skova?" Dex flinched at the name, caught off guard. David tossed the foil to the ground and crossed his arms, "I saw the pict slates Inquisitor Hilder left in my father's care. They still give me nightmares. Men, women, and children were all sacrificed to feed the hunger of the dark beast in belly of the Amon Sui flagship. All done for boons of power."

"I seem to recall a couple hundred xenos relaxing in the relative comfort of the Endless Bounty after the last battle, do I not? Perhaps ye' recall the bleeding planet full of people, the Belzafesters, who the Inquisitor was willing to slaughter to capture a single man," Dex pulled a clay pipe out from a pocket and began to pack it with a thick wad of mixed talbac and spices, "But you're right, they were wrong to do that."

He lit the talbac and inhaled deeply, thin trails of smoke whispering their way out the edge of his lips, "They were also forced into it."

"Forced into it," David repeated incredulously, "The Inquisitor suggested that the Amon Sui had been making use of cultist groups for centuries, perhaps longer."

"Lad, exactly how many of your father's conversations have you been privy to?" Dex puffed on his pipe in amusement, "I can't see Hilder exactly wanting a strapping lad like you knowing more than you ought to."

The Inquisitor hadn't even remotely wanted it, nor had his father, however when a Sáclair got it into their head to do a deed there wasn't anything on heaven or earth to stop them. There was an old, disused servant's entrance to the room behind a book shelf. It was from there that he'd eves dropped on a number of the Inquisitor's conversations with his father, "Not... not that many... well not that many before they caught me."

Dex pulled out his pipe and waved it in a lazy circle, prompting him to continue. David sighed, "It was after my father came back from prison. I was thirteen and it had been so long since I'd seen him that I couldn't remember what he looked like. I just wanted to... I don't know... understand why he'd left, what he'd done to deserve the disgrace. I snuck into his papers, learned all that I could stomach. It.. it didn't make a lot of sense to me," he rubbed his right elbow in reflexive pain at the memory, "The Inquisitor's man caught me doing it... the Skitarii... he switched me ragged then brought me to the Inquisitor... who sat me down and forced me to look at the pictures of the massacres... the chaos massacres. He looked at me with those dead eyes of his and said, 'there are things boys should not seek out. There are things no man should know.' Then he let me go. I never eavesdropped again... It... he scared me... he still does."

"He's supposed to kill someone who does that you know. Children... Hilder has a special fondness for children," Dex sighed, "Evil men try to find a way to make themselves feel morally justified for the things they do. I suppose sparing you was his way of being able to sleep at night."

He stood up and clapped David's side paternally, "I understand your need to learn lad. I feel the same way. It's why I do what I do. It's why I fight the Inquisitor. I want the right to learn without fear."

A fit of melancholy overtook him and he lifted the dog into his arms, snuggling the great lumbering beast against his beard, "Lad there are greater and lesser levels of evil, even with respect to Chaos. Aye there are horrible monstrous beasts who serve chaos, but there are monsters who claim the Emperor as their savior as well. Did the Amon Sui use sorceries banned by the dogma of the Eccelsiarchy? Aye, but they did not turn to blood sacrifice and true horrors till the Inquisitor launched the first attack on them. He brought the fragging Space Marines to attack and subdue entire settlements, razing habitats with hundreds of thousands of innocents. What were we to do? We defended ourselves."

"Better to die," David hissed, disgusted at the thought of turning to the demon gods, "Far better than to fall."

"Aye?" Dex smiled a sad half smile, "And shall I be stopping with the serum for your lady love then?"

"That's... that's different!" David had endured enough of the heretic's double talk. It was time to tell him what-for, "I am saving her life."

"And the sacrifices to the Beast of Skova were to appease the will of a warp beast dwelling in the space between worlds. It attacked the Inquisitor's fleet, scattering it and giving the Amon Sui fleet time to recover and regroup elsewhere," Dex sighed and deposited his dog back in the chair, "Lad, no man is the villain of his own story. I have no doubt that Horus himself truly believed it was the best thing for the universe to usurp the Emperor and take control."

David's mouth hung slack in horror at the perverse suggestion. It was ludicrous to the point of impossible but the man said it as though it were the most positively ordinary thing to say. Men had been hung on gibbets for suggesting less heretical things... but then Dex had no fear of being branded a heretic. He reveled in his heresy.

Dex pressed three vials of pale liquid into David's hands, cupping them with his own, "Lad, you don't need to believe me. You don't need to believe in my cause. I don' expect you to and I don' need you to. But when the time comes I need you to remember that this was your choice, just like it was the choice for the Amon Sui to sacrifice themselves, just like it was your father's choice to trade with the xenos, and just like it was the Inquisitor's choice to seek the aid of xenos."

"Like I chose to accept your offer... chose to inject Bona with the serum," David hesistated. The click of glass vial on glass vial punctuated the silence, stressing the avoided truth, "I am a heretic too aren't I."

"Aye lad," Dex puffed his pipe, "And we all pay for our choices. One way or another."
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post #103 of 159 (permalink) Old 06-03-12, 09:42 AM Thread Starter
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Zack strained to see through the reflections on his visor. Hazy clouds of semi translucent noxious gasses swirled around the corridors of the so called "Alien Sector" bursting with every footstep he took. Miss Winters, bound and sedated, muttered insults in her sleep as Zack and Michael hefted her between them. Fragmented mutters of "get you," "fool," and "obey" worked their way past her mask in a distinctly less than congratulatory manner.

The small section of apartments between Red and Green sectors catered to the living needs of non-oxygen breathing races, though few enough of those remained. Inconvenient though wearing an encounter suit was, none of them were in any hurry to live too close to what was now referred to as the "Vorlon Quarantine." Other than a contingent of heavily armed and armored Marines, armed with weapons generally banned on B5 for their tendency to breach the hull of ships, there wasn't a soul within a hundred yards of the Ambassador's apartment.

A small repulsion platform carried a hazardous materials container, hovering ten paces behind them at all times. More than once he'd leapt in horror as the rim of the device bumped the back of his knees. Marines, concealed by the smoke and their own barricades, yelled confirmation signs out of seemingly nowhere, only revealing themselves once Garibaldi successfully replied with the password.

He wasn't sure what the Chief hoped to accomplish by going to the Vorlon but the Chief had never led him wrong so far. He wasn't about to start doubting him now, even if he really, really wanted to. Complaining however, was another matter entirely, "Chief this is... just... creepy."

"Don't I know it," Garibaldi's voice crackled through the speaker on his mask, distorted and elongated, "But we don't have a choice."

"Why the Vorlon Chief? Kosh hasn't exactly been in a 'sharing mood' lately," Zack managed not to jump out of his own skin when a Marine appeared out of the mist from his hiding place , but just barely. Was there actually any point in doing that? The Vorlons must have been able to see through the mist. They were freaking telepaths.

"He's going to give me what I'm asking for," Garibaldi swiped his ID chip past the outer pressure doors of the Vorlon's apartment, "Because I'm going to ask nicely."

Well, the plan certainly had the benefit of simplicity. However, in Zack's opinion, however inexpert it may have been, there seemed to be certain flaws therein. Specifically being totally nuts, "And if that doesn't work?"

"I end him," There was something truly terrifying in the way Garibaldi stated it. There was no hesitation, no doubt, no consideration for the consequences, "I figure he's worn out his welcome."

"Chief," Zack wasn't sure what scared him more, the prospect of threatening to kill a Vorlon or the consequences of not being able to follow through, "You do have a plan right?"

Garibaldi waggled his eyebrows and entered the Vorlon's chambers, "What can I say. I'm a wascly wabbit."

"He's completely insane," Zack muttered to Talia under his breath, "I can't tell who's gone more bonkers, him or you... or me for going with you... we're all freaking insane."

Having never been in the Vorlon's chambers before Zack couldn't say what they looked like before, but it seemed deeply unlikely that the shattered glass and torn curtains had always been part of the décor. Anything with a reflective surface had been shattered into tiny pieces and thrown to the ground where in lay in multifaceted spirals of regret. Deep gouges were torn intermittently into in the walls, presumably where the Vorlon Ambassador had lashed out telepathically. A shattered room for a shattered man.

The Ambassador himself hovered listlessly in front of a holographic display of ISN. The dour faced Newscaster sat in front of a picture of the Ambassador's glowing eye, before the image switched to a series of shaky image stills of the battle. Confusing pictures of zombies, demons, and the Vorlon fighting security other painted a nightmarish picture of the Vorlon. The two minute report finished, then started from the beginning, showing the whole terrible thing over again.

God only knew how long the Vorlon had been sitting here, watching it on a loop.

"Ambassador Kosh," Garibaldi pulled out his side arm, a more powerful version of the PPG generally issued to station security. He approached the Ambassador slowly, taking care to not step on a protruding shard of glass, "Ambassador Kosh I need to speak with you."

"They cannot see," The Ambassador moaned despondently.

"Ambassador," Garbaldi was in no mood for the creature's self pity, "Now."

The Vorlon swiveled its head to face Garibaldi, observing him with its single eye, "The Circle. It was for the Circle."

"Ambassador I'm not here to discuss your crimes," Garibaldi backed up two paces, covering the alien with his firearm.

"Crimes!" Screeched the Vorlon. It's shimmering cloak billowed round it fluttering with incandescent plumes of psychic lightning.

"Ambassador, right now I am here to talk," Garbaldi pulled a remote detonator from his pocket and held it into the air, "If I start thinking you don't want to play nice any more I press the red button and 'boom' this section of the station goes into space. It probably won't kill you but captian Xingjang was surprisingly agreeable to the idea of blowing the excised section to little bits with laser fire. I figure a weapon capable of killing a ship should be able to kill you."

"You killed people Ambassador. Without provocation," Zack was astonished to discover that it was, in fact, himself speaking to the agitated Vorlon in this manner. And even more astonished when he followed it up with, "So yeah. Crimes."

"Protection," Hissed Kosh, his eye focused on the metal box in Garibaldi's hand, "Those who consort with the third are destroyed utterly. Men and ships alike. It is law. None of the third, no danger."

"Protection... what are you," Garibaldi lowered his pistol, "You didn't tell the fleet to come."

A pregnant moment passed before the Ambassador seemed to deflate, his cloaks ceasing their psychically enhanced motion, "No."

"I don't get it," Zack eased Talia into one of the few remaining pieces of furniture in the room, "What does that have to do with anything?"

"I'll explain it later Zack," Garibaldi groaned, his face scrunched in thought "Damn. This complicates... damn. You actually though you were saving us... they were going to destroy the station."

"A man who sees with both eyes is also blind," The Vorlon trilled morosely, eyeing the Chief, "If he does not look."

"Then perhaps you can look at something for me," Garibaldi waved towards the hovering canister, clearly intending for Zack to open it. Feeling distinctly like the rough nomex gloves were not even close to sufficient protection for what he was about to do, Zack reached into the container and pulled out the egg sized gem. The swirling black mist in the crystal undulated and crackled with some dark and sinister power, intoxicating in it's disgusting beauty.

The Vorlon made a sound like boiling water whistling from the kettle, furious and confused, "How?"

The Chief scratched the back of his neck, "The Inquisitor had a trap set up for the demon. Said he was going to trap it in the stone."

"It would not have worked," The Vorlon chided matter-of-factly.

"He assured us it would."

"Fool," Kosh growled, clearly unimpressed with Hilder's assessment, "She stepped in."

"Yes," Zack affirmed, staring at Talia, "Can you make her the way she was?"

Kosh sighed.

Garibaldi sighed, "Can you do it?"

The Vorlon considered it, "No."

"Care to repeat that?" Garibaldi's voice was a deadly calm, a broiling storm beneath still waters. For a second Zack feared he would detonate the explosives on principal.

"The Animus can not be unmade once forged, only harnessed." The stone lifted from Zack's hands where it hovered in the air, "Two souls cannot live in one body."

"Hold up," Zack swallowed, "Are you telling me that the reason you can't put Talia back to normal is because there is a soul already in her body?" It was just... too... weird to even contemplate, "How does that happen?"

"A fragment remains. Twisted, evil. It has claimed her," the glass fragments from the floor collected around the crystal, melting and molding into each other as the Vorlon manipulated them into a glass bracelet, into which he set the stone, "The fragment must be excised."

"Will it... harm her?" Garibaldi relaxed the arm carrying his pistol.

"The fragment must be excised," the Vorlon repeated, though the implication that it would indeed hurt very badly hung in the air.

"Do it," Garibaldi nodded.

The bracelet elongated and reformed, snaking its way around Talia winter's neck, shimmering and metamorphosing into a choker, the oblong stone nestled in the nape of the Telepath's neck. With a shifting of servos the Vorlon's eye narrowed and a thin beam of blue light shot from his eye into the stone, agitating the black smoke. Multicolored bursts of lighting shot from the stone into Miss Winter's body, waking her from her drug induced stupor.

With an unholy screech of, "No!" she stood up and tried to flee, only to fall back into the chair when a shard of glass sliced her exposed ankle. Her body spasmed erratically, every muscle contorting and contracting in resistance to soul-stone's power. Billowing green jets of smoke hissed from the pores in her skin, collecting into a ball of telekinetic lightning where they dissolved into oblivion.

After what felt like days but likely was only seconds she collapsed, breathing easily behind her mask. The Vorlon nodded once and looked at Garibaldi, "It is done."

"Ok," Zack reached for the soul-stone, "I'll just get rid of this..."

"No," The Vorlon rapped his knuckles with telekinetic whip, "Do not. What has been done cannot be undone. What you see before you is only the meat. The soul is forever bound."

"She has to wear the soul stone... forever," Garibaldi sighed sympathetically, "She is not going to like that.

"What happens if she looses the necklace?" Zack made a disgusted face, trying not to linger too much on the thought of Talia just being 'meat' in the Vorlon's estimation.

"The soul is bound to the stone, not the flesh," Kosh turned away from Talia and looked back to his holographic display, "We are finished."

"Kosh," Garibaldi closed his eyes as though tasting something foul, "Thank you."

The Vorlon said nothing, as was his custom.

Closing his eyes and sighing deeply, Garibaldi lifted Talia into a side carry, "Come on Zack. Let's get her back to the Doc. I want to check and see if anyone's found Susan before I get some shut eye."

A hazy film seemed to cover Zack's eyes as he felt himself speaking words that were no his, but he somehow knew to be true. He didn't remember where the inclination came from, or why it came, but he spoke them all the same, "I just saw her a minute ago Chief! I'm sure she's just walking around the Zoccalo."

Garibaldi shot him a furious glare, "That's not funny Zack. Susan is your friend too."

In spite of trying to articulate his apology for having said something so clearly offensive, he was sleep deprived and obviously not thinking properly, the warm film went over his eye again and his lips moved without consulting him, "I just saw her a minute ago Chief! I'm sure she's just walking around the Zoccalo."

"Zack..." Garibaldi's face took on a look of genuine concern, "What's wrong with you man."

"I just saw her a minute ago Chief! I'm sure she's just walking around the Zoccalo." Zack struggled to fight the film away from his eyes, clawing at his face as the words came out again and again, " I just saw her... I just saw her... I just saw her... I just saw her."

"No," The Vorlon replied from the other side of the room, "But you believe."

"Oh... son of a Bitch!" Garibaldi carried Talia towards the exit, rushing to some thing though Zack was at a complete loss as to why.

"Sir. I just saw her."
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post #104 of 159 (permalink) Old 06-03-12, 09:43 AM Thread Starter
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Sáclair watched in amusement as the plasma turrets in the ceiling of the great hall swayed back and forth in time with Tuul's incessant strides along the narrow length of marble hovering three yards from the great throne, his furious motions conveying the anger and betrayal his monotone drone could not, "I will do no such thing."

Zorn Calven sneered across the gap, a perversely giddy expression across his face as he snorted a generous pinch out of his snuff box into one of his pronounced nostrils. His milky third eye swiveled with amusement as he chuckled in reply, "Yes you will Magos adept Tuul. The navigators have deemed it necessary."

"It is madness! My knowledge of how warp propulsion functions isn't anywhere near sophisticated enough for me to consider modifying an existing design without the supervision of a high Magos, let alone activate a dark age piece of archeotech which we presume to be an alternate faster than light drive," The Magos rubbed his augmentic hand over the stubble of his recently shaved scalp, "It is madness to do it."

"The Navigators disagree," Sáclair reclined in his throne, savoring Tuul's discomfort. He'd been greatly displeased that Danzig had marooned rather than murdered the Magos, but considering Tuul's substantial authority over the Enginseers of the Endless Bounty it was likely for the best. He needed Tuul, but for now it was best to keep the Machine Priest in his place, "As do I."

"My lord Sáclair... this is insane..." Tull trailed off, cowed by the hateful look on Sáclair's face, "The Inquisitor cannot possibly..."

"This is none of his affair," Sáclair smashed his fist on the arm of his throne, accidentally activating the ship wide vox cast, unintentionally broadcasting his shout of "I am to be obeyed" shipwide over the loudspeaker. The cacophonous bellow had the desired effect, even Zorn Calven flinched in fear at his rage. He deactivated the speakers and continued, "I trust I do not need to repeat myself?"

"Do not make me do this sir," Tuul said in a barely audible whisper, "It is a violation of the code of the Omnissiah... this will not end well."

"Tuul I tolerated the eccentricities of your mistress out of respect for her talents," Sáclair growled, "I am not making you do anything. You are welcome to participate or not participate as you will. But the Enginseers will be activating the system while we are en-route to the rendezvous."

Tuul did not have a chance to reply as his marble plinth descended to the ground, commanded by an idle whim of Sáclair's mind. He was the master of his ship, Sáclair and no other. If Sáclair said that he wanted a system activated then what business was it of Tuuls to disagree with him. Tuul was an insignificant ant scurrying about in the belly of the Endless Bounty, hardly worthy of his notice.

"I am pleased that you've come around to seeing things my way," As the platform became little more than a speck on the distant ground Zorn bowed deeply, perhaps a bit too deeply to be interpreted as respectful, "This will be a life changing boon if we are correct."

"You're sure about this," Sáclair grunted, "We've had a way of traveling faster than light without entering the warp this close without ever knowing it?"

"The Endless Bounty was built from the husk of a ship recovered from the depths of space my lord Sáclair, born from the ashes of the distant past," Zorn shrugged, "One presumes that there are many such technologies on different ships who's true functions have been lost to the ravages of time."

"But so great a boon," Sáclair sighed, reason overtaking him, "Tuul and Kerrigan were overcautious perhaps, but never foolish."

"We would be greater fools for not trying to recover so glorious a thing," The Navigator waved to the half repaired great hall, motioning to the cracked marble and shattered ornamentation, "Look at this ship, all that she has survived. Beyond the wildest expectation of its makers this ship has been reforged, reborn, repaired and re-invented so many times in human history that her first name has been lost to us. Endless Bounty is her appellation and Endless Bounty is her destiny Captain. Of that I have no doubt. Captain we live in fear of our own former greatness, of the unspoken times when we quenched the stars at a whim. We rightly fear the darkness it brought down upon us but to ignore the possibility that one of the greatest feats of mankind's distant past might be in our very midst is foolish."

"And if he protests to the Inquisitor?" Sáclair grimaced. Galling though it was, the Inquisitor was well within his rights to order Sáclair to stop. Even as the captain of the ship he was not entitled to defy inquisitorial edict, "Tuul is within his rights to do so."

"It might have been... implied, by certain members of the Nobility that you intend to allow Kerrigan to return to the ship. Provided, of course, that a certain Magos Adept tows the line till we next make port at Babylon Five," Calven carefully examined his cuticles, rubbing at them with a singe bony finger, "Implied in strong enough tones and with enough... "evidence" to convince even a skeptic."

"I dislike subterfuge Navigator Calven," To indifferently discuss subterfuge of that manner, as though Zorn were his co-conspirator and equal, set his hackles on end. The Navigator was taking more liberties than was his right, "And those I am assumed to support even less."

"Captain I'm offended," Zorn put his hands to his heart in an insincere gesture of hurt, "I am but a humble messenger. What the nobility chooses to say to the Enginseers is their own affair."

"Navigator you are either bold or foolish," Sáclair chuckled.

"I am neither Captain," the Navigator bowed again, "I am, as always, your humble servant."

"Begone," Sáclair waved imperiously, dismissing Zorn with a wave. It would not be till the Navigator stepped on to a marble platform and descended to the ground that Sáclair's own nagging frustration with the man's tone manifested into a coherent thought. Zorn used the same tone with Sáclair that the Captian used when talking with the Inquisitor.

"I'll be keeping a closer eye on you Navigator," Sáclair muttered to himself, "A much closer eye indeed."
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post #105 of 159 (permalink) Old 06-03-12, 09:43 AM Thread Starter
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Mr. Garibaldi was madder than hell and seemed damn sure someone was going to pay for it. The head of security didn't walk into John's office so much as he rolled into it like an oncoming storm. Knowing he would regret asking before the words even formed in his head he motioned to the seat across from his half-desk, "Take a seat Mr. Garibaldi."

"No offense Captain but if I sit down for more than a minute I'm afraid my head might explode because I'm too angry at myself for not doing something," He waved his arms skyward, "If anyone should have noticed it it was me, but no."

"Garibaldi, slow down," John had no idea what he was talking about, "What is going on?"

Garibaldi collapsed into the chair, sinking his face into his cupped hands, "John, they took Susan. She's been kidnapped."

John's face fell, he should have expected this. Susan hadn't been found yet, and it seemed unlikely she would ever be found. Hundreds of people just disappeared in the battle, consumed by the demon. He'd hoped that Garibaldi would have dealt with it better than this though.

Something of his thoughts must have been written on his face, "I'm not in denial Captain. She was kidnapped."

"Garibaldi... we've all lost more friends than I care to count. I know that I haven't been on this station as long as you have but I don't think that she'd want you to torture yourself over this," John braced himself for the inevitable backlash.

Garibaldi scrunched his eyes in concentration and took a couple of deep breaths, apparently resisting the urge to punch his superior officer in the face, "Sir. I'm not in denial. Susan Ivanova has been kidnapped."

Ok, fine. John could play along for the moment, "By whom? How?"

"Someone implanted a fake memory of Susan Ivanova into at least three members of a ten man security team," Garibaldi rubbed at the stubble on his chin, scraggly and unkept from days of not shaving, "I can't check them all, two of them are in medical comas and five died, but I suspect the whole team had their memories modified."

Ok so it wasn't playing at anything. John sighed, "How do you know?"

"Sir. Grown men do not repeat 'I just saw her a minute ago. She must be on the Zocalo' in endless sing-song naturally. I've seen it before, rogue telepaths can force the mind to believe something for a while but it doesn't last forever. The mind rejects the fake memories," Garibaldi pulled a thick stack of papers from his bag, flipping through them to a dog eared page with a highlighted section of text.

He tapped the page and handed it to John, "See, Susan hasn't used her link since the fifteenth. Susan. That woman hasn't been more than an inch from her link since birth. And look here," he pulled out a second sheet of paper, "The same day that link went out of commission look who they were assigned to guard."

"Bester," John blanched in horror looking at the name. Not only were Garibaldi's suspicions justified, they were all but confirmed, "Have you checked the security footage."

"Funny thing," Garibaldi said in a jovial tone that indicated it was anything but, "The security recordings of that section of the station seem to have erased themselves. Funny about that."

John shook his head in confusion, "But he left on a prison transport! How could he possibly have kidnapped her?"

"So was Jack," Garibaldi gnashed his teeth at the name of his betrayer. It hadn't been that long ago that his most trusted officer shot him in the back. Collecting himself he tapped his right temple with the side of his finger, "So I got to thinking, what happened to Bester's ship?"

"Don't tell me," John swore, "It disappeared two jumps in."

"Got it in one," Garibaldi nodded, "But I did find something out. There were two occupied cryo pods on that prison ship. One is listed as a 'prisoner for transport' but but the other is listed as a 'medical cadaver.'

"Susan," It wasn't really a question.

"Susan," Garibaldi confirmed, "The dock workers remember them loading a woman into a cryo pod, though none of them can quite remember why they didn't think that was odd."

"More memory modification," This didn't bode well. If the PsiCorps weren't obeying the most basic of laws for psychic conduct who knew what else they'd done on his station.

"That's what I thought too," Garibaldi nodded, "So I looked for reports of memory loss on that day one jump away from the one where we lost the transport, and I think I figured out where it was heading. There is a single ship that logged a flight to mars under a false ID code."

It was a pity Garibaldi didn't have anything more solid, "You know I can't officially authorize you to go to mars with what you've given me. It's convincing but it's all circumstantial."

"Captain! You've got to be kidding me. This is Susan we're talking about," Garibaldi's temper flared brilliantly, turning the bald patch in his forehead bright red.

"I can, however, authorize you for up to three months of leave for personal reasons in light of the traumatic events of the past week," John cleared his throat, "I hear Mars is a lovely place to go this time of year."

Garibaldi smiled, "Well if it's for my health."

"Good luck Garibaldi," John smiled, "And God's speed."
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post #106 of 159 (permalink) Old 06-03-12, 09:44 AM Thread Starter
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"I do not understand. How can one creature do this much violence?"

"Lennier," Delenn sighed, staring out at the morbid sight before her, "There are mysteries to the universe beyond my understanding. The compulsion to cruelty is among them."

Organized by species a thousand sheet covered bodies lay on the floor of the baseball diamond of the Babylon station laid end to end in long rows from one end of the pitch to the other, dead. Families of those who'd gone missing in the battle wandered the rows, looking for their loved ones. Those lucky few fell to their knees before a body, sobbing and hugging the cold form as though it would bring their beloved back from the cold embrace and death. The vast majority, however, just wandered the lines, hoping for closure that would likely never come.

They would never know what happened to their children, their spouses, their cousins, their friends. Delenn knew. Delenn knew all too well but telling them the truth would accomplish nothing. What comfort would they gain knowing that a demon consumed them, body and soul?

None. So she prayed for those who passed. She prayed and prayed and hoped for answers that never seemed to come willingly. Not that she was unique in her search to satisfy the unquiet dead. Babylon 5 was home to many species and many faiths. All came to pray and all seemed willing to accept the aid of their fellow divinities. The edge of the stadium was lined with candles, golden idols, prayer books, rosaries, stars, icons, incense, and the discarded organs of sacrificed animals.

However it was the diminutive man with a slight limp who caught her attention, the Imperial preacher Al'Ashir. With deliberate care not to disturb the icons already in place the man took a small pot of black grease paint out from his pocket and painted a crude image of a double headed eagle on the bleachers, praying in his native language. It was beautiful, almost musical, and seemed to encompass the man's sorrow and loss.

On a whim she walked over to the kneeling man and sat next to him. Her attendant followed her closely, his own curiosity just as piqued as hers was, "May I join you Father Al'Ashir."

The imperial clergyman stared at her in silence, his face a blank mask. Delenn's cheeks colored as she wondered if interrupting the man at prayer was taboo in the Imperial culture. Or at least she wondered right up to the moment that the clergyman burst into laughter, "I have been on station for days and it is Minbari who first seek blessings of the Emperor. Of irony there is much havings!"

"The Minbari seek to understand how all races find peace," Delenn chuckled politely, pretending to understand the joke. Any positive reaction was good, even if it was amusement at her expense, "It is how we find the wisdom in ourselves."

"The Emperor teaches to beware the honeyed words of Xenos, for they can lead to ruin. But he also teaches to teach all those who seek his wisdom," Al'Ashir shrugged, "So you see my problem. I cannot trust a word you say and must teach you what you seek."

"We are strangers to each other Father Al'Ashir," Delenn chuckled, "Trust is earned, not freely given. And a teacher must always question the words of his students. So it is that you will teach and I will listen."

"Wisdom wasted on wise," It seemed to be a joke so Delenn laughed politely, by his smile she'd guessed correctly. He crossed his legs and turned to face her, swiveling on the bleacher, "I am ready for the askings."

"If I may be so bold," Lennier stood next to the preacher's painting, "What does the Eagle stand for?"

"It is Aquilla, the symbol of the Emperor. Savior of mankind," He pulled open his book to a lovingly inscribed page with an elaborate illustration of a dark skinned and long haired man in golden armor. His naked blade pierced the neck of some foul beast as his clawed fist cradled a golden haired child, heroic and menacing, "Savior of humans."

"Only the humans?" Delenn probed politely, it was not uncommon for religions to have a distinct ethnocentricity to them. It was not usually born of malevolence, races tended to create the core principals of their religious beliefs prior to contact with other races.

"Al'Ashir heard of part humans and abhumans accepted into the bosom of the Emperor... but the truth of such conversions of great controversy. Not popular... not common... most end badly," Father Al'Ashir shrugged, "But pure xenos... Al'Ashir could not say. The afterlife of men not for others. "

"I am not pure... xenos. Though Minbari by birth I now have human blood running through my veins," She chewed her lip "Would he consider me one of his?"

"Minbari can make a Minbari into a human," Al'Ashir stroked his beard, looking distinctly ill at the prospect, "Not sure... it is not for me to say. Some might say heresy, some might do harm. Al'Ashir not say. Only He can judge what is in soul. Only He can speak. Only you can listen."

"Does the Emperor speak to you," Lenneir probed politely.

"Al'Ashir had heard his voice," the priest nodded, "His will. It is His will that Al'Ashir is here, to teach, to learn. There is much confusion, many people who need his word. I will bring his word and his love to those who need it."

"I wish you luck father Al'Ashir," Lenneir bowed, "I would be honored to learn from you."

"And I would be honored to pray with both of you," Al'Ashir waved to the mass of bodies, "I do not know which of them the Emperor bring to paradise but I would appreciate your aid in praying for those who cannot. It not their fault for being xenos. We do not pick birth."

"Yes," Delenn coughed, only slightly insulted by the implication of "xenos inferiority." It was to be expected.

So the three sat, spoke, and prayed for hours. Delenn sunk deeper into meditative calm, seeking the wisdom of the universe and the salvation of the dead, listening to the sonorous words of the preacher and watching as he prostrated himself before the prayerbook. A curious mood overtook her as she stared into the eyes of the illustration and she could almost have sworn that the eyes turned to stare back at her, observing her with paternal interest.

But only for a moment before returning to prayers as Al'Ashir's furious ritual reached its climax.

"Ave Imperator," He whispered in reverence, "To your greatness we pray, Amen."

"Amen," Delenn repeated under her breath reflexively in the heat of the moment, thinking of piercing eyes and ominous providence. There was much to learn indeed. And, Valen willing, much to teach.
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post #107 of 159 (permalink) Old 06-03-12, 09:45 AM Thread Starter
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The Library was impressive. Leather bound tomes and oilskin wrapped scrolls were shoved into every nook and cranny of the shelves, only hinting at the knowledge therein. It was the sort of place that didn't simply hold records of history, in a very real way it was intrinsically part of it. The furnishings, far apart from the sort of excessive opulence Captain Sáclair was prone too, were of the more subdued earthy skins of some leathery beast, perhaps a grox. Never one for spending too much time in libraries it seemed that the room had been saved from the excessive ornamentation the rest of the household suffered.

Daul stared across the low coffee table to the glaring redhead, more convinced that ever that he'd made the correct decision in apprenticing her. Her spirit would have been wasted rotting away in some dark cell. He pulled the power cell out of the handgun and tossed the now harmless weapon back to her, "Now, Miss Ivanova. You are going to listen to me."

"Why? Because you're some all powerful Inquisitor?" She said by way of scathing retort, "You're just an angry drunk who beats his slaves to feel better about himself."

"I was not at my best, that I admit," Daul sighed. It had been unnecessarily cruel to admonish Galut in the way he'd chosen too, "Liquor was a reason, but but no excuse for my behavior."

"Oh so 'I'm sorry' makes up for it?" Susan punched the table, scattering scrolls to the floor, "You crippled me for a better disguise."

"They did repair you to your full health did they not?" Daul considered the matter, "If I don't miss my guess you're an inch taller for your troubles."

Incensed, the woman screeched at the top of her lungs, balling her fists. It was only through sheer power of will that she did not leap across the table and attempt to throttle the Inquisitor.

"Now, we are going to have to discuss your training as an Inquisitor. There are many talents I'm sure your career in professional soldiery has given you, but you are woefully uneducated in so many other matters," Daul sighed. He would only be giving her a slipshod education at best but it was better than the alternative.

"We are not discussing anything. There is no we. There is no apprenticeship. There is no training," Susan stood up and walked to the center of the library, "I want nothing to do with this you lunatic."

Daul sighed and looked at her sympathetically, "Have the dreams started yet?"

Susan stiffened, her back still turned to him, "I haven't got a clue what you're talking about."

"You hear voices. Tempting voices. They offer you what you lack in life. Love, power, safety, health, or lost loved ones, promising you everything. But they feel wrong to you somehow," Susan turned around, looking at him in horror, "You reject them, so they show you terrible things that will happen to you for defying them. Every night you have the dreams and every night denying them is harder."

Susan clutched the six pointed star necklace hanging from her neck, "How do you know that?"

"Because they are mine... or they were before my master trained me to block them from my mind," Daul stood and walked over to Susan, placing his flesh and blood hand on her shoulder, "They lie to you Susan. Do not trust them."

"What are they?" Susan's voice was not friendly, but there was less bile.

"They are... demons," She shot him an incredulous glance but he was in no mood for her skepticism, "Do you doubt them when they claw at your dreams and boil your flesh for your defiance? No, you sit in bed afraid to sleep for fear that they will return."

She frowned, "Why do they want me?"

"Frankly they don't. You are only a means to an end," He shrugged, "They require a mortal to be complicit to enter our realm. To that end they gnaw at the minds of all psychics, though their ministrations are more transparent while we travel through the warp. As to why they are as insistent to get into your mind, it is because you have been in mine."

"But... I don't know anything important," the Alliance soldier assured him, "Nothing that would help them or harm you!"

"They don't know or care. You have something, which is enough for them to desire you," Daul shrugged, "Having any glimpse into my mind makes you dangerous. Too dangerous to allow you to run free without protection."

"Why do you want me to be your apprentice? Why..." She swallowed uncomfortably, "Why not just kill me?"

"Have you done anything to make me want you dead?" Daul sighed, "In truth, it is because of what I suspect you know. What you will feel, as I feel. Because the burden of it is too much for me to bear alone."

"But I don't..." Susan protested.

Daul snapped his fingers, silencing her with an effort of will, "What did I find in Gaal's fortress."

Susan's eyes bugged in her head as she associated visceral images with memory, the horrible truth of it coming to the forefront of her mind. She fell to her knees, and vomited, "What was that?"

"One of my memories," Daul sighed, "The one that occupies the forefront of my mind. You know it for the same reason I know that you have serious feelings for Miss Winters. We have a measure of each other's thoughts. I do not begin to guess how many of mine you have Miss Ivanova but any is too many, provided that I cannot ensure you can be trusted with them."

"How... I'm barely a P1, barely a psychic at all," Susan shivered as she stood up, wiping the sick from her lips with the back of her hand, "And those... god... what was that..."

"Miss Ivanova, psychic talent must be cultivated and practiced in order to reach its potential. If starved ones talents can atrophy. When your mother," He nodded at her look of shock, "Yes I know about your mother. When your mother disappeared I suspect you sabotaged your own gift. But it can be fixed, healed, improved."

"And you plan on keeping me as your apprentice till you're sure I can be trusted? What I'm supposed to just follow you around because you say so?" Susan ground her teeth together in fury, "Inquisitor I hate you."

Daul snapped his fingers and servo skull whipped from the ceiling down to Susan's rear, injecting her with a syringe at the base of her skull. Furious, Susan grabbed the machine and slammed it to the floor, shattering it into a thousand tiny pieces, "What the hell was that?"

"That was the implantation of an explosive at the base of your skull. Should you go farther than fifty yards away from me at any time or should I deem it necessary it will explode with sufficient force to ensure that none of my secrets are spread to anyone else," Daul waved to the seats, "Now, let us continue your education."

"You're a son of a bitch," Susan growled.

"It's been said before Miss Ivanova. It will be said again." He didn't want to have to resort to this but needs were musts, "But I doubt it will be necessary. In time you will even come to enjoy your position."

The woman stared daggers at him, "I will kill you one day. I will have my revenge."

"We will have our revenge," An afterimage of piles of broken bodies flashed in his mind, temporarily dragging him back in time, but only for a moment, "Martin did not deserve to die. My servants... my friends... Help me in getting Faust, Miss Ivanova and I will not hesitate to allow you to kill me."

Susan's eyes bugged as the name associate itself with the memory, a face to the mangled corpse. The love of a child for his parent and a parent for his child, of holiday mornings and bedtime stories. A lifetime of love gone in an instant. She stared at him a mix of pity and hatred in her eyes, "Fine, but not for you. For him... but I have a price."

Daul couldn't help but laugh at the audacity of it. She truly was perfect for the job, tenacious and brash, "You're in no place to bargain."

"Funny how I don't see it that way," The woman crossed her arms, refusing to budge, "I demand that you help me find the serial killer murdering Belzafester children. Ami doesn't seem to think its being dealt with properly."

Of all the request she could have made, this was possibly the least expected he could have imagined. He'd thought perhaps she'd request to wear her uniform or contact her government, or any number of other things he would have to deny. But finding a murderer of children, "Why miss Ivanova, it would be my absolute pleasure to comply."
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post #108 of 159 (permalink) Old 06-03-12, 09:45 AM Thread Starter
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Senator Hidoshi rubbed at the sleep in his eyes frustratedly, the danish he'd grabbed on the way to the Geneva complex nowhere near sufficient to silence the rumbles his stomach was making. Hopefully someone would have remembered to tell an intern to fetch something more substantial than coffee and pastries but with all the secrecy associated with the most recent defense meeting it seemed unlikely any food would be allowed at all for fear of listening devices.

He reached out and pressed the down button on the elevator, smiling exhaustedly at the man who was leaning against the wall and tapping a food impatiently, "Good morning Senator Lechner."

"Good morning," Lechner replied, looking down at his watch in confusion, "Good grief man, you called my office thirty minutes ago saying you were in the parking lot. How long does it take you to walk fifty feet?"

"ISN ambushed me outside asking questions, I couldn't get away from them without making it look like I had something to hide," Senator Hidoshi massaged his temples, "Which we can't afford at the moment."

"Blood suckers," Lechner sighed, "Do they know?"

"Haven't you watched the news today?" Hidoshi slipped into the already crowded elevator, nodding in acknowledgement of Senator Joyce and Senator Franken and exchanging greetings.

"No," Lechner rolled his neck, popping the bones of it and massaging the nape of it with his left hand, "I've been stuck in a closed meeting with the CdC. They've been planning contingency plans for if a disease crosses over from the Imperials."

"I though we cleared the Imperials?" Senator Joyce interjected between sips of coffee, looking up in genuine interest.

"No," Lechner sighed, "Their first contact party was wearing encounter suits at first, but since then it's just become a nightmare. We have truly no idea what new microbes have been introduced to the environment, till we do new quarantine procedures are going to have to be put in place for people who've been in contact with the Imperials."

"The trade unions won't like that, Babylon 5 is a major port," Franken winced. A large portion of his campaign funds came from commercial interests in that area, "It's going to be a problem."

"Not as big as a plague," Lechner turned back to Hidoshi, eager to change the conversation, "So what is it on the news that I'm supposed to have seen?"

"They have recordings of the battle on ISN," Senator Joyce supplied, swearing in frustration as his coffee burned the inside of his mouth, "Damn it! Just once I want them to serve coffee to me at a temperature normal human beings can drink."

"It's part of the charm of the cafeteria," Lechner provided sarcastically, "How bad of a PR situation is it?"

"Worse than you think," Franken patted the pocked of his jacket, his fingers tapping a box of cigarettes wistfully through the tweed of his jacket, "We've been able to convince ISN up till now to wait to air more than rumors till Earth manages to arrange a more permanent diplomatic situation but we've lost control of this. They've been talking about nothing else for the past six hours."

Hidoshi shrugged, "It's a recording of Earth Allaince Ships defending Babylon Five from a Vorlon attack, can you blame them? It's the first time I've ever heard of a Vorlon ship losing." How the recording survived the battle so wholly in tact and unaffected by the Vorlon electronic countermeasures was a matter of great debate but the recording was unquestionably genuine.

Hidoshi scrunched his eyes as a layer of green light swept across the occupants of the elevator, checking them for weapons. After a friendly affirmative chime the elevator slowed to a halt, opening into a long corridor sloping downwards.

Blinking the stars out of his eyes Franken led the way down the hallway, "I just wish we'd had some space between the public discovering that apparently humans evolved in more than one place in the universe before we have them punch the Vorlons in the schnoz right on our doorstep. People aren't dealing with it well."

"I admit, the more conservative base is... struggling to cope with the new revelation..." Lechner pushed open the wide door at the end of the hall, nodding to the guards and smiling pleasantly.

It was a gross understatement. The Earth centrists were eating each other alive. Some people were crying that the Imperials being human was an elaborate hoax, others were demanding answers for why they hadn't assisted against the Minbari and still others were claiming that the Earth Allaince ought to annex the Empire as soon as possible, never mind that the Earth Alliance didn't have the remotest clue where Imperial territory actually was. But arguing with Lechner over the semantics of it wouldn't be productive.

For the first time in his recent memory Senator Lechner was quite possibly the most valuable political ally in the room. It wouldn't do to antagonize him when he needed his support so badly in the immediate future, "I'm sure cool heads will prevail Senator."

Lechner's eyes roved around the room, assessing the defense sub-committee with critical unease, "We can only hope."

"No time like the present then lads," Senator Joyce flopped down into an open chair, "Lets get this bloody mess over with."

The Vice President looked up from the other side of the table, crossing his arms and scowling, "Ah, good of you to join us Senators, we were just finishing up discussing the issue at hand and we're about to put it to a vote."

"Which issue is that?" Senator Hidoshi sat in his chair and poured himself a glass of water from the pitcher on the table.

"Don't be cute Hidoshi, stalling isn't going to make this any easier on your pet project," The Vice President blithely rejoined, "Our only agenda is obvious; the court martial of Captain John Sheridan."
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post #109 of 159 (permalink) Old 06-03-12, 10:00 AM
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That was a huge update. I think I have plot dribbling out of my ears.
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post #110 of 159 (permalink) Old 07-23-12, 12:38 AM Thread Starter
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A lot of people have been asking me questions about the Circle Must be Broken on various forums via review or PM and I just thought I'd clarify some answers to them here, rather than on FFN as I find long authors notes to be in bad taste.

1) Is the Captain of the Endless Bounty's name Sánclair or Sálclair?

Sáclair. Most of my typing is done on my cell phone and apparently my Autocorrect has a preset for the name Sánclair. I didn't notice the error in my chapter till after the fact and I've not had a free moment to correct the spelling error on a computer not beholden to Autoccorect.

2) Are the Imperials in the Past or in another Dimension?

Yes.

3) 2 Meters seems short for an Ogryn. Shouldn't Galut be 2.5-3 meters tall?

Galut's growth was stunted by improper nutrition and the various environmental hazards natural to spaceship life, compared to other Ogryn he is a bit of a runt. As are all the Ogryn onboard the Endless Bounty.

4) Wait... you really typed that on a Cell Phone?

Yes I did. My chapters are written and edited to and from my apartment on my hour long bus ride between my place of residence and my work in Rural Japan. Thus the very common spelling and grammar errors that I'm deeply embarrassed to see in my own "published" product.

5) What type of ship is the Endless Bounty / how powerful is it?

The Endless Bounty is, though roughly the same size as a lunar class cruiser, only sightly more combat capable than two cobra class escorts. It's a merchant ship not a warship. Daul chose it because he'd lost all his other military holdings and it was the fastest ship he could take to Belzafast.

6) BS how the hell did the Endless Bounty beat a shadow battle crab and Vorlon Waships?

By cheating and luck essentially. The Shadow ship was not at peak efficiency for reasons that will be explained later in the plot and the Vorlon Ship was shot with some retrofitted missiles used for destroying entire cities, smaller scale versions used by the Military for preforming the destruction of planets.

And remember they only destroyed the Vorlon's ships. You can't actually kill a Vorlon, only piss them off.

7) Vorlons don't bleed.

Funny isn't it? It's almost like I was hinting at something later in the plot.

Why wasn't Kerrigan disgusted when she discovered the AI onboard B5? Shouldn't she hate it as an Admech?

It isn't as though she'd seen a whole bunch of Ai's prior in her career to make that judgment off of, as far as she knew at that moment she was just dealing with a complex VI. And frankly, the Magos exiled as a heretic is perhaps not the most "standard" of thinkers with respect to their rules.

9) Why didn't the Void shields on the bounty just shunt the damage inflicted into the warp?

Kerrigan made some non standard modifications the the Endless Bounty's shields to make them more dynamic in order to integrate the tele porter into the systems of the Endless Bounty.

10) Is Kosh insane? Why would he try to kill Daul?

To save him, of course.

11) Is the warp thirdspace?

Yes it is.

12) Why were the Starfury fighters able to keep up with Jumbo Jet sized fighters?

Because they weren't Jumbo Jet sized fighters. The Endless Bounty was only commissioned as the Inquisitors personal ship relatively recently, up till that point it's contingent of fighters was substantially below military grade. The Endless bounty's fighters were only around the size of valkaries or marauder bombers.

13) Why did Daul fall prey to Mr. Morden's suggestions when the Narn Ambassador was able to ignore them?

Because Daul Hilder is a deeply flawed person and prone to bouts of barely controlled anger. He's surprisingly easy to goad, which is partly why Sáclair enjoys doing it so damn much.

14) Is English your first language?

Yes and no. German was the first language I learned, but living in the States essentially purged it from my mind. I can fluently speak English and Spanish, passably speak Japanese, and I can understand German, French, Italian, and Portugese though I don't trust in my ability to speak the latter four.

15) Wait... did you actually write up a Gothic Language or are you just writing gibberish when the Imperials speak?

One? Why settle for one? And no I'm not joking.

I generated three separate Gothic languages for "High", "Low" and "Middle" Gothic but they're all variations on latin grammar interposed with European vocabulary substations (mostly german and eastern european languages). Everything the Imperials say is entirely relevant to the plot and some of it actually gives away major plot information.

16) So what is Bast Hilder? A Ghost? A demon? The Emperor? What?

Bast Hilder is not a dream and not Daul going insane.

17) How do the Eldar and Lorien fit in to your storyline?

I have plans. Big plans, for both.

18) Isn't Daul's retinue a bit small?

Most of them were either killed by the Tyranids or slaughtered defending the fortress of his mentor Martin Gaal. Cairn, Dorn, and the Kroot were only with Daul by pure co-incidence when he met up with Sáclair after the Endless Bounty to pick up some specialized gear he'd commissioned Kerrigan to make. By all accounts he should have died with them, but he chose to finish the task himself rather then send Cairn alone on a whim.

19) Why did you wait six chapters for the actual crossover?

I didn't. Trust me, there is a big reveal coming that will blow your mind, even by the standards of what I usually toss you in terms of plot twists. I've been hinting at it since the second chapter.

20) When is the next update coming?

When it's finished. And not a second before.
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